Thursday, July 26, 2007

Back to the Couch

I'm sorry to report that, after a mere 4 training days, my Couch-to-5K exercise plan has faltered and failed. My right ankle began complaining on the second day, and it became clear over the next two runs that this won't simply go away if I just soldier on. I skipped Wednesday's run to give my ankle more time to rest after Monday, bought an ankle stabilizer, and tried it out this morning. Just a few steps was enough to tell me it won't be enough.

You may not believe this, but I'm genuinely disappointed. I was proud of myself for taking this on, and proud of my modest success, considering I haven't seriously exercised regularly in years. I felt inspired to keep with this, and while I know that feeling won't last, it was important to keep me going through the first months.

Maybe I'll get my ankle looked at after my vacation next week, have the doctor tell me what's going on and whether I can try again. I know I should find something low impact which I can do no matter the weather, but nothing else appeals, and it's demoralizing.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The "Just Start Knitting" Sock Method

I'm on disc 7 of Deathly Hallows, and making good progress on the sock. Updates can be found on my Flickr pages, which I've started keeping up because of Ravelry. Ravelry is cool, almost exactly what I had wanted. I expect it will cut down on the amount of tedious sock exposition here. But not quite yet.

I've been having great success lately with my "Just Start Knitting" toe-up sock method. Here's how it works:

I take a circular needle, 40 inches or longer for working Magic Loop, in the size indicated on the yarn band. (I knit pretty tightly, so others might want to go down a needle size. Use your intuition). Then I use Turkish cast-on:
  • Hold your circular needle so that both ends are together, pointed to the right.
  • Pull the bottom needle to the right, so your top needle is held together with the bottom cord.
  • Start your yarn in back of the needles, leaving a 12" tail hanging.
  • Wrap the yarn down toward you, down across the front and up the back of the needles.
Wrap until you have the same number of loops as the yarn label says there are stitches in an inch. Then you'll begin making a lovely round toe, inspired by the Queen Kahuna method.
  • Knit half a round, across the stitches on one needle.
  • Hold working yarn and tail together, and work 1 round. This doubles the number of loops on each side.
  • Drop the tail, and knit one round, working a stitch in each loop.
See? If you start by casting on 6 stitches, you increase to 24 almost immediately. If you start with 9 cast-on loops (as I did with the "Deathly Hallows" socks), you quickly get to 36 stitches.

Then I begin increasing for the toe. And by the time I'm approaching the desired circumference for the size I intend to make (usually about 8.5 inches), I have enough worked that I can check the gauge and whether I like the resulting fabric. Not much time invested, so it's easy to start over, but if it's good, then you didn't waste that time doing a gauge swatch.

One note, though: I typically overshoot the increases by one set. I can't tell until I've worked an inch or two, and often I have to frog back (or in the case of the "Deathly Hallows" socks, improvise by adding ribbing and some cable twists). Then I keep knitting, and wait for inspiration about how to do the heel.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Deathly Hallows

Picked up my copy of the Harry Potter audiobook this morning, and decided I needed to knit a pair of socks while listening. So this is my "Deathly Hallows" sock, in Cider Moon Icicle, colorway "Lost," at the end of the first disk.

Not sure what pattern I might use to give it some flair. Skulls seem appropriate, either in lace or maybe knit in with some of the glow-in-the-dark yarn I scored last month.

Monday, July 16, 2007

*pant* *pant* *pant*

Brisk five-minute warmup walk. Then alternate 60 seconds of jogging and 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes.
One day down. Now the trick is to stop sweating before I get in the shower.

First day really wasn't bad at all. A minute of running is about 160 steps, so I just count 80 beats of my right foot. The hardest part was keeping track of the 90 seconds of walking.

I promise not to post often the tiresome details of my new commitment to exercise. Just the milestones.

Hey, I think I've stopped sweating!

Saturday, July 14, 2007


Because my dad died of a heart attack when he was 42 years and 127 days old, I am now older than he was (by almost 100 days). So it's officially time to get serious about exercise.

I have occasionally exercised. I walked a lot in high school, college, and grad school. I used to have a rowing machine, a Power Rider, and an elliptical apparatus. Occasionally, I've gone running, sometimes doing that every couple days for weeks on end. Inevitably I find an excuse to stop: the weather gets bad, work gets busy, Buffy gets canceled, etc.

When I turned 40, I had a stress test, and everything was great. Blood pressure was high initially, but I pointed out to the nurse that I was about to be shirtless and exercising in front of strangers, so I was under a little stress. BP came down and stayed steady throughout the test.

Somehow I turned that into an excuse not to exercise. I began saying, "My fitness goals as I age are to be able to walk wherever I want and to generally move without pain." But I know that's not good enough. For one, a casual stroll around the neighborhood and a few sets of tai chi aren't remotely aerobic. And also, I'm now on lisinopril because I found my blood pressure was spiking unexpectedly at odd times of the day.

Mel has just started the Couch-to-5K training program, and I'm intrigued. When I've run before, it was because I started slowly and gradually increased my time. This looks like a good program.

Goal for the weekend: buy new running shoes.


The Brooks Radius 7, found on sale at Columbus Running Company, a great store with very friendly, helpful staff who didn't make me feel like an intruder.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Yiddish Policemen's Union

For work, I've been making plans for one of those "Everybody Read the Same Book" programs. There's grant money available if you pick one of the NEA-approved titles. The choices are fine, but if I could pick any book at all for this program right now, it would be Michael Chabon's Yiddish Policemen's Union.

I was overwhelmed by this book. My review of it at my LibraryThing account was ridiculously brief:
A stale genre with a tired, down-trodden protagonist in an empty, hopeless setting, and yet this book is the most vibrant thing I've read in years.
It's a noir detective story (alcoholic detective investigates the murder of drug-addicted chess prodigy) in an alternative history setting (a Jewish refugee homeland in Alaska). We're at the end of the rope here: the main character is spiraling down the drain, and the district is about to revert to native Tlingit ownership, once again sending the Jews wandering (there is no state of Israel). There's nothing here but numb despair, and's funny and moving and hopeful.

There's an interview with Chabon (pronounced, I've only recently learned, SHAY-bon) at The A.V. Club where he says some interesting things about his own creative process and about the cultural status of "genre fiction." But don't go read that: read The Yiddish Policemen's Union instead.