Saturday, July 31, 2010

My Niece in Nigeria

My niece recently went on a missionary trip to Nigeria and here are some photos from the trip. She really is a remarkable young woman.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


When I was a kid, getting enough exercise was never a problem. Saturdays were spent riding bikes all over town, we walked to and from school, and we actually had to get up to change channels on the TV.

Now that I’m firmly implanted in middle-age, getting enough exercise seems to be an excruciatingly elusive endeavor. There’s absolutely nothing I enjoy doing at the health club. Weight-lifting hurts, treadmills are boring and aerobics are best left to the Jane Fonda types. If they offered a seven-minute yoga class, I might go for that.

They say that the best exercise is one that you enjoy; one that you will do. In looking back over my non-athletic life, the only physical activity I’ve really enjoyed has been skating. All types of skating; four-wheel, inline and on ice.

For the past ten years that I’ve lived in Chicago, I’ve really enjoyed ice skating a great deal. For four months during the winter, I keep a pair of hockey skates in my office and often hit the outdoor rink after work. The thing is, I don’t actually go that often anymore.

While I was in the monastery during the nineties, I really got into inline skating (i.e. Roller-blading). I could skate to my heart’s content on the monastery’s empty parking lot and ended up dropping quite a bit of weight. (Down to 180 lbs, actually.)

Yes, I was one lean, mean, praying machine.

I thought about getting out the old Roller-blades again, but where could I safely skate? Empty monastery parking lots are hard to come by. The running-bike-thing along Lakeshore drive is festooned with runners, bikers, dogs, strollers, and skaters, all of whom seem hell-bent on breaking the sound barrier. I tried riding my bike there once and it scared me to death.

Finally, I found a place, devoid of people that might get in my way – the ice rink where I skate during the winter.

It’s completely unused and ice-free. Well, during the day there’s a kiddie day-camp sponsored by the Parks & Recreation Department where lots of kidlets play some kind of soccer-hockey. Other than that, it’s all mine.

So, I donned the old skates yesterday and took a spin. Frankly, it seemed to take quite a bit more work than ice skating, but I’ll get used to it. Maybe I’m just used to skating when it’s not hot outside.

The only thing that bugged me was that every five minutes, a group of tourists on Segways would buzz by and stare at me.

(I thought, “You’re on a goofy Segway and you’re staring at ME?”)

So, maybe I’ve found a means of exercise that I don’t loathe. Come November, I’ll switch from wheels to blades.

Maybe now, I can finally cancel that stupid gym membership.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dvorak Update

It's been a long time since I've provided you, dear readers, with an update on my typing skills with the Dvorak keyboard. I'm sure you've all been wondering how it was coming along.

For those of you who don't know, the Dvorak keyboard uses a different layout than the standard "Qwerty" typing keyboard. It was designed in the 1930s when the first electric typewriters were used so that typists would utilize a lot less finger-motion.

Here's the layout:

When typing on this layout, all "finger-hopping" is eliminated and most of the typing is done on the home row. It's really pretty remarkable. As a pianist, it really appeals to me.

Try it. Imagine your index fingers on the "u" and the "h" on the layout above. Now type the word "something" or "these" or "months" and you'll see how little finger-motion is involved. Try typing your name, too. Isn't that incredible?

So, I took a typing test today.

Drum roll, please. . . . .

77 words per minute with no mistakes.

I realize that being so enthralled with the Dvorak keyboard is just about the geekiest thing ever.

That's fine. I'll look good in my Argyle sweater-vest while typing with lots less finger-motion.


Monday, July 26, 2010

My Argyle Sweater-Vest Goal

I stand six-foot-two-and-a-half inches.

189 cm in Canada

I recently bought my first set of bathroom scales.

Cue the dramatic music . . . .

230 pounds is much too much for me to be gravitating toward this good Earth.

I don't want to look good naked. I just rilly rilly want to look good in an argyle sweater-vest.

Actually  -- I love sweater-vests and anything in an Argyle pattern makes me smile. To be able to wear various Argyle sweater-vests by October would be a dream come true.

I'm not joking.

So, I've joined Weight Watchers -- 
 -- The online version where I can sit on my butt and track my progress. If all goes according to plan, I should lose 5% of my body-weight within a month.
(I surely don't want to GO to a meeting, heaven forbid)

Four weeks from now, I should be sitting down on a firm, 218-lb butt.

Eight weeks from now, I'll hopefully be featured on an episode of "Hoarding, Obsession, Intervention: Argyle Sweater-Vests" and my mom and dad will be interviewed:

(Dad): "We never knew he was like this or saw it coming! In hindsight, though, he always stayed in his room playing with his Erector Set. He never did like to go outside or wear short-pants."

(Mom): (Sobbing) There was that one time he insisted on wearing a yellow turtleneck dickie outside his sweater when he was eight, but we never thought it would  lead to this! I should have seen the signs!

So, that is my goal:  To have my family and friends enact an intervention over my Argyle sweater-vest hoarding-obsession-addiction by October. 

I'm setting aside a big chunk of money right now.

You can read about my diet details here.

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Disaster Scene in Chicago

No, there was no real disaster in Chicago.

All of this is part of a movie set that's being filmed in downtown Chicago. For two days, Wacker Drive was closed and strewn with this rubble. Every thirty minutes or so, I'd hear the most horrible-sounding crashing noises echoing across downtown.

Oh, and all this rubble? Completely made of styrofoam.

For the past two days, downtown traffic was a disaster.

(I have no idea what movie was being filmed.)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Workin' It

I really have been working out at the gym a lot lately. I still don't like it, but at least it's air conditioned.

Some guys work out so they can look good naked.

I just want to look good in an argyle sweater-vest.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Pet Peeve

I’ve had this pet peeve for quite some time and I think it’s time I write about it.

Here it is:

Eating food during a meeting.

Why do people do this? Meetings take up an hour or two, yet some folks feel that it’s absolutely necessary to schlep in an entire meal for it. Haven’t they the capacity to nourish themselves outside of that two-hour block?

I was attending an early morning meeting recently (which was in another city – I won’t say where) and this fellow next to me munched healthy breakfast food the entire time.

First, he brought out half a banana. Oh, okay, that’s not too bad. Then, out came another half a banana. Why was that banana absolutely necessary during that precise time? I really wondered why that banana was so necessary.

After that, a plastic container of granola was retrieved from his backpack. Every thirty seconds or so, he’d rattle around in that container, take a pinch of granola and munch away.

Every thirty seconds:

Rattle, rattle, rattle,
Munch, munch, munch.

Pause. . .

Rattle, rattle, rattle,
Munch, munch, munch.

I could feel myself tensing up with frustrations

Rattle, rattle, rattle,
Munch, munch, munch.

Finally, he finished with the damn granola. But Mr. Breakfast-Man wasn’t done. Oh, no.

He reached in his backpack and began rustling around for something else. Out came a plastic bag of grapes which he had to have.

Every thirty seconds, he’d rustle around in that plastic bag, pop a grape and munch away.

Rustle, rustle, rustle,
Munch, munch, munch.

Pause . . .

Rustle, rustle, rustle,
Munch, munch, munch.

If that wasn’t bad enough, a woman across from me had a Tupperware container of cold cereal. About once every minute, she’d peel open the airtight lid and sslluuuurp that cereal with a plastic spoon and replace the lid.

Peel back the lid,
Replace the lid.

Rustle, rustle, rustle,
Munch, munch, munch.

Peel back the lid,
Replace the lid.

Rustle, rustle, rustle,
Munch, munch, munch.

I was about to go insane.

Haven’t these people the foresight to schedule their nourishment at appropriate times? It’s not like they’re infants who require feedings every two hours.

Whenever I conduct all-day meetings or seminars, I simply schedule breakfast and lunch breaks. A break. Meaning, “Go out and feed yourself – at the food court 22 stories below – and then come back. You may return with a small caffeinated beverage."

Starbucks -- okay.

Jamba Juice – you're pushing it.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

This is Brilliant

I’ve always thought that the words to The Star Spangled Banner were pretty horrible. All those bombs bursting and the glorification of war are hardly what a nation’s identity should be about.

Apparently, the writers at The Onion thought so too. I think this is brilliant and hilarious.

Restoration Of 'Star Spangled Banner' Uncovers Horrifying New Verses

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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

The Business Trip

I was watching a rerun of "The Office" tonight -- the one where Michael Scott was sent on a business trip to Winnipeg. The one in Canada.

As you know, "The Office" takes place in Scranton. The one in Pennsylvania.

The flight attendant told Michael that there would be no meal on the flight since it was less than two hours in duration. I then got to wondering what route this trip took.

Would he have driven the two hours to New York and taken a direct flight? Would he have flown from Scranton and connected through New York? Maybe he flew on Northwest Airlines from Scranton and connected through either of their hubs in Detroit or Minneapolis. Knowing Northwest, it probably would have been that convenient Scranton-Detroit-Minneapolis-Winnipeg jaunt.

I tried to think of all the possibilities. I couldn't stop wondering about this.

So, I paused the Tivo, hopped onto Orbitz and requested a flight from Scranton to Winnipeg.

Duh. . .

United Airlines -- connecting through Chicago's O'Hare. My own back yard.

If I'd known that I would have popped out there to say hello during his layover.

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Saturday, July 03, 2010

Yoga in the Park

I don’t “do” hot weather. Or sunshine for that matter.

The feeling of sweating just drives me nuts. To me, it's like scraping your nails on a chalk board. I really despise it. It's weird, I know.

So, it was really noteworthy that Miss Healthypants talked me into attending an outdoor yoga session at Millennium Park this morning.

Every Saturday morning at 8:00 am during the summer, there’s a free yoga session that takes place in front of the band shell. It truly is a beautiful setting, surrounded by Chicago’s skyline. I used to be “in” to yoga so it’s not unfamiliar to me and I’m still pretty bendy.

But I was hesitant to do this because it was supposed to be pretty hot today -- and I don’t “do” hot weather, remember? But MHP is pretty persuasive and knows which buttons to push.

So, I got up at 7:00 am this morning -- on a Saturday, mind you -- and met up with the ever so chipper MHP. It was already pretty warm.

We arrived at the yoga place and placed our mats down among the people. I’d say there were about two hundred folks there and the surroundings really were pretty incredible.

Here, take a look:

See? Did you notice all that dreadful sunshine?

I lasted about 30 minutes which was pretty good, I’d say. The sun was really beating down by then and the instructor favored the Downward Dog position way too much -- a position that is exceedingly difficult when one has really thin wrists and is a bit overweight.

MHP stayed until the bitter end and then even did their session of outdoor pilates. See? Healthypants.

Meanwhile, I slinked home in the comfort of an air-conditioned Taxi of Shame.

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Thursday, July 01, 2010


Don’t you love those nicknames for things that only you and a close friend share?

There’s a Thai restaurant across the street from me that Miss Healthypants and I have been eating at for years. It’s not particularly outstanding, but it’s close and inexpensive – perfect for those evenings when we just want to meet for a little sump’n to eat.
Here’s a photo of the inside:

It seemed that when we first started going there, some of the menu items I ordered came in the same type of brown sauce. Since I cannot remember the names of Asian restaurants, I began referring to this restaurant as “The Brown Gravy Place.”

The name stuck.

Now, years later, several of our friends know of “The Brown Gravy Place.” (Note: Not everything there comes in the brown sauce. I was just exaggerating.)

Lately, we’ve shortened it, especially when making email arrangements to eat there. The Brown Gravy Place is now the BGP.

Isn’t it great to have friends this close? Nicknames are assigned, used for years, and shortened. I hope everyone is lucky enough to have “BGP friends” like I do.