Saturday, December 4, 2010

New Tricks

I have no personal affiliation with this excellent dog.
While thirty-one in dog years only amounts to a reasonably spry pooch of four and a half, the theme of this past week for me has definitely been learning new tricks. There was an excellent On Point on yesterday on the topic of aging, and it featured 91-year-young Canadian Oga Kotelko, who's a medal-winning track and field star—an active one! She sprints and throws the hammer, javelin, and shot put, among many other pursuits. Apparently after her kids were grown and she retired, she decided it was time to take up exercise, and now in addition to some enviable genes, she credits all the physical activity with her enviable longevity and energy. So, it's never to late to learn new skills and cultivate challenging hobbies. Here are mine:

Touch-typing. I know, I know. I'm a writer, and I don't know how to touch-type? How did I ever manage to finish a single novella? Well, I'm a very adept hunt-and-pecker. So adept, I can hunt-and-peck without looking at the keyboard, with reasonable accuracy. Or as I mused on Twitter, perhaps that just makes me a pecker. So that works and everything. I mean, I hit my 2–4K writing goals most days and the speed of my typing doesn't inhibit my ability to keep up with my thoughts, so what's the problem? Well, the problem is that I've been having pain recently, in my neck, shoulder, and arm, accompanied by a numbness in my hand. I attribute it to a variety of things—the crappy desk chair in which I slump for eight hours a day, my annoying hair pulling habit, and my screwy hand positioning, brought on by my unorthodox typing practices and lame desk set-up. Well, having a disconcertingly numb hand and sore arm is no way to go about being a full-time writer, so on Tuesday I changed cold-turkey.

I got lucky on the hair-pulling front—my recent arm pain made that stupid activity too painful to indulge in, so that habit has faded nearly to nonexistence this week. As for my shitty work station, I've ordered a new Balance Ball chair like the one I used to use at my old graphic design office job. It's nearly impossible to slump on one of those—you'll go rolling backward or topple over. While I wait for it to arrive, I've been using my manfriend's adjustable-height backless desk chair. He's sort of a posture nerd. Good thing to be nerd about. I raised it to the height the ball chair will be, quite a bit higher than the crappo Ikea five-dollar folding chair I usually sit on. I had to completely rearrange my work station, too, as my keyboard drawer is far too low to comfortably type on from a dizzying seat height of twenty-five inches.

The same morning I fixed my desk situation, I began a touch-typing regimen. Aside: when I was in second grade we were supposed to learn how to touch-type, using the PAWS game software on our lab's Apple II-Es. The lessons were timed, and you had to race a cat. I got so worked up by it, I hyperventilated. It absolutely stressed the hell out of me. Just ask my mom. But that was twenty-four years ago now, and I decided it was time to move on from those old traumas. I found this excellent website with step-by-step graduated typing drills. After going through the basics I soon learned it's far easier to type real sentences than random letters, so I've adapted my own daily program, about an hour's worth of writing out whatever sentence pops into my head, then touch-typing it over and over until I get every letter right without any mistakes. I've also forced myself to tweet and chat strictly while touch-typing. I have a deadline at the moment, so my professional writing is still of the break-neck hunting-and-pecking variety, but I'm getting better at proper typing by the day. Next week I'll probably force myself to blog only while touch-typing…look forward to those uncharacteristically concise posts.

Zumba! Their exclamation point, not mine; I'm not that perky. If you don't know, Zumba! is the new hot exercise trend, much the way Tae Bo or Jazzercise were in their heydays. I love the idea of it—high energy dancing to hip-hop and Latin beats. I went to an introductory class at my gym last weekend, and realized this is something I will a) probably love and b) make an ass of myself trying to do in a normal, fast-paced, non-instructive class. So after the intro I dug out my old dance sneaks from salsa class and found some how-to step break-downs on YouTube. I ordered a used set of Zumba DVDs as well, as I'm one of those anxious people who like to enter into new realms prepared. I hope in a couple of weeks I'll feel grounded enough in the basics that I'll be able to walk into a proper class without fear. I know, nobody would care if I walked in and looked a total idiot except me, but it's my personality. I don't like not being good at things, so I think I'll suffer my no-nothing days in privacy, thanks.

Conversational Italian. My Pimsleur CDs just came in via inter-library loan this morning! The manfriendiTunes and learn them while I cook dinner each evening. Even if we never go, it's supposed to be great for the brain to keep learning languages, despite the fact that our noggins are faaaar better at that sort of thing when we're young and spongy. Anyhow, I'll let you all know how that goes.

The weather has taken a distinctly December-in-New-England turn of late, so it feels like a perfect time to keep myself occupied, even as the gray skies and frigid temps try to seduce me into the cozy clutches of laziness. Anyone else trying something new this winter (or summer, to you lovely Southern Hemispherians)? Tell me about it! Just don't tell me in Italian just yet.

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