an illustrated progress report pt 1

When I started on learning to take pictures, I read a lot of Thom Hogan's articles over at his Nikon site. Yes, he's writing mostly about SLR and DSLR cameras, and only really about Nikons. That's totally fine, because he writes a lot of really sensible stuff pointing out that look, it's art you morons, and you do not need fancy electronics to make art, you can do it with burnt sticks or by banging rocks together, so stop whining and go out and PRACTICE. Since I can draw, this was exactly what I needed to hear.

One of his articles points out that composition is composition, and you'll probably learn more about composition in a life drawing class than in any photography class. Oh. I've had rudimentary life drawing. Well then. So I poked and made a list of composition elements (the first entry with the camera tag). For the past 5 months, I've been hacking away at various elements. Most of what I've come up with is snapshots, not great art. I am ok with this. You would not believe how many crappy horses and seashells and stained glass windows I've drawn. Most great artists have a much larger pile of absolutely terrible practice work, so I am not alone.

From My Pictures

This picture was the first one to really set me off on a quest. It's a nice enough snapshot. It's also totally uncropped. And it wasn't what I meant to really take, because I mostly use my optical viewfinder. I wasn't cropping to the viewfinder's coverage area because I didn't understand how to find it, or why I should care. So I poked, and prodded, and got help (many thanks ghent_the_cynic) and calculated that my viewfinder is about 75% coverage.

For a while I thought that meant I had to crop everything to match the viewfinder. This is wrong. I should check if cropping improves the picture... sometimes it does (as with this one) and other times it doesn't, like with a lot of the pictures where I try for the subject bursting out of the viewfinder frame, as below.

From My Pictures

Eventually, I had the astonishing (to me) realization that I can crop out bits of a picture and get a new! improved! picture.

From My Pictures

There is probably more to learn about cropping.

(no subject)

Win: Have pink Lamy Safari.

Win: have purple ink for it.

(yes, it is so screamingly girly you might puke. DON'T CARE.)

Win: am now solidly into Chapter 4 of Persuasion, up to page 46 in my notebook.

Win: oh hey, working on copying out fiction let me write a few paragraphs on some original description

lose: my bike is Very Sick and probably needs a wheel trued, and I didn't have the energy to go do it because I didn't eat enough breakfast OR get lunch in until 2pm. I need to be more reliable about eating.


Chicken cobbler

Chicken Cobbler from Mark Bittman.

If you've made chicken soup from scratch ever, this is an improv template. My attempt today "failed" in that it wasn't actually chicken cobbler. So here's what I did, and how I plan to fix it for next time... there will be a next time.

I roasted a kosher chicken for lunch a few days ago. As soon as the carcass was cool, I stripped it of the meat we had not eaten. I basically had just over one chicken breast's worth of meat. I plonked the bones into a large saucepan, and added water to cover. I simmered it gently, until I had a very clean stock, and stuffed it in the fridge.

Today, I fished out the meat and stock. I was pleased, because the stock was very gelatinous and thick, so it was just this side of pourable. Poured it out into a measuring cup, and found I had a touch over a pint. I mixed in the recommended amount of thickener, and then stirred in the vegetables. I used lima beans, peas, onion and a shallot, on the grounds that we like them and we have them on hand. I added a shot of sherry for flavor. I minced the roast chicken. I added pepper and thyme. Poured into a casserole dish, and and added cobbles. I baked it in about 35 minutes, with somewhat lower heat than I would ordinarily use.

The end result was the broth was too liquid, and a tad light on vegetables. I should have used more thickener, and a couple carrots, a celery stalk, or other vegetables would not have gone amiss. If you add vegetables that take long cooking, you probably want to par-cook them in the sauce. The quantity is about right for feeding 4 adults, with no leftovers. I would not want a whole lot more meat.

It definitely can stand to have a salad and biscuits on the side. If you do that, it might well feed 6. Pretty efficient way to make roast chicken last for a lot of meals. Means I might be able to regularly squeeze 12 servings out of a roast chicken.

signal boost: women and bikes

Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals' survey on women and bikes

Women only (duh). It is one of the better surveys I've seen on women and biking, since it doesn't assume that we all ride pink bikes, have coaster brakes, and are scared to death of cars. It's got a lot of hidden able-ism, which ticks me off. Whether you ride or not, please at least take a lookie. If you catch them in able-ism, please make ample use of comments and "other" sections to try and clarify.

more self-assessment

I'm poking around at (and the various related stuff). Initial squat test was 47. Clearly, leg strength is not a huge issue for me. It might be worthwhile working on their program, but I think I'll get more gains from working on plies and eventually grande plies in all the ballet positions. Working on turnout forces me to work the small stabilizing muscles that are the cause of a lot of my lingering knee issues. Once I can do 10 plies with correct form in all 5 ballet positions, it might be worth using their guidelines to improve.

For crunches, I managed 22. Core strength is clearly an issue. But I also did the test yesterday and shouldn't have. I think I'll just work on doing 10-15 crunches a day for a week or two, and give myself an off day before re-assessing.

For pushups... 42 wall pushups. I'm stronger than I thought upper body wise. That's a good enough result that I should re-assess on Friday, using knee pushups.

On the sun salutation poses... it's probably time to add in upward dog. That means downward dog, the lunges, and plank are the remaining tough bits. I kind of think I shouldn't add lunges until my plies are pretty well in place, since a big problem in lunges is not having much stability.

how I do self-assessment for physical fitness

I can't afford to work out to exhaustion. Hell, most of what I do exercise-wise isn't working out. It's going to the grocery store, or the library, or Target, or knitting group.

I use a few rough guidelines to keep myself on track:

1. Depending on your body and fitness, it is roughly 1 mile of walking to equal 3-5 miles of biking. So if you can walk 1 mile, you should be able to bike between 3 and 5 miles. Someone like Kent Peterson is definitely in the 5 range. Most of the time, I'm closer to 3.

Right now, I can walk about 5 miles in a day, tho my knee is not pleased with it. So somewhere in the 15-25 mile range is not unreasonable for me in a day.

2. Your body's fitness is a bit like a bank. You can't force your body to do more effort than it is capable of. So if you regularly bike 4 miles each day to work, making a big increase in effort is likely to lead to a very pissed off and upset body.

3. Your body thankfully is not a vindictive sonofagun... If you normally bike 4 miles to work each day, and take the week off to do a 20 mile ride on the weekend, it'll think that is pretty ok. You asked for the effort all at once instead of a bit at a time, and most of the time, your body will be ok with that. Again, bodies vary on this, and it might be you can do a smidge more or a bit less.

A "normal" week's effort for me is 1-2 trips to the grocery store (about 4 miles), a trip to the library or two (about 4 miles), and a trip out to Anna's for knitting (about 20 miles). So that means if I'm in good shape, I can pretty easily do 38-40 miles in a week, and I'll get all the basics done. It looks like I'm on track to start the year off at "normal". I won't know for sure for a week or two, since I don't count myself as ok until I've proven I can do something consistently. Bodies are huge fans of routine.

4. If you can do 20 miles in a week, a few weeks of pushing it to do 22 (10% more) is a big deal to your body. Every time you push your body for more, it has to rebuild itself. It can only work so fast on the redesign. It is really important to be fair with your body, and assess yourself slowly.

Right now, I'm on my second week of assessing myself. Yep, short errands are fine. Yep, long rides (done with care) are fine. Yep, looks like 35-40 mile weeks are within reach. But I won't be done assessing "where I am now" for another week or two. Then comes the fun part... pushing for more. If I come out with a verdict of "40 miles is ok", then I can push myself to about 44. I get to sit at that mileage for 3-4 weeks. Then I can push again, to 48 or 49. A month later, another bump, probably to about 54. If I don't hit the goal 3 weeks out of the four, odds are my body won't think we actually made the jump. If I'm dedicated and aggressive about my goals, there's a decent chance I can be over 60 miles a week. In August. The odds of me joining the 100 miles a week club this year are pretty low, since I usually end up phasing out riding in favor of walking sometime in October or November.

(no subject)


The muscle development is almost a visual match on both sides. The left is still noticeably weaker in practice, but it takes a lot more work for me to get tired enough to wobble. That means it's taken me about 18 months to really recover.