Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tips for Shoveling Snow Safely

As I prepare to go out there for the first big dig of the winter, I thought I'd share a piece I once wrote for Yahoo Voices on the topic.  It's widely known that shoveling snow is a very strenuous physical activity and many people can do much harm to their bodies if they do it wrong.  Here are some common sense, but good to be reminded of, tips for shoveling snow...

Shoveling snow can be great exercise, but is also very strenuous.  Clearing snow with a shovel for as little as 30 minutes can burn up to 200 calories, but the laborious task coupled with extreme weather conditions can be very dangerous to your well being.  Cold air makes breathing more difficult and puts more of a strain on the body.  Working in such cold conditions not only puts a undue exertion on the heart and breathing apparatus, but extreme temperatures can cause hypothermia, or dangerously low body temperatures, to the unprotected person.

People who should not shovel snow:

People who are at extra risk for a heart attack and other physical dangers while shoveling snow include: smokers, those with a history of heart disease or heart attack, those with high blood pressure or cholesterol levels, and those living a sedentary lifestyle.

Tips for shoveling snow:

Dress warmly - Always dress warmly for the cold weather.  Dress in layers and keep all extremities covered, especially hands and ears.

Take frequent breaks – With such stress on the body, shoveling snow requires frequent breaks so that the body can endure the sometimes long job of clearing driveways and walkways.  Go inside to warm up every fifteen to twenty minutes or so and drink plenty of water.

Try to avoid caffeine before or during snow cleanup.  Caffeine increases your heart rate and should not be consumed before or during snow removal.

Before shoveling snow, warm up your muscles by stretching and/or walking in place for a few minutes.  Doing so will help to avoid any undue strain on the muscles.

In order to avoid serious injury to back muscles, shoveling snow properly is of the utmost importance.  The average shovel-full of snow is 16 pounds and moves about 192 pounds of the stuff.  This is done approximately twelve times per minute, amounting to about 2000 pounds of snow being moved every ten minutes. 

Ways to shovel snow properly:

-           Lift the shovel with your legs and not your back.  Keep your knees bent so the heavier strain is on your leg muscles.

-          Do not bend at the waist.

-          Always step in the direction to which you are moving the snow.  This prevents you from twisting the back, causing unnecessary stress on those muscles.

-           Keeping your hands at length from each other helps you gain some leverage and helps to avoid undue stress on the wrong muscles.

-          Keep your feet apart from one another and tighten your stomach muscles as you lift the shovel.

Following these precautions while clearing snow will allow you to finish the job without the risk of serious injury or even death.  The most important thing to keep in mind when clearing snow is to listen to your body.  Happy shoveling!


Personal Experience

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Roller Coaster Road Trip 2014: Nashville, Part I: The District

The last we left off on our Roller Coaster Road Trip 2014 we had just visited the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center.  It was our first day in Nashville and this was one of the non-coaster places I was most excited to visit.  By the time we'd left the Opryland area, which was about 10-15 minutes outside of the city, it was already mid-afternoon.  The rest of the evening and the next two full days we had the city of Nashville to explore.  Though it was a great place for a visit, I have to say there were elements of the city that left me a little disappointed...

Now please don't get me wrong, I loved Nashville.  It is a place steeped in a rich history intertwined with country music.  The city is beautiful and clean and there are plenty of tourist sites, restaurants and shops to whet anyone's appetite, but the place is full of loud honky tonks, which produce a lot of drunks, who are at it at all hours of the day.  I couldn't help but think that this is what New Orleans must be like.  Check out some of the things that we experienced in Nashville, starting with an area called The District...

The District

The District is where all the action is in Nashville.  For a two to three-block stretch, this very crowded street is home to an assortment of honky tonks, restaurants, souvenir shops, record stores, etc.  It is here where most of the drunken monkeys assemble, either whooping it up to the music of a country-cover band in a bar, riding these crazy bar-bicycles (see picture below) up and down the crowded street, or just staggering around on the sidewalk.  The District is like a little piece of Manhattan in the heart of Nashville, where the action is seemingly 24/7, and where wanna-be musicians line the streets on both sides, playing their wares for money and hoping to get discovered as the next big thing in country music.

The crowds and the drunks that frequent the district are really the only bad things about the place. There are some great shops and restaurants to be found here, including the world-famous Ernest Tubb Record Shop and a really tempting sweet shop called Savannah's Candy Kitchen.  It was fun walking around, window shopping and taking in all the sites. Towards the end of the strip is the Cumberland River, with a nice walking bridge overlooking both sides and a huge roller coasterish sculpture perched in front of a stadium.  Luckily it was a beautiful couple of days while we were there and we got to take it all in.
Ernest Tubbs Record Shop

How do I look?  No, huh?


The Cumberland River and Downtown Nashville

Nashville at Night

As you might expect, downtown Nashville is absolutely buzzing after dark.  The restaurants on the strip, as well as the bars, are even more crowded at night than in the daytime, with long lines of people waiting for tables at some of the more popular spots.  On both nights, we dined on some succulent meals while taking in all of the buzz, and we even found a couple of really nice gay clubs a little off to the west of the main district.  

There was a point where we made a wrong turn down a place called Printer's Alley.  We'd passed it driving in the car and it looked pretty cool, a wide alleyway all lit up with overhead lights above what looked to be a nice assortment of bars.  Only when we walked over to it, the very first sign we saw was one advertising nude karaoke.  A few steps down and we realized we were in a sort of red light district, and all the bars were strip clubs.  We passed on the place and high-tailed it outta there.

So yeah, The District is an even cooler place to be at night, as you can see from the pictures above. This place isn't the only part of Nashville that's cool to see, though.  Stay tuned for more pictures and commentary on the rest of what this very cool city has to offer, and in the meantime, check out the rest of the pieces so far in this series...

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Dodging a Bullet Thanks to Experience

I think I finally found a cure for my writer's block...

I want to preface this post by saying that this is the one area of my life where being my age is actually a good thing.  Through all of the experiences I've had in my life to this point, I have become smarter. Experience is the best teacher, and at my age, the experiences I've had have lead me to a better understanding of how things work and how people work, and thank God for that!  Every day, week, month and year I learn more and more and sometimes that knowledge it helps me to avoid a bad situation...

I just got home from the first time seeing someone after 'ending it.'  Boy he was pissed at me!  I guess I should have expected it, but as I approached the establishment where he works, and where we first met, I expected things to be cordial between us.  I even tried to think of questions I would ask him regarding things I knew he'd been up to, hoping to break the ice and stay friendly.  He wasn't having that, though.  He was as cold as could be, and yeah, I felt a little hurt by that, but oh well, that's his problem.  

Yup, I dodged a bullet this week and my experience is the only thing that saved me from it.  You see, a few weeks ago I met this dude at an establishment I frequent and at first I had hopes that he would be my next big thing.  He was sweet, good looking and pretty darned charming, too, and I loved it that we met the way we did.  I thought it might be a sign of good things to come.  Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be.

When he first started working there, he was very friendly and he always found little chit chat to make with me.  I never thought anything of it, at least for the first couple of weeks, but one day after I left he contacted me through a dating app and all new thoughts began to pop in my head.  He was a PLU and he was interested in me.  Every visit to the store after that the flirting picked up into high gear until last Sunday he asked me if I had time to talk.  An hour and a half later, I was on Cloud 9. Happy thoughts filled my head as I made my way home and I looked forward to the next time we'd chat. The possibility of a relationship had been totally unexpected to that point, but I thought this guy was special.  Before we parted, I gave him my number, and that, my friends, was the beginning of the end.

The texts began almost immediately, which was normal and welcome at the beginning.  Of course when you've had a spark you're still eager to keep the conversation going, but very quickly I began to get a little uneasy.  The first text that made me feel this way was when he told me that he had told his family about me and showed them my photo.  After one conversation?  Eh!

Next came the first of a few 'miss you's,' about 24 hours after our Sunday night conversation.  The first one was okay, but the several that followed were, well, a little unusual for such a short time.  The subjects of many of his subsequent texts became all too familiar, like guys I've dated in the past.  In all, 129 text messages from him came over the 48 hours from Sunday to Tuesday night, making me feel like I was dating someone.  Again, after just one 'date."  Um...stop!

Talking with my friends at bowling Tuesday night confirmed what I had been thinking.  If I took it any further with this guy, who knows where it would end up.  I've had my fair share of obsessive types in my life and there was no way I was going there again.  I know now at this point in my life that that would be a complete waste of my time.  I needed to put an end to it and so I stopped answering his texts sometime Tuesday evening.  Thankfully, he seemed to understand because I haven't heard from him since, that is until our lil encounter this evening.

Twenty years ago I probably would have continued on communicating with this guy, eventually giving in to the physical and then...I shudder to think what would have happened.  Jealousy, mistrust, arguments, feelings of being trapped.  Like I said, my experiences thankfully saved me from what surely would have become an unpleasant situation further on down the line.  When I look back at all of my relationships I realize now that signs were always there, for every one of them, that it would eventually not work out.  I can;t afford to make those types of mistakes anymore.  Ain't nobody got time for that!

At least the situation taught me that there still could be someone out there for me.  That hope that had been dwindling over the past several years has been revived again.  A week ago I was experiencing the euphoria of a possible relationship that came out of nowhere, and though I am happy that I avoided a bad situation, I know now that he could still be out there, and he can turn up at anytime, any place.  I've just got to keep my eyes open...

It's only love, give it away
(It's only love)
You'll probably get it back again
(It's only love)
It's simple, it's a silly thing
Throw it away like a boomerang
I wish we all could lighten up
It's only love, not a time bomb

Friday, January 23, 2015

Writer's Block!

UGH!  Yup,, I've got it...that dreaded old writer's block!  If you've been any sort of a regular reader of this blog, you probably noticed that I haven't written anything in awhile...two weeks ago tomorrow to be exact.  Oh sure, I've sat at my laptop trying to get something outta my brain and on to this blog several times, but nada!  Just like before, I don't know why it happens.  Perhaps my brain just hasn't been in the right mode for sharing 'stuff that's inside my head' lately, but I'm thinking it's time to move.  I've learned from past experience that it does go away eventually, so I'm going to try and take advantage of this crappy weather weekend and just sit here until I get back on that writing train.  Stay tuned... 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Rest in Peace and in Power Leelah Alcorn

By now, hopefully, many of you know this face.  If not, then please read on.  The person in the picture above is one Leelah Alcorn, a 17 year-old transgendered youth who just a couple of weeks ago took her own life by jumping in front of a tractor-trailer on Interstate 71 near her home in Kings Mills, Ohio. In a suicide note left on her Tumblr, she told readers:

Please don’t be sad, it’s for the better. The life I would've lived isn't worth living in… because I’m transgender.

The oh so tragic and premature death underscores a huge bias that's still out there, and though Leelah places a lot of blame on her parents for the intense misery she lived under which caused her to take such drastic action, the sad truth is that misery might've followed her throughout her life. Trans-gendered people are probably the one group of people that incite the most bias in society, even among gays, and that needs to stop. 

In the LGBT world, transgendered people seem to be the low ones on the totem pole, at least from my own personal experience.  That is, they're the minority within the minority, and other than through the light-hearted roles some of them play in clubs as drag queens, they're looked upon negatively for their 'fem' qualities.  Many of us see them as different than us, yet we all should know they're born the way they are just like we believe we're born as we are.

Of course, if many gay people feel this way, then why shouldn't we expect the general population to look upon transgenderism as something to look down upon, as well?  Just like so many other gay and lesbian youth who take their own lives because of a societal norm that their very existence is wrong, then so too would transgendered like Leelah do the same.  And they've got it worse!  Leelah continues...

I could go into detail explaining why I feel that way, but this note is probably going to be lengthy enough as it is. To put it simply, I feel like a girl trapped in a boy’s body, and I've felt that way ever since I was 4. I never knew there was a word for that feeling, nor was it possible for a boy to become a girl, so I never told anyone and I just continued to do traditionally “boyish” things to try to fit in.

When I was 14, I learned what transgender meant and cried of happiness. After 10 years of confusion I finally understood who I was. I immediately told my mom, and she reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn't make mistakes, that I am wrong. If you are reading this, parents, please don’t tell this to your kids. Even if you are Christian or are against transgender people don’t ever say that to someone, especially your kid. That won’t do anything but make them hate them self. That’s exactly what it did to me.   

Does this sound familiar to any of my gay readers?  It should.  Yeah, we've all heard this sort of thing before, haven't we?  Oh, religion!  That's got a lot to do with all of this.  Not to get on my soap box, but if deeply religious people would just trust in their God and believe that he made everybody the way he made them for a reason, then a lot of our problems would be solved.  Leave the judging to Him and treat everyone as they are, not as you'd like them to be.  

Perhaps a death such as Leelah's will work to change minds and hearts.  Time will tell, but there's already been a social media blitz by supporters, and even a Cincinnati Councilman, Chris Seelbach, weighed in on Alcorn's death with an impassioned speech to the LGBT community...

The truth is, we as a society have failed you. What I know for sure is that with every day, it may not feel like it gets better, but I know that you can get through it. You're the person God made you to be, and you have the strength to persevere. It will not be easy. It may not get better with every day, but you can do it -- I know you can.  

He then added, You are not alone. ... You can live. You can live. You can live.

Indeed.  Perhaps Leelah's tragic death will effect some change in how transgendered people are treated in our society, much in the way Matthew Shepard's death did for the gay community at large, especially in their youth.  She concludes her suicide note with a plea for change, a call for action which many have already begun...

The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren't treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something. My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year. I want someone to look at that number and say “that’s fucked up” and fix it. Fix society. Please.
(Leelah) Josh Alcorn 

Rest in peace, and in power Leelah!

2 for 1 Broadway Tickets at NYCGo's Annual Broadway Week Sale

Have you been wanting to see a Broadway show, but have been hesitant to spend all of that the money on expensive tickets?  Well, now is a great time to catch that hit musical you've been aching to see because right now NYCGo is running their annual Broadway Week special sale, with two for one tickets to many of the hottest shows Broadway has to offer.  

NYCGo's annual Broadway Week begins on Tuesday, January 20th and runs all the way to Thursday, February 5th, and during that time you can enjoy the awesome discount of two for one tickets to such tried and true hit musicals such as Kinky Boots, Mamma Mia, Wicked and Jersey Boys or new , soon to be classics like Honeymoon in Vegas, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.  In all, more than 20 shows are participating in the special offer. 

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, twi-ny

Here's how it works: just visit NYCGo and select the shows you'd like to see.  You can select either the 2 for 1 offer or a special upgraded offer that brings you better seats for an additional $20.  These great discount tickets are on sale now, but only at NYCGo, so click on the link and check it out.