Month: November 2022

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.