Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Walking With Ghosts -- The Witches of Rochester Street - Zoomer

Walking With Ghosts -- The Witches of Rochester Street - Zoomer

Interval Training, How Old is Grandma?

In my latest screenplay, I had a 60 year old woman climb down a ladder into a manhole.  A 20-something reader wrote me that he didn’t think a woman that age could handle it.  I’ve got my social security card. I’ve got an artificial hip.  And I wouldn’t hesitate to go down that ladder to rescue one of my grandchildren (like the woman in the story.)

But, I contacted my friend Jean, who is 8 years older than I am.  No, she wouldn’t go down that ladder. And no, she doesn’t think she could have when she was 60, either.  So, the boy who needs to be rescued in my screenplay is only 6.  Grandma just lost 10 years.  She’s now 50.  Jean thinks she could have climbed that ladder when she was 50.

This raises an interesting question – why can I do what other women my age cannot?

I think it all started back in elementary school.  I was the kid nobody wanted on their team.  I was the only kid who had to do P.E. for homework.  I always had the sense that exercise was easier for everybody else than it was for me. I never did get good enough that anybody wanted me on their team.  But, I’m competitive.  So, I did my homework. And it became a habit. 

The kids to whom running and jumping and climbing came easily just took it for granted. For me these activities were and are hard-won prizes.

I got my hip replaced after being hit by a car while riding my bicycle, because I could no longer get on my bicycle. And I couldn’t walk without a cane.  But after I got my hip replaced, I still couldn’t get on my bicycle and I still couldn’t walk without a cane.  I asked my surgeon to write me a prescription for physical therapy.  My PT said I was one of very few of his clients who actually did the homework exercises.  I didn’t tell him – I’ve spent my life doing PE for homework.

The more I asked him to help me do, the more homework I got.  Elliptical, treadmill, floor exercises, ball exercises, stair exercises, stationery bike exercises.  This was okay for 2 or 3 months while I was officially recovering from surgery – but not for the rest of my life.  I like exercise, but I want to get out of the gym in half an hour, or maybe 45 minutes. I want to get back to my life, ride by bicycle to work.

So, I asked Google how to maximize my exercise time.  And Google delivered “interval training.”  The claim is that 12 minutes of interval training is as good for my body as 30 minutes of regular exercise.  Interval training is short spurts of hard exercise (intervals) with longer periods of comfortable exercise in between.

For example, on the elliptical, go at a comfortable pace for 2 minutes, then speed up for 30 seconds, repeat.  Do 3 to 5 cycles.

I checked with my PT.  He said to do it “no hands” to improve my balance.  And do the same thing with the Helix.  The Helix is like a standing bicycle on which the pedals go sideways.

I even added intervals to the treadmill (but I keep my hands on the bar when the speed is over 2 miles per hour.)  I’m not supposed to run on my new hip (so it will last).  I was having a jealousy attack when I watched other exercisers run during their treadmill time.  But then I found http://www.fedel.com/mets/  Which shows how much real exercise I’m doing based on the slope and speed of the treadmill. When I’m doing 3 miles per hour on a 6.5 degree slope, that’s 6 METs (metabolic equivalents).  When the person next to me is running at 6.5 miles per hour on no slope, that’s also 6 METs. Since I’ve been doing this for several years, at least once a week, I can now do 5 mph on a 15 degree slope, which is 15 METs, Okay, I only do it for the 1 minute interval, and then I slow it down to 2 mph on a15 degrees for the comfortable pace.  But since 15 METs is the recommended fitness level for climbing Mt. Everest, I’m pleased that I can do it at all.

I haven’t figured out how to do intervals going sideways or backwards, but I do those no hands at a much slower speed.

Bottom line: The gym has lots of equipment.  I rotate what pieces I use on different days and I do interval training on them. I go before breakfast.  I’m out of there in 30 to 45 minutes. And I could go down a manhole ladder if I need to.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


My friend Pat Wagner, who with her husband Leif Smith, runs http://explorersfoundation.org/, sent me a delightful quote from Stephen Jay Gould.  “ Good and kind people outnumber all others by thousands to one.  Thus, every spectacular incident of evil will be balanced by 10,000 acts of kindness, too often unnoticed and invisible as the “ordinary” efforts of a vast majority.” 

My husband usually stuffs a $10 bill into his pocket, so he’ll have money during the day if he wants or needs it. That’s enough to get a flat tire on a bike fixed, or buy a bottle of aspirin, or a nappa cabbage if he should find himself in ChinaTown.  And not enough that he’d be upset if he got his pocket picked.

The money fell out of his pocket at the gym.  Diane, who works at the gym, saw it on the floor and gave it back to him.  This type of kindness is common.  It deserves comment.  We are surrounded by kind people and a few crazies.  The crazies get the newspaper headlines.  The kindnesses are what I prefer to think about and talk about at the dinner table.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Kicked Out of a Writers Workshop

Months ago, I signed up for a 3-week online writers workshop.  It was being led by a man whose  one-day critique session I’ve attended before.  At the critique session, I got ideas that improved my script. Now I had another script that needed help.

At the critique session, this workshop leader quickly put a lid on any rudeness.  At the online workshop, he didn’t monitor the emails, and some of the participants were downright mean in what they said about the other members’ work.

Still, these inexperienced writers found problems with my story that more experienced writers had missed.

I’m an experienced writer and an experienced human.  I can get good ideas even when they are couched in insulting language. After the first week, I had enough ideas to do a major overhaul to my troubled script.  Since about half of the workshop members hadn’t read my original version, and the leader hadn’t read anything, I spent all my spare time during the following week rewriting the entire screenplay. 

I cleared this with the leader before beginning. The morning before I posted it, I cleared it with him again.  I actually thought I had 2 more days, but the leader said I had to get it in today!  I knew there were a few typos and clunky sentences but the new version of the story was ready for critical eyes.

I posted the new version to the group.  One of the meaner members of the group immediately announced that I was cheating and that the leader should not read my new version and neither should anybody else.

Huh?  I thought we all joined this workshop in order to improve our scripts.  And it was a 3 week workshop.  Isn’t rewriting what people do in workshops?  

Within hours, the leader emailed me that he was not going to read my new version. He said that I had an unfair advantage by doing a rewrite.  No, he hadn’t read anything yet, but he was not going to critique my new version.  I told him that critiquing the old version would be of no use to me. And in fact, I thought everybody would benefit by doing rewrites and getting his feedback on their new versions.  He told me I was being disrespectful. 

He then made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. He’d send my money back and I would never do business with him again. 

Three members of the group, who had hated my first version read the new one – two of them loved it. One person who hadn’t read the old version read the new one. He loved it. And he had some good questions for my next go-round.

So, I got what I went for – ideas to improve my script. And I’m not out-of-pocket.  I’d say that’s win-win – except for the other members of the workshop who could have benefitted by doing rewrites.  Seriously – since when is doing a rewrite in a writers workshop the same as cheating?

Watch – my best guess is that next year, this same leader will offer rewrite as a feature of his workshops.  And he won’t give me credit for the idea.

Meanwhile, I’m thinking – who needs a leader?  What we need are spontaneous writers’ workshops, in which writers of all experience levels can critique each others’ work. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Getting Vicious in my Old Age

I live 4 doors down from a bar.  These are row houses. In other words, I live about 70 feet from a bar.  When I moved in here, it was a quiet old-man bar.  Now it is a noisy bar that appeals to younger patrons.  They’re old enough to drink, but put-politely – they drink more than they should.  And quite a few of them drive to the bar.  It’s noisier than many other bars not far from my home, and they like it that way.

I do not like the noise.  

When the bar lets out, I am often wakened by noisy drunks fighting under my windows.  But they eventually go on their way, and I get back to sleep.

Sometimes, they take their drunken anger out on the plants in my window boxes and tear them to shreds.

The last time this happened I came up with a plan to stop them.  I looked up frost-proof cactus on the web.  The mere sight of those thorns should prevent them from attacking.  I have a porch light and I keep it on.  There will be no excuses that they didn’t see those sharp defenses.  And if they attack anyway – maybe the pain will teach them not to go killing innocent plants. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Telephone Scam: Woop! Woop!

Wednesday, a man called and asked to talk to my husband.  We screen calls for each other to weed out telemarketers, charities, and people we don’t want to talk to.

So, I asked if I could take a message.  The caller proceeded to tell me that he really needed to talk to my husband because there was an infection in his computer.  And he wanted to know who I was.  

I’ve had this type of call before.  I’ve played the games:

If you know so much about my computer, do you know what its name is?  (They don’t know what I’m talking about – but when you set up a computer you give it a name by which it is known if you have a home or work network.)

I run anti-virus software. If I have a problem, I’ll contact my vendor.  (This fellow answered that he wasn’t talking about a virus – he was talking about an infection. I asked what the difference is. He told me it was complicated to explain unless I was a technician.  Since I am a technician, I asked him to go ahead and use whatever technical terms he felt he needed.)

The above is a total waste of time, but I was trying to keep him from calling more vulnerable people, so I was keeping busy.  I had no pressing deadlines.

This time, I did have a deadline, so I just said, “You have reached technical support. This is the IT division.”  The man apologized for bothering me and hung up.

But the next day, somebody else called about the infection in my husband’s computer.   I’m still on deadline and at this point I’m getting irritated.  So, I said, “I’m not interested. Please don’t call here again.”

The caller on the other end started saying, “Woop! Woop! Woop!”

I said, “Do you understand. Please place my number on your do not call list?”  All the time I was talking, the man kept saying, “Woop! Woop! Woop!” in a high pitched voice, as if imitating an alarm program.

I hung up on him.

Since then two of my clients have reported calls from somebody about an infection in their computers.  I assured them it’s a scam.  When your computer has a virus, it slows down, it blocks you from anti-virus websites. Sometimes it blocks you from the internet entirely. Sometimes messages pop up on the monitor telling you that you have a virus and offering to get rid of it for $100 or some similar fee.   But if everything is normal, then your computer is fine.  I send them to http://www.speedtest.net/  So they can check their webspeed and compare it to what their internet provider promised.
If they are still concerned, I send them to http://housecall.trendmicro.com/ 
to download housecall, which is a free program that will scan their computer for viruses, spy-ware, and other problem programs.  I warn them – do not take the Titanium product, which isn’t really free. And I have them check in their Computer Operating System Properties to be sure they get the correct version: either 32 bit or 64 bit.  Some clients are difficult to reassure.  But at least they were suspicious enough to call me, rather than just buy something over the phone from a scam artist.

If these crooks call again, I think they just gave me the best thing to say to them.  Woop! Woop!
And then hang up.