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My first Nordic walking formal lesson: What I learned

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The problem with self-taught practitioners is that they virtually always fall into common errors: the self-taught swimmer who keeps his or her head out of the water, the self-taught right-handed golfer who bends his/her left arm in the swing, and so on.

Unfortunately, many very important skills are self taught and most people never get professional help to enable them to correct the common errors that they have adopted. That’s the value of a good coach: not in improving your performance to world-class levels, but in correction the obvious (to the coach) common errors that degrade your performance—and correcting those errors can immediately and significantly make a dramatic improvement.

Important skills that commonly are self-taught (and thus prone to common and easily correctable errors) include decision-making, or negotiation; listening, or study skills; task and time management; and so on. (Some of these skills are analyzed and discussed in books found in this list; others yield to a good search engine.)

Today, I—a self-taught Nordic walking enthusiast—went for my first formal lesson. I learned a lot I would not have known. Some examples:

Arm swing: arms are not bent in the swing, but swing from the shoulders like pendula. Bending the arm leads to pushing too directly down on the poles, whereas the correct push is back as well as down, with perhaps an emphasis on the “back.”

Moreover, the arms’ swing is not symmetric, but skews more toward the back. At the back of the swing, your arms are well behind you. The instructor said to imagine that you’re in an elevator and reaching behind you to push your hands against the wall: back like that. The “push against the wall” is the finishing thrust back (and somewhat down) against the pole. If you push back firmly, the swing will find its own range, the forward part of the swing bringing the arm more or less in line with the leg or slightly in front. If you can see your arm in your peripheral vision (you’re looking toward the horizon with head erect), then the arm is swinging too far forward. Focus again on pushing your hand against the back wall of the elevator, and keep your arms close to straight (not rigid, but relaxed). The backward push comes from the upper back and shoulders and is transmitted through the glove to the pole.

She also covered walking pace (find your own most comfortable pace) and how to grip the poles (gentle firmness with thumb and forefinger straight, other fingers not involved) and how to exert pressure (downward on the glove, not on the handle).

The instructor also made an interesting point: some activities consist of repetitive actions: swimming, rowing, Nordic walking, etc. In repetitive-action activities, refining technique is very important. Since the action is repeated over and over, it is important that it is done exactly right: the effects of imperfect technique are amplified by repetition. So I definitely will take a few more lessons, and if you have access to a certified Nordic walking instructor, I recommend that you take some lessons as well. You at least can use the information in this post to avoid the most egregious errors, but I imagine I have just scratched the surface. I do think tomorrow’s walk will be much more interesting with better arm movement (which also involves more muscles in upper back).

I continue to recommend Nordic walking highly. Here are some relevant links. And for those who live in or near Victoria, check out

This histogram shows my walking activity for the past 7 days. Note the lesson day (most recent).

UPDATE: The first day following the lesson described above, I applied what I learned. I noticed that my upper body was more relaxed and the effort expended seemed less, presumably because I was employing larger and/or more muscles than I was using with my improper technique. Good technique is in general more efficient (getting more done with less effort) than poor technique—that’s why they call it “good.” 🙂


Written by LeisureGuy

16 July 2018 at 6:50 pm

Senate panel upholds finding that Russia backed Trump

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John Bowden reports in The Hill:

The Senate Intelligence Committee has unequivocally upheld the conclusion of the intelligence community that Russia developed a “clear preference” for then-candidate Donald Trump in the 2016 election and sought to help him win the White House.

The assessment, announced in an unclassified summary released Tuesday, represents a direct repudiation of the committee’s counterpart in the House – and of President Trump himself, who has consistently rejected assertions that Moscow sought to bolster his candidacy.

“The Committee has spent the last 16 months reviewing the sources, tradecraft and analytic work underpinning the Intelligence Community Assessment and sees no reason to dispute the conclusions,” said Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said in a statement .

The so-called “intelligence community assessment,” or ICA, is a “sound intelligence production,” according the Senate panel.

“A body of reporting, to include different intelligence disciplines, open source reporting on Russian leadership policy preferences, and Russian media content, showed that Moscow sought to denigrate Secretary Clinton,” the unclassified summary reads.

The ICA relied not only on public Russian leadership commentary and state media reports, but also “a body of intelligence reporting to support the assessment that Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for Trump,” the committee found.

Senate investigators also rejected the notion that the ICA was inappropriately influenced by politics, as some of Trump’s supporters have alleged.

The committee says it reviewed “thousands of pages of source documents” and interviewed all the relevant officials who were involved in developing the ICA, from agency heads and managers to line analysts-and “heard consistently that analysts were under no politically motivated pressure to reach any conclusions.”

A subtle difference in confidence between the NSA and the CIA and FBI on the assessment that Russian President Vladimir Putin wanted to help Trump’s election chances “appropriately represents analytic differences and was reached in a professional and transparent manner,” the Senate panel found.

In yet another contradiction to Trump allies claims, the Senate panel also found that a piece of Democratic-funded opposition research known as the Steele dossier did not “in any way the analysis in the ICA – including the key findings.”

This was “because it was unverified information and had not been disseminated as serialized intelligence reporting,” the Senate report found.

All in all, the Senate panel’s report was a unflinching contradiction of many of the core claims made by Trump allies in the House.

The House Intelligence Committee in March released their report into 2016 election meddling, finding that the small group of intelligence officials who made the assessment in January 2017 did not meet the appropriate evidentiary standard to make that judgment with such certainty.

The House committee declined to make an assessment about whether the intelligence community’s underlying claim – that Putin developed a clear preference for Trump – was correct, one of the GOP members leading that probe said at the time. What the panel has taken issue with, according to Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), is “how they came to it and the underlying documents they used.”

The Senate committee is still in the process of preparing the classified report detailing its conclusions about the ICA, which when completed will go through a classification review with an eye towards making a version public. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 July 2018 at 2:08 pm

Girlfriend from Hell: Clarinetist discovers his ex-girlfriend faked a rejection letter from his dream school

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Unfortunately believable. Samantha Schmidt reports in the Washington Post:

Eric Abramovitz was 7 years old when he first learned to play the clarinet. By the time he was 20, the Montreal native had become an award-winning clarinetist, studying with some of Canada’s most elite teachers and performing a solo with Quebec’s finest symphony orchestra.

During his second year studying at McGill University, he decided to apply to the world-class Colburn Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles, which offers every student a scholarship covering tuition, room and board, and living expenses. He hoped to study under Yehuda Gilad, an internationally renowned clarinet professor who accepts only two new students per year at Colburn.

Abramovitz spent hours every night practicing, he said in an interview with The Washington Post. And after his live audition in Los Angeles in February 2014, he was confident that he would be accepted.

Weeks later, he opened an email signed by Gilad and letting him know he had not been selected for the program. He was crushed. Abramovitz ended up finishing his bachelor’s degree at McGill, delaying his professional musical career.

“I just invested so much,” Abramovitz said. “I gave it all I had.”

But two years later, Abramovitz would find out that he was, in fact, accepted to the program. The letter was sent not by Gilad but by Abramovitz’s girlfriend, a flute student at McGill who had spent night after night consoling him about the rejection, Abramovitz said.

The girlfriend had logged onto his email account and deleted his acceptance letter to Colburn, Abramovitz said. She impersonated Abramovitz in an email to Gilad, declining the offer because he would be “elsewhere.” Then she impersonated Gilad through a fake email address, telling Abramovitz he had not been accepted, according to Abramovitz.

Abramovitz suspects it was a scheme to ensure that he wouldn’t move away. Or perhaps, he wonders, was the girlfriend jealous?

On Wednesday, a judge in Ontario Superior Court awarded Abramovitz $350,000 in damages in Canadian dollars (more than $260,000 U.S. dollars) caused by his girlfriend’s “reprehensible betrayal of trust” and “despicable interference in Mr Abramovitz’s career,” the judge, D.L. Corbett, wrote.

Not only did Abramovitz suffer a loss of income and a delayed education, but he also had a “closely held personal dream snatched from him by a person he trusted,” the judge wrote.

In 2016, about two years after he thought he was rejected by Gilad, Abramovitz applied once more to study with the renowned professor.

Gilad remembered Abramovitz. And after his audition, Gilad asked him a perplexing question: “What are you doing here? You rejected me. ”

“Clearly something must have gone wrong,” Abramovitz said he thought then. At first, Abramovitz thought he could have been deceived by a “computer-savvy clarinetist out there who wanted my demise.”

By this point, he and his girlfriend had already been broken up for more than a year. Even so, it did not occur to him that she could be responsible for impersonating him. “I never would’ve even considered that the person I trusted the most would have done something like this to me.”

But then one of his friends suggested the possibility that his ex-girlfriend could be responsible. After all, when they dated, Abramovitz essentially lived with her, leaving his computer easily accessible to her. She knew his passwords and could have easily logged on to his email.

In May 2016, Abramovitz and his friend tried logging on to the email account that sent the fake rejection letter, Abramovitz remembered an old password the ex-girlfriend used for Facebook, “and sure enough, we got right in.” The ex-girlfriend’s contact information appeared clearly in the email account. The only exchange in the Inbox was the rejection letter sent to Abramovitz.

“It was not only a stab in the back but in the heart,” Abramovitz said. He hired a lawyer, filed a lawsuit against the former girlfriend and never spoke with her again. She never responded to the lawsuit he filed against her and lost by default. The Washington Post could not locate her for comment. . .

Continue reading.

A comment on the report:

lewfournier1 – I don’t know why the Post neglected to name the ex-girlfriend. Her name is Jennifer Lee, according to the Toronto Star.
This is from the report in the (Vancouver) Star, by the same reporter (Samanatha Schmidt):

The rejection letter was sent not by Gilad but by Abramovitz’s girlfriend, Jennifer Jooyeon Lee, a flute student at McGill who had spent night after night consoling him afterwards, Abramovitz said.

Lee had logged onto his email account and deleted his acceptance letter to Colburn, Abramovitz said.

… Lee is a resident of Ontario, according to the claim.

… He told Buzzfeed News that he confronted Lee but she denied that she sent the fake rejection letter. She then blocked him from her social media accounts.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 June 2018 at 11:49 am

Posted in Daily life, Education, Law, Music

Looking for Life on a Flat Earth

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Alan Burdick reports in the New Yorker:

On the last Sunday afternoon in March, Mike Hughes, a sixty-two-year-old limousine driver from Apple Valley, California, successfully launched himself above the Mojave Desert in a homemade steam-powered rocket. He’d been trying for years, in one way or another. In 2002, Hughes set a Guinness World Record for the longest ramp jump—a hundred and three feet—in a limo, a stretch Lincoln Town Car. In 2014, he allegedly flew thirteen hundred and seventy-four feet in a garage-built rocket and was injured when it crashed. He planned to try again in 2016, but his Kickstarter campaign, which aimed to raise a hundred and fifty thousand dollars, netted just two supporters and three hundred and ten dollars. Further attempts were scrubbed—mechanical problems, logistical hurdles, hassles from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Finally, a couple of months ago, he made good. Stuff was leaking, bolts needed tightening, but at around three o’clock, and with no countdown, Hughes blasted off from a portable ramp—attached to a motorhome he’d bought through Craigslist—soared to nearly nineteen hundred feet, and, after a minute or so, parachuted less than gently back to Earth.

For all of that, Hughes might have attracted little media attention were it not for his outspoken belief that the world is flat. “Do I believe the Earth is shaped like a Frisbee? I believe it is,” he told the Associated Press. “Do I know for sure? No. That’s why I want to go up in space.”

Hughes converted fairly recently. In 2017, he called in to the Infinite Plane Society, a live-stream YouTube channel that discusses Earth’s flatness and other matters, to announce his beliefs and ambitions and ask for the community’s endorsement. Soon afterward, The Daily Plane, a flat-Earth information site (“News, Media and Science in a post-Globe Reality”), sponsored a GoFundMe campaign that raised more than seventy-five hundred dollars on Hughes’s behalf, enabling him to make the Mojave jump with the words “Research Flat Earth” emblazoned on his rocket.

To be clear, Hughes did not expect his flight to demonstrate Earth’s flatness to him; nineteen hundred feet up, or even a mile, is too low of a vantage point. And he doesn’t like that the mainstream media has portrayed things otherwise. This flight was just practice. His flat-Earth mission will come sometime in the future, when he will launch a rocket from a balloon (a “rockoon”) and go perhaps seventy miles up, where the splendor of our disk will be evident beyond dispute.

If you are only just waking up to the twenty-first century, you should know that, according to a growing number of people, much of what you’ve been taught about our planet is a lie: Earth really is flat. We know this because dozens, if not hundreds, of YouTube videos describe the coverup. We’ve listened to podcasts—Flat Earth Conspiracy, The Flat Earth Podcast—that parse the minutiae of various flat-Earth models, and the very wonkiness of the discussion indicates that the over-all theory is as sound and valid as any other scientific theory. We know because on a clear, cool day it is sometimes possible, from southwestern Michigan, to see the Chicago skyline, more than fifty miles away—an impossibility were Earth actually curved. We know because, last February, Kyrie Irving, the Boston Celtics point guard, told us so. “The Earth is flat,” he said. “It’s right in front of our faces. I’m telling you, it’s right in front of our faces. They lie to us.” We know because, last November, a year and a day after Donald Trump was elected President, more than five hundred people from across this flat Earth paid as much as two hundred and forty-nine dollars each to attend the first-ever Flat Earth Conference, in a suburb of Raleigh, North Carolina.

“Look around you,” Darryle Marble, the first featured speaker on the first morning of the conference, told the audience. “You’ll notice there’s not a single tinfoil hat.” He added, “We are normal people that have an abnormal perspective.”

The unsettling thing about spending two days at a convention of people who believe that Earth is flat isn’t the possibility that you, too, might come to accept their world view, although I did worry a little about that. Rather, it’s the very real likelihood that, after sitting through hours of presentations on “scientism,” lightning angels, and nasa’s many conspiracies—the moon-landing hoax, the International Fake Station, so-called satellites—and in chatting with I.T. specialists, cops, college students, and fashionably dressed families with young children, all of them unfailingly earnest and lovely, you will come to actually understand why a growing number of people are dead certain that Earth is flat. Because that truth is unnerving.

The November conference was held in a darkened ballroom of an Embassy Suites near the Raleigh airport. Dozens of rows of chairs had been set out and nearly all were filled. To my right, a young couple with a stroller listened intently; a man in front of me wore a T-shirt with the words “They Lied” across the back. Onstage, Marble recounted his awakening. Marble is African-American and was one of a handful of people of color in the room. He had enlisted in the Army and gone to Iraq after 9/11; when he returned home, to Arkansas, he “got into this whole conspiracy situation,” he said.

For two years, Marble and his girlfriend drank in YouTube. “We went from onething to another to another—Sandy Hook, 9/11, false flags,” he said. “We got into the Bilderberg, Rothschilds, Illuminati. All these general things that one ends up looking into when you go on here, because you look at one video and then another suggestion pops up along the same lines.” Finally, he had to step away. “You come to a place where you start to feel that reality is just kind of scary,” he said. “You’ll find out that nothing, ultimately, is what it seems to be. I hit my low point, where everything was just terrifying.”

Marble found the light in his YouTube sidebar. While looking for videos related to “Under the Dome,” a TV sci-fi drama, he came across “Under the Dome,” a two-hour film, which takes the form of a documentary, by Mark K. Sargent, one of the leading flat-Earth proselytizers. The flat-Earth movement had burbled along in relative darkness until February of 2015, when Sargent uploaded “Flat Earth Clues,” a series of well-produced videos that, the Enclosed World site notes, “delves into the possibility of our human civilization actually being inside a ‘Truman Show’-like enclosed system, and how it’s been hidden from the public.” (Access to those videos and more is available on Sargent’s personal Web site, for ten dollars a month.) It announced itself as “a Reader’s Digest version” of the flat-Earth theory; Marble watched it over and over, all weekend.

“Each thing started to make that much more sense,” he said. “I was already primed to receive the whole flat-Earth idea, because we had already come to the conclusion that we were being deceived about so many other things. So of course they would lie to us about this.”

If we can agree on anything anymore, it’s that we live in a post-truth era. Facts are no longer correct or incorrect; everything is potentially true unless it’s disagreeable, in which case it’s fake. Recently, Lesley Stahl, of “60 Minutes,” revealed that, in an interview after the 2016 election, Donald Trump told her that the reason he maligns the press is “to discredit you all and demean you all so that when you write negative stories about me no one will believe you.” Or, as George Costanza put it, coming from the opposite direction, “It’s not a lie if you believe it.”

The flat Earth is the post-truth landscape. As a group, its residents view themselves as staunch empiricists, their eyes wide open. The plane truth, they say, can be grasped in experiments that anyone can do at home. For instance, approach a large body of water and hold up a ruler to the horizon: it’s flat all the way across. What pond, lake, or sea have you ever seen where the surface of its waters curves? Another argument holds that, if Earth were truly spherical,  . . .

Continue reading.

“Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain.”

Written by LeisureGuy

31 May 2018 at 2:38 pm

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse: Ariz. Education Department strikes ‘evolution’ from science standards draft

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Avery Anapol reports in The Hill:

Arizona education officials have published a draft of revised science standards for the state’s K-12 and charter schools, deleting several references to evolution.

The draft standards, the state’s first update in 15 years, no longer includes some mentions of “evolution” or the word “evolve,” and edits wording in places to refer to it as a “theory.”

One line replaces “evolution” with “biological diversity,” while another adds the words “are believed to” to describe the impact of evolution, according to The Arizona Republic.

Science teachers who drafted the revised standards said they were surprised that state Department of Education officials struck some of the language from the standards.

“This would be something I would definitely be incredibly uncomfortable with,” Amber Struthers, a teacher who worked on the draft, told 12 News.“It would be a huge missing gap in understanding core concepts in science.”

National groups, including the National Center for Science Education and the Secular Coalition for Arizona, have voiced opposition to the changes.

Opponents have accused Arizona Superintendent of Public Institutions Diane Douglas of inserting her personal religious beliefs into the revisions.

Douglas said earlier this year at a political event that she believed intelligent design should be taught alongside evolution in schools.

Douglas said in a statement that her beliefs are “not included” in the new science standards.

The education department told The Arizona Republic the standards are not curriculum or instructional practices and they focus on core ideas regarding science and engineering that teachers can use. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 May 2018 at 6:13 pm

What if the United States had proportional representation instead of a winner take all system?

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Excellent answer on Quora. Go read it and give him an upvote.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 May 2018 at 5:46 pm

5 Levels of Listening

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We are in general self-taught listeners, so we all have developed some sub-optimal listening habits. This post from the Black Swan Group describes different ways of listening:

Most people who think they are good listeners underperform. There is some research that suggests they do so by as much as 60%.  This overconfidence impedes their success as it prevents them from truly understanding the motivation of the other side.Nothing puts a relationship in jeopardy faster than poor listening. Husband, wife, son, daughter, boss or subordinate, people do not take long to estimate your commitment to listening, especially when 93% of communication is wrapped up in physical syntax and delivery. Given this percentage, it is not easy to convince someone else that you are listening if in fact you are not.

So why do most underperform?  Because most fail to recognize that there are different levels to listening.

Listening For The Gist

The first level is intermittent listening; that is to say listening long enough to get the gist of what the other side is saying before we refocus on our internal voice which is formulating a reaction from our world view.  We may not articulate this reaction but internally we are in a dialogue with ourselves about how what is being said does not line up with our logic.

Listening To Rebut

At the next level, we listen to rebut.  This is where we listen long enough to understand the incoming message until it hits a trigger.  The trigger is something in the statement or phrase with which we can argue or rebut.  Once heard, we just wait for the other side to shut up long enough so we can tell them how their position is faulty and by extension, how much smarter we are.  These enthusiastic replies undermine communication and the relationship.  Interjecting with a quick response is a clear indication that we are not listening.  At these levels we are focusing on our agenda at the expense of theirs.

Listening for Logic

At the third level, using inference, we listen for the internal logic of what is being said.  If this is their worldview, their conclusion or their judgement, why does it make sense to them?

Listening for Emotion

At the fourth level we listen for any emotions and or identity issues that may be driving their argument.  These emotions or issues may (unlikely) or may not (most assuredly) make sense to us but at this level we recognize their significance to the other side as they talk about what is important to them. [Fritz Perls, founder of Gestalt Psychology, practiced this a lot: he would ask a patient/client to recount a dream or an experience, and periodically interrupt to have them speak for (or in the persona of) one of the dream elements or the persons in the experience. He said what he listened for was not the content but the tone of voice, which flagged the emotionally significant aspects of what the person was telling. You can watch him at work on YouTube to see how quickly he was able to locate the emotional nexus by doing this. – LG]

Listening for Their Point of View

One level beyond that is where we listen for what their argument, phrase, or statement says about who they are in world.  What does it symbolize or represent to them?  This is where we filter their emotion and logic through a prism of empathy. It is where we should be as negotiators. Getting beyond the cursory level of understanding to a deeper appreciation of their world view.  If we do not understand their world view, we do not really understand them.  If we do not understand them, we will never influence them.  It it is difficult to maintain this level of listening every waking moment of everyday but we need to be ready and willing to get here when the situation dictates.

See also their post “Are You Underperforming As A Listener?

Self-taught practitioners virtually always benefit greatly from some basic coaching.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 May 2018 at 10:22 am

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