The Science Of Motivation

AsapSCIENCE explains why keeping your New Year’s resolution is more complicated than you think.

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Daily Prompt: Zip-Lining In Puerto Vallarta

Hey, folks. Yesterday’s Daily Prompt was all about stories. Specifically, the story behind your appearance in a recent photo. This actually ties in with my trip to Mexico a couple of weeks ago; I’d promised to write about the zip-lining excursion separately, and this prompt is perfect for it.

I’m not going to post the photo for various reasons, mainly because I’m not sure if the other people in my group want it displayed, I’m shy, and that I look ridiculously awkward. Considering how many photos I’ve posted, you may have noticed that I like being behind the camera, not in front of it. Pictures of me are few and far between (especially online), and I dislike all of them; for some reason, I never look good enough. This time, I’m standing amongst a group of six by a rock in the middle of the jungle. We’re outfitted with harnesses, bandanas, and helmets, mere minutes away from making the first of many zip-line runs. It’s just a generic photo taken by the company’s staff, something you’d put up on Facebook after getting home.

What the photo doesn’t show, however, is the exhaustion. Before getting to this point, we woke up at dawn, ate breakfast, got ready, and had to ride out to the El Eden zip-line. That involved us taking a taxi to a nearby OXXO (think 7-11, Mexico-style) and waiting for the tour truck to pick us up. The truck itself was a strange blend of pickup and flatbed; the back was decked out with half a dozen rows of benches and topped with an open-air canopy. It’s surprisingly good for taking photos, as long as you don’t mind the smog and noise of Puerto Vallarta’s early morning traffic. The ride was pleasant enough in the city – our driver made an amazing three-point turn on a hill when his normal route was blocked by construction – but things changed once we left the streets. As we thumped over the first pothole and onto the dirt, we realized there were no seat belts, and seemingly no shock absorbers. To call that hour-long ride into the jungle “bumpy” would be a gross understatement. By the time we reached the zip-line, several passengers were sore and glad to be on solid ground again.

One of the neat things about El Eden (aside from it being the filming set for Predator – they even have a statue of the alien!) is its natural waterfall and pool. After spending an hour climbing through the sweltering jungle, the water seems so tempting. Or you could go their well-furnished restaurant and enjoy some food. We’d planned on doing both, as this was supposed to be an all-day excursion. However, we failed to read the fine print; our tour scheduled us doing the zip-line, relaxing for half an hour, climbing back into the bus, attending a tequila factory presentation, and going back to the hotel. Of course, we didn’t find out about the plan until it was too late. We’d come out there with towels, beach stuff, and were wearing our swimsuits under our clothes. Yeah, imagine traversing the jungle with layered clothes and climbing gear.

Unsurprisingly, I was struck with heat exhaustion near the end.

Let me preface this by saying that I’m in reasonably good shape for a 30-year-old. I don’t have a six pack (it’s more like a one-and-half-pack at best), but I eat healthy, and I’m not diabetic. I swam for hours at the hotel’s pool, and walked for hours every day on the beach. I run up stairs. My sprints to catch subway trains are the stuff of legends. I used to hike and camp all the time as a kid, and I can still walk all day without any trouble. I walked 11 miles across San Francisco on a random whim not too long ago. But that doesn’t make any difference when you’re deep in the jungle, weighed down by clothes and gear, and don’t have any water with you.

I’d had a couple of cups of juice in the morning before leaving, but I somehow completely forgot to rehydrate myself before starting the course. I’d done zip-lining before in Maui last year, but that had only 3 lines. This had 12, all of which required some uphill climbing to reach. There were cups of water handed out after every four or five lines, but it quickly became apparent that it wasn’t enough. My steady pace devolved into weary stumbling, my face paled, and my skin went cold with sweat. I couldn’t even remove my helmet, which suddenly seemed tight enough to choke me; it was an older model, which meant I couldn’t adjust the straps by turning the mechanism of the side. The body harness was digging into me, and the drawstring on my swim trunks was shoved into my gut. The staff were pros at these kinds of situations, thankfully; it took about 4 cups of water and 15 minutes of rest to get me back into fighting shape, but I decided to call it a day.

It’s not like I was missing much, either. I’d keeled over after the 10th line, right before the steepest, toughest one on the entire course. It required you to have a decent mastery over the zip-line’s braking system; you basically had to shift your body and the metal handlebars side-to-side, thus increasing friction and reducing speed. I understood it from an academic standpoint, but putting into practice when you’re zooming above the trees is something else entirely. I saw plenty of people practically crash into the landing areas because they were coming in with too much momentum. If you couldn’t get braking down well enough by the 11th line, the staff would tell you to skip it for the sake of safety. Since I was too fed up and/or embarrassed about the whole situation, I followed their advice and waited for everyone at the last last line. I wearily sat down with the rest of my group for lunch, found out about the limited schedule, and had to wolf down a platter of fajitas someone graciously ordered for me. The fact that we were being rushed for the sake of visiting a tequila factory annoyed me. I don’t drink – I took a single shot of mandarin tequila and nearly spit it out – so I had no interest in the tour. I had just enough time to finish the meal and snap a few photos of the waterfall (which I’ll post later) before making the bumpy ride back.

That reminds me: They don’t let you use your own camera to record the zip-line action. I’d hauled my DSLR all the way into the jungle, only to be told to stow it in one of the lockers they had available. It’s a liability thing; no tourist wants to drop their camera (kinda hard to record when you’re supposed to be holding on with both hands), and the company doesn’t want to have to deal with that kind of mess. Instead, they offer special helmets mounted with GoPros. You record the action, they download it onto their computers, then charge you for whatever bundles/prints/etc. you choose. It makes sense – they are running a business, after all – but as someone used to having full control over my cameras and what’s being shot, it irked me. While I love a good adventure, I left El Eden feeling rushed, annoyed, and tired.

That’s okay, I’ll make up for it on my next journey. Where, you ask? Heh. Let’s just say that Fall 2015 is going to be…epic. Stay tuned.

Daily Prompt: Fight Or Flight, Or: A Day In The ER

Hey, folks. Yesterday’s Daily Prompt was all about flight or flight. You know, that reaction that everyone has to stressful situations? It reminds me of the time I helped fight a house fire, but something similarly stressful came up recently. You might’ve noticed that the updates this past week were kind of sparse. It wasn’t because I left the country again (though I wish it were), but I spent an entire day at the local ER. Not for myself, though. I got a call early in the morning from my aunt. My grandmother’s knee has been worsening over the past year, but she’s been too stubborn to see a doctor. Eventually, it got so bad that she couldn’t even stand up anymore from the pain. My aunt wanted to help, but she’s just gotten out of the hospital herself, so she wasn’t in any condition to do anything. I hadn’t left on my commute yet, and I was the closest one around. I got there as quickly as possible, consulted an advice nurse over the phone, and had her call an ambulance. They got her out of the house surprisingly fast – they had to haul her down two flights of stairs and part of a hill – and let me ride in the back of the ambulance.

Never had that on my bucket list…

Anyway, I oversaw her admittance from start to finish. I’ll spare you the personal and gory details – I’m pretty sure that a knee tap is the most agonizing medical procedure I’ve ever seen – but it basically boiled down to me stepping up and handling things personally. I’ve done it before countless times in the office (I was nicknamed The Boss Man, after all), but never in the thick of a medical emergency. There was this immediate realization and acceptance that okay, this is all up to me now. It must have been the adrenaline, but I never lost focus on what had to be done or what information needed to be communicated. I took notes, asked and answered questions, worked on logistics, and managed conference calls with family members over the phone in order to keep everything organized. Some of my relatives were surprised that I was the one in charge; I’m notoriously quiet and shy in most social and family situations, so seeing my all-business, no-nonsense persona was a shock. I had too many other problems to care.

In the end, we had to talk her into temporarily going to a nursing/rehabilitation facility. It’s the lesser of two evils; no one wants to lose their personal freedom, but they have trained staff and more physical therapy resources than she’d get at home. She’ll be there for another two weeks, but at least she’s getting regular visits from family. In the meantime, I’ve spearheaded Operation Get-Grandma’s-House-Prepped for her inevitable return. Handling someone else’s livelihood and personal business can be a hassle, but it’s necessary. I didn’t realize it until later that first night, but I’d spent the entire day without eating or resting; I had been running on adrenaline. Once I got back home, I collapsed into bed and slept better than I had in years. Amazing how much the fight can take out of you.

One last thing. If you have elderly family members, take the time to call them up and see how they’re doing. It’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind and overlook the important things. Don’t let loss be the only reminder of what you have.

Bye, Bitter

Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt is all about taste. Specifically, which one you’d willingly give up.

…Wow. That’s actually really hard. That’s like asking which limb you’d willingly have removed. Well, I’d have to narrow it down based on the ones I wouldn’t part with. I was raised mostly on spicy food, and I can’t imagine not being able to enjoy curry, jalepeƱos, garlic, or any of the other stuff I regularly eat. I enjoy fruits and ice cream way too much to ever give up my taste of sweetness. Sour needs to stay, because of the aforementioned fruits and my need for lemons with my seafood. Chicken, beef, and cheese are also part of my diet, so that means umami stays as well. That leaves just salty and bitter tastes.

Hmmm. My knee-jerk reaction is to drop bitterness; I don’t drink coffee or beer, and I dislike that type of chocolate. It’d have the least impact on my grocery list. However, I’m well aware of the problems that come with too much salty foods. There are so many diabetic and blood issues in my family, I’ve gotten used to checking the sodium and calorie contents whenever I go shopping. A brief Google search suggests that bitter foods are generally healthier. You need foods of all tastes in order to have a balanced diet, though. On the other hand, getting rid of a taste doesn’t prevent you from eating its corresponding food; it’s just a matter of which one you’d give up enjoying. In the end, I’d likely ditch bitterness, but I’d never forget to include it in my meals regardless of enjoyment. It’s a small price to pay to continue eating what I truly love.

Anyone else suddenly hungry? I think I’ll chop up some mangoes now…