Thursday, July 31, 2008

July - 33% more posts than June!!!

"ripped T-guy;bad-assed in black;'Bad Dog'on his knees;gay tattoo guy;Slut;Slut;Midget. The Shit you see when you don't have a Grenade...."

I spat my soda through my nose when I read the quoted comment about the above picture at Hot Chicks With Douchebags, a blog that needs no explaining.

This blog conflicts me inside. On one side it is sexist, vulgar and shallow, but on the other side it's motives are so pure and good, I love it. An electronic burffet of hot chicks and douchebaggery. And it's the perfect way to get 33% more in July than in June.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wii Fit, Part the Second - Fountain of Youth!!!

Okay, so with images of my doughy, slouching and depressed Mii in my head, I've finally got my shiznit together and have embarked on something of a fitness program. This time, not so much hell-bent on modifying my life to fit a plan, but rather integrating a plan into my life. Okay, so maybe I won't get a washboard stomach...but I can at least get rid of some of the laundry piled up on it!

A week later, after a shift in nutrition and water intake and a moderate training session or two in the gym, I fire up the game and take another test. Lost about a pound, and did much better on the balance test. Somehow that makes my Mii 8 years "Wii Fit Age" is now 41, which is close enough to my real age to make Chunky Mii do a little victory dance. Amazing what a slight shift in water weight and a little focus can do...I feel younger already. It's very dependent upon how you perform that particular day. The balance tests get progressively harder; so there is no doubt that the next time I'm on it, I'll stumble all over the freakin' place, and be back up pushing 50 again.

After recording my "progress" on graphs and charts it was on to the exercises. There are four categories - Strength, Flexibility, Balance, and Aerobic exercise.

Strength consists of various bodyweight exercises. The best one in there that I see (at the beginner level) is the push up with side plank which is a bona-fide ball-buster of an exercise. But I am an avid fan of weight training, and as I had done a fairly intense upper body workout the day before, I skipped strength training.

So I worked on flexibility - this is a pretty cool computer tutorial that takes you through various yoga postures. I've never even attempted yoga (in a fitness vein - no desire to pursue it as a spiritual path) before; I can confidently say that I can now breathe, bend to the left/right, and do a couple of other fancy-schmansy poses while keeping myself fairly centered on the board. I'll be "keeping" this routine.

Next aerobics - there are some fun exercises here, and one or two duds. First the fun. "Hula-hooping" on the balance board is more work than I thought it would be. Try keeping evenly paced, (moderately) precise hip rotations up for 90 seconds each way as you accumulate more and more hula hoops around your waist. Next is jogging - no balance board, you run in place with the remote in your pocket (or hand) to keep "pace" with another character while running around an island. Fun for a few minutes - it's fun to watch the scenery change as the rest of your family's Mii's pass you, meet you coming the other way, and trip over themselves. Seems okay for a warm up, and I found out that running in place without running shoes on sucks. Honestly, if I want to run any longer than a few minutes, I'll run. It is fun watching your kids do it, though. They tend to get carried away and slowly merge with the TV armoir. The main "dud" is step aerobics on the balance board - slow paced, low step, unless you're very, VERY sedentary (again...that's a lot of gamers out there!) you'll just get bored.

The balance games are REALLY FUN. My particular favorites right now are downhill slalom skiing and ski jumping. They also use the balance board. No explanations needed...they just look fun!

The Wii does a great job of "bringing you into" the game. And apparently, as you advance, you can unlock snowboarding. Which is so much more awesome...skiers are so "yuppie".

So, all said and done, I'll say the "entire Wii Fit package" is good as a "starting point" for getting into shape if you're a very sedentary person who likes video games and has little to no fitness experience or coming back after an overly prolonged layoff. It's a GREAT way to have fun with your kids while doing some light to moderate exercise. But if you already have a background in moderate to heavy strength training and aerobic exercise, I think you'll get more benefit out of the yoga and balance training as an adjunct to your established routine.

I look forward to bringing my BMI and "age" down for the next few months. Once I've got those general indicators under control, and only if I feel like it, will I go back to the more "obsessive" ways of measuring progress that I used to do when I was younger.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Dessert Special - Cobbler

What? Another food post!

This is another recipe we've been making for years; we first got it off an old Naked Chef episode we saw on Food Network when we were living in the Middle East.

Oh...and it's freakin' SIMPLE. Literally about 15 minutes worth of work before you put it in the oven!

Filling (we eyeball the ingredients, but this is about what it comes out to):

Fruit (6 medium peaches, or use your imagination - the one above is peaches and blueberries.)
2-3 tbsp light brown sugar
1 vanilla bean, split (or a good slug - 1 tsp - of pure vanilla)
1/4 cup water


2 large eggs
4.5 oz butter, softened
4.5 oz sugar
4.5 oz self-rising flour

Quarter peaches and cut quarters in half. Place in saucepan with water and brown sugar. Bring to boil and simmer for 5 min. Scrape the vanilla bean out into the filling and discard the pod. Throw in any berries you are using after you turn the heat off.

Beat sugar, butter and eggs on low setting until creamy. Mix in flour until you have a smooth batter. The entire process should be about 3 minutes.

Put filling in a baking dish (we leave at least half the liquid in the saucepan) and dollop the batter on top with a large spoon. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 45 - 60 min. It takes the topping a bit to cook through, so it should be a healthy, deep golden brown when it comes out.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream, or you suck.

Friday, July 25, 2008

While we're on the subject of food...

While we don't do a lot of burfays (unless we're on long roadtrip vacations!), we are definitely a calamari family. If we're at any halfway decent restaurant and calamari is on the menu, we stand a very good chance of ordering some. It's great to see how different places treat the dish, whether it's how they top or garnish the dish, or the variety in dipping sauce they provide.

Which is why Sarah and I were pleasantly surprised last weekend with (almost) the most basic calamari you could eat; fried, battered squid, banana and cherry peppers, and marinara sauce. It was cooked perfectly - the batter hadn't soaked up all the oil, the squid was hot, firm, but not tough, and the peppers had just enough zip.

Oh...and we had a "Virgin Mary in the Grill Cheese" moment, too...

But we were still hungry, so any thoughts of topping $28K on ebay were, ummm, swallowed.

We had it at the Bayside Restaurant in Westport. Check Trip Advisor for reviews. We stopped in when we were heading out to find the beachside house we are renting the first week of August. As luck would have it, they're about a 30-second walk from each other. So needless to say, we'll be enjoying more of the calamari (and other food on the menu - it is excellent!) then.

I Enjoy Burffets

I wouldn't say LOVE burffets, but it's a very reasonable way to eat out...

Thanks to my wife for finding this.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wii Fit, Part the First - Oh Noes! I's Tubby!!!

The biggest battle in my life for the last year-plus has been staying in shape. So much so that the problem is now getting back into shape. Bleh. Back in May I blathered about this and my "usual" cardio workout. Well, I haven't sat down and "de-conflicted and prioritized" family, work and fitness yet (hey, I said I was going to procrastinate).

But we did open and start up the Wii Fit last night! It's almost like sleeping at a Holiday Inn Express, except I didn't wake up to free cinnamon rolls. Which is good, cuz I've been supporting the industrial corn-based food chain by eating way too much crap like that lately.

Set up was fun and embarrassing at the same time. It involves updating your "Mii" with some vital data (height and DOB) and then standing on the whiz-bang "balance board" so it can judge your "level of fitness". It does this by determining your center of balance (as a test of posture) and then weighing you and spitting out your Body Mass Index (BMI).

After this, you get what I like to call "the first slap in the face". The program adjusts your "Mii" to conform with your BMI. In my case, my balding, moustached Mii's body grew to resemble a keg of beer. How appropriate. I've never been a fan of BMI. It's always told me I was almost or actually obese, even when I've been in great shape. But even a stopped clock is right twice a day, and as "great shape" (or even good shape for that matter) doesn't describe me well right now, BMI (and my keg-bodied little Mii) were enough to tell what I need to (okay...already) know.

But one slap is never enough. Then you go through a "balance test" - a series of exercises involving shifting your weight from one leg to the other in varying proportions and holding it for three seconds. Using this, your BMI and center of balance, the program gives you your "fitness age". When it's less than your actual age your Mii does the patented "thrill of victory" thingy. When it's over, it does the little "agony of defeat" thingy. I call the fitness age "the second slap in the face". Which means I have a 48 year-old, bald, moustached beer keg Mii that hangs it's head in sorrow.

Of note my two skinny daughters, aged 4.5 and 3, were given ages of 23 and 22 respectively. This was largely due to their not understanding the balance board/balance test, so I can't rejoice at them getting through adolescence in one piece just yet!

So overall, it told me what I already know...I'm overweight, my posture is bad and I'm out of shape. It was fun doing it though - it explains what it's doing every step of the way, which is good, especially if you're not familiar with fitness concepts (like an increasing number of gamers are). And not to be judgmental, but given the overwhelmingly sedentary nature of the country these days, BMI is probably all most people need to know when "starting out".

It was also the first time I'd ever really seen where my center of balance is, and was able to use a visual aid to determine my correct posture to even it out. (It feels weird...I really need to practice).

The exercises we did were fun as well, but more about that later...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Thoughts on being informed, life imitating sci-fi...

Even a moderately informed person should get 10 of 12 (in reality, 12 of 12 really shouldn't be a stretch) on the Pew Research Center Online News Survey. When you read the demographic breakdown of the questions, you'll get an idea on just how informed most respondents were - by age, gender, and education level.

The website io9 tries to point out five way that Sci-Fi has turned out real this century. I'm not sure I agree - some of the stuff they bring up is pretty ... well ... lame. Apparently CERN, the offer of space tourism at $20M a pop and the SARS and bird flu "near pandemics" qualify as "sci-fi-like". I guess when I saw the link I expected more. What did I say? Have no expectations and you won't be disappointed?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I'm sorry ... but not enough to tell you outright.

What happens when you read a book about a 1924 riot between the KKK and students from Notre Dame University?

If you're a janitor and student at IUPU, you get accused of racial harassment.
But Sampson says his union official likened the book to bringing pornography to work...
Huh? Pornography? Nice to see your union sticking up for you. I can only speculate as to why they didn't. Maybe you should have been a Boston firefighter. Then you could have brought porn to work, got high and pleasured yourself to the porn in your break room and they'd still argue that you deserve a pay raise to compensate for drug testing and sexual harassment training...but we're not talking about Boston idiots...we're talking about Indiana idiots.
...and the school's affirmative action officer in November told Sampson his conduct constituted racial harassment.

"You used extremely poor judgment by insisting on openly reading the book related to a historically and racially abhorrent subject in the presence of your black co-workers," Lillian Charleston wrote in a letter to Sampson.
My jaw kinda' dropped when I read that. What an ignorant, Pavlovian reaction to a "brand name". Don't try to read the title in context. In this case, just focus on the "KKK" part and figure it must be a racist book. Funny, it's not. It appears to be about the other thing that rips this country limb from limb - religion. Maybe these knee-jerkers could have read the title of the book. Maybe someone could have asked him, "Hey, what's that book about?" Naah. Too hard. Why try to understand what he's doing?

Soooooo, once the various university staffers realize what the book was about, and that it was in their own library, what should they do? Well, they apologize. Sorta'.
"I can candidly say that we regret this situation took place," Bantz wrote.

The affirmative action officer's apology is no better. You sniveling cowards. You absolutely bear responsibility for focusing the educational and racial climate of that place, and after YOUR UNINFORMED KNEE-JERK sends it into convulsions, you express regret that this vague "situation" happened.

How about, "I am terribly sorry for how we reacted and questioned your motives for reading this book. You did nothing inappropriate. We hope you accept our apology. We will take great effort to ensure that all people associated with this institution understand and are committed to educational freedom and the fair treatment of all." Or something like that. I dunno', you supposedly got an education to get where you are. Apparently nobody taught you to question, investigate or understand before you make a decision.

Maybe someone did, but you've put yourselves on such thin eggshells for fear of upsetting someone that you've compromised that quality. Maybe you're reacting to a logo. You see the golden arches, you know there are yummy french fries inside the bag. You see "KKK" on a book, you know there's a bigot reading it.

Whatever it is, you've compromised your office. Don't worry, I'm sure you won't get fired or anything.