Up for air

by wrinkler on May 30, 2014

Pretty ominous that the last post was about jumping stoopid, then nothing. For months.

All is good. Just had a SLEW of work at the end of last year, then took a real job. With BENEFITS. I’m still working in my fab home office, but with guaranteed income. And, did I mention?, BENEFITS. Like paid time off. Last weekend was the first paid holiday I’ve had since 1942. I felt positively giddy.

But, man, the logistics! Instead of fixing technology issues my own self in about ten minutes, I now have to fix them in a compliant way. Which involves requests and approvals and purchasing orders. After I spend three weeks just finding the right department. Ay yi yi.

Having sorted out some logistics and settled into a good workflow, I now have the time–occasionally–to post again.

(Oh, plus going to En Zed for two weeks. Which was amazing. Here’s a teaser picture. ‘Teaser’ in the sense that I might post more pictures. If I don’t, then it’s a real tease. Of the worst kind.)

KauriThis is a very special kauri tree. Big mofo named Yakas. With a very considerate walkway to keep people from tramping on Yakas’s roots, which would kill him.

Anyhoo, two things happened this week that I want to share. Neither one involves jet fuel. Here’s the first.

I made smoked salmon with pasta last night for dinner. It possessed two essential qualities. First, it was ready in less than 30 minutes. I’ve compiled a whole list of really good recipes that are ready in half an hour. Now, when I cook something that takes an hour, it seems like I’ve been in the kitchen forever.

Secondly, it was dee. Lish. us. Half of Hoffman Brothers and I ate the entire thing in one sitting. I don’t understand the food science that combines five ingredients into heaven in my mouth. I don’t have to understand the science; I just worship at its feet.

Make it. You will not regret it. Yes, the whole 1/4 cup of fresh dill is totally worth it. And don’t skip the red onion, either. (I’m always tempted to skip the red onion. Because onion.)

Third and bonusly, it was pretty while it waited to be made.

dinner

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The dark side

by wrinkler on September 15, 2013

Skydiving licenses come in four flavors: A [absolutely beginner], B [beginner who knows just enough to be dangerous], C [confident without reason], and D [doesn't have anything better to do]. Each license  has different requirements for the number of jumps completed and demonstrated “skills.” (Lots of people don’t need quotation marks there, but I do.) Plus a new written test each time.

For a B, you have to learn how to jump into a body of water wearing gear, get out from under the parachute floating on the water, out of your harness, and swim to shore. Or the side of the community pool in Mollala, if that’s where your water training is taking place. Plus 50 jumps total.

For a C, you have to land within 2 meters of a target on 25 different jumps. Plus 200 jumps total and demonstrating more body control in the air.

Those are some potentially life-saving skills. But the people who made up the license requirements were clearly out of ideas when it came to the D.

“What should we make them do?”

“Well, they should have a lot of jumps. Say, 500.”

“Good idea. What else?”

“I don’t know. What do you think we should make them do?”

Sound of pencils tapping on the table.

“There’s nothing left. Except… nah.”

“What? Say it.”

“No, it’s crazy. Nobody does it for real, except maybe Navy Seals.”

“What? I’m dying to know.”

“Night jumps.”

“PERFECT.”

Yes, to get the final level of license, you have to do two night jumps. These took place Saturday night.

plane

They are every bit as craycray as they sound. Jumping out of a plane into a pitch-black sky, is, what’s the word I’m looking for? Oh, yeah, terrifying. A total exercise in fear management. Especially because the backlight on my altirmeter doesn’t come on until I’m in freefall. I have never been so happy to see a little blue glow in my entire life.

This gets even better, so read on.

Jumping at night is profoundly disorienting. All the usual visual landmarks are gone: mountains, pond to the north of the landing area, runway, road, hangar, parking lot. The landing area is lit with headlights from three cars. No joke.

I jumped out the first time and promptly got lost. Seriously, as soon as my canopy opened and I could examine the ground instead of keeping my eyes glued on my altimeter, I was like, “What the…” Then, “Maybe.” “Nope.” “How about over there…” “Nope.” “Oh shit.” “Those are nice lights, they look like a runway but there aren’t any lights on our runway.” “Oh shit some more.”

Finally, at about 1200 feet, I knew I wasn’t going to make it back to the landing area. I was out of flying time and had no idea where it was. So I started looking, in the dark, for another safe place to land.

I figured lighter fields were safer than dark fields, because lighter fields meant cut crops. That much I remembered from daytime jump runs. Dark fields could be trees. Or parking lots. Or roofs of large buildings. Or bodies of water.

I picked a lighter field, and, at about 600 feet, I could see the texture of swathes of cut something: grass or corn or whatever. Yay. I didn’t have to find another field (which is really a joke, because you can’t pick another field at 600 feet). As I got closer, I saw where the fence was and where it wasn’t. And that if I landed in just the right place, I’d be about 15 feet from a road leading directly to the dropzone.

I did, although it wasn’t the most graceful landing ever, and I was.

HHB had reminded me to take my phone on the jump. I pulled it out and made a call. They sent a car. I’m skipping the part where I said “east” when I meant “west.”

The second jump, I knew exactly where I was the moment the door on the plane opened. I fell straight down, opened my parachute, and landed where I was supposed to.

It was still dark, but it was so much easier.

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Action

by wrinkler on September 3, 2013

WordPress and YouTube aren’t playing together nicely anymore. I don’t know why, and I don’t have time to figure it out.

However, here’s a link to a 30 second video from this weekend.

http://youtu.be/TPrXsiT07bM

First, we fall out of the plane and get ourselves sorted out after spinning and tumbling. That’s usually how sitflying jumps go, and it’s part of the fun.

On this jump, the goal was to fly around and give each other high fives. It’s pretty hard to learn, at first, because moving your arms can make you cork.

Think of a champagne cork coming out of a bottle under pressure. That’s how fast you’ll end up above everyone else if your body position isn’t stable while you’re high-fiving. Corking is no bueno because there might be someone above you. Ka boom.

I’m in the black jumpsuit and white helmet. At about 12 seconds, you can see me and Rhino high-fiving in the background. Then I fly over to Michael, who’s taking the video, and think about high-fiving him for a few seconds before deciding that it wasn’t going to work. Then Gina flies by me and, just like that, the jump is over.

Staring at Michael and thinking about high-fiving him seemed to take about two minutes while it was happening. It’s amazing that it only consumed three seconds. Just goes to show you that skydiving happens in another dimension.

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Starting over again every week

by wrinkler on August 30, 2013

In the summer, it’s hard to keep a regular running sked. Mostly because I usually skydive both days on the weekend, and I don’t run on the days I skydive. Because there just isn’t that much energy in the world.

And for the last few weeks, I’ve also done a few–or more than a few–jumps on Fridays, so I haven’t run on Fridays, either. During the “week” that is actually four days long, I alternate running and weightlifting. Which means I’ve only been running two days a week.

It’s been horrible. Slow. Painful. Much stopping to walk and aching of sides. Not to mention running without Buster, who is now sleeping in until NOON with his beloved Dancing Fairy. And this week her new roommate, Holly, who he still preferred to sleep with instead of running with me.

Mondays were tolerable, but Wednesdays were three miles of “Why am I doing this?”

I’ve been running consistently for 15 years. I planned on running at least until I’m 60, but I told HHB the other day that I wasn’t sure I was going to make it that long.

Yesterday, it dawned on me that not running from Wednesday until Monday is basically starting over every week. When I’ve had layoffs before, the first run is OK, but the second one is terrible. So imagine that pattern, but add in 55-year-old ankles and hips. Mmmm. You can’t wait to hit the streets your own self now, right?

So I got my butt out the door this morning for a third run this week.

Oh.

That’s what running feels like! I remember now.

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As promised…

by wrinkler on August 16, 2013

… more about the dog.

DF had a challenging spring quarter, struggling with depression and anxiety. One thing that really helped her was spending time with Lulu, the dog who belonged to the family for which she was a nanny. She posted multiple pictures of Lulu throughout the spring. Lulu in her dorm room. Lulu in the car. Lulu being cuddly on her bed.

She’d like to get a dog of her own. We’re not sure how realistic that is.

However, she and Buster have become completely besotted with each other over the summer. He now sleeps in with her until the late morning, instead of going on a run with me. I open the door and call him. He raises his head from the pillow and gives me a ‘Catch you later’ look before plopping it back down.

If he happens to be out of the house with me, on an errand or a walk, he runs right up to her room when he gets home. And stares hopefully at her closed door, because the only times he’s out of the house with me anymore are when she’s at work.

She takes him everywhaar else. He’s the barnacle and she’s the ship. He’s the fly and she’s the honey. He’s the  … I’m out of metaphors.

So she’s taking Buster with her when she moves to Seattle.

I feel sad a little. He’s been my buddy for ten years. My increasingly reluctant running partner–this was him a few weeks ago, hiding behind HHB because I had my running gear on.

B hiding(Sorry the picture is grainy. But no wonder he’s so flipping happy to sleep in all morning.)

I’d be sadder if they didn’t clearly adore each other. If things don’t work out for them, we’ll bring him home in a heartbeat, of course. I don’t know whether to hope they work out or hope they don’t.

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Dancing Fairy moves on

by wrinkler on August 14, 2013

On Sunday night, DF and I drove to Seattle. She had one day–Monday–to find an apartment for herself, two roommates, and a dog. More about the dog later.

The Seattle rental market is hot, with an average vacancy rate of 4%. DF and roomies had emailed about a billion listings back and forth. Anticipatory searches for housing produce nothing but anxiety–all that matters is what’s available when you’re ready to commit.

She called and emailed ten listings on Monday morning and heard back about just two or three. She went to see one, and the rental agent told her that she was third on the list and that he was pretty certain the first person was going to take it.

Fortunately, this spring, she had scouted out a complex just over the hill from her school. We drove there and they had just received notice about an upcoming vacancy in a 2BD 2BR place–exactly what she was looking for.

It’s a nice place in a good neighborhood, with all the amenities you’d expect. A fine first apartment.

Here’s the really sweet part.

Having been naively involved in co-signing for twenty-something apartments about ten years ago, I wasn’t willing to do that. But the rental agent said that, if each of them had a monthly income from all sources (employment, financial aid, money from parents, etc.) equivalent to the rent, they wouldn’t need a co-signer.

They do.

She just got word that their application was accepted.

To which I say, WOO HOO!

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Not about me skydiving

by wrinkler on July 29, 2013

Which, in and of itself, is miraculous.

Yes, it’s true. I am NOT posting about a skydive I was on.

I’m posting about a skydive HHB was on.

Hybrid

That picture was taken by someone who was flying head-down. Wait a minute.

Hybrid 2Much mo bettah. The good-looking guy in the blue suit on the top right is HHB. He and Michael are letting Jason hang from their chest straps.

Both Michael and HHB are substantial men, but Jason weighs in at 225. Which is why their chest straps, which are typically fairly tight, are stretching like that. Also, Jason has one leg down, which is making them fall faster.

I wasn’t on this jump. I hear it fell at 180 MPH.

Normal belly-to-earth speed is about 120 MPH. Normal sit-flying speed is about 150-160.

They were smokin‘.

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Rocky, slack fun

by wrinkler on July 23, 2013

Last night, Dancing Fairy and I went bouldering with her BF. I haven’t been bouldering in several months, and I forgot how fun it is.

In case you’ve never done it, it happens in a place that looks like this:

shirtphotocopy

The walls are about 15 feet high, and the colored things are grips in various shapes. The gym staff mark out routes–called ‘problems’–with different colored tape. Your job is to solve a problem by getting to the top while putting your hands and feet only on the grips marked with the right color tape.

Some of the grips are large and have places where you can hook your fingertips securely. I like those. Others are just knobs or bits of stuff hanging on the wall. I don’t like those.

Problems come in different levels of difficulty, from B for beginner to 6 or 7. I mostly do 0s and an occasional 1. Last night, I solved a problem that involved climbing over a little overhang–and that was a first for me!

I can only boulder for about 90 minutes. After that, even though I might really, really want to solve the problem I’m working on, I just don’t have the arm strength. The trick is to warm up, then work on challenging problems, then do a couple of easier routes and call it good.

The floor is super padded. When I inevitably fall, I just roll out the impact–legs, butt, back–and keep going.

What I really like about bouldering is that it’s both physical and mental. On the wall, I can only think about where the next grip is. It’s aerobic enough that my heart rate goes up, and it works my shoulders and upper back dynamically (as opposed to weight lifting).

The other fun thing about bouldering is that the gym also has a slackline. Our arms were done, so we practiced slacklining. DF had some excellent tips about keeping my core engaged and where to look and remembering to breathe (why, why, why do I always forget to breathe?), and, at the end, I could walk the whole thing while just holding on to DF or BF’s index finger with two or three of my fingers.

I think I might even be able to do it alone one day soon.

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Tra la la

by wrinkler on July 22, 2013

Yesterday, I made my 400th skydive. Whodathunkit?

Double (or triple) zero skydives are celebrated by a jump that is very playful and, often, completely fustercluckian.

This picture gives you an idea of the atmosphere.

skippingIn the center of the picture are a motorcycle cop and a contractor, holding hands and skipping all the way out to the loading area.

And that was just the beginning.

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30% more fun

by wrinkler on July 15, 2013

When you first start skydiving, you’re doing well if you can do three jumps a day. It’s EXHAUSTING, what with all the adrenaline and the flinging yourself around and landing and packing.

Did I mention packing?

(Packing is tiring. Every time you finish jumping, you have to put your parachute back into your container.  It’s an acquired skill, so noobs spend lots of extra energy and time on this part, wrassling all that slippery fabric and getting it sweaty and stuff. Make a note that I am barely not a noob myself.

Packing involves: stowing the brakes, uncollapsing the slider, cocking the pilot chute, getting all the lines on the inside and fabric on the outside, folding lengthwise just so, folding crosswise just so, shoving into a fabric bag that measures about 6′ X 6″ X 10″, shoving that into your container [the thing you put on], closing the container by pulling really hard numerous times on a cord running through a bunch of grommets, and packing the pilot chute. You’re already exhausted, I can tell.)

As you have more jumps under your belt, there’s much less adrenaline and more endorphins involved. My heart used to pound in the plane; now my pulse just blips up a little bit. Packing is way easier, too–what used to take me a good 25 minutes takes about 12.

So I can do more jumps in a day. YAY!

Before I broke my neck, 7 jumps was a reasonable goal for a weekend, split up over two days. This past weekend, I did 10.

They were ridiculously fun. Lots of involuntary “woo-hoo”ing inside my helmet. A little party all by myself.

Of course, I’m pooped today. Plus, I banged my ankle on some part of the plane while exiting, which prompted a very rapid mental process:

What the aitch ee double hockey sticks! that hurts! does it hurt as much as a broken bone would? no! yay! on with the show

And then there was the part where Michael had a grip on my left arm and Wylie had a grip on my right arm, and they had different trajectories in mind. My left bicep is grateful I’m not jumping again today.

But it was so worth it.

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