Mid November Musings- Originally, I had written a draft early in the shutdown and things have changed since then; my draft initially noted the following “The quarantine has brought some unusual surprises; we managed to clear our balcony finally (got rid of the christmas tree! and put the tires back to the garage; initially I felt bad about putting the Christmas tree in the trash, but I cut it up into itty bitty pieces; later I found somebody had put their Christmas tree into the garbage as well….as well as a coin operated washing machine. I don’t think a negative cancels a negative, but I don’t feel so bad about my tree now. I also don’t think the waste facilities are going to take that washing machine); I also realized that staying at home makes a HUGE amount of mess- we go through a tremendous amount of dishes and grim on the ground, requiring constant sweeping and washing to my chagrin; I have been functioning ok with the weights at home, although I really do miss my big chest, leg, and back days; I have had huge variations of my workout days that I don’t really like but since I have so much freaking time on my hands it doesn’t really matter- 1.5 hrs for lower back, and 30 min for cardio; I got rid of a lot of junk in the garbage, but I still have lots of stuff that…is just stuff. I need to say good bye to stuff I haven’t touched in years.
I read the Whisper Man, lent by one of my fabulous coworkers- it was quite the thriller, and kept me on my toes, making me worried about H’s safety, if I had locked the doors, and that I…”
Since then, a lot has changed. Its been about 9 months since the shutdown; a lot has reopened since then- we went from online shopping only with parking lot pick up, to being able to go in stores and buy groceries. I remember we struggled getting our orders in and seeing wait times for days before pick up might be available; struggles with people saying who should be using these services with the immuno compromised or the rest of the population. Then it went to shopping with masks and following one way directions and spacing…to hoping people will use these signs and masks being mandatory to people generally wearing masks but spacing and directional arrows not really being followed. Certain items like antiseptic cleaners went from being impossible to find and being the talk of town to being more readily available. Toilet paper is in stock. Sour dough bread isn’t as hot of a topic anymore.
Our gym reopened finally in September, a little while after commercial gyms opened. It was a blessing because I was quite worried about gym time in the winter and maintaining physical and mental health in the dark hours of winter. We had a blessing of a summer with fitness- the push to be outdoors lead to it being much more busy outside then usual. While not great for COVID and spacing, it was nice to see a lot more people outside . The colors were wonderful with tons of greenery and warm weather in general albeit without much super hot days. I definitely enjoyed running in the summer with the new blocked multi use lanes on the road for spacing. The road asphalt is just a lot nicer to run on than the concrete sidewalk. They have since removed those lanes at the end of October. Since then I have transitioned to cold weather running to still be able to social distance hangout with my thursday crew. New shoe spikes, balaclava and thermal gear have helped out a lot, although I am not sure how to layer properly still- I tend to still overdress, although I’d rather do that than underdress in this weather. I also took a break from running stairs after injuring my foot from over training stairs in our building; I went back to stairs for the first time in October and it was weird missing an entire summer of stair training. I’ve since made the decision to do stairs OR interval training on the treadmill once a week, to hopefully reduce strain on my feet. Running with spikes seems ok so far, but the spikes to feel weird to run on bare sidewalk- the advantage on ice is obvious though. I also need better wool layers too for running, although I think I have just the right layer in mind. After second thoughts in buying layers, I have resorted to some of my old childhood winter jackets instead- I didnt want to buy an expensive jacket only to sweat in it and wash it over and over. We will see- I have my grade 6 wind breaker poncho jacket right now and it looks horrible, but should be fine for a run.
In terms of lifting, I managed to create several new workouts to adapt to working out from home- I took about 270 lbs of weights back to home and was quite excited to discover single arm floor chest press was doable with the 100lb dumbbells. Initially I had tried dual arm floor press but getting into position while sitting was just too hard. This helped me feel some degree of normality with my compound lifts. Deadlifts were replaced with 36 sets of 20 reps at 200 lbs….which I did not like. It was a lot of volume and I moved more weight technically than my normal deadlift routine but it was way too long (1.5 hrs!) of a workout and really really tedious. Squats was a little more doable- 20 sets of 200lbs at 10 reps. But doing dumbbell squats borderline felt like deadlifts and it wasn’t quite satisfying. Since the gym has reopened, I have kept my floor press workout, but have gone back to the gym for machine bench press, deadlifts and machine squat/leg press. My compounds are all moving up in weight since Sept reopening- I’m now doing 50% more volume on leg press/machine squat, 24 sets of 12 reps for 200lb machine bench press, 24 sets of 10 reps 200 lb machine shoulder military press, and now 21 sets of 350lb deadlifts at 3 reps. Unfortunately, my weight has been going up too- I’m not sure if I am eating more carbs now that it is colder, or its the increase in muscle mass, but I am aware of my gut. Its definitely better that the gym is back, and now we block times off to be solo in the gym. Right now I am competing for a coveted spot in the morning with another unit, but it should work out ok. Seeing that Toronto just got a lockdown, I’m thinking its going to be imminent for a lockdown here at home too- I’m a bit worried about losing the gym here again. However, with my new adaptation to running outside, I might be able to deal with that, and knowing I have replacements for my compound lifts makes that sort of ok.
We had to make a decision to send H to school or not when schools reopned in Sept, after being closed since March. This was not easy- protocols for school reopening were being changed constantly and still are being changed in response to spread of COVID in schools. In the end, there was really no right answer- keep kids home and have impaired learning and reduced social interaction, but have limited exposure to COVID, and deal with kid at home while working; or send kid to school with risk of COVID exposure, stress from increased safety protocols, and a new education system with severe cuts to funding but be able to work. It was a wild ride and a decision I think parents are still thinking if they made the right decision or if they should change their decisions later. In the end, H went to school and lost a lot of her friends who did not return to school; however with the protocols, it seemed as safe as they could be- it was good for social interactions though, compared to having no social interaction for nearly 7 months, there was something good in the return. In the end we are still riding a wave of uncertainty with increasing COVID numbers everywhere. It was a shame because in the summer, play dates are one of my favorite things to do, as we have worked on building a good community with other families and distancing from them has been frustrating. Thankfully, playgrounds did reopen, and so one of my favorite activities with H was at least back.
Work has been challenging but doable- there was a large shift in business during the initial start with so much uncertainty of how to do business in COVID. Since then I have essentially moved to a complete online format; difficult because my coworkers have transitioned to in person; while we understand more about COVID and how to minimize risks, the increased numbers of cases and new measures being put into place suggest another shutdown is imminent.
This year was the year for full frame for me- I managed to find a number of awesome finds – the Zeiss 85 f1.4, 50mm F2.8 macro, a850 DSLR, and Zeiss 24-70 F2.8 were amazing finds and a spot of sunshine in the disappointing and frustrating 2020 year. I also managed to snag an a55 DSLR (SLT technically) and 18-200 SEL with a second VG10 camcorder. The 24-70 was an interesting one- in the beginning of COVID , we did not really know too much of transmission and mail was a question. While the WHO had said mail was fine, I had picked up the 24-70 from a place in Japan that was undergoing a large COVID outbreak. I ended up opening the package away from home and wiping everything meticulously with some of the antiseptic that we still had. The 24-70 has been incredible to shoot with- the rendering and color have given a very unique look that resembles primes IMHO. I think I might just end up gushing, but the 85mm f1.4 was also a similar fashion- giving me shots that I liked with my 135mm f1.8 but being able to do so in the indoors. I managed to shoot M’s wedding with the 85mm in particular and it was a blast for portraits. One thing I really liked with the screw drive based lenses is the matching with the Sony a850 DSLR was the classic feel of shooting- instead of an over clinically computery feel like with the a6000 in particular, the a850 focuses more on capturing the shot and feel of the shot. The 18-200 was not quite as exciting. Its definitely a less inspiring lens to shoot with- while I had been thinking of getting a all in one super zoom for some time for convenience, the quality of shots has been more distinctly point and shoot feel. And its not just me pooping on APSC stuff. The a55 is my more modern a-mount camera body that pairs really well with the Zeiss 16-80mm in terms of size and handling. The a55 in particular was really neat to get- it uses the W series battery which means its crappier than the M battery cameras with battery stamina, but size wise, its a really portable combo. It doesn’t hold a candle to the a6000 with continuous AF in tracking, but handling is very nice. The grip is more substantial and better in feel than the a330 I use as a light DSLR system. Its certainly opened me up to shooting more APSC again; as much as I love my a700, its definitely an analog shooter feel and its been nice to have a lighter modern body to shoot with. I recently also picked up a vertical grip for the Sony a7 mark I; its kind of nice to add a bit more heft to the camera with larger lenses and the adapter.
I upgraded my CPU! finally after years of using Core 2 Duo since my build in 2007, its now running a quad core CPU, the q9450. I had initially given it a 30% overclock, the same overclock on my old Core 2 Duo, but the stability was really bad, and the crashing of the system, followed by a total system registry failure lead me to reinstall with no overclock at all. Its running fine now as a daily driver, but I do think that extra bit counted well- running google photo sync is a CPU task heavy app and doing at least 3.0 GHZ in quad was nice. Of course running quad period was nice compared to the dual core performance that was nearly unusable before- a bit of a downer considering the visual aesthetic of my desktop build. I’m likely to pair a q9650 when I can find one. Right now the q9450 was a steal at 25 dollars used for the huge upgrade it has provided me with. Of course the hexacore i7 in my Zenbook Duo is a world of difference, but thats also nearly 1.5 decades more modern and loads of money more. Its been so much more enjoyable to use that I rarely use the Zenbook this year anymore. What has been noticeable has been the lack of bluetooth (a quick adapter can fix that) for bluetooth headphone usage for all the zoom calls I am making, and streaming is just poor- my webcam is a Microsoft lifecam from like a 1997 laptop bundle that streams in less than SD quality. Its really really bad. Right now I am toggling between the Logitech c220s which seems to be a standard for streamers, the Razer Kiyo which looks kind of neat but has a poor mic and a built in light, and the Logitech pro webcam which has a wider angle lens (and my initial interest, a Carl Zeiss branded lens is now unbranded, which is likely a licensing partnership comign to an end). I’m more apt to get the Kiyo because it looks neat (lame yes I know) and video seems to be neck and neck with the Logitech; I am getting a dedicated mic- the Blue Snowball most likely for a lower cost, but dedicated set up. I’m thinking Zoom calls are still going to be a major thing for the next year with Covid, so I might as well upgrade my equipment. Its sort of weird that my Zenbook has not gotten a ton of use recently- that is how much better my desktop is. I was going hard on it playing Diablo 3 for awhile, and the OLED 4k res was really really good. I certainly believe I made the right choice going with the Zenbook Pro Duo vs. the Macbook 16 inch and Razer 17 inch Blade and Asus 17 inch Zephyrus; with new GPUs out now I’d likely feel the urge to upgrade (I know I sort of did with the Asus Zephyrus Duo) so having an all out spec war would just be a losing battle; and the new Apple M1 CPU chip would make any new Mac purchases feel dated, especially with how good the reviews have been on them. The dual screen was amazing to work on when I had multiple papers open working on my thesis and was in the coffee shops typing away. But now with Covid, its not really a thing for me at all (not to mention a lot of my fave shops are closed now). So the dual screened portable powerhouse is not quite as enticing to use. Or my desktop is just that awesome.