09 November, 2019

Nimble Numbers - Update

Stenography is full of exciting discoveries. In this case, my discovery was how hard it was to change 3 years of learning the original steno numbering system. Sigh. I've taken the Nimble Number System and converted it for use with the original 4 numbers. Nimble's system was more efficient, but I've had to take the less painful route because I'm a wimp. So be it.

The Nimble Number system v2 is now available to any Plover user on any Plover-compatible keyboard of the classic Ireland 23- key layout.

The classic stenography numbering system uses: STPH- for 1, 2, 3, and 4; -FPLT for 6, 7, 8, and 9; and AO- for 5 and 0. You can create a number of arbitrary length, as long as that number is in steno order. At some point, someone introduced the idea of adding -EU to any pair of numbers to reverse them. So, using classic steno, you can write any 2-digit number and several longer numbers if you're lucky. It was always a fun game to see how few strokes you could use to type a long number. With some cleverness, you could often find a 3-digit or even 4-digit single stroke.

Nimble's system is superior. He uses STPH-in combinations to create every digit from 0-9. That's the best thing about his system. The counting numbers to 9 are all on the left hand. Beyond that, though, he then replicates the pattern on -FPLT to make a 2-digit number, on -RBGS to make a 3rd digit, and on SKWR- to make a fourth digit. That's sweet. And for one more great piece of goodness, he uses AOEU to add marks like the $ and %. I don't actually know what the combinations are he uses, but I didn't let a little thing like complete ignorance slow me down. I've created my own.

AOEU can create 16 combinations, so I've created the ability to add 16 decorations: $, ., :, -, (), and / in several different forms. You can now single-stroke $12.34, (1234), 18:00, and 12.34%. Granted, they're all finger-twisters, but you don't have to start to that way. I'm certainly not.

I'm getting used to the idea by working mostly with 1 and 2 digit numbers. They're pretty easy. I'm also getting up to speed pretty quickly on IP addresses, which use some 3-digit numbers. 3 is not too hard. I do have to say, the 4-digit numbers are very hard because I had to compromise the S- key. The original system relied on the S- being split into two keys. I could not do that. Instead, wherever you would hit the lower S-, you have to hit the *. It's a sad accommodation, but it still leaves those numbers available to me if I ever find one I need to use a lot.

So, the dictionary comes with 3 Help Strokes. Hit #-F, #-P, and #-L to see the following 3 bits of detailed help:

I need to improve this, but I'll put it out here now as a full disclosure thing.

#-F
....Writing Nimble Numbers
....How to stroke the numbers 0-14
...H
..P.
.T..
S...
..PH
.TP.
ST..
.TPH
STP.
STPH
S..H 10 
.T.H 12 
S.P. 11 
S.PH 14 
ST.H 13


#-P
....Nimble Numbers Table of Possibility
....Single stroke 1, 2, 3, and 4 digit numbers with all modifiers
---
- Bare number
.... 3 32 321 3217 
- Leading decimal
.O.. .3 .32 .321 .3217 
- Central decimal
.OE. .3 3.2 3.21 32.17 
- $ alone
A... $3 $32 $321 $3217 
- $ with central decimal
AOE. $.30 $3.20 $3.21 $32.17 
- Trailing colon
..E. 3: 32: 321: 3217: 
- O'clock
AO.U 3:00 32:00 321:00 3217:00 
- Trailing hyphen
A..U 3- 32- 321- 3217- 
- Negative as -
AO.. -3 -32 -321 -3217 
- Leading (
A.E. (3 (32 (321 (3217 
- Negative as()
A.EU (3) (32) (321) (3217) 
- Trailing )
..EU 3) 32) 321) 3217) 
- Percent symbol
...U 3% 32% 321% 3217% 
- Percent with central decimal
.OEU .3% 3.2% 3.21% 32.17% 
- Trailing /
AOEU 3/ 32/ 321/ 3217/

#-L
....Writing Several Nimble Numbers
....How to stroke 2, 3, and 4 digit numbers
The first digit of any number is typed on the STPH- keys
The second digit of any number is typed on the -FPLT keys
The third digit of any number is typed on the -RBGS keys
The fourth digit of any number is typed on the -*KWR keys
The fourth digit is a mess. Sorry. The S- could not be reused
so substitute the * for the S-, so it's out of sequence

so substitute the * for the S-, so it's out of sequence

To download and play with the dictionary, click here:
Nimble Numbers 2
To download and use the Nimble Numbers system with the single command dictionary, click here:
Nimble Single Stroke Commands 2

11 October, 2019

Nimble Numbers

Stenography is full of exciting discoveries.

No, really, it is.

Okay, well stenography is full of things that excite me, and when the community user Nimble mentioned he had a new way to write numbers, I was completely stoked. His system relied upon a custom keyboard, though, and therefore was not usable by me.

Enter determination.

The Nimble Number system is now available to any Plover user on any Plover-compatible keyboard of the classic Ireland 23- key layout.

The classic stenography numbering system uses: STPH- for 1, 2, 3, and 4; -FPLT for 6, 7, 8, and 9; and AO- for 5 and 0. You can create a number of arbitrary length, as long as that number is in steno order. At some point, someone introduced the idea of adding -EU to any pair of numbers to reverse them. So, using classic steno, you can write any 2-digit number and several longer numbers if you're lucky. It was always a fun game to see how few strokes you could use to type a long number. With some cleverness, you could often find a 3-digit or even 4-digit single stroke.

Nimble's system is superior. He uses STPH-in combinations to create every digit from 0-9. That's the best thing about his system. The counting numbers to 9 are all on the left hand. Beyond that, though, he then replicates the pattern on -FPLT to make a 2-digit number, on -RBGS to make a 3rd digit, and on SKWR- to make a fourth digit. That's sweet. And for one more great piece of goodness, he uses AOEU to add marks like the $ and %. I don't actually know what the combinations are he uses, but I didn't let a little thing like complete ignorance slow me down. I've created my own.

AOEU can create 16 combinations, so I've created the ability to add 16 decorations: $, ., :, -, (), and / in several different forms. You can now single-stroke $12.34, (1234), 18:00, and 12.34%. Granted, they're all finger-twisters, but you don't have to start to that way. I'm certainly not.

I'm getting used to the idea by working mostly with 1 and 2 digit numbers. They're pretty easy. I'm also getting up to speed pretty quickly on IP addresses, which use some 3-digit numbers. 3 is not too hard. I do have to say, the 4-digit numbers are very hard because I had to compromise the S- key. The original system relied on the S- being split into two keys. I could not do that. Instead, wherever you would hit the lower S-, you have to hit the *. It's a sad accommodation, but it still leaves those numbers available to me if I ever find one I need to use a lot.

So, the dictionary comes with 3 Help Strokes. Hit #-F, #-P, and #-L to see the following 3 bits of detailed help:

#-F
....Writing Nimble Numbers
....How to stroke the numbers 0-14
...H
..P.
.T..
S...
..PH
.TP.
ST..
.TPH
STP.
STPH
S..H 10 
.T.H 11 
S.P. 12 
S.PH 13 
ST.H 14


#-P
....Nimble Numbers Table of Possibility
....Single stroke 1, 2, 3, and 4 digit numbers with all modifiers
---
- Bare number
....  1 12 123 1234 
- Leading decimal
.O..  .1 .12 .123 .1234 
- Central decimal
.OE.  .1 1.2 1.23 12.34 
- $ alone
A...  $1 $12 $123 $1234 
- $ with central decimal
AOE.  $.10 $1.20 $1.23 $12.34 
- Trailing colon
..E.  1: 12: 123: 1234: 
- O'clock
AO.U  1:00 12:00 123:00 1234:00 
- Trailing hyphen
A..U  1- 12- 123- 1234- 
- Negative as -
AO..  -1 -12 -123 -1234 
- Leading (
A.E.  (1 (12 (123 (1234 
- Negative as()
A.EU  (1) (12) (123) (1234) 
- Trailing )
..EU  1) 12) 123) 1234) 
- Percent symbol
...U  1% 12% 123% 1234% 
- Percent with central decimal
.OEU  .1% 1.2% 1.23% 12.34% 
- Trailing /

AOEU  1/ 12/ 123/ 1234/

#-L
....Writing Several Nimble Numbers
....How to stroke 2, 3, and 4 digit numbers
The first digit of any number is typed on the STPH- keys
The second digit of any number is typed on the -FPLT keys
The third digit of any number is typed on the -RBGS keys
The fourth digit of any number is typed on the -*KWR keys
The fourth digit is a mess. Sorry. The S- could not be reused

so substitute the * for the S-, so it's out of sequence

To download and play with the dictionary, click here:
Nimble Numbers
To download and use the Nimble Numbers system with the single command dictionary, click here:
Nimble Single Stroke Commands

21 June, 2019

Single Stroke Commands

Most people control their computer like a first-person shooter computer game. With one hand on the keyboard and the other flipping back and forth between computer and mouse. It's a point-and-click game for them, played for a living wage, and frankly most people are happy to let their time slowly drain away in just this way. They type a bit,  let the computer catch its breath whilst switching to the mouse, drift the pointer over to the next target, click it, give the computer another nap while swinging their hand back to keyboard, type again at long last, and repeat 1,500 times per day.

Others are not so easily amused.

These people, the lazy and hard to please folk who demand their computer take no pointless breaks, control their computers like a guitar, performing several actions at once. They never take their hands off the keyboard, and issue complex commands with a stroke or two. They compose a new message, switch from email to browser, create a new tab, log on to a remote computer, switch to an ssh prompt, issue commands, copy configuration lines to a text editor, and get hacking without "lifting" at any point, at full throttle throughout.

This is the magic of "keyboard shortcuts", and they're almost enough to run a computer at full throttle, but even the mighty shortcut keys have a problem. Mere mortals cannot use them without lengthening their fingers another inch or so and learning to twist them with precision across two rows of keys to find distant Alt, Super, and Function keys in all their critical combinations and sequences.

Only stenographers can truly run at full throttle. Only stenographers have every keyboard shortcut at their fingertips.

Download the Single Stroke Commands Dictionary

Using the Single Stroke Commands dictionary within Plover, every keyboard shortcut is under your fingers in the home position. Install the dictionary per usual procedures, then hit the following key combinations to activate each keyboard shortcut.


To hit the 4 arrow keys:
KPR-FRLG is [Up] as {#Up}{^}{>}
TWH-FRLG is [Down] as {#Down}{^}{>}
SK-FRLG is [Left] as {#Left}{^}{>}

WR-FRLG is [Right] as {#Right}{^}{>}








To hit page up and page down with home and end keys
PHR-FRLG is [Page_Up] as {#Page_Up}{^}{>}
WHR-FRLG is [Page_Down] as {#Page_Down}{^}{>}
KPWR-FRLG is [Home] as {#Home}{^}{>}
TPWH-FRLG is [End] as {#End}{^}{>}







To hit named action keys
TKP-FRLG is [Escape] as {#Escape}{^}{>}
TKW-FRLG is [Tab] as {#Tab}{^}{-|}



SP-FRLG is [Space] as {#Space}{^}{>}
SHR-FRLG is [Return] as {#Return}{^}{-|}







Any of the keys above can be combined with modifiers, along with any fingerspelled letter key. So, you can hit "[Shift]-[End]" or "[Super]-[T]" or "[Control]-[Shift]-[Alt]-[Tab]". The following diagrams show how to use the right hand to add modifiers to any key hit with the left hand, be it a shortcut key or a simple letter.
?-FRLG is [?] as {#?}{^}{-|}

?*FRLG is [Control]+[?] as {#Control_L(?)}{^}{-|}
?-FRBLG is [Shift]+[?] as {#Shift_L(?)}{^}{-|}
?-FRLGTS is [Alt]+[?] as {#Alt_L(?)}{^}{-|}
?-TSDZ is [Super]+[?] as {#Super_L(?)}{^}{-|}
?*FRBLG is [Control]+[Shift]+[?] as {#Control_L(Shift_L(?))}{^}{-|}
?*FRLGTS is [Control]+[Alt]+[?] as {#Control_L(Alt_L(?))}{^}{-|}
?*FRBLGTS is [Control]+[Shift]+[Alt]+[?] as {#Control_L(Shift_L(Alt_L(?)))}{^}{-|}
?-FRBLGTS is [Shift]+[Alt]+[?] as {#Shift_L(Alt_L(?))}{^}{-|}
?-BTSDZ is [Shift]+[Super]+[?] as {#Shift_L(Super_L(?))}{^}{-|}
?-PTSDZ is [Alt]+[Super]+[?] as {#Alt_L(Super_L(?))}{^}{-|}
?-PBTSDZ is [Shift]+[Alt]+[Super]+[?] as {#Shift_L(Alt_L(Super_L(?)))}{^}{-|}






Hitting the F1, F2, etc. function keys, you hit the simple navigation pattern of -FRLG with the appropriate left-handed number key. You can also add Control, Shift, and Alt to these function key presses. To hit the function keys from 6-9, you use the left hand simple navigation pattern of TKHR-, along with any desired modifier.

1-6R8G is [F1] as {#F1}{^}{>}
2-6R8G is [F2] as {#F2}{^}{>}
3-6R8G is [F3] as {#F3}{^}{>}
4-6R8G is [F4] as {#F4}{^}{>}
56R8G is [F5] as {#F5}{^}{>}
106R8G is [F10] as {#F10}{^}{>}
14R-6R8G is [F11] as {#F11}{^}{>}
12-6R8G is [F12] as {#F12}{^}{>}


2K4R-6 is [F6] as {#F6}{^}{>}
2K4R-7 is [F7] as {#F7}{^}{>}
2K4R-8 is [F8] as {#F8}{^}{>}
2K4R-9 is [F9] as {#F9}{^}{>}





The "[Super]" key is known to Windows users as the "Windows Key" or "Win Key". The "[Super]+" combination is powerful. Hitting -TSDZ with any number 1-5 immediately switches focus to the numbered application as pinned to the Windows Taskbar. You can add Shift or Alt to the Super+number combination. To hit the numbers from 6-9, use the combination STK-.
1-9SDZ is [Super]+[1] as {#Super_L(1)}
2-9SDZ is [Super]+[2] as {#Super_L(2)}
3-9SDZ is [Super]+[3] as {#Super_L(3)}
4-9SDZ is [Super]+[4] as {#Super_L(4)}
59SDZ is [Super]+[5] as {#Super_L(5)}


12K-6 is [Super]+[6] as {#Super_L(6)}
12K-7 is [Super]+[7] as {#Super_L(7)}
12K-8 is [Super]+[8] as {#Super_L(8)}
12K-9 is [Super]+[9] as {#Super_L(9)}





There are only 2 more goodies at this point: repeat commands and strokable help.

Repeat Commands
Stroke any number from 2 to 20, 30, 40, or 50 plus the asterisk and then a command stroke, and that stroke will be submitted that number of times. #H*/KPR-FRLG (which is seen by Plover as 4*/KPR-FRLG), for example, will send "[Up]" 4 times, and you will go up 4 lines.

Strokable Help
Stroking 0* and then a command stroke will print out what that stroke does, like:
    [Up]
Stroking 1* and then a command stroke will print out exactly the definitions you see above, like:
    KPR-FRLG is [Up] as {#Up}{^}{>}

I expect this will prove most useful for those who want to create a phonetic brief for an otherwise hard to remember stroke. Of course, I'd rather give the user a way to type the command they want and have the dictionary print out how to stroke it, but the world doesn't always give us our druthers. To make up that lack, I've written this document, and hope it proves helpful to you.

There are weaknesses in this system. Some are intrinsic and others can be repaired. It's intrinsic to the shortcut key system itself that many are hard to find, to learn, and to remember. I recommend learning them one program at a time and only at a speed at which you can add them to your regular, daily usage without causing excessive stress. A repairable weakness is how the key combinations can be daunting. Anyone with the motivation could come up with a more easily memorable, phonetic name for each combination they use frequently.

If I can help, drop me a line.

Kevin

Links:
Download the Single Stroke Commands Dictionary

Mouse vs keyboard: http://facweb.cs.depaul.edu/sjost/csc423/examples/anova/efficiency.pdf
This study compares the tedious alt+letter+letter method of keyboard navigation. The single stroke commands dictionary allows you to go faster than this document understands. Still, it's a good bit of work.

Links to loads of keyboard shortcuts: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/12445/windows-keyboard-shortcuts

Create your own shortcuts:  https://www.laptopmag.com/articles/create-keyboard-shortcuts-windows-10

23 December, 2017

Type Different

You can drive a keyboard. If you're average, you can pilot it somewhere between 30 and 70 words per minute, which isn't bad at all. After 40 years behind a keyboard I could cruise near the high end of that range, but I left it all behind. Stenography called out to me with the promise of 200+ words per minute, and I jumped. The Open Steno Project makes the secret tools of court reporting available to anyone with the desire and time to Type Different.

Picture in your mind typing out the word, "and ". In the quiet of your mind, you can feel those three fingers snapping down on the A N and D keys, and then your thumb smacking out a space. You know the shape and timing of the word, "and ". You can type it in under a second without thinking and without error, even though it's four separate actions that must happen in a precise order.

Stenography converts those four actions into one, allowing the stenographer to type faster than lawyers talk.

Imagine that world for a second. Imagine you could hit all four keys for the word "and " at once then smoothly move on in the same way to word after word, spraying 4 or 10 or 6 perfectly spelled characters on the page with each motion. Why stroke 4 keys, when you could lay down 2 or 3 or 4 words in the same amount of time? Who could walk away from a deal so sweet? In fact, why don't our computers already do this?

The rub is, "Dan"

If your poor computer sees you stroke A, D, N, and the spacebar all at once (assuming your computer reads what you typed from left to right), it would have no way to know whether you meant, "and" or "Dan". Even the shift key would offer no clue, because you might want, "And" and not "and". Therein is the awkward difficulty in word-based typing, and why us computer users still slog along with letter-based typing.

Stenography is the science of making word-based typing possible. It's complex, but within the grasp of most people. It works by settling on some soft rules.
1) The keys stroked on a stenographic keyboard are always read from left to right and top to bottom
2) The keyboard is rearranged with consonants clustered at the left and right and vowels in the middle so as to make the largest number of the most frequently used words typable with one stroke. Every remaining word, special character, and control character can be typed, albeit with 2 or more strokes
3) One finger often hits more than one key at a time, making more patterns possible
4) The total number of keys on a stenographic keyboard is actually smaller than the number letters in the alphabet. What is more, some of the keys appear on the keyboard twice -- yes, it works. The combining of keys makes up the difference
5) Stenographic words are typed by sound more often than by spelling, and those sounds become memory helpers pointing toward the shape of each word
6) Why have a spacebar at all? When you're striking a word at a time, it's obvious where the spaces should be, so a stenographer seldom types a space

Steno knows the difference between "and" and "Dan" because the steno keyboard actually has one D on the left side and another on the right. The stenographer can choose to stroke DAN or AND, making it clear to the computer just which he or she meant, and the principle extends to every word there is. Assigning a unique stroke to each and every word is a heady science, but one that's proven its validity over years of the most rigorous use.

Nothing about learning to type at 200+ words per minute comes cheap. 
Remembering back to learning to type, there were many days of frustration when you knew what to type and your fingers just wouldn't do it. Stenography uses half as many keys, but does so in hundreds more ways, so achieving competency takes time. 2 years is the usual minimum time it takes a dedicated student to test at 225 words per minute. Learning to type different is a commitment, not a whim.

Everything about learning to type at 200+ words per minute is rich. 
The exercise of absorbing new rules, the challenge of creating new muscle memories, and the new thinking patterns word-based typing allows are all addictive. The drudgery of typing is elevated for me into a rewarding experience full of wins, level-ups, and discoveries, except the skill I build will be available to me for years to come. This game makes a difference.

I'm not a dedicated student, so 2 years is not in the cards for me. I played at steno for just over a year before I was good enough to start using it daily for everything. After 4 months of daily use, I've almost made it back to my daily typing speed pre-stenography. I've watched others progress faster, and some much faster, but that's okay. I've enjoyed my journey so far, and it's clear I've still got plenty of room to grow. I may never hit 200, but 120 seems sure to happen someday. The quest is fun, and the future looks rosy. I was maxed out typing the same as everyone else, but I'm nowhere near my limits with stenography.

The people at the Open Steno Project are as friendly as I've ever met, and questions are always welcome. If I've piqued your interest, drop on by.
https://github.com/openstenoproject/plover/wiki
https://github.com/openstenoproject/plover/wiki/Links-to-the-Steno-Community

06 October, 2015

The Two Martians

I've read The Martian and seen The Martian, and I have some thoughts about which is better. No, the book is not better. They're both better.

The book is an 8+ hour investment, and by and large it gives good return on that investment the whole way through. The movie is a 3 hour investment, and it does the same. Both mediums gave me the experience of laughing my way through a deadly experience, and I highly recommend either one.

I recommend the book to everyone who:
  • Wants to get the feel of the science behind the decisions the character makes
  • Wants the feeling of an alien disaster to fully permeate their imaginations 
  • Wants to enter into Mark Watney's psyche

I recommend the movie to everyone who:
  • Wants to share the laughter and fears with others as part of the experience
  • Thrills to see human emotion as opposed to visualizing it
  • Would rather block off 3 hours for the experience than catch as catch can with a book for 8 hours spread over however many days

Both gave me the same laughter, fear, and tears, but they did it in different ways and on different levels. To be sure, the movie added some preachy moralizing at the end that wasn't in the book, but I can live with that. The book is probably the better personal experience, if you have the time to invest, but there's something special about the shared experience of the movie.

As for books allowing you to really get into the character's head, I'm not so sure that's correct. The movie simply had to cut 6 hours of the experience. Many actions and events didn't make it into the movie, but virtually all the feelings did. Over and over again, I saw Mark Watney react emotionally to some event, and felt as much a part of it as when I was reading. A thing explained deeply in the book was a fleeting glance in the movie, but I found both powerfully fun.

Both are good for 4.5 out of 5.

05 February, 2015

Is Living Better Spiritual?

I'm writing about physical stuff: sleep, food, exercise. Is that spiritual?

I don't know.

A lot of people argue we can be spiritual while we're doing physical stuff, but I'm thinking the truth is somewhat further down the road. I'm just not sure where.

The Lord is very clear, and His disciples after Him. "The kingdom is not meat and drink; but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit." Physical stuff is not the material of the kingdom.

But.

I'm currently experiencing a thyroid deficiency. I function normally until I suddenly hit an energy limit, after which I barely function at all. From that moment until I recover, hours or days later, I judge every person harshly, make mountains of molehills, and find joy in nothing. There's nothing grossly wrong with me, just a tiny hormone imbalance, but my contribution to the goodness of the kingdom plummets. Every relationship in my life is tested, and I'm helpless to contribute positively. It's all I can do not to undo the good I built when all was normal.

My standing before God doesn't change one whit, and I turn to Him in those times, not away. This is not a faith issue. My spirit may even be mysteriously strengthened in some way in the midst of this trial, but I'm confusing and hurting people I love. His grace is sufficient for me, and for those whom I love and hurt, but this little thyroid imbalance reverberates painfully through my little corner of His kingdom.

Eating well, sleeping well, and exercising wisely, the things that keep me within my thyroid's limits, become spiritual disciplines. Should I spend fifteen extra minutes preparing wise food or praying? It's a toss up. The contrast is clearer if I throw in a third option, like watching the latest tennis match. A trashy meal or a skipped prayer won't crush my thyroid, but a missed TV show might actually help it by making time for me to eat, sleep, or exercise. Doing right things might make a positive difference for someone tomorrow.

If physical things become spiritual in times of duress, are they not always spiritual? I think they are. More and more, I believe Jesus was looking forward to the day He would get to cook fish for His friends, the day He'd really need a long drink of water, the day He'd fall happily into bed and enjoy His fill of much-needed sleep. I believe Jesus desired to put on flesh even before His death became part of the mission. Jesus must want to relate to us physically, because He was certainly under no obligation to create such a physical world. Jesus must love this world and His people as the sweaty, real, amazing things He created us to be.

Since I'm still an old 'Damentalist (I take the "fun" out of "fundamentalism") I'll share with you a scripture that persuades me.
Mat 25:34-36
Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
The King relishes shared, physical acts. The kingdom may not be meat and drink, but it is awarded to those who share their meat and drink.

I reach this conclusion. Self-improvement is not spiritual, but living better is. Eating, sleeping, and exercising to mold myself into a stunning specimen of humanity may be great, but when used that way they are nothing spiritual. These same disciplines, however, when used to make me better able to love the people I love, seem pretty spiritual to me.

Food, rest, and work become the kingdom of God.

27 January, 2015

Lifting myself

I lift myself up a lot. I lift myself from my chair and bed onto my feet several times a day, of course, but I do a lot more than that. I lift myself from the ground using my hands, or only my feet. I lift myself up to a bar using nothing but my hands. I even lift most of myself using only my back muscles.

For 30 minutes a day, I lift myself in the most difficult way I can. When it gets easy, I intentionally make it harder. I lift myself using just one foot. Or I lean more of my weight onto my hands. I'm only just getting to where I can lift my whole mass up to a pull-up bar, but someday I'll need to make that harder. And when the day comes, I have several strategies, ready-made.

The thing is, the more and harder ways I find to lift myself, the better my body becomes at doing it - and the better I become at being me. I think I've probably already written a piece somewhere about how exercise makes me better at being a social creature, so I don't have to write that now. Today, I just want to write about making my body better at doing body stuff. Over the last three years, I've been amazed at watching what I've made better and worse by pushing myself physically.

I'm all-in on doing this until the day I die. It may be the most consistently exciting 30 minutes of my day. I mean that. I always resisted exercise, but I love doing this.

First, let me talk about the things I've made worse. I'm pushing this thing, but there are concerns.
  • Repetitive Stress Tendon Injuries
    I started doing this at age 47, and was pleasantly surprised how much I could do and how quickly I became able to do more. I read all the warnings about letting the tendons develop, and I understood them. I still didn't let my tendons develop, and I repeatedly injured them. I'm continually re-realizing how very weak my tendons had become, and how much more slowly I need to progress through levels of difficulty. Not less than 6 weeks after a mild tendon injury can I begin testing that tendon again. If I stop immediately upon noticing an issue developing, I can get back into the game after a 2 weeks rest, but I keep trying to pretend nothing's wrong. In my youth I played through injuries. With each new injury I learn again I must always let tendons heal, and I'm actually getting better about it.
  • Adrenal Fatigue
    This one is no joke. Almost a year ago I began to notice I was tiring sooner while working. I kept pushing, and even pushing harder. I especially applied this thinking to my 30 minutes of lifting. I imagined I was growing weaker, and only work would reverse that trend. Wrong. My body was slowly shutting down and trying its best to warn me, but I interpreted its messages incorrectly. By May of 2014, any hard work would drain me completely, to the point I could hardly think straight or even stay awake. In June I took a little swim out into the ocean and very suddenly was so drained I wasn't sure I'd make it back. 8 months later, I'm pretty sure I'm beginning to make a recovery. Pushing myself when my body was crying for rest was a bad, bad mistake. After this year, I might even avoid making it again. Time will tell.
Spending months recovering from troubling adrenal exhaustion while simultaneously nursing strained tendons is a small price to pay for the benefits I feel from training my body to do all it can do. I'm genuinely not sure whether I'll make those two mistakes again, or how often, but it's worth the risk. I'm still all-in on this stuff.

Everything in my world weighs about half what it did three years ago. I used to have to rest after carrying my 70 pound tennis ball machine to the courts. Today, I set it up and go. I used to have to plan a day before to make sure I had energy for setting things up at church. No more. I bring the groceries in with the same number of loads, but now I don't wish I hadn't carried so much. I can weed the yard now, without regretting it for days afterward.

More importantly, to me, I'm smarter and less afraid about almost everything. I've hit my limits several times every week, so I know what I cannot do and what I can. I used to say, "Sure!" when presented with an opportunity to do something beyond my limits. I did it easily last time. (Yeah, twenty years ago.) I would go out, and sure enough do it just like twenty years ago, but then I'd be sore for weeks. Now, when presented with the same opportunity, I know for a fact whether I can do it and whether I'll suffer for my decision. That knowledge makes my yes's and my no's confident. I value that.

Here's a high level record of what I'm doing these days
  • I work on balance almost every day
    Two years ago I learned I really couldn't stand long on one foot, no matter how hard I tried. The progress comes glacially, but it comes. Over the course of a month I see almost no difference, but somehow over two years it's made a real difference. I can now stand on one foot with my eyes closed or walk a slackline. Since falls are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injury in the aged, I can't ever imagine stopping this effort.
  • I work on strength about 3/4 of all days
    The benefits are wide-reaching. I work pushing, pulling, standing, forward, and backward strength, and am learning to skip sessions when I need to.
  • I work my aerobic capacity 2-3 days a week
    I sprint in 6 foot wide figure eights, followed by pushups, then half squats, all in succession and as quickly as I can. The net effect is to drive my heart rate and breathing up somewhere near (but not to) my max.
  • I work flexibility a little bit each day
    I'm not really getting any more flexible, but moving to the limits of my mobility keeps those limits as comfortable as possible.
  • I never jog
    Everything I do is sprint-like. Nothing in my life requires me to keep my heart rate at 70% for hours, so why train myself to be able to do so? People jog, treadmill, stair step to build an ability I never personally use, so I don't copy them.
The experts to whom I choose to listen say I'm doing it right, but this is the 21st century. There are experts out there everywhere saying jogging, boot camps, power yoga, bicycling, weight lifting, martial arts, rock climbing, gym membership, massage, swimming, rowing, crawling, or any other thing is the perfect thing. What I'm training matches up well with what I do. It's just the usual stuff I do every day, taken to a useful and fun extreme.

Paul tells me bodily exercise profits little, by which he means it only helps one part of me and only for these brief 70 years. I can accept that. But I'd just as soon these last 20 years I have here be useful. I'll keep doing what I'm doing.