February 2011 Archives

Ice: 1, Steve: 1 + iPad

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You may recall from an earlier entry that Mother Nature recently dealt me, Wisconsin, and most of the country a weather-defeat by way of the "Storm of the Century." Well, the tables have turned, albeit ever so slightly, as we saw the mercury start to rise and much of the snow melt away. And that should be good, right?

For the most part, yes. But, as science 101 reminds us, water may take three forms: solid, liquid, or gas. And, as snow melts, it converts to liquid form, provided the temperature stays above 32F. So, at night, when the temperatures drop to below 32F, all of that wonderful melting snow quickly turns to ice - much of it "black ice," especially on sidewalks, as I discovered just the other night.

In my never-ending neurotic state of worrying about my weight, I decided to take a late night stroll to help work off a few extra calories that had been consumed earlier in the evening. And while returning back to the apartment I managed to encounter some black ice on the sidewalk, most of which was hiding underneath a shallow puddle of water.

I took a brief step onto the ice and immediately went completely sideways. In less than a second, I was lying on my side - my hip was hurting, my ribs were hurting, I had bitten my tongue rather impressively, and I had managed to knock the wind completely out of me. I stuck-out my tongue and realized I couldn't take a breath in. So, I tried to jump straight-up, but my hip and ribs didn't think that was such a great idea. I rolled out of the puddle and got on all-fours; I eventually caught my breath, spit out some blood (compliments of my now throbbing tongue), and took an inventory of my parts...

I gingerly stood-up and hobbled back to the apartment, where I immediately checked for broken bones. Nothing seemed broken, but boy oh boy, was I sore. I fired-up the internet and looked for information on rib injuries - the suggested course of action: RICE... Rest Ice Compression Elevation + immobilization. On went the compression gear (tights + top), along with an athletic wrap, and two large packs of ice. I managed to sleep on my good side and didn't move much throughout the night. Score another one for Mother Nature...

The next day was awful - I couldn't walk, I couldn't breathe in; my ribs felt like I had a knife in them, and my hip had a bruise the size of a notebook. Nice. I worked from home that morning, but was so uncomfortable while sitting that I decided to hobble into the office as my desk has the capability to raise up so that I can stand and work. Oddly, I felt good when standing; awful when sitting.

When I returned home that night, I did some more research about hip/rib injuries and an old familiar trick surfaced - the ice bath. I drew a nice, cool bath (about 55F) and took a soak. I sat in it for 20 minutes or so; that's all I could handle - and immediately noticed an improvement. I threw on the compression gear again, applied some fresh ice packs, and suffered through a poor night's "sleep."

The next morning, I was as stiff as a 100-year old barn board, so I decided to work from home again. I had several conference calls planned and had to create a boatload of documentation for my projects, so it worked out without much hassle. I took 4 additional ice baths as well - each one seemed to help a little more than the previous. And by the next morning, I felt really good. My hip felt almost normal, and my ribs were greatly improved as well.

By the next morning, I took one last ice bath and went to work, where I was able to maneuver around without much difficulty at all. I popped a few ibuprofen and even managed to go for a light jog, which was promptly followed-up with 2 more ice baths before bed.

I woke-up this morning and felt really good - good enough to ride my bike on the trainer for a few hours and manage a 45-minute jog. My hip feels like it's at 95%; my ribs at about 65-70%, but definitely manageable. I give full credit for the rapid and miraculous recovery to those ice baths. While not enjoyable, they seem to have helped quite a bit! Score 1 for Steve and the ice bath! Take that, Ma' Nature!


All clutziness aside, I broke-down and bought an iPad. I couldn't resist. It's pretty cool, although, I must admit, I think the iPhone is better as a portable information device. The iPad is slightly too big to be truly portable, and slightly too small to be a truly productive device. It's great at certain things - browsing the web is easy, reading an eBook is amazing, and checking e-mail is a breeze. But aside from that, the iPhone does everything the iPad can do, and it does it as well, if not better than the iPad.

Here's a picture of the new iPad; it's next to my Logitech 880 remote for size comparison:

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And here it is, with a Kindle eBook on screen:

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There are also a few cool iPad specific applications out there, and I'm sure that as it matures and iOS continues to advance, the iPad will truly come into its own. But for now, I'm still a bit "on the fence" over it. I want to like it, but it hasn't wowed me as much as I hoped or thought it would. I'll give it some time.

Looking back to my (much) younger days, I seem to recall two distinct destinations for Friday night fish frys: the traditional supper club and the local golf course. I'm sure that bars also had fish frys "back in the day," but we didn't frequent them, so I only had familiarity with the golf courses and supper clubs.

It's been a while since I've been to a golf course; I dabbled briefly in attempting to golf but quickly realized that the more I played, the worse I did. So, golf courses have been largely off the radar. Until a few weeks ago, that is, when I joined my friends Jed and Jamie for a fish fry. We had originally planned to visit one of the local churches for fish, but several challenges resulted in a last minute change of plans; we ultimately decided to try the fish from a local public golf course called Bridges On The Green (or, BOTG).

BOTG is a rather humble public golf course - it's located near Shopko and Copps, just off highway 30, near the east side of Madison. The clubhouse is large, but quite plain - it seems to be set-up for banquets and gatherings more so than for casual dining, but that's fine, as we were there for the fish.

We arrived to BOTG at approximately 6:30pm and were promptly seated at a 4-top table. The open, airy, and brightly-lit BOTG club house featured a large wooden bar and appeared to have a very nice selection of Capital and other local brews on tap. All of us would choose soda for the evening, so there isn't a report for the Old Fashioneds.

A waitress stopped by to immediately drop-off menus and to bring us a few sodas. We browsed the menu, which appears to offer primarily fish and appetizers on Friday nights - it's definitely a "reduced" menu. Fish options included beer battered cod, baked cod, battered lake perch, walleye, bluegill, and shrimp. Side options included fries, baked potato, steamed veggies, homemade chips, or hash browns.

I ordered the baked fish with veggies, and added a salad bar. Jed and Jamie ordered the battered cod; one with a baked potato, one with the chips. The waitress took our orders to the kitchen and returned once again, this time with a bread offering. I didn't sample the bread, but am told it was amazing - it certainly looked excellent:

botg_bread.jpg

While Jed and Jamie noshed on the bread, I ventured to the salad bar, which was hosted by a small cart. It was simple, but everything was fresh and tasty - it was immediately obvious that the toppings were all prepared in-house from raw ingredients; nothing appeared to have come from a bag. I really enjoyed this salad:

botg_salad.jpg

I had just finished the salad when our dinners arrived. The clubhouse was still largely empty, which was a bit shocking, considering that it was "prime" dining time - just about 7:00pm or so. Up first was the baked cod with veggies:

botg_baked.jpg

The large piece of baked cod was absolutely superb. It had to weigh-in at around 12-13 ounces, and featured a very delicate cod flavor. The sweet and buttery natural taste was complimented by a perfectly flaky and meaty texture. Seasoning was light as well, and I couldn't detect any signs of excess butter, water, grease or other undesirables. It was quite simply some top-notch baked cod; the same held true for the veggies, which were fantastic. Slightly crunchy and not overly greasy or mushy. Win.

The battered cod looked fantastic as well:

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I was fortunate enough to sample a piece of the battered cod and am pleased to report that it was as excellent as the baked cod was. The batter was light and extremely crisp and featured what I could only describe as a "cheese curd-like" flavor and feel. It was truly delicious and even though the piece I sampled had been sitting for quite some time (I asked for a taste near the end of our meal), it was free of grease and tasted excellent, even if it wasn't "fryer hot." To me, that's a sign of a solid fish fry - if it holds-up over time, it's a winner.

I sampled a few of the homemade chips as well, and wow - they were delicious. The thick cut and heavily seasoned fried rounds of potato were just what the doctor ordered to satisfy my fried food quota. If I were eating bad at the time, I would've been hard-pressed to choose between fries or the chips... the chips were really stellar.

We didn't see much of our waitress, but that was ok - the food was fantastic, we needed nothing, and we were having a good time talking and hanging out. We also noticed that by the end of our meal, the place had filled-up quite significantly, and it was growing quite loud - the open space seemed to reflect a lot of sound. So, we called it an evening and headed for home, satisfied, and vowing to return for more of that excellent fish.

Bridges On The Green = WIN

Service = 2.75 stars (nothing great, nothing bad)
Food = 4.25 stars (some top-notch fish; everything was fresh and tasty)
Value = 3.5 stars ($11 baked + $3 for salad bar; $10 battered cod)
MISC = 2.75 stars (bright, noisy, very "open"; nice tap offerings)

Summary: It's going to be difficult to not place BOTG in the top 10... the fish alone is worthy of a top-10 placement, but the overall environment detracts a bit. We'll see where it lands. Regardless, know that if you're looking for outstanding fish, this is some of the best around.

A couple of random items for you... I've been super unbelievably busy with work - I've got a major project that's about to launch into production, so things have been crazy. We've had several all-day planning sessions and I've been putting in some extra hours to keep up with other projects that I'm involved in as well.

I mentioned in an earlier nutrition-related post about the benefits of cinnamon - it's been proven to lower people's blood glucose levels, reduce cholesterol (LDL - the bad stuff), and has shown itself to be anti-inflammatory. Sounds like good stuff, eh? Here's the catch - most of the supermarket cinnamon isn't true cinnamon. And most of it is quite old, which is bad because as cinnamon ages, it loses many of its positive effects.

Most cinnamon that folks buy is actually cassia, which is a close-relative of cinnamon, but may not be as effective as ceylon, which is considered true cinnamon. Ceylon is very expensive and is much more difficult to locate - it's grown primarily in Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Brazil, and a few other locations.

I've been using ceylon-based cinnamon in my morning coffee, which is an amazingly sweet, flavorful, and "mild heat" cinnamon. The only downside? It's a bit gritty as ceylon doesn't lend itself to a fine grind, but with enough stirring and swirling of the coffee cup, it's not bad. Only the last drink is a bit "sandy," but I suffer through it. It tastes great, it just doesn't have a nice mouth-feel.

Well, today, I stumbled across an amazing discovery. I had just finished running and riding, and was getting ready or breakfast, when it struck me - why not try adding cinnamon to my cereal? Hmm. Might be good; might be bad...

fiber.jpg

I've been following my modified diet fairly well; I binged as planned during the Superbowl, but have otherwise been strict and true. I've really come to enjoy "slow carbs" like black beans, lentils, and select no-sugar whole grains. I've been eating Fiber One for years now, and truly enjoy it, but wow - with the addition of cinnamon it just became INCREDIBLE.

I took .75c of Fiber One (90 calories) and added 3/8th cup of unsweetened vanilla Almond Breeze (15 calories). I sprinkled-on about 1/2-tsp of cinnamon, stirred and took a taste - eureka!!! Just like cinnamon toast crunch, no lie. Wow. It was like candy - so incredibly good. Give it a try!

You may be hesitant to try the Almond Breeze unsweetened vanilla but trust me - it's awesome in cereal. There's no way I cold ever sit down and drink a glass of it by itself, but when added to cereal and/or coffee, it's incredibly delicious. Seriously! And, it's about 1/2 the calories of skim milk, and doesn't contain lactose or sugar. Win.

So, try it - fire-up a bowl of Fiber One, add some Almond Breeze unsweetened vanilla, and sprinkle with true cinnamon. You will be amazed!


In other news, I went ice fishing for the first time ever. Well, I didn't really fish, but I did accompany Dan to his ice shack, and I did watch him fish for a bit. Here we are, making our way to the middle of the lake - he certainly picked a remote location to claim his stake:

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So remote, in fact, that we actually got stuck (in a 4WD Jeep Cherokee, nonetheless!). A quick bit of shoveling and we were back underway. We arrived at the shack in no time; I was shocked to see the snow was completely cleared from the shack. Dan said it's because his shack is black, and the black absorbs heat, which causes the snow to melt as the shack creates a hotspot on the ice. Interesting!

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There's Dan, getting ready to fire-up the heater, which runs on propane and did an excellent job of heating the shack. While it wasn't "hot" inside, it wasn't uncomfortable by any means. After lighting the furnace, Dan went out and drilled a few holes so that he could place "tip-ups," which are essentially unmanned fishing poles. The tip-up has a flag that flips-up if/when a fish bites the bait/hook/line that is suspended from the tip-up. He uses an electric auger to drill holes through the ice (which was about 2-feet thick) - it went through the ice like a hot knife through butter.

hole.jpg

With the tip-ups placed and the furnace lit, there was only one thing left to do - "jig" for some fish from inside of the shack. The shack has a small hole in the floor from which you can fish with a smallish pole. Dan also used a sonar finder to help give him an idea of whether or not there were fish in the area. Here he is setting it up:

finder.jpg

The sonar was super cool - we could see fish swimming in the area, and while no fish were caught, there was one significant bite - Dan said the fish felt "like a tank." It would've been cool to see a monster fish get reeled-in, but alas, it wasn't meant to be. No worries; any time spent with Dan and Tara is good time, so I was happy just to be along for the ride.

And finally, I think I'd really like to get an iPad. I wasn't a fan of them at first, but after spending time with the Kindle application, I can really see the benefit of a nice tablet like the iPad. Unfortunately, the one that I'd like to get costs just under $700... and, there's a new generation of them that is due to hit the market in April... but man, they sure seem cool. I really do just need to win the lottery...

Storm of the Century: 1; Steve: 0

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Unless you're living in Hawaii, the odds are fairly good that this week's (cue the overdramatic, booming, bigger-than-life announcer voice) "Storm of the Century" impacted you in some way. Wisconsin was hit pretty square, especially the south eastern corner. From what Amy has mentioned, Arkansas took a solid hit as well - something along the order of 12" of snow!

When talk of this monster storm first surfaced, I had mixed emotions. Part of me really wanted a huge pile of snow so that I could snow shoe 'till my heart's content. Part of me didn't want any snow because it complicates my running routine. And another part of me wondered if the storm would really happen, or if it was being blown-out-of-proportion.

Turns out that we went 0-for-3 on the wishes, and the Storm of the Century won the match. Argh.

How so? While we did get a healthy dose of snow (Madison officially clocked-in with 12.7-inches and recorded steady winds of 45mph last night), the snow was really light and fluffy. Great for shoveling. Really bad for snowshoeing.

I had plans to snowshoe into work today - it's only about a 3-mile hike, and I was positive the massive quantities of snow would make for great snowshoeing. The wind had me a bit worried, so I picked-up one final piece of "winter-proof" clothing: goggles. I scored a sweet set of Smith goggles on sale - list price: $130. My price: $47. WIN. They look pretty cool:

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That photo was taken this morning, as I trekked my way to work. Notice the monster pile of snow behind me? It's almost as tall as the gas sign... Should've been great for snowshoeing!

Alas, the trek was anything but enjoyable because the ground was either covered in near-waist-deep powdery snow that I instantly "fence-posted" through with my snowshoes, or it was nearly 100% clear, thanks to ambitious snowblowers and/or high winds that cleared the road/sidewalk. One minute I was "clanking" along on bare cement; the next I was buried to my hips, struggling to take a step. Talk about frustrating. Steve: 0 / Storm: 1

I snowshoed back home from work and my second fear was confirmed: the sidewalks are going to stink for running for quite some time. While most were cleared, the snow that remained had turned packed and very slick. So much for getting in some serious mileage this weekend... looks like I'll be stuck on the dreadmill. I managed to get in 7 miles on the dreadmill today after work, but wow was it painful - so boring. Steve: 0 / Storm: 2

And, as you may have guessed, the Storm really did happen, and it was sort of "severe." To add insult to injury, the storm knocked out my furnace last night, so sometime around 3:00am, I was awoken by the frigid air - the temp in my dump of an apartment had dropped to 47F, thanks to incredibly leaky windows and doors (even with plastic over them). I checked the breaker and the thermostat - both were fine, but the heat would not run at all. I called the "management" company's emergency number, explained the situation, and was told that they would "try" to send someone out during normal business hours on Wednesday.

I asked them what constitutes an emergency - one would think that no heat during a blizzard where the windchill was -30F would qualify. They hung up on me. Talk about slumlords. I hate moving - hate it - but I can't imagine staying here a minute beyond my lease. They did come and fix something today, but in the process, they left all of my lights on and my entry door unlocked. They also opened all of my closet doors for some reason... odd.

So, joy - I get to pack and move again this summer. With the transparent walls (I can hear my neighbors doing everything - getting ice, opening their microwave, talking, their alarm clocks, their dresser drawers opening/closing), the drafty environment (the heat bill for my 650-sq/ft apartment, with the temp set to 63F was $133 last month), and the irresponsible and non-responsive management, I feel duped by this place. It looked great when I saw it, and they assured me it was "quiet and energy efficient" - lies, lies, lies.

Steve: 0 / Storm: 3

So there you have it. A perfect loss, served by the (perfect) Storm of the Century. Well played, Mother Nature.

But all is not lost - at least the beer from the local brewery is certain to be served extra cold over the next few days. I took this photo of the Capital Brewery while snowshoeing to work today:

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