“Brownies”

mAs7QToday’s kitchen experiment: “brownies”

1 stick butter melted (or 2/3 cup ghee)
2 TBS walnut oil
1/3 cup dark cocoa powder
3 eggs
1/2 cup coconut flour
3/4 cup raw sugar
2 Tbs agave nectar
2 Tbs maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 package dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans

in a small container mix sugar, agave, maple syrup, oil and butter
in a medium bowl mix coconut flour, cocoa powder, eggs, vanilla, pecans, chocolate chips
Add sugar mix to flour mix and stir until fully combined
add to greased 9×9 pan

either bake for 45-50 minutes at 325 degrees or microwave for 6 minutes
let cool
enjoy

20130707_141345

A philosophy I can get behind, for the most part…

As most of you know, I am not a religious man. I have my own belief system that is based on what I have learned about the world and the people in it over the course of my life so far. When I was younger and far less intelligent I was a militant ass; much more intolerant and therefore far less tolerable to be around. You could say I was a complete shit, and I would not have cause to correct you, as it is unfortunately true.

 
 I have since grown older, wiser*, softer, and some would say more apathetic towards most everything in general. This has made me realize a few things; one being everybody needs a philosophy that they can subscribe to (even if very loosely), so if you are in between belief systems or even if you are not, I encourage your to read the following short list and see if you can use it until you find something better/more fitting to your life style. This is by no means me trying trying push anything on anyone. On the contrary, I found this and thought I would share it with you: my captive audience of relatives, acquaintances  friends, Romans, and countrymen.
 
I cannot take credit for what your are about to read but I think (for the most part) it is a good set of ideals. Feel free to substitute any of the diety specific references for your own higher power icon. There is a link at the bottom to the originating website if you are so inclined, if not, that’s just peachy as well.
 
 
The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monsters Eight “I’d Really Rather You Didn’ts”
 
1. I’d really rather you didn’t act like a sanctimonious holier-than-thou ass when describing my noodly goodness. If some people don’t believe in me, that’s okay. Really, I’m not that vain. Besides, this isn’t about them so don’t change the subject.
 
2. I’d really rather you didn’t use my existence as a means to oppress, subjugate, punish, eviscerate, and/or, you know, be mean to others. I don’t require sacrifices, and purity is for drinking water, not people.
 
3. I’d really rather you didn’t judge people for the way they look, or how they dress, or the way they talk, or, well, just play nice, okay? Oh, and get this into your thick heads: woman = person. man = person. Samey = Samey. One is not better than the other, unless we’re talking about fashion and I’m sorry, but I gave that to women and some guys who know the difference between teal and fuchsia.
 
4. I’d really rather you didn’t indulge in conduct that offends yourself, or your willing, consenting partner of legal age AND mental maturity. As for anyone who might object, I think the expression is “go f*** yourself,” unless they find that offensive in which case they can turn off the TV for once and go for a walk for a change.
 
5. I’d really rather you didn’t challenge the bigoted, misogynistic, hateful ideas of others on an empty stomach. Eat, then go after the bastard.
 
6. I’d really rather you didn’t build multi million-dollar synagogues / churches / temples / mosques / shrines to my noodly goodness when the money could be better spent (take your pick):
Ending poverty
Curing diseases
Living in peace, loving with passion, and lowering the cost of cable
I might be a complex-carbohydrate omniscient being, but I enjoy the simple things in life. I ought to know. I AM the creator.
 
7. I’d really rather you didn’t go around telling people I talk to you. You’re not that interesting. Get over yourself. And I told you to love your fellow man, can’t you take a hint?
 
8. I’d really rather you didn’t do unto others as you would have them do unto you if you are into, um, stuff that uses a lot of leather/lubricant/Vaseline. If the other person is into it, however (pursuant to #4), then have at it, take pictures, and for the love of Mike, wear a CONDOM! Honestly, it’s a piece of rubber. If I didn’t want it to feel good when you did it I would have added spikes, or something.
 
 
 
 
*this is open to debate

Calculating Calories Burned: How I do it

Hey Look It's Me

Hey Look It’s Me

It’s been a while since I have posted anything so I figured I would go over something.

I have been asked before and some of you may be wondering how I figure my calories burned, well here is my method:

It begins with heart rate monitors, these wonderful and frustrating devices are the crux of any method of figuring calories burned.

I use two different HRMs one is a Polar FT4 with a rigid chest strap (http://www.polarusa.com/us-en/products/get_active/fitness_crosstraining/FT4), the other is a Scosche Rhythm with an arm strap (http://www.scosche.com/rhythm/). I use both of these great devices to record my numbers for my various exercise routines. When I finish a routine I then add the results from each HRM together and divide the sum by 2 to get an average (the results from each device are pretty close to each other but never the same).

Next I take this averaged number and then subtract my Basal Metabolic Rate (the calories I would have burned just sitting around on my arse in the same period). You can find a rough estimate of yours here: http://www.calculator.net/bmr-calculator.html

Take the number you get for a BMR and divide it by 1440 (the number of minutes in a day) and that is how much you burn per minute just sitting on your butt doing nothing.

For me that number is 1.5 (well actually 1.4868 but I round up) so if I do 30 minutes of exercise and burn 600 calories I would need to subtract 45 calories from the result (30 minutes x 1.5 per minute) because I would have burned that amount of calories even if I was just being a bum, that leaves me with 555 calories burned for that routine.

I am the only guy I know that uses a calculator at the gym, but I feel it gives me a more accurate set of numbers, which will be better in the long run. I hope this makes sense to you guys and perhaps you will start using this method for yourself.

Yet another trip around the Sun

Hey Look It’s Me

Well Yesterday was the 41st anniversary of my arrival on this, our home planet. It’s a small blue marble floating around in the vastness that is space. Light years from anything of real interest, far removed from the hub bub that lies in the center of our galaxy, let alone our universe. What did I do to commemorate such a momentous day, you ask? Well I’ll tell you, in a nice timeline format.

4:30 a.m. – woke
4:35 a.m. – brushed teeth, got dressed for gym
4:40 a.m. – ate breakfast
4:50 a.m. – out the door
5:10 a.m. – at the gym for my Tuesday workout
7:10 a.m. – hit the showers
7:25 a.m. – off to work

BIG chunk of day gone

4:55 p.m. – head home
5:35 p.m. – off to the mall (wife was supposed to pick up some clothes that were being altered)
6:15 p.m. – TO DINNER! (at a great local restaurant that specializes in american comfort food)
8:00 p.m. – back home doing a little bit of work remotely (checking on a big data transfer)
8:15 p.m. – geeked on the computer
10:00 p.m. – called it a night

Exciting stuff I know, but it was a good day.

Since you’re here I might as well expand upon my workout routine as well. My Tuesday workout? well as of late I have switched it up a little bit. Here is what I have been doing for Tuesdays:

Strength:
30 Dips
10 Overhand pull-ups
10 Underhand pull-ups
10 Front grip pull-ups
30 Crouched row 110 pounds
30 Tricep extensions 55 pounds
30 Push ups
40 Sit ups, ledge style* (10 front, 10 right, 10 left, 10 front) 15 pounds
30 Bar dips neutral grip
30 Renegade rows with should press 70 pounds (35 pounds per hand)
30 Crouch and punch 15 pounds each hand
30 Mountain climbers
30 Lunges 70 pounds
Typical time 40 – 45 minutes
Typical Calories Burned 250 – 300

Cardio:

5k run 7.5 mph
10 mile bike ride
Typical time: 50-60 minutes
Typical calories burned: 1200-1700 depending on incline and and other variables

*this is done with a piece of equipment or hanging off the edge of a platform so that your whole upper body is just hanging out in the wide open with no floor, so that you can get a wider range of motion.

It’s been working well for me, I’ve noticed I’m getting more definition in my arms and my stomach area is starting to tighten up a bit, which is a good thing as I have a lot of excess skin to deal with.

On a related note I discovered a new brand of exercise clothing that I really like. Hylete makes a nice collection of workout and competition gear for cross-trainers/cross-fitters and other exercise enthusiasts . I liked the shorts I got from them so much, that I applied to and was accepted into their athletes program.

Basically they help to sponsor me with gear for telling people about their stuff. It’s a simple premise, I tell people about the gear I like and direct them to the Hylete web page, if people use me as a referral when they buy stuff, I get money to buy gear at a reduced price (which helps me save money to pay for more races and such). It’s a win for everyone. Hylete gets more customers, I get more gear, and my friends get high quality gear from a small company trying to make it big.

So if your in the market for some workout clothes give them a look. If you buy something and use me as a referral, great; if you buy something and don’t use me as a referral that’s fine too. I’m just trying to help a small company get their product seen by more people. In the end it isn’t about me getting stuff, it’s about someone building a business that will provide a quality product and employ more people right here in the US. If I get a benefit from it I’m all for it, but even if I don’t I hope see them succeed. Our economy can use all the help it can get these days.

That’s it for now.

Go.

Do.

Be.

Rob

Warriors Dashing, Mudders Toughing it out, and other things I’ve been up to lately

It’s been a while since I wrote anything of any substance, well intrepid readers don’t worry, you’ll find no real substance here. So, you can continue to breathe easy. This is a light post about things I have been up to as of late, nothing too heady, or heavy, just a nice easy jaunt down recent memory lane. Lace up your running shoes, grab your water bottle & let’s hit the road…

stolen from http://experimentinginhappiness.files.wordpress.com

As some of you may know I’m a bit of a workout guy. 4 days a week, 1.5 – 3.0 hours, about 1500 calories per workout, depending on what I’m doing. I have been on a maintenance course lately, just keeping my weight in check and getting more fit. I had ulterior motives though, while not insidious by any means, some people may think them a bit kooky.

I was training for the Warrior Dash (http://warriordash.com) and the Tough Mudder (http://toughmudder.com). If you are unfamiliar they are obstacle course runs. The first being a 5k run with 10+ obstacles to over come to get to the finish line. The second being a 12 mile course with 21+ obstacles standing between you and the finish line. When I tell most people that I do these for fun (and to help raise money for charities) they look at me funny and I know that they are mentally scratching their head and saying “This dude’s cheese must have slid right off his cracker.” while that assessment may or may not be accurate, the fact remains that I do enjoy the grueling punishment that these courses afford me. They push me to do better, run harder, get stronger and generally prove to myself that I am still alive.

I participated in the 2012 Wisconsin Warrior Dash on 8/18. I used it as my primer for the Tough Mudder that I ran on 9/8. It was great. I finished in just over 31 minutes. 36th in my age bracket (out of 600+ runners) and 253rd over all (out of 6510 runners). I also raised over $350 for ST. Jude’s Hospital. The course was great and I was in an early heat so as to avoid the hot mid-day sun. I had set my go to finish in 40 minutes, so I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that I was well below that time. I’m not one for Timed races, as I care more about completing the course than competing on it. which leads us nicely to the next run.

Crossing the finish at the warrior dash

The Tough Mudder, I ran this in the first heat on 9/8. 12 miles of varying terrain littered with many obstacles. Unlike the Dash, this is non timed course that focus more on camaraderie than on time. As fate would have it my cousin, who was supposed to run it with me, was forbidden to do so by his physician. I was a team of one, or so I thought. About 1 mile in I met up with a 34 year old Fireman from Milwaukee named Kevin. His teammate was out as well, due to elbow that got broken in a MMA match. He asked if I wanted to team up and I was happy to do so. He had run the Mudder the year before and was glad to find someone to run it with.

Being 7 years younger than me, a fireman, and a previous runner in the Mudder, meant that I would have to keep up with him, as his pace would no doubt be faster than mine (you do remember me saying I like to be challenged, right?). Well his normal pace was a bit faster than my normal pace, but I stepped it up and kept up with him (except on a couple of hills where he slowed to wait for me.) We ran at about 6.5 mph for the first 5 miles where we happened to meet up with a third guy, and I knew this one. Tom is a guy from my gym whom I have talked to a few times. Here I am just plodding along at about mile 5 when I turn and see him just jogging along as if it’s no big deal; I started talking to him and he gladly joined our twosome. Now a threesome we were like a team, 3 different guys, with different strengths to compliment each other. It turns out the Tom was supposed to be in the 9 am heat, but like me he decided to go early, to beat the heat.

So picture the scene if you can, 2 guys that are younger and in better shape then yours truly, trudging along the mud laden, obstacle filled course with about 7 miles to go. Don’t get me wrong, I’m in OK shape, I run, I lift, & I bike, but these guys are not former fat guys with loads of spare skin flopping around, I looked a bit out of place next to them, but never the less here we were, 3 guys, out to beat this course. As it turned out I was kind of built for this type of thing. I’m tall, fairly strong, and can run for decent amounts of distance without really slowing down. I could grab the tops of the tall walls with just a slight jump, I was tall enough to hop over the smaller barriers with ease, and limber enough to go under the others with little difficulty.

I surprised not only myself but my teammates by being the pace setter at about mile 9. Both Kevin and Tom started to get worn out at that point and I had to take point and keep them motivated. That was easy, seeing the old man of the group plodding along at the same pace he had from the get go, does wonders to get younger guys going.

I was in my zone, the place I go when I exercise, be it biking, hiking, or running. I get into a mental state where I have a sort of tunnel vision, all I see is my end point and I focus on that. I was there; running through smoke and fire; the zone; Climbing up an incline and jumping off a 27 foot tall platform into water; the zone; running up a steep hill, then dropping down a sheer dirt cliff; the zone; running through the muddy forest area, and dodging barbed wire; the zone; swimming through water and getting shocked by up to 10000 v of electricity yep, the zone. At one point Kevin turned to Tom and said, “this guy is like a machine, he just keeps right on going without stopping”. It’s funny the guys I go hiking with have said the same thing. It’s the zone and it is my secret weapon to conquering the course.

Even though the Tough Mudder isn’t timed, I started my HRM when I crossed the starting line and stopped it when I crossed through the “Electroshock Therapy” obstacle. Yeah you read that right 2 obstacle both involving water and electricity. The first one was called the Electric Eel, where you crawl and swim through water with live wires danging down so that you cannot avoid them. ZAP! ZAP! ZAP! I got one to the forehead in the eel that made everything go black for a second. You want motivation, getting shocked will motivate you to move your arse faster. The second electric obstacle is the very last one on the course, no crawling this time, you’re running through an archway laden with over 1000 wires. Random wires have a live charge and will zap the unlucky. I got 3 zaps running through; more motivation. In total I clocked in at 01:58:02 from start to finish. Not too shabby for a guy who less than 2 years ago only ran to kitchen to get a snack.

So Rob, having run the Dash and the Mudder what are you going to do now? I’m going to Disney Land!
Well not really. I went to Kentucky, for a few days of hiking in the Red River Gorge Geological Area of the Daniel Boone National Forest. I hiked a lot, I took a lot of pictures, and generally relaxed for 4 days in one of the most scenic places I have been. Want to see my pictures? There are over 300 of them, most of trees and rocks and other nature stuff…

Suspension Bride over the Red River

If you ever get the chance go to the Red River Gorge and the Natural Bridge Parks in Kentucky. I was once again awed by the beauty and power of the world around me. Nothing can make you feel small quite like seeing the enormity of the world we live in up close.

Now I have had to return to the real world, where there are project, deadlines, and problems to be fixed. It’s amazing how much can pile up in a 6 day absence from work. I have servers to repair, new switches to put in place and a 24TB Equalogic ISCSI SAN to implement as well finishing up the office remodel that I am overseeing. I keep the memory of my recent obstacle course in my head along with the pictures of my visit to KY. Filed away to remind me that there are better things waiting for us, just beyond the doors and walls of home and office.

I have about a year to get ready for the next Tough Mudder, Spartan Beast, or maybe the Zombie Run. Who knows what lies around the next corner, just waiting for me, you, hell all of us, to grab hold of and run with. Adventure waits for us, and will always be there when we are ready for it.

Rob

Update If anyone would like to see me get zapped in the Electroshock Therapy obstacle at the end of the 2012 ToughMudder, here you go: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MqJneBi_kk&feature=youtu.be

Chicken Potpie

Ingredients:

Pie crust (see below)
1 (4ish-pound) frying chicken, cut into 8ths
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
2 teaspoons chicken rub seasoning (recommended: Emeril’s Chicken Rub)
1 large russet potato, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
2 cups sliced carrots or diced carrots
1 cup coarsely chopped onions
1 cup corn kernels
1 cup button mushrooms, quartered
1 cup lima beans (or baby butter beans)
1/4 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon water
Directions:
Divide the piecrust dough into 4 separate portions and form into 4 disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling 2 of the portions of dough out to fit into 2 (9-inch) deep dish pie pans. Trim the edges of the dough so that 1/2-inch dough hangs over the sides of the pans. Roll the remaining 2 portions of dough out and refrigerate (placed on a baking sheet with plastic or parchment between dough), along with the prepared pie pans, until the filling is chilled and you are ready to bake the potpies.

Season the chicken pieces with the salt and pepper. Heat a Dutch oven or other large, heavy pot over high heat and brown the chicken pieces on both sides in the olive oil, working in batches if necessary, about 5 minutes on each side. Drain all fat from the pan and add the chicken broth, bay leaf, poultry seasoning, and chicken rub seasoning. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat to low, & simmer until the chicken is very tender and falls from the bone, about 1 hour. Transfer the chicken pieces to a plate and set aside until cool enough to handle. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones and tear into bite-size pieces. Set aside, try not to eat it.

While the chicken is cooling, add the potatoes, carrots, onions, corn, mushrooms, lima beans and heavy cream to the pan and return to a boil. Cover the pan, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.

Combine the flour and butter in a mixing bowl to form a thick paste-like mixture. Ladle some of the hot chicken broth into the mixing bowl and whisk to combine with the flour-butter mixture. When smooth, add this mixture to the pot and stir to combine well. Bring the sauce to a low boil and continue to cook until the sauce is thick and smooth, about 5 minutes. Add the reserved chicken meat, stir to combine, and remove from the heat. Discard the bay leaf, taste, and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Set aside to cool completely. Once cooled, refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and position the oven rack on the lowest rung of the oven.

Divide the chilled filling between the 2 pastry-lined pie pans and, using a spatula, smooth the filling to the edges. Place the egg in a small bowl and beat with 1 tablespoon of water. Lightly brush the edges of the overhanging pastry with some of the egg mixture. Top each pie dish with one of the rolled out portions of dough and trim edges so that they match the edges of the dough lining the pie pans. Using your fingers, pinch edges of dough together and roll inward so that the edges sit inside of the edges of the pie pans. Crimp the edges using your fingers, a fork, or a crimping tool. Using the tip of a sharp knife, cut several slits in the top of each pastry to allow steam to vent while cooking. Brush the top of each potpie with some of the eggwash.

Bake the potpies for 20 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and continue baking the potpies until the crusts are golden brown and the filling is heated through, about 40 minutes longer.

Remove the potpies from the oven and allow to cool slightly before serving. Cut the potpies into wedges and serve.

Pie Crust
8 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 stick cold butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

2 tablespoons solid vegetable shortening

3 tablespoons ice water

Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. Incorporate the butter pieces and shortening by hand, working the fat into the flour with your fingertips until the dough starts to come together and form small pea shapes. Work the ice water into the dough with your fingers until it just comes together, being careful not to over-mix.

Form the crust into a disk shape, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator to rest for at least 30 minutes before rolling out to fit into a pie pan.

The secret to my success

I was recently asked if I had any tips or tricks to help out a new member of MFP (myfitnesspal.com). Below is what I wrote to them, it applies to all of us so I decided to share it with everyone. I hope you enjoy it.

There really is no magic to my success. I eat less than I burn, I eat better foods, and I exercise a lot.

Food:
I buy better foods, I mean that, I have switched to more organic, and less processed foods. I eat more “whole” foods, less canned foods. For example I buy a whole chicken, instead of just breast meat (for the most part), because it is less processed. I eat less pasta, bread, and processed sugars. I use all natural sweeteners when I use them (agave nectar, raw sugar, etc)

When I buy veggies, I buy fresh or frozen. I buy organic and local meats (when possible). I eat a lot of fruit and I drink a ton of water. If you look at yesterday’s log for food, I drank 19 glasses of water.

Exercise:
I exercise 4 days a week for at least 60 minutes each session. I run, I lift weights, I run some more, I ride my bike, I ride the stationary bikes. When I run, I run at least 4 miles at a time, always with an incline (when on a treadmill). The incline is the key to burning big calories. If you are just starting off and you can’t run, walk, but goes as fast as you can on an incline when possible. Most treadmills will incline to at least some degree. If you are walking outside, walk like those people you see in the mall, all serious and determined, walk with speed, with determination, with purpose.

Mentality:
Be positive, you’d be surprised how many people neglect this aspect. A positive frame of mind will help you achieve more than you ever imagined. I can’t wait to get to the gym on the days that I go. Do I love lifting weights, and running and sweating like a wildebeest in the Savannah? Absolutely not. Do I love the feeling of accomplishment, and the results working out brings?Absolutely. The positive frame of mind will carry over into other parts of your life as well, causing everything to seem better overall, which in turns, makes you feel better about yourself, which then leads to better outcomes.

Goals:
Set a goal. No matter how big, or small always have a goal. I’m not talking about your end goal. I’m talking about intermediate and small goals. Like: Today I will walk an extra 500 steps, or I will lose 3 pounds in the next week, or I will not eat a candy bar for 7 days. Small steps, near term goals, little victories. They all add up to long term success.

Dieting:
Remember that you cannot expect a diet to work. Diets are short term plans of action, that are not correlated with long term goals. To be successful, you have to change your lifestyle, change your eating habits, and change you way of looking at food and exercise.

Support:
Find a mentor, a role model, a friend, a workout buddy. Whether that person is live and in person or only accessible via the the ephemeral confines of the Internet, you need a mentor and a role model; someone whom has had success and is willing to share their plans, their routines and their insights with you.

Surround yourself with friends, I’m not talking your go to a bar or movie friends, I’m talking about like minded individuals that can relate and share in your struggle. By joining MFP you have taken the first steps in that part. No one can understand what you are going though, or what you will achieve better than someone who has been there, is there, and is struggling with the same (or similar) issues as you are. We all need support, and while our IRL (in real life) friends and family may be empathetic, unless they are on the same journey as you, they cannot truly understand.

Find an IRL workout buddy, someone who can help push you along, pick you up when you falter, be there when you fail (and you will fail along the way). Find someone that will not let you stop when you hit that wall, won’t let your failures be the death of your ultimate success, someone that will support your effort, or kick you in the ass to get you moving again. You need someone that won’t accept “I Can’t” as an answer.

Acceptance:
Push yourself, If you are capable of running 1 mile, don’t settle for that, push yourself to go 1.25, or 1.5 miles instead. Never accept your comfort zone as your top end. Push yourself to achieve and you will achieve. if you can lift 25 pounds try 30. Do not strive for good enough, strive for better than you have ever done. You are a piece of evolutionary genius. I’m not talking science vs religion here, I’m talking human adaptability. You are built to excel, made for success. You are not a static being, you are ever changing and your goals should follow suit. Set your dreams just beyond your grasp and then reach for them.

Recovery:
Sleep, rest, recharge. Try to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night, 8 if you can get it. Take a day off between workouts to rest. If you are pushing yourself, you will need the time off. Your muscles, while marvelous, need to rebuild after hard work. Take a break from workouts. I routinely take a week off where I do not do any structured workouts. That’s not to say I am not exercising, I’m just doing things like hiking in the woods, trekking up a mountain, chopping wood, swimming in a lake, rowing a boat. This is how I recharge, getting away from society and getting back to the pioneer spirit.

That’s it, you now have been given access to my toolset. I hope it helps you as much as it has helped me.

The Trail – a poem

The trail

I love the trail
It doesn’t judge or care how you look or feel
It doesn’t care if its your first run or your millionth
the trail doesn’t see you as an adversary or a friend
it doesn’t even know you are there but it rises to meet you every time
The trail is quiet and listens to your cadence and rhythm
it offers no commentary or advice
It just gives you want you seek
A challenge, a reason to run, a goal to meet
the trail is the one thing you can always count on to give you nothing and everything whenever you need it

At My Core

Hey Look It’s Me

Since turning 40, I have taken some time and reflected on my interaction with the world around me. Some might say that this is my midlife crisis, some might say this is me coming to terms with the eventuality of my own mortality. Call it what you will.

NPR used to have a segment that was called “This I Believe” where people would write down what was at their core, belief wise. It was a cool segment and there were essays written by celebrities, as well as ordinary joes like you and me. It was one of my favorite segments, I haven’t listened to NPR in a while, and I’m not sure if they ever play those anymore, but if they do, you should take a little time and listen. The essays are insightful, well written and some were downright brilliant.

Mine will not be. What your are about to read will be raw, unpolished, unrefined and most likely offensive to the sensibilities of a lot of people I know.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, no matter how wrong or generally misguided it may be, myself included. While you may not agree with everything or anything that I am about say; I ask that you read it all, as it will give you some insight into who I am. If you are an old friend this will by no means shock you, however if you are a newly acquired friend or acquaintance you may find yourself a bit dismayed by some of what is to follow, so please be warned.

I grew up poor, welfare poor, with a mother who could be best described as a grifter. If you don’t know that word I suggest you get a good dictionary (think Oxford English). Growing up with a person like this at the helm of your childhood can lead you to think differently about the world around you. I learned at an early age that there was really no one who you could rely on other than yourself; as everyone out there was either predator or prey. People were things to used and discarded when no longer deemed useful. While this sounds horrible (and I assure you upon reflection, it truly was) it did foster a sound sense of self reliance, and believe it or not self assurance.

Growing up with a grifter as your main parental unit also means that you move around a lot. Take a second to absorb and take that in, because you probably don’t grasp what I mean unless you grew up the child of a military person. When I say we moved a lot, I mean a whole lot. By the time I was 12 I think I had lived in at least as many states and probably two to three times that in terms of actual places where I would lay my head at night. This meant that I never had really good friends, because I wouldn’t be anywhere for more than a few months at a time. Why bother getting to really know people if you were just a transient being in their lives. Living this way actually fed into the whole people as a commodity mentality. While I didn’t know it at the time the nomadic lifestyle we were living was actually doing me a service. It taught me to not be shy, I was that kid who would arrive somewhere and instantly find people to hang out with and be “friends” with. It also led me to be loud, gregarious, and brash. I was that loud kid whom everyone liked immediately. Unfortunately I was also that kid that every parent felt a deep sense of pity for when they learned about my mother. Needless to say I tried to not let people meet my mother for as long as possible.

Growing up the way I did didn’t foster a great sense of morality. When you have a parent whose main objective in life is to see how much they can get from people, you are starting life aiming low. As a child I never knew that this was not the way things were supposed to be. I thought everyone was just like good ole mom; only looking out for themselves. To this day, I honestly believe that my mother did not have my best interests at heart growing up. I, like everyone else she encountered, was just a tool, a commodity to be used. I was another instrument in her plans for the confidence game she called life. I happened to be a rather useful tool, as my dad paid a monthly amount of money that was supposed to be helping pay for the things I needed.

I can remember when I was about 8 meeting a kid whose parents were together and had always been, and thinking that his family was weird. They had lived in the same place for longer than he had been alive. Both of his parents worked actual jobs. That’s not to say my mother didn’t work, she just never really worked. She would have a part time job so as to look like a semi-respectable member of the community. I mean she didn’t want to be seen as the gold digger that she really was.

I think that given the circumstances of how I was raised I have turned out pretty OK. Sure I’ve had my moments where my moral compass has been off, and I still have a duck and cover kind of response to some things, but all in all, I think I have become a well rounded and decent person. I don’t generally shy away from a challenge and I tend to take most things in stride. I would like to believe that as a whole I turned out alright, and have had a positive impact on the world around me. I try to be fair, I try not to take more than my share, I try to help out people when I can.

I honestly feel that how I was raised has a lot to do with my views on religion. I lived in a lot of places where kids shouldn’t live, I had more “dads” than any kid should ever have. I saw a lot of the dark and seedy things that young, impressionable children should never be exposed to.

I saw people who gave 10% or more of their earnings to their church, when I was living right next door and could have benefitted from that money far more than the institution that they were giving it to. I can’t count the number of nights that I went to bed hungry, or cold, or lonely or scared. On more than one occasion I can remember thinking that if there was a god, why was he making me live like this. All those times I went to bed with a sense of fear or hopelessness seemed to strengthen my belief that there was no real purpose for life, there was no great and benevolent creator looking out for us; because if he was out there and he let me go to bed with too little food, or not enough money to have heat, or whatever, then he was a cruel and heartless creator ans I had no need of him. If this was the truth I would rather believe that there was no great power looking down on us, rather than one who, like a kid with a magnifying glass aimed at an ant hill, would sit back and watch us suffer. Don’t get me wrong, I looked into several “flavors of religion” as a young person, and always came to the same conclusion.

I became a militant atheist at the ripe old age of 18. I had seen enough, and heard more than enough of the religious rhetoric to form my opinion and I was damn sure going to let everyone know. I knew plenty of “bible thumpers” growing up and I became the antithesis; I was a “science thumper”. I would try to systematically teardown everything people believed about religion and force them to see my point of view. I can remember looking at a bible, no studying it really, to find all the paradoxes and hypocrisies. I would debate, or more aptly berate, any religious person who dared to spar with me. I remember on more than one occasion bringing other kids to tears because I would make the fight personal. This phase lasted well into my 20’s; I remember I had a neighbor once who walked up to me and asked with sincerity “Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior” I bluntly said “No”. I asked him if he thought his religion was the one true and correct one. When he said yes, I then proceeded to lecture him on why his brand of religion wasn’t the correct one. I was a complete ass; I realize this now that I am older and have seen more in my life. Needless to say I have mellowed as I have gotten older. I am no longer a militant atheist, nor have I found religion. I’ve come to realize that I don’t care. I personally don’t think that there is a god out there, I’m more apt to believe that we are some weird science experiment for aliens or a completely random coincidence than to think that there is one all knowing, all seeing creator. That’s my opinion and you’re welcome to agree, disagree, and/or not care about it, as I have decided to not care what your belief may or may not be. I do not say that preceding statement with any intended malice, I truly do not care what your beliefs are. If you are a decent person than we can be friends, regardless of how misaligned our beliefs may be.

I will not push my beliefs and values on you, and I ask that you do the same. I have come to the realization that what you believe shouldn’t predicate whether or not we can be friends. I have a very close friend who is a devoted Christian (he and his family are what I consider the best example of how Christians should be.), I have another who is a non practicing Christian. We have decided to agree to disagree about that one aspect of our lives and move on. Life is too short to get hung up the small stuff and yes to me that is a small item.

Below is the cliff’s notes version of my beliefs. Many of which have equal bearing whether or not your are a religious person. Please take them for what they are. A means to gain a little bit of insight about me, nothing more nothing less. As I stated This was not meant to offend anyone, but if it has, I understand. I hope you can see past it. If not, again, I understand.

Things I believe:

An intelligent persons does not need the promise of a heaven to do what is right.

Character is doing the right thing even if you would benefit from doing the not so right thing.

Your beliefs don’t make you a better person, your actions do.

Ones beliefs are like ones genitalia, it’s great that you have it, but no-one needs to see it.

There are good Christians, there are good Muslims, there are good atheists just as there are bad Christians, bad Muslims, and bad atheists.

People are people, judge them on what they do, not what they believe, not what country they come form, not how they look, nor by the color of their skin.

Children are born scientists, uncoupled from belief. Their minds are wide open to all possibilities, we indoctrinate them into a closed minded belief set when we saddle them with our beliefs. We should let them explore, and decide on their own what they want to believe or disblieve, and love them in spite of any choice they make, not chastize them for it.

All people are created equal, it is our beliefs that determine their worth and ultimately burden them with inequality. If we cast away the baggage we were given by our predecessors and see people for what they are or could be, we see that we are all, at the core, the same. We all just want to be loved and accepted for who we are, not what we believe.

In the end I hope to be remembered for all I did to help others and to make this world a better place, not for what I believed or did not believe in.

We should all strive to know more about the world then we knew yesterday and to try to lessen the suffering of others. (this was paraphrased from a quote be Neil deGrasse Tyson, but it is part of what I believe he just said it better.)

________________________________________

I look forward to any comments that you may have.

Rob

Fruit and Nut Cookies – A recipe

Right so here is a recipe I concocted when I wanted cookies, since I had no chocolate chips I improvised.

The stuff you need:

2.5 cups flour ( I used AP but knock yourself out and use what you like, coconut flour works well)

3/4 Brown sugar (packed as tight as you can)

3/4 cup sugar (I used plain white sugar this time, but demerara or sugar in the raw work too)

1 tablespoon Agave nectar

2 tablespoons honey

3 eggs

1 stick of unsalted butter softened

1/2 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon Vanilla extract

1/2 cup of chopped nuts of your choice

1 package of dried mixed fruits (5-7.5 oz)

What to do:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (177 C)

Mix Flour, Salt, Baking Powder together in a bowl then set it aside

Combine the sugars and the butter in a large mixing bowl and stir until thoroughly mixed and slightly creamed.

Add the agave nectar, honey, vanilla and eggs, continue mixing until all ingredients are completely mixed.

Add the Flour mixture in four parts making sure that the previous addition is completely absorbed before adding the next.

When all the flour has been added and the dough is of the proper consistency fold in the nuts and fruit.

Chill in the fridge for 15 minutes

Drop in heaping tablespoons onto a non greased pan and bake for 11-15 minutes

Let stand for 1 minute before removing to a cooling rack

Try not to eat them all in one sitting

Makes about 18 big cookies.

Chimps hands, tiny keyboards, and the end of the world as you know it

So in case you hadn’t picked up on this already I’m a tech guy. I like to play with gadgets, thing-a-mabobs, and doohickeys of all shapes, sizes, and creeds. I like to dip my technological toes in many different waters. Until recently though I had shied away from Apple products, not because of a hatred for them, as some people may believe, but mainly because of price. I have always (and still do) think that Apple products are over priced for what they are. I cannot deny that Apple makes beautiful products. They have some of the best industrial design I have ever seen, but the look of a device has always played second fiddle in my book, however I digress so let me get back on track. I recently found myself in possession of not 1 but 2 Apple products. For Christmas my boss gave my a shiny new 64GB iPhone 4s for Verizon, and then later that same week told me to order myself a pimped out Macbook Pro laptop. So who am I to argue; the boss wants me to have a an iPhone (because he has one and needs someone to help him out on occasion) and a Mac laptop to support the pool of users here who have those as their main PC; yes the Mac is a PC because PC stands for Personal Computer. To that end, this article will be about my experience thus far with both of these devices. I will try to keep it brief and do a simple Pro vs Con type of review of both. Ready for it? Good Here we go.

The iPhone 4s:

This is a gorgeous piece of industrial design, suitable for display in a gallery or museum. It is a solid little brick of a phone with good heft and hand feel. It has a simple look and clean lines that the minimalist in me finds appealing. The display is glossy and a and the face and back are composed entirely of glass, but you should know all this stuff, so I’ll get into my pros and cons lists.

Pros:

  1. Design: the clean industrial look and feel are nice, though the single button bugs me, but that said it works.
  2. Rear Camera: The 8Mp camera is fast, nearly lag free shutter, and takes great pictures. It does well as a camcorder taking HD video as well
  3. Physical switch for vibrate: Call me old fashioned, I like a physical switch for switching between noisy and shush modes on my phone
  4. Battery life: I use my phone pretty heavily, work email, personal email, games, surfing, tweeting etc. after about a week of subpar battery life it settled itself and now I can get 12 or so hours out of it.
  5. App Grouping: Folders on the main screen are nice, they allow me to organize my crap into neat little pockets of relatedness, yes I said relatedness.
  6. iMessage: I liked BBM when I had a Blackberry, I like iMessage to communicate with my friends overseas who have iPhones. No silly international costs to send a text.
  7. Email setup: it is dead easy to setup all your email accounts on this device, including Microsoft Exchange.

So that’s my list of things I like about the iPhone 4s, naturally I have to have a list of things I do not like so here it is.

Cons:

  1. Screen Size: sure it looks pretty with it’s high res specs and all but it’s easy to make things look good with the size of the screen is tiny. I HATE, yes I said hate how small the screen is. I understand all the discussions about scaling apps to use bigger screens and all that hoohah but this is 2012, a 3.5″ screen is pathetic for a smart phone.
  2. Keyboard: on Android I used an awesome keyboard called Swiftkey X. I could use any number of keyboards that suited my liking or needs on Android, on the iPhone I get one, that’s it, no choice in the matter. I get one tiny little keyboard that I cannot type on. It takes me at least 2x as long to type out messages on the iPhone because I have chimp hands, and everyone knows chimps have big arse thumbs. I find myself mashing 2-4 keys at any given time, and while the autocorrect feature on the iPhone is good, it cannot compete with my gigantor thumbs.
  3. iTunes requirement: Oh I can hear you already, “You don’t need iTunes anymore” Bullshit. When I had an Android phone I could plug it in to my PC and copy or remove files from it like any other USB drive. Not so with the iPhone. You want to add music to it? You need iTunes. Add pictures or video to it? yep iTunes. Sideload an app to it? Yeah forget about it unless you jailbreak it. Total Bullshit.
  4. Home screen folders: Yep I said I liked em up above but guess what, I dislike the fact that you can only put 9 items in them. That is crap. Apparently there should never be more than 9 apps that that I should ever need in any given category.
  5. Non-removable battery: Sure it get’s good battery life, but I still want the option to replace it my damned self. If I ever need to replace the battery I have to ship this damned thing off to some undisclosed location and have someone else do that, again I call BS. Give me the option to replace it myself without voiding my warranty.
  6. Non-replaceable launcher: Again this is a niggle that relates to having had Android. If I didn’t like the stock app launcher, I could replace it with any number of 3rd party options.
  7. Lack of Profiles: On Android I had different profiles setup for my sounds depending on my circumstances. Outdoors? Everything cranked to 100%. In the office? everything at 30%. In a meeting? Hello vibrate only. On the iPhone? you get either sounds on or vibrate that’s it.
  8. One hardware button: Again this is a niggle that carries over from Android. I liked having multiple buttons to perform single or dual functions as opposed to a single button that serves multiple purposes. I liked having a back button, a home button, a context menu button and a dedicated search button. iOS needs to copy that from Android ICS and ditch the one physical button for the onscreen ones.

OK I have listed my likes and grievances for the iPhone 4s. Now let’s move on to the Macbook pro.

To give you a little context here are the specs for my MBP:

  • Quad core 2.5GHz i7 processor
  • 8GB RAM
  • 512GB SSD
  • 17″ 1080p matte screen
  • AMD/ATI Radeon 6770m video
  • Dual boot OS X Lion and Win7 Ultimate

I know that there are different camps when it comes to the way to run Windows on a Mac. Some people like running it as a virtual machine and others like the Bootcamp option. I am the latter, not the former. Running Windows in a virtual machine is fine for most things, but I intend to use this machine as my one and only machine. That means I will be doing some gaming on it under Windows, so a virtual machine is out because I want true hardware acceleration for that. If all you are going to do under windows is run productivity apps for work, then yes a VM is the way to do it.

So here we are I have a spiffy MBP boot-camped and loaded up Windows 7, which will be what I use it for mainly. I can hear the groans and lamentations of the Apple fans out there. Sorry but I don’t care for the OS X interface, or the fact that most of my programs don’t have a Mac version. I live in a mainly Windows world, I work in a mainly Windows world.  With that in mind I will present my Pros and Cons lists and will designate which are for Windows or OS X explicitly.

Pros:

  1. Design: Again Apple has their design down pat. the Macbook Pro is a spectacle to behold. Clean lines, impeccable grooming, great profile.
  2. Weight: My MBP weighs in at 6.6 pounds not bad for a 17″ behemoth of a machine. it is about 1 pound lighter than my HP Envy 17, which is nice.
  3. Matte screen: I wish more manufacturers would give this option. Sure I had to choose to have a matte screen but none the less I had the option. Having a glossy screen is great if there are no outside light sources that can muck up your viewing. In my world there are errant light sources everywhere. Having a matte screen helps to negate their effect on my viewing experience
  4. Keyboard: The chiclet style keyboard has decent travel and makes a nice reassuring click when your press on the keys. Seeing as the MBP is a unibody device the keys come up through the body and the keyboard has a solid feel to it.
  5. Unibody frame: The solid aluminum body of the MBP gives it a great rigid feel that adds to the solid feel of the device. It flexes very little and I can carry it while holding only a corner of the device while the display is open and not worry about it bending or feeling like it will break.
  6. Magsafe Power plug: This is something all notebook makers should adopt. I have tripped over my fair share of power cords and damaged either the adapter, the laptop or both in the process. This has to be one of the greatest innovations for a laptop ever.
  7. Battery life – OS X: Because it switches between the dedicated & embedded graphics adapters automagically you can get good battery life out of this 17″ monster under OS X. It’s no where near the 7+ hours apple claims, but I have gotten 5 hours out of it, which is decent.
  8. Trackpad: I admit, I thought I would hate the trackpad and it’s lack of buttons, but I don’t. It works well and once you get used to using multiple fingers for the right click and such it is a decent feature. I like it equally as well in Windows as I do in OS X.

Now for my list of

Cons:

  1. Non-removable battery: Yep, I hate that I cannot replace it myself. if I run out of juice away from an outlet I’m hosed. This has to be the dumbest feature ever in a laptop device.
  2. Battery life – Windows: Because Apple doesn’t want Windows to perform as well as OS X on their hardware They hide the embedded graphics adapter from Windows. This means all you get to use is the dedicated card, which sucks the battery life to about 3 hours under windows. C’mon Apple, lighten up and let us switch between the two.
  3. No Delete Key – Windows: Oh sure there is a key labled Delete on the keyboard, but it is the backspace key, not the actual delete key. and through their bootcamp trickery you can use it to logon to the machine under windows but if I’m editing text I like to use the delete key to remove items that precede others.
  4. No hard drive activity light: Call me old school, but I like to know when my drive is being accessed, sometimes I like to look to see if my drive being accessed is teh reason for a bottleneck in performance. Not easy to do if there is no indicator for drive activity.
  5. That Big, Obnoxious Lighted Apple on the cover: I hate illuminated logos on the cover of my laptop. I have the same beef with my HP Envy. Put your logo on the device, sure that’s cool, but don’t have it lit up like a damned bat signal. Give me a way to turn that blazing eyesore off.
  6. Brushed Aluminum body: Yep the same thing that gives the MBP a solid feel is also a pain in the ass. It scratches too easily and gets marred up. It looks pretty at first but you have to treat it with kid gloves, unless you want to get a cover for it. Mine will get marred and scratched, much top the chagrin of Apple fanboys everywhere.
  7. No USB 3: I bought this MBP in December, USB 3 has been out fro a while now, heck I have it on my Envy which is over 18 months old. Sad Apple, just plain sad.
  8. No Bluray: Again my Envy has this but Apple has deemed it unworthy. Give me the option to make that choice.
  9. No AD2P Profile: I use Bluetooth headsets for many of my audio requirements on a PC (Again Person Computer, and yes a Mac is a PC) but the MBP Bluetooth adapter seemingly has an aversion to AD2P profiles for my BT headset. Under both OS X and Windows my trusty Backbeat headset will not work properly. I works as a fully functional headset with my Envy, but not the MBP.

So that’s my take on the Macbook Pro.

What have we learned here today? Well you learned that despite what people my say I do not hate Apple products, though I have my own list of issues with them.  The iPhone is not the be all end all that the hype machines would have you believe but it by no means a phone that should overlooked in your quest for a device you like. It is a solid device and for a great number of people it would be a perfect fit. Is it the ultimate in devices?  In my opinion, no. It has it’s pluses and it’s minuses; overall I’d say it’s a mediocre device. and while it may be perfectly fine for a large number of people it is not for me. In fact I will be getting a new phone when my contract comes due in March.

We also learned that I like the Macbook Pro. It is a decent machine. It performs well as a Windows rig. In fact After doing some bechmarking (cinebench and geek desk) it actually performs better as a Windows rig then it does as an OS X rig. It scored lower than my 18 month old Envy 17 but not by much. Given that I can run both OS X and Windows on it without some convoluted hacking solution  it is a great device for my need to support both operating systems. There are are some oversights that I would like to see corrected but I know that won’t be so I will have to suck it up and cope.  I still think it the MBP was overpriced for what it is, but the fact that I can use it to support all my users makes the premium something I can overlook. Like I said earlier OS X is not my cup of tea, but I can see it’s appeal. It’s simplistic feel and cheery vibe is great for a whole demographic of non-techy people out there. Overall I’d give the Macbook pro an B+/A-. It’s a decent all around machine.

There you have it.

Rob

Weight Loss, Food, Clothing and a Financial crisis

So in my last post I had pics of me from last years holiday party. In those pictures I wore a size 54 jacket and size 48 pants. I went to Men’s Wearhouse on Sunday and bought a new suit. I had to, they basically laughed at me when I went in to see if I could get my old suit altered to fit me. You see this year I wear a size 44 coat and size 36 pants. That’s a big difference; so big that they told I had to get a new one, because they couldn’t alter any suit that much. While that in it self is great it’s also not.

Sure losing 114 pounds has done wonders for me; for my health and well being, my exercise and eating changes have been wonderful; not so much so for my wallet. In the past year I have spent more on clothing than I have ever had to. While I feel great and have surely added years to my life, my finances are feeling strained because of it.

Now, admittedly, I could have bought a cheaper suit than I did. I tried on a few at the mall and none garnered the approval of my wife, so it was off to Mens Wearhouse, where i had $50 in gift cards anyway. My intention was to buy a suit I saw on their website for $249 and since they were having a sale I could get a second one for $100. Great $349 – $50 is $299 not bad for 2 suits. Well they didn’t have the suits from the website in store (big shock) so I looked at what they did have. I ended up with a suit for $299; still not too bad. Add the second one in for $100 and we’re just under $400. Then they get you for tailoring, taxes, toll money, their kids college tuition and such, which I understand, but dang it if I didn’t end up spending over $500 after my gift cards were used up. So once again, I had been hornswoggled. I intended on spending about $250 and ended up doubling it. My wallet took another hit for the team. I feel sorry for it, I really do.

I’m liking the fact that I can shop in the “Mens” section not the “Big and Tall” section, which by the way is really just the “Big” section in my opinion. They believe that anyone with a waist larger than 42 is never going to have more than a 30″ inseam; but on the off chance you do it will most assuredly be because you are a gargantuan and have a 36″+ inseam. so all of the moderately tall fat guys get screwed. We either have to buy “highwater” pants or dress like we are Steve Urkel.

Sorry I got off track there, where was I? Oh yes my poor, poor wallet. In addition to having to bear the burden of my new wardrobe, my wallet has had to shoulder the weight of higher grocery costs. It’s amazing how much more it costs to eat healthy than to not. For example, I have been trying to move to more and more organic, and where possible locally sourced food stuffs. Here is a comparison with what I believe are fairly accurate numbers for one item.

Chicken. One of the most abundantly available meats products know to the US consumer. I never really gave much thought to the chicken, except maybe what to marinate it in on what to slather on it, until I changed my eating habits. Now I consider many factors when looking at this ubiquitous culinary item. Let’s say you want to make some chicken, so you meander on down to your local mega (or not so mega) mart; you are presented with a myriad of poultry choices.  Standard fare Chicken, Organic Chicken, All Natural Chicken, Free Range Chicken, Pastured Chicken among the bevy of others. each one with it’s own pricing structure and variance depending on a whole other list of factors.

For my comparison Let’s consider ordinary standard chicken, organic chicken and locally source pastured chicken. For my standard we will use a run of the mill mega mart chicken, an Organic Chicken, and a Local chicken procured from a local store (in this case Bushel and Peck in Beloit Wisconsin)

Standard Young Chicken 3-4 pounds: About $6, fed who knows what, kept in a tiny cage, gets crapped on by the bird above it, has it’s beak removed, treated inhumanely

Certified Organic chicken 4-5 pounds: About $8, fed grain, no antibiotics, kept in a pen with a bazillion other birds, crowded but not entirely inhumane treatment, doesn’t get sunlight or weather.

Locally sourced Pastured Organic Chicken 4-5 pounds: About $10, fed all natural grain, no antibiotics, allowed to roam and peck around in a field with a bunch of other birds, basically living the good life until he get’s culled for my consumption.

So you can see the hit a wallet takes. I want to buy the locally sourced bird. It helps a local farmer, my local economy, is good for me to eat, and I can rest easier knowing that the animal that gave it’s life for my dinner was treated with respect and dignity; but at nearly 2x the cost of the standard chicken I cannot afford to do so all the time. I will usually opt for the certified organic chicken to split the difference but I truly would prefer to get the local bird.

This same type of dilemma occurs for everything you buy when you change your eating, The food that is good for you costs more than the food that is not. I understand the economics of it. It costs more to raise the animals/vegetables/unicorns with out antibiotics and growth hormones because there are less overall successes in the end than there are in the factory farmed varieties that are made bigger, and faster with the help of science, chemical voodoo and Brawndo. I just don’t like it, nor do I have to. I do however have to tolerate it.

So now my food costs 2x as much, my clothes have all had to be replaced , and I had to buy a new suit. My wallet is sore, it has been taken to the woodshed and beaten within inches of it’s life. What’s a guy to do.

What’s your opinion? Tell me your thoughts.

Rob

On Losing Weight, Dieting, and My General Lunacy.

Hey Look It’s Me

Early in September 2010 I made a decision; I decided that I was getting too old to be fat. I could be fat, or I could be 40, not both. Since I haven’t figured out how to stop the march of time, I was left with only one path. I was about to turn 39 and weighed in at about 325 pounds. I had been half-heartedly been dieting whittling my weight down from an all-time high of 390 pounds. In 2008 I had dropped from 390 to 340 in a few months and kind of stalled out. I would lose a pound or two here and there but it took me another year to get to 325.  So that fateful September, I decided that I needed to stop dieting. Yes I said stop dieting. Dieting had done nothing but put me on a rollercoaster ride of losing and gaining weight, what I needed was a lifestyle change. Anyone who has dieted before knows how hard it is to stay on it, well it’s just as hard (if not harder) to alter the way you think about life and food.

I had already joined a gym and was going on a regular basis; doing all the same old routines I had done in high school and seeing little in the way of results (they didn’t work that well back then either). So I decided that I needed to find some tools to help supplement my quest for a healthier me. I wandered about the various exercise websites, and looked at all of the “weight loss by buying specialized food” sites and wasn’t getting much in the way of inspiration. I decided to see what was available in the Android Market on my phone. I typed in exercise and found a few apps that looked like they may hold promise. I searched on weight loss and found a few more apps that looked like they may be a decent resource. I installed a few different apps and saw nothing that I hadn’t seen in countless other places, that is until I loaded up MyFitnessPal. This application had a hook, it was tied to a website (http://www.myfitnesspal.com) that had a social aspect to it. You could find like-minded individuals who were willing to offer encouragement and were able to relate with your struggles.

(Me in December of 2010)

(A simple Comparison Picture)

I joined MyFitnessPal.com on September 13th 2010 weighing 325 pounds. I was determined to make a go of it and try for a big number. I wanted to lose 100 pounds by the time I turned 40. That gave me just over a year to get my butt whipped into shape and hit my target. Was it a foolish goal? Probably. Would it take determination, will power and a complete change of mindset to make it? Definitely. So I proceeded to use the website to set my goal weight. I chose 220 pounds and it asked me a few questions about my lifestyle. Based on my goal and my lifestyle (sedentary) it set my calorie intake and expenditure goals for me. OK now I had a plan and goal just like many other times before, but this time I had a weapon to help me.  By tracking the food I ate with the application on my phone, I soon learned I ate a lot more than I thought I did. A WHOLE LOT MORE. The first week of being on MFP,  I didn’t not make my calorie intake goal once. I did learn that I ate on average about 3500 calories a day and only expended about 2200 a day (not counting workouts). That meant 1300 calories in excess each day, well no wonder I didn’t succeed all those times before. This was a game changer. I knew what I needed to do straight away. The second week I made my goal every day, coming in below it by a few calories a few times. Progress at last; small steps to be sure, but progress none the less. For the first couple of months I relied on the machines I was using for cardio and the built in numbers on the MFP web site to tell me the calories I was burning (both of which, while helpful, are not accurate). I was losing weight, I averaged about 2 pounds a week; not too shabby. I was well on my way; If I could maintain 2 pounds per week I would make my goal with time to spare. I bought a Heart Rate Monitor (HRM) and started using that to chart my calorie burns. I would take what the machine said I burned add what the HRM said and average them out. Then I would subtract my Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) to get the approximate total burn for each workout. Yet another reason to use a smartphone, I needed to do math at the gym. In the old school days I would carry a little notebook and chart what workouts I did. These days my notebook is a phone and it charts the exercise, they calories burned, my calories exerted,  and keeps me in touch with a community of people all struggling with the same problem I am (a definite trade out from the old spiral).

I have a routine now too, just like the old days; only it’s a bit different. I work out 4 days a week. I start each day with the same breakfast (pretty much without fail). I find that the consistency helps me. What do I eat for breakfast you ask?
1 pure protein bar (usually Chocolate Deluxe)
1 Multivitamin
24 ounces of water

Yep that’s it; that is breakfast. I have snacks throughout the day the first one at about 9 am every day. Anyway back to the workout routine. As I said, 4 days a week. I workout onTuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. On Tuesday and Thursday I start out with chin-ups and Dips 30 of each then it’s cardio time I run. I used to walk, then I jogged, now I run. I average about 7.3 mph for 30 minutes. I use a machine called an Incline Trainer made by Freemotion. It allows me to run a course that varies from 3 degrees to 30 degrees of incline. That’s right I run on 30 degree incline for part of my workout. Typically the course keeps you at a level for 1 minute then changes. The constant change in incline keeps your body from being too adjusted and it has to constantly recalibrate itself. This leads to big burns for me ion the calorie department.  After the Incline trainer I move on to another machine (crazy I know) made by Precor it’s a 546i Crossramp. It’s like an elliptical but without moving arms, and the ramp goes between 1 degree and 20 degrees of inclination. Yep you guessed it. I run a course that varies on this one too. 30 minutes at about 6.5 mph. I don’t burn as many calories on it but it works all the muscles of your legs throughout the workout.

On Saturdays I add weights. 30 minutes of weight training, plus an additional 30 minutes on the Incline Trainer. So that’s about 10 miles of running on ever changing courses plus weights. Saturday is my big day I tend to burn about 2000 calories at the gym.

Sunday is strictly cardio. No chin-ups, No dips. Just running on the two machines.

I track everything I eat using MFP. I track all my exercise using MFP. MFP has kept me on my course (unlike this rambling story). MFP was the tool I used to make myself more accountable for the way I treated my body. It is that accountability that has made my dramatic weight loss possible. I know you’re wondering: “Did he lose the weight? Did he make his goal?”   Yes and Yes. I hit my goal on September 4th 2011, a full month before my target date. As of today I weigh 218 pounds. I am still working out like mad training for the Toughmudder 2012 (http://toughmudder.com ).   It’s a 10-12 mile obstacle course designed by former special forces members. I have inspired my cousin too. He is going to participate in the mudder with me.

I guess what I really wanted to convey here was that it is possible. I lost over 100 pounds in under a year. The tools to help you are out there, and many like MFP are free, the only cost is your own motivation.  For better or worse I have changed my life, and my lifestyle. I eat better (for the most part), I exercise routinely, and I am maintaining my weight loss.  My next challenge; besides the Toughmudder? Getting this loose skin tightened up so I feel less like a shar-pei. That may take a while though.

Rob

Update: 6/22/2012 Just figured I would add a new picture

Me as of today

As of today I weigh 215 pounds. I currently wear a 34″ waist and a large shirt. I work out 4 days a week and limit the total amount of calories I eat per day to around 2200.

My Breakfast is still 24 oz water, a protein bar and a vitamin, but I have added glucosamine as a supplement as well.

I still log into MFP everyday, but I don’t always log my meals.  If you get on there feel free to request me as a friend. my userid is robrowald.

Descent into Madness – A poem

Attempt number two at getting back in touch with my creative side. I hope you enjoy it.

Descent into Madness

This is my descent into madness
It starts with grey
The thoughts
The day
The madness not rising but
The sanity draining away
Clarity receding
Giving way to the murkyness
Allowing the demons to show
Repeating the same actions
Expecting new results
Tunnel vision and lack of forethought
Dragging me down
Not willingly but not resisting either
This is how it begins…

Samsung Droid Charge: A real life review

I’m going to do a down and dirty review of the Samsung Droid Charge. In real world terms much like I did for the Motorola Xoom. So here we go.

I have had my Droid Charge for a 3.5 months now and I can finally give it a review, as it has been field tested. As with any review the bias will be my own, based on how I use the device, your mileage may vary. This will be a simple good vs. bad list.

Good:

The Screen: The Charge has a beautiful screen. it’s a 4.5″ Super AMOLED work of art. It has great viewing angles and produces eye popping color. The blacks are dark, rich, and best of all  BLACK. Not a washed out grey like most screens portray and call black. Videos have that vivid detail that high end flat panels boast about.

The Cameras: The Charge has 2 cameras. First there is an 8MP rear facing shooter that takes great pictures. It works well in lower light situations, much better than my Droid X ever could. Like most multifunction devices it has a bevy of shooting modes and filters so you can get your sepia fix. It has a macro mode, a standard mode and a “beauty” mode, for portraits and such. The stand out feature for me, however, is the panoramic mode. I can hear you now “My <insert device name here> does panoramic pictures”. Yep so did my Droid X but no where as intuitively as the Droid Charge does. It uses the gyroscope and the accelerometer to know where you should be for each of the 8 parts of the panoramic picture. It puts guides in and will not take the next shot useless you are right on the money, in terms of location. The result are breathtaking pictures that capture a huge field of focus. The front facing camera is no slouch either. while nowhere near the resolution of the rear camera, it works well for self portraits, video chats and stuff like that. It also works really well in lower light environments. The camcorder feature will do up to  720p class video and does a great job with it. It records decent audio and will zoom as much as 4x with interpolation. It won’t replace a real camcorder with that tiny little CMOS sensor but it will sure be a plausible replacement for that talent show or parade you happen to find yourself stuck at.

The Memory: The Charge comes with a 32GB card installed. I’ll let that sink in a moment. That’s right it comes with 32GB of space on board when you pull it out of the box. Great for storing copious amounts of data. Sure it’s only a class 2 card but it beats a sharp stick in the eye. The device itself has 1GB of memory on board for the OS and storage of key elements, everything else is stuck on your SD card.  Not an entirely bad way to do it, it works well enough for me.

Connectivity: The Charge is a LTE enabled device. that means if you are in a LTE area, you get high speed data access. it does pretty well at dishing it up too. I regularly get 13+Mbit speeds on it in my area; not too shabby for a phone. It does well as a 3G device and will revert to 1x as required too. You’ll get better battery life using 3G than LTE but more about that that later. The Charge has hotspot capabilities and will host up to 5 external devices via wifi and dole out bandwidth to all of them, if you’re willing to pay for the service. The wifi radio is sufficient but nothing to make you jump up and down. It maintains connections even when you have no bars. I’m not sure if the logic for reporting the signal strength is off or what but it never seems to have a full signal, even if i am within 5′ of the AP.

Voice Quality: I have had no complaints for voice quality with this device. People say they can hear me just fine, and the sound quality is excellent. I can say the same about when I receive calls. The phone produces excellent depth of voice and makes it seem like you are standing right next to the person when talking to them. Being a VZW device, coverage is excellent and there are very few areas where you can’t get reception.

Feel: Over all the phone has good hand feel. It’s a large device with some weight to it so it feels like a real phone. The plastic bezel and battery cover make it feel a bit cheaper, but it by no means feels like a kids toy. The touch interface is responsive, although it requires a bit more force to select items than my other touch screen devices have. That’s not a bad thing in my opinion, it makes it a bit more tactile, which is something most people miss on a touch only device.

BAD:

Battery life: There is a reason that the call this device the Charge and it’s not because it will go forever on one. Don’t get me wrong it’s not terrible, but it sure isn’t great. It comes stock with a 1600mah battery, which gives me just enough juice to make it to lunch time on a fairly busy day. If you turn the brightness down, and lock it into 3g only mode and make sure you have wifi on any time your someplace that you can get it, you can squeeze a couple of more hours out of it, but it in now way compares to the Droid X it replaces. I could go 12-13 hours on the standard battery with the X, and 18 or more on the slim extended one. I can make it 16 or so with the extended battery for the Charge but it more than doubles the weight of the device and adds a huge hump on it’s backside. Normally that wouldn’t be a big deal but you can’t use any cases, or mounts for it with the big battery in.

GPS: It works OK, but damn does it take its sweet time getting locked into a signal. It can take upwards of 40 seconds to get a lock. once it gets a lock it works like it should but if I’m standing in the wide open with a plain view of the entire sky it should not take almost a minute before I can use the GPS.

Button Placement: The volume rocker is placed directly across from the power button. While you may not think this is a big deal, just try using the power button. You’ll hit the volume keys every time unless you really put forth an effort to not touch them. It wouldn’t really matter but the volume keys are used to get into diagnostic modes such as recovery, so it you hit the power button and inadvertently grab the volume key too, you can cause yourself some headaches.

NO LED indicator: This boggled me at first. I wouldn’t know if I had something waiting for my attention because outside of the first indication (a sound prompt) you couldn’t tell if you had a message, missed call, email etc. because there is no little flashing LED to alert you. This means you have to either power on the screen (which only happens via pressing the power button by the way) or employ a third party utility such as NoLED to let you know. It seems like a minor thing but believe me it’s a major oversight in my opinion; besides having that little LED could save battery life, because you wouldn’t have to power up the big screen to know if you had a waiting item to be reviewed.

LAG: That’s right this phone suffers from lag. Not all the time mind you but a good bit of the time. I’m not sure if it’s due to the file system that Samsung chose to use or if it’s due to the single core processor or a combination of the two factors. Granted you can fix it with some hackery and some OS leaks that are readily available on the web but shouldn’t they just make it so it works quickly all the time?

Conclusion:

Over all I can say I would recommend the Samsung Droid Charge with a couple of caveats.

Don’t expect this device to be the be all end all. it’s a mid-class device. It can’t hang with the Bionics, or the SGII crowd. It’s a solid device in it’s own right but it’s now high end super phone.

Don’t expect to have awesome battery life out of the gate. It’s a LTE device with an awesome screen. Expect that to drain some juice from the under powered battery that comes with the device.

If you can live with those 2 items I’d say buy this sucker. If you’re into taking video and pictures, like watching videos or listening to music, this is a solid choice. If your looking for a mid-class all in one device that has a few trade offs for some really good options, this may be your device.

I feel the “GOODS” outweigh the “BADS” for this device and if I had to assign it a numerical value I’d give it a solid 8.5 out of 10. There you have it I have officially stated my position on this device, and That as they say is that.

Rob

On the subject of getting older or Rob grows up a little bit

As some of you know I have another birthday coming up soon. I will have survived 40 complete revolutions around a ball of gas bigger than myself on October 9th. In regards to this, I have been asked by several people if I intend to have a big shindig to celebrate this milestone.

My answer is always the same; I flatly say “No”. Why is that, you may be asking… Let me cast some illumination on the subject at hand for you. Growing up the way I did, holidays like Christmas were less than stellar events, with people fighting and walking and eggshells trying to avoid each other at all costs and birthdays were even worse. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not a buzzkill, but to me personally birthdays are not that big of a thing.

I survived another 365 days living, what can be arguably called an easy 1st world life. Really, is it so much of an accomplishment to have survived this long in a place where food, shelter, medicine, and modern conveniences are readily available? Not really, now had I cured some disease, or developed some radical new way to solve a problem that plagues the world, I would have cause to celebrate, but merely surviving, that is no real reason for a big celebration.

I will however mark the occasion with quiet dignity, and perhaps spend time with a few chosen friends. I feel no need for gifts, as I can pretty much buy whatever I want for myself at this point in my life. If someone decides that they want to get me a gift, I will not refuse it, but there is no need to go out of your way to do such a thing. I’m just as happy to have your company as I am your tributes.

I know there are plenty of people who will not understand my stance on the subject, but I’m sure there are just as many who will just get it. My hope these days is that if someone wants to get my a gift make it a donation to a worthy cause in my name, or better yet, go out into our community and find a person who could use a hand up and help them out; no strings attached. A random act of kindness to a stranger in need would be just as good, if not better, as donating money to a cause in my opinion.

A few years back there was a movie called “Pay it forward”, while the movie itself was just OK, the subject matter was excellent. Now anyone that knows me can tell you that,  I don’t believe in many things that are intangible, but in the past few years I have really seen that our actions have consequences and what we do know will be reflected back at us in due time. Whether you want to call it karma, fate, serendipity, destiny, certainty of circumstance or kismet; the simple truth is what goes around comes around.

OK, I know it seems as I have veered off the tracks of the subject matter, but stay with me and you will see that we are indeed still on course. If I could have just one wish fulfilled on my or for my birthday it would be this:

For one day follow the advice of two fictional characters, Bill and Ted. As Abraham Lincoln said in the movie “These two great gentlemen are dedicated to a proposition which is as true today as it was in my time. Be excellent to each other.” I’m not going to attempt to dictate what that is to anyone. Everyone must decide, on their own,  what it means. For some it may be a simple act of kindness, for others it may mean going out of your way to help someone out. For some of the people out there simply saying thank you to someone for a change would qualify.

So there it is. I have laid it down. Will you pick it up? I don’t and most likely will never know, but I can say this: If just one person takes the initiative and decides to “Be Excellent” to someone else, it will come back to you. It may not be immediate, but be assured that making life, even the tiniest bit, more shiny for someone who is in a dark place is good for you. Try it some time, often, or even just once. The world will thank you in its own way.

Rob

A tech guy who is talking less and less about tech or How I’m trying to get back to things I did in college

Hey Look It’s Me

Yeah you read that right, As of late I have found myself thinking less and less about tech items. Now don’t get me wrong, I still like electronic toys. I have multiple DishNetwork receivers, 2 Logitech Revues, a Meraki cloud controlled wireless access point, a Xoom tablet, and Android phone and a bevy of other items that I use on a regular basis. I like my toys, and I like computers and networking but I  like not using them as much these days too. Unless I am playing a game or having to VPN into work to fix things, I rarely pick up my laptop anymore. If I need to surf the web I tend to use my tablet or my Google TV unit and that’s just peachy.  I have a smartphone because work pays for it, if they didn’t I would probably go back to a dumbphone.

Where the biggest fundamental shift has been is in the tech prognostication arena. I used to keep abreast of everything that was being discussed, thought about, tested, manufactured, and what have you. I used to be the go to guy for what the next big trend in IT was going to be for many people, but in the last few years I have noticed that I have, by and large, become less interested in the “what’s next”. I’m not sure if I’m burned out, jaded, tired, or just genuinely disinterested but the “tech future” area of my brain is getting smaller and smaller. It may be because I have made a few changes in my life, including more physical activity, and eating better.

I find that instead of  thinking about technology as much I am instead thinking about outdoor adventures; things like hiking, camping and as of late The Tough Mudder 2012 that I am going to attempt. I find that I think about places I could go for these activities instead of thinking about things that would keep me inside. Mind you my wife wouldn’t believe any of this, because of all the tech related items that float around our house, due to me being a beta tester for a few different companies, but I swear its true.

For years I would go to bed and have blissfully dreamless sleep. close my eyes and fade to black. I would awake refreshed but it would literally be as if I just closed my eyes. Time was instantly passed with no sense of time gone. In the last 6 months or so I have noticed that I remember dreaming. I rarely retain what I was dreaming about for more than few seconds but it’s a start. When I was a kid I would have very vivid and often times lucid dreaming sessions. I am hoping that those days return. I cannot say with certainty what is causing the shift in my neural activity but I honestly think it has more to do with my physical activity levels these days.

So it appears, from my perspective, that the increase in physical activity/fitness has made my brain stop thinking/caring as much about tech and in turn made me think more about more physical activity and creative things again. Sure the change has been slight in the grand scale of things but a change is a change none the less. I have recently began to think about writing poetry and short stories again. I have even toyed with the notion of trying to get back into doing art again. I could be completely off base here, it may have absolutely nothing to do with the lifestyle change. It may be caused by changes that come with getting older. Who knows, certainly not me, but I’m going to ride this out and see where it takes me.  So if you happen to follow me on Facebook, Google+, or Twitter you may notice less and less tech talk then again you may not. Only time will tell.

Rob

SOciopath – a poem

I used to do art work, not paintings, or sculpture. but odd prints made with turpentine and photocopies transferred to canvas or paper. I used to write poetry, quite a bit. Then I stopped doing all things creative and I’m not entirely sure why. I have a couple of hundred poems in various degrees of completeness in many notebooks, on scraps of paper, and rattling around in the chaos that is my mind. A couple of years back, my wife took a lot of time to transcribe all my scribblings into a compiled word document, which I’m sure took her quite a long time because of the voluminous amounts of verbiage, compounded by my horrible handwriting.

I was sitting at my desk today during lunch (thanks to crummy weather) and decided to try and write a poem. it’s similar in vein to many of my older works, but is heavily influenced by the fact that The Hollywood Undead were playing on Slacker, and I watched two episodes of Dexter last night. It is by no means complete, but it is what it is; me dipping my toe back into the creative waters.

Without further adieu, I present SOciopath (yep the o is supposed to be capitalized)

When you look do you see me
The real me
the one with the empty eyes, barren soul
the one who is callus and apathetic
the one I protect not
The me I project
the one with all the answers
the one with the confidence
the one who cares about the trivial little things in your life
The razor barbed nerves frayed and frazzled or
the charming gent who has you dazzled
SO
When you look do you see me
or who you want me to be