Monday, April 30, 2012

Strength training

Due to a lingering cough, a busy work schedule and general laziness and apathy, I had a 15 day break between strength workouts.  I figured I would be weaker this morning, but I didn't realize by how much.  It's amazing how easily you can lose strength.

I really want to bang out my pushup challenge, but I've been stuck in week 4 for four weeks now so I tried doing pushups off the bench which should make them easier.  I didn't really find them easier so I'm wondering if the weak link is in my wrists and elbows rather than with my muscles.  I'm not sure, but there isn't much reason for me to repeat week 4 week after week if I'm not seeing an improvement.

I refuse to believe that I'll max out at 25 consecutive pushups.

Project Tree: Day 71

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Project Tree: Day 70

Doctor Strange: The Sorcerer Supreme (2007)

I took my car in yesterday for an oil change and brought along my iPad because the dealer has WiFi.  After checking out the new cars, including a pretty cool looking CX-5, I settled down to watch something short on Netflix.  I chose this animated movie because I don't know much about Doctor Strange and it didn't like it would be something I would need to watch on my big screen.

I was pleasantly surprised with a well-paced movie with good dialogue and decent graphics.  I don't know much about the good doctor so I'm not sure if this origin story is canonical, but it doesn't really matter when you're looking for something to kill time.

I recommend this movie to those in a similar situation as I was in yesterday.  It has some graphic violence and people die so it might not be suitable for younger children.

Track work

I've got a 3.5 mile race in 2.5 weeks and I've been feeling slow so I hit the track this morning for some interval training.  It's sunny out, but not that warm.  Fortunately, I've accumulated some warmer athletic gear though I may need to get a running cap.

Anyhow, I did my usual thing - jog one lap, six laps of sprint-jog-sprint-jog and then one cool down lap.  I was able to sprint the straights, but didn't have enough juice to jog all the curves.  I finished though and feel pretty good so my mission was accomplished.

A coworker of mine was there training for a triathlon.  I guess there isn't much else to do around here other than work and workout so I'm not surprised.  He was there with a woman who I thought was his wife so I felt bad for checking her ass out, but it turns out she's his trainer.  She asked why I was there and I said I'm trying to be less of a fatass (I'm usually self-deprecating).  She then scoffed that she doubted I was ever a fat ass, but I told her I used to be 30 lbs heavier and those who follow my fitness updates know the truth.  The past is the past and I'm not going to let myself get to that point again.

Here is what my GPS watch recorded:
The speed is a little uneven because there was a fairly stiff breeze in one direction.  I was able to keep my heart rate up in a good zone so I'm sure I burned off a couple of pieces of candy.

My legs are less sore this time because I used my regular running shoes rather than my barefoot trail shoes.  I'm tempted to get a new pair of running shoes which are lighter than what I have now, but not all the way to barefoot shoes as I'm having trouble making the transition to barefoot running.  Any suggestions?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Project Tree: Day 69

Fitness update

I've been fightin' some stupid cough so I haven't been doing my strength workouts as often as I would like, but I think I'm now on the mend.

I seem to be holding fairly steady in my body fat, but I've managed to drop another half inch off my gut.  I believe this data because my pants have been a little looser on me.

Basketball is done so I'll need to find a weekly cardio activity to take its place.  I wish it were ultimate frisbee, but I still haven't found anything local.  Maybe boxing lessons will do the trick.

Here are the supporting data:

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Pacific

The Pacific is a ten part HBO miniseries which loosely follows EB Sledge's With the Old Breed and Robert Leckie's Helmet for My Pillow.  Both books are autobiographical accounts of the authors' Marine Corps service in the Pacific during WWII.  HBO hoped to capture the same lightning in a bottle as with Band of Brothers which told the story of the US in Europe during WWII, but fell a bit short.

The pacing was a bit uneven and the story would've been better told without the Basilone sideplot which "wasted" an entire episode.  I do think this series captured the major themes from the books - the misery, horror and stress of the fighting along with the camaraderie.  The visual effects were decent, but some of the sets looked a little fake.

I have relatives who have served and some who are serving still and I have nothing, but respect for those in military.  I can't imagine ever serving in combat and coming back the same man.

I recommend this series, but recommend you read both books firstly.

Project Tree: Day 68

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Conviction by Aaron Allston

Conviction is the 7th book in the Fate of the Jedi series and I enjoyed it.  I prefer Allston's writing over the others because I feel his portrayal of the characters is the most realistic.  He does a good job with a kid who's fairly annoying in the other books.

Unfortunately, the overall series arc is still pretty weak and Luke Skywalker still has too much Superman in him.  I'd like to read more about the Sith, but they aren't covered much.

I recommend this book if you are a Star Wars fan.

Project Tree: Day 66

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Monday, April 23, 2012

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Project Tree: Day 63

The Measure of Magic by Terry Brooks

The Measure of Magic is the second book in Brooks' new Shannara series about events unfolding after the protective magic around the valley fails.  This book and series in general is grittier than the earlier Shannara books and I think it's a welcome change.  Fantasy writing in general is moving away from the elves-and-dwarves epics of Tolkien towards themes that wouldn't be out of place in historical fiction about WWI or WWII.

I didn't enjoy this book as much as I did the first one, but it was still a good read.  Sometimes sequels exist solely to continue the series rather than to offer any new insight.

I recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of the Shannara books and to those who like gritty fantasy in general.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Project Tree: Day 62

Flowers in the yard

The warmer weather has allowed the daffodils to bloom:

Dodge the Deer 5k

This morning I ran the Dodge the Deer 5k down in Schodack Island Park.  It was my first race of the season and only my second race in the past year as I'm not much for running for distance.  However, it's only 5km so how bad could it be?

The weather report said it might rain today, but it ended up a pretty nice day with sun and a light breeze at times.  The course winds its way through the park with most of the running on a trail rather than pavement.  I was officially chip timed in 28:23 which means I was doing about 9 min/mile which was my goal.  I'm continually working my way into shape and figure that I should eventually be able to get to about 8 min/mile. I've had a cough the past couple of weeks so I think I could've done even better had I been healthy.  I did meet all of my goals:

  1. Finish the race.
  2. Run the entire race with no walking.
  3. Don't finish last.
  4. Finish in under 30min.

I spent most of the race focusing on putting one foot in front of the other and I'm not going to lie and say I enjoy this kind of running, but it was a good experience overall.  I got a cool pair of running socks with my registration and they had a pretty good picnic spread for food afterwards.  There was a good turnout with 322 racers though not everyone finished.  I ended up finishing in about the middle of the pack with the winning time being 16:36.

Here is the race course as seen in Google Earth:
Here is my speed and heart rate:
You can see by the heart rate trace that I was definitely putting some work in.

I've been told there are a lot of 5k races in the Albany area so I think I'll try to do one a month or maybe two every three months.  They're a good challenge for me and it's a good opportunity to get out and about.

A glorious sight indeed

Sometimes it really pays to work on a college campus as I saw something awesome earlier this week:
A young woman + strong tennis/soccer legs + a short, loose and translucent skirt + a naughty thong + a light breeze = a glorious sight.  Oh, the humanity.  I got a great view as I walked into work of one of the nicest wiggles I've seen in a long time.  The gusting breeze even provided a nicer view from time to time.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Monday, April 16, 2012

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Friday, April 13, 2012

Sword Song by Bernard Cornwell

Sword Song is the four book in Cornwell's Saxon Tales and does not disappoint.  Cornwell is a master of historical fiction and manages to make history come alive.  This particular series focuses on the mostly fictitious Uhtred of Bebbanburg and how he fulfills his oath of duty to Alfred the Great.

There is plenty of violence, cursing, adventure and history to satisfy even the most casual of readers so this book and Cornwell's others is highly recommended.

Project Tree: Day 54

Thursday, April 12, 2012

War Room by Michael Holley

This book was highly recommended by sportswriter Peter King.  I'm a big football fan and a big fan of trying to get the root cause of things that are perhaps not scientific in nature.  This book deals with evaluating football players which is tricky because football is a system-oriented team game.

The first part of the book deals with Bill Belichick and how he got into coaching.  I actually disliked this part of the book because Belichick rubs me the wrong way.  I'm not convinced he cheated, but he comes across as arrogant.  However, he has been quite successful and has hired a lot of talented folk.

I became more interested in the book as its focus turned to Pioli and Dimitroff, two Belichick disciples.  Pioli is now GM of the Chiefs and Dimitroff is GM of the Falcons.  Holley has inside information on the business process of these two talent evaluators and you learn about the method behind their madness.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of (American) football.

Project Tree: Day 53

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Monday, April 9, 2012

Vortex by Troy Denning

Vortex is the sixth book in the Fate of the Jedi series and I think I've realized I don't really care for this series.  Yeah, the plotline with the Sith could be interesting, but all the characters are one-dimensional caricatures.  The bad guys are uniformly selfish and the good guys have all the answers.  Luke Skywalker has been upgraded to near Superman status and it's a bit annoying.

Denning might be a decent writer, but he doesn't have much to work with here.  I think the best part of the Expanded Universe is learning about stuff that wasn't covered in the movies.  This series is attempting to recapture the epicness of the movies where every decision has ramifications across the universe.  It's ok to read some books in that style, but I wouldn't mind something a bit more everyday.

I only recommend this book if you're determined to plow through the series just to see what the heck happens.

Project Tree: Day 50

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Hangover Part II

I thought the first one was funny, but a bit forced.  This review will be short because the second film is a carbon copy of the first except in Thailand instead of Vegas.  Also the language is a bit cruder and the film is a bit raunchier with the inclusion of some Thai ladyboys.

I guess they're going to have a third one, but I'm not sure what's left to do unless Alan gets married.

I recommend this movie because it has some funny parts, especially the pictures shown during the credits, but it isn't something you need to rush out and see.

I am an uncle!

I got some great news last night.  My brother and sister-in-law called to tell me they finally had their first kid, Francisco Jesse, around 10AM West Coast time.  He was a big 8lbs 8oz and 22in long.  For reference, I was 7lbs 11oz and 21in long, but enough about my penis.  Heh.  C'mon, admit it; that was funny.

All three are doing well and I'm still transitioning from relief to joy.  My sister-in-law is my age and pregnancies at her age aren't always that easy.

He said Francisco is in honor of our Aunt Francis and Jesse is in honor of my sister-in-law's great-grandmother.  My brother has an Hispanic thing going on and plans to speak Spanish to his son so he'll be fluent.  Heh.  Whatever floats your boat, but you were born a Northern European mutt just like me.

Definitely exciting news and I look forward to meeting the little dude in late June and early July.

Happy Easter to y'all.

Project Tree: Day 49

Track work

A colleague told me about a 5k trail run, Dodge the Deer, going down this month.  It's in less than two weeks so I thought I would hit the track to get some work in so I'm not doing the race cold turkey.  It's only 3.1 miles so I could walk or jog it if I had to, but I'm too competitive to go out like that.

My intention was to jog a warm up lap, do six laps of sprinting the straights and jogging the curves and then I would finish up with a cool down lap.  My strength and breath training is working because I was able to sort of follow my plan, but not at the desired pace.  The important thing is I got out there and got some work in in this beautiful weather.  I used my barefoot shoes and running in them really works your calves.

Here's a graph of my speed and heart rate:
The strange spike downward is when I had to tie my shoe.

I'll see if I can do this track work three more times before the race, but it still gets dark fairly early and school is in session.  I think going even one more time would help.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Project Tree: Day 48


Hanna is a movie from 2011 starring Saorise Ronan as Hanna, Eric Bana as her dad and Cate Blanchett as a CIA agent tracking the former two down.  I'm not sure how it ended up in my Netflix queue, but I probably added it because it was in a "violent category."  Heh.  Netflix knows me pretty well.

The movie centers around Hanna's self-discovery and involves her traveling around a couple of continents trying to meet up with her father.  She beats up some bad guys and learns the truth about herself which is about all I can say without spoiling the movie.

I thought it was well shot and well paced though the first half is better than the second.  The Chemical Brothers did the score and it fits the movie well.  Hanna kicks a lot of ass which is a bit unbelievable since she's only 15 and Blanchett has a pretty piss poor Texan accent.  I'd say Blanchett was miscast since the role really calls for a tough woman.  Bana's German accent is pretty good and his character is believable.  Ronan does a great job from start to finish.

I recommend this movie if you're a fan of gritty thrillers and don't mind seeing people get stabbed.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Allies by Christine Golden

The fifth book in the Star Wars Fate of the Jedi series is definitely the weakest by far.  Golden does move the plot along, but this book doesn't feel as tight as the previous ones.  Her writing is wordy and... soft?  Childish?  I'm not quite sure what I'm going for, but I know that I wasn't satisfied with this book.  It follows Ben and Luke around the galaxy and follows what's going on with the rest of the Jedi, but I'm not sure she captured the spirit of the characters correctly.  They came across more as caricatures and she spends too much time advancing a sub-plot around a kid.

I would recommend this book only if you want to read the entire series.  It certainly fails as a standalone book.

Project Tree: Day 44

Monday, April 2, 2012

Sunday, April 1, 2012