Catching Up

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It’s been exactly a week since I last posted. Usually, if I take that long a break, it’s a combination of not much to say and not much time to say it in. This time, I had a number of things to say (one in particular) and plenty of time to say it. I purposely didn’t post, because I wanted The Wedding post to stay on top on the main page (without explicitly pinning it), to savor the wonderful memory, just a little longer. Alas, life goes on, and so will this blog. 🙂

So, I’ll cover a number of things in this post, trying to keep each much shorter than they might have been had they been given their own space. Hopefully, the entire thing will be reasonable in length as well. Seperately, perhaps tomorrow, I’ll write a general music catchup post, so I’ll leave music out of this one.

The one post that was hard to avoid writing last week would have appeared on Thursday morning (congratulate me on my restraint). We have really good friends that over the past few years we’ve probably seen more often in NYC than any other couple. We used to grab a meal together roughly every other trip back to NYC.

For a variety of reasons, the last time we saw them was December 2007, mostly because their lives got really complicated. He got pneumonia that lasted a month, and immediately started a new job right after that (we had no idea about either event) and she was busier than ever in a wonderful job she landed six months earlier.

Cutting to the chase, we reconnected via email a few weeks back, and the best night for them to get together was last Wednesday. We were delighted to oblige. What they had no idea about (yes, we’re sure) is that it was our Anniversary. Even without that knowledge, they insisted on picking the place and treating.

They took us to Butai, a very nice Japanese restaurant. We had a fantastic meal with wonderful company. I ordered a fancy drink (I haven’t had a fancy drink in a while) that included Prosecco (a champagne-like sparkling wine) and Pear puree (among a few other ingredients). It seemed fitting on our Anniversary. Lois ordered straight Prosecco (she didn’t realize my drink had any, and she hasn’t ordered a drink in a restaurant in nearly a year!).

Anyway, Butai is highly recommended, and we’re glad to have reconnected with great friends. Thanks guys! 🙂

I know how late I am to the party, but I simply can’t let the Jesse Jackson – Barack Obama comments go by without mention. Here’s the only thing I want to say on that subject (would have been much more if it were its own post, in a timely manner): Jesse Jackson’s apology was beyond laughable.

I’m not surprised he apologized. I’m not surprised he’s still backing Obama (could you imagine him supporting McCain?). So, I’m not calling him a hypocrite for still wanting Obama elected, badly. But, could he not have injected an iota of reality into the apology? After all, he was quoted as threatening to castrate Obama (literally!). Here’s the apology I would have liked to have heard:

I sincerely apologize to Barack Obama for my comments yesterday. While I have some fundamental differences with him on a number of issues, which caused me to privately lash out, they pale in comparison to the numerous issues where I agree with him completely. Further, even in those issues where I disagree with him, I am closer to his position on those than I am to John McCain’s, so my support for Obama continues to be as strong today as it was previously.

Simple, but believable. Don’t pretend that it was all just taken out of context, and that it’s a non-stop love-fest between the two of you. It’s obvious to any thinking person that Jesse Jackson can’t stand Obama whatsoever. That’s fine, they don’t have to love each other in order to be supportive of each other. Bottom line, with friends like Jackson, Wright and Phleger, Obama certainly doesn’t need any enemies…

I’ve been good about keeping up with my exercise routine. I walked my 8+ mile jaunt in NYC three times this week, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. I don’t typically walk two days in a row (especially after taking off only one day in-between the first two walks), but the weather was perfect here this weekend, we were atypically in the city over the weekend, and they were predicting rain all day today.

In any event, I had great walks all three times. It’s helped with my weight as well, as I hit at a new low this morning since I reported on my dramatic weight gain back in this April post. I’m sure it will fluctuate up and down a bit more, but the fact that I’m at a new (interim) low, a week after a wedding where I didn’t hold back on desserts, is a good thing. 🙂

To be clear, I’m still way above my low since beginning to lose weight in 2001, but headed back in the right direction, finally!

Lastly, there aren’t any particularly insightful words I can add to the numerous praises that have been heaped on Tony Snow after his passing this weekend. Lois and I watched Tony for years and were always impressed with him. He was as geniunely a good person as one could aspire to be. He was also only one year older than me, so I know (personally) how unbelievably short his life was. Rest In Peace Tony, you well deserve it!

Discovering Fredericksburg

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We’ve been coming to Fredericksburg, VA consistently for 11 years, since we first approached the Digital Creations team (now called Zope Corporation) about a possible investment.

Since July 2001, the number (and length) of visits increased dramatically and has remained steady. That’s because since then, we have both been involved more in the operational details of Zope Corporation than we had been previously.

From other posts, you may know that I am back in the swing of regular exercise, something I had done a good job of for a number of years in a row and fell off the bandwagon last fall. When we’re in Fredericksburg (which can be two weeks a month) I am more inconsistent. There were times when I was religious about using the tiny gym in our hotel. There were also long stretches of blissful laziness. 😉

To combat that laziness, Lois took matters into her own hands (even though she doesn’t exercise at all, she’s judicious in supporting me and even in pushing me if I admit to being lazy). Unbeknownst to me, she sent an email to a number of the single guys at Zope asking if they wanted to walk me. Specifically, the subject line of her email to them was Walking Hadar 🙂 (smiley included in the subject line). When I finally saw it, I felt like a doddering old man. 😉

Tuesday evening, four of us walked along the Fredericksburg Canal (after work). It was a slightly more leisurely pace than I normally walk at back in NY, but it was beautiful and the company was excellent. We walked for just under an hour, and the four of us grabbed dinner at Tropical Smoothie Cafe.

A quick digression. Lois is a history buff of the first order. For seven years she has been begging me to visit the various battefield sites in Fredericksburg. For any number of reasons (mostly because I’m mean and lazy she would likely say) we haven’t gone (and therefore she hasn’t gone). Now back to our story…

On Thursday evening, the same gang of four decided to try a different walk. We chose one of the battlefield sites, located on Lee Drive. I admit to feeling a little guilty that I would get to see the battlefield site before Lois would, but that’s just the way things were going to work out…

So, after work, we met at the base of Lee Hill. It’s a reasonably steep uphill climb of roughly 1/4 of a mile. At the top are two canons, a few placards, and not much else. We came down a few minutes later. We drove to the next parking spot (perhaps another 1/4 of a mile up Lee Drive). We entered the trail there into the woods (after seeing the two obligatory canons at the head of the trail).

In total, we walked in the winding woods, up and down hills, for roughly an hour. There was little about the walk that made me feel battlefield, or even anything historic, but it was a great walking trail and good exercise. The company was good (again), but less chatting, because the trail is very narrow, so we walked single file. At the end, rather than walk back through the woods, we walked back along the road itself (where people were jogging and biking as well). We chatted a lot more then.

When we got back to the cars, our total walk time was just under two hours. It was a very nice workout. We decided to throw away the entire benefit of the exercise, and grabbed dinner at Five Guys (hamburgers and fries).

Before Tuesday’s walk, we had planned on getting together Saturday morning for a walk as well. This time there were five of us. We lost one of the original gang of four (he was supposed to be out camping over the weekend, but his plans changed a number of times). We picked up two additional walkers. We decided to redo the second part of Thursday’s walk on Lee Drive.

This time we returned through the same woods rather than taking the road, so the total trip (since we skipped the first Lee Hill part) was 90 minutes round trip. We walked single file, very little chatting, and maintained a reasonably good pace throughout. Since the end was mostly uphill, we finished on an exercise high.

We parted for showers and a drop of down time, then all met for lunch at Uno Chicago Grill. We also picked up the guy who walked Tue and Thu making seven in total for lunch (Lois joined us for lunch as well). Here’s a photo of all of the guys, Lois took it, which is why she isn’t in it. Plus, she didn’t walk with us, so she didn’t earn the right to be in the photo. 😉

Zope Guys Uno Chicago Grill

After lunch four of us went to see the new movie WALL-E. It has superb animation and the story is cute, but to me, there was nothing special about the movie. I chuckled a bunch and there were zero unpleasant moments, so it was a relaxing way to spend a few hours. That said, the young kids in the audience squealed with delight, so that’s the only age group that I can highly recommend the movie to.

Anyway, all in all, great exercise, great company, a touch of history (if a little underwhelming), a mindless (but cute) movie, followed by collapse in the hotel room. Thanks guy, and thanks to Lois for making it all happen!

P.S. When we travel, I have various tray tables with me for different situations. In the hotel, I use a tray table meant to serve breakfast in bed, but I put a laptop table (from Bed Bath & Beyond) on top, since my laptop is way too heavy for the thin part that the plates are supposed to sit on. For a number of reasons, I forgot (first time!) to bring the tray table and laptop table. Luckily, I had an identical tray table at the apartment (where we left from this time), but no laptop table to put on top.

I decided that I would either buy a new one ($10) or perhaps just get a single piece of plexiglass or wood at Home Depot. I mentioned that to Rob Page (CEO of Zope Corporation) and he told me that he could cut me a piece of wood to do the trick.

Indeed, he did, and here are the photos to prove how well it fit and worked. I prefer it to my laptop table, so I’ll be traveling with this block of wood from now on. You can also get a sense of the size of my beast of a laptop. It weighs nearly 14 pounds with the power supply brick, which is why I need a table to support it rather than putting it on my actual lap…

Block of WoodBlock of Wood and the Beast

Thanks Rob! 🙂

Girlyman Discovery

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OK, so it’s been way too long since I’ve even mentioned Girlyman in this space, let alone actually written something specific about them. 🙂

I was intending to walk (my long exercise walk) on Wednesday, in NYC. Instead, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post on Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, I had lunch with an old friend. That made me itch to exercise (though it was a very good trade!).

Today, I scratched that itch by walking in the woods near our house. I reported on this new (to me) path from our house to Rockwood Park and back in this post. That’s the exact route I took again today. One hour of very vigorous walking, with tons of uphill climbing.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been listening exclusively to podcasts of The Business from KCRW. I’ve written about them before, but I’ve let them just build up, knowing that I would enjoy them if I just listened. So, I’ve eschewed the music, and started whittling down the number of unlistened to episodes, and I’ve enjoyed every second. Each episode is 29 minutes, so I listen to four on my NYC walks and two on these new walks at the house.

So, I planned to listen to two more today. Each episode generally has two separate topics. During the first episode the second topic ended up being a repeat. So, I started the next episode. Again, the second topic was a repeat. So, instead of starting a third episode, I decided to go back to my roots, Girlyman.

I started playing the Live album, Somewhere Different Now. I’ve listened to it many times, and the songs that are on their studio CDs have been listened to more times than I can count. So, I know them well (or so I thought), and I sing along to almost every one out loud, if I’m alone, or if I don’t mind bugging Lois. 😉

Perhaps, because I was walking alone, in the bliss of nature, I had an epiphany during one verse of This Is Me, that I’ve sung along with out loud many times (so I knew the words cold), but never thought about them before. The second verse (not including the chorus) is:

The noble mind, it traps four pieces of the heart inside
We came in twos, and two by twos it seemed of little use
We felt the rain, our faces cold and pale, the colors drained
The oceans grew until we floated on a deeper hue

I had the most vivid vision of Noah’s Ark when I heard this verse. I realize that’s not a stretch when you read “We came in twos…” and “The oceans grew…”. But, when you read the rest of the lyrics, it doesn’t (necessarily) tie in to that theme, so when these words come in the middle, they don’t necessarily evoke that image.

Of course, Girlyman (Nate and Doris specifically) may not have meant that at all. I don’t care, which is one of the great things about great music/lyrics, you (the listener) get to bring your perception to the experience! 😉

Anyway, it was a wonderful moment for me, which feels a little trivial now, reporting it here in the cold light of the laptop, but I’m sharing it more for the renewal of spirit that comes from a great walk in nature, than for any insight about this particular song.

So, go, enjoy nature, listen to Girlyman, renew your spirit, then continue to do whatever it is you do, a little better for it! 🙂

Wild Turkey

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Normally, I take my long walks in the city when I exercise. On the occasional walks at the house, I usually just walk up and down our lane two times. It’s a 1/4 of a mile straight up hill (quite steep), so on the two round trips, 1/2 a mile of climbing breathlessly, and 1/2 a mile of putting on the breaks downhill.

I like it, and it’s a decent workout, but it’s also only roughly 20 minutes. It accomplishes the cardio part pretty well, but not the unwinding part. I can’t even listen to 1/2 an album in that time.

On Friday, friends of ours came over for a longer walk. Lois was still recovering from Tuesday night so I went alone with the other couple. We explored the old Croton Aqueduct walk. We walked at a relatively leisurely pace, so it wasn’t much of a workout, but it was wonderful nonetheless.

Lois has been bugging me for years (close to two decades actually) to walk the aqueduct with her, but I never did. Today, now that I knew where it was, I decided to take a longer walk. Technically, I was only on the official aqueduct trail for about 10 minutes in total. I took a fork toward Rockwood Park which hugs the Hudson River.

Total walk time door-to-door was just over an hour at a very brisk pace. Roughly 25% of it is steeply uphill, so I still got that kind of a workout (I like that part a lot). After one particularly long climb, you straighten out to sweeping Hudson River views which are breathtaking.

When I was on the last stretch home (back on the official aqueduct trail), just five minutes from my house, I heard a rustling in the bushes. I looked down and saw what could have been a small duck or goose, but it was hidden in the bushes enough to not be sure. Then, all of a sudden, a larger rustling, and a reasonably large wild turkey came out in what felt like a relatively aggressive manner.

I didn’t change my pace, nor stare at it, because I figured that what I first saw was likely a baby turkey, that this mother was intending to defend to the death. Better to just not appear to be a threat. She never came all that close to me, but I do freely admit that my heart raced a bit more than I would have thought if someone told me that a turkey would wander out on the path that I was walking on. 🙂

Anyway, I have now discovered what everyone else in Westchester has known forever, and I have tons of new paths to walk on when I want a longer workout that will also allow me to clear my mind in addition to just working my muscles. Amen to that!

Exercise Season Begins

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I am ashamed to admit that today was my first official exercise of the year. In fact, probably in six months! 🙁

In July 2001, I had my first physical in forever (thanks for forcing me Lois!). I was way overweight and my cholesterol was high. The doctor wanted to put me on Lipitor immediately, and I decided to try diet and exercise first.

I went on a traditional low-fat diet, and started exercising regularly (I hadn’t purposely exercised in nearly 20 years!). Within a few months, I lost 30 pounds and my cholesterol dropped a bunch. Sounds good, and it was, except that I was starving all the time between meals.

One of the guys at Zope started Atkins when I was well into my diet. I was jealous at the things he was eating (while losing weight!), but Lois wouldn’t let me switch, because she was afraid it was unsafe. I ended up hitting a plateau and was maintaining the weight loss, while remaining hungry, unable to lose more. Ugh.

Then Lois read an article by a Duke professor. Our godson was Duke at the time, so she was paying attention to lots of Duke news. They performed a very large study and found Atkins to be relatively safe, with larger weight loss with the weight staying off longer as well. I was in. 😉

When I switched to Atkins, I was instantly in love. I was stuffed beyond description, all the time. I had to force myself to eat according to the Atkins schedule, and I was still losing weight! At the peak of my weight loss, I was down a total of 68 pounds! I bounced off the bottom, but held pretty steady at down 56 pounds (which was fine!).

On rare occasions, I would get a little jealous about some of the things I couldn’t eat (notably bread), but overall, I was really happy. Then I went to the doctor again, and my cholesterol was sky high (much higher than the original reading that caused him to worry). This is counter to the general theory of Atkins, but there’s always an exception to the rule, and I was one of them. 🙁

He told me to get off of Atkins instantly. I did. In the beginning, I drifted up a few pounds, but was able to maintain the new weight reasonably easily, while enjoying a whole new range of food. Ironically, I hadn’t missed rice at all, and didn’t miss potatoes as much as I thought I would, but now rice was like chocolate cake to me!

After weeks of not gaining too much weight, I foolishly started adding things, like, oh, say, chocolate cake. 🙁

Even then, I only drifted up a few more pounds, and maintained there (for a long stretch), so of course, I continued to indulge (on occasion, but according to Lois, too many occasions).

Now for the real problem. When our schedule was hyper-busy last fall, and the weather turned ugly for a long period of time, I simply stopped exercising. Unfortunately, I didn’t stop eating. I kept drifting up. At the worst, I was down only 42 pounds from the 2001 weigh in. Enough is enough!

So, back to exercise season. My favorite form of exercise is a very long (brisk) walk around Manhattan. I walk from the apartment to the FDR drive, then walk up the drive to 96th street, then across to Central Park, then through the park down to 60th, then down Park Ave, back to the apartment. It’s roughly 8.25 miles and takes me between 2 hours and 2.25 hours.

The reason I added official in italics above, is that last Sunday, when we had our young guest (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re not a regular reader) 😉 he wanted to play basketball. It was cold, and I wasn’t happy about it, but I’m a soft touch for kids. So, we went to play. He insisted on playing one-on-one, full court, and kicked my butt 50-12 (two points a basket). After we went to the park for other stuff, we came back and ended up in a half court game (he was dismayed, but other people took half the court after we started), and he only beat be me 20-18.

Either way, I ended up running around quite a bit, which was real exercise, but not my normal format. It left my legs sore the next day, which is how I knew it was real. 😉

Today was just perfect weather. Cool, crisp, but sunny. I went in shorts and a T-Shirt, which was perfect in the sun, and ever-so-slightly cold in the shade, which overall was just right.

It worked out for another reason. Many of our friends participated today in the Richmond, VA 10K run/walk (probably more than a dozen friends, perhaps more than 20!). It made me feel that I was in some kind of sympathetic rhythm with them. They got rained on slightly, so I had the better of it weather-wise, but they had a good time and so did I.

I listened to my iPod Nano the entire way, to (guess what) Girlyman! I haven’t had a chance to copy over the new Live CD to the Nano (of course it lives on the iPod Classic) so I listened to 40 of the 44 Girlyman songs on the Nano.

That means all of Joyful Sign, Little Star, the five live bootlegs of the new songs from Club Passim, and all but the last four songs from Remember Who I Am. I listened to the last four after my shower. 🙂

That lead in is perfect for my month-long advertisement of the Girlyman Live CD Contest. Enter soon (and often) and win a CD. More importantly, do it so that other people discover them! Thanks!