Thursday, December 30, 2010

Life Alterations

Here I sit on the cusp of 2011 visualizing the baby in diapers wearing the "2011" sash and ruminating on alterations. I'm altering the "spare bedroom" into a nursery when I think that this could be a life altering event. I've heard that having a kid changes everything. So far it's only changed the paint in our smallest bedroom. And Heather's waist measurements I suppose. Perhaps we'll have her pants altered.

Because I'm completely out of control of the entire situation I look for the things I can control - even if they're nearly a year in the future - like what to do about all the non-kid friendly furniture and electronics stored so conveniently at ground level?

My plan: Eventually the whole house will have to be altered. I don't like to have to redo work so I'm not just going to childproof the house but do so in a permanent fashion. Gone will be the end-tables with lamps just waiting to be pulled onto unfused skulls. So long media cabinet filled with oh-so-shiny and tasty DVDs. Book shelves? Not a chance. Any drawers/cabinets that can't be locked will be emptied. The kitchen will basically have to be gutted from everything below 3 feet. The solution will be shelves. Lots of them. Covering every wall. Not so high so Heather can't reach.

But that sounds like work and I'd rather charge out to play... alas, there's a wall of snow impeding my stampede so I'll stay in and make a list of things to do but I wont do them because I'm too occupied making the list and thinking about snow and typing blog entries with horrendous run-on sentences, with ill-placed commas. Logically I know I must finish everything on my honey-do list and my bucket (ehem - diaper pail) list before the kid is born in April. Realistically I'll put it off until such time as I'm actually nervous when The Great Alteration is nigh. I can't think of a better use for nervous energy than very amateur carpentry. I might accidentally sand off my knuckles and will probably lose a finger tip to a jigsaw but I consider that preferable to having to think up baby names. *shudder*

Original From: Life Alterations

Friday, October 08, 2010

Corporate Charities - Give with your head

First off, Breast Cancer is bad, mmmmkay? Something like 12% women will get it and 25% of those will be killed by it. Us men aren't free and clear either as hundreds of men die from man-boob cancer. Seriously.

That said, consider the source and follow the money before you blindly give over your money to a "charity" that supports "awareness". They're largely wasting your money. Consider: There is nary a woman of breast sporting age who isn't "aware" that she should be giving herself a periodic check. Money spent on "awareness" may very likely be used to make you more aware of the charitable organization rather than it's goals. A good example here is the corporate entities that align with a charity to hopefully do some good... and to make you more aware of the corporation. Pink websites? Hard on the eyes. Pink splotches on NFL merchandise? Silly. Printing newspapers with pink paper? Wasteful.

3 Years of RibbonsThe timely example is Lee National Denim Day. For a paltry $5 you get to wear jeans on the first Friday of October (as long as the first Friday isn't the first of the month apparently). That $5 (Minus Lee's expenses?) is then sent to the Entertainment Industry Foundation which in turn supports various charities. You also get a pink ribbon emblazoned in gold lettering with the Lee logo. The past few years the logo has been getting bigger and flashier at the expense of the ribbon  (See picture at left) and that got me to thinking... what percent of my Lincoln is actually going to charity and why in the hell would anyone want to wear an ad for a brand of jeans? The answer is pretty obvious - we're all riddled with guilt for NOT having cancer... and not doing anything to prevent it from forming in others. The more health and/or wealth you have the more guilt you likely suffer at the hands of the various charities or causes. This is why you can't see a damned Broadway play without having a "message" shoved down your throat. Paying for your ticket and nodding don't make you an activist but for some reason it dulls the guilt the tiniest bit. So does wearing a ribbon I guess.

But it doesn't do anything to prevent breast cancer.

In this case we really don't need money - we need education. There is no common cancer death more preventable. Except maybe lung cancer. Most people diagnosed with lung cancer spent the majority of their life and thousands upon thousands of dollars just to get to that point but I digress. Death by breast cancer is very preventable. Just phluff your girls frequently then tell the charities to save the "awareness" and use the money to help those who can't afford a mammogram. Better yet, volunteer $5 of your time to print out and distribute some education keeping the money out of the hands of big industries all together. The health-care industry LOVES taking money from charities because it's guaranteed while individuals may go bankrupt or worse - die before running out of money. And if an institution is getting free funds why not raise the rates to maximize income? Horrible but human nature. So where does the money go? Most family bankruptcies are due to illness. Hospitals are going out of business. But somehow insurance companies are thriving.  If you really need something to feel guilty about... buoying the medical insurance industry is a good place to start. Ah, but once again I digress.

Back to that magic five dollars. The EIF is only about 75% efficient in returning your money to the cause. They do a lot of fine work but I like a higher return on my investment. The Susan G. Komen group is one of the largest and is better at 83% efficient but it always bothers me a little when the president or CEO makes more than a half million dollars a year. The Breast Cancer Research Foundation is better still at 91% but suffers the same problem. Regardless, I gave them my $5 and the anti-breast cancer charities netted an extra 80 cents. I also gave $2 to the website that compiles the data to which I've linked above. Paltry sums to be sure and I have plenty of health, if not wealth to feel guilty about but I do what I can. Like writing this rambling diatribe to clarify my thoughts. Not for you, who for some unknown reason is still reading it, but for me and hopefully for the greater good.

I'm wearing Jeans today but I'm not wearing the ribbon on my shirt.  Instead, I'll be distributing education throughout the month. I think that will be worth a good deal more than the $3.75 I would have donated if I a spent with my heart rather than my head. For women it's even easier - donate some time with your hands... and be well.

Breast Cancer Research FoundationBreast

Orignal From: Corporate Charities - Give with your head

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Half Marathon SUCCESS!

It was a rocky road leading up to the rocky trail but, with Heather's support and patience, I lived - and finished in the middle of the pack.

Since my last update I didn't keep track of my miles as religiously but I know that in week 5 I topped out at 20 miles and then started to go down hill. With 3 weeks to go I went out for my standard 5 mile morning run and, while crossing between a park and sidewalk, banged my knee on a guardrail. It swelled up pretty good and kept me from running for a few days but could have been much worse. One week later, on the same morning loop and very near where I hit my knee, my ankle started clicking with every step. Then it started hurting and I ended up limping the last mile home. Lots of ice and massage to the calf loosened things up but I'm still not sure what causes the strange clicking. I know it's worse when I sit with my feet crossed over and the heel of my opposite foot resting on a particular tendon on the top of ankle. I'll sometimes sleep in this position so I think it's ironic that I might be injuring myself while napping!

I barely ran the final two weeks. I got out for 6 miles for the annual 9/11 memorial run and a easy 4 miler a few days before the race just to keep things lubricated. I focused on getting lots of sleep that week and prepped everything I would need including securing a hotel a few miles from the starting line. The night before the run Heather & I drove out to Philly and just crashed. I woke up before the alarm and took a walk around the motel. It was HOT already! I picked a Fall run because the heat really kills me. So, what do I get? A near record breaking heat wave. I wanted an Indian Summer, not a summer in India! Adding to my angst, I failed to enter the location of the race start in the GPS and, though I had studied the route, a road turned out to be named something different so we got lost. The final straw was when I tried to grab an extra bottle of water from the cooler. The whole thing turned over somehow and dumped water and half melted ice into my dry clothing bag. Arrrgh!

The race director was on top of things though and assuaged my biggest fears by adding two more water-stops along the course which allowed me the freedom to not carry a bottle. Just in case though Heather agreed to drive down to the half-way point and cheer me on/hydrate me as necessary. She was carrying the special bottle of home-made sports drink (Equal measures fruit juice, Pedialyte & seltzer) and was met there by our friend Amy who lives in the Philly area and was cool enough to swing by and help keep Heather sane while waiting for me. It turned out that the half way point was one of the water stops so Heather & Amy volunteered to help distribute H2O & "G". I reached them just over an hour into the race. I was doing great at that point, and had even been conversational, but I had done a lot of 6 mile training runs so that's to be expected. The back half would be the real test. While the first 6 miles were almost entirely trails, the next 3 miles were on a paved bike path. I'm no fan of blacktop running so I plodded along on the grass just to the side of the trail and used the opportunity to run backwards for a bit to give my legs a taste of something different. Yeah, I'm a very odd runner apparently. =]

The final water break was at mile 8.4. It took my dehydrated and oxygen deprived brain a few minutes but I figured that gave me less than two miles to go. Cake walk! Alas, that's the point I hit the really hilly part of course. I fought cramps & fatigue the last mile but ran every step of every hill - unlike the group in front of me which walked the hills and was passed/passed by me at least a half dozen times. When I rounded a turn and saw the finish line I dumped what I had left into my legs and kicked for the finish completing my run in 2 hours and 15 minutes. Awesome! That's a 10.36 minute mile pace throughout.

I collected my prize - a cuckoo whistle imported from Germany - and walked around sipping water for a while before Heather & Amy returned. My legs felt like rubber - both the overly quivery rubber and the hard dry-rotted kind - and I had half a headache. After re-hydrating and yummying down on a sausage sandwich I started to feel almost human again. After some stretching work I was ready to go again!

So, that's my tale. I survived! Thanks to the race coordinators for the extra water stops, GU-CHOMPS for providing me some electrolytes along the way & Heather & Amy for being my support crew. I'll also apologize to my friends that I blew off the past few weekends because I had to get in some long training runs. To make up for lost time I'm taking a long weekend and going biking in Central Park on Friday and camping in Voorhees State Park on Saturday & Sunday. I believe I've earned some R&R!

Before I even completed the half I was asked if I would continue on to run a full marathon. I doubt it. The time investment is way outside of what I'm willing to give to something that basically just hurts. I won't say that wont ever try one... but it would take an early retirement (and probably the collapse of the GPS system) to give me that motivation. No matter what though... 13.1 is off my bucket list!

Orignal From: Half Marathon SUCCESS!

Monday, August 09, 2010

Half Marathon? Eric must be Cuckoo!

After much hemmage and hawdling I decided that this would be the year I finally upped my miles and ran a "half". That's a 13.1 mile race with my current long being 15K or 9.3 miles. I've been told by a few people that if I can run over 9 miles then 13.1 is just mental.

Not entirely. I've broken down every time I've tried to get my legs to churn out more than 5-6 miles at at time for a few weeks. The most I've ever run in a single week is 18 miles - and that broken up into 5 easy runs. What I've learned from these set-backs is that my miles have to come off-road. I deliver too much of a pounding to my joints when I run on the streets & sidewalks. In the Summer my form suffers as I get dragged down by the heat & humidity. There's no hotter place to run in the Summer than on blacktop! So, I'm spending more time outside in the perpetual 90 degree days and netting most of my miles on trails. For these reasons, and because I get BORED looking at cars going past during a run I needed a trail run half marathon which is somewhat rare.

Poison Ivy - Feels just like home!The first one that came to mind is the "Half-Wit" race in my old hometown of Reading. It's nationally recognized as an annual train-wreck. It is half trail-run and half trail-blaze with stream crossings, unnecessary hill climbs, sticker bushes and rock scrambles. I helped work one of the water stations a few years back and the people coming down the hill looked they had been through a war. This is a fun challenge and I've run a few of their other adventure races but this is NOT what I need to break into the world of the Half Marathon. I shopped around the internet looking for races. I explored traveling but without knowing what the "trail" is really made of it's pretty difficult to judge the course. Crushed gravel is OK but some sweet single track  (see example at right) with enough log hops and creek crossings to keep my short-attention span is what I want! I wanted some elevation changes but not sheer hill climbs just for the sake of adding difficulty.  Plus I didn't want a big race with thousands of runners either. And within driving distance would be nice.! Yeah, I'm pretty picky. Just when I was starting to think I might not find one this year I get an email from one of the race clubs touting the Sloppy Cuckoo Half Marathon! Saturday September 25th. 10AM. 13.1 miles of rolling hills and varied terrain. Limit 500 runners. Just outside Philadelphia. Perfect!

I quickly sent in my registration before I chickened out or made up some kind of excuse. Now I'm committed - like all the other Cuckoos! With just 8 weeks to prepare I set out a schedule then promptly began to ignore it based on the weather. Here's my training log after two weeks:

Week 1: 14 miles in 3 runs (5,2,6). Too damn humid. Got a little bit of cross training on the bike though.
Week2: 14 miles in 3 runs (2,4,8). The 8 miler is my longest run since November. Plus 5 miles on bike & 5 by hiking boot & 5 by kayak. That's cross-training!
Week 3: Less of an adventure than last week I hope. Depending on the weather we'll see how it goes.

In six weeks I'll post another entry here with my success story - or my tale of woe. =]

Orignal From: Half Marathon? Eric must be Cuckoo!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I'll never grow up until The Simpsons dies...

The past two months have been tough for my "never grow up" edict. First I went and turned 35. It's not just another year... it's the first one that rounds up to 40! Next I had to admit my limitations on my quest to run a half marathon sometime this year. Every time I start training I injure myself. Just minor complaints mostly but enough to slow me down or force me to take rest time.

Now the biggest blow - possibly ever - has knocked my perpetual puerility for a loop. The Simpsons is no longer on in syndication. I've been enjoying my daily D'oh for as long as I've been shaving. Since before I could vote. Almost as long as I've been driving. How could this be? The Simpsons still was the highest rated show in its time slot this past Sunday, even in reruns, and Homer was just declared TV's greatest character so again I ask; How could this be?! The worst part? They replaced it with life-long Jon Stewart wannabee Craig Kilborn's new show. This is the guy who thinks he owns idea of asking his guest 5 questions and is so painfully uncharismatic that he originally needed writers to create a persona for him. I'll say this for the guy: He's apparently in good with the roaches... he just refuses to die.

Of course, my venom is mostly just in reaction to what he has replaced. I wouldn't have had a cow, man if Fox overlayed TMZ. This almost felt personal and I had to find answers so I hit No mention of the Kilborn show. Interesting. Google was a bit more enlightening - it turns out the show is being tested in only a few markets! That means somewhere children of all ages are still enjoying 10-15 year old 21-23 minute comedic masterworks from the glory days of the show. There is hope! The test-run is only for 6 weeks - ending August 6th.

There are those who say the show is no longer relevant. Those naysayers have apparently allowed themselves to get old. For shame! Truth be told, I don't watch the re-runs every day or even every week but it's a comfort thing to know they're there. I will also admit that the show isn't what it used to be. It couldn't be because I'm getting older and no longer fall into their target demographic. Impossible! No, the blame lies squarely on The Simpsons itself - in setting the bar too high. In a few years the Powers That Be will decide that the show has run long enough and I will... probably cry like a baby. Until then all I can do is wait and enjoy it while it lasts. Six weeks from now I may return to the glorious TV of my youth. Until then, Craig Kilborn can eat my shorts.

Orignal From: I'll never grow up until The Simpsons dies...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

My 2000 Saturn LS1 - RIP!

Brand New in 2000Back in February I received an email from General Motors. Being a Saturn Owner, they wanted me to know that they would be more than happy to sell me a new car with a nice discount.

The bold print said we are family. The fine print told me that Saturns were excluded from the special.

It was about that time that the front end went out of alignment. Nothing major. Just one more bit of character to the car. I promised myself I would get it aligned the next time I had it in the shop. Well, it didn't need any work for the next few months and then on Easter weekend, while I was on my way down to South Jersey for Easter Dinner I hit the mother of all Jersey Potholes while getting onto the Turnpike. It threw the alignment way out of whack but the car was drivable and nothing is open on Easter so I enjoyed my meal and once everyone was back to work I made an appointment to have the front end twiddled. I took it to a tire place (which should have some experience in alignments) and was told that the sub-frame had bent and would have to be replaced. $900 if I went with a used part. They warmed me that it wasn't really safe because it was a control issue. Having just driven it close to 200 miles, I didn't really listen because I felt I could get it home while I mulled over my mechanical options.

I never suspected the 4 mile ride home would be the car's last ride.

If the car was going to sit for a while it's a bad idea to let it sit with a nearly empty gas tank so I pulled into the Wawa... well, almost. I made it most of the way in and then the wheel fell off. Well, almost. It tore free and wedged into the wheel well. The frame was apparently not just bent but nearly rusted through. It gave way and snapped the axle like a twig. With a sick grinding noise I came to an abrupt stop. I could never get a straight answer when I asked what the "L" stood for in the model name of the car. I think now it was for Luck because his could have easily happened at 70MPH on the highway! As luck would have it, I have AAA PLUS which allows me a 100 mile tow so, of course, I break down less than a mile from my house. I was only a few miles from a trusted mechanic so I had them tow the car there and Heather ferried me home. We called up the insurance folks (NJ Manufacturers) and was delighted to learn that pothole damage falls under my collision coverage. They grabbed the wheel, as it where, and set things in motion.

Final Picture

The damage was considerable. Besides the axle, the strut, brakes, control arm & rocker panel were needing replaced and the transmission was leaking badly. The estimate was $2525. Given the age of the car the insurance folks decided classify my car as a total loss. The next few days saw me behind the wheel of a rented Altima and scrambling to learn everything about the current car market. In retrospect, I should have been paying more attention the past few years. Also in retrospect, if I had heard "Dude! Your wheel's gunna fall off!" instead of "It's a control issue." I probably would have had it repaired. Now it's too late to save my baby!

Earlier today, the salver (A salver salvages cars, get it?) came and took away my car. The salvage value was $315. Ouch. Cleaning it out and taking off the plates was hard. Signing over the title was harder. 10 years ago I very thoroughly researched the market and made what I still believe was a good decision with Saturn. There was one unconscionable recall 5 years ago (just as my warranty ran out) but other than that the car required very little work and never let me sit. In the end it needed tires, the A/C didn't work, the mirrors had to be adjusted by hand, the keyless entry required a key & I had dinged and scratched the car in several places. It had character! It also had a four wheels and you need every single one of those apparently.

I'm still researching cars and thinking of going a little bigger. Something that fits my more active lifestyle without giving up too much gas mileage. I wish I had a little more time to mourn but I can't keep the rental forever. So long Saturn! You were a good company. You were a good car. Maybe that "L" stood for Love.

Orignal From: My 2000 Saturn LS1 - RIP!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Score: Cannoli 2, Chompers 0.

Ok, so I'm like hanging out with some friends at a pizza place and someone says they want a cannoli and the next thing I know we like all have one and I'm eating it and I don't know what happened but it was crispy and so like it broke my teeth. Yeah, like two of them. Seriously! Dislike!

For the past 4 years or so I've had problems with the lower right molars. They don't like cold. They don't like hot. They really don't like when I eat "Jolly Ranchers" or chew gum. Standard tooth pain and no big deal. Two dentists radiated my face and couldn't find anything structurally wrong.

Score: Cannoli 2, Dentists 0. Undefeated!

It did not hurt when they went but something didn't feel right. I excused myself and visited the lavatory where I spit & rinsed. The fragments were nowhere to be found. I'm assuming I swallowed them or the were pulverized into vapor by the mighty cannoli crust. Upon closer mirror-aided inspection, both teeth lost their interior side and part of the top. It blows my mind that two could break at the same time - possibly on the same bite! On second thought, maybe it's not such an odd thing. After all, they are the same age and they had both been filled nearly 20 years ago by the same dentist.

All that's left is part of the original enamel & a jaggy hunk of plutonium or whatever they used to fill teeth with back in the 80s. I'm kinda broken up (ha ha) about having tooth shards but I'm glad the teeth finally decided they had enough of being pains in the gum. For the moment they're more sensitive being all exposed but hopefully I'll have them capped and then... no more pain when I slurp a cold drink or breakfast up a hot bagel. I'll be trying to arrange some dentistry this week to find out what can be done. Until then I have to do most of my masticating on the sinister side and resist continuously exploring my new mawscape before I wear off the side of my tongue.

Orignal From: Score: Cannoli 2, Chompers 0.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bag O' Crap!

It had been a few years since I was able to "win" one of's infamous Bags o' Crap. They focus on tech stuff and typically sell just one item/day but every once in a while their warehouse fills up with crap they just can't sell ... so they sell a bag of crap for $3. I don't know where the fascination with the unknown comes from but if Monty Hall has taught us anything, it is always take what is inside the box or behind the curtain! Usually within seconds of a BOC being posted for sale the whole site melts down as the orders come in at an incredible rate making it impossible for most of us to get in there early enough to get one of the few special treasures. Fortunately, they provide a Christmas Miracle every year giving us an extra chance - if we stay up past Santa Time on Christmas Eve. At 1AM EST on Christmas Day a BOC hit the site and my order managed to slip through. This year they obfuscated the "buy one" link to prevent internet trolling robots from buying them all up and I, a mere human, was able to get the BOC that I earned by being a good boy all year.

Anyway, they ship the things by FedEx SmartPost (aka, someone walks it across the country periodically stopping to smell the flowers) so it took 23 days to arrive at my door. The bag was actually a box and in and of itself was a crap as it had nearly torn through on the bottom. Fortunately, my promised three craps were safe inside. This is what I received:

Pocket Calculators

Red Pail & Action Figure

1) Not one, not two but *TEN* pocket calculators! Yes, believe it or not, small electronic gizmos used to come without built-in phones. These come full featured with off buttons!

2) One "Pail # 5 Bright Red" From Buquet Supply, INC. Made in Mexico. This bad-ass bucket is made of metal and the kinda red you only see on the nails of a professional manicurist.

3) One "Brothers in Arms - Hell's Highway" video game promo action figure. Comes complete with eighteen points of articulation, two guns, two grenades, one knife, one helmet, one parachute, one backpack, one utility belt & one ammo-filled man-purse. Plus he's got kung-fu grip!

So, am I happy with my crap? Of course! I always remember the primary crap  rule: Thou shalt not get the crap you want, thou shall want the crap you get.

Orignal From: Bag O' Crap!