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):

Monday, August 1, 2016

Soap Making $$🎓🎓 💪

Soap is made from combining caustic lye with fat.  Lye is a very strong base (ph 13-14 range), which makes it more dangerous than most acids.    Worse the reaction creates heat.  Because making soap involves dealing with hot lye, you really need a teacher , not to mention some basic safety equipment.  In addition, lye is used for certain illegal activities, so you need a bit of help dealing with legalities.   But if you take reasonable precautions, it's not significantly more dangerous than certain cleaning supplies (do not mix ammonia and bleach), so a smart person can easily make a lot of soap.  While there is a bit of math, it's not hard to do - there are online calculators to help - and requires no muscle.
You can take online classes, but I suggest you hunt down a live one, at least for the first class.  When you take a class, they don't just teach you how to make basic soaps, they also teach you about additives.  Scents, moisturizers, exfoliants - all the stuff they put into specialty soaps.  So you can make soap that is customized for your needs. 

Classes are definitely more female than male, but there are some male students.  Seniors welcome.   You can do it with a smart, safety conscious teenager.   As it involves dangerous hot lye, I do not recommend sandals or skirts.  Try long sneakers, pants, and long sleeve shirts.   

The place I took lessons in closed down.  :(  Sorry.  Group-ons are good places to keep it at $$, rather than going for the more expensive classes $$$.  Brooklyn Creative Studio has group-ons for less than $100 per person, but I did not attend their class.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Water Skiing $$$ 🎓 💪💪💪

Water skiing is very different from snow skiing.   The power comes from a motor that someone else is controlling, rather than gravity.  Unlike kite boarding, it takes almost no skill, for similar reasons.  You strap your feet to a board, but that strap is designed to come off when you fall.

That means you don't really control where your go or how fast you go - which means you don't have to learn anywhere near as much.  Want to go faster, yell "Faster" to the pilot.  Going too fast?  You can always let go.   The only basics are how to stand up and start doing it, which you can cover in a single lesson.  Then it's mostly about learning how to do to fancy stuff and having fun.  Barefoot (requires a higher speed), backwards, jumping, and similar tricks all take a lot more training.  You do have some control about where you go moving your weight and edge, like skiing.  But if you mess up you will still go where the boat pulls you, no matter what.  Also, there are no trees and much fewer people to hit.

Wake-boarding is a variant of water skiing that I have not tried.  You strap a wider,  shorter board is strapped to your feet and lock it in so it doesn't come off when you fall.  It is supposed to be much harder than water skiing.  You don't have to worry about your feet going in different directions, but controlling whether you go left or right has to do with leaning forward and back - like snow boarding or skate boarding.
You can go as slow as 13 mph (but only if you are the size of a child - minimum speed is determined by your weight) to as fast as 100 mph).

Water skiing is not cheap - you need to pay for a boat and pilot, as well as the gear.  Tipping is recommended.   But as I said, it's much easier than snow skiing.   It is still a work out - you are being pulled by your arms.

It's more of a young person's sport than an older person.  It is definitely exercise.   Women and men both do it. Kids can do it.

Wear a life jacket, even if you can swim - you can get very tired. 

Helmets - most people do not use them (unlike jet skiing).  Mainly because whiplash is more common than direct hits and helmets can make whiplash worse, not better.   With wake boarding and water skiing, you almost always have time to let go and slow down.  Also you are behind the boat, which clears the way in front.  It's different from jet skiing where you might directly crash into something, and or hit your head on the ski directly.

They do sell some helmets for wake boarding, but I have not seen any people wear them water skiing.  I do not feel the need to wear one, but you can always ask someone that knows a lot more about it than I do.

I tried Water Skiing when I was a child at some long forgotten lake.  But you can try it at Lake Mahopac, not far from New York City:

Monday, July 18, 2016

Shoot a Gun $ 🎓 💪

In NYC your fire arms options are limited.  You need a license to fire any hand gun.  But rifles are another matter.  You can exercise your second amendment rights with a long gun fairly easily. 

Note, I believe that this general rule (if not the specifics of how it is created) is a good idea.   Almost all shooting deaths in America come from hand guns (Picture a mugging, a suicide, and a kid playing with a hand gun - compare what happens if you replace it with a long gun), while almost all legitimate uses of fire arms work BETTER with a long gun (hunting, walking safely through a crime ridden neighborhood, defending your home from an invading army).  If it were up to me, rifles, silencers, large clips, and even 'convertible rifles' (weapons that are easily modifiable into fully automatic versions) would all be easy to obtain with no little if any background checks - but hand guns would require a federal license to carry (but that license would by definition allow concealed carry).   Sorry about the political rant, back to my review.  Back to the fun.

Firing a gun is pretty easy for anyone to do  (hitting what you aim at is another matter).   It doesn't require much strength.  It is more of a male thing.  It can be a bit of a rush - definitely gets the adrenaline pumping.   Larger calibers have significant kickback - be prepared for it, or get hurt.  It also is loud - you will want hearing protection, but a good shooting range will provide it.

Kids are not OK - sorry, in NY, that's the rule.  There have been real cases in the US where the gun was too much for the kid and people got killed.   Wait till they are old and strong enough to handle it.

The price is at the high end of cheap, but still less than a night on the town.   Classes are reasonable, an if you love it, about the only real expense is purchasing the weapon, bullets are cheap.

I went to:

Note, this link takes you directly to the rifle sign up page.   First time users pay $75 and get a safety class.  After that it costs less than $50 per visit to the range.

If you want more, you can also sign up for a class at Orvis for 'wing shooting.'   It's on my list, but I haven't gotten around to trying them out yet.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Sign Language Classes $$$ 🎓🎓🎓 💪

Learning Sign Language is hard, expensive (mainly because it takes so long, the individual classes are moderately priced), but is not very physically taxing.

It is definitely social.  If you use a group class, you have people to practice with.  Even if you don't, the eventual idea is to talk to other people.

It's hard to know how many people know ASL, but it is the 3rd most requested translator language for the courts.  Some people believe there are about 2 million Americans that sign using "American Sign Language" ASL, which would make it the 4th most popular language in America (English, Spanish, Chinese, then ASL).    ASL was created by people that knew the french version (LSA) and the sign language used by many other countries is derived from ASL.  So you might be able to make yourself understood by deaf French, Jamaicans, Nigerians, etc.

But more importantly, the people that speak ASL do not have as large a community.  Most big cities have Spanish speaking neighborhoods and "China towns", but ASL users often have few people to talk to.   Most Spanish and Chinese speakers also speak some English, but quite a few ASL can not hear at all.   All of which means that if you do find someone that speaks ASL it's kind of like running into a fellow American while visiting a foreign country.  You may suddenly make a new friend who has so much to talk to you about.

But it is a real commitment in time and money.   You can't expect to pick it up in just a month. It takes a lot of practice as well.   Worse, if you stop before you become good, you likely will end up forgetting everything you learn.

Sign Language classes are gender neutral, though my class was a bit more female than male.  There are no age limits, the young and old can take them.

I took classes here: