June 20th, 2009

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More thoughts on kickbiking

I'm finding that kickbiking has the mood enhancing properties of running, whilst enabling me to travel further and faster than I can run. This is good!

Running and I just don't get on. That's not always been the case. When I was young I loved running, but I was a sprinter and hurdler. Never very good, but I occasionally managed to compete in the school sports for my house team, assuming the better athletes were already entered into the maxiumum permitted classes.

But at my age and with high blood pressure, sprinting is out of the question and unfortunately my body just doesn't seem to be built for jogging long distances, which is what most adult runners do. I have chunky powerful leg muscles, and always have had. Even when I weighed 8 st 7lbs (119 lbs), I had heavy muscular legs. I never wore my skirts as short as my friends did when I was in my teens and I could never wear hotpants when they were all the rage in the late 60s/early 70s. (or whenever it was) because in shorts I always looked as though I'd just wandered in off the hockey field.

I understand that there are two types of muscle fibres in legs: fast twitch and slow twitch. People with a predominance of slow twitch muscles are good at sustained effort over a period of time. Those with a predominance of fast twitch (which I assume is the case with me) are good at explosive bursts of power over a short period.

I've tried training to run, slowly building up the time and distance and, if I persevere, I can run about 2 miles -- at a painfully slow jog that is barely faster than my fastest walk. In the past, I have noticed people running ever so slowly and sniggered inside thinking, "I can walk faster than that!"

When I was training to run, I became that person.

Out running, I felt like a poser, ended up red-faced and sweaty, travelled barely faster than I could walk, but I did come back feeling much better mentally. I love walking and can happily walk for miles at a brisk pace, but walking leads to thinking, which if it's a case of wrestling with the plot of a novel I'm writing is good, but if it's thinking about the past, which is often the case because my local walks take me past places that have associated memories, then it's bad and I can come bad sadder than I set out.

But after yesterday's kickbike expotition to Penmaenpool, it looks like kickbiking will be the answer. The kicking action needs an explosive burst of power, which my legs are good at, but it's intermittent, because you do 3-8 kicks on one side, then change leg and do 3.-8 kicks on the other. So the legs are alternating between kicking and supporting, or just resting completely if there's a slope to freewheel down. If a hill is too steep to scoot up, then it's easy to just step off and walk, thus the muscles get a much more varied workout than either running or cycling. I did 4½ miles yesterday and felt I could have gone further. I'm not stiff today either, but I'll continue to build up the distance gradually.

The kickbike is also a conversation starter. I had a little chat with a nice couple yesterday who were walking their dogs (a German Shepherd and a Yorkshire terrier) along the old railway trail. They were coming towards me and I'd noticed that as a couple of bikes had overtaken them, the man had grabbed the German Shepherd and held it until they were safely past. So as I approached, I slowed down and as he was reaching to catch his dog, I just stepped off to walk quietly past without agitating the dog. "Oh," he said, "That's what it is. A scooter for adults." So we exhanged a few words and I explained that kickbikes were a new thing, and that I hadn't had it long, but that I was enjoying re-living my childhood riding round on it. I also mentioned that people used them for dog scootering and he said that he used to get one of his former German Shepherds to pull his son on his sledge when it was snowy. Just a casual and pleasant exchange, but one I wouldn't have had on the bike.

The cheerfulness from the ride yesterday seems to have persisted into today, but I'll give the kickbike a rest for today and go for a walk later.
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Plottomator on the Web

For those of you who have been reading my Plottomator prompts and expressed an interest in using it, I've managed to track down the version that was put on the Web. It's here on Mike Deller's blog, just over on the right hand side with a button that you can click to get another prompt if the first one really isn't doing anything for you.

I would suggest, however, that you don't keep clicking in the hope that something appealing will come up because the way I see it, it's the having to make sense of something bizarre or apparently unpromising that makes random prompts work -- at least that's how it works for me.

If you like random plot generators, here's another one that someone linked to some years ago. This gives a more detailed plot outline, bilingually, in English and Esperanto!

And for completeness, here's a random word generator. You can use this in conjuction with a random plot generator to give you extra elements for the story. For example, generate a Plottomator or Traevoli plot and then get 2 random words that also have to feature in the story.

At a slight tangent, and so I can put all my random web things in one post, this is the Oblique Strategies page where you can click to get a random card. These could possibly be used in story generating, perhaps to decide what a character does next if your novel is stuck. They're actually intended as a way of tackling problems, so they're supposed to be applied to your work etc. How you interpretate the cards is entirely up to you.
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We have always wanted to fill the whole of the Royal Albert Hall with ukulele players

I cannot now remember the chain of links that led me to discover that this very day the London Uke Festival is attempting to break the Guinness Book of Records world record for the greatest number of ukulele players playing a song simultaneously. Anyway, somehow I ended up there and after downloading the chosen song (Sloop John B) I discovered their Youtube lessons on how to strum along. There are several versions, but I liked these two particularly. How to strum (with some subtle embellishments to the basic chords and Catherine's version.

And while we're talking about performances by huge numbers of ukuleles, how about this? Which again I found by accident.

George Hinchcliffe, director of the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, said: “The BBC Proms are great for making music accessible, as is the ukulele, due to it being cheap and portable. Everyone can have a go.

“That is why we thought audience participation would be a great idea – that and the fact that we have always wanted to fill the whole of the Royal Albert Hall with ukulele players.”


ETA: The UOGB concert is to be held in the Royal Albert Hall in London on August 18.
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