The Highlight Reel: 25-31 January

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Another relatively uneventful week, albeit one significantly affected by the after effects of the previous weekend’s massive snowfall, which wrought havoc on the roads and rails and made it impossible for me to get into the office.

Booze

I decided to do a blind tasting on Monday to see whether I could pick out some of the whiskies in my collection by taste alone.  Apart from one, I could not.  Not terribly surprising given the number of possibilities.  More amusing was The Missus’ idea of a small pour—I had already tried each twice before I took this photo!

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Food

A Monday snow day felt like pulled pork (recipe), so I got to work on the whole picnic shoulder that I’d bought in advance of the storm.  Ordinarily I’d just season and go, but an 11-pound cut was too much even for my six-quart slow cooker.  Turns out that disarticulating a joint is hard work, and that’s without needing the ability to put it back together.  I’m starting to understand why surgeons are paid so well.

Fitness

The snow might have kept me from the gym for the better part of a week, but it gave me an alternative workout on Monday.  I shoveled out a neighbor’s car, moved two massive snow piles, and cleared a few hundred square feet of parking lot on Monday.  Not only did I get a workout, I helped my little community, and what’s the point of being strong if I can’t put it to practical use?

Apart from laps of the Metro parking lot on Monday, running was strictly on the treadmill, and I continue to make progress toward what I consider respectable paces.  Patience and determination are paying off.

Getting some of my bike fitness back, too.  I can handle moderately hard efforts with grace—it’s the top end where I’ve really fallen off.  Fortunately, I know how to address that, and I’m cool with pain.

Life

With only three days of work a most of my time off spent dealing with snow, it was a decidedly uneventful week.  I’m pleased to say that I finished installing our new doorway, and The Missus is sufficiently satisfied with the work that I may be given permission to install our new washing machine.   Maybe she should see how I handle the drywall repair before making any final decisions.

While the doorway was a success, the cabinet refinishing had a setback.  Failure to sufficiently prep/prime the surface led to quickly peeling paint, complete removal of which will take significantly longer than doing it properly would have.  Oh well, at least now we have an opportunity to reevaluate the color we chose for the main body of the cabinet.

The Highlight Reel: 18-24 January 2016

What a week!  Holiday-shortened weeks are supposed to be breezy, but this was anything but.  I’ll put much of the blame on Virginia’s total lack of preparation for a 1″ snowfall, but more on that later.

Booze

Tuesday was supposed to mark the start of a more-or-less dry spell, as discussed earlier, but Snowzilla 2016 led to my drinking hiatus being put on hiatus.  To commemorate the occasion, I decided to crack one of my most recent finds, a septuagenarian bottle of Seagrams VO.  Despite nearly 75 years in a bottle, it’s still quite tasty!  I’ve never before had a whiskey in which the nose/smell was so different from the palate/taste.  $15 well spent.

Food

Practically nothing to report here.  The prospect of being trapped at home for days and hilariously empty shelves simply put a damper on my kitchen ambitions.  I threw together a basic chicken and veggies dish on Sunday, but we were otherwise eating deli meats and canned soup.

Fitness

With snow wreaking havoc on the roads, this was a week spent largely on the bike.  I’m coming to terms with the fact that I just can’t put out the same power I as I could a few months ago.  I know I’ll get there eventually; I just need patience and hard work.  At least I’m good at one of those.

I’ve also come to terms with the fact that I can’t pack on any more mass.  I already blew out the elbow of a suit jacket, and I had to have a seam repaired on a pair of trousers, so unless I want to buy a whole new wardrobe (I don’t), I need to work on maintaining rather than growing.  The Missus is no doubt overjoyed.

On the positive side, it seems my run fitness is coming back around.  A pair of tempo progression runs on the treadmill went much better than expected, with my comfortably holding a sub-7:00 pace for the first time in recent memory since before I was injured. I don’t put much stock in treadmill paces, even at the prescribed if scientifically invalidated 1% incline, but it’s encouraging nonetheless.   Maybe a race is closer than previously thought.

Life

After a delightful date night with the Missus on Wednesday, we were treated to a three-hour traffic clusterfuck thanks to a minimal accumulation of snow and Virginia’s decision not to treat any of its roads.  They didn’t even bother to salt I-66, the major East-West artery from DC, which pushed everyone onto side roads and snarled traffic well past midnight.  After a minor fender bender that occurred when the driver in front of us slammed on his brakes and slid into a parked car, we eventually circled back to Ballston, parked the car in a garage overnight, and took the Metro home, arriving around 00:30.

Lesson: If there is so much as a hint of snow in the forecast, don’t drive.

With Snowzilla/SnoWayOut/SNoChanceInHell expected Friday, we stocked the fridge and prepared to hunker down.  Thankfully, after over a month of being on the fritz, our refrigerator is working properly again.  Two people living out of a “rented” mini fridge was not ideal, and I’m happy to see this season of College Life Redux come to an end.

Rather than just spend the weekend drinking, eating, and watching TV, The Missus and I resolved to make some headway on our various home renovation projects.  She learned how to stain wood, and I began refinishing a cabinet.  I also made my first attempt at an upcycled lamp shade, but it’s not quite ready for primetime.  I think I’ve worked out the kinks in my process, though.  More on that next week!

The Highlight Reel: 11-17 January 2016

This is the first in a series of entirely self-indulgent posts, wherein I rattle off the (hopefully) somewhat interesting things I did this week.  It’s primarily intended to help me remember how I spent my time, perhaps with a bit of self-reflection and pontification thrown in for good measure.  It’s also a good way of helping keep to my “one blog post per week” goal for the year.  So without further adieu, here’s the inaugural Highlight Reel.

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Booze

Attended a friend’s whiskey tasting / playoff party on Sunday.  Met some new people and drank a few whiskeys that I hadn’t tried before.  All told, a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  Note to self: ask about the barrel number of that peanut butter Willett.

Finally got around to cracking a 1954 Seagram’s VO on Saturday.  It’s a bit funky, as one might expect after 50+ years in a bottle, but altogether a good pour.  Shame it’s such a small bottle, as it’s hard to sample out that way.

Food

When a friend hosts a bourbon tasting, I feel compelled to bring a dessert that fits the theme.  To that end, I made a bourbon tollhouse pie on Sunday morning.  It was, to say the least, insanely rich.  I barely had half a slice, and it was still chocolate overload.  That said, it was very well received, and I’d consider making it again, albeit in a more bite-sized format.

The pie was decidedly better than the slow cooker Hawaiian chicken dish that I made on Friday.  Even after adding a ton of spices, and even the next day, it was still decidedly bland.  If you want a sweet-spicy slow cooker dish that actually has flavor, try this instead.

Though our chicken dish was disappointing, our visit to Lil Italian Café was anything but.  The notion of an Italian joint that advertises serving halal food was too intriguing to pass up, and I’m really glad we popped in.  Merasi got a cheesesteak that was good enough to sate the occasional cravings for a taste of Philly.  I tried their spicy, Eastern spin on a chicken cheesesteak and was thoroughly impressed. We’ll be back!

Fitness

After a few days of bad workouts and generally feeling like shit, I was finally getting back to normal this week.  3 x 8 @ 600 lbs on the leg press is a new post-injury PR, so no complaints there.  Getting in two 11-mile runs this week at quasi-decent paces also assures me that there is yet hope for my running exploits.  The run-specific fitness isn’t coming back quickly, but it’s coming.  My bike fitness is still down a bit from where it was before I started working, but that’s coming back nicely, too.  I suspect I’ll be grinding out the watts like old times, in no time.

Life

This was generally a quiet week, spent focused on final preparations for my Series 66 exam on Friday morning.  I didn’t demolish it like I did the Series 7 a few weeks prior, but I also sort of phoned it in once I was sure I’d gotten enough questions right to pass.  With a four day weekend starting as soon as I left the testing center, it was hard to stay motivated.

Apart from licensing for work, this week was largely about doing stuff around the house. I hung decorative shelving, frames, and a marquee; framed out a new doorway for the bathroom; moved our new washer into said bathroom; installed our knife block; hung a new curtain rod; and generally put a hurt on my Honey-Do list.  With a housewarming party looming, I’m extra motivated to get stuff done.  That, and we finally had a weekend home together.  I think that’s #3 since we moved in November.  Don’t move right before the holidays, kids—it sucks.

See you all next week!

Reining it in

For many, the holidays are a typically indulgent period.  This year, I was no exception.  I ate a bit too much junk , drank a bit too often, and spent a bit more money than I should have.  C’est la vie.  I’m not terribly worried about the effects on my body or my bottom line—I generally workout and save enough that I haven’t suffered any obvious consequences—but I don’t like what the past few weeks have done to my discipline.

Whereas I can usually pass up having that first cookie, now it’s hard to even turn down a second.  I’ve gotten all to accustomed to giving in to my impulses, and that, my friends, is the path to ruin.  So until Valentine’s Day, it’s time to rein it in, to work on my willpower.  If I have a drink, it will be because I’m out and about, not because it’s 5:00 and I’m pooped.  If I have dessert, it will be shared at a nice restaurant, not a Nabisco impulse buy.  And no snacking on the sofa, period.  Basically, I’ll be a bit boring, but only for a few weeks.

When this is through, I expect I’ll once again be able to pass up that second cookie.  Unless it’s really good.  I mean, I’m not unreasonable.

Universal Gym Truths

No two gyms are exactly alike, but some things are true wherever you go.  A few of those things:

  1. Incorrectly racked weights.
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    No matter how well the weights are labeled and their proper locations are marked, some asshole will put them back in the wrong place. Clearly, the 25 lb. dumbbells don’t go between the 45s and 55s, and the big plates don’t go on the same peg as the small plates. In a perfect world, someone caught doing this would have the blatantly mis-racked weight dropped on their foot. If I ever own a gym, better read the waiver carefully, because that’s gonna be in the rules.

  2. Broken equipment.
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    There is always at least one piece of equipment that is either completely broken or somehow not working correctly. This is true even if this is the first day the gym has ever been open. As a general rule, it will take management approximately half the lifetime of the universe to actually fix or replace the broken equipment. Note: Most often applies to cardio equipment.

  3. “You still using this?”
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    Unless you’re the only person in the gym, at some point in your workout, someone will always ask if you’re still using some piece of equipment. Dude, my towel is still on it. I’m still on it. Yes, I’m using it. And no, my walking to the water fountain does not mean I’m done.

  4. Never enough benches. img_4728-copy-2“You still using this” is particularly true when it comes to the bench. The bench is the most in-demand piece of equipment in the gym. (Unless you’re at a Planet Fitness, but that’s not really a gym). If S is the number of benches in the gym, and D is the number of dudes looking for a bench, then in any gym at any given time, S < D. Oh, and you can S my D if you think I’m giving up my bench. Wait your turn, bro.
  5. Curling in the squat rack.
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    When a piece of equipment has an exercise in its name, there is only one acceptable use for said equipment. Ipso facto, don’t curl in the fucking squat rack. You don’t see dudes doing shoulder presses at the preacher curl bench, which is where you should be doing your goddamn curls instead of taking up the only squat rack in the whole gym. Phew, getting a little amped up. Pre-workout must be kicking in. Time to lift!

Year in Review: 2015

It’s safe to say that 2015 was a fairly momentous year.  I could blab about the ups and downs for paragraph after paragraph, but bullet points seem easier. In rough chronological order, here’s my 2015

  • Set a new half marathon PR
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  • Celebrated our first wedding anniversary with a trip to Puerto Vallarta
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  • Suffered my first real running injury (partial rupture of a peroneal tendon)
  • Toured some distilleries in TN and KY
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  • Finished my JD-MBA (FINALLY)
  • Celebrated graduation in Florida with those closest to me
  • Saw Taylor Swift put on an amazing show on practically the hottest day of the year
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  • Started a new career
  • Bought a condo and moved out to the suburbs (hello, Falls Church!)
  • Celebrated Christmas in Florida
  • Ate entirely too much at Ambar on NYE
  • Ran 1,086 miles (despite nearly six months of down time)
  • Biked 4,835 miles
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  • Lifted a damn lot of weights
  • Ate a lot wonderful food
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    and drank some great bourbon
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  • Made some new friends
  • Generally loved life

Here’s to a fantastic 2016!

BMI sucks. Use the Beast Index™

Roughly speaking, the Body Mass Index (BMI) is a relative measure of body mass to height.  Originally developed in the mid-19th century, BMI is an attempt to quantify an individual’s tissue mass and then categorize that person as underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese based on that value.

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There is plenty of criticism of BMI as a measure of health. Because this is my blog, I’ll focus on the issue most relevant to me: the total lack of distinction between fat and muscle. As obsesity researcher Peter Janiszewski put it,

BMI does not differentiate between the Michelin Man and The Terminator.

I’m decidedly not the Michelin Man, but BMI says that I’m overweight. Before you call me vain, there are potential ramifications here—insurance companies use BMI as a measure of health when setting premiums. Oh, and I am vain. And I don’t like being told I’m overweight. Just kidding, I don’t care. Well, maybe a little. But I digress.

Despite the criticisms, BMI is apparently useful at a population level for assessing health, the idea being that the average person falls somewhere in the middle of the Bibendum-Schwarzenegger spectrum.  And it is pretty easy to calculate, which makes it relatively useful to those who don’t have body fat analyzers, skin calipers, or the neuroses to even consider buying such things. But for those of us who do, I propose a new measure: the Beast Index™

The Beast Index™ is a measure of BMI relative to body fat percentage.  Whereas BMI only measures mass relative to height, and whereas body fat only determines whether one is skinny, the Beast Index™ combines both for an approximate measure of swole-ness.  Put simply, the higher your Beast Index™, the more likely you are to be mistaken for a superhero.Beast Index Chart

Scientists are still determining the optimal Beast Index™, but suffice it to say that a measurement around 3.5 is solid—you’re sufficiently swole as to avoid being mistaken for a cancer patient without looking like some sort of science experiment gone awry.  As the chart above shows, the 1-2.5 range is the fat part of the bell curve. If you lose some fat, you can move to the right tail…and probably get more tail.

It’s worth noting that the Beast Index™ corresponds roughly with the venerated Mazzetti scale as follows:

  • 5+: Freak Beast
  • 4.5-5.0: Monster
  • 3.5-4.5: Gym Rat
  • 2.5-3.5: Gym Bro
  • 1.5-2.5: Brotege
  • 1-1.5: Tadpole
  • <1: Primordial ooze