Monday, July 2, 2012

This is just cool - 100 guitar licks

I'll come at you with something better this evening, as I know I've not posted in a while, but this is just plain cool and deserves its own post:

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wednesday update...

Sorry I have not been able to post for several days...

...well, I could have posted, but I just have not :)  And today's post is not going to be very long.  Just a couple of quick observations.

First, tomorrow is the summer solstice, which is cool in that we're halfway through the meteorological year, with the length of daily sunlight starting to shorten as opposed to expand.  For a true-blue fan of the fall and winter, this is excellent news, even though we've still got to go through the freakingest hottest part of the summer before we get there.  Ugh. 

Going to see Prometheus on Friday!  Expectations tempered a little bit with some scattered reviews of the film, but I'm not going to let that psyche me out, as going to the movies is like eating pizza: even when pizza is bad, its still pizza :)

Sold our 13-year old second car on Monday and couldn't be happier to be back to a one-car family, which we were from the summer of 2008 to the winter of 2009 (when the first kiddo came along).  I'll likely post more on this topic in later days. 

OK, well that's all for now.  I'll get something more substantive up tomorrow.

Friday, June 15, 2012

More Tiny House stuff

All kinds of stuff regarding Tiny Houses on YouTube.  Here's a sampling:

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Tiny houses

I saw this video on Yahoo's main page today and had to watch it, even though its kinda a puff piece on a wholesome family "making it work" and all that, because the Tiny House Phenomenon (no not this tiny house :)) is actually a thing and I've been interested in it for the last couple of years:

Indeed, there's something very romantic about the idea of just shedding all of but the most essentially material goods and living a simpler existence.  But enough Thoreau/Emerson/Trancendentalist jibber jabber.  Consider the economic, environmental, and health-oriented bonuses a person or family would accrue if you could, like the family in the video, live such a life.

Sure, you'd have to throw down for open land and, say, $15,000 for the structure (not including labor costs, if any, I'd assume) -- the family in the video says the house cost them $13,000.  Not to mention if you opted to go with solar panels.  And you'd probably have to spend some money on some tiny house-designed furniture and that sort of thing.

But on the flip side, aside from any payments for the land and more mortgage payments.  Drastically low utility bills (especially if you opted for solar panels).  Drastically low homeowner's insurance.  Huge savings for simply not buying things for which you have room in your Tiny House (clothing, various household items, toys if you have kids, books, big TV's, shit you currently have stacked in closets that you never use). 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Life without cable TV, update #1

Or, more accurately, life without satellite TeeVee, which I canceled exactly two weeks ago today.  Here are the expenditures during that time period for our TeeVee programming:

**  Five $1.99 episodes of Community on iTunes
**  1/2 of a Netflix subscription (approx $9.00)

Everything else we watched we watched over the airwaves (network TeeVee, local news), already paid for (episodes of Mad Men and the Killing on iTunes), borrowed an HBO Go password (Game of Thrones, Girls), or streamed for free online (South Park, Community, Euro 2012 games). 

Getting off of pay-for-it TeeVee is among the best decisions we've made in a long time.

Speed mile, belt loop, and Krugman

I heartily apologize for the three or four of you out there who actually read this little blog of mine for not posting in a week.  No good explanation, really, just kinda slipped my mind.  That being said, with a week having passed without a post, I have several things I'd like to write about or at least mention :)

First, I finished Paul Krugman's book End This Depression Now!, which is not a necessarily a book about psychology, although considering that it was actually about the economy, psychology obviously plays a not-to-small part.  Highly informative and written in a manner so even a macroeconomic neophyte such as myself could understand.  Sufficient to say, when it comes to the economy, we're doing it wrong.

Oh, and did you know that the European Football Championship started last Friday.  Oh my, how I love large international soccer tournaments :)  Obviously, the soccer itself is fantastic but it also reminds me of the HillcrestBlogger Honeymoon/World Cup trip to Germany in 2006 (with a side trip to Prague).  It took a total of about .3 hours after the start of the tournament to make the executive decision that the entire HillcrestBlogger family will be going to the European Championship in 2016, to be held in France.  Already I'm envisioning a 3-week sojourn, starting in London, then Chunnelling to Paris, then up to Copenhagen, before spending several days traveling around the French countryside before finishing the trip in Northern Italy.  But don't hold me to that itinerary, since it is bound to be tweaked over the next four years ;)

As for my week's worth of fitness, I signed up for the Firecracker Fast 5K, ran a mile "sprint" in 10:09, and gained (or lost?) another belt loop!  I also started Gretchen Reynolds' book The First 20 Minutes, which I heard about on Terri Gross's show on NPR and is really an eye opener.  Apparently, I need to incorporate some high intensity interval training, which I have since started to do, in order to really get this body de-flabbed.  In any event, I will recommend that book to anyone who wants to separate the wheat from the chaff regarding what they need to do to become fit. 

Last, I am also going to sell one of our cars (the 13-year old one) this week.  The HillcrestBlog family is going back to being a one-car affair, which we did to great effect prior to our first child.  It is the responsible choice from a environmental, economic, and life-style standpoint.  I'm very excited about it.  I'll be using a combination of public transportation, biking, and walking to get to and from work, which is only about 2.5 miles from my house.  And, with our kids' daycare within very easy walking distance, this is an arrangement we are approaching as a permanent change.  I'm sure I'll be posting about this in much more detail later so I'll not get into the weeds on it today.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Running backward?

No, that header is not meant to be a pithy metaphor.  It is to be taken literally, as in, the guy in this video clip advocates running backward as part of a fitness program.  I'll let him explain:

I think I might try this tomorrow to see how I like it.  I think I'll do it on the track at Scott Field, though, so I don't trip over a dog or bush or buckling sidewalk ;)

Monday, June 4, 2012

Another weekend, another race

As I warned last week, I was going to be competing in the Cheetah Chase 5K last Saturday, which I did, unexpectedly setting a new HillcrestBlogger 5K record time!  OK, OK, was only the second 5K I've ever done, but the course was far hillier and (in my opinion) more challenging.  On the flip side, it was probably 15 degrees cooler than the Riverfest 5K and the sky was completely overcast, both factors of which helped immensely.  Anyway, my time: 37:49:19, shaving 25 seconds off my previous best.  Relatedly, I also paced six seconds better per mile :)  So, hooray for me!  My next race won't be until the Firecracker 5K on Independence Day, so you'll be spared from any running posts for a while, dear and loyal reader.

Tonight, I'm going to open a new frontier on my quest to make this 39-year old lumpy bag of bones a little bit healthier.  I read about the slow-cadence, muscle-failure-desired weight training program first in AJ Jacob's newest book (very funny, BTW) and subsequently bought the book outlining the workout on Amazon for one cent (plus $4.95, shipping of course).  Given the time constraints of being a twice-over parent nowadays, the one- or two-times per week workout of less than thirty minutes sure sounds too good to be true.  And maybe it is snake oil, but I thought it wouldn't hurt to give it a whirl. After all, if it passes the Lesley Stahl smell-test, its gotta be legit, right? ;)

I'll post tomorrow how the first workout tonight goes. 

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Today's Big Rain Event!!!

Well, that was a big 'ol dud wasn't it?  I love it when our local forecasters get so breathless about upcoming "events" and then it turns out to be a whole bucketfull of nothing.  Happens all the time during the winter. 

I'll save everyone a lot of time, energy, worry, and amusement by giving you now the Official 2012 HillcrestBlog Summer Forecast!  Here it is:
It is going to be butt-hot from now until late September and then just plain hot until mid-October.  If it rains on you or your house at any point in time, count yourself lucky. 

That's really all the information you need to know, dear reader.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Hillcrest home values a solid bet least that is my takeaway after reading the following opinion column from last Friday's New York Times.  Indeed, one of the many reasons I love this neighborhood so is the fact that just about any amenity needed for modern survival is within a relatively easy walking (and certainly, biking) distance.  I simply cannot imagine life living out in some suburb or bedroom community where there is not a very easily reachable small business district in our neighborhood's interior, not to mention the vast number of businesses within a one- to two-mile radius of my front door.  Now, reading that these types of homes and neighborhoods are what are now in demand only solidifies my love of this place. 

Anyway, for your reading pleasure, the column in full, after the jump...


That's my time from last Saturday's Rock N Stroll 5K :)  Sufficient to say, I did indeed finish, and at the quickest pace and farthest distance I have so far run.  I beat my stated goal of finishing under 39 minutes.  Plus I got a T-shirt, so it was great all around, aside from the humidity, which was a bit on the overdone side.

In case you were wondering, here was my playlist :)

Getchoo by Weezer
Seether by Veruca Salt
Dashboard by Modest Mouse
One Engine by The Decemberists
Simple Song by The Shins
Self Esteem by Offspring
So What'cha Want by The Beastie Boys
Soul Meets Body by Death Cab for Cutie
Verse Chorus Verse by Nirvana
Malibu by Hole
Greater Omaha by The Desaparecidos

Again, heavy on the 1990's alt-rock ;)

Next up, the Cheetah Chase 5K this coming Saturday.

A much more challenging course through the hills of our beloved Hillcrest neighborhood.  Here's the route, which notably does not show the aforementioned hills:

I will be looking to merely finish, not set any speed record on this one, as my test-run of 2.5 miles of the course yesterday left me totally worn out.  On the plus side, the weather this Saturday morning should be much better than it has been lately, so that will help out my fitness and stamina immensely.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Pics of my old office circa 2008

I was searching through some old computer files looking for a copy of my soccer league's logo for the new administration (I was President for one two-year terms several years ago) when I came across some pics I apparently took with an old phone camera.  Among them were some pics of my old office on the sixth floor of the Tower Building, when I worked for the Attorney General's Office.  I forgot how much I loved that office, with its large windows and couch, not to mention how I decked it out with some personal touches :)  So I'm going to post three of them here for purely personal reasons.  Since this office, I've inhabited four other offices (within the same agency, mind you) and my current one is really great.  But this one here still remains my all-time favorite.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Life without cable TV, Day 4 AKA Get rid of your cable: A case in support

Well, the blog post title might be a little misleading, as we actually have not had cable TeeVee (specifically, Comcast) since 2008.  Instead, the HillcrestBlog family recently ended a four-year run of being tethered to satellite TeeVee (two years with Dish Network and then the last two years with Direct TV).  Now, we find ourselves on Day 4 of being off the subscription TeeVee grid, so-to-speak.  Instead, we have chosen to get our TeeVee over the airwaves, just like in the Olden Days before cable entered the picture in the early 1980's, which, along with the cost of $5.99 HD antennae, is free.  We plan on supplementing this with TV shows we buy and download from iTunes, movies and shows we stream from Netflix through our Roku player, and shows we stream directly from other internet sources.  Our intent with this plan is twofold: 1) to save money on entertainment costs, and, to a lesser degree 2) to free ourselves as much as possible from the corporate media, advertising, and marketing that seems to hit you nonstop through conventional TeeVee viewing.

I have not yet really put pen to paper regarding any (if any) monetary savings, so I'm going to use this blog post to do just that.  Also, I'll hopefully show you, dear reader, how this is not only monetarily advantageous, but also very "doable" in the sense that one really doesn't need cable or satellite TeeVee to still watch whatever shows you want to watch.

First things first, though.  You may ask if, after four days, I miss my satellite TeeVee.  Have I suffered any separation anxiety?  The answer is an emphatic no.  I have not missed it, not one bit.

Hillcrest political demographics

Two days ago, we Arkansans went to the polls to vote in our respective Democratic/Republican primaries, as well as the general judicial elections.  I say this to preface the excerpt below, from the Arkansas Times blog.  I offer it without comment, as HillcrestBlog does not engage in overt politicizing.  I simply want to repost it to demonstrate who our neighbors in this fantastic neighborhood are to those readers who do not live here:

The free state of Hillcrest again provided a warm liberal echo chamber against the increasingly cold world in much of the rest of Arkansas. A 91 percent vote for Obama at PH Presbyterian, 937-94 from two precincts that vote there. But we were outdone percentagewise by several, including Greater Archview Baptist, which went for Obama 353-6, or a 98 percent vote.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Last 5K training update

With the Riverfest Rock N Stroll 5K for which I've been training (and blogging about) coming up this Saturday, consider this the last post where I write about my preparatory training.  This, because today's 3.07 mile trek on the Big Dam Bridge across the Arkansas River (and along the northern river bank) was the last full-on run I'll do before Saturday morning*.  I ran this distance in 39 minutes, 7 seconds, at an average pace of 12:44/mile, which I think is a personal best, if the Run Keeper app is to be believed :)  Also, depending on what app you believe, I burned somewhere between 489 and 609 calories. 

At this point, I think it is safe to say that I am ready for Saturday morning.  I believe that I can complete my primary goal of JUST FINISHING ;) so I'm going to set a secondary goal of finishing at or under 39 minutes. 

*  I do intend to run a steady mile on Friday morning, just to keep the muscles and joints loose, but I'm not going to push it and instead concentrate on getting this big back of old bones recovered in time for Saturday.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Wilco show

I just wanted to post the poster for the show we saw last weekend.  Its pretty sharp :)

Rememberances of a big, action-packed weekend

The weekend of which I speak, of course, is the most recently completed one.  It was alternately or concurrently huge fun, very fast, exhausting, exhilarating, a little bit frustrating, eye-opening, and delicious.  As a point of reference, all of the following occurred:

1.  My wife ran the Dino Dash 5K early Saturday morning and I completed a 2.5 mile run late Saturday morning.  We also walked approximately three miles in downtown Memphis;
2.  We left our kids with an overnight sitter to spend an evening with Just Us for the first time since Lorelei was born in December of 2009;
3.  Cleaned the house and did five loads of laundry;
4.  The kids played in the kiddie pool;
5.  My wife and I drove to and from Memphis within a twenty-two hour time span, during which time we spent a night at the Peabody, saw Wilco at Mud Island, had ribs and catfish and several drinks on Beale Street;
6.  My daughter pooped on the bathroom floor;
7.  I played a soccer game on Sunday afternoon and scored a goal in a 4-1 victory;
8.  Went to the Farmer's Market; and
9.  Dinner with the in-laws Sunday night.

And, really, there were some other little highlights that I'm probably forgetting.  My point being, it was a full enough weekend to last fill up a month's worth of weekends.  At least it seemed like it at the time.

Currently, I'm mentally preparing myself for the Big Race this Saturday morning.  I'm still very sore from my long run on Saturday and my soccer game on Sunday.  I had hoped to get in a 2.8 mile run today, but I don't think my muscles are going to allow it.  Instead, I'm going to knock it out tomorrow morning and then hopefully recover in time to do a short and sweet 1 mile run on Friday morning, just to keep my muscles and joints loose. I think that will get me close enough to be able to complete the 3.1 miles I need to knock out Saturday morning, with all the energy and people and excitement of the race artificially propping me up that last .3 miles :)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The importance of sleep

I hope I'm taking a nap when this infographic eventually posts :)  As the father of two small children, I can vouch for the absolute necessity of quality sleep.  Oh, and quantity too!



Friday, May 18, 2012

Friday night update

It is amazing what I now consider "late".  The kiddos have been down for hours and my wife has been asleep since 9:30 as she prepares to run tomorrow morning's Dino Dash 5K, but I'm still up, enjoying a glass or two of red wine before I hit the hay.  And, really, 10:30 is late for me nowadays with all the up-at-6:30 and being a father and all that jazz.  In The Oldendays (trademarked phrase), 10:30 was nothing.  Now, its the witching hour.  Funny how times have changed. 

But the big news tonight is not that I'm still up at this Ungodly Hour, but that tomorrow night I most CERTAINLY will be, as the wifey and I are headed to Memphis to see Wilco perform on Mud Island, sans kiddos.  They will be in the comfort and companionship of an overnight sitter that we have hired (one of my daughter's daycare teachers to be exact).  Which means, for the FIRST time since mid-December 2009, my wife and I will be able to spend a night ALONE without waking up a dozen times to tend to the needs of our offspring (with a room at the Peabody, no less).  I think I'll be alternately terrified and liberated by this development.  I'll let you four or five readers of this blog know how it goes on Monday.  In the meantime, Kerry Wood of my all-time favorite Chicago Cubs retired today.  If injuries hadn't derailed his career in the late 1990's and 2000's, who know how good he could have been.  Here's the highlight to end all Kerry Wood highlights:

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Thursday morning 5K training

I know my posts have been very -- if not almost exclusively -- running-centric lately and that can get a little tedious.  But the obvious reason is that my Big Goal of 2012 (so far) is so close on the horizon: the Riverfest Rock N' Stroll on May 26, which is only nine days out.  I *promise* to resume to more substantive blogging after I complete that race :)

Meanwhile, I did go for a run just now and while it was not nearly as strong as my Tuesday morning performance, it still improved on my Sunday numbers.  Specifically, I ran 29 minutes straight, bookended by a 5-minute warmup and cooldown.  This means that I covered 2.71 miles in 39 minutes at an overall rate of 14:22/mile.  For some reason my app did not break down my walk rate and run rate like it did on Tuesday.  I think I know why -- my route today included running back over previously run areas -- like when I ran down parts of Kavanaugh and then tracked back.  My Tuesday run, which did break out my separate rates, was more of a "circle", at least until I got to Lookout, which I ran down and back.  Perhaps the GPS on my app got confused.  In any event, my next run I'm going to try and avoid covering the same ground to try and get a more accurate view of my walking-versus-running rates per mile.

Looking forward, I'm going to try a simple distance run on Saturday morning.  I'm thinking 2.5 miles.  After that, I think I'll get a much clearer picture of *exactly* where I am, training-wise.  If I can finish that run with minimal catch-my-breath breaks, I'll feel pretty confident that I'll be able to tack on .64 more miles by the following Saturday, especially if I feel like afterwards like I've still got some gas in the tank.  On Tuesday I think I'll stretch it out to 2.75 or 2.8 miles with a final prep run on Thursday of something short like 1.5 miles, which will give my body a break and some rest prior to Saturday morning's race.