The Academic Maker

changes. philosophies. process.

On Exercise Style

As of today, I’m two weeks into an exercise reboot. Long story short: though I’ve never been exactly fit, from a glossy image style, I used to have a regular regimen of weight work, plus I walked a ton on the golf course. Usually, that meant 3-4 workouts a week and 120 rounds of golf or so (which equals somewhere between 600 and 900 miles walked).

Then, begin parenting. I literally haven’t worked out steadily in more than six years. My golfing has gone way down, until this year (when, not coincidentally, I lost 15 pounds over the summer, because of the walking!). I remember being 173 pounds and thinking, hmm, I could bear to get into a bit better shape. And I remember being 185 pounds and thinking, what happened? And I remember crossing the threshold of 200 and really regretting not having kept up with things.

By the end of the summer, I had myself back down to 180, but that ballooned quickly to 195 between late September and now. How? Well, that was kind of weird.

Pounds were creeping on, thanks to the magical properties of M&Ms and Cheez-Its. 185 was on its way. Someone I know kept posting “inspirational” things about a certain money-making fitness program I’ll just call Plage Corps. This person was an, urm, “trainer” for the program (which I came to realize meant the person was part of the direct sales/pyramid scheme sort of company it actually is, putting it in line with certain make-up products, and cooking products, and jewelry, and kinds of other things that use friend-guilt as an excellent way to sell crap). Properly inspired, I signed on.

Now, first, let me say that it’s clear that many people lose weight and effectively exercise thanks to this company. They happen to be inspired by all of what it is. And I should say there’s nothing wrong with that. In a moment, I’ll say the opposite, though. Before that, I’ll recognize that it can work, but part of working means a person needs to more or less become a serial consumer of the products within that company’s line: workouts, shakes, on-line bonus stuff etc.

Plage Corps did not work for me. Instead, I used the planned beginning as an excuse to ramp up the M&M and Cheez-It Diet Plan, and then the first week of the new plan was based so much on unhealthy deprivation, that when I quit, I immediately turned toward the bad habits I had sought to break. Hello 195 pounds.

So I quit the program and sent all the junk back, which the company was mostly good about refunding, even though they “accidentally” charged me for a second month of shipments and on-line access after I’d cancelled. That was rectified, too, in a friendly way. So kudos there. I’m trying not to hate on this company too much.

Except there are two reasons why I think they are everything that is wrong with American fitness and health. A) Their philosophy of life is stupid; B) They exist to make money, by selling the idea of their philosophy to you.

About A) I think the most important aspect of an effective fitness plan is that it be compatible with your lifestyle and self-image. Of course, for me that means a fitness plan centered on M&Ms and Cheez-Its, so I suppose a bit of compromise is necessary. Essentially, though, a person who likes to be outside and active isn’t going to find satisfaction and success staring at DVDs, or even working out in a gym. A person who hates the outdoors, fears bears, and dislikes mud isn’t going to enjoy trail running, or hiking.

What I found with Plage Corp is that, since it was a DVD-based program, I am bored to tears. Further, everything was focused on body this, body that, you’re going to hurt tomorrow and that’s great, just one more, let’s fatigue the muscles to failure so you can grow, no pain no gain, self-hatred. Yes, self-hatred. I think their entire business model uses the concept of love your body as a way to cultivate body shame. Because you can always be doing more. Because you’ll never be the body you aim for. A person ends up hooked on the treadmill of body transformation, more or less loathing one’s self as a way to encourage “progress” toward a different self.

This is precisely opposite of the “inspiration” of what the company claims. But it’s how it goes. You wanna be fat and lazy, or do you want to work to cut those abs!? You can’t get to the latter without hating the former, which is a constantly moving target defined by where most people are at each discrete moment. Their motto might as well be, hate the body you are so you can work for the body of tomorrow, which you will eventually hate, so you can stay on the automatic credit card plan indefinitely.

In this way, Plage Corps and CrossFit and other “hardcore” fitness plans are all the same. They sell concepts of self-actualization when they actually push concepts of self-loathing. And none of them are actually healthy. CrossFit puts a person in grave risk of injury; Plage Corps and their ilk encourage obsession. None are exactly sustainable, though CrossFit is probably more so than many others, as long as a person is smart about guarding their joints (which is hard to do, considering that regimen’s style).

I should have been more suspicious early on with Plage Corps. Before I sent my money in, I inquired if I could sign up without buying their expensive shakes ($100 a month!), and just use their expensive DVDs and coaching. I knew I’d be overpaying, but I thought the encouragement would be worth it.

But why are you opposed to this awesome product? I was asked.

Because they don’t work for me. I hate them. They have artificial sweeteners, which always taste horrific to me, an aftertaste that clings to my tongue for hours.

No, these are better. You’ll love them.

No I won’t.

Yes you will. But there’s a guarantee in case you don’t.

So I bought the whole deal. And I tried the shakes. And I hated them, for precisely the reasons I already knew. The aftertaste was horrific. And the claims of the product suspect, at best. I’d been sold, not coached, and this was a clue.

Furthermore, when I look at the “inspiration” of others on the program, all I see are shallow, body-focus, obsessives. People post about the joy of being so sore they can’t get off the toilet. They post about the guilt of having a dessert, so they doubled-up on workouts. They claim to love food that looks awful, in fact don’t love food at all. They speak of fueling the body, this being the purpose of food, when in fact that’s the source of a horrible relationship to food. I’m painting with a broad brush, and I’m sure there are some who find a balanced approach with these programs, but they’re not set up that way.

They’re set up for B) to make money for the company. They sell. They keep coming out with new DVDs, and new shakes, and so forth. They want you to spend $45 a month for access to online products and coaching, plus $100 a month for shakes, plus buy new workouts every now and again (for 50-200 a pop). Even without new DVDs, that’s an annual outlay of $1,740 for garbage shakes and dubious coaching and other online tools. That’s a rip-off. A total rip-off. $1,740 gets you a lot of things, when you don’t waste it on the fitness money extraction machine.

For me, the success of the last two weeks (FYI I lost a pound and a half) has been because I found a way to move that’s consistent with me, and not consistent with giving money to other people. I’m doing mostly body-weight calisthenics, because I like doing them, and because I see the goal of the movement as an athletic endeavor. I’m working toward being able to do certain things (like the gymnastics my kids do on Saturday mornings), not just working out. The exercises. have a purpose other than the body. They are about the true progress of the self. So I keep doing them. And that’s not something I could ever say about Plage Corps.

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World Bathroom Travel

 

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Well, the upstairs bathroom refresh is complete. And, though there’s an annoying water drip in the sink (partly, I think the new faucet is defective, since the tap itself is dripping; partly, I have some drain line issues, which will probably require new piping. Water is bothersome.), I’m awfully pleased with how it worked out.

Total time: 3 days.

Total budget: about $600. More than half of that was for the new toilet and the new sink console plus faucet. Another hundred for the new floor. Fifty bucks or so for steel gas pipe to create brackets and holders and stuff. The maps were free, already in my possession. Primary glue was corn starch and water (we’ll see how that goes long term!). I also top coated with some modpodge furniture recipe, to create a somewhat water impervious hope for the longevity of the paper.

Some before afters. The sink and surfaces:

The walls:

I call it an improvement.

Closeup details that I like a ton:

I co-opted some internet-discovered style cues, on how to use steel pie for shelving. I extended that to include a tp holder, and a (not shown) towel bar on the console. And, for fun, I put some faucets on the wall over the toilet. Partly, that’s just whimsy, but they can also serve as hooks for stuff, decorative or otherwise.

Notes on the project:

  1. The maps worked out quite well on the walls. You can’t really see it, but once the old paper got wet, it was awfully hard to gets them flat. So there are a lot of crinkles and folds which end up looking totally boss. Sort of like relief maps, sort of like decoupage, sort of like something not quite perfect and, therefore, character laden.
  2. The gluing was pretty easy, using a simple recipe of 2 TBS cornstarch, added to 1/4 cup cold water, which is all added to 3 cups of boiling water. It glued pretty well. Though, as the paper dried, I did have some edge curling problem areas. Not many, but enough. If I were doing it again (and I might), I’d probably hit everything with modpodge immediately, because once those curls dried, it was hard to get them flat again.
  3. In fact, I might just use modpodge for the whole deal. I added little bits with that to fix problem areas, and it worked well. Then I top-coated the whole thing with the modpodge to hold it all together. Even if the starch glue fails in places, I figure the modpodge will keep the paper together as a unit. So, maybe one day the whole thing will just fall on the floor. Odor isn’t bad for modpodge, as it would be with wallpaper paste, and the matte finish looks good (or, in fact, doesn’t even appear much at all).
  4. The flooring is a vinyl product, big box store available, that comes in sheets of three 1×1 tiles connected. The edges of those rectangles have a glue, which is how you attach the tiles to each other. The whole thing floats. Pretty easy to put together. I used it once before in a previous house, and I liked the way it looked. It feels good underfoot, and looks like a quality vinyl. It runs about fifty bucks a box, and I had to buy two boxes for this small bathroom, even though I only used one box plus a few strips. The worst part of the process is cutting the tile, but I figure that out as I went along. Basically, I scored it heavily with a utility knife, then snapped it by working the cut line back and forth. The edge isn’t bad, particularly since the cut edges are always at wall margins, and therefore either under trim or caulk. There’s probably a better, neater way. This bathroom, alas, had a lot of little angle cuts. So the floor, which was a last minute add on, took a lot of extra time.
  5. In addition to the discovery of the cut out for a medicine cabinet (which meant that I installed a new medicine cabinet, which looks better than I thought it would!), the other cob job reveal was the heating. A large 6×12 floor vent is in the corner by the sink. In the previous reno, the previous owners (well, their contractors) had just run ductwork under the floor of the console, then out the kick plate. The functional problems of this were a) a ton of heat comes out of a six inch hole in a small bathroom (more heat here than the two upstairs bedrooms), and that a lot of that heat simply went into the sink cabinet, which is stupid. My solution, a bit unartful (okay, maybe cobby) was to place two decorate 2×12 floor gratings in the hole. That covers the six inches fully, because of the lip around the plates. I closed the louvers on one of the plates and left them open on the other (which can still be further adjusted). The plates then serve as a resting spot for one leg of the new console, plus the heat should be better regulated. I went with the decorate plates because the grating is now visible, because the new console is thinner and shallower than the old. That works out well for the small space of the bathroom, but wasn’t ideal for the grating. I imagine the bathroom originally had a pedestal sink. I though about going that route, but it would have meant a lot more precision work on the wall around the water pipes, and meant buying nice metal pipes that would just be chewed up by our caustic pipes.
  6. Plumbing is not my strong suit. I just can’t get the drain pipe to seal properly. I think part of the problem is that the sink does not sit perfectly level in the console (ah, the big box store dilemma! Cheap, but cheap, y’know?), so the drain stem is slightly angled. I’m going to look around for some drain pipe solutions, and I hope there are some.

This whole space is so much more inviting now. As La Femme Francaise remarked, we hadn’t even realized how ugly the place was previously, particularly since it had been under partial demo, with most of the wallpaper removed, for a couple of years.

It’s funny what we get used to, and what we’re willing to live with. I’ll Get To That Tomorrow becomes a mode of existence, which means we get to live in cruddy, uninspiring, characterless spaces. It wasn’t so much work to do this refresh, and the change is dramatic. The bathroom has more floor space, is much less outdated, and actually feels like us. It’s quirky, with the use of gas piping for fixtures, and the maps on the walls, and the random faucets sticking out of the wall, but it’s awesome.

Next, I think I need to tackle the kitchen. Alas, that includes another faucet install, which means more plumbing, which probably means more leaks. Maybe after I finish that one, I’ll suck it up and call a plumber to “repair” some leaky faucets. A single service call, probably an hour of work, probably two hundred bucks, and at least water won’t leak.

Well, let’s be honest: I’ll probably just watch some YouTube videos and try to figure it out myself. Cheap is good, in this case. I can learn something, and save dollars.

Getting to Know You

One of the oddest, most intimate relationships out there is between a homeowner and the previous owner of their home. And as far as I have experienced, in three different houses, that’s rarely a good relationship. Frankly, you really get to know someone by living in their house, and it’s quite weird when you also know the person outside of the context of the house. Weirdest still, when the person who lived in the house is so clearly not like the person you know or, rather, is unlike the person you know pretends to be, or thinks they are.

What I’ve learned:

  1. Cob jobs galore (see yesterday’s post).
  2. Cat pee everywhere. Almost five years in, and still anytime we’re gone for a few days, we return to a house that smells like cat. Which is not a good smell. Not sure if it’s in the carpets, or the heating, or soaked into the floors. But it sucks.
  3. When we moved in, there was — not kidding — an inch-think layer of cat hair on the chair rail behind the refrigerator. An. Inch. Think. Makes #2 unsurprising.
  4. Did I mention cob jobs?
  5. And questionable plumbing that they had to know about. Thanks!
  6. Poorly patched evidence of frequent ice dams. Again, thanks!
  7. Someone got ripped off often by local contractors.
  8. Vole service? Who actually pays for such things?

 

Cob Jobs

One of the cool pieces of lingo I picked up many years ago, when I first read Tracy Kidder’s excellent House (Creative nonfiction about building a house! How much better could things get!?), was the derogative builder lingo of “cob job.” This was what the main character builders — who appropriately called themselves carpenters, as a recognition of their affection and skill with wood — called the sort of cheap work one unfortunately finds all the time from cut-corner contractors.

(Sidenote: I know not all contractors cut corners, and I actually know one crew who were excellent carpenters. And they went out of business, because they spent too much time on jobs, so didn’t make enough money…)

Anyway, I’ve run into a lot of cob jobs in the house we’ve owned, and our present one is no different. The worst thing, though, is knowing that the previous owners paid good money for crappy work, thinking they were paying for good work. Alas, they didn’t know enough to be able to double check. One of the prime examples is the downstairs bathroom, which was recently renovated before we moved in five years ago, and was, er, “well done.” Except that the tile in the shower does not lay even, and there are questionable cuts that suggest the tiler didn’t plan well. Worst of all, the shower curb doesn’t have a proper top. Instead, there’s a piece of 1X4, paint on one side only, crammed over the curb. And there’s a half inch gap between the bottom of the board and the tile, which is not sealed, which means water gets in there. This is stupid. This is a cob job.

So, as I’ve begun demo on the upstairs bath, it should come as no surprise that I found more cob. This bathroom had been renovated by the previous owners also (I think), just back in the early 90s, and cheaply, so it needs work. I tore down the vinyl wallpaper, and removed the giant wall mirror, and violá:

 

 

Considering the picture on the left, that’s the hole for an inset-mount medicine cabinet. Let me reiterate that I removed a giant, wall-to-wall mirror from this bathroom yesterday. There was no medicine cabinet…just vinyl wallpaper right over the hole. And also over the hole that is the right picture, which is the inside of an old electrical box that powered lights beside the cabinet, presumably. I worried those wires might be hot (good news: not hot!). But still, shouldn’t the wires have been pulled, the box removed, the hole covered?

Maybe I’m a stickler and have too fine a sense of what needs to be done to avoid cob jobs. But methinks this is a big pile ‘o corn.

On Banking

Along the way toward the current plan, we pursued the prospect of elsewhere pretty hard — the elsewhere of the North as well as the prospect of land and an old house in our present locale (that being a much more likely scenario, unless we wanted to go all out GiveItUpAndBeBroke). That property pursuit included talking to our bank and our credit union, because, well, places still cost money.

One of the things we most wanted to do was find a beautiful piece of undeveloped property, and then build a house on it. And by build, there was a lot of we included. The idea was to have the framing and general structure done either by local pros or via a few of the intriguing kit-house companies out there (google ’em, if you’re interested). That way, we could offer a relatively small financial outlay, for land and structure, then I could do the finish work myself, which would include an emphasis on reclaimed stuff, for both style and cost. I like old, weathering, history. And I like cheap. A win-win!

In raw dollars, by the way, it seems like it would be possible to engage that plan by spending, say, 50k on land and somewhere around 50k on framing. Add 50k for site work (septic, well, clearing, foundation etc), and perhaps 50k for finishes (which should yield quite a nice interior, considering there would be no labor costs in those 50k), and we were looking at somewhere around a 200k bill. Which is a lot. But isn’t either undoable on our income, nor too bad for a custom, awesome house on 20 acres, which was what we were looking at.

Enter the financial pros. They don’t like many aspects of this kind of idea. For one thing, they don’t really like lending money for land (because if you default, what do they have to gather? Land is not a quick sell), so you more or less have to own the land free and clear to start. There are land-build loans, but see item two. Item two: the financial pros do not abide the work of a handy homeowner. More or less, they all require that all of the work be done by an “approved contractor.” In one case, an institution would loan money at a significantly higher rate if it’s known that the homeowner would do work. In another, the answer was no way. Again, this is about risk management and the potential for the recouping of costs. A contractor is a known risk, so the banks figure they’ll have something known to sell if the homeowner defaults. Understandably, there’s concern that a homeowner would do either shoddy work or no work at all, leaving a shell and an unsellable piece of collateral.

I get this, and I understand the perspective of the financial folk. But it’s annoying, to say the least, and a reminder that banks are not in the business of helping people, which is a popular marketing notion. Indeed, they exist to make money. More or less, see Jimmy Stewart and It’s A Wonderful Life. Stewart’s company was about helping people. The bank was about money. Sure, the film is an exaggeration, but it’s also more or less reflective of the way things really do work. Even a hometown bank isn’t going to trust you, even when you have never missed a single loan payment in decades of crediting, and you have a stable job, and you don’t carry credit card debt, and you have an impeccable credit rating. Still, the banks don’t want to back real sweat equity or DIY.

This becomes a philosophical thing for me. I want to be in charge of my own life, and I don’t want to build or live based on the visions of others. (See my earlier post). Borrowing more or less requires you to do so. Because a contractor tends to build in a certain way (Builder Grade, a horrible insult to craftsmanship and style and quality; or Custom, which only the super wealthy can afford), and while that’s a way that creates a lot of similar cookies that theoretical potential home shoppers will like or, rather, creates a lot of mediocre homes that are non-objectable to a large swath of home shoppers. That’s the rub, really. Borrowing means you have to do beige in style, as well as color, and finish, and design, and landscaping and and and and. No one really loves beige, but most people aren’t turned off by beige. Watch HGTV and you’ll see people appear disgusted by a house with, say, a red wall, because they’d have to repaint (how hard!). They never complain about beige. In the after photos, they’ve often repainted that beige…even when repainting the red wall presented itself as a deal breaker.

All of this makes me think of a friend of La Femme Francaise (the other person in this partnership), who is building an EarthShip. I love the idea of EarthShips even if I’m not sure I’d want to live in one (but I might). Mostly, I love that people build EarthShips themselves, with help from friends often, because banks, of course, would not be interested in backing such a place, but primarily because the idea of EarthShipping is to do things your own way and liberate yourself from the prevailing mindset of the world.

Yet the hard part of this world of ours is that you either have to chuck it all and EarthShip it on your own, or you have to play the game of commerce. There’s, perhaps understandably, no middle ground of having an EarthShip (or a major DIY build) financed reasonably. Now, of course there are reno loans to be had, that can be part of buying a fixer upper, but the problem is that these always seem to involve big mortgages. And I’m not sure that a bank would give one these days without a plan and contract with an “approved builder.” Too much risk in letting people doing it themselves.

That’s philosophy. too, with “risk” heading in two directions. Yeah, there’s the financial risk, but even more so is the epistemological risk. If people start doing things themselves, as they wish, well the whole debt-based commercial economy collapses. Better to urge people to get bigger loans, with contractors involved, then let them have real “skin in the game” (I hate that phrase and apologize for using it…it’s become quite a cliché these days). A DIYer is invested in the self. Our economy is invested in itself. The two don’t really go together.

So that’s a bit of the financial foundation of our decision to shape our own current place. We can pay our mortgage down with what we might have used toward building a place, and we can self-finance a mostly-finish reno here, the way we want it, without having to satisfy bank concerns.

How Beige It Is

Some views of the before, or I guess the middle in some cases, of what we’ve not dealt with at the house. Clockwise from upper left:

  1. I started removing the hideous kitchen wallpaper. I mean, really, fake fruit? When, ever, did this look good? Not even whimsical.
  2. Beige. That’s a wall. That color is everywhere in the house (except for a few not-quite-objectionable pastel blues and greens which, for now, I’m not messing with). In the dining room, the previous owners went crazy with color and did brown. Crazy. Wild.
  3. The fireplace is okay, but so white. Except for the soot smudge.
  4. This countertop in the upstairs bathroom. It’s. It’s. It’s just so bad.
  5. Removed some of the wallpaper here already, too. Actually, our older son did a couple of years ago, as he’d peel bits off while pooping. It was horrible wallpaper, so fine. Good work!
  6. More beige in the big upstairs bedroom. Angles are great in the house. But the beige…!
  7. Almost all of the customization I’ve added to the inside: a bottle opener. I like that. And I’m okay with the faux back wainscoting. But that wallpaper. That wallpaper! Charlotte Gilman Perkins would have reworked her story if she’d seen this wallpaper, because you can almost feel yourself being pulled to creep behind the bunches of fruit.

All of this shall go and become better. And, I hope, soon.

And: Now for Something Completely Different

Blah blah blah…golf as metaphor for life…

But: reworking the swing over the last couple of years, to a place of renewal and semi-competence, signals the dual joys of process and development. In short, the swing and the game improved because I devoted time to it.

As well, I started caring differently about golf this year. And that, I think, might be as much part of the change as anything. Sometime, perhaps I’ll bore myself with details from the Club Championship Collapse of 2015 and the subsequent Autumn of Excellent Golf.

The short of that is simple: in the club championship I was cautious and anxious and wrapped up in performance and worried about what others would think about my game and trying to demonstrate mastery and trying to just.not.screw.up.

So, naturally, I screwed up. Nothing dramatic (though there were a few weird breaks, all bad), but a steady, negative tightness that led to poor scores.

After the Championship, I didn’t stop trying, nor did I stop caring. I just decided to trust in myself as a player, and enjoy playing, and reminded myself constantly that playing golf is about playing golf that day and not about what might happen next year, or next week, or next hole. Now is, as the platitudes go, the time to be.

This golf epiphany coincided with a constant summer of reflection, while I sabbaticalized in the Verdant Gabled Distant North. Another brief capsule: life has thrown its roughnesses in my direction through 2014-15, leading to a more or less complete collapse of joy and a dramatic upswing in the prevalence of stress plus anxiety. Some externals were in play (health, job) and some internals (related to the externals, and not). The most immediate path for recovery seemed to be escape, both in the brief, as we left the U.S. to live in Canada for half a year, and in a conceptually difficult notion of deeper, more permanent cleaving. Should we stay in Canada forever? Should we make sweeping, difficult, one-way changes in the core aspects of our lives in general, where we live, how we live, what we do, who we are, onward and so forth.

Shorthand it this way: A) Maybe living in a van and traveling around like William Least Heat Moon. B) Maybe becoming organic sheep farmers and resigning ourselves to blissful brokeness.

Ah, noble analytical side of my skull, you have intervened and reminded me of things like the need for healthcare and a nice house and golf and wine, all of which takes money, for which a job is nice. Further, I have a pretty sweet job.

So, instead, sweeping internal changes are in order, which I plan to recount for myself in these mostly-unread pages:

Category A

  1. Dig in to the house here. Renovate on the cheap (more on this to come), make our place ours, reflective of our inner spirit and not what others might want. We’ve lived here for nearly five years, and changed hardly anything in the style arena, because we’ve always thought about what the market would want. We’ve been living always with the notion of selling.
  2. But selling is unlikely, from a literal perspective (who is going to buy!?) and a financial one (really, who is going to buy and what are they going to pay and where are we going to be able to afford to go that is better than here?).
  3. And the house ain’t the problem. Nor is the quite excellent neighborhood. Or the sweet yard. Or the proximity to all the things we want and need.
  4. Yeah, a farm would be nice.
  5. Except for the work.
  6. So let’s make this the house we live in, styled and painted in the ways we want to be, are in fact, but haven’t been.
  7. Screw marketability.

 

Category B

  1. I’m fat.
  2. I got less fat over the summer, by walking more (on the golf course, four to five times a week), and eating less junk.
  3. 15 pounds gone!
  4. I got more fat when we returned, by walking less and eating more junk.
  5. Hello 15 pounds, my old frenemy.
  6. So: get less fat.
  7. Body transformation engage, via outdoor exercise (golf, walking, x-country skiing, cycling, probably not all at the same time) and indoor/outdoor mostly body-weight calisthenic sorts of baddassery.
  8. Goals here, some silly, which are a bit embarrassing to admit in this public space that no one reads:
    1. Get into the lithe 160s, down from the chubby 190s.
    2. Get strong.
    3. Start being a calisthenic gymnast sort of show-off dude who can do all kinds of bar work and flags and levers.
    4. Start being a parcours/free-runner sort who leaps and jumps and stylishly moves from here to there.
    5. Three and four are the silly. Please don’t mention them if you see me in public.
    6. Get to a place were the after picture (or, at least, in-progress picture) is good enough to post the befores and afters. That might take awhile.

Category C

  1. I’m 40 now.
  2. Not that I want to act 40, whatever that means, but I do think it’s time to develop some different sense of stylishness.
  3. Maybe a haircut?
  4. Maybe start wearing some kind of suit or vest or tie or something swank to work? Develop a style style and not just a professorial shlub.
  5. New clothes, dude, once the body heads toward where it ought to be.
  6. New relationship to clothes (fewer, better).

Overall A+B+C

It all means a new relationship to self and place. Just as I changed my relationship to golf to rediscover the pleasure of the action, I seek a similar change in the aforementioned categories. Pictures and words to follow in the coming days.

 

Oh yeah, Category D

  1. Write it daily. Briefly.

While You Were Away

  1. Played hardly at all in 2014. Three rounds.
  2. Played a ton in 2015, at a new home course (Andersons Creeks, on Prince Edward Island).
  3. Continuing to work my own style of the S&T swing, with a lot less T, a bit less S, and a lot more art.
  4. Started putting with the precepts of Dave Stockton (more or less: don’t think, Meat!).
  5. Driver has been erratic, but great when on.
  6. Irons have been consistent.
  7. Putting was horrible, until St. Dave intervened, then a strength.
  8. Handicap Index into the pluses, signaling a full recovery from the nadir of a few years back.
  9. Better yet: late in the season, I started playing consistently good golf. The pendulum of struggle and ecstasy is, ultimately, frustrating. Nice to see what it’s like to leave that behind.
  10. Example: played an awful club championship, with two rounds in the mid-80s. For the next month, after applying a Stockton concept to the whole game (mostly: why be defensive!? Go for birds. Use my short game to escape trouble if it happens.), my worst rounds were 74.
  11. Worst. Rounds. Were. 74.
  12. Now it’s December, and there won’t be much golf happening.
  13. The vow: to keep working feels through the winter, so the thaw is a bit easier in 2016.

To the Course

Unsure of what might happen out there in the field, I took the new swing to the course today. (Admission: I took the swing to a course a week ago…to a short 9-holer of questionable maintenance and splendidly tacky clubhouse taxidermy…with just a persimmon 3 wood and an 8-iron…to get a feel…which equated to solid irons flying back at the distance I used to have (not long: 150-155 for an 8), and rather straight bullets with the 3-wood).

So, to today, Oakland Beach Golf Club, my current home course, an eminently interesting track that stretches to a decent 6800 yards from the back. Nice angles from the rearward tees, too, which make for challenging drives into obliquely running fairways at times. There, I played the back nine, plus a quick 3 hole loop from the front.

Verdict:

Irons are working quite well. Impact is good consistently. Distance is as expected, with the 8i as the 150 club. I discovered a tendency, however, to work over the top a bit, leading to some pulls…which is not a good miss when you’re trying to hit slight push fades. I only hit 3 of 9 greens, which is shoddy work, but I was darn close on another couple. 5 of 9 wouldn’t be too bad, particularly for the first* time out, May gold, raining and low-50s.

Woods are shaky. From the fairway, direction was okay…but impact wasn’t quite right to my feel…and distance seemed compromised, except for a nice 215-220 5wood which got me to the apron of #15 after I snap-smothered the drive with that same club.

Yes, from the tee, argh. Lots of trouble there. Pulls, hooks, snaps, smothers. Except for on 3 holes, for a total of 4 shots (hit some multiples today, getting the feel). On #13 I hit two beauties down the centerline, tight 3-yard fades. Convinced me that I ought to be hitting fades with the driver, which led to two massive push-slices on the next hole. Point of fact: I should not be trying to hit fades, i.e. actually opening the face as I wipe through impact. That’s the recipe for disaster that happened on #14.

Hit another good drive on #16, a let-it-fade shot to precisely where I wanted it. And on #18, I decided to think carefully about swing cones, concentrated on making sure I made contact on the back side of the circle, and rapped a decent ultra-tight draw (1-2 yards) into the wind, into an uphill landing, 240 in the air. That ain’t massive, of course, and isn’t quite what I want to be hitting, but it wasn’t too shabby. Without the wind, drier fairway, flat landing, that’s probably a 260 total drive, which would be fine…all I should want, really.

So, ultimate verdict: I need to keep working on the woods, particularly the driver off the tee, but things are promising.

All of that said, I shot 1-over, 2 bogies 1 birdie. Short game wasn’t too bad. Putting was okay but impossible to judge based on just-punched greens. Overall, I’m looking forward to seeing what will happen this summer. Things certainly aren’t worse than last year, and I think there’s a great chance that they’ll be much better on the course.

Spot Check

Stopped by the range for a quick half-hour hitting session. James happened to be there, and he observed a couple of shots and presented a few minor ideas:

1) Backswing geometry is good.

2) Transition and weight shift needs a bit of focus, but that was addressed pretty quickly and easily.

3) Impact and wrist hinge are an important focus area.

It’s this last bit that perplexes me a little right now. I can still feel the old flip, and it was only with limited success that I could follow some of his suggestions this afternoon, which boils down to holding the angles of the wrists through impact, letting the hip rotation drive the club around.

This evening, looking at some swing video of Robert Rock, I think I have it. Really, it’s about extending the arms through impact, that feeling of a long punch shot. Wrist hinge, I think, should take care of itself through the momentum of the swing. As James said, the wrist re-hinge is all about slowing the club back down so it doesn’t zing into your skull. So, I figure, long arms through impact, re-hinge will happen.

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