Friday, August 31, 2007

Vieux Carre

Off to New Orleans for the Labor Day weekend and muy excited. It's always a good time and New Orleans needs tourism dollaz. So, step up everybody, and help a struggling city out. Y'all come!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Newly-found skillz

Aight bitches ... I did it. Tuesday night, actually. I am now a jelly maker.

Coupla things, though.

1. I am paranoid that the lids didn't seal even though I did everything you're supposed to do.
2. The Sure Jell stuff I used made a little bit of a cloudy glump in one.
3. I used a bunch of habanero peppers and just in tasting it before I poured it up I was like "Whoa."

I have a very hard time with asymmetry. I know the smart thing to do would be to open and use the jar that has the cloudy glump, but that would leave me with 5 jars and that I just cannot do. Plus, what if the cloudy glump is not only toxic, but also really hot? And not in a good Britney Spears back-in-the-day I might do it with you on an airplane way.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Burghley Horse Trials

My very good friend Kristin Schmolze is jogging up at Burghley Horse Trials CCI**** in the UK this afternoon. Visit the site and watch Burghley TV this weekend. There are tons of Americans competing and this is a HUGE, pinnacle-level competition. My fingers are crossed for Kristin and her horse, Cavaldi.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Pepper Jelly

As my new idol Betty Butterfield would say, "Lord I don't know how I'm gonna get all this done ..."

But I'm gonna.

In addition to yoga, pilates, work, bills, work, bills, work, packing for weekend trip to New Orleans, I'm also going to make pepper jelly. Get ready players, yo Chrimma has just been revealed.

I have never made jelly but I don't let inexperience serve as a barrier. I figure it'll either work or it won't. I'll report back regardless.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Mississippi River Nature Festival



I had an amazing time this weekend at the Mississippi River Nature Festival in Vicksburg. I took lots of notes and am eager to share my report with my boss.

Enjoy my new YouTube obsession ... Betty Butterfield videos.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Spiderman ...

In addition to being Batman, I'm also Spiderman. And I'm even a little bit Aquaman too. In fact, I'm all Marvel superheroes rolled into one.

Exhibit A: I got the mad climbing skillz.

I am off this weekend to the Mississippi River Nature Festival in Vicksburg. My cousin is the development director at Audubon Mississippi, and this is a big eco-tourism event at an outdoor lodge. My company is in a similar business and is looking to revenue-stack with additional activities at our properties, so I'm going on a "learning/listening/espionage" tour.

It would be better if I could just stay home for a weekend and sleep, but duty calls!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Update: Adult Learning

In June I began volunteering as a tutor for an adult learner who wants to get into a GED program. In order to do that, one must test at an 8Th grade equivalency, and she tested at 3rd grade.

She is smart, but she learns differently. I am not qualified to assess whether or not she has a learning disability, though I would suspect she does. Still, I am routinely amazed at how quickly her mind actually works, and how it runs ahead of her.

I only know one way to train anything - be it man or beast - and that is to define an expectation and reward it with positive response. I am tenacious to a fault, so if it takes a lifetime to instill just one learned trait in someone or something, I'm down for the challenge. Once a horse, or a dog, or a person, understands they have the capacity to achieve, they tend to be eager to try harder.

I wasn't prepared last night, however, when my student started our lesson by sharing with me some personal revelations about how her reading lessons are changing her life. She has a daughter who is repeating the second grade this year, who has struggled a bit with reading. My student told me her grandfather, who helped raise her, used to beat on her for not being able to read. She told me she felt this is what pushed her into such a fearful shell and shut her down from wanting to learn.

She said last year she was quick to dismiss her daughter when she sought her for help with her homework, because she was embarrassed that she couldn't help her.

She said to me, "You have no idea how much you're helping me. I be telling my friends and my sister that my teacher be learning me good!" (OK, one hurdle at a time.) She said, "I am reading with her at home and helping her and just like you do with me when she be getting flustrated, I just say 'Missy, take a deep breath girl and let it go, you don't have to solve the puzzle tonight, let's just go back to something simple."

Her daughter is apparently really responding to her mother's assistance and is doing very well with her lessons this year. And my student told me her sister and other peers who have volunteered to help her daughter are a bit jealous that she has been able to say, "No, I can help her."

Whatever she is doing at home is working. Her reading is rapidly improving. And she is using strategies that we've worked on together, so I know she is learning.

I must admit there are nights when the last thing I feel like doing after a bear of a work day is going to tutor, but her progress is important to both me AND her. And as long as it's important to her, I will be there to help.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Come Into My World

My new cardio playlist:

"Come Into My World" Kylie Minogue
"How Would You Feel" David Morales
"Lovestoned/I Think That She Knows" Justin Timberlake
"One Word" Chris Cox Remix, Kelli Osbourne
"Here I Am" David Morales (love him)
"Silence" Tiesto's In Search Remix, Delerium
"Before He Cheats" Carrie Underwood

I was a bad boy last night. Met some pals for Mejican after I tutored, and wound up having chips/salsa, veggie quesadillas, and three margaritas. Then we went to Coldstone. And, and ... God, I can't even talk about it.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Dawning of a new era ...

Now that I have conquered whitewater rafting - and by conquered what I mean is survived because not everyone can swallow river water and live to tell about it ... fact of life and further evidence that I am not 100% mortal - I am moving on to new ambitions.

I have decided to for sure go through training this fall to be able to teach Pilates on the reformer machine. I have vacillated over it because, as per usual, I pretty much want to wait for the timing to be perfect before I invest and pursue. However, as part of the new Robby Johnson's Effort To Maximize His 30's (RJETMH3, going forward), I am not waiting for invitations and perfection. I'm just diving in and doing.

By the way, this is not me in the photograph. It is apparently Pete, who is an instructor with Stott Pilates up in Toronto. Pete is my new role model. Well, Pete and Batman. I still believe I can fly.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Whitewater

I am leaving early this afternoon for Ocoee, Tennessee, to meet the ATL crew for a whitewater rafting trip tomorrow.

We are camping tonight and tomorrow night, and if you think I have not been orchestrating and organizing for the past 2 days, you're wrong.

It never ceases to amaze me how much effort I tend to put into my weekends of fun. Not that I've hand-blinged my rafting outfit or anything (but the idea is appealing, especially if I had my own coordinating Ninja sleeves to go with it ... ok, next time, next time for sure), and really they're easy tasks, but they're just list-y. And you know how I am about lists. I tend to like bigger pictures.

However, it's all done, and after lunch Banzai will do his little transformer thing and we'll be Eastbound and down, loaded up and trucking!

Hopefully I'll have some pics to post next week. Have a great weekend and, if you're in the Southeast, take care of yourself in this redonkulus heat!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Happy Thoughts ...

One of my new favorite things is Vanilla Chai tea that, yes, I buy at the grocery store. Sadly I don't live near an exotic tea emporium and so I have to resort to shopping with the commoners at Publix. Do I sometimes wear a fake mustache and huge spectacles, adopting a foreign accent when I do this? Duh. Of course I do.

I decided to make a small list of things that make me happy. This list is partial, which makes it fun, because there's a real multiplier effect: each happy thought tends to spawn 3 more thoughts so you can see - even with my rad math skillz - that there's a lot to celebrate.

Here's today's list:

  1. Santa Fe with my friend Theresa.
  2. Anything with MSJ (shucking corn, water-skiing, grocery shopping, heavy metal concerts).
  3. My bathing suit addiction.
  4. The challenge of my job.
  5. Pilates with Angel, Pilates with Tammy, Pilates with Kristin.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Rockin' the Red Carpet

My friend Derek Snow and I have had lots of fun playing studio, darling, you know, "action, camera, lights!" the past few weeks. Derek did a shoot for me at work, in which he captured my organization's executives in a really warm-yet-professional way.

And Saturday night he shot the Sweet 16 party for one of those executive's daughter. It was a great party with an Old Hollywood theme, so we did a red carpet arrival. I serve as the test subject when he's trying to frame a shot, and I thought this picture was pretty funny. It's the closest I'll ever come to being on a red carpet!

The kids loved arriving this way and I cannot wait to see the portfolio of proofs. Sweet 16 parties have changed a lot since I was a kid. That party was off the hook! Awesome DJ, great decorations and food, kids all dressed up pop-lock-and-droppin' it ... but rest assured knowing there is still all sorts of dramz amongst the youthful set.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Bright Lights Big City

An advertising sales representative from public television called on me a few weeks back at my office in Tuscaloosa. While her products isn't a fit for any of my businesses, we did strike up a great conversation, so she invited me to this event which I attended in Birmingham last night.

Most people who know me know that I have a flair for the big city, so it makes me laugh now when I go to a town like the Ham, certainly not Metropolis by any means, and feel like I'm in, well, Metropolis! I'm like Country Come To Town. "OMG, look at that Starbucks! OMG, it's Whole Foods! Are you kidding me? Urban Outfitters?! It's madness, I tell you, madness!"

In typical Alabama fashion, you may notice there are no street addresses on the invitation. It's the damndest thing - people here give directions that typically begin like, "You turn where the old Tastee Freez used to be." Thankfully a little Googling gave me a street address and in 53 quick minutes I'd gone from the amniotic sack of my sleepy little hometown to a big warehouse full of pretty people who were all pumped up over winning this old school Mercedes.

I didn't buy a car raffle ticket, even though I should've because why? Because Sue Ellen used to drive a Mercedes like this on "Dallas," and, really, how awesome would it be to have this car? I mean, who didn't identify with Sue Ellen? She wasn't a bad person. She was just misunderstood. JR's caged bird, she was. No wonder she ran off to Fort Worth with Dusty, abandoning little John Ross in the process ... viva la emancipacion!

The person who won wasn't even there, but the raffle did raise nearly $20K for Birmingham AIDS Outreach.

The statistics on HIV infection amongst the younger generation are pretty staggering. HIV/AIDS is not a thing of the past. It's still very much a reality and we must continue to fund research efforts with an aim of a.) developing a vaccine and b.) increasing treatment/finding a cure for those already infected.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Cosmic Thing ...

Years ago, I guess it was 1998 or so, we went to see the Pretenders and the B-52's at an outside amphitheater in Little Rock. It was me, Ex, CAB and Sue-age.

I shall never forget how lovely that mid-May evening was. So lovely was it that CAB and I proceeded to get a little toasty. And if your definition of toasty includes jumping around dancing and then falling over simultaneously onto the lush green grass while you're getting your Love Shack on, then we're speaking the same language, and you know what I'm talking about!

(Note: I think maybe we were only drinking Festival beer, but there could've been pre-festival drinks elsewhere. Maybe CAB can fill in the blanks. The memory ... my short to mid term isn't so great, but I can tell you what I wore on the sixth day of the 4th grade.)

It's fun when a good memory jolts into your head.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Yoga Inversions

One of my favorite things to do in my yoga class is "inversions." We don't do this one, specifically, but we do several others against the wall.

I'm not sure why we do inversions, but that doesn't matter. Because with my mad flexibility skillz, what it does tell me is that I really should've become an acrobat and run off with the circus.

I love my yoga class, even though it can be difficult at times. It changes the way I think about things and how I process daily events. Actually, I think I've become really apathetic to most things and sometimes I'm not sure that's such a good thing. People around me can get so wound up about things - and damn, the majority can be so rigid and "inside their box."

I don't always understand that. I think it's good to have passion, of course. But I'm positive there is more to life than a weekly report or a business deal.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Shoulder Tension

In my practice of pilates and yoga, I've become really aware of the tension I carry in my shoulders. I am sure it's partially due to my nature, but also to bad habits formed from sitting at a desk all day.

In fact, every massage therapist who has ever worked on me has commented that my shoulders are like cement. And not in a good way.

We must stabilize our shoulders at the base of the blades, so they support the upper shoulders and neck. Instead of your shoulders back, think of sliding them down, and stabilizing your core when you do this.

It requires constant reminding, but the more conscientious you are about it, the more tension you will release, the better you will feel (and look).

Monday, August 06, 2007

Oil Spill

On Friday I left my office at noon, with plans to do my Reformer class at Pilates, get Banzai's oil changed, then grab Maddie and head out to the Island.

Ass-whooping private session on the Reformer that saw me doing all sorts of split-legged hoo-ha? Check! Got to the 10-minute oil-change place and right into a bay? Check! I love it when a plan comes together.

Moments after sitting down I hear this really loud bang-and-clang. I hear a voice out in the bay go, "Are you ok?" I think to myself, "This does not sound good."

Nothing comes of it, however, and I return to emailing co-workers on my Blackjack.

A few moments later the manager comes in and says, "Is that your black Honda?" I affirm and he asks, "Did you hear what happened?" I said, "No, what happened?"

As it turns out, the guy who was going to change my oil dropped the pressure-powered oil gun on the ground, prompting it to spew motor oil all over the exterior of my car. They'd already attempted to wash it but it was so bad we had to drive it next door to a pressure-washing bay, and that wasn't even the fool-proof method. It took an extra hour or so, and I left with a gratis oil change and assurance that they'd pick up any resulting damages.

The guy who dropped the gun said, "Man, thanks for being so cool about this - I'd be pissed." Honestly, things like this seldom piss me off. They're irksome as they derail your best laid plans, but a long time ago someone told me "If money can fix it, it's not a problem."

So I wound up getting to the Island around 7:15, but it did not stop me from having a great time with my family. I finished my book ("In The Company Of The Courtesan") which I have been reading since May, and we spent Saturday morning frolicking on Sand Island, courtesy of my awesome brother-in-law who took us out via his way cool boat.

My mother and sister were able to pump me full of calories - not that I was resistant or anything - and so this week I return to my monk-in-contemplation diet of brown basmati rice and fresh vegetables. I will persevere!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Isle Dauphine

I'm leaving this afternoon to drive down to "the water" (as my grandmother used to say). Growing up on the coast, that meant 40 minutes to Dauphin Island, or an hour to Gulf Shores. Now it means 4 hours for me but I'm not complaining ... it could be farther. Right now, it's just a sugar-free Red Bull, one biology break (in Thomasville, Gateway To The Black Belt), lots of kicky Sirius tunes, and occasional existential conversations with Maddie, who rides in her crate in the back seat.

My sister and her crew haul their big camping trailer to Dauphin Island the first weekend of August. Last year we went tubing in the Gulf, and my nieces and their cousins refused to get in the water because Shark Week had just ended so of course I, the world's biggest kid at 35, did all of the tubing while they looked at me like, "You crazy, Jack."

Not unlike this year, of course, and I have been watching bits and pieces throughout this week. I must admit I can get a bit wigged out when I'm being dragged along, feet dangling, and curious about what's lurking beneath. Thankfully we've been doing a lot of Locust Pose at yoga so at least I can keep my feet out of the water and, hey, maybe my glutes will get tighter!

Enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

My Little Habanero

One of the things I love about being back in Alabama is that people bring you produce from their gardens. It's a lovely gesture that I always appreciate. Hell, if I had dirt, I would likely be doing the same, as I love to garden. Can't help it, y'all, it's in my DNA!

So a co-worker in the office next door has brought some good produce lately and this week I'd racked up some cucumbers, tomatoes, and an assortment of peppers - including one little habanero.

Last night I decided to do spaghetti (whole wheat of course) with a fresh red sauce, and thought, "I'll do the sauce with peppers in it." I also had two banana peppers and one jalapeno. Sure, I'd been warned that the habanero was hotter than Hell but, really, it was so tiny. It was like an itsy-bitsy jack-o-lantern.

I spoke to it like I would any Jack Russell Terrier puppy. "You so little and smushy and cute and precious, how could you be anything other than perfect?"

So after doing all of my sous chef work and getting the sauce going, washing my hands, and moving onto another chore, I began to notice my lips feeling a bit like I'd had some Restalyne injected. And not that I've ever had that done, of course, but it's what I imagined it would feel like. This sensation grew until I realized that despite my best anti-bacterial washing efforts, my little habanero wasn't letting go of my fingertips.

Eventually this sensation passed and I realized I was going to have to eat my red sauce. I did, because I'm tough like that, and actually it was really good in a Dare To Eat You kind of way. I will say that the remnants of my summer sinus issue were sent packing as my head opened up like floodgates.

I guess the good news is that I won, I did not die or have to go to the emergency room, and I have leftovers for dinner tonight. A veritable win-win!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Commuting and Air Quality

This story written by Forbes was featured on Yahoo! this morning. I am just off a 30-minute plateau session on my elliptical machine, all huffing and puffing because I've not been on it since Friday and I am not even kidding when I say I feel every bit of 171 pounds this morning ... stick a fork in him, his little pork loin is done! (Not to worry, I've reinvoked my inner-manorexic and am swearing off alcohol and food-cheating for the month of August.)

Now where was I? Oh, commuting. Right. So, here's the thing, Atlanta (pictured) ranked #2 as the worst polluted commute and can I just say I can see why? I have been to the ATL a couple of times in the past few months to hang with my supafly buddies who live there, and the last time I had the opportunity to go shopping with my friend who actually lives in Nashville. (Are y'all following, this is very Southern so you know I have to reference everyone by who they're kin to, etc.)

I could not help but marvel at how all of the big shopping establishments have huge underground parking decks built in. So, essentially, parking isn't an issue. And what does that encourage? More driving! OMG people, get it the Eff together. Turn the MARTA system into something actually useful and offer tax incentives for people buying hybrid/low-carbon output vehicles. This is a huge issue and it must be halted ASAP!