Not To Be Trusted With Knives

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Stuff I Learned This Year: Surfing, Snorkeling, and Sewing Zippers Edition

Since I have quite a backlog of things I want to blog about1, I decided to combine a bunch of things into one blog posting. You may recall that one of my 2018 goals is to learn 12 new things, but thus far I’ve only written about one of them. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been learning new things – I’ve been learning lots and lots of things! Here is a quick summary of 3 of them.

Surfing

I have mentioned this previously, in my very long posting about my trip to Hawaii, but I wanted to officially count it in my list of things that I learned this year! The most important things that I learned about surfing were that it’s really important to paddle like hell once you see the wave you want to go for to get up enough speed that when you jump up, your board is going fast enough, that you jump up at just the right time (too late or too soon and you are going to go for a swim!), and that jumping up to standing actually isn’t that hard.

Snorkeling

Same goes for snorkeling, Prior to my trip to Hawaii, I’d never snorkeled before. Turns out, snorkeling is pretty easy (made even easier by the fact that we bought snorkels that have a value that prevents you from breathing in water when you dive down so that your snorkel is below the surface), but it’s still something that I learned.

Sewing Zippers

Last year I took a couple of sewing classes, making a tote bag and some fabric buckets. This year, my friends and I decided to kick it up a notch and sew zipper pouches – which meant we had to learn how to sew a zipper!

Zipper pouches - sewing class

Zipper pouches - sewing class

I made them with the leftover fabric from my tote bag, which is cool because (a) they match my tote bags, and (b) I managed to not lose the leftover fabric from my tote bag, which I made nearly a year before!

  1. Mostly because my blog is my outsourced memory – if it’s not on the blog, I’ll never remember that it happened! []

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Gymiversary

Another thing I’m behind on blogging about is my gymiversary! March 3 was my one year anniversary of having joined Strong Side. I’ve blogged a few times about my gym experience and it’s mostly for lack of time to blog that you haven’t been subjected to me talking about how much I love my gym.1 I remember thinking when I signed up “am I really going to be able to do this gym thing on the regular for six whole months??” (I signed up for the 6 month commitment to start because it gets you a better monthly rate than if you just sign up for a three month commitment). And now here is it more than a year later and not only have I regularly gone to the gym three times a week for an entire year, but I actually really love it.

As I’ve mentioned before, part of what I love about it, in addition to the more obvious I-am-getting-stronger reason, is that it’s an easy way for me to be mindful. It really helps me disconnect from my work and all the other things that one has to deal with in life as I focus intently on my form and my breathing. In fact, Friday evenings are one of my favourite times to work out – I find it really helps me to separate from my busy workweek and get ready for my weekend! I love to hit the weights on Friday after work and just work out all the stress of the politics, emails, and deadlines.

Another part of what I like is the social nature of the gym. I’ve gotten to know a fair number of people there – and there are people that I knew before I started going that I’ve discovered go there too (or have joined since I joined) – and everyone is really down-to-earth and supportive of each other. You’ll regularly hear people catching up and joking around and cheering each other on when someone is doing something really tough. It’s a nice feeling to walk in and see friendly faces and people who know your name.

The other day I was there and a person I didn’t recognize came up to me and said, “I don’t want to sound creepy, but I just wanted to tell you that you look really strong! I saw you lifting and I thought “I want to look like that!” Honestly, it was so out-of-the-blue and such a lovely compliment! We chatted for a bit – she’s relatively new to the gym and I told her that I’d been coming there for a year and that it really does work! If you’d told me when I started that I’d be able to lift what I can now, I’d have said you were crazy. But it’s amazing what you can do with consistent work and a program tailored by people who know what they are doing!

When I started going to the gym, I was just getting past my year of injuries and I’d put on some weight from not having been able to run (which was how I’d been keeping somewhat in shape for the past decade) and I wasn’t feeling too great about that. But now, despite the fact that I weigh more than I’ve ever weighed in my life, I’m actually a lot happier with how I look and feel, because the weight gain has been muscle. I’m slowly coming to grips with the fact that I have to get rid of some of the clothes that I haven’t been able to fit into for quite some time but had been hanging on to because I was sure I’d someday get back down to my pre-MBA weight, because even I manage to bring down my body fat % a bit, my quads won’t let me get into those pants and my shoulders and back mean those shirts won’t comfortably fit – and I don’t have any intention of losing these muscles, so I’m OK with that.

As you may recall, one of my goals for this year was to deadlift my own body weight, and I actually managed to do that on January 30. I decided on wanted to capture it on video and since in my current program I’m doing deadlifts where I do 6 reps, then up the weight and do 5 reps, and so on until I’m down to just 1 rep. So I got this on video the other day where I deadlifted 68.5 kg (or 151 lbs), which is more than my body weight for 2 reps2

Deadlifting 68.5 kg. That’s more than my own body weight!

A post shared by Beth Snow (@drbethsnow) on


For good measure, I’ve also managed to back squat more than my weight. Here’s me back squatting 70kg (or 154 lbs).

Squatting 70 kg – more than my own body weight!

A post shared by Beth Snow (@drbethsnow) on


My other goal for this year is to do a full pull up or chin up without the assistance of any resistance bands (basically, you hang a resistance band off the bar you are hanging from and step into it and the band takes off some of your weight so you do the pull up or chin up motion, but without having to lift your entire body weight). When I first started going to the gym, I needed three different bands to do pull ups, but I’m slowly but surely working my way towards fewer bands. Like with the deadlifts, my current program has me doing 6 pull ups with a couple of bands, then 5 with fewer/smaller bands, and so on until I reach 1 rep. I tried to do my last rep with the second smallest resistance band, but couldn’t quite manage it, so had to do it with a slightly bigger band, but I was still pretty happy to be able to do that. Definitely made progress, but still have a ways to go. Hopefully by the end of the year I’ll have done one on my own!

  1. If you’ve had the misfortune of seeing me in person in the past 12 months, you’ve likely been subjected to me waxing poetic about this at length. My apologies. []
  2. I decided not to video my 1 rep, because I wanted to see how heavy I could go and I knew there was a good chance I’d fail. I tried to do 70 kg, but I couldn’t, so I was glad I didn’t try to video that one. I backed it off to 69 kg and did that for 1 rep. Maybe I’ll be able to do 70 kg this week! []

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Hawaii

You know that thing where you go on vacation and then you come back and not only did all the work that you didn’t do while you were away not get done, but it seems to have made some new friends while you were gone so you now have about eleventy billion emails to deal with and decisions to make and meetings to present at and assignments to grade? That is officially my excuse for why this blog posting about my trip to Hawaii is coming 25 days after we arrived back how!

Anyhoo, I’ve managed to mostly catch up so now I’m just back to my baseline level of crazy busy, plus it is a 4 day weekend, so I have found some time to sit down and tell you all about our trip to Hawaii.  Spoiler alert: it’s amazing and I didn’t want to come home.

Sunday

We arrived in the afternoon on Sunday, after an uneventful flight from YVR to Seattle and another uneventful flight from Seattle to Honolulu. We’d booked our trip through Costco1, as it was the best deal we found, and the package came with transportation to and from the airport. The person greeting us also had leis for all, so here’s a selfie of us at the airport”

Scott and I upon our arrival in Hawaii

In what would become a theme for the trip, after a day of flying, my hair looks like crap.

The rest of Sunday was basically just getting checked into the hotel (the Aston Waikiki Beach hotel) and then wandering around to get the lay of the land. Since we got in around 2pm, which meant we didn’t have much time to see stuff before the sunset because omg, the sun sets early. I knew that Hawaii was near the equator, but I hadn’t really thought about the implications of that in terms of sunrise and sunset – it’s pretty much sun from 6:30 am to 6:30 pm every day, all year long. I’m used to living quite far north of the equator and so my brain thinks summer weather = suns sets at 9 pm, so it was kind of trippy for it to be 27°C and have the sun set at dinner time! Fortunately, it stays warm even after the sunset, so it’s still nice to wander around even after the sun goes down. If you’ve never been to Honolulu, it’s basically just all beach and open air malls, with an ABC store every 12 feet.

Monday

We decided to start the holiday off with a bang by taking a surfing lesson. As long time readers may recall, I have been surfing only two times in my life and had only managed to get to a standing position for about half a second on one of those two surfing days. And that was more than a decade ago. So I figured that an actual surfing lesson, which I didn’t do the last time, was in order. We found a Groupon for lessons through Moku Hawaii Surf Shop, which was close to our hotel, so we decided to take our lessons with them. And I’m happy to report that having a surfing lesson resulted in a much more success in the amount of standing on the surfboard! We had a fantastic instructor named Jennifer, who was the only female instructor we saw in Waikiki. She went over the safety basics and the basics of how to surf, and told us that the hardest part of surfing isn’t getting up on your feet – it’s all about timing – picking the right wave and then figuring out when to start paddling and when to jump up. We headed out to the beach and then Scott and I basically took turns getting some help from Jennifer – she helped us pick a good wave, helped us with timing when to start paddling, gave us a little push to get going, and yelled “up” to let us know when to pop up. Once we got the hang of that, she helped us with timing but without the push (which made me realize how much the push helped!). She also had a GoPro camera that was on my surfboard for the first half of the lesson and on Scott’s surfboard for the second half. She also remembered part way through my time with the Go-Pro to tell me to turn the camera off when I was just walking/paddling back out to the waves, which meant that there were a million photos of me walking/paddling back out from before she told me that, but no photos of Scott like that. We got footage of a few of our runs each, but of course none of my really good runs were captured on video!

Waiting for a good wave:

Beth surfing in Honolulu

Starting to paddle – you have to make sure you get up enough speed before the wave gets there so you can catch the wave:
Beth surfing in Honolulu

Then you have to pop up:

Beth surfing in Honolulu

First up on your knees:

Beth surfing in Honolulu

Then pop up to your feet:

Beth surfing in Honolulu

Then you are surfing like a pro:

Beth surfing in Honolulu

Until you fall off:
Beth surfing in Honolulu

We had an absolute blast! Jennifer said that most people don’t last the full two hours, but Scott and I did. I credit all the hard workouts we did leading up to our trip2.

The water was pretty shallow and the reef was very sharp and what with all the falling off and getting knocked about by the waves, I managed to rip up my foot pretty badly:

My foot got wrecked by the reef when we surfed

It looked worse in person than that photo, if you can believe that.

Also, this picture is awesome:

Beth surfing in Honolulu

After our lesson ended, we spent the rest of the day lounging on the beach. It was at some point on this day that I said “Let’s send for the cats! I want to stay here forever!” Sadly, the reality of not having jobs there or a place to live there or the necessary citizenship to do that quickly quashed my dream, so I had to just make do with 6 more days.

Here’s a video of me surfing (you really only need to watch the first couple of minutes – after that it’s just me sloooooowly walking back out to sea as I didn’t know I was supposed to turn off the camera!):

And here’s Scott – this video actually includes him surfing twice:

Tuesday

We had so much fun surfing that we decided to do it again the next day. Since we’d taken lessons from Moku, we were able to get a discount on renting boards the next day. We were just going to rent for a few hours, but they gave us the whole day, so we spent the day surfing, then lounging on the beach, then surfing, and repeat.

We also tested ou snorkelling gear3 in the hotel pool.

Wednesday

We rented a car for a couple of days because we knew we wanted to check out more of the island – and because I wanted to go swimming with sharks and you have to go to the North Shore to do that. So Wednesday we drove around the island, including stopping by the beach at the Turtle Bay resort to do some snorkelling. The water was pretty murky, but we still managed to see some cool looking fish. Sadly, there were no turtles!

We also managed to find Ted’s Bakery, which my friend Heather had recommended that we check out. They make some pretty fantastic pie:

Ted's Bakery - pies

Thursday

Thursday was the day I’d been waiting for since we’d decided to go to Hawaii – swimming with sharks! When my sister went to Hawaii ages ago, she did this and it sounded so cool that I wanted to do it too! We found a Groupon4 for a trip with North Shore Shark Adventures, but then I discovered that if you book directly with them online, you get the same price as the Groupon, so I just booked directly. The concept is simple – you get on a boat, go out to a place where there are sharks, and then jump in a cage that’s floating off the side of the boat and snorkel while you watch the sharks swim all around you. Apparently the sharks are attracted by the sound of the boat because they go out to an area where people fish for crabs and the sharks have become accustomed to the crab fishers dumping their used bait out of the crab traps there, so the sharks hear a boat and think “dinner time!”5. The sharks in the area are mostly Galapagos sharks, with some sandbar sharks. I totally thought that Great White sharks were common in Hawaii, but the crew told us they are not.

We were supposed to be on a 10 am trip, but we got a call from the company a day before saying that forecast was for really choppy water so they were going to cancel the 10 am trip, but we could go on the 7 am one instead. Despite this meaning we had to get up at like 5 am to make the drive from Waikiki to the North Shore, we decided to do it ‘cuz we really wanted to swim with the sharks!

Here I am on the boat:View from the shark boat

Here’s the cage:

Shark diving cage

And here are some of the freaking sharks, as seen from the deck of the boat:

Sharks!

There were 12 people on the boat who wanted to go in the cage, along with some crew members, and a few people who were just along for the ride. So one group of six went first while the rest of us watched and then the second group of six took a turn after. Here’s the other group after the ropes had been loosened to allow the cage to float a bit away from the boat:

Shark diving cage

While the other group was in the cage, one of the women popped her head up and asked the crew “What’s the little shiny silver shark?” One of the crew members said “Is it about this big [holding his hands about a foot apart] and kind of pointy?” When she replied “Yes”, he said “That’s a barracuda. You should watch out for that. It can get inside cage and it will bite”.

After the first group’s turn was up, we got to go into the cage. I was the first one in our group to get in the cage. It was such a cool experience! The sharks were so beautiful – so graceful swimming by, all around and beneath us. Some of the Galapagos sharks were quite big – the biggest one we saw was probably 10 ft long. I really, really wished I had a Go Pro camera of my own as  it would have been amazing to capture it! I wasn’t scared of the sharks at all – there was no way they could have gotten into our cage and they really seemed pretty docile. I mean, I wouldn’t have wanted to stick my hand in their mouth or anything, but being in the cage felt totally safe. The barracuda showed up while we were in there and honestly, I was more afraid of him, because he could totally have swam into the cage and taken a bite! And he just sat their next to the cage, staring at us with his cold dead eye. I found this photo of a barracuda on Wikipedia and this is just what he looked like:

Great Barracuda close-up, western Puerto Rico

Scary barracuda is scary!

As I mentioned, the water was pretty choppy and eventually it got the better of me and I totally puked from sea sickness right in the cage! So gross! But I did feel better after losing my breakfast, so at least there’s that. (I also found out that several other people also got sea sick while we were in the cage – they were just puking off the side of the boat!) As much as I hate puking, it was totally worth it to see those sharks!

Also, while I didn’t have a Go Pro to capture this, some other random people who did the same dive as us on a different day did and put it up on Youtube. So check out this video and imagine that Scott and I are in that cage, because this is exactly what it was like:

After we finished with the sharks, we decided to head back to Turtle Bay for more snorkelling and lounging on the beach. Still no turtles!

Later that day, we hit the Dole plantation. We decided to go on the aptly named “Pineapple Express” train that goes around the plantation and features a narration that tells you about how the Dole Food Company is the most successful and generous company on the planet, pineapples are the greatest food ever to have existed and probably can cure cancer, and James Drummond Dole could walk on water6.

Tickets fo the Pineapple Express

IMG_8372

We did get to see some cool stuff, like how pineapples actually grow on bushes on the ground – I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I’d kind of assumed they grew in trees, like coconuts!

IMG_8396

I also didn’t know that pineapples aren’t native to Hawaii – they were brought there from South America in the 1500s.

IMG_8395

In addition to pineapple, the Dole plantation had a bunch of other stuff – sugar cane, lemons, limes, avocados, cocoa, coffee, coconuts, bananas, etc.

IMG_8382

After we finished our Pineapple Express trip, featuring the musical stylings of a band that was willing to record a song called “Pineapple Express”, we checked out the shop to get some delicious Dole whip, which is basically like ice cream except that it’s made of pineapple instead of cream. I have to admit, it was pretty delicious. We also stayed for a pineapple cutting demonstration, during which the demonstrator took about 20 minutes using a special pineapple cutting knife while repeating “So easy!” over and over and over again. I will admit that it looked pretty cool when she was done, but I don’t think I’ll be adjusting my pineapple cutting ways.

How to cut pineapple

Scott as a pineapple

Scott is a pineapple

After we were full of Dole whip and indoctrinated into the cult of Dole, we decided to try to find a waterfall that you can hike to at the Waimano Public Hunting Area. I was a wee bit concerned to start a hike that starts with a sign that says I might be hunted with a rifle, a shotgun, a handgun, a knife, a spear, and/or a bow and arrow (should I be mistaken for a pig or goat of either sex).

Waimano Public Hunting Area

Also concerning were the angry looking clouds in the sky and, not fancying the idea of driving all the way back to Waikiki in soaking wet clothing, we decided to just snap this pic of us with the scenic background and head back to the car without getting to our destination. I guess this is why they say don’t go chasing waterfalls.

As usual on this trip, my hair is a mess. But I had to fight off sharks and a barracuda earlier that day, so I guess it is to be expected.

Friday

On Friday we jumped on the city bus and headed to hike Diamond Head, which is a 300,000 year old crater.

Diamond Head hike

It’s not a super tough hike, thought these stairs at the top were not my favourite:

Diamond Head hike

but they get you to pretty cool views;

Diamond Head hike

Diamond Head hike

I don’t know what that lighthouse is called, but I’m totally adding it to my upcoming blog posting “Dr. Beth’s Worldwide Lighthouse Tour”7

Diamond Head hike

Since we’d already paid for a day pass for the bus8, we decided to head to the other side of town after our hike and checked out what was going on over there. Highlights included, this turtle who was hanging out in a fake pond by a restaurant:

In a fake pond by a restaurant

these beautiful birds that live at the Hilton:

and possibly the best ice cream I’ve ever eaten:

Possibly the best ice cream I've ever eaten

It was surprisingly difficult to find ice cream in Waikiki. You’d think there would be an ice cream shop on every street corner. But you’d be wrong. We had to go all the way to the other side of Waikiki to find it.

waikiki map

Another reason we had decided to go to that side of town was that every Friday night the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort has a fireworks show. So after strolling around to see the various sights and eat the various ice cream that was on the side of town, we strolled over to the beach to watch the fireworks.

Yet again, my hair is craptacular! Given how much time we’d spent in the ocean on this trip, I’d pretty much given up hope that I could do anything with my hair by this point.

We followed up the fireworks display with a meal at Morton’s steakhouse, which was super freaking delicious. We were also somewhat amazed that we could walk into a restaurant on a Friday night without a reservation9.

Saturday

On the advice of my uncle Harry and my friend Sarah, neither of whom have actually been10, we visited the USS Arizona Memorial. The USS Arizona is one of the ships that was sunk in the attack on Pearl Harbour and it still sits where it sank, with the 1,177 who died that day still on the ship. In addition, some of the survivors of the USS Arizona have decided to have the ship as the final resting place of their remains when they subsequently died, making it both a memorial to those who died in the attack and an active military cemetery. When you visit, you first watch a movie about the attack on Pearl Harbour, complete with footage of the attack and some explanation of how and why the attack happened. Then you go on a navy boat to the memorial, which is basically a platform that sits astride the remains of the ship.

USS Arizona

The white structure in the background is the memorial, as seen from our boat as we headed towards the memorial.

USS Arizona

Parts of the remains of the ship.

Oil still leaks from the USS Arizona

Oil still leaks from the ship, more than 75 years later.

USS Arizona

There were some divers going into the water near the ship. I’m not sure what they were doing.

Divers at the USS Arizona

Divers in the water near the oil leaks.

USS Arizona

Names of the men who died on the USS Arizona are written instead the memorial

It was very sobering to see so many names – 1,177 men died just on this ship, let alone all the others who died in various other parts of Pearl Harbor that day – and to think about how young they all were – just boys, really, and their ship was sinking, and then exploding, before they even knew what happened. Today, there are only five remaining survivors, ranging in age from 94-96 years old.

After the navy boat brought us back, we wandered around a bit to see the other things that were around, like this nuclear torpedo:

Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor

And read the various signs with more information about the event:

Pearl Harbor

After that, we headed back to Waikiki to do more wandering around, eventually hitting Duke’s for dinner:

Drinks

Delicious drinks at Duke’s

and then stumbling upon a hula show that was going on at the beach:Hulu show on Waikiki Beach

Sunday

Sunday was our last full day on Oahu and we decided to spent it at Hanauma Bay, a beach on a bay that was formed by volcanic activity about 32,000 years ago, It became a very popular tourist destination because of its beautiful beach and amazing marine life, with about 400 different species of fish living there. They state has turned it into a nature preserve and when you first get there you have to watch a movie that basically just says “Don’t touch any of the living creatures, including the coral. Hey, did you know coral is alive? Well, you do now, so don’t touch it!” Then you are allowed to head down the hill to enjoy the beach.

Hanumba Bay was definitely one of the highlights of the trip, which is saying something because I loved pretty much everything about this trip. But the snorkelling here was amazing! The water was so clear and there were so many different kinds of beautiful fish! I was really regretting not having a GoPro while snorkeling here. You can see some of the types of fish that we saw on this Hanauma Bay Education Program Fish Identification Card – ones we saw included Bluespine Unicornfish, Bird Wrasse, Hawaiian Sergeant, female Spotted Boxfish, male Christmas Wrasse, Moorish Idol, many types of Parrotfish and tonnes of Reef Triggerfish and Convict Tang. There was also a giant purple fish that I think was a type of Parrotfish and it was so big that you could actual hear it eating when you were underwater with it!

I found this video on Youtube from someone who had a similar experience – it’s a different colour of fish, but you can see what I mean about hearing the fish eating:

Apparently there are sometimes reef sharks in the bay, but we didn’t see any. I would kind of loved to have seen one because sharks are awesome, but even knowing that there has never been a shark attack in the bay and reef sharks don’t feed on humans, I may have freaked out if I’d actually seen one because OMG SHARK!

We basically spent the whole day there, alternating between snorkelling and lounging on the beach. On one of our later times out snorkelling that day we finally saw the second thing (other than sharks) that I wanted to see in the wild: a turtle! We were just snorkelling around on the opposite side of the bay than we’d been before and Scott called me over to where he was and pointed down into the reef. And there was a beautiful green sea turtle, just swimming around and eating from the reef! Again, I was kicking myself for not having a GoPro! I did find this photo on Flickr of a turtle that looks just like the one we saw:

Sea Turtle @ Hanauma Bay

I spent a bunch of time just swimming around following the turtle – he was just so cute11!

Here’s a video from someone who was smart enough to bring a GoPro with them while snorkelling there (this is pretty much exactly what my day was like, except for the soundtrack):

Also at the beach were a whole bunch of cats, who apparently live, feasting on garbage and having somewhat of an uneasy truce with a bunch of mongooses.

At one point, Scott was petting the kitties and a little kid who was probably three or four years old and had clearly paid attention in the “don’t touch the wildlife” video admonished him “Don’t touch them!!!!!” Of course, not touching the feral cats is probably more of a safety rule for you rather than the cats, but he didn’t end up getting bitten or scratched, so I suppose we’ll call that a win for all.

Monday

And just like that, the trip was over! We got one last morning in Honolulu, where I snapped what is probably the nicest photo I took on the whole trip, and from the restaurant in our hotel, of all places!

View from the restaurant in our hotel

On top of being a super amazing awesome fun time, my trip also allowed me to knock two items off my 101 list: #1 – Cage dive with sharks and #91 – Go to Hawaii. And as soon as I hit publish on this posting, it will put me 1/6th of the way towards achieving my 2018 goal of having “published at least six [blog postings] that are long form  (minimum of 3000 words).”

In conclusion: A++, would Hawaii again.

Image and Video Credits: The barracuda photo is from Wikipedia and the Green Sea Turtle photo posted by FHKE on Flickr with a Creative Commons license. All the other photos are mine or Scott’s. The two surfing videos are mine and Scott’s and for sources of the other videos, follow the links to YouTube.

  1. I’m reasonably sure that I’m slowly drifting towards an entirely Costco-based life. First it was just for food… then clothing… and now travel! []
  2. I told my trainer for January & February to give me a training program that would help me with surfing and/or looking good on the beach. So she gave me some crazy tough workouts and I think it really helped! []
  3. Which we bought at Costco (of course) before we left Vancouver. []
  4. Are you sensing my cheapness? []
  5. Apparently some companies will chum the water to attack sharks, but it’s controversial as it can affect shark behaviour and even lead to sharks equating humans with food, which is not a good thing. []
  6. Honestly, the whole time I kept thinking that the narration should have been done by Troy McClure. []
  7. Note to self: write that blog posting that you’ve been meaning to write since forever called “Dr. Beth’s Worldwide Lighthouse Tour”. []
  8. As a day pass is the same price as going somewhere on the bus and then returning, we decided just to get the pass to get to the hike and back, and then use it to travel around town some more. Because frugality. []
  9. Not something you can really do in Vancouver. []
  10. Though Sarah did plan a visit for her parents when they were in Hawaii and thus was able to give me detailed instructions of how to get there, get tickets, etc. []
  11. I’d also stalked some fish throughout the day – I’d find an interesting looking fish and then just follow it around to see where it would go. It got me wondering what the fish and turtle think about all these snorkelers – do they just think we are some weird looking fish? []

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Mindfulness and the Gym

Dumbells at Strong Side Conditioning

So remember like eleventy billion years ago when I did that mindfulness course? I haven’t really done any mindfulness practice since then, but it’s always been in the back of my mind that I probably should1.

Well, it sort of hit me one day when I was at the gym that doing strength training is a mindful practice. Being mindful is all about being present in the moment and being aware of your sensations, thoughts, and emotions. When you are doing strength training – if you are doing it right, that is – you are paying very careful attention to your body in the moment. You are setting your stance just so – maybe it’s shoulders packed down, abs and gluts engaged, knees slightly bent, and then you are doing a very deliberate action – lifting in a certain way, focusing on feeling it in a particular muscle(s), focusing on breathing out as you do a particular movement. Sometimes as you go through your sets, you start to get a little lazy with your form – in my case, it’s often that my shoulders start to creep up and/or that I forget to breath. But then you’ll notice that you’ve slipped away and bring yourself back into the right form (or start breathing again!) and it’s much like when you are doing a meditation and notice your mind start to wander, so you come back to your focus on the present.

Dumbells at Strong Side ConditioningI’d been going to the gym for a few months when I realized how mindful this practice was. My focus was very squarely in the present moment – very aware of my body and not really thinking of anything else. I wasn’t worried about the future or dwelling on this past. I was just there, just being, just breathing, just lifting. And I wasn’t even trying to be mindful – it just happened. I remembered the times that I’ve done meditation and how extremely difficult it is some days to quite the mind and just pay attention. I still think it would be useful for me to do some other forms of meditation as well, as there is benefit to the act of being still and observing your thoughts as they arrive, but I think that becoming aware of the mindful nature of my strength training has not only been beneficial in and of itself, but also because it’s reminded me about being mindful. It’s made me more mindful of mindfulness.

There is a link between physical activity and mental health. Mindfulness practice has also been shown to be beneficial to mental health. While there are likely many mechanisms for how physical activity improves mental health, I wonder if any of the benefits of physical activity on mental health are linked to it being an easy way to become more mindful?

  1. Which is quite possibly the least mindful thing a person has ever said! It’s in the back of my mind that I should do that at some point in the future! []

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NaBloPoMo – Day 29 – Playing D

A few weeks back, I had to play defence in my hockey game. I usually play forward and haven’t really ever played defence1 and quite honestly, I find the notion of it a bit scary. It’s too much pressure! You are responsible for stopping the people on the other team from taking shots! And if they score, you feel bad. Playing forward, on the other hand, is all about the glory. Scoring goals or making a beautiful pass so that your linemate can score a goal – all about the glory.

Of course, I realize that hockey is a team game and even when I’m playing forward, I can screw up and feel like it’s my fault if the other team scores2. When the defence3 from the other team that you are supposed to be checking gets away from you and scores a goal – you feel bad! When you can’t get the puck out of your own end and the other team scores, you feel bad! But overall, I feel like the pressure is more on the D. So I’ve always steered clear of it.

However, one of my teams this year is a bit short on players who play D on the roster, so, depending on who shows up for a given game, occasionally some of us forwards have to go back on D for a game. And a few weeks ago, it was my turn. It was against a really strong team (they got moved up a division a few games later because they were winning so much in our div) and someone suggested I should play D because I’m a strong skater (which was a really great compliment! I feel like I’ve worked a fair bit on my skating over the past few years, so it’s nice to know that it’s helped!) and I knew I was going to have to work my butt off! And also have to figure a lot of things out on the fly – when I play my usual position (left wing or centre), I can go a lot on instinct since I’ve done it for so many years. But as D I really have to think about where I’m supposed to be and what I’m supposed to be doing! So much pressure!

Anyway, I actually thought it was a good experience, because playing defence gave me a totally different perspective on the game. I was able to experience the game from the D’s point of view and it helped me see how I can be a better forward. Often defence will tell us that in our own end, when the D get control of the puck, make sure to get open, keep moving, give them someone to pass to. It’s no use passing the puck to someone who is standing still, right next to an opposing player who is poised to swoop in and grab that puck, so the forwards need to get moving! And while that makes perfect sense, it’s one thing to hear someone say that, and it’s a totally different thing to experience being that D who has the puck and there’s no one to pass it to to get the play going in the other direction. And then to experience when the forwards are moving to the open ice, ready for the pass, and the you see how much of a difference it makes. It was so useful to see from the D’s point of view how the game unfolds when the forwards are doing different things and it really makes it real what you need to be doing as a forward. So in the end, I’m actually really glad I played that game as defence – I think I’m a better forward for having done it.

I’m pretty sure there’s an analogy in here to life – how it’s really worthwhile to see things from someone else’s perspective once in a while. Maybe even someone who is very different from you. How you can learn something about what their experience is like and maybe even learn something about yourself. But it’s past my bedtime and thus too late for me to get into such deep thoughts, so I’ll leave it up to you, dear readers, to give it some thought!

Image Credit: Posted by Guy Mayer on Flickr with a Creative Commons license.

  1. Other than in the 10 day long hockey game when everyone just played wherever position because we only had one sub at any given time, but playing was more just like trying to survive on the ice for *another* four-hour shift. []
  2. As we like to say on the ice, the puck has to get past all 5 of us before it ever gets to the goalie! []
  3. So it has just occurred to me that we sometimes call the defensive players “defencemen” – I usually use just “defence” because I play in an all-womens’ league, but  “defence women” just sounds weird to me. But it’s just occurred to me that we never say “forward men”. It’s just “forward”. You say “centremen” on occasion, but far more often you just say “centre.” But you never ever say “forwardmen.” I wonder why that is? []

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For The Record

In tangentially related news to yesterday’s posting (in that it’s about hockey), I’ve been meaning to post the following two screenshots from the summer season. First up is the stats for the regular season and would you look at that, my name is right at the top1!

Team Leader for Points! Summer 2017

This is the first time I’ve *ever* been the points leader on my team and, since it very may well be the *only* time that ever happens, I figured I should capture it for posterity. I would also like to add that the number of goals I scored is in error – I actually got three, but my third goal was credited to someone else on the team by mistake (the refs and/or scorekeepers don’t always record these things correctly). Which means I should have been second highest goal scorer as well (and the first highest of our regular players, as the person who got the most goals on our team was a spare who scored all of those goals in the one game they played for us). Unless of course one of the other people who are recorded as having 2 goals also had one of their goals erroneously credited to someone else.

Next up is the stats for the playoffs, and would you look at that, there I am at the top again!Team Leader for Points! Summer Playoffs 2017Unfortunately, there was also a scorekeeping error here, as the goal they credited me with was not my goal – it was someone else’s that they gave to me by mistake. So really, it should be a four-way tie for points leaders for the playoffs, with 4 of us each having 1 point (We only played two playoff games before we got knocked out, so not really a lot of opportunity to score goals, especially given that we were last place and we played both our games against first place.) But I still was one of those people, as I got an assist in the first game, so it’s not technically incorrect for me to be at the top of this list.

Now, what accounts for this spectacular showing on the scoreboard, after what feels like ages of me getting very, very few points? I think that it’s probably the fact that I got a new stick:

But also I have been working out 3 days a week for six months now, so I’m pretty sure that’s not hurting either. At any rate, here’s hoping it continues into this season – I am currently tied for second place (with three other people at 1 point each) for points this season so far (though at only 3 games into the season, it’s probably too early to be bragging about such things. Probably.).

  1. Ignore the fact that there was a very, very low number of goals scored by my team in this 14 game season. That’s not what’s important here, people! []

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Beth and Sidney’s Excellent Adventure

So I have a new hockey team this season – we are called the Penguins! On this team, they have a tradition. The player of the game is awarded a Sidney Crosby stuffy, which they get to keep until the next game. And during that time they must take Sidney on an adventure, which they must photograph and send to the team. Apparently Sidney has gone on a variety of adventures – he’s gone mountain biking, he’s gone to the spa, he’s played dress up, he’s gone for an acupuncture treatment, and so on.

Well, as luck would have it, I was awarded this great honour in my second game on the team, which we played this past Sunday. The honour was bestowed upon me for scoring a goal with just 4 seconds left in the game. The goal was one for the highlight reel – a beautiful wrist shot, top shelf! Or perhaps I just skated up to the goalie, who quite possibly wasn’t expecting anything to actual happen in the last 4 seconds of the game, took a shot right at her which she easily stopped, but it fell between her knees and then when I kept skating towards her hoping to poke at the rebound, she fell over backwards and knocked the puck into her own net. It could have been either of these things, really. I guess we’ll never know! At any rate, my teammate kindly named me player of the game for my never-give-up attitude and making the other team’s goalie, who was quite spectacular all game, look silly. And so it was that I brought this hottie home with me:

Sidney came home from the rink with me!

Watson and Crick smelled him for an unusually long time (They smell pretty much everything I bring into the condo, but usually it’s a few sniffs and they are on their way. But the each spent several minutes smelly every inch of this guy!)

Crick smelling Sidney

Watson smelling Sidney

Now, I only had a few days in which to adventure with Sid, as our next game, when I had to pass him along to the next player of the game, was tonight (Wednesday). So I really only had Monday and Tuesday and I was working those days, plus I am teaching a class at UBC on Tuesday nights this semester. So Sidney ended up having a very nerdy adventure. He came to work with me (I actually had him at the table during our team meeting1 and one of my team members was like “He’s staring at me!!”):

Sidney

Sidney

And then on Tuesday night, he helped me give my lecture on business strategy and marketing:

Sidney gives a guest lecture

Students cut out of the photo to protect privacy! But I wanted a photo with students in it to prove that I didn’t just take him to a lecture hall and pretend to have him in my class!

And finally, we ended our hard day’s work with a fine beer from Steel & Oak:Sidney

  1. which I totally neglected to get a photo of. Epic fail! []

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My new neck guard

Two games ago, I got high sticked in the throat. It wasn’t intentional – we were playing hard and it was so fast I’m not even sure how it happened, but seemingly out of nowhere I felt a stick blade on my throat – but it was hard and down I went. All I could think was “Can I breathe? Ok, I can breathe now, but is my throat going to swell up and I’m going to suffocate to death right here on the ice?” My throat did swell up, but not so bad that it killed me (obviously, or I’d have a hard time writing this blog posting!). I couldn’t lie on my back and breath at the same time for two days (as the swelling in the front of my throat would sort of collapse down on itself), but I was OK if I lay on my side.

Old hockey neckguard

Old neck guard

Long story short, I decided that the neckguard I’d been wearing – because, yes, I was wearing a neck guard – was providing me with insufficient protection. I felt the stick blade on my skin, so I think the blade must have hit below the neck guard, or at least shifted the guard out of place when it hit. Imagine if that had been a skate blade instead of a stick blade! So off I went last weekend to the Hockey Shop to buy a new neck guard that provides more ample coverage.

New hockey neckguard

New neck guard. My neck feels so much more guarded now!

As you can see from the photo, the new neck guard provides a lot more coverage in case of errant sticks, skates, or punches. Also, if someone challenges me to a duel on the ice, I’ll be ready for that too!

I wore it in my game on Wednesday night (and I scored a goal1!) It’s definitely warmer wearing this new guard compared to the old one, but I’m already sweating up a storm out there, so what’s a little more sweat? And it’s a small price to pay for an intact jugular and a non-collapsed trachea.

Stay safe out there, people!

  1. Coincidence? Probably, but we can’t really know for sure! []

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Does this injury make my thumb look fat?

Three weeks ago (three!), I hurt my thumb. I was playing hockey and I was in screening the goalie and making a pest of myself (as usual) and a defencewoman from the other team knocked me to the ground, catching me off guard and I guess just the way I was holding my stick resulted in my landing directly on the end of my right thumb and it hurt like a mofo. I mean, I continued playing the game, but I couldn’t really use my thumb. By the next day, it was swollen up quite badly and bruised1 and I thought it might be broken, so I called my doctor, whose office is conveniently a block from my office, who had a look at it and said that we should get it X-rayed as it could be a compression fracture (happily, it wasn’t twisted or bent funny, which would indicate a fracture that might need pins in it). So then I walked a few blocks to the X-ray place and within about 10 minutes I had some X-rays done2. The verdict came back the next day – it wasn’t fractured, so I must have (and I quote my doctor verbatim here) “jammed it real good.”

Anyway, that was three weeks ago (three!) and my thumb still freaking hurts. And it’s swollen:

Injured thumb

As you can see, my right thumb is swollen. This photo was taken today.

Granted, while I took my next hockey game off (on the advice of my doctor), I did play the one after that and the one after that and then the one after that. And then I played five hockey games in three days3 – I had a weekend tournament, a regular season game, and then got called in as a spare for a friend’s team. And in the tournament I happened to get slashed *twice* directly on my thumb! Also, after the game, there seems to always be at least one person in the handshake lineup who won’t take off their glove to shake hands4 and so when I go to shake their hand they end up jamming their hockey glove directly into my thumb and it hurts like a mofo!

In other hockey news, I broke my hockey stick in my game yesterday. I was battling for the puck in the corner and as I was skating away afterwards, I thought my stick felt funny. I looked down and didn’t see anything odd, but after a few more strides it still felt funny and I looked again and heard a weird noise as I lifted my stick to try to look closer and then I saw it flop a bit. Yikes! I immediately dropped my stick – as a player must drop a broken stick because it’s dangerous to skate around with one – and skated to the bench so someone else with a stick could jump on the ice. Fortunately I had brought a spare stick – as I’m a 5 ft tall person who plays left-handed, there’s not likely to be anyone else who has a stick that I can play with – so was able to jump back out on my next shift.

Broken hockey stick

Broken hockey stick

So today I headed out to the Hockey Shop in Surrey5 to buy a new stick. I’ve never bought a stick there before – the last sticks I bought (which were this broken one and an identical one like that – I bought two because they were on sale for half price and my then-back up stick was an old wooden monstrosity) were from Cyclone Taylor in Coquitlam – but I was glad that I did this time because I found out that they have a shooting room in the basement where you can actually test out the stick, which is much better than just flexing it against the ground to see how it flexes (which is what you typically do in a store). The guy in the shop helped me select a few to test out – and also informed me that the stick that I had (as I brought in my spare so that I could get them to cut my stick down to the right size for me) was one that has its flex near the middle, which is more for slapshots. But I don’t really take slapshots6! So he got me one where the flex is near the bottom, which is better for wrist shots and snap shots, which is more what I want to do! I tested out the sticks and the one with the flex near the bottom (which is also a bit lighter) was waaaaay better for me. And so now I’m the proud owner of this Crosby stick:

My new hockey stick

So I’m going to blame my *terrible* statistics for the last few years on my inappropriate stick and I am confident I’ll now be scoring like gangbusters. Playoffs, here I come!

  1. And unbelievably, I forgot to take a picture of it! []
  2. For people who are worried that single payer healthcare systems mean you don’t get to see your doctor and wait lists are years long, I would like to point out that I got a same day appointment and then got an X-ray within 20 minutes of seeing the doctor and that included me walking from my doctor’s office to the X-ray place. I realize that the Canadian healthcare system is not perfect and that this situation worked out so well for me because (a) it’s a pretty routine health problem and (b) I have a family doctor, which many people don’t since we have a shortage of them. But still, no wait time, great care by a doctor that I’ve chosen, and I didn’t have to co-pay or pay for my own X-ray or anything. []
  3. Before anyone goes and makes a comment (*cough* Kalev *cough*) that I shouldn’t play hockey until my thumb is totally healed, we already know that I make poor life choices, so that wasn’t going to happen. []
  4. What is the deal with people who won’t take their glove off to shake hands after the game. Are they seriously worried about the germs on my hand after they have just spent 60 minutes with their hand in a sweaty hockey glove? I hate to break it to you, people who won’t take their glove off to shake hands after the game, your hand is already covered in germs! And if they think that the germs in their smelly hockey glove are at least their own germs and other people’s germs might make them sick, all I have to say is “aren’t you going to wash your hands anyway, since they’ve just been in that smelly hockey glove??” /. []
  5. As per usual, this is an unsolicited mention of a business on my blog. I just like their business and want to give them a shout out! []
  6. so I’m not sure why the person at Cyclone Taylor suggested that stick to me! []

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Stuff I’m Learning This Year: Strength Training Edition

As you know, one of my goals for 2017 was to learn 12 new things – an average of one per month. First, I learned some basic toilet repair. Then I learned how to fold a fitted sheet. In that second posting, I alluded to the fact that I’m learning something else that required a bigger blog posting – well, this is that blog posting!

This goes back to the old time-y days of 2016, when I was injured so bad with bursitis that I had to walk with a cane for 2 weeks and I had to spend all of the dollars on physiotherapy for months so that I could walk again and I haven’t been running since then. When I was walking with a cane, one of my work colleagues told me that the best thing she ever did was after she got injured, when her physiotherapy was completed, she got a personal trainer. A personal trainer was able to help determine which of her muscles were weak and which were compensating for the weak ones and was able to give her an interesting exercise routine (as opposed to the super boring stretches you have to do when rehabbing an injury) that helped her get stronger so she wouldn’t get re-injured. And while I had made doing regular strength training one of my 2017 goals *and* I have a weight room in building in which to do said strength training, I spent the first two months of 2017 never lifting a single weight. And then I remembered that I suck at weight training because I have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing when I walk into a gym – I need someone to tell me what to do1. And then I remembered that I don’t really do any exercise unless I have some external motivator2. And I also remembered that I dislike doing exercise if it takes much more than walking out of my front door to do it because I begrudge the time it takes to drive to a place to exercise and then drive back afterwards3 – it’s one of the reasons I like running! So I joined a gym with personal trainers that is about a block from my place. It meets my needs of being super-conveniently located, it has someone telling me what to do, and I’m externally motivated because I’m paying money for it (and I have to show up 3 days a week to follow my plan!). The place is called Strong Side Conditioning4

Strong Side ConditioningBut it wasn’t just the super-convenient location that convinced me to go to this place. I did a free assessment there where I got to learn about the gym and their business model, to go through an assessment and hear what a plan for me would be like, and to meet some of the staff5. The business model of the gym is that it’s sort of halfway between a gym membership and a personal trainer. With a regular gym membership, you would pay less but not have assistance in creating a plan or assistance with your training (like making sure your form is correct or helping you decide when to go up in weight or number of reps). With a regular personal trainer, you get all 1-on-1 training sessions and pay by the hour (and then maybe do some other training sessions totally on your own, following the plan they’ve created for you) – and the hourly rate is not cheap. At Strong Side, they come up with a training plan for you each month and at the start of the month, you get a week’s worth of 1-on-1 sessions to learn your exercises (in my case, I chose 3 days a week, so I got 3 training session to learn my 3 workouts) and after that you have 3 weeks where you drop into the gym at your convenience to do your workouts, but there are a bunch of trainers circulating to help you if needed. You record your workouts and the trainers can see how you are progressing and then they make up a new training plan for the next month and repeat.

I started on March 3, and so far I’ve had my three training sessions, and done four solo sessions. My assessment had shown that I basically use my diaphragm and my quads for everything and all my other muscles don’t do anything. So I’m working on releasing the tension in my ribs and quads and strengthening my everything else so that my everything else will stop being such a bunch of freeloaders. I do exercises with a variety of resistance bands, free weights, kettle bells, machines, risers, sliding thingys, and more, so I’m learning the proper form for all kinds of exercises and what muscles should be doing stuff during those exercises. There are always plenty of trainers around watching during my solos sessions to tell me if my form is right or needs adjusting and I’m already seeing some improvements (in that I can do more reps of some things and squat lower than I could two weeks ago). And the trainers I’ve met, which I think is most of them by now, are all really friendly and helpful and down-to-earth.

The only thing that I can say that I don’t like is that I wish they had longer hours – they open at 6:30 am on weekdays, so if I want to do a morning workout, by the time I get through my workout, go home and shower and get ready, and then head into Vancouver, I’m not getting to my office until about 9:30 am, which is a bit later than I’d like (and on many days, too late as I have meetings at 8 or 9 am). Similarly, they close at 9 pm on weekdays, which means that if I don’t want to have to rush through my workout, I have to get there by 7:30 pm, which can sometimes be difficult for me on a busy day. I get that the hours of operation are constrained by the need to have enough trainers around and it doesn’t make any business sense to have the gym open at 5:30 am and close at 11 pm on the off chance that I might want to be there extra early or extra late once in a while. All in all, having to get to the gym within their set hours is a small price to pay for what I’m getting out of my membership!

Anyhoo, so far so good. I’m sure I’ll blog more about my exciting strength training adventures as the year goes on!

Strong Side Conditioning

  1. Similarly, when I’m running, I always have to be training for a race, because I need a plan to follow as without one, I can’t seem to make a simple decision, like how often I should run or how far should I run on a given day. []
  2. Unless it’s hockey, but that doesn’t count because it’s so fun in and of itself that I don’t even think of it as exercise. []
  3. Again, hockey excepted. []
  4. As always, I haven’t been paid to blog about them, nor have I even talked to them about the fact that I’m writing a blog posting – I am blogging about them because I like them! I’m actually paying lots of money to go there! lol! []
  5. I also did a free assessment with a personal trainer whose gym is literally across the street from my office (Did I mention I need something conveniently located?). He seemed nice and all, but he charges by the hour for training sessions, so it would work out to a lot more than Strong Side (though in the end I’d get less service) – I liked the business model of Strong Side better and I clicked more with the staff. Also, the trainer near my work said he was a Philadelphia Flyers fan and said “I have to have a Canadian team too, so I’m a Leafs fan.” I’m not saying that I decided I couldn’t work with a Flyers/Leafs fan – but I’m not saying that I could. []