Monthly Archives: July 2015

Fast, cheap, and in control

tara on ladderI started making workout “ladders” several years ago. Some friends who’ve used it have made them too. The ladders are fast to use, cheap to make, and allow you to control your hand positions.

It’s a fast workout. I use the ladders three times a week. There’re three rungs, letting you do pull-ups, dips, rows, push-ups and inverted dips. Just drop down another rung on the ladder to do a different exercise, there’s no fussing with equipment. You can come up with other exercises too as you get used to using it.

Making the ladders is cheap.All you need is plastic pipe for handles, one inch wide webbing between the handles, and two carabiners to hang it up.

Because you’re able to pick your hand position, you can control the torque on your joints because your hands aren’t forced into the rigid positions they’d be in on a fixed bar. Smaller muscles are also brought into play on a flexible, hanging ladder.

Also, as you go through the different exercises you’ll be alternating between pulling on the joints and pushing on the joints.

Looking at the picture, you can see how it’s built.

In case you’re interested, here’re the dimensions I use. Each handle is about 4.5 inches, the top triangle has 11inch sides, the middle section is 40 inches between handles, and the bottom section is 28 inches between handles. Add 8 inches to each end for tying the knot, and cut off the excess afterward.

The hardest part is the tying the knots so both ladders are the same length. If you have a sewing machine, bar tacking the loops instead of knotting is the way to go.

The ladders are also very light and portable.

There’s the TRX, if you want to buy something similar. But it’ll be more much more expensive and not as easy to use as these ladders. Have fun.


The two-toned ladies

bunnies on the streetOccasionally your perceptions get to shift in surprising ways.

When I was five my family moved to Germany. For the first year, we lived in a small rural village. The world view of a five- year-old isn’t broad, but I could pick up on how different things suddenly were.

Country life in Germany was slower to change than it might be today. In 1960, just 15 years after WWII, our village wasn’t very modern. You could buy a Coke or maybe a 7-Up, that was about it for soft drinks.

Village life was different from city life in New Orleans. Every afternoon farmers walked  cows though town, from the pastures back home. Sometimes our neighbor would chop one of her chickens’ heads off, to prepare dinner. Washing clothes was done in a big pot on the wood-burning stove.

Being from New Orleans I was used to seeing as many black folks as I would white folks. Our village wasn’t like New Orleans. There were mainly white Germans, and some two-toned older women I’d never seen before.

The older women looked like a grafted tree, a white person’s upper body spliced onto a black person’s lower body. It seemed exotic, but so did most of the things I was seeing in the village. So I never asked my parents about those ladies.

I don’t remember when I figured it out that year, but the two-toned ladies were just old “fraus” who only wore dresses and black stockings every day.

Suddenly, the village made a little more sense and was a bit less exotic for me after that.

Standup Comedians

life decision treeAlmost anything embarrassing is potentially funny.

Embarrassing stuff happens to all of us. But very few get up in front of a roomful of people to talk about their embarrassing stuff as  humorous insights into life.

Recently at the Comedy Cellar in NYC I saw a show with six comics. The comedians were men, women, different races, and different ages. They each had a different style of delivery  and different personalities. But they all generally talked about personal stuff that was funny, like Louis CK does in his routines.

Their material was  much less about observations about the world around them, like you might hear from a Jerry Seinfeld. His style is funny too but it wasn’t usually too personal.

People are interested in other people and what they do. We actually want to see how the sausage gets made. Newer comedians gather up scraps and residue of their lives and shape it all into something funny to share.

I’ve never seen a comedian bomb on stage, resonating with strangers in a room all watching you must be tough. But luckily there’s enough embarrassing  material in each person’s life that in the right hands can be made into really funny stories.

Thorny non-problems

bull headsYou can’t judge another man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.

I walk barefoot most of the time. Not in town, that’d be weird, especially in Mexico. But as soon as I’m on the backroads walking our dog I slip off my flip flops. Doing anything around the house is usually done without shoes too.

There’re lots of benefits to going barefoot, stronger healthier feet and lower legs, a more natural stride, better balance, and that sort of thing. It also just feels better.

What got me thinking about walking around barefoot was walking over some stickers yesterday without being stuck once. I realize that, in eight years of walking around barefoot a lot in tropical Mexico, I haven’t had problems walking over things most people wearing shoes assume would be dangerous or painful.

The stickers look like the head of a small black bull with sharp horns about two inches apart. But they lay flat on the ground and don’t poke you. I was struck by how I didn’t think about walking over them.

I wouldn’t walk on rose stems barefoot or go barefoot on backroads at night. You need to take a few precautions but not many.

Maybe it’s the speed of walking that gives you time for unconsciously anticipating and judging the terrain ahead before you’re there. Also your feet get tougher with use, but they’re soft to the touch, mainly, walking barefoot makes your feet less sensitive to walking over small rocks.

If you wear shoes all of the time, you’ll wind up thinking you need to wear shoes everywhere.

No sugarcoating it

waveThe San Andreas fault line is almost mild compared to the lesser known Cascadia fault line off the coast of the Northwestern states.

Nearly all earthquakes are caused by continental plates getting stuck on oceanic plates and then getting abruptly unstuck.

Eighty miles from the shore and ten thousand feet below the surface of the sea, the hand of a geological clock is somewhere in its slow sweep. All across the Northwest, seismologists are looking at their watches, wondering how long we have, and what we will do, before geological time catches up to our own.

The Cascadia fault line remained hidden from us for so long because we couldn’t see deep enough into the past. It poses a danger to us today because we haven’t thought deeply enough about the future. That’s no longer a problem of information; we now understand very well what the Cascadia fault line will someday do.

Seismologists know that how long an earthquake lasts is a decent proxy for its magnitude.

The 1989 earthquake in Loma Prieta, California, which killed 63 and caused six billion dollars’ worth of damage, lasted about fifteen seconds and had a magnitude of 6.9. A thirty-second earthquake generally has a magnitude in the mid-sevens. A minute-long quake is in the high sevens, a two-minute quake has entered the eights, and a three-minute quake is in the high eights. By four minutes, an earthquake has hit magnitude 9.0.

An earthquake from the Cascadia fault line is predicted to be a high magnitude one lasting minutes.

The Cascadia’s average amount of time between earthquakes is 243 years. That timespan is dangerous both because it is too long—long enough for us to unwittingly build an entire civilization on top of our continent’s worst fault line—and because it is not long enough. Counting from the last earthquake in 1700, we’re now 315 years into a 243 year cycle.

How should a society respond to a looming crisis of uncertain timing but of catastrophic proportions that it’s completely not prepared for?

There’s no sugarcoating it. The earthquake itself will be devastating. Then, depending on location, people will have much less than an hour to flee before the tsunami, which follows a quake, smashes ashore to complete the devastation. “When that tsunami is coming, you run. You protect yourself, you don’t turn around, you don’t go back to save anybody. You run for your life.” That’s the advice of a safety policy official.

We’re insulated from nature, living in what would have been a dream world to our ancestors, taking for granted things they couldn’t imagine. But nature is always there, and we often forget. It’s like our cuddly cat coming home with a mouse or a bird that it’s hunted and killed for us. We forget that a cat is part of nature

I found this information in a New Yorker Magazine article that’s worth reading if you want to know more about the Cascadia fault line.

Best Practices

tumblr_nlfnwicPmj1sulnzno1_500Dr. McGuff is an ER doc. He’s seen lots of accident case and created a list of things to avoid   based on his years of observations in the ER. I’ve excerpted it here for you and as reminder to myself.

1. Drive the biggest vehicle you can afford. Your greatest risk of death comes from a motor vehicle accident. In a two car accident, the person in the larger car always fares better. Also, if your plans include a motorcycle or sports car, realize that you might avoid old age all together. It goes without saying to wear your seat belts.
2. Never get on a 4-wheeler ATV. These are the most dangerous vehicle that I know of. ATV’s have produced more quadraplegics than anything else I’ve seen.
3. Do not road cycle or jog on public roads/roadsides.
4. Do not fly a plane or helicopter unless you’re a full-time professional pilot. If you are a  well-to-do professional do not get a pilot’s license. Expertise in one area of life does not transfer to piloting.
5. If you are approaching a group of loud and apparently intoxicated males, cross to the other side of the street immediately. If anyone tries to start a fight with you, the first step should be to run away.
6. If your gas grill won’t start….walk away. Never throw gas (or other accelerant) on a fire.
7. Never dive into a pool or body of water until you’ve checked it out feet-first.                        8. Never get on a ladder to clean your gutters, or on your roof to hang Christmas lights. Do not cut down trees with a chainsaw. I’ve seen too many middle age men die from these activities. Generally, any house or lawn work that’s hired out is money well spent.
9. If you are retirement age and plan on moving to a new home…think twice. The stress pushes many seniors over the edge. If you do, buy an existing house. Many retirees have died of heart attacks from the stress of custom-building their retirement dream home.
10. If anyone tries to force you into your car or car trunk at gun point, don’t cooperate. Fight and scream all you can even if you risk getting shot. If you get in the car, you will most likely die (or worse).
11. If you are in any personal or professional relationship that exhausts you or otherwise causes your recurrent distress, then end the relationship immediately.
12. Don’t play the lottery…you might win. Lottery winners and Sports/Movie stars share a common bond of disproportionate rates of depression, addiction, and suicide.

The work partner

trumpEver thought about how your career might be a life partner?

Last week I tried calling someone who’s in between jobs. I talked to his wife instead because he was “at the office.” “Why,” I asked, “if he’d sold his company?” She said he liked going in. He’d been working the same job for about twenty years

If changing careers has parallels to dealing with death or divorce, then seeking out what’s familiar and normal for you is what you’ll do. It’s different than hopping from job to job, which is closer to serial monogamy and the end of a job isn’t too impactful. A long-term career is more like a partner, providing meaning and structure.

There’s also the de facto religion of the US of industriousness to consider, busyness is the strenuous demonstration that you’re practicing industriousness. “Not really working? Well, I’ll just pop into the office anyway.” That pattern runs deep, like a tiger’s stripes. If you could shave down a tiger, you’d find a tiger’s skin is striped too, not just the fur.

Maybe this guy had crossed his finish line without noticing. But when he goes to the office he was feeling that “People like us do things like that” even though running on permanent overdrive is unnecessary. Life is not a contest to see who can accomplish the most.

Conforming to the social ideal that to be worthy you must be busy is hard to see, like fish that aren’t aware they’re surrounded by water. Doing something that really interests you, it’ll result in a much more enjoyable life than just doing something to be busy. But it’s hard figuring out what it feels like to be you, right now, not your story.

Last year, most people’s favorite Pope, Francis, was asked about his secret to happiness. His answer was,”slow down. Take time off. Live and let live. Don’t proselytize. Work for peace. Work at a job that offers basic human dignity. Don’t hold on to negative feelings. Move calmly through life. Enjoy art, books and playfulness.”