Quote: your offering

Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.

– Barbara Kingsolver

On motivation.. (or lack of)

< something I wrote yesterday >

"I work in a motivation vacuum. Any motivation I ever had, even what was stored in reserve, is sucked out of my being as soon as I walk through the doors. No matter how inspiring the weekend, how urgent the task at hand, the nagging and stropping of my colleague, the shinyness of my sink, none of it helps. Occasionally I can hide it until midday, but it's always found and sucked away. I don't want to end up some kind of wreck. I actually like what I do, naja, at least when it works. I want to make amazing things, but somehow I have no energy, no strength, no oomph. I don't actually know what the problem is.. If I did it might be easier to do something about it. I've tried changing places, washing the windows, decorating the wall. I have a [marginally] later start time. I still don't make it to work earlier than absolutely necessary, and often come too late. My exam is in less than 6 months and I can't bring myself to find the bother to care or revise or practise."

On a wet and windy night

A wet and windy night met her at the door and accompanied her to the entrance of the station. She was almost glad of the company.

The day had started so well. That surprised her. Recently, her days had all started with a bleary haze, been greeted with a grumpy monolgue of varying lengths and volumes and drawn out with a mix of frustrated silence, cheery banalities and the smell of beer. Today was different. It was a lot less bleary for a start, there was fruit juice and the warm smell of fresh (from frozen ;)) breadbuns. There was a walk to the busstop at something which resembled a ‘leisurely’ pace. There had been a short, gruff, “Good Morning” followed by a distinct lack of monologue. Shortly afterwards, she’d come back from the toilet to find her new ‘ProjectMeister’ waiting for her with 2 2litre beakers and some encouraging words. The grumpy voice took it’s leave with a terse “‘bye” and pulled the door firmly shut behind itself.

The ProjectMeister discussed the new project with our heroine and mentioned his interest in glassblowing. 35 minutes later he walked out of the workshop proudly holding the world’s first trianglular spiral like a trophy.

She was left with a new sense of purpose; somehow the motivation vacuum had been temporarily turned off. She relished the prospect of doing something worthwhile for someone who was not only interested and interesting but was also capable of picking up new ideas and running with them, despite them still being fresh and not quite totally thought out yet.

After a remarkably pleasant morning of trial and error and a home-made ready-meal for lunch, the grumpy voice made a reappearance.

In the distance the motivation vacuum started ticking over, vibrating lightly.

The new project was packed away for the next opportunity. There was a more urgent project waiting. It had been her custom-made baby originally, but the custom had changed and the baby was too small. The grumpy voice had tried to steal it, discussing designs with the custom-meister (;)), the designs she’d helped develop. It was hardly fair she thought, he doesn’t even understand why it has to be like that, or care about the problems behind the idea. She supposed he’d meant well. He’d told her she wasn’t to do any more project work and to spend the time practising for her upcoming exam – “you need all the practise you can get, and then some” was his reasoning. Since then there’d been a stream of interesting projects and they’d all been removed from her clasp by the voice of reason. And now her baby was going to be mangled. It was unfair. There had been an exchange of words and a half-victory yesterday afternoon. “It’d better be finished by tomorrow” he’d said, hurling it back to her before packing up to go home, barely concealing his discontent and leaving the unspoken threat hanging in the air between them.

Tomorrow was now. She wouldn’t work on untempered glass which had cost her an evening. She should have started on it as soon as the voice had left, but she’d been so wrapped up in the new [semi-secretly accepted] project, that she’d almost succeeded in blocking out it’s feeble cries. Besides, having been shut out of her baby’s future, she hadn’t listened to the final decisions and since she couldn’t get through to the CustomMeister she had no way of knowing what to do until the voice returned and deigned to enlighten her..

The CustomMeister appeared just before the voice, though luckily there was just enough time before his arrival to work out what went where and at what angle and all the rest of it.

She spent the last common hour of their day faffing about and trying to look occupied while fending off disdaining comments about her genius constuction (the grinder has a water-spewing arm which reaches the middle of the wheel. The beakers are far too large to fit around the arm, so she’d moved it out of the way and errected a make-shift water tower which did the same job, if a little less consistently).

Once the voice was gone, she gave her secret project a yearning glance and forced herself to concentrate on her baby. She’d fought for it afterall. She prepared the pieces, put the holders in place, got her rubber-tube out and attached it to one end, and started working. It was going well until she let her perfectionism have a word. “Too long” was all it said, but she had to agree. The work was undone and re-prepared. Thick glass, even boro, doesn’t appreciate being warmed up too quickly, especially unevenly.

[enter your favourite description of the noise glass makes while it thinks about breaking, followed by a couple of select expletives and a mumbled ‘pleasedon’tbreakpleasedon’tbreakpleasedon’t break’].

She’d just about finished patching the cracks up and started joining the pieces together for the second time, when one of the holders started to wobble. She poked it a bit and it seemed ok. A few minutes later the other holder joined in. Argh. Swivelling quarter of a turn in her swivvel-chair to sort out the holders, she caught the tube on something (maybe the burner? or the armrest? or the table? or…) and was unable to prevent the inevitable.

Glassblowing isn’t always a spectator-sport. Children should be issued with earplugs on arrival if the chance of increasing their vocabulary worries their parents.

Sweeping up the fragments, she reminded herself that she was going dancing later and so still had a good hour or so to make a new baby (psssh! not like that!). And then she discovered something unimaginably terrible. Each piece had been made up of multiple Glass Things joined together. The flanges and ventiles were all still ok, if a little unconnected, EXCEPT for the ONE sort of ventile they didn’t have in stock.

A couple of minutes later she’d checked all the cupboards and the drawer or spares and random bit and found nothing suitable. She’d have preferred to confess to the CustomMeister there and then but he was as elusive as ever. She had to admit other people probably had better things to do than sit by their phones waiting to be phoned with bad news.

The motivation vacuum roared into action. Nothing more to be done except wait for tomorrow.

After eating the leftovers of her lunch, she made her way towards the station. In the rain, and the wind.

Dear ticketmachine…

Thank you so much dear ticket machine. You must know how much I love getting to stations on time with the right money, typing my destination and how many tickets I need into your slightly greasy screen only to then miss the train I came to catch because you don’t like the taste of my money. It must make your day just that much sweeter!

I appreciate the care you go to, to give me the right change and print the right details on my ticket.. and you put up with all the grubby fingers poking your screen all day, and all the abuse from impatient people…

But is it really asking too much, to want to catch a train on time for once?

I might also be impatient, but at least I’m polite… and I didn’t punch or kick you.. I very patiently fed you my 20€ note 57 times (plus/minus a few) and you rudely spat it back out 57 times.That’s hardly helpful, is it? Hardly Customer Service. When I finally gave up and asked the other machine it obliged first time.. Can I suggest you ask it to teach you some manners?

I really hope that we will one day be successful ‘business partners’. Until then I will go directly to the other machine and you won’t get the chance to spit my money back at me.

Your friendly but frustrated Ticketbuyer

Skiing – part 2 – skiing

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Β πŸ™‚Β  πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ Skiing is cool πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

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As I said in part 1, the piste is less than half an hour from my Ski-partner’s house, and he lives just over an hour away (assuming you use public transport and it’s snowing. If you drove on a sunny day it’d actually be more like 45 mins total). We chose the third closest piste to my ski-partner’s house, the other 2 are smaller and/or easier.. Ours had one slope, divided into 3 by 2 sets of 2 T-bar lifts. They progressed [minimally] from easy to less easy, but none of them was too scary. The lifts ran until 10pm, with floodlights turned on as soon at dusk approached. It wasn’t a slope for super skiers, and I think even I would get bored after a while because they’re very short and you spend more time waiting for and riding the lift than actually skiing, but it was the perfect slope to start the season with πŸ™‚ Especially teacherless. I spoke to my teacher afterwards about how different it was skiing by myself, and how many bad habits I’ve probably got into, and he said it was good that I’d gone without him because I ask too many questions and need to play and figure things out for myself and not just do what he says. I will have to think about that.

Yesterday’s snow was ‘matschig’ – a great word which means something like slushy, except it wasn’t wet, just really really soft. Unfortunately there wasn’t very much snow, which meant that by the end of the evening there were bald patches, where the grass showed through and where turning wasn’t much fun.

It was about -5 degrees which is plenty warm enough if you’re dressed well πŸ™‚ Having stayed up longer than I’d planned to the evening before, washing my new thermal undies in the sink*, I was extremely pleased to register that it was well worth it. The only place I noticed the cold was my nose …… and my wrists when I hadn’t tucked my gloves into my sleeves properly ;). The gloves are brilliant. I bought them in Aldi for a fiver and was a little sceptical about whether they’d be any good when it got ‘properly’ cold. I borrowed some ‘tried and tested’ leather skiing gloves from my teacher, but left them in the car, so I could test mine first. I figured that since this was a very small ski ‘resort’ where you can practically see your car from any point on the slope, it was better to test them here than at one where it takes half an hour and a ride in a gondola to get back to the carpark. I was very pleasantly surprised – they’re fantastic πŸ™‚ Not only coldproof, but also waterproof and much more flexible than the leather ones πŸ™‚

They weren’t the only bit of kit I love. I also love having a helmet (keeps your ears warm as well as protecting your head from malicious T-Bar poles), a good jacket (also borrowed) and good socks (mine!). If it wasn’t such a hassle going to the loo, I would also love my salopets. *thinks* Na, I guess I love them anyway..Β  falling over wouldn’t be nearly as fun if it meant getting wet! And they’re well padded as a bonus. Then there’s the boots. they’re tight – a must if you want to have any control over your skis and to reduce the chance of breaking your ankles – but not [really] uncomfy; not til you’ve skied for a couple of hours anyway, and by that time you’re so high on mountain air and adrenalin you don’t really notice. I stuck [cheap] compeeds just above my heels prophylaxically (if that’s a word ;)) but I forgot my arches. It luckily wasn’t a problem, but I will try to remember to do them next time.

I have allround ‘carving’ skis (borrowed) which are just generally brilliant, but most ‘useful’ on harder snow where you can dig the edges in and go round corners on the curved ‘blades’. They’re almost as long as I am tall (= not very ;)) and shaped like a loosely drawn elongated sandtimer – thinner in the middle than at the ends. Putting your weight on one side of your foot tilts the ski slightly. The thinner middle part of the ski would be raised off the ground if the ski wasn’t flexible. Luckily they are, so they bend, allowing the middle to touch the ground too. The ski is curved, so having the entire length of the edge on the ground means the ski automatically forms part of the circumference of a circle. When you add motion, you carry on round the rest of the circle. If you increase the tilt (= the angle between the ski and the ground), you make the radius of the circle smaller, and if you keep the ski flat on the ground you go forwards and ignore the circles. Although you generally learn to ski by ploughing (toes turned inwards), as you progress you try to keep both skis parallel. If you put your weight on, say, the left side of each ski, you will [most probably] turn left. If you put your weight on the right side of each ski, you will [most probably] turn right. If you put your weight on the inner side of each ski, you will [most probably] start ploughing and slow down. If you decide to put weight on the outer edges of both skis you’re liable to land on the floor. In other words; the thinness [combined with flexibleness] makes the ski bend more easily, the curves make them turn more easily and you can steer by putting weight on different sides of your feet. Skiing in S-curves feels something like this: skies flat, weight to right, skis flat, weight to left, skis flat, weight to right, skis flat (etc etc etc).

On ‘hard’ or powdery snow, the ‘sharpened’/filed edges dig in like an iceskate so you don’t slither about. However. When the snow’s really soft you tend to sink in a bit and slither around corners regardless of sharpened and curved edges. I actually quite like it when it’s soft, but it does mean you have to work harder to get your skis to do what you tell them, OR, you ‘go with the flow’ and take it as it happens without being too decisive/bossy about where you want to turn.

(Disclaimer: Yes, I am probably talking rubbish here.. if you are a proper skier, please feel free to correct me, bearing in mind I’ve just been for the fourth time I can really remember and am basically happy when I get to the bottom of a slope with everything intact and without running anyone over)

When lots of people ski and snowboard down the same bit of slope for most of a day the snow gets pushed about and heaped into piles. Because it’s easier to go round them than over them, the piles get bigger. The piles are called moguls, and sometimes whole stretches of piste are prepared with them especially. There are loads of techniques for going round them, over them, turning on/before/after them and I’m not proficient in any of them πŸ™‚ Despite my lack of technique, I can generally make my way down a slope with them on it πŸ™‚

(Disclaimer: Again, I might be talking rubbish here, too. Fact is though, at the end of the day the slopes are always more lumpy than first thing in the morning when the snow’s been brushed into place by the piste-basher (They’re really called that – I looked it up!)).

I practiced ploughing, going from one side of the slope to the other in long, slow, meandering S-curves, turning while keeping my skis parallel, going backwards (not for long though, it’s too unnerving when there are small people whizzing about round you and also when it’s dark. And when you’re a scaredy cat like me ;)), catching and letting go of the T-Bar lift from the left and right hand sides, jumping (= more like being thrown) off ramps made by the piles of snow, skiing with and without poles, skiing round and over the moguls, something called “hoch und tief Entlastung” in German, and which I haven’t found a translation for yet,Β  skiing ‘schuss’ (straight down the hill without curves) in plough and parallel, and falling over.

I’m going to need a lot more practice – good thing my teacher doesn’t need my kit for a while, and my ski-partner’s willing to go again soon πŸ™‚

Facit:

Skiing’s very cool.

And made even better by it being doable as a day-trip. I think I was out of the house for 12 hours max including 5 hours on the slope and approximately half an hour in the car for lunch. If I hadn’t stopped at work to blow the skis and boots dry (I have an “air-gun” I use to blow bits of glass off my table), or if I’d hobbled faster, it would have been even less.. It’s not very expensive either if you have (or can borrow) your own kit. We bought 50 points on a plastic card – he already had some but we weren’t sure how many or how often we wanted to attempt to kill ourselves πŸ˜‰ – equivalent to 50 journeys on the lift. The card cost 4€ to borrow, which you get refunded when you give it back, the 50 points cost 17.50€ which we skied away (I think it was actually 26 or 27 runs each) over the course of the afternoon/early evening. We took our own lunch, and the train from here costs maybe 7€ each way. I’m not sure, because I have a seasonticket for 2 zones and buy any extra zones as 4-journey-tickets which cost less per journey. = 20-25€ for the whole day out, muscle ache thrown in gratis πŸ™‚

 

*I’d put off washing them because it meant taking 3o seconds to find a pair of scissors and cut the labels off.. and besides, there was no snow when I bought them πŸ˜‰

Quote: Can’t v. will…

Remember:

The people who say you can’t are probably the ones most scared that you will.

– apparently Usher (though I think I’ve heard/read it from other sources…)

On skiing – part one – planning and ironing

I’m going skiing tomorrow!! πŸ™‚

Yay πŸ™‚

It’s snowed quite a lot this week and skiing’s cool, so when I looked out of the window at lunchtime and realised it was the weekend soon I emailed a friend and we organised an afternoon’s skiing. He lives about half an hour away from a piste with a ski lift. Not a huge one, but pretty good for getting the hang of hurtling down snow covered mountains at 40mph (???) after a year of meandering along reasonably flat pavements.

I haven’t been skiing very often. I went for a week as a kid (I think I was 5) and again for 3 days (= 1 and a month later another 2) last spring, and I’m hooked. If it hadn’t been so warm and the snow so slushy, I would have loved to have gone again. And now it’s a new year with new snow and a new chance to slide down a mountain on my face with my feet in the air πŸ˜‰

After work (I stayed on for a couple of extra hours to practise for my exam) I remembered that going skiing involves a heck of a lot of kit, none of which I own, apart from the socks. I have a friend who is handily a skiing teacher with enough skiing siblings/family that I’ve always been able to borrow everything I need from him and/or his relatives. He lives about an hour away and in the wrong direction to combine it with going to the ‘mountain’ tomorrow. I came home, made dinner, ate half of it and set out to collect ‘my’ stuff. (Yes. Obviously I asked him first. Who do you think I am??). I even got to the busstop before the bus did πŸ™‚

When I got there he’d arranged all the things he remembered me wearing last year (and some others as well, just in case) in the hall. I tried on 2 pairs of boots because I have an awful memory for things like that. Ask me the lyrics of ancients songs, or what cereals non-main-characters eat for breakfast – no problem. Ask me what colour my boots or gloves were a year ago and I’m stumped.

Then we moved on to filing and waxing my skis.

For anyone who doesn’t already know; skis slide better if they’re waxed, and you have more ‘grip’ (for want of a better word) when the edges are sharp (especially when it’s icy). I haven’t skiied enough to really tell the difference between blunt and sharp, polished and unpolished. I also have a great teacher who makes sure my skis are well sorted out before I go anywhere πŸ˜‰ However. I think everyone who has ever been iceskating with blunt skates can appreciate the benefits of having them sharpened and the priciple’s a similar one.

Usually people hire their skis from a hut full of minions who do everything for you, or take their own there before heading for the hills. If you ski a lot it makes sense to do your own. It goes something like this*:

  • lay your skis upside down on 2 trestles
  • brush all the old wax off the undersides of your skis with a softish wire brush
  • brush the bits off with a very soft ‘hairy’ brush
  • file the rims/edges with a pretty cool file holder, making sure the file’s facing the right way
  • apply melted wax to the entire under surface. This is done by holding a block of wax against a warm iron and letting the ensuing drips land on the skis in a somewhat orderly fashion (i.e. spread equally along the ski, not all clumped tgether). The skis are then ironed to spread the wax blobs into a thin layer
  • leave to cool
  • scrape the excess wax off the bottom and sides of the ski with a plastic scraper
  • brush the ski once along its length with the soft wire brush

Apparently there are different types of wax for different types and temperatures of snow. There’s also go-faster wax, which is more expensive, and wax which you put on cold (instead of melting it on) and which rubs off after a couple of runs.. Until this evening, my knowledge of wax extended to candles and bees. I have now glanced at a world beyond my understanding. I smiled and nodded (and asked questions to show how much I still didn’t understand) and got on with watching him prepare my skis. I had a go at filing them myself, but I’m not very good..

Then we did his. He’s going training with his racing team tomorrow.

Somewhere between the third and fourth ski he looked at the time. The busses to the station from where he lives go every hour in the evening so missing them is a problem. I had 13 minutes to be on it or at least at the busstop. We left the fourth ski to its fate and rushed around finding poles, a bag to put my skis and poles in, a bag for the boots and gloves and goggles, the backpack I’d brought with me and left in another room, my ‘normal’ gloves… and eventually I was loaded up and on my way out of the door and he could go back to his ski.

There must be a more elegant way of getting on and off busses carrying that much stuff, but I haven’t mastered it yet.

I work next to the station, so I let myself in and left my ski stuff in the workshop to save having to lug it home tonight and back again tomorrow. Being at work at night is a very strange feeling.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow, even if I am a little scared of going without a teacher – I haven’t been skiing since last year – but I wish I’d done more leg-muscle-training… I have a feeling I’m going to need a very long hot bath when I hobble back tomorrow evening!

* Please find someone who knows what they’re talking about to show you how to do it properly, before tackling your own skis…. don’t take my word for it…. please…

Click here for Part two…