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Econ 102

A tip? OK. Don’t swim in shark infested waters. Dad humor 1 – Confused daughter 0

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Econ 101

Today’s lesson: the fungibility of money.

Place Generic Title Here

I’ve often remarked on these pages that a good title will write a good blog.  The both of you, my loyal readers, know this to be true.  The rest of you who swing through to gaze upon the wreckage like so many standers-by drawn to a train crash will also note the lack of many decent titles.

Tonight I want to write.

I want to write for the joy of writing.

I just finished watching a movie.  It was a silly flick starring Kevin James.  In it he plays a writer.  Actually he plays an actuary who is also working on a novel.  I mention that because my late father was an actuary.

A note about that…  Growing up, none of us knew how to answer the question our friends would inevitably ask.  “What does your dad do?”  I remember asking the old man once.  I think I was six.  “Daddy, what do you do?”  Reaching deep into his brain he quickly shot back, without raising his eyes from behind the Wall Street Journal, “Well son, an actuary is the man who brings a bomb on a plane.  Because while the chances of there being one bomb on a plane are negligible, the probability of there being two bombs on a plane are infinitesimal.”

A few years later I had cause to ask him again.  I believe I was 11.  “Dad, what’s an actuary?”  Releasing a puff of smoke from the pipe clenched between his teeth he said: “Well my boy, an actuary is place where they bury dead actors.

Finally when I was sixteen I asked yet again.  “Father, what exactly is an actuary?”  Putting the remote down for a brief moment while switching between Jeopardy! and Crossfire he rejoined: “An actuary, lad, is the guy who uses the last urinal in the men’s room because he knows it cuts in half the statistical likelihood of getting his shoes pissed on.”

And I finally understood.

I went back to all my friends and said: “He does something with math.”

In the movie, James’ character, working on a novel, remarks that he writes to escape life.

Not me.  I write to document life.  I sometimes feel as though if I didn’t write down some of the crazy things that have happened to me no one, not even I, would believe them.  So what crazy things have happened to me lately?

I went out to visit the school where I am soon to begin work as an assistant principal.  I met with my spine surgeon and discovered that I’m in pretty amazing shape.  My kids appeared in a couple of short plays at their music school.

None of these things are amazing by themselves.  Take the job, for instance.  Lots of people start new jobs and lots of people work in school administration.  But standing in my new office the other day looking around, being called into meetings with the principal to decide important matters…  A few short months ago I really would not have believed this is where I’d be.  In the back of my mind I had a goal that had almost vanished.  I wanted to be an administrator before I hit 40.  Here I am.  I still can’t believe it.

So I’m cheating. This spine is strong because it’s been fused.

Sitting in the office with the doctor today and looking at the CT scan of my spine all brightly lit up from the contrasting dye I was convinced he was going to tell me I had some kind of condition, maybe even a spinal tumor.  Instead he said: “Both fusion are holding great and the disc height at the level above is incredible.  Your spine is strong.”  He even tossed in “In fact, you’re looking really good.  What are you doing?”  Hear that?  My spine is strong!  And I’m looking good.  Must be doing something decent.

That’s my girl playing the empress (she of the “new clothes”)

OK, with those two plays…  Nothing really remarkable here except that my babies are growing up.  There was a time not long ago when I would hold them and read to them and take care of them.  Now they’re entertaining me.  They’re memorizing lines, looking so grown-up in character on a stage.  How did that happen?

So the title of this post is so generic I didn’t even have to write it.

Nothing amazing happening here except life.

And life is pretty damn awesome.

Kickin’ A&&

I’m working on a couple of posts with some exciting developments.  In the meantime let me take a moment or two to update those of you who care to follow along about a recent goal and my progress.

A few weeks back I set a personal goal of getting really “good” at pull-ups.

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Weights and a ball

Thanks to a friend who fabricated an awesome pull-up bar for my back yard I finally had the right tools, so to speak.  The other tools would be my arms, shoulders, and back.  I’ve kind of had them since birth but you know how that goes.

My “progress goal” was to do 25 pull-ups every day in a span covering no more than 5 minutes.

In the first few days I accomplished this goal just barely by doing a set of 5, then resting a minute, then continuing with additional sets until I had hit the magic number.

It was tough going and the subsequent sets (after the first) were of a lesser quality in terms of form and required greater exertion on my part.

But I did it.

Last night – I am happy to say – I knocked out 3 sets of 10 in under 2 minutes!

I include the exclamation point there because this is a HUGE deal for me.  What’s more, each set, in my opinion, saw proper form and was exponentially easier than those weak sets from the first day.  And that was just 3 weeks ago.

I am demonstrably stronger, bigger, and, ironically leaner than I was when I started.  My mom, in town for a few weeks, commented, when she saw me coming in from a workout with my shirt off, that I had bulked up.  I’d like to think mom’s tell the truth more often than not.

At the same time, I am continuing my BodyBeast routine of lifting heavy weights every single day.  I could not be doing that without the help and support of the same friend who made the bar for me.  He’s a good man and I greatly appreciate working out with him.  His friendship is invaluable and the motivation we provide each other is priceless.

I’d like to think this proves the theory I was testing.  If you want to do pull ups, then do pull ups.

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Do MORE pull ups!

By the way, in addition to the 30 pull ups, I’ve been doing more.  See that, another friend (JB) challenged me once to always go father when working out.  Only a minute after finishing the 30 I proceeded to do 15 chin ups (underhand grip, working different muscles) and 15 “scapula pull ups” designed to specifically target the muscles of the upper mid-back.  These last movements actually contribute to being able to do more effective pull ups.

If you’re reading this looking for inspiration, let me know if I’ve helped by dropping a comment.  If you’d like advice on any aspect of this plan, send me a message.

Otherwise, I’ll be back on the bar.

Talking Up the Sisters

Earlier today I drove some Missionaries of Charity nuns to the airport. 
In the half-hour I was in the car on my way to pick them up I wondered where our conversation would take us. These nuns are talkers and I’ve always enjoyed our chats before. 

Well, I must have picked them up in the middle of a Saturday devotion. 

I made my first turn toward the highway and Sister Passenger whipped out her beads. In fairly decent but somewhat broken English she said:

“We pray rosary now.”

Five decades, a chaplet of Divine Mercy, and nine Memorare’s later I had safely returned the remaining nuns to the convent. 

Honestly I’m glad the happy talk took us to prayer. Truly just being in their presence I feel holy. Tack on a whole lotta prayers and, well, I stepped out of my car one foot closer to heaven

Typical Saturday Morning

My precious 7 year-old daughter just came stumbling into my bedroom.  It’s Saturday morning shortly before 8.  I am awake but not terribly so.  She has questions for me.

  • “Daddy, what can I do?”
  • “Daddy, why are you awake?”
  • “Daddy, what is the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow?”

I answer her.

  • “You may watch a little TV this morning since no one else is awake.”
  • “I have to drive some nuns to the airport.”
  • “What do you mean?  An African or a European swallow?”

I’ve been showing them clips from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  I consider it my duty as a dad to enlighten them and help form their senses of humor at the same time.

It’s called Nun-math and it’s awesome.

mother teresa

Could she get any cuter?

Oh, the flying nuns…  Right…  Much love and thanks to my mother-in-law for volunteering me as a driver.  I mean that.  She knows I’m a sucker for the Missionaries of Charity.  For those who do not know; the Missionaries are the nuns founded by Mother Teresa.  They are the most adorable creatures on the planet.  Due to the sanctity of their founder (who IS a saint) the sisters receive an additional grace from God upon final vows.  That is, whatever they ask, people will not be able to say no.  As it turns out, one of the sisters is flying somewhere this morning.  However, they are required per their own rules to travel in groups of two or more.  And so taking one nun to the airport means taking three nuns.  It’s called Nun-math and it’s awesome.  Lest anyone think I’m complaining in a backhanded way, I really do love these women and will do whatever I can to help.

Perhaps I’ll chat them up about the Sally Field series The Flying Nun on the car ride.  They’ve always seemed to enjoy our conversations before.  Wish me luck!

Just Get It Done

I heard someone say once “If you want to write well, simply write.”

The implication is that in order to become a better writer one has to first write anything at all and, more to the point, write a lot. 

Likewise I heard a former Navy SEAL say that when he first joined the Navy he thought he was able to do pull-ups. He was humiliated to discover that the “half-up and half-down” method he was great at wasn’t really a pull-up. “How am I ever going to be a SEAL,” he thought, “if I can’t even do a pull-up?” He discovered what good writers have known for some time. If you want to at least try to be great at something you just have to get it done. In other words, to be good at pull-ups, do pull-ups. 

I just finished 25 in 5 minutes. I’m not satisfied. Some who know me know that I rarely ever am satisfied. I see that as a good thing. These 25 pull-ups? They were in sets of six. See that’s I pushed myself up one from the sets of five I did the other day. But they weren’t great. I admit toward the end I wasn’t going down all the way. But somehow it seems to be coming together. I’m squeezing the right muscles in my back and noticing my forearms working a bit more (taking the strain off my biceps). For those who are interested I watched a YouTube video yesterday on how to improve form. It involves hanging from the bar and just raising one’s head up and down to focus on strengthening the scapula muscles. This is apparently a key to doing phenomenal pull-ups. I did it. Don’t know if it helped or not but it couldn’t hurt. 

Enough about that. I think I’ll try to knock out another 10 before heading inside. Thanks for following along.