September 2011


I’ve been working seriously on changing my posture for the last six months. I’ve been seeing a chiropractor, a massage therapist, and a physical therapist. On normal days I do about two hours of stretching and strengthening exercises–postural reprogramming stuff that they have assigned. On super busy days I do about an hour’s worth.

I’m strengthening the muscles that hold my shoulders and head back and up. I’m lengthening the muscles that pull them down and forward. I’m decreasing the exaggerated curvature in my thoracic spine (called kyphosis), especially focusing on the top few thoracic vertebrae. I’m increasing the twisting range of motion in my thoracic spine and ribs. I’m learning to relax muscles in my legs and butt, back and shoulder blades. I’m learning how to sit differently, stand differently, sleep differently, and especially walk differently. I have an alarm set to remind me about posture every 20 minutes that I’m awake.

The thing is, I’m almost 40 and I don’t have kids yet. I need my body to stay fit for at least another 20 years, and preferably more like 50 more. But nearly three years ago I started having some serious pain in my body–after 37 years of being as athletic as I pleased, I was suddenly limited in how much I could run, lift, swim, and sometimes even walk. One year I could go to a Lindy Hop event and dance all day and all night, and the next I had maybe two hours, maybe 15 minutes in me. Unacceptable.

And it turns out it’s because of my posture. Joints, muscles, and their connections do not work properly if not in the optimal relative position to each other. The habitual position of my joints had put enough strain on my body that I started having intense pain.

My chiropractor once told me, “You are the most compliant patient I’ve ever had.” My PT and massage therapist have said similar things. That is exactly what I’m aiming at–the most compliant patient. I do not just show up. I do not intend to waste my money or my life getting care and then not following through with the recommendations of my providers. If you tell me not to ride my bike for 3 months, I start walking or taking the bus. If you show me how to walk differently, I will walk differently. If you tell me to do 45 reps of some new, super-awkward exercise every day for the foreseeable future, I will do it. I am your perfect patient. I do it because I’m hoping you know what will help. I want to make you look brilliant. And I do it because if, after a couple of months, what you do and have me do has not helped noticeably, I will find someone else to work with, because I have tried you and your ideas out to the letter.

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I had my hearing tested at a NAMM show a few years ago and the technician said they’d never seen a drummer with such good hearing. I believe this is because I’ve followed the advice given my 12 years ago by Josh Hecht, the man who taught me sound engineering and record production. Here is a paraphrase of it:

Your current ability to hear is a precious resource, especially if you intend to make your living using your ears, but even if you don’t.

The damage done to your ears by very loud or loud and sustained sounds, essentially a matting of the hairlike receptors in your inner ear, is cumulative and irreversible. The technology to make up for hearing loss is not adequate for someone who really values high quality hearing, and that is very likely to remain the case until after you are dead.

Therefore, it is in your best interest to protect your ears.

Are you embarrassed to plug your ears when an ambulance goes by or when your jet lands? Get over it. Your ears are way more important than your appearing tough or cool. If those sounds do not seem that loud to you, you probably already have some hearing loss. A tolerance for loud sounds is like a tolerance for alcohol–not a good sign. For some reason we think it’s cool when we’re young, but neither deafness or alcoholism are cool in the slightest.

If you need or want to be in places with loud sounds, wear earplugs. Carry them with you on your keychain. If your situation is very loud or very extended, try 30 dB logger’s earmuffs over 30 dB foam earplugs–both quite cheap and the combination is quite effective. If you want to listen to music in a loud place like a flight, try in-ear headphones* with logger earmuffs on top.

If you want or need to be in places with loud sounds like concerts or band practice, where hearing those sounds accurately is important, invest in some high quality earplugs. A couple of hundred dollars is nothing for a lifetime of good hearing.

*Be very careful with headphones. Loud sounds less than an inch from your eardrums are very dangerous. If you are in charge of your or someone else’s headphone volume, turn the volume all the way down, then put the phones on, then turn up, slowly, until they are loud enough. Never pull a plug on phones that are on ears. If you wear headphones a lot, try your normal volume (carefully!) on a young person with undamaged ears. If they say it is too loud, you probably have hearing loss.

On my stats page I get a list of “referrers”–websites that have supposedly sent someone to NME with a link. Off an on I get waves of what appears to be a strange kind of spam–websites show up that are clearly not linked or affiliated with me in any way. It’s slightly annoying but more perplexing. I am the only audience here, not my readers, because this stuff is only accessible to me. Does someone actually think that I am going to go buy their stuff because they sent a robot to make it look like a person came to my site from theirs? I guess it’s like email-spam, and they are relying on spamming huge numbers of people to get a few suckers, but is it really worth it to write these spam programs for a few suckers?

"Referrers" to NME from a bad day last fall

For the first time in my life, I have the perfect bike for me. It was built by Michael, the owner of Klink Cycles in Eugene, to my specifications, out of used parts when possible, for $250. It looks goofy but it feels great–I finally decided to get completely over aesthetics and go for ergonomics when it comes to my primary form of transportation. Bicycles have been hurting my posture for too long.

My specs:

Frame/wheels/tires OK for Eugene streets and Joshua Tree dirt roads.

A low top tube for easy stepping over, to accommodate recent back and hip limitations.

A shock absorbing seat post for butt, pelvis, and low-back comfort.

A “sweet cheeks” seat with no crotch and no nose for crotch comfort.

A tall handlebar stem for upright posture.

Handlebars with a certain amount of curve and flat-palm grips for hand wrist and hand comfort.

Michael spent a couple of hours with me, tweaking and changing out parts, then having me ride around until I found a complaint, then re-tweaking. He was amazing and this bike is amazing.

Campers at NBTSC threw me and Reanna a little engagement party, along with the other engaged couple at camp, Sean and MJ. It was very sweet. I cried. They made us blackberry cheesecake with freshly picked berries and gave us a standing ovation with hearts. Thanks guys!

(If you want to see the hearts and faces better, Mom, zoom in with ctrl+.)

For the last seven years, I’ve led a music project at session 2 of Not Back to School Camp. It’s always fun–a group of musicians of all skill levels and a broad range of instruments get together for the first time, learn to play as a band, write a piece of music, and play it for the rest of camp. In the past, we’ve had 10 hours to accomplish this task. This year, we had 6. Here is our performance:

I am on staff at Not Back to School Camp for my 13th year, this year, from mid-August to early October. These are the roles I’m filling:

Advisor: Each session I meet daily with a group of about 10 campers each morning for an emotional and physical well-being check-in. We practice listening to each other and get to know each other quite well during the session, so that by the end we feel close, like a little family unit at camp.

Project leader: At the second Oregon session this year I led two projects. In the Music Project, we had camper musicians of all skill levels, playing violin, banjo, melodica, harp, ukulele, electric and several acoustic guitars. In six hours over the course of three days, we learned to play together as a band, wrote a song, and then performed it for the camp. In a project called On Becoming a Man, I led a group of six young men in a two-day discussion of the difference between being a boy and being a man, how each of us related to those roles, and what we thought would be the ideal elements of a ritual induction into manhood for each of us.

Workshop leader: I am leading five workshops at each session of camp. They are hour-long presentations open to anyone who is interested. In “On Trauma and Healing” I present the modern understanding of psychological trauma and what it takes to heal. In “A Theory of Everything,” I present an overview of Ken Wilber’s integral philosophy. In “Family Maps” I teach campers how to make what family therapists call a genogram, showing their entire family and the relationships between each member. In “Partner Dancing,” I teach the basics of how to dance with another person, regardless of the music being played. In “The Human Bowel Movement,” I teach the physiology of bowel movements, complete with a tour of the digestive tract, using a full-length, stretched-out drawing of one, and diagrams of each stage of the bowel movement.

Staff therapist: I am available as a therapist to any of the campers who are looking for that kind of support. I use a humanistic, strengths-based, systemic approach, emphasizing relationships, self-care, and the power of honest communication.

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