Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Feelin' strange

I didn't sleep well last night and I've felt pretty weird all day. I think it's good I don't own a gun because I might be tempted to use it on myself.

I'm kind of sick of things I touch turning to crap.

I'm also cheesed off that Blogger doesn't seem to cooperate with Chrome anymore which is stupid because they're both owned by Google.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day weekend

I had hoped to go somewhere outside of NY for this year's Memorial Day weekend, but I'm going to OR and HI soon so I drove down to Beacon to visit some friends yesterday morning.  We drove over to the Bob Dylan Fest at the Warwick Winery.  It was cool.  The weather cooperated and the music was pretty good.  Some of the bands played their own stuff for a song, but it was mostly Dylan.  My favorite band was the Reddan Brothers because they were the heaviest.

I had a tasty pulled pork sandwich and a bunch of hard cider so I had a nice buzz going on.  I wore my Five Fingers so I got a lot of looks and questions.

It was hot and humid so people were trying to sit in the shade:

 My friends' dog, Oscar, tried to get some pizza:
 There was a great crowd:
I had a great time and will try to hit their Johnny Cash fest in August.  I'll bring my chair and a hat next time and more cash.

We hit Isamu for dinner and had decent Japanese/Chinese food with terrible service.

This morning, my friend, his friend and I hiked up Mt. Beacon.  I took my portable GPS, but forgot to turn on tracking so I don't have any cool graphs to post unfortunately.  It was a 4.96 mile hike and we were able to maintain a moving average of 2.4mph.  I tried out my hiking poles for the first time and I think they worked well.  My knees feel pretty good and 5 miles was exactly what I needed for my first hike of the season.

We hiked up towards the Mt. Beacon reservoir and followed a stream for about half the hike:
 Me at the top, near the firetower, throwing my trademark Blood gang sign:
I definitely need to get a hair cut.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Grass work

I hit the high school this morning for more interval training on the grass infield before it rains.  I was able to get nine windsprints in though the last few weren't that fast.  It's all good and the most important thing is that I got out there and did it.

I averaged 3.8mph with a top speed of 15.7mph.  I also averaged a 140bpm heart rate.  I'd really like to break 16mph so I'll keep at it.

The good news is nothing is sore so I'm definitely strengthening up my main muscles as well as my stabilizing muscles.

Fitness update

I've been working out consistently the past month and I even started up some interval training.  However, I haven't been eating as well as I could so my improvements have slowed down.

It sucks that I'm trying to undo the end of last year so I need to be more vigilant this year around the holidays. It's too easy to chow down on tasty nostalgia.

I'm not too worried because I think I have a good process in place for getting into shape.  I just need to cut back on the junk food a bit and add some boxing classes during the week.

In the 9 weeks since I've started Lauren's 10 week 1st Class program, I've lost 2.2lbs of fat and half an inch from around my waist.  Hmmm...not great progress at all.  I feel much stronger though so perhaps my scale is not measuring my body fat correctly.  It's all good since I'm not exactly driving towards any particular numbers.  It'll be pretty clear when I'm in shape.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Plyometric pushups are tough and other random thoughts

Strangely enough, I'm able to update my blog using FireFox, but not the version of Chrome I have on my work computer. The version of Chrome I have my home computer seems ok. Very curious...

This morning I did my stappers and one exercise is pushups.  I can't do regular pushups for 8 minutes so I vary it up with regular pushups to failure, then knuckle pushups to failure and then finger pushups to failure.  I end up working slightly different muscle groups and the last two involve more stabilization muscles which is good.  This morning I decided to replace the regular pushups with plyometric ones.  You get in position, drop yourself down and then push up hard enough that your hands leave the floor.  Some people can get up high enough to clap in front or in back, but I was only able to clear the ground by an inch or two.  Holy moly.  Those were much tougher than expected, but lead to a great burn so I'll do more in the future.

Last night I discovered a puddle of water in my basement. It seems something under my main bathroom's sink is leaking. I hope it's not the POU heater, but I can't tell because it takes up a lot of room under the sink. I contacted my plumber so I'll see what's up.

I also tried my Hudson Four Grain Whiskey last night. I didn't chase it with anything which was probably a mistake, but it's smooth and led to a nice flush. I only sipped about a shot's worth, but I was feeling it.

I also had a Woodchuck hard cider for the first time. Definitely tasty stuff. It has as much alcohol as beer, but goes down a bit more smoothly.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Another solid South Park offering

Crack Baby Basketball Association was pretty funny and had a nice dig towards the NCAA.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Grass work

Today after work I headed over to the high school to do an interval workout and to further acclimate to my barefoot running shoes.  A friend smartly suggested I should try running on something softer since the track isn't all that spongy.  My Never Gymless book recommended running on grass so I decided to do my workout between the goalposts on the field in the middle of the track.

I did 10 jumping jacks, sprinted to the other goal post and then walked back.  I think I sprinted for a little more than 100 meters, but the ratio was similar to my sprint the straights and then walk the curves routine.  As shown below, I was able to bang out six iterations with one walked iteration after the first four.  I only went about a mile, but had to stop because my lower back was starting to ache.  While the grass is much softer than the track, it's not as even so I put more stress on the stabilization muscles around my gut.  Heh.  It's all good though.

My max speed was only 15.8mph so I definitely can improve.  My right calf is a little sore, but it'll take many more miles before I'm used to these shoes since I need to undo years of "neglect."

I also tried to incorporate some of the lessons from Born to Run by running light and easy and driving my knees.  Heh.  Easier said than done, but it's always good to have something to work on.

I'm not too worried about the length of this workout since I'll go over there on Saturday, weather permitting.  Eventually these workouts will be part of a Never Gymless routine and will be combined with pushups, burpees, medicine ball slams and whatnot.

I'm well on my way to getting beefcake - I'm focused and determined and I will succeed.  There isn't a doubt in my mind.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Eating less meat

For health, humane, environmental and financial reasons, I'd like to cut way back on my meat consumption.  I'm not going to give it up completely, but maybe I'd cut it back to once a week and when I go out or I'm at a friend's place.

Any suggestions on vegetarian cookbooks or websites?  I can poke around on my own, but I wouldn't mind getting some tips from those who've been doing it longer.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Rosetta Stone German

Today I took the milestone test for Level 1 Unit 2 and I only got 78% right.  I missed one question because the stupid headset can't pick up my l's.  Weak sauce.  I think the other three I missed legitimately, but there may have been another one missed because of the headset's crappy mic.  I'd like to get a nice USB mic, but I need to save up my scratch for some traveling.

Anyhow, I need to practice my German more often.  I can read it decently now, but I'm not as able to recall it and speak it as I think I should be.  I think it'll start getting progressively harder so I need to make sure I don't slack off like I have the past couple of months.

If I'm going to do something then I should do it.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Straight razor shaving

I have really thick hair which leads to razor bumps after I shave.  They look like big pimples, are a bit painful and can lead to scarring (I also scar easily).  I thought using an electric razor would help, but it doesn't seem to be doing the trick so I'm looking into straight razor shaving.  A lot of people assume you'll cut your windpipe, but you don't cut your finger off when you cut steak do you?  It's all about preparation and care.

My morning routine is already pretty long thanks to exercising and my love of long, hot showers so adding another 20 minutes for a good shave a couple of times a week isn't going to kill me.  I found a great resource online - Chris Moss' The Art of the Straight Razor Shave.  He gives clear and concise instructions while acknowledging that not all of us are going to drop $500 on an antique straight razor (I'm looking at you, hipsters).

However, I am going to need some supplies so I'll need to save up some money:

  • Straight razor
  • Water heater since hot water is essential and it's easier to boil it than to get it from the tap
  • Leather/linen strop
  • Shaving bowl
  • Styptic pencil for the aftermath
  • Shaving cream
  • Post shave stuff
  • Honing stone though I may just send the razor out for professional sharpening
I already have a nice badger hair brush and some shaving soap.  The author prefers cream to soap, but I'll use up my soap first.

I also learned that I've been shaving improperly with my double edged razor.  He suggests at least two passes - one with the grain and more than one against the grain.  I usually just do one pass - bad monkey!

I think I need to start taking better care of myself.  I'm not going metrosexual, but there's nothing wrong with looking good.

Track work

I hit the BCHS track for some interval training this morning.  It was the second time using my barefoot running shoes and I can tell that I'm still in the adjustment period since my right calf started barking after my warm up lap.  I think my stride is asymmetric which is why it was just the right one.

Anyhow I was able to persevere and get in a good workout which is the whole point.  The more I do it, the easier it'll all become.

I did one warm up lap, six sprint-walk laps and then one cool down lap:
My average speed was 4.7mph and my max speed was 16.4mph.  I'd like to get the average up around 6mph which will happen when I get strong enough to jog the curves.  I read that it can take a while to get acclimated to barefoot running so I should be patient.

I'm feeling good.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

"There's something wrong with my toast."

My brother is now published

My parents sent me a link of a column my brother wrote for Salem's newspaper.  Hopefully he'll get to keep his job through these budget cuts.

Bring on the Rapture

Garden work

I had some energy this morning and it's not currently raining so I went out to finish laying down the landscaping fabric for my garden path.  I figured out a more efficient way to cut it so it was much less work this time, but I didn't have enough to complete the path.

I did get quite a bit of it laid out though:
If you look closely, you can see some apricots forming on my apricot tree in the left foreground.  If you can't, here's a close in shot:
You can see other ones forming so this tree should be pretty productive.  I'll have to be vigilant to harvest them before my yard jerks.

To finish off my garden path, I'll need one more roll of landscaping fabric and a whole assload of gravel.  My plan is to fill in the rest of the front yard with plants.  The ground is currently pretty soft so I'd like to some natural help to prevent erosion.

I also trimmed some of the trees and bushes in the front and noticed that a lot of the trees had choke vines around them.  The strange thing is the choke vines eventually kill the tree which kills the vines.  I don't understand the logic, but it reminds me of the frog and scorpion fable which is one of my favorites.

Friday, May 20, 2011

South Park: TMI

This week's South Park is pretty damn funny.  I got worried after watching the first two episodes, but the last two have been funny and up to the high standards they generated with previous seasons.

2011 CDPHP Workforce Team Challenge

Last night I participated in the CDPHP Workforce Team Challenge along with with 20+ colleagues. I think the announced participation was something around 9300 people. It sure seemed like a lot and it took nearly 15 minutes to get everyone across the starting line.

The course is 3.5 miles long (about 5km for my international readers) and has some uphill component. It started at Empire Plaza and winds its way through downtown Albany as shown in the map generated by my GPS watch:
I'm not much of a distance runner, but my goal was to beat 30 minutes. I started off with a good pace between 7 and 8 minute miles, but could not maintain it. I had hoped to run the whole way, but ended up walking about half a mile near the end because my calves were barking. I was able to finish strongly and beat 34 minutes which isn't bad considering my fitness level. I think the winner was around 17 minutes so I obviously have some work to put in before I challenge for supremacy.

I also got to meet some of my colleagues from our fab up in Malta which is always good. They're good people and we met up at a sports bar afterwards for pizza and beer. We also got team shirts and hats and the race provided a participation t-shirt and tote bag. Not a bad haul and a great way to spend a Thursday night.

I was a little sore after the race, but I felt good this morning. It's mainly my calves which are sore so I really need to get back on the track with my barefoot shoes to strengthen them up. If I'm in town next year, I will definitely participate.

The dip in my heart rate below shows when I walked.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Weaning myself from Facebook

I think I spend too much time on Facebook so I started the process of weaning myself from it by "unfriending" all of single women in my friends list that I have been romantic with or might want to be romantic with.  It's not because I don't like them, but because I was spending a lot of time looking at their profiles and clicking through to their friends.

I want to have more real life interactions.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The FDR house and museum

On Sunday, I headed down to Hyde Park, NY to visit the FDR house and museum.  At first, I was skeptical, but I ended up having a great time.  FDR was probably the last great American president and seemed to actually care for the common American unlike the knuckleheads we've had since.

This bench is soaked, but a wet ass is a small price to pay for this photo:

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Betrayal of American Prosperity

A colleague recommended Clyde Prestowitz's The Betrayal of American Prosperity.  I got it from the library and finished it last night.  The book isn't that long, but I could only read about 20 pages before I got too mad.  I don't want to give away too much of the book, but Prestowitz presents some convincing arguments as to why the US is no longer competitive and why we're in trouble in the future: loss of manufacturing jobs, unilateral free trade and letting "national security" drive every policy decision.

Rather than go into the reasons why the US is up a creek, I'd rather present some of my own solutions, many of which are inspired by Prestowitz.  I highly recommend his book and believe it will spur you to action.

1. Energy independence
Roughly half of the US' trade deficit is due to importing oil.  We have become utterly dependent on cars for our everyday lives.  It made sense back in the day when the US had 70% of the world's oil supply to use gasoline for fuel, but it makes no sense now.  Gasoline engines are bad for the environment and put us at the mercy of foreign dictators.

My solution is for the federal government to increase the gasoline tax by $2-3/gallon.  This extra money will discourage driving and can be used to fund homegrown alternative energy solutions including all electric cars.  I'm not talking about buying solar panels and wind turbines, but buying American solar panels and American wind turbines.  I want the clean tech manufacturing jobs to come here.  If these industries don't exist, then we need to build them.

Converting all cars to electricity will put a severe strain on the grid as it is so we need to build more power plants, but they should be nuclear (not that dangerous if done correctly), wind, geothermal, solar, etc.  We should also upgrade the grid to eliminate waste.  If people use solid state lighting (another potential industry for US manufacturing), we can "produce" the extra juice needed for cars via conservation.  I guarantee that most of us use a lot more energy than we need to and believe the government should subsidize energy audits.

The next hurdle is to create an efficient battery without toxic heavy metals.  A Prius is no better for the environment than a Hummer because of the lead acid batteries in the Prius.  The US needs to heavily invest in advanced batteries.

2. Greatly reduce our military
We don't need to be the world's policeman and we can't really afford it.  Steaming around the world uses a ton of fuel which goes back to point number 1.  If we're involved in fewer conflicts then we can have a smaller military which will use fewer resources.  We can still be badass and should still maintain an army large enough for self defense and for contributing to UN peacekeeping missions.  I no longer want to read about Americans dying in Iraq and Afghanistan for no frickin' reason.  Saddam and Bin Laden are both dead so it's time for us to get the fudge out.

3. No more unilateral trade agreements
It's hard for the US to compete when we have 5% tariffs on Korean autos, but they have 10% tariffs on our autos.  The WTO allows tit-for-tat so let's use it.  We don't have to be the whipping boy for everyone.  They want to emulate where we were after WWII so let's lead by example.  They'll still be our "friends" even if we take them to court for patent infringement or product dumping.

4. No more technology giveaways
Many countries require technology transfer as a condition for building a manufacturing center.  A lot of cool stuff is invented in the US, but then we turn around and give it away.  Why are we in the business of enriching our competitors?  They're welcome to license or buy our technology, but shouldn't we try to produce it here? Don't give me that efficient market or comparative advantage line because those theories are dead.  Most foreign governments strategically subsidize industry which distorts comparative advantage.  Think of all the products made in Japan or Germany.  It's not because they have the lowest labor costs.

5. No more shortsighted politics
American politics is "corrupted" by special interest money which means we have no plan other than to enrich the donors to politicians' campaigns.  We can reduce the impact of lobbying by limiting donations to natural citizens (not corporations), moving to public financing and/or shortening the campaign season.  Let's get back to debating real issues and not about long birth certificates.

Many countries have former engineers as their leaders so they tend to have long term vision.  Can you honestly say the US has a vision to do anything beyond next year?  Crazy.  Let's get fewer lawyers and economists in politics and get a wider sampling of Americans to bring in some fresh ideas.

And for frak's sake, stop buying the cheapest thing.  You're putting yourself and your kids out of work.  Start buying American whenever possible.  Actually start buying less overall and start saving more.  We all have way too much crap, me included.  I need to make a conscious effort to reduce my spending since I have plenty of gadgets and gizmos.

I encourage everyone to save more and to buy US Treasury Bonds to reduce debt ownership by foreigners.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Getting drunk dialed is not as much fun as it sounds

I got drunk dialed last night from someone I know on assignment in Germany.  You'd think drunk people would be funny and would say crazy stuff, but instead, they slur their speech, repeat themselves and bring up all sorts of drama.

They also usually just say they're calling to chat, but they always have a reason for calling and it's like pulling teeth to find that reason out.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Garden work

Since it's still a really nice day, I went over to Lowe's to get some landscape fabric. My front yard is pretty much a wilderness. There were some paving stones that created a path from the driveway to the front door, but I never use the front door so the stones got absorbed. I decided to put down some landscape fabric to create a bigger and more obvious path. When I figure out exactly where I want it to go, I'll get some gravel to cover it.

Here's how far I got before I got hungry:
I got the professional 25 year stuff. It'll let air and moisture through, but no growth. You can see some stones from the base of the flag pole that used to be in the middle of the yard.

This fabric is pretty beefcake and I had to enlist a pocket knife to cut it.

While there, I saw a plant which looked cool so I made an impulse purchase. I got a Burkwood's Scotch Broom because I was looking for some ground cover for one corner of my front yard. Wow. I just read the description and it's considered an invasive species in the Western part of the US. Oh well. It can invade my yard all it wants as long as it doesn't mess with anything else I've planted.

Here it is after planting:
You can see my dandelion farm in the background.

I also took advantage of the warm weather to put some rebar in concrete to complete my raised plant bed:
I just poured the concrete dust into the cinderblocks and then added water because I don't have a bucket suitable for mixing. I'm sure it'll be alright and hopefully it will stay dry for a few days so the concrete can cure. I plan on planting some bell peppers here because this part of the yard gets a mess of sun.

I don't really want any grass in my front yard because it's too tough to maintain. I hope to plant some more fruit trees/bushes so I can get my eat on.

Toilet vs my colon

I had bragged before that my now-no-longer-new toilet had yet to clog.  Well, today it finally met its match - the infamous Wahl colon.  Those who know know the Wahl colon has epic toilet clogging abilities.  My toilet had put up a valiant effort over the past five months or so.  Hopefully it can recover to fight the good fight for another five months.

Track work

It's a beautiful day out so I hit the track this morning for an interval workout. I also tried out my new Merrell "barefoot" shoes. The idea is you'll strengthen your legs more if you run barefoot since you'll run up on the balls of your feet. That claim is definitely true because there is no heel cushion so you pretty much have to. It's fine for sprinting, but most of let our heels touch when we jog so it was a little weird "sprinting" slowly.

It was my first real exercise since getting my head cold so I did one warm up lap, six "sprint"/walk laps and one cool down lap. I went 2.11 miles with an average heart rate of 141bpm and burned 276kCal. Not too shabby. It's supposed to be nice for most of this week so I'll try to go again during the week. I'll have to check the high school's track and field schedule.

My calves are pretty sore so it was definitely a workout and I can see why they suggest you start out slowly until you get used to "barefoot" running. These shoes were recommended by my friend and they worked well for me this first time out.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

I'm disgusted by the average American and the American media.

I'm sure everyone knows Osama bin Laden was killed by American forces a couple of days ago and by now, everyone has heard "facts" about the raid.  Well, it turns out that many of those "facts" may be just fabrications to justify our actions.  It's not clear that bin Laden was armed nor is it clear that bin Laden used anyone as a human shield.  As I understand it, he was sick so he was probably pretty easy to take down.

I have a hard time believing the raid team couldn't have subdued him without killing him so that he could be put on trial for his actions.  What we did is nearly straight up murder and won't change anything.  I don't feel any safer, I still have to get x-rayed or have my junk groped and I still need to buy $10 bottles of water on the other side of security.  Are we really free?

Can I really trust the American media to broadcast anything factual anymore?  Fox News is one small step above the Enquirer and the others aren't much better.  When did media go from reporting on what happened to manufacturing stories?  Are they that desperate for ratings as to pass stories as the truth?  What happened to fact checking?

Why are some athletes being vilified for daring to question why we celebrate the death of anyone?  I personally believe bin Laden was a terrible person, but everyone deserves a fair trial.  It's part of what separates the good guys from the bad guys.  We should definitely take steps to protect ourselves, but should do so with the minimum amount of force necessary.

I really fear for the future of this country because I feel many of us have lost our ability to rationally process information and the ability to ask tough questions.  We've been in Afghanistan for ten long years now and have accomplished diddly squat.  If anything, we've reinforced our enemies' view of us.  We should reach out with the olive branch and try to improve their conditions so they don't feel the need to attack us.  Life is too short for hate.

I'm not necessarily a pacifist, but I believe our military should be used for defense and as the last resort.  We do not have the moral right to impose our will on anyone and chanting "USA.  USA.  USA." like we just won a gold medal is crass and saddening.  Is this point where human evolution has brought us?  We've really come no further than the Roman rabble entertained by gladiators hacking each other to death?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Finished my puzzle

The fab is idling today so I decided to work from home.  I'm also feeling under the weather so it's probably good I came home.  Anyhow, I decided to polish off my puzzle since I was pretty darn close.  I finished it and have crossed another challenge item off.  Sweet.

I found working on my puzzle pretty relaxing and I definitely want to get another one.  I'll leave this one up for a bit and then take it down.  I may keep it or I may give it away for someone else to work on.  I'll have to marinate on it.

I'll think some positive thoughts so I can regain my health to continue my good progress.  I'm going to skip basketball tonight because I'm having trouble concentrating.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sunday bike ride

This morning I went for a bike ride because it's gorgeous out. I rode for about 9.9 miles in 47 minutes. I had an average rate rate of 125 bpm and my watch says I burned about 600 kCal which is supposedly double what I burned yesterday. I have a hard time believe I worked just as hard biking as I did sprinting, but who knows? I'm not going to worry about it since I got some exercise and that's the key.

I rode out to New Scotland park and back. I'll try to do a different route each ride, but I'm still learning the area.

I'm well on my way to great fitness.