Restart The Normal

It’s been a solid 18 months since things were even close to normal for me. For many of us. The pandemic changed the way I work, the way I play, the way I interact with people. My kid’s school and my wife’s job were turned upside down as well. In the larger scope of things, we’ve come out of this pretty darn well. I lost my grandfather to COVID, that’s going to stick with me for a long time. The days of not quite knowing what’s coming next, those have been draining.

These last 2 weeks have been some semblance of “normal”. My kids are back in school, with some limitations as no child is vaccinated yet. They have masks and relative social distancing. Already after a few days I can see major improvements in their social abilities. It was like they regressed for a while and getting back into it. Sort of like riding a bike I suppose.

My pick up hockey starts tonight. It’ll be great to play with the boys again. But I do have butterflies as to how this large social setting will work out. Everyone has both shots, so I’m less worried about them having ill effects, but it doesn’t negate the fact that it can still spread to other people from us. I’m sure once I get back onto the ice, things will just feel better. At least, I hope so.

The kids also start their hockey back up this weekend, so I guess my weekends for a while will be in the rink. I’m coaching again this year, which is extremely rewarding. There’s a new coach in the fray that I’ll be helping along, and some of my own rust I’ll need to get through. That means a new set of practice plans, goals, fundraising, parent meetings, equipment, ice bookings, and oh yea, ensuring the kids are having fun. Next few weeks are going to be some busy days to get it all sorted out. The kids themselves are still too young for shots, but any adult stepping into a rink will need their full doses by the start of October.

You can infer from this that I am clearly on the “get vaccinated” bus. This is not the forum to explain why. I am not a doctor and frankly, no one should be taking medical advice from anyone who isn’t actually trained in it. I can say that there are certain obligations we all have as individuals to be able to co-exist in a society, things we do or don’t do to make it all run smooth. I am glad we don’t have polio around anymore, and the odds of my kids getting whooping cough or varicella are next to nil. That’s not because I made a choice, but because we all did.

The more we act as a society that wants to get along and that trusts each other, the quicker we get back to “normal”. Whatever that means anymore.

Exercise in Small Spaces

I don’t like gyms.  I dislike waiting on equipment to be ready.  I dislike having to wipe sweat off things.  I dislike paying for the equipment thrice over.  I dislike the peak hours, and the MASS of people that show up for 3 weeks in January.  I dislike the folks that just stare into mirrors, or take up space to talk IG shots.  I really dislike having to travel back and forth.  There are benefits though, namely in classes and swimming pools.


Many a year ago I got an exercise machine.  One of those all-in-one things that allowed me to do a bunch of exercises with a consistent resistance (something bowflex doesn’t really do).  I replaced that about 8 years ago now with a cage, Olympic barbells, and some dumbbells.  There’s a page on all that equipment.  It was less than $1000 to get all of it, and that was brand new gear.  I’m sure with some judicial used shopping it could go for half.  Figure a gym membership is $50 a month, and that’s ~18 months of membership to pay for it.  So the money part is pretty straightforward.


The real issue is the room required.  I have this set up in my basement, along with a treadmill.  I’d say it takes up a 14’x10′ space.  Gives enough room for some yoga/stretching exercises as well.  Space is a premium for a lot of people, I get that.  Some would rather have a bar, or a pool table, or a wine cellar.  Some it’s office space.  Most people in apartments and condos don’t even have that option.

So maybe you don’t get a home gym.  Maybe you just get some basic equipment to run body exercises.  $50 will get you a pull up bar that fits in most doorframes.  A yoga mat & block are dirt cheap.  Resistance bands come in all sizes and store very easily.  There are way more body weight exercises than people realize, and that doesn’t take up much more room than a coffee table.  Beachbody’s Insanity program requires a tiny foot print, and it will beat you into the ground.


Money and space are covered then.  Now it’s time.  Aside from essential positions, the general population has an insane amount of time on their hands.  My kids don’t have any activities, and my hockey is cancelled…. so that’s ~ 12 hours a week back into my schedule.  My commute is gone.  There’s another 5 hours (I have employees who commuted 90min each way, so they are looking at 15+ hours back).

Maybe you have kids who are driving you mad?  If they can’t go outside, then bring them into the exercise program too.  Of all the habits we teach kids, physical activity is one of the best possible ones.  I’ve done weight lifting sessions with my youngest, and yoga with my eldest.  They see me do something every day.

I used to have a stationary bike, swapped that for a treadmill.  For both, I’ve built a laptop stand that allows me to work and move at the same time.  A flat board usually covers the handles and provides a stable platform.  The hard part is finding the right elevation so your wrists feel comfortable.  Or if you’re on calls all the time, just use a headset and walk/bike while you’re listening.  Heck, nearly every machine nowdays comes with a tablet/cell holder to watch vids while you do your thing.

Just Move

Even moderate exercise has tremendous benefits.  The endorphins alone allow for a better mental space, as well as helping get most restful nights.  For those socially isolated, there are plenty of social media groups where people share their efforts, progress, and support.  Now’s the absolutely best time to start a new habit.


Chipping Away

September is generally a rough month in our house.  My wife teaches, 2 kids, and sports restarting, it goes from relax mode in August to full bore in short order.  Combined with some large scale issues at work, I’m starting to feel the bits pulling me down.

I tend to go full out in things that I do. I don’t like half-speed.  That usually means that I go until I drop.  For a long time that meant that during vacations my body would just shut down and force me to sleep.  I’ve taken steps in recent years to find a better balance on that, so that I can actually enjoy my vacations.

The past 4 weeks haven’t been so neat.  Stomach flu and now what feels like a man-cold.  I’ve had runny noses, coughs, headaches… all sorts of fun. I just work through it.  Even workouts while feeling a bit down.  Right now, it’s more like overall exhaustion.  And the mind games that plays is not so fun.

I know that being off work doesn’t stop work.  I know my team is in a crunch mode right now, and I’m trying to keep some of the brass from pushing down.  Stepping away to heal up would help me, but would negatively impact 20 people.  And I’m hard headed enough to believe that.

It makes me think more about what motivates me now as when I was younger.  I’ve always had the mindset of “one step, and then another”, but the raison d’etre is the kicker.  I’d be motivated by internal forces to prove myself to others, even to myself.  That’s still there in parts, but nowdays I do it because I know of the impacts on other people.

Still, I know it’s self defeating.  The body will win out in the end.  Where I could take a day or two and get better, as compared to being 50% effective for a week+…that should be a fairly easy call.  Dumb brain.

Health Goals

Summer seems to have finally lost it’s grasp on the weather, and the cold is creeping in.  Not to mention the ever decreasing amount of sunlight.  Seasonal changes typically bring a pattern change to my routines.  I run on the sun I guess.

The summer beer-fest is over, though the inability to take a true vacation is wearing me down.  Work is a tough grind right now,.  Everyday I lose an inch, and every night I put back 9/10.  The team I’m leading is trying their best, but it just seems to be an uphill battle.  Once we’re done though…it will be all our careers’ greatest achievement to date.  When people believe in the goal, it’s surprising what they will do to get there.

In the past I would have burned every hour on this.  I know that leads to a burn out, so instead I spend time with the wife and kids.  I relax with some gaming where the goals are clear, control is in my hand, and objectives can be met within a few minutes.  As complex as some games are, they are relatively simple compared to the rest of the day.

In addition, home exercise routines.  I’ve mentioned this a few times and decided to just put it all in one page called Fitness Info.  This covers everything, from the nutrition, to the gear, and the workout plan, and a bit of the mental state.  I’ll keep adding to it over time but for now, it’s my rumblings on this whole health kick.  Long story short, there is  little better to reduce stress than to be lifting very heavy things.

The eating portion is going ok.  I still have a rather regimented daily intake that’s been the same for a long time.  The supper and weekend meals are a bit more complex, what with hectic family schedules and social gatherings.  Weight is still coming off, and I am getting stronger at the same time.  Rather than force it along as I would have in the past, I’m just sticking to the plan.  I don’t have 150lbs to lose mind you, so the scale isn’t exactly motivation.  I could swing 1-3lbs just in a given day, depending on when I eat, how much water, and when I weigh myself.

The goal remains and I don’t think I’ve touched on this yet.  Sure, there are objectives.  Lifting a lot of weight certainly is one of those.  But the goal, that’s a rather simple one.  I want to have the energy and ability to keep playing with my kids for the next 20 years. I could do nothing today and be fine for the next 4-5 years.  Then I’d have a whole ton of work to do, and habits to build.  Might as well get into that now, so that it’s just normal.  So that my kids see what a healthy lifestyle looks like (that sounds too vegan).

There’s something about kids wanting to be like you, that makes you want to be a better you.  It’s a circle of feedback, and I choose for it to be a positive one.

Personal Record

There’s a certain zen when you do any exercise.  Hockey has that effect on me, time just seems to slow down.  That mindset provides a unique point of view, a specific focus on a set of goals.  When momentum is going your way, there’s nothing that can stop you.  When it isn’t, it feels like all the bounces are going the other way.

Weight lifting is very similar, though the only competition is yourself.  You’re competing against numbers and progress.  For a decent amount of time, that progress is constant, so it’s a continuously positive cycle.  You eventually reach a plateau and need to re-assess your goals.  There’s a rather intense focus on very minute gains.  But when that number hits the goal, it’s like winning the lottery.  I hit one of those last night.

I have 3 main goals relating to Squat, Bench, and Deadlift.  Those are 250, 200, 300 (750lbs combined).  I hit the squat number a while ago and realized then that playing hockey 3x a week could not allow me to push the bar much higher.  So rather than reset my squat goal, I aimed to hit the other ones instead.

Bench has had it’s ups and downs.  I’m thinking it will take until mid-summer to reach it.  I need to re-focus my technique, since I’m stalling earlier than I had planned.

Deadlift though, I hit my 300lbs last night (5 reps).  It felt really good and I considered adding more weight to find my true 1 rep max.  Then I realized I was out of breath and way too high on hormones for that to be considered safe.  I’ll be playing it safe the next few sets and cap it at the same amount and truly focus on the Bench moving forward.

Once the fall comes around, I’ll be dropping one night of hockey (it was too much) and reset my lifting goals.  I think that adding 50lbs total (so, 800) is more than doable.  I am looking forward to the next session!


Or perhaps a brain dump.


About 2 weeks ago now, I took a puck to the side of the helmet.  It split open my temple and rattled my brain.  No stitches, lots of blood, some medical glue, and now I have another scar.  If that was the only impact, then it would be easy.

I suffered a mild concussion with the injury.  I took the following day off, then tried work.  That didn’t go so well.  Spent 2 days in a dark room and that had a rather dramatic impact on my brain functions.  See, concussion protocol dictates that you don’t do the following: exert yourself, read a book, stare at a screen/TV.  What sucks about that, is that they are the exact things that I do to de-stress.  I play hockey 3x a week, I workout 3x a week, I play games, and I work in front of a computer. Asking me to stop eating for 3 days would be easier.

I’ve cut down on as much as I could.  Gaming has been minimized.  Work – I make efforts to get away from the screen.  I haven’t played a hockey game in 2 weeks.  Workouts I still do mind you.  The difference is that hockey gets my heart rate to about 140, while lifting weights rarely has me break 110.  My resting rate is around 50.


Related to above, taking time away from cardio work (hockey) and just plain being in recovery mode, has allowed me to make some progress in my fitness regime.  It took a month, but I finally received my weight lifting belt from Amazon, and it’s a beaut.  I don’t get dizzy lifting, and for those that do lift weights, you can relate to the “zen-ness” of it all.  The downside is that my body can only really take 90 minutes of it every other day.  Not having hockey around means that there’s more rest, and the progress between sessions has improved.

I’ve limited myself to a 225lbs squat, 25lbs chin-up and 25lbs dip.  I can physically do more, but I can’t play hockey 2-3x a week and keep pace.  The rest of the movements I can increase just fine.  Bench, row, press, and dead lift are all moving at a good pace.  I have numbers that I want to achieve before the summer and all of them are within reach – though the bench is going to be the hardest one.

In an interesting twist, my wife wants to share in the program.  I think she’s going to do great.  Plus having both parents do sessions on alternating days, means that the kids will see a daily dose of exercise from their parents.  Can’t get them started on body weight exercises soon enough!


It’s only 1 post away, but I’ve put enough thought into it over the past few months.  I’ll be picking up the PS4 tonight.  I took Murph‘s suggestion to heart, scouring local ads for used games.  That’ll work out if I want a cheap version of Killzone or some other FPS.  The particulars that I want don’t seem to be on resale that much, or at a price point that seems worthwhile for a 1 hour drive.  I’ll find something that works…

Summer’s Over

Alive and well, thank you.  As in the last couple posts, we bought a cottage on a lake/river and have spent the majority of the summer on its shores.  Canadiana.


Spent the summer with a small boat to fish, as fishing is extremely fun for me (so much so, that an MMO has to have fishing for me to be hooked).  Sadly, there were issues with the motor and my last week of vacation wasn’t all that much fun being land-bound.  So we bought a new (used) boat.  A Legend Excalibur 18, with a 115ETEC motor.  We pick it up on Friday, but here’s a pick of the current model.  It’s a good compromise for me wanting to fish, and my wife wanting to cruise/pull things.




Cottage country and exercise don’t usually go hand-in-hand.  Still, I made due with a pair of adjustable free weights (up to 50lbs each) as much as a I could.  When I was home, I continued to use the barbell and StrongLifts 5×5 program.  Squats are 240, Bench is 175, Rows are 160, Press is 130, Deadlifts are 260.  Accessories are good too, with a 25lbs chinup/dip going, 250lbs shrug and 95lbs curl.  I still have progress on a few of the movements, but not that much before having to swap programs.  Maybe another 2 months worth, as it’s about 90 minutes of work due to the rests between sets.

Also, I really like beer.  Like is probably not the correct word.  I had too much over the summer (I always do) and am a few lbs heavier now than in June.  I can get rid of that in the next couple months anyhow, and be close to ideal weight for the holidays.


The cottage doesn’t have high-speed internet, so what gaming I had was board-based, or an emulation on my tablet.  In the few spots I did have at home, I gave the Batman Arkham Knight a try.  It’s better than the previous ones, certainly, but the batmobile/tank is off-putting.  I gave up on the Division pretty quickly, as the end game is non-existent.  It’s worse than when D3 originally launched and Inferno mode required perfect stats.  At least there you could game the AH and it was a PvE game.  Division requires the same perfect stats but you need to be in a PvP zone to get them.  Surround by demi-gods with nothing to do other than ruin your farm because they already have the gear.  Too bad, because the game from 1-30 was great.

I have recently installed another game though.

WoW and Legion

I have no shame in admitting I reinstalled WoW.  You can buy time with gold, and I had more than enough gold to last a year+.  I also purchased Legion, because I have spare money to burn (not really with a cottage/boat).  Where WoD was a baby-bathwater exercise after Pandaria, Legion is taking a different approach, with multiple game paths and simplified builds.  My monk in WoD (remember, they came out in Pandaria) had 3 bars of skills – now he has 5 buttons.  My Hunter is down to 4 skills.  It makes for a clean interface.  There are interactions (procs) between skills, so yeah, you could mash 4 buttons, or learn to read the patterns and do more.  The whole easy to learn/difficult to master portion I guess.

Demon Hunters are ok.  I’ve mained a Rogue and a Monk, so  I have certain expectations.  DH don’t feel as smooth as either of them, more of the clunkyness of a DK waiting for rune procs way back when.  They feel more powerful mind you.  Time will tell.

The invasions going on now until launch are a neat way to level alts.  Heirlooms have been streamlined into a separate interface and I already had the level 90 variants.  An extra 8k gold to get them to work until level 100 (cloth ones) and send the alts to invasions.  The extra 45% is noticeable.  Clearing one invasion gives about 75% of a level (from 90 beyond), and there are 6 that spawn every 2 hours.  Each takes about 30 minutes or so to clear.  And each gives 2 loot boxes that provide level appropriate gear.  My hunter went from 90-100 in 3 days and has ilvl700 gear.  That’s the gear required to to heroic raiding.

Long story short, it’s fun enough for now and doesn’t have any monthly costs for the foreseeable future.


Back to the ARPG

I like Dark Souls, I just don’t have the fortitude to learn how to play it.  Quite simply, my days are extraordinarily draining of late.  After work (where I’m doing 5 jobs for another 2 weeks), eating, playing and putting the kids to bed, then exercise, I have very little brain juice left.  Dark Souls requires a lot from the player and I just do not have that to give right now.  Maybe in a month or so.

Hack n Slash

That said, I’ve gone back to some ARPG staples.  D3 is off the list since I played the crap out of season 4, and season 5 isn’t really a season.  Path of Exile is on the list to go back to, but I wanted to give Grim Dawn another shot.  One of those few “kickstarter-like” projects that actually released something of quality.  I picked it up before the full launch and there have been some QoL/balance tweaks since.  I like the build diversity without the complexity of PoE.  Plus the game isn’t as dark, so I can see what the heck is going on.

Tap Tap FarAway Kingdom

Version 2 was released.  I wrote some more about it.  The long tail was (getting to floor 3000) was put in the realm of achievable with the most recent patch.  Before the path, it was about a day’s worth of effort to get to 2700.  Now I can get it done in an hour.  I find the game strikes the right balance between strategy, gameplay, passive play and reward.  Plus it’s the only tapping game that doesn’t make my battery drain within an hour.


Still running Strong Lifts, though I’ve modified it slightly to include some ICF accessories.  My problem with SL is that it is too short and lacks isolation.  I fully realize that as a novice lifter, compounds are required for foundation work, but there are specific items I need to have in the program.  ICF is too long, somewhere between 60 and 120 minutes, depending on how you get your supersets integrated.  I do not have anywhere close to that amount of time – that program is for people who are dedicated and working out is their primary hobby.

So a small modification with a couple accessories is what I’m doing now.  The linear progress is a good feeling and I’ve reached the point where there’s some decent effort involved in the movements.  I had opted to take a low starting weight in order to focus on form for the first few weeks.  That had be plateau at a given weight.  Moving into the heavier stuff has caused the numbers on the scale to drop consistently.  I’m just a few shy of the target weight, so a few more weeks of cutting before maintenance begins.

It is surreal the effect of working out has on my stress levels.  All the above may be gobbledygook to some, but the net effect is that pushing and pulling heavy things unleashes a torrent of hormones that drastically improve my mood.  I have missed this tremendously.

Dark Souls

Outside of gaming, my wrist still hurts and I’m off for a referral.  Physio hasn’t done much, unfortunately, though the last round found a good taping job that relieves the pain temporarily.  Basically, any pressure against the palm with the wrist at a non-neutral angle, causes spikes of pain.  Sleeping was uncomfortable, cutting veggies too.  Exercise is an odd one, as nearly all exercises should be done in a neutral grip, if done correctly. Upright rows, and twist grips (like a clean and jerk) simply can’t be done, nor can pushups.  But I can do a squat, deadlift, press, bench, pull up, chin up, bar curls and dozens more.  I guess it’s one way to make sure my form is perfect. Oh, and there’s something to be said about linear gains in exercise.  Supremely motivating.

Inside of gaming, I’ve put the Division on hold for a bit.  I’ve tried a bit of the Dark Zone and it’s like a dumbed down version of the 1-30 content.  It feels like a meat grinder, with the only goal being to collect more numbers, to grind more meat.  I realize that’s the entire point of “end-game” content, it’s just that there’s no strategy to it.  Point and shoot and that’s it.  The hard mode missions are neat though.  It’s just that I recently played all of them, and I can do with a break.

That brings me to Dark Souls.

The Heck Man?

My experience with DS starts with the NES.  Seriously.  I played Battletoads, TMNT, Ninja Gaiden, Punch Out, Ghouls and Goblins, Contra, and Castlevania.  I have played against the RNG of gaming, and I have played within the crazyness of pathing of the AI.  I was raised in the fires of a Game Over screen.  Clearing the Ninja Gaiden remake is the only recent high bar I can compare to… and that was nearly 10 years ago.

DS follows that thought process and applies a bit of an open-game mindset.  I like the concept of respawning enemies when you save.  I like that enemies have patterns that you can learn to exploit.  I like the complexity of the stats, and the interactions between items.  The feeling of being the little guy against a mosh pit of enemies.  I like that when you die, you can get the lost souls back, and that any gear you did acquire stays with you.

My only gripe is in the controls.  It took me an hour to break the instinct of pressing X to attack.  So much so that I had to swap out what X did and put in an item I couldn’t use to avoid drinking all my potions.  Rolling to avoid damage is inconsistent, along with the collision detection.  A roll that works the first time, you may completely miss the 2nd time.  Attacking is similar, where the lock-on doesn’t always register due to movement.  Enemies hit you with an unknown hit box, making it really hard to figure out if you actually evaded correctly, or if they missed you my an imaginary pixel.  Or that you can’t interrupt an attack (at least I haven’t figure out how to on anything other than a grunt).

I tried the first boss about a dozen times.  I was trying to figure out his attack patterns, and found that rolling in was more effective then out, for most attacks anyways.  When he transforms into that purple snake thing, the camera angle is so poor that I have no idea what he’s doing unless I’m so far out of range that I can’t attack.  It just turned into “dodge in, attack 3x, dodge out, circle strafe”.  And that strategy has worked wonders on anything since then that takes more than 5 hits to kill.

I clearly still have a learning curve to get through, in particular in learning how to be more aggressive when I get the patterns down.  The controls are slower and less responsive than I’d like, so that’s a big part of it.  I think it may have more to do with unlearning 30 years of gaming.

Still, it’s a fun game.  One where you feel yourself progressing, and there’s minimal AI cheating (mimics aside, those bums).  It’s not often I play a game where I learn something brand new, and I’m quite glad this one offers it.


Duke of O has an interesting comment that bears some expansion.  How to get self-motivated.

I think it’s fair to say that I’m an outlier when it comes to motivation.  My wife thinks it’s borderline OCD, though in fairness it has more to do with anxiety & stress management.  At work, I take spontaneous decisions multiple times per day.  Each one is based on the available facts, my memory, expert advice, and finally the analysis of the long-view.  Most people can understand everything but the long-view.

Sure, a decision today has an immediate impact, but what about a few weeks from now, or a few years?  How does it impact me, the people close to me, and the people outside my circle?  How does it impact other decisions?  These are all items that go through my head and are incredibly hard to shake.  I’ll give an example, home renos.

For a long while we wanted to knock down a wall and open up the kitchen.  Sounds simple enough.  After I looked at all the details it actually turned into a whole floor reno.  I needed to re-arrange the kitchen cabinets, get a new counter, open up another wall to run pipes & electricity, move some switches, re-enforce an adjoining wall, change the flooring in the kitchen and remainder of the floor to match, which also joined into a bathroom…it was never ending.  What seemed like a simple job turned into a 6 week reno.  None of it was surprising, as I had thought it all out, but it took time.

How does this link to self-motivation?  I think long term and I think in terms of return on investment.  I worked for about 4 months on a particular work project from my basement. I spent a few weeks at the cottage too, working at odd hours to get it done.  I knew that if I crammed as much work as possible into the right time space, I could get double that in free time later in the day.  I made sure that the environment was conducive to that as well, so I eliminated any distractions.  I basically set up the perfect environment for me to succeed, removing any excuses.

Same goes for exercise.  I just don’t have time to physically travel to and from the gym.  The closest one is about 5 minutes away.  Including the driving, changing, and shower, I lose at least 30 minutes of my day.  And that’s not counting the waiting for a machine/weight to free up.  What would take me 60-90 minutes in a gym, I can get done in 45 at home.  That’s massively motivating.  The equipment I have, and the setup I have, make it extremely easy to get going, listen to music or a movie, and get the workout done.   I’ve removed all excuses from the equation, with the exception of “I’m too tired”.

And that’s the hardest one because it’s often true.  So I use various applications to keep me honest.  My wife uses social groups.  Getting a notification on the phone/tablet that it’s time to workout is motivating.  Seeing the progress between workouts is even more motivating.

Self-motivation is like a chemical reaction.  You need the right conditions and the right ingredients to get it going.  And once it starts, it’s usually quite hard to stop.