I’m Back! (Kind of)

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It’s been a little more than three years since I last posted. I’m not going to become maudlin and vow to keep it up forever. I will, however, say that I will be posting more often than once every three years.

Why the three year hiatus? I’ve been trying my best to grow my client list for personal training. I am a good trainer, though far from “the best”. I often get assigned new clients deemed “difficult” for some reason.

Sometimes it’s prehab for “embarrassing” surgery in 3 months. Lots of personal trainers get clients who are preparing for knee surgery, or shoulder surgery, or even ankle and foot surgery. So far I’ve gotten prehab clients for hysterectomies, mastectomies, and lung cancer.

Occasionally it’s post-surgery, post-physical therapy. More and more, though, my niche seems to be coming down to a couple of notable demographics: those who are more than merely nervous about coming to a gym (whether from self consciousness, recent injury, bad previous experiences, etc.) and hidden or fringe sub-cultures (transgender, kink/BDSM, Leather, etc.).

I enjoy working with people in these niches. Coaching and watching a client become confident in the gym or gain at least partial mastery of their own body is a joy. The challenges of creating programs for those with uncommon needs feeds my hunger for continuing education, analytical thinking, and creative application of otherwise common knowledge.

The downside of working with people in these niches is finding them. I’m awful at marketing and sales to begin with. I’ve always respected “no”. Trying to convince someone to purchase sessions with me beyond the initial resistance feels a lot like the sales and marketing version of date rape. It just doesn’t sit well with me. Marketing to these niches who tend to take active steps to remain hidden is even harder. I still don’t have a full schedule.

After three years of trying to build my books, I’ve decided to get back to writing. This blog satisfies my need for unfocused pursuit of random thoughts. Another of my blogs I’m starting up again is more of a repository of a portion of my fantasy writings. I’m also getting back to writing larger pieces. I’ve picked up two books I’d put on hold. One is a sequel to one already written, the other is in a related genre, but tends to read as mainstream unless you read between the lines. I also have a list of short story ideas I’d like to start working my way through. There is also one larger piece that technically falls in the “book” category, but is non-fiction (a very new area for me).

I plan to continue posting on this blog, but it won’t be as frequent as it was while I was in school. I guarantee, however, that the topics will be just as random. I’m back (kind of) and hope to see all of you soon.

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Substitute Topics

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This may be my last post for a while…at least until I get a working computer at home. Before I can do that, though I need to find a part time job. Why part time? The rest of the time this summer is going to be taken up by my internship.

You’d think that I’d have a really awesome topic ready for this post, since it may be the last one I get to post for a while. Unfortunately, while several ideas came to me between waking up this morning and arriving at the school computer lab, none of them seem to have stuck around. I’m left with a brief roster check. If you’re looking for a substantive post, this may not be it. On the other hand, you never know when substance will come out of chaos.

School. This is finals week. I had the first half of one of my finals last week (and it took the class an average of 2 hours 15 minutes to finish it). The second half of that final is on Thursday. I also have three other finals and three practicals to survive. Grueling, yes. Difficult? Could be harder, not that I’m complaining. If I approach it just as I approach other challenges, it could even be kind of fun.

I just received an email from one of my instructors concerning the internship. I need to have CPR/First Aid certification cards. My cards were in the car that got totaled. I need to have them within two weeks. Quickest way to get the new cards is to just take the course again. Fortunately it’s not that much more expensive to just get recertified. Did I mention I got certified in February? Oh well.

Social. A week after school ends, a bunch of us are going to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show at one of the theaters here in town. Why? Because we need to have fun as a group outside of school. I’m really looking forward to it. They’ll get to see a side of me most of them never dreamed existed. I hope I don’t shock some of my class mates TOO badly. (Though a little shock will be a good thing.)

Other than that, I’m not looking forward to the last class day of social dance. There are a few people there I’d like to keep up with, but I doubt it’ll happen. Why? Because I have very little to connect with them over. We might see each other in dance halls or something, but I doubt for anything substantive beyond that.

I find it ironic that it took until last week (i.e. the penultimate class) in my conditioning class for one of the other participants to come out of her shell. We actually seem to have much in common, at least in terms of interests. I guess we’ll have to meet outside of class. (Oh, darn.) I anticipate friendship, possibly a very close friendship, but little else. Her plans include an advanced degree in international law and becoming a negotiator. Although I enjoy traveling, my own career requires me to stay put (unless I end up as personal trainer to an ambassador or something). I’d probably feel like I was holding her back. So. Friends it is.

Work. As I mentioned earlier, I need to find a part time job. Are there part-time jobs available? Yes. Unfortunately, most of them seem to be flipping burgers. Ideally I’d like to be in the fitness industry (No. GNC doesn’t count.), but my options are dwindling rapidly. I tried at a few places last week, but they’d just finished a hiring cycle. Oh well. The search goes on.

Dreams. Believe what you want about dreams: random firings of the brain, “someone” trying to tell you “something”, or your mind working things out, I’ve had a couple dreams recently that make it difficult not to draw connections. The first could easily have been a nightmare. It involved a series of tidal waves, or possibly an invading army. Most of the people around me were running around screaming. The difference between this dream and nightmare was instead of fear being the dominant emotion, I was excited. I spent most of the dream dragging a group of four or five people around, trying to convince them this could be fun. The other one involved some random woman at a theater snuggling up to me for no apparent reason. (Yes, guys, that’s as far as it went.)

I hope to be able to continue blogging regularly, but I’m not sure if I’ll have the access necessary to do it on a schedule. I may take to putting my blogs in a notebook, then transcribing them as I have the opportunity. Goodness knows I keep a notebook handy for my stories (short or otherwise). Maybe I’ll grab one of those multi-subject notebooks and reserve one section for blogs. In any case, if you don’t hear from me for a while, never fear, I haven’t forgotten and will get back at some point. Until then, be safe, be well, and enjoy life as much as you can.

Topic Shotgun!

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The semester is coming to an end. I know this, not because of the date, but because of all the projects that are coming due. I find myself a little melancholy at the prospect of the semester ending. With the exception of one class, which I thought was badly planned and badly executed, I’ve truly enjoyed my classes. However, it is time to think about the summer. This summer, I have an internship. There are two possible sites. I had an interview at one of them this morning. It looks like a great place, but I know I need to keep an open mind. I also need a part time job. Hmmm. Too bad I’m not allowed to combine the two.

I have four tests coming up, plus 3 lab practicals. Fortunately, the class I don’t particularly like has no final. Is it strange that I’m looking forward to the tests and practicals? Most of the other students don’t seem to share the attitude, so I try to keep it to myself.

While waiting for my interview this morning, I started a quasi-stream of consciousness piece. Depending on the quality of the final piece, I may post it here, or I may even try to send it in…somewhere. Not sure what genre it will be. So far it looks promising, but I may just be hyped up for the interview. At this point, it is first person narrative, so I’ll post a “this post is fiction” notice if I post it here.

Speaking of writing, I’ve come to the realization that my writing, specifically my fiction writing, is fairly minimalist in terms of descriptions of the environments. Obviously, since I’ve recently realized it, it’s been an unconscious decision. Now I wonder if I need to do two passes in order to come up with a first draft: one to write the story, and a second to fill in the description. Or should I make a conscious decision to leave things minimal. I think of van Gough using only three lines to draw a cat (I think it was van Gough). It’s possible that having the reader fill in details from their own memories and experiences, it’ll make them more invested in the story. “Here I am. In a hospital bed. No idea of how I got here.” Another way of doing it is description by effect on the character. “She had the kind of beauty that made me think of Kali: mother and destroyer.” Any ideas?

Happy Stress Day!

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Wow. It’s been a couple of very busy weeks. The “achievement” score so far stands thus: 1 car totaled, 1 used car bought, 2 tests taken (without being studied for), 1 minor project completed, 1 major project started, 4 training sessions altered to account for client improvements beyond expectations and new client injuries, 2 new students. Gotta love life.

The ability to devote all your attention on the task in front of you is one of the greatest abilities we have. In this digital age, we constantly hear about “multitask” this and “multithread” that. That’s great for computers, but the human mind only fools itself into thinking it can do that. The closest we can come is to break down multiple larger tasks into chunks, then address each chunk in turn. By devoting all attention to each chunk one at a time, the tasks get done much more quickly, whether or not consecutive chunks are part of the same task. This is the basis of just about every time-management lecture/book/workshop/etc. I’ve ever seen.

These past few weeks have put my ability to do this to the test. I’ve really had to discipline my mind in ways I haven’t had to do in a long time. Creating multiple contingency plans for transportation is a great idea…just not during a test. Likewise, when with my client, I have to keep my focus on her, and not let my mind drift to the test I have to take the following day which I have not yet studied for.

I hadn’t intended to write about time management, or even the illusion of attention (as mentioned in The Invisible Gorilla). To be fair, I didn’t have a specific topic in mind, today, but giving clues as to a low point in my life was not my intention. On the other hand, maybe the catharsis of stream of consciousness writing will help me focus on some of my tasks today.

Speaking of writing, I find it’s easiest to write when my stress levels are within certain tolerances, call them X for the low end and Y for the top end. Writing this entry has been an interesting exercise in both the focus mentioned above and writing while pushing the Y boundary. When my stress levels are far beyond the Y limit, I just don’t care. The challenge is when my stress levels are just above my normal Y limit.

I wonder if there’s a correlation between the type of writing I find easiest at any one time and where within the X-Y tolerance my stress is. If this post is any indication, it looks as though the closer to Y (or past it), the easier it is for stream of consciousness writing. I know I have to have a fairly low level of stress in order to write fantasy (whether traditional or urban). This is not unexpected, since in writing fiction, I tend to try to imagine myself in the specific physical and emotional situations of the characters. My stress buffer has to be fairly clear in order to constructively cope with deliberately putting myself in…unfortunate…situations.

If my stress level gets too low, I just don’t have anything to tap into to write about. This is probably the best time for me to write my academic papers. Without a minimum level of stress, I can’t creatively express the conflicts necessary for amusement writing (notice I did not say “good writing”). Without that minimum level of stress, being able to focus on facts, understand them, interpret them, and apply them become much easier for me. Below that point, logic, deductive reasoning, and inductive reasoning become very easy for me.

I guess if I had multiple writing projects I had to take care of, I would have to break them into chunks, then address the chunks separately, deciding which chunk to take care of at any one time based on my current level of stress.

A Personal Fitness Trainer’s Dictionary

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Late in my high school career, I discovered Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary. I was so taken by its cynical and humorous redefining of everyday words, I started doing it on occasion. When given the freedom to be creative with one of my college papers, I used this definition format. I’ve since occasionally come up with new definitions that tickled my fancy. For instance:

Paradox: Two piers side-by-side, one of which cannot logically exist.

I recently rediscovered The Devil’s Dictionary. It inspired me, or perhaps challenged is the better word, to do another thematic list. Since I’m currently working towards an Associates of Applied Science in Personal Fitness Training, I thought I’d see what I could do with some of the concepts. Some are amusing, some are less than stellar, but it was an interesting exercise. Here are my definitions of relevance to personal trainers:

Cardiorespiratory – if blood were air, pushing this will make your heart gasp

Endurance – a partial trance state which allows you to beat up your body, and your body will thank you…much later

Exercise – Banishing fat through movement instead of bell, book, and candle

Expensive – no longer thinking

Fitness – the quality of being able to wear the clothes you want

Frustration – psychological resistance through which the mind can prove itself wrong

Group Exercise – banishing fat through movement instead of bell, book, and candle…with friends

Guilt – mistaking dross for gold and providing a reason to do better

Gym – a healthy jungle of metal and machine

Heart Rate
How fast does my heart beat for me?
Far less than it beats for you.
And yet it is sufficient
That it beats in time.

Rehabilitation – making your body livable again

Resistance – something by which achievement becomes meaningful

Spa – Special Privilege of Affluence, or less cynically, Sound Preventive Activities

Strength – the ability to bear up under pressure

Train – to do something over and over in order to pull your baggage up a hill

Weigh – something you don’t want to do after you eat too many curds

Wellness – not just the characteristic of being a hole in the ground

A Meta-Topic

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Once again, I broach the topic of “topic”. Why? A couple of reasons. It seems to be my default topic when I have no others at hand when I sit down to write. As an un-themed blog it is both very easy and very difficult to come up with a topic. Since a themed blog is, by definition, focused on a single subject, topics can be found through research and analysis. At least, this is what I see from both subject matter experts (SMEs) and those on the “outside” looking in. I have great respect for those who consistently provide excellent, focused content. It is not something I would feel comfortable attempting, at least for the mainstream audience.

My blog is an un-themed blog. It is a mix of fact and fiction, part diary, part experiment in other viewpoints, part soapbox. Those who have followed my blog from the beginning see that posts tend to fall into a few consistent themes. Which brings me to another reason that “topics” is my default…um…topic.  For un-themed blogs, topic subjects and timings are sometimes an even better clue, overall, to the person behind the keyboard, than the contents of posts. The topic of any particular post in an un-themed blog reveals what that person is thinking about (or has recently spent a lot of time pondering). When I get too wrapped up in something, I find it hard to stop obsessing over it. Because writing about “topics” is what I would call “meta-writing”, it allows me to step back and clear at least a part of my slate.

Does this mean I can immediately turn out another several blogs on various topics? Sometimes, yes. Usually, no. What it does do is allow me to be more open to potential topics as I run into them.  It gets me in the mindset of “how can I turn ____ into a topic I can write on?” A side benefit seems to be a (sometimes temporary) increase in the ability to link unusual concepts into a single category. For instance, I was playing a word association game a while back when the primary word was “astronomy”. Most of the others in the small group came up with planetary bodies or concepts, but my response was “Academy Awards”. I would group that particular linked pairing into the category “word play”. (I got a few rolled eyes when I explained the link, but it was allowed to pass.)

My main concern, as the semester comes to a close, is that there will be an increasing number of posts about “topics”.

Stalking Language

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Writing requires a certain precision in grammar, syntax, and vocabulary. It’s not always easy to get these elements to line up in a meaningful way. Sometimes it can be downright difficult. So difficult, in fact, that I have yet to see a college degree plan that doesn’t require proof of competency…usually by attaining a grade of “C” or better in a composition class of some sort.

I enjoy language. I enjoy using language to inform, describe, and entertain. More specifically, I enjoy writing. I spend a decent amount of time putting ideas into a readable format. I also spend a lot of time revising so that what I wrote matches what I want to say on more than one level. This means paying attention to more than just the definition of a word. It also means examining the connotation so that denotation matches the emotional intent. (As an example, compare the following: smell, odor, stench, fragrance.)

In addition to determining the appropriate vocabulary, I also pay attention to the grammar and syntax. I’m sometimes criticized for using what some of my readers call “bizarre sentence construction” or “confusing” sentences. They then suggest a simpler way of saying what they believe the message is. For example:

My version: I would have been walking for three hours at four o’clock yesterday afternoon.

Their version: I was walking at four o’clock yesterday afternoon.

Yes, their version is easier to understand; however, in looking at the implications of how the information is presented, my version conveys (or at least is intended to convey) a person reconstructing his memory to report it to a questioner. The other is more like someone with a time-stamped video.

So what? Just because I spend extra time to make sure a particular message includes not only the appropriate denotation, but also the appropriate emotional content, does that mean I expect everyone else to do the same? Of course not. Many times, it’s not even necessary. Unfortunately, sometimes it is. I recently ran into just such an issue in one of my textbooks. It rests on a single word: “between”. The issue: defining cyberbullying, cyberstalking, and flame war.

The text has the following definitions:

Cyberbullying: children or teenagers bullying other children or teenagers via the Internet

Cyberstalking: repeated threats or harassing behavior between adults carried out via email or another Internet communications method

Setting aside the issue that differentiation based on age is, at best, arbitrary, there are so many problems with the cyberstalking definition, it’s hard to know just where to begin*. However, just looking at the second definition (not the word it’s defining), it seems to define “flame war” better than “cyberstalking”. One of my reasons for saying this is the word “between”. Doing less than two minutes of research, you can see that most definitions of cyberbullying/cyberstalking go one way. If you look up “between” on Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, the first definition in the full definition listing is: “by the common action of: jointly engaging”. In other words, there is reciprocal effort. That just doesn’t fit with the apparent intention of the definition.

The really annoying thing is that when I asked about this in order to clarify my understanding of what will be tested in class, the instructor merely repeated the definition and justified it as “the textbook was written by computer experts.” *headdesk*

*For comparison, here is the National Institute of Justice’s (the research section of the US Department of Justice) definition of cyberstalking: the use of technology to stalk victims; it involves the pursuit, harassment, or contact of others in an unsolicited fashion initially via the Internet and e-mail. It is part of the web page describing stalking. (http://www.nij.gov/topics/crime/stalking/)

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