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Thursday, February 26, 2015

V is for Vacation Video

We returned from a short vacation today, and it is my intention to write it up and post before midnight, as tomorrow will be quite busy for me.

As the title suggests, I have some video to share with you.  I don't want to spoil it for you, other than to say that occasionally you will have to tilt your head to view it properly:
Now wasn't that nice?  The soundtrack was entirely appropriate for skiing, I thought.  Just not my skiing.  A more appropriate choice for my scenes in the video would be "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" played at half speed.

Speaking of which, I met one of my modest goals, that of not running over anyone else.  There were times when it was pretty iffy, but I managed to both steer myself and not wipe out.  Which is a good thing, because I probably outweighed any two people on that slope.

My brother-in-law managed to get us a good deal on ski lessons.  The teacher was kind, and I think knowledgeable, but between us we did not have enough language for me to progress very far.  I have had mild hip and knee problems ever since breaking my left leg, and didn't manage to even start to address it until the second day.  That was when I found out that I am left legged.  I can brake with my left leg downhill, but when I try to put my right leg downhill it stalls, leaving me aimed straight down, quickly picking up speed, and going into panic mode.  Fun fact: skis don't have a handbrake!

By the end of my trials, I was getting down the hill faster than Maxine, though her speed improved considerably over the two days we spent skiing. She was faster on the recovery than I.  The first day she did twice as many runs as I did (8:4).  The second day I came to my senses.  On my 3rd run I finished going way faster than I liked, without having a feeling for how exactly I managed to do it without tumbling down the hill.  My lessons covered slowing down using the snow plough method, and using the stop being on a slope method.  I was barely holding my own with the plough, and it was ineffective at high speeds.  Balancing felt like being on a bike with wobbly wheels (and no brakes).  So I gave up.  Did I miss out on a chance to get better?  Maybe so.  But even a minor injury would have made driving back to Busan (just over an hour) very annoying, and a major injury would have made the new semester at the new job next Monday no fun at all.

This is a video that I took of Maxine at the end of a run:

She wondered why I got so tired, so I offered her the following thought experiment:  Imagine a bowling ball and a baseball rolling down a hill.  Which one is easier to stop?   You are the baseball, I am the bowling ball.  On my slow runs, I was putting in a huge amount of work to keep my speed low.  The first day, I finished every run trembling, my whole body feeling wrung out.  That evening I spent an hour in the resort bath house, soothing my sore muscles with hot, hot water. 

In case you are unfamiliar with Korean spas, Conan O'Brien visited one in New York's Korea Town.  Of course, he plays it up for laughs, but one's first visit can be quite shocking.  (I'm not posting this as an embedded video, because it includes pixelated naked men, and of course that's what you see in the video box.  No thanks.)

I didn't get the body scrub, but the water was hot.  102 degrees for the hot tub, 105 degrees for the really hot tub.  I am absolutely sure that more than 30 minutes of soaking in those tubs are what made it possible for me to walk the next day.

On to the last video.  Quinten was not videoed by his instructors, probably because it takes about 97%  of one's focus to lead him through something like this.  So this is the only video I have of Quinten skiing:
The last 10 seconds of his video are more representative of what he enjoyed.  His teachers (he had a different one each day) were impressed, or at least they said they were.  Let's face it, they got paid, Quinten was happy and safe, and he got to learn how to ski.  I think that's the best possible outcome.  Both teachers pushed him hard, made him work for it, and we could see the improvement.  It makes me think that he would really benefit from some sort of regular physical training, whether a martial art like Taekwondo, or some sport.  Something that lets him harness that energy, and forces him to pay attention to instructions.

Finally, I spent a lot of time thinking about one specific piece of ski equipment: the boots.
"Boot to the head" is a whole new level of nasty now.
If you are not familiar with ski boots, they have three main features:  1) They attach your feet to your skis, but release easily when you fall. 2) They protect your feet and ankles from impacts, like the ski on your other foot. 3) They immobilize your ankles.

When I first put them on, it felt like the first step in donning a robot combat suit.  They are heavy and clunky, and you can't walk with your normal gait.  It feels like you could be crushing aliens with every awkward step. You come down hard on your heel, and your foot wants to roll but it can't.  All the bending has to come from your knees, and they just aren't used to it.  You don't get any of the spring that your ankles normally give.

By the end of the first day my ankles were as sore as if they had been working all day, even though the boots were designed to do all of the ankle work.  I was very frustrated with myself, because I knew with my head that I could relax my ankles, but my primitive monkey toes felt the falls coming and wanted to reach out and grasp on to something.  (Of course, they are barely capable of picking up a sock, much less suspending my weight, but they don't seem to realize that.)

So one regular thought through my day was, "Give up! Relax!  You don't need to do anything!"  This thought, directed at my ankles, was in direct opposition to the messages going to the rest of my body and included such classics as, "Get it right or WE DIE!" "I know it feels wrong JUST DO IT!" and "Nononononono! Whew! Nononononono! Whew!"  This last one may have been out loud a few times.

At some point that evening, as I soaked in the hot tub and massaged my needlessly overworked ankles, I made a connection between my ankles and my brain.  I have had stretches of my life in which I felt like I had to DO something, and I struggled to make things happen.  Then I looked back and saw that I had been clamped into my course of action all along.  None of my actions had changed the direction or speed at which life happened to me.  It was all happening just as God wanted it to happen, and all I was doing was wearing myself out, trying to do better than the design which I had been placed in.

This, to me, seemed like some serious wisdom.

Until I thought about biking, and how it's almost the opposite.  I use clip-in shoes and pedals, and have for years.  They insure that my feet are optimally placed to transmit the most power into the gears of my bike.  They also let me use my calf muscles, as well as my other leg muscles.  When I'm doing it right, my ankles are flexing up and down like they would on an old foot-powered sewing machine.
And sew it goes.
On the bike, I have to keep flexing those muscles all the time to build strength and get more power out of my legs.*   This brings to mind the daily disciplines of faith: prayer and reading the Bible.  To be most effective, they need to be automatic.  Now there's some wisdom, right?

It slowly became clear to me, as the hot water carried away the pains of the day, that a big part of wisdom lies in knowing which particular wisdom applies at which time, and properly doing so.

Now that I have committed these thoughts to the page, it occurs to me that there may very well be a level of wisdom above that level, which I am just not yet able to grasp.  And beyond that?  How many levels are there?  Somewhere up there is God, watching me mess about, not even properly understanding my own ankles, and barely communicating a lesson that seemed so clear on the slopes yesterday.

Like skiing, we get better at wisdom the more we practice.  So get to it!

*The other payoff is that my legs look good.  Just ask my wife.

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A Brief Introduction

Roblog is my writing lab. It is my goal to not let seven days pass without a new post. I welcome your criticism, as I cannot improve on my own.

Here is a link to my cung post, which remains the only word which I have ever invented, and which has not, as far as I know, caught on. Yet.