Academic Ninja – Special Report

Before we get started and I share the AMAZING secrets of being an Academic Ninja let me remind you where you are today. I’m starting here because I’m going to ask you to do some things that will be hard, and I want to have you motivated to do them.

I said that these techniques are used by students who are NO SMARTER than you to get superior results. So how smart are you? On average a University student in North America has an IQ in the top 21% of the population. You are already smarter than 75% of the population. Not to be left out I suspect that technical and trade school students are similar.

So if I’m so smart, how come school is so hard? Well think about that. Was it always hard? I’ll bet money you breezed through High School. Why. Well because you were already smarter than 75% of the students. The school system was geared to make sure everyone passed. Yes even the stoner who fell asleep in every class he made it to. The system was rigged for you.

Now in University everyone’s as smart as you are and the Bell curve sucks. So the problem isn’t that everyone is smarter than you. The problem is they are just as smart as you are. Sure there are some statistical outliers who are honest geniuses, but equally the other way. Some of those folks are just lucky to find the right building every day.

So take the idea that success here has something to do with your smartitude out of the equation. The difference is something else.

So let me ask you another question. What is the quality of the assignments you submit? My guess is that I would get back a confused look. Quality? It was the quality of “done”. I worked on it till it needed to be handed in. Then I went home and slept.

How did you feel about that? Hmmm like maybe you couldn’t eat for days, or only slept 8 hours in the last 60? Perhaps you had a panic attack, a melt down, or heck even a mild stroke.

So I’m hoping you’ve had enough of that, and your now into the head space where I can share the secrets of the Academic Ninja. (trademark?) Remember the only thing that you can change is YOU. If you don’t change your approach you will get the same results. I say this again because the way of the Academic Ninja is hard because it requires that you change your approach.

Okay I hear you. “Enough already just tell me the Ninja secret.” Oh I will, but first you must learn patience Grasshopper.

In the outside world, I’m sure you’ve heard of it. It’s the place with the tall buildings, coffee shops on the corner etc. We use the triangle as a mystical symbol representing the perfect world. Not any triangle mind you, the mystical triangle has words associated with the pointy bits. Behold below I share with you this holy symbol.

triangle-1

This symbol represents a whole and perfect world in which you always get the highest quality, money is no object, and it arrives right when you want it. So worship the triangle.

This perfect and complete world, as you know, only exists in the land of imagination. In the real world you can only choose 2 words. You can have it now (time), and it will be perfect(quality), but you can’t afford it(money). Or maybe you can get the same quality, for what you can afford, but you have to wait.

So what does this have to do with being an Academic Ninja? The answer is: because the Academic Ninja worships the same symbol but with different words. Behold below is the holy triangle of the Academic Ninja.

triangle-2

To the Academic Ninja this triangle is even holier. It’s holier because one of the sacred words is out of their control. The Ninja knows that they have no control over the deadline. So that means the Ninja gets to choose only one of the remaining words. The Ninja must balance the number of hours he devotes to his quest, against the grade he hopes to achieve. (Note: the use of male pronouns is not meant to exclude any other genders, races, orientations, it’s all good to the Ninja)

So here’s the first secret of the Academic Ninja: The Ninja chooses the grade he plans to achieve! It’s not an accident, or a whatever. It’s a conscious choice. And here’s another Academic Ninja secret. Not every assignment grade needs to be an “A”. Particularly when the Ninja only has a finite insufficient number of hours to complete the task. The Ninja makes choices and in doing so. Wait for it……… REDUCES HIS STRESS. As the wise have said “Even C’s get degrees.” 🙂

Okay so even though you know the first Academic Ninja secret you’re not feeling particularly Ninjaish yet.

Good. Your not supposed to. Let’s move on.

The one skill that the Academic Ninja has that sets them apart from the others is…..

Sorry I just wanted to build suspense.   PLANNING. Now I know you plan your work, but not like a Ninja. I’ll bet your plan is in your head, maybe with a few appointment slots carved out as “homework” time. Maybe you even have some regular times that are set aside.   This I’m sorry is not Ninja planning. (Remember when I said I was going to ask you to change and it would be hard? Well here it is.)

The first thing a Ninja does on receiving an assignment is decide what grade he NEEDS on this. Then the Ninja makes an initial hours estimate to complete the assignment to obtain that grade. Then the Ninja WRITES this information down. (types it in, whateves) The Ninja then proceeds to make the same hour estimate for one grade level above and below. So lets say the Ninja gets an assignment and estimates that he can get a C grade with 20 hours of work. He would then maybe estimate that a D would be the result with 15 hours, and a B would require 30 hours. The Ninja records this information. The Ninja notes that there is a fine line between a disastrous D and a satisfactory C. The Ninja also notes that a stretch B would require a substantial additional commitment.

Okay so how does a Ninja know what kind of work effort is required to get a grade? The Ninja hasn’t taken this course before. So what’s the difference between a “guess” and an “estimate?” The estimate is informed by experience. The Ninja has done other assignments, written papers, created things. This is what the Ninja uses INITIALLY.

What?! Initially? Yup that’s right. This is the first level of Ninja planning. Before the Ninja does anything else though he opens up his schedule and BOOKS the estimated time into his calendar. The Ninja isn’t playing around here. They will actually find and schedule 20 hours if that’s the estimate for the targeted grade level. The Ninja will do this for every assignment they receive. What if the Ninja doesn’t have enough available hours to complete all the estimated work before the deadline?

Well this is where the Ninja consults the holy triangle and determines if there is any give in the grade that’s acceptable. If I’m willing to accept a D on this one assignment, then I can get C’s in everything else, and make it up on the next assignment. The more the Ninja can manage and plan their own life the better. In a worst case, having completed an initial estimate the Ninja knows exactly where they stand. They can proceed and beg for an extension while sharing that they’ve done the math and are able to name a date that can be done, and why. This is way better than waiting until hours before something is due, stressed beyond reason, and pleading your case.

Okay great we’re done right? Not so fast Grasshopper. You’ve done the initial planning, not the detail planning.

Take each assignment and decompose it into parts or steps. Ie. Research, write intro, write sections 1-5, write sections 5-10, write summary. Whatever makes sense. Then estimate each sub-section and add them all back up. Do they match the first estimate? If so great. If not now would be a good time to adjust your plan. Now into each section of booked time enter into it the detail section you want to accomplish.

This is important because now you can evaluate how well the plan is coming together. If your falling behind you need to add more time into the plan. If your ahead then you have some buffer for when you do fall behind.

The Ninja never sits down to do home work without a specific set of things to accomplish in that time. The Ninja isn’t done that session until those items are done.

Ninja’s will sometime misestimate the time tasks will take, but they learn and adapt their estimating skills based on their actual experience. The Ninja who deceives himself is only giving himself an atomic wedgie.

Now the Academic Ninja has a SPECIFIC plan that allows him/her to achieve the desired results. This allows the Ninja to go forth and enjoy his non-academic life knowing that there is no guilt because they have a plan for success. They evaluate their progress and adjust the plan as they go. They improve their estimating and skills as they proceed. Having a specific Ninja plan reduces Academic anxiety and STRESS.

The difference between the Academic Ninja and regular students isn’t being smarter, it’s having a better plan. Here’s another free tip. Guess what employers are looking for? In a lot of cases your ability to estimate, plan, and execute work to that plan is more important than any other skill.

Your welcome Grasshopper.

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Where’s all the Snow?

Before I start with my update a brief message in response to the recent attacks in Paris.

Pour le peuple de Paris et de la France , je suis avec vous de la solidarité , et le chagrin . Le pardon est loin de vos coeurs aujourd’hui , mais ne laissez pas ces actes honteux vous retourner contre votre meilleure

It’s been another busy couple of months for us. We’ve moved into our new house, and successfully crammed our treasures into it. Diane has noted, that we had done a great job of stuffing it all into 104, but like those fold-up beds, stuff expands until it’s impossible to get it back into the original box. We’ve made a dozen or so trips to goodwill locations in the nearby towns of Arborg, Riverton, and Gimli. I’ve become well acquainted with the Arnes landfill. Diane has managed to sell a few items off using Kijiji as well.

We’ve successfully obtained Manitoba health cards and driver licenses. Our vehicles are now registered in Manitoba, and the Alberta tags are mounted inside the workshop. I had to get the truck and motorcycle safety checked, before that could be done. This seems to me like a bit of a scam, but what are you going to do?

Speaking of the workshop, that little project is nearing completion. We put a new moisture barrier over the ceiling. The previous attempt by the old owners left a lot to be desired. We did keep the insulation that had been placed there, and then put drywall over the ceiling. We also added some additional overhead fluorescent lights. We completed the siding on the inside walls as well. Then built a high shelf along both walls for extra storage.   Then we did some additional electrical work to power the tools and heaters. One 5000W heater is installed now and another is in transit. The two of them should provide more than sufficient heat to allow year-round work. A small milestone has been reached in that it’s now possible for the first time in more than 3 years to park our vehicle in a garage.

We also closed in the attached garage now turned bird room. The door area is framed in and insulated, and contains a patio style door to allow access to the outside if required. The inside of the wall was dry walled painted and trimmed to match the rest of the house. The outside of the wall has a Hardie board siding installed and painted to match the house trim. We used the snowmobile trailer to transport the patio door unit from Winnipeg to our house.

We are now in the process of painting the inside of the house and hopefully will complete that before we declare a Christmas cease fire. Currently the dining/piano room, kitchen, living room and all the halls have been painted. Next we are starting on the bedrooms.

Hans (Brother-in-law) has been our Superstar contractor working with us in completing these projects. We are working on getting Rio to say “Hans is a superstar!”

There are also a few winter preparations that have needed to be completed. We live in the country so we don’t have a sewer or water hookup. We have our own well that provides a plentiful supply of great clean water, and we have a septic field in our backyard. So apparently you don’t want these things to freeze in the winter. As a result I learned that folks out here lay out large insulated tarps over their septic field and water pipes. Who knew? Anyways that’s done now as well. I moved the snow blower into a more accessible location, and placed the garden tractor into winter respite.

The lake hasn’t frozen over yet, but all the boats are out of the harbor’s and docks have been pulled up.

I will mention that I feel duped. They told me it snows in Manitoba, and honestly I haven’t seen much of it. We had a bit over last winter, and there is still green grass now. I’ve only seen a trace of the white stuff so far. How is anybody supposed to ski or snow mobile in this snowless desert?

Stay tuned for further updates.

Rick

Movin on Up

The big news is that we’ve purchased a home. Or perhaps I should describe it as a large detached garage with a house next door. So after our long protracted search for the perfect rustic log home on an acreage or lake we have a home that fits none of that description. We do have a lovely 2500 square foot bungalow across the street from a wonderful beach. The house has an attached garage with radiant floor heat that will become the bird room. We also have the lot next door to us that has a detached double car garage and additional car port. The combination of properties provides us with a little more than an acre of property. We also have a separate exercise and lawn equipment garage, as well as a covered shelter. The property is fenced for dogs. Oh yes we also have a hot tub. I also have a lawn tractor and snow blower to play with.

The moving process was stressful and tiring as we coordinated the packing and relocation of our things from the rental house we’d been living in for a year with the arrival of the rest of our belongings from the storage lockers in Winnipeg. It all went amazingly well, but we are a long way from settled at this point. Lots of work that needs to be completed before the snow flies. Everyday now we try and unpack a few more bins. We’ve been blessed with help from our family in getting moved and in getting the rental house cleaned and re-painted.   As it’s owned by Diane’s sister we’ve tried to return it to pristine condition on our exit. A big thank you to all.

The workshop is cluttered with a collection of items awaiting placement, and we’re slowly working on purging items that are no longer needed in our new accommodations. Every day is Christmas as we discover and are reunited with our long lost property.

The dogs love the big fenced back yard, and we’re enjoying watching them frolic in the grass and leaves.   The Blue Jays and Woodpeckers are making themselves at home on the bird feeders. Well actually making pigs of themselves. It’s a wonder they can fly away from the feeders.

Fall is a wonderful season in the Interlake. The pace again has slowed as the seasonal traffic dies away. They have raised the speed limits to 90 Kim/h again through Winnipeg Beach which they lower to 50 Km/h between Victoria day and Labor day. The residents are diligently cleaning their ditches in preparation for snow and the following Spring melt. The neighbor dropped by yesterday delivering fresh picked garden cucumbers. The days are warm and the nights have taken on a cooler chill. Migrating geese and other varieties are spotted overhead making their way South until their return in the Spring.

Hot and Froggy

I promised Austin I would write more blog posts when I got my new computer. So here it is:

We pulled into the driveway at the end of the 14 hour trip from Calgary. We’d been back in Calgary doing some personal chores, and completing our volunteer commitments with the Stampede Showband. It was a great opportunity to reconnect with our friends and even our city.

It was now the wee hours of the morning, and dark throughout the neighborhood. We emerged from the truck into the moist Summer air of the Interlake. From the trees beyond the house we were greeted by an amazing chorus of frogs. They were in full voice, and apparently sing their songs from dusk until dawn. We were all tired from the long trip, and we’d figured out the minimum amount of things we needed to unload before we could go to bed. We’d leave the rest until morning. Still I lingered for an extended time outside just enjoying the sound of those frogs, and thinking about my Mom.

I have since found several large Leopard frogs traveling around the lawn. I’ve so far successfully avoided mowing one of the little amphibs.

Our shopping continues for a home out here. Each week and each month that passes now seems to make us more anxious and discouraged. We made an offer on a acreage to the west of Gimli, but a previous offer was able to knock us out of that opportunity. We will get this sorted out shortly.

It seems that everything grows like crazy out here. We arrived after our brief Calgary sojourn to find the weeds had staged an occupation. The trees have filled in like a jungle. It’s a good thing that Hans and Denise cut the lawn or it would have been 3 feet tall on our return. We have Sunflowers that are over 6 feet tall, and have discovered a pumpkin plant growing under the bird feeders.   This is great because we didn’t plant those.

Our feeders have been busy and we are enjoying the visits from the Orioles, Hummingbirds and Gold finches. We’ve seen more Eagles, Pelicans, and Osprey’s overhead than ever before. Truly amazing

Hans has found us a couple of jobs that have been fun to do. We’ve got another deck project lined up for after Labour Day.

As a result of all the Summer activity I haven’t put as many kilometers on the motorcycle this year. I have managed to put a few off-road kilometers on though. This area is filled with dirt and gravel back roads. There are also snowmobile/atv trails all through the area. One afternoon I was riding back from Gimli and decided to take a “shortcut” along a snowmobile trail. Everything went fine while I travelled on the high ground that runs along a berm through a field. Further on I decided to cut down along a small drainage ditch where the quads had been running. I was hoping to cut across the railroad tracks and over to the dirt road that runs past our house. As I travelled along the quad trail the ground got progressively muckier. As I approached a larger mud bog I decided that it was time to climb out to the higher ground on the other side towards the railroad track.   This was a decent plan, except perhaps poorly executed. As I climbed up across the hill my rear wheel fell prey to gravity and poor traction. The motorcycle slid out from underneath me. Leaving me thankfully standing, fully upright and my motorcycle in the “trail nap” position below me on the slope. This was well enough, but now I had to somehow lift the 2-wheeled pig into an upright position, and avoid sliding or tumbling down into the bog below. Once upright it would be nice if there were a way to arrive safely at the top of the hill. After a short stint of cursing, and near hernia inducing lift the motorcycle was righted and re-started. From there with some first gear clutch feathering and pushing the summit was reached. I share these little adventure stories, because it appears many of my readers seem to enjoy the stories where I get hurt. (you know who you are!)

Life is Good

The signs of Spring are appearing in our small corner of the Universe. Some are the same as we’ve been accustomed too, and a few new ones as well. This Winter was mild and seemed to pass us quite quickly this year.

The days are now longer having reached the Spring Equinox and started daylight savings. This seems to provide a little extra energy to everyone. We have not seen a robin yet, but the Redpolls are here a month early, and we’ve seen a Downy Woodpecker at the feeder. The snow mobile trails are now officially closed for the season. The ice village that had formed out on the lake is slowly evaporating. It seems as if the residents of this temporary community are now reluctant to drive their trucks out on the ice sheet. Apparently, losing your house to the ice is an acceptable loss, but not your truck. (For the record if I ever do get an ice shack I’m painting it green and naming it Jabba) The creeks that enter into the lake have started to flow with meltwater and runoff. There is an access road out to the ice that leads out through a local playground that has a creek next to it. I was enjoying watching the pickups fight their way against the current with water up to their axels and back to shore. I kept waiting for the ice to give way and swallow one of them, but no disasters have occurred yet. I keep watching though.

The community has a ritual of preparation that we haven’t experienced before. There is a whole program of clearing the ditches and culverts of snow and debris in anticipation of the big melt. A significant flood risk is that these water diversions can block and create local flooding even if the lake and large rivers are flowing well. They have also been out on the Red River breaking up the ice with barges and heavy equipment to prevent the ice jamming and creating a dam. I will say that they certainly seem to have the whole program down to a science.

The snow is nearly gone from our yard, and we’ve been out starting the Spring cleanup. I have a new pair of rubber boots for mucking around in the yard. My Arctic expedition, million below, snow boots have been put away until next year. We’re starting to get our garden supplies ready for an early Spring start. The dogs are enjoying laying out on the deck in the sun when the temperatures have been in the double digits. Often I join them and sit out collecting a little extra vitamin D.

Life is good.

Shopping Stories

Once again it seems like an extended time has passed since I’ve sat down to write an update. It’s now the beginning of March. Time change is this weekend, and the sun is still above the horizon past 5:30 in the evening. The signs of spring are becoming visible. Home Depot and Walmart have assembled the barbecue’s. The snow birds are returning from their Mexican winter migrations. We had a couple of weeks of snow and cold weather in February, but temperatures are now trending upwards. I expect we will soon have a day where the daytime temps climb into positive territory. As always Spring can’t come fast enough. Diane seems to be developing cabin fever. We have a bin that we keep in the laundry room that gets filled with all the single socks that entered the cleaning process married. The other day I found Diane going through the miscellaneous sock pile and yelling and dancing like she’d won the lottery upon locating a matched pair. I backed away slowly and quietly.

I do have a vehicle accident to report. I was safely asleep in my bed when it happened and none of my vehicles were involved or damaged. I do have a $500 deductible to pay though. Big Red my trusty RAM 1500 was having a suspension problem. In fact it came to the point where I had no working shock absorbers. This particular truck model uses an air suspension and mine sprung a leak. In the process of failing it took out the compressor and electronic brains of the operation. Apparently the required replacement parts are in short supply. So Big Red has been in an extended stay at the Dodge/RAM dealer in Selkirk. All the parts and work are covered under warranty, and because the parts were going to be a few weeks they arranged for us to get a rental truck.

It was the day after picking up the truck that we had a big snowfall. Diane and I had been in Winnipeg that day, and travelled back home in the evening. I parked the rental truck in the driveway and around 10:00 we went to sleep. Around 10:30 we heard a big noise from outside. Diane looked out the window, but only saw a pickup truck turning and disappearing around the corner of our street. We went out to investigate and could clearly see the tire tracks that ran along the road into the ditch on the far side of the road. Then they come out of the ditch and swerved past our house close to the back of the parked truck. In fact right into the back of the truck before carrying on down the road. The bumper was dented and shifted 2 or 3 inches out. We immediately called the police and followed up with the rental company and insurance company the next morning. So it was all a bit confusing explaining to all the parties that this was a Manitoba registered rental to replace our Alberta registered truck that wasn’t in an accident although it was in the shop. Getting the folks to appreciate the difference between our auto coverage in Alberta versus MPI was also fun. Anyways nobody was hurt. My truck wasn’t even damaged. Pretty good all things considered.

I believe the saying is “When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping.” So Diane and I have been making regular pilgrimages to Super Store and Walmart for groceries and other bits of kit. I’ve discovered that there must be something in the fluorescent lighting that sets me into comedian mode. Stuff just comes out of my mouth without actually passing through my brain. It also blurts out with sufficient volume to embarrass my patient and understanding wife.

The first one goes to Diane though. We were in the Wally World picking up a few items and I found a big jar of salted cashews (bless you) that made its way into our cart. So we have our pile of treasures and are disgorging them to the conveyor and Diane picks up the LARGE jar of cashews I suspect with the intent of giving me the gears about my snack attacks. She stopped before doing that and read the attached warning label. She looks at me and says with a straight face “Warning may contain traces of nuts.” I blurt back “No shit. It’s a giant ass jar of nuts.” I’m thinking the whole warning label thing may be out of control.

Going back a few weeks we’re in line at the Stupor Store paying for groceries. I’m standing beside Diane not paying much attention to anything, but a sign catches my attention. I look at Diane and say “Those hams must have been sick.” She looks at me and tilts her head slightly to one side. Like a dog who’s heard a high pitch, but can’t find it. I continue “but it’s OK they’ve been cured.” Diane shakes her head slowly. I can imagine she’s reviewing our wedding vows and deciding forever really is a long time. So that would just be another example of me being a goof if I hadn’t said it loud enough for the rows next to us to hear it. From across the rows I get a huge guffaw out of the lady next to us who repeats it to the cashier in her lane. Now their having a real roar over it. I apparently “made their day.”

The following week we’re back at Walmart. As is our practice. There are two of us, so naturally we need a pair of baskets. We each shop on our own and then meet back at the tills to settle up. So on this particular day we pull into line. One behind the other. The teller looks at us and asks “Are you together?” I respond without missing a beat. “Yes, but keep it quiet we don’t want our children to know.” That also got a laugh.

On another outing we’re sitting down at the Macdonald’s attached to, you guessed it, Walmart. I’ve been wandering around the aisles for a bit preceding this. I shared the following observation. “So I noticed that most of the little cans that hold morsels of goodness in them in some way represent the critter you eat. The tuna cans have a picture of a fish, or a cartoon of Charlie. The corned beef has a small picture of a cow on it. You get the idea. In another aisle though I was appalled to see cans that look exactly like those tuna cans except with cute kittens on them.” I believe we may need to standardize the protocol for this. Imagine new Canadians visiting stores for the first time. They either think we’re barbarians, or their like. “Pick me up 2 tabbies and a Siamese.”

Signing off in memory of Leonard. Live Long and Prosper.

Starting the Year with a Bang.

Quite a bit of time has passed since my last post and it feels like time to provide an update and share stories of our adventures. The first and most significant update is that we’ve had quite a chaotic start to the New Year. Lynn and Trevor separated on January 2nd bringing a sudden end to our holiday bliss. Since then we’ve been trying to emotionally support Lynn and provide stability to Jaxson and Tai. At present the outcome of this process isn’t determined, and time will work it’s magic. We’re hopeful that Lynn will take the opportunity to return to school and upgrade her training. She wants to find a role in the health care field and is investigating what schooling and options she has.

She has returned to Calgary on a short visit to investigate what’s available to her in that province. It appears that wages in the field in Alberta are higher than Manitoba, and some additional subsidies could be available. The ideal scenario would allow Tai and Jaxson to complete the school year here before being uprooted if that turns out to be the best option. In the meantime Diane and I have been left in charge of the Minions. [cue: evil laugh] So in exchange for getting up at the unholy hour of 7:30 AM to get the Minions off to school I feel entitled to play with their poor small brains. Today for instance we were asking Tai if she wanted a hippopotamus for Christmas. She asked if we meant a stuffed one. I assured her that I meant a real one. She thought for a bit but declined the gift. Jaxson insists on having the radio playing in the truck when I take them somewhere. So I’ve been subjecting him to whatever random satellite channel I can find, and insisting that’s the only one that I’m picking up. I’ve also been provided the privilege to attend 2 gymnastics classes and a pair of Kung-Fu sessions. Oh the things I’m learning. I’ve also taken to reading Treasure Island to them at night before bed. After a slow start they seem to be getting into the story now.

I’ve been trying to find my own space in our new universe. I went into the city last week and re-connected with Dave Plummer a friend I worked with at Microsoft. It was great to catch-up and Dave provided a few local connections he thought would be a good match for me. Following Dave’s advice I contacted Fred Casey a luthier based in Winnipeg Beach who builds custom stringed instruments and repairs them. ( http://www.cfcaseyguitars.com/?file=kop1.php ) I went out to Fred’s shop and spent an enjoyable 45 minutes getting the grand tour and chatting about guitars and woods etc. Certainly a fine gentleman and I look forward to staying in touch. He suggested I look up Paul and Susan Hammer who run a local music studio and host weekly Celtic jams. So that’s on my list now as well.

For those that have been following my Facebook posts you will be aware that I’ve started cross-country skiing again after a 20 year lapse. The local ski club maintains several kilometers of trails in Camp Morton Provincial Park. We haven’t had much snow and the warm temperatures in the last week made the snow conditions a bit poor. Wednesday we got some snow and a return to cooler temperatures, so I headed out on Thursday for a little exercise.

Cross-Country skiing when done well looks smooth and graceful. Each step forward results in a nice long glide similar in some ways to skating. The way I do it is closer in appearance to a gorilla stomping on fire ants. I’m sure the trail groomers must hate me. Now on a good day if the snow, the temperature and my wax selection is right it can appear for brief moments that I know what I’m doing. This leads as you would expect to an entirely false sense of confidence that gravity is anxious to exploit. Thursday was one of those opportunities. First let me share a small fact about the local geography. It’s flat. I mean dinner table flat. Covered with lakes or farmer fields, but no elevation change. For cross-country skiing that’s fine, but once in a while it’s nice to have a little speed. Near the end of one the local trail loops (Moonshine trail) there is a shortcut that cuts through a gully probably carved by runoff water into the lake. It’s a narrow path that runs steeply downhill for 20 or 30 meters, and across a short bottom of 5 or so meters before heading steeply up the other side. So the idea would be to point straight downhill build speed and carry that across and up the other side avoiding if possible using a herringbone climb for all but the very top.

Now realize that there is a perfectly good trail that leads around this section. It’s entirely optional. This section is for the more advanced skiers or those who may have developed a false sense of confidence. So on Thursday as I approached this section I was feeling reasonably accomplished. Naturally this was the way I was to proceed. After all what’s the worst that could happen? So I pointed my skis straight down and pushed off. There wasn’t any room on the narrow trail to slow down anyway so it’s full throttle all the way. As I headed down I did note that the bottom section narrowed even more and it was important to keep the skis together, because I wouldn’t want one ski to choose a different path than the other. Anyway the bottom rushed by in a half blink and right into the steep climb out. Or it would have been had I been forward on my skis. As I was back on them and was now making like a rocket ship physics intervened. My legs continued uphill alright, but the rest of me went straight backward. This resulted in me landing flat on my back at the bottom with my legs pointing straight up. If anyone had been standing close enough at the moment of impact they would have heard a small “oomph” noise. That would have been all the air molecules in my body making for the emergency exit door.

So as it turns out I’m pretty experienced in having all the air knocked out. So I lay on the ground staring straight up, gasping to re-inflate, and working on remaining calm. In that pause I considered several thoughts. The first was that this was still way better than work. (Sorry my working friends) The second was that this could have been worse. I pictured a scenario where I take one of my epic biffs and while lying in a heap, up the trail comes one of those sweet 70 lb. trail nymphs who glide on gossamer wings not really touching the snow. As the young girl approaches she asks the obvious question “Are you Ok Mister?”

Then I’m forced to lie. I croak back “I’m good. No worries.” My lie of course is immediately obvious because I’ve got a ski tip in my ear and one arm trapped under me.

Then the sweet young girl turns and yells up the trail “Mom come quick an old man has fallen down I think he’s hurt.” At that point my flailing around trying to get myself up turns into a race to find something sharp enough to cut my throat and stop any further indignity.

Today though was good. Only the sound of the wind moving the tree limbs and the winter song birds accompany my gasping and wheezing. I slowly, ever so slowly roll to my side and perform inventory. All good nothing permanently damaged. I did snap my skis off to climb the hill, but did complete the route.

Stay warm