Sunday, May 28, 2006


There are perhaps four categories of t-shirts I wear. This is a change from college. During college there was really only one category: free. Well, I guess you could further subdivide that if you wanted: gifts from my parents, gifts from credit-card companies, gifts from promotional event organizers, and so on. The important point to note, however, is that I was not in control of the designs available to me. A certain cliche comes to mind regarding the ability of beggars to be selective.

Well, I have surpassed my t-shirt beggar status. I have begun to experience and enjoy my new role as chooser. It's quite fun.

So now my t-shirts fall into four categories:

1. Plain - These shirts are solid colors or have simple designs upon them. They're great for wearing under other shirts and are also fine alone.

2. Reminder/Souvenir - These are the shirts I get to commemorate a trip or an event (or even four years of college). It's my smallest group and the reason for that is a holdover from college habits, when these shirts were given away for free. Well, those free shirts are ratty enough now that I can't wear them in public and I have only recently decided it's alright to pay money for such things. So, like I said, it's my smallest group, but it's growing.

3. Cool - These are the shirts with a symbol or image that looks "cool" (duh). Slightly more advanced than plain, but not as entertaining as the next category. Examples of "cool" include anything that references the Thundercats or the Transformers.

4. Witty - My fastest growing collection. These shirts mostly consist of funny phrases and images or just text alone. A few, like my t-shirt t-shirt, are just images. I love these shirts, the subtler the better. I am a big fan of the subtle visual joke. Hence, my appreciation of the t-shirt t-shirt, a shirt with nothing upon it but a picture of another shirt. That shirt was a gift (one of the nicer shirts I possessed during my "free" period) but since that point I have been adding to the collection. Generally I do so with the idea of amusing others, but if I'm the only one who is amused (as sometimes happens), I'm okay with that.

A visual demonstration is perhaps in order but it will have to wait. See, I'm at the beach and this restricts my ability to upload images (you're lucky you're getting text). Also, as I am at the beach, I have better things to do. Like show off my new t-shirts.

UPDATE: I have pictures. They're not pictures of me, per se, but they are designs I now own (except the one in the middle, that one's yellow).

Sunday, May 21, 2006


Last weekend, for the first time in nine years, I ran a 5k (3.1 miles for those of you who are metrically-challenged). Considering it followed twelve miles of biking and a 250 yard swim, I didn't do too badly (the biking is the part I did quite poorly on). Okay, so it would have been more accurate, and probably quicker to say that I ran a triathlon.

Woo! Go me. And go my brother, too. It's largely his fault I was there. See, entering this triathlon was his idea; one small step in our larger campaign to make sure we are able to survive the hike we have planned with our family (one uncle, one cousin, our father, and us) later this summer. We entered it on the hope that a general fear of embarassment would drive us to exercise and to exercise hard.

Well, it partly worked. I started excercising in March. Unfortunately, I needed ANOTHER carrot to do it - the Back to the Beach Contest at work. I entered THAT so I'd work out for the triathlon so I'd be ready for the hike. Eventually enough things loaded up on top of each other that I had to work out.

And I largely stuck to it. What I did not do, however, is work out as much as I should have.
It was enough, but not enough enough.

I survived the triathlon, even prospered in parts, but I can do better. Which is why I intend to do another one, and another one after that.

I've wanted to run a triathlon for some time now. Although, to be honest, what I really think I've wanted is not necessarily to run a triathlon, but to know I could (and to be able to tell other people). Well I've demonstrated that part to my satisfaction.

I completed the entire race without stopping (except once when someone handed me a cup of water and I couldn't figure out how to drink it and keep running at the same time - something I should work on). There were 500 contestants listed (although fewer than that showed up for various reasons). I was 83rd in the swim (pretty good), 321st in the bike (ouch), and 192nd in the run portion (not bad). That ugly ugly bike portion hurt though, and I ended up 276th overall, 24th out of 26 in my age group (which is not an age-group that bothers to reward casual efforts).

So I now know I can run a triathlon. What I want to know next is, can I run one well? I think so, but I'm just going to have to do more triathlons to prove it to myself. I've learned a number of lessons including practice more, don't kill yourself in the swim (that high place came at a high price), practice more, and don't use a thirteen year old Huffy mountain bike from Kmart to compete in a road race. When I, pedaling steadily, was passed going downhill by a woman whose chain was BROKEN, I realized part of my problem might just have been the bike. Also, I need to practice more.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Predating, it’s kind of like cheating. So to make it absolutely clear that I’m not trying to fake you out, I’ll go ahead and admit right now: I’m lying about the dates on several posts. Which posts and why we’ll get to in a moment.

The why is because I screwed up. This year I’ve promised myself I’d act more and procrastinate less. Up until March, this blog was an example of my success. Unfortunately, it seems I have serious momentum issues. Once I find myself at rest I tend to stay at rest so when the snowboard trip interrupted my regular schedule, I found a large number of excuses not to return. I posted again, but sporadically, not on the original weekly schedule I had set for myself.

This is pretty disappointing to me. Some of you will tell me these delays are still shorter than many of my old ones, but this time I’m not comparing my performance to past performance, I’m comparing it to intended performance. By that measure, my current performance has been, to put it frankly, “thhbbppt.”

Well, this is the year of acting on my intentions - so I’m backfilling, making up for the missing entries. As of this writing, it has been ten weeks since the first interruption. In that time, I have provided four articles. I’m not going to worry about the vacation week because, well, it was a vacation. So I’m basically okay on entries up until the second week of April.

The way I see it, I owe you entries for April 9th, April 16th, April 30th, and May 7th - and that’s where I’m going to put them. This entry serves as the cap (and my May 14th slot). I’ll update this one as I get the others entered so you know whether to go back and look for them or not. At the same time, I’m going to keep updating to my original schedule. Fortunately, in preparation for this return to adequacy, I’ve been writing lots and the entries are basically ready. I just have to type them, so they should be up soon.

This blog is largely for me, but it’s partly for you, too, and I apologize (to both of us) for the delay in these entries.

It won’t happen again.


Posted so far:

April 9th: ALL IN A NAME


April 30th: WELL, I CARE


That completes the missing posts. We're back to business as normal, or what passes for normal around here.

Sunday, May 07, 2006


I enjoy cooking, most of the time. The problem is I don't really feel like I know what I'm doing. I can follow a recipe like a champ. I even do okay with some of the more complex recipes. I don't balk at concepts like roux. I have a double-boiler and I know how to use it. So I can cook, sort of.

I say "sort of" because I believe there's more to cooking than recipes. Restricting yourself to food that comes from a recipe is like restricting yourself to music that comes from a sheet. You can get some great music from a sheet, but you will miss out on whole genres like, say, jazz. There's no jazz in my cooking. To be more precise (and less metaphorical) there is no improvisation in my cooking.

I cannot adapt a recipe to my own needs, cannot make substitutions for missing ingredients, and I most certainly cannot improvise a whole meal from scratch. Take away my recipes and you take away my ability to cook.

I'm not much of a risk taker. My mom thinks it's a symptom of first-child syndrome - this unwillingness to deviate from instructions. My brother (a second child) can go through his fridge, toss whatever he finds in a pan, and produce some pretty impressive meals. I envy him that ability. My grandmother (a fourth child) makes some wonderful foods, but is completely unable to explain what she's doing. It is nearly impossible to get her to commit to quantities and times so I can create a recipe for myself to use later. Her answer to "How much parsley?" is "As much as I need." She uses recipes occasionally, but most of the time she makes food without ever opening a cookbook.

The only thing I make without a recipe is a sandwich. What keeps me from trying anything more complex is the feeling that I do not understand the rules behind cooking. I don't know why things are done the way they are. I do not know the relationship between certain spices and the final taste. I do not know when it is okay to withhold salt and when it is not okay. In short, I do not understand the chemistry behind cooking and, until I do, I'm not willing to experiment. This is where the first-child syndrome really gets me into trouble, because experimenting is one of the best ways to make up for this deficiency. It's a catch-22. I'm not willing to try new things until I understand why and I won't understand why until I try new things.

Enter Alton Brown

My girlfriend gave me Alton Brown's book "I'm Just Here For the Food" for my birthday, a most excellent gift. Now finally I have in my hands a resource that explains not just what to do but WHY we do it (he also has a TV show, but I don't happen to get that channel). He explains the theory, the chemistry, behind the actions. Give me a little while to read it, and soon I hope to take my cooking from the act of assembling food into the much more exciting realm of creating it.

I can't wait.