Nov. 11th, 2013 09:52 pm
shanmonster: (Liothu'a)
I've been drawing pretty much daily again. I spend much of today in transit, and I had the craving to draw a raven. Tonight, I did. I decided to go with soft pastels on sanded paper. I call it "Ravenous."

Here are the in-progress shots. )
shanmonster: (Zombie ShanMonster)
I got up at 6 on Saturday, stumbled out of bed, and looked out the window at a cold, wet, grey day. I put on my workout gear and had a big breakfast. Today was going to be brutal.

I was signed up for the O Course, which is a training course run by an ex-Marine drill sergeant. Today's course was a fund-raiser for young women diagnosed with breast cancer. Many of the participants were taking part as a symbolic gesture of solidarity for people going through breast cancer treatment, or in memory of those who had succumbed to it. I was participating to prove to myself I could. My own cancer surgery was just last year. I got off lucky. I wasn't sure what to expect today other than a rough go. I got that right.

My CrossFit training buddy Ahmed picked me up and we drove off to Burlington where the event was being held. The weather didn't improve. It got worse. There were times on the 401 when it felt like we should've been in a boat instead of a car. We arrived at the venue, confirmed our registration, and then sat in the car until it was time to do our warm-up. It was freezing out, and I was shivering.

Sgt. Tony mustered us up, and we took a knee while he explained what we'd be doing. The cold distracted me from what he was saying, but then we all grabbed a long block of wood and ran to the beach. The shore was a morass. Young people surrounded me. I think I was the oldest participant. I saw a lot of university students, including a team of cheerleaders decked out in matching pink hair ribbons. I overheard one say she didn't bother putting on makeup or doing her hair today.

The warm-up was a blur. The drill sergeant and his helpers barked orders, and we struggled to comply as quickly as possible. Get down into pushup position! Get up! Too slow. Get down. TOO SLOW! Get up! TOO SLOW!!! We moved faster and faster until all 60 or so of us were moving fast enough to meet his expectations, and then we did another speed drill. We carried the blocks of wood overhead and ran through the quagmire back and forth to the tree line. We backed out into the lake, wood held high overhead. Shoulders screamed from the effort of holding the stick overhead so long. Feet got stuck in the mud. People fell. People helped one another up. Shoes disappeared and were recovered with much effort. The blocks of wood never touched the water. They mustn't touch the water. KEEP IT OVERHEAD!

We rolled in the mud, belly crawled through slick brown stinking dirt with bits of grit jamming into forearms and elbows and bellies and knees. We through fistfuls of mud at one another. I never realized how many tiny plants grow in the mud until I was pressed into it for the better part of an hour.

Read more... )
shanmonster: (Liothu'a)
We cannot escape the past. Everything we touch and see is from the past. Our present is so fleeting that it has left us before we have even become aware of it. The question of who owns the past is misleading, for the past owns us. All we can do is create and imagine based upon what it gives us.

For this project, I chose to put together an assemblage art piece composed primarily of found items. I decoupaged an old spice rack with a variety of images, from alchemical symbols to palmistry diagrams to paintings and photographs. I added ribbon and aged its appearance with ink. I incorporated a collection of old bottles that I hand-coloured, giving them a more historical appearance than they'd had initially. An engraved drinking horn, a collection of handmade rose beads, a stone goblet, a turkey vulture feather, a ceramic incense burner, and a collection of papercraft and woven boxes rest atop tapestry-style fabric. I intend for the collection to look like artefacts and moments out of time which hide secrets.

Images behind the cut )
shanmonster: (Default)
When we arrived at Machu Picchu, we all had to go through yet another checkpoint. Once again, passports were checked, and [livejournal.com profile] knightky and I had to check our backpacks into storage. Unladen, I felt much lighter on my feet. David and Jesus took us around the city, showing us various temples and explaining their significance to us. Machu Picchu is made of steep stairways, so it was just as demanding to explore as the Inca Trail.

Tourists, not yet acclimatized to the altitude, were winded and moving slowly. The vast majority of visitors to Machu Picchu arrive there by train. The rest, a small minority, hike there over the Inca Trail. Our guides believe that in order to get a true sense of the enormity and import of Machu Picchu, one must follow the Inca Trail as did their ancestors. With my whole heart, I agree with this. When I bussed to the ruins in the Sacred Valley, I did not have a strong sense of the effort and hardship people faced in creating and journeying to those sites in antiquity. But by trekking through the mountain passes, creeping along handmade pathways, exerting myself to exhaustion, witnessing the effects of the journey on fellow pilgrims, experiencing the dramatic changes in temperature and environment firsthand, I had gained a far greater appreciation than before my journey. )
shanmonster: (Tiger claw)
[livejournal.com profile] knightky and I are not used to getting up at 3:30 in the morning. In the past, I've gone to bed around that time, but I can't recall ever needing to wake up at that hour. It wasn't easy for anyone. David and Jesus were as sleep-fogged as the rest of us. The camp was cold, damp, and seemed to be filled with shambling zombies. My ears were filled with a chorus of low, moaning laments. No one sounded perky--not even Lovely, who is always perky. To top it off, Kyle had developed a hard, wracking cough overnight, and I was worried.

I grabbed my flashlight and baby wipes, and headed along a dark and winding route through multiple camps to the privy. It was bad in there. Really bad. Although the floor had been relatively clean the night before, it now appeared to be strewn with freshly-turned topsoil. Since there are no shelves or handles in the stalls, I had to manage holding the flashlight and baby wipes while getting my pants down and assuming the position.

It did not go well. )
shanmonster: (Default)
Plant life along the Inca Trail is incredibly diverse. Growing conditions change according to altitude, and the Incas took advantage of this. They were master botanists, and used the terraces to do a lot of experimental gardening. This diversity is evident in the plants and trees growing along the Inca Trail.

Although Jesus told me the names of much of what I saw, even he didn't know what all of the plants are, or what they're used for.

Here are some of the many beautiful plants I saw along my journey. )
shanmonster: (Default)
We were woken by porters placing bowls of steaming water and mugs of hot coca tea outside our tent. "Gracias," I said, then peeked outside. Heavy cloud nestled not too far overhead. We'd be heading into that cloud soon enough. )
shanmonster: (Default)
When we woke up, we were on the periphery of cloud. The morning was chilly, but not nearly as cold as we'd been prepared for. The porters had placed bowls of hot, steaming water just outside everyone's tents so we could clean and warm ourselves before breakfast. When I got out of my tent, I was confronted by this intimidating beauty: )
shanmonster: (Default)
At some point in the middle of the too-short night, [livejournal.com profile] knightky woke me up in a mad terror. "UP UP UP UP UP!!!" he shouted while shaking my shoulder.

I leapt up on the verge of tachycardia, but couldn't see or hear anything strange. "What? What is it?"

"A plane!" he said. "Crashing through our window!"

"There is no plane, Kyle. Go back to sleep."


"No. There's no plane. You were dreaming."

He looked out the window, just to be sure, then went back to bed, grumbling, "But the plane. It was crashing...."

5 am rolled around far too early, and we got up and staggered around, getting ready for our big trip. Much to our sadness, there was no hot water. No matter how long we let the shower run, it remained steadfastly icy.

Grumbling, unwashed, and underslept, we dragged all our gear downstairs and stowed what we wouldn't be taking on the trail in storage. We filled our water bottles and grabbed breakfast at the hotel restaurant before taking our seats in the lobby of the hotel. It appeared no one else from our hotel would be leaving with us, as we were the only ones there.

6:30 came and went, with no sign of a bus pulling up. The ubiquitous stray dogs trotted past the doorway, tails in the air, off on important missions. As traffic picked up, so did the sound of honking. 6:45 rolled around. 7.

I was getting worried. Had we been forgotten about?

I made a phone call to our liaison at G Adventures and left a message on her answering service.

At 7:30, we still had no sign of a bus.

I was depressed. The bus had forgotten to get us. We wouldn't be able to get to the Inca Trail in time, now. All this way for nothing....

Then someone at the main desk called us over to take a phone call. It was our liaison. She was apologetic, saying there was a mix-up and our tour wouldn't actually begin until tomorrow. I was half happy and half angry: happy that we'd still get to go, but angry that we'd gotten up so early and been put through this worry for nothing. And now it was too late to schedule any other sort of trip for the day.

Kyle and I decided to get more sleep and then figure out what to do for the rest of the day.

We got our gear back out of storage, carried it back up the four infernal flights of stairs, and crashed for another couple of hours. When we woke up, we decided to explore the city.

Cusco is not a rich city, but there are shops everywhere. Though quite a few buildings are dilapidated, I don't recall seeing any vacant ones. And though the sidewalks may have holes and loose bricks, they are constantly being washed and swept by shopkeepers.

Many of the streets have themes. The street our hotel was on was the mattress street. During business hours, mattresses and bedding were pulled out into doorways and onto the sidewalks, and leaned up against the buildings. Though a bit odd to us, this was of limited interest. We kept walking. We found streets devoted to electronics, farm supplies and seed, fancy dresses, underwear, shoes, pharmacies, etc. Alleys and alcoves led to small shopping centres. We walked into one and found ourselves in a tiny mall. It had several clothing stores.

At this point, the morning's coffee had sailed through me and I needed to pee. I found a bathroom and opened the door. I paused in the doorway, undecided.

The bathroom was in poor condition. The plumbing looked questionable. None of the toilets had seats, and the room was rather dirty. While I stood there, making up my mind whether or not to go, a woman scurried across the mall toward us, shaking her head and finger. "Mamacita!" she said. "Mamacita! No. Bathroom not for you."

So, yeah. I got bounced from a mall bathroom. Apparently, they are not for public use in Cusco. Well, all right, then.

I got a creepy feeling... like someone was watching me.

I turned around and saw them, then: the mannequins of Cusco. And then we knew what we'd do that day. Kyle and I went around town taking photos of them for your amusement. Here they are, in no particular order. Even when they were brand new, they must have been creepy as fuck. )
shanmonster: (Default)
The Q'allaqasa citadel at Pisac was our next stop. Like all the sites we saw in the Sacred Valley, the citadel overlooked the Urubamba River. The river was important for more than just the water and fertile land around it. It had spiritual significance to the Incas, and was viewed as an extension of the Milky Way and the mountain peaks. )
shanmonster: (Default)
We arrived at the Prisma Hotel, our base of operations in Peru. Although the woman on the phone had told me our room would be ready when we arrived, this was not the case. We still had a couple of hours to kill, so we put our luggage in storage and decided to take a rather somnambulistic early-morning stroll down the street.

The sidewalks through the side streets of Cusco are narrow and in poor condition. Mostly, we walked single file, and we didn't dare look away from our feet often because of occasional holes, pits, and loose stones. The street wasn't particularly interesting. We passed a school and plenty of closed shops. The air was dry and dusty, and although the traffic hadn't yet picked up, the erratic honking was already in progress. Less than a block from the hotel, I was breathless and weak. Stray dogs trotted past us from time to time, off on important missions, paying us no heed. We made it about three blocks away when I said, "I think I need to go back and just sit."

Kyle nodded, and we turned back. Crossing intersections, even when the traffic isn't heavy, is still unnerving. My Canadian understanding of jaywalking and crosswalk navigation weren't doing me much good. If I treated traffic in the same fashion in Peru as I do in downtown Toronto, or even downtown Fredericton, I'm pretty sure I'd soon be squished. Crossing busy streets in Cusco feels disturbingly like live-action Frogger. It involves a fair amount of sprinting, which was extra taxing, considering our exhaustion and mild altitude sickness.

We dragged ourselves back to the hotel. I asked a hotel clerk if there was WiFi, got the password, and we slumped into chairs in the lobby and sipped on coca tea. )
shanmonster: (Default)
I did my first-ever Strongman training yesterday. I had a blast. Here are some annotated pictures of what went on. )
shanmonster: (On the stairs)
Well, gotta say, this Whole30 thing made a difference. I've lost 7.6 lbs and gained lean muscle mass all while eating like a ravenous beast and training like a crazy person.

Here are the photos to demonstrate.... )
shanmonster: (On the stairs)
I took some more photos yesterday. Here's what I look like now.... )


Jun. 12th, 2012 02:23 pm
shanmonster: (On the stairs)
I pleased myself this morning by totally rocking my workout. After doing a warmup of running 800 m and about 10 pullups (with the skinniest resistance band to help out), I managed 42 14lb 10' wall balls and 72 52lb kettlebell swings. Those swings were hard, and accompanied by much grunting the the pitter-pat of sweat raining off my face and onto the floor.

I displeased myself this afternoon by recording myself singing Star Vicino and then listening to it. My voice is so puny and reedy. I need to beef it up. Beefcake Italian singing! Beefcake!

Oh yeah, and have I mentioned that I'm a super villain in my spare time? [Photographic evidence after the cut.] )
shanmonster: (On the stairs)
My plague is leaving. Sort of.

Ends up I have a wicked ear infection, so I'm sure hoping the antibiotics kick in, pronto. My balance is off just the teensiest bit, enough to make me look like a tipsy person trying not to look tipsy, and mostly succeeding. The earache of the other night had best not make a return, or I might be pulling a Van Gogh. In the meantime, I have one seriously crappy symphony playing in my ears. The tinnitus needs some music lessons. The crackling and whistling is quite noisome.

I've had perverse cravings to do handstands, but have been resisting them on account of putting my head down throws everything off kilter and just plain feels terrible. I went in to the gym yesterday and was able to climb the ropes without any difficulty, a few low-weight squats, presses, and deadlifts, but one-legged bodyweight squats were a bit too much for my weakened lungs, and I knew it was time to pack it up and go home. I simply cannot exert myself much, right now. Bah, I say. Bah. Regardless, tomorrow is aerial silks day. If I can climb a rope, I should be able to climb the silks.

Today was terribly unproductive, but I don't mind too much. I got a huge amount of work done the other day, so I think I can bank those hours for today, so to speak.

I just put in an order for a bunch of new knee-high socks from Sock It To Me, which is the first online sock shop I've found which doesn't charge an exorbitant amount to ship to Canada. Hallelujah! Apparently, I have the reputation at my CrossFit club as the one in the funky socks. I'm ok with that. I've always liked wacky hosiery. I like wearing long socks to the gym, because they protect my calves from getting rope burn on all those rope climbs I like to do.

I took a picture today of my guns before all this inactivity has my wee muscles fall off.

[Mini gun show]
shanmonster: (Liothu'a)
I'm almost completed my teapot. Here's the B-side, as of this morning. It's in the kiln now. I just have to finish the lid and then it's done.


My next plan, since I'm still too sick to work out, is to mosey around outside picking flowers. I think I'll make something with dandelion blossoms. I found a recipe for jelly, and another for cookies.

3 2 1 GO!

May. 8th, 2012 02:46 pm
shanmonster: (On the stairs)
On Saturday I did my first-ever timed 5 km run. I'm not going to win any races. I was the slowest person who did the run by far. BUT, I am pleased. I didn't have to stop even once. I didn't even need to slow down. And at the end, I was fresh enough to put on a block-long sprint and finish in 35:51. I know now I was overly cautious in my cadence, but since it was my first time, I didn't really know how to pace myself. Lance, the CrossFit running coach, was impressed by my time, and says I should be able to shear it down to 30 minutes by October.

Here's our running group about five minutes after I finished the course. I pretty much crawled into position.

I was afraid I might run something like this camel, but apparently my form looks pretty solid.

Behind this cut lie photos.... )
shanmonster: (Default)
Hi. I haven't been here in a while. Time to fix that.

I've been been excruciatingly busy. I'm taking classical voice lessons, and am starting up with musical theory again. I'm doing much better with it than I thought, because I haven't forgotten nearly as much as I was afraid I had. I look forward to being able to sight read music again. Right now, I'm sounding melodies out slowly, kinda like learning to sight read words the Sesame Street way.

I've also been continuing with my china painting class. My painting style in this is surprising me. It's completely different from any other paintings/drawings I've done in the past. I'm currently working on a teapot. It's not done yet, but here's where it stands after about two months of work:

Read more... )

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