Monday, May 3, 2010

A few tips to thrive in the Aquapocalypse!

Boil order getting you down? Well, before you get in a fist fight at BJ's or Costco over the last 6 pack of Aquafina (Which is filtered tap water anyway.) take a step back and use these tips to get through this minor inconvenience with a smile.

First off, why are we boiling water right now? We've all seen the news about the broken water main in Weston. Since the rupture was expelling 8 million gallons of treated water into the Charles, the MWRA needed to divert water from untreated reservoirs to maintain service. However, since pond water is now coming from the taps, there is a slight risk of getting sick from the natural contaminants. Of concern are Giardia, and Cryptosporidium and to a much lesser level common bacterias such as e. coli.

Giardia (Beaver Fever) and Crypto are not anything to laugh at, they are protozoans that cause gastro-intestinal issues in their hosts, most commonly diarrhea. Transmission is normally fecal to oral - which brings us back to the boil order. Mammals of all types serve as hosts, and the MWRA usually treats our water aggressively before sending it on to our taps in order to kill these contaminants. There are some relatively easy methods to safely treat our own water until the MWRA gets the system back together.

Hikers have been "enjoying" the effects of Giardia and Crypto for years and have come up with some great tech to prevent infections. I believe personally that the mechanical filtration available on the market is portable enough and inexpensive enough that everyone should have at least one unit in the home.

This is what I have, it's a light, inexpensive mechanical filter. Works easily, and the water it outputs is very clean tasting. It uses a filter with pores of .03 microns to capture contaminants - Giardia and Crypto are larger than the filter pores. The filter in this unit can treat 200 gallons, and costs about $80. For an effective cost of $0.40 per gallon for 200 gallons (Without fistfights at BJ's!), and new filters cost less than $40 (for a cost of $0.30 per gallon for 400 gallons.). This unit is small in size, has its own carrying bag, and weighs in at a paltry 11 oz. - so it's easy to keep around at home or on vacation. This is usually on hand at REI.

This is truly an amazing product, a portable "pen" that treats your water with UV light and effectively destroys problem causing microbes. This is another lightweight, easily usable and portable item, however it doesn't use a filter, but a lamp. The adventurer weighs in at a hefty 3.6oz., and will treat 50 qt. per pair of disposable batteries, for a cost of $8.00 per gallon for the first set of batteries, but that cost drops to $4.32 a gallon for the next 50 qts. For comparison, to the Hiker Pro above, 200 gallons will cost you around $1.10 per gallon. (The numbers are based on an assumption of $8 per pair of batteries.) The high cost offsets the value of the highly portable, and easy to use unit that is extremely effective.

There are two chemical treatments that I've used before, and would use again. Iodine tabs and chlorine bleach can effectively purify water, and chlorine is used by the MWRA at the treatment facilities.

Chlorine bleach treatment of water is fairly simple - add unscented household chlorine bleach to a large container of water, and allow it to sit for a bit. The resultant water is safe, but tends to taste "off". A trick that hikers use to combat that is to add some powdered drink mix to increase the palatability of the water. I will say this, chlorine isn't something to play around, and is highly toxic. When used correctly it is a great tool for sterilizing and sanitizing. It is important to be sure you have chlorine bleach, do NOT use non-chlorine bleach, or scented chlorine bleach to treat water. Most household chlorine bleach is 5.25% chlorine and potent enough for two drops to properly treat 1 qt. of water. 8 drops, or 1/8 tsp. will treat a gallon of water. The EPA site I've linked below has a table showing the amounts to use for different concentrations. Once mixed the water must stand for at least a half hour for it to work. Turbid water or extremely cold water will require a higher concentration of chlorine.

Iodine tablets are an easy alternative to bleach for a chemical treatment. The Potable Aqua tablets are the only ones I've tried, and while the taste isn't pleasant, it is decent enough once masked. The tabs come in 50 tablet bottles, and two tablets will treat 1 qt. of water. As with the chlorine, the treated water must sit for at least 30 minutes to take effect. One thing to note though, iodine is NOT effective against Cryptosporidium. The Potable Aqua tablets will last up to 4 years unopened, or 1 year opened, and has a cost of about $1.08 per treated gallon of water.

Boil, baby, boil!
Boiling is a safe and easy alternative to the above mentioned treatments. However, it is predicated on having enough available fuel to bring a large volume of water to a rolling boil for a minute or so, difficult if utility services are interrupted. The only real negative to boiling water is that the end product is HOT and tastes funky due to a lack of oxygen in the water. That's easily fixed by splashing it around in a clean pitcher and throwing it into the fridge for a few hours. This is really the best way to treat large amounts of water in the home, and any of your homebrewing friends should be able to hook you up with a large pot to use for boiling.

More Reading
This document from the US EPA is a good rundown of how to treat water during an emergency. It covers boiling, home filtering of turbid water, and chemical treatment.

If In Doubt
If in doubt about how to handle this whole situation, don't sweat it. Grab a homebrewer, or a hiker. Beer brewing began as a method to preserve grain and purify water. We know how to fix what ales you. Hikers have also been dealing with these contaminants for years, it's old hat at this point. So, relax and don't sweat the small stuff.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Been busy, with beer!

So quick update on where things are, I've been busy with Ghost Rabbit work. It looks like the sales candidate I chose and interviewed is going to be a huge winner for us. Gotta wait for things to get rolling before I can out his name though. I have to say, I'm pretty happy that we found him and he's going to take GRE to some great places. We also have a project coming up that's going to be the debut of one of the interal IPs we're working on. I'm excited to see it come out, and I hope it's well received!

I like it when things work out after all.

In other news, back on Easter I tried my first all grain batch of beer. It was an all day affair, literally. 13 hours of work, and all I have to show is about 9.5 gallons of beer! (That's "all" right?) In the next few days here I need to get them into secondary. 5.5 gallons of it is Carla's Amber and will be spending a couple weeks in secondary with Amarillo hops. The remaining bit is a small beer from the grains, hopped with Hallertau and will probably be used for experimentation. I'm curious to see what a slice of bacon, sprig of rosemary, or a piece of habanero do to a bottle of beer.

I'm expecting the Amber to be about 4.5%, and the small to be about 3.6%. I'm aiming for a pair of beers that are easy to drink, clean, crisp, slightly malty and easily paired with a torchon of pig's head.

I've got another experiment going on right now, I have about a pound of lamb's liver curing. I'm going to dry it until it's stiff and see if it tastes better than the fresh liver. I hope so, as I wasn't too fond of the flavor of the fresh liver.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Twitter Speakerboxes vs. Socialistas

Are you or your company a Speakerbox, or an engaged Socialista within a community? When you show up on a follower’s feed, do they get value from what you are saying? Do you come across as more than just a marketing mission statement?

The Speakerbox

When I first started using Twitter, I was amazed at the amount of people that would turn every posting into a complicated version of, “Hey, I’m cool, look at my blog!” They were usually businesses, and came across as not understanding or embracing the concept behind Twitter. They also presented as very self centered – littering my feed space with a never changing torrent of, “Look at me-isms” with tag-along links to their blogs.

What I find interesting about the Speakerbox, is they take all shapes. In my twitter community I have had Speakerboxes ranging from marketing companies (?!?) to fitness “gurus” selling the latest get thin quick scheme. One of the first things that come to mind about these feed killers is, “why take yourself out of the conversation?” It comes across as lazy, and lacking interest in the two way conversation that twitter makes simple and quick. It could be a product of automation, a lack of understanding of twitter, or a poor strategy – either way it’s not a competent use of the technology.

How do you identify a Speakerbox?

  • Soon after following them there is a high quantity of tweets directing you to their blog
  • You don’t see them participating in conversations
  • When they do participate, any statement is usually topped off with a link to their most recent blog post
  • They provide little value – their message is basically the equivalent of a TV ad, easy to ignore
  • The often lack personality or voice in their mass of tweets

The Socialista

This person could tell you how to be a rockstar in 3 tweets or less. They are engaged, and provide (sometimes interesting) insight or entertainment with every tweet. They go out of their way to be interesting, and they make themselves a valuable addition to your twitter feed. Very few twitter users are or ever will be Socialistas, it takes a high level of dedication as well as a directed strategy. An effective Socialista will promote their message, but will make their message part of the conversation. They are not afraid to jump in and provide suggestions or ideas within a subject they know well.

In time a Socialista will become a person (or company) that a twitter user will go to as an authority, or a trusted source of opinion. If trust is a currency, these people have it in great abundance. Often these Twitter rockstars, the Socialistas will become the first stop for many people when they are looking for related information. The Socialista eventually gains the position of trusted voice, and with it the ability to persuade viewers into trying new products, services, ideas, or food.

The characteristics of a Socialista:

  • They share knowledge first, promote their product/ service second
  • They have active back and forth relationships with other twitter users
  • There is a defined character, a personality behind the tweets
  • They are accessible, and someone that people want to talk to

Which works?

It comes down to your goals. What are your success metrics? At one time Twitter success was counted by number of followers. Today, our understanding of the space has matured, and many have realized that active and engaged followers have more value than simple numbers. The Socialista will find that their followers are active, engaged, and interested in what they have to say. When the Socialista suggests a product or idea, people will listen.

At its core, Twitter is a tool for engaging people quickly and concisely, the Speakerbox approach works counter to that model. It also sends an underlying signal that your company is holding themselves back from what is a cordial, inviting, and active social meeting place. I would hope that fewer people are joining Twitter with the goal of becoming the digital equivalent of a carnival barker. The Speakerbox undermines the message they preach, and reduce their value with every posting. The Speakerbox quickly becomes an unwelcome guest and will find that with time their message will fall upon fewer and fewer ears as they become little more than white noise in the feed.

Twitter offers an opportunity to present your brand (personal or corporate) in an approachable manner, don’t ruin that chance by forgetting to listen, and neglecting the conversations around you.

Some of the people and companies doing it right are:

@ruhlman , @jetblue , @brewcrewtv , @stonebrewingco

(I do like beer, food and travel…)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Consumer tracking a la iPhone games.

I recently picked up MyTown, a tracking app masquerading as a game. Now, I have a very distinct idea of what a game is, based on my lifetime as a gamer, and my time spent working in the games industry.

My definition of a game is:
  • Has a call to action
  • Has a defined challenge
  • Has a defined benefit vs. challenge (eg. scoring)
  • If Multi-player, provides a distinct mechanism for player vs. player
  • Is fun (Although that is taste)
Outside of that, it's not a game. It might be a toy, but it's not a game.

Now back to MyTown, a free iPhone app where the whole call to action is to "Check-In" at businesses you frequent in order to get points and money. The app engages the GPS built -in to the phone to push advertising, and to give a bonus to points and money based on proximity to the business you are checking-in to. You level up through checking-in, you can buy businesses to collect rent, to make more money. Properties also collect rent, but it's based on a timer.

What this app lacks is the challenge necessary to make it a game, unless of course you are an agoraphobic and can't go to different businesses.

What this app is, is a tracking application with a cute GUI. Under the guise of a game, a player will build a list of frequented businesses, and in some cases, provide significant amounts of frequency/ use data. On top of that, there is a "What are you doing" comment box that provides extra points for giving a description of what you are doing there. Inexpensive consumer habit tracking - already working based on a new H&M partnership that has been penned for the game.

Go within 200 feet of an H&M, and get the ability to buy H&M branded items in game. Add on top of the partnership possibilities the ability to push advertising based on location, and this type of app can become a strong money maker - with potential research related revenue streams as well.

What doesn't sit well with me is that this "game" isn't up front with people regarding the data that they're donating, and that there really isn't a benefit for the player. If this app were a game, it would at least be a trade off, fun for data - even then I think the player loses out. There would at least be a benefit for the player.

While this product isn't very notable in any respect, it comes across as rather awkward and unfinished. What it could be used for, a framework for future apps/ games of this type is rather interesting. A game that could actively call a player to locations to meet new competitors, receive deals/discounts, or receive in game benefits... those could be powerful tools to make for a more immersive, rewarding game experience as well as a more effective advertising spend for certain types of advertisers.

It will be interesting to see if more apps like this show up.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Best of: Dave's Camera's SD Card, Culinary Edition!

Time to catch up... haven't had a lot of time to sit and write lately. I've been very active with the projects though, just not good at keeping up with the picture taking. So in that respect, I'm utilizing a new tool - Adobe Bridge. It keeps multimedia files in an "easy to use, visual space".

It works surprisingly well. So well, I was inspired to post a "Best of Dave's SD Card."


Sam and Steve come to dinner-

30th Birthday Dinner-

Biggest Mexican in Maine (I will post the story behind that title.)-

That's a meaty handshake-

Christmas Eve Cioppino-

First attempt making Chocolate Fondant-

First attempt at making Pate` Campagne-

First time making and trying Foie Gras-

Valentine's Dinner, Grilled Shrimp on Broccolini-

Braised Pork Belly with Oyster Stout-

(This was last night's dinner!)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Twitter Feed...

Been looking around the web for different tools to consolidate all these social networks I'm on... didn't find the panacea I was looking for, however I did find Twitter Feed. It's supposed to aid in advertising your blog on different social networks.

Interesting. I'm curious to see how they will condense each post, if it is a matter of using labels, the title, or if there is a random snippet of text given.

Either way, I think I might play with it a bit, to see how to most effectively get the idea of my posts out to the world.

This just in...

6" of snow forecasted for Weds. Snow Emergency has already been declared. Woohoo!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Review: Sel de la Terre

Guess who brings an almost dead camera to a nice dinner? This guy, right here. I even get bonus points for forgetting we had it.

We went to dinner at a great place located near Copley Square on the green light. Sel de la Terre, the name in no way reflects the clientele.* We sat down at 8pm in a moderately filled upstairs dining room. Our server was immediately available, and patient with us as we made our initial conversations and choices. (Found out later at dinner that he was from Utah, and was familiar with the best kitchen I ever worked in Le Moulin.)

Drinks: The wine choices were vast, and rather tasty, even though I can't really drink them. The observation was made that the glasses seemed smaller than customary. I opted for a maker's mark manhattan - rocks (The bourbon selection was really lacking.), when it came it was good, but the glass was filled with shaved ice. Shaved ice is a big no-no, made my drink smaller than it should have been, and it diluted very quickly, with a $13 price tag it's not a mistake I'll make again.

First course: We ordered two charcuterie plates, and one pureed eggplant "dip" with spiced walnuts. The eggplant was good, as it was mixed with a good creamy cheese, it was a touch forgettable once the charcuterie came. Now the charcuterie plate was truly inspired. It offered tastes of a well made lardo, a great basic sausage, an amazing duck liver mousse, and bresaola. The bresaola seemed merely an after thought, an "also-ran" if you will. It was good, but not very inspired. The amazing bit in the plate was the duck liver mousse. Covered in a light aspic, it came in a shallow square bowl. Light, creamy, ducky, and well spiced. Touches of a little cinnamon, pepper, and high quality duck liver. (I will make this at home!)

Entree: Our entrees came, and the table was split, two of us ordered Seared Duck Breast with Pommes Robuchon, and braised Brussels Sprouts with a red wine glaze. The other half of the table ordered Veal Paillard with a chorizo risotto.

The duck was perfectly cooked, but tasted reminiscent of five spice duck... I lost the idea I was eating french, and thought I might have wandered into china town. The pommes Robuchon were gritty, which ruined the experience for me. The brussels sprouts and sauce were perfectly done, and when paired with the duck - a true treat. I have to admit though, I wasn't completely turned off by the gritty potatoes, I ate them all. I also ordered a foie gras bread pudding, it was very tasty, although a little too sweet to be served as a main dish accompaniment, and there was no foie gras flavor to speak of. It was a well made bread pudding though, soft, crunchy, dry and moist all at the same time.

The veal was very tasty but hardly a paillard. It was easily a full 3/4in. thick in some places. It was nicely breaded, still crispy, and the meat still wonderfully juicy. The risotto was a bit of a miss though, it was ultra salty compared to the rest of the meal, and each piece of chorizo was a salt bomb waiting to go off. Salty risotto and salty chorizo make it hard to really love the dish. The risotto was perfectly al dente though, just the way I like it.

Dessert: This part of the meal made me wonder if we were still at Sel De La Terre. While everything we've had up until that moment had been very well made (even barring my critique above), the desserts seemed merely as overpriced afterthoughts. They lacked the polish and quality the rest of the meal had up until this point.

We ordered the cupcake plate, and the chocolate fondant with graham cracker ice cream and house made marshmallows. I'll say this about the cupcake, dry, insipid - we sent it back. There was to be some passion fruit flavor in one, and gingerbread flavor in another, but it just wasn't there. These cupcakes were disappointing. At 2 cupcakes for $10, I would expect a high quality, moist, tasty cupcake with a light and well made frosting. The passion fruit one was overly dense, tough, and dry. The gingerbread one had a cloyingly overly sweet frosting, although that same frosting had a wonderful texture.

The chocolate fondant was a little better, it seemed undercooked, as it completely fell in upon itself once pierced. It was definitely molten in the middle, but the lack of structural integrity turned it into a chocolate puddle on the plate. I'm a stickler for chocolate, and found it way too sweet, and it tasted like Callebaut chocolate, which is one of my least favorite. However, Carla loved the chocolate, and nary a word was murmured until the fondant was gone. The graham cracker ice cream was wonderfully made, as was the marshmallow. My only wish regarding the mashmallow was for it to be roasted a little more. It had a nice light brown coloring to it. I prefer them a little darker.

The service: Impeccable. Our server was perfection. He was attentive, knowledgeable, and great to talk to. He timed our meal out well, and even indulged my more esoteric questions about the charcuterie.

Bonus: After our meal, our server brought us a little sausage to taste. A sweetbread and foie gras sausage. This single taste has inspired me to make this item at home. The foie couldn't really be tasted, the flavors were too pronounced. However, the sweetbreads were in a large chunk, and very well flavored. Perfectly soft, not gristly, or fatty.

Final word: This was the best meal I've had in New England. Even with the challenges I outlined above, I would happily go here again, and again, and again. I wouldn't order dessert here again, not with the current pastry chef at least. It was apparent that the desserts were an after thought. They lacked the general care and polish that the rest of the meal had.

Beautiful place, beautiful meal, I'll be back.

(*In fact, I felt underfunded as I spied a very large, ancient and well accessoried eastern Euro man, with his 20 year old blonde "date".)


So this post is about beer, why not, right? While runs counter to the working out I'm doing... I have no problem saying, "I work out, so I can drink."

Two beers worth mentioning today. Back on November 8th I decided to take my Cole Porter recipe, and make a MA version. Prospect Hill Stout was born. In a fit of inspiration, and because I had extra materials I made a small beer, long since dubbed Pumpkin Smalls. (Which I'm pouring in the above shot.)

The stout (I still refer to it as a porter, but it's much darker and toastier due to the brew shop lacking some really common barleys.) has been successfully bottled after 88 days in secondary, and upon tasting, it has a slight coffee note, some good darkness from the toasted barleys, and just a touch of bitter from the hops, but nothing too ostentatious. The added oats also give a nice slightly viscous feel in the mouth. I think this is the best version of this recipe I've made to date. In about 3 weeks I'll be able to see it in its carbonated glory. I think this one is only going to get better with bubbles.

The small beer, Pumpkin Smalls was really an after thought, and an experiment. On brewing day I threw a roasted pumpkin into the pot with the leftover materials from the stout. After 5 days in primary fermentation it had finished, so I gave it a week in secondary, tasted and bottled it. On the bottling day it was very "floral" tasting almost like it was a pumpkin essence tea. It tasted less of beer, and more of the smell of a good pumpkin. I promptly forgot about it, having written it off as a failure. Until a couple days ago.

I gave it a taste a couple days ago, and somehow, it grew character! Slight toastiness from the barleys, a touch of grassiness from the hops, mild bitterness, and it tastes like a mouth full of pumpkin. No sign of the cinnamon stick I put in the kettle as well, which is great - pumpkin beer should taste of pumpkin, not pumpkin pie.

It pours well, dark, and with a relatively stable head. (I have little luck keeping a stable foam on a beer.) It looks great, tastes great, and is about 2% alcohol if my brew software is to be believed.

The Prospect Hill Stout will be ready to drink in about 3 weeks, 21 days, or on Friday the 26th. It comes in at 5.24% abv, and should be a great elixir to scare off the cold of winter!

If someone is interested in making either of these, I have recipes in ProMash format available.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Training with Jose

Had a good low key workout with Jose yesterday. I've been worried about my form for the squats and deadlift, especially since I'd like to go with higher weights for both, and form is of utmost importance.

With the squats, I need to focus more on a sitting down motion, and keeping my knees behind the plane of my toes. Apparently, you monumentally increase the stress on your knees when you let them go past your toes. I've noticed my knees audibly popping lately during squats, and I think this is it.

For the deadlifts, I tend to go with a lightly bent leg. My form is fine, but he said that if I really want to target those hams, I'll go with a straighter leg.

Learned a couple new lifts today... the overhead squat, and the Power Clean, although he showed me with an added press, to get the bar over your head. Either way, it will take a lot of balance that I currently lack. He also suggested jump squats with weight and squat lunges to build some explosive power.

Oh yeah, guess who is sore from Sunday? Hahahaha!

Don't be lazy!

Ok, so with my off time, I'm phenomenally lazy... sometimes. For example... I totally mean to write a whole mess of recipes and post them here. Yet, when it comes time to do it, I always have something else to do - make a new dish, work out, watch Gordon "Hot Pan" Ramsey, Top Gear, or other such non-sense. (Although I just found out that the 6 Nations championship will be on BBCa, so I WILL be watching that...)

So, I have to put together a small to do list, and putting it up here will help me keep it straight.
  • Put up recipes that have corresponding pictures sitting in my camera
  • Take above mentioned pictures out of camera and make web ready
  • Work out a weekly update schedule, maybe Tues., Thurs.?
  • Get the word out about my ramblings
  • Start reviewing restaurants, with a focus on my local ones first
  • Track my workouts online, maybe get some pictures up showing me at the start, and on through to the final goal
  • Define "final goal"
  • Buy more Southern Tier Imperial Chokolat Stout
So there it is, not so daunting! (Except for the 8 or 9 recipes I can put up...)

In other news, not having much luck finding a place for snowshoeing up here. It doesn't help that there has been nothing but 35+ degree days, and rain for close to a week now. I'm not desperate enough to put the snowshoes on and go tromping through mud.

My working out is doing phenomenally, even with eating poorly while Carla was gone, I'm still holding at 239#, and I can tell I've got a lot more endurance. The 50's are becoming my warm up prior to the workout, and can easily be used as just a basic cornerstone of my daily routine. It's taking all of about 10 minutes now, although I admit I'm a bit tired at the end. The pushups are still by far the worst.

Today's workout
  • 70 pushups
  • 50 squats
  • 50 bicycle crunches

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Workout victory, or death!

To celebrate Carla being back, and needing a good workout, we hit the gym for a couple hours today. Ultimate goal: for Carla to be sore for at least 3 days. (I didn't tell her that though!)

We've been workout partners for a while, and having her there really helps me keep my shit in line. Oh em gee, I might as well just say it, she's a great support system. She knows I've got a few wackadoo goals, that while she might not agree with (I will one day wrestle a bear and a shark at the same time) she is behind. Mostly. hahaha.

Ok, so the workout!
Warm up
- The 50s. (50 Pushups, 50 Squats, 50 Bicycle Crunches) A little note I'd like to make, if someone is not strong enough to do a full push up, you can do a modified pushup, that consists of keeping your knees on the floor, and then doing the push up movement -as you can see here. (Fast forward to 00:50, the lead up to the push up is worthless.)
- 40 leglifts
- Stationary Bike for 25 minutes (9 miles)

The Workout
  • DEADLIFT!!! 5 reps @ 60#, 2 sets of 10 reps @ 90#, 10 reps @ 140#, 10 @ 190#, 5 reps @ 200# (During this deadlift storm, I showed Carla how do do this, as well as front and back squats, she was doing the squats while I busted these out.)
  • Bicep Curls: 3 sets of 10 reps @ 25#, 5 reps @ 30# (Carla was using 15# and 20#)
  • DB Shoulder Press: 2 sets of 15 reps @ 30#, 10 reps @ 35# (I think Carla was using 15# and 20#)
  • DB Shrugs: 2 sets of 25 reps at 30#, 25 reps at 45#
I'd say this is a good endurance workout. Or the beginnings of a good endurance workout. I'm still refining my deadlift form. Also, the deadlift at 200# was tough for two reasons... grip strength, and keeping my shoulders back. It's hard to keep those shoulders back for that load, and the grip, well, yeah... hands lack muscles of any consequence, so it's time to build those forearms!

Current weight: 239.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Workout with Santana!

So I worked out today with a good friend from Blue Fang, Dave Santana. Looks like the gym is having a pretty good sale, and are giving guest passes that are good until Feb. 19th. (Score!)

It was a pretty light, relaxing workout... but reminded me the importance of eating before hitting the gym.

Warm up
-Not notated

Work out-
  • Close handed Lat Rows: 2 sets of 20 reps @ 100#, 3 reps @ 160#, 1 rep @ 190#
  • Dumbbell Chest Press: 2 sets of 20 reps @ 40#, 10 reps @ 40#
  • Dumbbell Bent over Row: 10 reps @ 35#
  • Negative Bicep Curls: 15 reps @ 25# for 8 seconds each
  • Skullcrushers: 30 reps @ 45#
Pretty nice and light. Followed that up with some Assassin's Creed 2. Dave has some good taste in games.

The boy dun killed me.

My trainer, Jose is out to kill me I think. He put me through a hell I've not experienced in a long time. A single workout that had me walking funny for three days what was this beast?

Warm up-
A few minutes of sword cuts with a 12lb bar
The 50's. (50 pushups, 50 squats, 50 bicycle crunches.)

The work out-
  • 50 regular squats without weight
  • 50 back squats with a 12 lb. bar
  • 25 squats without weight
  • 25 front squats with a 12lb. bar
  • Balance on a bosu ball for 4 minutes ( I was trying to hold the 12lb bar off the ground to increase difficulty)
  • 50 regular squats without weight
  • 25 front squats with the 12lb bar
  • 25 jump squats
  • 50 back squats with the 12lb bar
I was walking funny when I left, my quads didn't want to work right. Couldn't do stairs well for a couple days. Brutal as hell. He did tell me though, that the rest of his clients usually die from that one, and don't do it with the added weight.

Kick ass. I think I ate a year's worth of painkillers though.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The 50s

I've recently started working out with a great trainer, a Mr. Jose Rivera from Professional Fitness at the Gold's Gym in Somerville. This guy kills me, literally... takes me to the point where I just want to die, then pushes me along it and shows me that the body is stronger than the mind. We've set a few great goals for me, since I'd like to get into shape for Rugby in a few months.

He devised a great wake up and go routine for me, as "conditioning maintenance". He calls it, the 50s. It's a pretty simple concept that on paper sounds easy...
Simple, right? Well, after years behind a desk, I can assure you that it is in fact KILLER (For me at least). The crunches and squats are fine, yeah, tiring, but pretty quickly banged out. It's those pushups. I'm at the point where I can do the first 25, then I quickly break down. The last 5 or so of the 5 are sometimes in groups of 1-2 at a time.

Do this 4-5 times a week, and you'll start getting results, in at least squatting, crunches, and pushups. I guarantee it!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Cook for your life!

So, in the last few weeks we've really taken to cooking creatively. Eating healthy isn't a matter of cutting out meat, and eating tofu until you give up on life and begin wearing patchouli. It's a matter of just moderating, experimenting, and using good ingredients.

What have we been making?
Christmas Eve Dinner
  • Amuse Bouche - Seared Scallops on a potato pancake with a champagne cream sauce
  • Main Event - Cioppino with shrimp, crab, scallops, and littleneck clams, served with some toast points
  • Dessert - Don't remember one, doubt we had one
Christmas Dinner
  • Red Perch en papillote with asparagus tips
Random Dinners
  • Roast Chicken in a vermouth demi-glace and balsamic vinegar over ricotta gnocchi with arugula in brown butter sauce
  • Shepherd's Pie with beef
  • Curried Garbanzos with rice and coriander
Well, not every night is a culinary tour de force, but if you take the time to cook at home, you cut out a lot of the crap from restaurants, save money, and have fun. I think pictures are a must, and I'll put up recipes, mostly to keep me from forgetting how to make them all!

Some things I've picked up from my personal research, and from my nutrionist... fat is needed in food, it tells us we're full sooner. However, a balance can be cut between good and bad fats (fruit/ vegetal fats are generally preferable to animal based fats), as well as quantity. Also, a non-stick pan works wonders in reducing needed oil for cooking. We just got one (my first) and it's great!

Also, if you "have" to over eat, load up on the vegetables, use meat as an accompaniment, not as a focus, which is much different from how I was raised. Greens like mustard greens, or red chard are filling, and flavorful when properly cooked. (Properly cooked : Sautee in olive oil, and steam in a little chicken broth with salt and pepper.)

All these foods are potentially rich, and "diet" destroyers. How am I eating them in good conscience? Moderation, focusing on eating vegetables first, doubling the amount of time it takes to eat (due to good conversation), not going back for seconds, and using smaller bowls and smaller portions.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Swish, Swish, Thump

Ever hear of Winter Trails Day? Me either until about two weeks ago. It seems some amazing people came up with the idea that learning to cross country ski isn't just fun, but should be accessible for people to learn. Not just accessible, but free.

Seems that on January 9th each year, at some places it is free to learn to cross country ski, rentals and resort fees are included gratis as well! So, Carla and I went over to Northfield Mountain in Every, MA. I set us up to take a class on cross country at 3:30pm... it was a great experience. I haven't been on skis for about 14 years.

Everything started coming back to me after a few minutes, even if I wasn't wholly stable. The best part though is that Carla was taking to it well. She took a small spill, which was no biggy, but the best part. She went down a small, steep hill, took it like a champ and came up smiles. First time on skis, and she falls for the thrill of the speed!

Northfield is a neat little place, a little far from Somerville though, about 80 miles one way. The ski place had about 30km of trails that were open, for cross country and snowshoeing. We'll have to try that again, maybe I can get her into the cross country, and then on into downhill.

Could be neat. :)

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Lowell First Run 5k!

Part of getting my act together health wise is getting out and doing stuff. The first step, is to find some organized events, register, and be frickin' accountable! With that in mind, I signed up for the Lowell First Run, that took place on January first, at 11am.

The race comes in two flavors, the 10k and 5k. I'm no athlete (yet), so I opted for the 5k. In fact, when I signed Carla and I up for this thing... I was pretty proud of myself. Hey, let's do a race... back in October, it didn't dawn on me for some reason that a race on January first would be cold, and icy.

Cold, check. 30 degrees at the start. Icy? Naw, not bad actually. In fact, it was much better than I expected. The race was run on the roads of Lowell, MA and they were clean. We even had the local PD to keep us safe from the cars.

The start was a neat experience, everyone lined up, and with the tracking tags we were using, each runner got to run with exact time starting when you cross that start, and ending when you cross the finish, as opposed to straight clock time.

So the race itself was pretty neat. The first mile was the worst. It started with a couple good hills that were unlike what I've been doing in practice. Blew out my shins about a half mile in. I got pissed off over that actually, and it pushed me even harder. I had to walk for a minute or two a couple times during the race, but I kept truckin'.

After the first mile, things leveled out, and it was 2.1 miles of steady running. I was getting passed a lot, but I wasn't there to try for a top 3 slot. Although, I will say, at about mile 1.5 or so I got passed by the guy that won the 10k race. His entire back was covered in splattered mud.

Towards the end, I was really surprised that with about a quarter mile left I still had a bit left in me, so I stepped up the pace and started passing a few people. That felt real good.

I clocked in a time of 41:48.9... ok, fine... 41:49. Which works out to a pace of about 13:30 a mile. To put that into perspective, I was killing myself to run a mile in 16:45 back in March, and I was completely done after that single mile.

The after race was great, food, a place to sit, some water, and some music. People were buzzing, many of the 10k finishers were wearing nary but lycra and mud. Next year, I might try the 10k!

It was a great way to start the year, and an effective way to get rid of that little hangover I woke up with. ;) We rounded out the day with Sherlock Holmes, and some pho over in Chinatown. Awesome start of the year.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Hoppy New Year!

I've held off a bit on making some posts, because frankly, I didn't have something to talk about that wasn't game industry centric. Nothing wrong with being game industry centric, but there is more to life than thinking about work.

As far as work goes... I'm the lead interactive producer/ project manager at Ghost Rabbit Entertainment, working remotely as they are based in Dublin, CA. There, I covered work. Huzzah.

It's a new year, and a time to start over, right? RIGHT! I started working on my new year's resolutions in mid-August. They were rather simple:
  • Eat Better
  • Be Healthier
  • Get Outside
All in all, they are pretty simple resolutions, and when working together... effective. How effective? I've since shed 24 pounds, several inches from different body parts, and hardened up from the various activities I'm beginning to love. It's a bit of a snowball effect actually.

What the hell does that mean anyway? Well first off, stop eating crap! At the start of August, crazy work hours and really bad eating habits got me up to 265. The first thing to change, obviously, was the bad eating habits. The first step was to stop eating out so much. Of all people, I should know better, I've cooked professionally, I know how liberal restaurants are with the lipids.

One kitchen I worked in used a 2oz. ladle of oil to start every entree. That's 495 calories, right off the bat. (As per: Granted, this was 13 years ago. Are restaurants and cooks more cognizant of healthy eating? Go to your local Cheesecake Factory and let me know. :)

Healthy eating doesn't have to be boring though, as long as you apply some basic rules:
  • Eat real food, not too much (Truth from Michael Pollan)
  • Simpler dishes taste better
  • Talk while eating
  • No seconds
  • Red meat once a week or less
  • Eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner
How has this worked out? I am having the most challenge with eating breakfast, but it helps. you overeat at lunch and dinner when you've gone a long time without eating something, so snacks are important as well. As for the food, I've never cooked so creatively in a decade. I'll be posting pictures of course.

That's not all of it though. You can eat decently and still be in poor shape. I feel being successful requires goals, and I set a couple good ones:
Get in shape for Rugby in the spring
Learn mountaineering (?!?)
Since getting back from seeing my family in October, I joined a gym, and started consistently running. Nothing like working hard, right? I have also started working out with a personal trainer for the first time. Talk about getting your butt kicked. Up until christmas I was averaging about 3-5 hours a week at the gym. I've slowed down a touch since then, what with the holidays and all.

Time to put it all together though, right? Today I ran the first 5k of my life, Lowell's First Run. It was great, and I ran my fastest 3.1 time. Best part, everyone was so supportive, and the camraderie was high. What's next though? Snowshoeing, Cross Country Skiing, hiking, and summiting Mt. Washington in the summer.

Gotta keep it up for new years. What are you doing?