John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Think Fast!

Think fast!

I have to do this a lot –thinking fast. Mostly when I get myself in a jam because I am thinking slowly. Or not thinking at all.

jyb_musingsI was behind a young couple at Starbucks today and ordered a grande, or medium, coffee (“grande”must be how they say “medium” in Seattle, where Starbucks started).

We were the only ones in the store but they took my name anyway which demonstrates the extra pains Starbucks takes to make sure no customer gets another customer’s coffee order. I sometimes think Starbucks is more careful about customers getting the right coffee order than some hospitals are about patients getting the right medical treatment. But the point is it didn’t appear like there was going to be any coffee order confusion involving our two orders.

But that is where my thinking slowly or not at all comes into play. I was in a hurry and when the Barista set out a small (or “tall” as they say in Seattle) coffee drink for pick up, I ran over and grabbed it and took it to the condiment stand. I opened the drink and saw caramel drizzle and frothed milk on top instead of plain coffee which is all I had ordered.

I looked up at the barista hoping she would have my back and take the blame but all she did was say in a judgemental tone, “That is not yours, sir.” Weird because I had just given her my first name but she still called me “sir.” Maybe they only use first names in relation to coffee orders in Seattle.

Anyway, I apologized to the Barista and quickly tried putting the lid back on. I looked at the couple who had been in line with me to see if they noticed. The man, a very tall and stout man, noticed. And said it was his. I had to think fast to smooth things over.

I smiled self-deprecatingly and said, “I promise I didn’t touch your drink. Just took the top off and glanced at it and put the top back on. Just think of me as an extra Starbucks Barista overseeing quality control.”

He laughed reluctantly and I exhaled impressed by my quick thinking to help smooth over an awkward situation.

But I could tell the guy hadn’t entirely let go of his irritation with me for opening his coffee drink. We both stood and waited in awkard silence for his girlfriend’s coffee or mine.

I thought to myself, “Caramel drizzle? That’s a pretty “girly drink” for such a husky and angry guy. He’s should be glad I didn’t out him to others about ordering such a foo-foo drink.” But he wasn’t having the same thought. I could tell.

Finally they handed me my coffee drink. Hand to hand. The Barista was leaving nothing to chance this time. I looked at the guy and said, “You can open it if you want? It’s the least I can do.” He smiled in a strained way and said, “I just might take you up on that.”

The thought of him opening my coffee drink bothered me. I realized now why it bothered him so much when I took the top off his drink. There was a pause. Then he just walked away and didn’t say anything as he left. I breathed a sigh of relief because I felt him touching my drink was somehow different from me touching his drink. More wrong and unacceptable somehow. But I couldn’t put my finger on why I thought that. Then it occurred to me. He was never willing to pretend to be a Starbucks Barista overseeing quality control. And I was.

Julie Rath: This Versatile Wardrobe Item May Surprise You

Just because you’re not a cowboy, doesn’t mean you should ignore the denim shirt. Sure, you can wear a denim shirt on the ranch, but you can also wear it to the office, on a date, out for dinner – just about anywhere. How rugged vs. fine the material is dictates how dressy you can take it. Also, dark rinses read fancier than light ones.

Here are 4 ways to wear a denim shirt in order from casual to dressy:

men's style: denim shirt1) Weathered with pockets. Wear a different shade of denim on bottom for the optimal Canadian tuxedo. If you need help with the “downstairs” portion of the look, here’s my primer on how to find flattering jeans.

men's style tips: denim shirt2) Half-buttoned over a v-neck or henley (tucked or not; only tuck in if you can do so without it looking sloppy). Try a jean-style chino or corduroy on bottom.

men's style advice: denim shirt3) Medium to dark wash with dress pants. Throw on a fun belt to add personality to the look.

men's style advice: denim shirt4) Dark rinse with suit and tie. For continuity, your tie should be textured, like a knit, cotton, wool or cashmere (a dressy silk won’t look right on denim). The dark buttons on this shirt make it dressier than the previous three.

Pulling off the denim shirt can be tricky, and you may not have felt confident going there in the past. But hopefully these outfit ideas inspire you to give it a shot. Denim shirts are an excellent way to add versatility to your wardrobe, and it’s a shame not to do it just because you don’t know how to pull it off. Try it, and let me know how you do!

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Parking Lots

jyb_musingsWhen you are in a parking lot and not paying attention when going to your car and the car parked next to you looks like your car, it is easy to walk up and try to open the door of the wrong car.

When that happens, of course, the door stays locked, you immediately realize your mistake and you have a good laugh at yourself.

But tonight I took it to the next level. Coming out of a Thortons I lackadaisically wandered over to the wrong silver sedan in the parking lot and tried to open the driver’s door. And did. The door not only opened but the driver was still sitting in the car and was talking on his cell phone.

In fact, he tried to hold his door shut when I opened it and shouted at me, “I’m still in the car. This is somebody else’s car.”

And, just like when there isn’t a driver still in the car, I immediately realized my mistake and had a good laugh at myself. And the driver still in his car had a good laugh at me too.

Josh Bowen: I Can’t Squat

joshIf there are any trainers that read my rants you can sympathize with me on the following statement made by a client, “My doctor told me not to squat.”

Oh he did, did he? Well isn’t that great, what in the world am I going to do to strengthen your legs?

Hold up!

Do me a favor and get up and down from that chair. So you know what I am getting at. There are some uneducated people out there that tell patients to stay away from certain activities, not realizing that those activities could potentially help the situation.

I’ve incurred this situation several times in the 11 years I have been a trainer, nothing surprises me. The squat is the most basic, primal movement that humans do. We squat when we get in and out of a car, we squat when we get up and down from a chair and when we have to go to the bathroom (#2 for men and always for women) we squat.

So how on earth could someone tell me that I can’t squat? Most doctors are not as educated on fitness and it impacts the body, so its easy to tell people what to stay away from. If you have a bum knee its probably not wise to load a bar up with 300 lbs and go at it. But what doesn’t make sense is why you wouldn’t perform the movement at all, without weight.

Have you ever looked a baby and how they sit back on their heels and drop their butt to the floor in a full squat? The point I am trying to get at is humans were meant to squat, in some shape, form, or fashion. It’s true so you cannot argue!

So how does squatting benefit me if I have knee problems? Well let’s first look at your “knee problems.” More often than not (general statement here) the problem is not your knee. Huh? Yes, the problem often stems your ankle or your hip causing the pain to occur in and around the knee capsule. This is called “site VS source.” The site is not always the source of the problem. So if you have hip issues or ankle issues, proper squat technique can actually realign the body to its correct movement pattern. Also becoming more flexible in the hip flexor and hamstring area will help as well.

Here are the benefits of proper squatting (body weight progressing to weighted):

  1. Neuromuscular coordination Squatting (weighted or bodyweight) will train the brain and the muscles to work in harmony. If you have trouble squatting correctly place a box or bench behind you and sit back and touch and explode up.
  2. Lower Body Strength No exercise (no exercise!) builds strength better than squatting. Everyone needs strength, whether you are a stay at home mom or a professional athlete, our lives demand a certain amount of strength.
  3. Injury Prevention/Rehabilitation To prevent injuries you must make sure the body can handle and create force. Squatting allows the body to build muscle and strength required of everyday life. Also, allows the body to become flexible in the lower extremities (cause of a lot of injuries).
  4. Squatting Makes You Look Great Naked I call it like I see it. Move for move, exercise for exercise, if you had to pick one to do the squat would be it. The sheer amount of muscles that is used during the squat is enormous, thus the caloric expenditure is magnified. This burns body fat and helps build muscles. Plain and simple.

 

So, in conclusion if your doctor tells you not to squat or advises you against the resistance training, please take the facts and apply it to logic. Squatting is a must for anyone including those who want to be fit.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Positive Self Talk

jyb_musingsThis morning as I walked briskly from the parking lot to my first meeting I saw my reflection in a store window and thought to myself,

“I may be 51 but I have the gait of a 40 year old. Bam!”

===

When I see a guy wearing a “slim fit” shirt I know it is because he is genuinely slim. (I also know that I probably won’t like him and definitely don’t trust him.)

But when a guy wearing a “slim fit” shirt looks at a guy wearing a “classic fit” shirt, I wonder if he knows that “classic fit” is really just a euphemism for “out-of-shape and portly?” And if so, is feeling sorry for us and knowing we are not a threat part of the reason slim-fit guys seem inclined to like and trust us?

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I have just finished going off a medication and suffering withdrawals that no woman should ever have to endure. And that many men shouldn’t ever have to endure either. And I am in that group of men.

Lauren Mayer: Celebrating Fox News – No, Really!

Left-leaning satirists have always had an interesting relationship with right-wing media like Fox News.  On the one hand, as liberals we are often dismayed by the partisan tone of their coverage, just as I’m sure conservatives are irked by MSNBC.  On the other hand, as satirists, we are truly grateful for the endless inspiration- face it, Stephen Colbert’s entire persona for his recently ended show was mocking the typical Fox News blowhard anchor, and anytime The Daily Show or Rachel Maddow wants to call out right-wing hypocrisy or inconsistency, there is almost always a clip from one of the Fox hosts to make their point.  And not that I put myself in the same league as those illustrious figures – oh hell, why not?   Writing a weekly song can be difficult enough, but the hardest part is finding a topic – that is, until Fox comes up with yet another colorful turn of phrase or oddball guest “expert.”

However, in all the months I’ve been doing these songs, I never thought I’d see Fox back down from one of their way-out-there-but-easily-debunked claims.  So last week’s apology/retraction of the Muslim ‘no-go-zones’ story deserved a unique musical celebration:

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: The Aging Optimist

jyb_musingsI have a feeling today is going to be a great day. But don’t know what it is that is going to be great today in my life.

But since I am in my 50s and won’t be able to remember tomorrow whatever great thing happened in my life today, I am OK with not needing to know specifics about today’s great things that I feel are going to happen.

I am content just knowing today is going to be a great day. Involving something. I just don’t know what and, even if I did, I wouldn’t remember it anyway. But because of my “can do attitude” that won’t stop me from being an optimist.

Erica and Matt Chua: He Said/She Said: Travel Lessons Revisited

lmost a year ago we wrote about the lessons we’ve learned from travel.  After five more countries as diverse as Australia and Nepal here are the things we think we know.

HE SAID…

Arriving in India from the developed world highlighted the contrasts and taught me more than if I had arrived from another developing culture.  Moving from some of the most functional democracies in the world, Australia and Singapore, to arguably the world’s least, India and Nepal, showed me that good governance is the difference.  These are the most important lessons I’ve learned in the past year.

  • Government services and infrastructure matter. I said this last year after enjoying the epic infrastructure of China, Japan and South Korea.  Seeing perfectly functioning societies with huge infrastructure investment isn’t nearly as powerful as seeing countries without it.  India and Nepal don’t have trash collection, reliable electricity, water or roads.  Without focusing on providing these services and projects the countries will never advance.

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A Chinese bullet train station above versus an Indian train station below.  China’s investment in transportation will pay dividends for generations…

  • Justice must be blind. Laws and legal decisions must be made in the name of justice, not family name, bribes, or to gain favor.  If everyone doesn’t have to play by the same rules, a country cannot fully develop as those that are disenfranchised have no incentive to innovate and create.  While the riches will accrue to the few that aren’t bound by laws, the society as a whole won’t benefit.  You can see this in Mexico and India, home to some of the world’s richest people, surrounded by some of the poorest.
  • It’s a big world out there. Entering our third year of consecutive travel we have barely scratched the surface of seeing how people live, interact and make a life.  While there are PhD’s that have super-specialized knowledge on cultures and people, traveling is still the best way to get a sampling of what makes us all different and similar at the same time.

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Erica and Matt Chua: He Said/She Said: Travel Lessons Revisited

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: What does Walgreens know about me that I don’t know?

jyb_musingsI love Walgreens. Don’t get me wrong.

But the “Be well” mantra from every Walgreen’s employee at the end of each verbal exchange is making me more than a little paranoid. And has me wondering what is wrong with me that the Walgreens employees know and aren’t being straightforward about with me.

I went to Walgreens today to buy some vitamins and toiletries. The sales clerk who helped me was very helpful and as I walked away she said sincerely “Be well.” I took it as a kind of encouraging “atta boy.” It seemed like a natural –if somewhat meddlesome—thing to say to me. After all, she had helped me find vitamins that will make me healthier or “weller,” in the Walgreens parlance.

But before leaving Walgreens I looked at some phone chargers for my phone and the sales clerk who helped me told me that didn’t carry what I was looking for. I thanked him and he, too, told me to “Be well.” He said it in a more concerned tone and almost knowing manner. I thought that was odd and, frankly, it scared me a little. I don’t know him personally and I was just looking for a phone charger –not something that affected my health. Had he talked to the sales clerk who helped me with the vitamins? Did he know I was taking a vitamin supplement because I worried my diet wasn’t sufficient? Or was he just repeating a catch phrase he was told to say to every customer and was only pretending to be deeply concerned about my health (and, presumably, my phone charger situation)?

As I walked to the check-out counter I wondered if Walgreens had somehow gotten involved with the Church of Scientology. I remember meeting some members of the Church of Scientology years ago and they seemed “programmed” and had certain buzz words they used as they encouraged me to do a personal “audit” within the Dianetics program. Interacting with Walgreens employees is always pleasant. In fact,a little too pleasant. Almost robotic And every conversation ends with the same mechanical “Be well” farewell and hope that my health (physical, mental and emotional health?) will somehow improve. But it isn’t clear what they are really saying to me. Do they know something about my health failing that I am not aware of? Or maybe Walgreens employees are using this hypnotic “Be well” chant to “guide me” to a better level of “being” within the Dianetics framework of personal growth.

I thought to myself I could easily see Tom Cruise and John Travolta shopping at Walgreens instead of Rite Aid. Why didn’t this occur to me earlier?

As I checked out and tried to pay the sales clerk, he asked me if I was a “Balance Rewards Member.” I said I didn’t know what that meant. I figured it must be one of the levels of Scientology but didn’t say anything. I gave the sales clerk my phone number as requested and he told me I was at the “Balance Rewards” level. As I watched him type in my phone number all sorts of data about me was processing before his eyes.

I was informed I had reached a level of 27,000 points. I couldn’t tell if that was good news for me –or if perhaps it meant my health was in jeopardy. As I took my bag and walked away the cashier, who was a thoughtful and quiet man, he kept staring at the floor and muttered to me against his will to “Be well.”

Obviously he didn’t mean it and was saying it merely as part of some Scientology “group speak” based on all the information he had about me. I think he knew I wasn’t going to make it. I turned back to him and motioned toward the vitamins I had purchased. I wanted him to know I was at least trying. But he said nothing. Not even “Be well.” again or “Hang in there. You can still make it.” Just silence. What else could I conclude except he knew I didn’t have much longer to live and that he was just trying to let me down easy by not being more direct and specific?

I left Walgreens with my vitamins and toiletries. But when I got home I felt like it was pointless to even start taking the vitamins. My fate was sealed and based on my interactions with Walgreens employees, I figured it was time for me to get my affairs in order.

Who knew that the Walgreens employees and their creepy and overly solicitous “Be well” comments would convince me to update my will and to start making peace with the fact that my days are numbered? I just needed a multi-vitamin and some shaving toiletries. Geez!

I wonder if I should try going to CVS for a second opinion?

Saul Kaplan: The Kids’ Table

Do you remember being stuck at the kids’ table for Thanksgiving dinner growing up? I do. There were always too many of us to all sit around one dinner table, so we had a secondary table off to the side, sometimes even in a separate room, to which the younger generation was relegated. I remember asking every year if I would be able to sit with the grownups. The conversation at their table ranged from sports to politics to family gossip, and whatever the topic it was always more animated and intense. I know why now: it’s because adults love to talk about the state of their world and how it should get better. But what an irony: those of us with the biggest stake in the future-the kids-were not even hearing the conversation. Back then, all I understood was that the main table was where the action seemed to be, and I wanted in.

These days, I do get to sit at some main tables, but I try to stay mindful of whose voices aren’t being heard there-particularly when they are young and presumed not to have anything to add. I feel this most acutely in the debates around education reform. We keep kids off to the side while the adults talk and talk and talk about how to improve student experience and outcomes. And there’s another similarity to Thanksgiving meals: a lot of loud conversation and not much action! The talk at the grownup table never stops, yet year after year the education system in the US continues to atrophy and our students fall further behind the global curve. Every 29 seconds in America another student gives up on school, adding up to nearly a million high school dropouts a year.

Saul KaplanWhat if we put students at the center of the education innovation conversation? Could we get past our suspicion that they would make ignorant or irresponsible suggestions, and tap into what they know better than any of us: what works for them as learners? If we engaged kids in the problems facing schools, and gave them access to design tools, they might imagine a learning experience they would be more likely to engage in and commit to. What if we didn’t stick our youth at the kid’s table?

The notion of bringing kids into the conversation about what serves them best is beginning to take hold in various quarters. Ellen Galinsky did it in the midst of a cultural debate on whether children were better or worse off when their mothers entered the workforce. The audacious approach of her study became the title of her book Ask The Children. Architects who design the places where kids spend their time are doing more asking, too. Check out, for instance, these photos of the Erika-Mann Grundschule II in Amsterdam. “The school’s recently revamped environment is amazing,” wrote one commentator, “perhaps not surprisingly as it was designed by the kids themselves ….”

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Saul Kaplan: The Kids’ Table

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