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Mix Tape/CD

Dec. 21st, 2008 | 08:18 pm

A friend challenged me to sum up my musical taste/influences in a mix CD. It was really hard, but I managed to narrow it down to 39 tracks on two discs.

Since it's Hanukkah, I'm making it available for download for a very limited time.

Enjoy!

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Ramblings from Europe Part Deux

Oct. 19th, 2008 | 03:31 pm

When we last left our hero, he had just finished a spectacular run through the Englischer Gardens in Munich and was packing up his belongings to move to a more expensive hotel.

The new hotel was easy to find and the room much nicer, but riddle me this: why when I'm paying 79 euro for a room are both breakfast and wireless internet included, but when my company is paying 229 euro per night, there is no wireless, wired internet is $10/hour or $30/day, and breakfast is $15? Answer: People in this hotel have expense accounts.

After getting settled, I hit the streets again to wander the old town. I hit up three very pretty cathedrals (St. Michael')s, St. John's, and Frauenkirche, all of which I must have been to before, but none of which I remembered. After that, I swung by a beer pub for a tasty lunch of with a lady born in Munich, but now living in South Florida (unlike in the US, in Europe people randomly join you at restaurants, especially if you are alone). I had venison goulash with potato dumpling. Tasty, but I've had better.

Now sated, it was time for the day's adventure. My 5-year old guidebook tells the tale of the Andechs Monastery, a Baroque church nestled in the rural Bavaria, a 45-minute walk from the end of one of the train lines. It wasn't the walk that scared me, but the fact that I didn't have a map covering the area.

About an hour later, the train terminated in the beautiful town of Herrsching, southwest of Munich. Herrsching is a beautiful little town, situated on a huge lake and full of little restaurants and ice cream shops. Fortunately, a nice crepe lady was able to point me in the direction of the monastery, and off I went. The walk turned out to be truly beautiful - not on streets, but on a small, sparsely populated path through the woods. One thing the book neglected to mention was that it was all uphill. And luckily, the weather was gorgeous, so there were enough locals around to point me in the right direction at all the forks in the road.

I made it to Andechs with an hour to spare before the church closed, and it was indeed gorgeous inside. There was a restaurant/beer pub attached, and according to Rick Steves, one that serves up the best beer in Germany. Sadly, I don't drink beer so I couldn't sample it, but it did seem to be popular. I was able to sample a giant pretzel and a fried pork thing the size of my head that seemed to be all anyone was eating. Mmmm...

My dinner was cut short, however, by the setting sun on the horizon and knowledge that I had 45 minutes of poorly marked trail hiking to get back to the train station. There was just enough light left, and I arrived back in Herrsching just as darkness hit, and lucked out by catching the train just 2 minutes before it left.

Once back in Munich, I strolled back to St. Michael's, arriving half an hour before a Hadyn concern was rumored to be starting at 21:00. The choir was upstairs practicing, and the singing was stunning in the acoustics of the cathedral. By the time they finished, many locals were filing in, grabbing Bibles or prayer books or whatever they are and taking seats as I sat there wondering why you'd want a Bible for a Hadyn concert. My suspicions were correct, and I soon found myself attending my second Catholic mass of the day (the first was at Andechs), thus tripling the number of Catholic masses I've been to in my life in just one day (although I only stayed for 10 minutes of each one today).

And that's a wrap. Tomorrow, hopefully I'll get up early enough for a run and then it's off to Salzburg!

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Ramblings from Europe One

Oct. 19th, 2008 | 04:04 am

Gutentag from Germany.

I hitched a ride on the red-eye after work, for a 7-hour flight to Amsterdam for my two-hour layover. I thought airports in the US were overpriced, but with the weak dollar and airport markups, Schipol takes the cake? If you want to pay over $10 for a subpar panini or $5 for a small bottle of water, that's your place.

I landed in Munich and finding the train into the city was no problem. Buying a train ticket, on the other hand, was. The machines had an English mode, but I just could not figure out what kind of ticket I needed. Hautbanhof (ironically probably the biggest and most popular station in the city) wasn't on the long list of stations with prices. After being frustrated enough by missing the first train, I randomly decided to get a 2-zone ticket and hopped on the train. The trains in Germany are all on the honor system, so I figured that would be good enough.

I exited the station and tried in vain to find one of the streets that was on my Google map, so I could follow the directions to my hotel. Drained after 15 minutes of searching, I ducked into a bakery for a pretzel to regain my strength and fortunately the lady there could fine my street. A short 10 minute walk later, I was at Hotel Bristol.

Exhausted from the 3-hours of airplane sleep I'd gotten, I lay down for a 90-minute nap, being triple sure to set the alarm to avoid the wonderful jetlag "wake up at 1 am" effect.

After the nap, it was time to explore. I walked through the shopping streets, stopping for an incredible hot chocolate at a fancy tea shop - the Germans take their tea very seriously. I'd planned to walk for a couple hours and then find a schnitzel house for dinner, but not long later, I passed an Italian restaurant with a shrimp, mango, curry, and coriander pizza on the menu. How could I pass that up (answer: I could not). And delicious it was. Post-dinner, I wandered some more, searching for a big book store that might have a pocket German-English phrasebook, which I neglected to bring. I found the book store, but alas, all their German/English dictionaries were written for Germans. Oh well.

The book store closed at 8 and once again, I was exhausted. I headed back to my hotel to watch The Calimari Wrestler and hit the sack early. The Calimari Wrestler, by the way, turns out to be one of the greatest films ever made.

After sleeping for 10.5 hours (wow, I can't remember when the last time is I slept that long), I awakened bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and ready for Sunday. I started the day with a 90-minute run through Munich's huge central park (aka Englishe Garten), a gigantic park just two short train stops from my hotel. The park was gorgeous, full of fall color and relatively empty this early on a Sunday morning. I love parks like this - close enough for city folk to use, but big enough that the only sounds of the city I heard was the constant clanging of church bells in the distance.

It's only Day 2, but I have a feeling that run will be the highlight of my trip.

After the run, I had just enough to catch the tail end of my hotel's breakfast, where all the waitstaff though I was weird for not wanting only water, rather than the usual coffee and/or tea (they asked me around 6 times in 15 minutes, just to be sure).

Now it's 11:30, and I have half an hour to shower and get repacked to move to the sure to be three times as nice (assuming price and niceness correlate linearly) hotel my company is paying for.

Aufweiterzein! (I am too lazy to look up if I'm spelling that right).

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Bucktown 5K

Oct. 6th, 2008 | 05:15 pm

Yesterday was the Bucktown 5K race not far from me. While it was a bit chilly when I woke up, it warmed up a bit and turned out to be perfect weather for the run.

My time was 28:06, at a 9:03 pace. Not fantastic, but that's fast for me post-surgery. That put me in 989th place (top 1000 woohoo!) out of 2351 and 164th in my age group. That was good enough to get beat by a 7-year old and two 9-year olds. I smoked the 6-year old in the race, though.
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Corn Syrup

Oct. 3rd, 2008 | 04:35 pm

The over-abundance of corn syrup in American food has been getting on my nerves lately. It wasn't until I started paying more attention to food labels that I realized how much stuff it's in.

And then my recent trip to Japan made me realize how good food can be without it. So I think I might try a No Corn Syrup Diet. Not religiously, but we'll see how it goes.

I'm a bit worried about two things. First is getting my chocolate/sugar fix. No corn syrup means no more of my beloved M&M's, 3 Musketeers, or any mainstream candy with caramel. But luckily, pure chocolate is okay, and that should force me to eat more high quality/dark chocolate, which is better for me.

The other thing is ketchup. It's hard to eat fried or mashed potatoes (that's right, mashed potatoes) without it and even if I can find a substitute at home, pretty much all restaurants only have Heinz.

But we'll see how it goes. As soon as this rather large bowl of Halloween candy on my desk is gone, it's so long HFCS.

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Chicago Triathlon, Take 2

Sep. 11th, 2008 | 05:10 pm

Yes, I've been inspired to start updating this again. Or at least to start updating something.

A few weeks ago, I ran my second Chicago triathlon (the other being in 2006). It was also my only big race of the year. Probably 90-95% of my training this year had been running, so I was expecting to somehow make it through the swim and bike, and then ace the run. Well that was not how it went.

The morning started out poorly as, while riding to transition at 5:30 a.m., my front tire went flat about half a mile away. Knowing they'd be closing up in about 10 minutes, I ran the rest of the way and managed to make it inside in time. To my surprise, I even managed to change the flat before they kicked me out.

Now, thanks to my age group, I had 3.5 hours to kill. Luckily, that was plenty of time for the adrenaline rush of the flat to die off. I decided to cab it back home and get a couple more hours of sleep before the race.

Okay, race time. The swim went quite well, and I finished in 34:07, significantly faster than the last time around. Next up was the bike. There was a decent wind blowing out of the north, but it wasn't too bad. No real problems here either, although I was a bit cautious since I knew that without another tube, if Lake Shore Drive's potholes gave m another flat, my race would be over. My bike time was 1:29:56, roughly the same as the first time around.

Next came the run. Oh, the run. The run was brutal in its entirety. I have no real explanation for that, other than that perhaps my lack of preperation on the bike took more out of me than I thought. I finished the 10K in 1:10:48, a pathetic pace of 11:24.

Overall, my time was 3:24:17. Not great, but only 2 mnutes slower than the previous time I'd done Chicago. I was hoping to beat my old time, but considering how much less prepared I was this time around, I'll take it.

1.5K Swim: 00:34:07 (Rank: 2197)
T1: 00:05:24
40K Bike: 01:29:56 (Rank: 3241)
T2: 00:04:01
10K Run: 01:10:48 (11:24 pace) (Rank: 3380)

Total: 03:24:17

Overall rank: 3236 of 4103 (425 of 502 age group)
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8-year-old suspended for sniffing marker

Apr. 7th, 2008 | 02:42 pm

WESTMINSTER – Adams School District 50 is defending its decision to punish a third grader for sniffing a Sharpie marker.

Eight-year-old Eathan Harris was originally suspended from Harris Park Elementary School for three days. Principal Chris Benisch reduced the suspension to one day after complaints from Harris' parents.

Harris used a black Sharpie marker to color a small area on the sleeve of his sweatshirt. A teacher sent him to the principal when she noticed him smelling the marker and his clothing.

"It smelled good," Harris said. "They told me that's wrong."

Eathan's father, John Harris, says the school overreacted for treating Eathan as if he was huffing, or inhaling, marker fumes.

"I think it's outlandish," John Harris said. "It's ridiculous."

Eathan shyly shook his head "no" when a reporter asked if he knew about "huffing."

Benisch stands by his decision to suspend Harris, saying it sends a clear message about substance abuse.

"This is really, really, seriously dangerous," Benisch said.

In his letter suspending the child, Benisch wrote that smelling the marker fumes could cause the boy to "become intoxicated."

A toxicologist with the Rocky Mountain Poison Control Center says that claim is nearly impossible.

Dr. Eric Lavonas says non-toxic markers like Sharpies, while pungent-smelling, cannot be used to get high.

"I don't know whether it would be possible for a real overachiever to figure out a way to get high off them," Lavonas said. "But in regular use, it's just not something that's going to happen."

"If you went to Costco and bought 50 bags of Sharpies and did something to them, maybe there's a way to get creative and make it happen," Lavonas said.

Adams County School District 50 leaders were unfazed by the poison control center's medical opinion.

"Principals make hundreds of decisions everyday based on our best judgment. And in that time, smelling that marker, I felt like, 'Wow, that's a very serious marker,'" Benisch said.

Despite the medical evidence, Benisch promised to draw an even clearer line on markers.

"We've purged every permanent marker there is in this building," he said.

Eathan Harris says he's happy to be back in school after his suspension, but he did confide he worried the school's disciplinary action might hurt his dream of one day becoming a professional football player.

Taken from http://www.9news.com/news/article.aspx?storyid=89333
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Another Shuffle

Mar. 30th, 2008 | 08:56 pm

Today was the Shamrock Shuffle, which must mean that it's Spring! Well, judging by the temperature, maybe not. It wasn't too bad during the run, though.

This was my 3rd year doing the Shamrock 8K. In 2006, I finished in 49 minutes flat. and then fell to 50:03 last year. This year, I clocked in at 49:21, putting me in 13013th place. That's my worst place finished, but I'm ecstatic to have broken 50 minutes, given the surgery and the fact that I'm only been running or doing any cardio at all for a couple weeks now. Especially since I thought I've been running 10:30 miles since the surgery (as it turns out, my nike+iPod thing is calibrated incorrectly).

Speaking of the surgery, the recovery has been going excellently. My knee's been steadily improving, and particularly in the past two weeks, it's felt a lot more solid - I know longer worry when running, slipping, or pivoting on it.

Tomorrow morning is what should be my final doctor's and physical therapy appointments. I'm hoping to get the all-clear to go back to aikido. Wish me luck!
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Standardized Testing

Jan. 30th, 2008 | 10:20 pm

Ah, the joys of standardized testing. Its doing wonders for our educational system.

Weird science: Lessons on hold to prep for FCAT
When Priya Mistry returned from winter break, she expected to spend the next quarter in chemistry learning about Avogadro's number and converting moles to mass. Instead, her teacher said he was throwing out the chemistry curriculum for the next seven weeks and teaching a review for the science FCAT.

http://www.palmbeachpost.com/localnews/content/local_news/epaper/2008/01/30/s1b_skscience_0130.html
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I miss Japan

Dec. 22nd, 2007 | 02:47 am

Just being in the Tokyo airport for a few hours has reminded me about how awesome Japan is.

The nice people, the toilet technology, the food - it's all here.

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