Saturday, October 9, 2010

10 for Texas Race Recap

I decided mid-week that I wanted to run this 10-miler in The Woodlands. With it being a smaller race (only ~1700 participants), I was able to sign up with no issues. The price was a little steeper than what I’d expected, but I got a really great running shirt out of it and I was a late signee. Plus, now that I think about it…I’d say the price was about right considering the distance was between a 10k and a halfsie. I’m glad to see running events are getting away from the heavy cotton t-shirts and leaning more toward apparel that breathes while you run. I’d actually wear this out on a training run again when the weather’s in the 60s. I can’t say that about a majority of the race shirts I’ve accumulated (and subsequently donated to Goodwill) over the years.

It was a fight

Miles 1-2: I started out at a fairly normal pace, though I couldn’t tell you exact splits due to technical difficulties with Garmela (my Garmin 405; yes, you’re required to name your watch) so no fun Garmin data reports with this post. I really struggled to find a good rhythm. I typically look for a pace-setter; someone I see ahead of me who has a steady, consistent running form, with footwork I like and a pace I can see myself hanging with. As much of a solo runner as I am, I still like to run with a quick pace-setter to help me grind out those first 5 or 6 miles until I can break through the “wall” and fall into my zone. As I came up on the Woodlands Parkway bridge, the 2-mile mark timer announced I was a little under 17-minutes. My 8:30/mile pace was on par with how I normally start off my runs, so I didn’t worry. Garmela was clearly still trying to scrape the morning gunk from her eyes and I was getting bummed that 2 miles were down and I had a piece of valuable technology wrapped around my wrist that was rendering itself useless.

Miles 3-4: At around the 2.25 mile mark, my watch finally stopped with the problem child act. I activated the GPS and gave it some time to find a satellite signal now that I was already almost 20 minutes into the race. I like to see my pace as I’m going and hear that beep that goes off after every mile. Even though the miles weren’t matching up with the course, it’s still good to hear your progress! I still wasn’t feeling like a champ though. I wanted to take off but couldn’t quite break the 8:00/mile pace.

Miles 5-6: Once I hit the halfway point, I popped my lone Hammer Gel and chased it with some fluids at the 6-mile station. I instantly felt it. My legs were starting to go but my lungs were breathing well and my energy level definitely peaked at this point. It was at this point that I realized I had spent too much energy in the first half of the race. My breakfast was sufficient, but I wasn’t aware I was going to run this hard (which means I need to replace more calories during the race). By hard, I don’t mean fast. I mean hard as in having to push myself more than normal. Like an uphill battle? It just wasn’t easy today—it was definitely a fight. The upside: I started to pass people at this point. Lots of people.

Miles 7-8: Even though I was struggling to maintain my new 7:30/mile pace, I was still passing runners of all ages. They weren’t slowing down or running out of steam…they were just maintaining the pace they’d had the entire race. Because of the way I run, I start out slow and pour it on strong in the end, which lends a huge ego boost when the race is coming to an end and you’re blazing past other competitors. Sometimes in more populated races, I get to use my expert H-town highway driving skills and zoom through the traffic, darting here and dodging there. I’m sure I upset some people by cutting them off, but they shouldn’t have built a 5-person wall blocking the path! It’s not like I can leap over them like a video game. Thankfully with the race size being on the smaller side, I didn’t have to do this today. What was not fun about this particular course was the back half of it heads east—looking directly into the rising sun. Ugghhh…I’ve definitely been spoiled by my 6 a.m. runs where I run by moonlight.

Miles 9-10: The crowd support was awesome—it definitely exceeded my expectations for the race. I had my zune rockin’ so I couldn’t hear them, but I could see their enthusiastic cheers and it really does wonders for your dwindling spirit in the waning moments of a run. They really helped me increase my pace (about 7:15/mile in mile 9 and a 7:00/mile in mile 10)! Before the last mile marker, I’d caught up to an older gentleman in his late 50s or so. He saw me, smiled, and pointed to the mile marker. “That’s where we want to get to! After that it’s only a mile!” This put a smile on my face because it’s how I used to run. I’d set myself goals throughout the race. It was either get to that tree before that chick or get to that curve before that old man or something…always mini-goals to help me get through the longer races. Now I just put my head down and zone out to good music. I escape mentally and let my legs do their thing.The last mile was rough with having to run up and over the Lake Woodlands bridge. Kinda reminds me of the stories you hear about Heartbreak Hill at the Boston Marathon. I will be honest: I kick A at hills. I don’t slow my speed and I just attack them. I passed probably 20 people on this bridge as their paces broke down trying to cross it. Before I know it, I’m at the finish watching a 13 year old cross the line in front of me. What a blow to my over-inflated ego at this point! I just got beat by a little kid more than half my age. The joke’s on him though, as my chip time was quicker! ha!

10-9 results


Epitome

I finished with no fuel in my tank. I was spent. The one Hammer Gel did it’s job until it burned off—I definitely needed another one. My calves felt like someone had beaten them with a bat. But mentally I felt accomplished!  I was very happy with my time considering I’d set out for a 1:20:00ish time. And by default it was a new PR (because it was my first ever 10-miler! ha).

This race is what I love about running. Sometimes it’s not always easy. Sometimes you have a rough race, but you get through it and are better for it afterwards. You have struggles along the way, but you overcome. Now take those points and apply it to your life. The ideas and lessons learned are 100% transferable—you struggle, overcome, listen to good music along the way, give everything you’ve got and leave it all out on the field (i.e., the span of your life), and you feel like an accomplished winner afterward. Not a bad way to live your life, if you ask me.

Deep stuff on this beautiful Saturday morning, people. Deep stuff!

Stats

Male Winner: 00:56:68
Female Winner: 01:03:45
Field Average: 01:37:00 (141/1669, top 8%)
Male Average: 01:29:00 (97/699, top 14%)
Age Group Average: 01:26:00 (9/39, top 23%)
Me: 01:14:54 (7:29/mile)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

SNL: The Good Old Days - Volume 1

I became a fan of Saturday Night Live at a very early age. I can remember watching two shows with my parents as a very little kid: China Beach and Saturday Night Live. Not sure that I really understood what I was watching in China Beach, but I know I sure did laugh a lot at the early ‘90s cast of SNL. *queue the “I Love the ‘90s” theme song*

The early ‘90s cast was so clutch that you couldn’t not get hooked. They really ushered in a new generation of comedians after the original late ‘70s cast established the show. It’s kind of hard to follow up comedic legends like John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Chevy Chase (slightly more than one season) and the lovely Gilda Radner. But SNL kept at it, bringing in fresh new talent from all over the nation decade after decade. In the early ‘80s they introduced a young kid with no experience named Eddie Murphy. Then they brought in Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Jim Belushi and Billy Crystal and Martin Short.

Late ‘80s SNL introduced us to Phil Hartman, Dana Carvey, Mike Myers, Robert Downey Jr., Dennis Miller, Kevin Nealon, and Ben Stiller (one season). Of course I’m omitting many talented people, but look at those names. LOOK at those names! SNL jump-started many famous comedic actors’ careers. How awesome would it be to know you did that with a show you wrote/produced?

And then there’s the beloved early ‘90s cast that I love, that hooked me and my good friend Matt into a show that would mold our personalities and lives more than we’ll ever know. They brought in Chris Farley. Tim Meadows. Chris Rock. Adam Sandler. (Yes, I’m putting periods after each FREAKING INCREDIBLE COMEDIAN to emphasize their legendariness.) And Rob Schneider, David Spade, Norm Macdonald, Jay Mohr, Sarah Silverman, Janeane Garofalo and Molly Shannon.

The late ‘90s cast kept us glued to the sets on Saturday nights as well, even when there were great pasture parties happening. That really means a lot when high schoolers are passing up parties to watch your show—the writers should be honored! They introduced Jim Breuer, Will Ferrell, Darrell Hammond, Cheri Oteri, Chris Kattan, Colin Quinn, Tracy Morgan, Jimmy Fallon, Chris Parnell, and Horatio Sanz. This is also when the adorable Tina Fey became a writer for the show. Coincidence that the show was amazing and she was the head writer? I don’t think so. They didn’t just give her her own show (see 30 Rock) for those dimples—the girl has got skillz. Yes, with a Z.

In the early 2000’s (what the hell do we call this time period…I can’t say early oh-oh’s—it just sounds weird), Tina Fey made it into the cast while also continuing to write for the show. I guess you can do that when you’re the head writer. Amy Poehler arrived soon after and the next few years are when I started to lose interest because the show stopped churning out quality acts. (I was also in college at the time, so I definitely wasn’t staying in on a Saturday night to watch SNL!) But I mean c’mon…just counting the ones above that I liked, SNL spit out 40 comedians. Some of them didn’t pan out to do much else, other than SNL skit-inspired movies, but most of them used the show’s success as a spring board for bigger and grander things.

So enough yacking… I’m starting a new series to cover my favorite SNL skits. I’ll post five videos every now and then of skits that drove me to tears with raucous laughter. Skits that Matt and I would recite verbatim whenever we wanted. All the time. So much so that my fondest memory of his mother is of her smiling while rolling her eyes and then saying “I don’t get it…” because she hadn’t seen the show. Skits that influenced my purchases of every single Adam Sandler CD. So without further ado, I present my first selections in no particular order or ranking.

CELEBRITY JEOPARDY: This ongoing skit was the basis behind me buying a t-shirt that says "THE PEN IS MIGHTIER" that no one seems to understand but me and maybe 3 other people. Darrell Hammond as Sean Connery kills me EVERY time—his banter with Will Ferrell (as Alex Trebek) is and will always be timelessly hilarious. Easily my most favorite SNL series skits of all time!

NADEEN and SIMMA DOWN NA: To me, this is one of Cheri Oteri’s funniest skits. (Please pardon the video quality; a lot of these videos are hard to find online and what’s out there on the “world wide interweb” isn’t all that great for some of the lesser-known skits.) I’m not even sure where her character is from to determine her accent's origin, but anytime I hear the singer Donna Summer’s name mentioned I think of Cheri Oteri reversing the name and stretching it out to “Summa Don-na” and shooing Ana Gasteyer out of Burger Castle.

NICK BURNS: One of Jimmy Fallon's finest characters, everyone can relate to Nick Burns. I can think of one IT guy at my job who answers the help line. He’s just like this guy, only a tenth as smart, and my friends who I work with will immediately know who I’m referring to. Either way, I love how Fallon rocks this character. MOOOVE!

CAJUN MAN: Ahhhhhhhhhh, Cajun Man. You provided Matt and I with so much in high school. We absolutely wore this skit out. Day in and day out. We would incorporate the Cajun accent into everything! "Jim Morrison" "Defecation" "Melon!" "Meh, rejection" "Lesbian!" "Intuition" hahaha I'm cracking up just writing this. "KEVIN NEALON!"

SCHWEDDY BALLS: One of my two favorite, incredibly hilarious, all-time favorite Alec Baldwin (guest host appearance) skits. His cool, calm demeanor was spot-on for his character’s radio voice. I love that he’s getting so much love and praise for 30 Rock, because the guy is truly talented. Even with his small, but famous, role in Glengarry Glen Ross, you knew this guy was going to do great things with his career.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I’m nutella’n you this for your health…okay maybe I am

Part two of my Nutella series for awesome baked goods that even dudes can make: Nutty Nutella Oatmeal Chip Cookies. I found this modified peanut butter oatmeal cookies recipe online in my search for ways to incorporate my newly favored spread in any and everything possible. It was a bit labor intensive since I forgot we have a stand-up mixer, but the end result was every bit worth the extra elbow grease.

nutty nutella oatmeal chocolate chip

A few Friday’s ago, while trying to knock out debt by staying in for the night I decided to try out this tantalizing recipe. I will warn you, these cookies totally go against my normal try-to-eat-healthy diet…but they’re worth it! Armed with nothing but a Monster and a burning desire to satisfy the cookie-craving hole in my soul, I set out to make my first set of non-break ‘n’ bake cookies from scratch. Break ‘n’ bake are good—I’m not knocking them. Their ease and taste even the playing field, making everyone a baker. But the satisfaction of making cookies yourself, with your hands and strength and patience, totally comes out in the way the made-from-scratch cookies taste. Your audience can taste the love and care you put into them, and ultimately that’s what you want—customer satisfaction.

I won’t tell you how to make the cookies; you can follow the directions in the link posted above. I will give my commentary on how these bad boys were made and how they turned out! First, I started off acquiring the necessary ingredients.

ingredients the goods

Sure, you might be thinking: what the hell are you doing baking? It’s the one of the least manliest things ever. Well, you’ll be happy to know that I recently finished restoring a 1928 Triumph Speed Twin 5T. I held a door open today for an elderly woman. Once, I wrestled a Texas mosquito to the ground. I sharpen my Bowie knife using my teeth…after downing a pint of Guinness in one gulp. I once drove to Michigan without using a map or GPS. Or asking for directions. I think I’ve built up enough man credits in order to bake my own damn cookies, thank you very much.

Following the directions, I start to see that this is going to be one thick mix…and I haven’t even added the oats or nuts or chocolate chips! Using a teaspoon to stir, I add the required eggs, oatmeal, hazelnuts and chocolate chips to the sugar-nutella-flour mix.

con huevosthick stuffyes, that's a spoon standing up in the middle

I put small golf ball size portions on a bunch of cookie sheets and baked at the recommended temperature for about 10 minutes.

cookiescookies

The recipe made about four dozen (I was able to get four baker’s dozen) super amazing cookies. Not gonna lie—I got a little too excited when I saw all these cookies ready to be devoured!

nutty nutella cookies Nutty Nutella Oatmeal Chip Cookies

IMG_1455 this scavenger showed up when the heavenly smell overwhelmed her from two counties away

final result 
my feeble attempt at a trendy food magazine photo shot

So the end result? Simple put: amazing. I think I ate half a dozen the first night. Then another dozen the next few days. It was difficult restraining myself and not eating more! I took a dozen to a friend’s place for their approval—one religiously makes delicious cookies and selflessly shares the wealth so I had to take her some. I took the remaining two dozen (or so) to work and they were gone in the first hour. I actually had two people kinda upset I hadn’t told them about the cookies soon enough before they disappeared—they really wanted to try them! Hearing how amazing they were from other people in the trading and accounting departments only made them more desirable. And so the legend of the Nutty Nutella Oatmeal Chip Cookies grew…

My score for use of nutella in these cookies is a 10 out of 10, better known as “a must bake!” Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get back to installing a kegerator in my man cave.

NOTE: The only modification I made to the recipe above was doubling the chocolate chip amount to a full cup. Because, well…the more chocolate, the more satisfied the customer!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Beards are for winners


Most of the greatest men to walk this earth have rocked a beard. Some were long and some were of a more respectable length. You’ve got Jesus Christ, Socrates, Che Guevara, Willie Nelson, Robert E. Lee, Abraham Lincoln, Colonel Sanders, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Chuck Norris…the list could go on for a while. There’s even a bearded dragon, which was once just a regular, boring dragon until it realized the hidden powers the beard instills. These guys (and some women) have realized one thing: beards command attention. Beards say Hey, look at me. The mouth I encompass has something very important to say. Beards say I make my owner very wise-looking.

As with all things, there are pros and cons to be weighed before proceeding with the adventure of growing your own beard. Let’s see what we can come up with (feel free to add more in the comments section below):

CONS
1) Beards are sometimes a little itchy. Go wash your face you dirty-faced dude!
2) Beards have the potential to make you look rather vagrantly if not maintained properly.
3) If not sculpted correctly, beards have the great ability of displaying your true douchey-ness.
4) Facial hair tends to gray faster than head hair, causing confusion in many as to your actual age. Facial hair coloring is often the best solution, which if you are a real man is no solution at all.
5) Beard growth implies ultimate bachelorhood“Sorry ladies, I’m off the market and not even trying!”

PROS
1) Beards are huge flavor-savers; they catch everything. You know when you’re drinking your cereal milk too quickly and it escapes your mouth just to trickle down your face and onto your pants? With a beard, you don’t have that problem because it catches the milk before it soils your britches.
2) Beards make you look older and therefore wiser. Sad, but true—I did not get my “senior” accountant promotion until I grew a beard. I suppose I needed to look the part.
3) Beards go well with sweaters. And scarves.
4) Beards can take the attention off of your balding (or already bald) head.
5) Beards make it easier to shave than fully-shaving since there’s less surface area to shave.
6) They’re malleable.
7) Beards are awesome.

The biggest misconception with beards is that chicks hate them. An independent study by the University of Waterloo* in Iowa found 87% of polled women like a man without facial hair. In another study, 91% of polled women like a man with a beard. The first poll was conducted by 10 very good-looking, clean-shaven male models. The second poll was conducted a month later by the same 10 models but who were now donning a month's worth of beard growth. So what the study really found was the women were clearly swayed by the male models’ charm and good looks to vote yes and that having a beard did not affect whether or not a girl would find you attractive! Don’t let girls’ possible thoughts of how a beard would affect your attractiveness deter you from growing one.

If you’re good-looking, a beard is not going to knock you down a notch—it’s all about confidence anyways, right ladies? On the flip-side, if you didn’t have the pleasure of inheriting a handsome mug, you can always use a beard to hide your face so that your awesome personality can stand out!

*Not an actual university.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Free at last, free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! Wouldn’t it be cool if those were my original words? Do you ever have those moments you think something sounds really cool, only to run your checks with Google to see that someone else has already done it, made it, eaten it, said it, encountered it, blogged about it, etc? Yeah…that was me earlier when I clicked the “Submit Payment” button about an hour ago. I was saying “I’m free!! At last! Thank you God!” (a la Dr. MLK’s I Have A Dream) because I’d just accomplished what so many Americans desperately want to do—I just paid off my debt.

$0.00 due? excitement beyond belief.

Poof! My colossal burden is no longer my problem. It’s now my credit card companies’ problem to find revenues elsewhere! I sacrificed a lot, and yet it wasn’t as hard as I’d feared. I won’t say I did this all on my own. I definitely had help; and for that I’m grateful. I gave up my sweet apartment in the medical center area in order to get myself back on the right track. I left all my friends inside the loop behind to move in with my mom. I still paid her rent but at a much lower rate than market! I know what you’re thinking… Dude! You live in your mom’s basement! No! We can toast to the fact that I’m debt-free, yes I watch Californication, but this isn’t some Timbaland song! Plus we don’t have basements in the H. But yes, I live with my mom. At twenty-seven years old, it’s a bit of downer. But it was the responsible thing to do for my future. My future spouse’s future. My future family’s future. I only gave up a year and a half to ensure the rest of my life is going in the right direction. That was my trade-off and how I convinced myself it was the right thing to do. Thankfully I have a loving mother who would actually take her ingrate of a son in for a few months! Now on to how it was done…

In college I had two credit cards with different billing cycles exactly two weeks apart. I would use one credit card for two weeks and then pay it off when it was due two weeks later. While I was waiting to pay credit card one, I’d use credit card two. Both credit cards had rewards programs so I used them instead of my debit card or cash. Both cards were paid off every single month. Doing this allowed me to never have to keep track of the whole “minimum amount due” or “statement balance” or “current balance.” My balance was my balance and there was no confusion. I waited tables at the once-famous Chili’s #249 (holla! fellow chiliheads!) and made really good money. We were the only location for hours, so everyone from mall-goers to people from BFE making their once-a-month trip into the big city would stop in. We were on a wait every weekend night and during the week management would cut servers so that the rest of us could have more tables. I was bringing home two-grand a month in tips at least (because I rocked. Attentiveness and brains go just as far for us non-pretty fellas!) and had way more money than I needed for bills. This was an ideal situation for a college kid who just wanted to have fun!

Skip ahead to post-graduation. I have no “real” job and I’m waiting tables at a new Chili’s in north H. The money is terrible. The area is flooded with all sorts of restaurants so no one wants an awesome blossom. I manage to make really high-percentage tips, but when you only have 5 or 6 tables a night…you can’t really make money. This is where the (slight) downfall starts to begin. The credit cards I once had no trouble paying off are starting to escalate as my spending habits can’t be broken. When I want something, I just go get it. I’ll pay for it later! As my buddy Dave would always quip: I’ll let future Dave worry about that! I thought a couple grand of debt was peanuts when I finally landed my career job!

Only my career job doesn’t pay much because my career is…well, normal? Accountants grow on trees, ya know. So what do I do with my low mid-rangish paying job? I go get a swanky apartment! A treat to myself! And what the heck, I’ll get a brand new SUV while I’m at it too! Idiot. 22-year-old me was an idiot I tell you! Living beyond my means… You can’t phrase it any better. Throw in a few beautiful girlfriends along the way, and my weak, weak, weak frailty for pleasing the ladies and you’ve got yourself a sizeable debt.

Was I worried about it? No. Should I have been years ago before paying thousands of dollars in interest? Sure! But when you see that number slowly rise over time…you never fully realize it’s massiveness until it’s too late. Ever had a long-term girlfriend that was skinny when you first met and fell in love with her? Then when things just don’t work out, you two split and you go back and look at old pictures of all the good times you had? Yeah—you know where I’m going with this. You think: “Wow! Look how skinny I was! Look how skinny she was! I had no idea we’d let ourselves go…” Same thing with credit cards! You’re having so much fun along the way that you don’t even realize the underlying issues that will ultimately be your downfall.

I had a roommate a few years ago who was doing something so noble, it changed my life. He was feverishly paying off debt with a debt consolidation plan, while also saving up for a massive ring to slide on his suspecting girlfriend’s finger. What was admirable was that he probably makes about the same thing as me but he was sacrificing so much more than me. I could see the drive in his eyes to be debt-free before he married this girl and it all clicked: money issues are the leading cause of divorce and he was eliminating that chance! Smart dude.

Now, I wasn’t looking to get married but I did have my sights set on some personal goals that would be hindered with that darned debt monkey on my back. Purchase a house? Get a better rate with no debt! Move to a new, more-expensive city? Make your paycheck go farther with no debt! Want a new job? Reduce your debt, because HR is gonna perform a credit check on you! I started to cut back, but not a lot. It was hard to begin with. I was so used to having fun at the expense of “future David” that I didn’t know how to control myself.

Then my job picked up. I finally started to get noticed for the hard work I was (always) putting in and I was starting to be rewarded appropriately for it. I had a boss I clicked with that enjoyed my working style and the quality work I produced. Then I moved into a three-bedroom apartment and my total “cost of living” dropped a bit! I was able to use that savings to make larger credit card payments. I made payments to all three cards and my line of credit, but I attacked the smallest credit card first like a bully. A few months in and a credit card was down for the count. Months later, another one bites the dust…running away with its tail between its legs. My apartment lease ends and I make the decision to expedite this plan—I move in with la madre. No electricity bill, no cable bill, no internet bill, no water bill—instead I just sprinkle some Benji’s every now and then and everything’s taken care of. Now I realize not everyone has the luxury of moving in with someone and getting free rent or seriously-discounted rent, but this is where I consider myself lucky. Hopefully I can do this for my kid in the future should they need it.

With discounted rent freeing up some serious cash-flow, I paid off my line of credit within the first month. This left just the one colossal credit card to haunt my dreams. The debt mountain looked so tall, but not nearly as tall as it once was. I knew I could do it, it was just going to take an even stronger sacrifice than before. I thought to myself: If I’m gonna live way up here in the boonies, I need to take full advantage of the situation and knock this puppy out (put a sock in a it PETA, no puppies were harmed)! I got a gym membership to eat up most of my free time so that I didn’t spend it trying to spend money. I cut out a lot of my domestic travelling. I sat at home on weekends going into the deepest corners of Netflixville…streaming everything from Sin Nombre to Visioneers. I watched entire seasons of Weeds and Arrested Development.

Where did this extreme dedication and commitment take me? Ultimately, everywhere. I’m free. I’m freee!!! I feel like a college kid again, back when I didn’t have to really worry about debt. I owe no one! It truly feels amazing. If I wasn’t so tired from a 13-hour workday, you’d see more of a hugely ecstatic look on my face! Debt-free. It still doesn’t sound right. It doesn’t look right, flying into the screen, letters arranging themselves in place as my fingers type it. Debt-free! A huge relief. Debt-free. I feel like I’m singing a song now and the chorus is “debt-free.” I like the idea of not having to worry about it anymore. Debt-free is the way for me! Debt-free. I’m rambling. Because it’s late. Dammit! I just realized I owe Neal a Dos XX.

Guess I’ll just have to wait a little longer to be truly free…

Saturday, July 31, 2010

What your parents are nutella’n you about

As a kid, I grew up in a modest household. We didn’t drive fancy cars or have the latest fashionable clothing. We didn’t go on extravagant vacation destinations. But we did have all the Little Debbie® snacks you could think of in our pantry! But no name brand sodas. But we had Blue Bell ice cream! …But no Nutella®. I know what you’re thinking: “Wait. What? How could you be deprived of that delicious hazelnut spread?!” Well, it’s simple. If my parents had given us everything we wanted (or in this case, stuff I didn’t even know I wanted!) then we would’ve grown up spoiled. So it was a give-and-take, carefully-plotted, and purposefully-chosen method they adopted to determine which junk food we were allowed to eat so that we didn’t turn out that way. Or at least that’s how I’m choosing to rationalize it to myself…

A few weeks ago, I was making my normal s-shaped route (or figure-8s or whatever you want to call them) through my local HEB…going up and down every single aisle to see what catches my eye…and I see Nutella. What heck is this? I read the label: Hazelnut Spread with Skim Milk and Cocoa. Mmmm! Every morning I get a hazelnut-vanilla coffee, so I know I love hazelnut flavoring. Skim is my preferred fat percentage of the milk family! And cocoa? Don’t get me started on my soon-to-be-lethal addiction to chocolate. So I bought the smaller size jar and tried it that night on some bread. Just bread and Nutella became dessert! I was in love with a hazelnut spread that had a super weird name and it’s been a happily-ever-after story since.

So with that intro, I feel like I need to kick off a new mini-series to The Runner’s Blotter; one dedicated to finding and exposing Nutella recipes! Or just showing you all the easy stuff you can do with it. I had a great experiment tonight, but I’ll save that revealing piece for a later date. Trust me, you’ll want to make this cookie recipe so you can see for yourself how awesome the result is!

To start this puppy off, I’ll keep it simple and easy. I expanded on the bread and Nutella dessert to make it a meal. I chose some great Mrs. Bairds wheat bread to be bearer of (good news!) spreadable wonderfulness: organic crunchy peanut butter on one side and Nutella on the other:

pb&n sandwichpb&n halved PB&N Sandwich

If you love Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Reese’s Pieces, Peanut Butter M&Ms, Twix PB, then you’ll love this modern twist on the old-school PB&J. Look at how empty the rest of that plate is! No worries--this wasn’t my entire meal. I also had a granola bar. Guess what I did with the granola bar? Yup…I dipped it in the Nutella!

IMG_1443 Nutella-dipped granola bar

If you’re wondering, the answer is yes. Yes, I had a huge glass of milk accompany my Nutella quest for the night. And yes, this was an awesome dinner that I was thoroughly pleased with after finishing! I had a protein shake as well, for those of you wondering if I starve myself! haha

My mind started racing. I wanted to concoct other more-elaborate uses for this hazelnutty goodness! So I started to make a list, with the help of some others, and I plan on making everything on it! Lots of people have known about this almost-50 year old product for years. Many of them will admit they’ll just grab a spoon and eat it right out of the jar sometimes like it’s frosting or ice cream! That’s how tasty it is. So for those of you who grew up in a household like mine, put Nutella on your next shopping list. You won’t regret it.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

And these are what make man great…

So the weekend is fast approaching and I’m pretty stoked. Yes, I’m incorporating surfer lingo! That’s how stoked I am! My broseph is coming to town (sorta) for his 24th birthday (sorta) and that’s always exciting. I’ve got plans to experiment in the kitchen tomorrow night. I make my FINAL credit card payment Friday...yes, I'll be DEBT-free!!?! A mid-range run slated for either early Saturday or Sunday morning. Hoping for some pool time Saturday with friends (they don’t know it yet, but I’m already creating plans for them!) and then catching a Oswalt-less ‘stros game that night. Sunday will be spent relaxing to the fullest. The weather is supposed to be pretty hot, but I’m pretty good at working around (or with) that. Mostly, I’m excited for the kitchen experiment tomorrow night, but I’ll post more about that in the upcoming weeks!

I got in a schweddy, schweddy run tonight. Geez it was humid. Only in the mid-80s but I think it rained a bit up here before I got started. It’s amazing how much water-weight I carry, just sloshing around in my inner-tube region mainly, because I sweat a lot on my runs in Houston. I’ll spare you details for fear you haven’t had dinner yet and I might spoil it. But I had a great run, just because there was no sun beating down on me and it wasn’t 90+ degrees. That and Mumford & Sons kept me mellow and even keel.

If you’ve not had the pleasure of listening to these English lads’ debut album Sigh No More, get out there and try it. You can buy the mp3 version on Amazon for $5. Five jorge’s people! I don’t really know how to describe them other than it’s just acoustic, mandolin, banjo, accordion, and dobro. What’s a dobro? Click on the word dobro and you can see for yourself. I honestly have never seen one of these, so I’m not gonna act like a know-it-all! Very, very good stuff though. I don’t think their songs classify as one, but each one reminds me of a fairly lengthy ascending crescendo: starts off slowish and soft and gradually gets faster and a bit louder and more awesomer. Now you’re wondering how I could possibly run to this? Well, I was just in the mood. That’s all I can say! The song (not on the radio here in the H, but is on the radio in the ATX) they’re known for is Little Lion Man and I love it. But these, my friends, are the reasons I love the group:

White Blank Page

After The Storm

Saturday, July 10, 2010

No, I think you’re a contra. (An uncomfortable rant)

Let me preface this post by saying that you’ll be reading some stuff that may be hard to stomach because it’s a bit personal (and because some of it’s just gross—see the monster at the end), but if it’s too difficult to handle turn back now. Because only three or four people read this, I don’t have to worry about too much backlash. I’ve come to grips that this is just me and that I’m not alone in the world with this feeling or having these ‘experiences.’ Also, this post is more for my sake of needing to rant (hence the unabridged, super lengthiness of what is about to follow…) so don’t blame me if you grow tired/uninterested halfway through.

Wednesday morning I woke up feeling a bit like poo…similar to the day before. But I got up and went to work like a good employee, not really thinking about how I felt. (I’ll admit I’m not a morning person and my brain doesn’t fully function at 5:30 a.m until coffee is entered into the equation.) There was a bus fire in the HOV lane that day but I never saw it—I only got the added benefits from it by getting to sleep an extra 20 minutes on the commute into town from the traffic. Hmm…guess I shouldn’t say “added benefits” as someone might have been hurt. We’ll just assume everyone was evacuated safely and move along with the story. I get to work and tell my boss I’m scheduling a doctors appointment that afternoon to see what was up with me. I’ll spare you the details of my condition, but know that I was rockin’ a pretty sexy, deep voice as a result of it (a la Phoebe in the episode of Friends when she sings “Smelly Cat” with a cold).

Turns out I have bronchitis with ear infections in both ears. What twenty-something year old gets ear infections? I didn’t feel any pain there, but the doctor said they were definitely infected. Gross. Either way, I’m contagious and this meant days away from the office. Sounds sweet, right? Sick days to do whatever I wanted! Wrong. I ended up working probably 9 hours on Thursday from home via work laptop connection. I wanted to work out at the gym, but had no energy and would’ve gotten others sick. So I finished up season 4 of Weeds and went to bed. Woke up early Friday morning and did more work from bed. I’m telling you, this is not how I wanted to spend my sick days off. I wanted to sleep and sleep and then when I woke up, go back to sleep!

Needless to say, by Friday afternoon I was slightly stir-crazy. As great as they are, you can only stream so many episodes of Arrested Development on Netflix before you start to get bed futon sores. So selfishly I set out for a quiet evening on the town at some unfortunate book store. Armed with a handmade Starbucks double-shot (not the tiny 8 oz canned version; the handmade ones are better and you get more for your buck—they’re not on the menu anymore but the baristas will make you one if you ask nicely with a smile ;), I made my way to Borders to peruse some magazine pieces…as well as contaminate the ‘hood with my doting bronchitis. This month’s Rolling Stone has some good stuff in it; Lady Gaga interview and the article that forced the former U.S. General McChrystal to resign for making derogatory comments about our commander-in-chief, et al. I’m not making any statements by saying I read those two pieces—I’m just saying they were entertaining and informative.

Afterwards I made my way over to HEB, my favorite grocery store in the area (second only to Whole Foods). I’d been jamming out to some Vampire Weekend Contra, so walking through the store I’m singing the oh-OH-oh-OH chorus part of “Diplomat’s Son.” If you’ve heard this song, you know it has a indie-pop little bounce to it. It reminds me of the west coast, which is odd considering these guys are from New York, I think. If you’ve never heard of these guys’ music and you’re a fan of a modern-day Paul Simon sound (or even if you’re not…), they’re definitely worth checking out. They’ll be in Houston the first week of October if you want to see them live. Anyways, back to the indie-pop bounce of the song…it was causing me to walk with the same rhythm and skip in my step. I’m sure it was amusing if you were watching, but I was off in la-la land. I looked like a vagrant—jeans tattered with holes, an undershirt and driver’s cap (flat cap/newsboy cap/ivy cap/whatever) to cover up the matted bed-head hair. I haven’t shaved or trimmed the beard in days. Obviously my condition had affected the part of the brain that says: “hey bum, you’re going out in public—look respectable!”

I pass through the juice aisle and see a cute girl checking out the selection. I pass by her and take note. Do I say something witty and cavalier like “Impressive, isn’t it?” Nope. Do I say anything at all? No, I pass right on behind her with my mini-cart filled with next week’s lunch and hoard of dark chocolate pudding. Sometimes when I don’t make a shopping list, I just go up and down every aisle and look at everything until something catches my eye and reminds me that I need it. This can be a great technique if administered appropriately, but usually just yields $100+ grocery sprees. What was great about it tonight, was my figure-8’s of the grocery store aisles were causing me to intersect the cute juice girl’s path. We would exchange glances and small, innocent smiles when we’d bust each other looking and then move along to the next aisle…like it was a game or a dance that insects do during mating courting season before the deed is done courting takes place.

But then the sad part of the story comes into play: we ran out of aisles to pass each other on. I never saw her again…and I didn’t go looking for her for fear of looking like a creep-stalker. Did I choose the longest line of all the checkout lines in hopes of stalling a bit and running into her again? You betcha. Did I see her again? Would I be writing this terribly sad post if I had?

This is where the post gets a little hard to stomach. You know those guys on television or in the movies that are awkwardly shy around the opposite sex? The ones that make you cringe when you watch their inelegant handling of women? I’m thinking Steve Carell as Michael Scott in The Office. Ben Stiller as Greg Focker in the Meet The Parents movies. Michael Cera as…well every roll he’s ever played. (Man—poor guy has definitely been type-casted a lot.) That’s me. Not always. I’m okay most of the time. But there are times, like tonight, when I’m a bumbling idiot displaying my amateur ranking with no apprehension. I should’ve said something, like a simple “hi” but didn’t. Why? I don’t know—it plagues me once every few months when I actually see a girl that tickles my fancy.

I know I’m not the only one that struggles through the ordeal of figuring out possible clever/cute things to say to a pretty girl. And they’re only human after all, like me…right? Plus this girl was actually smiling back and obviously doing this crazy figure-8 aisle dance with me; a guy who looked like a bum. I probably could’ve said anything, even clumsily, and still been okay. What am I scared of? Was I brought up to be scared of failure? I don’t want to be scared of failure—it’s a part of life. An integral one. It’s a part of life everyone needs to experience to be whole, humble, human.

Sidebar: It scares me that society has shifted to the point where all kids get trophies now…no matter what place their little league team actually placed. Kids need to realize that if you get last, you get nothing. Maybe a pat on the back and say “Better luck next time.” But they need this lesson to learn that life isn’t fair and that you have to work hard for what you want. If you want to be the best, get out there and earn it. You’re not going to graduate college and then be magically presented with a job because everyone gets one. Only the best get a job (or “trophy,” c’mon…keep up with the metaphor)! Okay, end of tangent.

If not intimidated by the thought of failure, then what? Was I just being polite by not getting close enough to infect her with my illness? Pffft! What am I, a leper? No. Was I just being polite by not hitting on her while she was grocery shopping? Maybe she gets hit on all the time and doesn’t want to be bothered. Maybe she never gets hit on and she would’ve liked that I said hi…

See—does this banter not make you feel uncomfortable? Like you’re watching Michael Scott or Greg Focker? It’s painful. I’m sure you can’t find a comfortable way to sit while reading this…like you empathize with the guy but still don’t like to see it. This is when misery no longer loves company. No one wants a part of this.

And it never fails: when this joyous occasion happens to me or my brother (read: strong sarcasm), we always immediately call the other and ask why this happens to us. WHY?! we exclaim, as if the other has all the answers. I guess it’s rhetorical for us and more therapeutic to ask another than to toss the idea around in your own head where you already know you don’t have the answer. We don’t want to play the victim, but it’s as if we have no control over it.

You have to keep your head high though. Have faith that one day things will work out and you’ll meet that special someone when the time is right. Then you’ll never have to worry about those silly supermarket encounters again. You’ll just walk by the lady, remember how awesome your girl is back home, and move along past the juice selection. So I think I just remedied my worries: forget about tonight’s possible missed shot…someone great is still in my path, we just haven’t crossed yet.

For being such a great listener and actually following along to this point, I’m offering up a contest. Correctly identify this absurd stick bug that was found in the kitchen sink tonight after I unloaded the groceries and I’ll buy you lunch next week (when I’m healthy again! horray):

2010-07-09 21.55.33 yes, that’s a baby stick monster riding the back end of it’s mother’s/father’s abdomen

Don’t worry, bug-lovers. This duo was safely transported back outside and not harmed in the process. I have no clue how it actually got inside though. So to be eligible for the free lunch, the first one to leave the correct answer as a comment on this post wins! Good luck peeps. Update: This is not a baby and parent, but rather a male and a female involved in a procreative act. My apologies to my underage readers for posting such a lewd picture!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Fairfax™ CamelBak Hydration Pack for Runners - Review

The summers and the runners of the south are not always the best of friends. Coastal cities like Houston are bombarded with extreme heat indexes thanks to 100% humidity. Running along your favorite route becomes next to impossible without the aid of either some strategically placed water fountains or some fluids strapped to your chassis.

What if there are no water fountains? I can remember riding along with my dad as a child in his pickup truck as he placed large water bottles in the ditch along his biking route out on country roads. He didn’t have to worry about some adopt-a-highway clean up crew finding his bottles and throwing them away. He had water every couple miles and never had to worry about being dehydrated. Living in the city, I don’t have this luxury. Plus I don’t like to stop running when I’m going because it’s too hard to get going again. I also don’t like to carry most forms of water bottles—grenade belt style or handheld.

hydration belthandheld bottle











Hydration Belt & Handheld Water Bottle

If I’m wearing some sort of gear belt, it’s my SPIbelt. I’m a minimalist through and through and so the smallest/lightest option I can find is the one I’m choosing. Carrying stuff in my hands? No. I want to be free when I’m running—not handcuffed to a water bottle. Thankfully, CamelBak has another option. Aptly named after the water-retaining beast of burden, they’re the “originator and world leader in hands-free hydration systems.” That sounds like my cup of tea!

You may think of CamelBak as a company who makes backpack-style hydration packs for bikers or climbers—people who can’t afford to take their hands off of what they’re doing and but still need fluids. Well they make hydration packs for runners as well! I just have a few requirements though… Requirement #1: can’t be bulky. Requirement #2: can’t bounce around while I’m running. Requirement #3: can’t be heavy. Requirement #4: can’t be annoyingly irritating. Requirement #5: can’t be expensive…we’re in a recession ya know.

Enter: Fairfax hydration pack. I was able to purchase one last week and armed with a concoction of The Black Keys, AutoVaughn, and a Hammer Gel pack was able to test it out this weekend on a 5 mile run.

camelbak fairfax 2010 Fairfax by CamelBak

Bulkiness

Minimalists rejoice! This thing is small enough to not be annoying. It hugs your back and doesn’t protrude like a huge hiking pack. It has a 50 oz reservoir for fluids (that’s about 1.5 liters, for my large population of foreign followers), which is plenty for an hour or two of running. Yet even with it’s small size, you can still store your keys, phone, carb gels, mp3 player, etc. Not just one of those things…all of them at the same time!

fairfax1 Fairfax in action

Bouncinessbody glide

While running 5.1 on Sunday, not once did this pack bounce. It was like a baby spider monkey clinging tightly to his mother for dear life. It was great! But being so snug, I could see how chafing could be an issue. I didn’t experience this, but if you do I’m sure it’s nothing Body Glide’s Liquefied Powder couldn’t handle. (That stuff works wonders on your toes as well if you happen to blister easily. Either that or TriSlide, according to Chic Runner.) But since I didn’t experience this, I’d say that’s a plus for the product. A snug fit = awesome.

Heaviness

Weight? What weight? It feels like maybe an extra 2-3 pounds…woopty. And if you’re in to resistance training, well you can make believe that 2-3 pounds is a part of your training! This thing is light and pretty much non-existent. A+! CamelBak definitely makes larger packs with more volume and more storage space, but those would be more suitable for hiking or something else. This is their lightest backpack and it works great for running.

Annoyance / Irritation

Because it’s a snug fit, sweat build-up between the runner’s back and the hydration pack could be annoying. But the meshing on the back side keeps ventilation perfect. Plus your sweat is not absorbed into the meshing so cleaning is a breeeeze. We’ve already covered the non-chafing aspect. The hydration tube doesn’t get in the way when you’re running. If you want it to flop around in front of you, you can let it do that. But there are straps on the shoulder strap that hold it back and out of the way for your bouncing/running pleasure.

fairfax3fairfax2 CamelBak’s Big Bite Valve

CamelBak also has this great invention called the Big Bite Valve—a device that has no movable parts so you don’t have to worry about whatever fluid you put in your reservoir leaking, which would definitely be annoying. Because of this sweet valve that only releases the liquid when you bite it, you can drink as much or as little as you want whenever you want. If you want douse your face or spray your back with some refreshingly cool water while you’re running, just squeeze the value with your fingers. To me, this feature is the opposite of irritating. So far, four of four checks.

Price

I was able to buy one at REI last week for $48. This is a little more than I’d like to pay, but it’s doable. If the previous four requirements hadn’t been met, I wouldn’t like that I’d paid that much. But considering how great it is and how it makes my summer runs better, I’m happy with the investment. Plus a cold water stream that can be accessed whenever you want? Ahhh, makes me want to find more uses for it…like hiking? Or maybe fill it with beer and use it to bowl? The possibilities are endless...

Conclusion

I run maybe 5-6 miles a week in the summer time, a reduction from the norm due to the unspeakable heat. And this includes having to wal7-4 tempk sometimes to cool off and fantasize about water. I actually hate running in the summer time and do zero fun runs—I call May through September the “off season.” With this CamelBak though, I love that I can run without having to stop to walk and cool off. Not having to stop is a-okay in my book. Staying hydrated and not feeling like I’m dying in the Mojave Desecamelbak3rt is a-okay in my book too. 

Sunday’s run was in 90 degree heat with 100% humidity, so if I hadn’t had this puppy strapped to my back I wouldn’t have been able to finish the 5-miler without stopping and possibly passing on to the afterlife. I realize 90 doesn’t sound that hot, but with 100% humidity it feels MUCH hotter than that. Think about August when it’s 100+ WITH humidity! Nuts.

The tips on the CamelBak website are pretty great too—especially freezing half the reservoir the night before and how to keep water out of the drinking tube so that you always get a cold sip.  And don’t worry ladies! CamelBak had you in mind when creating this pack too. The Annadel has an S-Curve harness to give you a better fit in the chest area and comes in three colors: pink/graphite, azure blue/graphite, and solid black.

Friday, June 18, 2010

It’s hard to argue when you won’t stop making sense – Volume 4

Sooo…I’ve been on a bit of hiatus lately. I know, I know—no one really missed me. It’s okay! I don’t really have a good reason for the lapse in time between posts, so I’ll keep the reasons short and vague: work has become nuts, I recently lost something really amazing I found a couple months ago and haven’t been able to get it back, and…well, those two things are mainly why I’ve been slacking. Will you accept my apology in the form of another round of head-scratching ‘what were they thinking’s? Yeah? Great! Here we go…

Degree Adrenaline Deodorant

The English-Dutch Unilever company introduced a new line of Degree deodorants in the past few months; a line callesport defensed the Adrenaline Series. Seems like their target market is active/sporty/non-sedentary men…simple enough. Except I don’t get the picture on the label of one in particular. They’ve got Sports Defense with what looks like some sort of sports stadium—maybe a soccer or football?

Okay cool. I can see the design department coming up with this one. If I’m head of marketing, I’d give this one a thumbs up to proceed with manufacturing. Then you’ve got V12 with a speedometer pushing 200 mph. Now this one makes me scratch my head a little bit because why would you name a scent of deodorant after a type of vehicle engine?  But I’ll retract my hand from actually scratching v12said head just this once—I’ll let them have this one. I’ll let it slide because if I’m driving a car and pushing 200 mph, then my adrenaline is definitely pumping at full tilt. And I’m probably sweating. And after making this connection, their marketing has worked because I now think the next time I’m speeding I’ll wish I was wearing this stuff to keep me fresh in the pits. So kudos for this one.

Then comes the weirdo. The one I saw at Target actually stopped me in adventuremy tracks, caused me to reverse, and bend down in a crouching position to get a better look at it (similar to a golfer sizing up his putt or a baseball catcher ready to receive the next pitch). Degree’s Adventure scent has a carabiner on it. Huh? Why? Adventure could mean a lot of things. Have a picture on the label of a guy rock climbing on the face of a huge mountain…not just the dude’s carabiner! Or maybe a picture of a guy getting his eyebrows waxed. Now there’s an adventure! One I can’t attest to, but I have friends who I’m sure would say their adrenaline was at elevated levels. It’s like they were restricted to only Clip Art from Microsoft Office 95. Marketing department fail. For laziness. What were they thinking?





Credit Repair Van

I was driving through the Galleria area of Houston recently and was stopped at a light when I saw this rickety van in front of me. Shocked, I pulled out my camera phone and snapped a quick picture of the monstrosity.

credit repair van hey kid, want to get in my rickety van? I’ve got candy

Hmm…I realize there are roughly 176.8 million Americans with credit cards out there amassing on average $15k worth of debt, but do you really need help from a company who drives rickety yellow vans around? No. Resist this company’s offer to help you out and instead take that money you would’ve paid them for consulting fees and buy a Dave Ramsey book. Do it the right way people! Not the rickety-van way.

Huggies Little Movers Jeans Diapers

Yeah, you just read that subtitle correctly. Huggies has gone out of it’s way to create an infant version of jorts. Darn them! The jorts phenomenon needs to die a quick, painless death and leave us alone forever.

huggies at least they’re on sale

It looks like these even have little butt pockets on them as well! Why? What does a 3-month old need to put in his butt pocket? And belt loops. Belt loops. Belt loops? For that sweet leather name belt they have that’s needed to keep their britches diaper up. Because let’s face it, we can’t have infant’s bustin a sag. But seriously, who thought it would be “cute” to make denim-looking diapers? What were they thinking?!

Crayon Sports Drink

Initial thought: is this targeted at kids who also eat paint chips? Or Elmer’s glue? Or their boogers? Even their wecrayon drinkbsite has an absurdly goofy website address: drinkcrayons.com. Hmmm…where to start dissecting this one?

Why would you think as a wax-color-making company that you should diversify your group a bit by jumping into the untapped youth sports drink market? (Yes, I realize a crayon is the actual coloring device and I’m referring to it as if it’s a company, i.e. Crayola.) Either way, this would be like Fisher-Price moving into the animal cookie market. This would confuse all sorts of toddlers—they’ll see a toy goat that goes with their Little People Animalville set and think it’s a cookie! That would be bad news if it happened, people. This is bad news too—only it’s really a product! Kids are going to think it’s safe to eat crayons now since their parents give them crayon drinks.

I’d like to see how long this ‘youth sports drink’ fad lasts, because I seriously don’t know how this won’t lead to numerous lawsuits before they shut this operation down. Hmmm…

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Rant: Apple iPhone

This is not a rant about iPhone 4 features. The newest of Apple's mobile gadgetry arsenal is looking good and up to form (well, to Apple's standards), but their notoriously famous marketing scheme just gets old. I understand... you're probably thinking What's wrong with it--why fix (change) something that isn't broken (failing)?

Not that I want one, but why does Apple always make sure there are never enough iPhones available at launch? How about delaying the date some so that manufacturing can produce enough to be available to have a chance at meeting the high demand you know you'll have on pre-orders?

Quit faking the "Oh look at me! We're selling out day one! Demand is so high on our new product because it's awesome!" act. It's not cute. Or admirable. Or endearing. It makes me lose more and more respect for you each June. Many of us know enough about supply and demand to know that you're going about creating buzz all wrong...the dishonest way.

Get your act together now for next summer's release and show the world you know what you're doing. Please. And if not for me, at least for all your hundreds of thousands of Apple fanboys who would probably fight to the death in your honor.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

It’s hard to argue when you won’t stop making sense – Volume 3

I’ve got another round of questionable products and one fact that just rattles the mind for ya! I received my Garmin 405 in the mail Friday while I was on vacation and successfully ran with Garmela (my Garmin’s nickname—more on that later) so I’ll hopefully have a review of it in the near future. It’s looking like a 2- or 3-part segment because I want to give you the scoop on the ordeal I went through to get it as well! Silly eBay…

Shake Weight

Has everyone heard of the Shake Weight? Because I’ve been spoiled by DVR, I don’t get to see too many commercials (or in this case infomercials). Also since I’ve moved, I’ve been sans cable! Shocking…I know, but I’ve gotten used to watching minimal TV and I’ve made my peace with leaving 15-20 hours a week of television-watching behind. Anyways—I’d not seen this apparently well-known infomercial for the Shake Weight until my brother and I were sitting at the bar of a Texas Roadhouse. I was floored at what I saw these men doing. The entire concept behind the Shake Weight is completely absurd and I’m honestly appalled this made it through marketing and R&D and passed the CEO of the company’s desk and…so on. We pointed the infomercial out to our bartender and she laughed. “OMG! I know, right?! The first commercial was with women [demonstrating it]!”

What was this company thinking? What was the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office thinking when they approved this? What was ESPN thinking when they decided Yeah, let’s go ahead and run this advertisement! Do they have no standards? Are they just a glutton for advertising revenue? I realize I’m not entirely normal, but these are the questions that immediately pass through my head when I see this kind of stuff…

I fully admit this isn’t even new “news”…everyone’s jumped on the parody band wagon for this—SNL, College Humor, etc…and others are just blogging the hell out of it! But for those of you late to the comedic brilliance known as Shake Weight, here ya go (DISCLAIMER: If you’re easily-offended, don’t watch this!):



Bimbo Bakeries

I know everyone’s heard of this company. I crack up every time I see a delivery truck that just has a big “BIMBO” logo on the back of it…delivering goodies to the nation. I’ve personally never tried their products, because I don’t want to be caught holding something that says Bimbo on it. But did you know this is the largest bakery company in the U.S.? What we see here in the states is the American trading arm of a Mexican company called Grupo Bimbo. Seriously! Group of Bimbos? Wow. At least this isn’t an American company…makes it easier to poke fun at it. Actually no it doesn’t. I’d still make fun of the company if they were domestic! Sadly, they purchased my beloved Mrs. Baird’s Bakeries in 1998 and it was their largest acquisition. I totally didn’t know that until I researched it just now. Yup, I just teared up a bit… But what were these Mexicans thinking? I read elsewhere there’s no Spanish to English conversion for this word so it’s not like it got “lost in translation” like the Chevy Nova (no va = no go) or Nigaz (Gazprom’s JV in Nigeria). Simply put: weirdos.

delivery truck

Secret Stealth Sound Amplifier

On my flight back from MSP airport this past weekend I opened up the skymall magazine, because let’s face it…this puppy is like a flea market—full of great stuff junk you never realized you wanted until you actually saw it. To my amazement, I saw what I thought to be a dying piece of technology…the nerdy Bluetooth earpiece on a goofy older gentleman. But no! I was about to flip the page until the bold headline grabbed my attention: Improve your hearing—and enhance your image. hahaha what?!

A) How is this stealth? Stealth means secret, so it’s redundant to say both, and there’s nothing secret about a foreign object hanging off the side of your noggin. B) It says you can “hear soft voices from 50 feet away.” Creeper! C) Somehow you get a more “youthful appearance” from it…uhh, no. It should say a more “DB” appearance.

secret stealth sound amplifier This guy’s “I’m so cool!” look on his face boggles my mind… Why?!

A, B, and C people! Seriously! A, B and C. I rest my case. If you decide that my mockery is foolish and want to fall heir to this little bundle of joy, Amazon’s selling it for $30. Or if you want to pay more and possibly get some airline miles out of it, you can go directly to the SkyMall website and grab one for $40.


NPH

Yes, NPH. Neil Patrick Harris! The man we all know and love from his early years as Doogie Howser. Currently he’s on the hit CBS show How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM, or “him-yem” amongst fans) as a “supporting actor,” but only because there are no leads in the show. There are five main characters that you could either classify as all leads or all supporting roles. He absolutely KILLS it on this show as Barney Stinson—his comedic prowess is unmatched, though many would argue Marshall (played by Jason Segel) is just as funny on the show too. I think he’s a very close second to the Barnicle.

Neil Patrick Harris & Jason Segel Neil Patrick Harris and Jason Segel

What doesn’t make sense to me…what makes me tilt my head like a dog in confusion and go “hmmm…why?”…is the fact that he’s never won an award. I don’t count the “people’s choice award” he won in 1990 for Doogie. I’m talking Emmy. I’m talking Golden Globes. Nothing! Sure he’s been nominated many times, which is an honor in itself. But how has he won nothing?! I will give him credit two of those years—in 2007 and 2008 he was up against Jeremy Piven (Ari Gold, Entourage) and that’s just not fair to have to compete against Ari!
Ari Gold Jeremy Piven

If he wasn’t on HIMYM, I honestly don’t know if I’d watch the show with such fervor. I could easily find something else to do on Monday nights, but no—I set aside 22 minutes to watch my second favorite show on television (behind, of course, Lost). NPH’s Barney can bring me to tears with his quips and his never-ending supply of brilliant one-liners. In real life, no one would like this guy. He’s the guy who gets all the girls, brags about how awesome he is, and thinks no one is better at life than him. I’d never allow myself to hang out with someone like that. Yet NPH makes this character lovable. You can’t help but root for Barney in his crazy conquests.

HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER NPH as Barney Stinson

To me, that takes talent as an actor. You could compare this (easily) to Michael C. Hall in Dexter. Hall has taken a type of person (serial killer) NO ONE would ever like and made him lovable. You find yourself rooting for the supposed bad guy to be able to get away and not be caught. What?! We’re not supposed to cheer for the bad guy…we’re not supposed to cheer for the cocky, arrogant guy…but if you’re a good enough actor, you can pull the audience in and make them love you. Has MCH ever won anything for his great acting? Yes! A Golden Globe! A SAG! But no, nothing for NPH. It’s a shame really.

 Michael C Hall as Dexter Morgan

I could probably write a novel on this guy (because he’s that great) but I won’t. I will, however, give you a rundown of his bio and career. He’s a 36 years old gay man who’s been in the industry for 22 years. His first big success was with Doogie Howser, M.D., where he filmed 97 episodes from 1989-1993. Everyone remembers the theme music  and the opening sequence with him sitting at the old school PC typing away as a teenage medical doctor.


He’s been in tons of one-time performance roles in television and had small-time roles in B- and C-grade movies. But never the lead in a major motion picture. Then in 2004, Harold & Kumar went to White Castle and picked NPH up along the way. The next year, HIMYM’s pilot was picked up and a star was re-born (to date, he’s been in 110 episodes; his longest-running series). Since his non-rewarded success on the show, he’s done two voice-over roles each for both Family Guy and Robot Chicken. Last year he was the voice of Steve the Monkey in the animated flick Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. In the summer of 2011, you’ll hear his voice in the lead role of Johan in the highly-anticipated Smurfs movie! Ok, maybe I’m the only one anticipating it!


This year he’s staring in Beastly, a modern day take on Beauty and the Beast, and the indie film The Best and the Brightest. NPH is the lead in this indie film and if it can garner enough success it has the potential to go from limited release (like most indies) to full release, like last summer’s (500) Days of Summer. This would give NPH the best opportunity for having a huge leading role in a movie, something that has eluded him in his acting career.

Either way, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense that he’s never been rewarded for his acting ability. I think we need to start some sort of petition…who’s with me?

Monday, April 19, 2010

New latitude PR: Minneapolis/St Paul, Minnesota (Pt 2)

Saturday was incredibly beautiful day numero tres. The weather alone slapped a smile on my face each morning we walked out of Matt’s apartment. Usually I take the lead on vacations and plan all the fun stuff and sight-seeing. I don’t mind and usually the others (aka, my brother) appreciate the idea of not having to think…otherwise known as “a vacation.” Gasp!!!!?!?!? Was all the air just sucked out of the room? Yes. Most of the time I don’t get to rest and come back from vacations more tired than when I left!

In St. Paul, I was actually getting into the groove of this whole ‘letting go’ thing. Because his place is in such a great location, we could literally walk to almost anything we wanted or needed. We walked down to a nearby bus stop to catch a route that would take us to the brand new Target Field where the Twins play. Matt had gotten us tickets to see them play game two of their weekend series with the Royals as an early birthday gift.

Target Field Target Field, Minneapolis

Our seats were great—halfway up and right behind home plate! The way the stadium was built, it somehow blocked any and all wind to where it felt like the cloudless sky was baking you as if you were laying on the beach in a tropical location. It was actually scorching in 50-something degree weather! (Matt would argue the “scorching” part, but I think it’s just because he’s become Minnesota-ized and welcomes the unseasonably warm weather!).

IMG_1271 IMG_1270 brat  A Minnesota bratwurst

The screen in left-center was huuuuuge! Crystal clear HD…I think I even saw some angels floating above it playing heavenly music on harps to let us know how worshipful this piece of electronic art was. As the game progressed though, the sun rotated in the sky earth rotated enough to where the stadium’s upper-deck “roof” blocked the sun so that we could be in the cool shade. Matt convinced me to get a brat (see picture) and at this point I questioned whether I was letting this new mindset go too far. I mean look at that picture…I just tossed my cookies looking at it. But I manned up and tried it anyways and it was great! Could’ve been grilled a few minutes longer, but otherwise it was tasty. The Twins were able to pull a win out by the hair on their chinny-chin chin by striking out the final batter with the tying run on third in the ninth! It was a fun one to watch for sure and great to experience the Twins first Saturday game in their new, state-of-the-art ballpark.

After a head-scratching few hours of trying to figure out how to get home via public transit, we decided to take the light rail to the end of it’s line—the Mall of America! If any of you have ever taken a ride on Houston’s MetroRail, you know exactly how Minneapolis’ rail system works. It’s not elevated, so it has to stop at all stop lights, which means it can’t get up to high speeds and is therefore not too efficient. Matt and I wondered if they were in a rush to get construction completed in time for opening day of Target Field, much like Houston was in a rush to get their rail “system” done in time for the 2004 Super Bowl they hosted. You would think the most logical way to do a rail system is an elevated or subterranean one to bypass traffic and stop lights, but both cities have theirs on street level…which has to be a quicker, cheaper way to implement the system. Oh well—Matt and I enjoyed the ride anyways. He and I are both the same in that if mass transit is great enough, we’re taking it to avoid driving!

IMG_1281 IMG_1282 IMG_1283 IMG_1284 Mall of America, Minneapolis

Now I know what you’re thinking. What the hell, David. It’s a mall. Well, so what. We visited it and I took some pictures and so it gets a little blurb in my post! If we hadn’t visited it, everyone back home would’ve asked me some variation or form of “Did you visit the Mall of America?!” Now that we’re collectively over the issue of potential lameness, I can proceed. The Mall of America is just what you would expect—massive!

The core of it is an atrium-covered theme park for those wintry months where it’s just too damn cold to be outside. It looked super fun and if we’d had more time, I would have tried to ride something! The outer shell of the MOA is three stories of retail store after store after store! Just about anything you’d want to find could be found here. Matt said that some of the larger chains even had two locations here! Nuts. We didn’t stay long because we had plans for the night over near the University of Minnesota’s campus. Awesome plans involving imaginary performances—an Air Guitar competition!

US Air Guitar Regionals Varsity Theater, Minneapolis

We arrived back in Minneapolis around 9 Saturday night for the Minneapolis Regional Air Guitar Championships. Yes, Air Guitar! Some of the contestants were a little stage-shy, but still had a ton of guts for getting up on stage and making fools of themselves. Others were just great! With reckless abandon and a lack of inhibitions, a few of the contestants totally shredded their performance.

IMG_1287 The host showing us how it’s done

It was as if they were a rock star in another life! The energy they channeled strumming away at an imaginary instrument was incredible…definitely worth the price of admission.



Sunday morning we both slept in pretty late and eventually made it to Bon Vie for a fashionably late breakfast (brunch?)…again over on Selby. I had the Bon Vie Scrambler with eggs and sausage, some potatoes and cheddar cheese…and scallions! I can’t forget the kick-a side of fruit I ordered as well. Mmmm… I wish I’d taken a picture of it!

Matt and I chit-chatted over many cups of coffee about life and love and careers and hopes and etc. Like little old ladies. (I swear I’m ruining all manly credibility with this single post alone!) We only see each other once, maybe twice, a year now so those heart-to-hearts are inevitable each time we visit. I know, I know… “When did this become a sappy blog? We want running stories!” 

Afterwards we finally made it down the street to see the Cathedral of St. Paul. Every time we made it over to Selby Avenue you could see the top of the Cathedral tower over everything around it so naturally I wanted to get a better look!

IMG_1317IMG_1320IMG_1313 Cathedral of St Paul, St Paul

This puppy was huuuuuge! Truly breath-taking art. You couldn’t help but be in awe and speechless. The detail and precision… Something huge inhabited this space and it definitely wasn’t of this world. It put the jumbo-tron at Target Field on a back-of-the-bus seat in terms of classifying “heavenly.” Even if you’re not Catholic or religious, when in St Paul this cathedral is a definite must-see. You would think it’s rightful home were in Europe or Washington D.C. Nope. It’s in Minnesota!

 IMG_1307 IMG_1304 IMG_1312

I’m writing this on the plane trip back, in my little crop-duster Embraer RJ-something Continental flight, sitting next to a divorced lady named Phyllis who is heading back home from having visited her grandchildren in Minnesota. Phyllis grew up in California, married and moved to Minnesota to have kids, then moved to Colorado after the kids had grown, and then moved to Arizona to be closer to other family. How fun to have lived in such great states where outdoor activities are a huge part and way of life! And such extremes—California to Minnesota and ending up in Arizona?!

She said that she had no regrets in life even though it didn’t work out the way she expected it to when she was younger. I smiled and told her that’s what I want: no regrets and to make the most of things even when they don’t necessarily go my way. She smiled in a very appreciative and grandmotherly way and gave me one last piece of advice before we got off the plane: sprinkle lots of friends and a big family across the country so that you can always have an excuse to visit beautiful places… like Minnesota! I kinda like that idea…