Sunday, July 26, 2020

Study in Bm

Monday, June 29, 2020

Food for the Fourth

The Fourth of July is nearly here. It's the summit of summer in America; the celebration before thoughts start turning back to the rigors of the fall. Vacations are being taken and grills are as tuned-up and ready to go as they can, ready to sizzle a burger or bratwurst on a moment's notice.

Now is the time people are stocking up for the celebration. We have our shopping lists and are mulling that trip across the state line for some fireworks of a questionable nature.

I spent my high school summers working at Target and the having to quickly move loss-leader 24 packs of soda onto the sales floor was as much strength and conditioning as my morning workouts for the upcoming football season.

This year, with the Covid-19 seeming to rear its ugly head in a second wave, it's a good time to be extra careful in the preparations. While I feel tacky doing the click-through ad links on my blog, here are a few things that may help you prepare for the celebration of America's independence.

Save time, money and facemasks with drive-up pickup at Target

Be sure to keep those pesky UV's at bay. Fair skin is in.

Sneezing on the potato salad has been frowned upon long before Covid-19 was a thing.

Airpods fall out. It happens. Sometimes in the lake, sometimes playing cornhole, sometimes in baked beans that get spilled and eaten by the dog before you notice.

Finally, maybe you're a hardcore planner and can't get back to school off of your brain. Well, here you go:

Sunday, May 24, 2020

A place to work out

It's been tough going for those who define themselves by going to the gym. The gym selfies on Facebook profiles and dating sites, taken from the locker rooms and in front of the squat racks, have started to feel dated. You wonder if some of these folks will end up like:

While my gym rat days feel behind me, I still got in a few days a week. Enough to feel good and stay in decent enough shape. I think the cabin fever of not having a place to go and do some lifting and hamster-style cardio has finally started to catch up with me. Yard and house projects have been doing a good job of helping me work up a sweat, but sometimes I just want to be able to turn the brain off, turn on some music and get my heart rate up. 

The cardio portion hasn't been too bad. I've been going on brisk walks to break up my work day and I've been doing some jogging around the neighborhood. I have good one, two and three mile loops not to mention there's always the paths around the local lakes. 

Lifting has been the challenge.  Until a couple days ago, I had a weight lifting bench with a bar and some dumbbells in storage. The set was modest and by no means an Olympic style setup that you find at most gyms. Still it has enough weights, the bench can incline and decline and there is even a pulldown attachment.

All that was missing was the motivation to dig the stuff out. That finally came in the form of a neighbor inquiring if I had any weights as her son, a college athlete, was itching for some weightlifting capabilities. They had looked for some equipment, but the lockdown has created a shortage of weights and other home gym paraphernalia. Maybe the workout junkies will be okay after all.

I'm happy to share the equipment (in-fact I think there should be more neighborhood co-oping of many things) and took the opportunity to clear out some space in the garage and set up the bench. My son, Drew, helped bring up the weights; a mix of various steel plates and even some old-school plastic coated cement ones. It's not much to look at and the bars have these mild pain in the butt spindle locks, but it works. I got in some good upper body sets and am a little sore. I'll have to figure out a simple lower body routine and use the weights to do some stretching. 

I envision improving the area. Right now everything is just on the hard garage floor. I'd like to add in some foam floor tiles to make the place more comfortable and gym-like.  I might also look to add in some more weight plates and maybe a squat rack.

Once my basement remodel is completed (I'm nearing the completion of drywall taping/mudding) I'd like to relocate the equipment to there. This will be especially helpful in the winter months, although I wonder what lifting in sub-freezing weather would be like?

At this point, the space is open to anyone who wants to get a little work in (while adhering to social distancing). Hopefully, it will keep the cabin fever at bay and perhaps save some money on the gym membership. 

Sunday, May 17, 2020

A Bigger Joe


Since I'm not cooking for more than three people the vast majority of the time I prefer the smaller grill experience. My current setup is a tabletop gas grill similar to this. I simply have the grill on top of a table with the propane cyliner underneath. 

While this works well, I'd like a tabletop charcoal option as well.  While choices aren't limited for small charcoal grills, they really are limited to foldable picnic varieties with minimal heated surface. For example most people are  familiar with the classic Weber "Smokey Joe" grill. It's the tabletop, parking lot, campsite portable grill benchmark. One of the best steaks I ever had was cooked on top of ol' Smokey. It's typically good for just two or three burgers with a few hot dogs intermittently spaced. 

Enter "Big Joe". While not as big as me, this has bit bigger of a grilling area so all the kabobs and corn and potatoes and jalapeno poppers can be better fit in. Still BJ is highly portable and meant for the end of the picnic table. 

Compared to the original's 14" diameter surface, Big Joe has an 18" surface. That may not seem like much, but if you calculate the area the Big guy has 65% more places to put your meat, veggies or have different heat zones. Indeed, this is a step in the right direction for portable grilling.

You can get the Weber Big Joe at Target. It's a lot of grill for on top of your table.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Sustainable Veggies

My daughter wanted requested I put celery in this years garden. In doing a little looking I found that you can actually grow a host of foods from your grocery scraps, celery included. I had some partially wilted celery in the fridge, i.e. too floppy to eat, so I gave it a try. It's exceedingly simple, just take the last couple inches of the stalk and put it in water. Fresh stalks started growing about a week after "planting". These can be moved to soil after growing to a couple inches in length. Other plant you can do this to include:
  • lettuce and cabbage
  • onions
  • potatoes
  • ginger
  • pineapple
I'm sure there are a number of other plants too. Unfortunately, this doesn't work for prime rib.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Being Wrong

I've heard it occasionally joked that the hardest words for people to say are "I was wrong". This makes for humorous anecdotes such as Clark having the hubcaps stolen off of the Griswold family truckster from being too stubborn to ask for directions or pretty much anything Homer does in The Simpsons.

I even have a couple memorable moments where my confidence got the best of me. For example, when my kids, the ex and I lived in Maryland we rented a nice three-level townhome in Gaithersburg. There was extra family room space in the basement, but the stairs had a rather tight turn to get into the stairwell. Still, we decided a couch would be nice down there so I took out my tape measure and did a little geometry. Unfortunately, I did this math a little more like back of the envelope physics than engineering, i.e. I pretty much assumed a 2D couch.

Much to the dismay of my ex-wife and the delivery guys, the couch did not fit! I was at work and even tried to tell them on the phone how to fit the couch into the stairwell. Well, the last of it was their comment to my wife of, "Ma'am, couches don't bend". They left the couch wrapped in the living room.

Upon returning home from work my ex and I tried again. This time I took the door to the basement off of its hinges and argued that they weren't angling it right. One sweaty hour later, with nothing but dented sheet-rock and a pinched finger to show, I threw in the towel and admitted calculational defeat. 

Fortunately, the love seat fit down the stairs as did the love seat from our older furniture set, so we had some comfort in the basement space; albeit it was not the best napping space. Also, our move to Minnesota allowed for the joyous reunion of each couch to their matching love seat as there was a favorable stairwell geometry. 

My reason in relating this tale is that I think there is great wisdom in learning to admit when you don't know something and definitely when you're wrong. For me, a big part in my decision making process is taking time. Time to ask the question "What if I'm wrong?" and time to do the thinking and research to make a decision.  I'm not perfect and I can get amp'd up and make those "jump to" decisions. While such knee jerk reactions are part and parcel of me, I work to admit that even my core-believing self doesn't have all the things figured out. 

This has been a process for me in all aspects of modern life; particularly on that silly place known as Camelot...I mean Facebook. There's a lot of information out there. There's a lot of things I want to believe and there are a lot of things I want to call BS on in a knee jerk sort of way. It's easy to get lost in those belligerent thoughts and easy to overreact. I have a gut feeling there's a non-zero blood alcohol level that correlates with how people interact online. Digital courage as opposed to the liquid variety.  

With so much information, mis-information, hearsay, etc. out there it is understandably difficult to determine what's real and true and how to respond; if response is warranted at all. It feels worth having a set of principles for engaging with the interwebs, something along the lines of:
  • Assume you are going to change zero people's mind on most things.
  • Give things at least an hour if you're fired up. In fact, I'd like to find/build an add-on that would delay my posts at least an hour before they're posted and then ask if I still want to post them.
  • If commenting is decidedly worthwhile, be respectful and fact based.
  • Envision you're talking with people face-to-face. How would the conversation go? Most times there's some common ground, just with different perspective.
  • Skepticism is totally okay and encouraged, but be willing to dig deeper and get to the bottom of things. Challenge others to do the same.
  • Don't accept "because so and so (insert pastor, activist, politician, my mom, your mom, Tom Cruise, Charlie Sheen (I can't stress that one enough) here) said so". Most things in this world have objective answers and data. Some are matters of ethics, and a few are matters of belief.
  • Listen to all sides.  I had a particularly hard time with the "Plandemic" movie because it was way highly produced and only presented one side of the story, i.e. extreme media bias. It's important to hear all sides in a factual, non-rhetorical manner. I still tend to prefer print journalism for this manner, but being visual beings, images and high production quality media seem to win out for most.
  • If something hasn't be scrutinized, peer reviewed, etc. don't trust it, or take it as opinion only. Even then, it could still be not the entire picture. 
  • If facts aren't going your way, while it may be emotionally convenient to claim levels of secrecy, conspiracies etc. hold back and work some logic. Ask more questions. 
  • While wrongness happens, call out personal insults and put-downs for what they are: laziness of people to check themselves. Leave if it starts digressing.
  • Be grateful. If you are wrong and you see it, take it as learning, not shame. For example, early in the YouTube days I saw some physically impressive stuff. I think it was jumping a sled of bike and hitting some obscure target. I was impressed that that could be done so I shared it.  A fellow Hamline Physics friend pointed out that what was in the video was unphysical and showed the debunking of the video. I was a little embarrassed, but also learned something about my willingness to believe stuff. To this day I remember that and am grateful for the lesson
Again, these are just a few of my thoughts on conducting myself, making decisions and even trying to innovate at work. We call ideas that seem really good, but don't pan out at work "nice ideas". 

We like to dream of miracle solutions and answers, but it seems worthwhile solutions only tend to come from hard work, trial and error with the occasional tiniest bit of luck. The only magic is our ability to sift through until we find and prove those rare great ideas that make the world better. Then again, I could be wrong.