Friday, April 29, 2011

Taking Away My Shoes

A while back I wrote a somewhat controversial post regarding my thought to the whole minimalist/barefoot phenomenon that was occurring in the world of running these days.  I didn’t do any research on the subject to keep my opinions my own and as outspoken as possible. To save you some time (and since my job blocks wordpress I can’t do much editing & adding a pingback), my summary went like this: Barefoot running doesn’t make sense to me and that regardless of foot strike you are placing the same amount of stress on your body just in a different place. To further the point I also commented that shoes are awesome and they help considerably. It is similar to my wife’s thought on epidurals “If the technology is there, use it.”

My opinion on this matter started when I first got into running. It was in 2006 I weighed 272 lbs. I wanted to do this running thing the right way so I got fitted for shoes at a specialty running store which will remain nameless but I won't go back there. Also, I've learned the art of internet scouring to find the the best deal. They did the whole gait analysis and charged me $130 for a pair of Brooks Beasts since I was a fat over-pronator. The shoes were a step up from what I was wearing and I liked them at first. I did notice that whenever I would up the miles (at this time anything over 4 miles was a long run) the medial (inside) part of my knees would hurt. I figured this was normal since the shoes were now providing support where I didn’t have it before. After running with those shoes for a year the pain didn’t go away, but it didn’t get worse either. I went out on a limb and for my next pair bought some New Balance 991’s which were a bit more neutral. There was no knee pain with these shoes. Hmmm.

​Fast forward to 2010 & 2011 and I am running in Brooks Adrenaline GTS 9’s which are a shoe that provide moderate support for over-pronators. I really like these shoes. I’ve had no real issues with them and as my experience with the other pair of Brooks, they hold up very well.

Well, when I wrote that previous article I promised that I would keep an open mind about the minimal thing since there was so much feedback telling me I was wrong. I kept my promise. By a stroke of luck and a need from some trail shoes, I found a pair of New Balance 101’s on sale to get into this minimal thing. I don’t think that there are any arguments that the NB101s are pretty minimal especially when compared to my previous shoes. I’ve started out slow with them and have noticed that my calves are getting a better workout when running and there is a “difference” in the way my knees feel. It’s a good difference. They feel a bit looser after I run with the NB101s. I’ve also taken the NB101s out to the track and did some speed work with them, they were awesome for that environment too.

Finally, I have purchased "Born to Run" which I have been told is the greatest running book ever. I haven't started on it yet because I am knee deep in the "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" series and I don't want to break up those books. So, I have a feeling my research will be picking up once I crack that sucker open.

So, after a couple months I have gone from Minimal Skeptic to Casual Minimal Tester-Outer and I like this progression I am seeing. Its too early to say that I am hooked and that minimal running is the thing for me but my mind is a bit more open.

Monday, April 25, 2011

FNG at the JOB

I have heard that there is a study buried somewhere that lists out the most stressful events in a person's life. I am not talking about being held at gunpoint or being wedged between 2 rocks and having to self-amputate, but events that are more likely to happen to everyone at least once in their life. From what I remember here were the top events: Marriage, Buying/Selling a house, Starting a new job, & having a baby.

I encountered one of these events recently and I started a new Job. In the exciting world of IT Project Management there's really not much variation. You have some network/internet component, some boxes with lights on them (think computer) and other boxes with lights on them (firewall or load-balancer) , and then you have whatever stuff you are going to put in those boxes (kind of like the programs that run on your computer). Without getting more technical, which I am not good at, thats about it. Some companies just use different boxes with lights but thats about it. At the end of the day the boxes do the same thing, make someone sitting at a computer somewhere do their job easier.

Now that I have probably dumbed my career down so that anyone can do it, I will get into the "stressful" part of starting a new job. I think this list will be an all encompassing whether you are a auto mechanic, accountant, or brew-master.

  • Will they like me? Probably the biggest stress of all is how are you going to fit in with a group 0f people you have never talked to or worked with before. I for one may seem cool as a cucumber, but on the inside I am thinking about this  constantly because it will dictate how easy or hard it will be to get my job done in the upcoming months. So before you show up your first day practice acting confident without coming off as a butthead.

  • Will this job be the same as the last one? GET THAT THOUGHT OUT OF YOUR HEAD. You aren't at you old job anymore. This is the new signer of your paycheck. In the immortal words of Eric B. & Rakim "It ain't where ya from, it's where ya at."
  • In other words, wondering if you made the right decision after you start is irrelevant.
  • Is this job going to be over my head? There's really no way to know what you are getting into with a new job. You can ask all the questions you want in the interview, but until about 4-6 months in after you start you figure out how everything works and if you are going to be successful. Interview questions are more about making the interviewer apply some pressure and how the interviewee reacts to the perceived pressure. The key thing to start figuring out  Day 1 is what it looks like to be successful at your job (not Steve's) because you could be rocking it out in your own head, but Management might see it some other way. Unfortunately you need to play to the crowd for a little bit even if they want to hear "Sweet Caroline" for the 10th time that week.

  • What new systems do I need to learn? As mentioned before and in my opinion it takes 4-6 months to figure out what you are doing and how to do it efficiently. Most of that time frame is deciphering all the applications and homegrown systems  a company has. If you've worked in one of the systems before, there's a good chance it won't work the same as it did at the last place. Also keep in mind that efficiency is relative. What I mean by that is on the chance that you have figured out a way to do your job quicker & easier, it might not follow the established process at the new place and is therefore immaterial. You gotta build up your clout before you go changing process.

Professionally, I think that covers the main concerns, but what about at home? Well my next post will deal with the pressures of bacon home-bringing and how to deal with that. Afterall, you have to live with your family and they should trump everything.

Got any more advice? Lets hear it.

Friday, April 22, 2011

One Turrable Sandwich

I was running some errands the other day when I ran into a St. Louis Bread Company ("Breadco" to those of you in St. Louis, Panera to everyone else) to try out one of their new breakfast sandwiches. As I'm trying to make better nutritional decisions, I opted for the Power Sandwich (whole grain toast, egg, ham, and cheese). I opted out of the cheese, which only put me at a swimsuit season-beckoning 250 calories.

First things first. It was six bucks for a cup of coffee and a half a sandwich. That's a bit steep for me.

[caption id="attachment_437" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="The offending morsel"]The offending morsel[/caption]

Not even a damned apple. Seriously.


Also, this thing didn't taste like anything. The egg was awful. No seasoning, chalky yolk. Gross. The ham also wasn't seasoned, and was a bit rubbery.


The bread was bad. At Breadco. How does that happen?


I'm sure this thing is healthy for you, but an Egg McMuffin has comparable calories and I don't want to give my mouth a shower after I eat one.


I'm giving the Power Sandwich a rating of MLT, only because it doesn't have mayonnaise.

Monday, April 18, 2011

I'm social, let's network

I've seen a lot of blog posts recently about how people use certain social networking sites (the most recent from my dear German friend Natascha). Never one to pass on a meme, I'm going to rehash my thoughts on this subject here. First let me warn you that anything you say on the internet is there forever, and if you think someone won' t know it is you, well, just be prepared to be wrong. All that said, never put anything online (or anywhere else for that matter) if you aren't prepared to defend it, be embarrassed by it, or answer for it in court. So everything I say after this starts with the supposition that you aren't going to say anything too stupid.

I'm a member of lots of big social media/networking sites, but I only use a few. Here is how I use them:

  • Facebook - I used to only use Facebook to let people find me. I basically created my profile so people from the past could find me and send me a friend request. Then I'd usually send them an email, catch up, and just forget about it. Lately I've been using it marginally more, reading it when I'm really, really bored, and posting to it occasionally (although mostly I just share my Twitter updates with Facebook when I think it's appropriate for that audience). I'm not even remotely selective here - I can't think of a single request I've turned down besides people named things like Spammy McNotYourFriend.

  • LinkedIn - I use LinkedIn sort of like I used to use Facebook, but work-specific. I accept virtually every request I get, I'll respond to direct messages, and I'll look up people's contact information if I need it, but that is just about it. It's a nice way to keep tabs on my network without actually trying to keep up with them. I never read anyone's posts on there, although I sometimes do share tweets with it.

  • Google Buzz - This is the only thing Google ever did that I don't absolutely love. Oh, that and the Android platform, which I'm not behind at all. But those are the only two things. This whole thing is just a poorly-executed waste of time. I will say I always get a little tickle when I happen to bump into someone in there.

  • SAP Community Network and (login required) - These are strictly work areas. I blog in both spots, and occasionally turn up in the forums, but mostly I use these sites to gather information to make me more perfectly adequate at my job.

  • Twitter - My true online love. Sure I'll occasionally tweet about what I ate for breakfast, and read when others do the same, but I like Twitter because I have a lot of friends on there with similar work interests, so I can talk somewhat randomly about life and work and not have to worry about a filter between the two. I like that you have to be clever and concise. I like that you sometimes speak in a sort of secret code that people that aren't in Twitter don't understand. And I like the conversation, which is totally cliché and totally true. Twitter is the one place where I'm selective about who I follow (but not who can follow me) because I simply don't have time to really follow more than 100 people (and I'm up to about 250).

I like social media because it allows me to stay in touch when I don't have time to stay in touch. I can drop out for a few weeks and its not a huge deal. I can participate in the middle of the night whether other people are online and actively participate or not. I can more easily segregate my friends into non-work, work, or both, and I can choose when to interact with each.

And it makes sure I never miss things like VanDerMemes (via @gweiswasser).

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Kids in public

Took my kids out to dinner the other night at Red Robin, which we usually like because they have both acceptable grown up food and kid food, they are reasonably priced, they have a little game room at the front to distract the kids, and they sell beer which on occasion is a requirement. It's one of our top default out-to-dinner-with-the-whole-tribe destinations.

Normally they do a really good job there. Last night, not so much. Rather than rehash what went wrong here (don't worry -- I'll passively/aggressively rehash it in a second) I'll just list out some ideas that may help servers and restaurants better meet the needs of their customers, enable said customers to spend money, and encourage the same customers to leave more tips.

If someone walks into your restaurant with a child or children under 10, please always do the following things.

  1. Always remember the golden rule parents have when taking their children out in public: Get your children out of public as fast as is humanly possible. This not happening has never once been good for anyone.

  2. Constantly look over to me, wherever you are in the room. If you are not in the room, constantly get in the room and look at me. Look down just long enough to jot down orders in your little book for your other tables and to avoid running into a busser and hilariously destroying a bunch of dishes. I am not necessarily going to need very much from you, but when I do, I need it NOW! Don't make me bust out an "Excuse me" from across the restaurant.

  3. Be ready to take my order the second I sit down. Your kids menu has the exact same food as every other kids menu. My kids already know what they want (or, quite possibly never will, but I'll already know what I want to order for them). I'll know what I want. If I'm waiting on someone, assume that I know what they want and can order for them. If, heaven forbid, I'm not ready to order, see rule #2 above.

  4. Under no circumstances should you go on break while I am there. Ever. If you do, turn the ticket over to someone else and make them aware of rule #1. Do not deliver our food, check on us, then be gone for a half an hour, because I'll be ready to leave 5 minutes after our food arrives.

  5. No matter what happens, be gracious. I'm not any happier about my kids being here than you are, but at some point they need sunlight or they'll get a Vitamin-D deficiency, and sometimes I don't want to dip from the unending pot of mac-and-cheese with hot dogs cut up in it. We are here, deal with it. Acting perturbed isn't going to do anything but help me break rule #1, which isn't good for anybody. I know we are messy. I have plenty of disposable income to make it up to you. Don't make me feel like an a-hole.

  6. Bring my children's food as soon as it is ready. Make mine soon afterwards. Push my food to the front of the line. Trust me, people will understand.

  7. Do not serve my children food that is 3 billion degrees. I understand they only eat fried things and those things are fried in very hot oil, but delivering food that my children can't eat for 20 minutes and will burn themselves on isn't any better than bringing it 20 minutes later at an appropriate temperature.

  8. For the love of God do not say the word "dessert" or any examples of it in front of my kids. I'm well aware that your restaurant serves it, and if I want some I'll ask you. In fact, if I want some, I will have almost certainly already ordered it at the same time as my meal.

  9. Little known fact to non-parents: kids never actually eat food at restaurants. I can't take this food with me for future use as a car air freshener or home penicillin kit if I don't have boxes. I won't want to wait on those boxes. Give me some boxes when you give us our food.

  10. Offer me my check within 2 minutes of my food hitting the table. You can always go add more stuff to it if you need to, but I need to be ready to pay now. Be fully prepared for me to hand you my credit card at any point. Always be ready to take my money and take it quickly. Nothing will lose you a tip faster than a long wait to actually complete the transaction (note: that is also true when I'm out without kids).

So that's pretty much it. Hitting on all of that stuff will assure you a 25+%  tip every time. Anything less and I'll blog your butt and send the link into corporate.

Finally, in honor of my son's fifth birthday, here's a bonus tip.

  • If I ask you about a damned birthday cake and singing as I'm ordering, assume I'm not interested in waiting for 10 minutes after all of us are done eating in order to go and track down the hostess to hurry you up because you've already broken rule #2. This will result in a pre-tax tip of 15%, which, quite frankly, you were lucky to get.

To the good people at Red Robin corporate who may be reading this, please don't fire this guy. He was really nice and didn't come anywhere near breaking all of these rules (he was polite and professional, but really, really hard to track down and everything took FOREVER even though we beat the rush), but as a family-friendly restaurant I would encourage you to make sure your people know that families dining with you have special needs, and doing a better job meeting them will help you (and your staff) make a lot more money.

Please note that some of our follow up experiences at Red Robin have been much, much better.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Not entirely sure how I feel about this article...

Stumbled across this post on the Freakonomics blog today, and I heartily recommend reading it (it was good enough that I, cheapskate that I am, went ahead and pre-ordered the author's book).

However, I feel pretty conflicted about the whole thing. Here is the main crux.
Health, intelligence, happiness, success, character, values, appreciation – they all run in families.  But with a few exceptions, adoption and twin researchers find that nature overpowers nurture, especially in the long-run.  Kids aren’t like clay that parents mold for life; they’re more like flexible plastic that responds to pressure, but returns to its original shape when the pressure is released.

This is great news, right? It means that by and large I should be able to raise my kids to be happy and not have to make them miserable doing it. The downside? All the work and money and effort I've already put into doing just that (and will no doubt continue to do) are basically a waste because they are all basically going to end up how they are going to end up regardless of what I do. As an added bonus, my genetic attributes (I'm overweight, asthmatic, have started growing back hair, and I'm allergic to everything) will be sure to stick with them.

So what do I do? If there's anything I've learned from AA (or at least from the pop culture refereces I rely on for this sort of information since I don't belong to AA) it's that I should hope for "the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference." In these terms, and in the context of that blog (and hopefully the forthcoming book) what I really need to do is try to relax a little bit (which is not easy for me), spend more time enjoying my kids, and less time trying to turn them into responsible adults.

All of this will also be a mixed bag for my wife. She will be glad that this author may have gotten through to me and made me more relaxed and able to enjoy my children, but she'll also most likely be frustrated that I listened to him in a blog and not her when she's been telling me the same thing for months.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Periodic Wizardry - Tommie Copper

2 disclaimers: 1) the product I'm reviewing today I received for free. I was the "Fan of the Week" for Tommie Copper. I had my choice of either a Knee, Calf, or Ankle sleeve. It was only after I found out that I had won and before I wore their product that I told them I would write a review. 2) I am not a doctor, nor do I even work in a health related setting. Everything in this post is strictly my opinion based on schooling I received over 10 years ago, some research, and personal experience. If you have questions about your health, talk to your own doctor, not some Internet hack as myself. This blog is not intended to diagnose or treat anything.

Now that the formalities are out of the way & I have destroyed any/all credibility for myself, lets get to it.

My experience with this Tommie Copper goes like this: they found me on Twitter because I tweet about running. When they found me, I didn't actually think that Tommie Copper could be someone's name so I dug a little deeper. Also, their website wasn't too much help as it is under construction. As it turns out they are a start-up company so its understandable. What I found from my investigation (read: google search) was that they are in the business of pain management through use of their compression sleeves that are magically infused with Copper.

Now really quick, here's some quick background info on copper and its presumed benefits to a human person. Copper is a metal that is not produced by the human body, but the body uses the crap out of it to help perform its daily tasks. We can find it in a bunch of stuff like meat, seafood, beans, whole grains, wheat bran, almonds, avocados, barley, garlic, nuts, oats, & everyone's favorite blackstrap molasses. I just really thought blackstrap molasses was a cool word and it sounds delicious. Copper is also delivered to the body by our drinking water with the copper pipes in your house. It can also be taken in through the skin. The skin method is what Tommie Copper is utilizing.

Now once it gets in you body Copper is supposed to do all kinds of good stuff for you. However, being lazy I am not going to list all of them. The main benefit we'll talk about today and what this review is about is Joint and/or Muscle Pain reduction.

As mentioned before I was given a choice of a Knee, Calf, or Ankle Sleeve from Tommie Copper (they also make shirts). I chose the knee for a couple reasons. I have been experiencing some soreness in my left knee after running recently. I don't think its too serious and it seems to be more muscle tightness related rather than a tear of some kind. At least that's what the pain feels like. Also my wife  had surgery last summer on her meniscus in her right knee and also has a popliteal cyst in there that for some reason the Doctor didn't remove when he was doing the surgery. Regardless, she still has some pain associated with that knee. It is constantly sore and stiff and she really can't get another surgery because she's pregnant. So this knee sleeve would be beneficial to both of us.

The Sleeve arrived and at first I was a bit shocked at how much it was just like normal breathable fabric. One would think that if something had copper in it, there would be a greater thickness or rigidity to it. So honestly, I kind of laughed thinking "Well I'm glad I got this for free." Then about 2 weeks ago I was working from home and it was the day after a pretty good run. I had some pain and hadn't had time to try out the sleeve yet. So I slapped it on my left knee for several hours. To my surprise within the first 20 min of putting it on, my knee felt different. A bit more energized. After an hour or so of sitting with it on, I went to walk around, and my knee pain was less severe. Not 100% gone but less severe. I thought "There may be something to this." So after a 4 or so hours I then moved the sleeve over to my right calf which was sore also from the run the day before, and I received the same  outcome. Less pain, more flexibility, etc. The knee sleeve wasn't the greatest fit around the bottom of my calf but it worked fine. The next day when I woke up my pain had subsided enough to where I didn't wear it into work the next day. Test #1  & #2 passed.

Late one night last week my wife asked me "Where's that knee brace?" I had told her about it when it originally came in the mail & told her about the health benefits that were touted. She then put it on her knee the entire next day and wore it to work. She had the same experience that I did and was thrilled the pain had subsided. Test #3 passed.

[caption id="attachment_409" align="alignnone" width="200" caption="Not much to it, but it's Magic"][/caption]

So w are 3 for 3 in this house with Tommie Copper and continue to wear the sleeve when we have pain. It works and I would highly recommend this product to any of you that have some discomfort in your joints or muscles. I would rank this product a "Cuban with Smoked Provalone" on our sandwich scale, but reserve the right to upgrade when I have chronic issues and rely on Tommie Copper every day.

I spoke with a representative over at Tommie Copper and she advised that the site will be going live near the end of April or beginning of May, then the general public can go nuts on this stuff. For more info on them see the links below.

[caption id="attachment_410" align="alignnone" width="200" caption="That is one hot Knee Sleeve"][/caption]

Monday, April 4, 2011


I'm sitting here preparing myself to watch the final game of the college basketball season between Butler and UConn. I'm pretty confident Butler will win (which means you should bet on the Huskies) and I'm a little pissy about the whole thing.   People are all excited this year because a bunch of teams with no business making the Final Four made the Final Four. People eat this crap up. I don't.

To be frank, I'm an Ohio State fan. I didn't go there, so I'm not a tattoo-sporting, Dead Schembechlers-listening-to type fan, but they have been my college sports rooting interest for as long as I can remember (calm down: I grew up in Ohio, I'm not one of those guys who like UNC and Duke even though they've never set foot in a state that ends in Carolina). I grew up hating Michigan, and I always will, unless of course -- God forbid -- one of my kids gets a scholarship there. Even talked the Missus into a Buckeyes-themed Christmas card.

[caption id="attachment_398" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Go Bucks, Michigan Sucks."]The 2009 Family Christmas Card[/caption]

This means that, at least in the intercollegiate context, I don't much care for underdogs. I like big, sports-factory schools to kick the crap out of little schools all season long, and I like for those little schools to make a nice little paycheck and be happy to tell their alumni they're gonna be on TV. However, the last couple of years -- largely due to the NBA's age limit (players must be out of high school for at least one full year before they can enter the draft) -- the smaller schools have been doing really well in the tournament. And that kind of bites, especially for the schools that have been overpaying their players these last few years with nothing to show for it.

Hopefully with the NBA's labor lockout looming we'll get to see some top talent stay in school next year so everyone's bracket will make it through the first round without getting broken in half. Until I can say go Buckeyes again (which is hopefully only 5 games into football season), go Bulldogs.

Friday, April 1, 2011

April Foolin'

I had this fantastic idea a couple of years ago, and no one would bite.

  1. Say you are a lady, in a solid enough relationship that your man can take a joke.

  2. Say you are not yourself pregnant, and that within the confines of said relationship, pregnancy is not being welcomed -- much less planned -- in any way, shape, or form.

  3. Say also that you have a pregnant coworker, friend, etc.

  4. Finally, let's say that you buy a pregnancy test, have the pregnant lady in your life take it, and then leave the test out in the bathroom at home that evening. It'd obviously have to be the kind where it is painfully obvious what the result is.

How is that not the best April Fool's joke ever? 

Also, if you are a woman in a relationship with another woman, does that make this prank funnier, or less funny?

Bun Covered Controversy

First off I am glad to report I spelled "controversy" correctly on the first try. No spell check needed.

As our loyal fan base is aware, we like to rate products on this blog. However, our rating scale is based on the deliciousness of sandwiches instead of a Thumb or Star. We simply call this The Sandwich Scale. We agreed upon this scale as a novel way to rate products and make our reading public hungry (or not). As it stands now, in its original version, we have been informed by some of you that we are overlooking some serious bread-wrapped magic.

So, a few days ago at our Share Holders Meeting (which consisted of me calling Jamie on his drive home from work and him actually picking up), we started discussing whether he was dead or just busy with work. Turns out he was just busy with work and I am still only 50% owner. I'll have my day! We began talking sandwiches and possibly trying out new sandwiches to put in the Sandwich Scale. It turns out that we have a very different sandwich experience and that there are some sandwiches that could be considered classics he or I had not had before. So, we decided that it would be a great excuse for us to start trying out these local delights and possibly revamp the scale.

Now just a few points on the sandwiches that we are going to consider for this new scale.

  1. While our audience spans the globe with literally 1 whole reader in Australia, we are limited to rating  sandwiches that are indigenous (also spelled correctly first time) to the St. Louis Metropolitan area. We are fully aware of the girth of Sandwichland in the United States, but we have to keep it local.

  2. We aren't interested in some boutique sandwich store or restaurant that has been around for 6 months and makes a killer "slider". We are looking for established eateries that have been part of the St. Louis landscape for years. To further expand this point, no chain restaurants.

  3. We are not limiting ourselves to just the city proper and are willing to venture into the county to look for candidates. However, I will draw the line at St. Louis County only because the St. Charles Applebee's is not "established" in my book. Nor will I venture over to Illinois. Jamie may have some issues on this one.

  4. I do think we need to limit it to Sandwiches only. A burger is in its own category because there can be so many different toppings, types, etc. So leave burgers out of it. Also there needs to be some sort of bun involved. A wrap is not a sandwich.

  5. Hold the _____ Please. There are a few items/condiments that are going to be left off these sandwiches. Jamie has stated that he feels funny around mayo & some cheeses. Also, I am deathly afraid of eggs and can't stand tomato slices. So, these criteria will also weigh heavily on where we go to test the waters.

  6. Finally, we are also up for taking suggestions from you our readers. While you may not live in St. Louis and we are kind of limiting our audience on this, consider this post and its replies (please post comments folks and don't make me look like a boner) your sandwich guide to the Gateway City.

So right now on our radar we have the following:

  • Gioia's Deli - Hot Salami. Admittedly I forgot about this sandwich when doing the original scale. Probably because I was hung over when I would eat it, but it is a monster from the Hill area of St. Louis.

  • Seamus McDaniel's - Buffalo Chicken Sandwich. Terrible website. Great food. I will insist that we eat at the one in Dogtown.

  • Jackson's - Steak Sandwich. Two words: Meat Medallions.

  • Callier's Deli - Something. They have about 50 different Sandwiches at this place. So we'll tackle whatever they tell us is their signature.