Monday, September 19, 2016

Blacksmithing $$ 🎓 💪💪

You can take blacksmithing classes in Brooklyn.    Full forge, you can make everything from jewelry to knives.  Welding, furniture, sculpture, tools, and all sorts of practical stuff.

I made some art, a small axe head, and an ice cream spoon that WILL NOT BEND no matter how cold and hard the ice cream.   The spoon is by far my favorite - I use it all the time.

It's fairly easy to do, if a bit expensive if you want more than one day workshop.  But you can get single lessons for less than $100.   It takes some muscle, but not a huge amount.

Gender at the female taught school I attended was balanced, but I could see a more masculine group via a more masculine teacher.  Especially if it focused on weapons or armor - so if you find your teacher at a Ren Faire, don't be surprised if it is mostly men.   It was more of an older crowd, with most people in their 40s but a few younger people as well.  They teach kids as young as 12.
Clothing is important - there will be hot sparks flying places and you don't want it to land on a bare toe, arm, or worse a flamable piece of clothing. 

I was taught by Marsha Trattner, of "She-Weld", in Red Hook Brooklyn.   I found her via The School of Visual Arts.

Here is some information about her classes:

Monday, September 12, 2016

Trapeze $ 🎓🎓 💪💪💪

There are two types of trapeze - the 'flying' one which involves multiple trapezes and large swings, and the static trapeze that is more acrobatic.  This post is mostly about the flying Trapeze.

The static trapeze is similar to doing yoga while in the air.   It's fun, but everything get's better when you start swinging.
Everyone knows about "The Daring Young Men on the Flying Trapeze".  You climb up a rope ladder, grab hold of a swing, swing out then get grabbed by a more experienced person, stronger person on another trapeze.  Then they let you go and you fall into a hammock like net.  I think of it as a more grown up version of the playground equipment.

They start you out with a safety harness.   In my opinion, it's safer than being driven somewhere in a NYC taxi.

It takes some muscle, takes a bit of work to learn how, but it is cheap - if still on the high side of cheap to try.  If you weigh more than 205 lbs or so, it becomes more problematic but not impossible to do.

It tends toward a younger crowd - mostly 20's and 30's.  They take kids as young as 6 - they even offer birthday parties.  It trends a bit more female than male, but there are plenty of men.

The scariest part is actually climbing up the ladder to the platform for the flying trapeze.  Once you actually get on the trapeze, everything happens so fast that you don't have time to be scared.  If you are nervous but not terrified of heights, this is a good intermediate step to cure you.  I came away with less fear of heights than I had after.

I had a lot of fun.

My first flying trapeze lessons were taken at:
 They have schools in four other major cities, so check out the link even if you don't live in NYC.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Watch Making $$$ 🎓🎓🎓 💪

I am talking about the old style analog, mechanical gear watches here, not the electronic versions.

Analog watches are complex arrangements of gears, springs, and an escapement to slow down the transfer of energy from the spring to the gears.

They get built by hand.  You can learn how to do it.  It's very finicky work, but you come away with a really nice watch.  It's not easy, can be very frustrating, nor is it cheap.  But it doesn't take much muscle.

You get to pick what the watch looks like - skeleton versions that show 'the action' are popular - and what gems to use as friction-less pivots.

You also come away with a whole set of interesting tools for micro work.  For me, that was a plus.

My class was small (3 people) 100% male, and all adults, no senior citizens.  It's a nerdy hobby.   Kids could do it, except it's expensive.

Even fifty years ago, NYC was a major center for watch making.  It's still cheaper to buy a watch on the streets of NYC than most places, but few people are making them by hand anymore.   It's a great hobby if you can deal with the extremely delicate, fussy bits.

I took classes here:

Monday, August 29, 2016

Aerial Acrobatics $ 🎓 💪💪💪💪

Sometimes called Silk Work or Aerial Silks, this is really fun.     Take a giant 20 ft long, 2 ft wide silk scarf by the middle and tie it to a hook in the ceiling, 10 ft above your head.   Put a thick gymnastics mat - or two - underneath it, for safety.  Get some chalk on your hands and climb up the silk - using your hips and legs to push yourself up rather than your arms.   Get about 8 ft up there and wrap yourself in the silk - using a special technique.  Now let yourself fall a bit, perhaps spinning, allowing some but not all of the silk to unwind.  You come to a sudden stop, preferably someplace above the ground, caught by the silk.

This will hurt - and bruise you.  Even when you do it perfectly.    You may not have hit the floor, but you still came to a stop and all that energy went into stopping you hits your body where the silk caught you.  Because it is spread out over the silk (and over time), it isn't damaging, but it hurts.  It's also incredibly dramatic, beautiful, artistic and an adrenaline rush.   That's aerial acrobatics.

Aerial Acrobatics is the only activity that I gave four 💪 to.    It is the single most physically taxing experience I have ever tried.  It requires you to do heavy exercise for extended periods of time and if you reach your limit and relax at the wrong time, you fall eight feet and break your neck.   Even when you do it right, it bruises you.  I was honestly too old (and/or out of shape) to do this so while I enjoyed it, I decided to quit before I killed myself.

It is on the cheap side to try (they offer deals for the first lesson) and not hard to learn.  It does require flexibility.

If you are out of shape, you won't be good enough to get in serious trouble.  You can still try the basics at low altitude, but it's not easy to climb the 8 ft. If you are afraid of heights, you won't be able to do this either (but if you are slowly trying to overcome your fear, this is a good later step).

This class is almost entirely female.   Certain techniques are physically impossible for men to do safely (we have these delicate bits that stick out between our legs and that's where the silk wraps - remember the bruises happen where the silk touches you...)    There are some men that do it, but they are in the far minority.   I have seen people as old as 48 doing it professionally, but it is clearly for the young.  Most people taking this class seriously are in good shape and start before they are 30.  Teenagers are welcome. 

Clothing is important.  Bare skin means you get bloody scrapes rather than just bruises, so you need to wear tights/leotards or something similar.   No baggy clothing - the tighter the better.   Women may will need a good sports bra and men definitely need a 'dance belt' to keep those delicate bits in close and safe.  Dance belts are  ballet clothing for men.

If you are in good shape and like exercise, this is a great hobby.  If you are in OK shape and like exercise, this will get you into good shape.  If you need to lose some weight, you might try it, but the more advanced stuff will be very hard.

You can do it here:

Note, this location also teaches related arts, not just the silk stuff that I enjoyed so much.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Akido $ 🎓 💪💪

Akido is, in my opinon, the only martial art that anyone should learn.  There are at heart three kinds of martial arts - weapons, striking (kicks/punches), and wrestling.   Aikido is a mix of wrestling and weapons - in large part because striking doesn't work very well against someone using either weapons or wrestling.   Aikido concentrates on defense and relies heavily on  body mechanics.   For example they teach you to hold your opponents hands in a way that is easy for you to do - using major muscles - but is hard for them to escape - because their muscles have no leverage.  One of the more important things they teach is how to fall safely. Aikido is less than 100 years old and related to jujitsu.  At the dojo I took lessons in, weapons training was secondary to learning their grappling techniques.

It is relatively cheap compared to most martial arts.  They usually offer free or cheap intro classes, then require you to join the dojo and pay a monthly fee.    This helps ensure you to come often enough to actually learn.

It's is not extremely hard to do, but it does take a lot of practice to do it well.    Similarly, it does not require a lot of strength, but it does involve significant physical contact.

It is usually more male than female but does have women partaking.  As it doesn't require significant upper body strength, women are just as capable of becoming fantastic in it as men - don't be surprised if your teacher is female and throws you around like a rag doll.  Unlike most martial arts, it has significant older population.   They do accept teenagers, but tend not to have young children.  Because it avoids striking, it's not as violent as other martial arts.

I took classes here:

Monday, August 15, 2016

Genetic Engineering $ 🎓🎓 💪

The invention of "CRISPR" and similar technology has taken genetic engineering away from the mad scientists and given it to the backyard scientist.   No, you can't make South Park's four assed monkey, but you can do some amazing things with bacteria.  Making them smell like bananas or giving them a strong, vibrant color (for use as ink) are just a couple of the things you can do.  Not to mention learning how to do DNA comparisons, just like CSI.

The intro lectures and workshops are fairly cheap, but if you want to make your own ink be prepared to spend hundreds of dollars.    Similarly, the brain work depends a lot on how deep you want to go.  You can learn the basic tasks without too much effort, but fully understanding everything will take a lot.  But you never need muscle, even for the hard stuff.

You don't need to worry about amateurs making a disease, while it's pretty easy to identify stuff, if you to make anything interesting, you need to buy building blocks from people that  check for the nasty things.  Making the building blocks is expensive, takes time, and a lot more skill than an amateur can do.

In addition, adding code to bacteria is a lot easier than adding code to more complex life form.   You just need to insert the DNA into the cell, while with more advanced life forms, you need to get it into the cell's nucleus.

Most genetic engineering hobby associations take people of all ages - kids welcome.   Men and women are again both present in large numbers.

I took classes with Genspace:

Monday, August 8, 2016

Jet skiing $$$ 🎓 💪💪

Jet skiing is similar to Snowmobiling (Which  I will write about in a later post) You go about the same speed, on a similar machine.  Only you do it on liquid water instead of solid.

Water is softer and warmer than snow, so you don't need gloves and some don't bother with a helmet.  But I advise you to use a helmet anyway - you can still exceed 50 mph, even if water is softer than the ground.   You can be thrown off and hit your head on your own jet ski, not to mention you can collide with other vehicles.  Of course, if you are a slow poke that hates speed, and can't get the nerve to go as fast as I do, then perhaps you don't need one ;-D

Jet Skiing can also be used to pull people.  You can pull smaller kids on a float, or people water skiing (see my post in July).     This is a lot of fun for both the kid and the adult (be careful about turning too steeply.

Jet Skiing is not cheap, even renting.  It isn't hard to do and doesn't take a lot of muscle, but it does involve some.  If you fall in love with them (and have access to a lake/ocean), you can buy one for less than the cost of a motorcycle.

Jet Skiing trends male.  We like to go fast.  Laws vary by state, but usually you can do it you are 16 or older. Some areas require you to take a boating course but let you do it as young as 12.  In general, most states let a younger child ride on the back of a jet ski, even if they can't drive it.  Some larger jet skis are designed to hold 3 people. (They also sell something called a shuttle craft, which is an add-on floating boat for your jet ski.  You drive the jet ski into, lock it down, and boom, no you have a 6 person boat.)  Kids tend to like jet skis a lot, even if they can't legally pilot them.

If the water is cold, you may want a wet suit.  Foot ware (water shoes) is a good idea.  Don't forget sunscreen and sun glasses if you do not use a helmet.

Wear a life jacket - even if you can swim, you can be knocked unconscious.

My stepfather owns one, but you can rent them near NYC, or pretty much any lake/ocean side resort.    Here is one of several sites to book tours at in NYC (chosen because they posted their prices on the web - I like to reward good behavior):