Sunday, October 02, 2011


"Kindly let me help you or you will drown," said the monkey, putting the fish safely up a tree. (Alan Watts)

What is the right thing for one person is not necessarily the right thing for another.  No special reason for posting this thought other than I heard it today from a friend and I've been doing a great deal of listening and reading of Alan Watts material.  If you want to think about something other than the day to day grind of things I highly recommend you try listening to or reading Alan Watts.  The material is centered around Buddhist and Taoist philosophy.

 I've been using Google+ for a few months now and I really like it.  It does bring up some interesting quandaries about identity and anonymity.  I certainly think a lot more about what I write and where I write it. 

Back in June I said I went on a secret mission.  It wasn't really secret, I just wasn't sure what to say about it at that point.  The gist of it was that I went to California to go on an interview.  I am pretty happy with my current job, but sometimes an opportunity comes up that you just have to follow through on.  This was one of those.  I love California, especially around Monterey and San Francisco.  The company flew me out and paid for my expenses.  I spent the weekend there and had the interview on Monday, the day after Father's day. 

On Father's Day I went to the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA, which was amazing.  I drove up and crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, then went on a hike up the hill on the other side to get some great shots of the bridge and San Francisco.  I was invited by a long time blog friend to spend Father's day afternoon with their new family and extended family.  It was a great time.  I got to meet and talk with a lot of amazing people that have done amazing things with their lives.  They have the coolest fire pit I've ever seen, and there are red wood trees growing in their back yard!  It was the best Father's Day I could have had having to be away from home.  Computers, hiking, and wonderful people.  I really wish SGG could have come out with me, it would have been just perfect then.

Alas, I did not get offered the job.  They were definitely looking for someone with a computer software development background, and that isn't what I do at all.  :-)

So all the boys are back , no more earthquakes or hurricanes (I hope).  My son Brandon is now in 9th grade, his first year of high school.  He seems like he is really liking it so far.  Michael, the middle one, is in 7th grade and is now about 6'1" tall....he will be 13 years old this month.  John, the youngest, is in 6th grade and is in his first year of middle school.  Two of the boys are playing baseball, and the other is writing computer code.  There is always something happening, and SGG has a giant calendar up on the wall to keep track of it all.

The dog has now gotten two squirrels.  The first was a baby that was already dead and had been washed out by the hurricane.  The second he got today, but we sort of saved it before he killed it.  No telling if the squirrel will make it, but it did manage to get back up the tree.

We did manage to paint the shed over the summer, and we have a new driveway being put in this week...we think, and the garage door will be replaced soon.  I've had to take the current door apart once to get it back into working shape until the new door gets here.  I get to do a lot of little projects around the house, like fixing doors, painting, and keeping the lawn mower running.  I had to replace the carburetor on the mower this weekend...I'm pretty sure there is a piece of dirt stuck in the fuel line inside the thing, but I couldn't get it out.

We had our first day of cooler weather today too.  I am very glad it is finally here.  It snowed in WV yesterday....and that means snowboarding season is not far away!  :-)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Dogs, Earthquakes, and Hurricanes.....

So, so much to catch up is pretty crazy and when it isn't SGG and I collapse.

Did I say crazy?  Because in the insanity we got a dog.  His name is Blaze (Blaze-O, Blazer) and he is part Border Collie and part Black Lab.  He is a year old and we got him from the SPCA.  SGG said he looked adorable, I said he looked mischievous, I was right.

The dog is a very smart, energetic and lovable dog.  The dog is very energetic.  Did I mention he was energetic?  The dog also doesn't come when called.  That means that when he gets out we have a neighborhood meeting and everyone has to get involved.  There is a lot of running and eventually the dog gets tired of the game.  He'll stop when he wants to check out someone else's dog.  I've even met people with other "problem" dogs.  They taught me to accept the fact that one day I will be picking up the pup at the pound.

I finally found all the holes in the fence too.  I finally had to tie 100' of rope to the dog and let him show me his final escape route.  And he did.

Dog and Cat can almost cohabitate in the same room without the cat puffing out and hissing herself to death.

The dog is from Narnia by the way.  When he doesn't know I'm looking, he gets up on his hind legs by the bushes and tries to walk along them to see the birds in them.  

So Tuesday afternoon (8/23/11) I was in the middle of a conversation in the hallway at work when I had to stop ask "Are we moving?  Is this an earthquake?"  Sure enough.  It was the first one I can remember feeling.  The epicenter was about 150 or so miles away in Mineral, VA.  Magnitude was 5.8.

Then we hear that Hurricane Irene is coming.  So we packed up kids and dog and headed to see my friend in Blacksburg, VA...which is where we are now.  We plan on doing some hiking and probably heading back Sunday depending on damage assessments/power/etc.  As of the time of this writing, the storm has been downgraded to a Category I and is supposed to pass by off shore with only tropical storm winds and rain where we live.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Kids are gone so what are the parents doing???

The younger two children just got on a plane to see their father for a couple of weeks.  The oldest left over a week ago to see his mom for the summer.

I went on a secret mission to California, more on that later.

So what are the parents doing?  We went to dinner at a Mexican restaurant, sat outside, and had a margarita.  When we came back home, we retired to room.  We started talking a little bit about music, and had a very brief discussion about the song "Sugar Sugar".  Since most of my Beatles knowledge comes from a song in the early 80's called "Beatles' Medley" from Stars on 45, I was insistent that "Sugar Sugar" was a Beatles's song, SGG said it was not and was actually sung by the comic book group "The Archies" .  "Beatles' Medley" opens with "Sugar Sugar".  I was wrong.  My wife has extensive knowledge of the Beatles, and just about all music from the 60's and 70's.  She is ABSOLUTELY never wrong about any music questions from that era.  It would appear that I am ALWAYS incorrect though.  You would be amazed at the amount I think I know but don't about that era.  She laughs at me all the time about it, and it really cracks me up too.  However, we spent an hour on YouTube and Amazon mp3 playing and singing songs from the 60's, 70's, and 80's and had a blast doing so.

Now, when it comes to 80's music, I usually have the upper hand.  My loss I suppose for not having older siblings to show me the ropes.  :-)

I hope your summer is off to as great a start as ours is.

The weather is warm with just enough rain.  Softball is almost over for me and volleyball is just beginning.  We expect to listen to a lot of music this year and get out more.  NO MOVING HOUSEHOLD GOODS....mostly....maybe...

Friday, May 06, 2011

12 Week Body Transformation Challenge.....

I was trying to get some other posts in before this, but I just haven't made the time and this is here it goes.

When I joined the Anytime Fitness Gym just down the street back in January, they hit me up to participate in a 12 Week Body Transformation Challenge.  At the end we have to submit an essay.  The end is tomorrow, Saturday May 7, 2011.  So here is my essay....

Total Body Transformation Challenge Essay

I have struggled with weight gain and loss for the past 15 years.  My self image is one of fitness and my preferred activities in hiking, surfing, snowboarding, volleyball, soccer, softball, and much more outwardly shows this inward view.  However, my combination of poor food choices and inconsistent exercise tend to keep me in a constant state of fat gain and poor physical condition.  As I have aged it has become more difficult to pursue the activities that I really enjoy, and I am much more aware that visceral fat around my internal organs can have a significant impact on my health and my lifestyle.  It is also very unappealing visually and makes me very self conscious about my appearance in public.

I have participated in various exercise and fitness programs in the past with varying degrees of commitment.  Anytime Fitness seemed to me the ideal place to start yet another round with Body For Life.  The Body for Life program is a great combination of weight training, cardiovascular exercise, and diet, but I never seem to be able to commit to it long term.  When I started my exercising at Anytime Fitness, the USA Elite Trainers approached me about participating in the Total Body Transformation Challenge.  I was reluctant because I felt like I knew a lot about exercising, was highly self-motivated, and couldn't really see where it would help me or was different from what I was already doing.  I declined the invitation, but I kept thinking about it.  A few things made me reconsider though.  First, I had never worked with a trainer of any type before aside from my Body For Life book and logs.  Second, I had never worked on a physical fitness goal as a team or in competition before.  When I put some serious thought into this I realized that I was pushing aside something that could be a very valuable experience, and I couldn't have been more right about that.

First I want to tell you about how the trainers and the program helped me.  Right from the beginning I was surprised at how much information they were collecting about my current body fat content and shape.  I was not ready for that, and I seriously was not interested in knowing those things.  Who wants to be shown infallible evidence of past failures?  When we got our booklets and started reviewing the nutrition/diet guides, I was really surprised at how little I had ever paid attention to calories, fat, protein, sodium, and carbohydrates.  Other programs hide this information or concentrate strictly on protein or carbohydrates.  I am a person that likes math and seeing the differences in Basic Metabolic Rates and how all of the nutrition information relates to that was a very enlightening moment.  While I was familiar with the 5-6 meals a day plans and other parts of the guide, I just hadn't ever had it laid out and explained with all the relationships like this before.  Immediately I was glad I had joined the program.  I have been very impressed with how much the trainers really got involved with us too.  It hasn't always been easy to like them when they are pushing us past our comfort zones during our weekly workout sessions, but I wouldn't have accomplished so much without their expert knowledge and constant encouragement.  I think it is important to note that even though you may know a lot about fitness, having an expert trainer that can observe and guide you can help you achieve so much more than you can by yourself.  As humans, we just are not all that good at self assessment, even though most of us are convinced we are.

Secondly, I want to tell you about my co-challengers and how the team/competition aspect has helped me achieve my goals.  I am a competitor, and if we are truthful with ourselves, most of us are.  From the moment I began the competition I felt a heightened sense of urgency with my workouts and their intensity.  Going to the gym everyday was already something I did, but I pushed every workout a little harder knowing that there were others that were doing the same.  As we started our weekly workouts and I started seeing my co-challengers at the gym, I began to get a lot of encouragement by their presence and our conversations.  I could see them putting forth tremendous effort everyday and it helped me to keep up that level of intensity in my own workouts.  During the challenge, I pulled a calf muscle, locked up my lower back, experienced some extreme fatigue and stress, and at times just felt too tired to make it to the gym.  Any one of these items would have derailed my program by a couple of weeks or months in the past.  Knowing that my co-challengers were going to be at the gym really helped me find the energy and the motivation to keep going back and doing everything I possibly could.  Talking about the diet and problems sticking to the numbers with my teammates also helped me to understand that this wasn't easy for anyone, and if they could stick with it so could I.  It has been fantastic to see the physical and emotional changes in each of the participants.  I can see that everyone that has made it this far has accomplished a tremendous amount and it shows outwardly and inwardly.  I love coming to the gym knowing that some of them will be there, working hard, and enjoying the results.  Rather than a competition, it feels much more like a team effort.

In conclusion, the Total Body Transformation Challenge has been a life altering experience for me.  I believe that I am in about the best physical shape I have ever been in.  I believe that what I have learned about nutrition I will continue to apply throughout the rest of my life, and hopefully it will continue to have a positive impact.  I hope I can impart these lessons and knowledge to my children so that they do not have to go through all that I have been through.  I now have to turn and look forward to some new goals and challenges because accomplishing something I did not think was possible at this point in my life has shown me that there is so much more that I can accomplish with the help, support, and encouragement from my family, my trainers, and my teammates.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Just something to think about....

I want to do a little exercise, a sort of mental visualization, for something I have been thinking of lately. Some may recognize certain world views or religions caught up in it, but for now it is simply just a way of looking at the world around us and not tied to any type of metaphysical, philosophical, or religious view point. It is just me making some observations about the macro and micro universes, talking about molecules and planets, and some general physical traits of the Universe itself. A little crazy and fantastical but I think it is worth it and you are welcome to read on if you wish have something kind of cool to think about.

There was a moment when the Universe came into being. I'm not going to expound on how or anything, it doesn't really matter. All that really matters is right now, for instance, and that there is in fact a Universe. We know through science at school that the Universe obeys certain laws and that the bigger things in the Universe are made up of smaller things. If we start at the galactic level, we know that the galaxy is made of stars, planets, dust, and other forms of large quantities of matter. Some of these things are found in loose systems called solar systems, some are not. As we narrow down to our experience we know that Solar Systems are comprised of planets, moons, asteroids, dust, comets, etc and generally are gravitationally tied to a central star or stars. Planets are large accumulations of matter in the form of molecules, atoms, protons, neutrons, electrons, and so forth. Right now, we believe that the smallest particle, the one that makes up the rest of them, is the theoretical Higgs-Boson that the Large Hadron Collider is trying to find. There are different levels of energy of these various forms of matter, and based on the energy level (temperature/vibration if you will), this matter exists in what we call states of matter. Solid, Liquid, Gas, Plasma, and a very cold condensate form very close to absolute zero.

One of the laws that we learn is that matter can neither be created nor destroyed. It can change form, state, etc, but it cannot be and then not be. We can change a lot about something, but we cannot really destroy it. Those atoms and sub-atomic particles will always be here.

Another theory about matter is the interconnectedness of it all. What makes up gravity? Why is matter gravitationally attracted to other matter? One theory is that all matter is connected through strings. As particles come together to form elements or atoms, as atoms form molecules, as molecules form larger structures, they are somehow all connected to all other matter in the Universe, and this has always been this way. If they are all connected through strings, then think for a moment about how all of these particles come together and form a human or any other form of life (or even inanimate objects), and how the weaving of those strings together might look.

If that is the case, then the atoms that make up the molecules, that make up the cells, that make up the tissues, that make up the organs, that make up our bodies are also all connected in some way. Now, also think about the fact that these sub-components that make up a human body have been around since the beginning. When the system that supports life breaks down, then those atoms and molecules get reabsorbed into the environment. The strings that were woven together become undone and get woven into other structures in various forms.

As we go from the macro view of the whole Universe, all the way down to the Higgs-Boson particle, we see that at some levels everything looks organized and controlled. At other levels, everything looks chaotic. These strings vibrate throughout the Universe. We know that vibrations and harmonies can be beautiful and fantastic. We also know that sometimes a certain frequency hits a harmonic interval, that can cause things to become chaotic and unraveled.

Just something to think about. I'll write more later about why I am doing this and what led me to lead you on this exercise.

Monday, January 31, 2011

It's all about the kids....

Trying to get caught up a little bit.  This post is really about our winter months and what things look like with the I'm going back in time    to      January          2011............

It isn't really all about the kids, but at times it feels like it.

All three boys were playing winter sports this year.  Two different basketball leagues, and one middle school wrestling.  Also, my son is going to school out of district so SGG has an almost 60 minute commute in the morning to get Brandon to school and then get to work (they are in opposite directions).  In the afternoons, I leave work around 3pm to pick him up, which adds almost an hour on to my commute.

One of the boys was in Boy Scouts, sort of, and the other finishing up Cub Scouts.  So some scouting, practices all on different nights of the week.  I am sure the neighbors thought we were like birds flying back and forth to take chicks to places and constantly bringing them food.  Beginning in February I started the Body Transformation Challenge, so my days started around 4:30-4:44am and ended after 10pm.

The shorter and colder days mean less time in the sun  for the boys, and they start to get a little cranky about that.

The boys can really eat too.  They are all growing, and tend to stay hungry.  The real problem is that only one is truly in his it only gets worse from here.  Soon we will see how truly ravenous teenage boys can be.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

catching up....Christmas...

From 2010.12.25-31 Christmas Vacation

Ok, I know it has been a while.  I've been waiting on a few things (pictures) but I can't wait any longer.  They'll be added once I have them.

Things have been busy around here.  Christmas was really good for us and the boys.  I think everyone was really happy with what they got and SGG and I got to travel to Florida without the boys which is sort of what we wanted.

We left a moderately cold Virginia on Christmas morning and were soon in a sunny and warm Orlando, FL.  The plan was to spend a few days in Orlando, then head to Ft Myers and maybe further south for the rest of the week.  All in all that is about what happened.

Christmas day was really warm in Orlando.  We picked up my step-Father, Gary, and then went to my Sister-in-Law's Aunt's house to spend time with my brother and his family.  We had a few drinks which led to some skateboarding, some baseball, a lot of Frisbee, and more.  It was a really fantastic time.  I can recommend a cool Minnesota drink called a Tom & Jerry.  Those were really good too.

While we were warm and having fun in Orlando, it snowed up to 14" back in Virginia Beach.  While that would have been fun to some extent, without the boys it wouldn't have been nearly as great as being with family in Orlando.

It did get very cold in Orlando that night.  They put out freeze warnings for the Orange Groves.  Gary has a nice orange tree outside of his house that was loaded down with oranges.  We would pick a few for some orange juice when we wanted some.

Sunday we tried to go to Sea World, but it was too cold.  The news casters were teaching people how to scrape the frost and ice off their windshields with their credit cards and drivers licenses...which I thought was really funny.  That afternoon we ended back at Gary's with four small children, three big children, and three women married to the three big children.  There was another freeze forecast for that evening and it was fairly certain.  I don't know what freezes do to oranges, but it appears to be a big deal.  So, we picked the whole tree.  The best quote from the whole trip was what my sister-in-law said when we were all done, "The kids will always remember picking a hundred million oranges off of Grampa Gary's tree."  I believe they will.  Hopefully I can get a picture from my family as I didn't take any, being too busy picking.

Monday morning we went to Winterpark to see where my mom and Grampa Gary got married.  It is a beautiful spot.  We even got our picture taken by a photographer that was waiting on a group to show up.  She took our picture for free.  :-)  It was so cold though that I don't blame her client for not showing up.

From 2010.12.25-31 Christmas Vacation

There is a state park about halfway between Orlando and Daytona, called Blue Spring State Park.  We had heard that there were a lot of manatees sheltering in the spring because it was warmer water than the river.  We went there on Monday and we were certainly not disappointed.  The spring was teeming with manatees.  I had never seen one before.  It was a truly awesome experience and we took lots of pictures.

From 2010.12.25-31 Christmas Vacation

That night we had dinner with the family again, everyone contributing something.  SGG and I had our first experience with an iPad (and now we own one).  My brother and I tried some dancing game...and everyone thought that was hilarious.

We were keeping a close eye on the weather.  The intent going to Ft Myers and Sanibel Island was that we would camp for the rest of the week on Sanibel.  When the temperatures were dipping into the low 40's and high 30's SGG drew the line.  On Tuesday we headed south, but to a hotel, not a tent.  On the way we went through some interesting towns as the GPS took us off the interstates and I swear we went back in time.  I believe it was Winterhaven that had a McDonalds that looked like something from the 50's or 60's.  One town we stopped in we couldn't find an open restaurant.  It was sort of strange.  What was even stranger was that the Droid kept wanting to take us back through there on the return trip.  I finally just turned the navigation off and found my own way to the interstate.  When we got there, the hotel hadn't cleaned all the rooms so it was several hours before we could check in.  We went over to walk on the beach at Sanibel.  I've only been there during winter months before, but it never dropped below 70 degrees.  Being on the beach at 45-50 degrees was sobering and not very pleasant.  The water was cold enough that I didn't think I would be getting in at all regardless of whether the temperature changed or not.

It was beautiful though.  Billions of little seashells where the ocean meets the land.  We left right around sunset and went back to the hotel.  They still weren't ready for us so we waited.  I think they cleaned our room last.

Wednesday was better.  We got over to Sanibel and checked into our campground.  We got the tent setup and were ready for adventure.  As long as that adventure didn't include warm sunny weather.  We walked down and rented a couple of beach cruiser bikes for a couple of days...and that is how we got around the islands after that. :-)  We stopped in at a cool local breakfast diner place that was also part grocery store.  There were several shops in an architecturally pleasing group with different parrots spread throughout.  We rode our bikes down to take a tour of the island's nature preserve, J.N. Ding Darling Nature preserve.  We got to see lots of different types of birds there, and a bunch of fish too.  There were a couple of volunteers that we talked to about the various birds.  It was a rather long bike ride.  After the preserve we made the long trek back to the campground (the other end of the island) and crashed for bit.  For dinner we just walked to a close by restaurant.

From 2010.12.25-31 Christmas Vacation

From 2010.12.25-31 Christmas Vacation

Thursday was still cold.  We got up and headed out to do a kayak tour of Tarpon Bay after breakfast.  Again, a lot more birds.  Afterwards we pedaled through another nature trail hoping to see some aligators, but I think they were too cold to show themselves too.  From there we pedaled up to the Seashell Museum.  That was one of the coolest places we saw this trip.  Not only did they have lots of great shells, they had all sorts of information about the critters that make and live in those things.  Snails can be quite vicious.  We rode back and decided that we wanted to spend Friday at Seaworld in Orlando and figured it would be better to drive back that night.  We turned in our bikes and packed up our stuff.  The one place I really wanted to eat, and trust me when I say that I think we planned the trip around eating, was a fabulous restaurant called the Bubble Room.  It is on Captiva, just north of Sanibel, and we drove there.  SGG was not biking and truthfully I was done with it too by that point.  There is a lot of lore surrounding the Bubble Room and you should go read about it for yourself.  If your journey takes you near Ft Myers and Sanibel, it is a must that you stop by and have a meal.  I wouldn't plan on finishing it though.  Guard your leftovers jealously and with great zeal.  I'll tell you why next.

From 2010.12.25-31 Christmas Vacation

We drove back to Orlando that night, on the Interstate, and didn't have any issues or time travel experiences.  The next morning we got breakfast and headed to Sea World.  It was crowded, but with our passes from Busch Gardens here in Williamsburg, we got front row parking right in front of the Entrance.  We had a great watching the dolphins, manatees, and so many other things.  The lines for the rides were really long, but seriously?  Why are there rides at Sea World?

From 2010.12.25-31 Christmas Vacation

It was New Years eve and we headed out from Sea World early to take Grampa Gary to dinner at one of his favorite places, the Boston Fish House.  I remembered that we had tried this before, about 21 years prior, and they were closed.  Sure enough, some checking showed that they were closed, but that they had opened a second restaurant north of Orlando that was open.  We had a splendid dinner together, and New Years Eve was awesome.  The only downside was that when we went back to the hotel to clean up before going to dinner, there had been a mix-up and our room had been cleaned, and cleaned out.  They bagged up all of our stuff and put it in the office, and they threw out my Bubble Room leftovers.  I am still bummed about it some three months later.  It happens and I'm learning to get over it.

A little side the expense of someone I know..
She was camping with her family in St Augustine and called her husband over to because she wanted him to see this opossum.  He walked up and said that it wasn't an opossum, it was an armadillo.  So, while we were at Sea World we saw an looked a lot like an opossum so I thought I would share this picture with her.

From 2010.12.25-31 Christmas Vacation

It is an opossum, but I couldn't pass up the jab...especially since she gets me quite often about a camping trip we did one time in Yosemite.

New Years Day we flew back to Virginia Beach!

Camera's seemed to be a difficulty with us on this trip, but here are the pictures we did get!

Link to the album is here

Friday, January 07, 2011

"That's actually my fault...."

I pick up my son from school every day. The ride from school to home takes about 30 minutes. We learn a lot about each other during our 30 minute rides each day. I get to say things like "How was your day?" and he responds to everything with "Fine". I change it up to elicit other answers by asking "What was your least favorite event today"? etc.

Today we had a little discussion at the end of the commute, prompted by me spying a newspaper up on the roof of our house.

Me: "Why is there a newspaper on the roof of the house"?
Him: [Laughing] "That is actually my fault..."
(Honestly, I'm amazed he took responsibility for it.)
Me: "I know it is your fault, when there is a newspaper on the roof, it usually isn't anyone else's fault. How did it get there"?
Him: [Still Laughing] "Well, you know how I am usually pretty good at throwing things right where I want them..."
Me: [Interrupting him]: "Let me rephrase your statement, you are NEVER good throwing things right where you want them."
Him: "Well, not backwards maybe but..."
Me: [Interrupting again] "No, not ever."
Him: "Well, ok, but I was skateboarding down the driveway when there were no cars there, and I picked up the paper and tossed it backwards, and it landed on the roof."
Me: [Just staring at him]
Him: "I tried to get Michael to help by standing on the chair with the broom and scraping it off, but he wouldn't stand on the handles."
Me: [at least they aren't fighting....and I decide to let it drop there]