Treadmill 101

I’ve started a cardio fitness program and have been using the treadmill nearly every day. I do this for 40 minutes, the first 5 is a warm up, 30 at top speed, and the last 5 a cool down. Treadmilling has never been my favorite activity but recently it has become a lot more enjoyable and I thought I’d share my thoughts. So today is one of those “and a little more” days, because this post has little to do with writing, except maybe practice in writing a hopefully educational post.

Never mind what I looked like before. This is what I look like now.

Isn’t that great? So short a time and what an improvement!

Don’t believe that? Well, okay.

The success one has at a treadmill cardio program is directly proportional to the quality of his or her diversion. Anyone who thinks they will keep up with it without benefit of 1) nice scenery, 2) television, or 3) music, is bound for failure. Two of these diversions are nice to have, although one will usually be enough and 2 and 3 are mutually exclusive. I do not have the benefit of nice scenery, and television doesn’t do it for me, so I am a #3 person.

As such, I’ve spent a lot of time perfecting my iPod Treadmill Playlist and I thought I’d share it. Keep in mind, this is a beginner regimen, so my MPH might not be as fast as a more experienced exerciser. I start my warm up at 2.0 MPH and increase it on the whole minute up to 3.2 MPH at the 5 minute mark. That’s 2.0, 2,2, 2.5, 2.8, 3.0 and 3.2 MPH. I have a playlist that is approximately 42 minutes in length and it will be good for 3.2 – 3.5 MPH at least. After that, I may need to make adjustments.

I have found the group ZZ Top to be the best, for general, medium stride beat-thomping music. Consistently excellent for walking in time. Every second song on my playlist is a ZZ Top song. Here is the playlist, in order, with comments.

1. Proud Mary (CCR) – This plays during the beginning of the warm up. It isn’t noteworthy for it’s ability to get the walker pumped up, but good to get going. A pleasant diversion to the start of what seems an insurmountable 40 minutes.

2. Gimme All Your Lovin’ (ZZ Top) – Now the warm up is about half way through, the MPH increased enough to walk exactly in time with this very upbeat piece. By the end of the song, I’m at maximum speed, and still I can walk in time with the beat.

3. Old Time Rock & Roll (Ron Dante) – Now we’re at about six minutes and this song is a medley of Old Time Rock & Roll and Mony, Mony. The first part is fast, I have to really speed up, take small steps, I’m almost at a half jog here. Mony slows it down just enough that I’m back to a fast walk. This one makes me want to almost march, it’s very uplifting.

4. Sharp Dressed Man (ZZ Top) – A great song. I wish I could more adequately describe music here, but the pulsating beat in this is enough to keep anyone going. And the funny lyrics, “every girl crazy ‘bout a sharp dressed man”. This song is over before I know it, and by now I realize I’m not keeping an eye on the timer every 20 seconds, I’m just enjoying ZZ Top and how my walking is exactly timed with the music. (“Yeah, Baby!”)

5. Crumblin’ Down (John Mellencamp) – Another #1 excellent treadmill song. Long stride, I’m walking along (going nowhere) arms swinging, having fun. And the walls come tumblin’ down! Great, great song.

6. Doubleback (ZZ Top) – This one is not my favorite ZZ Top song but the worst song in this list is still great. After #5, I’m ready to just stride out for awhile, take it easy before the next onslaught. This one allows me to do that.

7. King’s Highway (Tom Petty) – This speeds me up. I’m almost running again, because my steps have become so short in order to keep up with it. I can feel it in the back of my thighs and my butt.

8. Give It Up (ZZ Top) – This one has a great beginning. After #7, again, I’m glad to lengthen my stride and chill to this (yet again) excellent rock and roll song. The beat pulsates, I’m getting heated up, I’m loving it.

9. She’s Not There (The Zombies) – This is a really old sixties song. It doesn’t start out too well, so I stumble trying to find the rhythm for a bit, then on the chorus it speeds up and I find it and it’s great. Repeats three times. Slower, faster, fast. It’s a good addition to the playlist.

10. Gun Love (ZZ Top) – Starts out pretty well, same beat that allows me not to think too much about adjusting my steps. I love the lyrics of this one, “Playin’ Russian roulette but she’ll load all six”.

11. Makin’ Some Noise (Tom Petty) – This may be the weakest link in the playlist. It’s too fast for this portion of the workout, because now it’s cool down time. I usually just give up here and listen. This one might be replaced at a future date.

12. La Grange (ZZ Top) – This is good cool down tune. Funny lyrics, “They’ve got a lot of nice girlsa”. But usually the 40 minutes is up before this one finishes anyway.

The warm up and top speed songs are the most important to my workout. By the time 35 minutes have gone by, I could listen to anything.

So, if anyone actually gets much out of this post, please let me know. And also, if anyone has any good selections that I could try, I’d be interested to hear about them. Maybe there’s some even better than what I’ve listed here.

When It Doesn’t Belong in Your Book, Make It a Short Story

Earlier this year, I blogged about stuff that needs to be cut out of a novel. If it doesn’t contribute to the story, out with it. And the offshoot stuff about Alice and her grief, her widowhood and eventual recovery, while interesting, did not really have anything to do with the storyline of Second Stories. I was told to cut three chapters about Alice. I posted the first chapter, entitled “Alice“, and now I’ve edited the second chapter that didn’t make the cut.

Alice is Geo’s mother. Geo is a really screwed up character. Alice didn’t know how screwed up her son was, because he wouldn’t have allowed her to know, and people just didn’t talk about depression back then, in the sixties. We can’t blame Alice for that, it’s just the way it evolved. Perhaps she might have been more vigilant, but she didn’t know what to look for. We can excuse her for that.

Alice is a good person, what’s not to like about her? She is a good wife, and a good mother (with the exception noted above), and she’s even a good mother-in-law to Lydia, who is married to the above-mentioned screwed up character. Alice does what she thinks is right, and has an unremarkable yet happy life, and goes down life’s highway until her husband gets sick suddenly and dies within six weeks of his diagnosis.

Like many of us, Alice doesn’t think too deeply about things, she’s more concerned with whether the weather will hold for her weekly trip to the grocery store. She’s sees what happens around her but it strangely doesn’t seem real to her. And when family members died, she was much younger. Oh. Yes, Grandpa died. He was eighty-something. Oh, well, then. People die when they get to that age.

Unless a person dies at a young age, or maybe in an accident at a less than young age but still not old age, at some point we all examine our own mortality and the light comes on. Hey, we’re going to actually die one day. When George died, that was Alice’s wakeup call. She was grief-stricken at the loss of her husband, but more that she hadn’t been able to do anything for him. She hadn’t had the education, or the time, to think about death, so she could discuss it with him.

Alice could have withered into a comfortable widowhood but she made a choice not to do that. She chose to do for others what she couldn’t do for George, and become a hospice volunteer so that she might help some people who are at the end of their lives. I could probably write a book about Alice and her hospice adventures. But here is one of them, her very first hospice experience.

Click here to be redirected to White Place

ABNA Winners and The Incredible Shrinking Man

Firstly, I was 0 for 2 in my ABNA winner predictions. The winner in the General Fiction category was East of Denver and in the Young Adult Fiction category, Spookygirl. So, even though I did say I picked Dog Christ narrowly over East of Denver, and Spookygirl would have been my second choice, still 0 for 2. Bummer.

Posting early this week, as an experiment to see if I can generate any more traffic in the middle of the week rather than on the weekend. If so, I’ll change my posting schedule. Now that I am Retired, (capital “R”), I can do that.

One of the people I follow on Twitter is Roger Ebert. He is a very good writer, and is straight forward about his condition and how it affects his life. He has a way of writing that is clear, unpretentious, and sometimes so beautiful and honest, it is very touching. He can also be mildly obscene and funny too. His blog today was called the Incredible Shrinking Man, and dealt with the fact that sometimes, well, almost always, we shrink as we get older, and he has lost about 2 ½ inches of his height.

The post was littered with pictures from the film, The Incredible Shrinking Man, filmed in 1957 and starring Grant Williams and April Kent. This is one of those movies that has always stuck with me, a true horror film, so unbelievably scary it makes my heart pound even now thinking how afraid I was when I watched it back then. Here is a snippet from the movie – Viewer discretion advised!

Scott Carey (who is 6 ft 1 in) is on a boat with his wife, Louise, when he is surrounded by a peculiar mist, which turns out to be an atomic waste fog. Louise is below deck, rustling up some “refreshments”. Wasn’t that always the way in the 50’s? The womenfolk providing the vittles, while the guy stayed above board? But in this case, Louise is the clear winner, because she avoids the mist.

Six months later, Scott notices his shirts seem too big. He suspects it must be a dry cleaner malfunction at first and doesn’t think much of it. But he continues to get shorter, and lose weight, until he can no longer deny it. He’s shrinking. He is told that all of his cells are shrinking and there is no cure, he will always be the size he now is (about three foot tall at this point) but is given an antidote, which may halt it and seems to work. But the antidote stops working after awhile and he continues to shrink.

He sells his story to the media, and so becomes a curiosity, with reporters lurking in the front lawn day after day. Finally, he lives in a doll house, and is accosted by the family cat, gets chased into the basement where he has to fight a spider to the death. In the end, he crawls through a square in a screen and the ending narrative says, basically, I may be small, but I still matter.

This movie is effective because many scenes start with a shot of Scott, and then pans away so you see him in relation to other people, furniture, etc. and you see how much smaller he’s become since the last scene. It’s shocking, done that way. The movie is funny in that 50’s way we laugh at now, but this movie is one that I have never forgotten, probably because it scared me so much when I was a little kid.

It’s a great piece of film noir, I just had to share it. Movies have come a long way, but this one still has impact, and, in fact, has a bit of a cult appeal. Even watching the sample here, made me feel the way I did back then. Scary!

This brought to mind other movies I had watched at The Haven Theater in Olean, New York, with my grandmother. I can remember snippets of some of them but not enough that I can Google to find out what the actual titles were.

One I’ve never forgotten starred a dark-haired actress, and she was evil and an alcoholic. There was also a lovely blonde woman (Doris Day maybe?) in the film and the Evil Brunette and the Good Blonde (oh, isn’t that always the way), are in love with the same man, and when the EB learns the man has chosen the GB, she throws something and it overturns a candle, starts a fire and the house burns down and she dies (I think). But GB’s house is right next door and I think it’s called The Pink Palace. It burns too. Does anyone remember this movie?

ABNA – Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (Young Adult Reviews)

Well. Things have changed since Anne of Green Gables. Remember that series? And the Cherry Ames, Nurse series? And Nancy Drew and The Bobsey Twins?

There are three finalists in the Young Adult Fiction category. I thought the first two had clichéd back stories. The third, I plain didn’t get.

The first, Spookygirl (by Jill Baguchinsky). Young girl’s Mom dies, father can’t take care of girl, girl goes to live with Bad Aunt, girl comes back to live with father. This has been done before, many times. The only difference is that this father runs a funeral home, and the girl helps the father with makeup on the faces of the corpses and also paints portraits of them when they are dead, but before the funerals. And oh yeah, there’s this ghost named Buster who lives with them and he has to be caged up sometimes, but if you leave him in the cage too long, he gets really pissed and makes a mess of things. Really? Is this what the younger set likes these days? Oh wait, yes it is. Vampires, werewolves, zombies, and, I guess, ghosts. The writing seemed to be fine, and strives to be humorous but to me it sounded like an older person trying to appeal to a younger person. I could be wrong, I’m not sure of the age of this author. I was moderately hooked though, on one aspect of the story. Seems Mom died under suspicious circumstances, and it appears some believe it was Dad who did it. That’s interesting, and would be enough to keep me reading.

The second, Lost in Thought (by Cara Bertrand). Here BOTH of girl’s parents die in a car crash. Now I suppose this does, in fact, happen to a few people, but I have read a lot of books with this back story. I am not sure why an interesting book can’t be written where the heroine’s Mom and Dad remain intact, not dead, and not divorced either. Add to this, neither of our heroine’s parents had any family but, luckily, Dad was very successful in his short life (I put him in his twenties when he died) and made a lot of money, such that our heroine is endowed with trusts and millions of dollars. It is a little vague how he accumulated this vast amount of wealth, lucky stock buying maybe, which I guess if you are a teenager, isn’t really important, but to us older, cynical individuals, we want to know. So, how did that happen exactly that he made so much money at such an early age? Heroine lives with an “Aunt” (a Nice Aunt) who is really Mom’s college friend. Hmm. Okay, this could also happen. Oh, one more thing. Our heroine sees dead people. Remember the movie, Sixth Sense, “I see dead people”. Word for word. Good writing, and a pretty good hook though. Our heroine, who is subject to fainting spells and migraine headaches due to the fact that she sees dead people, sees the same car which was responsible for her parents going off the road into a roll, which ultimately killed them.

The third, Devolution (by Richard Larson). This one did not have a clichéd back story at all. But that’s because I couldn’t understand a word of it. I couldn’t figure out where we were, or why we were there, or what we were doing there. An example from the third paragraph:

Virus outbreaks were handled meticulously. The self-replicating programs never made it very far into the system before security software found them and walled them in: once that happened, a quarantine zone was established.

Are we inside a computer? Not sure. There are some references made to electronic nodes in the backs of skulls, so maybe not really. At any rate, I was clueless as to what was going on. This is really not my genre, maybe there are people out there who actually get this, but do not count me among them.

And one more thing. I was taught that dialog attributions should always be “said” or “says”. Don’t use cried, exclaimed, repeated, yelled, or whispered. Just “said”. He said, she said. It is only to let the reader know who is talking, it should never try to describe how the person is talking, that should be done through other means. This author violates those rules. “I was there before the sirens,” Dimas grinned. No. Dimas said those words, and may have been grinning while he said them, but nobody ever grinned a sentence, to my knowledge. Here’s another one. “… the shop-keeper lowed”. Lowed? Later his characters, continue, and point out, snort, rumble, demand, lie and protest. And there is a generous use of adverbs, which should be used, if not never, rarely. As in “Dimas said dryly”.

I’m trying hard to read other genres, but in the case of YA, it’s difficult. I’d have to give Lost in Thought my vote here. I like the title, and I was moderately hooked, and the writing is good.

The results will be in tomorrow, and I’m going to be logging on early to see how well I did with my reviews. Did I like what the general population liked? Or not?

ABNA – Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (More Reviews)

This week I read the remaining two excerpts in the General Fiction category.

The first is Dog Christ by Lucian Morgan. I don’t believe the judges for the award care too much about formatting issues and other general editing malfeasance. It’s a good thing because this one needs some work in that regard. But other than that, this was the maybe the most compelling of the three, one of the best hooks I’ve ever encountered.

I loved it. As it begins, I thought it was going to be a story about some sort of ancient structure, the way it was worded.

The Man and the Woman live on the side of a mountain in a house built entirely of stones brought by ships from Italy. There are no stones left in Italy because of their house. Silkworms have perished from the earth making curtains for their windows.

The author continues to describe the construction of the stone house and it becomes apparent it is no ancient structure, (and I wasn’t too sure when there were first “curtains”) but a modern house built by a couple, Lillian and Otto, on the side of a mountain. The house and view is described in such a humorous way, that I was hooked, despite the lack of whitespace (i.e. the second paragraph of the first chapter is quite long). Lengthy paragraphs are usually not encouraged, especially on the beginning page of a novel, but the editing issues and non-whitespace issues can’t undermine this author’s very funny, and fresh voice.

What Jonathon Franken does to the middle class, this author does for the nouveau riche. I am particularly fond of this – poking fun at individuals who feel they must conform in some way to ever-changing values.

It’s clear Otto has made a lot of money and he’s the kind of character we love to hate, and his wife Lillian, a fool we can hardly suffer. What isn’t clear is the narrator, who is he, and how does he fit into the household? At first, I wondered if it could be a dog (because of the title) but no, it seems he is a disabled individual, in a chair, though he can walk a bit. It isn’t spelled out and I want to know.

It was a great excerpt, I read it twice, thinking I might pick up some additional clues about the narrator. But it still isn’t clear to me. It seems he is the son of Otto and Lillian, but then why does he live in the garden shack? I can’t wait to find out.

The last excerpt of the three finalists is I am Livia by Phyllis T. Smith. The editing and formatting in this sample was very precise, but that’s where it ended for me. It is historical fiction and begins around the time the Senators plotted the demise of Caesar.

It seemed contrived to me. It didn’t seem believable. Normally I’m not a fan of historical fiction anyway, but occasionally I have tried it and liked it. The writing didn’t grab me as much, although it’s good. Likely other readers who like this genre will appreciate it more than I did.

When I read East of Denver, I was sure it would be the one I would vote for. But I ended up voting for Dog Christ, by a tiny margin. I think this book is a winner.

We’ll see. The winner will be announced on Monday, June 13th.