Category: Fitness

Yesterday at the gym I rebooted my more serious endurance training doing a running/riding brick.  I have been rewarded for my effort with a solid block of pain that starts in my lower right back and extends through the hip to my knee.  It’s not unexpected.

So I took a serious look at road trip options yesterday.  My original idea of going up the east coast all the way to Maine just was not going to be feasible due to a lack of days available.  We would have been sleeping somewhere different every night with limited time to enjoy much of anything.  Cindy came up with the idea of doing a much more abbreviated trip that only takes us as far north as Ashville, NC with additional stops at Myrtle Beach and Savannah.

I have never made any effort to see stuff in any of these states, they were just road real estate I had to travel through to get to my other destinations.  The total amount of driving we will be doing is a tiny fraction of what we covered last year.  It will be a different feeling type of trip for sure but it’s better than no road trip at all.

Yesterday I used an online service to create a snappy intro to front many of my YouTube videos.  It was something I had intended to do for quite awhile.  I was originally going to try to make something myself but dropping 5 bucks to have it looking more pro was worth it to me.

So Saturday will mark the two year anniversary of my mom passing away.  Although the 13th is the actual date, to me, yesterday the 10th of August was really the day I lost Mom.  The 13th was just the day the life support was removed.  In some ways it still seems impossible that my mom isn’t around although my mind has more or less adjusted to the reality after this much time.

10426194_10153143814382841_4865230077152776867_nI have a picture of her and I at her 50th birthday party in my office that Cindy framed and gave to me.  I look at it every morning when I come in.  It affects me differently from day to day.  It can make me smile or tear up randomly, I just never know.  It is also amazing to me that I am only a little more than a year away from being the same age as Mom was when that picture was taken.

As I was rummaging through my digital stuff I came across what I said about Mom at the remembrance we held at Lowdermilk Park.  I don’t remember if I ever shared it before but here it is.

As I stare here at a blank page, trying to figure out how you are supposed to represent the life of your mother in a few paragraphs, I am struggling.  How do you describe an entire lifetime of love and support that a mother provides for her children?

As her son I knew Mom as a loving parent who time and again would do the best that she could to ensure I was provided for.  She truly was my rock solid foundation.  No matter what situation or trouble I found myself in I could always count on my mom to support me when I needed it  and to tell me when I was acting dumb when I deserved it.

My mom’s hard work ethic, sense of responsibility, kindness, and humor are all qualities that she passed on to her children which I am eternally grateful for. 

I have many fond memories of mom growing up like our annual  vacations to Rehoboth Beach, countless afternoons spent at the Green Valley pool, and our Christmas Eve family dinners where mom did all of the work with little acclaim, while my grandfather complained that he didn’t like eating by candlelight because he couldn’t see his food.

When my parents divorced, mom was thrust from the role of a housewife into that of a family provider overnight.  She was able to build a long and successful career as a salesperson using nothing more than her honesty, friendliness and smile. 

I was proud of my mom when she took the brave step over 10 years ago of leaving Pennsylvania to join me here in Florida.  She loved Florida winters and having a surplus of sunshine year round.  She also was able to make a new circle of good friends here in Florida, many of which are here today.  I know my mom cherished these relationships.

Mom was lucky enough to see her children have children of their own.  I know my sister has relied on my mom time and again for advice as she raises her own two beautiful children.  My dogs, Nicki & Sadie loved their grandma.  As soon as Nicki would spot my mom she would grab a toy as a gift and rush towards her with her tail wagging uncontrollably.    

I was most recently proud of my mom after she decided to finally give up cigarettes cold turkey in January, something I had always wanted her to do since I was a young boy.  I used to hide or even throw her cigarettes out, until I got punished for doing it of course.  For her to finally quit smoking on her own was very special to me.

Anybody that knew my mom knows that despite her far too soon sudden passing, it is exactly the way she would have wanted it to be with no pain and no suffering. 

One time when I was discussing aspects of life with my mom she told me that she judged how successful her life was by the type of people her children grew up to be.  She told me she was content that she did a good job. 

Based on the outpouring of love, support and kindness I have witnessed the last several days for my mom I think she can rest peacefully, knowing she touched the lives of so many people in a positive way.     

Friday night after work a few people from work met up with my ex-boss Shirley who retired about a year and a half ago.  I had not seen her since then.  Cindy came out and joined us as well.  I downed five Shock Tops while we were there putting me beyond safe driving parameters.  We left the Prius there and Cindy drove us both home in the Tacoma.

1_1_5_category_mini_pro[1]Our new Segway miniPro arrived during the day.  I told Cindy she should open it up and put it together which she happily did.  She shot video of her unboxing which I combined with my first attempt to get on on the Segway, drunk, when we got home.  You can see both things here.

Trying to step on the miniPro for the first time drunk was not ideal.  The first couple times I tried the board rocked back and force violently.  It wasn’t because of a problem with the Segway, it was my alcohol impaired balance.  Even with drinking, I eventually got myself up on the board and was able to slowly maneuver around the great room without feeling like I was going to crash.

Cindy right away was more adept at riding than I was.  Even though it was pitch dark we took the board outside so Cindy could ride in the driveway.  There is a built in speed limiter on the miniPro where you can not unlock the top speed on it until you log about .6 miles of ride time.  After a few laps around our driveway Cindy had passed that distance so we unlocked the speed limiter, which allows the miniPro to get up to 11mph before the the automatic brake is applied.  The built in headlights made nighttime riding a piece of cake.  The configurable color LED tail lights are extremely cool as well.

Saturday morning I hopped back on the board inside and practiced sober.  I quickly gained confidence in my ability to control the Segway.  I had no issue riding around the hard surfaces in the house, easily steering around furniture and other obstacles.  I drove Cindy back to South Street to pick up the Prius which she used to get to the cycling class she was teaching.  When I returned home I wanted to get more miniPro time but I instead rode the tractor around the yard for a couple hours, the grass was getting high.

I didn’t have any major construction projects on the schedule but I did help Cindy assemble two wood pallets into a chair.  The bare pallets had been sitting around for awhile so I was happy to lend a hand to get them out of the yard.  I also ripped a couple boards off a third pallet so Cindy could turn it into a planter for a friend of hers.

Saturday night we stayed home and watched our current Netflix rental, The Big Short.  The film is based on a true story regarding the financial meltdown of 2007/2008 and the origin of the credit default swaps that pushed several financial institutions off the edge and required others to get billions of federal bailout money to remain afloat.  I thought the movie was extremely well done and did an excellent job at illustrating at just how greedy and disgusting the financial industry was and is.

Just imagine you bought a house and instead of buying one mortgage on it you instead bought 50 mortgages on it.  In simplistic terms that is sort of what these banks did, selling mortgage investment bundles, filled with horrible risky loans over and over and over again.  It is pretty incredible when you try to wrap your head around just how deep the fraud and irresponsibility went.  The scary thing is so many people act like it was ancient history while the financial industry received little more than a tap on the wrist for literally stealing TRILLIONS of dollars from the general populace.  People can’t be bothered with things like financial fraud and abuse when there are so many Pokemon pets yet to catch.  Anyway, I liked the movie a lot and every adult should see it, and pay attention.  It gets an A.

Sunday morning we had an interesting exercise session that included running, Segway riding, rollerskating, and rollerblading.  I put in about 3.5 miles on the track while Cindy rode around the school grounds.  We then drove to Dunkin Donuts where I rode the miniPro while drinking coffee while Cindy roller skated.  Cindy had told me she used to be a really good skater but I never saw her in action.  It didn’t take long for me to be impressed.  Despite her not skating for years she immediately seemed comfortable, skating backwards and doing spins like it was nothing.

We later switched, I put on my roller blades and Cindy rode the board.  I also had not rollerbladed in several years.  Unlike Cindy, I was never adept at it.  At best I could avoid falling down but I never was smooth or fast.  I managed to not fall on my face but if you watch the video you will see my awkward style.

After an active start the rest of my Sunday slowed down. Both Cindy and I felt very tired during the afternoon and actually laid down for a psuedo-nap.  The most productive thing I did during the day was to reroute an ethernet cable that used to be used for the Xbox 360, into the wall and back out behind the tv for hard wired internet speed.  I pulled the 360 out of the bedroom as it had no practical use with a smart TV and a Fire Stick residing there now.

This weekend the string of horrible events continued with more police shootings in Baton Rouge and a bloody, unsuccessful coup attempt in Turkey.  Soon these atrocities will become so commonplace that they get as much news time as US soldiers dying unnecessarily in Iraq/Afghanistan.  It gets to the point where typical public response to these events just feels numb. Outrage, prayers, and cries it must stop are the typical blueprint.  To me the increased frequency of these events would indicate that whatever we think we are accomplishing with that response is obviously ineffective.


13567015_10154630684652841_8899223351179150712_nI got a rather thick envelope in the mail yesterday from none other than Donald Trump.  I was surprised since I had not written him any letters recently.  I was disappointed the envelope was stuffed with a campaign donation request form and a promotional letter that I am sure Donald penned himself.  The material was responsibly recycled.

Last night after work I got out in the bar park to do a circuit workout.  I also shot a video of the session.  Shooting bar park videos was something that used to occur  on a very regular basis, probably once or twice a week.  That has not been the case for quite awhile, I can probably count the bar park videos this year on one hand so far.

The weather conditions were punishing with temperatures in the mid-90s and high humidity.  I decided to do a type of circuit unlike anything I did before where I inserted a nearly 1/4 mile run around the back yard as part of each of the five rounds.  Each circuit included the run, 10 pull ups and 20 push ups which I thought would be challenging since I have done no pull ups or push ups in close to a month because of the skin cancer surgery on my deltoid.  Instead of challenging I found it to be back breaking hard, leaving me gasping for breath by the end of it.

pppThe workout gave me a good sense of my current fitness level.  The sense I got was it is bad.  Regardless it was good to get out there after work and get some reps in.  It’s something I need to do more regularly.  Hitting the gym over lunch hour is sufficient to maintain but if I want to improve I need to put in the time at home as well.


So this week the presidential primary season came to a close with Hilary winning the Washington DC primary.  Although Bernie has still not formally conceded it seems like he has committed to helping the democrats win the election as opposed to him running under a third party which would fragment the vote.

Bernie Sanders has accomplished an incredible amount during his presidential run, going from being an outsider that was an afterthought to the American public to a game changing candidate that generated the most excitement, the biggest crowds, and the biggest upsets.  The fact that he did all of this with grassroots fundraising that was 100% devoid of SUPER PAC mega-dollars such as what funds the Hilary Clinton battleship is amazing.

Regardless of you agreeing or disagreeing with some of his policy ideas, the one thing that you can’t dispute is his honesty and desire for the greater good.  I have never seen a candidate that I found to be more likeable or in politics for all the right reasons.  It would have been amazing if he would have been able to secure the nomination but old school politics and big money made that nearly impossible due to the corrupt super delegate system which makes absolutely no sense to me.

I can only hope that the support he generated turns on the light bulb for the political establishment.  I only wish he would have thrown his hat into the presidential ring a decade or two ago.  Even if Bernie would have won the nomination his odds of being able to implement many of his ideas would have gone nowhere unless somehow term limits in Congress were implemented to get the career politicians out of the way. Fresh ideas could actually be nurtured and flourish instead of being sprayed with Monsanto lobbied weed killer to die on the vine.

Somebody brought my attention to some false flag conspiracy regarding the Orlando shootings.  It revolves around a video clip of two men carrying a third guy with red shoes that has a bandana around his thigh covering a supposed gunshot wound.  Some websites went over this clip with a fine tooth comb, pointing out that the men were carrying the “injured” person towards the club and not away from it.  Another clip showed that once the two men thought they were no longer on camera they sat the “injured” man down and were laughing.

The point I seemed to be getting from this was the shooting was “staged” in order to build more support for gun control measures.  Or to further simplify, “Blame Obama!”.  I think there is a far more obvious and simple explanation.  These were three assholes that thought it would be funny to act like they were heroically carrying away an injured patron for the cameras.  In this social media addicted society, staging of things happens all the time with the intent of personal gain.  Calling it a “false flag” is pretty idiotic in my opinion.

This is not to say that there is not legitimate deception going on about the incident.  I have heard multiple accounts that there was at least two shooters involved and a third person blocking an exit door to maximize casualties.  Who knows if we will ever get the 100% truth.  In a related story, did you know for about $100 you can easily transform any AR-15 into a fully automatic weapon. Wow that’s neat.

full-portrait[1]Cindy and I played some more Overwatch last night.  She has found a new character that she likes to play, D. Va, a little tiny girl that controls a serious pink mech.  We played several team matches last night and had a lot of fun.  If you ever enjoyed first person shooters during your lifetime you NEED to try Overwatch.  It is such a good game.

13413511_10154587856262841_7692121710287567245_nToday out of the blue my coffee maker at work died.  For some odd reason I felt a small degree of loss in it’s passing.  When I bought the $10 small appliance over a decade ago I never expected it to last long enough to literally make me thousands of cups of coffee over the years.

I will be replacing it with an equally low budget Mr Coffee unit that will hopefully carry me through till retirement age.

This weekend I need to be a little conservative with my physical activity due to my stitches.  I still would like to try to get a run in and I really need to get the mower deck back in a functional state.  My box of replacement parts for it arrived yesterday.

13445728_541287049388254_4875212250796870135_nI also received the mile marker signs I ordered for the timing business yesterday.  They will help add a degree of professionalism to events I am involved in as well as getting my branding out in front a lot of eyeballs.  Although I am not interested in aggressively pushing or growing the amount of race timing I am doing, the events I am involved with will get my best effort to make sure they are run well.



Friday I was really hoping to not have the after hours work take a lot of after hours time since it was only a small office that was being worked on.  Unfortunately we once again ran into a problem that stretched things out longer than it should have,  I wound up not getting out of there until after 7.

On Saturday morning I was outside shortly after 8am with the weed whacker in hand.  The yard had not been whacked in at least 3 weeks and was looking shaggy.  With the return of more regular rain I am going to have to get out there more often.  The heat and humidity knob has been turned back into the uncomfortable area where it will likely stay until October, yay. After whacking I jumped in the pool for a splashy splash session for Sadie which she greatly appreciated.

We then headed out for errands including a stop at Rural King and Sam’s.  At Rural King we say the running club equipment manager Bill.  It was the first time I saw him since I timed my last race.  Bill might be the hardest working human being I know.  Even though I don’t miss most aspects of timing events for the running club, being able to work with guys like Bill is one of the things I do miss.

We hit Sam’s on the way back.  With the sale of the Tacoma I was now seriously looking to pull the trigger on a replacement 4K tv.  During the week I was doing research and had established if I wanted to continue my upward growth of screen real estate I was going to have to pay in the neighborhood of $3400-$3500 which would be the most I ever paid for a set although when you adjust for inflation it might be in the same ball park as my 61 inch Sony projection set we bought when the house was new.

That was a lot of money for a tv but I had almost mentally committed myself to that just being the way it was, like I had no choice in the matter.  I had a 73 inch screen now so I HAD to go bigger.  Well Sam’s didn’t have a lot of 75 inch models but we did see a 70 inch LG 4K set that we looked at.  The picture looked sweet, even if it was 3 inches shorter diagonally.  We have had a LG set in the bedroom for over a couple years and have been very happy with it.  However the thing that really got my wheels turning was the price differential.  The LG was an $1800 set, almost half the price of a 75 inch Samsung or Sony (Samsung doesnt appear to make 4K 70 inch sets).  To pay $1700 for an extra 5 inches of screen area jolted me out of my MUST HAVE BIGGER trance.  I did not act at that point but it planted a seed.

We also went to the jewelry counter.  Cindy and I had been talking loosely about marriage for a long time and as a result Cindy has been looking at rings here and there.  One of the places she has been looking is at Sam’s who actually has a pretty substantial jewelry section, much bigger than Costco.  Randomly Cindy had sent me pictures of various rings she saw there she liked over the last couple months. We had even looked at rings online at places like Amazon but the idea of buying a ring sight unseen seemed risky.

Now my initial reaction when she told me she was looking at rings at Sam’s was negative.  I assumed they were not good rings as though they were a Wal-mart item even though Sam’s sells a lot more high end, high quality stuff.  Well when Cindy showed me the rings in person the stigma faded.  Not only were they good looking rings, they were certified diamonds and I could add an extended seven year warranty for a very reasonable price.  The buying power of a warehouse chain results in better pricing of all things, including jewelry.

Cindy showed me several she had liked.  Of course she wanted a beautiful ring but it was most important to her it was comfortable.  After putting on 4-5 rings she liked we finally agreed on one.  We took an unconventional but practical approach and just bought the ring on the spot.  Cindy did say that she wouldn’t wear the ring until I asked her in a more conventional manner.  So the ring remained in it’s box and bag on the drive home despite Cindy’s excitement to wear it.  I told her repeatedly she can just wear it but she was adamant that I needed to propose officially which I guess I could understand.  After two previous marriages my sense of formality about the process was not a priority for me.

When we got home I did some more quick research and thinking about my TV options.  I quick search on Amazon showed the LG set I saw at Sam’s had a 4+ stars rating which I put a lot of weight into.  Costco has the same set which would mean I would get a free 2nd year of warranty coverage but I would have to pay for it with my Costco American Express card instead of my Amazon Rewards Visa that I wanted to pay with for points.  Although I wouldn’t get a free year of warranty coverage Sam’s has very inexpensive extended warranties, I could tack on five years of coverage for a crazy cheap 99 bucks.  As comparison a place like Best Buy or HH Gregg will charge you 400 bucks or more for equivalent coverage.

So I made a decision I was going to just go with the LG set.  The savings versus size loss equation was just too heavy on the savings side.  I told Cindy I wanted to go back to Sam’s and get it.  We piled back in the Tacoma and headed out.  I brought the GoPro with and mounted it in the Tacoma, I told Cindy I wanted to vlog about the tv purchase.  Unbeknownst to her I also had the ring in the center console.

My plan was to officially propose to her on the way. Now most people would think this was a dumb idea but we aren’t most people.  Cindy actually had joked about the idea on the drive home earlier.   Her joke was about to become our reality.  So we started talking about the new tv purchase along with other random topics, none of which had to do with the ring.  I then finally made an awkward transition into the proposal as I was driving 55mph+ on Immokalee Road.


Despite us talking about it earlier Cindy seemed surprised by my actions.  The proposal was definitely the farthest thing from textbook as you could imagine since I made sure my eyes stayed on the road most of the time.  However I think somehow the sentiment and genuine feelings still were evident despite the unconventional delivery method.   Despite the lack of secrecy regarding the ring Cindy was still very excited and happy to be able to wear it officially.

It’s funny how the whole thing sort of organically happened.  I did not go into the weekend with any specific thoughts or plans about buying rings or getting engaged.  The circumstances just seemed to align themselves.  We have more or less lived as a married couple for more than a couple years so making it official just wasn’t as stressful as you would normally think.

So now the tv purchase took on a more celebratory aura.  We wasted no time grabbing a flat bed and loading the big LG set onto it as well as one of the extended warranty cardboard placeholders.  Checking out with my wallet being an extra $1500 heavier felt satisfying.  I was glad I reexamined my tv priorities.  The enormous box actually fit cleanly on it’s side in between the wheel wells of the Tacoma.  I think the bed of the truck is slightly larger than what I was accustomed to in the 99 as well.

Of course when I got home I dug straight into tv set up.  Cindy helped me set the 73 inch Mitsubishi in the dining room and place the slightly smaller LG set in it’s place.  Despite it’s reduced dimensions it fit the entertainment nook well, I only had maybe an inch or so extra space on either side.  Setting up the set went fine until it came time to connect it to my Yamaha surround sound.  I first tried to do so with a spare optical audio cable I had sitting around for awhile.  When I couldn’t get that to work I tried using the ARC HDMI port and had limited success.

13227817_10154530005162841_2132554124549672047_oThe most straightforward way was to use the optical audio cable.  The cable I had did not seem to fit well on either the tv or Yamaha side.  I wondered if the cable was just bad so I headed back out one final time to grab a new optical cable at Wal-mart.  When I got it home I realized the only thing wrong with the old cable was my stupidity.  The optical cables have a small protective boot on either end.  I was trying to insert the cable with that boot still in place.  Once I pulled the boots off the cable snapped in place perfectly and sound started flowing from the speakers, sigh….

We watched a movie on the new set Saturday night and the picture looked great.  The movie was called Knock Knock, starring Keanu Reeves sporting quite the dad bod.  It was one of the more bizarre movies I have seen recently and had me laughing out loud during some scenes that I think were supposed to be dramatic.  Keanu meets up with two chicks that take crazy to an entirely new level.  If you like your movies to have you saying “What the fck?” a lot, be sure to rent it.  Overall I can only give it a B rating but really, on pure entertainment it could be rated higher.

On Sunday morning Cindy and I wanted to beat the now increasingly oppressive heat by getting out for our run earlier.  We left the house around 7:15.  We put in another 5k+ at the nearby track.  The pace according to Cindy’s gps was 15 seconds a mile slower than last week but it didn’t feel that way, perhaps from the heat.

When we got back I made arrangements to take Sadie back to Ali’s later in the morning with the 73 inch Mitsubishi in tow.  I had asked Ali awhile back that if/when I got around to getting a new TV if she wanted the 73 incher.  She said sure since her 48 inch or so LCD tv is really not big enough for the room she has.  They sit a good 15 feet away from the tv location.

13165951_1198186750194577_8226151026115900193_nSo the Tacoma got it’s first real world use as we loaded the large tv into the bed and I secured it with my ratchet straps.  We covered it with the mylar looking bag the new tv came in.  In addition I had the empty chlorine jugs in the bed which needed to be refilled.  The new rubber bed mat really is awesome, eliminating the ice rink sliding that goes on if stuff is just on the composite plastic bed.

Ali’s boyfriend helped me carefully carry the tv into her place.  Set up had a couple hiccups but nothing serious.  The 73 inch of screen fit that space so much better and made viewing from across the room much, much easier.  Ali and her boyfriend thanked us for the tv.  I was happy that it would be repurposed and continue to entertain them for the foreseeable future.  It has been a great set for me.

Before heading home we made stops at Costco and Dick’s Sporting Goods.  At Costco we scored two sets of seat covers that wrapped the seat instead of just laying on top of them.  I had seen them when I shopped earlier in the week.  In normal Costco fashion, the check out experience was backlogged and miserable.

13247795_1198319240181328_5642878138400456658_oAt Dick’s we picked up an olympic style curl bar that Cindy intends to use for a lot more than curling.  It’s shorter length makes it much more practical in her small “shed gym” she has laid out.

On Sunday afternoon I undertook my monitor repair project.  My hope was to somehow take parts out of a damaged monitor I bought on Ebay for 50 bucks to get my just out of warranty monitor working again.  I had never dug into a monitor before so I figured if nothing else it would be a learning experience. It was.

I was surprised just how little was inside the monitor as far as circuit boards go.  I first tried swapping out the small circuit board that power and video connections connect to.  When that made no difference the surgery became much more expansive.

If you want the full play by play feel free to watch the video I shot during the process.  In the end I basically pulled the cracked screen out of the Ebay monitor and inserted the uncracked screen from my monitor in it’s place.  The way I got to that point was a twisting path of confusion but all I know is it works.  My Frankensteined monitor works well. The only flaw is the top right corner has a bright spot that I hardly even notice since I assigned it as my secondary screen.

Sunday night we had our last regular season Tarpons game to attend.  Cindy thought it would be appropriate to make the official social media declaration about the proposal then since it all started there when Cindy went with me to a Tarpons game more than 3 years ago.  We took a selfie in our empty section of the arena to celebrate.

The game was yet another boring blow out as every home game has been this year with the Tarpons winning 70-6.  There will be at least one home play off game although the disorganized league doesn’t really know who they will play at this point.  All I hope is we get to see at least one competitive game this year.



As predicted the weekend was stuffed with work but with the work came a sense of accomplishment.  I was up early Saturday as Cindy had to drive two hours north for the state middle school track meet.  I headed outside shortly after sunrise to tend to the chickens and weed the yard.  Once I finished up I loaded up the truck with the computer I was setting up for Ali.

I took the new Tacoma since Ali and her boyfriend had not seen it yet.  I was surprised when I saw a different vehicle in Ali’s garage as well.  She got out of the lease on her Kia suv and bought a 2015 Nissan Versa.  It’s a big change in vehicle types but will be financially much more agreeable.  She wasn’t thrilled with the world of leasing and I don’t blame her.  I have never leased a vehicle in my life.

I got busy backing up stuff from Ali’s old computer.  Luckily she keeps most of her stuff in Dropbox nowadays so it made moving most of her data pretty simple. In total I spent a couple hours getting her new system configured.  I left her old system online with remote access so she can still get stuff if needed.  There are a couple things I have to configure yet remotely.  With 12 gigs of ram and a fast SSD drive her new, used system is much faster than her old used system.  As I worked I had various visits from Sadie, Ferdie, and Latte which made the process more enjoyable.

13227656_10154515543807841_3738512822396173350_oWhen I got back home I headed outside for much dirtier work.  I had more old Tacoma work planned, replacing the throttle position sensor and both of the battery cables.  I worked on the sensor first.  In theory it could have been a 5 minute job to replace the sensor as it is held in with only two screws.  The problem is the sensor is near the back of the engine compartment and the way it is oriented the only way to get on it is with a stubby screwdriver that has to be turned from a side direction.

I was able to get the top screw broken loose but the bottom screw was more stubborn.  I was starting to strip out the screw after multiple failed attempts.  A much more time consuming reality seemed to be my only choice, I was going to have to pull the throttle body off.

I have removed the throttle body several times as part of other maintenance jobs I have undertaken.  It isn’t horribly difficult but time consuming nonetheless.  Once I had the throttle body off I was able to turn it so the troublesome screw was now facing up, allowing me to strike it a couple times with my impact screwdriver which finally broke the sticking screw loose.  After installing the new sensor I reversed the procedure to reinstall everything.  After the work the check engine light had gone out, a good sign.  You can see the video of the work here.

I then turned my attention to the battery cables.  The cables were my third attempt to address a random CLICK when trying to start the truck.  I already threw a starter and a new battery at the problem.  The cables probably should have been looked at first instead of last as a potential source of the problem.  So I surveyed the greasy wire loom I was going to have to deal with to replace the cables.  I started the work by disassembling the positive battery lead that had a wing nut holding down two terminals, one for the starter and the other for the fuse box.

When I took the wing nut off I looked at the surfaces of all the terminals, they were black and covered in scuzz.  A bright idea popped into my head that perhaps I should try to clean these terminals completely before undergoing the hassle of replacing the cables.  I put my paint stripper attachment on my Dewalt drill and went to town, cleaning each piece of the puzzle until I had fresh shiny metal where black scuzz once resided.  I put the now clean terminals back together and was ready for a test.

When I started the video I had tried starting the truck while it was up on the ramps and I got three successive clicks.  After my cleaning project the truck roared to life on the first turn.  Damn.  I could not believe two things.  First that I actually got lucky and was able to avoid cable replacement with some simple cleaning. Second, that I threw more than $200 and a lot of time at solutions (starter/battery) that were not the source of the problem.  It was a valuable lesson for sure, always try the simpler solutions first.  Here is the video of my revelation. 

I wasn’t 100% sure of the validity of my repairs until I drove the truck more. Cindy and I took the old Tacoma to run errands Sunday morning and it started like a champ repeatedly without any recurrence of the check engine light.  I now feel 100% ok with listing the truck for sale which I plan to do later today.

13233121_10154516035537841_8847531888175994420_nSo mid-afternoon, despite successfully accomplishing three different projects I was ready to take on my fourth with a large assist from Cindy, running the wires for the security dvr through the attic.  So my plan was to use my new 100 foot fiberglass snake to feed from the outside in.  Cindy was assigned the unenviable task of being up in the attic, armed with the extendable pool skimmer pole to hopefully grab the snake and pull it to her.

Since we were doing this mid-afternoon on a day with a high temperature of 90 degrees the attic was not a very hospitable environment.  Plus Cindy was decked out in long pants and a long shirt to protect her skin from the itchy blow in insulation.  We did the backyard wire run first as it would be the more difficult of the two.

I started to feed in the snake but could tell it was coiling up inside the attic.  Cindy said she could see it but couldn’t reach it.  She wound up carefully climbing through the blow in insulation to get there, something I was not interested in doing.  She was able to snag the snake and pull it back to the attic entrance.  When she emerged from the attic she looked like she had been in a sauna for an hour.  The heat up there is well into the triple digits.

13221498_10154516035352841_3917771025647622914_nWe attached dvr wire to the snake and then I carefully pulled it back from the outside.  It was exciting when the dvr cable emerged from the hole since only a week ago I had written off this project as not doable.  The run to the front of the house was not quite as difficult but still involved Cindy crawling into an area I just would not manage well in.  The run to the front of the house was much longer, we wound up needing pretty much every inch of the 60-65 feet of camera cable they provide.

I was obviously tired already and could have left the actual camera install for the next day but my inner taskmaster demanded I finish up the work since we came this far.  I mounted both cameras and then hooked up the dvr inside in the hobby room.  Other than me stupidly having the cameras rotated upside down, they fired right up.  The 1080P picture of the front and back yard looked bright and crisp, giving me my fourth injection of accomplishment for the day.

I really appreciated Cindy climbing around in the scalding attic and told her the least I could do is take her out to dinner for it.  We headed back to Pelican Larry’s for the second time in three weeks and had a very nice dinner.  It was well deserved on both of our parts.

Sunday morning we decided to go for a run for the second weekend in a row.  If I ever want to get back to any level of decent running endurance I need to get out there at least once a week.  We did not get to enjoy the same cool temps as last week unfortunately, it felt quite warm most of the run.

We ran at the nearby track.  I had made a bit of a mental effort to try to maintain a stronger pace than we have been lately.  Most runs we have been just under a 10 minute mile pace which is pretty slow.  I was somewhat surprised when Cindy said her gps showed a 8:58 average pace for the 3.3 miles we covered.  It is the first time my pace has started with an 8 in 2016, that’s for sure.

When we got home we took quick showers and headed out to run errands in the old Tacoma.  As I said I wanted to verify my repairs from Saturday did indeed fix my remaining problems.  It also may be the very last time we do our familiar weekend errands in the old Tacoma since I am planning to list it for sale shortly.  The truck still fits me like a pair of old sneakers.

We got home around lunchtime.  After eating I needed to do my normal weekend bill paying session.  As I brought the monitors out of sleep mode my left screen started acting odd.  It would flash the desktop for a brief second a couple times and then go completely black.  WTF.  I did a normal array of monitor trouble shooting, checking cables, disconnecting/reconnecting power and restarting the system.  No matter what the problem remained, son of a bitch.

I bought this matching set of Samsung 27 inch monitors from Costco last year.  When I looked up the purchase in Quicken I saw it happened in February meaning the manufacturer 1 year warranty was done.  However I was excited that I could still get coverage under Costco since they automatically offer a second year of coverage on electronics, or so I thought.

So I called up the Costco Concierge hotline.  I explained the situation to the woman on the phone.  She verified it was out of manufacturer warranty and would only be covered under Costco coverage.  She started having me go through troubleshooting steps, basically the same stuff I did already but I played along if that was what necessary to get it replaced for free.  Eventually I grew tired of the dog and pony show.  Twice I told her I had been in the computer business for almost 25 years so I know how to identify a monitor problem.

Eventually she believed me but only then told me that the monitor was not covered under the Costco extension. Huh???  I told her I thought that Costco doubled the manufacturer warranty on all electronics?  She said it is only on select electronics like computers, tv’s and major appliances.  Well that is annoying. She said if I bought an extended warranty it would covered.  I told her I thought it was included in the Costco coverage so I didn’t bother.  Well If she would have simply told me that up front about the lack of coverage I could have not wasted 15 minutes doing the same troubleshooting I had already performed.  I hung up and had my first sense of disappointment in Costco services, even if it was caused by my lack of understanding..

I decided to bring in my old 27 inch monitor which of course is a mismatch of the one that died but it will have to do.  I did some research and found multiple examples of people having issues with this particular model of monitor, the S27360D.  Those issues made me wary of plunking down another $250 to get another one.  Instead I am trying another option with a high risk/reward formula.  I found someone selling a used version of this monitor with a cracked screen on Ebay for less than 50 bucks.  Even though I have no history of monitor repair, my hope is I can simply swap logic boards between them and come up with a functioning unit once again for the fraction of the cost of a new one.  I will either wind up a genius or a dummy depending how it works out.  Either way I will learn something at least.

I went outside and joined Cindy who was doing work in the garden.  I worked on swapping out the pond pump and the tubing that connects it to the spitting frog on the second level.  It was a well needed replacement as the old pump was barely spitting a trickle of water at this point.  By the time we got finished it was time to clean up to head to another Tarpons game.

For some odd reason they were playing the Jaguars, a team they already played at home this year, again.  Normally with scheduling a team plays each other once home and away.  With this level of arena football they don’t seem to adhere to normal scheduling rules.  Unfortunately the Jaguars, who sucked the first time we saw them sucked even worse this time around.  The final score was something ridiculous like 81-16.  Blowouts like that just are not very entertaining to watch.  Even with the blowout on the field and extremely sparse attendance in the stands Cindy and I find a way to enjoy the games.

It was a busy yet rewarding weekend.  Cindy made plans for us to have a fun weekend in July as we will be attending SuperCon in Miami, a super hero based convention.  Of course I love super heroes although I am not a hardcore geek about it.  It will be fun seeing people that are however.





top-sell-total-pack1[1]I mixed in a couple brief partial front lever static holds into my bicep and tricep routine today.  I was inspired to do so by a video I saw the other day with Marcus Bondi, a very famous Australian calisthenics guy.  He is incredibly strong and owns a Guiness world record for climbing rope with no leg assist.  The most amazing thing is the guy is 50 years old.

frontleverpullsAnyway he is in NYC for a few days and was giving a few tips in the video for certain moves, one of them being a front lever.

A front lever is when you hold your body parallel to the ground while holding onto a bar.  As you can imagine it is very, very difficult and puts tremendous strain on your shoulders and core.  I have done front lever raises like pictures to the right but I have never been able to hold the position.

Anyway, Marcus described how you should be trying to “bend the bar” when holding a lever, meaning when you grasp it you apply tension as if you were trying to bend it.  What this does is help you lock your shoulders, scalpula and arms in a more stable position.

So anyway I tried it today but with my legs only half extended.  Without the benefit of a video camera or mirror to check position it’s hard to tell how parallel my body was although it felt decent.  Even with bending the bar I only could hold the position for a few seconds before I started getting spots in my field of vision, a good clue to stop.  I’d like to get back to working both my front and back levers more often.  Doing so without tearing something is the tricky part.

tmpoknbxoI forgot to mention the embarrassment Flyers fans once again brought to the city of Philadelphia the other night while getting their asses kicked by the Capitals.  The night was a tribute to Ed Snider, a long time owner of the team who passed away recently.  As part of the tribute they handed out these light up bracelets to the fans.

The fans weren’t happy with the way the team was playing which is fine.  Noone expects Philly fans to tolerate shitty play or poor effort without hearing about it in the form of boos or heckling.  However some genius thought it would be extra cool to take his honorary bracelet and hurl it at a Capitals player in the penalty box, hitting him in the head.

In a few brief moments full blown lemming mentality kicked in and hundreds if not thousands of bracelets were thrown onto the ice despite the pleas from the announcer and players to knock it off.  It eventually lead to the Flyers fans earning a penalty themselves, not that it changed the outcome of the game at that point.

To be clear I have not followed the Flyers to any degree since the days Eric Lindros and John LeClair were on the team.  However I will always be a Philly sports fan and find myself disgusted by the behavior.  It’s disrespectful on so many levels.  It is a testament to how at their core, so many people are mindless followers, with a full blown “asshole” switch that can be flipped with very minimal effort.

1724328_1105743312772255_3519606005419244573_nSo this was definitely one of the most memorable New Year’s Eve celebrations I can remember for quite awhile.  When I got home from work I changed into the same suit I have owned for something like 25 years.  You would think a suit of this age would be in poor shape but since I wear a suit so infrequently it is still in pristine condition.

We arrived on site for the wedding at the Ritz, a place I never visited, about 15 minutes before the 7:30 wedding was scheduled to start.  My hatred of valet parking made me try to seek out a spot myself until a valet flagged me down and said it is valet only.  He addressed my dislike by letting us know there was no extra charge for valet for wedding guests.  I unparked myself and then had to wait in a lengthy line for a valet to be handed our keys.

Once we went inside I instantly admired the beautiful hotel interior, made even better by the lavish Christmas decorations.  We quickly saw a bunch of familiar faces since a large portion of the guests are local members of the running club.  After a short wait we were escorted out to beach where the ceremony was being held.  There was a beautiful lighted stage that the ceremony was going to take place on along with seating for 200-300 people.  I couldn’t even begin to imagine the costs involved in putting on such an event.

Despite a beautiful ceremony I managed to find myself feeling annoyed and angry.  The anger was from people a short distance down the beach that did not have the common sense or courtesy to stop firing off their fcking fireworks during the ceremony.  I mean really, how is it possible for people to be that inconsiderate?  I really felt like sprinting over there, suit and all and inserting a bottle rocket down their throat.  I mean wtf, is it really that much to ask them to wait 20 minutes until they fire off their shitty fireworks?

The much warmer than normal December weather made for some sweaty conditions during both the ceremony and the cocktail hour afterward, both of which were held outdoors.  Once alcohol was available I didn’t waste any time downing a couple beers in quick succession to help take the edge off my normal social anxiety.  Cindy drank early on but was our designated driver so she stopped early in the night.

We were then lead into the main reception hall which was exquisite.  There were a couple cool high tech spots.  One was a digital picture wall where wedding guests could draw their own wedding wishes and have them saved.  There also was a digital photo booth which had increasingly funnier pictures as more alcohol was consumed during the night.

I was drinking pretty steadily all night, mixing alcohol types, never a great idea.  I had Bud Light, white wine, champagne, and some of Cindy’s vodka and cranberry cocktails.  I was drunk for sure but not incapacitated.  Of course as is often the case when I drink, Cindy drug me onto the dance floor where I make a fool out of myself but care very little about it.

Before I knew it, midnight had arrived which Cindy and I rung in with the traditional kiss along with popping a number of the balloons that were dropped from above.  Normally after the ball drops NYE parties start to dissipate but when they are combined with wedding receptions that wasn’t the case.  We were probably there until close to 2AM.  Not only did Cindy get to drive me home we also dropped off another couple that were on the way home, they were both pretty hammered.

Like I said I was drunk but not smashed, but much like last year after the Oktoberfest, I had a very bad reaction once I got put in the passenger seat of the car.  It wasn’t Cindy’s driving but for whatever reason I seem to get acute car sickness once I drink a significant amount of alcohol anymore.  A couple times I had her stop the car so I could potentially “purge”, but I never did.  Instead I managed to get home intact by laying the seat back while Cindy drove with my window open.  The fresh air seemed to help subdue the nausea.

We didn’t actually fall asleep until something ridiculous like 4:30AM which is my latest bedtime in maybe forever.  The record setting late bedtime resulted in an equally record setting late wake up.  After letting the chickens out of the coop about 8AM I collapsed back in bed and did not rise again until 11:40AM.  I could not believe I slept half of the day away.  It was not a feeling I enjoyed and I immediately wondered how some “party people” do this sort of thing regularly and enjoy it.  I felt like death.  Even so, I was thankful for Jake and Colby allowing us to be part of their beautiful wedding ceremony.  It was certainly a night to remember.

Even though I was dehydrated and groggy I had to be somewhat productive on Friday.  I hated that I slept so late.  During the afternoon I drug myself outside and did some yard work.  Cindy and I headed out to run some errands as well.  One of the places we planned to stop was Costco.  We were surprised to see they were closed New Years Day.  No big deal, we figured we would just stop at Sam’s instead.  I was even more surprised to see it was closed as well, considering the Wal-mart right up the street was open.  Oh well.

On Saturday I still was feeling like crap.  I actually danced around like an idiot enough at the wedding that my knees hurt, ruling out any endurance training.  Instead I decided to knock another item off my winter project list, weed whacking the entire fence line.  Before I tackled this project I did the normal weed whacking which takes an hour alone.  By the time I tacked on the fence line I was out there a ridiculous 3 hours.  I had to refill the spool three times along the way, fence whacking chews up line like mad.  Since I do the fence line so infrequently it was very slow going in spots as I beat down thick and high growth of unwanted weeds.  Some areas took tons of back and forth passes as I knocked down the shit in stages.  It was miserable and did a good job of adding to the stiffness and inflammation I was already feeling in my lower body.

12401919_10154211146307841_5351400082809979777_oDuring the afternoon we decided to try Costco again.  It was open but it was also obliterated with people.  The store has a HUGE parking lot and there were actually people mongering for parking spaces.  I had NEVER seen the lot this full.  Despite knowing what I was in store for, a frustrating sea of humanity, we parked and headed inside.  It was so bad that there were hardly any shopping carts by the front of the store.  Cindy and I grabbed one of the last few available, once they were gone the flock of people descended on the parking lot cart attendant who was pushing another dozen in like hungry vultures.  It was awful.

Of course trying to push the cart through the store was miserable as well.  I actually did very little verbal complaining during the ordeal.  I knew damn well it was going to be a mess the second I pulled onto the lot.  If I decided to subject myself to the madness I had no real basis to complain.  The grand frustrating finale was trying to get checked out.  There was a river of people trying to do the same, so many that they back filled one of the main shopping aisles, further clogging the flow of traffic through the store.

As I stood in line I tried to create a theory as to why it was THIS horrible.  Most of the time I come to Costco it is a bad shopping experience but this set the bar to an entirely new level.  I decided what we were experiencing was the rush of snowbirds that flock back into the area as soon as the holidays over for their 3-4 month nesting season.  They are in dire need of large amounts of toilet paper, paper towels, and other bulk items and all choose Costco as THE source to fulfill those needs.  After maybe 20 minutes of waiting we finally got the fck out of there.  I will never shop at Costco on January 2nd again, bet on it.

When we got back home I decided to tackle installing one of the two WeMo smart light switches I received for Christmas.  Despite not being officially supported in a 3 way switch configuration like I have in the kitchen, I decided to put one there anyway.  The switch will function correctly as long as we don’t touch the second switch to control the light.  I was surprised when I discovered there is no way to just kill the circuit for the kitchen light without killing power to the entire house.  After shutting down my home network server I pulled the plug.

Installing the WeMo switch was not all that difficult.  After about 10-15 minutes I was ready to flip the power back on and test it out.  I was very pleased when I was able to turn the large overhead kitchen light with my iPhone and then a few minutes later with my voice using our Amazon Echo.   Later on Sunday I installed the second switch in our bedroom giving us voice control over a good portion of the lighting in our house.  The geek factor is high within our walls.

On Saturday night we both felt beat, still feeling side effects from the NYE gala.  We veg’d out and watched Ted 2 on demand.  It had enough dirty humor to keep the rating at a B+ level.

On Sunday we wanted to do a bike ride however the skies looked menacing, it was windy, and a bit chilly with temps in the mid 60’s.  I proposed an alternative ride to Cindy where I would ride my new mountain bike along with Cindy on her road bike over to the nearby bird rookery swamp.  I just wanted to see how it felt.  Pedaling a 40+ pound mountain bike with big fat tires and regular pedals requires a lot more effort to achieve 15-16 mph than it does on a road bike.  The last section of road before the swamp turns into a combo of asphalt and lime rock.  Cindy was hesitant to traverse it on her Cervelo but managed to do so without popping a tire.  Once Cindy gets her mountain bike we will ride back there and do some real off road riding.  The round trip to the swamp entrance is 6 miles so if you combine it with the roughly 12 miles you can ride inside the swamp you have a very tough potential 18 mile ride.

1924202_1107083649304888_5316351381476053443_nSunday afternoon we multitasked, preparing race bibs as we watched the Eagles win their last game of the year.  We plowed through 2000 bibs, a huge number for two people.  The Eagles offense played well, the defense did not but came up big at the end to secure the win.  I found it interesting that the first game without Chip Kelly resulted in the Eagles having a number of long scoring drives, the longest of the year.  The win cost the Eagles 7 spots in draft position so they may have actually been better off losing the game but with their recent history of draft performances I don’t know it matters much anyway.  It will be quite interesting to see who the Eagles entrust the coaching duties to in 2016.  Sean Payton or Bill Cowher would make me pee my pants in joy which is exactly why it will never happen.

The weather during the day turned wet and raw with the temps dropping into the 60’s.  When I went out to do afternoon chicken duties it was a wet and goosebump inciting experience.  Last night we mostly chilled out with me catching up on some virtual WoW to do’s.

12402183_1106567369356516_1006997152835127632_oOver the weekend Cindy got a chance to try out another out of the blue Xmas gift I bought her, a camping hammock.  We set it up between one of the palm and pine trees.  Cindy really liked just chilling in the nylon hammock for a little while.  I hope she takes more time to use it more regularly.





12390958_10154185574517841_3999155800199921096_nSaturday night was a rough one from a sleep perspective.  It was cold out so we had the in room air conditioner on heat mode.  It ran until the room got up to 75 degrees, providing the white noise I usually need to sleep.  Unfortunately once it hit that temp it’s thermostat would shut it down, removing the white noise.  Once the temp would drop a couple degrees it would cycle back on.  This all night cycle meant I never truly felt like I fell asleep all night long.

In addition to the AC unit I heard a ton of street noise.  Our room at the hotel is only on the 3rd floor, making it susceptible to hearing pretty much everything going on down there.  Cindy also still was having issues with her coughing from illness.  I got up at 7 AM feeling absolutely exhausted.  I had no time to be tired since it was IronLoo day.

We got up and ate breakfast at a place called the Oxford Cafe which was right next to our hotel which was convenient.  They had a great selection of food however I stuck with something simple, ordering oatmeal, not wanting anything that would get in the way of what I knew was going to be a very tough day physically.  For most of our breakfast Cindy and I were the only ones in the cafe which felt odd.

When we got back to the room I tried to map out our plan.  We needed to catch a 10:22 train out of Penn Station which looked to easily be walking distance from our hotel.  I had some instructions from Lou as far as which train to get on.  As we walked I mentioned how it was dumb of me to not have brought a knit beanie for head warmth.  We just happened to be approaching Macy’s so we went inside to try to quickly find one.

1150910_10154183831332841_4294236765899541769_nCindy was immediately impressed with the size and grandeur of the store, a throwback to when store shopping was actually a thing.  It was very busy with the holiday decorations looking amazing.  It took some trial and error but eventually we found knit hats on the 4th floor.  I was excited that we got to ride a few sets of the ancient wood escalators that I had told Cindy about in the past.  They are so awesome.  Cindy also found it very interesting that as we were exiting we arrived at floor 1 1/2, the only store I know of that has such a thing.

We found our way out of the store and continued our way towards Penn Station.  We saw a small sidewalk entrance that was labeled as Penn Station so we figured we could get to the train there.  A transit worker informed us that the trains were a block away at the actual station that was inside of Madison Square Garden.

When we got there it was an instant beehive of activity, the station was packed.  We saw a lot of people with Giants jerseys on, presumably heading to the game later in the day.  Cindy and I were very confused as to where exactly to go.  Thanks to some direction from a cop we discovered we needed the LIRR and not Amtrak in order to reach the Oyster Bay line.  We headed downstairs and managed to buy two tickets via the self service kiosk.  We had around 15 minutes to kill so we grabbed ourselves our first NYC DD coffee of the trip, it was much needed.  I didn’t like the feeling of being so clueless in regards to how to get where I wanted to go.  It was frustrating.

So we found the track for our train and found a seat on the nearly empty car.  We had more confusion in regards to if/where we needed to transfer to get to our end destination.  The ticket taker woman told us we needed to get off at the Jamaica station to catch the Oyster Bay line.  The ride out of the city was cool.  It was interesting seeing the landscape transform from skyscrapers to neighborhoods.

Once we got off at Jamaica we only had a short wait until our next train showed up.  It was a bigger train with two levels.  I told Cindy we should head up top where better views were to be had.  The ride to the Seacliff depot was very scenic and calm, the calm before the storm.  When we got off the train we saw a huge white van which we knew was Lou’s work vehicle.  The time had come.

I have known Lou for years but only from a distance.  We met via our shared interest in calisthenics and my involvement with the Bar-barians.  We never had spoken but we have chatted extensively over the years about both things exercise and life related.  As we descended the stairs Lou pulled the van up and got out.  Of course Cindy ran up and gave him a big hug which I did as well.  It was so nice to see Lou in person.

8785_1098767783469808_3762590976053323963_nDespite our lack of face to face contact we interacted like we just talked the other day.  Lou is very outgoing and funny.  When teamed up with Cindy and her talkative personality I could just do a lot of listening and laughing which was fine by me.  In the back of Lou’s van were a huge collection of strongman gear including weight plates, farmer carry handles, and a log press.  Every time we would hit a bump they would clang loudly.

Lou drive through a Starbucks to grab us some coffee.  He normally works a night shift and drinks coffee like others drink water.  His ON switch is permanently welded in place.  We then unexpectedly got to meet Lou’s grandfather.  We were picking up an atlas stone Lou had made that was sitting in the backyard.  In the yard were a number of broken tools.  Lou said he broke most of them, he just has a way of doing that.

Lou’s grandfather was actually born in Italy.  When he came out he was giving Lou shit for breaking stuff, especially his garage door.  It was funny how he could switch between yelling and laughing so quickly.  He was very funny, I could see where Lou gets it from.  So the plan was to get the 365 pound atlas stone into the back of the van meaning we had to get it out of the backyard that has a downhill slope to it.  Lou brought out a very old looking handtruck of his grandfathers to use but was worried about breaking it as well.

We used the cart for the first and last part of the transport but I told Lou I would roll the stone up the steep, wet part of the climb.  Sure it was a nearly 400 pound stone ball but I figured rolling it up the short hill shouldn’t be bad.  Well I was wrong.  I barely managed to get the stone to the flat patio above.  It’s weight combined with the wet grass made it very difficult.

When we got to the van we were debating how to get the stone in the back.  At first Lou thought about using the hand truck to pull it in but again fear of breaking it killed that idea.  Lou then decided he would lift it up himself.  That seemed like a really bad idea to me.  He grabbed an old sleeve from a piece of clothing to use as a strap and proceeded to hoist the stone cleanly into the van, resting it inside the wheel of the spare tire.  I couldn’t believe he could lift it.

We all piled back in the van, we had more supplies to grab for the workout.  First we stopped at GNC where Lou grabbed pre-workout drinks which are kind of like supercharged coffee, supposedly to give you more energy.  We then went to a Rite Aid where Lou bought some of that rubberized medical tape normally used to keep large bandaged areas in place.  He uses the tape as arm wraps for lifting atlas stones.  Before we got to Stone Park Lou gave us a quick tour of the some of the areas I had only seen in the past via his numerous exercise videos.  It was cool seeing first hand where all of this stuff went down over the years.

So finally we had made it to the park.  I had seen this park dozens of time on video but being there in person was surreal.  There is the parking lot he has walked bare foot across, there are the monkey bars he has lifted stones over, there is the pull up bar I saw him muscle up over, it was so cool.

12376253_1098829596796960_7457769788269803897_nWell there was now work to be done to get all of the equipment set up.  Not only did we have to unload the van we had to retrieve items from the park itself.  Lou keeps monster tires and atlas stones there full time.  The tires are kept back in the brush, chained together for safekeeping.  The stones are in a big hole Lou and his friends dug by hand.  It almost looked like a huge dinosaur laid round stone eggs in there.  By the time all of the stuff was set up/rolled out I was already breathing heavy.

Just as we were getting the last stones out a car pulled up.  It was Ray (the inventor of Ray’s Way), another calisthenic friend I met in the same way I knew Lou.  He had come with his girlfriend which was very cool.  He had been to Stonepark once before over a year ago.  It was so great having both Lou and Ray there.  A little later another friend of Lou’s showed up, Patrick.  Patrick actually owns a gym and has been working out with Lou for a little while.  He brought with him a special deadlift bar along with more weights.

So finally the fun could begin.  Lou has a total of 5 atlas stones there of varying weight ranging from 185 pounds to the massive 365 pounder we brought with us.  We alternated between the stones and deadlifting at first.  I have deadlifted before at the gym for awhile.  I was surprised that Lou said my form looked decent as it never has felt great.  I worked all the way up to 375 on the dead lifts with Lou which was the most I have gotten in the last year.  Ray and I were very close strength wise.  Despite not looking it, he only weighed 5 pounds less than me.  Of course everyone there was at least 20 years younger than me.

The atlas stone lifting was much, much harder than I expected.  I figured with my extremely long arms lifting these should not be horrible.  I was able to get the 185 pound stone onto my lap and up without huge difficulty.  I next tried the 205 pound stone that despite being only 20 pounds heavier had a much larger diameter.  This combination made it feel tremendously more difficult.  I barely got it on my lap and when I tried to stand with it I felt a tremendous strain across my abs as I tried to extend upwards.  It felt “you just gave yourself a hernia” bad.  I was officially worried about really hurting myself but I had to continue on.

I had never done real farmer carries before where you have two independent handles loaded down with massive weight that you walk forward with, as fast and as far as you can go.  With my high center of gravity it felt odd trying to balance and move at the same time.  Lou started us off “light” with only 140 pounds of weight in each hand.  Each time we successfully handled a weight that meant it was time to add more.

At my top end Lou threw 230 pounds on each handle which before yesterday I would have told you I had absolutely no shot getting off the ground.   Hell just last week I failed getting 400 pounds off the ground at the gym with a hex bar.  With Lou screaming at me to pump me up I  somehow managed to get 460 pounds up in the air and walk 20-25 feet with it.  It was nuts.

Lou had two monster tires on the lot, a 600 pounder and an 800 pounder.  Early on in the workout I tried getting the 600 flipped a couple times and failed miserably. Later in the workout Ray tried it and failed but then after some form tips from Lou actually got the thing flipped up and over.  Well that convinced me I needed to try again.

I spread out my arms to widen my grip.  I moved my feet further away from the tire, allowing me to get my shoulders lower, pressed against the rubber.  I then just pushed with all I had.  The 600 pound tire moved slowly but it continued to rise upward until it was upright.  I shoved it back down on it’s side triumphantly.  I did it once again a few minutes later to prove it wasn’t a fluke.

At one point Cindy tried to budge the 185 pound stone which I knew wasn’t a great idea.  She couldn’t quite get it off the ground but got close.  Of course her back was feeling all out of whack afterward.  She spent most of the afternoon watching/filming the action.  I felt badly as the day went on because I could tell she was very cold.  She didn’t realize just how long Lou’s workouts go.

Ray and my last major achievement of the day was with the 70 pound log press bar.  After some failures at a higher weight we both managed to get the awkward bar overhead with 35 pound plates on each side.  It was a tough movement.

For most of the afternoon we just cycled between the various lifts. Of course Lou and Patricks lifts were far more impressive.  They both walked around with 600 pounds on the farmer carry with relative ease and Lou lifted the 350 pound atlas stone repeatedly.  I was honestly surprised I was able to keep going that long, especially after the pain I felt with the 205 pound atlas stone early on.  We wrapped things up as darkness was setting in.  Putting all the stuff away was a good workout on it’s on.

We bid farewell to Patrick, Ray and his fiance Natalie.  I really appreciated them making the effort to come out and share the Stonepark experience with us.  Cindy and I got in the van and enjoyed the heat pouring out of the vents.  Even with all the exercise my extremities were feeling quite cold.

Lou was our ride back to the city but we first want to relax and eat.  Lou stopped at his place to change while I changed out of dirt covered sweats and into some spare clothes.  We found a nearby pizza place and had a great time chowing down while enjoying a couple beers.  Lou has had some very interesting life experiences and shared some more of them with us at dinner.

Finally it was time for the drive back to Manhattan.  Despite it being Sunday night the traffic was substantial.  Lou delivers stuff for a living in his extended van.  I just could not stand dealing with that sort of traffic day in and day out.  It was nuts.

Lou got us back to our hotel in one piece and swung to the side of 5th avenue to drop us off, bringing a chorus of horns from annoyed drivers.  Lou answered back with his own prolonged horn symphony.  We both hugged him again, thanking him for a great day.  We told him we hoped to see him in Florida someday.  It was quite a day.

I could already feel the repercussions from the workout settling into my muscles and joints.  After a lengthy shower I collapsed into bed and flipped on the Eagles game.  Thankfully I didn’t even stay awake until halftime, I was so exhausted.  It looks like I avoided watching them get blown out by the Cardinals, reaffirming my feeling the last two wins were an anomaly and not a trend.

I slept better last night and we are now ready to limp around NYC in full tourist mode.  It should be a great day.

12311217_10205373714205540_1105731347269322995_nSo for the huge Thanksgiving race I left my normal job early two days to be able to help at the running store that was hosting early packet pick up.  This week the race was large with over 1000 runners but I didn’t anticipate being involved in packet pick up since it was not a chip timed event.  Well I got reports during the day from the store owner that he was being overrun with people and he had  no volunteers assigned to help out in the task.  Evidently this need was never considered for some unexplainable reason.  Anyway I again made arrangements to leave work early to go help for a couple hours.  I felt bad for Carl, he actually was having to ignore actual customers to address the huge lines of people waiting to get their race stuff.  This theme of poor planning resounded consistently throughout the entire event.

Our race morning responsibilities were reduced from their normal level since the event was not chip timed.  Somehow the morning still had a high level of stress again from a lack of planning.  When we showed up on site we looked around at each other wondering where we were supposed to set up, another detail that should be well established and known well in advance.  Once the location was established I asked where the closest power connection was located, another detail that is supposed to be scouted ahead of time.  The school liaison said she wasn’t aware we needed power for registration.  Luckily our equipment manager had brought our portable generators.  I fired one of those up to provide power for the registration laptops.

I left Cindy alone to handle data entry while I went with the equipment manager and a couple others to set up the finish line.  Since this was a first year race the course was new.  It was designated as finishing on the track inside the football stadium.  Apparently whomever laid out the course did not measure it accurately, the advertised 5K race (3.12 miles) was actually more like 3 miles in reality.

While we were unloading the finish line equipment a school security guard/track police came rolling up in his golf cart.  He was extremely irate and started chastising the equipment manager and anyone else in the area for daring to drive the truck on the track.  He said it was STRICTLY forbidden and the truck had to be removed immediately.  The equipment was off the truck at that point so the equipment manager took the truck out of the track area.  The track look unaffected by the truck’s presence.

12308647_1008692645854162_7139926855163433126_nEven after the truck was off the forbidden zone the track police followed our equipment manager after he parked the truck and continued to scold him for driving on the track.  Bill finally had enough and told the guy there was nothing he could do about it now and he should just shut the f up abut it.  The track cop was not very happy with the response.  I’m glad it didn’t escalate into a “Don’t taze me bro!” situation.  The incident somehow seemed appropriate going along with the very messy planning for the event.

So even though the event was not chip timed it was supposed to have very basic awards.  They were supposed to recognize the overall first place winner for adult male and female as well as the top boy and girl in elementary, middle, and high school.  The way the kids were supposed to be identified was by looking at the bib of kids as they crossed.  The bib was supposed to have an A, H, M, or E on them to identify the classification of the finisher.  In theory this plan should have worked but it was again missing a key component, volunteers to execute it.

There was nobody actually tasked with collection this information so last second I threw Cindy out there to try to collect what she could.  We got some of what we needed but not all of it.  We were lucky that the event organizer from the school district has a very can do, go with the flow personality.  She ad-libbed the awards in such a way that did not put a spotlight that all of the advertised awards were not being presented.  The race was a very frustrating reminder of why I no longer enjoy being part of this process.

Not long after getting home I was outside working in the yard working on getting weeding and some other basic stuff done.  After eating lunch Cindy and I headed out for a Rural King/Home Depot trip.  Shortly after leaving home we were on Immokalee Road.  I spotted an object moving across the road , close to the bike lane on the right.  I swung left and saw the turtle creeping along, I was amazed it got that far.

I immediately identified the turtle was in danger.  Cindy said she thought the turtle would be fine, I told her there was no way it could get over the curb it was approaching.  I made a command decision and cut over to the left turning lane that was maybe a 100 yards down the road and threw the Prius in park.  I crossed back across the road and started running towards the turtle in my flip flops.  My pace accelerated as I saw what I feared was coming true, the turtle got to the curb and turned around, now heading back out into the lanes of traffic.

As I ran I started pointing to the right and yelling at oncoming traffic to get over, hoping to get the attention of the drivers, even the ones that stupidly had their face in their smartphone.  As I closed the distance there were a couple close calls where the car did not get over until the last second.  I imagined how terrible and furious I would feel if some idiot would hit the animal just as I was moments away from saving it.  As I got there, there was a small break in traffic allowing me to scoop up the soft shell turtle and put him on the bank of the canal he was trying to reach.  I felt fortunate to have reached the turtle before an idiots tire reached it instead.

We grabbed our stuff from the two stores and returned home.  At Home Depot we grabbed some mulch to replenish the areas that the chickens keep emptying.  They find scratching in mulch, even the fake rubber variety to be a lot of fun for whatever reason.  If you are the type of person that places a lot of value on perfectly maintained mulched areas do not adopt free range chickens. Saturday night we were quite tired from the race alarm clock.  We decided to just stay home and catch up on DVR content which was fine with me.

Sunday morning we headed out to do a run.  We only ran a little over 3 miles but doing it at a 9:20 pace was enough to make me work at a level higher than I should have to.  My running endurance just sucks anymore.  The only positive I can say about it is my regular IT band stretching seems to at least have made the day after soreness and pain on my right side much less severe than it was.

Since the Eagles didn’t play the Patriots until 4:30 I had some time to get stuff done.  I hopped on the tractor and mowed the property which was looking pretty shaggy from the unusually high amounts of November rain.  While I did this Cindy took it upon herself to wash all three of the vehicles.  The skies were overcast which made for some very comfortable temps for mowing, I actually didn’t sweat.

So I sort of assumed that once again my Sunday Ticket would be wasted this week.  I was pretty sure the local Fox affiliate would be broadcasting the game which would mean it would be blacked out on satellite.  I was surprised when I saw FOx was actually showing the Panthers/Saints game.  Ok, well I guess I will flip over to the Sunday Ticket.

So I fire up the satellite receiver and find the Eagles game in the guide.  When I select it I get a message that the game is blacked out locally, WTF? Surely it has to be a mistake so I call up DirecTV.   I explain to “Omar” that the game is being mistakenly blacked out  on my receiver since it is not being broadcast locally. ( I checked cable and OTA antenna)  He said he did see the game being marked as blacked out but did not know why.  He also claimed there was absolutely nothing he could do about it as this is controlled by the NFL.

Read-A-Book-NEW[1]I found this statement illogical.  I told him I receive my feed from Directv.  If Directv agrees a game is being blacked out incorrectly, why can they not remedy the situation?  Omar had no resolution available except to apologize repeatedly.  I found this situation extremely annoying since I have already had 5 or 6 Eagles games this year that I have not used the Sunday Ticket for since they were broadcast elsewhere, significantly lowering the bang for the buck the 250 bucks I fork out for the service delivers.  I told him I would expect Directv to compensate me in some way for not providing content I pay for and should be entitled to.  He said he would transfer me to a “customer loyalty representative” who would arrange for appropriate compensation.

I am transferred to another rep named “Eva”.  I explain the situation for a second time to Eva.  Unlike Omar, she says she doesn’t see the game as being listed as blacked out.  However I asked her if she showed the Panthers/Saints being being blacked out (it was as well) in my area.  She said no so I think she just was not looking at relevant or correct information.  She again apologized and said she would speak to her supervisor to see what compensation they could offer me.  While I was on hold I figured a $20-$25 credit would be reasonable.

When Eva returned she said her supervisor authorized her to offer me a $5 credit.  I laughed out loud and asked her if she was serious.  I then asked how they arrived at that tiny number.  She said her supervisor said there are a total of 512 games available on the service over the course of the season so through some fuzzy math that equated to 5 dollars for not being able to see one game.  I explained to her I don’t watch 500 games, at most his year I will be able to see 10 games of the Eagles.  For that privilege I am paying roughly 250 bucks, hence my $25 idea.  When I expressed my dissatisfaction with 5 bucks she placed me on hold and came back a few minutes later saying the most the supervisor would authorize was $10.  All of a sudden I felt like I was in a car negotiation except Directv was haggling me over much smaller amounts of money.  When I threw out my 25 dollar figure Eva challenged my math, wanting to divide my 250 bucks by 16 instead of 10, regardless of how many Eagles games I get to actually see on the service.  She said it works out to more like $15 a game.

I found myself flabbergasted that I was actually getting haggled over $10-15 in a situation where Directv is clearly in the wrong and not providing service that I paid for.  I said to Eva, “so just to be clear, you are telling me that Directv is that concerned with $10-$15 that it is willing to haggle a 15 year customer of theirs over it?”  Eva was silent for a few moments and then started to just repeat the same crap.  I cut her off and told her to just forget the $10, instead letting her know this interaction will be communicated to Directv support and will be considered when it comes time to renew the service. Without waiting for any further response I said goodbye and hung up.  Idiots.

To be honest I expected the Eagles to get smashed anyway so being forced to just listening to the game wasn’t a huge penalty, or so I thought.  It turns out that thanks to Directv I did not get to see the most exciting game of the season.  It seemed to be a very odd game where the majority of the 35 points the Eagles put on the board were scored by members of the team not playing offense.  The Eagles scored every non-conventional way you can imagine, a blocked punt, interception return, and a punt return were the way 21 of the 35 points got on the board.

The Eagles were up 35-14 with the time running out.  The Eagles almost managed to completely collapse allowing two quick Patriot touchdowns which included a successful onside kick in between.  Then after an apparent near game clinching defensive stop Sam Bradford gave the Patriots one last shot with an inexcusable fumble.  The Eagles barely escaped with their lives as the Patriots ran out of gas driving for a game tying touchdown as time expired.  I am pretty sure this will be looked back on as the highlight of the 2016 Eagles season and I didn’t get to see any of it thanks to Directv, thanks guys.

These next two weeks are going to be quite busy with normal work, timer work, holiday prep, and the the NYC trip all occurring simultaneously.  I will try to pick off action items as efficiently as possible as procrastination is something I just don’t do.