It’s All About The Effort

I’m sitting here with my legs quivering and on fire. My damaged back is going to bark at me the rest of the day. Why? I went mountain biking early this morning. Now wait, you might say if you’ve been a long-time reader… this guy writes all the time about going for a ride. What’s the deal? The difference is that I rode with my new next-door neighbor. He’s much younger and in good shape. I thought I’d be fine since I do ride from time to time. I was wrong.

It turns out you are a horrible judge of your own level of effort. Since I have the freedom to ride during the week, more often than not I’m riding solo. The other folks I ride with are of equal strength and conditioning. So when I’m cranking along, I think I’m putting out max effort. I’m breathing hard and it feels like I’m pushing it. But if you don’t have any way to actually measure or compare your effort, you never really know.

To keep up on this ride, I was pretty much red-lined the entire way. There was no conversation… I was too busy trying to suck in air. Same thing on the downhill. I thought I was a reasonably fast rider, but I couldn’t keep up with him going down. Here’s the interesting part. While I was working 10x as hard as he was, I generally kept up. So, I have the ability. Why haven’t I been riding at that level all along?

I think that’s what separates truly elite athletes from the rest of us. They have the ability to push themselves to their true limit day in and day out. Most of the rest of us quit way before that. It’s hard, it hurts, and we don’t really know what our actual limit is. I’ve noticed the same thing in my attempts at lifting weights. During our recent vacation, the resort gym didn’t have the same weight kettlebell as I’ve been using. So, I grabbed that bigger kettlebell and managed to do the same workout. At home, I would have been convinced that it was too heavy and hard. Why?

Clearly, I’ve been sandbagging myself and didn’t really know it. The new goal is now to make sure every workout leaves me in a quivering puddle on the floor. I will push weights to actual failure. I will ride at redline as much as possible.

Because what could go wrong? It’s not like I’m an old dude with a bad shoulder and damaged back. It’s not like I’m setting myself up for overuse injuries or anything, right?

Sitting here with my quads on fire, maybe I’ll just get an E-bike instead. Motor assist sounds pretty good right now.

I Got Scammed

As a registered Contrarian, I tend to be suspicious of everything until I verify it myself. I don’t click on links in emails. I have yet to supply my banking information to a Nigerian prince to share the sum of $3,001,287 dollars US. I don’t believe anything politicians tell me. I don’t use public Wi-Fi. In short, I’m not a very trusting person. And yet, I managed to fall for a scam. The worst part? I went in knowing they were trying to sell me something.

Let me explain. We own a timeshare in Mexico. We bought it thirteen years ago. It’s a long story as to how we ended up with a timeshare, but all-in-all we’ve enjoyed it. Every single time we go, we get the hardcore push to attend a “members update”. There is no update. It’s a play to upsell more points or status level to you. We went a few times to get the free drink tickets they bribe you with, but generally I refuse to attend.

I don’t remember how I got talked into going this time, but somehow I found myself in the hotel lobby with Mrs. Troutdog and the couple who came to Mexico with us. Things did not go well straight out of the gate. The “coordinator” insisted we had to listen to the presentation separately from the other couple. We said no. She insisted. We said no. Off the coordinator went to discuss with someone in another room. She came back and said they’d make a special exception this time. Next, they wanted a credit card from each of us to “verify ID”. We all said no. She insisted. We all said no. She insisted. We all said no. Finally, she reluctantly agreed and took us to meet our sales guys.

It’s at this point a smarter man would have walked out. I am clearly not a smart man. But at the time I was convinced I was far too smart to believe any of the nonsense they were about to dish out. Off we went to get a tour of the penthouse unit. Our sales guys were straight out of used car sales finishing school. One of them was convinced he was Don Johnson from Miami Vice – he wore a silver suit with ridiculous black Vans sneakers and had his hair slicked back. The other guy spent his time telling us he was a very successful real estate developer and builder and was just here as a favor to his friend the VP of sales. Mmmm, right.

We listened to these two goons babble about real estate prices, the shortage of hotel rooms, and room rates for quite a while. At the time I wasn’t clear on why they were telling us this. Then the heavy came in. He had copies of our original contracts along with a few other documents. I’ll spare you the details, but he basically said due to a loophole in the contract he was obligated to offer us the option to purchase a huge number of points at an unheard-of price. The company would be taking a huge hit, but legally he had to give us the option.

This is a one-time deal. Walk out of the room and it won’t be offered again.

The way he presented the contract loophole was so well done… I thought it was real. It was an opportunity to rent out multiple weeks of rooms and make passive income with virtually no effort on our part. After hearing and seeing the going room rates, this really seemed like a way to make some money. I mean, they had contracts and legal looking documents. It had to be legit.

He left us alone in the room to talk amongst ourselves. We went back and forth, unable to decide if it was real or not. It was a lot of money to buy in and none of us wanted to make a snap decision. He came back and said something that was so off-putting, we got up and walked out. His words were, “I’m leaving in twenty minutes because I have to go buy seven Rolex watches for my team. When I leave, the offer is off the table.” Really? Who says something like that?

We spent the remaining vacation days enjoying fruity drinks at the pool and eating too much excellent food. While I was happy we walked away, I was still 60-ish percent convinced it had been a legitimate offer.

Once home, Mrs. Troutdog found an owners group on Facebook. There it was in black and white. A total scam. Multiple other people had received some variation of the same pitch. I was shocked that a large and fairly reputable company would stoop to something so slimy and blatantly deceitful. Because I honestly didn’t believe a corporation would go to those lengths to scam people out of money, I mostly believed the pitch. Sure, I expected some hard sales attempts to get us to upgrade to a bigger unit or something, but not outright deception.

Shame on me. I’ve lost some Contrarian points over this one. I’m shocked I got pulled in by the story. And sadly, I’m now even more distrustful of other humans. How do people like that look at themselves in the mirror? I guess all you can do is hope the karma bus is waiting around the corner for them.

Meanwhile, it turns out a week of drinking, nachos, and extravagant dinners is not good for your diet. Who knew? I guess I better hit the gym. I may go for run on the treadmill for an hour. Or twenty.

Bro, Do You Even Bidet?

I’ve been out of the country for a week and missed all the election fun. I’m sure you’ve been waiting breathlessly for my brilliant analysis of the shenanigans. This is not that. Instead, we’re going to talk about an extremely important topic – Bidet vs. Toilet.

As I said, while it’s been snowing back at home, I’ve been on a beach for the last week consuming far too many watered-down drinks and eating large volumes of chips and guacamole. Upon arriving and checking into our room I was delighted to discover that the toilet was a fancy electronic bidet. I’ve never had the pleasure of using one and was excited to discover a whole new world. I’ve read several condescending articles from Europeans on what Neanderthals us Americas are for still using dry paper to clean up after doing our business. Actually I think it was just the French, but the point remains. How do you expect to get clean just using dry paper?

Needless to say, I was looking forward to this new experience. The next morning arrived, and I was ready. This contraption was very high end. All electronic with a wall-mounted control pad. Upon lifting the lid, a helpful light illumined the bowl. I sat down and began the process. First observation – the seat was heated! That’s luxury. Except pretty soon my butt was sweating. The seat kept getting hotter and the perspiration was… well, you get the picture. I was a little worried I was going to slide off the seat. I couldn’t find any controls to turn down the heat. No matter, I soldiered on.

After completing the, ehh, uhm, err, deposit shall we say, it was time for the waterworks. Examining the control panel there were helpful pictographs describing what each button did. I pushed the one that seemed rearward facing. The water was warm and not the worst sensation in the world. I sat there enjoying rinse mode. And sat there. And waited. I couldn’t tell if it was going to shut off by itself or if I had to do it, so I just started hitting buttons. Front wash, power wash, pulsating, rain shower, jet stream… I’m not sure what you’re supposed to do, but I had a regular carwash going on down there.

Finally, I figured it was as good as it was going to get and managed to shut it down. I found a button that looked like wind. Basically, it’s hairdryer mode. So I sat. And sat. And waited. Maybe I’d spent too long in carwash mode, because hairdryer mode just wasn’t really drying out the parts. I gave up and had to do some additional manual drying.

Perhaps I did this wrong. I think maybe you’re supposed to flush before commencing with carwash mode? When I stood up the helpful light came on and highlighted the general mess in the bowl that I didn’t really need to see. I had a little trouble walking because it turns out I’d been sitting there trying to figure out the process for so long that my legs had fallen asleep. And my butt was still sweating. It took a bit to recover and return to normal.

So in the end, what did I think? Perhaps I wasn’t smart enough to figure it out, but I’ll stick to the regular toilet from now on. It seemed like a lot of effort, buttons, and steps to assist with something I’ve been doing all my life. I’m not sure I want a coach or need to watch a YouTube video on how to properly use the toilet. You can’t always teach an old dog new tricks. I’ll stick with what I know.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re disappointed. I’m a modern-day renaissance man. A man of many talents and skills, with superior intellect. You wanted the glowing review of the bidet so you could justify running out and getting one for yourself. I hate to crush your dreams, but I just can’t sign on to camp bidet. I’m sure the sophisticated folks see me as one step above still using a corncob, but it is what it is.

The final irony is that because I had to look up how to spell bidet… I will now have to endure non-stop bidet ads on Facebook and Instagram for the next month.

It’s All About The Training

At the end of the day, we do what we’re trained to do. This applies to everything. When the moment matters, the amygdala portion of the brain takes over and initiates the fight or flight response. The body will fall back to rote muscle memory. If you didn’t train for that scenario, you’ll freeze or do something illogical. Training means exactly that – physically repeating and practicing something. Just reading about a subject and assuming you’ll know what to do is NOT the same thing. This was vividly demonstrated to me last night.

Without opening up a can of worms on a controversial subject, let’s just say that I believe in one’s right to arm themselves to protect hearth and home. I own a number of guns and regularly practice with them (well, before ammo prices skyrocketed). I feel like I am at least minimally proficient and able to handle firearms safely. I am ready to defend myself, my family, and my home should the need arise. All is good, right?

That belief was tested last night. At 2:30 in the morning, Mrs. Troutdog woke me from a sound sleep with the words nobody wants to hear in the middle of the night – “There’s someone standing at the door!”

It was time for my training and preparedness to kick in. So, what did I do? I grabbed a t-shirt and ran to the front door in my underwear. Did I get the gun first? No. Did I even think about the gun? No. Did I grab my phone? No. I looked out the window and had a moment of confusion thinking it was my nephew, who lives in another state, standing on my porch. And then I just yelled, “what do you want?” And then I remember the thought that went through my head… I’d put my t-shirt on backwards. Seriously, that’s what I was thinking about.

When survival mode was needed, I pretty much blanked out on everything. I’ve watched and read a bunch of survival, shooting, and self-defense stuff. In my head I thought I knew exactly how to respond. But because I’d never actually physically practiced or gone through the motions, I had no actual muscle memory to fall back on. I stood there in my underwear contemplating my backwards t-shirt.

Fortunately, it ended up being just a really drunk guy who was at the wrong house. He was so drunk he could barely stand and kept dropping his cell phone. He mumbled sorry and stumbled off into the night. And then I remembered all the things I probably should have done.

The point of this is not some lecture on home defense. It’s training – for any subject. Unless you physically practice something, the odds of you performing well when needed are slim. Driving in the snow. Reading a map when you think you’re lost. CPR. Deadlifts. Cleans. Heavy club swings. Public speaking. Fighting. Self-defense. You cannot simply watch a YouTube video on any of these things and think you’ll be able to do them when needed.

It was a good lesson for me. As an RN, I’ve spent more time than I can count in stressful scenarios. Traumas, bleeding, codes, CPR. Been there, done that. We practice and have to be re-certified every year on those skills. As a result, in those scenarios I’m pretty calm. It doesn’t mean I’ll aways do the right thing, but I have a better than average chance of keeping the thinking part of the brain going and making better decisions. Because of that, I assumed that I’d behave the same in all emergency situations. Clearly, I was wrong.

So now I have to think about my training. I need to create an actual plan for when something goes bump in the night and practice that plan. And then practice some more. You should do the same for whatever things in life you THINK you know what to do. Until you create that muscle memory, you have no idea what your brain will fall back to. It might be worrying about your t-shirt being backwards as your house burns down around you.

P.S. My dog is fired. I have an 80-pound dog who spends his days barking fiercely at anything that moves. The mailman is his mortal enemy. What did this fierce protector do through this whole scenario? Nothing. He slept. Never got out of bed. He will not be getting any treats today.

It Didn’t Work

Have you heard of the bygone’s principle? It’s also known as the sunk cost fallacy. You’ve spent money and/or invested time into something. You use that past investment as justification to continue moving forward – independent of current factors. The problem is that the previous investment is the past. Decision making should be based on the present and future. You made a real estate investment that hasn’t panned out. The smart move might be to dump it, take the loss, and figure out what’s next. It’s all too common to not want to let go and just admit it was a mistake. As humans we tend to focus on the past and as a result, hold on to bad investments, jobs, and relationships far longer than we should. The smart choice if the current or future scenario isn’t right anymore… is to move on.

With that in mind, I had a thought the other day. The US and generally Europe, have decided that the release of carbon dioxide via fossil fuels is enhancing the greenhouse effect and causing global warming. This warming is the cause of seemingly every problem we’re experiencing on the planet and is dooming us to some sort of terrifying apocalypse. Whether that’s true or not is a debate for another day. Let’s assume it’s true for the sake of discussion. With certain destruction of the planet looming, we’ve committed easily trillions of dollars to reduce carbon emissions.

As a society we’ve completely altered our way of life – regulations, limits on how/what factories can manufacture, fundamentally influencing the development of vehicles, and doing everything possible to end the fossil fuel industry. Regardless of thinking that all those things are good or bad, here’s my point… it hasn’t worked.

Think about it. Everything we’ve done for the last thirty-forty years to combat climate change hasn’t changed the amount of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere one iota. Nadda. Nothing. Zero. We haven’t made the slightest dent. In fact, it keeps increasing at an exponential rate. So why do we keep doubling down, year, after year, after year on expensive strategies that don’t work?

Doesn’t that seem like the perfect example of the sunk cost fallacy to you? We know it hasn’t worked. It continues to not work. But we’ve invested so much… let’s just keep doing more of the same thing that’s not working. Why would we do that? It’s crazy.

I don’t know what the answer is, but banking everything on something that hasn’t modified anything in thirty years seems kind of loco to me. Maybe it’s time to stop the carbon reduction nonsense. Find a different approach. Heck, we can deploy Bill Gate’s idea to blot out the sun to cool the planet. Just kidding, let’s please not do that.

Perhaps we can stop trying to kill the fossil fuel industry and get fuel prices back in check. Maybe we can have incandescent light bulbs again. Heck, we could even kill the carbon offsets Ponzi schemes. Anything would be better than our current path.

It’s been a massive sunk cost. It’s going to sting a bit to abandon it. It’ll be hard to admit it didn’t work. Some egos will be bruised. There will be great gnashing of teeth. But the truth is, we’ve completely failed at controlling atmospheric carbon dioxide. Time to move forward and think differently.

A Thirty-Year Story

Thirty years. Three decades. Staring at those words, it’s hard to believe I wrote them. That’s a long time. These days, that’s not a number you hear very often. In reality, this story starts before that. A chance encounter, arranged by a mutual friend. I certainly never would have thought that first meeting would change my life forever.

But clearly the hands of fate directed our paths to cross. And once they did, our separate paths quickly became one. We both knew almost right away that there was only one path for us. Sure, it took a little bit to fully commit to the path. School to finish and careers to get started. It took me a while… I think I was a bit insecure. I found it hard to believe sometimes that you picked me. A dorky ski and surf bum who didn’t have a clear vision of the future. But you did pick me, and always encouraged me to be more.

So, thirty years ago today, we officially started down this journey. We stood before God, family, and friends and said I do. A whirlwind, magical night, and then we jumped on a plane and headed for the Caribbean. I think we slept for 24 hours straight, exhausted from the festivities. And then we woke to a beautiful blue ocean, and wondered, now what?

I don’t think we’ve ever had a clear roadmap for what this journey is supposed to look like. Oh sure, we had vague thoughts about things like we should probably try to buy a house, saving for retirement, and general career ideas. But I don’t think we ever had a concrete plan for many things. We’ve very much gone with whatever way the wind was blowing. I love that about us. We were never afraid to try things. Being the first to leave family behind and move to a different state. Buying houses sight unseen. Adventures. Ski trips. Whitewater rafting. Dogs. Career changes. RV’s and motorcycles, and UTV’s. We’ve always done what feels right in the moment – and it’s always worked out for us.

But behind all that spontaneity – you have been the rock that holds us together. You are the glue that makes everything work. Sure, we talk, plan, and laugh together about crazy ideas of buying a house in the mountains, but you’re the one who actually says – let’s do it. You’re the planner and organizer. You keep the trains running on time. We would not be where we are today if you weren’t always there telling me that you believe in us and we can make whatever crazy idea it is, work.

But it hasn’t just been about buying things and having adventures. Your love and support have made me a far better person than I ever thought I could be. Your constant encouragement to think more of myself, to have confidence, and to attempt things I wouldn’t have done on my own means more than you’ll ever know. You’re exactly the partner in life that I needed, and I pray that I’ve been able to return the same to you.

Who knows where our path leads? I honestly don’t care. Wherever it goes, I’m confident we’ll make the most of whatever fate has in store for us. What I do know is that we are on this path together, always. Our path is a forever path. I don’t think many people are lucky enough to have that. I certainly don’t take it for granted. I am thankful every day that we had that chance encounter thirty-plus years ago. Let’s see where the next thirty years takes us.

I love you more than you’ll ever know. Thank you for being on this journey with me.

It Just Hurts

When I first started out as an RN, I’ll admit I got a bit judgmental sometimes towards certain patients. It was the folks who were fairly obese, in their late 60’s or early 70’s, and lacked the strength to get off the toilet or out of a chair. As two and sometimes three of us struggled to get them standing so they could shuffle back to bed, I’d say to myself “how could anyone let themselves get to that point?” They’d reject the physical therapists who came to work with them, saying they were too tired or hurt too much to do anything today. I’d do my best to encourage them, often admonishing them that if they didn’t start moving things were only going to get worse.

I just couldn’t fathom wanting to spend your remaining years in that condition. Why didn’t they take better care of themselves? One of the more common problems we’d see with this patient population was toenails. Nasty curled and twisted daggers that hadn’t been cut in god knows how long. Often they couldn’t wear socks anymore because you couldn’t pull them on without snagging on the nails. They’d just resort to wearing sandals or slippers all the time. Why? Because they’d become so deconditioned, they couldn’t bend over enough to clip their own toenails. It just seemed so crazy to me. And when they wouldn’t work with therapy and rejected most advice to do something, anything, to help themselves… I’ll admit I developed a certain lack of sympathy.

Fast forward to today. I hurt. Everywhere. I can barely lift my arms over my head. I look like an 80-year-old walking down the stairs. The moaning and groaning when I attempt to get down on the ground is ridiculous. Why am I in this state? Well… my back injury scared me enough that I’m going full speed, hard core, with my workouts. Every day has been at least an hour in the gym. Stretching, mobility work, kettle bells, club bells, lunges, squats, medicine balls… every exercise I can find on YouTube. Plus another hour and a half of hiking hills with the dog.

The end result is that I’m sore. Everywhere. There isn’t a body part that doesn’t hurt right now. Yes, I realize that I’m probably overtraining a bit. But I’m scared. The back strain was a brief window into a potential future if I don’t fix things. And I don’t like the future I saw.

Reality, as they say, came up and bitch slapped me in the face. I was forced to admit to myself the true, current state of all things physical. I’ve never been very physically strong, so I tended to avoid gym work. I was pretty good with endurance stuff, so that’s what I did. I mountain biked, skied, and ran. And I told myself I was in decent shape. Yes, cardiovascular-wise I was. But year after year my muscles were atrophying. Now, years of ignoring strength conditioning have caught up to me. I strained my back badly while sweeping leaves. Yes, really.

Muscle atrophy and weight gain are insidious creatures. They sneak up on you. Every year a little weaker, a little heavier. As it creeps up on you, your motivation to do something about it gets less and less. Sure, you try here and there to diet or start working out again, but it’s hard. The weight doesn’t come off and you end up hungry and frustrated. Your attempts to work out leave you sore and unable to walk. It’s really hard to keep getting after it when you feel like that. Pretty quickly you abandon the diet and give up the workouts. And the atrophy keeps setting in.

And that’s where I had a very real insight into how those patients let themselves go. And I feel bad for not having more empathy for them all those years ago. It would be so easy to do. I hurt, I’m sore, I’m tired. At my age, do I really need to be trying to lift weights? Let’s just stop. A heating pad and some pain pills will make me comfortable. Blink my eyes and I’ll be that old guy struggling to get off the toilet.

No. I’m not going to do that. I refuse to give up. I know that if I just keep pushing, eventually the soreness goes away. Muscles and tendons will become more supple. The aches and pains get better. Mobility and balance improve. I will not let atrophy win.

I’ll just have to wear hats for a while… my arms hurt too much to brush my hair.

Dude, Are You Even Green?

I woke up this morning to news that another whack job protester had glued his head to a famous painting in the Hague to demonstrate against climate change. Now I don’t generally advocate violence, but in these cases I might make an exception. The next time one of these protesters glues themselves to a wall, it would be lovely if the appropriate authorities would kindly assist them to the ground with some force when arresting them. Wouldn’t it be a shame if some of their newly glued skin remained affixed to the wall?

Ok, sorry. Had to get that out of my system. It baffles me that people can be so blinded by their religion, that they are able to justify anything to themselves as righteous. And yes, global warming is a religion. You cannot question it. You will be branded a heretic if you don’t believe. Never mind that every prediction ever made by the global warming/climate change/extreme weather cult hasn’t materialized… they just keep pushing the date out and hope you don’t notice. Ok, ok, I know we said there was only 10 years left to save the planet, 30 years ago – but this time we’re serious. We have graphs and charts!

The protesters belong to some group called “Just Stop Oil – No New Oil and Gas”. I guess it doesn’t occur to them that the vast majority of every modern product on the planet is some derivative of petroleum – including, ironically, the glue they used to fasten themselves to the wall with. The question the green zealots never seem to answer is, what is the alternative to all this nasty oil?

If pushed, their answer is often the elusive GREEN ENERGY. Wind turbines. Solar panels. Electric vehicles. Clean, renewable, and they don’t spew that nasty carbon dioxide that is literally DESTROYING the planet. Apparently in the green religion, products aren’t manufactured. They just magically appear – poof! Happy workers wearing hemp clothing scamper to the fields to collect the batteries and solar panels placed there by the green energy fairies.

I hate to do this, but I’m going to have to point out an inconvenient truth. Things like batteries are manufactured. In a factory. Factories that use many, many megawatts of energy and machines that run on that horrible oil and nasty diesel. And before that, all those components are made in other factories. And the components come from minerals and ore that must be dug out of the ground by, GASP, huge machines that run on oil and gas and diesel.

The average EV battery requires 250 tons of ore to be mined. Things like copper and lithium. What do you suspect the carbon footprint is of those huge mining dump trucks and ore crushers? If you’re curious, I’d highly recommend you read this thread about what it takes to produce the copper wire for your Tesla battery or giant wind turbine. The energy expenditure and carbon footprint is absolutely staggering.

The real truth is that accounting for manufacturing, the lifetime emission footprint of an electric vehicle is greater than the average gas vehicle. Wait, what? Yes, you read that right. Then there’s the current electric grid which couldn’t support the swapping of all gasoline cars with EV’s. Oh, and the pesky issue of where the electricity is going to come from. It certainly won’t be from wind turbines. And if you’re green, I know you’re not going to support the MASSIVE increase in mining operations that’ll be needed to harvest all the minerals required. We’ll also just ignore the fact that most of those mines are in countries that, shall we say, aren’t inclined to be friendly to the USA.

The hard reality is that wind, solar, and electric vehicles is not the answer – in fact it probably makes the problem worse. If you’re a card-carrying member of the green religion, I’d love to hear the plan to overcome these manufacturing obstacles. Unfortunately, I suspect the vast majority of green folks have never given it a thought. Like slapping an “organic” label on something, they buy their “clean energy” vehicle and feel good about themselves. Almost… righteous. And when you’re righteous, you can condemn and lecture anyone who dares to question the orthodoxy. Facts not required.

I also read today that the US is down to a 25-day supply of diesel fuel. That’s good, right? Let’s stop using that filthy planet destroying petroleum! Some folks may be surprised when they hop in their EV to go down to the local Starbucks for their soy latte, only to discover Starbucks never got their coffee supplies delivered. Something about every product in this country being delivered by diesel trucks and trains.

That’s silly. I’m sure nothing like that could ever happen. Could it?

It’s So Small

I should probably start keeping a spreadsheet of all the fitness fads I’ve signed on to. You name it, I’ve probably done it. Except the Suzanne Somers Thigh Master. Never had one of those. This time around it’s the most ancient of all mankind’s tools – a club. In my relentless search to find a way to fix my back for good, I’ve decided to start waving a heavy club around at pedestrians in the street. Ok, maybe not exactly that.

I’ve been following a “fitness influencer” for quite a while who advocates for mastering some basic core, functional fitness movements BEFORE trying things like deadlifts and heavy squats. I’d forgotten I followed him until one of his videos popped up on YouTube while searching for back pain exercises. In a nutshell, he advocates a volume cycle of single arm movements with kettlebells and clubs, plus some presses and bodyweight squats as a starting point. Until you have proper hip rotation, foot alignment, and adequate core strength, you’re asking to get hurt trying more complex movements.

He had an interesting observation about ancient physiques vs today. The Greeks and Romans had relatively smaller shoulders, biceps, and chests. They had massive back muscles, forearms, abdominals, glutes and thighs. The exact opposite of what we think of today as the ideal physical form (massive chests and biceps, with tiny waists). I have neither form, so I’m nicely poised to go either direction.

Anyway, so I watched approximately 18 hours of heavy club swinging videos and got all excited. I just know this is the ticket to fix my back and bad shoulder. The club he likes is adjustable from ten pounds to something I wouldn’t even be able to lift. The problem is that it was a couple hundred dollars. Not sure I wanted to commit that much to something I wasn’t sure I’d like doing, I jumped on Amazon to look for an alternative. Sure enough I found some Chinese company selling a whole size range of clubs, starting at $19. Bingo. I ordered the smallest weight one, so I could get the form and movements right.

We were going to be out of town for a number of days, so I arranged for the package to be delivered to a UPS store. I was so excited about my new club I didn’t want any chance of someone stealing it off my porch. Mrs. Troutdog got home before me, so I had her go pick it up so I wouldn’t miss a moment of my new club training routine.

Now keep in mind the videos I’ve been watching featured a muscular guy swinging a giant, heavy three-foot club around like an ancient Viking crushing the skulls of his enemies. Imagine my face when I opened the box and saw my new club. It’s tiny. A foot long and 5 pounds. It looks like a child’s toy. Mrs. Troutdog looked at it with a puzzled face and asked, “what is this?” My aspirations of Viking-like strength dimmed a bit.

I’m not one to give up easily, so I’ve been doing my mini-club routine (near) daily. Here’s what I’ve discovered. I struggle to keep my feet aligned. I have very poor rotational mechanics. My shoulder mobility is very limited. I don’t know how to maintain a good pattern of exhale/inhale when doing movements. And standing fully upright while bracing my core and engaging the glutes leaves me sore for the rest of the day. All with a little 5-pound club.

Now I’m not saying swinging a club around is the end-all-be-all. But it’s working. It’s exposing flaws. So I’m going to keep up with it. Soon, I should be able to graduate to a heavier club. Viking-like abs may not ever be in my future but being able to get out of a chair without assistance, or to carry all the groceries in one pass will be.

I wonder what my next fitness fad will be?

We Have A Bear

There’s a bear that frequently circulates our neighborhood. Several actually. As the berries in the higher elevations disappear and the cold winter months loom, the bears roam in search of picnic baskets and garbage cans. I don’t like keeping my garbage can in the garage for odorous reasons. So, the bears and I play a game. I catch the bears on the security camera dragging my can down the driveway and I resolve to keep the can in the garage. After a while I don’t see any sign of the bear and I start leaving the can outside again. Mr. bear reappears, and the cycle repeats.

It’s usually a harmless game, with no casualties other than the bear-proof garbage can, which is decidedly not bear-proof. But every once in a while, one of the bears gets habitually aggressive and Fish and Game ends up euthanizing it. It’s sad because it wasn’t the bears fault. It’s my fault. And my neighbors. It would be easy to be mad at the bear and blame him for scattering garbage down my driveway. To be scared for kids and pets with an apex predator roaming the property in the dark. To demand that the authorities do something for the safety of the neighborhood. But we pushed the bear to be… well, a bear. We created a scenario where the bear had no choice – foraging in the woods or a grocery store of easy access scraps. He’ll go for easy every time.

It’s a parable for where we are today. The United States, virtually single-handedly, drove Russia into action. We’ve done everything possible to provoke the current conflict. And now, we’re at war. Oh, they didn’t tell you? We are in a full-scale proxy war with Russia. One that escalates every day. Biden’s energy secretary said the quiet part out loud this week: “releasing 15 million more barrels from the strategic oil reserves is required for the current “wartime footing.” Hmm. The national security council spokesman declared unlimited support for Ukraine for as long as it takes.

Funny, I don’t remember voting for war with Russia. The defense industry certainly voted for it – and clearly their vote counts more. All well and good, except this thing is rapidly spiraling out of control. NATO expansion is one of the big drivers of Putin’s actions. So, what do we do? Vote to expand NATO further. We directly, or via proxy, blow up Russia’s gas pipeline. Every month we further ramp up the billions of dollars of weapons we supply Ukraine. We have direct military assets on the ground advising Ukraine (you’re naive if you don’t think so). Daily the administration blames Russia for everything from high gas prices to climate change. We flat out refuse to negotiate with Russia. Not only have we left the garbage can out, but we’ve also left the lid open and scattered food scraps all around it.

And now with fiscal disaster and a new (to be determined) prime minister, the UK may start getting squeamish about sending more aid to Ukraine. And the US is looking at a red wave in November that might not be so excited to keep the Ukrainian money faucet fully open. This administration is so eager to continue stoking the war fires… do you really think some sort of false flag operation is out of the question? Some event that will justify the continued war and the need to pump additional billions into the defense industry coffers? We’ve certainly done it before. I think the next month will be an extraordinarily dangerous time period.

I know, I know. Tinfoil hat conspiracy theory. But if it’s even remotely true… we’re provoking a dangerous bear. We’re creating a scenario where he’ll have to respond. And this bear has nuclear weapons. Lots and lots of ’em. And don’t forget, there’s a Chinese bear looming out there as well. Waiting. Watching. And we happily keep poking that bear as well.

The caviler nature of this administration, and the bulk of the national press, is frightening. I honestly think we are at the very precipice of the next world war. I don’t think it would take much to spark it off right now. And yet domestically, we spend our time arguing if drag queen stripper shows are appropriate for six year olds and if highway bridges are racist.

It’s long overdue we had some serious people in charge. It was all fun and games mocking the bad orange man for mean tweets, but now we need something more than an old dementia patient eating ice cream, and pretending to be in charge (and no, it’s not the orange man again). Weekend At Bernie’s at least had lighthearted hijinks as a plot. I’m not sure the current crop of puppeteers behind the scenes realizes (or care) what a cornered bear is capable of.

Hard times create strong men
Strong men create good times
Good times create weak men
Weak men create hard times