Friday, November 14, 2014

Starting CrossFit

I started CrossFit last week and I am amazed at how much I love it. The dynamic exercises in each class are fun and rewarding. I feel accomplished after every class and find myself smiling in the midst of brutal workouts. It barely bothers me that I'm the weakest person in the class because everyone, trainers and other people in the class, is so encouraging and supportive. The trainers are great at what they do. The owner of the CrossFit box, Rob, is passionate, but values form and safety first. I was afraid I'd be too weak to do it, but everything is scaled or modified to your abilities so you can learn safely and progress when you're able.

The stupidest thing that I love about it is I'm apparently flexible. I had no idea that I could be considered flexible. I'm used to flexible meaning yogis who can touch their head to their knees with legs straight. My whole life I've felt like everyone around me is naturally good at something, at least one thing, and I had nothing. I'm sure most people feel this way, but I've finally found something that's innate to my person that I get to be proud of. Like I said, it's stupid. What I work hardest at is what I should be most proud.

Funnily enough, the ~7 years of ballet training I have done throughout my life (from age ~5-10 and then 14-15) seems to have ingrained some default foot positions for me. Turning my feet out wide is actually not so good for some of the lifting movements :D. There are a lot of little reminders I make to myself during a class, to keep all the parts of my body going in the right ways, but a lot of it is "just doing it". As intimidating as it is to be shown a move, told about the important parts, and then told to do it, it's really the most effective way to learn something physical. You just have to do it (safely) and keep adjusting until you get it right. Every little adjustment that sticks feels like a reward, like learning that I should throw my left leg back for a Split Jerk (my right foot turns out too easily).

CrossFit pushes me outside of my safety zone, physically and mentally. I push my body to be better, to be stronger, to be faster. The soreness that sticks with me for days afterwards makes me feel happy. I fight anxiety on a daily basis, but when I'm in the middle of a workout, most of it fades away and I just invest myself in what my body can do. I worry about learning quickly enough, but every time I get something right and I can feel that it's right, I get such a thrill. It's still a struggle to get myself to each class and ride down the anxiety, but as soon as I start rolling out on a foam roller before class, I know I am there to stay for the hour. I even went to a morning class yesterday, at 6:30 AM. It was just 5 of us in the class, plus the trainer, and I felt so accomplished for the rest of the day.

I never thought I'd like this as much as I am so far. I have shied away from regular exercise my whole life. I never felt like my dance classes or soccer in middle school was a real work-out, I never felt like I got better at those. I think the problems were: not enough individualized attention from the instructor, not enough self-confidence, not enough praise or even critique/instruction in some cases (mostly soccer). I am still not very self-confident, but I feel like I get thorough instruction from the trainers at this box and I always feel comfortable asking for clarification. This is not the kind of box that will push you until you injure yourself, which is what scared me about CrossFit in the first place. I've read horror stories about people working so hard that they puke, and then keep going. Rob told me the first time that I met him that CrossFit Watch City is not that kind of place. Going to CrossFit makes me feel like I can learn to do anything. Fearing being bad at something is the biggest obstacle I've had in sticking with some form of exercise.

Will my enthusiasm falter? Maybe. I've promised myself a month of this, at least. I want to stay active over the winter. I would love to stick with this beyond the winter, as the idea of being fast and strong has been appealing to me for a long time. I think this might be a really great community with which to work towards those goals.

If you want to learn more about CrossFit, please check out the official CrossFit website.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Getting tattooed at a convention

As a treat for myself, for all my hard work being me basically, I went to the Boston Tattoo Convention last Saturday. I had hoped to meet an online friend there, but it didn't work out so I was flying solo.

I knew ahead of time that I was going to get a tattoo from Elize. She's done two other pieces for me and I like knowing there's an artist I can always go back to for quality work. She's also very easy to talk to and I need that kind of comfort from such a big commitment! A week before the convention, she uploaded a few pictures of sketches she had drawn just for the convention. It was mostly flowers and a tulip in particular caught my eye. I decided that my initial attraction to the drawing was enough: I was going to get that tulip. In purple, of course (my favorite color).

When I arrived at the convention, I bought my ticket with cash and headed in. I was immediately overwhelmed by the noise and people. I suffer from sensory overload in busy environments, even just out shopping, so it was a bit difficult for me to think. I decided to just walk around. I felt so nervous and didn't like feeling so clueless. The convention was occupying several conjoined meeting rooms in the Boston Back Bay Sheraton hotel, lined with many booths of tattooists, piercers, and tattoo/piercing supply companies, not to mention clothing and jewelry as well. I found a stage and stopped to watch a side show performance. Someone was in a box, contorting themself around knives and swords being inserted into it. Stopping there gave me a moment to recuperate and realize that I had to "fake it till I made it," pretending like I knew what I was doing.

Of course, just down an aisle from the stage, I found Elize's tattoo shop booth. I spoke to Elize about the tattoo I wanted and she started prepping her equipment. I scanned her other available convention flash (tattoo "flash" is a pre-drawn piece of art that you pick out to have done with minimal modification, rather than a custom drawing) and the other artists' books while I was waiting. A nice person gave me their map, which I hadn't seen when I'd entered the convention after getting my ticket. Brilliance Tattoo had a box of Dum Dums (small lollipops) on the table so I grabbed one to suck on while I was getting tattooed. This ended up being a nice though short-lived distraction.

I laid out on a folding massage table while Elize tattooed the side of my calf. To pass the time, I ate the lollipop, played a Bubble Shooter game on my smartphone, listened to the sideshow/burlesque performances on the stage behind me, and watched people walk by. I got the sense that people-watching and ogling was totally acceptable and expected at the convention. There were a lot of scantily clad women there, perhaps just to show off their tattoos, but maybe also for some of the beauty/tattoo contests going on. The time passed pretty quickly like that. This was my second tattoo where I had the outline and color completed in one session (about one hour) and I definitely prefer that to outline and color separately. By the time she got around to doing the color, my skin was working hard to dull the pain so it hardly hurt anymore. She took a picture (though I'll visit her at the shop once it's healed so she can get a better one), wrapped it up in plastic wrap (for temporary protection, until I could get home and wash it), I paid, and that was it!

Terribly and not color-accurate smartphone picture. The tulip is a light purple, but my skin is still very red from the process!
Getting tattooed first thing really calmed my nerves. Having something fairly intense to focus on gave my brain a chance to process everything around me. I think some of that tendency to get overwhelmed comes from the Executive Functioning Disorder, or maybe Generalized Anxiety Disorder (or both). When I left Elize's booth, I used the map to navigate towards an artist's booth whose work I have been wanting to check out. I flipped through her book of finished tattoo pictures and grabbed a business card and sticker. I hope to get in touch with her by January about a piece I have in mind. Just across from Holly's booth was Precision Body Arts, who are based in Nashua. The piercing apprentice knows my sister and her fiancé, so I said hi and asked some questions about jewelry and piercings to the main piercer there, Ryan. They were both very nice and obviously well-educated in their work. I'm not a fan of the fancy Anatometal jewelry that seems very popular these days, with all the extra stones and gems, so I didn't get any new jewelry for my existing piercings. I will definitely visit that shop in person sometime though.

I had to wait a while at Precision's booth, so once I was done there, I felt ready to head out. My leg was pretty sore from the tattoo anyway and my phone was about to die from playing a game on it for so long. I bought a poster on my way out and headed home.

Overall, 10/10, would do again. I would love to get tattooed at next year's convention (or another convention). Next time, I might scan the booths more to see if there's a different artist I'd want to get something from, if something Elize has doesn't strike my fancy immediately. It was awesome having so much distracting me during the tattooing and I think I would recommend it for anyone who already has at least one tattoo. Dare I say it was even fun?

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Adventures at a car dealership

After some belated car maintenance, we came to the decision that it was time to get a new car. Hulky's 2009 Honda Civic (EX? not sure) coupe was still driving pretty well at just over 90k miles, but it was time for a change.

Autotrader.com was my search site. Our needs were pretty specific: 2011-2013, Honda, Civic, sedan, under 50k miles, with a manual transmission. I got 5 results in our area. Several were eliminated immediately due to price. We started to follow-up on some and managed to arrange an after-work appointment at Honda Village. We met with Dave there to see a black 2011 Honda Civic sedan, with around 30k miles, manual transmission, and a nice price. The first things we learned upon arrival: they valet park your car (we didn't know and parked in the Walgreens' parking lot next door) and they offer you coffee, water, hot cocoa, and/or popcorn when you get inside. I enjoyed the special treatment :).

First things first, we went to the parking lot out back to check out the car. Immediately, we noticed car-length scratch marks on both sides of the car. As we inspected further, we found From this, we deduced: the last owner must have been bad at parking and someone else had some bad anger management issues. Dave immediately texted the used car manager to make sure the scratches would be fixed. It turns out that the car was scheduled to go to the body shop the next day anyway, so nothing to worry about there. We inspected for anything else that we'd want touched up and I found a tiny rust spot by a door handle (best to fix those before they grow) and it looks like the last owner wasn't a good driver either, based on some scrapes on the corners of the bumper. After that, it was time for the test drive!

Anyone that drives with me learns quickly that I am nervous driving with people I don't know. Probably because I tell them immediately. I drove pretty well, though I did stall the car twice. On the second time, Dave said he could tell I was experienced because I didn't panic when I stalled, I just turned the car off and then started it again to continue going. I got to drive on some 35 mph roads and then we hopped on the Mass Pike quickly so I got up to about 65 mph. The car felt great and the road noise is so much less than in the '05 Civic. When we got off the Pike, Hulky drove us the rest of the way back to the dealership.

Back inside, we gave information on our car, which we were interested in trading in. The service folks checked it out fairly quickly and Dave came back to us with an estimated value and what they'd give us. We told them how much we hoped to get, plus our down-payment, indicating that if we got that, we'd buy the car. Dave brought the offer back to the manager, who wrote a counter-offer without even looking. Maybe we could've negotiated something more, but it was within our previously discussed range of a good offer for the old Civic, so we went for it. Queue more paperwork for finances!

There's a lot of waiting when you buy a car. I didn't realize we'd have to entertain ourselves for a while. Anytime there was paperwork, we'd fill it out, talk to the salesperson or finance guy, and then wait a bit. There were several new car models in the showroom so we climbed around in those whenever we had to wait. They have some really cool features! All of the new cars have push buttons to start, which is weirdly exciting. The automatics have an economy mode button, so the car will regulate things like heat and how the car shifts gears in order to improve gas consumption. It's basically a way to get the gas mileage you'd have if you drove smartly in a manual transmission car. No lie, if we could have gotten a car with that option, I think we'd get an automatic and use the economy mode a lot. Hulky and I made a pact that the next time we travel, if we get a rental car, we'd get a tricked out mini-van if it's not too expensive to upgrade. They have so many cool features! Not that we'd need all the folding seats and everything, but they're so comfy! Everyone working at the dealership got a kick out of our enthusiasm. Dave said a mini-van is like, "driving around in your living room."

We met with a finance person after that. He showed us some extra options we could use for the car (we passed on all of them), told us what he expected our loan rate would be (better than any pre-approvals I'd been getting online beforehand), and had me sign and initial in a million places. Since the car is certified pre-owned, that means we get comprehensive coverage for a year from purchase date (I think). That covers anything that's not disposable basically, so if something in the car malfunctions and it wasn't on us, they fix it on their dime. Yay! I am sure we won't have any issues.



Timeline:

  • Wednesday - saw the car, liked the car, signed paperwork and gave them the down-payment
  • Thursday - waited excitedly while car was in body shop, was told via phone that we need to bring in proof of income (copy of a recent pay stub) when we pick up the car, no news yet on when we get to pick it up, Hulky gets our insurance squared away with USAA (sets a date to start coverage on new car and end coverage on old car)
  • Friday - Do we get to pick it up yet????
  • Fast forward to the next Wednesday - car is finally clean, scratches buffed out, ready to go, but oh wait, a light is on where it shouldn't be. We don't get the inspection sticker yet, but the car comes home!
It's been a bit of a learning curve for me since the clutch pedal is so springy, but the car is fun to drive and I look forward to many years with it.



Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Unit #3

To say I have mixed feelings about moving into my parents' house with my husband and two cats would be an understatement.

Mostly cleaned up and almost ready for moving in.
At first, I didn't feel any shame about it, but now I kind of do. It's not my age that's a factor (twenty-six years old), it's that I'm married and have my own family unit now. When I moved out three years ago to our first apartment together, my parents' house was feeling too cramped for me. I felt too grown up to be in my old bedroom anymore, as much-loved and beautifully purple as it was. I never completely unpacked after college and more than a year after I graduated, I finally shoved some boxes into the attic crawl space and took the rest of my junk with me.

Last year, I moved us all on my own. That's not true though, I had a lot of help from both of my families. Even with three weeks to orchestrate the whole thing and move some things over bit by bit (just one block away made it SO much easier), it was incredibly stressful. It took me a few months to unpack and put away everything just because I couldn't stand to deal with boxes anymore.

Now, I don't have to do it alone, but it's so daunting. There's some relief in knowing the space that we're moving into so well. I was there when my dad finished the attic and made it a livable space out of storage land. I remember the skylights being put in. I remember having sleepovers up there before the carpet was put down. I remember the stairs when they were less deep and more creaky. I don't have a hard time envisioning our things in that room, but I do have a hard time seeing us living there.

How will the cats manage? Fae doesn't move around much, she could probably stay in the attic 24/7 and that might be best for her (not sure her arthritic hind-quarters can handle stairs now). Pumpkin, on the other hand, does laps around our apartment a few times a day. She's still pretty skittish, even after four months with us. Maybe she always will be. What happens if she gets outside? What if she doesn't get along with my parents' cat, Gallifrey, or the easy-going ancient-looking dog, Sasha? I know a lot of this worry is me latching onto something I can try to control, but this is a stupid choice. The cats will manage, they have to. We're moving either way.

It is weird to think that most of our kitchen will be packed in boxes and put in a still to be determined storage unit. My favorite chair might be in there too, staying safely away from wet basements. There's not enough room for it where we're going.

It was not until we'd come home after doing some cleaning & tidying in my parents' attic that I realized how much I'll miss this apartment. I am ready to move, but my heart is not ready yet for a new home to take its place.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

What happened to Nameless?

I'm thinking of retiring my alias.

Nameless Wonder, and variations thereof, has been my primary internet alias for probably about eight years now.

I am an active internet persona. I don't know how else to describe it. I sign up on a lot of websites and post in a lot of places. It's easiest for me to use the same username over and over so I don't have to remember them. Not the most secure method, I suppose, but these are not major sites. To lose those accounts would not mean much to me personally.

But, like a lot of people, I post some fairly personal information, if not particularly identifying. Imagine my surprise when I got an email this morning from someone who had followed some links, Googled an old username of mine, and found a reference on a current journal that I maintain on another website. I submitted a request to have the cached result removed from Google, since I've edited the entry to remove the referenced name & URL that probably lead this person to me. They seemed pretty harmless, just verbose. It was still kind of freaky. At first I thought they were someone I interacted with online ten years ago, who in a way became a bit of an internet stalker, but no, just another person who identified with my teenage-self.

I wonder what kind of steps popular bloggers take to protect their identity. It was off-putting enough just having someone find another snippet of me on the internet, from a username that I retired so long ago. I can't imagine what it would be like to receive mail to my home or have my relatives contacted because of something I wrote online.

Though there was that time I received some brochures about Texas not long after talking about how it might be nice to live there (before they passed some absurd anti-abortion laws).

I'm not nameless anymore. I share my first name, at the very least, with internet friends pretty regularly now. Since getting married last year, I feel more secure in my name than ever. My last name was never part of the issue of me feeling like I didn't have a concrete identity, but changing it helped me realize how I am becoming who I want to be. It was an act of reclamation in some ways.

I have no idea what will happen to this blog. I barely post nowadays anyway. I am finally more interested in my own life than sharing with others what's going on with it. I seek validation from others, but it's not going to help me attain my goals unless this became some kind of source of income. That's unlikely, I'm fairly boring and not good at networking.

Anyway, all I know right now is I'm going to start being more careful about the information I put online. I also need to come up with some easy to remember throw-away usernames for the odd sites I sign up on. The LastPass application will probably help with that, so I don't even have to remember my password!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Silkscreen stenciling, the lazy way

For our one-year wedding anniversary, I decided to decorate a t-shirt for my husband with the logo of our most recent favorite band, Twenty One Pilots.

My source image
I did some Googling on silkscreen printing and found a process that I felt would work for me. Since this was my first time, it's kind of messy, but my husband and I are both very happy with the results.

(Sorry in advance about the poor lighting in the photos)

What you need

  • Silkscreen paint (Speedball is the brand I bought)
  • Foam brush or a sponge would probably work too
  • Freezer paper or preferred stenciling paper
  • Pen or pencil for stencil tracing
  • Sharp implement like an Exacto knife (or the blade from a multi-tool if you're me)
  • Source image, printed out at the size you want it on the t-shirt
  • (Optional) Ruler for any straight lines in your stencil
  • T-shirt, clean & dry
  • Piece of cardboard to put in the t-shirt
  • Masking tape
  • Iron

After you've gathered all that, you realize that you stuck at tutorials and you've already done half of the t-shirt design!


So scroll ahead to see how to do all of this. If you have separated colors like my image does, you can make a couple of stencils and apply in separate sessions. Just remember that any paint you are going to apply another stencil over has to be completely dried. I waited a full day before continuing. In this method (and this particular image), you could probably do all of the colors at once, but I didn't want to have to worry about painting in the wrong spots.


So, trace your image onto your freezer paper and then cut it out. Toss the cut out parts.


Voila. The knife on this multi-tool was pretty sharp, but really an Exacto knife is the only way to go.


Here, the inner part of my stencil has been lined up as close as I could manage onto the t-shirt and then ironed on. That's why I use freezer paper for fabric stencils: the shiny side can be temporarily adhered by ironing. It peels off really easily. This means it's not reusable, but that works for me. For the red & blue parts, I actually measured the image & the t-shirt to try and center it as much as possible.


Here, I attempted to line up the outer stencil as best as I could with the pre-painted parts & measurements I put down with pencil and then ironed it down. Getting circles placed is really obnoxious. Time to paint!


This paint is pretty thick. I tried to apply only with dabs to reduce the risk of bleeding underneath the stencil edges, but it wasn't perfect. I think the application probably takes some practice.


After applying the paint, I removed the stencil right away so the paint doesn't dry the stencil onto the shirt. I didn't know if that would happen, but wasn't taking any chances! I realized at this point that I needed a way to remove the inner stencil without smudging anything. I took a sewing pin to lift up an edge and then used a gloved hand to pull off the inner stencil.


Nearly done! With silkscreen paint, it has to be heat set. I let this dry for 24 hours and then ironed over it, using a sheet of brown paper to protect the t-shirt & paint. I also flipped it inside out to iron the inside so it could be set as possible.

The last step is DON'T WASH THE SHIRT FOR 5-7 DAYS. I guess there are ways to set the paint in other silkscreen methods that don't require all this waiting, but really this is great for a lazy crafter like me. I'll probably make the same shirt for myself! I haven't washed this one yet (t-minus 3-5 more days), so hopefully I won't be updating this post next week crying about how the image washed off.

Also pictured, the tungsten ring I bought him for our anniversary.
Have fun!

(This post includes an affiliate link. To get to Amazon normally, click here.)

Monday, May 19, 2014

Godzilla - a scattered review

Massive spoiler alert for anything below this text because there's really no other way to review this thing.

Characters: Most, if not all, of the characters in this film were really one-dimensional. Pretty much all of the characters are defined by their professions. The main soldier guy is just a good-guy soldier. The admiral is just a trying-to-do-right-by-my-country-and-citizens admiral. The wife/nurse/doctor woman is all of those things, but she has no quirks. The relationship depicted between her and soldier-guy was so empty. I wanted to see him do something really in-joke between them, something that made them real, if they were going to exploit people's emotions by introducing some kind of romantic thing into the movie. I was annoyed that it was yet another Hollywood standard issue movie that they like to give the contrast of the hero & his support at home. And then it's all set up for a happy reunion at the end! It was under-played and pretty useless. More effort on the impact of the MUTO presence on the military structure would have been more interesting than the romance angle.

My favorite character was probably the scientist guy (the Japanese one, not the American, I don't know any of their names) because of how horrified he was about the whole business. It seemed like nobody really took him seriously, which was stupid, but he also wasn't making the most compelling arguments. Mostly, I enjoyed when everybody in the theater giggled every time a character said "Godzilla".

Hulky pointed out, "How would an EOD Naval lieutenant know how to do a paradrop that is strictly a special forces thing?"

Plot: Throughout the movie, I kept making guesses about what would happen. I was wrong most of the time, by the way. Godzilla did not eat the bomb at the end and disappear into the depths, but he did disappear into the depths after taking a dirt nap in ruined San Francisco. Okay, so the movie had a lot of unintentionally hilarious moments filled with dramatic music. This would be a good movie to watch while intoxicated, I think. I also guessed

The movie could have focused on the problem of nuclear energy. Hell, it could have been some been some epic drawn-out thing that resulted in nations trying to rid their nuclear waste or bombs in order to avoid drawing the MUTOs to them. The whole "let's lure them with this bomb" thing was beyond idiotic. Yeah, really, Armed Forces? You could not think of anything else? I mean, I realize these things are massive, but c'mon. The whole secret organization thing was stupid too. They just kind of toss it in there, but the ramifications of that organization coming to light could have been a WHOLE huge part of the movie. Instead, they were just like, "Thanks for being here, we're going to ignore you now."

Really, what the movie needed, was less people and more monsters, or at least more focus on the monsters. We got plenty of shots of male- & female-Mothra moving around, but not many of Godzilla. What does it look like when he swims? Does he paddle his feet? What does he eat? There are so, so many problems with the monsters in these movies, it's hard to tackle them all.

I loved at the end when the news thing said, "King of Monsters: Savior of our city?" and everybody cheered as Godzilla got up from his nap and swam away. Yeah, I'd probably cheer if I was well away and it looked like he was leaving, but if it's only been one or two days? I'd probably still scream in terror first. More about how the media handles the whole thing would have been really interesting. The only snippet we get is that one line, really. Keeping the public perspective positive about the PTSD-causing experience would probably sell more than the truth: no idea if this monster will come back to eat our power plants, no idea if there are more monsters that might ruin our cities. Godzilla will save us!

Monster design: Most of the people who encountered Godzilla or Mothra (they don't name the two other "MUTOs" in the film, but that's what they are) in the film would have been deafened, or worse. The force of male-Mothra's cry would have blown people away. They show female-Mothra blasting these lanterns in Chinatown and it is definitely hurricane-force winds. I am also pretty sure that the force of these creatures walking around would have ruined a lot more than was depicted in the film. Godzilla's steps are not going to leave the streets uncracked. A lot more people would have been killed.

This isn't even beginning to cover how it's physically impossible for a creature of that size to exist on this planet. Scientists know that the one of the reasons why giant dragonflies and dinosaurs existed is that the oxygen content of the atmosphere was much richer back then. The largest creatures on our planet now are blue whales and elephants. Godzilla is a hell of a lot bigger than an elephant. How could a creature like that exist and presumably not change very much over millions of years (since that's how old they're saying his species is, not saying he's that old) and be able to breathe in and out of water, be able to swim down 2 miles AND walk around on land, and then they didn't even cover the biology of WTF is that breath attack?

#discussionsthathappenwhenyourpartnerisabiologymajor

Godzilla's roar was great. So many tones & parts of it. I love the after-rumble. That is what gave me anxiety, just watching the trailer! The movie didn't make me anxious at all, fortunately. Unfortunately, Godzilla's body design was not as impressive. He looked like a guy in a suit to me, especially with those arms. They were too big to be T-Rex-like, but too small to seem really useful. The stocky legs made sense for his upright posture, but I feel like he should have been more dino-saur like. I did like the whole stegosaurus tail-smash move, but there should have been more like that, things that made me seem completely foreign and ancient.

In conclusion: Pacific Rim did all of that stuff better, in my opinion. Plenty of giant robots and giant monsters. Even the people were more interesting. I still enjoyed Godzilla and would totally see another if they make a second (aw hell yeah, just found that while writing this up).

Totally unrelated, watch this video if you are a fan of Hugh Jackman and/or Les Miserables and/or X-Men/Wolverine.