Category Archives: Fitness

Why this is going to be the Best Labor Day Ever

First, I finally submitted an IPhone app I’ve been working on to Apple last night at 11:59PM. It could still be rejected for a host of reasons, and there’s still a ton of work to do for the project – but today – a day off. Yes!

B: I normally have a guitar lesson on Mondays, which means I get up early and practice a few hours to make up for the entire week of not practicing (obviously). But today is Labor Day, so… no lesson, and no obligatory practice – yes!

3: We’re doing the P90x Doubles program right now, which has been fun and rewarding, but which amounts to 1-2 hours of working out PER DAY, 6 day a week. 7 weeks ago when we started, we made the genius decision to have Mondays be the day off, so… No Workout Today! Yes!

And Bonus, no workout means I don’t really have to shower either, so this is on track to be the most obligation free day ever ;)

Double Bonus – I had Napoleon French Toast at the Cheesecake Factory brunch yesterday, but curiously weigh 1.4 pounds less today?

So, Today’s Agenda
1. Sleep in – DONE, got out of bed at 10:30
2. Finish Parks and Recreation Season 4 – DONE, polished off the final 2 episodes with breakfast
3. Blog while watching bad movie that I’ve already seen – IN PROGRESS, Deep Impact
4. Finish A Dance With Dragons, ~50 pages left
5. Practice guitar – but voluntarily?
6. Go see a movie in the theater – tentative
7. Avoid labor and worry at all times

Normally I would add some pictures and edit this post for humor and conciseness, but that seems too much like work right now. So here you go!

Note the time.

Goals Checkin: March Edition

Another month, another goals checkin.


I try to be positive, especially on the blog, but I’ve been feeling overwhelmed with life lately.  Or maybe more accurately, I’ve been feeling underwhelmed with myself lately.  The space between my expectations and my reality seems to be growing.

Problem to solve?  Time for a list!

Option 1: Fundamental Laziness
Ugh, I hope not, but probably maybe.  Is there any cure for this?  Am I doomed to a life of mediocrity just because I can’t be bothered?

Option 2: Mouth bigger than stomach.  Biting off more than can chew.  Other eating-related metaphors.
Is it possible that I’m expecting too much of myself?  I think not.  There are people out there scaling mountains and running governments, certainly I can handle a handful of personal goals.

Option 3: Deer in headlights
I haven’t read Paradox of Choice, but I imagine that something like that is at play here.  I have far too many options, good options at those, which overwhelm me on any given day.  Because if I’m practicing guitar, that means I’m not coding, or blogging, or going for a walk, and so on, and so on.  Optimizing my day becomes this harrowing ordeal that leaves me drained and unable to actually do anything.

But as I’m typing this, just like that, it occurs to me that I’ve already solved this problem.  Here:

I’ve managed to settle on RESOLUTIONS FOR 2012/LIFE:

Set fewer, smaller goals (dare I say SMART goals) and celebrate the small stuff.

It doesn’t necessarily sound like much in the way of world-domination, but I expect it’s gonna make a huge difference (positive direction) in what I accomplish and how I experience life in general.  So, instead of making an 8 item todo list every morning, getting only 4 things done, and then having sleepless bed-rage nights, I’m going to start off more realistically by putting just 3 items on the list.

Ok.  So I’m recommitting to this.  Set fewer goals every morning.  Do the hard stuff first thing, enjoy the rest of the day.

I’ll also remind myself that while March wasn’t as productive as I would’ve liked in terms of goals, it was filled with good things.  Visiting family, a last minute trip to New York, watching the Hunger Games.  If giving myself a few extra weeks to finish up means I get to do all that, then I guess I’ll find a way to deal with it!

Without further ado, here is my final goals checkin for this first quarter.  (Sighs of relief sweep across the crowds).

In progress.  The huge breakthrough is that I can now do the top part of a chin-up.  Prepare to be amazed.

Yes!  First, I went to the Creator’s Project music festival and saw SquarePusher and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.  Then, I went to a nearby open mic and saw several intimidatingly awesome acts.  This was true fist-pumping fun, and I’m upping my concert going frequency to twice per month from now on.

Tech Ninja
I’ve made considerable progress on my apps, but like they say, the last 20% of the work takes 80% of the time.  Meanwhile, I did update LinkedIn, which, by the way, has become rather useful and populated since I last logged in 5 years ago.  Career-havers of the world, take note!

Music Arsenal
I was going to write a song this weekend, but then decided to chill out instead because… it was the weekend.  As a reward for containing your anger, and not grabbing your pitchforks and chasing me out my house, I give you this.

Feats of Fun
No progress this month, but who cares?  I went to New Haven and had hours of fun I shouldn’t have had instead!  (Remind me to tell you about this, the most efficient evening of fun ever).

Phew.  I feel better already.  April goals (few but meaningful), coming up!

Monthly Goals Check-in: Appuary Edition

As February draws to a close, it’s become that time again… Without further ado, here’s my monthly progress report!

Feats of Strength (66% done)

I’ve been diligently working towards my pull-up, and I’ll continue chugging along in that vein.  At the rate things are going, victory is not assured during the next month, but I can promise to focus on the things I can control 1) working out every other day, 2) “bringing it” during every workout.  If it takes a few extra weeks or months, so be it.  2012 will be the year of the pull-up!

Get Inspired (33% done)

This month, I went to the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco which had an exhibit about Jewish history in California, gold rush to present.  I was disappointed to find that the Houdini exhibit I was expecting wasn’t there, but did you know that Levi Strauss lived in SF during the gold rush when he patented the first riveted denim work pants?  And so the blue jean was born.

The next day, I went to the huge and crazy Alameda flea market, which was almost a museum experience in itself…

Win Friends and Influence People (100% done)

That’s right, I’m winning friends and influencing people all over the place.  It’s like I’m prom queen, Rachel Maddow, and Oprah all in one!  I had a Super Bowl party, during which I served oreos to a total of 4 people (myself included).  Watch out, Martha Stewart!

Tech Ninja Level-Up (70% done)

I’ve gotten my v1 app fully prototyped, and am moving on to the re-write, test, polish phase.  Now that all most of the unknowns are known, I’m fairly confident that with a reckless fury of typing, I can get something submitted to the app store by the end of next week.

Pull up all the hacker nerd mental images you can right now to picture this – it’s gonna be lots of sleeping under my desk and eating take-out until it’s done (when I’m not doing pullups of course).

Musical Arsenal (20% done)

I found a music studio near my house and signed up with them yesterday for guitar lessons.  Technically, I take my first lesson on Monday, but they already have my money so I think it’s fair to say that the guitar lessons are taken care of.  January was blogging month and February was coding month - March is going to be music month.  Looking forward to dusting off my keyboard and finally unpacking the guitars!

Feats of fun (60% done)

I present, burgerius vegtacularus:

Appetizing, pre-burger state

 Less appetizing, but more tasty, post-burger state.
Atkins style, because it didn’t already look enough like horse food.

They needed more seasoning, but actually these burgers weren’t half bad!  Will be tweaking recipe and making again.


There’s a lot left to do this quarter, but it’s a just barely manageable amount.  These next 31 days are going to require a steady, vigilant march towards these goals, and they will also be heavily music focused.  In light of these facts, I dub this upcoming month: March.

Happy Leap Day!  In honor of this being the day that shouldn’t be, I’ll be dedicating some time to things I would do if I had more time.  Maybe spending a couple hours this evening learning how to draw or take pictures (nice ones).  If it’s your birthday, Happy happy happy happy birthday!  Please eat a huge amount of cake!

Up-hill battle: Pull-up progress

As you may have heard, I am working on doing ONE pull-up.

I created my training regimen the same way I create my food.  Go online, read 4 or 5 recipes, mash them up with a pinch of best judgement, and dive-in.  Adjust franken-recipe as necessary when things starts to smell funny.

Likewise, when I started pullup training back in January, I decided on a 4 phase program, inspired largely by this mind-boggling video.  Judge me how you will, but something about Scooby’s goofy hat and youtube-worthy-production value makes me think he knows what he’s talking about.

Since I’m only trying to do one measly pull-up (not crazy eights), I settled on a tweaked four phase program.

Phase 1: Negative Chin-ups
Chin-ups are when you hold the bar with your palms facing you.  This gives you better leverage than pull-ups (read: chin-ups are easier).

Negatives – Use a chair or a bench and start from over the bar and lower yourself slowly.

Do 5 sets of 4, with a 1 minute break between sets.  Repeat every other day.  With palms facing you, lower yourself from above the bar to full arm extension.  Tense up all your muscles when you step off of your bench.

When you can do 4 controlled negative chin-ups slowly (about 2 seconds lowering yourself down), move on to…

Phase 2: Negative Pull-ups
Same as phase 1, except now your palms are facing away from you.

Do 5 sets of 4, 1 minute break between sets.  Repeat every other day.

When you can do 4 controlled, slow, negative pullups (2 seconds lowering), move on to…

Phase 3: First Real Chin-up
This is where it gets a little complicated and artsy-fartsy.  First, attach a resistance band to your bar to assist you.  Step into the loop, and adjust it such that you can barely do 2 chin-ups at that resistance level.

5 sets of 4, 2 minute break between sets: Do as many assisted chin-ups as you can, and then complete your set of 4 with negative chin-ups.  e.g. If you complete 1 assisted chin-up, then finish the set with 3 negatives.

When you can do 2 assisted chin-ups at a certain level, loosen the resistance so it will be harder next time.

Repeat every other day.

When you can do 1 real chin-up, move on to…

Phase 4: REAL PULL-UP!!
Same exact process as phase 3.  Use the resistance band to assist you, making it looser and looser until eventually you don’t need any help at all.

5 sets of 4, 2 minute break between sets: Do as many assisted pull-ups as you can, then complete the set with negatives.  Loosen resistance when you can do 2 at your current level.

Repeat every other day until you do your first pull-up!

My Progress
So I have been chugging away at this program since I started this quest in January.  Where am I now?

I’m in Phase 3.

This is the resistance band I got.  Toe shoes, eek!

The real live apparatus.  It currently hangs 18.5 inches off the ground.

Adjustable length.  The longer the band, the less the assistance.

Slots for 3 resistance bands.  I’ve already graduated from 3 bands to 2, and I’m making the switch down to 1 today.

I’ve got 33 days and 18 workouts before the end of March.  I’d need to improve 1 inch with each workout to achieve my first chin-up in time for my original goal.  Piece of cake?

I’ve made a lot of progress – I can see it and I can feel it.  My resistance bands inch surely towards the ground.  My shoulders have valiantly stormed the keep, and the battle with pain has moved on to my upper arms.  But a true pull-up or even chin-up still feels infinitely far away.

On the one hand, you’d think I could adjust the resistance band just 1 millimeter a week, and in a mere 470 weeks I would have my victory.  But on the other hand, a friend of mine once told me that a friend of his friend thought that by walking up gradually increasing slopes every day, he’d eventually be able to walk up a wall.  An inspirational idea about persistance and practice to be sure, but ultimately doomed to fail (thank you physics).

Here’s hoping my own up-hill battle (literal) is not the same such folly!

Water Cooler: Monday Edition

This is the story of my EPIC Sunday.  Told differently, it might sound like I slept in, ate some food, read a book, and watched some TV.  But taking a closer look, we might just find out that it’s a tale of love and loss, triumph and defeat, celebration and learning…

Act 1: The Kitchen

9:45 am – Wake up, then sit in bed reading Pillars of the Earth #epicreadingsession

11:00 – Get out of bed

11:30 – Decide to make waffles for the first time ever using the George Foreman waffle maker attachment.  Without consulting any experts, I decide that waffles are just pancakes but made in a waffle maker.  This turns out to be true, sort of.

First interesting discovery of the day: making pancake batter from Krusteaux pancake mix is extremely easy!  Like, easier than toast.  Matt makes pancakes all the time, even on weekdays, and I always thought he was quite the thankless superhero for going through the trouble.  But I now understand why he is so happy to make them, it literally is “just add water”.  Illusion: shattered.

As easy as it is to make the mix, I forget to Pam spray the waffle iron so I ended up with a huge sticky morass of waffle goo on every surface with no edible middle.  I manage to salvage about 2 forkfuls of waffle mush, which we split amongst ourselves.  I spend the next hour picking and scraping waffle guts out of the crevices.  It takes me so long that I probably could have saved time by using the dishwasher instead.

12:45 PMWaffles: Round 2.  Pam sprayed the heck out of the GF and got two big square waffles.  Food at last!

Now that I look it up, you are supposed to add some oil to pancake mix to transform it into waffle mix.  Specifically to avoid waffle/waffle-iron quagmire.  Oops!

There were failures and major delays, but I bested breakfast and came out on top.  The day is mine! #epicvictory

Act 2: The Living Room

1:00 - We watch the World Series of Poker on ESPN3.  The final two sitting are a 22 year old German student and a 35 year old Czech chessmaster.  They are staring each other down and having the least chatty poker-off I’ve ever seen.  It occurs to me poker is a chat-free, every man for himself, serious, age-agnostic, (mostly) skill-based game.  I think I might just love playing poker.  World Series of Poker 2020, here I come!  #epicadventuresofthefuture

(ASIDE: Apparently, online poker is felonious in Washington state.  Jail time, really?)

2:20 - Afraid that my Sunday is going stupidly, I start to freak out.  It’s pointed out to me that I’ve already done 2 epic things that I could talk about at the water cooler (1: bested my waffle maker, 2: decided to become poker champion).  I am appeased.

2:30 - Pullup practice.  Right now I’m working up to doing 4 negative chin-ups (where you start over the bar and try to go down slowly, palms facing you).  Someday when I’ve mastered that I’ll move on to negative pull-ups. #cuemontage

Act 3: The Streets

3:30 - Head to cafe with Matt to have lunch and read books.  Instead, we end up discussing our epic life plans (yes that was the actual terminology used) over a hummus and falafel plate while monitoring the 49ers/Giants game on the tiny tv over the bar.  It is extra delicious, but we have insufficient pita.

We learn some very important things on our phones:  1) Ken Griffey and Ken Griffey Jr. both played for the Mariners in the 90-91 season.   2) Eli and Peyton Manning’s dad was also an NFL quarterback.  3) There are no (male) sports where the average height is under 6’1.  Not even cricket (actually cricket turns out to be a very tall sport).  We decide this makes total sense, because who would invent a sport where bigger (and stronger and faster) isn’t better?

7:00 - Cafe closes, and the game is tied up at 17-17 with 3 minutes left in the fourth.  We walk into another nearby cafe which is standing room only to watch the remainder of the game.

By the way, I never had any interest in football until last weekend when I unexpectedly watched the end of an exciting home team victory at a sports bar.  So, despite not really knowing anything about the sport, I get to watch yesterday’s game go into overtime and learn the new post-season overtime rules.

It occurs to me that football is a primal, brutal, do-or-die sport, which is akin to a Braveheart battle scene re-imagined for the 21st century.  Despite loving sometime liking watching it, I think I might just hate playing football.

The 49ers lose 17-20, but I learn a lot and dream up many plays with names such as The Battering Ram and The Tumbler.  Oh, I’m sure nobody has thought of these before and I’m about to revolutionize the sport… #getreadyworld 

Act 4: Back Home

8:00 - Saute up an onion veggie side dish to go with some leftover pineapple black bean enchiladas.  The whole thing turns out to be the most delicious, most square-looking meal I’ve made in the past year.  #ironchef

9:15 - We decide to go out for dessert.  By which I mean, get a slice of chocolate cake at Safeway.  I also get a bottle of diet orange soda.  Rare but delicious, like elvish bread.

Act 5: Finally

I finish off my day by fixing my Mac (I’m a PC, so I’m not good with it and end up breaking it sometimes), and reading a hundred more pages of Pillars of the Earth.  That book tells an epic story of love and loss, triumph and defeat, celebration and learning.  It is also 1000 pages and reading it is a feat in and of itself.  #epic-fest.

And that’s the tale of my Sunday.

What did you do this weekend?

Mad-Eye Maryann and the Quest for One Measly Pull Up

After reaching my buff-ness peak last summer just before my wedding, my fitness has plummeted like a rock off of a cliff (awesome simile!).  Getting or staying fit is so much easier when you have specific goals to motivate you, so for the past month I’d been trying to figure out what mine would be.

Some of the contenders:

  • Run a half-marathon in under 2 hours
  • “Run” a full marathon
  • Complete a triathlon (any size)
  • Lose the 8(!) pounds I’ve gained in the last 7 months (the marriage penalty is alive and well in many senses)

Over the past 5 years, I’ve managed to run 5 half marathons, do 2 rounds of p90x, and lose dozens of pounds, so these seemed like perfectly natural and admirable ambitions.  But somehow they felt hollow.  Like I was being distracted by the matrix of gadgets and technology and the allure of meaningless man-made distinctions. Like I was missing something fundamental and primal, a basic skill that would see me fit to survive (Darwin-style) if I ever found myself in the 76th Hunger Games.

The Hunger Games: I survived the reaping

Click photo to get the t-shirt (

Yeah yeah, running and swimming might also help in the arena – my imagery is not so perfect today.  But back to the point…

I realized what I needed to do next.

ONE Pull Up.

Just one.  I vaguely recall doing two! during the fourth grade physical fitness test, and then approximately zero since.  Luckily I’ve encountered a lot of inspiration and direction on the internets, and for the only time in the history of Mad-Eye web-searchitude, much of the advice actually agrees with each other.

How to Do a Pull Up when You Can’t Do One
Trusty e-how informs me that this is Difficulty: Moderately Challenging. Gee, thanks e-how.

How To Do Pull-ups and Chin-ups With Proper Technique tells you NOT to use an assisted pull up machine – instead have resistance bands or a friend help you out until you can do it on your own.  I don’t have a gym membership anyway, so this is great news for me and my doorway pull up bar!

Can’t Do a Pull Up Yet? Here’s How to Get it Done!  I really really wish this were my blog.  With articles like Should You Use the Force and How to Write Your Own Epic Destiny, this is niche targeting at its best.  My marketing/StarWars geeking out aside, this article gives a step-by-step progression from free-weight back exercises, to losing extra pounds, to doing chair/friend assisted pullups, to doing negative pullups, to finally doing your first pull up.

If you are still reading, congrats!  You have earned this delectable visual treat…

The “Before”

In case you were thinking that I’m in better pull-up shape than you, I enter into evidence this footage to bust that myth right quick.  Apologies in advance for the noises (awkward)

Recorded in HD, for your split-end viewing pleasure

Because the key to an amazing “after” is an equally amazing “before”!

Resolution 2012 and 3 month goals

After a week of deliberating, I’ve managed to settle on RESOLUTIONS FOR 2012/LIFE:

Set fewer, smaller goals (dare I say SMART goals) and celebrate the small stuff.

It doesn’t necessarily sound like much in the way of world-domination, but I expect it’s gonna make a huge difference (positive direction) in what I accomplish and how I experience life in general.  So, instead of making an 8 item todo list every morning, getting only 4 things done, and then having sleepless bed-rage nights, I’m going to start off more realistically by putting just 3 items on the list.

Today for instance, I didn’t manage to get images to render on my iphone app, but that wasn’t on the list anyway!  I did, however, obtain apple dev certs and install the test app on an iTouch (translation: 1 hour research, 10 minutes typing, 1+ hours debugging to figure out I had to rename a file).  Under perfect world/maryann conditions the day could have gone better, but honestly, it could have gone a lot worse.

After all, tomorrow is another day.

Won’t win hacker of the year, but at least I can sleep at night.

In the spirit of SMART* goals, this year I’m teaming up with my oldest friends (duration, not age) to set 3 month goals that we can actually do and measure.  This sounds like a corporate construct, mainly because it is – but hey, I’m still kind of excited about it.  I’m totally ready to be held accountable to my Feats of Fun (keep reading)!

*In case you haven’t clicked through the link yet, SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound

Without further ado, I give you – Goals: January through March 2012

Some notes:

Feats of Strength: Do 1 (one) pullup
Yeah, I haven’t done one since the fourth grade, so… yeah.

Win Friends and Influence People
I haven’t read the book, so… don’t go around thinking that I have.

Get 50 Unique visitors to this blog
I’ve already got 20, so… this should be totally doable if I’m not too shy about it.  Between all the phones, computers, and tablets we’ve got going on in our apartment I would guess 11 of these 20 are from my household.

Photo Credit

Amass weapons for musical arsenal
Writing and performing songs was something I was doing in Seattle when I was under the tutelage of the inspiring and sage Sue Carr.  I haven’t done it for over a year though, and I’m looking to get back into it in my new city.

Feats of Fun
Call me what you will, but I have a really hard time actually relaxing at play-time.  I get stressed out at the “what should I do?” decision process, and since I’m always behind on my todo list I feel guilty not working.

Enter: my best idea of the week - I created a short list of fun things that I have to do.  This solves all** my problems 1) I won’t have to wonder what I should do – I’ll do one of these things!, 2) actually doing them will feel like an accomplishment not a waste of time, and 3) it’s a short list and totally doable in three months (if not in one weekend), so (almost) guaranteed success!

**ok, maybe not all of them

In Summary:
I’ve got three months to do 1 (one) pullup.  I welcome any pointers you may have, and possibly steroids.