Monday, February 25, 2008

The greatest love story of all time

What could be better than one movie with all of this:
  • a man and his car
  • a man and his truck
  • a man and his dog
  • a policeman and his villain
  • a father and a son
Oh, somewhere in there there's also a man and a woman. That part is the somewhat annoying storyline, though. That's right, I'm talking about Smokey and the Bandit. Just another in a long line of reasons why it's the greatest movie of all time.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

How I stay healthy

Okay, so I'm not the most healthy person on the planet, but I do okay. Some folks have asked me for details on what products I use as far as supplements and protein shakes. All of this comes from my personal trainer, but I think it's good advice.

I take a supplement daily called Living Multi by Garden of Life. It's not cheap, but shopping around online and/or using places like The Vitamin Shoppe and their rewards stuff can help. The hard part about it is that you have to take 6-9 pills per day, and it's better to spread them out. Many folks believe that multi-vitamins and the like aren't much use since your body has trouble processing the good stuff out all at one time, so that's why I think this stuff is better in that you can spread it out. The downside is that it is easy to forget to take it that often. It also makes your pee green.

On days I work out (which is usually Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday), my breakfast is a Balance Gold protein bar followed by a protein shake. Balance bars can usually be found at better grocery stores (like Harris Teeter) for about a dollar and a half. You can find them online for less than a dollar a bar at (or at least I have in the past). The shake I use is from Beverly International and is their Muscle Provider (chocolate). I do two servings per day. It tastes much better to me to mix with water using a blender. Just shaking it gives a much different effect. I also blend in almost a full scoop of Super Seed fiber from Garden of Life. That helps slow your absorption of the protein shake and thus gives you a longer energy boost.

For post workout recovery, I have a double serving of Cytofuse Advanced Muscle Regenerator. I like both Rasberry Lemonade and their Watermelon flavor. I have enough chocolate with the Beverly shake.

I also do a daily probiotic from Garden of Life called Primal Defense. In addition to that, I take a couple capsules of fish oils called Ultimate Omega by Nordic Naturals. I should definitely eat better than I do, too. I notice a big difference in my weight if I can cut out sugar. You'd be amazed how much it helps to do nothing more than go straight water instead of drinking soda, sweet tea, etc. I don't believe in diet drinks since you're just replacing sugar with chemicals.

I also like to try to get rid of sweet snacks in favor of things like good old fashioned fruit. Keep fresh bananas, apples, or whatever your favorite fruits are. In moderation, having a variety of unsalted nuts is a decent thing. Making your own trail mix type stuff using nuts and raisins and other healthier snack type things is great. Heck, throwing in a SMALL amount of M&Ms in the mix as a bonus won't kill you and can help with the sweet tooth. It's not horrible to also use prepackaged items like Nature Valley Trail Mix bars. Just check the label on those type things...many have a healthy appearance and then have partially hydrogenated oils and sugar and all sorts of annoying things added.

Even when dieting, one important thing to remember is that if you're hungry, EAT. Not eating when hungry can be just as bad as over eating. Not eating slows your metabolism and thus doesn't allow your body to properly process your food when you do eat. It's better to get in a habit of eating healthy when you are hungry than trying to just limit yourself to big healthy meals at meal time.

Another tip that's been helpful for me (at times, but not always!) is to try to limit yourself to "bad" meals once a week. Make the bad meal a treat. Do the massive burger and fries at your favorite greasy spoon ONLY once per week. It's a treat, it won't kill you, and you'll likely do it much less often that way.

If you have trouble motivating yourself to exercise (who doesn't?), join a gym and do exercise CLASSES. Why? If for no other reason than you have to schedule them. Go for the INCONVENIENT type of setup where you have to schedule something and can't just go "whenever." Whenever never comes. Monday at 7pm comes every week. So does Tuesday at 7pm. Etc. I find that now that I schedule my workouts, I feel like I'm letting myself and my trainer down if I can't make it. So I go even when I don't really feel like it, and I make the best of it.

Like Nike says, Just Do It.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Hughes View of the Blues

Langston Hughes wrote some fictional short stories about the life of Jesse B. Simple (the first name should be pronounced "jess", not "jessie" for effect) and you can get a CD of Nap Turner (a famous DC area Blues DJ) reading them. I don't believe either man is with us any longer, but I found these stories fun to listen to. You can get the CD here.

I first heard these on XM Radio's "Bluesville" station. Also highly recommended if you have XM. Oh, and if you don't specifically have XM but have DirecTV, your music stations (800 and up in the channel guide) are XM, and include Bluesville.

Anyone who sees me in person can get a sample via my iPod if you like before buying.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Brought to you by Air Jordan!

So I couldn't resist and ordered myself a new MacBook Air (slower CPU and hard drive model). It showed up yesterday. So far, I'm fairly impressed. It's very thin and very light, which is to be expected. The keyboard seems to have a great feel and is normal size. The backlighting of the keys is nice. The ability to do special things with two fingers on the touchpad is very nice (two finger scroll/pan, pinch to zoom in, etc).

The screen is awesome. Great picture. I think I was hoping for a bit smaller overall size to the laptop to help keep from having to worry about it getting squished on the airplane by the person in front of you reclining back, but it is still good in that respect. I really like the built in webcam and ability to do a video chat (will come in very handy to say goodnight to the kids when I'm traveling).

Mac OSX is really getting the user interface down. The more I use it the more I really like it. Plus I really dig that when the GUI is making me mad I still have a command line interface that works as I expect it (since it's really Unix under here). Most things "just work." The ability to so easily "screen share" via iChat is a wonderful tool for getting or giving help on things over the 'net.

My complaints are minor, but there are a few. I would have been fine with a half pound heavier and probably a decent amount thicker to get a DVD drive. The external Superdrive works, but it's going to be a little annoying on planes.

The front edge is very sharp and annoying to rest your hands on. I have very big hands, though, so this might not bother most people.

Having the DVD drive be over USB appears annoy some applications like VisualHub. Handbrake works, but the CPU is so slow that it is pretty painful to rip a DVD. Fortunately I have other Macs around for that (and hopefully VisualHub gets upgraded to support Xgrid on 10.5.x and then I can rip DVDs using all my Macs at once!).

Pardon me while I go find a Michael Jordan "jumpman" sticker to put on my new Air.

Coaching kids

So, we're almost through with my first attempt at coaching kids. In particular I'm coaching my oldest son's basketball team. Now, I have a policy that I don't blog about my kids in particular, but I did want to post on my experiences with coaching little kids.

The team is five and six year olds, and at this age they don't actually keep score at the games. The first thing anyone who has been through this before will tell you is "well, the officials don't keep score, but the parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles sure do." That couldn't be more true, but it's also not nearly as bad as it sounds. We haven't had any parents upset at our record (which was pretty abysmal). Nobody has said a word about things we could have done to "win" any of the games. All in all, I have so far been very happy with how the parents have been with all this.

The one thing I was most worried about turned out to be the thing I should be the most worried own lack of patience. I knew my team wasn't great, I knew my son wasn't the best player in the league, I knew I had no experience. But the biggest worry was would I blow my top. If you had told me before this all started just a few of my "experiences" that I would face this season, I would have found someone else to coach. I would have been certain that I couldn't have gotten through these things without losing a bit of self control. But I'm proud to say I think I made it just fine. In fact, I didn't just make it fine, I handled these things without even getting internally upset very much. Okay, the first couple practices had me a little worked up afterward, but it really wasn't that bad.

One thing I realized early on...these are VERY young kids. Given that, I have zero ability to motivate them like traditional coaching situations usually provide. I can't make them run suicides if they don't do what I say. I can't make them sit on the bench during the next game if they don't try. I can't get in their faces and scream things like "If I ever see you do that again I'm going to kick you in your ass until your nose bleeds!" Yeah, I had a coach do that to me in the middle of practice around the age of eleven. I'm not entirely sure it was a good thing to do to an eleven year old. Okay, it worked on me then, but I'd be afraid to try that these days, that's for sure. Heck, I'd be afraid to try that on a fifteen year old.

So if you can't do that, what can you do? All I can figure is just try to find things that are fun and also happen to build skills. That's not easy. And sometimes if you can't find a fun way to build a skill, you just have to work a not-so-fun drill in between two fun ones. That works okay, but even at this age all you can do is herd the cats. Keep pointing them in that proper direction as best you can, and repeat as necessary.

What's really hard? Having your own son in the middle of it all. He's a great kid, but he's a kid too. So when he does one of those things that makes you want to scream, it's that much harder to fight the urge because he's the one you can scream at. Well, legally and all that. But it still won't help, so you just roll along and try to have a conversation afterward about it.

At the end of it all, though, there's not a lot of feelings better than showing a kid the proper way to do something like this and then watching them try a time or two and have it work. It's especially great when they realize they've achieved something they have never done and may not have thought they could do at all. That look in their eyes is priceless. I think that is why the good coaches coach.

Monday, February 18, 2008

NASCAR is dead to me

The Car of Tomorrow, well, technically now the Car of Today, didn't help the "racing" at all at Daytona. I fully expect it will be just as bad, if not worse, at Talledega, too. You might say "how could that be, how could you say it wasn't good racing with all that passing?!?" Looked very much to me like the winner was drawn at random, that's how.

You can't pass without help. Who helps who was teammate based to some degree and then fairly random past that. But the only two teammates near each other near enough to the end were able to push past for the win. They were simply lucky to be in the right place at the right time. Sure, there were a dozen or so teams that did a nice job to put their drivers near the front at the end to be in that position, but after that it was nothing but dumb luck, in my opinion.

I might watch a short track or two, but I don't see any point in watching the big races.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Restaurant Roundup

Sheesh, it's been a while. I want to start out by saying I really like Red Robin, the burger chain that's a bit more of a sit-down restaurant. The food quality is good, it's very consistent, and the service always seems great. They've got a good kid menu that includes healthy side options rather than just fries, and they give you crayons and a healthy sized placemat for the kids to color. It's not what I'd call cheap, but you can eat without terrible expense, either. Of course, if you want alcohol you can get it, though at typical restaurant pricing.

To round out the Pizza Hut saga, I finally got a call from someone representing the actual franchise I had a problem with. Sounded like a kid who wasn't very happy that this had been made part of his job description. He offered "some store credit or something" to help make up for our bad experience. I declined and informed him that I wouldn't ever think of revisiting any establishment with bathrooms that were in that kind of shape. Oddly, we've since gone to another Pizza Hut several times that has been very clean, had great service, and never kept us waiting very long for anything. The kids love it. I know, given our experience before it's surprising that we'd patronize anything with Pizza Hut on the name, but I have past business experience with Pizza Hut and know full well that many franchises are small and not all are run anywhere near the same way. I suspect our good Pizza Hut isn't owned by the same folks that own the bad one.

As for Chick-fil-A, well, nobody is perfect. Yesterday I got fries that had ZERO salt. Ugh. I hate that. But that's like one inconsistency out of a hundred or so, so it's still tolerable. Oh, Google maps couldn't find that Chick-fil-A when I searched for it (said the closest one to me was 50 miles away), but I was pretty sure I had seen this one and thought it was pretty new and thus perhaps not in databases yet.