Thursday, October 9, 2014

And the $tip goes to

I had the pleasure of visiting home depot recently in order to make some slat legs for my bed. I had a little "design" in mind with the intention to make it easy to put together and take apart. A little bit more than screws and wood, I found one of the staff and explained how I envisioned. He not only helped me find the pieces I need, but offered suggestions, which I took, to make it a bit easier to construct. We put together the needed hardware and then headed to the lumber section. We sorted through a number of pieces of 2x2 spruce to find a reasonable straight piece with few pressure cracks. Then he cut up 5 7 inch pieces (4 + 1 spare) and I headed over to the tool section to see if I could rent a drill.

I explained to this guy the plan and how I wanted to rent a power drill and a few bits to do this. He said they don't rent drills (or bits, I wasn't sure what he said) but that instead I could come to the back room and he'd help me drill the holes. I drew X's on each end of the legs so that he had a target to drill. We drilled all the pieces and I assembled the hardware onto the legs. After being rung up at the counter there, I basically left home depot having gone in with a rough design and come out with a finished product.

I know it's their "job" to be doing this, but that had to be one of the best service experiences I've had in a long time. When you think about all the different types of folks who "ask for" tips for doing their job, it puzzles me that these folks (who go out of their way to help you build things and offer advice on design, hardware parts) I would rather leave something extra behind for these guys rather than someone who offers you a friendly smile and interrupts my conversation asking if I want another 7 dollar beer.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

What happened?

I haven't posted in a while.

What've I been doing? I didn't really keep up with the Chiro posts as they are kind of boring.

But I'll say this - I've been going for a while, and I think I might be getting to the end of the rope. I'm not really sure whether going here has really helped. It all feels great in the moment, but the "adjustments" and untightening of muscles I'm not sure really does much over a longer term unless it is accompanied by a good exercise routine, which is something I had going last summer and into the fall. If you aren't working to counteract imbalances and working to correct posture, the chiro and massage combination seems to only alleviate momentarily before everything falls back into the old habit.

On that note sounds like I outta start hitting the gym that is in my new place. Yes - I moved out of my nine floor horror house and into my own (yes I own it) condo. I bought a condo that is across the street from my office earlier this year (May/June). It is one floor, hardwood floors (dark finish), 1 bed room + den - it is excellent. Low maintenance, spacious and close to all the things I need to be close to.

Also in May, I got a motorcycle license and of course a motorcycle. So when I'm not working away on SEO @tripadvisor, playing soccer, playing chef, or whatever else it is that I do, I'm out riding my motorcycle, so far, mainly around the Ottawa area. I have Suzuki gz250 marauder. It's a small bike, and I may look a little funny on it. Coming out of the safety course, my father mostly told me to get something small to get going, learn the controls and the general handling of a bike. I went bike shopping with my sister and brother-in-law (who has also ridden quite a while) and tested out a few bikes. I sat on them, he drove them and provided feedback. Sitting on some bigger(-ish) bikes, like honda shadow 650cc, some 1100cc yamahas and what not, I found them to be very heavy, and having not ever driven a bike at all ever before, except for the safety course (and even then gearing was not great and I had at that point yet to get the feel for down shifting and engine braking), I felt uncomfortable having something that heavy underneath me having never even driven on the road.

Finally I saw it. The small red gz250 motorcycle sitting over by the window. Weight felt great! On top of that it reminded of my little red bicycle upon which I graduated from training wheels to true two wheel style. My brother-in-law took it for a spin and said that the gears felt smooth. I liked the weight, the proper nostalgia was there , and he provided good feedback. On top of this, insurance was reasonable and so was the purchase price, which I negotiated from from about 2199$ to 2K even.

Anyway after waiting a week or so for brake pads to come in in order to pass the safety check the three of us went back to the dealership to get it. Brother in law drove it home as I still hadn't had any actual road experience. Over the next few nights I took it out for a drive around the quiet streets of my neighbourhood. It didn't take to long before I was able to get out of second gear and into third, forth and fifth and back down with fair ease. My first venture was across town to my sisters place to go for a cruise with my brother in law. It was on this cruise and a few subsequent ones that I really got my head into the feel of the engine and RPM / speed matching and shifting and smooth operation.

Since, I've been out to Hawkesbury, down to Prescott, up into the Gatineaus to about Wakefield, and west about as far as Carleton Place. Many many routes remain for at least this summer on the little 250. My uncle has an organic bee farm in Arnprior, which I intend to visit sooner or later, I have a friend in Montreal who I will be visiting as soon as next week. Mont-Laurier is my next furthers point Northbound and down towards Kingston / Gananoque / Thousand Island park way would be another.

Less concrete plans, would be to head all the way down to the Toronto area, do a loop around lake Ontario and come back through the US, passing through Rochester and Syracuse. Even further out would be cross country and maybe even all the way down to the Mexican border and maybe EVEN through Central America.

Taking notes and inspiration from motorcycle philosophy such as The Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Motorcycle Diaries this new activity has opened up a whole love and experience of freedom that has slowly but very evidently begun to change my perspective.

I tend to attribute the drive for all this new change to a miserably failed relationship that began at the beginning of the winter and ended mid April. If she for any reason were to ever read this, I would say, despite all that went wrong and didn't work out the experience propelled me in yet a new direction and for that I am thankful and look back only with a sense of "If only..." :)


Friday, July 5, 2013

Chiropractor Adjustment Round 2

I went in for round two today - short and sweet, less crack-a-lackin than last time.

Without getting over zealous, I will put forth that I have felt a noticable difference of less tension in the problem shoulder since the first adjustment. We'll see how I feel a day or two after this one.

I also cleared with the Doctor that it is safe for me to continue my weight training exercise. I am currently doing lite (10 - 12 rep sets not to failure) of squats, deadlifts, body rows, push ups, dumbbell rows and bench press. I am going to add in sets of military presses and shoulder shrugs. I do various of these exercises usually supersetted because its light weight, and groups of the exercises every few days.

I'm continuing my stretching routines combining the stretches that the Chiro center gave me with stretches and exercises that I gather online previous to that.

There is a lot of crunchiness and cracking in my neck on the right side that is being worked on with ART and the chiro adjustments. I can feel this with my hand and when i move into various stretch positions so it will be very interesting to observe its decline over the next 10 weeks of these phase of treatment.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Road to Recovery!

For around 7 or so years I have been living with an intermittent pain underneath my right shoulder blade. The earliest I can recall this being a "chronic" problem is from when I was 18 years old and I was engaging in a weight lifting exercise known as the shoulder shrug. I did not have a very good weight lifting set up at this point and at the end of the exercise I would lift the barbell up on to the bench rack. It was at this time that I moved in an off way and felt the electrifying sharp pain shoot up from my mid trap to upper neck. I put off weights for a bit to "recover" but not for long enough. During the next several months to a year I continuously re injured and ultimately stopped lifting weights.

A few years later I started working with a personal trainer to try and work through what I now called a "shoulder problem". I made gains over the course of a year, however, as I started to get heavier my shoulders started to pull frequently. I stopped going to the gym and subsided my physical activity to playing soccer, biking and downhill skiing in the winter.

A number of other "causes" that I will deem contributors to the overall "injury" are:

  • I come from a family of tall lean people. We have long limbs but not a lot of muscular support to hold things in place.
  • I am by profession a computer programmer and have been working on the computer for hours at a time since I was a young teenager. This means slouching and sitting in odd positions.
  • I am a guitar player - which means holding a significant weight of the instrument on one shoulder (which happens to be the affected one)
  • In high school and in college I had a bag that I tended to carry on one shoulder. Sometimes it was the less affected shoulder (left side) and other times it was the more affected (right side).
  • I participated in backpack style camping which means carrying a big backpack for hours at a time on hikes and sleeping on questionable surfaces (air mattresses etc).
I think that any number of these activities without proper preparation or exercise to maintain strength and posture probably has some amount of weight to the accumulation of the injury. 

The injury has always been a come and go sort of thing, but I finally at the point where I want to deal with and overcome its effects. I started out doing this myself, focusing on the shoulder. I found a shoulder recovery program and an article about shoulder mobility and starting to follow exercises in each of these regularly. There are a number of other sources of shoulder mobility / flexibility that I will be adding into my routine and ultimately creating various stretching routines. In big internet business we heavily practice the idea of variation with respect to optimizing results and so to me it makes sense to apply a similar principle when it comes to flexibility and mobility.

Next, I booked myself an appointment at a local chiropractor and muscle therapist center called Back To Health. I was referred here by a trusted colleague. Here they did an assessment that lasted 45 minutes or so. The kinesiologist, who started my exam had my twist and bend in various ways and also did some manual movement of various limbs and made some notes. Next chiropractic doctor came in and asked me some questions and poked around feeling for adhesions and checking my spine for irregularities.

Today I went in for the "report" in which they discussed their findings and gave me some more stretching exercises and outlined the path to treatment that they suggested I follow. 

I will be going in twice a week for chiropractic adjustment as well as ART and on top of that will be seeing the massage therapist who also works here. They sent me the details of the report via email and so I will post that up here as well for reference by others. I had already decided that I would go ahead with this as I would really like to resolve these pain issues so that I may ultimately return to weight training and a comfortable life etc etc.

I then had my first session of ART / chiropractic adjustment. I have only ever been to a physiotherapist once before for the same problem and did not find it all that helpful. This experience was quite interesting.

The doctor started off working on my right knee, with ART work. I had heard that this could be quite painful, however, I have to say that I did not find it painful at all. She then proceeded to an adjustment on my knee. I had read in my report that this would be done and was somewhat wary that this might hurt, however, she made two quick taps on the upper part of my knee and that was it. Next, she started working some ART on my pec and underneath my arm (which I assume would be Teres Minor or something - I will ask next time). Again, not a painful experience, even though it was a bit ticklish in some areas (I am rather ticklish in general, so I was not alarmed). Then she used some sort of device that was like a little mini jack hammer to make some adjustments to my shoulder. I found this to be rather interesting as I barely felt anything. I was wearing a sweater and I think that in order to try and increase effectiveness I will near only a tshirt next time so that there is less clothing in the way.

Next, I rolled onto my stomach and she did some ART to the muscles on my back near my shoulder blade and then she had me inhale and then while exhaling did an adjustment move to my mid back (thoracic spine area) by quickly pressing the area. There was a popping sound which I was told was believed to be nitrogen being forced out of the areas where vertebrae are out of place.

Next I rolled onto my side (and then she had me move so that my hips were on their side but my upper body flat). She took my leg and did an adjustment to the lower back (which ended up feeling quite interesting the rest of the day). Then finally she did an adjustment to my neck which made all sorts of crazy popping sounds and felt great!

It was an odd feeling after this was done and as I had walked to this place from my house which is not too far, I walked at a slower pace than normal so as not to make any sudden movements that might revert the adjustments made. Throughout the day I experienced some odd feelings particularly in my lower back and upper next that they said would be expected.

Attached are the report findings. As you can see I have a number of "severe" misalignments in my cervical and thoracic spine a few lesser so in my lower back. I have never really had any lower back pains or problems however as I now understand it the shoulders and spine very much connected and misalignment in one can cause misalignment in the other and add on to other problems that may already exist in the area or be accentuated by injuries (such as poor form and dangerous weight lifting practices :P). So in terms of chicken or the egg? Well as Dan Dennett says in a Google talk "as you know the answer to any good chicken or the egg question is: yes" - so whether the spinal curvature was caused by the shoulder injury or the shoulder injury was accentuated by the existing spinal curvature is anyone's guess, however I tend to believe that there was likely some spinal issues due to the above stated reasons and the weight lifting injury was the first major tidal wave to flood the grounds so to speak.

My next adjustment will be Friday.

I am very interested and excited to seeing where this goes.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Comsumer Notes: Acer Tablet A200 (Iconia)

Let's start right off the bat with this products biggest flaw: It does not have a rear facing camera. I have worked around this issue by deciding that it is easier to take a phone on the go for picture taking and I can later bluetooth or use one of the many photo management services (Google+/Picassa, Flickr, Facebook etc) to get the photos out into cyberspace and to view later on the tablet.

The front facing camera is not the best quality piece of equipment however it works good enough for video chats on Skype / Google Hangout.

Camera aside, this is a fantastic tablet - it certainly (for me) brings the bad name Acer has amongst techies / geeks / nerds into a good light. It has a fairly stock version of Androids latest ICS which is nice to see, it is responsive and has a great selection of Apps in the Google Play Market. It's also interesting to note all of the other things you can buy through the Play store including Books, Games, Movies and Music.

The device also has a standard micro-b USB cable for connecting to a laptop, as well as a standard laptop style USB for connecting devices to. I have not yet tried to use this for anything and so I am not sure what it can be used to accomplish.

I really like the Google account integration - I am always signed into my personal and work emails and Google chat so I can always keep in check with what is going on. I am not an avid Facebook user, however the Facebook application works similarly.

I have taken to tethering to my phone on Wireless hotspot mode so I can roam about the city and be able to check reviews on products, price check and look for alternative retailers while shopping. I even ordered a book on Amazon for the half the price it was listed for in Chapters. Let the saavy consumer trend flourish!

I primarily purchased this tablet to get a first hand experience in how these devices enable people to share and consume information quickly and effectively as I am working in the industry of doing so. It is immediately evident that as always simplicity is key, however more than that, the good old taste test rule is more important than ever - if you are building a certain type of app, you had better become an expert in its function by becoming part of your target niche.

This trend in consumer electronic products is bring into light the notion that app developers and start ups need to be leaders in the niche / technology they are pushing.

So anyways, if you are in the market for a good quality tablet I certainly do not discourage from checking this one out, however as stated in the opening, if you want to go around taking pictures with this thing make sure that you look at the A500 and not the A200 as it has a front facing camera.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

New Year Reflections: What are we living for?

I had an interesting thought that occurred to over the holidays that I wanted to extrapolate. I was at my uncles one night and we were watching some videos he had taken of us over the years doing family things. Its interesting to observe the change that has occurred over the years as myself and my cousins have grown older and built fuller lives of our own.

My one liner for a description of this sort of goes like this: Then, when my cousins and I were younger (we're all within about 10 years of each other I believe, maybe 12 years) we were always doing something, everyone was talking about things they were doing, things were exciting, kids were young, people were figuring things out.

Now we sit in my uncles living room and watch videos of ourselves in the past. Is this just some sort of generational trend or are we waiting for something? Are we waiting for the next wave of kids to come along so that we have something to be excited about? 

These thoughts led me to wonder what I'm waiting for, and quickly realise that I'm not waiting for anything. I like hanging out with my cousins, aunts and uncles and siblings - they are my people. We've all known each other our whole lives. We all have so much in common yet we're all in different directions and doing different sorts of things with our lives.

I like playing pool with my brother in law. His basement is now the best place to hang out, shoot pool and have a few beers. I'm kind of excited to continue going through life with these people. I like my cousins. They are really interesting people. I really hope that we continue to have as big of a family as we always have when the young couple generation of us start to have our own kids around. I think its really important to stick with the people you grew up with. There's something about that relationship that is indestructible.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Power of Apathy: A Question of Motivation

Lately I have been thinking about apathy and motivation. Essentially my question is this: is one more likely to be more successful in an endeavor if that one basically "does not give a shit" about the outcome.

This thought experiment is somewhat derived from several George Carlin interviews in which he describes himself as having stopped caring about the human race and what its outcome is and how as a result of this lack of caring he has unlocked a way of life and found a new form of creativity.

I was thinking about how as a primarily a coder, I often describe myself as a horrible designer however if I simply stopped caring about not being a good designer, perhaps that would unlock a level of undiscovered design creativity that I was previously not able to tap.

The counter argument to this of course, is that personally accepting ones lack of ability to do something (i.e.: a proper design) does not eliminate outside comparison of that work to other works in the same field of interest.

So following that it would seem that such "not caring" attitude towards things is more beneficial to personal endeavors and individual philosophies and ways of life. If I were to say that I don't care about financial gains as a result of work, then I am more likely to portray and act with an underlying attitude that expresses genuine interest in a certain subject which would likely result in my finding of work and jobs that I really enjoy become really good at and then produce higher financial gains from.

It kind of sounds like the whole "find a job that you love" line that is professed by so many. But I think that thinking of it in more of a mindset and psychological tendency manner is key to unlocking more doors in terms of personal accomplishment, creativity and development.

In a recent conversation it was posed as a longing thought that the person I was talking to wanted to get a car but was wary about entering into the lifestyle in which more money was being spent. It made me wonder right away what kind of life they would rather live. It wasn't as though they would have to work more, or have less time to spend on hobbies or past times. They would simply acquire a vehicle and life would continue on in that direction.

Otherwise what is the point of working? What is the point of earning money? What is the point of going anywhere? Why educate yourself? Why bother with anything at all? If you care too much about something, its going to cause you to worry about it and its going to become a problem in your mind. IF you just don't really care about anything, then you'll just decide to do things or not do things based on what you actually feel like doing.

This of course is not to say that you should be care<strong>less</strong> while living and doing things. I thin k there is a distinct difference between not caring about something and acting carelessly. I suppose you could say one is a state of mind and the other is actively portrayed through action.

At the end of the day, you just have to ask yourself: Do I like what I do everyday? Do I like the people in my life? Do I like how I interact with the world and do I like the outcomes I am getting? If the answer to these sorts of questions are no, I'd rather be doing something else or would rather have a different attitude, then it simply means its time to change. It's not a bad thing to need a change. It's okay to not posses great amounts of skill at something. It just means you need to fundamentally alter your strategy and your state of mind and approach things from a different angle.