Select Page

Chainsaw for sale

Last week we had strong winds, which actually sounds kind of cool and exotic, on top of the hill with tree-tops swaying and leaves rustling to and fro; but, there are consequences.

strong wind+tall, dead tree=big mess for me

 The tree missed the house by two feet, and that’s only because it wasn’t tall enough. Remember the philosophical argument that goes “if a tree falls in the forest, and no one hears if fall…” Well, I heard this one fall, so I guess it really did. It was early morning, and I was laying in bed, listing to the exotic wind-noise, thinking that I’d better get up and get to work when there was a sudden significant sound, kind of like a “ka-CHUNK.” I didn’t say anything to Sue, as I tend to minimize noises in the night, realizing that it was actually morning-time.

“Did you hear that?” She asked.

“Yeah, probably one of the rocking chairs blew over.”

“I don’t know, it sounded louder than that.”

“Yeah, well, I’ll check it out, I have to get up anyway,” I sighed, throwing my legs over the side of the bed, sore ankle and all.

In the bathroom, I looked out the window towards the pond and saw a flower-pot tipped on its side–sure enough, “it was a flower pot,” I yelled into the bedroom.

“Flower-pot…? I don’t think so.”

“Well…surprise, that’s all I see.” I stumbled woodenly over to the sink, revved up my Oral-B ultrasonic toothbrush and started doing the business. As is my habit, I looked out the side window, at the Lord Baltimore’s, in full bloom, and then I saw it. “Holy Shit!”


“It’s a big-ass tree. It almost hit the house.”

She didn’t even say I told you so, even though I deserved it.

Today, being Sunday, and not raining, was my day to dispose of above tree. I hauled out my Husqvarna 55 Rancher, kevlar chaps and gloves, a helmet with ear covers and eye screen, a container of gas mixed with oil (like it’s supposed to be), and a jug of chain-bar oil. It took me half an hour and several F’in-heimers to start the dang thing; and then, it didn’t cut, the automatic break/stop thingy didn’t work, and it smelled like something was burning. It seemed so much more difficult than three or four years ago when I used it last, and it was new. According to my way of thinking; there were two obvious solutions: 1) buy a new chainsaw, or, 2) call an expert.

I chose option number 2.

“Sorry to bother you on a Sunday Andy–thought I’d just be leaving a message,” I explained when he answered.

“No problem. What can I do for you.”

“Well,  one of those dead, standing pines fell down in those winds last week. I know that doesn’t narrow it down much.” There are numerous tall, dead, standing pines around my house. “But, it’s pretty obvious because it’s angled out over my fire pit. I couldn’t get my chain-saw…”

“Uh…Doc; you shouldn’t be using a chain saw,” he interrupted, “you should leave that to me.”

“Yeah, I know, but it seemed like the manly thing to do. I actually got it started, but then things kind of went down hill. Half the time, I can’t start it; and the other half-the-time I do, I’m afraid I’ll cut off my left hand.”

“I’ll take care of it for you,” he said.

“That’d be great.”

Today, two hours ago, I pulled my last chainsaw pull-cord–the motion pretty much identical to the “elbows-out, lawnmower” P-90X, exercise that’s part of ‘Back and Biceps’. As a matter of fact, I would make an excellent ‘chain-saw, pull-cord puller’, but it stops there. Once it’s all vibrating and rattling with it’s jiggling, sharp iron teeth–I’m outa there.

Vanishing Flesh

This is my upcoming contribution to the NWTC newsletter for October:

Don’t you just hate it when someone tells you “I told you so,” knowing full well that you know that they know that they were right. Well, when I wrote The Relativity Diet over three years ago, I placed a great deal of emphasis on resistance training, as a component to weight-loss and a healthy lifestyle; and now that particular issue has become all the rage in the medical community. There is effort afoot to categorize the age-related loss of muscle as a disease. A disease to be known by the name of Sarcopenia, which is a word derived from the Greek words for “vanishing flesh.”

It will become the new Osteoporosis. Everybody knows what osteoporosis is. I can’t remember the last time I reviewed the medication record for an elderly woman and didn’t see some sort of a calcium supplementation, which is a good thing because osteoporosis is bad, and much attention is paid towards it. Most women should have a bone density test at some point; it’s almost as common as a mammogram now. So we agree, having a nice strong skeleton, with thick bones stronger than limbs of oak, is good; but, what good is that nice skeleton you have there if you don’t have good muscles to move it around? People don’t say, my, my… look at that nice skeleton as you collapse breathlessly in your reclining beach chair on a hot summer day at Murphy Park, after a hard mile swim in the bay, your muscles swollen from their effort-induced tumescence; no, they say something more like, wow, look at that six-pack…she must work out.

Vanishing flesh… sounds absolutely ghastly, an appropriate topic for the scary month of Halloween, and if you’re beyond thirty and don’t participate in resistance training, you are already vanishing, maybe not your fat mass, but at least your muscle is. Beyond thirty, the loss of muscle mass is 10% per decade; from 60-70 it accelerates to 15% per decade; and beyond that it’s approximately 30% per decade. Scared yet? Are there goose bumps on your arms? I hope so, because this is important. It has everything to do with countering the deleterious effects of aging and loss of functionality, and quality of life.

I have written that resistance training is not as intuitive as aerobic training. When most people think of exercise, the first thing that comes to mind is walking or jogging or bike riding; all of which are good—for cardiovascular health; but abysmal for maintaining muscle mass. Although sarcopenia is multi-factorial, having causes other than simply lack of resistance training, resistance training is the most important, and identifying and treating any of the other factors is useless without exercise.

So, what are the other factors? There are dietary considerations of course, the most important being an adequate protein intake, which might very well be deficient in older adults. Another factor is the age-related decline in certain hormones such as; Growth Hormone and testosterone. Did you know women need testosterone too? Although they need less, it is as essential to their health as it is for men. There may be a role for nutritional supplements such as; creatine, vit. D, whey protein, acetyl-L-carnitine, glutamine, and potassium bicarbonate.

Now, please don’t rush out and by bottles of all this stuff, you know how I feel about that, if you’ve read my book. The great majority of folks who eat a healthy, balanced diet, as I describe in The Relativity Diet, would be unlike to have any deficiencies, other than hormonal, perhaps. Your doctor can run the appropriate blood tests necessary to diagnose a hormonal deficiency, and if present, Hormonal Replacement Therapy (HRT) can be given consideration.

You and your doctor have been worrying about your skeleton for years, now it’s time to start worrying about your muscles. Although it is easier to prevent sarcopenia that it is to treat it, it is treatable, and it is never too late to start. So, it’s time to get off the couch, pick up a weight or resistance band, and get busy living…and don’t say I didn’t tell you so. 

Still no magic pill

The weight-loss drug, sibutramine (Meridia) was withdrawn from Europe earlier this year because of increased cardiovascular risk associated with it’s use; it is still available in the US. The drug rimonabant (Accomplia) was initially available in Europe, but later withdrawn, and it never did pass muster with the FDA because of an associated risk of  psychiatric problems, including suicide.

New drugs in the pipeline include Anexa and Contrave, which contain active ingredients already available separately (bupropion, naltrexone, phentermine and topiramate; in various combinations of one or more). Early results suggest an 8-14% weight-loss as compared to 2.5% in the control group.

A new drug, tesofensine, which inhibits the re-uptake of neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine, noradrenaline) thereby allowing for their prolonged action, has shown very positive results in the initial clinical trials (twice as effective as current drugs), but has not yet been approved for use.

It is clear from the above that weight-loss medications are an inexact science, with potential, systemic, unintended side effects. Since I wrote “The Relativity Diet” there still is no pharmacological aid of sufficient benefit to warrant its use. I do not think the risk or expense justifies the marginal loss of 6-10% at one year.

It may be, perhaps likely so, that one day a magic pill there will be; but, not yet. It is necessary to default to science and logic, a rather timeless beauty.

Protecting the Garden

There are times my alpha male exerts himself, usually times related to threat of loss of; life, limb, respect, wealth, other things petty, and lastly, threat of harm to the gardens. Like a few years ago, I was admiring the row of tulips along the path in the side garden from the upstairs window of Sue’s sewing room when I spied a rabbit’s sly approach. Like  a shot, I was off. I grabbed my pump-action BB gun, barrel velocity of 770 fps, from my walkin-closet, where it leaned in the corner, nestled behind my dress-shirts on the lower “short-hang” shelf (technical/closet-lingo term). Insane as I was, filled with anger and indignation for the wild beast threatening my defenseless tulips, I rushed outside, sighted down the long barrel at the center of mass of soft gray fur, and gently squeezed my finger between breaths, just as I was trained at Ft. Leonardwood, Missourie many years ago. The tulip stem in Mr. Rabbit’s padded paw slipped free, unmolested, as the perpretrator slumped gently to the ground. Then Mr. Rabbit raised himself on two wobbly front legs and pulled himself forward, towards the cover of the low brush at the edge of the forest, his useless haunches creating shallow twin furrows in the dry topsoil. As quickly as it came, the insanity was gone, replaced with remorse and regret for the role I played in the termination of one of God’s creatures. I quickly dispatched Mr. Rabbit with a second round, deflated, thinking where’s the honor in this.

The passage of time was such that when my beautiful wife screamed for help, my damsel in distress, the memory of Mr. Rabbit had receeded enough that my alpha maleness reared his rage-filled head once again; yesterday, as I pulled in the driveway, returning from the saltmine still dressed all in blue. Sue ran from the front yard, pointing towards the stone bridge of our front walk. “Help, save me,” I think she said.

“What is it,” I tersely replied, goosebumps rippling across my skin. I was taut, my muscles tumescent, engorged with anticipated action as I leapt from my truck, alighting on the black top in a lithe crouch, or at least as lithe as my recently-healed left trimalleolar ankle fracture would allow.

“I was planting some seedum along the edges of the rain garden, and thought that,” she pointed towards a cavernous opening where the poured concrete of the bridge support met the ground, “would be the perfect place for some Creeping Jenny.” Sue shivered, “I think I saw something nasty.”

I stared towards the ominous blackness, looking for movement, or the glint of beady eyes, but the opaque emptiness lay before us, unbroken, in the overcast light of Labor Day.

“I think we can flood it out with the garden hose,” she said.

“I’ll go get my guns.”

In addition to my BB gun of previous aquaintance, I had acquired a single-pump, pellet gun, muzzle velocity 1200 FPS, sporting a scope with an eyepiece about the size of a silver dollar. By the time I came out with my rifles, cocked and loaded, Sue had stretched the garden hose around the front of he hose, with enough slack for me to position it inside the mouth of the liar of whichever wild beast it was that was violating our garden; especially our water garden, as Sue has counted only eight fish, having started the year with eleven.

It was drizzling slightly. Sue watched from behind the picture window in the dining room. I sat on an overturned, five gallon pail, sighting down my more familiar BB gun. Behind me, the small garage door was open, in the event the beast was a bobcat, or other large, viscious animal, immune to the mere mass of a 2mm BB traveling far less than the speed of sound.

“See anything?”

“Not yet.”

To be continued: