Monday 27 July 2020

Long nights and no FOMO

On Monday and Friday nights, my area of town has load rotation from 19h00 to 22h00. Sometimes the power may only come on a while after 22h00. This makes for a long, quiet, dark night.

I don't always remember to think about dinner and then next minute it is 7pm. But, I do have gas so I can cook. My laptop battery only lasts for about 90 minutes, so I can do some work. I do have a rechargeable light (thank you for SANBS - it was a regular-donor gift last year) that I use for illumination - and the odd candle. My wifi router has a battery that lasts for a few hours - so I'm connected.

While inconvenient, this three-hour period of no electricity slows things down a bit. I do odds and ends, catch up on messages, do random tasks that just need to be done, crochet while watching Netflix on my phone...

While I was not exactly out every night these recent years, I have definitely been a hermit this winter. Even without the covid restrictions, lockdown and curfew, I'm quite happy being at home at night - and on weekends.

I haven't participated in many events for the last five years and I have done little visiting in Jo'burg.

Parys is well located being not too far from Jo'burg (just over an hour's drive - 130km) but it is not quite down-the-road either. I've also been buried in my start-ups for the last 3.5 years so my free time has been limited. Spending three-plus hours just driving to get to something... well, it hasn't been possible.

Being just this bit away from Jo'burg and all that was familiar is a bit like living in a parallel universe. You're living one life but you watch your 'other life' going on through activities that your friends are doing that were so much a part of your life before. Of course one is not better than the other. They're different. There are benefits to both life versions. I had the one; now I have the other.

(In my old life, Rusty would not have come across my path!)

Late afternoon out with Rusty, Rocksy (black-and-white next to Rusty) and Skally (in the background). Karen was standing off to the side.

What has been great is that I love living in Parys for the small-town lifestyle and access to activities on my doorstep. So, while I may have had twinges of FOMO and I've also missed seeing friends, for the most part I've been content with what I get up to (time is lacking more than activities!) and I have made lovely friends here.

With covid... There is no chance for FOMO because there is nothing to miss out on and I count my blessings that my activities picked up where they left off after lockdown and that I've had enjoyed more contact with friends in South Africa and other countries these past weeks.

Wednesday 22 July 2020

Interesting online courses

During the 5 weeks of strict lockdown, I did not complete a dozen self-enriching and horizon-expanding online courses. I did sign up for Science and Cooking (chemistry) on EdX that I had been wanting to do for many years. I worked through the archived course and finished it recently.

My dad is bored and unmotivated. He is in Jo'burg with not much to do. I suggested doing an online course. He says that he doesn't want to spend "all day looking at a screen". *sigh* 

Online courses need 3-4 hours of your time A WEEK. 

He also listed a bunch of topics that he had considered. All of them were hard work, hard focus topics (and a bit dull if you ask me) - especially if you've been out hard learning for decades. 

I told him that I would find him some fun and rewarding courses.

I took a quick look through EdX - like 10 minutes - and found these gems that I sent to him and I am copying here for you to enjoy too.

Archived courses you can do in your own time. All the content is there. Some aspects - like assignments and results - may be deactivated. It seems like some courses are active all the time. Courses that run real time will release content each week and have things like discussion forums and request assignment submissions. Even with these, you can do as much or as little as you wish.

Jazz: the Music, the Stories, The players (archived course)


Star Trek: Inspiring Culture and Technology (enroll at any time - three series to this course)

Explore the impact and influence of Star Trek on today's society and technology.


Tangible Things: Discovering History Through Artworks, Artifacts, Scientific Specimens, and the Stuff Around You (enroll at any time)

Gain an understanding of history, museum studies, and curation by looking at, organizing, and interpreting art, artifacts, scientific curiosities, and the stuff of everyday life.


Drawing Nature, Science and Culture: Natural History Illustration 101 (starts Wed, 29 July 2020)

Learn how to see and draw nature like an illustrator. Build observational and visual interpretation skills in an interactive and enjoyable way.


Sharks! (started 19 July 2020 - you can catch up)

Learn about the most fascinating animals on Earth, their sophisticated senses and how sharks and their relatives have impacted human history and culture.

I'm going to give the Drawing Nature course a go as it has been an interest for many years. My mom and also my friend Karen are in too. I've twisted my dad's arm and it looks like he is in. If you'd like to try this one, let me know. It can be fun to have a group of people enjoying a course like this together.

Consider patella tracking

The kneecap (patella) is a wondrous design that protects the knee joint from damage. An array of tendons and ligaments surround the knee cap. The tendons attach muscles, like the quadriceps, to bone while the ligaments attach bone to bone and serve to hold structures together and keep them stable.

The kneecap sits in a groove in the femur (thigh bone). When you bend your knee, the patella should stay centered, in the femoral groove. If the patella instead moves to the left or to the right - misaligned to the femoral groove - then this is known as patella tracking disorder. Common causes are weak thigh muscles and imbalances in lateral and medial muscles. Also tendons, ligaments, or muscles in the leg that are too tight or too loose. Of course, activities that stress the knee again and again, especially those with twisting motion (think quick direction-change sports like soccer and ultimate frisbee), can cause patella tracking disorder.

The pain / discomfort is felt around the kneecap.

This is relatively easy to correct long-term through a variety of stability and strengthening exercises like squats and leg raises. Taping and knee braces are bandaids that provide structural support to keep the knee cap aligned. 

I have another 'cause' to add to the list: restrictive clothing. Clothing that covers your knee can mess with how your knee cap tracks.

I have three examples.

I had a pair of tights that ended just below my knees. Every time I wore them, I developed a sore left knee. The pain and discomfort would sometimes disappear over night, or it would last for a few days. It took me a while to identify the tights as the cause. Stop wearing the tights = stop getting a sore knee. This was the first of two pairs of tights where I had this problem. With the second pair I cut I fabric to loosen the tension over my knee and the problem was solved.

In 2012, I had the pleasure of participating in a 24-hour rogaining event in Ireland. Before the race I bought a pair of really good waterproof pants. Berghaus. They have those pouches for your knee to bend. As it turns out, I found the crotch-to-waist length a bit too long for me and so I had to roll the top to get them to sit right and to ensure that the knee-bending pouch was correctly placed. After hours and hours of my knee hitting the seam, I developed a sore knee that I totally put down to patella tracking - where the lie of the fabric prevented my patella from tracking in its normal alignment and as a result caused increasing pain and discomfort. After the race I took the pants off and never had another problem. I've only worn them for short periods subsequently and have made sure to tuck them so that the pouch is properly over my knee.

Last week I developed a sore right knee - from doing not very much. And I put it down to the tight 'skinny' jeans that I was wearing most days. I spent most of my time sitting at my desk working. tight jeans, pulling over my knee, squishing my kneecap out of alignment... sore knee. I did a few nights of anti-inflams, stopped wearing those jeans and my knee is right as rain again.

I wa discussing this with a running friend this evening. His daughter wears knee-high compression socks that come just under her knees. If they are too high (like just under), she gets a sore knee. My 'diagnosis' is that the tightness of the top of the socks compresses the tendons and ligaments below the kneecap which alters how they pull on the kneecap to cause pain and discomfort. To remedy this, she makes sure that the top of the socks sits lower below her knee.

So, if you develop a spot of knee pain for no particular reason, consider what you are wearing. The type of fabric will have an effect - even stretchy fabrics - as illustrated above - can influence knee movement.  And, remember that weight gain and weight loss can change how clothing interacts with your knee movement. Clothing doesn't have to be tight; incorrect positioning of loose clothing (like my rain pants) can have as much of an effect.

A bit of Rescue

I first heard of Rescue Remedy years ago. It is a potion (for want of a better word) made up of flower essences that are recommended to promote health sleep, lessen anxiety and soothe pain.

My mom swears by Rescue Remedy and she used to use it to calm her dog Tansy who would shake and shiver at even the hint of an approaching storm. Her current doggy Rosy can be quite highly strung and wired and so mom gives Rosy a Rescue tablet to two at night when she has been particularly hyper. Rosy sleeps better and is more calm the next day. Mom pops a Rescue here and there too to improve her sleep.

I have a friend who struggles to sleep, often spending hours awake at night. Stress and anxiety are the norm for him. I suggested Rescue. And then I figured that I may as well give it a shot too.

I am blessed that regardless of my stress levels or any other issues, I sleep. Dead-to-the-world sleep. I drop off within minutes (or probably seconds) and I don't wake unless I need to pee - and then I go back to sleep immediately on returning to bed. I can sleep through storms too.

What I do struggle with is waking up. It has been an especially tough battle the past weeks. I can hit the snooze number multiple times (errr... more than five, or six, or seven!) and I am completely lights out for the five minutes between alarms. It doesn't matter whether I sleep five hours or nine, waking up is tough.

I started taking one Rescue tablet before bed about five nights ago. In terms of sleep, it may improve the quality of my sleep but what I have noticed is that I am waking easier than I have for at least the past 3-4 months. All other conditions are the same - time I go to bed, duration of sleep, alarm time and that it is damn cold in the mornings (not nice to get up). So, I put this down to an effect of the Rescue tablets.

I'm going to stick with it for a couple of weeks, maybe even try two tablets, and see how it goes.

Tuesday 14 July 2020

Successive blood donations give you a proven track record

 Blood donation day today. The mobile clinic visits Parys on the second Tuesday of every month and it is always a pleasure to see them. 

Donors can donate every second month with a max of six donations a year. To be a regular donor, you need to donate at least three times a year. Having a regular donor status ensures that all your blood components are used.

Once-off donations may leave you feeling like you've made a contribution to the blood stores - but you haven't. Your blood will not be used unless you go back twice more within a year. Go back and donate again and again.

Successive donations give you a proven track record of safe blood. I'm quite sure that if you were on the receiving end, you appreciate that you receive safe blood from donors who prove their health and safety multiple times a year. As a donor, this is your responsibility.

Sunday 12 July 2020

Seven day personal running challenge

Last Saturday, I ran the Kopjeskraal road. I enjoyed the distance and being out. Just running. It is a simple one-direction route. I hadn't done that for ages. I wrote at the end of my post that I was thinking of making it into a personal challenge... Well, I did.

Starting on Monday, I ran this 10.5km route every day - alternating the direction each day. I have my mom to thank for either dropping me or fetching me - and taking Rusty for walks while I was out running. On Tuesday I got a lift home with Celliers after joining him for a walk up the hill. The run downhill shook my legs out perfectly.

I had a good week of running. I actually cannot remember the last time I had a 70km week. Or a 60km week. Or even a 50km week. And, I ended the week feeling better than when I started out.

I ran pretty evenly all week - my best and worst time varying by five minutes. Conditions ranged from warm to cool to cold and from a light breeze to very, very windy. Some days I may have had one brief walk; on others I enjoyed two or three brief walkies.

My friend Karen joined me for a section on most of the runs. Her house is 20 minutes from mine on the out route and 40 minutes on the return. Today she cycled a stretch with me.

My friend and old neighbour Andrew ran with me on Thursday. Andrew and his daughter Tara are training for next year's Comrades Marathon. It will be Andrew's 60th birthday. He is a very good runner with past Comrades finishes under his belt. This will be a special one for him to run with his daughter. Tara got trapped in an online meeting on Thursday so she made it through for Friday afternoon. They decided to make it their long run for the week as the cold front was expected the next day. Andrew and Tara ran from home to my start point, met me there, and then turned around to head back to town. A good 22km in the bag for them.

Yesterday I had the pleasing experience of doing a good deed. 15 minutes from home I noticed a white horse in a field. It looked like the horse was holding its leg out. Reeds obscured my view and then I saw its tail blowing in the wind and figured that was what I'd seen. I then got a better line of sight and saw that the horse was holding its leg in an odd way - out to the side and then lifting or lowering it. I stopped and decided to crawl under a fence to take a better look.

I'm glad that I did because the horse's lower leg was caught in a twisted piece of fencing wire (not barbed, fortunately!).

I crawled under another fence just next to the horse. She didn't even flinch and allowed me to work on getting the wire loose. She did not even try to struggle at all. I suspect that she had not been caught for every long and thankfully there was no damage to her skin or leg at all. There is no way she would have been able to get out of it on her own as it had tightened above her ankle and took a lot of manipulation by my hands, with their useful fingers, to work it loose.

After I got the wire off, she stood for a moment looking at me - and let me give her a pat on her shoulder. Like a thank you. That felt really good. I slithered under the fences again and resumed my run.

There is a property that usually has wildebeest, springbok and zebra milling around within sight. I saw them most days.

I needed this challenge to tie me down. To focus on. To get myself to commit. I needed to be reminded how I enjoy longer distances than the 5-8km that I hit most days. I needed a kick. I needed it to channel my motivation, which has been low overall.

I'm chuffed to have finished these seven days with 73.5km in the bag.

This week ahead I'll be doing shorter sessions. It is time to focus on some speed sessions to get myself back to where I was pre-lockdown.

Saturday 4 July 2020

Hitting the road

I've got a great road route that I rarely run. There is not any specific reason why I don't run it more often. Perhaps it is because I don't think about it, can't take Rusty (too long for her), I need to be dropped to collected... And every time I run it I swear that I need to do it more often.

What works well is for my mom to take the dogs to our favourite trails while I run from home to the property. By the time they are done walking, I reach the gate and she gives me a lift home. The route is about 11 - 12km from home of tar, a dash of dirt, little traffic and rolling ups and downs.

Great being out to enjoy the warmth of this winter day. 

With load rotation scheduled today from 1pm to 3pm - and the day a beautiful one, my mom came to collect Rusty and I set off on foot.

As I've mostly been on trails for the past few weeks - shorter distances of 4 to 7km - I didn't have any high hopes for this run. I was very chuffed to have had a really good, comfortable run that was 15-minutes faster than I'd estimated (including three wee walkies). 

The road ahead. 

My running has been a bit off kilter too. My trail shoes are totally trashed so I've recently been wearing a pair that I bought on an online sale some years ago (same brand, different model to the ones that I do like) but for which I have little affection. They are hard and have less flex. My old shoes are essentially like racing flats with little cushioning, almost zero drop and they primarily serve to protect my feet from thorns. This style works for me over all distances. There isn't much else to them. These other shoes have a thicker midsole and seem to restrict movement of my feet. My legs have been feeling heavy and my calves very tight. This is certainly due to how the shoes alter my biomechanics. 

My road shoes are a few years old and they too are flat as a pancake, but I like the tactile feel and freedom of movement without much restriction. My feet are used to this and they like it too. My feet felt great on today's run. 

I'm thinking of a personal challenge to give myself a kick in the butt: running this route every day for a week, starting on Monday and alternating directions (to or from town). Yeah, I think this is a great idea! 

No good reason not to.  Bomb's away! 

Friday 3 July 2020

Round and round with load rotation

South Africa has had power issues for many years. Lack of power, lack of infrastructure maintenance and development. Our town has taken this to new levels. Forget load shedding and welcome load rotation.

During COVID lockdown, we had no power issues or cuts. Of course, businesses and fscoties were osed so there was no load on the available capacity. With the lifting of restrictions on work and movement came restrictions in power. In Parys, we were dealing with unscheduledoad shedding and the start of a new system called load rotation.

Apparently our municipality made a deal with Eskom like 20 years ago for a certain quota of electricity each month. Well, we not only exceed this requirement, but our municipality is billions of Rands in debt to Eskom. Not only do they not pay the money across to Eskom from our pre-paid meters and also the funds collected for non-pre-paid usage, but they have not been very good at collecting money from residents for electricity, water and rates.

As it turns out, the municipality only collects funds from 40% of the residents in Parys! I'm not talking township here. No, this the figure for our town! No wonder our electricity money has disappeared. 

Eskom have put their foot down and have limited daily electricity quota to Parys. So, the town started with load rotation a few weeks back. The town (and township) are divided into four zones. Loadshedding starts at 5am and each zone is disconnected for two hours at a time. Load rotation ends at 10pm. This means that we are without power for at least 4hrs a day - or five if you get the last 7pm to 10pm slot. Your zone shifts on the schedule each day so everyone gets a turn during the week in each slot.

The schedule is a blessing and it is with thanks to the movers and shakers in town that we have this. Until the schedule came out, about three weeks ago, we never knew when the lights would go off. 

At home you can manage between lights candles, laptop battery and running errands or going for a run for two hours each time but when you run a manufacturing business... This is no fun! 

Celliers runs the factory side of our business and every day brings new problems. Yes, we're running a generator but this costs a fortune to run for 4, 5 or more hours a day. Electricity on and off plays havoc with machinery and equipment. And, the generator gets tired and has to be serviced and repaired - which happened this week. When the power goes down, the factory goes down. And every time we have an unscheduled cut or when the power turns off before it should, we risk losing a boat by moulding rejects. That's gas, materials, labour and time down the drain. These are very costly. 

Waking up in the morning means that the day must be faced. I think that is why more and more I like nights. The day is behind me, any crises have been dealt with and I'm as free as I can be. Morning brings with it a host of opportunities for disaster. 

I don't have to deal with too many of these directly right now but I know that this is what Celliers walks into every day. There isn't too much he can do other than to solve problems caused by factors outside of our control. And even though I do not have the ability or skills to fix things on the factory side, the weight of this is always around because it affects our business. 

There isn't much light on the horizon where power is concerned. We don't know how long load rotation will be around for. Of course, we plan work hours, adjust shift changes and lunch breaks but the gremlin is on our shoulders. 

We are blessed to have work - a lot of it with tight time frames - at the moment. We have got good relationships and partnerships and we're putting in the hours to improve and really get set up for the coming months. 

We hope that we'll see a turnaround, but this may only come with the return of warmer weather.. Or by some miracle we wish for Eskom to bypass our municipality to supply to our town directly instead of using our municipality as a middle man. Or that agreements can be reached to increase our quota - afterall, Parys is a lot bigger and more productive than it was 20 years ago.