November 2011


Improving your posture is not an easy task once your body becomes set in its ways. The obvious reason is that your joints lose their range of motion, your muscles become long in the wrong places and short in the wrong places, and everything gets tight. In my case, for example, the ribs and thoracic spinal joints do not move as freely as they should, and especially the upper thoracic spine is habitually curved forward. This places my head too far forward, placing strain on the whole axial system. This is not easy to reverse at my age, and I have been spending just over two hours a day at it for more than six months. (See here and here for more.) I am prepared to work on it for several more years, if necessary. I plan to live at least into my 90s and want to have a strong, flexible, pain free body for as long as possible.

One less obvious way that improving your posture is not an easy task is that habitual body position seems to be activity-specific. I am pretty good and improving at good posture while standing, sitting, and walking, for example, but only while doing extremely simple versions of those activities. Sitting in my truck, driving straight on the highway, it’s easy to have good posture as long as I am thinking about it. Making a right turn, however, is a completely different deal, for two reasons. First, the attention that I use to remember posture tends to be taken up by the brain activity of making the turn. Second, it seems that my body has a way of making a right turn that is a gestalt: what I am looking at and for, what I am thinking about, how I move, and the position of my entire body is molded by the pattern and memory of 24 years of right-turn making.

So unravelling that and making right turns with good posture takes some doing. And that leaves left turns pretty much untouched, not to mention playing guitar, having an emotional conversation, or leading an underarm pass while partner dancing.

I was cutting up big pieces of plywood today, using a table saw. I tried to figure out how to do this series of motions while keeping my body in good alignment. I wished that I could have a construction-slash-posture coach there, helping me out. Then I started fantasizing about people who use table saws for a living getting trained like that. I have worked on construction crews, and if you are lucky you get trained how not to cut off your fingers, but you never get trained how not to have a painful back in ten or twenty years. If it was successful, I bet the extra cost would be more than made up for by the reduction in worker’s comp claims.

On the other hand, it might not be successful. When I was first learning to dance, my teacher, Karly, spent some time emphasizing the importance of posture and moving my body into good posture. “Remember this,” she said. “This is what good posture feels like when you are dancing.” The problem was, I did not keep doing it. I think maybe I couldn’t. It was too much to think about at the same time–the feel of leading, the moves I was trying to lead, and posture. It was overwhelming. For that to have worked, I think I would have needed Karly to insist on perfect posture and never moving on before I could lead each move with perfect posture. That would have been very slow. On the other hand, I am going to have to do all of that work anyway, so that I can dance without hurting my body. That is my next project with dancing–start over, re-learning the simplest moves with perfect posture.

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Here are some photos from my move with Reanna to California:

Joe, Nathen, and Layer 1 in U-Haul

Layer 2 in U-Haul

Layer 3 in U-Haul

Layer 5 in U-Haul

Reanna on U-Haul at Rest Stop

Just Another Trailer

Lauri & Ev's Apple Cider

Reanna Makes Lunch

Reanna (Tiny), Sign (Huge)

Caswell State Recreation Area

Nathen, Stanislaus River

Nathen, Bedhead, $6 Sunglasses

U-Haul Trailer Tire, Blown Out (Rim Behind Tire is Cracked)

Reanna, Tumbleweed Pom-Poms

Welcome Display by Mom

Reanna Meets Oliver

Reanna Plays With Oliver

Reanna and I just moved from Eugene, OR, to Joshua Tree, CA for $693.79. Our boxes were free, mostly from the Oakway Nike outlet dumpster. Our labor was free, mostly our own, plus a couple friends at key moments. We paid $218 for our 5×8 U-Haul trailer ($170 for seven days, plus $48 for trailer-plus-$5k insurance). Our U-Haul guy threw in an extra day (which we used) and a bag of packing blankets (which we used a few of).

We paid $70.71 for food. We ate at Casa Ramos in Corning for $22.76 and bought a date milkshake for $4.95 at Charlie Brown Farms in Littlerock, CA. The rest was for groceries.

We paid $126.99 for lodging. We stayed for free with my cousins Tom & Megan in Ashland the first night. We planned to stay at campgrounds the other three nights but that didn’t work out very well. We could’t find the first one before it got dark, so we stayed at the Economy Inn in Corning for $44. (We liked that room. Reanna liked the cinderblock construction and bathroom layout enough to take photos. The advertised pool, however, had clearly been out of commission for a long time.) We did camp on the third night, at Caswell State Recreation Area, for $30. It was very pretty there. A tiny remnant of central CA old growth forest. If you go, spend some time choosing your campsite. Some are adequate and some are really nice, right on the river.) Our fourth night of camping was undone by a blowout on our trailer. We spent three hours huddled in the dust between the I-5 and an almond orchard just south of Coalinga, while U-Haul and Billingsley tires figured out where we were, that the rim was cracked, and just what size of wheel we needed. We sprung for a motel that night, as we were pretty sure some of that dust was pesticide. We’d seen a crop duster flying over the almond orchards a few minutes north. It was worth the $52.99 just for the shower at the Econo Lodge Inn in Buttonwillow. (Though the wifi was terrible and the advertised pool was covered in some kind of scum.)

The biggest expense was gasoline: $278.09 for 72 gallons for the 1,112 mile trip. That’s only 15.44 miles per gallon, but not bad to move that much weight–6,900 pounds, including me and Reanna.

I also bought new tires before the trip ($310 on sale at Wal-Mart) but I am not counting that as a moving expense since I needed them anyway–my old tires were in OK shape for occasional town driving but ten years old with well over 100,000 miles on them.

So our total was $693.79, which is my most expensive move by far, but pretty good, I guess, for moving 40 years worth of possessions over a thousand miles.