A recent article in The Guardian caught my eye, talking about the impact birds and birdsong have on a person’s mental health – a very interesting read.
One of my favourite things about our place in Athabasca (80 acres of Boreal forest in northern Alberta) is the number of birds that frequent our bird feeders there. I love listening to the chickadees, sparrows, waxwings, and finches singing away every morning. It lifts my spirits in a very simple and tangible way.
The piece talks about the effect listening to or watching birds has on depression – it can be difficult to motivate a person to exercise (the most common way to release endorphins), but much simpler to expose them to birds. Most people describe their feelings as “joy” after hearing birds singing. I would describe my feelings as “comfort, peace, serenity” as I sit in my armchair, strategically placed so I can see the bird feeder amidst the trees.
This life can be complex and finding simple pleasures can be challenging. Taking time to watch birds dance and flit about, singing their simple songs, can be a retreat from stress.
I finished my first home workout in 10 months yesterday. I know that seems like forever, but COVID! I also had foot surgery that took me out of “circulation” for over five months. Plus we moved, and other “reasons.”
I turned 60 this year, and I am very aware of just how fast the body declines when inactive – I could feel myself sliding further into the “couch-potato/COVID zombie” zone as the months passed.
Yesterday I finally strapped on (new) runners and hooked up with my personal trainer, Omar, for a first-go-round at trying to get back at the fitness thing. Luckily my trainer uses virtual training, so I set up my Canon DSLR as a webcam hooked to my laptop, pumped the Zoom video to the big-screen, and plugged in a pair of sport earbuds.
I’ve got a pretty simple but effective exercise space set up in our den, with a cheap folding bike, a portable bench, adjustable weights, and a suspension strap that hooks over the bathroom door. My foot surgery makes lunges (and anything else where I have to bend my toes forward) nearly impossible, so we had to adjust things a little bit.
After a quick couple of miles on the bike to warm up, we got at it.
First, up (after figuring out the whole toe-bending limits thing) was three sets of goblet-squats, side-ways lunges, and airplane balances, interspersed with half-mile bike “cool-downs.” I got to use one of the adjustable weights for the goblets, making them pretty much a thigh-burner. After the first airplane set, my PT added a 10-pound weight to the offset leg to make it more interesting (read: almost impossible).
The second set used the suspension strap for body-weight rowing, then swapping for resistance bands on the suspension system to do some chest presses and kneeling pull-downs, wrapping up with a plank. I managed all that pretty well, even pulling off three 30-second planks (I could only do 20 when I first started workouts last year).
All this in about 40 minutes – which left me entirely spent. I had to stare at the stairs for a while before gaining the courage to attempt to climb them. It turns out I had forgotten how to breathe, especially during the lower-body work. I was pretty good during the final set but had to sit and gasp for a bit halfway through the first. Thankfully Omar was “All good – take your time!”
I was smart enough that I had eaten two hours prior, so lots of energy, but my body was “What the hell was that, Dave!!” Even after we ran out of time after two run-throughs of the final set I managed to finish the final triplet on my own.
It’s now Friday morning, the day after, and my muscles are complaining mightily. But at the same time, it feels fantastic! I feel like I have more energy already (probably endorphins or something) and am looking forward to the next workout. Now I am regretting putting it off for so long. The longer I delayed, the more guilty I felt, and the less motivated I was to get back to it. The fact that I still had seven paid sessions with my PT was the final push to get me back to it.
Procrastination may be a profound (un)motivator, but wasting money proved to be a more powerful force! I couldn’t NOT use those sessions up!
Our bodies are a gift, and it is far too easy to take them for granted. Here’s to staying out of that “COVID Zombie” state for a while!
You’ve just picked up the latest ultra-portable from Microsoft – what next?
Go is a fantastic piece of gear. I’ve had mine for just over 4 months, and
there are a few things any new Go owner should do to get the most out of this
S-Mode or Home Mode
The Surface Go comes with Windows 10 in S mode enabled by default. If you want to stick to Microsoft Store apps only, you can safely leave the tablet in this default mode. If, like me, you want to install apps (i.e Firefox or Chrome) that are not available in the store, you can switch to a standard Windows 10 Home installation. There is a great how-to over at Windows Central that can walk you through the simple steps.
Expand the Memory
I picked up the top-level Surface Go with a whopping 128 gigabyte SSD. Pretty sparse compared to my other gear – so the first thing I did was take advantage of the MicroSD slot behind the kickstand. You can use any MicroSD, but the larger and faster you use, the better the experience. I opted for a Sandisk Ultra 200GB card, which are available under $100 on Amazon. Once installed, it appears as a second drive. I opted to install Steam to that location, so all my game files are removed from my fixed disk. I also chose to save downloads to that location, which saves a bunch of memory.
Experiment with Positions
I hold my Surface
Go in various positions, depending on what I’m doing. Content consumption and social
media scrolling are easiest while holding the tablet vertically, with the
kickstand folded out just enough to form a gap that I can “wedge” my hand into.
The ability to pivot the tablet to either hand makes this configuration great
for sitting in bed reading the latest “Expanse” novel or catching up on Instagram
The kickstand is amazing. It allows me to use the tablet on my lap, on an arm of the couch, or propped up on a pillow. When you combine it with the type-cover, it provides a stable platform for content creation and correspondence.
keyboard cover is great, but it also packs an “auto-off” feature that allows
you to fold it around the back of the tablet. When folded all the way back, keyboard
input is disabled, and tablet-mode is enabled (if you have turned on
auto-switching in the action center). The keys will not react to touch when the
cover is in this position. While it takes a bit to get used to the feeling of
the keys under your fingers, this quick-flip feature saves having to detach the
keyboard to switch to tablet mode.
Alternative Touch Keyboards
If you need to do a large amount of typing, or if you are used to a more “traditional” experience when typing, you should check out the alternatives to the stock Surface Go on-screen keyboard layout. You can choose between the standard on-screen keyboard, a “compact” version, handwriting panels, or a fully functional on-screen keyboard just like a normal physical keyboard.
some great games and apps that work very well on the Surface Go.
You should immediately check out OneNote, the do-everything note-taking and journaling application that comes standard with the Surface Go. It supports clipping, pen input, and synchronization with the mobile versions of the application, so your notes are always with you.
Drawing and sketching on the small tablet can be a lot of fun. If you have purchased the optional pen (a must-have in my opinion) check out Autodesk Sketchbook and the Sketchable app to exercise your creativity.
For gaming, there are several great games available that work very well on the Surface Go. Minecraft plays well, as do Steam titles like “Slay the Spire”, “Celeste”, and many more.
Join Windows Insider
One of the most interesting (or foolhardy) things yo can do is join the Windows Insider program. You can opt for Fast or Slow updates, with fast being for the brave and slow for the more conservative among us. You’ll get access to new functionality and features before anyone else, but there are caveats in terms of exposure to more instability. If you want to help shape the next Windows release, this might be worth investigating. I had very few issues with the Windows Insider program fast ring when I added the Surface Go.
I took my Surface Go with me on a three-week vacation, and did not miss my Surface Book 2 daily driver at all. It may not be as fast or as powerful as a standard laptop, but for content consumption, light gaming, and on-the-go productivity, it is a winner.
If you have any tips for getting the most out of your Surface Go, please share!
I read an article last week that charted changes in Canadian life expectancy since 1921. If I had been born in that year, the odds are good that I would already be dead. The average life expectancy of a person born in 1921 was 57, a milestone I reached last year.
By the time I was born, in 1960, life expectancy had grown to 70 years, and now, a child born in Canada can expect to live to be in their mid-eighties. What a fantastic gift that is.Continue reading “The Gift of Time”
I believe my spouse is so much better at understanding and describing how relationships work than I. The fact that I am aware of that may be the key to our compatibility over 25 years.
Last night we were talking about relationships, as one of our daughters enters a new one after several years of single life. I wondered out loud what makes people compatible, despite being entirely different personalities. I used our relationship as an example.
My partner, as is their gift, got straight to the “meat” of it.
“We know what little things drive each other crazy, and we avoid doing those things around each other. We care about, and are aware of, who we each are and what makes us happy.”