Monday, January 28, 2008


I am a shaker not a hugger, and when it comes to shaking; I'm a hammer not a saw.

This does not mean that I will not accept a hug should someone fail to understand the meaning of my outstretched hand and smile (or if they do understand, perhaps they feel totally inadequate when it comes to the art of shaking). All the same, a well executed handshake carries much more support, confidence, and respect than the indiscriminate wrapping of arms. There are different types of handshakes but most are built as some combination of the following: The “hammer” is a firm up and down motion usually containing two or three strokes of the hammer. Most handshakes are predominantly “hammer shakes” although they may contain trace amounts of some other handshakes as well. The saw, as one might expect, is a back and forth motion as if one was working a crosscut saw. There are also the “screwdriver”, “dairyman”, “knuckle roller”, “NRA”, and countless other handshakes most of which are extremely rare – the “soggy noodle” (queue tine hermana Liz), although very common, should not, by any stretch of the imagination be considered a handshake.

Some handshakes though, are harder to analyze than to say that, for example, “it is a 90-10 hammer/saw mix”. One person I know has a handshake that requires a coordinate system to describe (if you havn't had college math I advise skipping this paragraph). Imagine a Cartesian coordinate system in which “z” is up, and initially (my hand being at the origin) the positive “x” axis is along the length of my forearm. The first “stroke” of the shake with this particular individual follows a path approximately following the vector that starts from the origin and extends to the spherical coordinates: (0.2, 13π/12, 17π/36) with ρ being measured in meters. From there the direction reverses and our hands pass back through the starting point and extend to an equidistant point on the opposite side of the origin. This is complicated by the fact that I am still attempting to give her a “hammer shake” and that her elbow performs harmonic motion parallel to the “y” axis with significantly greater amplitude than the corresponding “y component” of our hand movement.

In layman's terms, this is primarily a “saw shake” but has a distinct angled feel to it and a certain twisting caused by the back and forth motion of her elbow.

It is almost sad, when shaking the hands of a large number of people, to come to the realization that precious few people on this earth know how to properly shake hands. Most commonly they are void of energy, have a faint grip, and a shake as though they are trying to scare a fly from the back of their hand. The “dairyman” would be just as bad if it weren't for its rarity, but in a world of limp noodles and weak shakers, receiving a “dairyman” is far better than the average. Still, those who have perfected the firm, simple hammer are in possession of a great gift that few are capable of giving.

If, as you have been reading this, you have come to the realization that you are a “hugger” you are not without hope - in fact it takes very little practice to become a reasonably good shaker but you need to start by identifying that you have a problem and make a conscious effort to fix it. For most this will merely require changing your mindset as you already have what it takes to give a good handshake: If you can pick up a 10 kg book bag with one hand you have more than the required grip and if you can shake a bottle of juice (up and down of course) before you drink it you have the forearm strength and merely need to implement these skills the next time you shake someone's hand. Some of my readers may have a unique handshake, I will not condemn this as it is often an idiosyncrasy that is part of their personality – but if that is the case they should be proud of it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Our lives are dominated by one of two 'forces' in this universe. As time draws to a close I believe there will be a noticeable shift so that each soul will be very closely aligned with either one side or the other with no 'middle ground'. In this illustration, the very instant I drop in a magnet, each shaving of metal aligns itself along the field lines and begins the slow process of moving toward one pole or the other; but it takes a long time before they all are drawn to their respective side. Unlike the metal shavings in this illustration, we, in our lives, have the choice as to which pole to align ourselves with... but beyond that the outcome will be the same.

Which pole are you aligned with today?

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Car troubles and answered prayers

Getting ready for a day of cross country skiing yesterday I dropped my car keys into the back pocket of the backpack I planned to take. Getting skis, poles, and other paraphernalia out of my car I was unconcerned when the door sung shut...until I realized that it was locked and my keys were on the inside. A quick look through the Kurtz' car reveled nothing that looked promising for unlocking the car but with some more searching Joel had the brilliant idea to take the wire supports out of a nylon safety bag. After trying to feed these through the top of the various doors in attempts to catch the lock mechanism I realized quite quickly that my car was designed well (i.e. you can't slip a wire through the door anywhere near a lock switch), and that our wires, although we had two of them, were too short. During this time I, and hopefully those with me, were praying that we would be able to get in without breaking a window or calling someone to help us out. We finally returned to the door that had been the problem since it was not completely closed and tried to figure out how to unlatch it. I finally decided I could try an extended version of something we did in Peru - fish the keys themselves out of the car. We bent a hook in one of the wires and I was barely able to reach the top of the backpack, snag it, and pull it up close to the top of the door. Christy held this wire tight so that the backpack wouldn't fall down while i bent a hook into the other wire and caught farther down on the backpack hooking it again and bringing the pocket containing the keys closer to the top of the door. Now Christy held the second wire while I worked with the first to open the zippered pocket and dig around where I thought the keys were until I hooked them. Then with everyone pulling on the top of the door to make as big a space as possible I fished the keys out through the crack and was able to get into the car.

After a great day of skiing we got back to our cars, loaded up and after the other car had left Joel and I discovered that my car wouldn't start - headlights indicated a good battery but the engine wouldn't turn over. I backed the car down off the hill it was on to a level place and tried again - still nothing. Joel and I sent up a prayer and then prepared to crawl under and knock on the starter solenoid (or whatever the little thing is that gets you a couple more starts from a bad starter) after finding where it was and getting a hammer out of my trunk we decided to try to crank the engine one more time. This time it started right up just as the other car came back to hurry us up.