Sunday, June 29, 2008

Two Weeks Away...

So 2 weeks from now I will have done my first Triathlon or be dead...okay I really don't think I will die but I do have to admit I am a bit nervous and this is just my way of playing off the nervous energy. I am really excited because this is the first time have ever tried anything like this. The closest thing that I have ever done was doing the Mile Swim at Scout Camp (which I did 5 or 6 times).

I think a big part of the nerves is that I thought I would be in better shape then I am right now. I think a big part of it is that I haven't been able to get back to I was a year ago weight wise. Last summer before I broke my wrist/hand I was feeling good about my weight and was holding steady at around 200lbs and was working on my goal of 185lbs. Well let's just say that having an immobile limb for 3 months really limits the amount of exercise one can do. I tried to continue SPINNING but having to use a sling just put so much stress on my back that it was not fun. Also before the accident I was on a schedule (which some called insane) of being able to get up and making it to the 5:30 am SPIN classes at the gym and then go back and do the evening class...well hydocodiene sure knocked that train off the tracks. Once I got the cast off I still had ~2 months of PT which was exhausting and painful.

It was probably late October or November until I was able to even think about doing stuff with my wrist somewhat normal again (more on the wrist later). So about this time I told myself sure I had put on some weight but I was determined to get back where I was before the accident. Well since then it's been a series of starts and stops and the situation has only slowly gotten worse.

In January I decided the way I was going to get into shape was to give myself a goaql to reach towards...doing my first Sprint Triathlon. So I joined the Tri-Club and tried to get back into a routine of working out doing cardio and strength training which was going well for a few weeks until I had the flu for 2 weeks and then ended up in the ER with a severe migraine. Then I started have knee first I thought I could work through it then when it started to get worse my Coach said I needed to have it checked out which I did, and I have tendinitis in my right knee so I had to cut back on the Spin and quit doing Boot Camp at the Y. During this time I started working with the nutritionist at the Y who basically told me I wasn't eating enough so I tried to follow her instructions but I think it worked in the opposite way. It also didn't help that March was a very stressful month with my grandfather passing and the stress that my fraternity involvement coming to a head on the same less, then being home/traveling for a week and being able to stick to my diet or workout program.

Since then it has been a roller coaster of starting to get in a groove of working out and backsliding. I haven't gotten to ride my bike as much as I would have liked to due to weather and still trying to find a good place to ride around here since the last time I was out I was attacked by a dog. Luckily all that really happened was I bruised my shin bad from where the dog slammed into the pedal and it jammed into my leg plus I am still leary about riding on the road with cars whipping around me. I have been doing a lot of swimming which I love and have gotten some great tips which have helped me improve my stroke technique. Running is has been the hit a miss thing since it is what really kills the knee. It is so bad that the next morning it is really stiff, even when I ice it religiously.

So back to what I started the post with... I AM GOING TO FINISH THIS RACE! Today we did an open water swim which was fun even if it was a bit weird using goggles in the lake. I wanted to swim across the lake but we had to stay in the "Swimming Area." Afterwards 5 of us decided to take a bike ride. I was syked because I got pedals this week so I could clip in with my bike shoes and was looking forward to trying them out...So as we were leaving the camp grounds about to hit the main road all of a sudden I hear Pssssssssst.... and my front tire goes out. Luckily I unclipped and the coach showed me how to change a bike tire ... fun times. After that we reversed and met up with the others then went back to the cars.

So I have 2 weeks to do my final prep. for the race which is a 325 meter swim, 11.5 mile Bike and 3.5 mile run. Then a week after I am going back to the Dr for both my knee and wrist...but until then I am going to tough up and work through it.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The NetFlix Files: Documentaries

So since I joined Netflix back in May I started off reliving my childhood...another words renting old cartoons and shows from the 80's...but lately I have really been getting into documentaries. Below are the first round that I have watched:

Jesus Camp (2006)

Netflix Description:
This riveting Oscar-nominated documentary offers an unfiltered look at a revivalist subculture where devout Christian youngsters are being primed to deliver the fundamentalist community's religious and political messages. Building an evangelical army of tomorrow, the Kids on Fire summer camp in Devil's Lake, N.D., is dedicated to deepening the preteens' spirituality and sowing the seeds of political activism as they're exhorted to "take back America for Christ."

Jesus Camp basically shows how one particular group of Midwest Christians live and raise their kids. The movie is brilliant because it offers no opinion one way or the other it simply shows how this group of people thinks and live. It's hard to give this movie a conventional rating. Was it a well-made and interesting documentary? Definitely yes. Was it enjoyable to watch? Absolutely not. As you can tell I had I very mixed emotions watching this documentary especially as one who considers himself a "born-again" Christian. While the film makers never overtly articulate a point of view, it was clear that the film was intended to shock, particularly if you have a left-of-center political viewpoint. If you read reviews, you'll see that they were successful, and perhaps rightly so especially for a film about religion and politics where one can only imagine it would be tough not to pick a side.

While I do agree with some of the big picture themes, parts of it were very disturbing. Such examples are the female pastor (who runs the camp) chastises a group of 8-year olds that they should be doing more fasting, and the Reverend Ted Haggard (recently disgraced in a gay sex and drugs scandal) who met with George W. Bush every Monday in the White House, and shows the enormous influence some of these people have over our government leaders.

Overall, Jesus Camp is interesting and worth a look especially with a discussion group. I believe this movie is absolute must-viewing and the serious attention of American Christian leaders. Conservatives will probably see the film as a left-wing attack on wacko Christians, but its straightforward approach supports its credibility and forces every viewer to think. In summation the movie starkly shows how popular evangelical Christianity has/can become entangled in a political agenda that is a far cry from the spreading of the Gospel.

Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price (2005)

Netflix Description:
Producer, director and activist Robert Greenwald takes aim at the corporate giant that's come to symbolize big business in America: Wal-Mart. Blasting the box-store Goliath for allegedly paying substandard wages, skimping on employee health benefits and eviscerating communities, this hard-hitting, emotional documentary profiles the struggle of everyday folks from around the country who've committed themselves to fighting the mega-retailer.

Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price largely focuses on the impacts Wal-Mart has on the individual level (according to the filmakers): closure of family stores, forcing its "associates" to work overtime without compensation, depriving them of a living wage, and forcing them onto welfare, destroying central business districts of small communities, diverting tax revenues from school districts, etc.

Most of what this documentary reveals has already been exposed to the public, but what we get here is all of it in a single impacting package. No matter your political persuasion this film should disturb you. In it's examination of the years of Wal-Mart skullduggery, the film examines Wal-Mart's record on employee wages and benefits, sexual and racial discrimination, environmental negligence, foreign outsourcing, and overall malfeasance, through a combination of archival footage and personal narratives.

There is no attempt by the filmmakers to appear objective, and the movie is relentlessly negative and mostly shrill in its criticism of Wal-Mart to the point where I suspect that it will fail to change many minds (which is the apparent goal of the filmmakers. The critique would be stronger if Wal-Mart's practices were compared to its competitors in order to provide a context;

I wanted to like this movie because I hate Wal-Mart, having grown up in a family-owned business. I have seen firsthand how this corporation destroys communities and local character. I have heard that a better film on Wal-Mart is "Is Wal-Mart Good for America?: Frontline" which explains the market forces at work and how Wal-Mart is changing retail and manufacturing on a global level and have placed it in my Netflix queue. Will I continue to shop at Wal-Mart…probably, but only if I have too.

Confessions of a Superhero (2007)

Netflix Description:
On Hollywood Boulevard, wannabe stars dress up as superheroes and pose for photos with tourists. Matt Ogens's documentary follows four dreamers who are just killing time until they'r discovered. Get to know a Superman who takes the role a bit too seriously, an Incredible Hulk who sold his prized video game system for a bus ticket to Tinseltown, a Midwestern beauty queen turned Wonder Woman and a Batman in need of anger management therapy.

This film documents four wanna-be actors who have resorted to portraying movie characters on Hollywood Blvd. The "stars" are the unique phenomenon of the "actors" who work by dressing as various movie characters and make their living by taking pictures and accepting tips from tourists. This documentary focuses on the Super Hero contingent of this hodge podge of urban thespians. We meet a former homeless man who now is the Hulk... a man who has some deep seeded mental and anger issues who plays Batman... a young female who seems to be searching for an identity of her own playing Wonder Woman... and a man who has become completely immersed in his own character, Superman (and who looks uncannily like Christopher Reeves) .

This is a fascinating Documentary. For a film about a group of people that could easily be looked down upon, there is no condescension here. There are four unique individuals here who have taken up the same gig to make money, but they all look at it very differently. They all seem to be about as far away from stardom as one can be even though they're in the city of celebrity and still they hold onto their dreams of fame and riches.

It would have been really easy to exploit these people and to make them look pathetic or foolish... because that's what one thinks when they're first introduced. The real talent of this film is that is shows the humanity of these folks. They are clearly troubled and yet there's something quixotic about how they strap on some spandex and go marching towards their dreams. And you end up pulling for them even though you know that they're going about their ambitions in the most unorthodox way imaginable. This film will leave you with mixed feelings. Is it funny? Is it sad? Is it scary? Are the "superheroes" we meet admirable for pursuing their dreams? Are they deluded? Pathetic? The answer is probably all of the above, but regardless, it's a very compelling, watchable film.

Devil's Playground (2002)

Netflix Description:
When Amish teens turn 16, they have the opportunity to venture out in the "Devil's Playground" (the Amish's term for the outside world) and indulge in 21st century vices such as drinking and smoking. At the end of this period, called "Rumspringa," they can choose to commit to the church for good. Or not. This documentary tracks 18-year-old Faron's struggle to reconcile his drug addiction with his deeply ingrained desire to live the Amish life.

I found this documentary about the life of young Amish men & women was really fascinating. About 5 minutes in that everything I thought I knew about the Amish was totally wrong and they lead their lives very differently than I believed. Going into the film the only thing I really knew was from the week I spent with at an Amish School as a kid.

Watching these teenagers go from having a very strict upbringing with no freedoms at all to suddenly having the freedom to do pretty much whatever they want was somewhat amazing. It is hard to believe that certain sects of the Amish partied so much, had drug problems, alcohol addictions, etc. just like the "English" population?

While the documentary featured many people but really focused in closely on a handful, so that by the end you felt like you really knew these kids and cared about the decision they made on whether to join the church or not. You really felt for them as they struggled with having a life of freedom vs. the religious life they were raised to believe. I found myself wishing that it was longer than 77 minutes because the film opens up so many questions about the Amish but it fails to answer most of them. Because of this many of the questions I had going into it were unanswered, and at the end I felt that I only had more questions than when I started. It gave little or no background about the Amish religion, and it left a lot of things unclear. I'd have liked to have seen more interviews with the parents, not just the teenagers, for example. We heard everything from the kids' point of view but very little from the parents.

I also could have heard a bit more about the lives of the Amish teenagers prior to Rumspringa and a bit more about their reintegration afterwards. The thing is that a lot of that may be too general for a documentary. Overall a very interesting film

Next Documentaries in the Queue:
The King of Kong
Word Wars
This Film Not Yet Rated
Hell House


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

On a Lighter Note...Part 2

Couldn't resist..
Ok off to bed...beat from Tri-Club. We worked on bike to run transitions...ugh 15 minutes in the Spin room(it rained even after I drove home after work and picked the bike up) then 10 minutes on the track which was repeated 3 times increasing the intensity each time. I think next year I am going to do a blog/podcast which chronicles my training and we will see after the Pinebush Sprint Tri but I might do a Tin Man Triathlon next year but I need to survive this year first.

Race day is less than a month away....


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

On a Lighter Note...

I just found this funny!

(click on photo to enlarge)
BTW: I am using NETFLIX now so click the link to friend me.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Father's Day 2008

I know I have blogged on this before (Father's Day 2006 and Homesick) but since summer and the warm weather is now here and just turning 30 then I have this itch that that I just can't seem too scratch and I think I just today realized what it was...the fact that this was the time of the year when we would go the Island to go boating and what-not. Yes, I have been back there since he has left and before I moved to NY but thinking back it just was never the same (and last year at this time I was not really in "boating condition"

I can remember, although some are more vague then others, many memories surrounding going boating with dad. There are 2 that really stick out for me of times that it was just dad and me at the Island.

I remember that the camp house that my grandfather built needed a new roof put on it and somehow I, at the time thought I had drawn the short straw that day, I think that my older brother was in college and working doing a summer intern type deal and my younger brother was just too young. But I remember we spent a whole day there putting aluminum sheeting on the camp house and it being a particularity hot day and the fact that every hour or so we would take a break by either taking a dip in the river or I think we may have even hauled the boat there and dad would take me out for a trip on the skis.But either way I remember that it was not all work and we finished the roof...basically it was dad up on the hot roof and me down on the ground handing him stuff and doing what I could to help which I really don't remember being much because at the time I had this thing about heights.

The second time that really sticks out was time we had to replace the runners on the boat trailer. I think this was one of the first times I actually got to drive the boat by myself because dad had to take the trailer to the parking area on the other side of the Island so we could work on it. I mean that was like a rite of passage, being deemed responsible enough to handle the boat which my grandfather owned and considered a prized possession, if even for a short time. I know for a fact that this time I got to go skiing and I think it was one of the first times I tried skiing on one ski.

Another Island memory I have was we were staying over night at the island but dad had to go with mom to her high school reunion and all I can remember is that some friends of my aunt's were staying with us and for some reason ( I think dad said he might come back that night) I insisted on staying up until he came back...I don't know I was young and I was a daddy's boy...sue me. Apparently I did the same thing when me and my younger brother had to stay with my grandparents (mom's) and I kept my grandparents up half the night because I wanted dad.

My dad was very supportive of me and my brothers. One area was with the Boy Scouts, now if I remember right my dad was in Scouts but never really got far in the ranks, but as me and my brothers got old enough we were in the scouting programs. I remember when my older brother was a Boy Scout, my dad and I would also go on the camping trips and we would sleep in the back of the Suburban (other Suburban stories at a later date perhaps) even when there were feet of snow on the ground. Even though all three of us achieved the rank of Eagle, he was only around to see 2 of us gain that prestigious award but I know he was of all three of us and our Scouting accomplishments.

Originally I was only was going to talk about the two memories from the Island but just remembering those has brought a flood of memories back so I went ahead a recounted the others while they are fresh in my mind.

I think I shared a special bond with my dad. Like myself he was the middle child of his family and I think, although I never got to ask him, that we also shared a similar experience of living in the shadow of the first born. My older brother is uber smart and I look up to him (he may just be finding this out) and my dad's older sister is a doctor. Again I am just making assumptions here but I like to think he knew what I was going through growing up and having to not necessarily compete but have the benchmark set high. I think the hardest part losing my dad when I did was the fact that I was just getting to that point in life where he not only was my parent but a best friend I felt I could confide in or feel like I could come to with any problem that I might have and get a another male perspective. I think the first time I started to feel this way was when he and I were putting carpet in my dorm room my freshman year. That weekend he came up to get me and noticed that me and my roommate were using a sleeping bag as a makeshift carpet. He mentioned that there was some carpet in the basement of the office and that we would bring it back and cut it for the room. That Sunday evening we spent a good hour or so measuring and cutting carpet and making an attic over the door and between the two closets. I think that was the first time I without thinking about it gave him a hug without thinking about it and thanking him for everything,

When we were home when my grandfather passed away my older brother found copies of the following picture:

I guess it is a yearbook picture of my dad, anyway I use it as a bookmark so when ever I open the book to read there he is. I really miss him especially around times of the year like this and often wonder why God saw it fit to take him when he did I mean on one hand he didn't have to suffer the things that come along with old age but he still had many good years ahead of him...just something I have a hard time reconciling with my limited human perspective I guess. Yes, he is in a better place but he is sure missed here. I think that he and his parents are up in heaven looking down on the rest of us in the family and watching over us and are proud of what me and my brothers have made out of the lessons he taught us while he was here.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Catch up

So it has been awhile since I really updated things.

I spent Memorial Day weekend over in Ohio visiting my friends and attending their sons birthday party. It was a blast...except for the 12 hour drive over, which wasn't all that bad...I would probably still be driving around Northwest OH if it were not for my TomTom GPS. On my way back over I spent the night in Cleveland with my aunt and uncle which was nice. I was so beat when I got home Monday night after spending the weekend drving and chasing a 3 and 1 yr old around.

Last Wednesday I turned the big 3...0...
Not only do I feel older but I have been constantly fighting the urge to watch Matlock and Murder She Wrote then go out and sit on the front porch and yell at the neighborhood kids. All in all it was a good birthday...I mean it wasn't like last year when I had my broken wrist/hand.

Speaking of injuries...I am still training for my triathlon which is about a month away. I have been slacking because I am still dealing with the tendinitis in my right knee. Even after a month of PT it still bothering me but I have decided to MAN UP and work through the pain and then go back to the Dr. and have both my knee and wrist (which is still bothering me) checked out again. Other than that training is going alright, trying to ride my bike daily and do the Tri-Club on Wed and Sunday. I am getting more comfortable on the bike and might be purchasing pedals so I can clip in rather than use the toe cages which make it difficult to start and stop.

I have been teaching SPINNING at the Albany YMCA for 2 weeks now which is cool. I bet it is even cooler when people show up...the Wellness Dir is going to start calling people and let them know that the morning class is back so hopefully people will show up because I am not sure how long they will continue to pay me for exercising by myself. I should get a class or two in the fall at the YMCA I go to everyday but until then this should serve as a way to hone my skills on the mic.

I have seen a few movies over the past few weeks:
Iron Man was real good and enjoyable. Probably one of the best comic book related I have ever seen. 4.5 out of 5

Indiana Jones 4 was a bit of a disappointment. It lacked many of the things that made the other good. The CGI gophers and stuff along that line really took me out of the movie along with the ending which was a let down and the fact that Indiana Jones didn't really do anything archeology related as things just seemed to fall into place.

Prince Caspian...besides butchering the story it reminded me of the first one which I really enjoyed. The added scenes and leaving out of pertainent plot points which would have made it a fuller story took away from my overall enjoyment. I wish they had stuck to the book like the first one did.

I have been renting alot of documentaries through Netflix which I will probably talk about sometime.

Well I think that about brings things up to speed...


Friday, June 06, 2008

Indecision 2008? Part 2

So now we have the November race setup...Darth Vader vs. Alfred E. Neuman.

Come on that's like telling me...So for the next 4 years you can drink all the beer you want...but your choices are Natural Light or Milwaukee's Best.

Hmmm I choose none of the above.