New Toy: Concertina

Last Saturday, Holly and I had some time to kill and stopped by a local music store that specializes in used instruments.  While I was browsing the used guitar section  (I don’t really NEED a new guitar, but….)  I heard Holly call out, from across the store  “Rick…come check this out”.

I assumed she’s stumbled upon a really cool old fiddle,  so I went over, and there it was…a beautiful, red Concertina.

Red Ctina

The concertina has a fascinating history, and was developed in Germany.  It was one of those instruments that was designed to bring music to the common people…small, portable, and inexpensive.  Much like the American dulcimer, it’s use is primarily in folk music.

This particular concertina was made in Italy, and is an Anglo version, as opposed to the English version.  In the English concertina, whether you push or pull, you get the same note.  In the Angle version, you get one note when you pull, another when you push.  You get much greater versatility, but it does make it a bit more difficult to play.

As I mentioned, it’s used on lots of different types of folk music, but my two favorites are traditional American cowboy music, and Celtic music.  I stumbled upon this reel  (which I’d never heard before) and I’ll leave you with this as a taste of what this little instrument can do.


My biggest challenge so far

After getting started, logging everything, getting my exercise in, my biggest challenge is a huge surprise to me.
I thought it might be sodium.  Nope, it’s turning out not to be a big deal.  There are a couple of days I’ve barely gone over, but not by much.  Watching it is pretty easy, especially if I stay away from processed foods.
I also thought it might be sugar.  Nope.  Although…I’ve never really had much of a sweet tooth, I realized there is often a lot of sugar in processed foods.  Again, staying under isn’t an issue for me, although I thought it might be.
It’s eating enough calories.  You read that right…I’m struggling to get enough calories in.  The combination of eating smart and moving has made me, at times, struggle with eating enough calories.  Adding a lot of water to that, it also makes me feel full all the time.  Fruits, veggies, non processed foods, and lean meats just don’t have the calories of what I was eating before.
It’s also made me realize how many “empty” calories I must have been eating to put all this weight back on.   It’s made me realize, in addition, that I need to plan my days better so that at 9PM I don’t realize I have several hundred calories left.  I’ve taken to eating about 1/2 of my exercise calories back instead of all of them, and that seems to be working well.  I’ll re-evaluate that in a couple of weeks and see if I need to re-evaluate again.
I’m curious…what’s your biggest challenge?

My Experience with Planet Fitness

Planet Fitness

I’m seeing a fair amount of hate for Planet Fitness, and I don’t get it.  Although your mileage may vary, my experience with them has been overwhelmingly positive.

Back in the day, when I was much younger, slimmer, and active, there really were no exercise machines.  Pretty much, it was free weights, calesithenics, and running or biking.  (This was back in the 70′s, when dinosaurs roamed the earth)

One of the reasons I was intimidated by joining a gym was because of all the changes in exercise technology.  Weights, routines, gym culture, and more. But a PF opened just over 5 minutes from my house, and I decided it was now or never.  And, with my age and health….that’s a pretty accurate statement.

I have to say, I was made to feel welcome from the moment I stepped in the door.  The staff is friendly and professional yet casual.  The trainer  (who I had a free session with) was patient and thorough, and had me set up on a nice routine of strength and cardio workouts.  Each morning when I walk in, I get a friendly greeting, and each morning, after my workout, when I leave, a get a friendly “see you next time”.

Although I’ve only been at this a short time, I already see improvements.  I’m sleeping better, I feel better, and I’m paying MUCH more attention to what I eat.

Although a lot of folks may gripe about PF, and, for them, those gripes are valid.  For me, it’s a no brainer….it’s helping me make small improvements in my life, on a daily basis.  Thanks, Planet Fitness!

My first workout in 60 years


That’s true.  It’s my first real workout in 60 years.

That may be a bit of a misnomer.  I’ve done a lot of cycling, hiking, and other things in my 60 years on this spinning ball, but I’ve never met with a professional to work out a plan to get healthy again.

I’ve got a plan to alternate workouts between strength training and cardio training.  My initial goals are weight loss and better general overall health with an aim towards doing a lot more cycling this summer.  An added benefit is that as the weight comes off, my ankle and knees will become less painful when I walk, and I can enjoy that more.

This morning was my first strength training workout, 45 minutes of circuit training.  To say I’m exhausted is an understatement, but I’m happy and I feel like I’ve accomplished something  early on a Monday morning!

I SELDOM get intimidated, but…



I’ve been fortunate enough to experience a lot of things in my life.  I’ve white water rafted, hiked wilderness, flown airplanes,  driven Route 66, traveled the USA, lived for a bit in Europe, and much more.

But, at 60 years old, last night I did something I’d never done in my life.  I stepped into a gym.  For the very first time.

I seldom get intimidated, but I must admit.  I pulled up into the parking lot, and had to set and gather my thoughts for a few minutes.  I found myself making up excuses to not go in…I’m too old, I’m too fat, I don’t have time, the list goes on and on.

But, I took a deep breath, and went inside, fully expecting to see a room full of jocks working out.

Instead, I saw a group of people, some much younger than myself, and, much to my surprise, some much older.  Tall people, short people, of all shapes and sizes.  Some were on a treadmill, some on a bike, some stretching, and, much to my surprise, all were having a good time.

I chose Planet Fitness, at first, solely for convenience…it’s close enough to home that I can ride my bike up there.  It just so happens their slogan is they’re a “no judgement zone” and that was evident from the minute I walked through the door.  From the folks at the counter to Brandon, my trainer, they immediately put me at ease.  I spent an hour or so with him, and now have a program to get me back on the track to health.

All in all, it was a very positive experience.  It feels good to be taking some positive steps for my own good!

After a couple weeks with the Yaesu VX8DR


After a couple of weeks with the VX8DR, I’ve had some time to play with it, get used to it, and post more complete thoughts on it.

Make no  mistake about it, this little radio does a LOT.  2 meters, 440, 220, and 6 meters.   It’s also got basically a general coverage receiver built in, plus it does APRS.  Like any piece of equipment, there are pros and cons to it.

One of the pros, I found it surprisingly easy to program.  I’ve read online that some folks have a hard time programming it by hand, but I’ve had no issues.  Perhaps that’s because I’ve owned several Yaesu/Vertex radios, so I’m familiar with their programming protocol.  If this were to be your first Yaesu radio, I can see how programming would seem a daunting task.  Once I got the knack..which didn’t take long at all, I was able to quickly program it by hand.

I don’t have large hands, but you can see even with the extended life battery pack installed, it fits nicely in the palm of my hand.  Not only that, it just feels “solid”.  So many of the smaller HT’s feel cheap and light to me, but that’s not the case with this one.

Although I’ve not put it on a wattmeter, and this isn’t a technical test, I’m able to hit all the repeaters I expect to hit, with good audio reports.  Transmit range doesn’t seem to be any worse or better than any other HT I’ve owned.  Transmitted audio quality is crisp and clear.

One of the cons is the receive audio.  It’s very low, which can often be expected with many micro HT’s.  It’s fine in a quiet environment, like at home, but outdoors or driving in the car it can be problematic.  I’m glad I’ve got the speaker mic, that helps with that issue a lot.

Battery life is what I’d call outstanding.  I can beacon on APRS all day, and have a few short conversations, and still have plenty of battery life left in the evening.  I do have a spare battery pack, and, as with any HT, I’d recommend that if you’re going to be out in the field a lot with it.

I’ve barely scratched the APRS part of it, so I’ll save that for a later review.  All in all, I’m very happy with it, and if you’re looking to purchase one of the higher end HT’s, I’d recommend giving this a look.

It’s time for a change

It’s time for me to make a substantial lifestyle change.  And substantial changes aren’t new to me, after a battle with substance abuse, a tough childhood, and more.  By all means, I probably shouldn’t be here today, but I am, and I suppose there’s a reason for it…more than just dumb luck.
A long time ago, in what seems another life , I had great success with Weight Watchers, loosing well over 50 pounds and keeping it off for a long time.  But, the constant changes to the program wore on me…it seemed like they were FOREVER changing and, honestly….I’m not much of a fan of change, simply for changes sake.
But I’ve got to the point where my weight is seriously affecting  (or is it effecting?  Heck, I hardly EVER get that right) and it’s beyond time to do something about it.
I’ve already made some changes, in preparation for this.  I joined a gym…for the very first time in my life, at 60 years of age.  I know myself well enough to know that if I’m paying for the membership, I’ll use it.
I’ve always really enjoyed bicycling, so I signed up for the 30 days of bicycling challenge.  I DO love a good challenge, and this one is easily attainable for me, because there is no distance requirement.  Simply get on your bike  (or stationary bike, if the weather is bad) and ride, every.  It really doesn’t matter how far, or how long.  Just get on and ride.
I’m a huge believer that this is simple.  Eat smarter, move more.  And keep putting one foot in front of the other.   It’s not about the end…it’s about day at a time.  And the change will come.