Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

I have not bought a Christmas tree in years. Generally I throw some ornaments on a terminally ill houseplant that I have spent the year trying to kill. This year's Christmas miracle surely has to be that this plant is alive after 12 months in my care. Nonetheless, I'll still try and kill it by hanging overweight ornaments on it. Someone referred to it as a "Charlie Brown Christmas Tree". That tree was dead and brown, although this one is sure to meet the same fate in the near future.

I'm off to pick my Mom up at the airport soon. She's going to enjoy a week of 60 degree temperatures, which will be double of what Buffalo has this time of year. I've long since forgotten what it's like to have snow at Christmas.

Merry Christmas and safe travels to all.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


It's a great bowling score. A decent car from Chrysler. A movie about warriors. And now it is officially my maximum bench press.

Some people run, some people lift. I don't run, well. I lift far much better and genetically that's what nature intended. Not that I can't run, about six years ago I was running five miles a day, three times a week. My body and mind hated every step, but I could do it. I'm in awe of people that can run marathons or cross-country. For the record though, I did run the Peachtree 10K when I was 25 and I still have my number.

Three hundred was a particular number of pounds I wanted to bench press by Christmas of this year. I hit it a week early after a very botched attempt last week. A shout out to my workout partner Vern who kept my chest from being sliced in two. I deviated from my usual warm up and I paid for it. Today he spotted me as I benched 300 pounds three times with no assistance. It may sound somewhat of a meathead thing to do, but I'm going with what I'm good at. And for the record, my blood test will pass Congressional scrutiny.

Back in 2004 I was not sure when my future held for upper body weightlifting. I had torn my rotator cuff and split a tendon during a rugby tournament in 2003. My surgeon, Dr. Christine Ekstrand at UCLA Medical Center said the best I could ever hope for was 90 percent recovery for my shoulder. That was the best, the most likely was 70 to 80 percent. She must have been a better surgeon then analyst as today there is no difference between the left and the right shoulder. ADI Physical Therapy in Hollywood deserves credit as well. I never missed an appointment.

Now that I've met this goal, I'm not heading any higher. I will stay at 300 and get more reps. Increasing weight is a slippery slope and every joint and muscle on my body works fine and I'd like to keep it that way. In case your wondering, the only supplement I take is amino acids. Any nutritionist would probably label my diet as "somewhat crappy", and with the donut intake I'm not going to argue. I tip the scales at 220 pounds.

This month marks one year in Texas. And everything is bigger here, including me. Must be something in the water...

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Mr. Beef and Pizza

Brrr. I think that's the best phrase to describe Chicago in December. It certainly was appropriate last Friday as I flew up there in the morning to meet my friend Mike who had taken an earlier flight.

Now a week ago, I had no intention of heading to Chicago in the late fall. Mike had purchased a 1988 Pontiac Fiero and was going to drive it down it back to Austin. I said I'd watch his dog to help out. Last minute plane tickets to Chicago were not in my budget and while I'm a generally helpful person riding 18 hours or 1170 miles in a two seat Fiero is not the first thing on my list of things to do this month, or even year. The weather forecast was calling for snow though, and at a Christmas party last Saturday, my friend Gary offered up a free plane ticket. Mike has never driven in snow. I'm from Buffalo. Say no more.

It's important to have goals and Mike's has always been to own the car of his high school dreams, a 1988 Pontiac Fiero GT. A few weeks earlier he had found one on AutoTrader and it's a gem. In immaculate shape, this 20 year old car has only 30,000 miles on it. But it was in Chicago. Sounds crazy to some, but remember six months ago, I bought a 20 year old BMW is New Jersey and drove it back to Austin. So I did all I could to help.

We arrived at the dealership and it was all that the car promised to be in the pictures. The friendly folks at Muller Pontiac in Highland Park had the paperwork ready and within 45 minutes we were on our way. With the weather threatening to turn horrible, we made plans to head South that day rather then do some Chicago sightseeing. But first we need lunch.

Quintessentially Chicago, I headed for Mr. Beef and Pizza in Mt. Prospect. Turns out the downtown location that I once lived a few blocks from had closed. I'm sure it's footprint is now a condo structure. Mr. Beef and Pizza did not disappoint, and we were so lucky as to have won a free hamburger for our next visit before 1/8/08. Luck would hold out for the rest of the trip back to Austin.

I decided our road names for this trip would be Mr. Beef and Pizza. Me being the beefy Irishman, I got to be Mr. Beef by default. Mike was Pizza. He's not even Italian, but actually more English. If we could have found a Mr. Beef and Shepard's Pie, things would have been pefect. Hmm. No such luck. At about 2:00 pm the dynamic duo hit Illinois' I-294 and headed South.

Mike was not interested in driving in Chicago, so I took the helm despite the clear roads. The sky did look like it was about to open up into a snowstorm, but we made it out of Chicago to I-57 without a drop of anything from the sky. Illinois is a very long state and we made it all the way to Marion and spent the night. The next day we drove about 14 hours straight and made it back to Round Rock about 10:30.

I was surprised at how well the Fiero had help up over the past 20 years. There were no interior rattles, the engine ran great and the car tracked straight forward. I would like to say everything worked well, but there were a few things that needed attention. I'm certain there's a small vacuum leak that's keeping the cruise control from working and the engine surging slightly at idle. Pop-up headlight always fail and sure enough, in Sulphur Springs, TX after dinner we suddenly had a Fiero that was winking at everyone. Any 20 year old car is going to need repair as I assured Mike who was having a minor melt down. Part of owning a classic car is fixing your classic car. The only guarantee you get with a 20 year old car is that you're going to have to fix it.

Day three of Mike's Fiero ownership did not start out well. On the way back to the airport to retrieve his truck, we ran out of gas. Oh, I guess the fuel gauge needs some attention too. This unhappy Mike photo was taken on 183 here in Austin. We don't normally stop next to run-down trailer parks for photo shoots. No thanks to AAA of Texas, after 90 minutes of not showing up to give me a gallon of gas, Mike walked over to the gas station that opened at 10:00am and bought a gas can. We were back on our way. Tripple A receives a tripple F for service as my original quote was for no longer then 45 minutes. I don't think I sold Mike on the AAA membership but an auto club membership of some kind is quintessential when your car is out of warranty.

In the end, all's well that ends well. We're home, the Fiero is in one piece. And my hot tub is waiting for me.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Wrapping Things Up

No, it's not Christmas wrap either. Today is my last day of classes at UT for my Certification in Project Management. Unless I do something incredibly egregious I'm going to pass this course and receive my certification. However, I'm no slouch. Next month I start finishing up my Certification in Human Resource Management, but that will be online learning.

No more drives downtown to UT. I will miss going to class that's for sure. We had a great group to work in and our presentation on Monday went well.

Now to celebrate with a weekend adventure... Stay Tuned!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Year One

One year ago today I closed on my house. The picture on the top is from my first blog entry. It was taken by the realtor when I was looking at my house. I took another one today, wow the trees have grown. I guess that three feet of rain and fertilizer sticks really did their job.

Nothing eventful to report lately. But thanks for checking in... :)