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Keep Moving

I went to the doctor this week to be examined for a possible hernia…or a kidney stone…or a tumor. I felt tenderness and slight discomfort after straining myself lifting weights. But after 17 days it had all gone away. My doctor is always supportive. He sees so many men my age who are in such worse shape that I always hear the same reaction: “You are doing fine, great…don’t worry about anything. Keep doing what you are doing.”

Then I mentioned how I had hurt my back as well and felt really uncomfortable rising from a bed or chair. How I couldn’t sit for more than a few minutes in one position while driving. And then I would reach the tennis court and start playing…and within minutes I wasn’t even aware of any problem. I wouldn’t even think about it until the match was over.

Movement is everything, the doc told me. Keep moving to improve blood flow, warmth, oxygen.

It reminded me of what I once read about the famous cellist, Pablo Casals, who was so arthritic he could barely move around, dress himself or use his hands. But then he would shuffle to the piano or cello, slowly arrange himself and start playing effortlessly and smoothly. His body would transform into suppleness and ease. The link above refers to Norman Cousins great book, Anatomy of an Illness, which illustrates the power of the body over the mind.

Here is someone else’s version of those passages:

The following is a description of the ninety year old musician Pablo Casals:

Upon rising in the morning,…Casals dressed with difficulty. He suffered from emphysema and apparent rheumatoid arthritis. “He was badly stooped. His head was pitched forward and he walked with a shuffle. His hands were swollen and his fingers were clenched.” Then, playing Bach on the piano before breakfast, Casal’s fingers unlocked, his back straightened, and he seemed to breath more freely. Next, playing Brahms, “his fingers, now agile and powerful, raced across the keyboard with dazzling speed. His entire body seemed fused with the music; it was no longer stiff and shrunken, but supple and graceful and completely freed of its arthritic coils.” Having finished at the keyboard, Casals stood up, straighter and taller than before. “He walked to breakfast with no trace of a shuffle, ate heartily, talked animatedly, finished the meal, then went for a walk on the beach.”

Tennis is my cello…should be a book title.

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Brittany’s Ab

Brittany has three kids

Brittany has three kids

Brittany Martinez has three kids and also one big ab…like many women who work out, but don’t have the definition men’s bodies display. Nevertheless, her mid-section looks great. She is an event coordinator who was a house guest on the Big Brother TV show.

I found this photo in a gallery prepared by CBS to promote its TV stars and guests. I am always amazed and amused that abs are singled out, even when there aren’t any. So many of these photo collections just show flat stomach areas. I can’t understand why that qualifies for anything. Some of the choices are actually pudgy!

But at my stage and age, I feel I can be picky. Making abs takes lots of work and commitment. It’s very difficult. Why should we applaud abs that are so covered up as to be invisible?

By the way, below is one of the half dozen photos from the gallery of 30 that shows some abs. See the difference in men! Many of the others are going to make you laugh at what they are not showing. Just hype to promote their peeps.

Devin Shepherd

Devin Shepherd

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Changing Challenges

I am constantly impressed by how incredibly difficult it is to change familiar habits, patterns and strategies. In fact it drives me crazy, when I experience this challenge constantly on the tennis court. It also makes me assume it is just as big an obstacle in daily life, whether we are talking about how to treat your loved ones better, make money, win friends, follow a new career path.

Somehow I believe intuitively it shouldn’t be so damn hard. But it definitely is for me. I took four tennis lessons in the last 30 days…I watched some videos from a different tennis guru that taught me a new serve and forehand and backhand…and I can’t make my body execute them 95% of the time. We are not even talking about a strategy, like lobbing instead of hitting a ground stroke. That I can remember to do sometimes, especially when I started playing with a lob queen and read after ungodly frustration that I should be lobbing back, instead of attempting a passing shot by the net man.

But it is almost impossible for me to make my arms follow though and bring that racket over my left shoulder. Or to complete a backhand in the (baseball umpire and Stan Wawrinka) “Safe” position. Why so tough? I don’t know.

I watch myself not able to perform as if I am an alien inside someone else’s body. I tell my self to follow through…and then I don’t. Or to turn sideways…and then don’t. Or to keep my eye on the ball EVEN WHEN I SERVE…and then I don’t! Unbelievable.

I have read that it is so hard to change habits (without trauma) that the best solution is to create a new habit. 10,000 swings or balls hit using the new habit. But who has time for that? Not me. I am playing tennis four times a week recently, so you’d think I am getting enough practice. I hit practice serves after the games. But it still isn’t happening. What will it take to make the change?

Is it just me? My athletic or aged pea brain? Is it so shriveled up that it can’t absorb new instructions? I would never believe that!

I know I have to keep trying. I know that I am driven to improve. I know that I have succeeded before to change careers, where I live, how I live (from city to country). So I am optimistic–even confident–that I can do it. But as of yesterday’s match, it still wasn’t happening. I am impatient and frustrated. Stay tuned…

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Tim Howard Promotes Ink Not Mink

Tim Howard's abs and tats revealed for PETA

Tim Howard’s abs and tats revealed for PETA

Tim Howard, a star goalkeeper for Everton and the US international soccer teams, was chosen by charity PETA to front their new “Ink not Mink” campaign. Clever headline. Look at those abs and other muscles bulging out of those incredible tattoos.

Howard was Man of the Match twice in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Games. PETA stands for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

“Protecting animals is very important to me, and I think speaking out against fur is an amazing cause”, Tim said.

“When I see someone wearing fur, I just want to sit them down in front of one of PETA’s videos and show them just how badly animals suffer for this supposed fabric that no one needs.”

Tim has a reputation for playing through pain. In September 2007 he accepted a call-up from the United States for a friendly against Brazil, and after an hour of the game his finger was dislocated in a collision. In March 2013, during an FA Cup game against Oldham Athletic he broke two bones in his back. In both incidents, he continued playing until the final whistle. Makes mentioning my little aches definitely embarrassing.

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Jennifer Lopez Works Out And Watches Diet

J-Lo Abs look good

J-Lo Abs look good

Jennifer Lopez’s abs made an appearance in West Hollywood, California. The singer was spotted pulling a tank top over her purple sports bra and black leggings outside the gym.

In May, Lopez revealed she tried the 22-day vegan diet that Beyonce and Jay Z completed last year.

“I did the vegan 22-day plan and it was really good, and I kept on with it for a few more weeks and now I’ve incorporated a little bit of fish here and there,” she told Ryan Seacrest. “But I’ve got to tell you, I enjoy it. I enjoy eating that way. I never did and I didn’t know how good you can feel when you put healthy stuff in your body. I was so used to just eating the way I grew up.”

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Weight Loss Challenges

I have been bumping into so much discussion about how to lose weight. Yesterday on the radio, Kirstie Alley said she always ate large portions, was very athletic and had no overweight problems. Then she turned 53, and ballooned up for no special reason. I wrote about her in 2011. She had jumped to 230 pounds from 143…and then she lost 75 pounds, gained 75, etc. The key question is how to lose it and keep it off?

So today I read an article suggesting that you lose more weight from exercise in a warm setting than a cold one, because you eat less after the workout.

The comments are illuminating. One says you can’t lose weight from exercise alone:

I have done a lot of research into clinical trials regarding exercise and weight loss. The general theme is around 25% of individuals GAIN weight with exercise. Another 25% remain weight stable. The remainder may lose paltry amounts…or up to 10-15 pounds…only if sustained. The tale is worse for women.

Exercise has been shown to be fairly pathetic for weight loss. Begin with diet.

Another says you have to do larger amounts of calorie burn through exercise and also agrees that diet is important:

What has been shown to be “pathetic” for weight loss is doing a very small dose of exercise. The vast majority of research studies only have persons exercising about 1-3 hours a week and therefore burning only at most about 200 calories a day. Most dieters in these studies are producing deficits of between 500 and 1000 calories a day- no wonder “diet” looks better. As I quoted below, this study showed that when calorie deficits are matched, exercise brings the same amount of weight loss. Of course the exercise has to be at a much higher dose- at least an hour a day of fairly intense exercise http://www.nature.com/nrendo/journal/v3/n7/full/ncpendmet0554.html

Possibly people who gain weight from exercise are those doing this paltry amount of exercise and thinking they are burning more calories than they are, and therefore they overcompensate by eating too much. Studies also show that at whatever kind of diet that is done, 95% regain all their weight within five years- and low carb diets also don’t bring lasting weight loss. Dieting without any exercise necessitates drastic calorie reduction, which is not sustainable for most people. Exercise is an indisputable factor in keeping weight off. My citation explored many studies which show this. I exercise at least an hour everyday and this helped to lose 100 pounds and continuing to exercise has helped me to keep every pound off going on 5 years.

It’s a huge challenge for most people, especially when most can’t do an intense hour workout each day. But I am still convinced from all I have learned that healthier, low fat/low sugar/low carb diet plus exercise is needed to lose weight and keep it off.

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Fears And Injuries Off The Couch

In the last few months, I have been unusually active, mostly on the tennis courts…sometimes four consecutive days a week, as I am asked to sub. These efforts are in addition to my daily indoor exercises for 10-20 minutes. The result has been fear and injuries.

I was bitten by a tick before I went overseas and worried that the aches in my shoulders and knees were signs of Lyme disease. It may have been weight lifting.

Then I went tobogganing and crashed…discovered a bruised, purple toe that I thought was broken. But it wasn’t, and the pain quickly became mere discomfort and then went away.

I did some crossfit squats with weights and strained something near my groin…so I worried that I had a hernia (the doctor told me what to look for and concluded via my telephone call that it wasn’t that), but I also worried that I might have the beginnings of cancer!

I did some rowing and lat pulldowns on machines in a Florida hotel gym and hurt my back…couldn’t walk straight…hunched over and constantly hurting, whether lying down or sitting up. But after two hot showers a day and some gentle stretching, I was able to play tennis anyway.

I also took four tennis lessons in Florida, where it was incredibly humid and 80 degrees. One time I was way past exhaustion and was determined not to stop before my hour was over. I did worry that I would pass out–but not die on the court, like some other players I have heard about back home.

I hate all these injuries. I hate my fear of being struck down at any time by over exertion or disease that might be deadly. Yet I realize that I am bringing all these risks on myself by choosing to rise up off the couch in the first place. It is an expected result.

Yes the sports are fun. Yes a walk in the woods exposes me to ticks. Yes gym exercises can lead to muscle strain. What other option is there? I sit enough at the desk and watching TV as it is.

Life is always a compromise. You always pay a price. But I often wonder if I am smart about it. The fact that I can do it all, when others my age are using walkers and canes, forces me to take advantage of my abilities, while I have them. It would be such a waste to just sit, when I don’t have to.

And the injuries are so minor compared to others with real illnesses and handicaps, that I simply can’t whine about a little discomfort. So I keep exerting and risking and enjoying and loving a great tennis shot, higher weight on the machine, or a new muscle definition. I guess that’s what makes me who I am, even if some people find my achievements and abilities annoying.

Use it or lose it…and don’t whine or complain out loud.

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Your Sugar Addiction

This article has stunning, mind-numbing information. Especially upsetting to read this at Christmas holiday time, when so much candy, pies and other sweets are everywhere.

As someone with a sweet tooth, I have to reconsider…but that doesn’t mean I can easily change my behavior.

Sugar is addictive. And we don’t mean addictive in that way that people talk about delicious foods. We mean addictive, literally, in the same way as drugs. And the food industry is doing everything it can to keep us hooked…

The average American consumes anywhere from a quarter to a half pound of sugar a day. If you consider that the added sugar in a single can of soda might be more than most people would have consumed in an entire year, just a few hundred years ago, you get a sense of how dramatically our environment has changed…

A comparison to drugs would not be misplaced here. Similar refinement processes transform other plants like poppies and coca into heroin and cocaine. Refined sugars also affect people’s bodies and brains…

And here are two of the comments: 4 grams = 1 teaspoon. I can only beg each of you to teach your children, your relatives, and your friends that 4gms = 1tsp. Thus the supposedly healthy little lo-fat (boo) strawberry yogurt with 28 gms of sugar has 7 TEASPOONS of sugar in that tiny carton…

Yes, sugar is addictive. Yes, too much sugar is bad for your health. And, yes, we, Westerners, eat too much sugar. But clearly the negative health effects of our sugar addiction are not so great that we aren’t, for the most part, living incredibly long lives. So people please cut back on the sugar by all means, but also cut back on the panic, moral outrage, and self-righteous condemnation of others’ habits. Life is good.

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Benefits From Just 10 Minutes Of Exercise

Here’s an article for really busy people that promises a benefit for just one minute of all out exercise…in three bursts of 20 seconds each. Including warm up, cool down and slower in-between-the-extreme segments, it’s a total of just 10 minutes. And it needs to be done three times a week: 30 minutes total.

The comments are pretty funny…with one saying people who don’t like to exercise should learn to enjoy it…and many saying that you should take your health more seriously than just giving it 10 minutes…especially when so many folks are spending hours sitting on their couch watching “junk TV.”

Anyway, here are a few words to give you a better sense of the recommendations from this research:

“Then they asked the volunteers to complete a truly time-efficient, interval-training program using computerized stationary bicycles. Each session consisted of three 20-second “all-out” intervals, during which riders pushed the pedals absolutely as hard as they could manage, followed by two minutes of slow, easy pedaling. The riders also warmed up for two minutes and cooled down for three, for a grand total of 10 minutes of total exercise time, with one minute of that being the intense interval training.

“The volunteers completed three of these sessions per week, leading to 30 minutes of weekly exercise, for six weeks.”

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Back At Last

It’s been over a month since I last posted. I “broke the chain” of continuous writing–beginning with a trip to Japan to visit my son–and another three weeks passed as I made futile efforts to “catch up.” But here I am again.

In the interim, I completed three years of daily exercise…at least five minutes, but as much as 20. And that doesn’t count all the tennis I am playing. This week alone I am scheduled to play four straight days…and this following a day in which I played squash for an hour as well.

But I admit that I feel like I am losing muscle tone anyway, especially in my arms and upper body. A sign of aging, or doing abs exercises, or the rowing machine for my legs.

I also have aches in my joints, and I worry that I may have picked up Lyme disease from a tick I removed a couple of days before I left for the Orient. So much to deal with sometimes.

I have had lots of good stories to write about…just too lazy or distracted or jet lagged for a while. Let’s see if I can now amuse you with stimulating tales in the days ahead…

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Running The New York City Marathon At Age 60

Here is a really funny article by JERÉ LONGMAN that was in the New York Times with some photos and a video:

Wilson Kipsang of Kenya won the New York City Marathon in 2 hours 10 minutes 59 seconds — or as I like to call it at my age, a good night’s sleep.

At 60, I also ran Sunday’s race, one of about 3,000 windblown geezers among the field, expected to be 50,000.

“You need a pacemaker?” German Silva asked the other day.

“Hopefully not installed,” I said.

In 1995, before German’s second consecutive victory in New York, I joined him at 13,000 feet to train on the side of a volcano in his native Mexico. By “joined,” I mean that he ran up the volcano while I rode in a car with his coach.

A few weeks later, German finished first in New York, and, well, I finished. Actually, it was the only time I broke four hours. But that was nearly 20 years ago. Whatever speed I possessed receded with my hairline.

In April, I ran my first Boston Marathon: 5 hours 20 minutes. That is less a time for a race than a time for a crockpot recipe.

Not that 60 is a regretful age. Not at all. I’m much healthier at 60 than I was at 20. Back then I was on my way to 240 pounds. When I backed up, I beeped.

You know it is time to lose weight when you go horseback riding and the stablehand says, “Wait a minute; you’ll have to ride Big Boy.” Read the rest of this entry »

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How To Rule The World According To Amy Poehler

Comedienne Amy Poehler says this in her new book, Yes Please.

Spontaneous dance parties are important in my life. I have one in the makeup trailer almost every afternoon on “Parks and Recreation.” Dancing is the great equalizer. It gets people out of their heads and into their bodies. I think if you can dance and be free and not embarrassed you can rule the world.

Dancing can be so much fun, and there have been times when I just put on some music and moved spontaneously. It feels so good.

I went to a charity, gala, black-tie-optional fundraiser the other day, and the group I had been invited to join danced for two hours solid. Some were in their mid-20′s and others were gray-hairs in their 80′s. Thrilling to see and be part of the constant movement to the lively music of a 10-piece band. I was exhausted, but I kept going and kept up.

Did you ever see that scene in the movie, Love Actually, when Hugh Grant as British Prime Minister, starts dancing unexpectedly and forgets how proper he is supposed to be? Hilarious…we should all do it much more often…

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Walking The Scottish Moors

the pink heather can be a foot high and springy when you walk on it

the pink heather can be a foot high and springy when you walk on it

It’s really hard to walk on the moors, and I want to show you why. I was actually nervous that I would be able to do it safely and ably. Last time I was in Scotland hunting, the gamekeeper told me about a party of five gents who were falling so often that he stopped the hunt within 30 minutes and insisted it was too dangerous for them to be falling down with loaded guns.

easiest fields to cross

easiest fields to cross

tall grasses concealing rough ground

tall grasses concealing rough ground

My anxiety was provoked by my experience in 2011, the first time I’d done it. As you can imagine from one of these photos, walking on grassy pastures is easy. But mostly you are in tall grasses or on top of heather, which is really a springy bush, much like a Christmas tree on its side. Underneath and out of sight are large rocks that can twist your ankle or streams that you can’t see or hear. I stepped in one of those the first hour almost up to my knee…soaked my boot and sock. Messy. Uncomfortable. Cold. Also you are walking sideways on hills, so you are on uneven terrain, with one foot higher or lower than the other.

When a bird flushes, you only have fractions of a second to stabilize your feet, shift your weight to the front foot, find the bird, raise your gun as you release the safety, aim, swing and shoot. Hard…unless you practice a lot, which guys like me don’t have time to do.

As I wrote yesterday, I was wondering why I do this, when it is so difficult. But that is what a challenge is all about, right? And the game tastes so good. And the dogs are so exciting to watch search for, and find, the pheasants.

Once again I made it safely through the days. I didn’t injure myself or anyone else. I was just unbelievably tired from such a push. Nevertheless, I suspect I will be back another year. The countryside and adventure is just too spectacular…

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Shooting In Scotland

tired hunter with Becky and Max

tired hunter with Becky and Max

Spent a couple of weeks in Scotland, including two days hunting for birds. I was way out of practice, so I went to a skeet range three times and a sporting clays course once before I left. I built up to 16 clay pigeons out of 25 on the skeet range. My best ever may be just 21, but 18-19 was not uncommon. The clays course was interesting, because sometimes I was hitting every “bird,” and other times I missed all 10 tries at the same station. I only ran up parts of a big hill at a home twice for physical conditioning. Then I arrived on the Scottish ground.

The description below is based on an email I sent to a few friends:

Was out on the moors for over three hours struggling to keep my balance, not fall into rivulets hidden by the tall grass and be alert for birds that the dogs would flush unexpectedly. I know you wonder what the hell is wrong with me that I subject myself to such physical hardship?

Truth is, I was thinking that myself after just one hour, thirsty and hot and forgot to bring water, and legs aching terribly. It is exhausting. Always determined not to shoot the guide in the head or kill his dogs accidentally. And I was so out of practice–too much tennis and almost no shooting in three years–that it took five shots to hit a bird. The shotgun holds just two shells, but often I miss with both barrels, so one in five was my average. More respectable is one out of three. I missed so many “easy” shots. Very disappointing and frustrating, even though I did hit some birds. Shot my first-ever duck and ate it. Delicious. Pheasant dinner another night.

dinners

dinners

In the end I am thrilled to do it, have done it, to walk the moors, feel the open spaces, hear and see the cock pheasants flying away safely, watch the dogs. Scotland is one of the few places you can do this, I believe. The northeast United States is all stocked with birds raised in pens and placed on the ground the night before the hunt. The Midwest and Dakotas have flat land and far fewer birds: two or three a day may be all you can find, I’ve been told. Where I was in Scotland, there are thousands that are put out for six months before the season…and some live on for a year or two in the wild, learning how to evade predators, be wary and quick. Very challenging. I do love it.

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How To Pick Up Girls At The Gym

There are a lot of videos giving advice about how to pick up girls–and guys–at the gym. Very useful. Check out the first minute of this video to also learn something about the Strongman competition from champion Robert Oberst. He eats six times a day to ingest 20,000 calories. He needs the fuel to lift the weight. He also travels through the supermarket emptying out parts of the meat section.

He admits others have the abs…but he has the titles.

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Dog With Abs

A dog's best friends

A dog’s best friends

Are you looking at the dog or the abs???

Rincon, a stray dog from Puerto Rico, was rescued by model Julian Schratter when he was visiting the island. Schratter brought the animal home to Brooklyn, New York, where he and his roommates, also models, decided to have a little fun with their new furry friend.

They created an Instagram account for Rincon under the handle, rincon_da_bully. The page, which features shots of the handsome pup along with his hunky friends, quickly gained popularity, and after just four months, boasts almost 19,000 followers.

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Unicycling In Caves

Once again I am awed by what people do to have fun. These guys go underground with head lights and their unicycles to make the adventure more difficult. Here are some sound bites:

There IS a level of challenge and risk. If you fall down and break your leg, there’s no way out. It’s an adrenaline rush…the achievements are that much more special, monumental…It’s very rhythmic, meditative…a way to express myself…easier than walking…

And when he is old, one cyclist wants to attach a self-balancing unicycle to himself and be a cyborg who can still ride…

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Stephen Colbert’s Real Man Workout

This is pure silliness in the midst of an ongoing feud between Sean Hannity and Stephen Colbert. Sean has lost 30 pounds and explains how he did it with a program of street martial arts, including “blade and firearms training.” Stephen makes tremendous fun of it, including an image showing how using your trigger finger can give you a six pack! Go right to 1:49 to see the mockery begin.

six pack from trigger finger workouts

six pack from trigger finger workouts

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Having Fun By Risking Your Life

Cameron Airshow 2014 from Aero Media Group on Vimeo.

I am such a wuss! So conservative. Playing it safe, when I head for the tennis court.

But there is another breed of human who relaxes(?) by doing daredevil stunts. Hopefully these athletes are professionals who are earning big dollars for risking their lives to entertain a few thousand thrill seekers.

In addition to one biplane flying so low and at such a slant that a motorcyclist can touch the wing, there is Skip Stewart who is the first pilot to fly an airplane UNDER a jumping motorcycle!

I dunno…can’t relate…can you?

If you want more details about the uniqueness of some of the stunts, check out the Cameron Airshow’s website.

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Bike Trip Robbery Video

My daughter once went on a bike trip in England, and I have been to Buenos Aires a couple of times. But this innocent bike-trip vacationer had an experience no one in my family had: he was (almost?) robbed and recorded it all on his helmet GoPro. This may not be an athletic achievement, but it is certainly a rare video of an athletic incident.

Here is the Daily Beast story:

If you travel a fair bit, you’ve probably been there. You’re cycling through an exotic locale, laughing and talking with friends when suddenly a guy on a motorbike cuts you off and starts yelling at you in the native tongue. You can’t understand him but you’re sure he’s not inviting you over for dinner.

It was a bit of a special case here for Canadian tourist Alexander Hennessey. Riding through Buenos Aires, Argentina with some travel companions, he was cut off by a local who quickly pulled a revolver out of his jeans.

Luckily for us, Mr. Hennessey had been attempting to document his bike trip with a helmet-fastened GoPro camera. The first-person perspective is chilling.

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Mind-Jarringly Memorable Unimaginable Creativity In Metal

This is a spectacular Honda commercial that involves motorcycles and cars. It is breathtakingly creative, imaginative and memorable. It has only received about 9-15,000 views, so it is little known…unless millions saw it on TV. Great things come in little packages.

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Victory In A Tennis Tournament

The B Champs with their salad bowl trophies

The B Champs with their salad bowl trophies

I admit it: Winning really feels good. On Labor Day, I was part of a doubles team that won the B Division at the tennis club I joined three years ago. How sweet it is. I really wanted it…and not for the 15-inch diameter glass engraved bowl that I can use for salad and fruit.

Two years ago my team made it to the finals, but lost. This year we played that same team in the semi-finals–although I had a different partner, Jim Wu–and we won 6-2, 6-2. I began the match believing we could win. And best of all, I was doing my best without worrying if the other team would feel badly if they lost. As my tennis therapist told me, if they can’t handle losing, it’s their problem, not yours. I still don’t have a killer instinct and can still learn to play more aggressively. But I no longer feel so much sympathy for the other side that I subconsciously create my own errors and poor shots.

The most demandinging match was in the quarter finals, where we won 7-5 and in a tiebreaker 7-5. I served at the end of both sets, and I was ecstatic that I never choked. There were around 20 people watching and cheering me on. What a difference it made to hear people applauding and encouraging me after an especially good point. One experienced friend said I was playing the best game of my life…certainly that he’d ever seen me play. He may have been right. I was in the zone, anticipating better than ever and returning many balls that seemed ungettable. Now I understand a tiny bit of what the pros like Monfils and Djokovic feel, when they motion to the thousands in the stands to clap and shout louder after a winner or a victory. It feels terrific.

But I was a bit sad to learn after that close match that one of my opponents lost on his birthday. Both guys looked very disappointed, and I was glad that my sympathy didn’t kick in until AFTER the win.

For the finals I was really concerned about one of the opposing guys…a lefty with a powerful serve and a very strong net game. He volleys incredibly frustrating drop shots too. But he was a bit off in the exhausting, low-80s heat…and we won that one 6-2, 6-3 in front of an appreciative crowd that was often focused on the A Division finals two courts over. But some watched my game and applauded our victory. Many people were happy for me when I saw them afterwards. Very satisfying…even thrilling. I definitely wanted to win this final after losing it the last time.

Who knows? Maybe some year I will enter the A Division and see if I can win a match or two. Some of those guys are like semi-pros, were on college teams and are super fast. Many are under 50 and have astonishing capabilities after years of practice.

For now I am totally pleased. I have a year to relish my success and prepare to defend my title next time against all newcomers, wannabees and guys seeking revenge. The joy of sport…the challenge of athletics. My quest to keep improving. Pretty lucky to have this passion so late in life and be able to do it…I am savoring every minute…

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Too Much Discipline Cracks Up Palace Guard On Sentry Duty



One must admire the discipline required to be a soldier marching or standing at attention in front of places like The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier or Buckingham Palace. It’s amazing how a human can be so rigid, not smile as tourists taunt them, ignore the rain and snow and cold and heat, make their body perform repetitively and control their brains to not flip out. I don’t grasp it. Truthfully I would crack up within minutes. But obviously there are proud soldiers who volunteer for these honored posts.

Recently however, it appears that one guard who made the cut did have a modified breakdown on duty in England. Check out his antics worthy of a John Cleese comedy. Here are excerpts from an article that gives more details.

A source said that while the video may be entertaining, the incident is being taken ‘extremely seriously’ by army top brass. “It’s very serious,” the source said. “Those guards are there to guard the palace, not entertain tourists. I don’t want to downplay the gravitas of the situation.”

The three-minute video clip shows the soldier, wearing his his red tunic and bearskin, perform a series of stunts for onlooking tourists

The guard is first seen marching up and down the gravel forecourt, before breaking into pirouettes.

He can then seen picking up something from the floor and putting it in his pocket.

The soldier launches into a comical strut and pretends to polish his guard box with his knuckles.

Tourists can be heard laughing in the background, with one child saying: “Look at him spinning. That’s really silly. Do you think he will get told off for it by the policeman?”

His comical antics come to an end once the guard retreats to his box after giving his fellow guardsman a thumbs-up.

Orders for the duty which are read out before each two-hour shift and state: “You may not eat, sleep, smoke, stand easy, sit or lie down during your tour of duty.”

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How I Was Kidnapped For Ransom Money Because Of My One-Handed Tennis Backhand

Stan and his backhand

Stan and his backhand

I experienced a very discombobulating adventure the other day during my second visit ever to the US Open tennis tournament. I went with some tennis buddies who have gone annually for decades and knew their way around.

Prior to going, I had viewed an interactive graphic about the one-handed backhand (OHB) tennis swing that is a dying stroke. It’s what I do, although almost no one learns it anymore…the two-hander is easier to master. But world number 4, Stan Wawrinka, won the Aussie Open last year with one of the most beautiful OHB in the game. So imagine how excited I was to read that Stan was playing in Arthur Ashe stadium, and I could watch him live from my seat.

Surprise! There are maybe 18 courts at the Billie Jean Tennis Center with so much simultaneous action you are frustrated often about who to watch next. And you are right up close to the players in these outer courts and smaller stadiums, rather than practically touching clouds in the uppermost cheaper seats we had at Arthur Ashe. So my group watched Andy Murray, Jo Willie Tsonga, Juan Monaco, Angelique Kerber and many other top-ranked players everywhere except Arthur Ashe. I loved it.

But around 4:00, I left my fellow enthusiasts, said that I had to see Stan the Man and mentioned that my cell phone was running out of battery. No problem, just meet us at Parking lot “F” at 6:00. Easy.

Off I went to admire Stan’s graceful OHB and try to learn how I might do what he does. It’s so elegant and powerful. You never see it on TV the way you can live. A real highlight of the day. At 5:30 I headed alone to the parking lot, following a map and guidance from a policeman and many US Open staff members. Still no problem…until I didn’t remember all the grass and trees when I was walking that morning from Lot “F” to the tennis courts. Nor did I recognize the lot when I was taken there by the shuttle bus. It was totally under the highway, rather than open to the sky as I remembered. Sim the driver drove me all around it. But nothing looked familiar.

Was I in a dream? Had I lost my mind? Intense disorientation. With my phone dead by now, I asked the bus driver if he would call my buddy on his mobile. Sure, but Sim only reached voice mail. A second call to a different friend resulted in the driver being told that he had the wrong number. Very strange, because Sim said he dialed the number I gave him. When I dialed the second number, I reached my friend and told him I was “lost.” I’d gone to the lot, been looking for almost half an hour, but still couldn’t find him. Where was he?

Only when I handed the phone back to Sim did he realize that my friends were parked in a DIFFERENT Lot “F”!!! There are two of them, and my buddies never realized that during 25 years of attending the Open: I was directed to the lot that caters to the tennis center. They always parked in another lot nearby that serves Citi-Field, the home of the New York Mets baseball team. As Clint Eastwood’s character responded in one of his films, “What a clusterfuck!”

When I finally headed back to the US Open exit/entrance and walked a bit to the left out the gate instead of a partial right, I found my mates, and heard their version of what happened. My first friend Phil hadn’t recognized Sim’s phone number, so he didn’t take the call. My second friend Y heard the strange message and ethnic accent, so he thought it was a wrong number. Then the first said he heard the message and became very concerned and nervous. Here is what he heard: “Hello Phil, this is Sim, and I have Ira here in the car. We are driving around, and he wants to talk to you.” Phil thought I had been kidnapped, and when he spoke to Y, they were both disturbed by this total stranger with a foreign accent using their names and stating that “Ira” was in his car. My buddies were sure Sim was going to ask for a ransom!

When I asked them how much they thought the ransom would be, I imagined they’d say $5-10,000. But no such luck, they figured my life was only worth $200. That gave us another laugh. Phil said with a dying phone, I should have stuck to the group “like Velcro.” Friend Y never realized that I would go to the wrong Lot “F,” because he didn’t know it existed. So he never mentioned Citi-Field.

And that is how my desire to improve my OHB caused my friends to decide that I was kidnapped for a ransom.

An unexpected conclusion to a great day of tennis. And an hour later Sim called to make sure I’d found my friends. Unforgettably nice guy. I hope he never finds this story and learns how misunderstood he was and how confused some Connecticut tennis players can be, when they make it to Queens in New York…

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Daredevil Speeds Over 200 And Steers With His Feet

VD with one of his superfast motorcycles

VD with one of his superfast motorcycles

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 3.07.43 PM

Here are two unedited emails: first from me to a friend whom I have known for maybe 15 years; second is his response. Do notice that in one of the photos, VD is steering with his feet!!!

saw a guy on a motorcycle doing 75 yesterday and wondered what your usual speed is? and what is the fastest you ever went?

did I see pictures recently of you on a bike that I thought you crashed/totaled? did you replace it with a similar one?

fun speed for this daredevil

fun speed for this daredevil

Hi Ira. I love getting these randomly staggered emails from you! Not to be too tumultuous with my experience, but I am very good at being dangerous! I usually average 110-140 mph to get just to work. When having fun, I will push my bike to 170 and still have room to play. I had recently opened a suzuki Hayabusa (look that bike up) and was able to reach an even further top speed of what it is intended to reach because of the intense modifications it had such as but not limited too, turbos, nitrous, extended swim arm, fat tire, dyno jet quick shifter and a bored motor. I reached a top speed and could no longer accelerate at 218 mph. It was the single most mesmerizing experience next to love and being born that I will ever have.

feet steering

feet steering

And yes, I was in a motorcycle accident that was caused by another woman cutting me off. Her insurance company is taking over and paying for everything, even my physical therapy. I decided to no longer ride on the streets of LA. Mainly because I am too dangerous to myself. I am a passive rider but aggressive with my speed.

I had a brand new Ducati 848 evo. That was the bike in the accident. Beautiful bike in all white with mainly carbon fiber body parts!
I hope that this was a reasonably fulfilling response ;)

Miss you guys!

VD

VD on another fast bike

VD on another fast bike

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