Monday, December 26, 2016

Upholstery $$$ 🎓 💪

Upholstery is the process of adding cushions and/or fabric to furniture.   It has advantages over simply putting a pillow on the chair in that it looks far better and the pillow doesn't move around.

The main pieces of machinery you need are a pneumatic staple gun - and someplace to use the thing as it is LOUD.   You may also need a sewing machine, some hand tools (industrial strength staple remover/crow bar, hammer - perhaps a button machine to make cloth covered buttons)

But all the skills are remarkably EASY to do.  Frankly, any teenager should be able to do it, if they put their mind to it.  It does take a while to do, is expensive, but as long as you are working with a small piece (chair, ottoman), it won't take much muscle.  If it weren't expensive to learn and do, everyone would do it.  Frankly, it's a great retirement income hobby job if you don't want to sit around doing nothing, and want to earn a little extra money.

And it has the advantage of many of my activities in that if you pick good materials, it will come out looking pretty darn good even if you personally are a beginner.

It is more female than male, and the crowd does not normally include teenagers (expensive).  Seniors can easily do it.

A common practice is to go to a flea market, pick up a chair with good bones (wood) and re-upholster the old chair with new padding and new fabric.  You can do the whole thing in a weekend or two if you have the right materials.

I took Upholster classes at the beloved 3rd Ward (passed away to due to severe mismanagement of their non-profit).

But the Furniture Joint in New York is still around and offers classes:

Monday, December 19, 2016

Downhill Skiing $$ 🎓🎓🎓 💪💪💪

Strap a pair of long, flat, edged, boards to your feet and head down hill!   Well, it's a bit more complicated than that.  You need some safety equipment (helmet), appropriate clothing, skis, boots, and a ticket to ride the lifts.  Unless you want to hike up the mountain, (takes a lot of time but saves a lot of money) - which is really a different sport (called "Telemark skiing", uses a different boot and binding).

Skiing is all about balance and ankle movements - move your balance to the left (tilting your feet/skis)  and you turn left.  Move your balance to the right, tilting your skis, and turn right.  Turn enough and you face up hill, which slows you down.  You also need to be above your skis, not sitting back for the best control.   The boots have to be fairly tight, as it is all about ankles.

But you get going fairly fast.  The world record is over 150 mph.  Most people won't go over 50 mph, and beginners usually stick to 10 mph.

Skiing is a rich man's sport, but you don't have to be rich to try it.  You can easily get a first time skier package that includes rental, lesson, and ski equipment for less than $75.  Most of these are state specific - i.e. to qualify for it you must live in the state that is offering it.   Moreover if you are from out of state, transportation and housing really drives the price up (unless you take a bus at 6 AM to be at the mountain by 9 AM, then bus home - but that's hard core).   For that reason I did not classify it as cheap.    For most people a ski trip costs more than $200 per day, involving transportation, hotel, equipment rental and a lift ticket.   But if you are not alone, you can split a lot of the costs, it's not per person.

It's very different if you live within 40 miles of a ski resort.  Then you can buy a season pass, buy your own skis, and sleep at home instead of a hotel.  Then it becomes a very affordable hobby, which explains why so many Olympic skiers come from locations that are famous for skiing - they have done it since grade school, even if they grew up poor.

Nor is skiing easy to do - expect to take lots of lessons (again, expensive), and it is definitely a work out, particularly if you go fast.   

It's split fairly evenly down the middle, with lots of men and women.  Kids are welcome, if you can afford it/live near by.  They take them as young as 3.   Many ski resorts offer discounts for older skiers and you see a solid mix of all ages.   But the age limit for the cheap skiing has gone up as skiing became more popular among the wealthy senior citizens.

I grew up skiing at Mt. Snow:

It's the closest of the really big ski mountains to Manhattan.  It's very crowded during winter weekends (particularly holidays), a lot less so during non-holidays weeks.

But if you live closer to a smaller mountain, consider checking them out.   Especially if you live within an hour of ski resort.  Some people move to be near a ski resort.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Stone Carving $$$ 🎓🎓 💪💪

Lots of people paint or draw - it's easy to pick up a pen/pencil and go for it.  Not many people sculpt - that takes a lot more effort, particularly with stone.  Clay and other mold-able stuff is easy - you can fix your mistakes.   Not so with stone, you cut a piece off, it's gone.

I took lessons in carving stone.  You pick a piece of stone that is slightly bigger in all dimensions than your piece - perhaps something that looks interesting.  Perhaps you make a drawing or two to help you think about what you want.  Then you start chiselling away until it's in the shape you desire.   There are several kinds of chisels - teethed ones that are easier, but leave a rougher surface and smooth ones that leave a smoother surface.  Once you have the right shape, any part that you want smooth requires a lot of sanding.  You start with a rough sandpaper.  Then sand again and again and AGAIN, each time with finer grit.  Finally you cover the thing with wax to shine it up.  Hopefully it will look good.

Note carving stone takes a LONG time.  Much quicker to draw or do some kind of casting (see life casting and metal casting).  It's not a quick afternoon hobby, but more like a month long project - at the minimum.

The main reason it is expensive is the time - even small projects take forever.   This is not easy, but not particularly hard - if you are going for an abstract look. If you want something that looks exactly like an existing object/face/body, then it will be a lot harder to do.  It can be a bit tiring, particularly when you are at the hammer and chisel phase.  But it's not really a work out.

Genderwise it is pretty neutral, the same goes for age.  Kids can do it fine.

I took lessons and bought my materials at "The Complete Sculptor":

Monday, December 5, 2016

Ski Biking $$ 🎓 💪💪

This one is a bit strange.  Take a bike.  Remove the pedals and the gears completely.  Replace the wheels with small skis. Take it to the top of a mountain and get on it.  Put two little skis to strap to your ski boots.  Now go down the mountain, gravity powered - just like nordic skiing.

Ski biking is easier than skiing or snow boarding.  You are sitting down, so you have greater control over your weight shifts (affecting turning) AND you have a steering front ski.  This is much easier than just using your ankles to control turns.

You can't (or rather I can't) do moguls (very bumpy terrain),  nor do you go as fast as regular skiing, but you have a lot more control and it is a lot easier to learn than snow skiing, and a little easier to learn than snow boarding.  It's also involves much less falling on your butt than snow boarding. 

You need to use a ski lift, (and bringing the ski bike on the lift takes some muscle)  so it's priced about the same as skiing - not cheap.   It's significantly less strenuous on the body than skiing, but as I said earlier, you will need some muscles to do it.  Some places let you rent it at the top of the mountain and bring the bike up for you.

More men than women do it, children can do it, and if you are older and can't ski, you might be able to ski bike.   If you are disabled (even missing limbs or partly paralyzed)  then ski biking will be a LOT easier than skiing or snow boarding.

I did it in Breckenridge, lots of places allow it.  Many rent bikes and/or offer lessons.  You can learn more about it (including which mountains allow/rent/teach) here:

Monday, November 28, 2016

Shoe Making $$$ 🎓🎓 💪

Shoe Making is expensive and time consuming, but not that hard to do.

You start by making a plaster mold of your foot (and leg if you want anything boot like).  Around the plaster mold exterior, you wrap masking tape (two layers, criss-crossing).  Then you draw your design on the masking tape, cut the tape and remove it.   Trace the tape designs on paper, cut the paper out, and once again trace the paper on to leather leaving some extra space for seams.

Then cutting the leather out, you assemble it, with a piece of foam and plastic added to the sole, all held together by a combination of glue and sewing.

The main equipment you need is a good post sewing machine (you need one that can easily work around the shape of the shoe, hence the 'post' version).   Most of the rest is fairly standard - exacto knives, hammers, sanders, something strong enough to cut the sole leather.   You may also need a metal shoe anvil for use with the hammer.  All of it the equipment should be in the class, if you take it.

If you have a good eye and a steady hand, you can make something very pretty and useful.    Sandals are much easier than full shoes - they don't have a full heel or full toe, both of which involve multidimensional curves which require a 'last' and some serious stretching/hammering of the leather.   Note, I do not consider boots to be worth paying more for a special class - the extra material is also the simplest part of the shoe - only one dimensional curve, no sole.  Yes it takes more time and material cost, but you don't really need extra instruction on how to do it.  But heels and lasts on the other hand, are both much more complicated and if you want to learn to make them, it's well worth the extra money.

This class is expensive, but you get a nice custom made to order pair of shoes out of it.  It is not easy to get something perfect, but what you do make is high quality and lasts a long time.  It doesn't take a lot of muscle or stamina - aside from lugging all the gear to and from the workshop.   That can become a lot, as my teacher did not have the storage space to let all the students store.

The classes are fairly even when it comes to gender, perhaps a few more men then women.  It has a good mix of older and younger students.   There is no reason a 10 year old child or a 90 year old can't do this, except for the money.

I took classes from Olivier Rabbath, here:

Olivier is a nice french man that's been doing it for quite some time.  He's a bit of a character and really knows his stuff.

Monday, November 21, 2016

SNUBA $$ 🎓 💪

No, I didn't misspell it.  SCUBA stands for Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus.  SNUBA stands for Surface Nexus Underwater Breathing Apparatus.   It is a combination of Snorkeling and SCUBA diving.

Take a large bottle of air, just like they use for SCUBA.  But instead of wearing it on your back as you go into the depths, put it on a small float/bloat.  Connect a 20 ft long hose from the air to a mouthpiece.  Put on some flippers, goggles, and the mouthpiece and explore the oceans - or at least the top 20ft of the oceans.

SCUBA (with a C) is expensive, hard, and difficult.  It is expensive not just because of the gear, but because it takes a lot of classes - you have to get certified before you can do it alone.  Not to mention time to learn.  In large part because it is not the safest thing in the world - if you don't pay attention to time, you can unwitting give yourself 'the bends' (especially if you go right from SCUBA to an airplane), risking your health and life. If you have asthma (like me), doctors recommend you do not SCUBA.  So that is not on my list. 

SNUBA does not have that risk.  It is far safer, easier, and less athletic.  Not to mention cheaper - no lessons and certification.   You don't go deep enough to worry about the bends, but you still go deep enough to see glorious fish.   It was good enough for me, so I never felt the need to go SCUBA diving.   

You just need to be able to swim, and at least 8 years old.  Men and women both like to do this.    No real age limit, it's easier to do than walking is.

It's become pretty popular - tourist destination that have multiple places to SCUBA diving should also offer one place with SNUBA.

I did it in the Caribbean, but I forgot where. 

You can find SNUBA online for less than $75, but most places try to charge around $100.   So I gave it $$, rather than $.  Here are a couple of places that have it for less than $75:


Monday, November 14, 2016

Fly an airplane $$ 🎓🎓🎓 💪💪

Flying an airplane is a strange experience.  It combines a sense of power-fullness and power-lessness.   Yes, you have the ability to fly, yes you move faster than you have ever done before. 
But, at least in the small airplanes I was taught in, errant wind push you around like you were a feather.

Don't expect to take off or land on your first flight - those come later (if at all).   But on your first class you can definitely take the 'wheel' of a small aircraft and be in total control of it.

I did it in Texas, and it was a gift, but places in NY area tend to charge more than $100.  If you can get it for $150, that's a good price. While basic control of the plane is easy in air, dealing with an emergency, taking off, and landing all take a significant amount of training.   It takes a bit of muscle, but not a huge amount.

Flying trends male and older.   People over 40 are more likely to have the time and money to spend on this hobby.  You can start as a teenager, but it's rare.  Note, in Alaska, some places need an airplane to get, so it may be more female and younger there.    You can turn this into a job - if you are young and talented at it, particularly in Alaska.

Most small airport should have someone selling lessons of some kind.   Do a google search and you should be able to find it.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Flyboarding $$ 🎓🎓 💪💪

Take a jet-ski.  Attach a giant hose to the jet, so the water goes into it, rather than the lake/ocean.

Connect the other end of the hose to a rig you strap to your feet.   Turn the jet-ski on via a remote control and the water press will thrust you up into the air as high as the hose.    Live out your James Bond Jet pack fantasy!

Most people handle 5 -10 ft, some get as high as 35 ft in the air.

If you are good, you can do tricks.  If you are a beginner you can slam into the water and give your friends a laugh.   It's not as easy as it looks.  One of the key things is you can't point your feet - it's all about balancing - keeping your center of gravity above the water jets. Most of that is done in the ankles - they have to be bent the right amount.  Point your feet down a tiny bit and you move forward.  More and you slam head first into the water. 

This sport is new and there are variations - jets attached to your back, jets attached to a bike, jets attached to a chair.   In all cases you are going to be balancing and most people think it is easier to balance on your feet than anything else.  Also, at some point the jets tend to point directly down into the water, most people would rather be pulled under by their feet than by any other part of their body.

It costs about $100 to try it out.  If you fall in love it costs about $10,000 for the entire setup (including the jet ski which is half the cost).   It's not easy, but it's not the hardest thing to try.  I managed to do it by the end of my 15 minutes.

This is by far a guy thing.  James Bond fantasy, remember.    It's also mostly a younger thing - 20 and 30 year olds dominate the market, but older users are welcome.  Most places won't take you unless you are at least 16, but if you find the right place, they will take a 13 year old kid.

I tried it in Texas ( )   but you can try it on Long Island:

Monday, October 31, 2016

Holographs $$$ 🎓🎓 💪

Holographs are 3d pictures made using a laser on film.  You shine the right light on the film (doesn't always have to be a laser light), and you get the 3d picture popping up.  Holographs are actually better resolution than normal printed photos - theoretically you could take a holograph of a leaf and use a microscope to view the nucleus of bacteria on the leaf. 

All you need is a dark area to take the holograph, the right laser(s), the right film, and a bit of knowledge.   And a good subject for the holograph.  I used a small fire hydrant I made in a glassblowing class.

It is a bit expensive - both to learn how to do it and to set something up in your home.   It's not that hard to do any one kind of holography, but there are a lot of techniques and variations to learn.   So to truly master it, you can easily spend thousands of dollars.   Also, you are working with film and chemicals, not merely computer chips, so there are quite a few expendables you need to purchase.   But it takes no muscle.

Holography trends male, and older.  Yes, kids like to view holography, but it is just hard enough to deter all but the most determined teenagers from trying it.   Classes are very small - you work in a dark room.  That's another reason why it is so expensive.

I took classes here:

Monday, October 24, 2016

Indoor Sky Diving $ 🎓 💪

Picture a multistory building with a glass tube in it, more than 5ft across.  At the bottom of the tube is a grill.  Underneath the grill is the biggest freaking fan you have ever seen - totally filling the tube.   This is a vertical wind tunnel that can let you fly like a bird.

When the fan is turned on, the wind is so strong that it literally BLOWS YOU UP INTO THE AIR.  You wear a special suit - that is loose and baggy to catch the wind, helmets, etc.  Sneakers are fine - but no loose shoes (flip flops).

You can use it to learn how to skydive - or just for the shear FUN of doing it.  If you do it often enough you can learn how to do tricks, but the first time you try it you will need an instructor to show you how to simply stay floating.  They will also show you some

It is very safe.   You can't fall very far even if the power is cut (the fans slow down gradually, bringing you down gently).  They say you don't have any trouble breathing in the wind, but I think they are underestimating that issue.  If you have allergies (runny nose), asthma, or similar issues you may have some issues breathing.   I would at the very least take any appropriate medication.  Basically, stick your head out of a car window at 55 MPH  If you can breathe fine while doing that, then you won't have problems.  But it is at the very least very annoying.  Do NOT do it if you are sick.

The cost for a simple try was reasonable - but they "get you with add-ons".   Anything besides the most basic experience costs more.  Want a 'high' flight?  Costs more.  Want a video?  Costs more.  Want to rent a nicer helmet - that makes it easier to breathe?  Costs more.  The training for your first flight also makes it more expensive than later ones.   Also, location and time will change the price - weekend premium.  They offer group pricing, which helps somewhat, as does bulk purchasing for one person.     If you are a teenager and fall in love with it, you could get a job doing it.

It is not that hard to do the basics, but it takes a while to learn to do the harder stuff.  It doesn't take any muscle - young children can do it.

While this is cheap, easy to learn and easy to do, it is not located near everyone.

It trends young and male, but there are women doing it.  Kids as young as 3 can do it.  There is no upper age limit.  They do have a weight limit.  But you can do it even if you are a paraplegic.   They do offer parties, if you have the money.

I did it twice, once in Vegas

and again with my niece and nephew while in Austin Texas  at a chain iFlyworld

Monday, October 17, 2016

Public TV Broadcasting $ 🎓🎓🎓 💪

Public TV Broadcasting on the Manhattan Neighborhood Network is free.  That's the cheapest you can possibly get.  Anyone that lives in Manhattan can give them a recorded TV show to broadcast at no cost to you.  If you live in Manhattan you can also sign up for classes on how to use video and sound equipment - cameras, lights, microphones AND computer software to learn how to make a TV show.   Not only is putting your videos on live public TV free, but some classes are free as well.  Others cost a low price of only $25 for registration.  This is all for access to training that you could easily pay thousands of dollars for.  It is one of the BEST deals in New York City, but is not easy to do.   Once you are certified as passing the class, if you live in Manhattan, they will let you use their equipment to make your TV show, again for free. 

All of this is funded  by the cable companies.  In exchange for the legal right to offer cable to Manhattan residents, the cable companies pay a fee to the borough of Manhattan.  The city uses these fees to fund the program above.

While classes are basically free (aside from that registration fee) the classes are not easy.  It is hard work to put on a TV show and they are teaching you how to do, not doing it for you.  It doesn't take a lot of muscle, but expect to put in some real time and effort learning how to do stuff.

Also, if you watch public access cable TV, you know you can get some strange people - or at least people willing to say some really strange stuff on TV.  Be prepared to meet them.

You can do a one off show, or if you really like it, have a weekly show.

It's gender neutral, but the hard work makes it not the best for kids.  While they do have a youth program, (mainly for kids 16+) most of the real work will need to be done by adults.  This can however be a good joint project where the parent does the hard work and the kid is just the 'on air' talent.    

It's not easy to do - but it can be very sociable. You can really be a TV Producer and ask people appear on your real cable TV show.   You can do a talk show, make a sitcom, do whatever you want - except advertise.  That is a no-no, it is public access TV, not advertiser supported TV.

Ye, some people have used the program offered by MNN to springboard into a career.  Not easy to do, but it can be done. If you are poor, live in Manhattan, this is great resource.

Click here for information about the Manhattan Neighborhood Network:

If you don't live in Manhattan, there are different rules.  Sorry Brooklynites.  There are similar program in other cities, so do some googling.  I know Boston has a Boston Neighborhood Network. (

Monday, October 10, 2016

German Wheel $$ 🎓🎓 💪💪

Another really fun circus skill you can learn.   The German Wheel is basically two large man sized circles, with crossbars connecting them.  You stand inside the wheel, on the crossbars, grab hold of handles, then shift your weight back and forth (similar to using a swing set).  Your weight shifts get the wheel rolling.   Then you do circus acrobatics inside the moving wheel.  It is a bit amazing.   Think of it as a tool to make somersaults 1000x cooler.   If you still are not sure what it looks like, take a look at Delgado's website listed near the end of this post. 

This is one of the easier and less scary, but still incredible circus activities I have tried.  

You can get a single class for fairly cheap $35 or so, but honestly you won't learn enough in that class to really do anything.   You need at least two or three classes, which is why I called it moderately priced.

It does take practice and some but not a lot muscle.

This class tends towards more woman than men.   Kids are welcome, as long as they are tall enough.  Obviously if you can't stand in the crossbars and reach the handholds, it can be a problem.

You need the right shoes - a thin, hard soled, canvas top shoe.  Converse is good.   Thick sneakers, sandals, heels, are all bad ideas. 

I took lessons at STREB Lab for Action Mechanics (SLAM).  The teacher's website is here:

STREB's website is a bit confusing and does not easily send you to classes, you have to look around:

Monday, October 3, 2016

Laser Rapid Protyping $$ 🎓🎓 💪

There are two kinds of automated milling  machine, also called computer numerical controlled (CNC): Additive and Subtractive.

  1. Additive CNC machines go by the common phrase "3D printing".   They slowly add more and more stuff - usually plastics, but metal and/or glass are possible - until you achieve the programmed result.
  2. Subtractive is the opposite. You start with a big block of something and carve away, removing the stuff you don't want, till you achieve the programmed result.

Laser Rapid Prototyping is a laser subtractive CNC machine that burns away wood, plastic, etc. till you get the desired result.

NYC Resistor is a 'hacker collective' in Brooklyn that offers space to do projects, as well as a ton of interesting classes about how to do projects.  They are part of the "Maker Movement".  Note, while Laser Rapid Prototyping is not itself social, NYC Resistor is a very social group.  I suspect that any other group that offers similar access to a laser rapid prototyping machine will be similarly social.

They offer both a class:

and the right to use the laser (minimal supervision) after you complete the class.  You can carve plastic sheets, wood, plywood, and similar objects with the laser.  You can also etch stuff into aluminum - but their laser is not powerful enough to cut something made out of aluminum.  (with the possible exception of aluminum foil).

You can make everything from signs to complex machines - I made a rubber band gun.

The laser class is moderately priced, and while it takes some effort for most projects, no muscle is required. 

Gender wise, it's fairly well balanced - NYC Resistor offers everything from sewing to computer construction classes so they tend to attract a wide range of people.  It does trend younger - 20's, 30's more than 40's or 50's.   Kids are generally welcome.

Note, NYC resistor has other classes as well - but Lasers are the hottest class.   And the coolest class.  They also offer a good social environment to work on various projects while surrounded by the kind of people that have interesting hobbies.   If you live in NYC and have room mates, this alone makes them worth taking a look at.  

Monday, September 26, 2016

Stunt man classes $$ 🎓 💪💪

Ever want to  learn how to do a stunt fall - falling 20+ ft onto a giant air bag?   Or how to survive a staged hit by a car?  Perhaps you want to look fly though the air (on or off a wire) just like your favorite kung fu movie?

Then a stunt man class is for you.  The High Falls class is the reasonably priced, but if you want the really cool stuff it gets expensive.   It's pretty easy to do, and while physical, it doesn't require you to be in good shape.   Very interesting and fun.

They also do trampoline classes - perfect if you want to learn how to do a flip.  Note, many of these classes are more athletic, the high falls class is the only 💪💪 one.  The other stuff is often very tiring, takes a lot of muscle.  Consider them 💪💪💪

High Falls is not as scare as it sounds, after all, all you do is jump/fall, so it is hard for you to screw things up as long as the bag is properly inflated.   The Trampoline is a bit less safe - a bad bounce could send you off the trampoline or into something or someone - don't have two people on it at the same time.

I did not take the 'get hit by car' class.

It's fun and something most people never actually do.

This tends toward male, but a lot of women like it as well.   You have to be older than 10 years old (at least for the cool stuff).  They do parties for kids / business events.

Is this going to make you the next Heidi Moneymaker? (Google her IMDB page, very impressive) Probably not.  But you can have a lot of fun doing it.

You want sneakers.  No sandals.

I took classes in Brooklyn here:

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):

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:

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Kite Boarding $$$ 🎓🎓🎓 💪💪💪

Kite boarding is a sport where you take a giant, 10+ meter wide kite, connect it to your chest with a harness, then step onto a large board (think boogie board size, not surf board) and have the wind pull you at speeds that can exceed 55 mph (50 knots, 90 km/h ).  If you are a beginner/taking lessons, you might take a boat off shore to where it is easy and safer to start.  But good kiters can start from the beach.

It is expensive, difficult and hard on the body.  It doesn't take a huge amount of muscle, but it does take a lot of stamina.   You can't just take it easy when you get tired - particularly if you find yourself out a mile off shore.  How fast you go depends more on the wind speed than on how hard you want it.  In most sports the difference between a pro and an amateur is just as much about willing to give it your all as it is about how much your "all" is.  Not so with Kite boarding - you have to give it your all, or quit, at least when you are a beginner.  As you get better you use less muscle and flow with the wind, rather than fight it.   In addition it is a full body workout - legs, back and arms.   As such, if you aren't young, healthy, and in shape, be prepared to be totally exhausted by lunch time - as in lie down and take a nap.  I did.

It is also rather expensive - it's not just the gear:  board, floating sunglasses, kite, ropes, harness and pump (the kites have inflated tubes on the edges to hold the right shape).  You need a water resistant shirt (not cotton) to protect your chest from the harness and sunburn.   I liked having water shoes on my feet - particularly when on a rocky beach area.   You will definitely need some classes to start at the very least.  There is also the travel.   Not everyone lives near appropriate locations and the wind is fickle.  Finally you may need to pay someone with a boat to hang out and/or save you if the wind doesn't cooperate.  

That said, it is a TON of fun.    I tried it in water, but you can also try it on snow (snow kiting).  Obviously summer water is warmer than snow, but you have to do more work - it's harder to start it up as the board goes under the water and you have to hold it in the right shape to start.  Snow kiting is less work to for that reason, if a bit colder.  Also, your head doesn't go under water, which for some people is a big plus.

Jumping is fun - but if the wind picks up suddenly you may find yourself trying it out before you are ready.   Experience people can do a ton of interesting tricks - my teacher would literally jump over small island reef that had a a bonfire set up on it.  It was pretty amazing site.

It's more male than female - say 2 men for every woman.   It's hard but not impossible to take it up after 40 - the stamina issue.   Mostly 30's - 20 year olds don't have the money/time, aside from the professional teachers.  But if you have the money, a  teenager can easily do it.

I took kite boarding lessons on vacation at the "Pro Center Kiteboarding School", Union Island, in the Grenadines.  The wind there is near constant 24/7, 365 days a year.  If you go during the prime season, it can be a fun party.

But it is a long trip (near Venezuela) and requires you to fly in on a small aircraft, so it is not easy to get to.   There are a lot more convenient places, including Cape Hatteras in North Carolina.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Cooking $ 🎓🎓 💪

Cooking is another great hobby that a lot of people love.  You don't have to take lessons, you can learn from cook books/the web.   But I have taken a lot of interesting cooking classes.

If you love to eat, then why not learn to make the food?  Eating is a major life activity, something you do multiple times a day, it makes sense to learn how to make the food worth eating.   And it's a great skill to show off for other people.

For most forms of cooking, you have already spent the required money on big ticket items  like a stove, refrigerator, etc.  Yes, you will have some extra costs, particularly if you take classes, but it tends to be a relatively cheap hobby.   It's not that physically demanding, people in wheel chairs can easily do it if their kitchen is set up correctly.

If you do take classes, Cooking, like dancing,  tends to be an equal opportunity event - you meet just as many women as men.  But there are exceptions to that rule - if you take a class on how to butcher a pig there will be more men than women.  Another advantage of cooking is that there is no age limit on either side.  Unlike dancing, Grandparents can easily do it with their grand-kids, no holds barred/.

In any major city there are a lot of classes you can take and we are not just restricted to the normal stuff.   'General' cooking classes are not my preference.   Instead I recommend focused, one shot workshops rather than a class you take every week for a month.  That makes them cheaper, easier, and you learn how to make one or two unusual things really well rather than a bunch of things acceptably.

There a lot of specialty classes available:   deserts, pies, sushi, dumplings, Vietnamese, Chinese, grilling, etc.  Good cook stores love to teach you these workshops cheaply because they usually get to sell you gear along with the lesson.   Obviously take a class on a food type you like to eat - because you may end up eating a lot of it.

Some of my favorite classes were Pizza, Cupcakes, Ice Cream and Molecular Gastronomy. 

Pizza making is relatively easy.  It's a simple food, mostly about making the dough.  The sauce and toppings tend to be simple to do.  The main problem is that it takes a long time to make it from scratch - hence people buy it more than make it. 

I enjoyed my class here:

Cupcakes are always a big hit.  They don't take too long to make (no dough rising), and are sweet. 

I took classes here:

Ice Cream is another big hit.  You get the flavors you desire and it's not that hard to make.  The main weakness is that it doesn't always travel well.  On the other hand, when you show up at a picnic with a cooler full of home made ice cream you get more bragging rights than with most stuff.   Particularly if you make "Bourbon Brown Sugar Ice Cream".  Can't get that at Baskin Robbins.  (Note you need to add other stuff and/or remove some sugar, to keep the ice cream solid if you want the alcohol to be more than just a flavor - take a class and learn how.)

The Brooklyn Brainery has a lot of good cooking classes, and that is where I learned how to make Ice cream:

Molecular Gastronomy is not as likely to be useful in your daily life.  But if you want to show off bacon flavored "caviar" on top of transparent ravioli can be very impressive.  The place that offered my Molecular Gastronomy class is no longer offering it, but you can find others.

One final place to check out is The Brooklyn Kitchen.  It has a lot of interesting classes, including that one on pig butchering I mentioned.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Kayaking $ 🎓 💪

Take a small boat, one or two people, WITH a paddle, and welcome to the Hudson River.  Kayaking is a great, lazy out door sport.  Unless you are racing, you won't be burning many calories.

Kayaking is cheap and remarkably easy.  If you want to be more outdoorsy but don't want to overdo it, kayaking is for you.   It's cooling, you wear a bathing suit, and it's different - so it makes a great  summer date.  It's the only 'water sport" I tried that doesn't require any muscle so I said it isn't exercise. 

You need to be willing to get wet, you can do it even if your legs don't work, and in Manhattan at least, it's free, at Pier 26.  They even give free lessons and a free locker (please bring a lock).    It takes almost no effort, and requires minimal skills (besides swimming).

If you go to Pier 26,  you will want a bathing suit and a T shirt.  They provide a life jacket.  You must know how to swim.  Gender balance is fairly even and they take all ages.  Younger children must share a boat with an adult.  They have successfully accepted people weighing 400 lbs.  

I would wear water shoes, but they are not necessary.

Each session lasts 20 minutes, but if it isn't busy you can do more.  Weekend times are 9-5, and during the week they are open from 5 to 7:30.  (last boat enters water at 7:10).

From May 21 to Oct 10, Kayaking is free from Pier 26 at the Downtown Boathouse. 

If you like kayaking, you can buy a kayak and life jacket for relatively cheap, and go kayaking wherever and whenever you feel comfortable.   I have taken trips from one lake to another (only problem is bringing the kayak back to the car....).

Friday, June 17, 2016

Glassblowing $$$ 🎓 💪💪💪

Glassblowing is remarkably easy.  It is a bit expensive - to do it you need three large ovens - one to hold the molten glass (the furnace), another to heat up the item you are currently working on (the glory hole - and don't confuse this one with other kind :D) and an annealer to slowly cool your finished piece without cracking it into a million pieces.  The furnace is usually kept on for extended periods of time (weeks), the annealer is constantly being cycled on/off every day or so, but the glory hole can be turned on only when you need it.

Then you need a whole bunch of other tools - mostly metal, though a few wooden items.  Pipes to blow bubbles, punty's to hold pieces while they are being worked on, giant scissors and tweezers, wooden molds (keep them wet so they don't ignite), benches to sit on and iron tables to work the molten glass on. 

Finally, as we are using temperatures over 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, you need a teacher for safety and for many things you want an assistant.   So basically you can't just decide to do it on your own, you need a studio.  

It requires short bursts of physical effort, and you need to be strong to move things around. Also, the heat can take a toll on your body.  But unlike dance, it isn't an effective form of exercise.

But the good news is that it is pretty easy to come away with something GORGEOUS.  If you pick nice colors, you get a pretty piece.  The hallmarks of an expert is thin glass, rather than than pretty glass - so don't be surprised if your first glass cup is more like a mug than a delicate piece of whimsy.  If you want a handle, that takes more training.

You can take a beginner class for less than $300 and come away with a nice, hand made glass paperweight full of whatever pretty colors you choose.   For more money you can learn to make bowls, goblets, vases, pitchers, Christmas ornaments, etc.  Glass pumpkins are pretty easy to do. 

Gender wise it again is surprisingly equal.  Lots of women and men.  It tends to be a slightly younger crowd (takes a lot of physical effort), but there are some older people doing it.  Schools will accept teenagers, often with a discount, but it still is not cheap.

I would suggest wearing  clothing that protects your bear skin.  The radiant heat is high, and sometimes bits of hot glass will drip - you don't want that on your toes.

Classes tend to be small - no more than about 8 people at the maximum, and quite often it is 1 teacher and two or three students.  Often you need two people to make a piece - we are talking hot glass and you can't just put it down to go get a tool or something.  The glass 'remembers' everything you do to it, and time is very important - wait too long and it cools down too much.  

There are a lot of other glass related artistry usually taught in the same place where the teach glass blowing.  Things like slumping, neon signs, 'flame work' (small pieces - think jewelry sized), kiln work, cold working of the glass (filing away rough parts, etc.).

There are several good places to learn glassblowing in Brooklyn.  Look here: 

Scanlanglass is a smaller, one artist place and where I took my first lesson.  Urban glass is huge with a lot of great classes.

Friday, June 10, 2016


Dance has become one of my greatest loves.  It got me through some very dark times  - when I am poor, lonely, and depressed, I can always find solace in the arms of a young woman - even if it was only a "one night dance" so to speak.

(Note, Dance is more of a category than just one thing to do, so this first post is going to be a bit longer and different from future posts.)

Most dances and dances classes are surprisingly gender equal.  Just as likely to have more men than women as more women than men dancing.  But a few tend to be off balance - and men tend to get there early, while women tend to get there late (particularly in bad weather).  In NYC, you should be able to find LBGT friendly dances, but that may be a problem in smaller metropolitan areas.   Lots of dance styles have straight women dancing with each other and a few have straight men dancing with each other (Blues for example, sometimes does this.).  

When I was younger, I did not want to learn to dance.  I thought dance was for the popular people, those naturally good at it and old people taking boring classes.  I was wrong.   There are a lot of different kinds of dance, some look like that others don't.  Yes, if you take a class on the Fox Trot, you will be dancing with old people.  But you can also take a class on how to do hip hop moves and it will be full of young people.

I have tried a lot of different kinds and this post is going to talk about style have which advantages.  But dance is different in different parts of the country.  You will find a lot more country western dancing in Texas than in New York.  What I describe is what I have found in New York City, but you can expect similar events in other places - but some more crowded than less.

In general dance tends to be cheap, but does requires some work and some physical capabilities.  You don't have to be in fantastic shape, but if you have mobility issues, it's not going to be easy.

You do not have to spend big bucks on private lessons - some people get by by just going out dancing and learning on the dance floor.  But most people find that group lessons are money well spent, particularly for some dances.    I dislike chain schools (Fred Astaire, etc).  It's a little bit like going to a fast food place.  They tend to focus more on what they can automate and push out to the various schools than on finding good teachers and letting the teacher teach what they know best.  Look for a place that has a non-franchised name.

In general I advise taking group lessons - at least for the first month or so.  A single one hour private tends to cost as much as a whole month (1 hour class a week for four weeks) of group lessons.   Also, group lessons are more social, you meet new friends.

 A good way to find a dance school is to look for dances.  You don't want to learn tango from a place that doesn't offer a weekly tango dance.   At the very least it gives you a place to show off what you learned.

Another good idea is to find someplace CLOSE to where you work.  That way you can go there directly from work, before you get home.   If you try to do it on the weekend or far from where you work, there will come a day when you are just too busy/tired and miss a class.   Then next week you are lost, so you are more likely to give up.   Make it easy to go to class to help you do it consistently.

Dancing also tends to be a late night activity.   Some people get home at 3 AM after going dancing.  Obviously you don't want your teenager doing that.  That is not a necessity, one can arrange your schedule to be home by 9 PM, but that does requires some effort.

In New York City, the three big dances are Tango, Swing, and Salsa.   There are enough places offering those dance styles to go to a different place every day of the week.   I will also discuss less well known dances, such as Contra, Hip Hop and Blues.  Let's begin with the easier dances.

Don't try dancing with flipflops or any other shoe that comes off easily.

Contra Dancing:  $ 🎓 💪💪.
One of the easiest dances to do.  No lessons required, so it is very cheap.  If you can walk without pain, you can do this dance. Contra dancing is similar to English Country Dances seen in period movies.  They also look like a less western version of square dancing.  The key point is they have a "caller" yelling out what dance move to do, so you just have to do what he/she says.  They don't care about footwork or the 'count' that much. Sneakers are fine. 

Contra dances are often filled with lots of young people. Particularly near a college town, their average age can be 20's.  If you want to meet young people, this is a good choice.  Contra dancing is not a big dance, it can be harder to find.  Women may ask men to dance.

Look here for information about Contra dancing in Manhattan.

Blues Dancing:  $ 🎓 💪💪.
Another easy dance.  Most people can pick it up in one or two lessons, so it is very cheap.  Basically this dance was created in the past 20 years by swing dancers that wanted something simpler and easier to do.  If you want to have fun and learn a couple of moves to not embarrass yourself, this is a great choice.  You can easily use what you learn at a club, wedding, or similar event.  In addition, learning this gives you good prep work for other dances.   This dance is slight bit more physical than Contra Dancing, as well mainly because you might get a good partner who could do a dip or similar harder steps.  Foot work is a bit more important here, but not a lot.  People usually don't track the 'count'.  Sneakers are fine. 

Like Contra dances Blues events trend young.    Average age is 20's.  If you want to meet young people, this is a good choice.   Blues dancing is not a a big dance and can be hard to find.  Women sometimes ask men to dance.

Look here for information about Blues dancing in Manhattan.


Salsa Swing and Tango are big dances and need more instructions.  I would check out the larger schools, which include DanceSport, Stepping Out, and You Should be Dancing.

Swing and Salsa Dancing:  $$ 🎓🎓 💪💪💪 
Swing and Salsa are similar.  Salsa is the most popular dance in New York - we have a significant hispanic population, Swing is about the third most popular.   The main difference is 'feel' plus a few traditional moves - if you are good at one, you can probably become good at the other.  They both are much more energetic, and generally require taking weekly classes.  You need to be on the right foot and getting off the count (beat) is much disastrous than with contra or blues. You need to learn patterns so that you will complete each six or eight count together.   Group lessons becomes essential - unless you were raised dancing.   Privates are NOT necessary unless you become addicted.  If you want to become really good, I suggest taking multiple group lessons a week.  You will sweat a lot dancing swing or salsa.  Some men bring extra shirts, particularly in hot locales.  Swing dancers tend use sneakers, salsa dancers tend to prefer fancier dance shoes. For Salsa, you can easily use what you learn at a club dancing, less so for swing.

Salsa and Swing dances trends towards 30 year olds.  You need enough time and money to learn to dance, but have to be young enough to take the lessons.  Salsa and Swing are popular dances and you should be able to find them in any large city.

Look here for information about Salsa dancing in Manhattan.

Tango Dancing:  $$ 🎓🎓 💪
Tango is probably the second most popular dance in NYC (circa 2016), after Salsa.    It is usually less energetic than other dances, but can be danced with extreme vigor.  I have seen people dance it with a cast on their leg.  (Total addicts won't stop even after they are hurt), but I would not recommend it.  Like Swing and Salsa you need a lot of group classes (you do not need privates) - and once again I suggest multiple group lessons a week to become good.    But unlike swing and salsa, the groups teach you how to lead and follow non-verbally, rather than concentrating on teaching you a set of moves.  That is, you do not have to learn a six or eight count step (even though some of the moves are taught that way).  Tango dancers are use dance shoes.   Unlike all the other dances I mentioned above, you usually dance with someone for at least 3 songs.

Tango is the most sensual of the dances.   In all dances there is a bit of sensuality, but tango really likes it, in part because you do less with the arms, so you spend more time in close embrace.    While you don't have to dance close embrace, many want to.  You are in effect hugging your partner.  This is why it was the original dirty dancing that mothers did not want their daughters doing.  It's also why some people do it - it can be a 10 minute love affair.

But Tango trends older.   40 and 50's are more common than 20's or 30s.  Many salsa and swing dancers switch to Tango as they get older because their body can't handle the more energetic dancing.   Note, you can still dance tango energetically, you just don't have to.

Look here for information about Tango dancing in Manhattan.

Hip Hop/Club Dancing:  $$ 🎓🎓 💪💪
You can get lessons from people that are really good at club dancing. But Club/Hip Hop dancing does not have an established teaching method - no declared 'basic' moves.   So if you take a group class you tend to learn a set routine of whatever the teacher likes is good at.  Here I would consider getting private lessons.  They cost about 4x as much as a group class but you can concentrate on learning a set of moves really well, focusing on your strengths and overcoming your weaknesses.  Generally energetic, but not you don't have to be as energetic as swing or salsa (no dips for example).  Dress shoes are worn to ensure that you get into the clubs (bouncers check your feet - and won't bother to tell you why they don't let you in.)

Hip Hop/Club dancing tends younger - 20 year olds.   A lot of people are looking to hook up.  If you already know another dace style, Hip Hop is easier to learn.  Some people just use Salsa or Blues stuff at a Club and they get along fine for some songs, but they will not look like the best dancer in the house.

Other types of dancing. 
 There are a lot of other types of dancing - Hustle (Disco), variations on Swing (East Coast, Shag, etc.)   Country Western, Line Dancing, Fox Trot, Samba, variations on Salsa (Mambo, etc.).  Cost, physicality and difficulty will vary.  If something is popular in your area it can be a good choice, but if you don't have a choice of at LEAST two places to dance every week, there will be issues.     Even if you only want to go once a week, you want a choice of places to go.

Then there are the non-partner dances - things like Flamenco, ballet, pole dancing, belly dancing.  Those tend to be dominated by women, but some men (straight as well as gay) do take some classes.