Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

My Bodyweight Training WebApp Released!

June 16th 2013

Well,  I’ve had a few articles about bodyweight training and I’ve been writing a little less on the blog lately, and working out and writing my training app a whole lot more.  I’ve been doing bodyweight training fairly consistently for the last few years (thanks to Parkour) and so I decided that I wanted an app to help me track progress in workouts and to make the many exercises for bodyweight training available in one convenient app.  Plus all the apps I’ve tried or found are more specific to workout programs or fitness in general, there were none that let me be in total control of what I do in my workout and simply help me track my specific exercises.

One of the reasons I’ve loved bodyweight training so much is that I can do it anytime, anywhere for just a few minutes or a long workout session.  There is little to no equipment needed and I can work out with anyone, since everything has so many progressions in it the movements can always be made easier or more difficult, depending on skill.  Also, the skills themselves and movements themselves in bodyweight training are far more enjoyable than lifting weights or a general fitness program.  Cross fit is another example of this, which is why so many people love it, its fun to move and development skills when training.  These are some of the reasons why I wanted to build an app for bodyweight training (plus I wanted to learn more about these development tools for career reasons).

Bodymaster

So, I’ve called it BodyMaster and it’s a pure webapp so you can use it on your desktop, laptop, tablet or smart phone.  I’ve designed the layout to be responsive for smaller displays and for your desktop and it also works in an offline mode so you don’t even need an internet connection after you’ve downloaded it the first time.

I’ll be cleaning up more workflow items with it and need to do more testing on different devices, as I’ve primarly used the desktop and my Android phone, which it works great on.  There is also a feature to synchronize your data with you email and password so that you can upload your results online and re-sync that to another browser if you want to use it on your phone and then sync that to your desktop for example.  Each browser will have to run the sync to upload results.

Anyway, I hope you can find some time to check it out, add a bookmark to use it online or offline and start learning more of the useful bodyweight training exercises that I’ve got in the app.  There are currently 257 exercises to do and learn from!!!

I’d love to hear what you think of the app and some of the exercise lists and I hope you can find some use for it!

Open the Bodymaster Free Web App here!

Posted by Mike King under Personal | 7 Comments »

Product Review: BassBuds Earbud

July 31st 2012

bassbuds classics

Review Review Review Review Review

I listen to a LOT of music and I prefer earbuds for much of my listening since I use them when I commute to work by bicycle and often wear earbuds when out in the mountains enjoying a hike or mountain unicycle adventure.  Anyway, when I first was offered the opportunity to review a set of bassbuds, I thought I would pass up since I hadn’t started any product reviews here at LearnThis.ca before.  However, at second thought, since I do so enjoy my music, and also listen to a LOT of audio books while commuting, I think earbuds are essential as a learning tool for me so would be worth reviewing here.  Having quality earbuds is crucial to enjoy a good audio book without being distracted and struggling to hear it and the bonus of great audio for music as well I think any of my readers can relate to so I hope you enjoy my review here the free pair of bassbuds earbuds I received.

Initial Impressions

I was impressed right from the start of opening the box for the classic bassbuds I received.  First of all, they were well packaged in a box that presented well, not some cheap plastic tough to tear open container.  The box is a simple flip lid and there was minimal plastic in the materials, mainly paper and cardboard, which I am always happy to see, as this world uses far too much plastic for packaging.  I was also happy to see the extra replaceable foam pads and silicon ear cushions of different sizes.  There are several sets of these at different sizes so you are sure to have a couple spare options and a perfect fit for your ear size.  Many ear buds come with with one or two options and don’t actually fit that well, so I was impressed to have the selection of ear pieces.

The headphones themselves were as easily impressive and presented well with their bright color, quality aluminum shell and impressive cut crystal on the back of each earbud.  My wife actually said, “Wow, those are sparkly!” if that adds to their appeal at all. The connectors look solid and the cable feels strong, not like many flimsy thin cables on ear buds.  I expect these to last longer than most will.

On the cable, the left and right side split off from a small button on the wire.  This button is for controlling the track, mute and mic options by pressing different sequences.  On the right earbud, there is also another small inwire cylinder with a mic in it for using it with a headset on your smartphone. Due to having stereo sound and the microphone options in one connector, it uses a 3.5mm 4 conductor jack common on most smartphones now.  To use it with a PC, you will need an adapter cable to split the mic and stereo audio to separate jacks as most computer sound cards use.  Some DAC (digital audio converters) devices will have support for this directly. There packaging also contains a bag with extra foam and silicon ear pads, a card for the microphone button sequence options and a booklet showing the various styles/colors available from bassbuds, which I don’t see much point in including once you buy from the selection anyway.

The plug itself is quite small which is great, however it is also very tight in every jack I used which sometimes made it too hard to unplug.  I’m sure that will smoothen out with use, but it would have been nice if the bassbuds had a slight texture or ridge on the back of the plug to make it easier to pull out, as its easy to slip off the jack and pull the wire when you are trying to unplug them, so you have to be careful.  The wire seems very strong though and doesn’t easily knot up, so I’m sure it can handle some wear and tear, as you toss these in your pocket or backpack if you don’t use the bag to store them.

Sound Quality (Music and AudioBooks)

Sound quality right from first use has been impressive and very good!  These earbuds sound very very nice with smooth bass, good crisp tones, and not too sharp fatiguing the ears.  The isolation of the silicon flaps is really excellent and they block out most outside sound very well, leaving you to listen at lower volume levels protecting the ears, with all the tonal quality and music quality as at higher levels.  Even in a noisy environment, I found I could hear these better than all my other earbuds with foam pads.  I have found that foam pads have good isolation, but surprisingly the silicon buds work easily as well, and leave far less wire noise and friction noise from turning your head, bumping the wire or moving your clothing around than do the foam inserts I’ve used a lot from other earbuds.  This was a nice improvement from what I am used to and make them much easier to enjoy for a longer period of time.

Music quality is very good in a wide range of music.  I listen primarily to electronic genres of many types, dance, trance, goa, electro house, dubstep and deep house; all of which rely on solid bass and wide high ranges.  These bassbuds performed beautifully in all of these genres and testing them with some hard rock, smooth vocals and a bit of blues and jazz, they continue to surprise me at the sound quality they deliver.  I put these up against my Grado SR-80 headphones I love the sound from and the bassbuds easily compare in overall sound quality and smoothness.  They are certainly a little heavier bass than the Grado’s even with a headphone amplifier for them, however, the sound on the bassbuds is a little smoother without the crisp midrange, but the difference is minor.  The upper frequencies on the bass buds I have to say do suffer a bit with lower output, and a bit of tone variance with simulated frequency ramping, but only compared to the higher quality Grados, not against any stock earbuds or additional earbuds I compared to, which they easily outperformed.  The nice advantage of the earbuds is they do deliver much more bass and dynamic range at lower volume levels and certainly better in a noisy environment.

Similarly for voice and audiobooks, they provide great sound quality and again the isolation allow you keep volumes lower without as many distracting background noises as you would otherwise be distracted by when listening to audio books.  As a bike commuter, I also tested these compared to some of my other foam earbuds.  The isolation from wind is still a big problem and these earbud don’t seem much different than most for riding at speed, however, the isolation of outside noise I did find was better, so you hear less traffic, engines and other vehicles, even if you do hear lots of wind noise.  I have only tested them with the silicon pads, not the foam inserts so far on the bassbuds.

The inwire button for microphone control is also very convenient for commuting and using with your phone while listening to music.  The button can be pressed once to simple pause or unpause your music on most mp3 players (I used it on my ipod nano with full mute/next/prev track controls).  It also worked on my blackberry bold to answer calls, do voice dialing with the built in microphone and to answer/hangup during music playback.  The blackberry didn’t seem to work for next/prev track control however, like the ipod did which is very convenient to use while cycling.

Comfort

Overall, these earbuds are very comfortable to wear for extended period of time and they never seem to push hard in my ears and cause any discomfort.  They stayed in place quite well and were a bit forgiving in how much bass you would get even as they started to loosen out of place a bit.  I found that it stayed in my left ear perfectly and I had to push it back in a bit more often in my right ear however, this was still better than my other foam only earbuds.  The silicon feels a lot softer  than foam so I had longer tolerance wearing these than some I’ve used. The different options you get with the bassbuds should easily give you a great fit and something comfortable can be found using the different insert sizes and styles.

As I said above, the sound quality being smooth and even a smooth bass response leaves you with a comfortable sound for heavy bass tracks, classic rock, house, blues, or audio books.

Conclusions

Overall, these bassbuds are great earbuds and I think the sound quality puts them at a good price mark, decent value and the build quality of them make them a great product.  You will enjoy all kinds of music with them, especially anything with good bass beats and the microphone and smart phone options for voice, answering/muting/track control, make these a great earbud to use everyday.  I highly recommend these and know I’ll be using them on my daily commute now until they wear out, as they are the best earbuds I’ve heard for all around use.

Posted by Mike King under Personal | 11 Comments »

The Weakness of Video on a Website

July 6th 2011

My friend, Armen over at TimeLessInformation.com had a recent article about why sometimes words don’t work as well as they should on a website.  He has many great points about how things can be misinterpreted or how words are not as powerful as they are intended because people skim them or don’t read them with the same thought put to them as experiencing it first hand.  Also, he mentioned about this and how video can be better for those areas.  So, while I agree with his points on video while recognizing, each method has its own dangers of being communicated poorly, to me video has many more dangers, and this article covers some of the things that video posts are often lacking or have as problems. I’m sure there are more risks with video than outlined here so I’d love you to comment with your own feelings on video posting.  Here are several big reasons from my experience that I don’t like video on most websites from bloggers.

Egocentric

This has got to be the biggest one to me and unfortunately, while I have seen many good videos recorded without the host being ego centric or self-promoting, I find that video bloggers on the whole, spend a lot more time mentioning their own names or websites or achievements than they do in written form. Even introductions and mentioning who they are seems weird to me on a video cast since anyone watching is doing so from the website anyway, or there could be references at the end, instead of the beginning of every video cast. It seems very self promoting and even worse when a video caster spends more time trying to convince you of what they have to say is useful or important, instead of just saying it.  The added details or background information on what they have done or discovered seems to be more prevalent with video bloggers than with writers.  Or at least, that is what I have experience with seeing hundreds of video bloggers and thousands of bloggers who write text only.

Perhaps there is something about getting behind the camera that adds some nervousness or risk factor that people then overcompensate for by trying to hard to prove their point.  Perhaps it is because video bloggers are more free-flow with how they communicate.  It seems likely to also be because of assumptions of the audience.

Unedited, Less Concise or Impactful

Another big one for me is how often video bloggers don’t prepare well or finish their content well enough.  This is not the case for all video bloggers but many I’m sure don’t even watch their content before they publish it.  Unedited video is like reading from bloggers who obviously don’t even read their own written content before publishing it.  It is messy, disjointed and often repetitive instead of concise.  Many video bloggers are actually, very poor speakers as well so can be hard to understand or even listen to.  Poor speakers throw additional words like “umm”, or “ahh” into their message and it can be incredibly distracting from what they actually want to say.  I know that video takes practice, but even a beginner writer knows not to add “umm” into their writing, so they can usually get their point across easier with words.

Most writers spend a lot more time on the actual words they are going to write than do video bloggers, who often shoot with less notes, editing or planning of their content.

Impersonal

Video is often said to be more personal since the person is visible and the audience can learn a bit more about the person in the video.  Thinking on this however, it is actually, the opposite because communication is only more personal when it is delivered in a way that is pleasing and fitting to the audience, not the speaker.  The audience is not engaged in video and there is nothing in video more personalized than in writing.  I think video has a great danger of stereotypes and appearances from actually killing the personal content of the words themselves as well, since most people are so quickly and easily distracted by first impressions and appearances.  This leaves the deeper meaning of the words and message that may have been more personally reflected on to be masked by superficial and unneeded video distractions.

Out of Place Body Language

Body language is up to 70% of all communication and so the human brain is very in tune to body language with conversations.  Body language however is something that is normally delivered in a unique personal way, that matches the audience and often in response to the body language of the viewer.  With pre-recorded video content, you cannot have body language that is appropriate to the viewer (at best, you have a guess) so it is out of place more than it is suitable.  This problem once again, distracts from the message itself and makes the content less convincing, especially if the body language is considerably different than what is expected or common in conversation with that particular person.

Technical Limitations

Last but not least, there are several more reasons why I don’t care for video that much from bloggers.  They start with eating bandwidth on servers on the web for little or less value than reading written text.  They are much slower to listen to than to read even if you listen instead of watching.  Taking content offline for reading or watching on planes/transit is much more difficult and troublesome.  Most video is not searchable or indexed well (if at all) so it doesn’t have as many ways to find it after first being published in the news/feed circles.  Video is often harder to share with people as well since it cannot be printed or distributed easily except on the web and to the demographic of high bandwidth users.

Please add your comments about written or video blogging and some of your own personal tastes, I’d love to hear them!

Posted by Mike King under Personal | 7 Comments »

Learning Parkour

February 21st 2011

I love it when I discover something new about myself or in life that I really connect with or develop a quick passion for.  New things that really interest me often take a strong presence in my mind and Parkour has done exactly that to me in the last couple months.  While Parkour is definitely growing it isn’t known by everyone and so it needs an explanation.  In fact, it can be a bit hard to explain though quickly, so bear with me.  I’ve taken the description from the AmericanParkour website as I think it describes it best:

What is Parkour?

Parkour is the physical discipline of training to overcome any obstacle within one’s path by adapting one’s movements to the environment.

  • Parkour requires… consistent, disciplined training with an emphasis on functional strength, physical conditioning, balance, creativity, fluidity, control, precision, spatial awareness, and looking beyond the traditional use of objects.
  • Parkour movements typically include… running, jumping, vaulting, climbing, balancing, and quadrupedal movement. Movements from other physical disciplines are often incorporated, but acrobatics or tricking alone do not constitute parkour.
  • Parkour training focuses on… safety, longevity, personal responsibility, and self-improvement. It discourages reckless behavior, showing off, and dangerous stunts.
  • Parkour practitioners value… community, humility, positive collaboration, sharing of knowledge, and the importance of play in human life, while demonstrating respect for all people, places, and spaces.

It’s not simply a sport, or activity.  Nor is it something that you describe only by its activities or moves.  Parkour can only be described in part by the movements since it is a physical language defined by many techniques, movements, body strength and adaptation of being about to navigate obstacles around you.  It’s about the environment, the interaction and awareness that comes with learning to connect with your surroundings.  It’s about learning to progress not only from point A to point B but also in your ability to move in your environment smoothly and efficiently.  The discipline and training for Parkour has all the same elements to it as personal development and overcoming obstacles in life requires the same persistence, training and ability to make mistakes, learn from them, get back up and go at it again. Most sports have some element of this but the training usually becomes very repetitive and limited.  Not with Parkour, it has no limits as the movements vary greatly and its all about your own creative style to make it fun.

Fluid Movement

So I first became attracted to Parkour and freerunning because of it’s natural movement and I had only seen a couple videos online to inspire me not even knowing what it was called at first as the video was simply called Russian Climbing.  The sports I already love are all about smooth motion and they depend highly on the physical body to manipulate your movement.  Mountain unicycling, windsurfing, wakeboarding. They all need smooth, fluid motion and I have now learned that Parkour requires it more than anything of those or anything else I’ve ever tried.  It is the ultimate in human movement and takes immense time to master the skills, strength and fluidity needed.  I’ve always loved movement and as an extreme mountain unicyclist, smooth motion and core strength have always been a part of my sports interests.  Discovering Parkour expanded on that raw aspect of movement and revealed a huge variety of moves.  It’s very demanding on the body and will certainly keep a person fit, especially if they do much training and conditioning as part of their practice, which I certainly am. One of the best things about Parkour  is the mindset of it and anyone who practice it (known as a traceure or traceuse).  It is about the freedom to move, explore and simply have fun with your body in any environment.  All the skills listed above in what Parkour requires you must develop to advance and I value all of them:  discipline, strength, balance, creativity, control, awareness, and expanding past what is known. Anyone can learn Parkour as you can do it at any pace, at whatever risk level you are comfortable with and in pretty much any location. It is meant to be learned at whatever pace you can handle, not by jumping into moves and things that are dangerous (this is the majority of what is popular on YouTube mind you).   I do it for the joy of movement, to test myself and my abilities, to overcome obstacles in movement the same way I overcome obstacles in life, with speed, skill and strengths used to their fullest to let you progress smoothly and safely.

Overcoming Barriers

It certainly has its risks as any physically demanding sport does but it’s up to you practicing to determine how hard you push yourself and how far you are willing to risk your safety.  Freerunning and Parkour do require a lot of practice and training to learn safely and within your limits.  You must condition your body and build your strength at the same time as new skills to create your own style and expand your movements.  This only occurs by expanding your training regime, pushing yourself to be creative and by thinking beyond life’s typical barriers of limited movement.  It’s a great sport that connects friends by training and sharing skills together, to experience the pleasure of a new kind of fluidity, the fluidity of movement.  It’s not competitive, its collaborative and founded with an essence of self-preservation and in the ability to rescue or help others.  Everyone finds their own style and way to move so there is no comparison, each person is unique with their own way, just like in life.  The similarities are in the approach, the thinking, the steps to overcome barriers, and the joy of sharing that success and progression with others.

The Positivity of Parkour

The final topic I have on my mind with learning Parkour is found in the mindset of those who practice it.  Traceures and Traceuses are incredibly supportive, positive and interested in helping others and having fun.  Natural movement is something we all have done naturally as kids and most of us have long forgotten it.  After all, you don’t see a lot of adults dive rolling over a railing or jumping swinging around the local monkey bars but why not?  It’s fun to do no matter what your age and that is an important aspect of Parkour!  There are always a few exceptions you might encounter, but I’ve seen that people who practice Parkour are great people and very respectful of their environment (since it is the playground remember) and people they encounter.  Most want to spread the joy of Parkour and encourage that child like play in life beyond just their movements and so there is a contagious, almost infectious energy from Parkour that I can at least say, has taken up presence in me recently. I’ve been training and taking courses at a local Calgary gym now (No Limits AFC) for two and a half months and while I’m certainly not the youngest aged person there, it’s activated a youthfulness I always have lurking under my skin and I know I’ll be hooked on this sport for some time to come.  It’s exciting to see how many parallels of what I’ve learned from personal development can be applied to learning Parkour and vise versa.

And there are millions of Parkour and Freerunning videos on Youtube. Many of them show ridiculous stunts, with no context to the training required to achieve them or the risk in jumping in without the proper training and conditioning required. There are if you look for tutorials, training and progression videos though a lot of help for learning these skills as it really has taken speed because of the internet and the ability to share content and inspire one another around the world. One of my favorite videos is below that I think does a great job of sharing a bit more about the thoughts and inspirational aspects of Parkour. I hope you enjoy it.

Posted by Mike King under Personal | 27 Comments »

10 Blog Etiquette Tips for Blog Owners

November 6th 2010

As a blogger (and many of you reading this as well) I regularly visit others’ blogs, new blogs and surf through socially connection blogs.  In doing so I’ve come across a huge variety of sites.  As much as I’d like to say its always about the content, we all know that while that is an important factor for the quality and impression of any blog, there is one other big component of a blog that is just as important, the overall blog etiquette at the site.  By etiquette I mean how well the site and the voices on the site are behaved and what impression this leaves the visitors.

Stay on topic

Often I find that bloggers shift away from what they know about to publish popular content that is way off topic or not related to their blog in any way.  Usually I see this from bloggers who are seeking growth, popularity or other “traffic” generating measures so they are willing to bring in unrelated content or popular at the expense of their existing readers and visitors who expect consistent content.  I think it is much better to publish off topic items or content as guest posts on sites where that is a regular topic.  This would benefit everyone more by exposing to a new audience, by helping create great content for another blogger and by sparing existing subscribers of unrelated content they may not be interested in using list brokers.

Be honest, don’t act like you know everything

Often I see bloggers responding to questions, comments or stating opinions as if it is fact and true.  While there is nothing wrong with writing your thoughts (after all, that is what blogging is all about) but it is misleading and dishonest when a blogger states opinion as if it is fact, or leads readers to believe that they know a lot about a subject when in reality they do not.  It is best to be honest with your readers and state how you have learned something or where you learned it and why you are sharing it, instead of making it seem like an absolute true when in fact, it may just be an opinion.

Don’t reply publicly to every single comment

Reading blogs is great for the content, but the best part of blogging is the connections, the discussions and the people you can meet through commenting.  It’s because of this that I like to read through comments after a great article and you often get a lot more insight, opinions and additions to the original article.  However, some bloggers feel a weird need to reply to every single comment and its incredibly distracting and simply unnecessary.   Some comments are as simple as “Thanks, I liked the article” and then the blog owner goes on with some comment that adds no value and simply repeats what was already said.  If you have something valuable to add, then by all means add it and welcome your visitors but to set a guideline to always reply publicly is just poor etiquette for the discussion area.  There is no reason why a blogger can’t reply to many of these visitors to welcome them in a private email to keep their comments and discussion focused and on topic so they are more enjoyable to read.

Spare your visitors of all popups

I’m sure that this is a personal preference but I think it is safe to say that in general, people don’t like popups showing up.  I am seeing more and more sites using newsletter subscriptions and popups to entice visitors to sign up.  What I really hate is when I visit a site and it says I’ll only see the popup once, and then it keeps showing up or it shows every time I visit.  Unfortunately, many bloggers see this as a necessity and use popups to grow their followers but I find it to be far too aggressive and unnecessary. Personally, I often find that these are the very sites that leave my reading lists first and since I enjoy visiting sites for the comments, they often are the first to leave my news reader as well since every visit to a page to read comments leaves me with some popup subscription.  I am much less likely to share these sites in social media and I would always prefer to promote a clean article, then one with annoyances that will face those I share it with.

Never copy content

I wish everyone had the moral compass to know that copying content is wrong but sadly, it is not true.  Copying other people’s text, full articles and images is wrong and you should never do it without permission.  I have found my own site’s content and even my own pictures I have taken scattered onto other sites often without permission.  On one hand, it is nice to know that it is valuable enough for others to want it, it is also nice to know that that value is attributed to the right person for their hard work to create it.  This one is simple, good blog etiquette means that you just don’t ever copy content without permission.  Period.

Always site your references

Related to other people’s content is then in how you use it.  I often read people quote someone or mentioning an article they read, but they fail to include a link or proper reference where the original context could be read.  If you are going to use references or external content, please always include the appropriate links and detailed reference so that the content could be found.  This is especially useful from blogs as often blog articles become the search engines top pages for studies, articles or interest or other things one might be doing research on, and if the reference are their the site is still useful to such a visitor, if it mentions it without the link, it is next to useful.  Do your readers a favor and always site your references.

Accept criticism and allow healthy conflict

Some bloggers hide comments that they perceive as negative even when they are respectful and simply differing in opinion.  I’ve had my own comments removed from sites, seen whole discussions get removed and even seen many bloggers completely remove commenting from their site because of criticism or conflicting opinions.  It’s important to have this interaction on a blog and any blogger not willing to have any, might as well not be blogging as it only shows they are close minded and one sided.  If you can’t learn from your visitors who are interested in the content in the first place, then who will you learn from?

Reduce the ads for direct visitors

This tip goes far beyond etiquette but I will start there.  I first learned about doing this from Steve at My Wife Quit Her Day Job which shows you how to put ads into your pages only for search engine traffic visitors and not people who type your URL directly.  I’ve implemented this on my site and it works great and have seen many versions of it at other blogger’s sites as well.  Basically it lets you show less ads to visitors your link or type your site in directly which is a huge benefit since those visitors are less likely to click your ads anyway, since they are usually repeat visitors and after your content, not the ads.  The second advantage of this is that you will get a higher click through ratio on your ads since the ads are shown to general visitors, not the people less likely to click.  This results in higher payouts by google since the click through is also higher on your site and it can make a significant increase in your ad earnings.  My ad impressions went down by about 25% implementing this but my ad revenue went up by 30% immediate and has been sustained.  The value of this to your visitors makes your site more attractive to regulars.  I wish that bloggers would implement this for the popups and subscription notices in the section above on popups.  It would provide the same benefits to the visitor and clean up a blog.

Don’t spam the network

Growing attention to your blog takes work, no doubt.  It requires guest posts, back links, other site commenting and social media.  Using all or any of those is easy to abuse and so you must learn to put similar effort into those areas with proper etiquette as your site itself.  Don’t go on a commenting rampage unless you are adding valuable comments, as it can easily be seen as spam.  The same is true of social networking and back links.  Most of the social networking sites either work by computer algorithm or simply by followers, either way, they naturally detect spam and if there is not a mix of others’ content, promotion of friend’s sites and a healthy mix of content, your efforts could easily be considered spam.  The more you promote other people and build your connections in pretty much any social media, the more successful you will be in that network.

Focus on giving value, not selling it

Many bloggers dive right in to focusing on making money before they really are providing strong value and usually results in a poor blog or sort lived one.  Those that look to provide value first, grow the value and then look to benefit from it do much better.  As for your content whether it be subscriptions, ebooks or services, if you give enough of that away for free and give away that value, the sales will come as a result of the value, instead of having to continuously sell it.  Giving away a number of ebooks before you start selling them will allow visitors to know what value to expect and see examples of your work, which increases the likeliness that they will actually buy something as well.    My own example of this is with my free ebooks I give away.  They have created tremendous traffic, comments and feedback for my site and they are consistently downloaded more than 7000 times per month!  Please if you haven’t seen those before, do take a look.

Do you have any additional blog etiquette tips??  Please add them in the comments below.

Posted by Mike King under Learning & Personal | 16 Comments »

Mountain Unicycling, My Fortress of Solitude

October 12th 2010

Mountain unicycling is a regular past time for me, which I’m sure you have read about before if you are a regular reader.  Its a sport not many venture into as it has a steep learning curve and there are simply not that many people who do it to be encouraged by or to learn with.  I have to seek people out who have the same interest, as I am not very likely to just come across other unicyclists.  Surprisingly, once I do get out and go riding, I run into a lot more people who are able to ride and will tell or show me when I encounter them.  I’d never know though without being out on the unicycle in the first place.

For the most part, I definitely enjoy to ride with other people, but with my level of experience in the sport and endurance, I do not have other riders who get out on one wheel with me in the mountains.  So, because of that, I often ride with mountain bikers who will easily give me a run for my money with all of their mechanical advantages.  Other times, I simply ride on my own, off in solitude, just me, my muni and the mountain.  That is what I truly love about the sport.  Getting away from the city, the traffic, the stench, the thick polluted air and of course gobs of people.  In the mountains you can literally ride for hours and not see another soul.  Its a place of peace, a place for thought and to be content.

The trails I ride are certainly not easy, most are hiking trails, but rated as more difficult ones as I love to ride areas that are known as very technical.  If you don’t know, that is when a trail has a lot of roots, rocks, boulders or obstacles to navigate and will typically be more windy with more ups and downs than other easy hiking trails.  It’s in that kind of riding where I am challenged and can get into a state of flow and enjoy the ride the most. Flow is all about movement on the unicycle.  Its not easy to navigate rough terrain on one wheel and it requires years of practice. On a mountain unicycle, to ride advanced trails, one must learn to ride with their whole body for motion. I don’t simply peddle with me legs and steer with my arms.  I have to put everything into the trail, my whole body, mind and motion in order to stay on top.  I have to bend my body, thrust my upper torso up and over rocks, whip my shoulders and head around to steer the trail, and pull with all my strength up on the seat handle to lunge with the muni overtop of gaps or logs.

It’s a great workout for the legs and core, but more than that, it forces me to focus and to free my mind of all the other daily activities, thoughts, problems and feelings and simply enjoy the ride, the workout and the environment where I am riding.  It feels very free to have these times of solitude and solitude is something that really strengthens me.  It always has and it’s always been my sports where I can enjoy this level of solitude and freedom.  I have other sports that are the same, windsurfing and I am just getting into snow kiting as well.  I’m sure that is what attracts me to these sports even if it has never been intentional.

So my title may need some explanation.  The fortress of solitude is a reference to Superman’s Ice fortress that he has to escape to, away from all people.  He goes their to seek answers to his struggles with the world and he goes their for freedom and solitude.  That is exactly what I feel like I have in my escapes to the mountains or on the water in incredible winds.  My focus shifts at those times not just to the sport, but more to my fortress of solitude. It is a place to recharge my spirit and mind, to be free and to be content and enjoy life.  So let me ask you, do you have a fortress of solitude that you rely on for a similar freedom?

See some more of my unicycling pictures in my photography section of panoramas on this site.

Posted by Mike King under Personal | 10 Comments »

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