How to Win a Fight

This book could be titled “How and Why You Should Do Everything Possible to Avoid Getting Into a Fight.” The authors (both martial artists who’ve been around the block a few times and have the scars to show it) spend a good number of pages explaining why fighting is always terrible idea — even if you manage to win, you end up losing (your attacker’s relatives could sue you or seek revenge, you could go to prison, and for the rest of your life you could carry the knowledge of having crippled or maimed another person).

The authors also go into detail explaining how to recognize the first signs of a situation that could escalate into a fight and what to do. Only after they’ve convinced you to avoid a fight do they get to the section about effective ways of defending yourself.

The final third of the book deals with the often unconsidered aftermath of a fight: administering first aid and what to do to stay out of jail.

-- Mark Frauenfelder  

How to Win a Fight
Lawrence Kane and Kris Wilder
2011, 208 pages
$13

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:

Escape and survival are admirable goals. Self-defense really isn’t about fighting like most people think. Self-defense is about not being there when the other guy wants to fight. Fighting is a participatory event, which means you were part of the problem. Even if you think you are only “defending” yourself, if your actions contributed to the creation, escalation, and execution of violence the you were fighting. And fighting is illegal and a really bad idea.

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It is illuminating to watch a crowd at a mall, nightclub, or other public area with a predator mindset. Read people’s body language as they pass by you. Who looks like a victim and who does not? Oblivious people stand out from the crowd once you know how to look for them.

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Four techniques you can use in a fight

1. Don’t let him get close enough to touch you. The farther away the other guy is, the tougher it is for him to hit you. Further, you have a much better chance to escape to safety or dash toward some source of cover that can protect you.

2. Throw debris to distract or injure him. Throwing debris is really an extension of distance. It is not a standalone technique, but rather a facilitator that can keep the other guy back and help you escape. You can kick dust, throw rocks, hurl trash, swing garbage cans, or otherwise chuck stuff at the other guy to distract or potentially injure him.

3. Attack his eyes. When you have an opportunity to attack the eyes during a fight, the chance will be only there for an instant. If you are going to go for the shot, you’ve got to take advantage of that moment of opportunity.

4. Strike with impetus. No matter how skilled you are (or are not), strikes work best when you catch your opponent by surprise, control distance and direction of your blow, relax until the moment of contact, and strike ferociously and repeatedly until the conflict is over.

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Ferocity
All things being equal, the guy who attacks with the most ferocity wins. Even if the other guy is a bit stronger or more skilled than you are, he’s likely to disengage if he realizes he’s bitten off more than he can chew. If you have no other choice but to fight, do so wholeheartedly. Your adversary should feel like he’s run across a rabid wolverine wielding an industrial buzz saw. Strike fast, hard, and repeatedly until it’s over and you can escape to safety. Throwing a single blow or short combination and dancing aside to see if it had any effect may work well in the tournament ring, but it’s woefully inadequate on the street. Give it everything you’re worth and don’t stop until it’s over.




O’Keeffe’s Working Hands Cream

For years, I’ve been plagued with skin cracks or fissures on my fingertips, especially in winter. After a weekend of cooking, chores, or gardening, my hands were a painful mess. No lotions, oils, or creams helped much, and it’s impractical to keep fingertips bandaged all the time. I picked up a jar of O’Keeffe’s Working Hands at my grocery store and have been using it for two weeks. It has completely changed and improved the texture of my skin. No more ragged cuticles either, and even my fingernails are stronger. It is completely odorless and not greasy. Their advertising says it’s the high concentration of glycerin that does it. Whatever it is, it feels like a miracle to me.

-- JM Findley  

O’Keeffe’s Working Hands Cream
$8

Available from Amazon



Examine.com’s Guide to Supplements

Examine.com makes it easy to look up what actual scientific studies say on various supplements. From popular supplements like vitamin D and fish oil, to more esoteric ones like berberine and spirulina, this website has it covered (and over 17000 citations).

The site became really useful when it released what it calls “The Human Effect Matrix.” It summarizes clinical human trials and lets you immediately know what effect each supplement has (and how strong that effect is).

As someone into weight lifting, it’s helped me realize what junk supplements like glutamine and tribulus terrestris are.

-- Martin Wong  



Bug-a-salt

I ordered and received my Bug-a-salt gun late last fall, pretty late in the fly season to really get to put it to serious use. Well, early spring in Western Washington and they are coming back. Over the years I became very proficient with rubber bands, hunting flies and yellow jackets – this takes it to a whole new level.

The Bug-a-salt doesn’t “cream” the flies, leaves them pretty well intact, but it is quite effective. Non-toxic, environmentally friendly, it is spring powered and doesn’t eat batteries. Just table salt.

The gun has sights, but due to the shot pattern and the height of the sights above the bore for me it is a “point and shoot” proposition. A sheet of aluminum foil taped to the wall works well to pattern the shot, like a patterning board for a shotgun. It lets you see the spread of the salt, and calculate your effective range. I am definitely getting better. It is possible to shoot flies out of the air. There is nothing else like it.

The invention and marketing of this product are a story unto itself. I ordered mine early, when they were setting up for manufacture and was able to follow the trials and tribulations of getting this to market. The exportation to some of the countries they had orders from were amazingly complicated.

This year I switched to Morton Kosher salt and find it works better on flies than the table salt. Last year’s tests on yellow jackets were exciting, but not effective. Maybe with the kosher salt…

-- Norm Bolser  

Bug-a-Salt
$35

Available from Amazon



Slotted Spaghetti Spoon

I discovered the tool shortly after my wife and I were first married almost 10 years ago. It is a fantastic tool – perfect for scratching your back. Some people may gag at the thought of a kitchen implement being used in this manner – let me console you that it days in the kitchen ended with my discovery.

The metal slotted spaghetti spoon is rigid enough and the pronged edges of the spoon are sharp enough that it can provide an extremely staisfactory back scratching. The ruberized grip allows for a firm grip. The one callout I would make is for you to find a spoon that is long enough to reach all the right places.

This implement is guaranteed to be better than any other backscratcher you can find and, given its humble state as a cheap kitchen utensil, it will most likely be substantially cheaper than any upscale back scratcher you may find on the market today. You will never have the need of calling out for help as your back tingles with itchiness. All other back scratching tools I have tried have failed in comparison. Little did my wife know what joy and delight she would bring into my life in the form of a slotted metal spaghetti spoon.

-- James Bingham  

Slotted Spaghetti Spoon
Prices and styles vary

Available from Amazon



Kanger evod Electronic Cigarette

I began smoking in the 6th grade. In the 25 years since I’ve quit more times than I can count — sometimes for a couple of years at a time — always to eventually return to the habit. I’ve tried nicotine gum (tastes terrible), nicotine patches (itched and gave me bizarre dreams), and quitting ‘cold turkey’ (generally unpleasant — especially for those around you!). While all of these approaches deal with the underlying nicotine addiction, none of them address the loss of the social, psychological and habitual aspects of smoking.

Several months ago I tried my first electronic cigarette, and I haven’t smoked a real one since. In fact, I no longer have any desire to, and don’t anticipate ever really smoking again. Electronic cigarettes satisfy both the nicotine cravings as well as the smoking habit — I actually don’t feel like I’ve given up anything, but rather gained something new.

The technology behind electronic cigarettes is surprisingly simple. A wire coil heats up when it is connected to a battery (much like the filament in a light bulb). A wick runs through the coil and draws fluid to it; the heat from the coil turns the liquid into a vapor which you inhale — it’s essentially the same technology used in fog machines, but on a much smaller scale. Because the output is water vapor, users call this “vaping” and themselves “vapers” to distinguish from “smoking” and “smokers.”

The liquid starts with a base of either propylene glycol, vegetable glycerine, or a blend of the two (this is what produces the visible vapor). Nicotine is added to this in a variety of concentrations ranging from 2.4% to 0.6%, roughly corresponding to the range available from filterles down to ultra-light cigarettes. Finally, flavoring is added — the variety of available flavors is mind-boggling, with everything from traditional tobacco and menthol flavors to fruits, coffees, and dessert flavors.

The advantages of electronic cigarettes over traditional ones are numerous. There is no combustion, hence no smoke, no carbon monoxide, no tar or other carcinogens, and no risk of fire. There is no second-hand smoke, and no unpleasant smell. They can also be significantly less expensive on an ongoing basis than cigarettes — I’m currently spending about 1/3 of what I did on cigarettes.

The primary health concern of e-cigarettes would be the continued use of nicotine. Nicotine’s health effects are paradoxical and are similar to caffeine in that respect — regular consumption can have both positive and negative effects depending on the individual.

One of the key benefits of electronic cigarettes though is the ability to easily regulate the amount of nicotine consumed. The various concentrations offered in liquids provide an easy way to gradually step down one’s dosage if one desires. Additionally, most liquids are available in 0% nicotine concentrations, so that it is possible to entirely wean oneself from the nicotine without having to give up usage of e-cig devices.

While the underlying technology is simple, there is an incredibly wide range of hardware and types of electronic cigarettes, and it can be confusing to the first-timer trying to figure out where to start.

Like many people I started with a small “cig-alike” device which is similar in size and appearance to a traditional cigarette. The most popular brand of these is Blu, likely due to their mainstream celebrity advertising. While these work, they have several practical drawbacks. The batteries are small and need to be recharged frequently. The disposable cartridges don’t last very long, can have inconsistent flavor, are relatively expensive, and limit the choice of liquids and flavors. While they are a great starting point, most users who stick with electronic cigarettes will outgrow them relatively quickly.

The next step up tends to be the Joyetech “Ego” system. These are the size of a small cigar and consist of a battery plus a refillable tank. Due to their popularity these have essentially become an industry standard, with a variety of manufacturers making compatible hardware. After trying several combinations of products from different manufacturers I’ve settled on the Kanger EVOD system as the best for everyday use, and it’s the system I recommend to most new users.

The EVOD is relatively new and addresses several problems with earlier systems. The heating coil in the tank is at the bottom rather than the top, so that the short wicks are always immersed in fluid. This prevents the wicks from going dry and prematurely burning out the heating coil — this also makes them more compatible with thicker brands/flavors of liquids. All coils will eventually burn out though, so the EVOD has an easily replaceable and inexpensive coil unit (older systems generally require you to replace the entire tank). The EVODs are also very well made and use several o-rings to ensure that the tank won’t leak.

EVOD tanks are compatible with all Ego-style batteries, so you can certainly buy the tanks ($6-10) and batteries (~$20) separately, but Kanger has just released a starter kit which includes 2 batteries, 2 tanks, 5 replacement coils and a charger for about $50 – this is a great deal if you’re just starting out, and the easiest way to get into a vaping system that you’re not likely to outgrow right away.

A big part of the attraction of vaping is the ability to try many flavors to find the ones that are perfect for you. In that respect it’s more akin to the world of cigars or pipes than cigarettes, where it can become a bit of a hobby rather than just a habit. There are a lot of small liquid producers and importers, but it’s a largely unregulated field and it can be difficult to determine the quality and source of their liquids — many of them come from China and there have been questions raised about the quality control and safety of the ingredients used.

Personally I feel it’s best to stay with domestic brands who provide information on their ingredients and are committed to a high-quality product made with pharmaceutical-grade ingredients under laboratory conditions. The largest of these is Johnson Creek, and their “smoke juice” is highly regarded as one of the highest quality on the market. I’ve tried several of their flavors and have been very happy with them.

One of the best resources I’ve found for reviews of hardware, liquids and general information is Spinfuel Magazine. Unfortunately their site is a little busy and can be difficult to navigate, but their content is unbeatable; they’re dedicated to being a beginner-friendly resource as well as providing useful information to more experienced vapors. They also have fairly strict guidelines about the liquid suppliers they’ll review which makes it much easier to identify quality manufacturers and stay away from liquids from questionable sources.

The e-cigarette world is young and has largely been the domain of early adopters, but has grown rapidly in the past few years and looks poised to explode into mainstream awareness soon. The manufacturers and retailers have been careful not to market their products as smoking cessation devices in order to avoid being regulated as medical devices (although the FDA is due to report findings in April of this year and will likely begin to regulate the market). Nonetheless, based on my experience and the anecdotal experience of many other users online, I feel they provide the first truly effective alternative to smoking — whether you just want a healthier alternative or are looking to quit nicotine all together. Even given concerns over continued use of nicotine they provide a significant level of harm-reduction to smokers, and I think anyone who smokes owes it to themselves and their loved ones to give them a try.

-- Evan Donn  

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The Well-Stocked Home Pharmacy

It’s a great idea to put all your medical stuff into a kit of some sort, even if it never leaves your house. The worst place to store medicine supplies is in the bathroom, where most people keep them. It is moist and warm there, while what medical stuff wants is dry and cool. You also want to be able to grab supplies quickly and take them where they are needed. We put ours into plastic cases the size of shoe boxes, There’s one for bandages and first aid, and another for medicines. The lids seal tight, prolonging the shelf life of the contents. When there is a first-aid injury, we get the kit and have everything together on site.

In addition to first-aid supplies here are some medicines you might consider stocking:

  • You should have an antibiotic ointment like Polysporin or a triple antibiotic.
  • Diarrhea serves a useful function to remove bad things from the body, but sometimes you may need Imodium to control excessive and severe diarrhea. Take this on your travels.
  • I like to have some hydrocortisone at home for itchy rashes and eczema.
  • Afrin nasal spray for a decongestant. Because it is targeted to the nasal area, the medicine is more potent than oral decongestants so you get more bang for the side-effect buck. Don’t use it for more than 3 days, though.
  • It’s a good idea to have an anti-fungal like Lotrimin or clotrimazole for athlete’s foot or infection of the skin.
  • Another good thing to stock is Benadryl for allergies and allergic reactions.
  • If you are traveling in exotic places (for you) ask your doctor to prescribe the antibiotic Cipro (ciprofloxacin) to take with you in case of emergency.
  • The other thing we take in our traveling medical kit is probiotics and vitamin D. Since probiotic products vary enormously, current studies suggest that the two aspects the matters most are higher numbers of colony forming units and containing more than one strain. For probiotics, aim for products with 5 billion colony forming units.


High Density Foam Rollers

I didn’t know I had knots in my calves, but I did. I spend a lot of time at the computer, and I play some video games, which means that I tense my calves involuntarily and and they get knotted.

When I started working out about a year ago, I hired a trainer. The end of each training session included a massage treatment with a foam roller. That’s when I learned that I had knots, because the roller made my calves feel better.

Its nice if you have someone else to “roll you out,” but you can also put the roller between your calves and the floor and roll yourself back and forth, using your body weight to apply pressure. You can also use it on your back and arms.

It’s also improved the “restless leg syndrome” for two people I know.

I have the 36 inch version, which is bulky. I think the 18 inch version would do just as well.

-- Carl Mixon  

[Here's a video that shows how to use a foam roller. - Mark Frauenfelder]

j/fit Super High Density Foam Rollers
$14 – $35 depending on size

Available from Amazon



Thermacell Mosquito Repellent Appliance

I’ve used one of these for years while fishing in the Everglades, one of the worst mosquito environments in the world, and it just plain works. I previously used DEET (a known carcinogen), skin-so-soft, dryer sheets, candles, coils, noise generators and other repellents but threw them all away when this showed up. It gives you a 15 foot “bubble” of protection using a butane cartridge to heat a pad of repellent. Riding in the boat does tend to blow out the pilot light in the device but a few clicks of the starter and it’s going again. They have models specifically for hunters (no game alarming scent) and lanterns for your back yard.

-- Jim Mays  

Thermacell Mosquito Repellent Appliance
$17

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Thermacell



FitDesk X1

I used to spend most of my work day sitting at a desk on my computer. Two years ago, that changed when my wife gave me a FitDesk X for my birthday. It is easily my most used birthday gift ever.

The FitDesk X is an upright style stationary bike with a comfortable saddle that also has a padded desk area on which to place your laptop or tablet, allowing you to work (or surf) and get a workout at the same time. The FitDesk utilizes electromagnetic resistance which makes it incredibly quiet so the rider can even be on the phone at the same time (as long you don’t sound winded). The bike is relatively light (about 40 lbs), folds up, and is easy to move. Besides using it during my work day, I pedal while watching my favorite TV show or when reading a book.

When traveling for business, I seek out the hotel’s gym to use their bikes. While I can read a book, watch TV, or use my iPad on these stationary bikes, I really can’t get any work done since there is no platform to hold my laptop. I look forward to getting home and back on my Fitdesk where I can ride for hours. There is an odometer to keep track of total distance traveled.

If you want to get fit (or stay fit) and your time is limited, the Fitdesk is a great solution to work and exercise at the same time. As an added bonus, this USA based company has excellent customer service.

-- Brian Boettger  

FitDesk X1
$300

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by FitDesk