The Shape of Things

shape

Most of us obsess about body image – especially around the New Year resolution time of the year.  I can’t say that I ever really gave it a lot of thought although some of you might argue that I probably should have.

For most guys, our healthy egos keep us firmly planted in the the ‘Damn, I look good‘ fantasy, so we tend not to shame ourselves about our shape or about putting on a few extra pounds as much as the stronger sex does.

My Uncle would joke that his doctor tells him that if he were an inch taller, he’d be round – then we’d laugh and laugh…and eat bacon cheeseburgers.

People come in all shapes and sizes, and no matter how many tofu burgers or yoga classes they attend, they ain’t getting any taller or making their legs longer.  I really admire their tenacity and dedication though.

My overall size and shape hasn’t changed much in the past 20 or 30 years, not because of any stringent ritual of healthy diet and exercise, but probably because God figured going grey at 30 and having a bad complexion were enough of a burden for one guy.

I can pretty much always buy the same size pants off the rack – wider than long, but consistent.  I always figured my body shape was pretty normal.

That is, until I took a trip to China.

In China, I was lucky enough to have a business suit custom tailored from scratch – every measurement and seam was made just for my less than perfect body.

I picked out the style and the material, then the tailor went to work, measuring stuff that I figured he had no business measuring, but what did I know? I’ve never had a suit made just for me before.

tailored-suit

The tailor hand-delivered it to my hotel room but I didn’t get to try it on before I flew home.  When I did, the jacket was perfect – shoulders fit beautifully, buttons did up without me having to suck in a lot of air, arm length left just enough room for shirt cuffs. Perfect!

But there was something wrong with the pants.  The length was exactly what it should have been, but when I pulled them up they’d just slide right down – in fact, they wouldn’t stay up at all unless I cinched in the belt.

The tailor must have mis-measured my waist somehow.  Funny, since the waist is generally the most important measurement in pants, right?  But that really wasn’t it either – the did fit around my waist properly.  They just didn’t fit but they still fit.

I don’t wear suits a lot, but every time I’d wear this one, the pants just wouldn’t stay up on their own.  Then it finally dawned on me.  The pants were tailored to my exact shape…

old-ass

Apparently I have no ass!  The pants slide off because there’s nothing there to hold them up.  I hate that tailor!  All the pants off the rack have a built-in butt, so I never noticed this deformity until that guy in Shanghai exposed it in his own passive way.

I suppose in the grand scheme of things, a flat butt isn’t the worst body issue one could have.  Maybe if I wore high-heels, it would perk up a bit.

Twerking is definitely off my bucket list, though.

Grocery Store Extreme Workout

groceries

Over the past couple of years – okay, the past decade –  I haven’t really spent a lot of time at the gym….okay, no time at the gym.  At all.

I gave up the dream of washboard abs a long time ago, and settled on a tub washer with a lint trap.  Settling is nature’s way of achieving all your mediocre dreams.

I did get a gym membership once – carried that sucker around in my wallet for a whole year, but didn’t lose an ounce.  Total waste of money!

Well, I have to tell you my latest secret for staying in such great shape….average shape….I have a shape.

I get groceries.

That’s right – the geriatric crowd has kept this little exercise tidbit from us all this time. It’s probably why they go shopping every day.

capture

Here’s my routine:

‘BAD WHEEL SHOPPING CART FOREARM CRUNCH’

This exercise is simple, but you need to spend some time finding a cart with an annoying wheel that doesn’t turn properly – usually pretty easy to find at my store;  I just look for the abandoned ones.  Now, they will either constantly pull to the right or the left – to balance your workout routine, try to swap it out halfway through your shopping trip, or be sure to focus on the other side on your next trip.

The constant ‘pull’ to one side provides a steady anaerobic resistance that over time will develop not only your forearms and wrists, it might just clear up that sciatica problem in your hip.  Be sure to navigate the store in the opposite direction of the pull or you might spend the day circling the broccoli and never get to the snack aisle.

‘ DROP AND GIVE ME 10…CANS OF SOUP’

Soup cans are surprisingly heavy if you hold them long enough.  Carrying around an arm-full will get you ‘feeling the burn’ in no time.

Try getting the soup from the bottom shelf – this incorporates deep knee bends with the repetitive weight lifting of the cans.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t like the soup down there – this is about more than your sensitive pallet.

You can get some good aerobic exercise as well if you load up your arms then find that your spouse/training partner has moved the cart to the next aisle.

‘BOTTLED WATER WEIGHT TRAINING’

This one is pretty self-explanatory.  Pick up the biggest bundle of bottled water they sell – again, preferably on the bottom or top shelf – waist height is a waste of time.

Be sure that when you try to put it on the lower rack, the shopping cart keeps moving backwards so you have to crab-walk along trying to heave the darn thing into place.

Also, as mentioned above, you can get an extra workout if your spouse/training partner has again moved the cart to the next aisle.

‘REACH FOR THE SKY…HIGH PRICED DOG FOOD BAG’

The great thing about this is that most grocery stores put the heaviest dog food bags on either the ground or 7′ up.

Haul that sucker onto your shoulder and once again attempt to slide it onto the lower shelf of the cart.  Be sure to stretch fully to extend your soon-to-be tight tendons.

Cat food doesn’t count – they don’t eat enough to give you the weight resistance you need.

Even if you don’t have a pet, you can hang out and help someone else get theirs.  That’s a double win – exercise and some goodwill!

‘BAG OVERLOAD ARM CURLS’

Just because you’re done filling your cart and are heading to the checkout, the workout isn’t over yet!

Make sure all the canned goods are packed as tightly and as high as possible into one or two shopping bags.  Take advantage of this to work your biceps by lifting them off the belt and into the cart – then out of the cart and into the trunk.

Once you’re done, give the cart forearm crunch one more good go – walk that antagonistic annoyance all the way back into the store…maybe hand it to another shopper who could use a good workout.  I’m sure they’ll thank you for it.  Eventually.

Tragic

tragic

Let me play devil’s advocate for a moment regarding the recent news about the price gouging for the last run of the Tragically Hip, a well-loved Canadian rock band out of Kingston, Ontario.
For background, let me quickly explain what’s been happening: The Tragically Hip recently announced that it’s lead singer and front man, Gord Downie has sadly been diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer and will die. The band decided that a last Canada-wide tour this summer was in order – a class act from the band, and a brave gesture from Gord.
The tickets went on sale and were quickly snatched up by organizations like Stubhub and Ticketmaster, who are now re-selling the tickets at highly inflated prices. Fans of the band are not happy about this to say the least, sighting that this shows complete greed over what will be the band’s last concert tour ever, and forces loyal followers of the band to pay exorbitant prices to see them one last time.  It’s not how we envisioned this Canadian iconic bands last tour to go down.
This is all true, but there’s a few things that don’t sit right with me about all of this. Agree or disagree as you see fit.
  • every party in this situation has the freedom to do exactly what they want. The ticket resellers can buy up huge volumes of tickets because the purchasing system allows it to happen (they’re in business to make money, don’t forget), the ‘scalpers’ can jack up the prices because they know people will pay (supply and demand), and the fans can decide if they want to pay the market rate to see the band one last time. If they do, they become unwitting participants in the price increases.
  • the bands management should have seen this as a potential outcome when the announcements were made, and should have known that this was going to happen. They could have offered to sell the tickets only at the actual box offices where the band will be playing, and limiting the number of tickets any one person could purchase…but they didn’t.
  • the band could have offered to play one or two final shows in a large open-air venue for free, or offer the profits up to cancer research or something classy like that. Maybe they will.  Maybe they could have done a great Canadian deed and offered a concert benefiting the families and businesses in Fort McMurray.
  • no one HAS to pay $2,000 for tickets. This whole thing has dissolved down to greed and selfishness both on the part of the scalpers and on the fans who would pay these prices.  If we all decided that we’d only pay face value and not a penny more, there would be no market for the scalpers.
ACID TEST: If the tickets were put up to auction at face value and they were bid up to $2,000, would we still be as outraged? Would we still call people ‘scum-bags’?
My 2 cents worth. I would love to see the band play their last concert in Kingston, Ontario, but I probably won’t.
My prayers go out to Gord Downie, his family and the band.

Closing Windows

closing windows

There’s an old saying about windows.  It goes something like ‘when a window closes, another opens’ or a door opens, or something – and it’s usually linked to a picture of a bunch of unicorns and rainbows or a stream with woodland creatures or something you’re supposed to like.

The idea is that there’s always good news to follow an ending of something, so we should happily embrace the ‘closed window’ because something great will happen when a new window opens.

Well, there’s one new window that keeps trying to open and I want it closed.

Windows 10

Frankly, I’d nail it shut if I could.  I’m resisting the Windows 10 ‘upgrade’ with great effort, but the unwelcome folks at Microsoft seem to be on the other side of my computer screen pushing it open every chance they get.

It started out friendly enough; ‘Hey computer guy, how’d you like to upgrade to our new operating system for free?’.  Then, after some time of ignoring them, their tactics became a bit more direct:  ‘Would you like to load your new Windows 10 now or later?’.  The ‘if’ part of the offer seemed to disappear.

It’s not that I’m against change – heck, I LOVE change!  I have a drawer full of change.

The trouble with this particular change, however, is two-fold.

First-fold, I hate the idea of something being forced on me without my consent or permission.  It just showed up one day and it won’t leave.  I want to be able to decide what operating system I work with.  Who are they to tell me that I need to change how my home screen looks and feels, and I sure don’t want to have to ask ‘Cortina’ where all my files went.

Full disclosure; I’ve been accused of being a control freak, demanding that things be done my way.  Shocking, I know!   But I don’t really need to control things…except maybe how the dishwasher is loaded, how shopping carts are driven, how groceries in those shopping carts are organized, how the grass is cut, how other people drive, grammar…really nothing at all.  But my computer, my personal computer, should absolutely be controlled by me.  If not my computer, then what?

The second problem is that I spent 2 years figuring out where the stupid ‘shutdown’ button is on my current operating system.  What contortions will I have to go through with Windows 10?  Will I have to ‘control-alt-delete’ to do anything?  What other ‘new’ things will take up hours of otherwise good web-surfing time?

Why can’t I choose to keep this window closed?  I’m not buying the bunnies and unicorn thing on this new window idea.  This is a change for them, not me.

I can picture those pasty Seattle-tanned autobots smiling fakely at me like the Borg, telling me that ‘resistance is futile’ and ‘I will be assimilated’ into this new world of Windows 10.

resistance is futile

But I will resist as long as possible.  I will force computer shutdowns instead of allowing this evil new system to invade my safe world of Windows 8.1, risking that 1 in 100 chance that I could lose everything. No, Mr. Microsoft, I will not go quietly into the night.  You can keep your new window closed, thank you very much.

Of Course I’m Right! Just Ask Me.

smart

I carry a burden.

Sometimes, people ask for my opinion on stuff.  I can only assume that they intend to heed my advice, otherwise why would they ask?

That’s the burden.  My advice, answers, perspectives, thoughts, and even emotions can be a pretty serious contemplation – especially knowing that future generations will in some small way follow my lead.  That’s a lot for one man to carry.

On the upside, I always know I’m right, so there’s comfort in that.

Now, you might be saying ‘Wow – what an ego on that guy!‘, but that’s not true. In fact, I pride myself on my humility.

The thing is, if I thought I was wrong, I wouldn’t offer advice.  None of us would, unless you were some sort of psychopath and deliberately gave people bad advice just to mess with them.

Your opinion is the currency of how others appreciate your wisdom and intelligence.

There are times of course, that I may have no opinion at all.  If I was asked if I preferred knitting or crocheting, I would have no clue, since I neither knit nor crochet. In this case, I would be confident in saying ‘I have no opinion on that topic.  You should ask someone else’.

Even in saying that, I’m showing that I’m correct in my advice…to not take my advice.

See how that works?  But it’s not always that simple.  Sometimes, I will be asked for my advice then have it questioned.  I don’t know why.  If someone wanted my opinion, why then would they choose not to take it?

Let me give you a hypothetical example that in no way reflects any actual events.  Let’s pretend that my lovely wife is picking out a dress for a party.  She holds up 2 outfits and says; “The red dress, or the blue one?”  She’s asking my opinion, presumably because she understands that I have some fashion credibility and she clearly wants to look her best standing next to me.  I need all the help I can get.

I tell her “The blue one”.  That should be it, right?  Asked and answered.  Conversation over, decision made, I’ll be waiting in the car.  You’re welcome.

Really?”, she’ll then say.  What?  Why is she questioning my decision?  Even if I was’t paying attention or watching TV when she asked, I’d have at least a 50/50 shot at getting it right – pretty good odds.

Why the blue one?, she would go on to ask.  Uh, oh.  Not only has my input been brought into question, now I’m being asked to back up my decision with facts.

“Because I like the blue one on you”…I may leave out the fact that we’re already late and the blue one looks like it doesn’t need ironing.  This is how I balance promptness and self-preservation.

“But the red one goes better with my shoes”.  Now we’re treading into deep waters.  If I rescind my original decision about the blue dress, I soil my reputation as being decisive and correct, and my currency begins to devalue.  On the other hand, if I hold fast, we may miss the hors d’oeuvres altogether.

“Okay, the red dress does look better with those shoes.  Wear the red dress.”  I reply.  This doesn’t negate my previous position on the dress.  New information was brought to my attention after the fact, which changed my position.  Good judgement still intact, and my currency stays afloat.  My reputation for promptness however, will be pocked, but sometimes you just gotta go with it, right?

“But you liked the blue one better.”  Sheesh!

“Not with those shoes.”  I should play more chess – I’m a genius!

“Maybe I should wear the blue dress and pick out another pair of shoes”.  Touche! This is no longer an opportunity to offer input, but a battle of the minds.  I wished I had grabbed a snack when I had the chance.

This hypothetical tarry could go on for hours…hypothetically.  But that’s the point of my dilemma.  If I’m asked my opinion, I offer it and expect that to be taken with the utmost consideration. That’s not always the case.  Sometimes, my opinion is nothing more than an opportunity to be an external ‘internal voice’ to be questioned, rebutted, and occasionally outright rejected.

That’s a hard pill to swallow when you’re always right.  You put real thought into offering your input.  When it’s questioned or rejected, it makes you just a bit less sure of yourself.  And that’s dangerous.  The acceptance of your opinion bolsters your currency.  If it’s discarded, it makes you less valuable, doesn’t it?

On the other hand, if you know you’re always right – like I do – maybe it’s more of a reflection on those who reject your input that on your wisdom (previous hypothetical scenario notwithstanding). But that’s just my opinion.

Oh, and just in case you were wondering, my wife wore a black dress, looked beautiful in it, and we missed the hors d’oeuvres.  Hypothetically.

Life Lessons from Street Hockey

Our municipality has banned street hockey, but the kids still play, thank God. Enjoy this ‘re-blog’ from a few years ago…

The Lighter Side of Life

street hockey
If you grew up in Canada in the ’60’s or ’70’s, it’s likely you spent a lot of time outside.  Those were the days when the big rules at home had to do with being within ‘ear-shot’, meaning your mother could yell your name from the front door and you could hear her…naturally, if you were playing hide and seek, you couldn’t give up your location, so you had to weigh the odds between being caught or being in trouble with Mom.

The other rule that got better as the summer months progressed, was the ‘street-light’ rule, which meant you could stay out until the street lights came on, then you’d better be heading home or else!  That one was a total rip off in the winter.  In Canada, the sun goes down around 4:30 in the cold months, so outdoor playtime was precious indeed.  Most of the time, though…

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Realistic New Year’s Resolution Planning

lazy

Before you all rush around making ridiculous and unachievable resolutions to live better, lose weight, stop smoking, reduce smuggling plutonium, or tackling whatever other demon plagued you last year, you should heed my realistic advice.

These simple tips will make achieving your New Years goals a lot simpler:

1.   Make your win easy

There’s nothing worse than gearing up all through the Christmas season with weight loss, reduced vices, treating others nicely, then finding out you’ve over extended your self-motivation and can’t do any better on January 1st.  You should start around Halloween with over-eating, smoking 3 packs a day, drinking on the job, etc.  That way, if you even go back to more normal self-destructive patterns, you’re way ahead of the game!

2.     Aim low

“Reach for the moon!  You may not get there, but you’ll be among the stars”…what a bunch of fertilizer!

starsHow can you reach for the moon?  Most arms are no more than 3′ long…the moon is over 200,000 miles away.  Not gonna happen.  And the ‘stars’ are WAY farther away than that.  How can you be among the stars if you couldn’t even get close to the moon?  It just doesn’t make any sense. Guaranteed failure.

Reach for the fridge – it’s right there in your house…even has a handle on it, made just for your tiny little arms.  I bet you can achieve that goal without looking like a lunatic.

 

3.    Don’t tell anyone your real resolutions

Sure, the so-called experts will tell you that getting your friends and family to help you with your goals will help with networking and support.  How has that worked for you so far, my friend?  By telling everyone, you just set yourself up for public humiliation when you do fail. Not a great motivator, is it?

Tell them something that you know you can achieve without even trying…like ‘I resolve to enjoy my leisure time more in 2016’.  See?  That’s something you can get your friends to cheer about when you spend an entire weekend on the couch, binge-watching Supernatural on Netflix!

If your real goal is to double your income, lose 40lbs, and feed the children on the streets of Calcutta, you’re not only going to fail, you’ll disappoint your friends.  Don’t disappoint your friends.

In the end, we all want to find a way to improve our lot in life….let’s not set ourselves up for utter failure.  Make small, ‘fall-off-a-rock’ simple wins that may help us just feel a tiny bit better about ourselves.  Doing that may just help us to stretch our tiny little arms a bit closer to that stupid moon.

Happy New Year!