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Darth Yoga

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About Darth Yoga

  • Rank
    Legitimate Data Point
  • Birthday 10/28/1979

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  • Location
    Hubbardston, MA
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  1. I saw someone mentioning their foodie roommate makes dinner, who knows what is in the sauce, etc. and I immediately thought "Rich sauce? Figure around 100kcal per 1/4c." So I thought I'd post how I tally stuff like that. It is also helpful as a "sanity check" when using calorie counting websites/app with user-submitted data that can be wildly off. (Like there is no way lentils are 87kcal per cup. Dense starchy foods are around 100kcal per half cup.) I tend to estimate portion sizes most of the time, only measuring once in a while to calibrate. For years I have used the Precision Nutrition portion estimates based on hand size, and I prep meals in 2c containers so I have a good sense of what is 2c, 1c, 1/2c of food. I wanted to be able to make ballpark estimates of calorie content, without looking everything up. I don't need to know if this thing has 173kcal or 213kcal per cup, because I am not even precisely measuring 1c. But I want to know, is it roughly 200kcal? Or 50kcal? Or 400kcal? So I made a list of various types of food: raw fruit, lean meat, fatty casseroles, deep fried stuff, butter/oil, cake, pasta, etc., looked up calories per cup and sorted them into eight rough categories based on roughly how big is 100kcal. Stuff that was in between categories tended to get bumped down if I am likely to overeat it or underestimate portions, bumped up if it is a good nutritional choice, etc. For fluffy breads and cakes, imagine the size if they were squished flat. (Density makes a huge difference.) And keeping in mind this is a rough classification to be memorized, so simplicity is more important that strict accuracy. Raw greens, 8c. Popcorn, raw veggies, 4c. Cooked non-starchy veggies, 2c. Raw fruit, cooked starchy veggies, light soups, milk (1%), 1c. Beans/lentils, pasta/grains, mashed/etc starchy veg, dense bread. Lean-ish meat. Rich soups or light sauces. Dry cereal or puffy chips. 1/2c. Fatty meat & eggs. Rich sauces. Dense fatty/starchy foods (mac & cheese) or fatty/sweet foods (pudding, ice cream, cake). Deep fried things, dense chips/etc. Dried fruit & granola. 1/4c. Cheese, bacon, nuts, cream, candy/sugar/syrup, 2T. Pure fat, mayo, nut butter, 1T. Since I am used to the PN portions, I already know for instance that a palm-sized slab or generous handful is about 1/2c, and so forth, so I can visualize that this nice big slab of lasagna is roughly 3 times the size of my palm. It's a fatty starchy casserole type thing, so in that delicious 1/4c category, so it is going to be somewhere around 600kcal. Maybe it is actually 500, maybe 800? But being able to eyeball it and get some kind of rough number, no scales, no app, it really great.
  2. So, I have always had a high metabolism, and up until age 35 really had to make an effort to keep weight on. I got used to eating all the time, seriously physically hungry every few hours, etc. I just run hot, slightly overactive thyroid, etc. Then my metabolism slowed down to more normal levels, partly from age, partly from less physically demanding work, partly from doing stuff to help the thyroid issue. Eating habits didn't slow down quite enough to match metabolism, so inevitably, all my pants were too tight. I've tried various things to cut back the excess calories, lost and gained the same 5-10lb a few times. Recently, I've been trying intermittent fasting. Starting by just no snacking after dinner, and skip breakfast. And holy crap, it is fine! It was a huge shock, because all through my teens and 20s I generally needed a big snack around 10a or I'd feel like I was going to pass out between a big breakfast and a bigger lunch. I wanted to try intermittent fasting just as an experiment, because I really hate fixing food, planning food, fretting over whether I am making "good choices". I figured it'd be brutal, not at all sustainable for me, but you know, for science, lets try. It has been close to two weeks, only eating 12p-8p and I love it. I suspect it wouldn't work so well if I get back to doing a heavy physical labor job, but for my current life, it is great. I'm even finding that I am tending more towards a 4 hour eating window (roughly 4p to 8p). I know what hungry feels like, so if I am not physically hungry at noon, I'll wait until I am. Normal day has been a moderately sized "healthy" prepped meal (mostly protein & veg), then a big dinner with family (whatever someone else cooked plus extra veg), then another prepped meal later, with generous carbs unless dinner was real heavy. Plus whatever snacks, but I'm pretty stuffed with the meals, so snacks aren't super tempting. I'll sometimes have a tiny (<50kcal) snack outside of that window, but not because I am actually hungry. Working out near the end of the fasting time has been okay. For a heavy workout, I tried doing it right at the start of the eating time, after a small snack. I don't like doing anything more vigourous than a brisk walk when I have a full stomach, so the 12p-8p eating makes an evening workout inconvenient, and the 4p-8p eating makes an evening workout nearly impossible. But evening workouts are nearly always just procrastinating on my part (self-employed, flexible schedule) so I like the extra incentive to get the workout done early. I'm not really trying hard to lose weight at this point, just experimenting. I'm eating as much as I want during that window, but this definitely removes 80% of my temptation to eat junk. No late night snack time free for all. No big breakfast of carbs plus fat with extra carbs on top. No drive-through while running morning errands. I am really suprised how much easier it is for me to just not eat, compared to the stress of trying to pick healthy options, especially in sub-optimal situations. There were two snack-filled social gatherings during this past two weeks, and one family dinner of involving breaded-fried-deliciousness covered in cheese and gravy. For each of these, I included as much veg and protein as was practical, indulged in all the tasty things, enjoyed the company of family & friends, and then just didn't eat afterwards until I was actually hungry again, which was generally around 4p the next day. And for me, 98% of social meals with others are within 12p-8p, so there is no trouble there. (In the extremely unlikely event of a brunch date, I could just eat then. Maybe twice a year, no big deal.) I really see a lot of potential here. This seems like it could be really sustainable for me.
  3. I don't know if I have any useful advice, but I just want to say yeah that is rough. I've got a family history of "unhealthy relationship with food", I take a medication that (as a side effect) kills my appetite, and a variety of other things that make me frequently just not want to eat anything. I'm thin but fret over a spare handful of belly chub. I fret (in great detail) over the ecological & ethical impact of my food choices. I fret over the cost of food. etc etc. Pretty much no matter what I eat, there is a reason to feel bad about it, and if there is truly nothing about the meal I can manages to criticize myself for, then I can criticize myself for not ALWAYS eating like that. So I sympathize. But some random thoughts - - Protein shakes (especially with some added fat) frequently throughout the day is a great way to get in the needed calories when you don't want to eat. Your body needs fuel. And while living primarily off protein shakes is not the best diet, it really isn't THAT bad, especially if you are having some fresh veggies too. If a 90% liquid diet helps you feel good, not stress about food, and get on with your life, go for it! Owyn makes meal replacement shakes too, which are probably more balanced if they are your primary food source. - A vegan diet is going to generally be higher carb than an omnivorous diet, or it'll be much lower protein. Unless you rely exclusively on protein powders, the vegetable proteins are carby. But carbs, fat, protein is all good fuel. If you don't want to eat much fat, and you don't want to eat much carbs, and you don't want to eat animal protein.... Well, that leaves you with vegan protein shakes, and salads/etc. Which like I said, isn't a bad diet if that is what works best for you. - It is really, really easy to get a distorted body image with a negative upbringing like that. At 5'7" and 125, there is no way you have an unhealthy amount of fat, even if you had very low muscle mass, which you don't. So it is just about how you want to look. But with a distorted body image, you could probably get into single-digit body fat and still not feel like you are "thin enough". Losing significantly more fat is likely to make you LESS physically healthy, and emotionally it is a downward spiral. It is fine to want to be thinner than some arbitrary "optimal healthy weight", but it is likely it won't actually help you feel any better about your body. - Spending long periods under-eating and/or on variously restricted diets can mess with your digestion. Stressing about what you eat pretty much always messes with your digestion. When you are already set to see foods as "bad", it is real easy to blame any slightly off feeling on this food or that food, and the list of "bad" foods gets longer and longer. Plus, if you get used to the light, empty feeling from periods of fasting, eating pretty much any significant quantity of solid food can leave you feeling "bloated"/etc, but it is likely just in comparison to fasting, not a problem with the type of food. It is also really easy to blame certain foods because you always see articles about them, when maybe you actually have a problem with some weird filler or preservative or something like sodium alginate, that happens to be in a lot of different stuff. Or some super common food that almost no one is allergic/sensitive to. (I have a friend who has a serious problem with onions. Took him FOREVER to figure out what was giving him such digestive problems, even after he'd cut out all of the common allergens.) A medical evaluation for food intolerances might help you sort it out, put your symptoms in perspective, pare down the list. - Fitbits really have no clue how many calories you are burning. I wouldn't take any numbers it gives you too seriously. 30m vigorous exercise plus 30m of more moderate activity, at 125lb, is likely around 500kcal above BMR? Two miles brisk walking, maybe another 150kcal? But any numbers like that are all just broad estimates. How many calories a person actual burns per day depends on a ton of factors. - Gaining more muscle can do a lot to shift your body image. You might try swapping the HIIT for some strength training? It can help shift your perspective from seeing your body as something to be judged based on its appearance, to seeing your body as something powerful that can do stuff. And the same quantity of body fat looks totally different on a more muscular frame. - If weightlifting isn't your jam, some kind of skill-based physical activity? Sport, dance, martial art, whatever. Moving the focus away from "How many calories am I burning?" to "Check out this cool thing I can do!" or "Yay! This is fun!" (Just not something where they are even more obsessed with weight/food/etc than you already are.) - For anyone with an "unhealthy relationship with food" finding SOMETHING ELSE to occupy your attention, something else to pit your will-power against, something else to take pride in, something else to define your success by, etc, can make a huge difference. Even if the something else has nothing to do with your body or food. Especially if it has nothing to do with your body or food. There is often this element of "Food is the only thing I can control, and I know how to control it, so I'm going to control it." and even the anxieties are old, familiar, comfortable anxieties, the anxieties you grew up with. For "food issues" that aren't all the way into the "eating disorder" range, just having that other focus can change food/weight/etc from a full-time preoccupation to a fairly trivial neurosis.
  4. First off, you don't have to be hungry to eat, just like you don't have to eat just because you are hungry. When you are trying to change your body composition, or if your body's hunger-cues are out of whack, you've just got to try to give your body the appropriate amount of fuel, not rely on hunger as the cue to eat. If you are struggling to get yourself to eat because you aren't hungry, there is a fair amount of advice in this thread for that. But you don't have to be hungry to put food in your mouth and swallow it. Just like exercise, sometimes your body or mind says "Ugh, yuck, I don't want any." And you've just got to tell yourself, "That's okay. You don't have to want to. You just have to do it." Some people do poorly on a keto diet, and MANY people feel like trash for a few days (or weeks) (or months) until their body adapts to it. If you know you don't have a good relationship with food, AND you don't have much appetite, a keto diet is almost certain to make both of those things worse. One of the big "selling points" of the keto diet is that without tasty carbs to stimulate the appetite, you aren't as inclined to overeat. It removes a lot of tasty foods. Also, many people don't digest large amounts of fat very well, and protein is also harder to digest than carbs. If you are having constipation, or little rabbit pellet poops, eat more carbs and more fiber. If you are having loose greasy floating poops, you are not digesting much of the fat you eat, so you might as well not be eating it. If you've got food issues, it may be your food issues are telling you all sorts of foods are bad, for all sorts of reasons. I've got all sorts of food issues, and low appetite for various physical reasons. A restrictive diet, declaring a huge range of foods forbidden, is one way for someone with food issues to justify their issues. Not that everyone on a restrictive diet has food issues, but most folks with food issues find it really comforting and validating to be assured that THESE foods are the BAD FOODS, and so long as you don't eat the BAD FOODS you are okay. But all sorts of foods can be part of a healthy diet, in proper proportion. If you are underweight, not hungry, not eating, carbs are your friend. I'd suggest you seriously consider whether a keto diet is the right choice for you. And even if you have a lot of excess body fat, your body clearly isn't burning that fat efficiently if you are floppy and exhausted. It is on low-battery energy saving mode. If you can manage to get more calories into you, you can feel better, move more, and wind up burning more fat in the end. Stress and anxiety, over food issues or over life or whatever, also can kill the appetite, make you feel nauseous when you eat, make your digestion sluggish, etc. Also, there are a bunch of things that could be going on with your digestive system, hormones, thyroid, etc, that can mess with your appetite, make you feel full, etc.
  5. FINAL UPDATE Well, all sorts of shit fell off my plate this time. The past few weeks have been pretty rough, but I am getting it back together. But in the interests of completion, lets look at what I had intended for this challenge. 1. Nope. Did it a few times, but have barely even walked the dog. 2. Camping gear is 75% sorted. I've got a light weight summer hammock-cozy. I didn't buy the insulation yet for a summer-weight quilt, but I can use my regular one. I still haven't decided if I should use the lighter pack, which fits all my gear but is really sized for someone much shorter than me, or the enormous pack which is more than twice as heavy but has adult-sized straps. I can just barely adjust the straps on the smaller pack to fit me, but need at least one short hike, like a mile or so with all my gear in it, before I am willing to switch 3. Test run COMPLETED! That was super helpful, and I am feeling pretty good about heading out. 4. Scheduling got hectic, but I have a firm plan to head out this Friday, through next Monday. North along the Midstate trail, basically as far as I get. I've got a rough idea of what miles I think I can cover, but I'm going to take it easy and enjoy it, and not push hard. Nope. Not even close. Maybe once a week? Nope. I haven't kept a careful tally, but maybe half-credit for doing some of my workouts. I'm getting back into the routine of it, but I took a fair amount of time off. Oh man, not even close. Maybe three times a week I had something with a vegetable. So, this went poorly, but okay. We get back up and try again.
  6. WEEKEND ADVENTURE - Colonial Camping! My family spent the weekend at the Military History Expo in Orange, MA. In addition to a wide variety of tanks, planes, and artillery on display, they had gotten a bunch of groups together to depict military encampments from different time periods. The WWI group had a huge setup with trenches and all that. Smaller displays for Vietnam and WWII. A whole lot of civil war folks. They did a variety of presentations and mock battles. Our little group does early revolutionary war, the militia from our town in Hubbardston, MA, around 1775. Some of us are interested in the military history aspect of it, others are more interested in other aspects of what life was like in that time period. (My partner is our "doctor" and has a display of medical equipment. One of the ladies researches period food and cooks for us.) A lot of the guys are just fascinated by black-powder guns, and want an excuse to get together and shoot the flintlock muskets. Despite it being rainy the whole weekend, it went well! It is NOTHING like modern backpacking, of course. You've got cast-iron pots, huge canvas tents, tables, chairs, and even a few wooden-framed rope beds. It is SO MUCH gear. But I spent three nights in the "field hospital", which was a large canvas fly (so just a roof, not a tent with sides) in the hospital rope bed, which aside from being too short for me, was more comfortable than my bed at home. The rain wasn't heavy, just a steady drizzle for most of the weekend, and our tents held up well. Cold and wet weather is easier to deal with in that clothing than hot weather. The clothes are fairly light linen, but SO MANY LAYERS. But I did a huge amount of walking and hauling stuff around, and was so exhausted by the end of it. Today the only thing on the agenda is putting away the last of the gear, and doing laundry. Best thing about it though was meeting the "Bloody Historical" team, who do professional historical presentations on pirates and various other themes. They were really impressive!
  7. LAST WEEK'S UPDATE! (which for some reason didn't post before) Mostly I've been super busy with other stuff. The only progress at all related to hiking was gear related. I rigged up a light mylarized foam pad for summer-weight underneath-insulation for my hammock, which functioned quite well during testing. I'd really like a lighter sleeping bag/quilt, but I am a little reluctant to spend too much more money right now. I did pick up some heavy-ish ripstop nylon (maybe 2.4oz?) from the "everything is $3/yd" discount fabric store, that I'd like to make into a lighter pack. The pack I have is huge, and more than 4.5lb, which is a little ridiculous given the rest of my camping gear (not including food, water, and clothes) weighs barely 12lb total, with 30F insulation. I did barbell workouts three times last week - wow, it helps my mood SO MUCH. I've dealt with chemical depression for most of my adult life, and light exercise doesn't seem to make much difference, but heavy lifting is the best drugs I've ever been on. I occasionally look up info on energy systems and glycolytic pathways and ADP-PC, etc etc. because the effect is really specific, but I really have no idea. Heavy compound lifts, generally around 5 reps, with generous (2-3 minute) rests between sets. If I stray too far from that, I don't get much of the antidepressant effect. Minimum effective dose seems to be about half an hour. Also - shoe update: The new shoes are SUPER COMFY but kind of sweaty. They are made of something like neoprene, and not very breathable. I've removed the tongue, which helps some. I've also drastically modified my Xero shoes sandals. They are intended to be laced like huaraches, with a single lace secured to the sole at three points, but none of the tying methods I tried really felt secure enough to me for even light trail running. Not that they were going to fall off, but even tightly laced, they had too much play side-to-side. Especially when wet, stepping sideways on uneven surfaces. So I punched some additional holes in the soles and played around with different methods of lacing, eventually settling on this. I wound up stitching loops rather than just lacing and tying, to avoid knots in awkward places that dig into my feet and ankles when sitting or kneeling on hard surfaces. I'd still prefer something with a closed toe, primarily to avoid catching the front flap of sole on small obstacles, but also for a little protection when kicking things. Something covering the heel would also be nice. Really, I wish Xero made something between their sneakers and sandals, but they are either full coverage or nothing. I suppose I will eventually make something.
  8. SIDE QUEST - The Search for Summer Shoes. I am SUPER fussy about shoes. Basically, I don't like wearing shoes, and want to wear the least possible shoe I can reasonably manage. For my test hike I wore cheap water shoes, which is what I generally have been wearing for shorter hikes, and I'd say the soles would last less than 25 miles of solid hiking on that type of terrain, before wearing through. So I was in search of a replacement. Something super lightweight, with a thin flexible sole. Something that protects my feet from abrasion and such, but doesn't interfere with the free movement of my foot. Something that gives reasonable traction when maneuvering quickly on irregular surfaces, and isn't going to flop around or slip off my foot. Something that doesn't have buckles or toggles or knots in places that make it brutally uncomfortable for me to sit cross legged or on my heels on a hard floor. And for summer, something that I can wade through mucky puddles in, that will be comfortable to wear wet, and dry quickly. Ideally, I'd want some type of closed toe sandal, but a well-ventilated shoe would work. If I was willing/able to spend $100+ I would have a variety of options in minimalist footwear. But for now, I'm trying these, which I found on sale for $25: These are actually really close to ideal. I am suspicious of their durability, but the soles feel like a much tougher rubber than the cheap water shoes. They are extremely comfortable. If they last the summer, I will be thrilled with them. In fact, if they hold up well on my next test hike, I will be tempted to go buy two more pairs. Even if $100 shoes were more than 4x as durable, I'm reluctant to wade through swamps in $100 shoes. Cheaper shoes, by the time they start falling apart, usually they smell so bad you are glad to get rid of them. If not for the swamp-funk, I'd seriously considering saving up for these: https://xeroshoes.com/shop/terraflex/terraflex-men/ Not sure how fast-drying they are... But they are available from Amazon Prime with free returns.... I don't know. Possibly, at some point.
  9. On the other hand - I have NOT been eating healthy adult meals at all this past week, and I think I went to the gym once. I did go to the gym, for a short workout, yesterday, and I shouldn't have trouble getting back into that. For food, I might just try to make less-bad choices. We'll see.
  10. FIRST MISSION COMPLETED! I did my 1.5 day test-hike last Tuesday. Very successful. OBJECTIVE #1 - CALIBRATE MILEAGE I successfully established that the first day was significantly too much. the first day was a five miles of fairly flat hiking through the Audubon sanctuary, and then a steady ascent up Mt Wachusett in the late morning (about 1000ft total elevation gain over 2 miles) and decent in the afternoon. That was all fine. The next flat-ish stretch gets me to Redemption Rock, which would have been a good spot to camp. Next time, I'll stop there, but at the time I was still feeling pretty fresh and had hours of daylight left. The next bit is Crow Hills, which is not an easy hike to hit late in the day. The terrain is a lot more difficult. So I found a spot to camp prior to getting to the peak. But I definitely overdid it. Getting over Crow Hill the next morning was really difficult, and I tweaked my left knee a little on the descent. I'm still only 95% recovered, a week later. (Getting older really sucks.) So I'd say a good ballpark figure for me currently, with a 30lb pack, over this terrain, is to not plan to go much beyond 10 miles and 1500ft elevation gain per day. At that pace, a four-day trip would take me to the NH border, and a 7 day trip to Mt Monadnock. But I'll try to get in some more day hies on Mt Wachusett, with a 30lb pack, to see if I can up my endurance a little. Also I'd like to try and get the pack weight down closer to 20lb, without the cold-weather gear. OBJECTIVE #2 - TEST GEAR I had two gear problems - one was that I accidentally left my hammock suspension straps at home. That was stupid, but that is why I always bring extra rope. The other was that I brought clothes for cold & wet, but did NOT bring anything for 80 degree weather. Wow. I was not expecting that at all. But even without it being THAT hot, I still would have at least wanted a summer-weight long-sleeved shirt. I also determined that I will need more durable shoes. My water shoes were super comfy to hike in, and have great grip on rocks and uneven terrain. I have fairly tough feet, and really dislike most shoes, so I don't want support or even much padding. Just a thin grippy sole to protect my feet from serious abrasion and stabbing, ideally extending up over the toes. Initially my only complaint with the water shoes was that I might want more ventilation on the top of the foot, which would be an easy modification. But by the end of the day, I noticed that there was substantial wear on the soles. Another day or two hiking like that and they'd wear right through and fall apart. Damn. So back to the drawing board there. Also, I decided to order a cheap set of hiking poles - collapsible ones I can stuff into my pack. At this point I only see the need for one pole, and just for stream crossings, seriously uneven terrain, and steep descents. But the pair was only a little more than buying one, so I figure MAYBE I'd want two at some point, or my partner can use one. Biggest gear surprise was that I'm tempted to just bring a bivy on the next test hike. My hammock setup is super comfy but not great for stealth camping, and by the time I stopped I just wanted to lay down ANYWHERE.
  11. Ear flaps would be adorable, but no. It could be just a smidge longer, but if I pull it down it covers my ears, and the brim is a doubled thickness. My normal daily wear sleep hat is the most awesome ever, floppy hat with pompoms (thanks @Odonate!) Words cannot do it justice. I'll have to get a picture of it later. In other clothing-related news - I'm accumulating a good supply of hand-me-down and thrift store clothing for camping. The last serious gap was lightweight (fast-drying) cargo pants, and I'd been regularly checking thrift stores with no success. But my housemate is very fond of that type of pants, and just a smidge bigger than me, so I asked if she had a pair she'd outgrown. Yes, she did! They are a little big, but that is better than a little small. They are the zip-off convertible to shorts type. I also found at the thrift store yesterday a nice "weather resistant" shell, of some expensive outdoor clothing brand, for $4. Yay! I might modify it to be a full zip up the front, instead of just a short zip, but for now it is fine. And picked up a pair of comfy lightweight swim trunks for warmer weather. Also as it is getting on into spring, the Walmart had poly/wool longjohns in the clearance bin. Still a little pricey for me ($7 each) but good to have. And black, which is nice, because my others are white and seriously scungy looking. I could still use better rain gear, and light wool socks, but I am definitely ready for my test hike this Tuesday. Weather reports look good! Super excited!
  12. Also, in tangentially camping gear related news - Because we are nerds, my family does historical reenactment. German renaissance (SCA) and also revolutionary war reenactment (so that is 1776, an approximation of the militia group from our town). The Rev War group is participating in a big military history event next month, setting up period encampments. My partner is the company doctor, and I am his assistant, so I have been "volun-told" to stay overnight in the medical tent to make sure no one walks off with the gear. Oh man, it is the opposite of backpacking in every way. This is camping for someone with a (theoretical) horse cart and servants. Don't actually have the horse and cart, but damn, we would need one. HUGE canvas tent, wooden chests of gear, and a wood-framed rope bed. Cast iron cookware. Not everyone is camping out, and many of them are bringing modern camp trailers/etc that will be parked a discreet distance away, but I figured since we want to have period-appropriate kit for display purposes anyway, I might as well use it! So I've been assembling the various odds and ends I'd need for that. Yesterday I made a vaguely period-appropriate wool hat to wear to bed. An approximation of a "Monmouth cap", in undyed wool. The instructions for the decreases confused me, so they don't line up right, but no one but another knitter would ever notice. It ought to be lightly felted, but I've never done felting and didn't want to try to figure out how to do that or how much it would shrink. Besides this yarn (lopi) is so fuzzy it nearly felts just by wearing it. Anyway, these are not strictly authentic historical reenactment groups. The militia is what they call a "10 foot rule" group - if it looks mostly okay from 10 feet away, it is fine.
  13. Yesterday's project: Replacement top-lid for the big backpack that had lost its original. (Fairly weathertight bag, except the big drawstring hole at the top!) Single zippered pocket, buckles to match what was on the bag (scavenged off the hip belt and shoulder straps of an exernal frame pack, that were so stiff with age they were like solid plastic, and also from a random gear strap). Material is a tent fly from a long-dead tent. This was partly just a practical project - I want to use the bag - but also an experiment to see if I want to make my own pack at some point. This bag is just a beast - far too large for my needs, and more than 4.5lb. Results of that experiment were that yes, I probably will make a bag eventually, but (1) I want to wait to see what I like and dislike about this bag and (2) my sewing is far too wonky to bother planning with too much precision. So no rush on that. Next gear project should be improved sleeping insulation. I'm in a hammock, so that is a quilt with a little foot-box sewn in, and an "underquilt" - sort of a hammock cozy to keep your underside warm. A sleeping bag pressed flat between you and a thin nylon hammock provides almost no warmth, so you want to strap the insulation to the outside of the hammock instead. With decent materials ($50) I should be able to replace my current 4.2lb set (sewn out of old sleeping bag & ikea blanket) with something closer to 2lb. For both cost and weight (& bulk) I've been trying out combining ~40F conventional (synthetic) insulation, with vapor barrier & reflective material, and it keeps me snuggly warm to 30F. I'll explore going lower next winter. I've been trying out various ideas for ground sleeping - but, ugh, I find the hammock so comfy I often sleep in one at home, so any reasonably cheap & light sleeping pad is just so vastly inferior. Every experiment has ended with "screw this, I want my hammock". So I'll worry about that if and when I ever camp somewhere besides New England forests that are so ideally suited to hammocking.
  14. Yoga nidra does put you in an altered state of consciousness, so it is kind of like trying to meditate while on drugs. But it is essentially the same process, whether it is mundane thoughts of your to-do list, or fidgeting, or psychedelic unicorns, or visions of the celestial masters. You observe your attention has left your focus, you breathe, and you bring it back. There are other guided meditation type techniques that involve engaging with the experiences one has in that weird dream-like trance state, following them and seeing where they go, but yoga nidra generally you tune that stuff out and focus on what you are focusing on. You can try some other time actually having your intention as getting into that dream-like state and running off with the psychedelic unicorns (or whatever) for a while.
  15. My guess would be that you can only stay focused for so long, and then you start drifting into more of a dream-like unfocused state. Yoga nidra requires relaxing into a receptive state, and maintaining focus. You don't seem to have a problem relaxing into a receptive state, so you just work on maintaining focus. Do you have a meditation practice? Any of the types of meditation that have you focus on a given thing will help develop that skill. Just that process of sitting and focusing on a thing, on your breath, on a picture, on a word, whatever, and when your attention starts to wander, bring it back. Don't fight it, or create mental tension, just persistently redirect your attention to the object of focus. This is a book on Yoga Nidra, by the teacher who developed the modern practice: https://archive.org/details/YogaNidra_201610
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