Thursday 03/03/16

There are many different types of knots, and each one has a specific purpose. If they are tied correctly, they should be relatively easy to undo.

Unfortunately, we have all encountered the dreaded knot that has gone wrong; and no matter what you do, it won’t come undone. Most commonly, these mutant granny-knots are found in the drawstrings of tracksuit pants (or board shorts), in shoe laces, and the in the ties of your martial arts Gi. And for some strange reason, they also appear in your camping gear (such as guide ropes for your tent..... but you only find these if it is about to rain and you are in a hurry to put-up, or pack-up your camp).

Anyway, we’ve all been there. You’ve tied the drawstring in your pants that little bit too tight, and the knot you tied has mutated into an unsolvable puzzle. You struggle in vain to undo the knot, but it won’t budge (and your ever-filling bladder isn’t helping the situation). The situation appears hopeless.

Fortunately, the solution is simpler than you’d think.

Instead of admitting defeat and reaching for the scissors, grab your pocket knife. Pull the corkscrew out and carefully thread the corkscrew into the offending knot (notice I said carefully, you don’t want to slip and poke yourself in the stomach, especially if you have a full bladder). Now slowly twist the corkscrew, working it into the middle of the knot, until at least one coil of the corkscrew emerges from the other side of the knot. Now jiggle the corkscrew until the knot loosens (which should only take a few seconds).

And there you have it, the knot is undone, and you don’t have to spend the next hour trying to thread a new drawstring through the waistband of your tracksuit pants. And you thought the only reason you had a corkscrew on your pocket knife was so you could drink wine when you went camping.

Go and grab an old piece of string and give this a go. When you’re finished doing that, share this blog with your friends on social media. Information is only useful if it is shared.

Thursday 04/02/16

Recently I was waiting in a queue behind an elderly gentleman who was being served at the counter. After removing his credit card from his wallet he gave the card to the cashier and placed his wallet on the counter, next to his left hand. From a safety and self-defence perspective this innocent act immediately drew my attention, especially since the wallet was stuffed full with $50 and $100 notes. Unfortunately I wasn’t the only one who noticed this innocuous event.

A moment later a man stepped out from the crowd behind us and asked the elderly gent if he knew the time. I instantly recognised the new arrival as a petty thief and local trouble maker. As the old man focused his attention on his watch the new arrival’s eyes flicked down the unattended wallet and back to the old man. The old man told the new arrival the time, but the new arrival pretended he didn’t hear him properly, and asked the old man to repeat what he said as he leaned in close. I subtly adjusted my position and pretended to look at my watch as I leaned close “to make sure my watch had the correct time”. As I cleared my throat the new arrival suddenly registered how close I was to him, and realised he had no chance of grabbing the wallet and running away before I could restrain him. He immediately dropped all pretence of wanting to know the time. He turned around and quickly walked away. I took a step backward as the old man turned back to the counter to complete his transaction.

Did I have any proof a crime was about to take place? No. Did my actions prevent a crime? Perhaps. Did I do the right thing by looking out for a vulnerable stranger? Definitely.

From now on, I want you to pay attention to what you do with your wallet (or purse), and your mobile phone when you’re out in public. Are you one of those people who leaves their wallet/purse or mobile phone on the table when you’re dining at an outdoor café? When you walk down the street, do you carry your valuables loosely in one hand? Do you use this same hand to point out directions to strangers?

Let’s take a look at these behaviours and habits in relation in relation to your safety. Nowadays, many people use their mobile phone cover as storage for their cash and their credit cards. This single item is a very valuable and easily grabbed target for bag-snatchers and pickpockets. Something for the men to consider: leaving your wallet hanging out of your back pocket is not a good idea (and never has been). Stop doing this immediately.

This week you have homework: Every time you leave the house this week I want you to pay close attention to what you do with your wallet/purse and mobile phone. Remember; in a crowded shopping mall, or on a busy sidewalk, your valuables can be quickly snatched and the offender can easily blend into the crowd, leaving you with no details to pass on to the police.

If you found the information in tonight’s blog useful, please share it with your friends and family on social media. Information is only useful if it is shared. The better educated people are, the less likely they are to fall victim to a petty thief.

Thursday 07/01/16

Welcome to the New Year, and welcome back to my blog. I hope you have had a rest and are ready to face the New Year with a renewed sense of purpose, and a determination to make the most of the opportunities life presents to you. Tonight, I’m going to teach you how to deal with one of those opportunities; one that most drivers dread..... changing a tyre.

It doesn’t matter what sort of car you drive, or what part of the world you drive in, there is a very good chance that you will eventually have to change a tyre. It doesn’t matter if you belong to an Auto Club, knowing how to change a tyre is an essential skill to learn (especially if your flat tyre happens when you are several hours away from civilisation). Anyway, why would you want to wait for an hour or two for the Auto Club to arrive when you can fix the problem yourself in only a few minutes?

To replace a tyre you are going to need a few basic items to get the job done:

  • Spare tyre (make sure you check this tyre’s pressure every time you inspect you other tyres)
  • Car jack
  • 4-Way wheel brace (it looks like an X with a socket at the end of each arm)
  • Tyre iron
  • Hi-Visibility safety vest
  • Free-standing torch (if you have to change a tyre at night you don’t want to hold a torch in your mouth while you are trying to work)

A word of advice: just like your household tools, DO NOT take the cheap option when you are buying tools for your car. I learned this the hard way when I was a teenager. My job didn’t pay much money, so I purchased the cheapest wheel brace I could from the auto shop. Anyway, my car got a flat and I had to change the tyre. The wheel nuts on my second-hand car hadn’t been removed in many years, and they refused to budge. The only way I could get the nuts to move was by doing a palm-heel strike onto the wheel brace (very similar to the way karate black belts break bricks). After three nuts were loosened my luck ran out. The fourth strike snapped the sub-standard weld holding the wheel brace together, and I slammed my knuckles into the tarmac. Lesson learned

Ok, back to changing your tyre. You’re driving along and you hear the dreaded thub-thub-thub coming from under your car (or your car suddenly starts to handle like a shopping trolley), what do you do?

  1. First thing is don’t panic. Calmly pull over to the side of the road to the first available FLAT surface, where there is sufficient room for you to work safely. Do not park on a slope, and do not just stop in the middle of the road. Park your car in gear and put on the handbrake; this will reduce the chance of your car rolling away while you are working on it. Put your hazard lights on, you want to draw attention to your car and the fact there is a person working in close proximity to the road. Next, put on your safety vest. This gives other road users the best chance of seeing you before it’s too late.
  2. Use your tyre iron to remove the hubcap. You will use the hubcap (or your pocket) to keep the wheel nuts in. DO NOT just put them on the ground. Even losing one wheel nut would be a disaster.
  3. Use the wheel brace to loosen the wheel nuts (by turning them anti-clockwise). Notice I said loosen, not remove them. It doesn’t matter which nut you start with, the next nut you loosen must be on the opposite side of the wheel (think of when you were a kid and you tried to draw a 5 pointed star with one continuous line). This allows the rim to be removed from the axle without creating uneven pressure on the rim by loosening one side first. If your tyres were put on in an auto shop, the wheel nuts will done up very tight.
  4. Put the jack on solid ground under the car. Make sure the jack will make contact with a structurally sound part of the chassis; the owner’s manual will specify these locations for your car. Pump the jack handle until the jack touches the bottom of your car. Once the chassis is sitting stable on the jack, pump the handle another two or three times. You only need the wheel to be an inch or two from the ground to remove it from the car.
  5. Carefully remove the wheel nuts and put them in a safe place (as described above). Try not to shake the car too much, you don’t want to unbalance the jack. When you remove the wheel immediately lay it on its side, you don’t want it to roll away (it’s not as funny as it sounds).
  6. Put spare tyre in place and finger-tighten the wheel nuts.
  7. Lower the car to the ground and remove the jack.
  8. Use the wheel brace to tighten the wheel nuts (turn them clockwise and use the same star-type pattern you used to loosen them). Make sure you really tighten the wheel nuts; you don’t want the wheel to fly off as you drive away.
  9. Pack your gear away and resume your trip. Don’t forget to get your tyre fixed or replaced ASAP; you don’t know when your next flat tyre will happen.
  10. Even though you have your hazard lights on, and you’re wearing a Hi-Vis vest, you must always keep an eye on the traffic. Your safety is your responsibility; you can’t simply hope everyone else will be looking out for you.

If you found the information in tonight’s blog useful, please share it with your friends and family on social media. Information is only useful if it is shared. The better educated people are, the less likely they are to suffer a tragic mishap when dealing with something as simple as a flat tyre.