2013 Hiking review – in VIDEO.

As I spend more time hiking up the road to nowhere on my Dreadmill, usually listening to music and trying not to have a stroke, I occasionally like to look at videos online and movies that other people have made. Mostly I look at recordings of Dash Berlin concerts, because the flashing lights and fast paced music keep me entertained enough so I don’t just say “screw this shit” and give up.

But sometimes, I like looking at videos and such that help inspire me where getting in shape is concerned. One of those is National Geographic’s “Appalachian Trail”. Its a good 50 minute movie, if you’ve never seen it. It has some filler material that I skip over that I really could care less about, but all in all it’s worth about 30 minutes worth of Dreadmill time.

A week or two ago when I was pulling my hair out making movies on iMovie I figured putting my own hiking video together was a worthwhile effort. Then, if I was bored on the Dreadmill (and who isn’t when your alternative is staring at the wall in front of you for 30 minutes counting the steps until you can get off the bloody thing), I could watch a video of ME, and look at some of the fun hiking things I have done.



I put together a few. My first was pretty bad, I barely knew how to run the program, and just maybe the soundtrack wasn’t the best choice for walking through the woods. The second was better but not really long enough, even though I did a few longer hikes, I really didn’t hike overall as much as I did in 2013.

I finally stumbled through iMovie and made a 2013 video. That felt like an accomplishment. A good length (12 minutes!), and a decent soundtrack (you really can’t go wrong with John Williams), and just enough space on my Vimeo account. Who could ask for more?

So, if you want to watch, here it is.



Mother of the Year award…

So I’m doing my weekly penance today, serving my weekend time by going shopping at Wal-Mart. After all, I have to keep the 11 and 12 year old sweat shop kids in Mongolia well fed and working, right?

So – I’m shopping for crap and since no two wal-marts are set up the same way, I’m basically wandering confused from aisle to aisle looking for a bottle of Rit dye. I get the following picture, which reinforced my views that humanity is heading down a deep dark hole from whence it shall not return:



Showing up at Wal-Mart at lunch in your too-short frayed superman pajamas just shows that you’ve pretty much given up on working hard at doing anything. I’ll bet anything last night’s dishes are still in the sink (or the take out boxes are still on the coffee table).

While I was wandering around and chuckling happily to myself for getting a photo that peopleofwalmart.com would be proud of, I hear a woman yelling at someone. Pajamas AND domestic abuse you say? Its the Wal-Mart blue-plate special. Now all we need are some cops dragging someone out in handcuffs and we’ll have the trifecta.

But no, as I snuck closer to listen, I hear a woman yelling at her teenage daughter. Yes, I wandered by the end of the aisle to see, still looking for the elusive Rit Dye. The conversation is relatively one-sided, and filled my heart with joy.

“You ain’t gotta be like everyone else. I don’t care if they do it. That ain’t you. You don’t take what you don’t pay for.”

My heart fluttered. Here was an older woman berating her daughter for STEALING. In an age where people are lazy enough to wear pajamas to the store, and who are proud to hand over their food stamp cards, and who want everything given to them, where people are demanding $15 an hour for making fries and want free phones and internet and free health care, here is someone standing up to the status quo against what is commonly accepted, that taking from a Big Corporation is wrong.

I left them to themselves, thinking, “you GO mom”. Whatever that really means, good job at actually parenting, instead of just going with the flow.

I finally gave up on the Dye and found it at my regular WalMart. It didn’t come out so well. I was trying to turn last year’s Disney Ghost costume into a Dementor. However, I’ve never seen a purple Dementor. And I don’t mean dark purple, either, I mean like a “lilac” purple (I said that was a flower, my wife insists that there IS a color called ‘lilac’).

And, we all can agree, that everyone needs bags of skulls around the house.



New Hiking Stuff!

I’m always looking for new and more effective hiking stuff. I have the basics pretty well down, but there’s always a way to improve things here and there.

For example, on my first Foothills Trail hike, everything was damp by the end. It didn’t really rain much, until the end of the last day, but by then everything was just damp. I think it was just March down by the Chatooga River, in what is classified as a “temperate rain forest” (yes, South Carolina has a rain forest). So, by the morning of day three (before the rain) I’m sitting down to breakfast trying to light my matches and they are damp, and about as excited to light as a mushy piece of paper ever was.

I have to break out my “emergency” matches in their little plastic container and use one. I usually keep one set of those little paper matches in a book inside my food bag, so I don’t have to make eight trips to get everything. In my orange “emergency bag”, which I have labeled appropriately; “Bugs, Drugs, and Fuckups” I keep my bug spray, medications and emergency supplies, such as a little plastic tube of wooden matches with a paper striker folded up.

So when I had to break out my orange matches, I considered – what if the weather was even worse? After all, these are regular “strike on the box” matches, just in a plastic tube to keep them reasonably dry.

As an aside – check those when you buy them. I bought a second one when I lost my first tube. They have a little flint striker glued to the bottom. It comes in handy for lighting your alcohol stove with flint sparks, and subsequently knocking the stove over and throwing burning alcohol everywhere. The striker generally works well, unless the 11 year old Chinese kid packing the things for WalMart gets over-zealous with the glue. My second tube had so much glue on the striker, that no knife would make sparks on it. It was encased in the glue, protected forever.

Back at WalMart looking for other stuff, I stumbled on a pack of real, serious, man-sized “emergency matches”. Now these things had heft to them. They look less like a little red wooden pin of a match, and more like a miniature corn dog on a stick. The head is this huge black thing, and the body of the match is almost completely covered in this brownish-orange stuff. The match is also about twice as long as your regular kitchen match. Way too big to fit in the orange tube.

So I buy them and take them home, intent on including them in my BD&FU bag for seriously wet occasions. Of course, first, I have to try one, to put this miracle of modern science to the test. I take the little striker out of the bag, and a match, and put the two together. at first, there’s nothing, a little pop, then a sizzle, and then, WHOOSH! The thing is ablaze. And not just a feeble pop, fizzle, and out. Seriously ablaze. The brown material behind the head is sparking and fizzling and sending off curls of smoke, a virtual sparkler in my kitchen. So I dunk the thing in a pot of water, putting it out, I think. Its bubbling. Under The Water. So I take it out, and it RELIGHTS itself, not unlike those trick party candles that assholes like to put on birthday cakes to make children cry. Thankfully after the water dunking, there were only a few more seconds of brown sparkler material left, and it died the slow death of most matches.

So, if you want a really impressive way to light some candles and set off the smoke alarm, I encourage you to get down to your local walmart. You won’t be disappointed.


So I attended our Meetup group’s twice yearly Newbie Hiker Orientation yesterday. We had a lot of fun, and it’s always nice to meet new people who someday might want to sign up for one of my hikes. I remember sitting in those chairs before my own first hike thinking, “What have I gotten myself into?”

It’s interesting to meet them and get to know them, and help in molding the fragile minds of new hikers. Maybe I can bend a few of them towards hammocks or even *gasp* Geocaching! On the other side of the coin, after hiking with some people it’s nice to know who Shouldn’t go on future trips with me, too. There are trips I’ve done where someone has warned me, “You do NOT want him on the trip! He drinks and smokes the whole trip and mooches off everyone!”

So we had a good four hour discussion of backpacking do’s and dont’s (my iMac seriously just corrected “dont’s” to “doughnuts”. It really understands me), which goes surprisingly fast. I’m really looking forward to tromping through the woods when the leaves start to turn.

I haven’t been anywhere in a few months, so I started looking back at my old stuff, and thought it would be nice to make a movie out of my picture collections. I’ve done it a lot for work, and even for a few family trips. Unfortunately, my old PC is aging badly, and Adobe Premiere doesn’t work as well as it used to. I’m thinking about trying to dual-load OS’ on my iMac, so I can run windows (and thus all my adobe stuff), but that seems like a real pain in the butt. I’d rather just build an entirely new windows machine from the ground up.

So – stuck without a movie program for now on the old system, I had to learn to use something new. Yeah, that always sucks. iMac comes with something called iMovie. At first I threw my hands up and said “I’ll just buy something”. Yeah, okay. The one I want for making movies, the one that’s like Premiere that is full of options and all the stuff I’m used to? It’s $299. I don’t think so.

So, back to iMovie. It wasn’t long before I found some youtube videos showing me how to work it. I always like it when I’m learning new computer skills from ten year old boys whose voices haven’t broken yet. But, thanks to Lance and Skylar, I could at least start the damn iMovie program and load a few videos. Turns out, it was a lot like a very dumbed-down version of premiere. It can’t do some things nearly as well, and the more advanced stuff is hidden from the average idiot. Like a lot of low-end software it tries to make a lot of decisions for you. However, after getting the hang of it, it is pretty straightforward to make a simple movie. Drop photo in line, stretch to desired length of time, and adjust effects. Drop in music, and click “share”. I’m used to doing MORE work on it to get it to look right, but so far I’m happy with the limited stuff I have figure out how to do.

So I played around with it and created my FIRST iMovie movie and loaded it to Vimeo.

If you’ve never used Vimeo, it’s like a more “artsy” youtube, for the most part. The resolution seems to be better and you aren’t just killed with ads. I’m sure they are out there, but so far I haven’t run into any twerking or cat videos on the site.

So – I uploaded my first video yesterday. Sorry if you hate Dash Berlin, but I like him, and I made the video, so it’s his music in the background. I made another video – with some music that’s easier on the ears to the average person, but I can’t upload it until next week (apparently I have a weekly 500MB upload limit since I don’t pay for the site).

Here it is:

hiking 2012 from Markus Amoungus on Vimeo.

Or look up the original at: http://vimeo.com/106034656

The first two minutes are in Panthertown Valley in North Carolina, and most of the shots in the last 20 seconds are of the same place. It was my first time hiking, ever, so this being my first iMovie video about hiking, that makes sense.

I have learned a few things. First of all, 11 year old children have lots of free time on their hands, and if I want to learn something new, don’t be afraid to watch their youtube videos on computer stuff. Second, I really need to learn how to use this new movie thing to its full potential. The movies it outputs are generally better quality than adobe (I’m not hating on adobe, I’m using an old version that’s been around for years. I like it, but side by side the movies just are NOT the same – the quality coming out of iMovie is much better). Third, I need to make sure I take plenty of video while hiking. Pictures are fun, but video is where it’s at.

Turn your head and cough…




It was physical day at work for me. Years ago when I started this job, we got physicals based on age. If you were 20-30 for example, you had one every three years, 30-40, every other year, and over 40, every year. That changed several years back, I assume because they wanted to find an excuse to get rid of the unhealthy people, and by testing people every year it’s easier to do that.

Of course, the more likely explanation is, if you test everyone every year, you get some sort of insurance break for the entire company, I don’t know… I’m just guessing here. Since I’m past the over 40 mark anyway, I would be having one each year, so I don’t get to complain.

But either way, today was my turn. I hate physicals. If you’ve never had one, count yourself lucky, or healthy, or dead. The first step in the physical was several weeks back. They draw our blood and make us fill out a sheet with things like “family history” and “allergies” and “previous surgeries”, as well as general health problems. The problem is, I can never remember what I put on the forms from year to year, and they always question me about it.

For example: after my wife and I had our first kid, I got a vasectomy. No big deal. I didn’t want the wife to get that “baby amnesia” later on down the road and say “I want another baby!” So as soon as her c-section stitches came out, I was calling the doctor to schedule my own visit. No way I was starting over on the baby roller coaster. So on the form a few years ago under  “surgery” – I listed it. The next year came around and I thought, “You know, this is really none of their damn business, and doesn’t affect my job one way or the other”, so I left it off. Evidently they compare forms year to year, because they asked me about it. I said, “well yeah I put it on their last time, but it’s really not something you need to know, is it?” They agreed: nope, TMI.

They also ask weird things like “do you take illegal drugs”. Well of course not. I don’t need the crutch of mind-altering substances. Drugs are bad, m’kay? Besides, they test us at random so drug use would be even more stupid, and who is going to admit to the workplace doctor, “well, yeah, I smoke a blunt every now and then”? That would just be moronic. They also ask “How often do you drink?” Apparently if you write, “Not nearly enough”, they don’t find it as funny as the rest of us.

So, blood drawn and questions asked, I wait on my eventual appointment, and show up at the office on my day.

First they usher me into the pee collection room. Bathroom doesn’t really do it justice. Oh sure theres a toilet, but it’s been sprayed with some chemical that turned everything blue for some reason, I guess to detect drug-test cheaters. But it looks like a smurf just had a battle with explosive diarrhea and lost. In fact it looked like several of the little bastards just plain exploded. So I pee in this little cup, which I always find hard to do when there is nothing but a thin wooden door between me and all the nurses. I’m thinking, “are they out there listening to me pee or something?” Its just creepy…

First bit of dignity down the drain. And since there is a sink but no faucet, I have to hand this lady a steaming cup o’ whizz and then find a real sink. I’m always tempted to say something like, “wash my hands? No it’s okay, I only peed, I never wash my hands after I just pee…”

Next it’s on to the eye test. “Remove your glasses and read the smallest line” she says.

“No problem. XN….. Okay maybe XM? No?” So I get to put my glasses on. “PRFGTESADT” Good?

Next is the color blindness test. I swear the color blindness card in that machine came with the machine when they bought it in 1986. It looks REALLY faded out. “Which way does the E face, in blocks 1 through 8?”

“1 – Left, 2 – right, Blocks 3 through 5 don’t have an E, 6 – up, 7 – down, 8 – Wait, where’s block 8? What do you mean I’m not right?”

So between squinting and closing one eye and then the other, I finally get through it. Thankfully they give you as many tries as you need. “Left? Right? Up? Down? Really, down?  Whew, got through that one!”

One more bit of optical fun, she flips some knobs and says “Read the letters on line 6”. Line 6…line 6. “There are no letters on line six, it’s a white line! You tricked me!”

Oh – glasses off… “RSNPDXYTUP” Good… NEXT!

After weighing me and trying to squeeze my arm off with the damn blood pressure cuff (I think the computer needs calibrating. Why is my hand purple?) I’m ushered into the “sound proof” booth for my hearing test.

Nothing is really sound proof. Especially not a fancy telephone booth in a doctor’s office. So I sit in this thing and I’m given a little button to push when I hear a series of beeps in my ears. I like to pretend I’m dropping bombs or setting off explosions or something, but making the little explosion sounds with my mouth is distracting. So the machine beeps, but it’s almost imperceptible. Add to the fact you can barely hear it, there’s the blood rushing through your head (that you can hear!), people’s muffled laughter in the hall, every MOVE you make creates noise, every swallow or shift drowns out the sound, and it makes the test even harder.

So I’m sitting in this booth, mouth open so my nose-breathing noise doesn’t interfere, eyes closed because if I start looking around I’m going to get distracted, trying to remain motionless so the headphones don’t creak, listening to the damn beeps. At some point the beeps are the same frequency as the constant ringing in my ears, so I just start pressing the button every five seconds, whether I hear anything or not. I’m sure to the lady sitting outside writing my results on the card, that between all this stuff I’m doing, I just look like a retarded zombie sitting there twitching at this button. After several minutes of this, I start hearing things, beeps that aren’t even there. They do right ear first, then left. But, now I’m hearing beeps in both ears just at random. She opens the door and I’m still clicking the button. “I’m not done” I say and she tells me the test is over.

Oh. Okay.

On to the stress test. There it is, the Dreadmill to beat all of them. It’s a bulky, clinical, mechanical beast that strongly resembles a medieval wrack. I lay on the table and take off my shirt, and she sticks electrodes on me like I’m getting ready to be executed. Thankfully I’m rather bare chested, and I plucked out the two hairs in the middle of my chest before coming, so they don’t have to shave me. After taking some baseline readings, they force me under threat of death onto the Dreadmill. Now I run faster and faster while the thing goes uphill at intervals. The chest wires help hold me up and start tugging at me when I’m falling behind. The doctor comes through and says hello, then goes into his office in the next room for a cigarette. I really didn’t think doctors smoked any more, and certainly not in the room next to where I’m supposed to be taking a stress test. I guess the secondhand smoke helped me out, because I ran faster and finally the test ended.

Now I have to lay down for five minutes while they gather resting data and watch my heart slow down. The nurse removes all the clips and peels the sticky things off of me, leaving little hickeys all over my chest. I think I’m lightly allergic to the glue on them or something, because I always have these red welts on me for a while.

Then the doctor comes in, looks my EKG readout over, and fondles me. He doesn’t even ask me for dinner or coffee, just “drop your shorts”. Why doesn’t this work for wives? Come home after a long day at work, “honey, drop your shorts”.

I did get something free out of the whole thing. He hands me a copy of the blood results from two months ago and says, “give these to your doctor”. Yeah, like I’m going to give my family doctor something to yell at me about. I know, exercise more and stop eating crap. We should all do that. America in general needs to exercise more and stop eating crap.

My other issue was a weird fungus or poison ivy on my foot, which I strongly suspect I got from cutting a tree down in the yard and wandering barefoot through all the moldering leaves at the back of my property where I toss things like tree limbs and grass trimming and moldering leaves. He looked at it and said, “That’s not poison ivy”. And he Writes Me A Prescription! That’s right, it was like a FREE doctor visit. So hopefully the fungus amoungus will be cleared up pretty soon, because I’m really tired or putting crap on my foot that I thought was for poison ivy, which wasn’t helping at all.

Free Doctor Visit: 1      Dignity:   0