Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Day

Not much to say at the moment, but I really wanted to have Feb 29th as a posting date :)

I'm certainly not doing much leaping at the moment as I'm still restricted from exercise, although I am getting my mobility back. My hip has been figured as suffering from the gluteal muscles getting out of balance strength wise, and thus pushing the joint geometry out of whack, leading to the pain and restriction I've been getting. Some good physiotherapy and rest has seen a lot of improvement though. The therapy is including acupuncture, which I've never had before and was somewhat uncomfortable but *wow* impressively and instantly effective, even if it gives me what feels like an instant deep bruise. I still can't run yet, not from being banned from it, more because I physically can't quite do it until I get the joint back to doing what it should. I'm not allowed on the bike either, although I did manage a swim on Saturday night (technically early Sunday morning to be precise) for a polio eradication fundraiser. Swimming while dragging a leg was harder than I thought it would be, especially at 1am.

I have progressed enough to be allowed a very limited return to netball if I feel up to it early next week. I'm not up to it now, so will see how things go. I've realised my body confidence (in terms of moving certain ways without worrying about it) is completely shot, more so than usual with the strains and sprains I have much more experience of. Since biking is what we think precipitated this situation in the first place, I am a bit leery about getting back on that too without some strategies in place.

In the meantime, here are some pics:

Here I am not doing Round the Bays on Sunday, perching precariously on the City to Sea bridge and watching the procession. I spent a few hours sleeping on that bridge one night, but that's another story:
And here is Fi on her way to kicking the 7K run's arse. She is the smiley one at the bottom looking like she is throwing the goat. That isn't what she is doing though, if you speak ASL you'll get it. Not being able to run it with her in her first RTB was the biggest disappointment about not being able to participate.
I've been using the downtime to attend to some maintenance on my bike, mainly replacing the brake pads and cables and reconditioning the rotors. The cables and pads in particular were shagged. Handy hint: if your cable cutters aren't cutting it, try annealing the cable by locally heating the bit you want to cut, ideally to red-hot, then letting it cool in the air. This softens the metal and makes for an easier cut. Doing this without setting fire to the bike is generally a plus:
This is the immediate people-milling-about aftermath and location of the calamitous Hobbit casting-call back in January, about as close to my doorstep as it could be. They could have asked me about the wisdom of the location, and I would have told them it was a dumb idea...
And finally a picture I took of something some friends of mine were involved in (would have played, but...) on a national website. It's uncredited, so you'll just have to take my word for it. As for the sport, I could try and explain it, but it's a bit like the Matrix; you just have to see it for yourself.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


So I was lining up a post on how I've really been enjoying cycling to work and elsewhere so far this year, how hopping on the bike in the morning had now become a habit, how the hill feels like less and less of an obstacle, how I had to jump start my car since I hadn't driven it for so long, how I aced my annual company medical exam, how I'm really enjoying my sport at the moment and generally feeling fitter than I have in a while.

Turns out I've been apparently doing it wrong, in proper unintended consequences style. The extra cycling seems to have upset one of my hips, including a nausea-inducing-make-it-stop-now excruciating overnight bout of sudden acute pain a month ago, followed by another less ouch but more persistent episode of painful and limited movement that is going on right now. The hip in question has been slightly dodgy historically anyway, but never like this. After inconclusive visits to A+E over the weekend, my GP yesterday, and a slightly more conclusive visit my physio today I think a handle is being got on what has suddenly gone wrong, which is good, since right now I can't really run, jump, change direction suddenly or lunge without discomfort or occasionally just falling over when the too-much threshold is reached. I thought on Monday it was coming right, but after barely making it through a single quarter at netball that night the game was clearly up.

I've noticed what annoys me most about it apart from not knowing yet precisely what the cause is and thus how to fix it, or the discomfort, is the lack of body confidence that arises from suddenly not being able to move the way you are used to, and having to move with fragile care. I'm moving very carefully, but can't always avoid the rotation that hurts. It's annoying when you sometimes realise you are limping not because it actually hurts, but because you think it might. Then you walk normally for a bit and it is fine, then you forget and move the wrong way and then you are back to limping again.

So after pulling myself out of my netball last night, not biking all week, after today's consultation I'm officially grounded on medical advice, no sports, no cycling until it is sorted (not that I can actually do those things right now anyway). All that fitness disappearing until I can start again (best case/guess in a few weeks maybe). The Hospi ride I was planning to repeat in a few weeks has already been unfortunately postponed/canned by the organisers for this year, but Bike the Trail is still on next weekend, and I was really looking forward to doing Round the Bays this weekend too, even ironically picking up my work-team entry pack today. Maybe next year.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pondering Christchurch a year on

It's a year today since Christchurch got the kind of earthquake that has long been expected here in Wellington.

It has been a day for reflection and pondering, not only for the lives lost, and lives disrupted, but for the things I have noticed for myself in the passing of a year. It has been five years since I have been in Christchurch. I've never lived there, and know few people there. But in the sense it could have been (and will be one day) us, it casts a long shadow.

After seeing what happens to them in a big shake, I am much more suspicious of brick and stone buildings than ever before. I am glad my house is made of wood. I'm not so glad the building I work in is brick and concrete, in a prime liquefaction zone, and apparently urgently requiring strengthening to get anywhere near acceptable code. Whenever I'm in the city I look around and note the buildings that look like the ones that turned to rubble.

In addition to the liquefaction zones, I also now know where the expected tsunami zones are, and when in them occasionally mentally plan escape routes in the unlikely event. I'm also never buying property in Petone or Island Bay :)

My house and our cars now have survival kits and water stored, with more than the recommended three days worth (I wonder if that will be amended now after Christchurch's experience). I get nervous when my cellphone isn't where I can see it or reach it easily. Not because of addiction, but after hearing how people aided their own rescue with them I now try and have it close at all times.

I try not to let the car petrol tanks get too close to empty. If you need to get out of town in a hurry stopping for gas may not be an option.

I noted a little while ago I have started thinking of 'Old Christchurch' and 'New Christchurch'. Old Christchurch is gone, the new one is still forming. A few months ago one of the TV networks showed a google earth overhead shot, then eliminated all of the prominent buildings that have since disappeared. It was quite a representation of just how much has changed. I don't want to be a disaster voyeur, but I wonder if the only way to really understand is to go down there and see it myself. I know that some parts of the Old Christchurch I am familiar with are now utterly changed, while others are unaffected.

The biggest change I have noticed both in myself and peers, is that after a lifetime of passing off earthquakes as local events in a city riven with faultlines, our first reaction on feeling a shake now is to wonder if it wasn't worse somewhere else.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Talking sdrawkcab

This has been bounced my way from a couple of sources lately:

To be clear what Alyssa is doing isn't literally saying the words backwards; with a couple of exceptions if you reverse the audio you won't hear the words as they normally sound. What she seems to be doing is pronouncing the words as if they were spelt backwards (there is a good rundown from my layman's perspective on the various backwards ways here).

This viral video I've found more interesting than most, because I can do it too. Not as conversational-speed fast as Alyssa can (and even if some of the words or combos are ones she has already figured out and thus knows from memory, the response speed is seriously impressive), but usually within the 'three seconds' yardstick for the video.

It is something I used to do as a party trick in my teens and twenties, but had forgotten about until now. If I can spell a word forwards, I can say it backwards. I just visualise the written word in my head and read it backwards. I don't jumble the letters until they read forward just reversed - reading it backwards is a lot simpler. In doing this I find I treat the word as if it is one I have never read before, breaking it into syllable sized pronunciation chunks, before saying it out loud. Like any reading, if you already know what a particular letter grouping sounds like you can just plug it in and make the process easier (some words also have natural backwards analogues, like time / emit).

I don't remember learning how to do this; I think I just tried it one day and found I could, and I've got no idea what this says about the way my mind works. I'm told though by people who know that the above is a reasonably tricksy cognitive ability, even if it seems perfectly natural to me.

After doing a little reading around on the topic I have been playing around with the other expressions of this, dna dnuof I evah on elbuort ginpyt sdrawkcab rehtie (or more correctly rehtie sdrawkcab gnipyt elbuort on evah I dnuof dna) albeit at a slightly slower pace as typing normally. I tried reciting the alphabet backwards this morning too, and found I could do that too. Reading mirror or upside down text is also not a problem. So can my wife, which is handy since she is a teacher. She can also do the reverse pronunciation a bit as well.

While I figured from the responses I got years ago that not everyone could do this, I didn't think it was that unusual that I could, and I know there are others that can do it a lot better. As it is I'm a bit bemused to find something I can do going viral. It's pretty cool. That may have been my fifteen minutes of fame right there :).

Friday, February 10, 2012

Breast can't always be best

As a father, this whole Weepu bottle feeding thing gained my attention (as well as the breastfeeding on facebook thing, and the daycare is bad mmkay? thing).

Not sure if I should link the Herald since they kicked off the whole saga in the first place with a mix of accurate and not so accurate reporting, and the footage in question wasn't actually banned, just removed before the ad screened. As a father who bottle feeds a child, I thought the footage in question made Piri even more legendary, against guidelines or not. He is only doing what hundreds if not thousands of NZ fathers do every day, and positive male parenting images in advertising of this quality aren't that common. I think its undermining of breastfeeding promotion as arguable at best, since that undermining is based on assumptions about what the bottle actually contains, and the ad isn't about feeding at all; it is about being smoke-free (and some of the most odious responses to it I've seen have compared bottle feeding to smoking). It also makes significant assumptions about the intelligence of the viewer.

In all fairness to the groups consulted about the footage and reacting against it, they were bound to say what they did. "Breast is best" is the official Ministry of Health line, a catchy slogan and noble ideal, and granted breastfeeding rates in NZ need improvement, but of all the mothers amongst my peers I know, only one (that I know of) ever declared an intention never to breastfeed.

Breast feeding though does not work for all mums. Not because they are too lazy, are too busy, haven't tried hard enough, not persisted long enough, not had enough support, or not used the right technique. Sometimes it just doesn't work, for many reasons. You are not a bad mother if you can't breastfeed. Both Sophie and Charlotte were breastfed initially for some months. Charlotte was unintentionally weaned when Fi had to go back to work so we could keep a roof over our heads (not to live in frivolous luxury like the stay at home judgementalists would suggest), as expressing and teaching don't really mix, and Sophie was weaned when she simply began demanding more than Fi could provide. It isn't the way we planned or wanted it to be, it just is.

I'm pro-breastfeeding, but not at all costs, and there just doesn't seem to be any balance in promotion or support a la "Breast is best, but whatever keeps the baby thriving is good too". In our ante-natal group four years ago bottle feeding was the thing that shall not be named - I get the impression reading around that it still is. This is a noble ideal, but the flipside is that many that fail to sustain breastfeeding feel like parenting failures as a result, and are occasionally subjected to public judgement (as are breastfeeding mums - we have issues), or otherwise accused of not having their children's best interests at heart. Out of curiosity I had a look at one advocacy group's NZ facebook site. There are a lot of useful things on it, good advice, good support. And some not so useful opinions, like people openly advocating fathers not get involved in feeding their infant children at all if it involves a bottle, and not really being challenged in that by the faithful. As a father, this attitude I find alternately infuriating and depressing. Those quiet moments (often in the middle of the night) can be precious, as well as giving your partner a break. I don't have functioning breasts (short of hormone treatment at least); how else am I supposed to feed the babe?

The thing I find about parental criticism (and it is about the one absolute truism of parenting: no matter what you are doing with your child there will be someone to tell you you're doing it wrong), is that it most often comes from people who presume to know both your exact circumstances, and how they compare to their own equivalents, which then results in an attitude of whatever worked for them is the best way and will work for everyone else. It just isn't so, and if you are going to judge me or my partner (especially in public), just know I'm going to be judging you right back.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Mixed perceptions

One thing I've noticed about parenting, is that often people only see the bad stuff or comment on the negative aspects of having children.

The downsides do exist, but they go with the territory though; to borrow a phrase from the military, "if you can't take a joke you shouldn't have signed up".

And while the downsides can and do suck, they are generally outweighed by the upsides by about a million to one, which makes things worthwhile :)