Monday, March 27, 2017

Zip lining $ 🎓 💪💪

Take a long wire and attach one end higher than the other.  Put a wheel on the line, and slide down it.  That's zip lining.  You set it up in your own back yard for short distances, - like from a tree house to the ground, but to really enjoy it you get a professional to set it up with a lot of safety equipment from huge heights.  Then you can go over tree tops for large distances.  Often you have to walk up a lot of stairs or climb a mountain to get to the top.

It is on the cheap side and takes almost no skill to do - although you do need significant skill to set it up.   It does take some muscle, but if you can walk up a steep hill, you should be able to do it.  The amount and kind of equipment vary a lot.  For a backyard zip line you sometimes just hang onto the pulley.  For most of the long/high versions you have some kind of harness that you are strapped into. If you do it in the US, chances are they are going to take a lot of safety precautions.

Men and women both like to do this.  Kids enjoy it a lot. Seniors are welcome (and sometimes get a reduced rate).

I did it in South America, but you can do it almost anywhere.  There are places in New York, New, Jersey, and Massachusetts.  Sometimes they even set one up in street fairs.  Here's one in Vernon NJ:

Monday, March 20, 2017

Precious Metal Clays $$$ 🎓 💪

Precious Metal Clays (PMC) are strange, wonderful things.  In the 1990s, Masaki Morikawa found a way to mix metal dust with an artificial, burnable clay like material.  You mold and shape the PMC into the desired shape, then fire it a kiln just like normal clay.  For some smaller pieces, you can use a blow torch, rather than a kiln.   What you are left with is pure metal - if a bit less dense than the normal stuff (it has holes where the clay used to be).  But it is almost 100% silver/bronze/gold/copper/steel once fired.

I used silver because gold is very expensive.  But even silver is expensive.  It's not just the clay (which obviously costs more than regular silver).  You also need a small kiln, and I would strongly recommend classes unless you are just working with the base metals (bronze/copper/steel).  Otherwise you will waste a lot of silver/gold learning simple things.

It is very easy to work with and requires no muscle.    But if you want to make something fantastic, you may need more skill.  I was capable of making a ring and earrings.

Typically you use it to make jewelry, though you could use it to make anything out it.   You could in fact make a bronze key, fix a broken zipper pull, a can opener, etc.  It's pretty sturdy.

Like most jewelry making classes, the far majority of students are female.  The woman that taught me focused on an older crowd, though that might be different at different places.

I took classes here:

Monday, March 13, 2017

Caving $ 🎓 💪💪

I've done a lot of caving, but mostly on tours.   They have climbing tours where you climb, floating tours where you float down an underground river, as well as the far more common walking tours.

Almost all caving tours are cheap - minimal equipment and training required.  Do NOT just go into a cave without a lot of training and safety equipment.  That way lies death.  Getting lost or hurt is easy without a guide, and human presence can dramatically affect the cave - your hand print leaves oil that will affect the wildlife that lives there.  Going on a tour doesn't take much skill, but without a guide, you need a lot of knowledge.  Basically, going without a guide is for experts, and if you are getting any information about caving from me, you are not an expert.

Everyone likes to check out caves - young and old, men and women.  You obviously need a flashlight.  If you are in a river cave, you will need a life jacket and possibly a wet suit.  You definitely want water shoes of some kind.  Tours should provide this.

Walking and floating tours require you to be in reasonable good shape, but not more than that.  Climbing tours are for the more advanced people.  They take more skill and muscle.

Of the tours I have taken, I liked the floating tour the best.   It was in Mexico, near Cozumel, at the Rio Secreto:

Monday, March 6, 2017

Improv $$$ 🎓 💪

New York City is a major theater town and there are a LOT of classes for various types of acting, including improv class   It tends towards young people, but older students are welcome!  It's pretty balanced gender-wise.  You also don't need any other acting experience.

They usually start with a warm up exercise that is similar/identical to kid's games.   Then you are taught the rules of improv - things like "always say Yes and",  never reject the premise ("It was all a dream"),  mime using the device rather than being the device (pretend to hold a gun rather than shape your hand like a gun), etc.  All the while you are given a lot of time to practice and try things out.   It's good, safe, fun.

It's a bit expensive, mainly because they sell you 8 classes at once, rather than a monthly set of group classes.   But I really enjoyed it. They do offer work study, which can help with the price.

On the plus side, eight classes mean you really get to know your fellow students.  It's easy to become friends with them.  It's very social, you make friends.

It doesn't take much muscle nor does it require you to work hard.  Even if you are not a good actor you can still have a lot of fun.  You do put on actual shows - and convince your friends/loved ones to come see them (paying money for the privileged of seeing you too.)

I took classes at The People's Improv Theater:

Monday, February 27, 2017

Rock climbing $ 🎓 💪💪💪

Climbing a rock wall - real or artificial is a very athletic sport.  There are several  types - I have tried free climbing (with a safety rope), and bouldering (no safety rope, shorter heights, thicker pad to fall on).  There is also underwater climbing, solo climbing, and ice climbing, but I have not tried any of those - yet.

Most often people learn on artificial walls.   Typically they put multiple routes up a single wall, color coding them and classifying by color.

So if you go to such a wall, you have a choice.  The easiest route is ignore the colors and just climb up anything.  If you want something a little harder, look at the chart and select the 'easy' color.  Then climb using only the hand holds coded that color.   On that same wall you might pick the blue rocks, which could be the hardest route (there is no standard rule about which color means harder).

Rock Climbing is cheap, can be easy (assuming you take 'easy routes' up the wall), but takes a lot of muscle.  It's a real work out.    They offer classes, but you do not need to take them.

If going free climbing, you need someone to belay you.   If you take a class, that is a given.  If not, invite a friend as a partner and take turns.  One advantage of bouldering is that you don't need a partner to go with you., but you need to be more willing to trust your own strength, and withstand a short fall.

You need the right kind of shoes - flexible and thin  - to do this.  Many kinds of tennis shoes, but not all, work well.  A lot of places rent shoes.

 This is a fairly gender neutral sport and kids are welcome.  Not many people over 40 (heavy work out), it's a younger crowd.  But they take really young kids - 3 years old sometimes.  Kids like to climb.

I went bouldering at Steep Rock Bouldering:

and free climbing at Manhattan Plaza Health Club (a gym but you don't have to join the gym to climb):

Monday, February 20, 2017

Butter Churning $ 🎓 💪

This is not a euphemism,  It's remarkably easy to make butter.   Here are the steps:
  1. Buy a  cartoon of heavy cream.  Open it up.  We want bacteria in there.  You can optionally add a bit of yogurt or cheese cultures.
  2. Leave it on the counter for a day.  Yes, open to the air for the full day.
  3. The next day, mix it up.  You can use an electric mixer/whisk for 3-10 minutes.  Or you can put it in a mason jar and shake it for 10-20 minutes. 
  4. Strain out the liquid buttermilk, leaving the solid, sweet butter. 
  5. Rinse with cold water removing any remains of the buttermilk
  6. If desired, add any flavorings you want (salt, herbs, whatever fancy thing you like.) and refrigerate.
Anyone can do this, even the youngest of kids or the oldest of seniors.  Women are more likely to be interested.   

You don't need to go anywhere else or learn anything else to do it.  Just buy some heavy cream at the grocery store and go to your kitchen.  Or you could do some internet searches for desired flavorings.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Snowmobiling $$ 🎓 💪

Snowmobiling is riding on a motorized tread  with skis to steer.  It's similar to jet skiing, only on snow instead of water.  Obviously a bit colder, you need to dress warm.  But if you run out of gas, you can just walk back - following the trail you left to get there.

You definitely need gloves and a helmet (although some states do not require it, do it anyway).  You easily go 50, 60 mph, which is about the same speed as a jet ski, but the ground, and trees are a lot harder than water.   You don't have to go that fast, but you need the helmet and gloves anyway.   It's expensive to buy, but lots of places offer rentals/tours.

Snowmobiling is moderately priced, fairly easy to do and doesn't require a lot of muscle or stamina.  If you want to go fast, that will use some more skill and muscle, but you don't need them to try it out. The machine does most of the work.

Snowmobiling trends male, but they have women too.  Kids love it, but the age in which they can drive varies by state (Maine is 10, Wisconsin is 12, for example).  Similarly some states require licenses.  Check the laws before you do anything. 

Dress warmly, wear a helmet - even if the law doesn't require it, common sense does.

I went in Vermont, you can find places to do it near any ski resort.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Make your own Pop Up Card $ 🎓🎓 💪

It's fairly easy to make rather spectacular pop up greeting cards.  You don't even need to take a class, their are some free templates and lots of videos available.

You cut the strong paper (card paper works well) in the right way, fold along certain lines, tape certain things, then close it up and mail it to someone you like.   If you have a color printer you can even print out a design before you cut it, so it has color.

This is very cheap - free to start, takes a little bit of practice, particularly if you want more than a simple box, but takes no muscle.

It trends female, but men do it too.  Any kid old enough to handle scissors can learn how to do this.

I learned at a course offered by NYCResistor ( but they no longer have one scheduled.

Instead I suggest trying one of these:

Monday, January 30, 2017

Dog Sledding $$ 🎓 💪

Dog sledding is a fun thing to do in the snow.   It is fairly easy as the dogs do all the work.  Most of the time the sleds have one passenger sitting in the cargo area and one driver standing on the back.  The passenger doesn't have to do anything at all.  You do need some balance and the stamina to stand up while the dogs pull you.  Generally you go with a guide, and he has to know the route and what he is doing.   He travels in front and the dogs will follow the sled in front of them.   You also need the brains to let the dog do their thing instead of trying to tell them what to do.

The dogs are working dogs bred for the weather.  They are usually treated pretty well and have a better life than some pets.  Not as boring, and they have a real pack, rather than one or two companions.  They have heavy fur and suffer in the heat of summer.  While they are running they are more likely to overheat than to be cold (exercise keeps you warm).

It's typically moderately priced, at least for a short trip "try it out" trip, obviously if you try to do a full day or extended camping trip it moves into expensive territory.   It's easy and takes no muscle if you are  the passenger, and just a little if you are the driver.  Note, you can also find some deals, particularly if you are looking for a shorter trip in a non-touristy part of the country.
It's split male/female fairly evenly.     It's kid friendly and elderly friendly - you don't even need to be able to walk.  At the same time, if you want to 'mush' the dogs, it's not that much more work.

Dress warm, you won't be exercising like the dogs.

I did it at Jackson Hole Wyoming, taking the trip to the Hot Springs and went swimming for lunch (cost more to do that):

If you aren't in Wyoming, you may not get a hot spring, but some kind of dog sledding is available near most winter ski resorts - but do some price checking.  Usually they charge per sled not per person.  Price and availability are also also fairly time dependent - if you try to do it on Christmas eve you will pay a lot more than a random Thursday in January.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Metal Casting $$ 🎓 💪

Metal casting is similar to the mold casting I mentioned earlier, only instead of poring liquids that turn solid, such as plaster or rubber, you pour molten metal into the molds.

As such, the molds have to be sturdier.  You can use a mold carved out of cuttlefish bones, a plaster mold (often made by crafting a wax  version, then covering with plaster, then heating to melt the wax out - called the lost wax method), or sand molds.

It is not cheap - you are working with molten metal.  It is fairly easy to do, at least if you don't care that much about making it perfect.  Nor does it take a lot of muscle. 

Mostly used for jewelry and similar items, this class trends female, especially if you are making stuff out of pewter, which is a lot easier to use than bronze.  Bronze is mostly copper with a little bit of tin and/or other metals.  Pewter is mostly tin with a little bit of copper and/or other metals.  Bronze is much harder to re-melt and requires a much hotter flame, so it is harder to work with.  If you are using pewter, make sure it is lead free if you are going to make anything that comes in contact with food.

Because it involves molten metal, this class is not for young kids.   A wide range of ages take classes, some are very young artists, some are older people.

I made some nice bronze pieces back at 3rd ward, but they closed down.  Brooklyn Brainery offers a pewter class that uses the cuttlefish bone method and the sand method:

Monday, January 16, 2017

White Water Rafting $ 🎓 💪💪

Get in an air filled raft and head down the river.   You have a raft captain that needs to know what he is doing, but you can be clueless.   It's that simple.  The one thing you have to do is pick how strong a river you want.  There are six main levels (sometimes they use a - or + to indicate weaker/harder versions of the six main levels).

Class I, is mild, Class V is harder.   Even the youngest child can do a Class I or  II.  Teenagers should be able to handle Class III at the very least.

But if you are looking for excitement, then you want Class IV or Class V.    Don't try class V until you have had some experience on a class IV.

But wait, I said six levels, and V stands for five.   So yes, there is a Class VI.   It is the term for a river that that is too harsh to run.  For example, Niagra falls is a Class VI rapid.  Do some people go over it anyway?  Yes.  We call them suicidal.  Don't try this unless you are a) an experienced raft captain and b) not taking anyone else with you.

I have done Class IV rapids in Alaska.  It was a lot of fun, the wet suit kept me warm and dry.   I do like speed.

Note, price depend a lot on length of the trip as well as the class.  It's only cheap if you go for a short 4 hour or shorter trip.  If you go for much longer than that, it edges into expensive, especially if you are talking class IV or V.   If you go for a full on multi-day camping trip, expect to pay thousands.    While it takes  a lot of skill to captain the raft, you need no training to just do it.  While you don't have to be in good shape to do it, you should at the very least be able to swim.  If you can't swim, stick to Class I or II.

You will have to wear a life jacket even if you can swim.  A helmet is heavily recommended.  In colder locations, a wet suit (including shoes) is needed.

If you want a Class IV or V experience, you may be dependent on timing - rivers run faster when dams let water out or when snow melts.

White Water Rafting  is gender neutral.  They take kids as low as 4 years old (at least for the milder stuff).   Seniors are welcome, especially for the milder runs.

You can learn more about White Water Rafting here:

Monday, January 9, 2017

Mold Casting $ 🎓 💪

This is the process of making a rubbery mold of something, then filling the mold with plaster or similar substance to make an exact duplicate.    How exact a duplicate?  If you make a plaster copy of your fingers, the fingerprints will match what's on your hand.  Depending on the material, their may be some shrinkage/expansion.  You can intentionally make smaller or larger versions, by careful selection of the material.  While the original shirnkage/expansion ratio is relatively small, you can use repeat the process to make something twice as big as in real life or half as small.

It's cheap, easy, and doesn't take a lot of muscle.

It's got a good mix of male and female.   It's not that hard to do, teenagers kids can easily do it, as can seniors.

Dress for a mess, both the mold making and the casting involve liquids that turn solid.

I took lessons and bought my materials at "The Complete Sculptor".  When I took it it was a class called "life casting" and focused on making casts of living things, such as your foot, hand, torso, head (with breathing tubes), etc. You can just as easily do it with other things - toys, cups, etc.
Now they have called it Rubber Resin and split into two classes - 1) mold and 2) casting.  It's basically the same thing, but cheaper because of the split.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Snow boarding $$ 🎓🎓 💪💪💪

Snowboarding is very similar to skiing.  Both involve going down a snow covered hill at high speed.  Both are mainly about balance.   Both are only cheap if you live in the area, both are good exercise.

But snowboarding has you on one wide board, rather than one on each foot.  The balance is now more about forward/back rather than side to side. That makes it significantly easier to do as the human body is designed to deal with forward/back balance more than side to side.

It is very very hard to stop while snowboarding, unless you sit down in the snow.   So generally that's how they teach you to stop.   Doing it too quickly is called 'falling' and hurts.   Some people can stop without sitting down, but it takes a lot of skill.   Many snowboarders get pads on their butt - both to protect it from a fall and from the cold.   After about two days or so you learn to do it slowly, in a more controlled, less painful manner, and you start sitting rather than falling.  This is a significantly FASTER learning curve than skiing - but you don't fall as much with skiing.

Snowboarding is slightly more male than female, but that is changing.  Most people recommend kids start snow boarding later than skiing (age 7 rather than 3).   Snowboarding is still a young person's sports - it's a relatively new sport and once your learn skiing you often have no desire to start over and learn a whole new sport.  You don't see 60+ year old people snow boarding, but you will see them skiing.

Snow boarding also has the advantage of a more comfortable boot.  It's not as rigid, as you don't need to be able to 'edge' the foot.

You can snowboard at most ski resorts - but you should double check with any place you go before heading there.

You can snow board at Mt snow, just like skiing: