Tuesday 30 August 2016

Summer paddling - almost

I hit the river yesterday afternoon to paddle with my friend, Sylvia, from the clubhouse. Warm afternoon, not a breeze. I haven't paddled much upstream and so our plan was to paddle to the next cluster of islands.

I usually paddle my Epic v7 surfski but for this I paddled Sylvia's nice-and-stable K1, a Blade 3. Very stable indeed!

The furthest section was new to me and I haven't been around the back of the other islands since early May.

Nice. Very nice.

Spring is in the air and in the tiny buds on the trees. Within the next two week the weeping willows will be dressed in fresh green leaves and the riverside will again look lush. It's an exciting time of year.

This is how still and lovely it was around the back of the islands.

My copyediting gig on fiverr

A few weeks ago I used the website fiverr to commission a logo design. fiverr hosts 'gigs', service offerings, from thousands of people across the spectrum from logo design to writing, translation, music, video, animation, and a whole host more. I paid $5 and was very pleased with the experience. Although I didn't use the two logos I received (I did like them both), they did give me inspiration and I used part of the one, plus the colour hue that he selected, with my own addition.

Considering that I'm looking to expanding my writing and that I am very much enjoying copyediting, I have just set up my own copyediting gig on fiverr.

Yip, for only $5 I'll improve 500 words of your writing.
Writing doesn't come naturally to everyone. Sometimes you may just need a little assistance to improve what you have written; I'm here to do just that.
Without changing your voice, I'll improve the quality of your writing. Whether what you send to me is a love letter, blog post, web content, business document or formal letter, I'll help you to come across clearly with writing that is error free.
You can trust in my integrity to keep the content of your material in confidence.
Aside from the delight I get from tweaking other people's writing (a challenge for me) - and researching grammar for the elements that I know are not correct but I don't know why - I enjoy learning from the content that I'm editing, which is often on unfamiliar topics.

Good writing is not fancy writing and with services like this so accessible, more people should send their content to a copyeditor for a once over.

If you've got anything you'd like me to look at, book me on fiverr.

Sunday 21 August 2016

A spot of dirt road mountain biking

At every point of the compass outside of Parys town, we have dirt roads. They just sit and wait for people to run, ride and dirt bike them. I haven't done much mountain biking at all but with Celliers back in the saddle and preparing for Crater Cruise (a big mtb event out here in September), we set Sunday afternoon aside for a ride.

The route we chose is a 25-kilometre loop on the Sasolburg side of town. It's a five kay ride from home to bring the distance total to 35 kilometres.

We took the loop in a clockwise direction. The first 3/4 of the route is definitely the most interesting and I delighted in seeing the numerous properties - accommodation places and farms - that line the route. We also had some quick sightings of the Vaal River and saw a lot of game - hartebees, springbok and, I think, reindeer. And two donkeys.

As with most things, I really should get out on my bike more often. It's always a timeshare issue with running and paddling and biking - of course running always gets first priority.

As an aside,  I ran a really good time at parkrun yesterday despite feeling a bit off - I've been surrounded by sick people all week as a result of a bug going around town. It is good motivation to put in a bit of speed work in the week... One of the ladies told me that she's peeved that I turned 40 recently because now I've moved up an age category so she is no longer first in her age group. Hahahaha.

The area is very attractive with the wide dirt road, game, vegetation, hills, koppies and rock outcrops. But, within another two weeks, Spring will have sprung and everything brown will be dressed in green. Can't wait!

Friday 19 August 2016

Writing job websites

In looking to expand my client base and also diversity of writing projects, I turned to the internet. I read a bunch for websites referring me to this or that platform and I registered with three of them.

Registration is time consuming because it also involved creating a profile and adding examples of your work to build up a portfolio for a prospective client to look at.

Two of the sites are of the 'Don't call us, we'll call you' format where they'll connect you with jobs that match your skills. I've heard from neither of them in six weeks.

The third came with many recommendations, Guru.com. Here 'employers' looking for people to create content put out job descriptions for which writers can bid and apply. What I like about this is that I can look through a list, see whether my skills match the employer's requirements and then I can apply.

A nice feature is that you can see if there is feedback from writers who have previously done work for the job poster, how much in total they have paid to writers, how many jobs they have paid for and whether they have any unpaid invoices. I've seen very few posters with a history - most of the numbers are at zero.

Aside from this, the site has two major problems.

The first is that very few employers know what they want. Job descriptions rarely mention the theme of the writing, even fewer offer a reasonable rate and many want a ridiculous amount of content; but they all want high-quality writing by experienced writers who are native English speakers. They want content that is original and free from plagiarism. They also regularly mention 'long-term work' or 'ongoing work'.Take this example that came through today:
"I am looking for an article writer to join my team of writers for a long term job. I need someone who can produce quality articles with a great speed of writing. The applicant should be able to produce 5,080 words in a day with grammar error free, therefore we need mostly native speakers as well as the Philipinos and anyone who can only write an article without grammar errors. Samples should be attached. Thanks"
They are offering +6 months work at around 30hrs/week and $20-$47/hour.

I did a search on Google to find out how many words a day well-known authors write. The result came up with: "Jack London wrote between 1,000 and 1,500 words each day. Stephen King writes 2,000 words a day".

There are many posts looking for super-high wordcounts from writers.

Their numbers are set at zero. I don't know whether they've posted any jobs before but they certainly haven't hired anyone and they have paid nothing.

And this brings me to the second problem with the site.

Most jobs stay open for a few weeks and they receive between 10 to 50 quotes from applicants. Most of the job posters have never employed anyone on the site and not all jobs that are posted end up hiring people.

Of the nine jobs that I've applied for two haven't hired anyone (this goes back six weeks). One job was deleted. One hired an agency that has a profile, not an individual. One hired a retired doctor who specialises in medical writing (at $50/hr) to write blogs on inspiring senior citizens (huh?). One that needs "hundreds of articles in a short time" for a unique online magazine has hired an agency (makes sense). The last three jobs are recent postings.

Of interest, jobs posted vary greatly - from needing people to write ebooks, grant applications, sponsorship letters and reviews. How's this one... An establishment that pays people to write good reviews and to post these online (they have clearly done this before because their status reflects how much they have paid in total thus far):
"Hi, we would like professional reviews posted for our establishment. This can be done per hour or in bulk. Reviews to be posted to trip advisor."
These platforms can work and there are some genuine and interesting jobs posted. Sifting through the non-genuine content to get to these gems is the challenge and when you find them there's no guarantee that you'll land the job.

I recently paid $5 on Fiverr for a logo design. Although I liked the logos the guy I chose designed for me, I'm not using them as they are. His designs gave  me was the creative kick I needed to develop my own ideas and to modify his logos for my purpose. This was a good online job-commissioning experience.

Night paddling, at full moon

Last night my paddle club, Likkewaan Canoe Club, got together to paddle on our stretch of the Vaal River under the full moon. We were on the water just after 19h00 and it was spectacular.

A gathering of paddlers with plastic Epic surfskis recently donated to the club. The young paddlers were quick to grab the surfskis to try them for the first time. Other paddlers were in K1s. Lots of colourful glow sticks were seen on the water. Such fun! Photo from Lee-Ann.  
Warm, hardly a breath of wind and the only ripples on the water were those caused by our kayaks. The moonlight was bright enough to paddle without headlamps; its reflection off the water adding to the silvery glow.

What I did find 'disorientating' was getting on and off the kayak in the dark and onto the floating dock. A very strange sensation.

We had a good gathering of 21 paddlers for the flat water paddle - many of them our younger paddlers. There were also five white water paddlers who paddled from the clubhouse and downstream to the hang bridge. They got in two 'laps' between 7pm and 9pm. These guys all know the river really well so paddling through tricky channels by moonlight is a regular evening of fun for them.

I have barely paddled this winter season an having had such a good summer season, I'm looking forward to getting back on the water regularly.

We're really fortunate to have the club only a few kilometres from home and river all around us.

Saturday 6 August 2016

Weighing up 'offensiveness'

I watched a YouTube video the other night where comedian Steve Hughes rips political correctness, offending people and being offended.

On Monday, my husky friend Kiska howled almost non-stop from the moment his dad left for work. We'd had such a super weekend together that my heart ached for this poor dog and his sorrowful howls. His dad returned home much later that usual and I sent him a text message suggesting that he leave Kiska with me during Tuesday - dog sitting.

He dropped Kiska with me and although I wasn't home all day, our domestic worker was around. Kiska fared really well (no howling) and we wrapped up the afternoon with a run before I took him to his home, across the road.

I had a chat with his dad, who is a sweet chap.

He mentioned that he'd spoken to the lady next door to us (directly across from him) and his neighbours on either side. All three women told him that they were not bothered by the husky's howling during the day.

Are. You. Kidding. Me?

Kiska's howl is hardly a whisper. It is a full-bodied, deep-throated HOWL. And, to me, it is mournful and sad and lonely. Facing the street, I have double-glazed windows in my home office (I can see him from my seat) and our front doors are also double-glazed glass. We usually don't hear much.

My neighbours bordering on the back of our property hear him howling. Friends a block away can hear him too.

While I can tolerate the sound, his howls wrench my heart. It is just not right for a dog to be like this.

Apparently this behaviour is not new. Kiska's dad told me that in his previous home, he would howl when his dad left for work but would quieten down when the old man living next door came to give him a pat.

With Wednesday being a public holiday, Kiska had his dad's company but for Thursday, his dad said he would "see how things go" instead of taking me up on my dog sitting offer. See how things go? He is at work all day, not here. How can he see how things go?

As expected, poor Kiska howled a great deal on Thursday and even more on Friday.

When I got back from parkrun this morning my little friend was howling so I went to say hi. He bumped up against his gate, eager for touches and rubs and kisses. He talked to me and bounced and couldn't get enough loves. I rubbed his back and sides and chest and head and stroked his ears, talking to him the whole time. When I left, he continued howling for the next 90-minutes - until his dad returned.

His dad probably thinks I'm a fruit cake because the three neighbours told him the howling is 'no problem'. I think they're probably trying to be kind and understanding with their 'white lies'; they're trying not to offend Kiska's dad.
My mom has a good example of our aversion for offending others. Let's say you're waiting for the elevator. The doors open and inside is an unkempt man with a scary demeanour. He immediately sets off your alarm bells and all your natural instincts are screaming at you not to get inside. What do you do? You get inside - not wanting to offend the guy. And then you're attacked inside the lift or followed to your apartment... Is your safety less important than hurting the guy's feelings? 
By not telling the truth, these neighbours are preventing Kiska's dad from taking me up on my dog-sitting offer, which would result in a much happier Kiska and a far quieter neighbourhood. He, in turn, is trying not to be intrusive to me or to take advantage of my offer.

I am distressed by the howling. I struggle to concentrate on my work because with every howl I look at this poor dog from my window and wish he was here - happy and content with some company. The noise is one thing, but I just cannot begin to understand how my neighbours apparently feel nothing for the dog, who is clearly distressed.

Until other neighbours start addressing this issue, Kiska will continue to stay home alone every day. And he'll continue to be sad and bored and lonely. He will howl. All day.

And all because some neighbours are too afraid to offend.

In my situation, honesty from the neighbours would result in a positive outcome for all - especially Kiska.

Thursday 4 August 2016

The legend that was Karl-Heinz Jost

Through running and adventure sports I have met many incredible 'mature athletes'. The first of these amazing senior citizens was German legend Karl-Heinz Jost, who, at the age of 67, ran the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon with me in 2001. 

News just received from the event is that Karl-Heinz passed away last week after a long illness. Co-incidentally I was thinking of him yesterday. 

Karl-Heinz has never been far from my mind and I still get uncontrollable giggles when recounting how he 'turned turtle' after tripping and falling on the way up the Molopo River on the way to Riemvasmaak. He ended up with his head downhill and, with his weighted backpack underneath him, his arms and legs were flailing like that of a tortoise turned upsidedown. And he couldn't get up. I was paraletic with laughter so I wasn't much help. This is one of my fondest memories from my first KAEM where I spent quite a bit of time with Karl-Heinz. He left an impression on me that is still positive, inspiring and strong 15 years later.

"It is never too late to start. Everyone can start, beginning with a little bit more. Soon it will begin to feel good and you desire to get more of this good feeling the next time. You look happier, stronger, younger, healthier… To make sport is a thing of the mind."
I wrote this article on Karl-Heinz in 2004 for Good Taste magazine (three and a half pages). It was my first feature article for a non-running publication. Karl-Heinz was an interesting and inspiring character who I was fortunate to have met.

Removing calluses is good foot care practice

Defending against trail grit and grass seeds by using AR Gaiters is good practice. Preparing your feet pre-event and keeping them in good condition is another must-do. This includes removing calluses, which is essential to good foot care (like trimming your toenails).
Foot-care guru John Vonhof, author of 'Fixing Your Feet', says that calluses indicate repeated pressure over time and are generally caused by poor fitting footwear.
"But the most important thing to know is that if or when you get a blister under a callus, it will be painful. No matter how small or how little fluid is inside the covered and hidden blister. You know it’s there. I know it’s there. But finding the exact location and depth of the blister in order to drain the fluid is very, very, very difficult. It can be painful too because it take a series of punctures with a needle to try and find the blister sac."
This article reviews callus removers and while we don't get most of these in SA, the points mentioned in the reviews will help you make a good purchasing decisions regardless of the type or brand. With thanks to John Vonhof for the link from his post, "What to do about calluses".

Wednesday 3 August 2016

Self-defence classes in Parys

We're very fortunate that for a small town, Parys is very progressive. We've got things like yoga and pilates, rhythmic gymnastics, swimming lessons, Crossfit and karate classes. 

The karate classes are held in a church hall up the road from where I live and twice a year they run once-a-week self-defence classes over a three-month period. My friend did them at beginning of the year and raved about the lessons. A runner, like me, she is often out alone and it does help to have basics to defend yourself - should it be necessary.

The classes started this evening and run every Wednesday night from 6-7pm. My mom, two neighbours and a friend are in the class too - along with a bunch of other women (and one man). 

I am sitting here with a thick lip. My mom is vicious! She really jumps in and I ended up with an elbow in my mouth. Fortunately she didn't knock my teeth out! I'll need to swap her out and find another partner next week so that I don't get home battered and bruised each week. hahahaha

Tonight's class was excellent and I'm sure to learn a lot over the coming weeks.

FEAT 2016 postponed

Although I had the 8th annual FEAT event scheduled for mid-September, I have had to postpone it.

At this stage I'm not sure whether FEAT will stay annual or go onto an 18-month or 24-month cycle. I know that the Capetonians have been wanting an event down their way, but the Jo'burgers also need their adventure fix...

The silver lining to this dark cloud is that having a gap buys me time to think and to plan and to implement new ideas.

As an adventurer friend, who is also an event organiser, says, "We need to be creative".

Your favourite FEAT event won't be happening this year, but I'll be sure to let you know when my plans are confirmed.

If you're sitting at your desk needing daydream inspiration of a land with rivers, lakes, mountains and volcanoes, delve into my blog posts from my recent trip to Chile in June. I do so love South America and it was a wonderful way to celebrate my 40th birthday.

If you need to get out a bit this month, I am teaching long-awaited navigation courses again in the Vredefort Dome, near my new hometown of Parys. Great preparation for events like Skyrun and The Munga Trail as well as your own expeditions and adventures. Getting lost is so unnecessary.

As always, I keep an ear to the ground, listening out for news of adventurers and their expeditions. You can read about these on the FEAT website and Facebook page.

Sending wishes your way for good health, fitness and many adventures,


Tuesday 2 August 2016

Day 40 of '40 Days of Running'

Today is Day 40 of '40 Days of Running' and while most days have been smooth, some days my motivation definitely flagged, especially if I was really cold. But, as always, within 10 minutes of hitting the road I would be warm and into it.

For Day 40, I ran with my husky friend, Kiska. Warm afternoon sun, the tug of a husky on a leash and good companionship -  a great combination.

These 40 days have been very good for me. I've needed to commit to myself. I've needed a kick in the priority department - running priority department. I always appreciate the reminder that getting out for a 20 or 30 minute run, even in the dark night and cold of winter, can be done. It is all about defeating those lazy monkey voices and taking them for a run instead of listening to them!

I've also been doing yoga regularly with classes on Tuesday and Friday morning. This too is adding to my feeling of wellness.

This is on annual birthday challenge that I won't be passing up any time soon. I appreciate the benefits of having this focus in so many ways other than just fitness and exercise.

Monday 1 August 2016

Husky sitting weekend

When we got back from Chile, we discovered that a new neighbour had moved into the house across the road. And the way we knew this is because he has a husky that howls the moment he leaves for work. I went over the introduce myself to the husky and, through the gate, met a sweet and affectionate boy. We looked into each other's eyes... and the connection was there. The next evening I caught his owner and told him about the howling. Loud and long and so very sorrowful.

I asked if I could take the dog for a run - and a few evenings later I did. I just had him on a lead in my hand - that's hard work. When I took him out the next week, I had him clipped on my climbing harness for hands-free running. We both loved it.

My husky friend is named Kiska. He is named for an island in the Beiring Sea, part of the Aleutian Islands, which belong to Alaska. I thought he looked quite young, but he is 12 years old. Huskies have a life expectancy of 12 to 14 years. He is full of beans and is in great shape, despite having a very sedentary existence in a tiny front yard. He is a bit skinny.

On Friday evening I headed over to my neighbour across the road, to ask if I could fetch him early Saturday morning to take him to parkrun. His dad um-ed and ah-ed as he was heading to Jo'burg at 8am for his son's wedding - and he would be gone the whole weekend.

"And Kiska," I asked.

He replied that Kiska would be staying at home, alone.

I immediately got to work to convince him to let me look after Kiska for the weekend. I would fetch him at 07h40 and the dog would stay with me, sleeping over on Saturday night. Although he was uncertain, he relented.

The next morning I fetched Kiska and his goodies and we went off to parkrun.

Kiska's dad had been concerned about his interaction with other dogs at parkrun. My friend had her dog there and there was another little thing - like a doberman pincher. I kept Kiska separate at the start, knowing that once he was in running mode he would probably ignore everything else, which is what he'd done on our two previous runs.

He was a star! He ran beautifully. We did a few stops to sniff things and a few other stops to pee on trees and for the rest he didn't pay the other people nor the other dogs much attention.

Contrary to popular belief, one is not necessarily faster being hauled by a dog at parkrun. I clocked almost three-minutes slower than my normal time. But it was so much more fun with a doggy companion.

After breakfast (Kiska didn't eat any of his crunchies), Kiska and I hooked up with my mom. Mom and I will be walking a section of the Camino route in Spain in late October. Mom has been walking training for a few weeks and we'd decided to do a long walk together. Our plan was to walk to the Parys airfield (5km outside of town) and back. There's a dirt road that runs parallel to the main R59 road and the airfield has a restaurant for refreshments.

Off we went. It was a lovely there-and-back walk and Kiska got to see cows and planes.

At 12 years old, he isn't a puppy, so I am quite conscious of not working him too hard. Where I try to hold him back, he just wants to go-go-go!

On the way back I stopped to get him some bones and we headed home. He was still wired from the walk so it took him a while to settle down and to lie down next to me on the grass.

A neighbour lent me one of those plastic shells and I put Kiska's sleeping bag in it. He sleeps outside at his home so I made a nice sheltered bed for him outside the kitchen door with the shell and sleeping bag and he settled into it.

For Play Day #2, Kiska was in for an adventure. I was meeting up with two orienteering friends, Ian and Glen, to show them the area for the rogaining event in September. It's a property on the far end of the Forest Run route. Should I take Kiska? I decided to give it a shot. He isn't allowed off the lead so there wasn't any trouble he could get into.

I was a bit worried that this skinny boy hadn't eaten much of his dog food crunchies. I mixed in some gravy from Saturday night's dinner and he gobbled up everything I gave him for breakfast. I packed in another helping for lunch as well as a bowl and bottles of water for him.

Off we went.

He was such a star! From riding in Ian's car to standing around with us, riding on the back of a bakkie and running on the Forest Run route. What a day for him! He gobbled up his lunch and an 'afternoon tea' serving when we got back.

Just as we were getting back, his dad returned. I kept Kiska for a while longer and then returned him.

I think he thoroughly enjoyed his weekend. It was a great one for me too.

I got a message Sunday evening from a dear friend. She writes:
"I was wondering whether you might need another running friend this weekend? I don't mind driving in the back of a bakkie or eating rice and gravy!" 

Kiska has been howling his head off this morning and I'm probably going to ask his dad to drop him here in the mornings - doggie day care. I'm around a lot of the time and, if anything, our garden is bigger and more sunny.

Overall, I'm not a dog person. Cats have always been my thing. There have been a number of dogs over the years that I've taken a shine to - but not many. I am very fond of my husky friends in Jo'burg - Angel and Toscana - and I miss running with them. Kiska has totally stolen my heart. There is something quite cat-like about huskies as a breed; maybe that's what appeals to me about them?

Regardless, I am very fond of this husky boy.