Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Celebrate ordinary and trust yourself

I've read two really good posts this week.

The first is "Redefining Success and Celebrating the Ordinary" in the New York Times. Society is geared towards recognition for the first, the best, the achiever... those with stellar accomplishments. There's a too strong link between extraordinary and success. Success is so many things including being a kind person who enjoys what they do.

A lovely sentence from a guy quoted in the piece, "Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you."

The second post is from Penelope Trunk; I subscribe to her blog. Her new one is "Best advice to twentysomethings: trust yourself". I think it is great advice to everyone, especially those on 'alternative paths', those who question whether they're wasting their time, those worried about 'progress' in life... It's a good perspective on being fine with who you are and where you are.

Monday, 30 July 2012

The gem that Huddle Park will be

I've been wanting to check out Huddle Park, in Linksfield, for some time. It used to be a golf course (actually, three golf courses) and has been in a state of disrepair for many years now. A friend who lives in the area - Vic runs through the park occasionally - invited me to join him on a run there on Friday. I was blown away by the size of the park and the potential for running, biking, orienteering... There has been talk about developing a trail for running and biking as well as preservation of the wetland and re-establishment of fauna and flora.

We noticed that there is golf course development happening (big machinery and people at work), but this is only on one section of the land, near the road. According to a post on the Huddle Park website, "A running, walking and cycling track will be established. This will be incorporated into the nature conservation area. The Wendy Bodman Walk between Huddle Park and the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Course will be cleaned. The dam will be included with this walkway as a nature conservation area. People can use this area for picnics and to enjoy the natural beauty of the environment." (See this piece on IOL too.)

As it is the highveld in winter, the park is very brown. The grass has been cut or burned throughout, which makes the park less 'shady' and more safe to play in. There are loads of paths already in the park so running and biking options already abound. It's just a matter of roaming the property to figure out what is where. As we ran under trees and past the dams my eyes feasted on potential features for the placement of orienteering controls! Ditches, rough open land, re-entrants, edges of dams and below dam walls...

Loads of trees (wide rows generally) and open sections from the old fairways.
It will be fabulous to have an 'Emmarentia-like' venue just over the hill from me. The property is huge, the scope for running and biking is there and with the dams and bird-life this will be a lovely local nature spot.

Vic on the bridge. We entered the park on the North-western side, using this bridge to cross into the park. Looks bad but is actually solid.
FYI - there's a Save Huddle Park FB group.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Off to a slow start

When I got back from Ireland I was in a post-rogaine recovery phase so I wasn't bothered about too much focus on running training because I needed to rest up and say thank you to my body for swallowing '36 Days of Running', two weeks of travelling and then 23 hours on my feet over tough terrain.

When I got back I jumped into work and club and activities and teaching and all my usual activities. Only, I was pooped! The travels, the racing, the running, the go-go-go was really just too much - all on top of each other. I crashed and needed a few nights of sleeping 10-12 hours!

I haven't been running much although I've been playing aerial and circus games, which are totally exhausting but more in the upper body and core than cardio. I've needed this rest and with each run - every few days only - I'm feeling more with it.

The challenge is psychological more than physical. I've needed this break even if I haven't wanted it. Foot-off-the-gas time. It is ok to tick over and not make any 'perceived' headway. In science, negative results are still results and in sport rest is part of training.

I'm running the Ngoje 45km trail run in Eshowe next weekend and am aiming for a good day out in my trip-trap style. I'm definitely not seeing this run as a race. I'll walk when I want to, run when I want to, take some pics and enjoy being out there. I haven't been to this area since Zirk's 180km in early 2000 so I'm looking forward to being down there.

I may feel as of I'm off to a slow start in getting back into my regular running routine but that's actually fine and certainly beneficial long term.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

What can you make?

I believe that it is important to be able to make stuff. Using your hands.

In the same article on busyness in the NY Times, author Tim Kreider writes, "More and more people in this country no longer make or do anything tangible; if your job wasn’t performed by a cat or a boa constrictor in a Richard Scarry book I’m not sure I believe it’s necessary. I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter."

I've often thought about what we do in our working days and the 'importance' thereof, especially when I hear of natural disasters like the earthquake in Haiti and the tsunami in Japan.

In an apocalypse situation it would be far more valuable for me to know how to build a wattle and daub structure, make a fire sans lighter and to cultivate food*. Closer to home, if electricity and water in Jo'burg went off, city-wide (so you can't just go to your friend's place to have a shower and get water), for more than a few days, most of us would be screwed. Just what would you do? Stockpile from the shops? And when stock ran out?

* Food is a tough one 'cos when disaster happens crops get wiped out and if I plant seeds now I'll only get food from the plants months down the line. Bad news this past week about drought in the US - not great for food aid.

While I really enjoy writing articles, seeing them published and occasionally getting feedback, if we had a natural disaster here to deal with would they matter? Nope. Not many occupations matter in an apocalypse and somehow I'm more and more feeling an affinity with those that do.

At the moment I have a NEED to make things. For over a year I've been getting such satisfaction from crochet mostly because it fulfills this need to create something useful from something that can't really be used for anything practical. I think of it as taking a ball of yarn and turning it into something that can keep people warm versus sending off a dozen emails. Yarn wins hands down for that sense of accomplishment even though those emails ultimately turn into something a little more tangible.

Handmade comes and goes in the 'what is trendy' commercial arena. Me, I like handmade because if a friend has made something for me (meals count too), it is extra special. Handmade items take time, which is a helluva precious commodity.

I've decided that where possible I'm going to my Friday afternoons my 'Make Something' afternoons. Time that is dedicated to making stuff. Last week I crocheted a super special beanie (my most fabulous so far!) for a friend who enthusiastically exclaimed, "I'd love a beanie". He's a passionate cook so I've traded the beanie for a yummy meal. Trading is cool.

This past Friday I tried a bread recipe from my new book. It's a slow-rise process and these breads take pretty much 24hrs from making the dough to eating the bread. There are enough recipes at one-loaf-a-week to keep me busy for two years! I baked it last night and it came out well - I'll make a few adjustments for next time. I also tried a new recipe for ginger-grapefruit curd. For comparison, I made two batches: the new recipe and my old favourite. Old favourite is still better. I only got started on these creatings at about 3pm and finished juicing, blending, cooking, mixing, sterilising and sifting around 19h00. A very satisfying afternoon.

Sooo... what can you make? If I like, I'll trade you. A jar of curd? A scarf? A beanie? A loaf of bread? 

The best I can be today

I finished writing a magazine article on Thursday morning and I was pretty chuffed with my final paragraph. Sometimes they come easy and sometimes it's like sucking a double-thick milkshake through a skinny straw. This one was inspired.

The last two sentences read: "Be the best that you can be on that day (or days) and then in the race after that be the best that you can be again and again and again. Best of all, there really is no limit to being better."

So I'm chatting to my buddy Fred on Skype, really pleased that my article is done. I sent him my paragraph to check out (he's great to bounce articles off) and he replies,

"Some of us just need to let go and love ourselves without trying to be the best of all time. Being the best I can be today - that's perfection."

That it is.

Are you busy?

The other day Sean Verret (adventure racer, organiser of FEAT Canada) wrote a post on his blog about busyness (being busy). He included links to some other posts on the web that came up when he did a search on busyness. I found many thoughtful comments in all (my mom wrote a blog on being busy back in March 2009).

I'll pulled out a couple of thoughts from these articles.

Do you like being busy?
In this post on the NY Times the author Tim Kreider writes, "Except that I hate actually being busy. Every morning my in-box was full of e-mails asking me to do things I did not want to do or presenting me with problems that I now had to solve."

That's me. I don't like to always be busy, although I usually am. If I have a few hours of not being busy or constructive it is because I'm hiding from tasks that need to be done. I'm really good at entertaining myself and thus I have very little sitting-on-a-couch-doing-nothing time. As a result of a jam-packed 'To Do' list, even things that I want to do become busyness - more work than pleasure.

There's also something to be said for thinking. Just thinking. About things. When you're always busy you react more than plan or think. It's nice to think.

Drivers to busyness
Although this other post was of a religious nature and the linked table too reliant on higher powers to solve the busyness problems, the fundamentals spoke to me. I've cropped the table adjacent to what I think is relevant.

There are six foundational drivers that undergird our busyness.  Most people fall prey to one or more of these drivers:
  • You’re trying to prove yourself to others
  • You’re trying to meet other people’s expectations
  • You fear things will get out of control
  • You prefer the pressure
  • You need the money
  • You want to make the most out of life

And then there's this blogger, Kathy, who pinned the tail on the donkey when she wrote the following:
I find it somewhat amusing that so many people (myself included) complain about being so busy and stressed out, yet we’re the ones choosing to be busy and stressed out. After I said how excited I was about our holiday plans, and proceeded to schedule another dinner and New Year’s Eve plans, I took a step back and thought, What the heck am I doing here? I keep whining in self-pity about being “so tired” and “just exhausted” and wanting to do “nothing but lie on the couch all day” and then I go and MAKE MORE PLANS!
This is something that I’ve had to learn many times over the past couple of years (and am obviously still learning) – I don’t have to be productive to be a worthwhile person. The other thing I’m going to do is Stop Saying Yes. Yes, I’ve read this in a zillion self-help articles and magazines. But I never identified myself with “those people-pleasers who can never say no” because the things I was saying yes to were 1) good things 2) things I wanted to do and 3) things I was good at doing. Why would I say no to something that seemed so perfect for me?
I think this quote came from the same post:
While there are many things that need to be done, things I’m capable of doing and want to do, I am not always the one to do them.
I'm multi-talented and capable. That's fact. But being able to do something and wanting to do something are two completely different things.

I'm also trying to chill my Type-A personality to do things tomorrow and not today. I've got lists and lists of things that need to be done but they don't all have to be done right now. *deep breath*

Swimming and drinking wine all day - sign me up!
At lunch with family a few weekends ago we were talking about my aunt's friend who lives in Mykonos. So my dad says, "I wonder what he does there all day". My mom says, "Swimming and drinking wine". My dad responded something to the effect that swimming all day and drinking wine is essentially a waste of time.

Well, it is - and it isn't. Why should lives be career orientated, ladder climbing, mentally stimulating and totally 'productive'? Productive to whom? I'd love to spend my days guilt-free and worry-free. For now my interests are centered around running, aerial disciplines, crocheting, baking (I'm into home-made breads again) and growing a veggie garden and pretty flowers. Next year there will be other activities that I'd like to try my hand at. These tasks are fulfilling to me but probably not to someone else who may think that my time would be best spent cultivating a family and building an empire. We don't all want the same things.

Trading a party for people
My mom celebrates her 60th birthday on Tuesday. She initially was in the mood for a pa.r.t.y. but it means a lot of organising and arranging and on the night she'll hardly be able to chat to the people who are near and dear to her. Instead she has now decided to do a bunch of small dinners with family and friends over a few weeks to celebrate not only her birthday but the special people in her life that she appreciates.

I'm really making an effort to de-busy. I've got great ideas for events and activities to organise but instead of jumping into making them happen I've got them on a list so that I won't forget about these ideas but can revisit them at a later stage.

I've got some left-over fortune cookies (I wrote custom fortunes for them) from my Winter Metrogaine event and the one I munched during the week reaffirmed where my priorities should lie. It reads: "Any day that you are too busy to run is a day that you are too busy". 

I'm proud to know you

I often consider how fortunate I am to know so many really good people. People who use their time to put in a lot of effort to make things happen for other people.

Take orienteering, for example. This is a volunteer-run sport and there are many, many people in the clubs who put a ton of their free time into making maps, planning and organising events and generally keeping the sport alive. Without them the sport of orienteering really would not exist here.

I've found that people are not always willing to get things going themselves and they'll wait for other people to setup and organise things and then they're quite happy to help out, which is very, very much needed.

This tribute especially goes out to all the truly incredible people I know who put their time into voluntarily organising and making things happen for other people to enjoy (not just in orienteering - many other avenues too). You do this not for status or financial incentives (there are not usually any!) but because you enjoy doing and creating and making and giving. This is your satisfaction and I am thankful for this because your generosity in giving of your time, energy and skills enriches my life. I am proud to know you.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Article: A Fairer View

My article in the new issue (Jul/Aug 2012) of Go Multi magazine. It's on women in teams - specifically all-girls and 3+1 women's teams. Thanks to my girls for their comments: Lauren, Debbie, Nadine, Jackie, Vix, Lizelle and the guy (+1) who raced with the Russians, Francois.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Aerial circus school - play time

Circus school started in Jo'burg this week! I've been so envious of the Capetonians with Zip-Zap and National Circus and now we've got something here - well, at least for six months. I heard about it on Monday via a friend on Facebook (this platform has its advantages) and I went for my first session last night (last night was the first night).

The focus here is on aerial arts like chinese pole, silks, straps, ropes and trapeze and for now they're working on conditioning exercises to build our strength to be able to execute moves. Goodness gracious! It was hard, hard going. We did three disciplines last night. I found the straps to be quite challenging and although the silks really work your hands, I like them. Chinese pole is quite different to my normal pole but I feel quite at home with it - the pole is familiar.

As I'm not teaching pole at the moment (as of this week) for the first time in three-and-a-half years, I'm focusing on playing. For me. When you teach then you don't get to play much and I've found that over the past 18 months I really haven't progressed much with my pole stuff. My strength is reasonable, my balance is inherently good, flexibility is ok and I'm not scared of heights or of trying new, challenging moves. I manage but I'd like to be better, especially with the aerial/balance/strength moves which I really get a kick out of and for which I have an affinity.

Circus school offers the best of all worlds because I'll get conditioning and strengthening training in various aerial disciplines. So I'll give straight-up pole a break and instead jump into the (circus) ring to play, play, play for the next few months.

As my mom quite rightly put it last night, play time will be good for me because most things I do are work (some have elements of 'fun' but they are work) - where I am responsible for something or an outcome.

I spent only six months in pole classes before I started teaching, which means planning classes, always coming up with new stuff and a weekly responsibility. I've been involved in a  project for the orienteering federation for the past year - I'm writing manuals, organising this and that... AR is often work with writing articles, maintaining the website, organising AR Club evenings and admin... Work, work, work.

I wanna PLAY!

Monday, 16 July 2012

Aerial silks

I've been keen to give aerial silks a try for some time. Last weekend at the pole jam the one girl I know said she was putting silks and lira (the hanging hoola hoop thing) into her studio this week and we set up a play date for yesterday afternoon.

What fun we had! My other pole friend came through - she's been teaching silks for a few months.

Well, it is hard work! In some ways it is harder on your hands. A pole is solid and you can grab it tight. Fabric you've really got to squeeze tight to pull yourself up. And, like pole, it is one of those things where you have to learn to balance on the fabric, learn how far you can or can't learn back and many, many techniques for wrapping the fabric to achieve moves.

I learned how to climb and to do a single foot lock and a lean back thing. I also learned to twist myself up from sitting on the silks (tied in a knot - like a swing) and then Michelle got me to do a death-defying forward tumble. Crazy stuff!

I'm looking forward to more ;)

Beanie bombing

This winter chill made for perfect timing for our beanie bombing outing to happen this morning. As of this morning I was armed with 17 beanies. There are 16 in the pic below - plus one of Kyle's in the pic too (our first ones we made). I finished my 17th last night. I also packed in some other odds and ends - like some odd knitted strips my mom made last year which I turned into neckwarmers. Kyle brought a bunch of beanies with him that we bombed too.

Venue selected was Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown, Jo'burg. There are these lovely wooden head sculptures that we thought would be perfect for the beanies and that there would be sufficient foot traffic that the beanies would be quickly picked up. We were right. I don't think the beanies stayed there for longer than 15 minutes!

While I was bombing, Kyle was clicking photos.
I'm probably up for this again next year so if you've got unused and left over yarn lying around, please send it my way and I'll turn it into something wearable. If you can knit/crochet - even better. Whip up some beanies over the next 11 months and then send them to me to add to the bombing collection. Colours, colours and more colours. Nice.

Friday, 13 July 2012

From the earth

I'm enjoying growing stuff and watching it blossom.

Two years ago I cultivated seeds from the daisies that I planted and from a load at my local park. I scattered the seeds under the roses in our complex in late April. First daisy made an appearance two days ago. It's going to be a riot of colour in the next week or two ;)
Mom with lemon tree. This is lemon tree's second year. Last year we got about three lemons. Looking mighty fine this year.
Lemons ripening
Mom was given two brusselsprout plants. The one has done very well and it has been fascinating to watch the formation and growth of the brusselsprouts. Crazy plant. Still more development to go.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Hand-drawn orienteering maps

I've had this thing about using black and white maps (hand drawn or digitally drawn) for the school environment, especially where detail is missing and students can get into mapping by drawing in the detail themselves. I've also had a leaning towards people learning to map by producing hand-drawn maps and then later digitising them. Hand drawn is certainly much faster than digital where the hours disappear faster than a pint of Guinness in an Irish pub...

I've been 'trying' to map my local park for years. I first gave it a shot about five years ago and then got distracted and never completed the map. The thing is that it is sooooo easy to get bogged down in detail.

In Ireland I met a chap (Ted Lucey) when I spotted an orienteering control. An older guy, he's an experienced mapper, retired draughtsman and the event he held that evening was on a hand-drawn map. As he said to me, it took him an hour to make the hand-drawn map and it would have taken a day on computer. I was immediately smitten by his map. This is it...

I'm using myself as a guinea pig to develop a basic map-making workshop and format - to get more orienteers mapping. It is far more daunting to great a 'perfect' orienteering map on OCAD than it is to produce a hand-drawn sketch. Maps are, afterall, representative - not photographic.

I've just finished my map. The hardest part has been to try to get away from wanting to achieve perfection. It is really difficult to do this! So, while I know that my map is not perfect, a beginner orienteer wouldn't even notice and an experienced orienteer will have enough savy to navigate successfully using the features that I have indicated based on what I think is significant in the terrain. And that's what counts.

Wanna see my map?

A few things I've learned:

  • In striving for accuracy I've been bogged down with carbon paper, tracing paper etc. I need to let go a little more and go more freehand.
  • Carbon paper can be rubbed out - mostly - if there is no colour over it. I can see some of my carbon paper tracings on to the paper and it is niggling me.
  • Why didn't I use two or three layers of my tracing paper in my initial survey? I knew this but I forgot it... So, I ended up with too much detail on my original trace and in-the-field survey. Anyhoo...
  • The right felt-tipped pens and fineliners are key. I need a better green fineliner for my next attempt at this map.
  • It works well to create the outline of the park area and to put in other man-made detail (black) like paths and man-made features first. Then scan and then print and then colour-in. You can't use felt-tipped pents over the fineliner because it smudges the fineliner and taints the felt-tipped pens. But, you can colour-in over laser printed outlines. 
  • After the black man-made features are done and printed out then it is time for colour. Nice thing with this is that if you make a mistake you just print another and try again, without losing the general layout.
  • Runnability of the terrain has to go in first because of needing to put fineliner for detail (trees, ditches etc) on top of the felt-tipped pen and not the other way around. Took me days to get the guts to put pen to paper - literally - because once that ink is on the page there's no taking it off, unlike on computer where you can adjust endlessly.
  • Systematically adding layers in these hand-drawn maps is a great lesson for methodology of layering for drawing digital maps. Yes, the layer structure is pre-programmed (river goes on top of open ground) but should hopefully create better clarity when creating shapes of terrain - neater if someone else edits the map later.
  • Trees, trees, trees. This park has lots of trees and it is really tough, especially in winter, to decide on which ones are sufficiently significant, which are more scattered and which would be classified as forest (connecting canopies and runnable underneath). There are not a lot of features in this park so trees become features to use for placing controls. The key is consistency - if I map something as forest I have to map everything similar as forest. Mapping every tree in this little park is possible but it would be information overload, especially to a novice orienteer. The other thing I've considered is where I would place controls and thus these features need to be easily distinguishable. I think I may have too much detail in places... I need to take this map with me to the park and to look at it with fresh eyes.
  • It probably took me five hours in total, including walking in the park and excluding thinking about what and how, to make this map. Faster than it would have been on computer.
  • If I want to digitise it would be fairly simple to scan in this map and use it as a base map. Features, vegetation etc are all in already.
I'm going to try this map again - maybe over the weekend - as I've got some adjustments that I want to make but I'm fairly happy with this first attempt.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Adventure Calling (Private Life magazine)

Golly goodness! Just got the PDF of an article I wrote in early May - it comes out in print soon in the magazine, Private Life. My thanks to the Cara, the editor, for her ongoing and enthusiastic support of FEAT and adventurous pursuits. So cool to have a SIX-PAGE spread! Also thanks to Tweet, Mandy, John and Pete for their comments, which were included in this article. I love how the map came out.

If you click on the image it should open bigger.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Full moon running

As I was tied up with a meeting on Tuesday (full moon), I did a 'day-after-full-moon' run on Wednesday night with Fred. Although my calves were feeling tight on the ups, I felt better overall - working through post-rogaine recovery.

Fred and I hit Primrose Hill and down into Bedfordview. I haven't been past the fish-tank house for some time and we managed to catch it with the one tank visible. They've got a screen that rolls over the tanks and it is only up for a few hours each day.

Our run was a very pleasant 14km on this beautiful winter's evening. Clear sky and magnificent moon.