Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Save the cheerleader, save the economy

OK. The title was just for the handful of people that watch Heroes.

How can you help the economy? Don't get sick. Sick days cost the US gobs of money. If you haven't had your flu shot, get it soon. No shortages and they still think they have a fairly good shot this year. Julie got hers a few weeks ago and I got mine today.

An update for NC early voting: as of this morning, the early vote count is 1,627,792. I don't know about you, but I think this is awesome. Get out and vote! Next Tuesday is likely to have some huge lines and I hate the idea of people not voting because of the lines. Even those voting for the geezer/dingbat ticket should go vote.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Spiffin up the kitchen

We wanted to make our kitchen newer and nicer without spending a fortune or having a major remodel. Our house is 16 years old and the appliances were going. The counter tops were a mix of white tile and white formica. I hated both.

So, we took off the old counter tops and tore off the back splash. We pulled the appliances (except the fridge) but left all our nice cherry cabinets. Here is the chef.

We replaced our dishwasher, microwave and oven. The dishwasher isn't terribly exciting. The microwave is definitely a step up from what we had, but the cool new thing is the oven. Julie wanted a real double oven, but we don't have the room. She found a double oven in a single space. The top part is small, heats quickly, and is great for pizzas, appetizers, broiling things, ... The bottom is a full sized oven. The only thing you lose is the drawer for pans. Very nice!

This gives a better look at the granite. We both love the mix of colors.

I should have taken a before picture for comparison. The improvement is dramatic. Yeah!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

More cool iPhone stuff

  • For you runners, use RunKeeper. It uses the GPS in the latest iPhone to track your run, pace, time, ... It uploads it to a web site where you can see it on Google Maps. Great for tracking distance on runs.
  • For you skiers, either SkiUtah or SnowReports to get new snow totals.
  • For couch spuds, i.TV to give you a nice listing of what's on for your particular location and service.
  • For old style gamers, Missle Command. It is just like the old game and plays well on the iPhone.
Yes, my iPhone is now well beyond just a phone. Email. Music. GPS. Midgit web browser. Video game.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Inspiration and motivation for perspiration

When we were in Chicago last week, I had a number of things happen to inspire my running.
  • First, I met Kelley, one of the Benson's friends from California. She runs marathons and helps train people getting ready to try one. She told me about how she qualified for the Boston Marathon and what an incredible experience it was. 500,000 cheering spectators. 25,000 runners. Damn! How cool would that be? The bad news is that I would have to run a 3 hour 20 minute marathon to qualify.
  • Then I saw a bunch of people with race numbers on. They had been competing in the Men's Health Urbanathlon. It is a race (about 10 miles) mixed in with urban obstacles: crawl through culvert pipe, climb over jersey barriers, ... It sounds like a blast. Check out
  • Getting more psyched, I checked out the Boston Marathon web page. Turns out that by getting older, I bought an extra 10 minutes. I can now qualify in 3:30. That extra 10 minutes means a lot.
  • Then I read the small print and found *An additional 59 seconds will be accepted for each age group time standard. For example, a net time of 3:50:59 will be accepted for a 42-year-old woman. This buys me another 59 seconds!
So now what? Running Boston is a bit of a sick dream, especially with my knees. Then again, I am probably more likely to accomplish this than my 100 push up plan. So I'll try and use this for inspiration.

Motivation for me may be a bit different than it is for most people. I actually like to run. I think I like the runner's high you get from longer runs. My issue is motivating my skinny little legs to push the rest of me at something more than a crawl. Endurance, sure. Speed, not so much. A 3:30 marathon is 8 minute miles for 26 miles. My normal concern as I run down the highway is that someone will call the DOT and ask that they come remove the dead animal from the roadside. Run fast enough and they don't mistake you for a dead animal.

My first step in this insanity is to run Raleigh's Old Reliable Run on November 16th. It's a 10k (6.21 miles), which isn't too much of a worry. The hard part is to run it at the 8 minute mile pace. I figure if I can do it for a 10k, all I need to do for a marathon is keep running for another 20 miles. Sounds reasonable.

I've read a bit about training programs and they say that for a 10k, you want to be doing 20-25 miles per week, with a 2 long days, 3 short days, one cross training, and one rest. I've gotten 38 miles in the last five weeks, so I think I'm good, but I didn't actually work through all the math.

Wish me luck.

Vote early. Vote often.

North Carolina is one of the states that lets you vote early. We have lots of polling places open every day and because of the high demand, they have opened more. After seeing an amazing count of how many people were voting early, I went off to the web to find more information.

I found an early elections site run by a George Mason professor. So far, over 900,000 people in NC have voted! We still have 10 days to go before the actual elections. For a state with 6 million registered voters, many of whom don't normally vote, this is pretty awesome.

No matter who you want to win (Obama), it is nice to finally see the U.S. actually care who wins.

Chicago's architecture

I've been to Chicago a number of times on business, but never paid a lot of attention to the architecture there. I got a little more interested when I read The Devil in the White City. If you haven't read it, you should. An excellent story about the 1893 World's Fair with a murder story mixed in. Extremely well written. But I diverge.

Several people attending Seth's wedding had gone on a "architecture tour boat ride" and recommended it. We had some time to kill on Sunday so Jim and Kathy Covaleski, Julie and I went for the ride. If nothing else, it makes you look up and pay attention to what you are seeing. Chicago has an amazing variety of interesting buildings.

I don't remember all the details about each building, but you can see that a plain, square building just wouldn't do.

This is looking straight up at the new Trump building.

Next time you are in Chicago, spend lots of time looking up and pay attention to the detail. An amazing amount of it just gets lost in the huge scale of the skyscrapers.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Seth Benson's wedding in Chicago

Julie and I went up to Chicago on Friday. We were there to see Bill and Loris Benson's son Seth get married. Bill and Loris are two of our best friends from Park City. As we landed in O'Hare airport and started for baggage claim, I saw something new: a place giving flu shots right there in the terminal. I guess that's something to do while waiting for your plane.

Our first stop was a dinner with Stuart and Laurie Jones. Julie met Stuart early in her IBM career and we have been close ever since. They have come to visit us in Beaufort and Park City. The picture I took at dinner was in poor light and looked terrible, so here they are at the coast a few years ago.

Below are Bill and Loris. They were kind enough to take some out of town guests out for some fun. We went to Second City, where so many of the famous SNL comedians got their start. It was great and almost too easy for the comics with an election in two weeks.

Here's Bill and Loris at the wedding.

The wedding and reception were held at the Palmer House. It's a gorgeous hotel and it was great being able to stay at the same place where the events were held.

I can't begin to capture all the architectural details, but they were everywhere.

Here are Seth and Jillian, shortly after becoming husband and wife. Jillian is one of the best female pole vaulters in the US. She just missed the summer Olympics by one qualifying spot.

This group is not one to stop a party early. After closing the reception, we wandered up to Bill and Loris's sweet suite. Here are our gorgeous dates hanging out on the couch. From lefft to right: Loris (Park City), Kathy (Park City), Julie (wife), Penny (California) and Kelly (California). The Benson's set of California friends were from the area where they lived and owned an orange grove.

Penny's husband Mark and Kathy's husband Jim. In Jim's defense, this was taken around 3:00 in the morning.

And now for something completely different. On Saturday morning, Jim Covaleski, Julie and I went out for breakfast. Jim found a place called Orange. They had a wonderfully different menu, so I took a picture of my dish: green eggs and ham. The green was from pesto and it was tasty!

On our last day in town we joined Jim and Kathy Covaleski for a wander around Chicago, doing some shopping, eating and a boat ride. The weather was perfect, as was the company.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Super breakfast

For the past year or so, Julie and I have been eating a healthy, tasty breakfast every morning. I give it credit for dropping my cholesterol by 60 points. The super breakfast is oatmeal, but not just any oatmeal.
  • 1/4 cup McCann's Quick Cooking Irish Oatmeal
  • 2 teaspoons chopped walnuts
  • 2 teaspoons ground flax seed
  • 1 teaspoon Splenda brown sugar
  • Lots of cinnamon (I give it a good 5-10 shakes)
  • 1/2 cup milk (we have been using Silk, a soy milk)
Nuke all this in the microwave for 4 minutes at power 6. Then throw in some fruit. We prefer raspberries. When they aren't in season, we buy bags of frozen ones and just keep some in the fridge. If you use dried fruit like raisins or cranberries, put them in before cooking.

The oatmeal and cinnamon are both great for cholesterol. The walnuts and flax seed have Omega 3s. The flax seed lowers the glycemic index, so you don't get a carb sugar spike. Fruit is always good for you. On top of all this, it tastes great. We thought it was a winter only thing, but we eat it year round. Yeah oatmeal!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


We saw giant weeds, which I have been working hard to kill. We saw the end of fall color with a snow in Park City. By contrast, here are some wonderful flowers that bloom each fall when little else is going on. They are called Winter Daisies and I got them as a handout from our neighbor in Beaufort.

I figured the dog wasn't going to be as useful a size reference. I am six feet tall, so you can figure the flowers are somewhere in the 10-12 foot range. The amazing thing is that they die back to the ground each year, and then grow this tall again the next. Oh, and they spread, so you actually have to work to stop them.

Not nearly the size, but quite pretty are the asters. Some years they only bloom once. This year they decided to give it another go. There must be 1000 blooms on each plant.

The asters don't repopulate very easily, but if anyone wants a wheelbarrow load of winter daisies, just let me know.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

And so winter begins....

Some low quality images nabbed from Park City's mountain cameras, but you can get the idea. The first real snow of the year. It was sunny and 76 here in Raleigh today.

The best dining in Raleigh

Julie and I went out for dinner last night to celebrate our 17th anniversary. Our restaurant choice was Saint Jacques, off of Falls of Neuse Rd. in North Raleigh. After much pondering, we have decided that this is the best restaurant we have found in the Triangle area. It is French cuisine and all the food is wonderful. The onion soup is better than either of us found in about a dozen trips to France. The ambience is nice and quiet, so it is easy to have a conversation. The wait staff is great: polite, attentive and knowledgable. We've been several times and each visit was outstanding.

So, if you are in Raleigh or the surrounding areas and haven't eaten here, you should give it a visit!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Is you educated?

Barack Obama:
Columbia University - B.A. Political Science with a Specialization in
International Relations.
Harvard - Juris Doctor (J.D.) Magna Cum Laude

Joseph Biden:
University of Delaware - B.A. in History and B.A. in Political Science.
Syracuse University College of Law - Juris Doctor (J.D.)

John McCain:
United States Naval Academy - Class rank: 894 of 899

Sarah Palin:
Hawaii Pacific University - 1 semester
North Idaho College - 2 semesters - general study
University of Idaho - 2 semesters - journalism
Matanuska-Susitna College - 1 semester
University of Idaho - 3 semesters - B.A. in Journalism

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Mining coal

Out in Utah, there is a lot of push to do more mining and drilling. One hot topic is shale oil, which requires a HUGE amount of raw materials and processing. The industry swears they will do it "nicely". I ran across an article today that talks about coal mining in West Virginia. Instead of digging those holes (hard, expensive, dangerous), they are just blowing the tops off of mountains (cheap, fast). Not one or two mountains, 470 so far.

To those who support the mining industry, do you really believe anything they say about protecting the environment?

Sunday, October 05, 2008

More football

This weekend we had a noon home game with Boston College. As always, we were supposed to lose. We went with two neighbors, Jim and Carmela Saunders.

This guy had the right attitude. He came dressed to win.

This guy had a bad (drunken) attitude. He managed to fall asleep (pass out) right in the middle of the game. Fortunately, the crowd exploded after a 61 yard touchdown pass and woke him from nap time.

Being down by 14 in the fourth quarter, NC State managed to bring it back to a tie with about two minutes to go. We were looking good, but we just couldn't stop Boston College from scoring one more time to win the game. The weather was gorgeous. The game was exciting. Only the outcome was disappointing.

Friday, October 03, 2008

An endless loop

Our dog Jasper is built like a runner. Here is a picture of him back in the winter.

So, part of our job is to make sure the dog gets enough exercise so that he doesn't get bored and get into trouble. Mischief comes easy for a part Lab, part Border Collie.

This morning, Julie took Jasper on her early morning walk with some of the women in our neighborhood. Two laps around the 'hood is good for a bit less than 4 miles. Then I took him for a run, two more loops with an extra walking loop. Now he's done about 9 miles and we have just hit 10:00. On the way home, he stops to play chase for 5-10 minutes with a 1 year-old yellow lab.

We are thinking "Great, we wore him out". He seems to be thinking "This is awesome. I am getting more endurance every week!" By the end of November, we may have to have him chase the car to Durham each morning. Not sure how this ends....