Thursday, January 07, 2010

less like a run, more like a crawl...

Sorry for not posting yesterday. I meant to and then time got away from me. Using some Christmas money while I was running errands yesterday, I picked up a Nike+. I haven't had an iPod in a while. I have a 30gigabyte iPod Video somewhere in the apartment but at one point it got fried in a faulty car charger and while it powered up it wouldn't hold a charge. Not a great characteristic in an iPod. Angela thought that hers was acting up so she used some Christmas money to purchase a new one off of Craigslist. I got to inherit her old one when it turns out that for whatever reason it IS working ok. Yay me! Or something like that anyway. I know I need to maintain decorum around here)

Anyway, I had a $5 Rewards Zone coupon to use and I needed to pick up a new cassette adaptor for my car and while I was there I was swayed by the fact that the little Nike+ was only $30.

Last summer Wired did an entire issue on how we use data. One of the articles delved into the little +. The thing that piqued my interest was this.

Nike+ isn't a perfect tool; it wasn't designed to be. But it's good enough, and more crucially, it's simple. Nike learned a huge lesson from Apple: The iPod wasn't a massive hit because it was the most powerful music player on the market but because it offered the easiest, most streamlined user experience.

But that simple, dual-variable tracking can lead to novel insights, especially once you have so many people feeding in data: The most popular day for running is Sunday, and most Nike+ users tend to work out in the evening. After the holidays, there's a huge increase in the number of goals that runners set; this past January, they set 312 percent more goals than the month before.

There's something even deeper. Nike has discovered that there's a magic number for a Nike+ user: five. If someone uploads only a couple of runs to the site, they might just be trying it out. But once they hit five runs, they're massively more likely to keep running and uploading data. At five runs, they've gotten hooked on what their data tells them about themselves.
When I got home I logged on to the Nike+ website and created a little Mini and putzed around a little on the site before I had to get back to work. I really intended to go out yesterday and do a short run but ended up not being able to until today. I woke up tired, in fact my first tweet this morning was "ugh. morning already? haha. lots of stuff to check off the list today. hope it's not as long as yesterday and more fruitful."

All morning I struggled with waking up. A can of Mountain Dew didn't help. Getting a little bite to eat didn't help. Nothing was really contributing to my becoming coherent so I got my gear together and headed out. Here's the little pouch for my sensor since my shoe doesn't have a pocket for it.

After being waylaid by having to fish the draw string out of my sweatpants (it was cold! I know I'm not from Texas and I realize that it was 17 in Colorado Springs today and colder than that in Minneapolis/St. Paul but it's all relative and in the last year I've lost the heartiness to go out and run in shorts on a windy 40 degree day.) I got out the door and started to jog. So far, so good. I made it out of the complex and ended up stopping almost immediately to try and sort out my playlist. I really didn't want to listen to all of my quiet music while I was trying to get out of the house. Crisis averted, I got going again. I guess I didn't realize how hilly our neighborhood is. After I got back I pulled up the route in Gmap Pedometer and was kind of surprised.

You start heading downhill a little but almost immediately start to climb out of a hill. Not a major one but it's enough that you feel it. Very quickly my jog turned into a walk. Jog. Walk. Jog. Walk. I'm only not frustrated at my performance because I know how close to ground zero I am and it's my first non-treadmill run this year but it was still frustrating. Also, almost immediately my back started to complain. I stopped to stretch but it never really got better. Thankfully it didn't get worse.

It was really a rather pedestrian stroll. Just a big loop around the neighborhood. Total mileage was around 4 miles. Right before I turned onto the highway that runs past our complex I saw this beautiful, flat, completely empty road. My route was NOTHING like this.

The only thing of note was that I discovered one a new favorite 'hate on a state' song. I'm not sure that's a category, but there has to be a whole list somewhere filled with songs that make fun of neighboring states. No offense to my friends from Ohio, but this song cracked me up... and I'm not sure there's ever been a rock songs that name checks US House Reps John Boehner and Jean Schmidt.

Anyway, I got home and dumped plugged my iPod in and the computer automatically asked me if I wanted to head over to Nike's site. Once there it imported my run and gave me this.

Then, it asked me how I felt. Nice to have a really simple way to keep a training log.

And I went ahead and joined my first Nike+ group...

I had to. It's like a state obligation.

So, summary, the Nike+ turns out to be kind of cool. It's really nice to be able to press a button and have a voice tell you your current running time, distance and speed. I think the tracking is going to be AWESOME. I'm quite out of shape (but I already knew that)... and I came home from the jog feeling much better than before I went. Another win. Hopefully I can keep it up.

More tomorrow. I've been thinking a lot about rides I'd like to do this year and I'd like to write up the options. Hopefully we'll also have some time for movies this weekend. It's been a couple days since I've written anything up.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

A small update today

no movie watching this evening. I worked throughout the day on a couple of projects that HAD TO BE FINISHED (gotta love those days) and around 8:00 forced myself to head to the gym. I always find it incredibly odd to get out of the gym with a second wind. I went in tired and ready to sleep and came out ready to take on the world (or more realistically to come home, see Angela asleep and proceed to sit and read gadget and political blogs for a half hour).

Tonight at the gym was mostly spent doing one of the weight circuits they have. Sometimes it's easier not having to think... just proceeding from station to station doing as many reps as I can before moving on to the next machine. Now, there being a couple of circuits at the 24 Hour Fitness that I work out at, the key is to pick the one that looks the emptiest. I THOUGHT that I had picked right. There was one other guy and he seemed to be moving fairly quickly. I sat down at one of the stations and started my routine. As I finished I slipped over to the next one (clock-wise) and discovered that my fellow traveller was doing his circuit counter-clockwise. blergh. Oh well, no big deal. I move over to the other half of the circuit so as to not be in his way and start to do some leg presses.

While I'm not the buffest guy in the world, I take a certain pride in my quads. They've always been the one area where I've had some power. I think that might be the reason that I originally got back into cycling. I might not be able to climb but I can sit and pedal all day. Anyway, I dig doing leg presses because it's the one time of my workout where I can just set the pin all the way at the bottom of the weight stack and watch the entire set of bars go up and down. I realize that it's not the same thing as a squat and that I need to be adding more squats into my various routines but allow me my one parlor trick indulgence.

In the middle of my set an interloper invaded the circuit... Not that I had communicated with my 'circuit partner' but I felt like we had an understanding... heh. He'd work his way around the circuit on the other side and I'd work around from my side. But to add a third person, a late middle aged, slightly overweight woman in wearing a skin tight jet black polyester jumpsuit carrying a yellowing tan towel. Miss tan towel went straight to one of the machines and set the towel down gingerly on the seat pad. Then, striking some sort of a pose reminiscent of a Congolese fertility dance she entered into a weird sort of gyrating squat and sat down. Keep Austin Weird indeed.

She did a few reps on her machine and got up. One would hope that she'd notice that I and the other guy had moved one machine to the right and continued our workouts and that she could follow suit but that would be too easy. She got up, shook out her towel, and bounced off to a seemingly random machine in the same circuit. The delicate balance was even more upset! Again with the dainty setting down of the towel, the V-ing of the legs and the weird squat and derriere extension into a sit. About this point, the other guy left. I'm not sure if he left because he was done or if he was annoyed but I didn't really want to have to fend for myself. I continued my circuit and hoped as I finished each exercise that she wouldn't decide to pogo over to the machine that was next in my loop and managed to avoid her for the most part.

Anyway, workout done, I headed off to the sauna. I have a gym membership mostly so that I can get out of the house. That said, I have some sort of a strange addiction to sitting in saunas. Maybe it has to do with growing up in Minnesota. It's vaguely Finland-ish an the Finn's certainly love their saunas. Anyway, I went in with my iPod and vegged out as best I could. I opened my eyes to see the older asian guy sitting next to me talking to a wiry graying white man with his head buried in a newspaper a little further over. Apparently the conversation had been going on for a while by this point and the wiry one was giving, well, really barking directions to the guy next to me about how to get healthy. Every few seconds I'd hear "Eat more vegetable." "Don't eat bread." "Eat breakfast every day." "Go to bed earlier." It went on like this for a while. There wasn't really any interlocution just these barking instructions. Then, the barker walked out of the sauna and the asian guy started talking to his friend/wife(?) in japanese. He looked kind of dejected. It was really rather odd. Anyway, I sat for a few more minutes and finished the game of solitaire i had started on my iPod and headed home. There are odd people everywhere. I've just always seemed to run into more of them at the gym.

More tomorrow.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Up In The Air - Movie #5 of 2010

Ang and finally saw Up In The Air tonight. I'll keep this short since it's edging closer and closer to 1am and I really need to get to bed but I promised myself that I would try and write up everything this year the same night I see it. I think that's the only way I can keep up to date and keep everything straight in my head.

I've liked both of Jason Reitman's last two endeavors but haven't LOVED them. I was more than ready to love Thank You For Smoking after seeing the trailer and I think the trailer set the movie up to fail. Too often indie movie trailers misrepresent the movie to such a degree that I feel robbed when I get in to the theater. I know that the marketers responsibility ends when they've gotten you into your seat but I think there are ways to do that without being disingenuous. Anyway, I liked Thank You For Smoking and Juno but I didn't fall head over heels in love. I felt the same way about Up In The Air.

Reitman has an almost Wes Anderson-esque mastery of music. All of his soundtracks fit the movies they're designed for like a glove. Imbuing the movies they belong to with all sorts of layers of additional substance. The opening and closing songs in this movie continue that trend. The jazzy cover of This Land Is Your Land really sets the tone. I've NEVER liked the twangy regular verson of the song, but hearing the horn section kick in while Sharon Jones adds a soulful layer to the song really kind of grabbed me.

Then, after we've faded to the credit scroll on the black background a voice pops up and says hello to Jason (Reitman) and says that he wrote this song after he got laid off from his job and thought that maybe he could put it in his movie. A couple weeks ago I read this...

according to an interview with Reitman that aired on National Public Radio last week, the director decided to use real-life people who had lost their jobs as stand-ins for the people being fired by Clooney's character, a corporate hit man.

"At a certain point during scouting, I realized that the scenes that I had written of people getting fired were just inauthentic," Reitman said in the interview.

"We needed something that spoke to the times and what was really happening. I cut out all the firing scenes in the movie and we put ads out in the paper, both in Detroit and St. Louis, saying that we were making a documentary about job loss."

According to the Detroit Free Press, about 10 people from each city made it into the finished film.
So hearing the song at the end was really kind of cool. Pulled the whole thing together.

There was really only one moment that punched me in the gut. It didn't have anything to do with Clooney's character Ryan Bingham's job or the idea of traveling around all the time. It was while he and the woman he meets were in Milwaukee at his sister's wedding. Bingham offers to walk his sister down the aisle and after being rebuffed hears that he's not even really part of their lives. He doesn't exist. While Ang and I don't travel all that often. It's sort of a similar situation. We left Minnesota going on seven years ago. Since then, we've been back maybe 10 times? Everytime we go back there whole sections of town spring up and building get replaced. Everything there evolves and changes without us being there and influencing or taking part in it. We have our lives here and people and friends we invest in, but the family that we grew up with continue to live their lives back in Minnesota without us. We don't exist, really. So hearing Ryan(which sounds way too much like Brian)'s sister tell him that he abdicated his responsibilities really hit me kind of hard.

Should you see the movie? Yeah, I think so. It's worth seeing. If it were to win some Oscars, I wouldn't be offended in the slightest. It's quality film-making and it shows through how little it has to do thematically with Reitman's first two films that he's got versatility and is growing into a pretty great director. I'm curious to see what's next for him.

More tomorrow.

A day of successes and unsuccessfulness

I got a lot done today and hardly got anything done at all. One of those days, really. Sometimes I'm thankful when I can just finish up one or two things. My list of projects this week is fairly long. A video project that carried over from last week, designs for a friend and his game store in Colorado that I haven't been able to devote enough attention to, the normal projects for my church client. It can be overwhelming. I need to be doing a better job of utilizing my project management corkboard.

While professionally I didn't get as much done as I would have liked today I did have at least a couple of minor accomplishments. This afternoon, while my machine was busy rendering, I drove over to our credit union and finished paying off our PT Cruiser. Angela and I try to follow Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover plan and for the most part we've been successful with it but we've strayed once or twice. Once, earlier this spring, we hit a hiccup in finances before my work really started to pick up again. My parents offered us a small loan and it really helped us make ends meet for a month or two. Then, when my church client came on board this summer it became apparent that we really needed a second car. Angela being a courier has meant/means that the Santa Fe was never available when I needed it. That's a problem when there are shoots that need to be attended and clients that have to be visited. We had a system for a while where she would swing home and pick me up in the middle of her route or I would travel with her in the morning until it was time to be dropped off. It SORT of worked but it was causing an increasing level of stress between Ang and I as a couple and Ang and her supervisor. Enter the PT Cruiser.

Being, or at least attempting to be Dave Ramsey-ites, I felt kind of guilty when we opened the loan for it. That said, we got a really great deal on it and we worked to try and pay it off as quickly as possible. I would have held off and waited until we had the cash, but in the crucible of stress and the need for some sort of a second vehicle and the knowledge that I had a new client that was going to be giving me regular hours, we took a gamble.

I love our Hyundai Santa Fe. Because of that, we headed out to try and find some sort of a used Hyundai somewhere in town. We looked up hyundai dealers in Austin and headed off for a showroom that turned out to not exist anymore. Just up the road from where the Hyundai dealership used to be sat the Kia used lot. When we got there we mentioned our absurdly low price range. They didn't really have anything that low but the salesman told us that he had something that was slightly higher. We walked into the lot and he took us over to the little PT Cruiser. A grandma's car that had only been driven 55,000 miles or so since it was purchased new in 2002, it was also in pretty incredible shape... and price wise it was in a range that we could pay off in way less than a year. So, after a test drive and much haggling (along with a text messages between a friend who also has a PT Cruiser and price comparison shopping on Craigslist with our cellphones) I drove our little addition home.

Fast forward a few months... One of my other main clients caught up on my invoices last week so that I could close out my accounts for the year. Being that my outstanding invoices dated back to August we were in a position to pay the car off. I paid off a big chunk of the car last Friday but I wanted to wait to pay the balance off until the rest of my deposit cleared. Seeing that the money was sitting in there today I drove over to the bank and wrote the final check.

Anyway, it felt really good to write that check and get that receipt that says 0.00. It'll feel even better when I get the title in the mail in a couple of weeks.

After going to the bank I finally made it to the gym. I meant to go yesterday evening but failed to get out of the house again. First, dinner took much longer than I thought it would. Then, we had our alternate dining arrangements. After we got home, I needed to let everything settle and we watched Stick It. Post Stick It I had to finish up the cooking that was still incomplete earlier. I never made it out the door again. So today, I rectified it.

I need to put together a workout plan. Right now the main goal is to just get moving again. I ran for a 1/2 hour and got a couple of miles in and lifted some weights. Tomorrow I'll aim to do a fuller weight lifting routine. My goal this month is to get to the gym AT LEAST 15 times. If I can make those gym visits happen I think I'll be back into a routine. It's been too long since I've had any sort of excercise routine and it's something I think I desperately need. It's too easy for me to roll out of bed, head to my office and then not get up again until it's time for lunch. Then, lunch in front of the computer and more work (or the lack thereof) in front of my computer until 5 or 6. Bedroom-->office-->kitchen-->office-->bathroom-->office-->balcony for a minute-->office.... you can get the picture. it's a very exciting life.

Anyway, I made it to the gym. Tomorrow I'll try and make it to the gym and we'll already have two of our fifteen gym engagements checked off. I added a box in the right hand column to keep track of movies, miles and visits. It'll be interesting to see how they add up.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Stick It

movies seen in 2010: 4

Today I sat down and put together a set of randomized pairings for all of our Netflix instant queue. We're adding things to it on a regular basis, but I realized that there are just way too many things currently on the list that don't get watched because we never seem to be in the mood for them. So, in order to try and check a few of them off I decided to pair them up and let fate take control. Throughout the year I'll select a number from a small bowl and that pairing will be our double feature for the night.

Basically, here's what I did. Using Netflix's personal RSS feeds, I grabbed my entire list of instant queued films and created a text file out of it. Then I used a randomizer to jumble that list. After running the randomizer a few times I split that list in half and jumbled up each chunk again and pasted them into a spreadsheet side by side. Then, just to create one additional layer of randomness I created a number list as long as the list of titles, randomized that and pasted it into a third column. Each movie has a partner and a random number assigned to it. Each number has a little piece of paper in a bowl. Throughout the year we'll draw a piece of paper from the bowl and force ourselves to watch whatever it tells us to. Yes, I realize that I'm a dork.

Anyway, after last night's pairing, Angela mentioned that she thought I had said we were going to watch STICK IT and not WHIP IT. Tonight after getting together with some friends we stuck in Stick It.

Have I mentioned the incredible backlog of movies Angela and I have to watch? The last few years we've tended to buy a lot of films in bulk during various sales. Pawn shops, video rental places, DVD stores... you name it and we've probably bought a handful of DVDs there. We were buying films at a pace where we'd never be able to catch up. Because of that, lots of things ended up on the 'we'll see it at some point list'. So, while Stick It came out in 2006 and I'm sure we picked it up sometime in 2007 it's 2010 and we're just getting to it tonight.

Another day, another Texas movie. You could have had me fooled. The movie screams southern california. A look at the IMDB page confirms it. The biggest giveaway is a running scene in 'Houston' where, in the background, you can see what look like mountains in the distance. It's kind of fitting since Whip It, also a Texas movie, was shot in Detroit. Thank the Lord that the legislature improved the state's film incentives. Hopefully more movies set in Texas will actually film here.

I didn't have high hopes. I mean, this is a film from the writer of Bring It On, First Daughter and Aquamarine... after she wrote and directed this, she hasn't had any additional credits save for 'industry mentor' on a horror film called Cheerbleeders. I guess having my expectations set extraordinarily low let me enjoy it slightly more. Don't get me wrong, there's very little in this movie that makes sense. Characters are flat, the main character is annoying and probably more than anything, the thing that drove me up the wall was that the movie geography is completely asinine. The main character in our movie lives in Plano. She's sentenced to rehabilitation at a gymnastics academy, a gymnastics academy that's a good four hours from where she lives in Houston.

. At one point in the movie, as she's being driven to the school her driver mentions they have a 3 hour drive ahead of them. So why, if they have AT LEAST a 3 hour drive between Plano and Houston do her 2 male friends (who we're led to believe live in Plano) seemingly show up all of the time as if on a whim? Don't expect the film to answer that question for you.

The main character isn't that appealing. They never show a great transformation for her smart-assness. She just suddenly decides to participate and all of the people who don't like her begrudgingly accept her friendship. There's no logic. Still, for whatever reason, the movie wooed me. Maybe it was the catchy soundtrack. It could have also been Jeff Bridges' bizarre channeling of Kurt Russell. Most surprising though was a little bit of adventurous cinematography from Daryn Okada. More than once they sort of evoke a little Esther Williams with the gymnastics performance. I've always dug the old synchronized swimming musicals. It's amazing how beautiful they are.

I guess I never really expected to see an homage to that in this movie. Check this out. Like I said, I never would have anticipated that they'd shoot it like this. (btw, if the clip doesn't stop at :43 seconds, go ahead and hit pause.)

They used a similar technique in one other place that I also thought was kind of cool, and putting Electric Six on your soundtrack? That's serious 'win'.

Should you check the film out? Probably not. I can't imagine I'll ever watch it again, but I think it's sad that it seems like this movie killed or damaged Jessica Bendinger's film career. While it's not a great film, it's better than at least a good chunk of the dreck that I saw last year. Looking at Bendinger's wikipedia page, it appears she came out with a young adult novel towards the end of 2009. Maybe with that book out she'll try and make a cinematic comeback.

Tomorrow I vow to get back to the gym and I also vow that I'll sit down and write out some of my goals for the year. If I blog about them at least there's a possibility that someone will see it and check in/harass me to see how they're coming along.