Tuesday, April 24, 2007

"whenever I feel like it" cycling update

I woke up at the crack of dawn this morning for some laps in Central Park, my first weekday training ride of the year. It really was "the crack" of dawn: my alarm was scheduled to go off at 6 AM, but I woke up on my own a few minutes before the alarm (despite getting only 5 hours of sleep) and sunrise was a few minutes after 6. I didn't keep a close watch on the time, but I think I got to the park just before 6:30 and rode three laps. The weather this morning was absolutely perfect: cool, with a moderate breeze, and a little sun for warmth. When I checked the time again after the third lap, it was 7:45. I'd ridden 18 miles in an hour and fifteen minutes, which means that I'm a better rider when it's not 95 degrees and humid, like it will be when I'm riding in July and August. It usually takes me about 90 minutes to ride the same laps in midsummer. But it also means that I'm already in good shape for the Five Boro Bike Tour next month and a summer full of long rides.

The clipless pedals and shoes are a major improvement over the toe clips I'd had on the bike since I bought it in 2001. I didn't think I'd see much difference, but I feel like I've got a better connection with the bike and that my pedaling is a more fluid motion with the clipless pedals. Walking in the bike shoes is a different story. I have to be careful walking up and down stairs with my bike. The shoes don't have a flat sole -- they're more like ladies' heels with the heel broken off. When I'm using the stairs I have to make sure I put my entire foot on each step, not just the toe or the heel, or else I feel like I'm going to slip. But as with other things in my cycling habits, I wish I'd made the switch to clipless years ago.

Mileage for 2007: 70
Goal: 1200?
I haven't settled on a mileage goal for this year, but 1200 sounds reasonable.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

the first great weekend of the year, weather-wise

With spring at last making an appearance in New York, I took some time to do things I hadn't done since October. I went on my first real bike ride of the year on Saturday, a 30-mile loop of Manhattan on the greenways. (Actually, I rode my bike the previous Saturday as well, but that was more of a shakedown for my new clipless pedals and cycling shoes than actual exercise.) I stayed inside for most of Saturday afternoon taking care of spring cleaning. I washed off a winter's worth of dirt from my windows, then I shredded about four years' worth of old credit card offers, statements, and financial papers. I still have plenty of junk to clear out of my office, but it's a start.

Today, hung over from a friend's birthday party last night, I nearly succumbed to the temptation to spend my entire day inside watching baseball, basketball, and hockey on TV. In particular, the HD feed for Mets-Braves game looked so crystal-clear it was like I was at the game. That's when I realized I could be outside enjoying the weather in RD (real definition) instead of watching it. I went to Carl Schurz Park and read a book and engaged in some people-watching. Thanks to one of my ongoing work projects (finding a provider for wireless network access for traveling attorneys) I'm writing this post outside a Starbucks a few blocks from my apartment. I could get used to working outdoors like this.

In other news, I think I need to get another cat for Mr. Starlite to play with. I talked to one of my neighbors on Friday evening, and she asked me if I was at home during the day. I said no, and she told me that she was home and heard Starlite crying most of the day. He's a vocal cat most of the time anyway, but I'm beginning to think that he really does miss the company of other cats when I'm at work. I've decided that I'll get another cat after I settle my apartment lease renewal. My lease runs out at the end of May, and I've already notified my landlord that I want to renew it. If my rent increase isn't too substantial then I'll get another cat as soon as I know I won't have to move. If I do end up moving (highly unlikely, but still a possibility) then I'd get another cat shortly after settling in a new apartment. Either way, he'll have a new friend soon.

Monday, April 16, 2007

I'm glued to my couch

Planet Earth on Discovery HD is the greatest program in the history of television. I can't believe I have to go to work tomorrow and I can't stay home and watch TV all day. If J&R had been showing clips from this show last Monday when I was shopping for my TV, they could have sold me a 60-inch set.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

It's here! It's here!

I spent my day working from home, waiting for my TV to be delivered. It arrived around 1:30, while I was eating lunch. The two delivery guys had to take a break on the 2nd floor while bringing it up to my apartment, but they got it in the door. After a cursory inspection, I closed the box up again, signed the paperwork, and it was all mine.

The TV weighs about 80 lbs, so I was wary of trying to set it up myself. I'm not mounting it on the wall, so I just had to attach the stand and move it into place on the new entertainment center. I tried to get a friend from work to stop by and help, but when he didn't get back to me, I did it myself. I set up the shipping box lid as a work space with towels to cushion the TV, then gently tilted it over onto the box and removed the base of the shipping box. I attached the TV's base, then pulled the box lid over to the entertainment center. Then, having moved the old TV into the office, I tilted the HDTV back onto its base, then lifted it two feet onto the entertainment center. A few cable connections later, and I'm watching HD cable now. Not all the HD channels work yet, and apparently I have to pay extra to get ESPN HD and a few other channels. But the ones that do work (most of them, including HBO, Showtime, and Cinemax) look fantastic. I'm so happy with it. Even turned off, the new TV looks beautiful. Tomorrow I'll get my HDMI cables from work, use those to hook up the cable box, and connect the DVD player.

I know how I'm spending my weekend: on my ass, watching TV and movies.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

HDTV update: the waiting is the hardest part

I ordered my new TV yesterday afternoon, and someone from the store called me today to verify the total and my address for shipping. I'm now waiting for a call from the shipping company to schedule the delivery. I hope it's Friday or Saturday, as I can take time off on Friday or be at home all day Saturday to wait. Then I need to find a friend who wants to help me move the old TV and set up the new one. Said friend will get the benefit of being able to watch the HD programming of their choice on my new HD-DVR cable box, which I picked up this morning from Time Warner. I have to rush home after work and install it so I can record "Friday Night Lights" and "South Park," as I have plans after work. I've also ordered HDMI cables, which should arrive at the office tomorrow. If I don't have them, Time Warner supplied me with some component video cables which would suffice for the weekend should matters become desperate.

So now I'm playing the waiting game. As Homer Simpson once said, "I hate the waiting game. Let's play 'Hungry Hungry Hippos' instead!"

Let's Go Pens!

The Pittsburgh Penguins are back in the NHL playoffs for the first time in six years. In honor of that achievement, check out this video of highlights from this past regular season.

The Penguins may not be favored against the Ottawa Senators, but seeing this young, talented team make the playoffs has made me proud to be a Penguins fan again. I see a Stanley Cup in Sidney Crosby's future, and thanks to the recent arena deal he'll be wearing a Pittsburgh Penguins uniform when he hoists it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

grossed out by HDTV shopping

After much careful deliberation and research, I thought I had picked out my new HDTV by Monday. I went to J&R on Monday night to take one last look at it before dropping $2000 on the most expensive television I would ever own. When I walked into the video section of the store, it was after 6 PM, and they were showing the local NBC news on all the screens. The studio broadcast is in HD, but the street footage is not, so it was hard to tell how good the picture quality was on any given TV. Another customer asked a sales rep to change the channel to an HD channel, so he switched it to Discovery HD. The program was a reenactment of three mountain climbers stranded on some God-forsaken frozen peak, with frostbite freezing one guy's face to the point where he looked like he'd been in a fight with Mike Tyson. Another guy tried to go for help, but he fell and slid several hundred feet, breaking both his legs in the process. Discovery HD was generous with the HD footage of this guy's broken legs, one of which was broken in 12(!) places, with blood oozing from the wound, bone sticking out, and the poor man screaming in excruciating pain. Watching him try to walk with a splint nearly made me vomit. Eventually the rescue teams found these climbers, and they all survived, albeit without all the fingers, toes, and limbs they took up the mountain. The name of this program was something like "I Should Have Died Up There," but Discovery could also have called it "Don't Eat While You Watch This" or "Seeing Severe Frostbite and Multiple Fractures in HD Will Cause You To Lose An Entire Night of Sleep."

As for the TV I'd picked out, I decided it was too large for my living room and started looking at smaller sets. And I'd had enough of Discovery HD's nauseating programming, so I went to a Circuit City near my apartment and watched movie and TV clips on their TVs. I settled on a 42-inch Sharp TV, so now it's just a matter of paperwork and scheduling.

I don't think I'll be watching much of the Discovery Channel on my new TV.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Would YOU have recognized what you heard?

My favorite Washington Post writer, Gene Weingarten, had an incredible article in yesterday's Post Magazine. He got Joshua Bell, one of the world's foremost concert violinists, to play in Washington's L'Enfant Plaza Metro stop, on a Stradivarius violin, for 45 minutes on a January morning at rush hour. The results were not surprising to me: few people noticed the world-class artistry just a few feet away from them as they sped past on their way to work. Check out the videos embedded in the article and you can see what I mean. There's also a recording on the Post's web site of Bell's entire performance, which I highly recommend even if you put it on in the background and do something else. There's crowd noise and conversation in the background, but there's no mistaking Bell's talent. This man is clearly no ordinary street musician. Weingarten participated in an online chat this afternoon, which revealed how the Post arranged the performance. And the feedback from readers is quite interesting.

The sad thing is that if I'd been there that morning, I might have stopped for a few minutes to listen, but I doubt I'd have recognized Bell or even realized that he was anything other than a better-than-average musician. And I've heard Bell in concert before. Although if I'd happened by while he was playing Bach's Chaconne, I hope I would have paused. That's just one of the most beautiful pieces of music Bach ever wrote.

Friday, April 06, 2007

something from the back of the rack

I'll explain this later.

The Best of Dan Dierdorfisms

Monday Night Football

1993 Season

Listed in order of occurrence through the season

  1. "That was a three-yard pass. That is how far the ball went in the air."
  2. "There's a guy who had some Dr. Al's elixir at halftime."
  3. "That's as good as ugly can be."
  4. "That guy is a football player."
  5. "A good attribute for any linebacker to have is a moderate measure of insanity."
  6. "It takes a lot more than that to injure Carl Banks. That thing's got to be dangling to keep Carl Banks out of the game."
  7. "Irving Fryar used to play for New England, and now he's catching passes from Dan Marino. Irving Fryar must pinch himself everyday."
  8. "I'd like to have a neurologist examine Dan Marino, because he must have different nerve endings."
  9. "When you're a special teams maven like [Steve Tasker] is, you're a couple bubbles off center."
  10. "I am proud to study at the feet of the master."
  11. "Those guys are gonna go back to the sidelines and feel really inadequate."
  12. "That's an odd-looking ball."
  13. "All great quarterbacks feel what they can't see."
  14. "We had a shot that showed pretty graphically that his finger was dislocated and we feel the need to pass that on to America."
  15. "We're talking about one of the most beautiful spectacles in nature . . . and I don't mean my golf swing."
  16. "I think Favre need to go sit on the bench, cross his legs, and take a few deep breaths. He's looking a bit stressed."
  17. "There's 'Achy Breaky Hearts,' Al, but with these guys, it's achy breaky knees, arms, and so on."
  18. "I don't know what's worse -- him doing it or me talking about it."
  19. "This is a game played by tough people."
  20. "We've seen Neil O'Donnell be nifty back there."
  21. "Steve Young's cocktail frank is in for a match tonight."
  22. "There's not an offense in the NFL that uses its tight end like the '49ers."
  23. "O go, you Husker, go." (referring to Tom Rathman, Nebraska graduate)
  24. "To say that 2:47 is enough for this opportunistic '49er offense to score a touchdown . . .[long pause] doesn't have to be said."
  25. "Whoa, this is surgery without anesthetic."

And a few extras from Dan's co-hosts:

From Al Michaels: "If you had the sound down, Dan's gonna come over and slap you."

From Frank Gifford: On Michael Jordan: "What a great tight end he'd make."

Many thanks to all who assisted in collecting these fine words of wisdom throughout the season. Your efforts are greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Pesach Time is Here!

It's Passover, or as I like to think of it, Jewish Thanksgiving. Think about it: both holidays involve a large meal with traditional foods, commemorating historical events. Last night even featured a major sporting event to watch if you cared who won (the NCAA basketball championship game).

Last night my friends and I held our annual seder for the Jews and "Jew-curious" at James & Jess's apartment in Brooklyn. Our seder is a tradition that goes back to 1994 at Georgetown, when we didn't want to go to the official Jewish Student Association celebration, so we had our own and invited all our Gentile friends. We missed a few years when we didn't all live in the same city, but for the past four years we've had the seder. This year the majority of those present were Jewish, which I think is a first. Only one guest was not Jewish, and he's been to our seder before.

Since none of us are particularly devout, our seder combines traditional elements with some innovations of our own. For example, each year I have to Google "seder plate" to find out what goes on it. We didn't have a shank bone this year, so James substituted a giant frozen chicken neck that thawed as the seder went on. We don't have a matzah cover, so we use paper towels. We only have one hagadah, so we pass it around and take turns reading the various blessings and prayers. However, we did have a brisket, matzah ball soup, and three bottles of wine, one of which wasn't kosher for Passover so we drank it before we started the seder. As a result, we got started late, around 8:45 PM, so we didn't get to the meal until 10. By the time we were done eating, we were all sleepy and ready to go home, so we finished the last two cups of wine, welcomed Elijah, and looked forward to next year in Jerusalem in about 10 minutes.

And I've already fallen off the Passover wagon. I had some Life cereal for breakfast this morning, and it's got wheat flour in it. Although seven hours is better than the time in college when I left the seder and went directly to a keg party with green beer for St. Patrick's Day.