A Reminder to be Cautious

Hey, Leo. Come sit by me. I am about to write a new blog. I have something on my mind that relates to city life. Living in a major metropolitan area, I encounter many people during my various photography jaunts who have experienced assailants. I have horrors of someone ripping off my best camera, but it is usually a purse or a wallet. Thieves have such audacity and they must be confronted with some kind of self defense. I have to learn to navigate a busy city with caution to protect my equipment and myself. What to do?

A friend recently had a run-in with a pickpocket of all things. Do they do that away from carnivals? You bet. It pays to be extra alert when in unknown areas and especially at night. Traveling about in numbers is a good strategy. Otherwise, take your dog. Leo goes with me all the time, and while he is not particularly ferocious, he does deter aggressors due to his size.

Apart from keeping your eyes open and training your dog to growl on demand, there are other protective measures you can take. When in crowds, do not get too close to others or you might encounter a pickpocket like my friend. They love to operate in busy areas where they can easily disappear out of sight. If you want to be extra secure, I recommend carrying some mace in your pocket or backpack. I have never had to use it, but I know how. A few quick sprays at close proximity will inflict considerable discomfort to the eyes and nose that lasts for almost forty-five minutes. Don’t stand too far or the effect will be minor.

If you want more tactics, you can look into stun guns and heavy-duty plastic or rubber “knuckles.” Just pulling one of these could make an attacker or mugger run. He will also respond negatively to loud yelling or screaming. It alerts people in the vicinity to a problem and will signal someone to dial 911. In a busy location, a group may retaliate on your behalf and wrangle with the individual, immobilizing him on the spot. This is the advantage of being in a populated region. If you are in a skid row area, the drunks and homeless are less likely to pitch in and help out, so the de-escalation techniques from Self Defense Guide can be helpful.

If you have been trained in martial arts (recommended for people in big cities where all kinds of threats thrive), you can attempt some basic maneuvers and use hand-to-hand combat. If you are quick on your feet, you can kick, punch, jab, or poke vulnerable body areas. A self defense stance would make me back off. I would want to avoid the pain. Few robbers are well-versed in self defense moves as they are the aggressors. They may be on drugs and out of their minds, compromising their ability to fight.

If you are a peacenik at heart, try de-escalation techniques of talking the opponent down. Appeal to the assailant’s good sense and human spirit, if it is inside. Use calming words and slow hand gestures. Never insult an angry person or challenge him in any way. With these methods, you should be ready to go out without fear.

What’s this Oven Thing You Speak Of?

I got an email from my mother. She was coming to visit Leo and me in a week and it had been a while. I was actually looking forward to it in spite of some trepidation. Mothers can be naggers and they can scout out your territory with a keen eye.

Okay, I can handle it. I would clean the house, tidy up the guest room and put a nice throw out. I would fluff the pillows, make the bed like a hotel maid, and put new soap in the bathroom. I wanted to please and impress her since she had her doubts. I don’t think she believed I could keep a nice home. I would prove her wrong. Everything would look as if it had always been that way, and then some.

My mother loves her morning coffee or and I have the right equipment for both. I can make a fresh pot of her favorite tea with my amazing tea infuser or use the pods for the single cup coffee machine to make the perfect cup. That problem is more than solved. She also likes eggs and bacon cooked perfectly in the oven. Now here was my problem. I didn’t know how to turn it on. I use a microwave virtually all of the time. What’s this oven thing you speak of? Bacon comes out just right in the device, no need to mess with a broiler. The oven is for decoration so my sister says, laughing at my inability to cope.

Microwave? No, my mother would not hear of it. At home, it had been an issue easily resolved. We used the oven and nothing else–not even a frying pan that was great at accumulating the grease. Now that she was on her way, I would have to learn how to use my oven ASAP. I would practice baking some chicken. That was easy. I popped it in a cookie sheet lined with foil, sprinkled some seasoning on top, and set the dial to 350 degrees. It was the tastiest, but it was edible.

I then practiced with a few strips of bacon under the broiler. This time I forgot to leave the oven door ajar, and smoke billowed from the kitchen, scaring the poor dog to death. Where was the fire alarm? He was thinking. Where are the paramedics?

I learned fast. I would be ready to make it the right way soon. I would not let her do any cooking on her own so I could show my newly-found skills. Leo and I anticipated an easy visit and a nice breakfast each day. Upon her arrival, she unpacked her suitcase and surveyed the scene. Nice, she commented. We had a great evening and retired at eleven pm. The next morning she was in the kitchen getting bacon from the fridge.

“Let me do it,” I protested and took the package into my hands. I went over to the stove and was about to open the door. “Oh, wait,” she exclaimed. “Let’s do it in the microwave. It’s so much cleaner.” What, I thought, you are kidding. “I have changed my tune,” she went on. “I am a convert to the modern lifestyle. I do my bacon the easy way on a paper towel.”

I was dumbfounded, but recovered quickly. Okay. That was fine. At least I knew how to use the stove for another time.

Kitchen Screech Owl? No, Just My Sink.

441369_SG_VIS_1.0_DE_CBI am a photographer by profession. Handyman I am not, but sometimes you just gotta do it. You know what it costs to bring a plumber in even for just one hour. It pays to learn a few tricks of the trade and fill your tool box with the necessary implements and supplies. Get a manual, read up on line, and prepare yourself for repairs. You never know when a minor disaster will strike. I stress minor, as that is all I am up for.

Let me jump back a bit in time to a week ago. It was an uneventful, nonchalant day. Leo and I were sitting in the kitchen doing nothing (me at the table drinking coffee and the dog at my side on the floor). We were whiling away time which was our habit on an easy Saturday norming. I was in reverie, my eyes glazed over, lost in thought. Leo had just had his walk and was feeling relaxed. I was about to read my emails and send a few texts.

I got up to rinse my coffee cup, dutiful person that I am about being tidy, and turned on the kitchen faucet. It made the worst screeching sound like an owl in heat. Yikes! Leo’s ears picked up and he, too, wondered what the… what had gotten into the house. Was there an open door? We looked around quickly.

Leo began to get nervous and was pacing about following my own footsteps. I was pondering the situation. He looked up at me entreatingly as if to say, “do something.” I never knew he disliked irritating sounds. He was very quiet.

I shut off the faucet for a moment and turned it on again. There had to be a screech owl in our midst? Would it attack? But no, ha ha, it was just my fancy undermount kitchen sink. Not a major problem, just annoying. The handyman spirit within was revived. It was long dead, mind you, and not often energized. I wasn’t sure I had it in me. Remember, it was a lazy kind of day. But I trotted out to the garage, got out the tool box and searched about. No washers, nary a one. Reluctantly, Leo and I hit the pavement for a walk to the hardware store. Of course, he had no clue why but was game for another go in the great outdoors. I was miffed.

One hour later, for a buck I had the new washer on the sink and was hot on the trail of the “owl.” I popped it in, tested the faucet, and alas the bird was gone, flown the coop, beat a retreat. We had peace and quiet once again. Aah! That was too much excitement for one day. I sat down at the kitchen table, poured another cup of java, and Leo repositioned himself at my side. It was as if nothing had happened. Handyman to the rescue, that’s me! Plumbing jobs around the house should always be this easy.

Have a (Power) Plan

I am a photographer and that means I like to control my surroundings and the available light. It can be natural light from windows or a skylight, or artificial light from lamps and fixtures. To get the perfect ambience, however, I need flood lights that I can regulate for the correct illumination. Lighting has to be exact even if it looks effortless. I am in essence entirely dependent on electricity for everything.

When it comes to heat and cold, however, that is another story. I have utilities like everyone else and live in a place that has the occasional annoying outage. Sometimes it comes at the most inopportune time. If I am working in my studio, and the power is on the fritz, it disrupts everything. I can’t work in the dark or even with flood lights glaring in my face. So I have taken matters into my hands and I have a power plan.

Pretty smart, eh? I have a contingency plan that involves the usage of a home generator that is closely at hand in case of a winter or summer outage as the case may be. It’s genius. The food in the fridge won’t spoil, the computer will run if the battery is dead, the air conditioning or heating will operate steadily. I will have plug in lights where I need them, flood or other kinds. I will be able to see to work and not miss a beat. How do people get by on candles or flashlights alone!

A generator is basically a motor that operates on batteries and is designed for a certain amount of power according to its size and capacity. You can also use propane gas if you prefer. Small ones are for camping and are thus nicely portable. They can run a laptop, outdoor lights, a hairdryer, a coffeemaker, and similar things. You need a larger unit for the home at a much heftier price. For example, Generac makes an expensive one for several thousand dollars. This is the one I picked.

I did all the comp shopping, read the reviews, and tallied the specs to be sure I got what I needed for the big expenditure. I wanted fully automatic operation (that included the transfer switch) and durability right from the start. The unit I selected is air-cooled and has cast iron cylinder walls, so I knew it would have a long life. I then learned about the revolving field alternator design with automatic voltage regulation. Don’t ask me to explain. It just means that the generator will operate 25% more efficiently with no damage to voltage spikes.

In case this isn’t enough, the thing won’t rust so you can use it in humid climates. Add a high grade muffler for quiet operation and safety and you have a great machine. You won’t have circuit overload or ever find a dead battery as there is a timed charger. There is a warranty in case anything goes awry. For over $3,000 I don’t expect it to happen.

I spent time on my power plan and came to understand the ins and outs of a generator as you can see. You will have peace of mind knowing that life goes on, even when the lights don’t.

Gym Wish List

If money were no object, I would take my dog Leo with me on a plane. If money were no object, I would buy a hot new car. If money were no object, I would travel to my heart’s content, and along different lines I would buy gym equipment for my home. As a matter of fact, I have a gym wish list in the making right now to share with you.

If money were no object, three or four thousand dollars would be nothing and I would fork it over gladly for an Inspire Fitness M3. Let me tell you, drool, about it. Speaking to my most frequent need, it has a commercial quality abdominal crunch station built into its head pad. On top of that, you will find a seated leg curl station to handle those drooping glutes and strengthen the laggard hamstrings. Moving on down the list, I want a precision power-packed unit made of 11 gauge steel with nylon pulleys that will never wear out, tensile strength cables, and ball bearings in the press arm pivot. In short, I want quality and I want it now. All this stuff comes with the basic model and I read it right off the flyer.

It has to have a weight stack for a serious lifter, say at least 200 lb. Next to the stack will be my treadmill by True Fitness at a whopping eight thousand. Remember, money is… It has a 20 inch touch screen, aluminum straddle covers, multiple console options, and optional customization. This brochure tells a great story: it is the “answer to premium fitness equipment for your home.” This baby is high on the wish list. It is durable, innovative, and performs like a dream. That is what real money can buy!

I want only the best in this fantasy home gym, in which by the way, space is no object. There will be room for more gear. I want a two thousand dollar Bodycraft rower with magnetic resistance. Technology abounds in this marvel. You get wireless handlebar resistance control, ultra-smooth industrial grade bearings inside friction-free rollers plus an ergonomically-designed contoured seat. You wouldn’t want it any other way! This company has listened to its consumers because everything is there made with precision and care.

On the rower I would get a great out of water experience. I probably would get a great out of body one on my Precor stationary bike on which I could spin to the heavens in a trance. I like the upright models and know I can get a super one for under four grand. The handlebars are custom designed with integrated touch heart rate and everything is devised with comfort and efficiency in mind. You can adjust the seat with one hand so you barely have to upset your routine while in motion. There is also a cool knee over pedal spindle geometry they call KOPS which will give the direst aficionado a run for his or her money. I expect a smooth workout on this fine machine.

I’d probably also add in one of the best elliptical machines as well. I haven’t had enough time to look into these yet, but I found this guide the other day and it seems like a great place to start my research.

If I haven’t exhausted my budget, I can get a stair stepper, a cage system, a power rack, a whole body vibration machine, and maybe an elliptical. But let’s not get too crazy. I only have to spend fifty thousand and I am perfectly situated for a major body transformation.

They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To

Halloween is rolling around and Leo is not going to be left out this year. Yes, the holiday has spread to the UK! Doggie costume are all the rage and my pet is not going to be an exception. They do make some ready-made items, but they are run of the mill, so I want to custom design a special one that might just become a regular.

Dogs can be ghosts and goblins like kids, and little devils. They can be cartoon figures, superheroes, movie animals, or space aliens. Just about anything goes, but I want something really different. I have seen a dog tarantula, a Star Wars Ewok, Wonder Woman/dog, and a pet shark. I have not been turned off by a canine bee, Batman pouch, or Chiquita Banana dog. My choice is going to be Dapper Dog in a tux and I am going to make it all myself. It will have tails so that there will be a total of three when he’s sporting it.

One week later: I have purchased some black fabric, kind of nice, and some white to make the shirt. All it needs are some buttons and a store-bought hat. I am going to do this the simple way using grandma’s old singer sewing machine.

I inherited the device years ago and wasn’t sure why. Did she see some budding designer in me? I think she saw someone who would have to mend a torn hem now and then, plus she didn’t want the machine to leave the family. I like the fact that the old model is simple. It is a smallish black metal gadget decorated in gold scrollwork with a foot pedal attached that rests on the floor, a place for the thread, and another on the side for the bobbin. You push down with your foot to go forward or back as the need requires. It doesn’t do button holes, knits (stretch stitching), or embroidery because there is no computer built in. It is just your basic sewing machine no frills no fuss style.

I am preparing my little outfit, cutting it down to Leo’s size: first the shirt with no sleeves, then the tux with minimum ones. The tux will have a pointed collar and snazzy gold buttons, and the shirt will have a perfect black bow tie. Not much to worry about on the sewing front so far. I can hand baste the buttonholes about a half inch in length. That simply means stitching over and over again to “finish” the edges. (Now I see why grandma did what she did. I’m totally into it.)

Another week later: Leo cuts a mean figure in his tux. It’s more like James Bond dog really. All he needs is a martini, a cigarette, and keys to a hot Aston Martin. He will be the coolest dude in the doggie parade—totally dashing as if from another era. Who knows, maybe Leo will need to dress up on another occasion and I will have the garment cleaned, pressed, and ready. I know that at least for Halloween he is going to have a doggone good time.