Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Call Me Fletcher

It's time for yet another installment of "John's New Skill of the Day!" That's right, I'm learning something new. Shocked, aren't you!?!

So here's what I had. When I shot the new arrows I bought a couple of weeks ago I noticed that they wobbled a lot before hitting the target. Not terrible, and I could still kill the pumpkins from 10 to 20 yards out pretty regularly. But I couldn't figure out what was causing the wobble.

For those of you out there (like me) who are not as fluent in Archery as the pros, there are a few things that make a difference in arrow flight. Things like spine weight, what points you use and how many grains those are, whether the arrow is wood, carbon, aluminum, what sort of fletching, left wing or right wing feathers... it truly boggles the mind. So I googled the problem and thought perhaps I was using field points that were too light. (Those are the pointy things on the front, but not the razor like broadheads used for hunting) I visited the gun and archery shop across the road for the first time since we've lived here, and met a very friendly guy who knows loads more about archery than I. I described the problem and he told me that the solution was in the fletching, or feathers, on the back of the arrow. My arrows were using plastic feathers, which apparently when shot from a wooden bow like mine will bounce off the arrow shelf and cause the arrow to wobble when it flies. He suggested I re-fletch my arrows with 5 1/2" real feathers as a solution. Then he directed me to a traditional archery shop across town to get what I needed, as they would have more choices and gear for a traditional archer (that's me).

That he didn't try and sell me something I didn't need and even directed me to another store has earned them my business! They have an indoor range there, and I will happily go there a few times this winter to thank them for the help!

Anyway, I headed to the traditional archery store later in the day, and was like a kid in a candy store. Bows everywhere. And not those metal hunting bows, but wooden works of art. Arrows and materials for all sorts of building of archery stuff. It was awesome! I bought a fletching jig, which was a little spendy, but worth it. And picked out some colors for my arrows.

New toys in tow, I headed home and learned to fletch arrows. With the jig it is not as hard as I thought, and I'm looking forward to a return visit to the store to get supplies to make the entire arrow!



How do the new arrows work? Well, after I finished a couple, I took them out to give them a try. Wobble - gone. They flew as straight as... well, you know. And I was drilling the pumpkins within an inch of my aim point. I've got four more to do, then I'm going to re-fletch the Boyo's arrows as well since his vanes are plastic and his arrows are also a bit wobbly.

It is a delightful way to spend an evening, and will add a new dimension to my budding bowyer skills.

More Later

Monday, November 14, 2011

Time to Go Oly

I'm kicking around the idea of doing an olympic length triathlon at the end of next season. That's the next step up from the sprint tri. Just to refresh your memory, a sprint tri has a swim of around 500 yards, a bike of around 15 miles, and a 5K run - 3.1 miles. Olympic distance is a 1.5K swim, which is around a mile, a 40K bike - around 25 miles, and a 10K run - 6.2 miles. It's double the run, which will be the toughest part for me, and three times the swim, which may just work in my favor! I know I can do a 25 mile bike, as I've done a few in training for the sprints.

Tonight I went for a swim. When I arrived at the pool, both were completely empty and as I had my choice of the two, I decided to warm up in the warmer pool. I swam the first hundred, adjusted the goggles, and started out again. 300 yards later I was feeling quite warm and decided that after another hundred (completing a 500) I'd shift over to the other pool and do a couple more 500's.
I hopped into the cooler pool, took note of the time clock and started at the top of the nearest minute. About 400 yards in I felt pretty good, and decided I'd shoot for a full mile and see what my time would be. I kept waiting for the weary to set in, but I kept a solid, comfortable pace and felt good through the entire swim! As I finished the 1650, I did a time check. 28:50. Not speedy, but not too bad. The best part was I felt that I could keep on swimming. But since this was my third time in the water since August, I decided to leave it at a mile and work up from here.
28:50 is about 1:45 per 100 yards. Not too shabby. Not too shabby. My race pace for the sprint tri's is around 1:30, so I have some room for improvement. But I now have a baseline time to work with and the confidence that I can swim pretty much indefinitely should the need arise. And I am a solid third of the way to doing an olympic length tri. Now if I can bike 40K and run 10K, and do all three together... everything will be peachy! So, yeah. I think I can be ready for an "Oly" sometime next season.
More Later

Friday, November 11, 2011

Happy Elevensday

It's the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the eleventh year of our century. I'm posting this at 11:11 pm. For the nano-second it takes to pass through 11:11:11:11 to the billionth power, not much can be done. But it's cool to think that it's the last all binary date we'll have in our lifetimes.

It's also Veterans Day. The continuation of Armistice Day, which for those of you non history types was the end of The Great War to End All Wars. Or WWI, as we call it these days. They stopped that war on November 11th, and 11:11 in the year 1918. Unfortunately it did not End All Wars. So we celebrate Veterans Day. Celebrate and remember all those who served this country in uniform. Those like me, who served mostly in peace time and never in a foreign war, right through to those who gave the last full measure, like my USMC brother SSgt. P. We thank those that are still around to thank, and keep in our hearts the memories of those that aren't.

Freedom was never free. It has cost us dearly throughout the decades. Thank you to all who served and were willing to do what they could for their country.  It's not perfect, but it's pretty darn good.

Oh, and Happy Elevensday as well.

More Later

I'm All a Quiver

So, a couple of years ago I traded a knife repair for a tanned deer hide. As I put a new handle on the knife (buffalo horn, turned out pretty nice!) I was imagining all of the things I could do with a tanned deer hide. Leggings, maybe. No, no! A shirt! Yeah a buckskin shirt would be fun! Maybe some knife sheaths, too.

So when the hide arrived, I was a little taken aback when it had the hair still on it. It was nicely tanned, but had a few too many holes to make clothes out of. I'm not too sure what a hair on shirt would have looked like anyway. I had no idea what to do with it, so I folded it up and stored it until an idea would come.

Fast forward a year and as I was driving home after a night shift, I saw a little red fox that had been hit by a car and was quite deceased laying half in and half out of the road. I stopped to toss it into the ditch so no other critters who might want to dine on it would meet the same fate, and noticed that it was still warm and not too damaged. I have a friend at work who tans skins of all sorts and thought he might like a nice fresh fox, so I went home, grabbed some trash bags and went back to collect the fox. I called my friend, who gave me advice for keeping it on ice until I could get it to him, and worked out a deal to trade a knife that I built for the tanned fox hide.  This time I knew the hair would be on, and when the fox skin arrived, it was really quite pretty. But I again had no idea what I would use a fox skin for. A hat maybe? I even tossed around the idea of a sporran for my kilt.  But the fox got rolled up and put with the deer hide...

Fast forward to this fall. The Boyo has taken to archery, and we've had about a half dozen good afternoons of ploinking away at the Halloween pumpkins with our bows.

The one on the left is my oak longbow, the one on the right is my first laminated recurve bow that I built as a test. It only has a draw weight of about 15 pounds, so I gave it to the Boyo to use. It shoots pretty well, and he seems to like it a lot!

So after our first few times shooting my old Boy Scout Arrow of Light arrows, I went and bought us each new arrows so I could retire the AoL's.  On the plus side, we now had more arrows to shoot at the pumpkins! On the down side, we had nothing to carry them in. I sat down a few nights ago thinking 'If only I had some leather or something that I could whip up a couple of quivers with.'

It seemed that finally I had a notion of what to do with those tanned hides! So after some fussing and measuring and research and tinkering, I built myself a quiver from the deer hide. It has a broken arrow inside as a stiffener that also serves as a place to attach a carabiner to make it a hip quiver...

And I built the Boyo a quiver out of the fox...

Originally it had the legs and head attached, but it looked like a dead fox hanging from his back. I clipped those off, but left the tail. I think the look is much better.  He insisted in having a back quiver, because that's how Robin Hood does it, and he is convinced that is how the Lakota used to do it, too when they hunted deer and buffalo. So we ran over to Fleet Farm and he picked out a belt, and I made it into a back quiver for him. It can be easily converted to a hip quiver when he gets older if he wants.

Anyway, we've been out shooting with them twice now, and they seem to work very well. I'm going to add a few embellishments to mine, but overall I'm quite pleased with the results!

More Later

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Happy Birthday Devil Dogs!

236 years ago, the United States Marine Corps was born, leading to some of the most awe inspiring, horrific, incredible, frightening, mundane, spectacular, funny and tragic war stories ever told.

I served in my beloved Marine Corps from 1991 to 1999, and loved a great many minutes of it. Some I could have done without, but every experience helped shape me into the man I am today. From my short time in, I have stories in every genre listed above.

So Happy Birthday, Marines. I thank you for your honor, courage and commitment, for your Esprit de Corps, and for your brotherhood.

Semper Fi.

More Later

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Spoiled Training

So I joined a gym. Actually it's the Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center at Mayo. All the cool kids just call it "The Dan". The Wife is a member and I thought I'd check it out, since they have a pool and all.

Honestly, I was fully ready to get a winter membership to the rec center, since I am familiar with their pool and policies and such, but after tonight I may never go back to the rec center!

I started my first workout heading for the 2012 Triathlon Season with a fifteen minute session on something called a 'hydro-bed'. Basically a water bed with jets inside that run up and down your body giving a water massage. After some fiddling with pressure, speed and which areas to jet water onto, I was settled in and had my back and neck muscles pleasantly pummeled with hot water... all while staying perfectly dry! It was delightful.

Then I staggered sleepily into the pool area for my swim, a 600 yard jaunt, just to get the old body reacquainted with the freestyle stroke. That felt good. They have two pools there, a four lane lap pool and a four-ish lane exercise pool. Both saltwater/chlorine, so a little different than I'm used to. But the topper of the evening was a 10 minute soak in the whirlpool after the swim.

That's right. From the pool the the hot tub. Incredibly relaxing!

I am now a spoiled athlete! The Mayo health facility is really spectacular, and pretty reasonably priced. And if I go 15 times in the next three months they lower the price. 30 times and it's almost half off! They are open way too early and stay open well past my bedtime, and the lap pool is always a lap pool! So any free time I can get there to swim, I can swim! They also have an indoor running track, and a bunch of stationary bikes, and a spin class that I'll have to look into doing. So eventually I can do entire triathlons indoors!

I now have no reason not to improve on next year's races. No reason not to go exercise. No reason not to get in better shape.

I envision much hard work and sweat and yes, even some pain in the future... but the hydro-bed and whirlpool are a nice treat! (They also have massage therapists on staff, $25 for a half hour. I'm already planning on how to justify that expense occasionally!)

More Later

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Secret to Weight Loss Revealed!!!

So the triathlon thing is looking like it will be a permanent part of my adult life.  As such, I have finally, finally decided to lose the third grader I've been carrying around my waist for the past decade. In my USMC days I was considered "overweight", weighing in at around 200 pounds.  203 was the maximum weight allowed for a guy my height, and I struggled to keep my weight under that number.  For the last year I was in, the roller coaster gains and losses really started to oscillate dramatically, and every month I would gain more back and have to lose it before the next month's weigh in. This led to gaining and losing 10 to 20 pounds each month, and by the last six months I would be losing sometimes 15 pounds in a couple of days to stay under. It was a brutal, vicious cycle that only those who have been in it can really understand.

My last official weigh in for the Marines was in October of my last year in, and the NCO in charge of it was... well... there's no way to say it nicely. He was an ass. Rather than help those Marines who were over with some guidance or at the very least offer encouragement, he declared that he was happy to kick anybody out who was over by even a pound. And he seemed sadistically pleased to see people fail at their weigh ins, and taunted them with how many months they had left until he could kick them out.

By the end of my stint in the Corps, I had learned how to push the boundaries on what could and really could not be said to a superior without some serious repercussions, and I lent my considerable vocabulary to mocking and insulting this NCO for his blatant disrespect for his fellow Marines. Without going too far, of course.

He knew I was insulting him, but he wasn't sure exactly what I was saying, so he really developed a dislike of me pretty quick. The feeling was mutual. Now a few things about the weight rules for the USMC...

In those days, if you weighed over your max, you were put on "weight control" and had a few months of weigh ins to determine if this was a temporary thing or a permanent one. After a certain number of months of weighing over and getting reprimands, you could be discharged. But if you stayed under for six months, you would be taken off weight control. Unfortunately the Navy Corpsman was usually responsible for the weigh ins and such, and we switched corpsman a few times and for whatever reason the record keeping was pretty sporadic. Which at first was no big deal, because though I was near the top end of my limit, I could usually come in within a few pounds of it, at first. Then a couple of years went by with no weight control oversight at all, and I had an unfortunate knee injury, stopped running, and really ballooned up. So when it started up again in the last few years of my service, I had a real struggle getting back under and staying there.

So - I had been riding the 203 line for about nine months when Ssgt Butthead took over and made it his personal mission to kick out every fatbody from his beloved Marine Corps. (Those were his actual words to those of us who were on weight control. And one of those guys was a big Iowa farm boy with a skinny waist and a huge chest and muscular arms, but he was "overweight" so on weight control... ridiculous.) I did fine for the first four months he was in charge, but I weighed 205 one morning in September. My section chief, Ssgt Carlson, arranged for me to weigh in again before lunch for my "official" weight and sent me out to run the weight off. He was a good leader, and knew that I had been struggling with the weight since the resumption of weight control. And that I had been under for the past four months after a year and a half of starts and stops with the program. And I like to believe that he thought I was good enough at my job to keep around.  So he was willing to cut me some slack. After a five mile run I weighed in at 202.9. Ssgt Butthead was not pleased. He told me that if I was an ounce over in October he was going to get me discharged. I told him that perhaps he'd be less of a bitter little man if he could have intimate relations with something other than a bovine. Did I mention that he didn't like me much?

By this point on the monthly weight roller coaster I was usually ballooning up to around 220 - 230 for the two weeks after drill, then losing it again before the next month's drill. but it was getting harder and harder to lose the weight, and easier and easier to gain it.  For some reason that September I went up to just over of 240. A week before October's drill I was still 225. I stopped eating five days before weigh in. I drank water, but only two pints a day, because I remembered my wrestler friend Matt telling me "a pint's a pound the world around." And I had to lose the weight. I ran three miles in the morning and evening with five days to go. From four days on I went 2 miles, but I did that 4 or 5 times each day.  The last two days I wore a garbage bag suit to lose more water weight, and the night before weigh in I did four 2 mile runs in the suit, and in between was an hour spent under several heavy blankets and a sleeping bag to keep the heat up and the sweat going.

The morning of the weigh in I could barely walk, but went to formation and did all that I could to stay upright. Weigh in was about an hour after the start of drill... after breakfast. So while the rest of the battery ate what to me smelled like it had been catered by the gods, I jogged in place in a bathroom and prayed. The night before - during what I have come to know as my own private hell night - I went from 215 to 204, so there was no guarantee that I would be under this morning. I tried to remove the rest of the extra weight, but I couldn't pee, let alone have a BM. I didn't have enough moisture to even spit. In hindsight, this was not a good state to be in.

I remember vividly the look on Ssgt Buttheads face as I approached the scale in my boxers. I remember the smirk and the hatred beaming from his eyes. I remember his words as I stepped up on the scale.

"I am going to love throwing your fat ass out of my Marine Corps."

My max weight was 203 pounds.
I was 202.8.

He frowned and had me step off. He re-zeroed the scale (many others were present, including an officer, so he couldn't fudge it.) and weighed someone else. Then I stepped up again. I think if he could have stabbed me in the face right there with a Ka-Bar, he would not have hesitated. Again the weights on the scale slid around.


The officer read out the number to another NCO who recorded it. The smirk left Ssgt Buttheads face, replaced with pure hatred. I will never forget my parting words to him, either.

"It's MY Marine Corps, too. Now go frak a squirrel, you arrogant little ass."

Of course I said something a bit more salty than "frak". Did I mention I didn't like him much, either.

The officer told me to watch my mouth, and I promptly apologized to said officer for my offensive language. I did not apologize to Ssgt Butthead. Then the officer congratulated me and said I was no longer on weight control. I was too dizzy and nauseous to even smile.

Then I went and ate breakfast, which I promptly threw up because I had not eaten anything for five days. Interestingly I never saw Ssgt Butthead again. He developed testicular cancer and left the unit before November's drill.

In those days I thought nothing of losing 5, 10 or 15 pounds in a week. Knowing what I know now, I shudder to think of what might have happened had I continued in that cycle.

I tell you all of that to tell you this. I'm tired of hauling around this extra fifty pound tire. And I've discovered a magical secret to losing weight!  Wanna know what it is? It really is profound!!!

Lean in close, I'm going to whisper it because it is so revolutionary!

Here it is... eat fewer calories than you expend each day!

Mind blowing, isn't it! My friend Matt - mentioned above and in many other posts - has been telling me since I started doing tri's that this was the big secret of weight loss. Heck, I've known that secret for a dozen years myself.

Wanna know another big secret to losing weight and getting fit?

Regular exercise.

That's right. Calories and exercise. Common sense that everybody knows and denies.

So I stopped the little voice in my head that kept saying "It is so hard to count calories. Why bother? Just try and eat right."

Did you read that? "Hard, why, try." And it is so easy to listen to that voice.  But I am making different choices now. The first day of this month I ate and snacked as I normally do, and found a nifty website called Calorie Count where I could plug in foods and see how many calories I was eating. I could also plug in activities, and see how the calorie to activity balance was.

It was shocking. SHOCKING, I tell you.

I discovered that I was happily eating about 1000 calories more each day than my body needed just to maintain my weight. No wonder it has been so "hard" to shed pounds! So I set some goals and crunched some numbers on the site, and committed to a plan that would cut my daily caloric intake almost in half.

At first I was very concerned that I would be hungry all of the time. Less food means more hungry, right? But you know what? This week I have not been hungry at all. I've been within a hundred calories of my target each day, and a couple of days were even well under, and I have not been hungry. I have also not been denying myself foods that I like. I've just been controlling the portions quite a bit more. Tomorrow will be day six of this new project, and I'm somewhat surprised to say that in the first five days I lost 11 pounds.

You read that right, eleven pounds.

Now, I realize this is VERY fast weight loss, and that proper weight loss is two to three pounds a week. I promised myself that if I felt too hungry, I would increase the daily caloric intake. But I have not been hungry, and I've lost 11 pounds!

I've also not been exercising like I want. Mostly due to getting over pneumonia, which really drained my energy. This week I'm following the Wife's example and joining her gym, which has a bazillion very cool programs to help me on this journey, and a really nice pool to swim in, and a hot tub to soak in, and massage spa to relax in, etc. etc. etc.

So the tri training will begin again this week, along with continued calorie counting, with the goal of dropping 50 pounds before my first tri next season, which will probably be the Pigman again in early June. If that goes well I'll aim to see that 203 line again by tri season of 2013. Wish me luck!

This is a very long post. If you've read this far, thanks for sticking with me. If you are trying to lose weight, there is no big secret. Proper eating and exercise. Insert fewer calories into your system. Go for a walk. Be the Captain of your own life. If I can do it, anybody can.

More Later

Friday, November 4, 2011


I like plans. I like days when there are plans in place and I can follow the plans. Or at least have a plan to attempt to follow for the day.

Life at our place has been just on the shy side of chaotic. This is not new. Life became chaotic, and wonderfully so, when I first started dating the woman that would become my wife. At first it was subtle. Joint decisions on where to eat, what movie to see, where to take a vacation for the weekend, who got Ben for the week. That sort of thing. Then came marriage, that beautiful arrangement whereby we are now legally obligated to be with each other all the time. That increased the chaos.

Just when we were getting used to that arrangement, the Boyo magically appeared. OK, not so much magic as basic biology. But still it threw our world once again off its axis and spinning wildly and giddily out of control. The second offspring, Sweet Pea, knocked whatever sense of balance we had right out the window.

And as the children grow and create a chaotic bubble / wall of noise, another phenomenon occurred. Somehow both sets of parents, mine and my Wife's, are unbelievably getting older! It shouldn't be surprising, as I know I am getting older, and my kids are getting older. Even the bananas on the counter are getting older. So it makes sense that they are getting older, too. What this means though, is increased medical problems. And I am torn, torn, torn between my duty to the Wife and Kiddos, and my duty to be with my parents as they age.  Chaos multiplied.

So, somehow we fell into the pattern of living day to day, getting the bills paid, the kids to their obligations (school, scouts, and lots of other stuff) and not really having a plan for any of it.

We have a family calendar that has on it all of the things we must do. Job schedules, school schedules, extracurricular activities, medical appointments, and the like. It is crammed full on most days.

There is also a list or two or three of "things to do" in other areas of life. Triathlon training, yardwork and housework, various projects for various people. But the things on those lists are thrown in as time allows, and sometimes time doesn't allow.

Result? Chaos.

So the Wife and I sat down with our calendars again today and started plotting out everything, and I do mean nearly everything, for the next few weeks. On our calendars right now are work schedules, kids schedules her exercise schedule and my exercise schedule (I'm not waiting until next year to re-train for my triathlons). What we will be adding to the calendars are specific tasks from the "to do" lists, so that we can get those things on an actual schedule so we can have a plan to do them on a specific day. Or at least a plan to attempt to get them done on a certain day.

We are hoping that by scheduling everything but bowel movements we can regain some sense of balance in our chaos riddled world. We're even doing menu planning weeks in advance so we can avoid the nuisance of having to decide what to have for dinner each night. That shouldn't feel like a chaotic decision, but somehow it all adds up.

We are pretty flexible with the schedule, and have promised each other that we will not panic if the day doesn't go as planned. It's hard to fluster a nurse and a medic with unexpected events, so we shouldn't have a problem there!

So, a calendar project to try and bring some order to the chaos. Life is chaos, and beautiful. We endeavour to make some sense of the chaos every day. If nothing else it gives us a goal to shoot for.  Wish us luck!

More Later

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Remains of the Day

So we brought Ben home the other day. We had him cremated individually, and the vet called to tell us that his ashes were back. My first experience with this was with Rascal. Prior to his death, all of my pets had been buried in the back yard at my parents house. But when Rascal died, we decided to have him cremated because we weren't sure if the house we are in is going to be the house we are in when we die. So the week after Rascal died, we got a call from the vet and went to pick up the little cardboard box that held the plastic bag that held the ashes of our pup.

Then Shoba died not a month later, and we had her cremated too. A week later we got her box back, too. It was a little larger than Rascals box. In our hall closet we have a hanging sweater organizer thingy that we used to store our boots, hats, mittens and such. The bottom two shelves were cleared and used to store the remains of our two dogs.

Ben spent the next few weeks looking very nervous and wondering where the heck his two pals went and what they had done to disappear and he always looked like he was promising us that he would behave as long as he could stick around. Eventually he settled in to being the only dog, but after a few months he started looking mopey. A couple months after that he was downright sad. I had been feeling the loss of Rascal and especially Shoba, too. So I knew how he felt. That's when we started looking around for a friend for Ben and eventually came to adopt Holly Bedudah.

Now here we are, three years down the road, and the vet has called again to let us know that a little cardboard box was waiting to be picked up.

My EMS gallows humor kicked in to soften the blow a little, as I joked with my wife that I could pick him up before heading to run some errands, because he could stay in the car with no worries now.

But we went to pick him up together and once again I was gut punched by how little was left of him now. We brought him home and cleared another shelf in the hall closet for his remains.

When the first two died, we thought it would be nice to take them up to the Island and inter the remains there. It is a place that I will keep visiting until I'm unable to paddle a canoe anymore. And it is a place that all three of them loved. In my memories of those three dogs, I can vividly picture each one at the Island, a look of supreme contentment on their faces. So we wanted to take Shoba and Rascal up there. But for some reason or another, we were never able to get to the Island in the three years since they died.

When Ben got sick again and it looked like he wouldn't pull through this time, the Wife mentioned that perhaps the reason we never got the other two to the Island was because they were waiting for Ben so they could all go up together. It would be in keeping with the bond that the three of them had. So as I placed Ben's ashes on the shelf with Shoba and Rascal, they were finally ready to head to the Island.

I however, am not ready. So we'll plan a trip for next summer sometime and take the Big Three up along with Holly and introduce her to the Island, and finally lay the Big Three to rest.

More Later