Thursday, October 13, 2011

It’s A Shame About Ray

I’ve decided I’m crazy enough to run another marathon.[1] Because of the fact that I scared my last running partner off, I decided to join up with a training group. Having someone to run with on the long runs, especially when you start hitting 10+ miles, makes them that much more enjoyable. This past Saturday was my second run with the group.

Before we started, the group leader informed us that one of the members of our group had passed that week. She apparently had a stroke a few hours after her run on Saturday and passed a few days later.

Since then, that song by the Lemonheads has been stuck in my head. I’m not exactly sure what the song is about, but my interpretation has always been about someone in your peripheral life who passes on. It’s an odd feeling because you don’t feel great remorse, but you’re still stunned that someone you came into contact with passed on. This runner was someone who I ran with that Saturday and unfortunately can’t remember. It’s bracing to think that it can all go that quick.

That is, yet again, the ultimate lesson that life teaches us – it’s fleeting. It can go at any moment, and tomorrow isn’t guaranteed for any of us.

I managed to find her obituary. She was in her 50’s, had run several marathons, was married for 26 years, and spent 9 years with her husband sailing around the world.

50 is way too young for anyone to pass on. But if you had to figure out how to make the best out of that short period of time, I’d say she did it.

And that should be the goal for all of us – make the most of the short time we have on this planet. Because it really can that quick.

[1] I promise this isn’t another running post.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

What Are You Running From?

FinishingI saw a blog post a long while ago with a question that was asked of runners on Twitter: “What are you running from?” And it got me to thinking what I’m running from.

Of course, I spent a lot of time thinking about this while running. And that’s one of my favorite things about running – it gives me time to just collect my thoughts. And I find that being out by myself with nothing else to do but think with the endorphins flowing is a great time to figure out life’s problems. There has been many a time when something has come up where I’ve said, “I need a run.” This is of course very different than in the past where I’d frequently say, “I need a drink.”

Since I became a runner, many things in my life have changed. I find that I’m drinking less. I’m paying more attention to what I’m eating. And unlike attempts in the past, it’s not that I’m just trying to eat less to be healthy, it’s that I’m focused on what the food I’m putting into my body is going to do to my ability to run.

I’m less stressed. As I mentioned before, there’s something special about being able to work out issues while running. And the feeling high after a good run, especially a long one, is second to none. I often joke to Karin that if she wants me to agree to something she should ask me once I get home from a run; I’m so happy I’ll say yes to just about anything.

Over the last 20 months, I’ve accomplished more than I ever thought possible. I never thought I’d be able to actually commit to running four times a week. I never thought I’d enjoy it. I never thought I’d miss it when I can’t get in my runs. I never thought I’d finish a half marathon. I never thought I’d finish a half marathon in under 2 hours. I never thought I’d finish a marathon. I never thought I’d start training for a second marathon. I’ve done things I never thought I’d be able to do.

I like how I look now. I’d reached the point of not wanting to take off my shirt and dreading having to buy an even bigger pair of jeans. I loved having to take my sport coats and suits in for tailoring. I love being able to buy “Medium” shirts. I love buying clothes that show off my body. Although updating the wardrobe has been expensive, I’m perfectly OK with it.

So what am I running from?

Well, put frankly – I’m running from feeling like shit.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pictures of You

(With all apologies to The Cure)

ChrisWebSmallI’ve said many times that everyone has an inner narcissist. Some of us just don’t hide it as well as others. And we start blogs and think that people really, really want to read about what we’ve been up to in life. We also start up Facebook and Twitter accounts. And then when we start running we create RunKeeper and Fitocracy accounts to brag about our accomplishments. And as much as we don’t necessarily like to admit it, we love having our picture taken.

Or, more specifically, we like cool pictures taken of us. If I have any apprehension when it comes to people taking my picture it’s that I’m afraid it might not come out very well. That, and if I was to be completely honest, I don’t like my teeth.

But when a good photo of me is taken I have a tendency to just fall in love with it. Especially if there’s a good story behind it.

DSC_0148For example, there’s this shot of me holding a baby. Specifically, the youngest daughter of my friend Sarah. Just in case you’re new here, I don’t deal with babies really well. Actually, that’s not completely true. If they’re being cute, and playful, and being held by someone else, I’m just fine with babies. But if either of the first two aren’t true then I’m not all interested, and if the last part isn’t true, well, I’m completely lost. In any event, Sarah’s youngest, Zoey, took a liking to me and specifically my hat. And as long as Sarah was holding her, everything was just fine.

And then that suddenly changed. Sarah decided it was time for me to hold Zoey. And I held her in about the same fashion as John Cusack in Grosse Point Blank, only without the banter – I trended more towards the “what do I do with this” side. And early on, Zoey smiled at me much in the same fashion as the movie clip. And then Zoey decided she was over it, and bawled her poor little head off. My good friend Skye decided this was clearly a photo-op, and took pictures. Unfortunately we discovered after I handed Zoey back to Sarah that none of them came out.

What to do? Well – reconfigure the camera and then recreate the scene. Of course recreating the scene required Sarah to offer up her youngest daughter to be traumatized one more time. Sarah agreed to this a bit too quickly for CPS I’m certain, but anything for a good photo-op, right?

293516_1993910966883_1216703898_31759395_276897710_nOr this one taken recently at a good friend’s wedding. My brother Abram’s date wanted to take a picture of him, Karin and me all dressed up, but her camera was set to only take black & white pictures and she didn’t know how to change it. No worries, let’s just take the shot and see what happens. Well – what happened is I looked like the don, Karin the dame and Abram my consigliore. Awesome shot. And yes, I did order a hit later that day.

268619_10150269868152421_525527420_7530113_2011206_nOr the replacement for my old cheerleader picture. I loved the original because I really wasn’t going to have it taken but was encouraged by everyone I was with. I loved that shot, but now that I’m down 40 pounds I didn’t like seeing how big I was any longer. I knew I needed a new cheerleader picture, as did my friend Susan. When the opportunity struck after we did an 8K in Seattle, she insisted I do it. I’m very happy I did.

Great shots all of them. Great stories behind them all. And, of course, it gives me the ability to feed my inner narcissist, lest it starve.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Up In The Air

Tonight, most people will be welcomed home by jumping dogs and squealing kids. Their spouses will ask about their day and tonight they'll sleep. The stars will wheel forth from their daytime hiding places. And one of those lights, slightly brighter than the rest, will be my wingtip, passing over, blessing them.

  - Up in the Air

One of the main reasons I have a blog (even if I don’t post all that frequently at the moment) is it does give me the ability to collect my thoughts. While it’s been a while since I’ve actually posted, I assure you I’ve written dozens of blog posts in my head. Trying to formulate one’s thoughts in such a way to convey a message is a great way to determine how you truly feel about something. This one I need to actually write out.

The last few months have been rather interesting for me. For the last year, maybe a bit under, I’ve been working on trying to revamp both myself and my image. The running wasn’t the first step in that process, but it certainly has encouraged that process. “Hey – if I can run a half marathon, why can’t I improve my professional life as well?”

So I started up a professional blog, and have been posting about twice a month there. I tweet. I got headshots done. I became more careful about what I posted to Facebook. I was very conscious of what I was doing, where I was doing it, and with whom I was doing it.

And I’d started to see a few results from it.

I landed a couple of really big consulting gigs. And at the prompting of the person in charge of the hiring, I applied for a very cool job at a very large organization.

The process for both of those stretched on for quite a few months. And for those few months, my life was extremely busy, hectic, and it looked by the end of it my life was going to be very different in some way shape or form. I was going to be home more often. We were possibly going to relocate. Things were going to change.

And as it turns out, I really am Ryan Bingham in Up in the Air. If you haven’t seen the movie, Ryan’s character sees a lot of his life change in a short period of time, becomes convinced that he’s finally going to be settling down and getting off the road, only to find himself back at square one all over again.

Ya see….

The contracting gig is over, and the client and I mutually agreed that we’d be best going our separate directions – they needed someone who could dedicate more time on a moment’s notice, I needed someone who could allow me to plan things in advance.

The job possibility never came close to materializing. After working with a good number of people, including the person doing the hiring, I didn’t get an interview.

Of the two, the second one stings. The first one was very enlightening, and I have to say having seen the grass on the consulting side of things it’s not nearly as green as I had hoped. But the second one... After all that, I didn’t even get an interview to validate my efforts. That hurts.

I’ve mentioned many times in the past that I don’t believe in regrets; if you regret something then you don’t like where you are at the present. So the question really is, do you like where you presently are.

And that’s what I’m still not sure about. In many ways, I feel like I’m being left behind. I’m damn good at what I do, and I do enjoy my job. My enjoyment with the travel ebbs and flows, but for the most part I do enjoy it.

But I’ve seen my friends and peers around me succeed. Many of them have moved on to bigger and better things. And it’s as if I’m the last one in the room with the instructions to turn off the lights when I’m done.

I feel like there’s so much more I could be doing, should be doing. I can’t figure out if this is my calling in life and that this is where I should be. I can’t figure out what it is I want to be when I grow up, or if I’ve already grown up and should just stay here.

And as of right now, if there is something greater, I can’t figure out how to get there.

In the meantime, one of those lights in the night sky, slightly brighter than the rest, will be my wingtip.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Friday Five

I’m taking a completely different tack this week for my Friday Five. I’ve been kicking around this post for about as long as I’ve had this blog, and a couple of things have happened this week that inspired me to finally get it done. This blog will be just about the Five:

The Five Best Pieces Of Life Advice I Ever Received

1. Two better, one worse

That was the shorthand a former roommate of mine had for one of his major life philosophies: No matter where you are in life, and no matter what skill you’re talking about, there are always two people that are better off and one that’s worse.

It wasn’t the numbers specifically that he was going for, simply the sentiment. There’s always room for improvement. There are always going to be people that are better off than you. There are always going to be people better than you. And there will always be people who will be striving to be where you are in life.

I’ve found that once I accepted that, the little inequities I perceived in my life became easier to deal with. There’s still room for improvement, and things for me to strive towards. But there will always be others that are trying to get to where I am.

2. Ask for what you want

This is part of a dear friend of mine’s 5 rules for powerful living, and it’s the one I’ve seen the most real-life impact from. It’s applicable basically everywhere. Rather than immediately diving for a compromise, or settling for less, or asking for a level of support you really didn’t want – ask for what you want. You’ll be amazed at what happens.

3. Trust is given. Distrust is earned.

Whenever I meet someone, I’m willing to believe anything that they tell me. After all, the vast majority of people are well-intentioned and honest. Why should I think otherwise?

That is, until you give me a reason to distrust you. Earning my distrust actually takes quite a while. But once it happens it’s near impossible to earn my trust back.

And I’ve found that living life that way works just fine. 99% of the time someone I trust will do just fine by me. And 99% of the time if I trust someone who’s earned my distrust I wind up getting burned.

4. Don’t get promoted out of what you love doing

This is a take on the “grass is greener” concept. This was originally passed on to me by a mentor I had when I first became a trainer. He was also a trainer who’d recently taken on a management position. Within about a week he realized he’d made the worst mistake of his life. He was miserable. He hated life. He wasn’t doing what he loved doing – training.

If you’re happy where you are, why change? Although, if you’re not happy, it’s time to move on.

5. When you’ve made your point, stop talking

This is both advice I try to follow and a peeve of mine. Once the point is made, the argument won, the discussion complete, there is no reason to keep rehashing things and reiterating your point from other angles. Especially when it’s an argument that’s involved. Carrying on only leads to more hurt feelings and deeper wounds.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday Five

The Excuse

Will you look at that – I have a blog. Ugh. I had a couple of weeks at home, which breaks my blogging routine, and then I just neglected to get back to it. Well – here I am.

The Weeks

The past few weeks saw quite a bit of activity. As you maybe read[1], I managed to finish the marathon. I wasn’t able to complete it in the time I was hoping for, but I need to stay focused on the fact that I completed my first marathon, and there will be opportunities to improve in the future. The experience was amazing, although I’m not enjoying this recovery period very much. I want my strength back and I want my long runs back. 6 miles on a Saturday just doesn’t cut it.

Because of just scheduling, I had the week before and the week after the marathon at home. Well – I was scheduled to be at home. When I found I was going to be home I did what any road warrior would do – I planned a trip to Seattle with Karin. I understand that I’m not sane for wanting to go away the moment I get home, but Karin and I do love to go to Seattle, and that was a great chance to have a trip just the two of us. It was mostly to visit our favorite places – Elemental, Tini Bigs and Zig Zag. About the only touristy thing we did was a walk through Pike Place Market, which Karin loves. The rest was just relaxation and a whole lot of nothing. Just what the doctor ordered.

The time at home was needed more than I can express. While I was still working, it was nice to be able to catch up with friends, visit local haunts that we love, explore new ones, and just not have to get on a plane for a couple weeks.

But, of course, we all knew that had to come to an end. And last week saw me in Dallas, and this week in Cary, NC. Cary was a new destination for me, but as always I didn’t get out and explore much. I did find a nice little path to run along, but that proved to be a challenge, between the heat and humidity on the days that I did run, and the forest fire on Tuesday that kept me from running[2].

The Restaurant Cocktail Bar

I can’t believe I didn’t review this place already. Zig Zag is one of the best cocktail bars in the nation, and probably one of the most challenging to find. It’s halfway down[3] as set of stairs that leads down towards the water in Seattle. It’s a little non-descript cafe/bar. But they make some of the best cocktails around.

They do the little things right – greeting customers, placing a glass of water in front of everyone when they sit down and keeping it full, and of course – great cocktails.

Zig Zag used to be home to the greatest bartender in the world according to many, Murray Stenson. Murray has decided to move on, but the bar is still in great hands.

Don’t expect to get a spot at the bar on a weekend night. But on a weekday you’ll invariably find a very friendly mixologist, a great group of people, and a fun, lively atmosphere.

The Travel Note

This trip home will put me over the Platinum status level (75,000 miles) for Continental on the year. Wow that’s a lot of miles.

The Five

I know you’re probably all tired of me blogging about running. But right now it’s just what’s on my mind. So here are my five favorite running routes:

  1. The Westside Greenway Path in Manhattan. A running path all along the west side of Manhattan? Yes please.
  2. The harbor area in Sydney. Something amazingly special about running up the Sydney Opera House steps as part of your run.
  3. The waterfront in Seattle. Great scenery.
  4. Memorial Park in Houston. Mostly because of the number of runners. Every runner feels an instant kinship with another runner.
  5. San Diego Harbor area. Although I have to say the loop around Mission Bay is up there as well.

[1] Or didn’t I suppose
[2] Although it did give me a nice smell reminiscent of home
[3] Or up, I suppose

Monday, June 6, 2011

Christopher “Jersey” Harrison is a marathoner


This is a post I wanted to do on Tuesday. Originally I wanted a post after the last training run for my marathon. Not for anyone else, really, but just somewhere that I could gather my thoughts and reflect on later. But unfortunately, my body didn’t cooperate. Or specifically, my Achilles' tendon didn’t cooperate. At mile 6 of the last long run of my training it became sore. And it remained sore for the next 5 days. To the point where I was seriously concerned I wasn’t going to be able to run the marathon.

259456_2081239960019_1515661702_2353647_3094538_oThat made last week an emotional rollercoaster. I’ve heard some people say that the training is the hardest part of a marathon. While I don’t think that does the event itself justice, there certainly is a lot of truth to that sentence. Since the beginning of this year, when my brain really turned to training for the marathon, I’ve logged 505 miles. You don’t log 505 miles, or about 80 hours, unless it’s something you love doing and you’re building towards something you really want to do. I can’t put into words how much I wanted to run that marathon[1], and the thought of not being able to do it depressed me to no end. I wasn’t able to run until the Saturday before the event, and it was a tentative two miles at that – just to test the tendon.

Fortunately, the tendon felt just fine. It won’t make any sense, but I was thrilled to have the opportunity to run 26.2 miles the next day.

And on that Saturday I wanted to sit down and write up this blog post. Again, I wanted to be able to reflect on where I’d been and where I am now before the race. Unfortunately, Saturday was much busier than I had hoped or planned. There was last minute shopping to be done, packet pickup, and just general life to be lived. So unfortunately it didn’t happen on Saturday.

As a result, today is going to be the day that it will happen. The day after the event. The second day where I can say, “I’m a marathoner.”

That accomplishment is the culmination of an 18 month journey from being an overweight, out of shape, unmotivated, wrong side of 35 man to being a marathoner. It started out as a slow jog/walk around Fiesta Island. And over the last 18 months it’s seen me complete 4 half marathons, two 10Ks, two Warrior Dashes, and now a full marathon. I’ve shed a solid 40 pounds, gained a new level of self-esteem, and now feel like I truly can do anything that I set my mind to.

Because I’m a marathoner.

The race itself is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I wish I could compare it to something, but I really can’t. It’s a solid 3-4 times harder than a half marathon, if not harder. This is not to say that a half marathon isn’t an accomplishment, because it is – the vast majority of people will never run 13.1 miles. But to put perspective on the challenge of the marathon and the number of people that attempt it, the San Diego Rock n Roll half marathon had just over 17,000 complete the race. The full marathon had over 8,000. There’s a reason – it really is that hard.

The training is hard. You have to run 4 times a week; 5 is better. You peak at a distance of 20 miles. Your intermediate run hits a solid 8 miles. And you spend a good majority of your training time on your own. It’s just you, the road, and maybe a podcast or some tunes. Many days you’re excited to get out and get in your run. It’s still a great high, and it’s still a great way to see a city, and it’s still a great way to reflect on life. But there are other days when you just don’t feel like getting out there, or you’re stressed/pressed for time, or you’re sore. And you start thinking, “Who will know if I skip this run?” You have to drive yourself through the training.

As a side note, it’s also why I always tell people that they have to love running to do an event. If you hate it, if you loathe getting out there, you simply won’t stick with the commitment that’s required. You have to want to do it; nobody else can talk you into it.

The event is hard. It will push you mentally and physically in ways you won’t realize and can’t prepare for. In particular, miles 16-19 did me in. For that stretch of the San Diego Rock n Roll marathon, you’re running uphill for the first half of that, in an area where there are no spectators, no cool scenery, no bands, no nothing. It’s just you, the road, and your mind. On top of that, there’s a switchback halfway through that you can’t see, but you can see the runners who’ve already made the turn coming back towards you. It’s demoralizing beyond words. And that sapped my emotional energy. By the time I made the turn for 20 I was mentally spent. My body broke down shortly after that, with nausea setting in at mile 23. I had to walk a good portion of that last three miles simply to avoid throwing up, and to make sure I had enough in me to run through the finish – I was not going to walk at that point.

But then you see that finish line. You see the cheering crowds. You see your friends cheering you on. And you step over that line, where you cross from being a runner to being a marathoner.

Christopher “Jersey” Harrison is a marathoner.

And of course the question becomes – “What’s next?” That question was by far the one I heard most frequently when I started talking with people about running the event, as if running the marathon wasn’t enough. But I think a big part of that is because anyone who’s watched me over the last 18 months knows I’m not going to stop here.

The answer is, I don’t know. There will be another marathon – that part I do know. One common goal is to post a time that qualifies you for entry into the Boston Marathon. Right now that would require shedding 1 hour, 11 minutes off finishing time. That’s not going to happen in the near future. Another one is triathlons. Unfortunately because of my travel schedule that’s just not practical. The last is ultramarathons, which is just not even on my radar right now, although I’d consider doing a 50K at some point.

So I don’t know. There will be another marathon. Maybe at the end of this year, maybe next year, and almost certainly the San Diego event again.

What I do know is this – I would not have been able to finish this or any other event without an amazing support team.

There’s Karin, who of course is my centering point. She keeps me sane, and she allows me to disappear for half of a Saturday, even if that’s the only day I’m home for. She completed her first half marathon – and on her birthday no less!

There’s Scott Gay, who was my training partner. He finished the full marathon, and he helped get me through many of the long training runs.

There’s Dave “Jumbo” Baxter, who first dragged me out to Fiesta Island 18 months ago. He serves as an inspiration to me, as he’s been able to accomplish more than I could hope for.

There’s Susan Ibach, who made a simple bet with me, a tradition which continues to this day. She’s my virtual running partner, sounding board and a continual source of inspiration and information.

I love all of you more than you know. It’s because of all of you that I can now say, “I’m a marathoner”.

[1] I sat on that sentence for a good minute trying to figure out some way to put it together and I really couldn’t phrase it in any way that conveyed my emotions.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday Five

The Week

There really isn’t any way to come down from the high that is TechEd gracefully. While there I was helping run certain areas of the show, I was on the move constantly, I was off hanging out with friends, I was switched on.

So getting back to normal and teaching a normal class is quite a big letdown. But yet there I was, in Dallas this week. The week on the whole was pretty good. Class went well, even if I was on a bit of a downswing emotionally. I wasn’t able to get outside for a run because of where I was, but I was able to get in all my runs this week. And I did manage to get out to a Seasons 52 this week, which of course is one of my favorite restaurants.

But it was still rather, just, well, flat.

Don’t get me wrong – I’ll come back around quickly. But this week was just flat.

And besides – I’ve got a glass of wine in front of me, I got the earlier flight I wanted, and I’ve got Annie Get Your Gun by Squeeze blasting through my Zune. It can’t be all bad, right?

For a little while now I’ve been wanting to post links to a few pictures. First up is the photos Karin and I had done while we were in Ottawa. I’m still amazed at how well the pictures came out, and you can see them by clicking on picture.


The second set, with all apologies to Susan who doesn’t like one of the pictures, is the shots from the GeneRACEtion 10K in Atlanta. That event did nearly everything right – including the pricing for the pictures, which are usually a solid $20/each and up. They made them affordable and I couldn’t pass up the chance to buy them.

The Travel Note

My familiarity with Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport that on more than one occasion I’ve offered people directions on where to find their gate or places to eat. There’s just something wrong with that.

The Restaurant

Unfortunately I really didn’t get to a restaurant that I felt was worthy of a review. I stopped by one local establishment that had vodka on tap, which I thought was kind of interesting, and that was about it. This will be rectified next week, I promise.

The Five

I sort of dig the questions at this week, so that’s what I’m going with.

  1. What puts you in a creative mood?
    If I knew, I wouldn’t be looking elsewhere for questions. ;-) All kidding aside, I really wish I did know. It comes and goes in spurts.
  2. What puts you in a silly mood?
    Oddly, it’s frequently the wrong situations. If I’m under a lot of stress, or there’s something bad going on in line, I’ve been known to get a case of the laughs. That also frequently happens when I succeed at something.
  3. What puts you in a contemplative mood?
    The right music. Many Cure or Smiths/Morrissey songs will do it.
  4. What puts you in a competitive mood?
    Have we met? Almost anything.
  5. If you’d call yourself a talkative person, what puts you in a quiet mood? If you’d call yourself a quiet person, what puts you in a talkative mood?
    Most people would probably say I’m talkative, even though I don’t really see myself that way on many occasions. That said, what will put me into a quiet mood will be an uncomfortable situation. If I suddenly go quiet, that generally means I’m looking for some form of escape.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Friday Five(s)

The Excuse

As you’ll read below, I was just a bit busy this past week. At the moment I’m currently sitting on CO1689, watching a little DirecTV and heading home, with the hope of just a little sleep in my not too distant future.

The Weeks

Wow. I mean, just wow.

Sorry - still no kidsTwo weeks ago I was sent to the city so nice they named it twice for a weeklong course. As anyone who reads this knows, New York is my favorite city on the planet, and there’s a lot of people to go visit. As a result, Karin joined for the first part of the weekend, flying out on Saturday and home on Monday. That Sunday we were able to schlep[1] out to Long Island to visit our friends Megan and DaIMG_1177vid, who recently welcomed Hunter into their family. I have to say that Hunter is a rather cute baby. Megan and David are going to make great parents.

Unfortunately, that was the only day that we were able to visit the friends we’d intended to visit. But it did give us the opportunity to get out to Pegu Club[1] for a couple of cocktails.

IMG_1181Of course, there was work to do at some point. But the nice part about the location I work at in New York is its location. It’s right on the southern tip of Manhattan, affording an amazing view. The timing of my trip[3] wasn’t lost on me. While I wasn’t at all worried about what might happen, I will say I did get a bit startled during the week. They were IMG_1189filming some TV show in the floor above the one I was working in. At one point on Thursday there was a loud “bang”, that caused my heart to skip a beat.

While Karin left way too soon and even though I was working during the day, I was certainly out playing every night. I was able to hook up with the friends that weren’t available when Karin was in town, not to mention a little trip to the new Yankee Stadium. While I didn’t get a good chance to roam around the stadium, I have to say I was impressed by it. IMG_1188But I’ll still take the original any day of the week.

From there, my week only got crazier. I flew on Friday from New York to Atlanta. The reason being I had to put in my first 20 mile run. For those of you not up marathon training, most every training plan caps out at 20 miles, making it the biggest and most important run of the program. Because I had to be in Atlanta on that Saturday evening, I wasn’t able to do that run from home. Fortunately, the run went off without a hitch in Atlanta.

After the run? Well, can you believe my week went back to being even more insane? Yes, that’s right – it was TechEd week. For those of you scoring at home[3], TechEd is Microsoft’s biggest annual conference. This week was particularly busy for me as I was chosen as the Study Hall/Exam Cram lead for the week. This meant quite a bit of additional work, especially at the beginning of the conference. That said, it did eventually settle down, and I was able to catch up with great friends.

IMG_1224During the week, I was able to get to see a bit of the city. My dining experience certainly ran the gamut. On one end was Monday night at a rather nice restaurant with my dear friend Susan. On the other end was Friday with a few friends at Gladys Knight’s waffle house. While I certainly enjoy high-end cuisine, there’s just something about a pile of amazing fried chicken and a waffle.[4]

GeneRACEtionUpon the end of TechEd, Susan, Michael, his wife Laurie and I ventured out for a 10K called the GeneRACEtion 10K. It was the first for Michael, and both he and Laurie did an amazing job. As for me? Well, I hit a PB (49:45) and I beat Susan. :-) Considering the week I had, and how hilly the course was, I’m thrilled with the time I was able to post.

In all it was a great couple of weeks. I’m hoping by mid-June I’ll have caught up on my sleep.

The Travel Note

Added to the list of things forgotten: My fleece.

The Restaurant Cocktail Bar

With the rebirth of the love of the classic cocktail comes the recreation of speakeasies. The one in San Diego I’ve been trying to visit for quite a while is Noble Experiment. You need to have a reservation to get in, which guarantees you a seat. It also means you have to get your reservation a couple of weeks in advance or you’re just not getting in. Once I heard Abram was coming to town I knew I wanted to get a chance to take him there.

The bar itself is in the back of a bar, behind a wall of kegs. Basically, walk towards the restroom, take a right, and then walk through the wall in front of you. You’ll be greeted by the hostess who will then show you to your table or seats at the bar.

The bar itself is amazingly small – a few small tables line the outside of the area, and the bar itself has about 10 stools. The décor is suave but understated. The bar itself is perfectly well stocked with all the items you’d want for putting items together.

Upon sitting down, I started with a sazerac, and unfortunately I’ve long since forgotten what Abram started with. It took a couple of drinks, but we eventually worked up a rapport with the bartender and were eventually just ordering by base and if we wanted it citrusy. I don’t know that Eric poured a drink that either of us didn’t like; some better than others, but none worth sending back.

The one thing I didn’t like about the place was there wasn’t a bathroom in the speakeasy part of the bar. This meant you had to leave the area, thus breaking the illusion of the speakeasy. But outside of that, Noble Experiment is currently my favorite cocktail bar in San Diego.

The Five

As always, I’m looking for ideas for here. My couple of usual spots to find ideas have been pretty dry lately, so I’m having to come up with some all on my own. Here’s 5 things about TechEd.

  1. Because TechEd is basically a nonstop event, I wasn’t able to get in my usual number of runs last week. I have to say I felt it emotionally; I was in a bit of a funk the days I didn’t run.
  2. The downside to working the event is you’re unable to do really anything else, in particular attend any sessions.
  3. The upside is you are able to make some great connections and meet some remarkable people. Basically it’s adult summer camp for geeks.
  4. I was able to see a bit more of Atlanta than I see of most other cities when I’m travelling for work, but I still don’t feel like I have a good handle on Atlanta. Either that, or it really is just there for Delta, Coke and Ted Turner.
  5. For me personally, this was a great show. I presented three Cram4Exam sessions, and I ranked 1st, 4th and 5th. :-)

[1] Yes, schlep.
[2] Have I mentioned how much I love the Pegu Club?
[3] ...or even if you’re alone.[5]
[4] Yes, I finished that entire plate. Did I mention I ran 20 miles?
[5] I can hear you saying it, Sarah.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Friday Five

The Week

I don’t know if it’s possible to visit every airport in the US that serves commercial traffic, but I figure I have to be getting relatively close. This week found me in another new location – Knoxville, TN. I had full intentions on going to explore downtown and trying to get a good sense of the city, but unfortunately the fates[1] conspired against me. I did, however, make sure I stayed downtown so I could run along the river while down there. Knoxville has a great running trail, which was fantastic.

The Travel Note

Because I’m whatever the top level frequent renter is on National I wind up getting relatively new cars. But this week was a first for me – I had a car with 4 miles on it.

The Restaurant

I don’t have a restaurant that’s really worth highlighting this week because of the way everything shook out. However, I do have a small word of wisdom that I need to remember more often – never eat at the hotel restaurant. It’ll always be too expensive for generally disappointing food.

The Five

One of my favorite expressions is “It’s the little things in life that make me happy.” Here are five little things that make me happy.

  1. The 20 minute power nap. It’s a shame that once you become an adult you aren’t allowed to take those in the afternoon any longer.
  2. Shortcut keys in Windows. Granted that’s a very geeky thing as well, but it does make me happy. I love being able to use the Windows key to move windows around on my desktop.
  3. Being able to wear flip flops. It’s one of the best signs that spring is (hopefully) here to stay and ready to give way to summer. It’s also just easy and comfortable.
  4. An open seat next to me when I’m in coach. While legroom is certainly nice, what’s always more important to me is shoulder room. Being stuck right next to someone and having to lean into the aisle for 4 hours makes for a long flight.
  5. Crossing things off a todo list. One of the things I’ve started using quite a bit lately is the tasks in Outlook. There is something near magical about clicking the little flag and watching the item disappear.

[1] And by fates I mean work.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Friday Five

The Week

I can’t say I was just out of reach of a big city this week, as there wasn’t a big city as far as the eye could see. Just lots and lots of open space. And plenty of flatland so the wind could get a solid running start.

This week found me in Sioux Falls, SD[1]. Oddly enough, though, I actually have a friend in Sioux Falls with whom I was able to do dinner. This is an old friend[2] from college. In college she went by her middle name Kate, but now goes by her given name of Molly. Unfortunately for her, old habits die hard and she’ll always be Kate to me. Fortunately for both of us, though, even though it had been a solid 5 years or more since we’d seen one another, we were able to pick up right where we left off. I treasure friendships like that. While in a perfect world we’d be able to see each other more often, time apart doesn’t harm our friendship. That’s special.

Oh – and that wind. It was absolutely insane. Both runs that I was able to get outdoors for were in winds of 20mph+. The only way you make it through a run like that is by running into the wind to start. The nice part about a run like that is you’re guaranteed negative splits.[3]

The Travel Note

While regional airports mean flying in on crop dusters, it makes for an awfully short security line on the way out.

The Restaurant

I’d be remiss if I didn’t at some point mention my favorite post-run restaurant, Oggi’s. While there isn’t much to say about it – it’s an above average brew pub – it’s still a great little spot. Very good beer, a menu that includes both unhealthy items and some fantastic salads. And a very friendly bartender[4] who works Saturday afternoons. It’s a great place to unwind and imbibe, and at least partially undo all the good you’ve just done for your body.

The Five

Five things about life

  1. I don’t know what my next goal will be after running the full marathon in June. Right now the only plan is a race in September and one in early December. After that I’m just not sure yet. But I do know that there will be another marathon.
  2. I’ve noticed that once I mention that I’m a runner during class I’ll wind up spending a good portion of break time talking about running. That’s actually just fine. I rather enjoy talking about running. Ask any one of my friends who’s had to listen to be babble on and on about running. Or my poor wife.
  3. Although really, you should feel sorry for my wife just because, well, she’s my wife and has to put up with me.
  4. People frequently ask how we manage to handle being apart so much. I think Karin puts it best – “You just do.” And that really is it. It’s just life. And you live it.
  5. At the end of it all, if you’re happy with where you are, you really can’t complain about where you are or how you got there. And we’re both happy.

[1] That’s South Dakota, not San Diego
[2] Not saying she’s old, just that we’ve been friends for a long time.[5]
[3] Meaning that your time per mile decreases during the second half of the run.
[4] Friendly isn’t code for cute. Although she is very cute.
[5] So I guess if anything I’m saying we’re both old.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Friday Five

The Week

Sort of in a rut travel wise. Once again, stuck in suburbia of a major metro area. This time around, Irving, just outside of Dallas. Of course, it’s not like I’d really like to go to downtown Dallas. But still.

The week itself was pretty much like a normal week. I was able to get out to dinner with an MCT friend who was in town teaching a class. I was also able to actually get out for a good run (after my despondent post from earlier this week).

The Restaurant

Normally I like to highlight something really cool here. But as I was stuck in suburbia there really isn’t much cool around here. So I’m going to highlight one of my favorite fast food places instead – Chipotle.

The reason I’m highlighting Chipotle isn’t just because of the fact they do great food, which they do. But what I really love is how easy it is to put together a healthy meal there. They let you customize everything. Half the rice, double the black beans, chicken, plenty of pico and corn salsa.

Filling. Healthy. Tasty. Done.

The Travel Note

I’m not going to get into a debate on the effectiveness of the TSA, or if liquids should be banned or not. What I will say, however, is I almost always have at least one Five Hour Energy in my computer bag at all times, and I’ve never had it confiscated. Never.

The Five

Let’s see if I can’t come up with five things about me that I haven’t already mentioned.

  1. I do wish I was a bigger hockey fan. I rather enjoy the sport. But after the strike/lockout and the move to Versus I really lost most of my passion for the sport.
  2. I can’t skate. Or ski. Or snowboard. I’ve lived in cold weather areas for many years, but never took on a cold weather sport. Probably one of many reasons I loathe the cold so much.
  3. At some point I’d like to get laser surgery to correct my eyesight. I just need to get over that concept of someone cutting my eyeball.
  4. If I could pick one feature on any plane, it’d be a power outlet. If I can plug in my laptop I’m a happy man.
  5. I didn’t go to my prom. Karin and I didn’t have a large, extravagant wedding. I don’t feel like I missed anything.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Broken Down

(Editor’s note: I currently have three separate blogs. I’ve decided that trying to come up with ideas for all three is just not going to happen. I’ll still keep the professional blog separate from this one, but you will now occasionally see a running post here. And with that...)

In my preparation for first half marathon I read quite a bit about the training process and how you’d hit different plateaus and struggle at times. But at least for me my experience didn’t match that at all. Certainly the training was hard, but I never once doubted that I could do it. The distances I had to run would occasionally worry me, but not to the point where I really thought I wouldn’t be able to finish it.

Well, that’s changed now that I’m training for the full marathon. I ran 18 miles on Saturday. And I don’t think I’ve recovered yet. I may be fighting something illness wise, or maybe a bit of dehydration, but I’ve just been wiped out these last couple of days. So much so that for the first time in as long as I can remember I bailed on a run partway through – I was only 1.66 miles into a 5 mile run. Add to that the fact that my calf and back are both aching, and this is not a happy runner.

I’ve made the decision already that I’m not going to do my run tonight, and I’m not going to make it up tomorrow.

That’s a hard sentence for me to type. In all my training I’ve been extremely diligent about getting out there and getting in my runs. But I really just can’t do it tonight.

And that sentence scares me.

I know I’ll get there. I know I’ll reread this post on June 6th and smile knowing that I made it. But right now it’s much harder to focus on that through the pain and the exhaustion.

Here’s my first training struggle. Let’s see what happens from here.

On the plus side, I’m loving my new running shoes. :-)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday Five

The Week

Stop me if you’ve heard this one, but once again I found myself going to Boston Burlington, MA. While I wasn’t able to get down to the city, I was still able to enjoy myself.

The highlight of the week was probably getting a chance to hook up with a friend of mine for dinner; always nice to see another human outside of a work environment during the week. I was also reminded how much I love the feel of New England, especially the Boston area.[1] Of all the parts of the country I’ve been to, New England has held on to their historical feel more than any other. In fact, my running path this week was through a national park that featured some of Paul Revere’s famous ride. On a side note, this was the first time in, well, I think forever, that I was able to get in all three weekday runs outdoors and without the need for cold weather running gear.

The Restaurant

This is from the “where has this restaurant been?” department. About 3 exits away from my hotel sits this converted house that now houses a Chinese restaurant named Shichuan Garden. There’s a dive bar area (where I of course sat), and a main dining room. The food was wonderful – the double cooked fresh bacon[2] with spicy capsicum was outstanding, and the pork dumplings were very good.

But by far what stole the show were the cocktails. Yes, this place features a couple of bartenders that really know how to ply their craft. I started out with a cross between a manhattan and a sazerac[3], which was basically bourbon, Peychaud’s bitters, sweet vermouth and an absinthe wash. Very nice. I was going to switch to a beer after that as the entrée was rather spicy, but the bartender, Ran[4], said he could come up with a cocktail that would work perfectly – and he was right.

My only regret was that I discovered this place the last night I was in town. Next trip I plan on visiting much earlier in the week; and taking a cab so I can enjoy more than two drinks.

The Travel Note

I recently picked up a self massage stick to help with my sore legs after running. I was hoping to be able to bring it with me on trips, but I found out that TSA has a habit of confiscating them, as they think it could be used as a club. The eternally-13-years-old part of me loves the sentence: The TSA thinks my self massaging stick could be used as a club.

The Five

I don’t know what got me thinking about this, but I was recently kicking around a couple of things in my head that I’m prouder of than I probably should be. With that, here’s 5 things I’m prouder of than I really should be.

  1. Being Yelp Elite. Every year I get very nervous about being selected, and am overjoyed when it happens.
  2. I was part of the first mock trial team in the history of my high school to ever win a case in competition. I was also the first attorney they picked to do both two cross examinations and the closing argument, as they thought I could think quick on my feet.[5]
  3. I was third in the Pinewood Derby.
  4. I graduated 7th out of 233 kids from high school. I also had a perfect math score on my ACTs.
  5. Hitting elite level on any travel rewards program. It’s nice because I love the perks. The problem, of course, is that whole not being home thing.

[1] Sorry, Mom. I’m not moving back to the area.
[2] I ran 5 miles before dinner. I’m allowed, right?
[3] Two of my favorite cocktails if you’re new here.
[4] That’s his name
[5] They also forced me to keep one hand in my pocket and hold a portfolio in the other so I’d stop talking so much with my hands.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Friday Five

The Week

I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s worth saying again – there are weeks when I find out I’m going to Chicago! And then later find out that the real fact is I’m headed to a suburb a solid 20 miles outside of the city. Granted, I was teaching a bootcamp this week, meaning I was “on the clock” from 8:30a-8:00p so I wouldn’t have had much time to actually get out and do anything anyway. But it still would have been nice to have been in downtown Chicago.

In any event, while I wasn’t able to get out to the city, I was still able to get in my runs through a little creative planning. One was on a treadmill, but the other two were through a nice forest reserve just around the corner from where I was staying. I’d run through there before, and I’m here to tell you it’s gorgeous. Well, it’s gorgeous when it’s green. It was still rather brown as winter has just finally ended here.

And I’d also be remiss if I left off a mention of the weekend. Susan, my partner in the IT Grand Prix, brought her husband and kids out for a vacation in San Diego. They had a fantastic time doing all the tourist things that Karin and I never find time to do. This past Saturday marked the third weekend in a row that we’ve double dated. That will be coming to an end this weekend, as Karin and I won’t be going out to Ottawa, even if it is our turn.

The Restaurant

This week I want to go a little more low-brow, and highlight my favorite sub shop chain – Jersey Mike’s. Being from New Jersey[1]I’m used to certain foods a certain way – cheesesteaks, pizza, bagels, and subs. Having been out of the state for a good 19 years now, I’ve grown accustomed to simply giving up hope of enjoying those items the way they were meant to be made.

Thus enter Jersey Mike’s. Jersey Mike’s is a sub shop based out of ... wait for it ... Jersey. Their subs feature different types of spiced ham, plenty of meat, and a good amount of olive oil, vinegar and spices. They just pile everything on there. And the bread is nice and hearty.

If you want to pick up a Jersey accent, find your nearest Jersey Mike’s, order a #5 Mike’s Way, add pickles. And even if you don’t want the accent, it’s still an amazing sandwich.

The Travel Note

See below.

The Five

Five travel items.

I generally leave every tag on my roller bag. I’m not quite sure why I started it, but it’s now become a thing. I will say it does make it easier to spot.

  1. I believe luggage locks are the most useless things on the planet. If someone wants to get into your bag, they’re going to get into your bag.[2]
  2. I’m glad to see more airlines are moving to mobile boarding passes. More secure and more convenient FTW![3]
  3. Despite the fact that Lindberg Field (San Diego’s airport) has a propensity for fog, I’ve yet to be diverted or have a missed approach there.
  4. The only missed approach I’ve been a part of was when Karin and I were flying into Melbourne. I don’t think we’ve ever been bounced around more than that approach and landing. He pulled it off the second time around.
  5. Nobody appreciates the special treatment frequent flyers get more than I do. By far the number one benefit is the ability to cut the line at security.

[1] Thus the nickname.
[2] That said, I do have one on my computer bag. Buy me a drink sometime and I’ll tell you the story; it’s not there for security.
[3] Susan – FTW = For The Win.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Friday Five

The Perspective

There are moments in life that remind you quickly what’s important and what’s trivial. It’s those moments that you realize the vast majority of day-to-day living pales in comparison to why we live life, which is for friends, for love, and for family.

I know that you generally come here for a lighthearted look at mine and Karin’s lives, or out of complete boredom having read everything else on the internet.[1] Unfortunately, that’s going to take a backseat for this Friday Five.

If you haven’t already heard, I apologize that you’re reading it here. But recently Karin’s mother was diagnosed with a form of leukemia. She went in for chemotherapy starting on Monday, and will likely be there for 2-3 more weeks. With that, I’m going to turn the virtual floor over to Karin so she can tell the story.

My Mom, Marcy, was recently diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (ALM). Marcy started chemotherapy on Monday, March 28 and the first couple days of treatment went very well. The doctors and nurses are taking excellent care of her and she is enjoying surprisingly good hospital food!   :-)  We appreciate all prayers and positive thoughts, and wish Mom a speedy recovery!

The Week

There really is no smooth segue from the above into my normal nonsense. There will be plenty of time for me to babble on and on about the trials and tribulations of being me, as if it matters to anyone else. But for this week, that seems neither appropriate nor relevant.

So this is week is dedicated to Marcy. Get well soon.

[1] Sorry, it’s a Harrison trait. We tell jokes. It’s how we cope.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Five

The Week

It’s always interesting how my trips seem to go in spurts. For the longest time it was always a trip to Houston. I now can’t remember the last time I was in Houston. Recently, my “Houston” has become Ottawa, which is where I found myself this week. Although this week was rather nice as Karin came to join for the weekend.

Christopher and KarinIn particular, Karin came up so we could get pictures done as a couple, something we haven’t done since we were engaged back in..., ummmm..., wait... I think I can count back that far... Carry the one... Natural log of pi... Ah yes – 1993[1]. Since having my headshots done by Robin at unposed I knew I wanted to bring Karin back so we could do it together. Not only is Robin an amazing photographer, she also does a great job of making you feel at ease, leading to both amazing photos and a wonderful experience. At some point later today we should get the proofs, and we can’t wait to start going through and picking out which ones to keep – which will be a tough process to be certain.

The week turned out to be a lot of time spent with friends, as we did dinner Saturday night with Susan and Trevor, I did a working dinner with Susan on Tuesday, and a dinner with Tracey and Rob on Wednesday. It’s always nice to have human interaction while on the road.

The other thing I really enjoy about Ottawa is the running paths. The canal runs right through the center of town, and there’s a great path on both sides. Susan and I did 14 miles on Sunday, and I did 7 on my own on Thursday (as I continue to prepare for the San Diego Rock n Roll Marathon in June).

The Restaurant

Having been to Ottawa a few times now and Karin finally managed to join for one of my trips. We wanted something nice and romantic, so Susan suggested we check out Beckta. I'm thrilled we did.

The first thing that's worth highlighting is the service. It was absolutely impeccable from start to finish. It seemed that every time we needed something, our waiter or someone else was right there ready to assist. Even at the end of the night, when I find that service tends to fall off (I hate having to wait for my check), they were still right there.

It started out perfectly after we were seated and ordered our cocktails - a take on a margarita for my wife, and an old fashioned made with scotch for me. Non-traditional, but still very good[2]. We decided to go with the tasting menu (the main reason we came here). After we told the waiter this, he said, "OK - I'll give you guys 5-10 minutes to enjoy your cocktails, and I'll send over some bread so you won't go hungry in the mean time."

Let me opine for just a second here. I've done a handful of tasting menus at different restaurants, and one thing that I've found nearly universally is the first wine and food pairing is on the table nearly instantaneously. If you ordered a cocktail beforehand, you're suddenly double-fisting and not able to enjoy your cocktail before easing into dinner. When the waiter said he'd give us time to enjoy our cocktails, it was a "You had me at hello" moment.

Back to the dinner.

The first course was a smoked trout with fingerling potatoes, paired with a very nice little white wine. Awesome presentation, and very tasty. The second course was absolutely the winner - eggs benedict. 

Yes - breakfast for dinner. But this was no typical eggs benedict. This was a homemade english muffin, with a light schmear of liver pate, lamb bacon (yes - lamb bacon FTW!), and a tempura egg yolk. All covered with an amazing hollandaise and paired with a nice bubbly rose (which I did in fact drink with my pinky in the air). It was by far the winner of the night.

The third course was a quail leg on a bed of sweet potato(?) puree paired with a pinot - very tasty. The final savory dish was a bison steak, done up rare, sliced on the bias, that was just melt in your mouth good, and paired with a hearty cab that was just perfect.

Dessert was a "tropical cubist movement", featuring 5 different desserts that were all shaped as squares. All were very tasty, but I don't know that there was anything that really was "change your life" good.

Yes, it's pricey. But for the food, the service, the atmosphere and the experience it was worth every penny. Next time I get my wife back to Ottawa, I can assure you we'll be back.

The Travel Note

This one is from Karin’s experience at the border. The customs agent in Ottawa gave her a bit of a hard time because he couldn’t figure out why she was coming all the way from San Diego just for the weekend – and in winter no less. He did let her through, but not after giving her a bit of a runaround.

The Five

I spend just a little time on the road, and as a result I wind up eating out a lot. As I’m staying healthy these days, that can be a bit of an issue. While I’m certainly not perfect when it comes to my eating habits, here are 5 things I always try to focus on when ordering.

  1. Start with a salad at dinner. I try to get some form of veggies into my system at both lunch and dinner, and the easiest way to do that is to order a salad.
  2. Be careful about salads as an entrée. It’s amazing how quickly a healthy item turns into something completely unhealthy when it’s doused in dressing and covered with cheese, bacon and other sources of fat. And while we’re at it, I ask for the dressing on the side.
  3. “No mayo”. Those two words are nearly automatic for me now. It’s amazing how many calories and fat can be dropped just by dropping that one little ingredient.
  4. “No cheese”. I’m not a huge cheese person, so this isn’t a big loss for me. I do enjoy my goat cheese to be sure, but I rarely have cheese on my sandwiches.
  5. I hardly ever do dessert. If I’m out to dinner with friends then I might. But if I’m out on my own, I never do dessert. Well, maybe a liquid dessert – a nice glass of port or scotch.

[1] We got married in 1995, meaning in two years our marriage will be old enough to vote.
[2] Yeah, I’m a snob. But there are times when you just roll with it and order the best drink you can find on the menu.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Frustrations About Posting Frustrations

In case you haven’t already noticed, I’m a bit of a Facebook junkie. If you were to track my time on the web and break it down by site, I’m certain Facebook would be by far the site I use more often. I love being able to share and connect with friends, and I’m generally open to friending almost anyone.

However, that right there can be a problem. Because some of my Facebook friends are clients of mine.

The problem isn’t the obvious one – posting incriminating photos. I’m generally OK with those types of things, and I make sure to clear out the ones that I don’t want on Facebook. The real problem is I’ve grown to enjoy posting frustrations on Facebook. But what if one of those frustrations is with a client.

As a perfect example, I recently delivered a project to a client per their specifications. I mean, exactly what they asked for. In fact, before I built it I confirmed with the client that what I was about to deliver was in fact what they were asking for. However, after I actually handed it over I was informed they wanted something different.

My first instinct was to post “loves it when he delivers what a customer wants only to be told that’s not what they want.” But the two people I was interfacing with during this project are both friends of mine on Facebook, and would have known I was talking about them.

Part of the reason I like posting frustrations is it gives me a quick place to vent. Plus, I have enough developer friends that can relate to just that story.

But you really can’t bash a client on a public forum.

Can’t post that to Facebook.

Fortunately, though, they don’t read the blog.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Friday Five

The Excuse

Alas, Friday just didn’t work out timing wise. So it’s now Tuesday and I’m getting it posted. That’s progress, right?

The Week

I’ve mentioned before that there are weeks when I get to go to cool places. And then there are weeks when I wind up in Livermore, CA. Add to that the fact that I was at a research facility. A secured research facility. A secured research facility without public internet access.

Yes – I spent the entire week disconnected from the world.

Trust me – nobody was more shocked by the fact that I came out on the other end of that alive than me.

But I did.

One of the parts of the week that did work out well was the fact that the area is right next to wine country. This made for a great little run (7 miles) through the vineyards. Great area to go run in, even if it was a bit hilly.

The other great part was I got to do dinner with Sheri. I hadn’t had one-on-one time with her in forever, so it was nice to be able to sneak up to San Francisco for dinner at Perbacco.

The Restaurant Cocktail Bar

I’ve been searching for a great cocktail bar in San Diego. We’re finally starting to see a cocktail scene emerging there, but it’s still relatively early. As of now, the best place that I’ve been to is a bar called Craft & Commerce.

Let me get the couple of bad things out of the way right up front. First – the place is relatively small compared to the number of people they cram into there. In particular, there is one side of the bar that has no stools. While that isn’t a huge issue for me as I tend to stand after a few drinks, there isn’t a bar to rest your foot on at the bar. As a result, it’s just not comfortable standing after a while. Second – getting water is a bit of an issue. If I’m having more than a couple of cocktails, I do like to mix in a couple of glasses of water. After all, hydration is one of the keys to healthy living, right?

That said, this place makes great classic cocktails. One of my favorite features, and proof of that, is they have no vodka. Yes – no vodka. Vodka in a cocktail is a relatively recent addition, and frankly brings nothing to the party but alcohol. Using a spirit like gin, which certainly brings flavor to the part, adds more character to the drink. They also take their time to measure all ingredients. While some may think this is a way for the bar to be stingy (and I’m sure there is a part of that), the real reason to measure is to make sure you make the cocktail correctly. After all, when you’re dealing with small amounts, being off just a little can throw off the final result by quite a bit.

The Travel Note

I don’t mind airlines charging extra for something that’s out of the ordinary. Continental, for instance, charges $6 for DirecTV. That’s a value-add and I’m fine with that. Or seats with extra legroom.

What I do mind, however, is paying for things that aren’t a value-add. Which is why I will never fly US Airways again. If you want a normal seat in the front half of the plane, a seat that isn’t any different from any other coach seat except it’s located in the front half of the plane, you have to pay for that right.

The Five

Couldn’t figure out something good on my own, so I went to for help. The questions from them for this week are:

  1. What’s something you have an unreasonable fear of?
    Snakes. And no, it’s not funny.[1]
  2. What’s something you have an unreasonable fondness for?
    Many inanimate objects. Facebook for one. My sneakers for another. After all, I wind up spending quite a bit of time with my running shoes.
  3. What’s something you have an unreasonable disliking for?
    Nancy Grace I suppose. Although I think it’s completely justified.
  4. Who’s most likely to bring out the unreasonable in you?
    Karin. This isn’t on Karin, it’s just simply a function of being married for as long as we have. I forget that she’s always got the best of intentions, and always feel like a heel when I figure that out.
  5. Who’s the least unreasonable person you know?
    Karin. A more level-headed person I’ve never met.

[1] And I am not kidding about this. Fastest way to lose me as a friend is to pull that prank on me.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday Five

The Week

Something very, very strange happened this week. So bizarre, in fact, that I’m still not sure that I’ve fully recovered from the shock. If I still seem a bit off, it’s gotta be fallout from this event that occurred on Monday morning.

This Monday morning… wow… it still just blows me away… But here goes…

This Monday morning I woke up in my own bed.

I know, I know – I’m more shocked by this than you are. Granted, things returned to normal fast enough as I flew out on Tuesday, but still.

Monday morning. My own bed.


Needless to say[1] I took full advantage of the weekend. Got in a fantastic 12 mile run with a couple of good friends. Went out to dinner with a couple of other friends. Actually made dinner at home on both Sunday and Monday nights. And even managed to expose Karin to Goonies for the first time.[2]

My trip this week took me to a northern suburb of Atlanta. I’d been out here a few times before, although it had been a while. The best part (by far) was heading out to dinner at a place called The Iberian Pig with a good friend. It’s always nice to find both a great restaurant and enjoy it with even better company.

The Restaurant

I guess I have to go with Iberian Pig. It’s a non-traditional-yet-traditional tapas restaurant. The goal is to go with traditional items, but put their own twist on them. This style even bleeds down into their cocktail menu, which I recognized instantly when I saw an aviation on the menu[3]. When I went to order the special manhattan on their menu[4], the waiter directed me to an off-the-menu chef’s manhattan, made with High West Rendezvous Rye – an amazing rye[5]. The waiter assured me it was the best manhattan on the planet. I don’t know that I’d quite go that far, but I’m here to tell you it certainly ranks right up there.

The food itself was almost all hits with just one miss. Unfortunately the miss was kind of a big one – the lamb ribs. They were just doused in barbecue sauce, making it near impossible to detect that you were actually eating lamb. Everything else was fantastic – the Spanish sausage, the teeny-tiny-tacos, the bacon wrapped dates, the goat cheese.

The service was absolutely spot-on. The waiter walked us through the menu, made great suggestions, and timed everything out perfectly. Despite the fact that we ordered about 8 different plates, we were never just inundated with plates. The waiter even pulled the water glasses off the table before refilling them, something rarely seen but I always appreciate.

The Travel Note

If I were to start a new website, I’d start one to rate airports on their efficiency in two areas – delivering checked bags to the carousel and getting visitors to the rental car area. Landing at an airport and not actually leaving the airport until a solid hour+ later is a huge frustration.

Atlanta certainly ranks up there in the time to rental car area. Between the shuttle from the satellite terminal to the main terminal, and then the shuttle to the rental car area, it’s a solid 40 minutes or more until you’re actually leaving the airport. FTL.

The Five

If you’re new here you may not have picked up on some of my quirks in writing style. Here are five little things you’ll see from time to time.

  1. Tyops[6]/Misspellings. Despite the fact that Karin always points me in the right direction, I’ve still yet to learn. As I say, I’m a developer – I don’t have to spell correctly, only consistently. Although I will say I know which your and there to use.
  2. Parentheses. Again – I’m a developer. Seeing things in parentheses is just normal for me.
  3. Footnotes.[7]
  4. Semicolons. The use of a semicolon is a lost art.
  5. Conversational posting style. I type like I talk.

[1] Why is it that people say “needless to say” and feel the need to still say it?
[2] I don’t know how you can be a child of the 80’s and not seen Goonies. When we found out about this we needed to fix this problem right away.
[3] Classic cocktail – very bright, nice for a warm day.
[4] What else did you think I was going to order?
[5] Ironically made in Utah.
[6] I swear I just made the mistake while typing it and left it.
[7] I love footnotes.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Friday Five

The Week

I’m looking at all the signs the week has ended – I’m sitting in a bar area, I have a manhattan next to me, and I have my Zune playing. (Low by Cracker if you’re interested)

This week found me in Boston. Well, sort of. One of the small issues with travel is the client will tell you, “Hey – you’re going to Boston!” Then you find out later that you’re really going to a suburb a good 30 miles out of town with no real chance to go enjoy the city FTL[1]. Still managed to make the best of it. A friend of mine, who bears just a small resemblance to Larry David was teaching in the same center this week, and I was able to hook up with another friend. So all was not lost. (Like to Get to Know You Well by Howard Jones) On top of that, I managed to get quite a few loose ends tied up, including starting up my professional blog at

As good of a week as it’s been, I’m still ready to get home, and back to some warmer weather.

The Restaurant

(Free Falling by Tom Petty)

If this is your first time here, one of the things you may not know about me is I’m a bit of a cocktail maven – in particular classic cocktails. As such, when I see a restaurant advertise great cocktails and great food, I’m of course going to give it a shot. The restaurant in question is Alchemy, which is located in a rather cute part of South Park.

Alchemy is a relatively small place, and on the whole relatively easy to get into. The service is a little spotty, but the drinks and food more than make up for it. The few times Karin and I have been there we’ve tried many things on the menu. The winner by far is the stuffed peppers – this is a must order. They also have bone marrow – if you’ve never tried this, you absolutely have to.

I recommend treating the menu like it’s tapas – just order a handful of items, let it come out as it’s done, and enjoy. You won’t regret it.

The Travel Note

(The Guitar by They Might Be Giants)

I’ve dealt with my fair share of surly people on the road. This one ranks right up there. After takeoff I reclined my seat, only to be greeted by a rude tap on my shoulder. The woman behind me asked if I could raise my seat. I complied, and then turned around to ask if we could compromise; I really don’t need to recline it much, just a little bit. She was having none of it, explaining that when I do that I’m taking away any space she has in front of her.

About 20 minutes later, as I’m just drifting off to sleep, she decides to get up by pulling back on my seat. Normally I wouldn’t say anything, but this time I just couldn’t let it slide. I politely[2] informed her that when she does that it pulls me back as well and wakes me up. She glared at me and said, “If this is how you’re going to be it’s going to be a long flight.”

At this point I thought about my options, and decided that just letting her be angry was the best plan and didn’t say anything else.

The joys of travel.

The Five

(World Leader Pretend by R.E.M.)

Since I’m on a cocktail kick, how about my five favorite cocktails.

  1. Manhattan. It’s so simple – rye, sweet vermouth, and bitters. It’s really the king of cocktails.
  2. Negroni. Very similar to a manhattan in profile – equal parts gin, sweet vermouth and Campari, a type of bitters. It’s oddly both a bit lighter and bolder than the manhattan.
  3. Gin martini. With a twist. And with gin. Vodka doesn’t bring anything to the party but alcohol; no flavor.
  4. Sazerac. This is an old cocktail born in New Orleans. It involves rye, Peychaud’s bitters, a little sugar and absinthe. It’s got a great bite from both the rye and absinthe, but the sugar really helps both mellow the drink and bring out the flavors.
  5. Bartender’s choice. If you’re in a great cocktail bar, the bartender will find your tastes and craft a cocktail custom suited for you.

[1] For Susan – that’s “For The Loss”
[2] Believe it or not, I do mean politely.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Friday Five

The Excuse

Alas, the travel that I’ve been on for the last couple of weeks killed any chance of me typing out a Friday Five. As such, it’s time for me to get caught up.

The Weeks

What a 3 weeks it’s been.

I started the week of 7Feb with a quick 3 day jaunt up to San Jose. As much as I loathe San Jose (which is Spanish for Endless Business Parks), it’s always a good chance to touch base with my friends up there. This trip was no exception – friends and business parks.

Wednesday night turned into a fantastic dinner (and cocktails with friends). Alas, that meant it was a very early Thursday morning, as Karin and I flew out to New Orleans. If you know me at all, you know my love for all things Cajun/Creole, and I’d yet to take Karin to New Orleans. As there was a half marathon out there, it seemed like the perfect excuse.

The week included (of course) a trip to Commander’s Palace, which offered us both great food and the opportunity to suit up. Well – I wore the suit. Karin wore her little red dress. The food and service was of course outstanding; if you’ve never been to Commander’s Palace you owe it to yourself. We also went to NOLA, which is an Emeril restaurant. While we both enjoyed NOLA, we were once again a bit underwhelmed by the food. The last night was a little place called Sylvain. Not Creole, but just a little local restaurant. Was the perfect way to end a week of amazing food and touring New Orleans.

Best. Beads. Ever.But the main focus was the race – the Mardi Gras Rock n Roll Half Marathon. My goal was to hit sub 1:50 (specifically 1:49:12, but that’s another story). I have to say I ran the absolute best race I could, and I finished with a time of 1:50:37. I could not have run it any faster than that. So while I’m a bit disappointed in the time, I’m thrilled with how the race went.

IMG_1047As there’s no rest for the weary, I left New Orleans and went straight up to Seattle for a conference up there. In case this is your first time here, I love Seattle. I love the cocktails, the food, the cocktails, the people, the cocktails, the feel. Oh, and did I mention I love the cocktails?

Despite all my time in Seattle, I’d never made the trip up to Vancouver. As my virtual running partner (and great friend) Susan was also in Seattle last week we went up to Vancouver for a little 10K[1] run up there. And as we were in Vancouver we continued my application process to become an honorary Canadian; this time it involved seeing a Canucks vs. Stars game. Great game. As for the run, well, I’m happy with the time (51:22, a persona best), but I’m not thrilled with how I ran.

From there it was out to Ottawa. Despite the fact that I’ve spent two full weeks in Ottawa now, I don’t feel like I really know the city yet. A big part of that has to do with the fact that I’ve only been out there in the winter, which is not really a great “hey – let’s go explore” time of year. But Ottawa does seem like a great family town; it seems there’s some form of a festival every other week in that town.

After Ottawa? Home.

The Travel Note

Every time I’m in a situation where I need a little flexibility from an airline, I’m amazed at how simply politely asking for what you want works. The key is to know what you want, to be nice about it, but yet be firm.

The biggest thing (besides being nice) that will help is knowing what your options are. Know the other hubs of the airline you’re flying and any partner airlines. If there’s an alternate airport, know that as well.

And above all – be nice! Remember that it’s not the person in front of you that’s impacted the weather, maintenance issues, or anything else. You’d be amazed at how much more someone’s willing to help you when you’re polite.

The Five

I generally have tried to avoid posting fitness related items here, but recently I’ve been asked about running every time I turn around. Below is an FAQ on my running experience.

  1. Why did you start running?
    Frankly – because I got tired of being fat. While fat might not be the right word (I frequently use doughy, which I thing is more appropriate), I wasn’t happy with how I looked. At the end of it all, the person most responsible for my life is me, and I decided it was time to take charge.
  2. Why running?
    Because running meets two requirements I have for any fitness program – a goal and portability. The great thing about running events is I’m always working towards something. And when I’m on the road, I can almost always run outdoors, or at the very worst[2] I can run on a treadmill.
  3. When you going to run a marathon?
    June 5th, 2011 at the San Diego Rock n Roll Marathon. Come cheer me on!
  4. Does your wife run?
    She does not. She still thinks I’m insane. Frankly, she’s right.
  5. How can I get started?
    Lace up your sneakers, walk out the door, and start running. It’s that simple.[3] If you’re getting serious about it, then I’d recommend getting fitted for shoes and reading “Marathoning for Mortals”. It’s a great sport, a great way to spend time alone with your brain, and a great way to see sights. Hope to see you out there!

[1] There’s just something sick about saying “little 10K”.
[2] I loathe treadmills.
[3] Simple != Easy