Treadmills and Blog Stats and Electric Appliances

Treadmill update: Still using that great playlist. I think it’s just about perfect now, good warm up and cool down songs, and I like how the ZZ Top stuff is always about the same tempo, no matter what song it is. It’s a long, stretched-out stride because it’s just a bit slower, intermixed with the faster pieces. Because of the ZZ Top songs, this has made me think 3.3 MPH might be my top speed. Of course, a taller person would probably have different requirements but this works for me. According to my friend Mary, elevation is the key, speed isn’t as important. (More about my friend, Mary later.) I’ve started doing that, and true to my exercise-nature, I’ve started out with 1% and will continue with that until it seems “easy”, if that ever happens.

Blog stats update: I thought July wasn’t going to make it, that it would be the first month that wouldn’t show an increase in readership, but that wasn’t the case. It’s now August that I think may be a problem. See these stats. Where have all the readers gone?

Maybe I’ll slip in an extra post, see if I can bump it up to at least equal July. Is that cheating?

We (my husband and I) recently traveled to Florida by car. We discovered we could take I77 instead of I75 and it would add almost nothing to our trip. I saw that we would be going close to Charleston, SC where my friend, Mary, lives.

Mary was one of my best friends in high school, and though we lost track of each other for many years, recently, we’ve been in touch again. She hosted a one-week get together at her lovely waterfront home in April of 2010, which we coined the GTE (Get Together Extravaganza). The preparation and logistics of getting seven women together for a week was intimidating. The morning after we’d all finally got there, Mary had gift bags for all of us, and included were matching tee shirts, coffee mugs, and funny sunglasses, among other things. Here is a picture of the seven of us.

I hadn’t realized how appliance-happy Mary was, until our recent visit. The first night, I don’t think we used any appliances but early next morning, we were treated to coffee via the new Keurig coffeemaker. We were suitably impressed by this very high tech device. Then Mary whipped out the Electric Egg Poacher and five minutes later she slid a perfectly cooked egg onto toast. While I watched, she went to the closet to get the Electric Garlic Baker. Yes, there really is an appliance just for that. She had a dinner party that evening, so around 5-ish out came the Electric Martini Shaker. After a few dirty martinis and citrus something martinis were imbibed, we settled into dinner (which was delicious, but to my knowledge, no special appliances were used in its preparation). At the table we used the Battery-Operated Wine Decorker to liberate about three bottles of red wine. The next morning, we had waffles on the (you guessed it!) Electric Waffle Maker. And now I hear that Mary is now the owner of an Electric Crepe Maker, and the next time we go, it’s crepes, Baby!

By the way, everything was delicious, thank you again, Mary!

I’m ending this post with a general gripe, and if anyone can help me – PLEASE! I am losing my mind, losing “it”, losing control, losing my temper. No matter what application I’m in, Word, email, any application where I am typing along (and I’m pretty fast, back in the 60’s I could do 60 wpm – that’s words per minute with no errors). Anyway, I am happily typing along and all of a sudden my cursor is somewhere else in the document! The typed words are then in their new location, whkeyboard? ich of course makes absolutely no sense. It’s happened here, as I have typed this about 10 times. Is it my laptop, is it my keyboard? OMG, it just happened, see that, up there?

Sorry this post is not about writing. I haven’t been doing much writing, but I did compose a poem to be used at the beginning of the book. I have also completed a short prologue, and I am still working on my Snowflake Methodology. Also I thought I’d like to do a post on music, what music I listen to while writing, and music that is included in my novels.

The Snowflake Method – Step 2

Update: Treadmill 101. I’ve continued treadmilling, thanks to the excellent playlist I’ve assembled. I couldn’t have done it without that playlist. And another reason I’ve succeeded at my (approximately) fiftieth attempt at an exercise program: I have more discretionary time, now that I no longer have a day job. Setting the alarm early in order to slog through it before getting ready for work is an exercise in procrastination and a means to formulate spectacularly creative excuses in one’s own mind as to WHY it would be insane/unwise/dangerous to hit that treadmill.

A friend sent me a Pandora station created from the twelve songs I listed and I learned two things from it:

  1. Start Me Up by the Rolling Stones is great, and would be an excellent addition to my workout playlist, and, in fact, what better way to begin the whole 40 minutes than with this song? It lends itself well to the warm up portion because it is not too fast, yet very uplifting. And who doesn’t love Mick Jagger anyway? (Picture his rugged, craggy, unbotoxed and unsurgically altered face now.)
  2. The quality of songs one gets from Pandora when you put in “She’s Not There” by the Zombies is abysmal. I never heard so much awful, tuneless, lyricless, clueless music by goofy English groups in my life. Talk about caterwaul. Garage bands who should have stayed there, or been demoted to the basement. There was a lot of really bad stuff written and performed in those days, just listen to the Oldies TV Music Channel if you don’t believe it.

Start Me Up is now the #1 song on the playlist, and Proud Mary, by CCR, moves to #11, replacing Making Some Noise by Tom Petty, which is out. Sorry Tom, but I said it was the weakest link and it is. And I love Proud Mary and it lends itself to a cool down, the same way it did for the warm up.

Onto the real blog stuff which is, Step 2 of the Snowflake Method.

Snowflake Step 2: Expands the one sentence summary into a one paragraph summary, with five sentences, and follows the Three Act structure.

Act 1 is the first quarter of the book, Act 2 is the middle half of the book, and Act 3 is the final quarter. The “three disaster” formula is suggested, with one disaster at the end of Act 1, another in the middle of Act 2 and the final at the end of Act 2. Act 3 is the wrap-up, the conclusion.

I thought the idea of “disasters” was odd, and I believed it too formulaic. But when I went back through Whatever Happened to Lily? I noticed something interesting.

At a little past one quarter of the book, Lily stops writing to Jay. Disaster 1.

At the halfway mark, Jay learns of Nan’s pregnancy and nearly blows it, by his callous remarks to her when she informs him. I thought that was a disaster because if Nan hadn’t been willing to forgive him, the story could have had a much different outcome. Disaster 2.

At the three-quarter mark, Lily comes back into his life. Disaster 3.

Unconsciously, I must have been following this pattern.

  • Act 1 is Jay’s early life, the good days with Lily.
  • Act 2 is his life without her, his quest to find her, his acceptance that she doesn’t want to be found, and his new life with Nan and their daughter.
  • Act 3 is the renewed relationship with Lily and the resolution.

The five sentences of the paragraph should summarize:

  • The backdrop, the setup of the story.
  • Through Act 1 to the first disaster.
  • Halfway through Act 2 to the second disaster.
  • Through Act 2 to the third disaster.
  • Wrap-up. The end of the story

I wrote my summary paragraph. But I can’t decide if I should post it here because if I do everyone will know what the book is about, and then they won’t have to read it. It will be like the Reader’s Digest Condensed version only more so, since it’s only one paragraph. The Twitter version of a novel.

I like this methodology so far. I believe it’s going to work for me.

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.