Sunday, 12 February 2017

Speedy Snow, Super Smartwatch Specials and a Serratus Anterior

The word of the week is unpropitious.

Feb 6 – Serratus Anterior?

Losing weight can hurt - literally.

For the last few weeks, I've been walking to work as normal, since my right leg seems to be fairly well recovered  and I've had no problems with it apart from a few minor aches at the end of the day( I'm being careful not to run or overdo it ).

Yet: I've managed to injure myself again, thanks to my... backpack.?

It's funny, in a way. I've worn a backpack everywhere for decades, walking or cycling or just toting it along in the car and it's never been an issue. I've got strong shoulders and carrying weights of up to 40 pounds in a backpack has never been problematic - until now.

My recent weight loss apparently caused more muscle-mass degradation than I thought, because it appears I've torn my left Serratus Anterior muscle, which supports the shoulder and assists with carrying weight - like a backpack.

I;m learning all sorts of things about my muscles of late...

Having brought a liquid lunch to work a few times, plus some other items, my pack was heavier than typical for a few days last week. I think that the weight while walking was too much for my recently weakened serratus to take, with the straps pushing back against my shoulders. This weekend I experienced an agonizing burning sensation under my left arm, quite painful to the touch. Today I went to a walk-in clinic to get it checked out, though unfortunately the doctor there was unhelpful in his diagnosis, but did the put me at ease as to it not being a serious problem apart from a pinched nerve - which it isn't. So, after figuring out on my own through painful trial-and-error that it's my serratus, I've switched to my trusty old Spaulding shoulder bag for a while.

Recovery time for this sort of injury varies from 4 to 6 weeks - or longer - depending on how little the injury gets moved around so that it stops being inflamed for at least a week. Seeing as some types of heavy-seamed clothing make it flare up, as well as certain movements, I'm back to being a very careful person 24/7. I can't even lie down on or touch my left side under my shoulder, as it instantly aggravates things, and so sets me back to square one.

But, at least I can walk again... so there's that.

Feb 7 – Holy Freakin' Snow!

This time last year, we had green grass and blossoms on trees, with February looking for all the world like it was already April or May: essentially, spring!

Not this year though... at least, not this week.

On the left is Feb 7 2017, on the right the same in 2016...

As you can see from the picture above, it snowed like the dickens here for the last 48 hours, and we didn't even get the worst of it here on Vancouver island. Areas in central BC got so much snow that all the passes through the mountains were closed, stranding drivers overnight. There was enough snow and subsequent icy road conditions here on the Island that it made travel of any kind fairly treacherous, on top of the bitter cold.

Still, having grown up in Ontario, I would say that this was a typical-to-heavy snow day from Niagara, one where the plows and sanders would be going steadily to keep the roads open - and people would be shoveling their walks every 30 min. to keep them clear. Here, it was too much for most, with a few traffic delays due to accidents from multiple black-iced-roads. Yet it wasn't as bad as the heavy snowfall the Island got in December 2008, and nowhere near the record 'Whitemare' snowfall back in 1996, which was before my time here:

My girlfriend loved it, though I'm no longer a fan; snow's a four letter word to me now and I'll be happy when vanishes again in a few days with the coming rains.

Which is normal for this lovely place, this time of year - NOT SNOW!

Feb 8 – The Early Bird WINS!

While school wasn't canceled today( though I did get to go home early from work due to the worsening weather )I feel like I won a prize!

As some of you know from reading the blog recently, my beloved Pebble Time smart watch has gone the way of the dodo, with Pebble being purchased by FitBit and dissolved, though Pebble product support will continue until the end of 2017. To date, there's been no newer smart watch that I'd consider as a viable replacement for my trusty Pebble( I have two now, to stretch out their useful lifespans ) - until yesterday, that is.

Which is when I spotted a small article about the Gameband Kickstarter - starting today!

Like most Kickstarters, those who get in early get the best deal and I made sure to check this morning first thing after I woke up... and it's a good thing I did!

The 'Super Early Bird' special prices for two out of the three models had already been taken, but I managed to snag one of the black Gamebands for a mere $99 USD, which is half the regular retail price - sweet! Talk about good timing!

As you can see from the picture above, the Gameband beats every current smartwatch on the market in almost every category. It has the unique feature of an SD card which( unlike many current smartphones )meaning it also lets you store music or images or other data on the watch itself so that you don't have to worry about going over costly data caps with your cell phone carrier.

I'm really excited to have snagged a cutting-edge smartwatch for a SUPER price, and I'm hoping that they'll be able to keep their Fall 2017 delivery date.

Until then, I'll still happily use my slightly-pokey Pebble Times, which to be honest provide tons of great apps whose functionality that I use every day.

Feb 9 – Personal Rollbots!

Sometimes it's serendipity...

I get a lot of techy things scrolling across my various news feeds and for the most part I tune the majority of them out as too expensive or irrelevant to my lifestyle.

However, one thing caught my eye this week: the Gita!

Although it's only in the prototype / test stage right now, it's an interesting idea for someone like myself, a pedestrian urban dweller whose main areas of shopping and work for all within walking distance of my home.

Given that my recent shoulder injury prevents me from carrying heavier weights( like groceries )in a backpack, the Gita is the perfect solution... depending on the price, of course. Spending $1000 on a rolling robot companion will pay for quite a few cab rides, or even a pull-along trailer for my bicycle. All the same, for those who aren't in great physical shape( seniors, people recovering from surgery, etc )having a Gita would be quite beneficial. If the auto-navigation feature works as planned, perhaps they soon would be rented out at major shopping areas to assist people in carrying things to their vehicle, or even follow them home for delivery within short distances?

The future looks really practical, with ideas like this coming into the world... and since the rains have almost washed away much of the snow by day's end today, a Gita would have no problem following me around town.

Feb 10 – Super Sibling

I'm lucky to have such a great sister, and today's her birthday!

We get along famously most days, though we do have our disagreements about the little things in life on occasion. We've never actually had a fight to my knowledge or hers, and I've never once behaved as a 'bratty brother' as you so typically hear happens among siblings; why would I?

My family and I had a lovely birthday lunch out at Lemongrass, which is by reputation the best Thai restaurant in Victoria. Deservedly so, as our meals were served quickly despite how busy it was and the food was hands-down excellent! We were tucked in under a stairway, and it was pretty noisy due to the restaurant bustle, but we still had a lovely time reminiscing, mainly about the awkward moments of family vacations, among other things. I even learned a few new tidbits about our vacations as kids, which is always fun to put a new spin on old memories.

Good times!

As an added bonus, I popped into the grocery store across the road( it's a neat little area of Victoria, by the university )and found that they had an unexpectedly large selection of low-sugar / gluten-free cookies with healthier-than-usual ingredients. I practically had to be dragged out, but not before  choosing two varieties to try out!

Feb 11 – Nostalgia Forever?

Ah, Ultima Online, how I miss you... for many reasons.

As I don't believe I've ever mentioned this granddaddy of MMO's before, let me recap briefly: it came out in late 1997, ran best on then-new cable internet connections, and was the first time you could play with LARGE numbers of total strangers in a shared world online - for good or bad.

I managed to get into the Beta, which was free, and still have the game package, which came with an UO pin and a cool cloth map, among other things. I had a good time there for about dix months, but I kept running into hardware issues: the game read EVERYTHING off the CD-ROM, which was SLOW... so slow. As well, those few LPB's( Low Ping Bastards was the official term )who ran cable modems at the time had a distinct advantage, in that they could literally run circles around anyone who wasn't on a cable connection. After falling afoul of a few tricks these early MMO gaming 'punks' had developed, I packed it in as a waste of my time.

But I still missed UO, as I had some amazing experiences there that would only later come to be equaled( but never surpassed )by Neverwinter Nights.

Imagine my surprise when I learned that UO was still around, though not officially being run by Origins anymore: UO Forever is their free-to-play successor, and I'll be checking it out this year, to get some nostalgic feels going as I traipse about Brittania looking for trouble...

I won't miss the hum of the ol' CD-ROM though; that thing was as loud as a lawnmower and ran 99% of the time I played the game...

Feb 12 – Three Outta Four

What a difference a week makes!

Here's the view outside my front window - on the left is a picture from Feb 6th 2017, and on the right from today:

It snowed for 3 days, and 3 days later: all gone!

I'm quite happy that temperatures are going to normalize for the rest of the month, though March is always a crapshoot anywhere in Canada. I want to get out and walk is much as possible in addition to my regular indoor exercise and good weather while I make that easier on my somewhat fatigued metabolism.

In the late afternoon, I joined my critique group members at a local sushi spot downtown for a monthly meeting, as we decided to make things a little bit lately to combat the winter blahs and just make it a little more fun when we get together - we've been doing this for 4 1/2 years now, hard to believe!

As part of the evening's discussion, I made sure to inform them of my intent to not only have my first book's fourth draft finished by early summer, but to have the second half of my second book completed by the end of 2017. It's only fitting that my critiquers be among the people holding my toes to the proverbial fire, so to speak, to ensure that my own creative fires stay stoked for all 2017.

Getting home was a relief however, as I'm still quite sensitive to the cold. Even without the snow, it's only around 5 degrees and thankfully there was no wind chill tonight to factor in, so I made it home with only a chilled nose overall.

And, I still have another day off( four day long weekend! )tomorrow, as it’s Family Day here in BC!

That's about all I've got right now; it was a good week overall, despite the annoyance of another physical health issue to contend with, but I'm not letting that stop me from continuing to push forward with what I need to get done in 2017. Considering that my novel first truly started taking shape in April of 2012, it will be five years this spring that I've been writing my trilogy, and in my mind that's at least two years too long to having a meaningfully complete in terms of the at least a first draft for each book. Onwards!