Thursday, September 29, 2005

Sleeping Alone

Sleep is something I never seem to have enough of and when I get it, it often comes in the weirdest of spots.  Most normal people will do their pre-sleep rituals, snuggle up in bed, maybe read for a bit, and then drift off to the wonderful world of the dreaming.  That’s what normal people do.  I’m not normal, not in the least.

As it is, I have a very hard time sleeping period.  If I can somehow wrestle myself asleep by the time most bars are calling for final rounds, I consider myself lucky.  More often than not, though, I’ll find myself stuck in a freaky, twilight zone-ish realm of being un-freakin-believably tired, yet not being able to fall asleep.  I’m about as close to a non-brain eating zombie as you can get.

Lately… well, for the last couple of weeks at least, I’ve just given up on sleeping in my bed altogether.  Basically I just toss random crap on my bed, like laundry I need to put away, stuff I’m reading, and random junk I don’t want lying out on it and use the couch in the living room to sleep on at night.

Seriously, the couch is an insomniac’s dream.  When I was in my bed and couldn’t sleep, I’d roll around restlessly or pop on a light and read for a bit.  Being on the couch, I have so many more options available!  I bring a book out with me in case I want to read, but in case I don’t feel like reading, there’s also the tv remote sitting right next to me, and if that isn’t good enough I can always grab the Xbox controller and play a late night game of NHL 2K6 or Halo.

I think the main reason I don’t like sleeping in my bed, other than the fact that it now works well as a place to toss crap, is that when I’m in it, with all of the open space it provides, I constantly crave someone there to snuggle up next to and, frankly, my body pillow isn’t that much fun to snuggle with.  The emptiness that is next to me is not something I enjoy, so when I’m on the couch there’s only room for one and I don’t feel so lonely.  Why constantly remind myself that when I go to sleep at night, I’ll wake up just as alone as I fell asleep.  On the couch I don’t think about it as much, plus I have my good friends Mr. TV, Mrs. Xbox, and the Book Twins.

Who knows if I’ll ever be able to migrate back to my bed any time soon?  Then again, who would want to with so much available to do sleeping on the couch?  

Life at 300 BPM

There’s so much I want to write about write now, so much I want to say, but as I sit here at Panera I just can’t muster the fortitude to go into a long, detailed post on anything.  

I want to talk about how, through everything I’ve been going through lately, my family has been rock solid, kick ass, and totally full of love. I want to write about how I had the most kick ass steak of my life last night.  I want to write about my thoughts on how I think the GMAT scoring method is super wonky.  I want to write about Paramore, my new favorite band of the moment.  I want to write about how I’m gushing to go see Serenity.  I want to write about how I feel so old, yet so young, all at the same time.  I want to tell you about how I finally reached the point of being viewed as a regular here at Panera.  

I want my brain to explode all over page without me having to type anything.  It’d just all be here… but that would be too easy.  Instead, the most I can muster is a cryptic passage from a Paramore song for you to contemplate and admire.  So here it is, from my favorite song, “Brighter”, on their latest album, All We Know is Falling.

So this is how it goes
Well I… I would have never known
And if it ends today
I'll still say that you shine brighter than anyone

Now I think we're taking this too far
Don't you know that it's not this hard?
Well it's not this hard
But if you take what's yours and I take mine
Must we go there?
Please not this time. No, not this time.

Well this is not your fault
But if I'm without you
Then I will feel so small
And if you have to go
Always know that you shine brighter than anyone does.

If you run away now,
Will you come back around?
And if you ran away,
I'd still wave goodbye
Watching you shine bright.
I’ll wave goodbye tonight.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Smallville - The Tragedy

When it comes to tv, there isn’t much that I will actually watch.  Usually I just buy on dvd the shows that I want to watch so that way I can watch them when I want to, without commercials, and rewatch them if they are good enough to warrant multiple viewings.  With that said, there would be one show I would rearrange my schedule to watch, and that show is Smallville (which opens its fifth season tomorrow).

Beyond the high school drama, the relationship based angst, and the superhero moments, Smallville is a tragedy on all fronts, each character fatally flawed.  What makes this even more apparent, from a viewer’s standpoint, is that the end is not in question.  We all know Clark turns into Superman, Lex will be his nemesis, that Lois marries Clark, and so forth.  

Since the outcome is known before hand, anything that doesn’t directly contribute to those ends will fail, and often times the failures come quite spectacularly.  One example is the episode I just finished watching, “Unsafe” (from season four), in which Clark actually feels comfortable in a relationship with someone.  Alicia, a girl who also possesses some superpowers, falls for Clark and he falls for her.  Before the relationship even has a chance to get off the ground, you know it is going to somehow go down in flames, and it does.

Clark, up until the day he finally starts his relationship with Lois, will forever be doomed in every relationship he starts.  Personally, deep down inside, I wanted Clark to be with Alicia because it just seemed so right, despite some of their checkered history, but all I could do was sit back and watch as it all unraveled.  

I used to like Smallville because it was a tv show about the early years of one of my favorite superheroes and one of my favorite supervillains, but now I realize that I would still love it even if there were no superheroes because it’s the tragedy that draws me.  Just like a good shedding of tears helps to ease the soul, it’s quite cathartic to watch the characters in a tragedy.  Why do you think so many people love Shakespeare?

Each individual character is participating in their very own personal tragedy, and I empathize with every heartbreak, every hardship, and every bittersweet conversation, as well as love each and every moment of this totally unrealistic tv show that somehow resonates with me.

Clark bears the weight of the world on his shoulders.  So mired in guilt built up from everything he thought he could have done to have changed situations that didn’t work out for the best.  Being given the gifts he has been granted, how could he not feel like it’s his responsibility to be everyone’s savior, yet he can’t tell anyone that he is such a messianic figure.  Beyond the problems that his powers cause him, he has to be the most unlucky in love person to grace this planet.  Constantly forced to keep secrets and to never be able to truly open up to anyone drives anyone he lets get close to him away in the long run.  He is forever alone—the last remaining remnant of a world long dead.

Lex, a man destined to be one of the great villains of his generation, doesn’t even know it yet.  He still views himself as a good person, trying to do the right things, and he may never really know he is a villain, but we all know he is.  Watching as Lex tries so hard to maintain his fragile friendship with Clark, all the while fighting a losing battle against his nature and trying to separate himself from his father’s image, you know that he can only meet with failure. He is fated to be a man despised and reviled by the world.

Lana seems to never have anything good happen to her.  Her first boyfriend is tragically killed in the military.  Her initial relationship with Clark falls apart when the secrecy between the two becomes too much for her to take.  Her next boyfriend uses her for his own personal and familial gain while she truly falls for him.  In time she finds herself betrayed yet again in matters of the heart.  Clark is always there for her, though, and the more she realizes it, the more it hurts to know that ultimately she can’t be with him.  She will always come second to Lois.

Even the auxiliary characters are immersed in waves of tragedy.  Chloe longs for Clark’s love, but more so just his trust.  She has endured so much for him and he is too reluctant to tell anyone his secrets, most especially her, even though she already knows.  Clark’s parents have been put through hell and back for their son and his secret, yet they stand strong.  Valiant in the face of all danger, they persevere.  Actually, every character embodies that statement.  Throughout the tragedies of their lives, each character perseveres.  Each pushes onward.  These characters give us hope.  And it’s this juxtaposition of a wellspring of hope and waves of tragedy that makes this show one of the few I truly enjoy.

I dare you to try to keep me away from the television tomorrow night.  It won’t happen.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The GMAT

This whole grad school thing… well, maybe for once one of my grand plans won’t be nothing more than a pipe dream.  The last month or so I’ve really been mulling it over, not completely 100% sure as to if I would want to do it, and I don’t know if I’m still 100% sure, but there have just been so many things going on lately that have led me to believe that I need something to fill the gaping void that seems to be slowly growing and sucking me down.

The only thing that might be holding me back is if I would want to look for a job change to somewhere in the Twin Cities as it seems that just about everyone I know lives there now and I need to find an environment that is young person friendly, which Rochester really isn’t.  

For the moment, though, I think I’ll focus on the grad school option.  I’m in the process of applying to St. Thomas MBA program.  I need to have all of my materials in my December 1st, which will probably be here faster than I know.  I have basically 2 months.  In that time I also have to take the GMAT, which I haven’t done any studying for yet.  In anticipation of taking it, however, I went out and bought a wonderfully expensive GMAT preparation study book.

With GMAT study book in hand, I need to attempt to work on studying out of it every night and going over the areas that I feel I’ll need the most work multiple times.  It should be an interesting October to say the least.  I foresee a lot of coffee shop hopping after work while I try to focus on studying while still avoiding my home where there are altogether way too many distractions to keep me from focusing on my studying.

If anyone has taken the GMAT and would like to share their thoughts or have any advice, please let me know.  All I have to go on for the moment is my gargantuan study book and a couple of practice exams.  I hope that’ll be good enough because I don’t want to have to take it a second time as it’s $250 each time you take it and I just can’t afford that!

Even the Weather Hates Me

Mother Nature, you sure can be a big ball of no fun sometimes. The entire weekend you decided it would be fun to be dark, dreary, rainy, and altogether depressingly miserable. Would it have killed you to let a little sun shine through or let it at least be decent enough out so that Jared and I could have done some disc golfing? And it looks like you're going to keep at your schenanigans for most of today. Looking at the radar and seeing a gigantic amoeba of green grossness moving all through southern Minnesota and Iowa is not exactly the most attractive thing.

So I'll just sit here this morning, play some video games, read some comic books, pretend I'm 10 instead of 24, and wait for you to stop being such a bitch. So when you're ready to start cooperating, Nature, let me know. You can let it rain all week while I'm at work, but why do you have to be ruining my weekends? Damn you, woman!

Since it's so depressing out and I know I need some cheering up, here's a picture of me and the farm's latest kitten, Robin. Cute, huh?

Me and Robin

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Decisions

O, how I loathe the cognitive dissonance of my human mind.
What to do, what to do?
One direction pushed,
one direction pulled,
neither more powerful than the other.
Tearing,
scratching,
fighting to win,
these emotions are.
Pain outpouring and more forthcoming.
My heart must grow cold,
build its shell,
become an unbreakable barrier.
Love everything on the outside,
keep the hurt locked inside.
Decisions sapping my strength.
The thought of a negative future,
stemming from my mistakes,
clouds my view.
It all comes down to this,
down to me.
In my hand is a power so great.
I can hurt or I can heal.
In the end I must do both.
The time approaches,
the zero hour calls.
My choice must be now.
O, what to do?
What to do…

Fitness Extravaganza Wrap Up

So after tracking my eating and exercising habits for a week, it became relatively apparent… well ok, blazingly hot neon orange apparent, that my diet was not exactly, shall we say, good.  My exercise quotient fared a little better, but I still think that I could do more and, in fact, need to do more.  So what are my plans?

Well, first I’m going to try to slowly amend my diet over time.  Slowly phase out all of the candy and processed food that I usually grab when I’m too lazy to eat decent or cook my own food.  I think I’m going to attempt to not go to McDonald’s at all any more.  I just don’t want to go back to that place to eat any more.  When I get the chance, I need to try to make more food at home from scratch by cooking it instead of microwaving it.  Beyond that, I just need to get a better hold on my urges for greasy, fatty, sugary, instantaneous available foods.

Exercise-wise, I am looking at potentially joining a local health club so that I have the ability to do more than just go out for runs around the neighborhood and do rudimentary weight lifting in my basement.  I’ve seriously been craving a full-on weight room experience for a long time now, ever since college. At my parents’ place I had a pretty decent weight set up, but I still couldn’t do everything my muscles were screaming out for me to do.  I just don’t know if I want to throw down a significant chunk of cash every month for a club membership, especially considering I’ll still probably use outdoor running as my main form of exercise for a while yet and I just shelled out a big chunk of cash for my winter basketball team.

Playing basketball at least once a week this winter should also help keep me motivated to exercise, especially since we only have 7 full time players for our team.  There won’t be a lot of subbing going on, which really isn’t a bad thing.  I’m also looking to get onto a volleyball team, but I don’t really know anyone who plays, so if you have a team or know someone who does, please don’t hesitate to use that link over on the right to email me and let me know.

Periodically I’ll probably chime back in on my efforts to better myself physically, but I hope that this experience has helped me to recognize what I am doing wrong and what I need to do to correct those things.  If not, well, I suppose I’ll just start to resemble your everyday, average, fat-ass American.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Back to School?

Over the last few months I’ve been searching for a direction to take my life since I haven’t really known where it was going lately. The last 5-6 months or so I’ve felt overwhelmed by a sense of being lost and empty, like I really need something, but haven’t been able to fill that emptiness with anything. So looking to logic and my brain instead of going with my heart, which seems to betray me more often than not, I’ve decided that I’m going to start looking at grad schools to go to in order to get my MBA.

I’ve been doing some initial research and I’ve found that here in Rochester there are three different MBA programs that I could potentially enroll in. I’m only looking at the MBA programs for professionals, by the way, the programs that would allow me to continue working for Kingland Systems while still being able to go to college. Sure, I probably won’t have a single spare moment of time while trying to work and do classes, and I plan on taking as much of a load as possible so I can get it done as fast as possible, but right now I don’t really want free time.

Free time right now seems like nothing more than a burden to me. I find myself wallowing in loneliness, self-loathing, and careful introspection when I have too much time to myself. I also find it’s hard to develop a bustling social life in this town since many of the friends I have are never too keen on actually getting together that often and doing things or are married, so what better way to fill up my free time than with tons of schooling?

Now the options that I have available to me are programs through either the University of Minnesota, St. Mary’s University, or the University of St. Thomas. I’ve initially knocked the UofM program off of my list for two reasons. First, their program is actually quite expensive. It’s about $10,000 more expensive than St. Mary’s program. I haven’t found out St. Thomas’ prices yet so I can’t make a comparison there. The second reason I’m not really looking at the UofM program is that they are very rigid in the prerequisites you need to start.

St. Mary’s is an attractive program, but it also has a bunch of prerequisites that I would have to take before I could start whereas St. Thomas is geared towards someone with not a ton of classroom experience, so if you have a degree in something not finance, accounting, business, or something like that, it’s ok. Instead St. Thomas would like their students to have at least 2 years experience in the business world. This might be what holds me back from getting in to St. Thomas. Hopefully not, though, since that’s the program I am most attracted to.

I’m going to an informational meeting tomorrow about the St. Thomas MBA program so I can hopefully get some good information about their program. Now if anyone reading this has any tips on getting an MBA or any of these programs in general, please share as I’m pretty much on my own here.

Monday, September 19, 2005

King's X - Ogre Tones CD Review



Ogre Tones is the eleventh full length disc from the sometimes Christian, sometimes not, sometimes political, sometimes not, sometimes controversial, sometimes not, but always playing all the time, hard rock band King’s X. Now if you were to factor in the solo and side projects of all of the members of this band, you’d be nearing 20 full lengths in the 18 years that this band has been around. The only band that I can think of that is consistently putting out new music in one form or another is Dream Theater and their myriad of side projects. The only difference between the two bands musical output is that King’s X sound has changed a lot more over the years than our prog friends in Dream Theater.

King’s X last three cds have had a decidedly more stripped down, raw, and heavy tone to them, a progression that I expected them to keep heading down with this release, but instead they make almost a complete 180 and return to their more mellow (in relation to their last few cds) and straight up hard rock sound that they indulged in during the middle of their career. If anything, Ogre Tones feels like an unofficial sequel to Ear Candy, which was possibly one of the most accessible cds of their career.

What will interest many fans is the vitriol and jaded anger that permeates the lyrics of this cd. Throughout their career Doug Pinnick, King’s X vocalist/bassist, has always had a knack for writing lyrics that often bordered, and sometimes indulged in, his spirituality without sounding preachy or clich├ęd. With the release of Tape Head and everything following, the lyrics have made a shift towards the introspective and, at times, political. On Ogre Tones there is plenty of fire behind what Doug has to say. In some songs, such as “Freedom”, he rails against the hypocrisies and ironies of life in the United States while in other songs, such as “Get Away” he questions his faltering faith with lines like, “Hey God, I watched the news tonight. Why are your people so fucking mean? Hey God… why do the innocent suffer? Where do you go to get away?” True, they’re not lyrical masterpieces and feel a little forced at times, but the fact remains that Doug definitely has a beef with a lot of things in society.

Musically the band has shed a lot of the metallic edges of their recent works and refocused their efforts on creating well thought out, yet catchy, moderately paced hard rock songs. There are also a few moments of prog thrown in for good measure, such as the seven minute epic “Sooner or Later”, which give portions of the album an airy feel.

All in all, when you stack this release up against the gigantic catalog that King’s X have already amassed, it’s hard to say if it’s one of their better or worse efforts since they have always consistently cranked out quality music. Long time fans will not be disappointed at all because, well, they’re long time fans. Fans of their very early works will like that they’ve shed the edge of their more recent efforts. Fans of their recent efforts will think that they’ve gone soft. Lastly, fans of their middle efforts will be in heaven while listening to Ogre Tones. And if by chance, you’re not a fan, this is actually a great jumping on point to use to get acquainted with the band. So as I’m thinking about it, no one really has an excuse as to why they shouldn’t pick up this cd, so go out there and get a copy!

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Farming's Form of Torture

On the drive back home from the Twin Cities this morning I made the mistake of trying to take highway 52 all the way down to highway 14.  Since they’re trying extra hard to make sure all of the 52 construction is done on time, it was down to one lane on each side, which didn’t exactly make for smooth flowing traffic.

As I was driving at the blisteringly fast clip of about 3.2 miles per hour with my windows down blasting some classic Soilwork, I was overcome with the smell of straw.  Looking around, I saw that the construction workers were covering the open pieces of ground around the exit ramps with it in order to help keep weeds from coming up.

It’s been a really long time since I’ve actually smelled straw and as I did, much like I have every fall since leaving the farm, I was immediately whisked away into reverie, thinking about everything I miss about the farm.  This time I was mainly remembering my days bailing straw and hay for my dad and for my neighbors.

For all you town kids out there, or even the farm kids who never had to bail hay, you’ll never know the unique form of torture it is.  Imagine for a minute a hot, muggy, still day in the middle of summer—one of those days where you’d do anything to stay indoors where it’s air conditioned.

Now imagine a field stretching out in front of you with hundreds of windrows of hay laid out.  You’re standing on a hay rack that’s attached to the back of a bailer that’s attached to the back of a tractor.  You get driven around the field as the bailer grabs the rows of hay, packs it into tight squares about the size of body-building midget.  It spits the rectangles of itchy, scratchy, abrasive, compact hay out the back at which point you grab them, stack them on the rack, and repeat until the rack is full.

Now I don’t know exactly what was worse, the bails themselves or the farmers that would want you to stack as many on a rack as humanly possible before stopping.  These bails were never very light.  Straw bails would be, but hay bails were rock solid.  Depending upon the farmer they could weight anywhere from 40 lbs to maybe 80 or 90 if they were damp and really compact.  

Now imagine taking an average bail, stacking five across to make a row, then stacking six or more rows high, then repeating from the back of the rack to the front.  You’d think it would get better the closer to the front you got since you wouldn’t have to drag them as far, but you would be very wrong.  You see, the closer to the front you got, the less room you had to work with the bails themselves.  Instead of using momentum to swing them up into the upper rows, you’d have to use brute arm strength to lift them up and stack them.

To make things worse, once you got to the point where there was only one small, human sized area left open at the front of the rack, you were often expected to fill it.  This was always a precarious and interesting thing to try to accomplish.  First, you’d stack one bail next to you, leave only a single bail empty area on the rack.  Then you’d stand up on the bail you just laid down, grab the next one and lay it in the open space. You could then repeat this for a couple of rows, but soon it’d be impossible to reach down far enough to grab the bails coming out of the bailer and haul them up without falling off of your little bail hill you created.  This was usually the time you were done with the rack, at which point you’d unhook the full rack and hook on an empty one and start over.

Imagine doing this for an entire day.  Often I’d only do it for an afternoon instead of a full day because I have really sensitive eyes and because of all the dust created during the bailing process I couldn’t last much longer than six hours without my eyeballs wanting to jump out of my face and run away.

I’d often look like I came in from a bar fight when a day of bailing was over.  My eyes would be completely bloodshot.  I looked like I had no energy whatsoever in my body.  And to top it off my arms were usually torn apart.  Even if you wore a long sleeve shirt, hay is pointy enough that it would rip through your clothes, or at least poke through, and scratch you up making it look like you just received a hundred lashings from 25 different people on each arm.  Sometimes my stomach and thighs would be tore up as well.

After a day of this, you’d appreciate any free time you have.  Now as terrible as bailing hay sounds, I’m glad I did it and had the experience because it helps me to realize how easy my current job is.  It also helped to instill a good work ethic in me that has helped to get me where I am today.  If it were up to me, I’d take every whiny, lazy, ungrateful little kid / teen / 20-something /whatever out there and make them bail hay for a week so that they know they don’t have it so bad working at McDonald’s or Barnes & Noble or wherever they work that is “so terrible”.  

Everyone should work on a farm at least once in their life to know what it’s like.  So many people today are spoiled rotten and expect everything given to them instead of earning it.  Give these brats a dose of real work and see what happens to them.  I’m sure their attitudes would change, if even just a tiny bit.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Iowa vs. Iowa State

This last weekend I was down in Ames, Iowa to see Henry Rollins, which I already mentioned, but I was also there to check out the Iowa / Iowa State game.  Being a graduate of a small, middle of nowhere, central Minnesotan, private college (St. John’s University) I never had the “big game” experience. Sure, we had the Johnnie / Tommie game, which was always intense and resulted in a ton of people showing up on campus, but it could not even begin to compare the sheer craziness that was the Iowa / Iowa State game.

Neither me or my brother Randy had tickets to the game since we didn’t get any ahead of time and didn’t want to pay scalpers for them. That was fine by me, however, as Randy said that for most of the game the entire crowd, at least in the student section, stood up and standing up for an entire football game just didn’t seem all that fun to me, even if I was out there in the middle of the crowd embracing the thronging masses of humanity I was surrounded by.

Instead, Randy and I went down to check out the tailgating before the game and then went back to his apartment to watch the game on ABC.  For me, a big game consisted of maybe 5-10 thousand people at a game.  Most St. John’s games were only attended by a couple thousand and only playoff games, homecoming, and the Johnnie / Tommie had the 5,000 plus crowds.  Now as we walked down towards the stadium we saw lots of college kids making their way down there as well, a few more inebriated than others, but they could all at least walk.

As we came to Stephens Auditorium, which is their large performance auditorium, we started to see the overwhelming immensity of the tailgating masses.  Once we got over the hill by Stephens and had a chance to look over the parking lots and the stadium itself, I was simply in awe.  The news later said that there was easily in excess of 50,000 people there in attendance, which I easily believe.

I was going to meet up with some friends of mine outside to tailgate with them, but unlike at SJU I couldn’t just scan the crowd to find who I was looking for. No, it would be next to impossible this time.  Finding a group of maybe 10-15 people in a mass of 50,000+ was not going to happen.  Even if you subtracted the 30,000 or so people that had already gone into the stadium, that left a whopping 20,000 or so people to wade through to find who I came to meet up with.

Now I know that some of you geniuses are screaming at your monitor, “Call your friends and find out where they’re at!”  Well, friends, that is exactly what I did.  There was a problem, however, in that the cell phone towers in the area were not able to handle the enormous amount of cell traffic. 9 out of 10 calls that I tried to make simply failed.  The other one call would just connect straight to the person’s voicemail.  So that was pretty much out.

Instead of searching around, my brother and I just walked through the crowds people watching.  I felt like I was three or four years younger than I am being so surrounded by college kids.  A lot of the experience made me long for the college life even more than I usually do.  I thought I was finally coming to terms with the fact that I wouldn’t be able to go back to the exact type of environment that college offered me and then this just had to re-open a wound I had almost patched up.

Regardless of my personal feelings about my place in life at the moment, seeing the waves of people, mostly dressed in either gold for Iowa or red for Iowa State, was simply amazing.  I don’t know if my brother appreciated it or not, but I wholeheartedly enjoyed the crowd that was on display, which is in stark contrast to the way I usually feel about crowds in general.  

As we finally worked our way through the crowd and found ourselves on the way back to his apartment, I felt a slight notion of elation.  I don’t really know why, maybe it was being back in the college atmosphere, maybe it was because I could finally move free without being surrounded by people, maybe it was just a random mood swing, but any way you look at it I loved that crowd browsing experience.

I wouldn’t trade my small private college experience for anything, but by being in Ames for the game, it made me wonder if there were a few things that I might have missed out on by not going to a larger school.  Namely, the massiveness of the sporting programs and the camaraderie that exists between all of the students, even though I’m sure most of the people there didn’t even know each other.  All in all, it was a great experience.

Oh, and to top it all off, ISU won.  Take that Iowa!  Your national ranking means nothing against the mighty Cyclones!

Fitness Extravaganza - Day Five, Six, and Seven

Day Five
Today wasn't all that great since we ended up getting free donuts at work after I already ate breakfast. At least I got a decent run in.

Food intake:
--Kwik Trip breakfast sandwich
--Two Glazer donuts
--Quesedia (jalepeno cheddar with mozzarella and pepperoni)
--Three egg rolls
--One bag of light popcorn
--Four glasses of coffee
--One Monster Energy drink

Exercise:
--3.5 mile run with 3 hill sprints

Day Six
I was in Mason City, Iowa today for work so I got stuck eating fast food for lunch. After I got back to Minnesota I made one of my usual stops at Panera to do some work catch up outside of the office so I had yet another one of their bagels that are oh so yummy.

Food intake:
--Kwik Trip breakfast sandwich
--McDonald's double cheesburger, chicken sandwich, and medium fry
--One "everything" bagel at Panera
--Quesedia (jalepeno cheddar with mozzarella and pepperoni)
--Four glasses of coffee
--One Monster Energy drink

Exercise:
--2.5 mile run
--Curls, 3 sets of 10 at 90 lbs

Day Seven
Today was bad... very bad. Two different people each brought in two dozen donuts. Considering there's only like 15 people in our office that left a ton of donuts for everyone to eat, and eat them I did! I also made a quesedia for the third day in a row. Sometimes I just get stuck in a rut with food. I also didn't get much of a chance to exercise so I just did something quick before I hit the sack for the night.

Food intake:
--Three Hy-Vee donuts
--Three Krispy Kreme donuts
--One mini Snickers
--Quesedia (jalepeno cheddar with mozzarella and pepperoni)
--Six glasses of coffee
--One Diet Coke

Exercise:
--80 push ups
--150 bicycle sit-ups

Weight: 184 lbs.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Some Catblogging for You

Cats, cats, cats. Seems like it's impossible to live on a farm and not have a billion of them. At my parents' place they already have three house cats (one of them being mine, but my current housemates aren't too keen on letting him live with me so he stays at home for now) and a few outside barn cats. Of course with the passing of summer there were a few new additions to the Gebhardt family farm cat family.

We had a litter of three kittens at the beginning of the summer--Bob, Monster, and Batman. Unfortunately Bob didn't make it. He got really sick and didn't pull through. Monster made it through ok, but now she's wild and you can't catch her, which is what usually happens to most of the kittens we try to raise as outside only cats. Batman, however, is friendly as all get out. When I go out to the barns, he's always just hanging out and will come up to you looking for attention. It's great having a friendly outside cat again.

About a week ago, my mom heard a kitten meowing from the loft of one of our hog sheds and found a small, orange kitten abandoned by his mother. The poor little guy wouldn't have made it if my mom hadn't found him. When she found him, she put him in with the mother of the first litter and the mom took to nursing him and caring for him. On top of that, my mom and I love to bring Robin (the name we gave him) in the house and play with him. Kittens are so much fun. I just don't understand those people that hate them. Anyhow, here's a couple of pictures of the little guys. The first is Batman posing for the camera and the second is Robin chilling on the floor.

Batman

Robin

Monday, September 12, 2005

Henry Rollins

Last Friday I finally had one of my lifelong goals fulfilled.  I’m sure many of you will scoff at it, but I really don’t care.  Anyhow, for years I’ve come to really admire Henry Rollins, his work ethic, his music, his spoken word, and his commitment to what he believes in.  I’ve always wanted to see him speak live, but before Friday I’d never had the chance.  That all changed as my brother, Randy, scored us front row seats for his performance at Stephens Auditorium at the Iowa State University campus.

Henry Rollins is an interesting person in that I originally got into him for his music with Rollins Band, specifically over the song “Liar” which I must have played a billion times when it first came out.  Later on I listened to more of the Rollins Band discography before exploring Henry’s first band, Black Flag, another band I grew to appreciate.  Then I found out that Rollins was doing spoken word and, frankly, I thought it would be good for a laugh because the idea of a heavy metal band’s frontman doing spoken word is inherently funny.  Seriously, could you imagine Rob Flynn or Phil Anselmo or any of the hundreds of heavy metal singers doing a successful spoken word stint?  I sure can’t.

Oddly, when I downloaded a couple of mp3’s of Rollins’ spoken word, I was indeed chuckling, but I was laughing because he was honestly one funny guy and to top it off he was funny because what he was saying was so pointed, absurd, and crazy, yet it was true.  His diatribes against the government, politics in general, apathy, and the downfalls of western civilization are a wonder to behold.  He can make a poignant political point while simultaneously making you laugh.  There’s not too many people nowadays that can do that with any regularity outside of John Stewart.

Beyond his views on the world, the various stories of his life experience are amazing.  Sure, he spends a good portion of every performance pointing out how much his life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but after hearing about his experiences and his commitment to exploring all the areas of this world, while trying to learn as much as he possibly can, you can’t help but be a little jealous.

Just listening to his experiences with the USO, which was one of the main focuses of his talk at ISU, made me want to go out and do something to make our soldiers’ lives better.  For proclaiming to be nothing more than an old, jaded, burnout Mr. Rollins sure has a knack for being able to get people fired up for causes.  

After his two hours of conversational storytelling, I was both saddened and ecstatic at the same time.  I finally managed to see one of my personal idols… but I wanted more.  Who would have known that the lead singer of an underappreciated duo of metal bands would turn out to be such an amazing speaker.  Buy one of his cds and give it a listen.  I don’t think you’ll be too disappointed.  I sure wasn’t.

Everyone Get on the Train

Funny sign

Can you see what's wrong with this sign? Take a good close look at the first word... now you see it--Pedestrain. My brother pointed this sign out to me down in Ames, Iowa this last weekend. It's on the pathway from the Fredrickson apartments to the ISU campus. What's really ironic is the exact same sign is on the other end of the walkway, but pedestrian is spelled correctly.

Thinking about it, during some of the peak travel times between classes and such, it might seem like a train of pedestrians was pouring through the walkway that this sign is by, which just happens to be a tunnel under train tracks.

Fitness Extravaganza - Day Three and Four

Day Three
Today wasn't too good when it came to either exercising or eating. Didn't get much of a chance to exercise since I was down in Ames and I just didn't care about what I ate... so yeah.

Food intake:
--Four slices of potato bread (plain)
--Some scrambled eggs
--Small bowl of ice cream
--Half a frozen thin crust sausage pizza
--Chocolate chip cookie
--Two cans of Mellow Yellow
--One Diet Coke

Exercise:
--Walked a couple of miles examining the throngs of humanity at the Iowa / Iowa State game.

Day Four
Today was a little better for exercise, but not so great for eating. It also didn't help that I ate that steak at lunch and tried to run later. Tummy felt like it had a rock in it.

Food intake:
--Cinnamon roll
--14 oz. sirloin steak
--French fries
--Coffee flavored Kit Kat
--Bowl of Spaghetti-O's
--Two Diet Cokes
--One Donkey Kick no-calorie energy drink

Exercise:
--2 mile run
--Bench press, 3 sets of 10 at 180 lbs
--Shoulder press, 3 sets of 10 with 40 lb dumbbells

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Who Does This???

There is just something a little bit unsettling about this.  Take about a, say, 14 minute break from reading this and listen to the almighty Troy’s Mixtape of Love.  

I don’t know what I’m more sad and disturbed over—the fact that this guy could get a girl to actually date him for six months, or the fact that he would do something like this.  Who makes a 14 minute audio recording that consists mostly of saying “I love you so much”, “You’re perfect”, “These six months ruled”, permutations of those two sentiments, and crappy singing?  For crap’s sake, go talk to her and take her out to dinner or something.  This is just sad.  No wonder she broke up with him a few days afterwards. He comes off like an odd mash-up of a drunk college freshman, a fifth grader who eats glue, and a crazy emo kid.

If this guy can get a girl to date him, anyone else on this planet should not have a hard time getting dates. Seriously, this is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever heard.  Personally, I’m one of those mushy, emotional, cutesy guys when it comes to romantic things (yeah, hard to believe sometimes, I know), but not even I would think of doing something this crazy. Maybe recording something for a girl, but I don’t think I’d make it 14 minutes of rambling.

This guys is one piece of work.  The end.

Fitness Extravaganze - Day Two

I can tell you already that yesterday's diet wasn't very satisfactory. What's also really interesting to me is that my day one post generated a good little set of comments as soon as I posted it. Apparently my diet is WAY more interesting than anything else I talk about here. As for exercise I really didn't get a chance to do any since right after golfing I had to drive to Ames to see Henry Rollins. I'm sure today won't be any better in the exercise department.

Food intake:
--One Kwik Trip breakfast sandwich
--One can Spaghetti-O's (I'm loving 'em)
--One Toll House Brownie candy bar
--One McD's chicken sandwich
--One McD's double cheeseburger
--One McD's medium frie
--One Diet Coke
--One Monster Energy Drink
--Four cups of coffee

Exercise:
--Nine holes of golf (walking)

Friday, September 09, 2005

Fitness Extravaganza - Day One

Lately I’ve been feeling quite out of shape. When I get stressed and busy, my eating habits are one of the first things to hit the toilet. I also don’t get as much time to exercise, which sucks because not only do I like exercising to keep in shape, but it is also a good stress reliever. As I went out for a couple of runs this week, I noticed that I was lugging a few extra pounds around and that I was having a harder time getting through my regular course as compared to usual.

No doubt this is because last week I was in Iowa on business all week and then in Wisconsin on vacation, so I had very little time to exercise and since it was vacation on the weekend, I really didn’t watch what I ate.

Since one of the things I really want to do right now is get back into better shape I am setting a goal for myself—to successfully get down to 175 lbs. while still maintaining a solid muscle base. In order to help motivate myself, I am going to keep track of what I eat and how much I exercise right here for you all to see. That way when I’m eyeing up those Oreos and candy bars, I’ll remember that I’ll be listing them as food that I ate for all to see, and I don’t want to make it look like my eating habits are too utterly terrible, although I realize they are.

So with that said, here is DAY ONE in my fitness extravaganza!

Yesterday’s food intake:
--One can of Spaghetti-O’s
--A medium sized bag of Sun Chips
--A Twix bar
--Three egg rolls
--One "everything" bagel from Panera
--Four cups of coffee
--Two Diet Cokes

My exercise for the day:
--One game of office worldball
--Three mile run

Weight: 185 lbs.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

A Monster Deal

I like deals. I often shop clearance racks, not because I'm just a cheap ass, but because there are often some good deals to be found there. I also like to only buy things when they're on sale. It's just in my nature to save money. Knowing that, I made one hell of a purchase at Kwik Trip today.

On our daily afternoon walk from work to Kwik Trip, I saw they had Monster Energy Drink on sale for $1.50 a can instead of $2.19. Considering that one Monster is like a double Red Bull, which usually costs about $2 or so, this sounded like one heck of a deal to me. So what do I do?

I buy an entire case.

That's right, I walk right up to the counter after unstacking part of their display in order to get down to the bottom to get at a fully sealed case. You might think I'm crazy, but I got one friggin' sweet deal on Monster and I'll be in energy drink heaven for a few weeks... as well as more hyper than a squirrel on crack. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go seize on the floor and foam at the mouth for a few minutes.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Vacation Envy

Last week was a tremendously busy week at work and after work.  I had our championship softball game last Monday, which we unfortunately lost, but we kind of deserved to since we utterly choked.  After that I was in Iowa for work, training in clients on one of our software packages.  Each of those days were so long, but not as long as I thought they would be.  Actually, I’m kind of glad there were since there really isn’t too much to do in Clear Lake, Iowa.

Thursday night and Friday I was in Ames working at our Ames office before heading to Des Moines for an Iowa Cubs game.  Then the next morning my brother and I drove to the Wisconsin Dells to meet up with the rest of the family.  The vacation was a good time to relax and I really needed it.

While in the Dells we did the traditional mini golfing and browsing of the downtown shops.  The rest of the time we mostly spent just relaxing and hanging out by the bon fire at the campground, which was just fine by me since the previous week had been plenty hectic.

There’s one thing about vacationing, especially walking around downtown, that always seems to make me feel a little bittersweet—couples on vacation.  Any vacation spot you go you’re going to see couples vacationing and whenever I do I simultaneously think, “It’s so nice to see couples on vacation, having a wonderful time,” and “Dammit, why can’t that be me?”

You see in my 24 plus years of existence on this planet I have yet to take a vacation solely with a significant other.  I’ve always wanted to, and I’ve tried to make it work in the past, even taking on the burden of planning trips and/or offering to completely pay for them, but for some reason or another it never works out.

Sure, I’ve had significant others come on vacation with me and my family, but it’s never been just me and someone I was dating on vacation or taking a trip of any sort, and at times I feel like I’m really missing out on something.  When I see those couples, especially the ones my age or younger, I just want to be them.  I want to be carefree, smiling, and living the vacation life with someone close to me.

Not to knock my family or the friends I’ve vacationed with because I always enjoy it, I just wish that I could take a vacation with a significant other sometime.  I simply want someone to share those experiences with, in a capacity that my family or friends cannot fill.  I’m sure, or at least I’m hopeful, that I’ll eventually have countless vacations with a significant other or spouse that will fill my brain with so many wonderful memories, but that doesn’t help how I feel when I vacation right now.

To make things even more interesting, I have 30 some vacation days to use up in the next year or so, but I really don’t know how to spend them.  I don’t want to vacation alone.  My family will only get to take about a week off next year for vacation just like every year since they both have two jobs each.  Most of my co-workers are married and go on vacation with their families.  Many of my friends don’t have nearly as much vacation time to use or don’t have any at all.  Other friends are still in college.  

All I want is someone special to travel with to make those vacation days seem worthwhile.  I don’t want to end up spending them uselessly to just have days where I can be lazy.  I want them to be meaningful and I want to have someone to share my experiences with.  I suppose a little more than a year is a long time, so I can just keep hopeful that things will work out.  If not, at least I know I can be really, really lazy for about six weeks straight!

Monday, September 05, 2005

Conversationalist Wannabes

Over time I’ve come to find out that there are certain types of people that are just impossible to have a conversation with.  Of course someone is going to say that if you are sociable enough that you can manage to find a way to carry on a conversation with anyone, you just have to know how to do it, but I will disagree with that person, and quite vehemently.

At work, a couple of the people that we do business with will take the time to socialize with us, which is always a good thing.  I’d rather work with someone that I know and can converse with than work with someone who is only completely concerned with business matters.

The odd thing about these couple of people is that they will talk to you, talk your ear off even, but they will be as far away from holding a conversation as if they simply weren’t speaking to you.  There is a definite difference between people that talk just for talking sake and those who actually allow participation in a conversation.

As I was talking to these people, it became quickly apparent that they had no desire whatsoever for me to be an active participant in what they were talking about.  As I would try to interject my own thoughts or make an addition to something they said, I’d be met with a look that screamed out, “excuse me, I am talking and you are listening and I did not say that could change.”

Fine, I could deal with that.  I find that I can quite easily pick out when people aren’t actually interested in talking to me, at which point I let them go on and on while I simply ignore them.  What was interesting this time, other than the fact that I didn’t have the option of ignoring them or leaving, is that these two people seemed to be in heavy conversation with each other but, in fact, neither of them were actually participating in a mutual conversation—they were just taking turns talking.

At this point I was drawn back into the conversation, not because I wanted to participate, or attempt to participate, but because I was intrigued by how both of them could be so seemingly engrossed in each other’s words, yet they simply weren’t paying attention.

They would go on and on telling stories about themselves, but it seemed more like a chess match.  One would talk about him/herself for a bit, then there would be a pause at which point the other would tell a story about him/herself.  Then there would be a pause so the original speaker would continue his/her story, then pause, and the other would continue his/her story.  This happened the entire time I was with them.  

Amazingly, I don’t think they ever once actually related to each other.  They may have used each other’s stories for springboards to start their own stories, but that was as close to actual interaction as they’d get.

Amazingly, there are altogether too many people that I’ve met in the corporate business world that operate in this manner.  It seems almost like a prerequisite for becoming successful in the business world—that you can no longer hold actual conversations, but instead can only talk about yourself over and over again.  Talk about soulless and boring.