Sunday, March 3, 2013

How Not To Do PT (part 6) - Momentum

A friend of mine asked me recently if I was going to do one of these posts on the IOCT from West Point.  I shall, I promise, but it may take me a bit to work up to that most terrifying of terrors.

For now, let's go water skiing....

No, not literally; I don't have a boat.  If any of you do and wish to invite me out for the day for a relaxing day of fishing, I'll pay for the gas.  *ahem* Commercial's over now....

Anyway, there's this physical property called momentum.  Physics defines it as mass times velocity.  Something with a lot of mass and a little velocity is going to have a certain amount of momentum, while something with less mass and the same velocity is going to have less.  Something sitting still, meanwhile, has zero momentum no matter how much mass it bears.

I learned this early on, and while water skiing, curiously enough.

Yes, this one takes me back to pre-West Point days.  Still, it's an important lesson.

My parents loved to water ski.  They went up to Pickwick Lake, a recreational area just north of our home town across the MS-TN border, quite often with friends.  Finally they ended up buying their own boat--used, of course, since we weren't exactly the middlest of middle class families.  It was a horribly ugly thing, but after a few months of work they had all the cushions re-upholstered in the hide of the brown naga (no, not the same ones from my books) and the hull painted a bright brown and yellow combination.

The boat looked like a dang yellowjacket skimming across the water.

That exercise did teach me the beauty of hard work and craftsmanship, though.  They did a pretty good job if you ignore the color scheme.  The exercise also taught me the importance of being aware of how you take things apart; my dad put the steering cables back on backwards, causing a left turn to spin the boat to the right and vice versa.  While that quickly turned comical on the test drive, it also nixed the safe opportunity for skiing behind the boat till he fixed it. 

I loved water skiing too.  Technically, though, I should say that I loved watching water skiing.  At about ten years old, my legs had only developed to the point where they could successfully prevent my groin from scraping the ground when I moved.  The stabilizing muscles weren't there yet, and so whenever I tried to get up on skis they'd drift apart and I'd plunk face-down in the water.  It was quite funny, though not so much to me.

Thus, I took the advice of the elders: quit while you're ahead, at least till you're older, and learn to enjoy being the spotter on the boat instead.  The spotter, by the way, is a non-skier who rides in the back of the boat watching the guy or gal being pulled along behind, ever vigilant for hand signals indicating that the skiier wanted to speed up, slow down, throw a slider, bunt, run a post pattern, or do a triple-axle loop-de-loop (at least, those were some of what I saw).  The spotter then turns to the driver, who is of course always watching forward, and relays the instructions. 

So one day, before I became a spotter extraordinaire, I was in the water preparing for another ill-fated takeoff when Mom yelled at me to move the boat.  Huh?  She was quite clear--though I have no recollection of why--I needed to pull on the ski rope to shift the boat's direction and move it back toward where I was floating.

What???  That boat weighed many times what I did.  It pulled me, for crying out loud, not the other way around.  I couldn't pull....

Oh, wait, I realized as I attempted it.  I could.

Fact is, the boat pulled around rather easily, though quite slowly.  It really wasn't all that hard for a single ten-year-old swimmer to spin a 14-foot ski boat with a few slow tugs on a rope.

Huh.  Momentum.

Life is like that, isn't it?  Often we know the direction we need to go but never start down the path, right?  It may be because we're scared of the path, or of the end point, but I think it's most often because we just never build up the momentum to get'a'goin' that'a'way.  The same happens with bad paths, too--often stopping our travel down the wrong path we're on is far, far harder than it seems like it ought to be, because we've built up momentum. 

That happened with me and the name change, in fact.  I wanted to change everything over to TOSK, but it's a pretty daunting task to redo all covers and inside materials and web page and so on.  Once I'd finally built up the momentum to do it, I succeeded.  It didn't take long before I realized I'd done the wrong thing, though, and so I decided to reverse the change.  That new shift required a reversal of momentum, and even though it seemed at first a matter of "oh, just change the covers back," it was actually significantly more involved.

It was the right thing to do, though, so I finally up and did it.  Mostly.  I'm almost done, in fact.

So, yeah, in life, remember how important momentum is.  It can literally mean the difference between you pulling the boat, or the boat pulling you.


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