Friday, July 29, 2011

It is hot

  The temperature today is somewhere around 90 degrees F, which is a relief. “They” say it might rain tonight and that would be great. (You know the “They,” those sciencey types that give suggestions about where the mighty wind will blow and how that will affect our day). You might have heard that last week it was 100 in the NE. Actually it was over 100, closer to 104, and then you add the humidity. “They” call this the “real feel” temperature.

  The “real feel” refers to how the humidity affects the temperature and our understanding of it. This is how you feel when the water droplets in the air hit your skin and begin to boil. This might not be the definition that “They” would give, but that’s what it means. It means it felt like 114 F most days.

  Now that we have some definitions cleared up I would like to tell you about my week traveling to and from work. I have mentioned before that I ride a motorcycle. I am thankful for it and do not want to give it up, but I would like to vent.

  First of all, speaking of vents, my motorcycle does not have any air conditioning vents. Not like a car might have. Actually it does not have a dash board or any of that stuff. It’s just me looking out over the handle bars being met by boiling water droplets suspended in the 104 degree air while going 35 miles per hour.

  However I do have other vents, but they are to let the air escape from the engine. The air needs to escape because the engine reaches incredibly high temperatures. It is important to point out at this point in the story that when you are riding a motorcycle you are sitting on or right behind the engine. (The same engine with the incredibly high temperatures). Not just sitting, but straddling, that is with legs wrapped around the engine near those vents dispelling incredibly hot air.

  I also make the choice to wear protective gear while operating the vehicle. I have leather gloves, all the better to strap in palm sweat. I also wear a full face helmet to save me from potential disaster, but all the better to accept and trap the extremely hot air flowing at me. And many days I wear a mesh riding jacket, again to help displace possible trouble. But on these 100 degree days it only helps to direct the rivulets of sweat as they careen down my back and legs. You don’t know what hot is until you have little streams of sweat running down over your knee caps.

  If you want to get an approximation of what this is like I suggest you preheat your oven to 400. Wait till the little beeper goes off so you know you have reached the full temperature. Then find a hair dryer, set to high. Hoist yourself up onto the preheated oven and turn the hair dryer around to so it hits you full in the face. Straddle the oven for about 20 minutes and you will get the general idea. Remember safety first, you could put on some oven mitts if you like.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Farm Fitness

   Many people would like to know more about fitness from the Amish perspective. One thing the internet is lacking in is Amish fitness tips from an informed practitioner.

   The Amish on the whole have a healthy way of life. Most of their day could be considered a fitness routine. I have chosen to narrow it down to activities you can do at home whether your home is in the city, suburbs, or charming college town. Here are three ideas from the farm that have kept the Amish svelte for years: walking, bailing, and persuading.

   Walk. Nearly everywhere, nearly every time, walk. This one is quick and straight forward. When going to visit a friend, walk. When getting groceries, walk. When doing just about any activity just about any time, walk.

   Next is bailing. The Amish can bail some hay. To do this in your home takes some imagination as I assume you do not have a field of hay that it waiting to be bailed and stacked. But I have thought of a viable substitution. You need a large cumbersome suitcase filled with heavy clothes (think jeans and big sweaters).

   Now put the suitcase at the foot of the bed on the floor. Using good lifting technique, lift the suitcase up onto the bed. Now place the suitcase back on the floor. Lift again, this time tossing it to the center of the bed. Back to the floor. The third time, heave the suitcase to the head of the bed. Begin this activity when the sun rises and end when you can no longer stand. Repeat tomorrow. Continue bailing for a minimum of 3 weeks.

   The final Amish fitness tip is the action of persuading. Picture, if you will, a mule that no longer wants to do his chores or a cow that will not go through the correct gate. Persuading livestock to follow your will is a full body workout that takes several layers of muscle involvement.

   I understand that you do not have livestock in our apartment. Again, I have thought of a solution. That overstuffed chair by the TV will do just fine. You will also need a rope of some sort. You could use the colorful rope you purchased six years ago when you thought you would be a rock climber. If you don’t have that, I suggest you collect extension cords. Tie all the extension cords you have (hopefully 3 or 4) around your overstuffed reclining chair. Kick the foot rest out if you need a place to tie on. Now face the foot rest while holding the cords in your hand and back away until the chords are stretched tight. Pull/drag the chair across the room until it rests beside you. Turn the chair 180 degrees, back across the room, and begin again. You may yell at the chair if you find it helpful. To take this exercise to a new level you can drag the chair to the front door, wrestle the chair through the door and back in, and then drag back to its original spot. Like before - begin this activity at sunrise and continue until you can no longer stand.  Continue for three weeks, at which time you are ready to begin a circuit of all three exercises.  Remember to drink water.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Solutions to your problems, 3

  Following is the third of a series in which I endeavor to assist my coworkers by clarifying a problem they are having and offering a solution. You might like to find the 2 previous postings to understand the full picture.

Taking the stairs
  The problem, dear coworker, is it has been so long since you have walked up the stairs you have forgotten that the climb is healthy and even fun. And during the time you have opted out on stairs you have continued to eat as if you were climbing them.

  Let me pause, here at the beginning, and state that I am not calling any kettles black. I need to climb all the stairs life might put in my path and now that I write this I am obligated. But I don’t wine and complain after the one time our office had a fire drill and are forced by a higher power to take the stairs back to our desks. And I don’t look at the steps as if they were vengeful creation for knee deterioration.

  While returning from the outside during our fire drill I overheard a coworker say something like, “they have to find a way for us to get back up when we can’t use the elevator.” I was stunned, dumbfounded, speechless (almost, I’ve never really been at a loss for words). “They” have found a way to get past the first floor. We as humans have been using it for centuries.

  Quick history of stairs through time, off the top of my head: Jesus and his friends met in the upper room. It seems the construction workers at the pyramids used them. The Mayans put them to good use well before my people walked over the land bridge (possibly assisted by some stairs of ice).

  The solution begins slowly and gains strength as you see fit. If you are of a certain age you might want to discuss this with a health care professional, but you must get your legs, knees, ankles, and feet more active. Maybe that could begin at your desk with some leg lifts. You could visualize the stairs while you move your feet up and down. However, for this plan to work you must actually climb the stairs. In our case, working on the third floor, you could use the elevator and the stairs in equal portion. This might mean that the first trip of the day you go manual and the second trip find the elevator. Or it could mean you take the elevator part of the way, and then switch to the stairs. In our building I suggest getting to the second floor before you begin to climb. The first floor stairwell is considerably longer than the second.

  To recap, begin with visualizing the stairs and you climbing them. Move your feet in tandem with your knees. Then you are ready to put thought into action. As you become fit you might find that you enjoy the challenge of climbing all the stairs. Even trying them at a brisk pace or two at a time. But this suggestion is for later, and again may need doctor’s approval.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Solutions to your problems, 2

  This post is part 2 of a new series where I endeavor to clarify and solve problems facing my coworkers. Having been at my current job for more years that one hand will handle I have been witness to several problems that go for years without being addressed. This series of posts hopes to rectify the situation.

Problem 2 Loud music at your desk  The problem as see it, or in this case hear it, dear coworker is that the music coming from your hand held device, or worse yet stand alone radio, is so loud I can hear it over the music in my head phones. To add insult to my auditory injury the music you chose is frantic, totally devastating my calm enjoyment.

  Don’t get me wrong. I know the loud music you are listening to on your cheap player. I own the album; it’s here in my desk drawer. But I have chosen to not listen to it this morning, it being a slow morning and I have not completed my desk rituals. (Afore mentioned rituals are nothing intense, check the phone, the email, the daily tasks, and the week’s calendar. It takes some time, and during that time I would like to control how things move. This does not include your multi voiced chorus backed by large brass ensemble with all the trappings of current studio wizardry).

  The solution is clear, although two fold. The first step applies to both listening to the radio or hand held device; turn the player off when you leave your desk. This not only allows you to hear the entire song you have chosen, it allows me to not hear it. The second part is about your headphones. For goodness sake invest in decent head phones. The ones your niece got you from that guy she knows are not good, they are simply not good.

  I realize that times are tight and the economic climate does not allow for frivolities. I also know roughly how much you earn; in this case you should go for it. Twenty dollars will go a long way to helping you here/hear. If you wait till one of those big sale days you might get an even higher quality pair for the same amount of money. But I am not suggesting that in this specific case. I would rather you stop on your way home from work and find some quality head phones, maybe even with noise cancellation.

Problem #2 : Loud Music – solved. You are welcome.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Solutions to your problems

  This is the first of a series where I endeavor to clarify some problems and then offer solutions. As mentioned before, I work in a large office. One where several (specifically 5) coworkers sit close enough that I could touch them without getting up if I really tried. Due to this geography I know a lot about what irritates them, and in turn what about them irritates me. I do not hold any festering feelings that need further delving, nothing like that. Just simple irritants.

  Never one to complain without enacting change, I have decided to share not only the problems I see but offer the solutions you need. “You” here is a composite coworker. No one person, but a portrait of many. I am sure you have met them, and sadly some of you embody them. But fear not, solutions are offered freely for all.

Problem #1 Foods you don’t like
  The problem as I see it dear coworker is you are way too picky about the foods you eat or will not eat. I know this because you complain 3 times a week about the food you are consuming, and once a week about the food you simply cannot consume because it is below your standards. This food finds itself disposed in the trash can as a noxious reminder of your overly demanding palate.

  If you did not make such a public display of not enjoying your lunch this would not be a problem. Here we find your first solution. Keep your mouth shut while chewing your food.

  I have a further suggestion for getting over food textures. Textures appear to be one of the main points of contention while eating your styrofoam encased lunch. This assumes that you care to change your texture aversion, as I strongly encourage. (A quick thought would be to not buy food from a place that was a Winnebago in a past life, but that’s up for debate).

  What you can do is travel to some new, faraway place, and stay for more than a week. Eat whatever is served without asking what it is. No questions like, “pollo con salsa verde. That means chicken with green sauce, right? Um, how is the chicken cooked, is it fried, and what exactly makes the sauce green? Are there hot peppers involved?”

  Although these questions are reasonable, you cannot ask. You must eat and then decide if it was enjoyable or not. If it was not enjoyable I offer a new set of questions. Would I eat this again? If I have not "eaten well" for a week or more, could this become good food? Would I rather lose my big toe than eat this again?

  When you return to your culinary home you will think anything could be good. Atleast you know it is clean and will not have any microbes that will tear you inside out. This method is especially potent when you are in a country that is really different and hopefully has a language barrier. So different that you see fruits that are not what you would call “fruit shaped” but taste sweet and nice. And you think to yourself, “well that was surprising, I might try that again, but how do I tell him not to put chili powder on it this time?”

Problem #1: food textures – solved. You are welcome.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Naked Shortcake

  Something very sad happened this morning. I went to my Uncle’s farm for some fresh strawberries and went home empty handed because there has been too much rain. The red ripe strawberries were rotting on the ground due to excessive water from the sky. Oh the sadness that will weigh down my naked shortcake this evening.

  It made me reflect, as I am wont to do, about my own situation. Barring nude desserts, the weather has almost no impact on my day. I must be rich or something. There is very little the weather can do to slow me down. Sure it can cause some inconvenience or even throw the schedule off, but my work day will continue no matter what the conditions outside. And my entertainment is found in many places, outside if possible or inside if not.

  My job in front of the computer could conceivably happen anywhere with one of those magic connections. The information I work with is personal and sensitive, so I do not take it with me to the local coffee shop or open air market. But for arguments sake I could. If the weather were nice I would find my way to some dappled sunlight. If the weather were treacherous I would stay in my underclothes all day and still complete my assignments. Even as it is without the freedom to roam I am able to get to my job’s building in all matter of inclement conditions.

  Not that I do, I mean come on, if two feet of snow were to fall, and it has, I would stay home, and I have, and will again.

  But it does make me pause and remember my family on the farm. They have a very different relationship with the weather. There is a reason the farmers have come up with their own almanac. It is more than just important, the weather is the one factor that makes the day or crushes the crop. Just look as those little red delicious fruit with the blue bruised underbelly.

  I’m sure I don’t need to tell you about being out to sea on a long boat when the north wind has taken a turn for the worse. Count yourself blessed if you do not have a visceral memory of your nose hairs frozen to the interior of your nose as the mucus trails toward your cheek blown by the biting wind. It’s not pretty, and it kind of hurts.

  But these are not things I deliberate over. I have arrived at a place where I look out the window in the morning and think, “oh, nice it’s raining” or “great, it’s sunny” with never more thought than if I need a hat for my bald head. From time to time I am surprised by the sudden change in the weather. But even then I can go to the grocery store and get strawberries grown in Maryland or Florida.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Language Instructions

  When I was young my grandparents taught me to speak Pennsylvania Dutch. Before you jump to obvious conclusions, no I can’t speak it today. The things you don’t practice, you lose. I can still greet you, say thank you, and follow simple commands. I can speak like a 2 year old.

  Maybe you have had this experience with a new language. You remember the first and the last things in a conversation. Somehow everyone seems to ask the same things and respond in pretty much the same way when you are first introduced. When that happens I can keep up with conversation, but when someone veers from my script I am lost and clearly a linguistic 2 year old.

  The same years my grandparents taught me to speak with them they taught me a new practice, they taught me to apologize. I did not know at the time that their people have been well practiced in being like minded, and because of that understood the value in apologies. Looking back these language instructions are an obvious pairing. Speaking a new language takes conscious repetition. And learning to say, “I made a mistake, and I’m sorry” takes equal practice and repetition.

  I don’t remember feeling phony or fearing that my words would come off as contrived when I was younger, but that is clearly an issue now. I would rather avoid, or otherwise massage the situation than walk into an apology that I am not committed to. I am sure that people can see right through my half hearted words spoken only to mend the social construct. It feels like I’ve reverted back to my, “fine thank you, and how are you” “yes, I will hold that hammer” “I would like milk with my wet bottom shoo fly pie.” Same when they know I am being coerced into talking with them. “Grandpa says I need to tell you I let all the horses out and that’s why the cabbage is smashed in side yard, sorry about that.”

  But when I think about feeling contrived I remember my grandfather telling me about accents. He was able to tell you where each person in the community learned to speak based on how they said hello and goodbye. He could have been just showing off for me, but I think he was really able to do it. He could also tell who had learned to speak his Dutch as a second language.

  Every time he spoke with a new learner he would slow down his cadence and make solid eye contact. He would wait patiently while the other person fumbled over word choice or stood silent themselves while they reformed their thoughts to use words they knew. He would gently nudge them to topic of conversation they could handle, and then smile wide when they found the right words to say. What had begun as awkward soon settled into a confident exchange.