Saturday, February 23, 2008

Boot Camp

Boot camp begins in a week. I'm a bit nervous now that my neighbor, a veteran boot camper, has told me that I am "crazy" for joining in the same month that Steph is due. At least the Rabbi has decided to join me in the pain that will be coming my way...

Java - One Expensive Beast

About two weeks ago I was on the floor petting Java. There he was, lying on his back, all four legs up in the air, when I noticed a large mass in his abdomen, just beneath the rib cage. He's a lumpy old man full of little, harmless tumors called lipomas. This one felt very different. It was larger than any of the others and it appeared to be in his abdomen, not on it. Not good.

Last Friday we saw our vet who took blood, urine and x-rays. The vet confirmed that there is a large mass of unknown origin in his abdomen and referred us to a specialty clinic for a more thorough diagnosis. Of course, all I could think of is that he has a terminal disease or something that would reduce his quality of life, making last weekend quite unhappy in our house.

On Tuesday we went to the vet at Georgia Veterinary Specialists. After more blood work, an ultrasound and aspirating the lump, it turns out to be nothing more than another lipoma. Cheers all around, Java is a healthy old man after all! And now he has a very expensive funny haircut - shaved belly with very uneven edges - to show off to all the ladies...

Java, its time for you to get a job and start paying some of the bills around here! Maybe you can tour with the Black Eyed Peas singing about your lumps. ("My lumps, my lumps, my big ol' fatty lumps... check it out!")

Monday, February 18, 2008

Hike for Discovery 2008

The new season has kicked off, but I won't be joining this year for obvious reasons. I am, however, remaining active with the team. So I went to Kennesaw on Saturday for the first hike of a season. We time everyone as they climb to the top of Kennesaw mountain (1.2 miles, ~650' elevation gain). I offered to lead the fast group to the top. Stupid me.

Two guys, one part of HFD, another who was considering joining, and a mother/son team kicked my ass hiking up the mountain. Just under 20 minutes to get to the top! I was huffing and puffing and having an asthma attack just trying to keep up with them. And my legs, damn were they burning! So much for leading the charge up the mountain! Previously my quickest time to the top was ~25 minutes, so this was quite a bit faster than I have ever attempted this previously and it really showed me that I need to work on my aerobic conditioning more.

In order to get in more cardio and work on my aerobic conditioning, I have joined Operation Bootcamp. Starting March 3 I'll be doing bootcamp workouts for the month of March at 6 AM daily. I must be a masochist to put myself through this. My only hope is the beer-hating Rabbi will be joining me in my month of pain prior to the baby arriving...

To prove I'm not a lager hater...

I did have one great lager last night: Left Hand Brewing Company's Rye Bock Lager. This is a very nontraditional doppelbock brewed with rye, which normally adds a spicy characters to beers. A very smooth drinking beer with notes of chocolate in the nose and a rich, malty body, this went down way too easy. At ~$12 for a 750mL bottle, I won't be buying a lot of this, however, its a nice addition to Left Hand's lineup.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Simple pleasures

As a beer geek, I am often drawn toward things that are bigger, better, more extreme. I had a phase where I was into double IPAs, though it began to seem similar to being into hot sauce. After a certain point, there was no balance, only hoppiness (spiciness). Lately I have been into barrel aged beers from the Lost Abbey (The Angel's Share was my favorite beer last year), Goose Island and others and wild beers from places like Russian River. And of course, Dogfish Head, particularly their very high gravity beers like Raison d'Extra and World Wide Stout. These are some fabulous beers, with crazy flavor profiles just begging to be shared with friends who can appreciate the art of brewing. These beers are for sipping, not drinking, making them inappropriate at some occasions. Some of them have near cult-like obsession for people, i.e. the guy who dropped $150 on a bottle of The Angel's Share on Ebay.

But sometimes, its a simple beer that brings me pleasure. Lately, I have been into Theakston Old Peculier, an old ale from the north of England and Fuller's London Pride, a bitter from London. The nutty, biscuit flavors of London Pride make an easy drinking, fairly low alcohol brew, so you could have a few at a sitting, if you should wish.

Another recent simple pleasure was two bottles of Ayinger Altbairisch Dunkel, an "old Bavarian dark beer" and a lager. Lagers are generally not something I consume a lot of, especially the pilsners, marzen and vienna styles. Bocks and doppelbocks are my lager exception. However, this beer was quite nice, very easy drinking with a strong malt profile and few, if any, hops, perfect for a warm winter day like today.

I'm not giving up on the more extreme beers, but I do intend to have a few more light, easily approachable beers in the fridge for those times when I just want to enjoy something completely unpretentious. I might even buy a 6 pack of Michelob Ultra Pomegranate Raspberry for "the Rabbi"...

Sunday, February 10, 2008

New Year, New Changes

OK, so it isn't really a New Years Resolution, but like Shawn, I am trying to be a little more green in 2008. To that end, we've changed a few things in our life:
  • Last year we stopped buying bottled water for the house. I try not to buy it on the road, but that seems a near impossibility at times. Of course, research suggests that using a Nalgene bottle may expose me to Bisphenol A. I may have to buy a few of the Sigg bottles instead.
  • I've started recycling more. After spending some time to determine what we can recycle in Atlanta, I have added more printed junk mail and cardboard to the outbound collection of recyclables. We already were very good about recycling plastic, glass and some paper products, so this is more of a tweak to our normal routine.
  • Bye, bye printed catalogs! They fill up our mailbox every day. Catalogs from places like REI (which I want) and L.L. Bean (which I don't want). So I have used Catalog Choice to stem the flow. So far, no difference.
  • "Free" newspapers that come in the mail aren't free to print, distribute and then haul to a recycling center. I called our local free newspaper and politely asked them to stop distributing to our home.
  • Low flow toilets are great (well, sometimes) but they still account for a lot of our water usage. New motto: "If it's yellow, let it mellow. If it's brown, flush it down." A little urine in the toilet isn't going to kill anyone, but it will save a lot of water.
  • Low flow showerheads are next on the list. I bought one already from Bricor, a 1.5 gallon per minute (GPM) model designed to save 1 GPM over my current showerhead, but I am disappointed with the results. The water pressure in my house may be part of the problem, but increasing the water pressure will cause more waste elsewhere. This one is going back to the manufacturer while I search for other solutions. (On this note, my water bill averages $35/mo. Another couple who are neighbors of ours have an average bill of $85/mo and some neighbors run $300+ bills in the summer. We're already pretty light users of water, it seems.)
  • I am trying to get better at turning off the monitor, printer and other peripherals when they are not in use. Steph's machine automatically turns off when not in use. Since I'm almost always online I haven't yet gone down that route for my machines.
There are a few things we've done for years, too:
  • Telecommute. I've been doing it for 3 years, full time. My car gets about 5000 miles/year traveling mostly to the airport and the gym. I figure this saves us 10 - 20k miles/year.
  • Use automated thermostats and moderate the HVAC. Sure, I'd like it warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, but that gets expensive quickly. The difficult part is when I work from home, I can't just heat or cool my office easily. I've looked into thermostats that automatically circulate air through the house even when the heat or AC are not needed, just to keep the temperatures even and air circulating. This may be a future change
  • CFLs. Need I say more?
And then there are the things I can't or won't change. Admittedly, I could buy carbon credits, but I'm just not there yet:
  • Air travel. I flew ~70k miles last year. Its my job and we love to travel.
  • Inefficient cars. Sure, together we only drive ~25k miles/year, but neither car is particularly fuel efficient, at best we get 26 MPG in the Passat on a road trip. Considering that we drive an about average amount of miles in average fuel efficiency cars, this isn't all bad news. But it could be better if we had reasonable public transportation...
  • Plastic grocery bags. They make good dog-poop bags. Two uses and I don't need to buy dog-specific bags.
What are you doing to reduce your ecological impact, if anything?