Monday, May 26, 2008

Seeing the World with a Pedometer

I am a person who drives out of necessity to get from place to place. It is a necessary evil.

What I really enjoy is getting out and walking around the area. I live in a nice community and there are quite a few interesting places within walking range. This is the good life in my opinion.

A number of years ago I started getting sharp pains in the calves of my legs when I would walk any distance at all. After having a doppler test on my legs I was referred to a vascular surgeon who had an MRA done to check circulation. Apparently the muscles in my legs were starved for blood when I exercised due to clogged arteries.

The doctor tried stents but that did not work and so I had bypass surgery in my right leg. To say the improvement is tremendous, would be an understatement.

Now I can walk again - the left leg is anything but perfect but I can live with it and that surgery is not something to be entered into lightly.

I was wandering around the area, just enjoying myself, when I got to wondering if I was actually doing enough for my cardiovascular health. I had read somewhere where there was a Surgeon General's report that said that insufficient exercise was the second-leading killer after smoking. That seems a little far-fetched, but when you do look at people with their physical problems it really is a problem.

Well, I was a technician and we used to do all the measuring stuff for the engineers and whoever. What I had to do was some measurements. I couldn't really measure anything except the time it was taking to walk to various places and one thing I don't do is walk consistently. That was how it was done in my army days, not now.

When I was a little kid I used to have a step counter. It wasn't very accurate but the price was right. Nowadays, they have some that will measure the speed you're walking at, how many miles you've gone, the calories you burn, and let you download all the data to your computer.

I also heard that walking 7000 to 10,000 steps is roughly equivalent to about a half hour of good exercise. So I decided to just get a simple modern day step counting only pedometer and see how that would work. When I did get it, for the first week I just measured my steps for the day to get the baseline for improvement. To make a long story short, I'm already at seven or 8000 steps. Apparently my job is a little more physical than I thought.

It is kind of nice though, knowing that it's 830 steps to walk around the block and 1370 to go to the store. Today for instance, a holiday, I only have 4070 for the whole day. I guess I should've gone for a long walk and not played so much with the computer.

I'm quite happy with the step only version of the pedometer. I will be using it quite a bit in the future. I do see that I have to be aware of the fact that days like today have to be dealt with. I really would like to increase my step count. I do actually feel quite a bit better when I walk more.

This is such a simple, enjoyable way to make yourself feel good.

NATIONAL MEMORIAL DAY CONCERT | Gen. Colin Powell | PBS

General Powel gives a great speech on the history of Memorial Day.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Some Local Forts of Interest

Once a month a group I am in takes people to the Tuscarora Indian Reservation near Niagara Falls to buy cheap cigarettes. Most of the taxes are not collected on the reservation and the resulting prices are very low. Great for those on a very limited budget.

I like to go along for the ride whenever I can just to see the scenery. The country is beautiful around there. Also they have a restaurant that has good food at very reasonable prices.

There is a small art gallery and museum by the restaurant and I noted they had put some maps up from a census in the 1800s showing the Indian lands in the area. I also noted along the Niagara River a facility called Fort Schlosser. I had never heard of this before. Fort Niagara, I know, Fort Erie, Fort Porter, and I even heard of something called Fort Little Niagara located someplace on the portage trail between Fort Niagara, on Lake Ontario, and Lake Erie.

Great, something new.

The French, who had built Fort Niagara, also built a small facility partway between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, known now as Fort Little Niagara (Fort du Portage). It was located right around the present day intakes for the Niagara power project, just above Niagara Falls. After the British took over they built an expanded facility nearby in the 1760s and named it Fort Schlosser after the name of the first commander, as was the custom at the time.

I believe all that remains is part of the chimney, which has been moved to a location near Buffalo Avenue and the entrance to the Robert Moses Parkway.

There also was another fort located below the falls on the Lewiston escarpment called Fort Gray, in present day Lewiston.

These are some very interesting sites that I have every intention of checking out in person some time on a nice summer drive.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Staking my roses

I have three old rose bushes in my backyard. Two are white and one red.

For the past couple of years, except for some pruning, they have pretty much grown wild. This year I decided to do something and purchased some 6 foot fencing 't' posts. I thought about using trellises, but the ones I saw at Home Depot didn't really impress me that much and my main idea was to pull together some really spread out bushes.

This morning, the weather was kind of crummy, sprinkling, cloudy and cold. So I just thought I'd buy the posts and get around to doing the work sometime in the future -- but -- the bug struck me. I got home and I just had to fool around with one and then the second and finally the third post. Anyone who doesn't do any gardening just doesn't know what they're missing. Working outside in the fresh air, seeing almost instant results, and just generally enjoying what you're doing is hard to describe. Who cared about the weather, I was having fun.

All I really did was a little bit of pruning and then using a little bit of cotton clothesline to tie the bushes up to the stakes. Sort of a quick and dirty job. I can always go out during the warm days of summer and elaborate on the job if I want to but for now the roses look orders of magnitude better and should really be in good shape for the growing season.

I have to admit, I feel orders of magnitude better as well, having accomplished something I've wanted to do for quite a while. Gardening really is good for the soul.