Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Observations from a Zoo

The premise behind this story has changed a bit over the last few hours. I've gone from talking about pregnant people to horrible tattoos. So now I am am just going to tell you what we saw at the Zoo yesterday in the form of people.

A couple weeks ago we had an amazing Sunday in St. Louis. 60-80 degree temp range, a bit of a breeze. Beautiful. As the weather lent itself for outdoor activities we packed up the family truckster and went to the St. Louis Zoo. Not to sound like a complete homer but if you are ever in St. Louis, visit the Zoo. Its open year round and its free. Its also one of the cleanest free attractions you will find anywhere.

As the day is going on and the noxious gases from the elephants, camels, & penguins are getting worse as the temperatures soar, my wife and I look at each other and almost in sync say "have you noticed a lot of pregnant people here?" It was crazy. Every time we turned around there was another pregnant lady walking around. Then as the day progressed at lunch and the other stops we made, there were pregnant women all over the place. I set the over/under on pregnant women at 50 yesterday. So, this sparks the question "Are we just noticing because we are pregnant or is there an influx of pregnant women in my town?" If there's anyone that could give me some math around this I would appreciate it. As we kept seeing these women we came to the conclusion that due to the harsh winter we had, there is an influx in baby making in our area, but maybe we are just crazy.

Observation number two which isn't a new observation to us at the Zoo is the amount of people with terribly-placed, low-quality tattoos and no shame in showing them off.  Here's where I wish I would have been a little more trigger happy with the camera. I could go to the Zoo any day of the year over 65 degrees and come home with at least 100 different pictures of these things. So before we get shunned by our tattoo'd following, I do want to make it clear that I don't have a tattoo nor do I believe myself an elitist because of this. It really is something I just haven't given much thought into getting. I was poor in college and would have rather drank my extra money, and now kids are expensive enough that I can't rationalize spending more money to get Busch Stadium tattooed on my back. So why here of all places do the tattoos come out in full force? I could see if there was a convention in town or something but I didn't see any buses outside. I would also like some theories on this one too.

Kind of a lame post but I need people more creative/smart than I am to rationalize why these two phenomenas are occurring. I do know the answer isn't for me to get a fetus tattooed on my neck.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Parenting at its best

Having four kids, people ask me all the time if I'm crazy. That answer is yes. Next they usually ask me what I like most about having kids. My answer is how different they all are. Finally they ask if this whole question gimmick is even true or if I'm just using it as a vehicle to get this post rolling. That's about the time I change the subject.

I do, however, really enjoy how different all of my kids are (before we go any further, please recognize that I find my kids more beautiful, terrible, engaging, frustrating, and interesting than yours. Sorry. Just how it goes. I'm sure you feel the same way about your kids. If you don't, that just sort of makes my point.). It doesn't make any damned sense. They have (largely) the same genetic makeup, they live in the same house, they have the same rules, they have the same influences -- they should be pretty much carbon-copies of each other. But they aren't. 

My 10 year old is my stepson, but he has been for years and he's always been as much mine as any of my other ones. He's athletic, driven, smart, polite, and generally the sort of kid every parent wishes their kid was (naturally, with him, it's all nurture). On the weird side, he won't eat chocolate and he prefers his green beans canned to frozen (I know, right?).The only reason he won't be the next Steve Nash is because he isn't Canadian (the fact that he is probably gonna end up being 5'6" doesn't help either). This kid could seriously end up an astronaut, though.

My 4 year old boy is hell on wheels. He's smart as a whip, which would be great if he could use his powers for good instead of evil. His teachers love him, so it really breaks their hearts when they have to put him in time out. He is also absolutely hilarious, and when he tells you he loves you, you know he means it. His best case scenario is probably Lex Luthor. Worst case? Sort of a less effective Lex Luthor.

My 3 year old is super, super sweet. He'll crawl up into your lap, tell you his name is "Baby Puppy Oswald" and just sit there with the sweetest little voice ever and alternate between making baby noises and puppy noises. Like a puppy, he sometimes has rage and odor issues. And he is occasionally in a dress when I pick him up from daycare. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Finally, I have an 18 month old daughter who absolutely changed my life. She looks like her 4 year old brother (just like me, which I am loathe to admit) but in a pretty way. She lights up a room, which is good, because if she is in the room, you'll know it. You'll also know if you are doing something she doesn't like, or, more often, preventing her from doing something she likes.

So, those are my kids in a nutshell. They, like ogres, have nuances and layers and all manner of things that make them amazing and flummoxing, and I love them each to death in their own special way. And I am giving them all our highest praise, a Little Bit of Italy rating.  Way to go, guys (and girl).

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

If this were a buddy cop movie, I'd be too old for this crap

When I was in high school, I was an avid soccer player. In this context, by "avid" I mean that I played a lot, not that I was good. I was blessed to go to a school small enough they couldn't cut people, and by the time I was a senior I was a starter, a captain, and All-Ohio (Academic, anyway).

Anyway, since then, I've largely stopped running (and moving when possible) so I'm a little out of shape. About 2 years ago I answered an online ad for an indoor soccer team needing a goalie. I didn't play goalie (or "keeper" as some "football" snobs call the position) for my high school team but had played a few games in the net for a club team I was on, so I thought it would be a great way to get back into it slowly (as goalies obviously move less than other players).

I bought some shinguards, some cleats, and some gloves, and played for about a year. My team was great, in all fairness, considering some of them were really, REALLY good at soccer. It would have been very easy to get frustrated with me (as I'm barely, BARELY adequate). I had a great time, but didn't get into great shape. After about 6 months I told them to look for another goalie, as I just couldn't commit to the hour every week (I am, after all, a bid-ness man first and foremost). Shortly thereafter they found one, and I enjoyed some much needed time off.

A few weeks ago the team reached back out to me. Apparently after I left they hopped up a division (not surprising since they had a real goalie) and then their new goalie got hurt so they dropped back down a division. As all of them are in average shape, they're perfectly content running all over the field and NOT having people kick things at their heads as hard as possible. Suckers. Anyway, I missed the game (which is a huge contributor to success) so I jumped at the opportunity generated by the injury of my replacement.

Since coming back we've had three games, and we've won all three. It took me a little while to remember the rules, and to get my sea legs back, but this week I was pretty awesome for a thirty-something fat guy playing out of position with a bunch of youngsters who started out better than I am. So I'm having fun.

I'm also painfully, painfully sore. Both wrists are messed up and the first three steps after any period of sitting are sort of half-leaning forward. But I made some great saves, some great drop kicks, and nobody has cussed me out since I came back.

If this is what winning feels like, call me Charlie Sheen.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Not everything with Boston is bad

So I felt the need to post the letter below that I just sent to Bostonian Shoe Company. I will follow up here if/when they reply to my email.

I'm not sure where to start on this, or what category to even place this under, but here goes. THANK YOU! I have had a pair of Brown Bostonian Strata shoes for the last 10 years. Today, they may have met their demise. as the rubber sole has finally worn all the way through and they are now taking in water on the forefoot.

I remember purchasing them at Macy's. I was just out of college & working for Enterprise Rent-a-car (don't judge me) where the normal pair of dress shoes lasts only about 6 months due to the water and soap from washing cars. But not these shoes. They withstood hundreds of car washes. In fact 3 months after I bought the brown pair, I bought them in Black (which I still have/wear).

After my glorious career at ERAC they served as my primary dress shoe for the last 8 years. Interviews, Weddings, going to bars, work, nothing was too big or too small for these shoes. They were wonderful. And the one that doesn't leak is still wonderful.

So, I wasn't really sure how to deal with this today. Should I be mad that my foot is wet? or should I celebrate these shoes and the journey they have helped me on? I think I will choose the later. 1 day of a wet sock can't replace 10 years of everlasting style and performance. Thank you Bostonian for making such a wonderful shoe.

[caption id="attachment_351" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="This is what quality looks like"][/caption]

I am giving the Bostonian Strata the highest award possible on our Sandwich Scale. The Amighetti's Little Bit of Italy.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Whats in a Name?

As we take a break from reviewing beer and me feebly trying to get a company to sponsor my running habit, I have been thinking about names for my unborn child. Its probably too early to be thinking about names because, as history repeats itself, we have  changed our mind towards the end for both kids. With our first kid, we had it narrowed down to two names for a girl and 1 name for a boy. the boy name got gobbled up about a week before delivery and one of the girl names was the name of my buddy's dog. So luckily we still had Hannah in the hopper and the rest is history. Similar story with our second, the boy name was taken within weeks of her birth and luckily no one thought Lucy was as cool as we did.

So now we are going down the naming road yet again and we have some strict criteria that a name must get past in order to make the final name table:

  1. Name can't be any of our friend's or friends kid's names. This may be more of a girl thing but I'm now under the same believe that if we use a name from this grouping we would either upset someone because they thought we were copying or false inflate someone's ego because they though we like them so much we named our kids after them.

  2. The name can't be one of my wife's problem students. My wife is an Occupational Therapist and works in a school setting. She is a saint for doing this type of work. However she has done this for the last 10 years or so, and all of these kids have names. Some of these names she just associates with the extra effort she would have to put in at work.

  3. The initials. Andrew Stephen Shepard doesn't work.

  4. There will be no substituting a "y" for an "i" for the hell of it. Call me old fashioned but I like my "y's" at the end of my words. Same with names. Nothing against the names that do have them implanted, its just not our prerogatyve.

  5. You need to be able to put the word "Grandma" or "Grandpa" in front of it without it sounding strange. Some names today are going to sound hilarious later on in life. Grandma Apple.

  6. The name cannot be a Noun, Verb, Adjective, Sacrament, or really anything used in conversation. I know there are many names like Chastity, Destiny, Innocent, or Matt but they just don't make the cut for us. There are a few that I am willing to bypass on this rule. Those are names are Doctor, Commander, Harry, or Def Leppard Shepard.

  7. Our Kids probably won't name the baby. Right now my girls insist that the baby is a girl and her name will be Strawberry Shortcake.

  8. Finally we don't want to use our own names.

So really that's it. I'm sure as we go down the road we may have more criteria that pop up but this list of 8 really covers most of what's out there.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Hmm, Delicious Customer Service

That's right, just one day after telling you how much I love O'Fallon Brewery (and I do) I need to revisit something near and dear to my heart -- customer service -- with a different brewery.

A few weeks back I emailed Harpoon Brewery to tell them that I just bought a six-pack of their IPA that had been out-of-date for 2 months. I actually send notes like this to brewer's all the time, as I know if you are milking people $8 for 6 beers you want to make sure it actually tastes good, plus I like the idea of some smelly brew-master hopping on a red-eye flight to dress down some distributor for mistreating his product. Of the 10 or so emails like this I've ever sent, I've been responded to exactly three times (once by O'Fallon, once on Bud Select -- it was my wife's -- and finally by Harpoon).

I do actually only send these notes in for the love of the game as it were, but I do appreciate when they decide to share a little something back. Harpoon hooked me up with a t-shirt, sticker, bottle koozie and a wall-mounting bottle opener (which I've actually been in the market for as I'm planning on putting in a bar -- sometime).

So, hats off to Harpoon for restoring my faith in capitalism. Their beer gets an incomplete (it was TOTALLY out-of-date) but their customer service gets a big thumbs up. Now I've just got to track down another one of their beers.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Beer Review - O'Fallon Black Hemp

It's been a while since we've reviewed a beer 'round hurre. But I picked up a sixer of this beer on a lark and I was blown away.

In the interest of full-disclosure I should tell you that a buddy of mine from college is the brewmaster from O'Fallon Brewery, I've enjoyed a lot of their beer for next to nothing, and it is most likely a total conflict of interest for me to review their beer. Then again, I'm assuming most of my regular readers aren't here for unbiased reporting.

Besides, if it hadn't come from O'Fallon, I probably wouldn't have tried this Black Hemp beer. Aside from owning a hacky sack in high school and thoroughly enjoying the NSFW cameo of Bob Saget in Half-Baked, I'm not exactly knee-deep in the weed sub-culture. But I trust Brian so I picked it up. And it was awesome.

Um, Beer.

I like O'Fallon's flagship beer, O'Fallon Gold, because it goes down easily but you can tell it is hand-crafted. The Black Hemp continues that tradition of drinkability but adds some complexity. It's sort of a lot of things. Sorta dark. Sorta chocolatey. Sorta smokey. Sorta malty. Sorta light. Sorta perfect. But not very hempy (or at least I'm guessing not, since it doesn't smell at all like that one guy who spent 12 years getting an associate's degree in forestry).

As a side note, O'Fallon does make plenty of beers that are "craftier" in the weightier sense of the word. I do like those  as well (the 5 Day IPA isn't slap-your-momma hoppy but gives you plenty of what you came for, and I truly believe -- but have yet to verify -- that the Smoked Porter would be perfect with a big old Cracker Barrel-type breakfast). I just happen to love the high-quality but extremely drinkable beers they put out. I call this category "Braverman beers" because they always remind me of the TV show Parenthood where the Braverman extended family seems to have 3 enormous cookouts a week where all of their problems magically melt away under a tastefully-lit table where everyone is getting shnockered.

I'm giving this beer an Amighetti's Special for two reasons: one, I have to leave a little room in case someone brews a beer that has a TV in it or something, and two, I don't want to believe I've found the perfect beer because that would mean I should stop looking.

I've really been trying to expand my beer portfolio lately, and it is very, very common for me to like one. It is very, very rare for me to like one this much. I actually drank it over the weekend, and ran right out and buy some more (on sale for $6.99 at Schnuck's this week) so I could review it properly (meaning I had an excuse to drink a couple on a week night and not have to pay attention to American Idol while someone next to me watches it).

And, since it is sort of seasonal, I even bought a back up sixer for when they run out of stock and I want to have my own little Braverman day.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Its Gotta Be the Shoes

The fact that I am writing about running again only confirms that I have something wrong in my head. My wife agrees.

We have all grown up wearing shoes. We wear them for everything. They help us look good, protect our feet, and make us comfortable. From the time we start walking we are introduced to shoes. We adapt accordingly throughout life to be one with our shoes. Shoes are more of an extension of our body than any other piece of clothing. So, why try to take away a part of your make up?

It's no secret that there is a big "minimalist" running trend going on. In the races I've been a part of over the last 4 years I'd usually see some dude running barefoot and think to myself "How can that be good for you?" There was usually only 1 person doing it so I didn't pay much attention. However, in the last year, this minimalist mentality has gained increased popularity thanks mostly to the folks at Vibram and their FiveFingers "shoes". I am loosely categorizing them as shoes because they go on your feet, but to me they look more like Foot Work Gloves.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="220" caption="I fear these "shoes" would destroy me"][/caption]

Other manufacturers have gotten into the concept also. My two favorite brands New Balance and Brooks have their lines called the Minimus & Green Silence. These are your more traditional shoe-looking foot covers, but are supposed to promote a barefoot feel when running. I will say both these shoes actually look like they could be comfortable, but still not sure on the hype around this whole thing and that the shoes can live up to the daily demand you place on your running shoes.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="240" caption="I fear I would destroy this shoe."][/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="208" caption="I am biodegradable. "][/caption]

Here's a little background info on the supposed benefits of Barefoot running. Also to qualify my perspective a bit I will say that I have a degree in Exercise Science and a minor in Biology. I'm not a doctor and I don't work in a health related setting. I now work in IT and my only connection to health & fitness is that I run, workout, & read a lot. So take my opinion it for what its worth (which is nothing short of awesome).

  • Comfort & Efficiency - They are kind of one in the same with running. The theory with Barefoot running is that it will promote runners to run/land on the balls of their feet as opposed to leading with the heel and then rolling through the toes. Its believed that this is the more "natural" way of doing things and that landing on the mid & forefoot lessen the blow to the joints as opposed to landing on the heel. Got it?

  • Increased lower leg strength. Remember that Seinfeld episode with Jimmy? Well Jimmy uses special jumping shoes that help his vert. This is similar but instead of adding to the front of a shoe, you take away from the back and emphasize landing towards the front. This will cause the calves & other lower leg muscles to build up and promote more stability in your lower leg. Also, George likes his Kung Pao spicy.

Here's why I think its goofy:

  • Over-compensating for a lack of shoe could promote just as many or more injuries than just running with shoes. We are familiar with shoes. Unless going barefoot to work becomes socially acceptable, only then will we all get natural or minimal.

  • As a larger person (200-ish lbs) are you to tell me that I would benefit from having less cushioning to absorb shock between the ground and my foot? It wouldn't matter where I landed on my foot, I'd be applying more direct stress to my body for sure. Its simple math really.

If someone would like to prove me wrong on this, I am all for it. I will gladly take on a challenge to try it, I am a size 14 2E. However, know that my opinions and body type are stacked against liking this and ultimately succeeding at it.

Also, I know I use a lot of bullet formatting in my writing. I am not a poet & this is the way my brain processes info.