Thursday, June 29, 2017

It's never too late to change

At the gym named after the clock, I got off my stationary bike and walked briskly to the front to see if I could locate more 2.5 pound hand-weights. I wasn't instructing this particular class, but we instructors often work together to help members achieve their fitness goals and we suddenly had more people arrive than we had weights.

I found a few in the stretching area and came back and at the door was a man watching the class. He appeared to be maybe 10 years older than me. I asked him to come and join us, as we had at least one bike left. "Oh, no, I think this is beyond my ability. I think I'll just stick to the recumbent bikes out on the main floor."

We exchanged a few more words where I explained that it is never too late to give it a go and that seeing the class is quite strenuous, he could come in and give it 10 minutes sometime. Well, it turns out he was 80 years old. Now he looked dang good for 80. In fact, he looked good for 75, but he was right. It was too much for him... at that time.

90% of people who venture into what we call a Group-X class is not prepared for what happens in the next hour. I know I wasn't when I first began and I thought I was in good shape. I took my first Spin class (stationary bike) about 3 years ago and this was after hitting the treadmill and elliptical machines 5 times a week. I figuratively crashed and burned every class for the first 6 months.

Now let me clarify this, because it sounds like the class is too demanding. The class is as hard as you make it. Being a competitive person, I felt like if I couldn't do every little bit that the instructor asked, I failed. When they said "give the resistance knob half a turn", I did. Every single time and usually 20 minutes into the hour, I looked at the clock and prayed for it to get moving. It took me 6 months of 2 times a week before I could "hang" and that is when I realized how much I loved spinning. Never mind that 80% of the people around me were half my age.

Spinning is the ultimate cardio Group X class, but you don't have to do the full 60 minutes wide open to benefit from it. You do not have to spend months preparing to make that first visit either, but using the treadmill and elliptical machines prior to attempting your first class will give you a measure of your fitness and boost our confidence.

Make no mistake, walking through those glass doors the first time is dadgum intimidating, but if you have an instructor worth their salt, they will welcome you inside and get you set up on a bike. This is crucial because if the bike is not adjusted for your body, you will either work yourself to death, or possibly get hurt. After I've helped a person get the adjustments just right, I always ask them to take a photo of the settings, "So the next time you come in and adjust the seat, you will look like a pro."
I took my first Zumba class last Saturday at a Group X Instructor event in Midtown and for 45 minutes, I did something that only slightly resembled Zumba - but I did it and was pretty danged proud of myself.  I'm not a dancer.  I'm a linear karate guy. This makes me look like a robot or an Egyptian when I try to do circular movements, like Salsa or Rumba. The good part is everyone in the room was an instructor of some discipline and all of us who aren't dancers looked like spastics. It was a blast and I laughed the whole class.

Since my neck became a medical problem, I've had to stop lifting weights for the most part and seeing I do not need weight lifting for my lower half, I decided to try Zumba for more cardio, flexibility, and just plain exercise. Now here is the intimidation factor I talked about and even though I instruct in this Group X environment, walking into a Zumba class to participate brings a certain amount of anxiety, even for me.

Now add in the fact that it is basically an all-female class, and this bumps it up considerably. Well, at my home gym, I know many of the ladies and they were happy to have me embarrass myself, so I went this past Monday and took a full hour with Emily Haynie at command. Wow!  I sweated a lot and like I realized last Saturday, it is all about the feet and having fun.

Is it too late in life to take something like this on you ask (and you stand staring at yourself in the mirror).  The answer is no.  It is not. The first step and the hardest part is walking into that gym and inside the gym are many doors.  You simple walk through them one at a time.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Withering Weather Wilts Writhing Woman

I was making chit chat with a customer at my favorite grocery store on North Main the other day and of course, the weather was casually mentioned by me. We both agreed it was hot and summer had arrived. The lady suffered from DVM - defective voice modulation and was talking real loud and I didn't realize she could be heard at the far end of the aisle. She was also hard of hearing and repeated the word "humidity" a number of times. She walked away and I proceeded to shop.

We were in the cold food section and when I first spotted HER, she was neck deep in the burrito case and as I perused the various frigid delicacies, I couldn't help but notice she remained frozen in place. I pretended to take an interest in the plethora of fish stick options as I obliquely observed her. Her dress was rather large and loose-fitting and she was wearing those old school thick brown nylons and heavy boots.

I couldn't stick around too long, or she might suspect I was doing something nefarious. I imagine a woman dressed like she was, suspects she attracts a certain amount of lewd glances. As if a premonition took her, she jerked her head out and facing me, gave me an icy glare. Now normally, I would have looked away and shuffled past, but as she pulled her head out of the frosty case, she had a package of frozen taquitos stuck to her forehead.

Being a responsible Baytonian and a past State certified emergency care attendant, I did the only thing I knew to do and that is laugh. Well as the frosty package fell away from her head, she deftly snatched it mid-air and like Otis Thorpe in his prime, she slammed it home with the other tasty treats.
 "You can have your humidity any day of the week," she said and pointed a bony ring-clad finger at me. I found it peculiar that the knuckle on my side of the ring was at least twice as big as the jewelry.

Holy smokes, this lady was not a fan of humidity! Is anyone a fan of humidity? The more she talked, the more I envisioned the wicked witch of the west when Dorothy threw water on her. Mind you, the sweating woman looked nothing like the gorgeous Margaret Hamilton... this lady was blond and missing her front teeth. "My humidity?" was all I could muster. I am usually pretty quick on my feet and back in the day, when it came to fast responses, I could go all night like a lumberjack.
"Yea, your danged humidity! I plan to move somewhere that I won't be sweating like this and do it soon!" With that, she opened the case and snatched two 3-pound packages of beef and bean burritos and put one under each arm. This effectively not only repulsed me, because I like bean burritos, but drove home her point astoundingly well.

"Ma'am, with all due respect, I happen to have a keen interest in our weather and checked it on the Interweb (I used this phrase to gain advantage and most likely convince her that I was indeed educated - possibly past her own level of study) before I left home. The humidity is low today at 48% because the wind is coming out of the north." I had just about decided the woman was afflicted with that aging virus women get somewhere in their 40's and attempted to deftly maneuver past her.

I guess my grin was taken wrong and she stuck her brown size 12 brogan out and blocked my buggy. "So you say. My great uncle was a radio weatherman and he always got the weather right and it runs in our family!" She drove home her point by raising her voice an octave and 10 decibels. 

Well, I've never been one to turn down a sound argument and I explained to her that I spent 2 years in the tropics and "this is really not that bad!"
With that, she opened the chilled case and with skills Tony Romo would admire, she launched them 2 bean and tortilla-wrapped projectiles back with solidly impressive impact.  I could see it in her eyes. The lady was heat stoned! I looked around for a manager and indeed I saw 2, but both of them had been observing the heated exchange and they took off like they were on a water slide.

Now I have quite a bit of grappling experience, but this was clearly a case of fight or flight and the person in front of me was beginning to assume charge mode. When a person drops into a 3-point stance and places their knuckles on the floor, it is a sound bet, they plan to go for it.  I've seen hormone-imbalanced women get this same look and everyone knows how unpredictable and violent they get.

She lunged and I side-stepped and she went down and such was her launch at me, that she slid a good 10 feet before piling up in front of the frozen pizza cases.  The last thing I heard her yell as I zoomed my cart toward the check-out line was "I'm moving back to god's country... Channelview!"

Thursday, June 15, 2017

You get out what you put in

 My dad was a man of many talents, but conveying them was not his strong suit. I've written about this before that I learned more from him by accident than instruction. It wasn't because he didn't try. I just couldn't see it the way he presented it. I suppose it was the same way he and his dad interacted.

My son in law and I were sitting on the back patio the other day after my grandson's fourth birthday party and we were tying knots. Mike Sievers is an Eagle Scout and I was a Scout master of sorts, but never learned all the stuff he did to get to that level.

I was showing him a short-cut to tie a clove hitch and realized my dad taught it to me. It is a quick way to make the knot and only works if the rope can be slipped over the end of whatever you are tying. I first realized this was odd when I did it during a training session at the chemical plant where I was employed and the goal of training was to educate us fire fighter/rescue team members to use rope for rescue.

Some of these guys prided themselves on their knot knowledge and with all of us being alpha personalities, it was difficult to admit they had never seen it. There was precious little actual mentoring present. It was basically every person for themselves. Learn it or not - who cares?

I asked Mike about a knot he used earlier to tie off a tarp and he called it a fisherman's knot and demonstrated it. I said "huh," and then showed him the way (once again) my dad showed me to tie that knot.  He looked at it and admitted it was superior. We talked about various knots for a bit and then got off onto other subjects.

The thing about Mike and I is he knows a lot of stuff that I don't and in this environment we both learn from each other. It is my experience that there is precious little of this one on one sharing of knowledge going on. What we have substituted is electronic instruction. Want to learn something? Watch a YouTube video. If you get it, fine. If not, fine. You can fake it till you make it.

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
― Benjamin Franklin  Old Ben once again comes through with the simplicity of sharing knowledge.

When a person decides to become a mentor, things don't always go the direction they hope and here is a humorous example. My grandson who just turned 4 and I were having a one-sided serious discussion about dinosaurs, as he was having that theme at his birthday party. He has two small dogs that he really hasn't connected with, so to attempt to raise his understanding, I began like this, "What if you could have two little animals like dinosaurs living in your house to play with? These type of animals have been around for millions of years. Would you like that?" He looked me in the eye and just as serious as he could be, he said... "6 dollars!" I haven't laughed that hard in a long time.

The key is connecting and this is the hard part.  I like this quote to explain it: “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” William Arthur Ward

The last few years of my career in the Chemical Plant industry, I observed there was precious little mentoring. It was completely absent at the top and of course, trickled down to the bottom rung. No one appeared willing to give anyone a boost. I mainly worked with chemical engineers and watched the new engineers flounder and fail and all because none of the veterans were willing to throw them a lifeline. When I questioned my friends, they shrugged. "Sink or swim".

The reality is they didn't need a simple lifeline, they needed someone to tie off next to them and teach them how to fight off the sharks until they could float on their own. Is it because people don't care anymore, or they simply don't have time? There must be some logical reason the golden rule is ignored. Way back in 1977 when I hired on with ARCO, I heard young guys like myself complain "No one will show you anything because they don't want you to take their job." Some of that was true I guess, but pales in comparison to modern times.

William Arthur Ward would spin like one of them newfangled gizmos if he could see the absence of compassionate instruction in today's society. Many appear to have had no guidance whatsoever. We met a considerate person of maybe 25 years the other day and my bride commented that they must have been taught to be polite from childhood. It was obvious that they "got it" and in their day to day interaction with other living creatures, they proved it. Each one, reach one, teach one. Boy, I wish it were that simple.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

No news is good news

Boy howdy, watching or reading the news is a bummer. Can I say bummer and not sound like a 70's hippie? Bummer: A - used to express frustration or disappointment, typically sympathetically. B - a thing that is annoying or disappointing. Yea, the second definition describes my reaction to what is being reported.

I'm a news junkie and gather my information from a wide range of sources, hopefully steering away from the wide right or left reports. The reason for this is I don't trust them to report the news, but interpret and spin them and the reason they do this is because they believe I am too stupid to decipher what I hear and read.

Bummer.  I might not be a genius, but I think I can read facts and based on the validity of said facts, draw a fairly accurate conclusion. I'm not a "Trump said it, so it must be right," or "Whatever Bernie likes, I like," kind of voter.

As a voter and a blue collar American worker, I found enough evidence in the last 8 years of Obama's administration to believe we did not share the same vision of where my tax dollars should have been spent. At no time did I feel like doing something violent. I just voted and wrote the politicians I felt would hear me.

When I saw a Obama sticker on a shirt or hat, I just walked past it or them and figured they were for his policies. During the last election, I saw precious few Trump bumper stickers and I did the math and surmised they didn't want their car keyed. Please explain to me that I got that wrong and that the Liberal party is truly tolerant of anyone who doesn't believe what they do and embrace, cause I ain't seen it.

There is so much finger-pointing and hatred in the news right now that it is confusing and painful to watch. I've decided its more fun to simply talk to strangers I meet and talk about the weather, traffic, or their pets. I was at Home Depot the other day and one of the employees looked at the sky and announced his next job was going to be a weatherman.  "I don't ever have to be right and I get paid like I am," he said and we laughed. I have no idea what he thinks about global warming or the Paris agreement or who he voted for. It didn't matter.

We chatted a few minutes like old friends. To be honest, I would rather talk to an interesting person, like a Rastafarian veteran vegetarian veterinarian, than argue with dogmatic people over their brand of politics. At least that hairy Vet person could talk with authority on a number of subjects and be believable.
Stock photo, but this is an example of how strangers can interact without arguing.
An hour later in the pet aisle of my favorite supermarket, a lady and I shared humorous tales of our dogs. It was a pleasant distraction from the bombardment of negative news I had earlier subjected myself to. Amazingly, the question of Donald Trump's tax returns were not discussed. Surprisingly, heavy relevant news, like Kathy Griffin and Ariana Grande baggy blue jeans never came up.

I helped a newbie at the gym get her spin bike set up before class and then we talked about fitness goals and not once did either of us suggest Vladimir Putin got the upper hand over Megyn Kelly in the must watch interview that lasted maybe 5 minutes or if the current President would stifle James Comey's testimony. I found this remarkable, because according to the press, these are things everyone is discussing.

Most of us are more worried about the price of avocados than most of these nail-biting world events that we can't do a thing to change. At least with the avocados, we can stop buying them and force the price down.

These world events that are pumped into our homes and computer screens give us a feeling of helplessness. If all the people in charge can't see mutual solutions, what chance do we have to make a difference? I am continually perplexed that the surrounding cradle of civilization is in constant war, turmoil, discontent, and various levels of destruction. Isn't this the oldest civilization on earth? They are killing each other and fomenting violence all around the world, even as I write this. You would think that after thousands of years, they would be an example of advanced civilization, right? Instead, many of them still live in dirt homes. Dirt homes mind you.

I would rather talk about my dogs, thank you.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Why is illegal entry into this country an issue?

Let me start off with a bold logical statement. If you as a voting US citizen feel so strongly about allowing illegal entry into this country, show it to everyone by letting a bunch of them live in your house and subsidize them with your own money. Of course, this is also illegal, but ponder it just the same. I would appreciate your taxes funding them over my own.

In this scenario, it is okay to let them work outside your property for profit, but also in this scenario, you don't see a dime of the money they make. Being the generous and sympathetic soul that you are, you furnish everything for a husband and wife and a year later, you suddenly realize they have moved 8 other "relatives" into your house and 3 of the women are pregnant, which by law, you will adopt.

You of course will pay their medical expenses, diaper bills, education and everything else associated with having 10 people under your roof besides your family. You feel so strongly about their right to be here that you literally bankrupt your resources and make a trip to Austin to lobby for them to stay.

Now the question we've all been waiting to hear answered. How in God's name is this even a scenario anyone would agree to?

Months pass and many of the 28 people now living under your roof are good and hard-working people, who show how good they are by sending 90% of their earnings home to wherever their home country is. Their family's deserve to benefit from their hard work in the US, right? On top of that, because you have so much, you deserve to foot the bill. I mean, after all, nothing is more garish and vulgar than American privilege. You are rich and when it comes right down to it, you should literally be forced to share.

We can each save the world, one undocumented human at a time no matter the cost or our current set of laws!

Why can't other US citizens just understand that our hard-earned standard of living should be shared with the less fortunate? All the fat kids in America speak volumes of nutrition abuse to the hungry kid living elsewhere. Take from us obese US citizens and give it to that kid who simply cannot afford to eat at the Lone Steak Outhouse cafe every day. Because if we don't, they will be forced to consume the local food that has successfully sustained their ancestors for thousands of years.

I could cite instance after instance and lengthy articles explaining how allowing illegal entry into this country is both good and bad and people are so passionate about it that they are ready to kill each other over the issue, but forget all that. Seriously, forget about it!

Let's simply draw a line in the dirt right now. Let's change the immigration laws to allow anyone sympathetic to allowing illegals into this country (read undocumented citizens - forget the workers part) to let them move as many people into their house(s) as they can initially financially support. They must sign a binding contract to cover their food, transportation, medical bills, insurance (because everyone has to have insurance for god's sake), utilities usage, and all associated taxes with living in this country.

They must also sign a binding contract that if at any time they cannot fulfill this, they will face a non-negotiable 5 year jail visit per person. If the person they are funding commits a felony, they will share in the punishment. Also, the people they are funding will not be liable to pay back anything they receive from their sponsor and can send 90% of it home. This will allow their distant families to enjoy the same standard of living as their sponsor once did before being so financially burdened that they are in ruin.

To make it fair to the sponsor, each contract would expire after 5 years and must be renewed or the sponsored inhabitants will be deported at your expense.

I think it's a wonderful plan of compromise and I cannot for the life of me see how anyone sympathetic to the plight of illegals could find it offensive or - God forbid...racist!

The real poop on the Ukraine

Mitt Romney’s top adviser, Joseph Cofer Black, joined the board of the Ukraine energy firm, Burisma, while Hunter Biden was also serving on ...