May 2011 Archives

I'm about at my limit for tolerating AT&T's awful cellular service. Yes, I love the iPhone, and would be hard-pressed to give it up for anything else, but AT&T's service is so dreadful that I may have to switch carriers (Verizon is no better in this area).

Here's an example of how a typical day goes for me with respect to coverage:

1. I will miss several phone calls, text messages, and/or e-mails. Eventually, someone will contact me to ask if I received their message, to which I reply, "Nope - had no idea you were trying to contact me."

2. I will check my phone, and this is what I experience - all while sitting in the same exact spot within my workplace:

I'll start with full 3G coverage, as shown here:

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And then, within 10-15 seconds, I'll lose 3G coverage and drop to EDGE coverage (slower, but can still support data transfer):

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And then, within 10-15 seconds again, I'll lose all data service, as shown here. When that happens, I lose my capability to: text, e-mail, browse the web, access voicemail, or receive alerts.

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Terribly frustrating, especially because I'm not moving while this happens, and I'm not holding the phone. One of my co-workers has a non-iPhone AT&T device and has the exact same problem, so it's clearly a network issue, and not an iPhone issue... So frustrating. Especially when my AT&T cell service costs $170/month.

US Cellular has awesome coverage, but crummy phones - do I go with great service and a bad phone, or bad service with a great phone? What if I could have both a great phone and great service (like I did in Arkansas... AT&T is flawless there for some reason)?

I believe it's the Boy Scouts who use the motto "Be Prepared." I say that I believe it's them because as a youth, I never actually graduated into the Boy Scouts. I did spend time as a Cub Scout, but never progressed beyond the Bobcat or (at best) Tiger Cub badge.

If memory serves, the last official event of my short-lived Cub Scout career was the infamous Pinewood Derby car race. And, from what I recall, my block-shaped-bares-a-striking-resemblance-to-a-school-bus entry didn't fare too well. I chalk it up to sculpting and building the thing with a limited set of tools and assistance (the family tool box doubled as our dinner flatware drawer).

So, for what it's worth, I can't feel too bad for often going "unprepared" into certain situations. But there's no excuse for what I managed to do on Saturday.

If you'll recall from my previous entry, I had planned to ride an easy 20-mile loop on Saturday, and to go for a 1.25 - 1.50-mile run. I say "planned," because when I awoke at 7:30am on Saturday morning, I was immediately disheartened by a light, but steady, misty-sort-of-rain. Argh. I don't mind running in the rain, but I really despise riding in the rain.

So, I checked a few weather websites, saw that it was going to continue to mist until around 10am, and made the decision to forge ahead, but that I would ride my Trek instead of the Cervelo. The Trek had spent the entire winter mounted to the trainer, so I felt it deserved a little road time. I prepped myself and my ride, and hit the road.

At right about the turnaround point (9.5 - 10 miles in), I felt as if I had lost a significant amount of control over the bike. Steering was sluggish and my speed was dropping. I looked down and sure enough... flat tire. My second flat ever (knock on wood, as that's an amazing record for 3+ years of riding). Sigh... looked as if I'd be patching my tire from the side of the road - in the rain. Nice.

But (and here's where we tie-back-in to the intro), in my haste to depart the apartment, I had forgotten to transfer my tool kit from the Cervelo to the Trek. And, for some inexplicable reason, I had chosen to leave my phone at home as well. There I was, 10-miles from home base, no tools, no phone, and a flat tire. Awesome.

I didn't want to hoof it 10-miles, given the situation with my Achilles, so I made the decision to ride on the flat for as long as I could. I honestly believed the tire would eventually completely dismount itself at some point, but any mileage in the saddle would beat the alternative. So, I rode at a gingerly 5-6 mph until I arrived at my first hill.

The hill proved to be another obstacle; the act of climbing caused the front wheel to "wash out," and by some stroke of pure luck, I managed to unclip from the pedals and prevent tipping over and disgracefully crashing at a very low speed. Thanks to the close call, I decided to take a new approach to my return trip - I'd ride the flat sections and walk the hills.

After the first hill, my Achilles was on fire, thanks to my cycling shoes and the cleats that sit under the front part of the foot. When walking, the cleats effectively "crank" your toes upward, which stretches your Achilles, which caused me great discomfort. Joy.

It took me over an hour to return home (it should've taken about 30 minutes). And once I returned home, I drove to the bike store and purchased a second tool kit, a new front tire, new tubes, new patches, and a second tool bag for the Trek. I'm confident that I'm now prepared, should I ever encounter a similar situation in the future. Live and learn... here's a picture of the dead tire and tube:

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While installing the new tire, I realized that the now-flattened tire was an original tire... circa 2001. Wow. I should've replaced that thing a looooong time ago. Truth be told, I actually replaced the rear tire earlier this winter, when it flatted while on the trainer. I figured (correctly so) that the trainer had worn it out (trainers generate a lot of heat in tires and cause them to prematurely wear); I should've replaced the front as well. But, some $140 later (tools, tire, tubes, bag, portable pump), I'm good to go (or so I hope).

I wasn't able to run yesterday; and my Achilles was still quite sore this morning, so I opted to rest it. I did manage a 25-mile ride (on the Cervelo), so all was not lost. :-)


And, for the second act, I present another bit of wisdom: Never Take Anything For Granted.

Again, I mentioned in an earlier entry that I've been working on the new house, and that I had been busy updating the electrical switches, outlets, and hardware. Well, like most houses, the new place is loaded to the gills with 3-way light switches.

What's a 3-way light switch? It's a "system" that allows you to control a single light (or outlet, or ceiling fan) from multiple switches. For example, you might have a light switch in your dining room that will turn-on or turn-off a set of lights in the kitchen; you might have another switch in the actual kitchen that controls the same set of lights, thus allowing you to control the kitchen lights from either location.

3-way switches aren't difficult to figure out; it's a simple parallel electrical circuit. What does make things tricky is when you're dealing with 30+ year old switches that don't follow the same configuration as today's switches. Add-in some "interesting" electrical wiring work, and things can get complicated, especially if you assume things.

And that's what I did when swapping out the old 3-way switches for new ones. Yes, I thought it was odd that on any given circuit, I would encounter wires of a variety of colors - the standard wiring code says that a black wire should be the "hot" wire (always has power, from the breaker, or supplying to the load (eg: a light/outlet/etc)), the white wire should be the common wire, and bare copper should be the ground.

When dealing with a 3-way switch, you have to introduce a fourth wire; a "traveler" that links the multiple switches, and conventional wiring methods usually define that traveler as being red in color.

Well... my new place had black wires connected to red wires, white wires connected to red wires, and some inexplicable others including tan wires and striped wires. Wow. Someone got creative at some point.

I had also assumed that the switch configurations were the same between the old and the new switches; the "brass" terminal should have been the "hot" terminal; the other two terminals should have been the "traveler" terminals.

And, as soon as I had finished swapping all of the 3-way switches and activated the breakers, I quickly discovered something was amiss. The switches didn't work in any manner or fashion that they should've. Everything was all jacked-up. Ugh.

So, I tried troubleshooting, but because I was flying solo and didn't have any extra wire for continuity testing, nor did I have a volt meter with me, nor did I have the energy to run up-and-down the stairs to the circuit panel 300+ times while testing, I called it quits. I put in a call for assistance, and thankfully, my friend Jed obliged my request for assistance.

He came over today, and together, we managed to sort out the wiring mess. After 2-hours of troubleshooting, tracing wires, tracking circuits, and continuity testing, we solved the mystery of the 3-way switches. Thank you, Jed - I owe you a huge debt of gratitude!!

Here I am, working in the garage, attempting to troubleshoot 2 different sets of 3-way circuits.

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Based from what we learned today, I'm confident that I can troubleshoot any 3-way circuit, no matter how complex it is; however, let's hope that I don't have to use those skills ever again. :-)

After wrapping-up the fix-it work, we stopped at a small microbrewery called "Gray's Tied House" for some late lunch; I stayed true to my diet plans and had a grilled chicken salad, some iced tea, and a MGD 64. Jed had some amazing looking wings (honey garlic) and a beautiful porter. Alas, I stayed strong.


And finally, upon returning to the craptacular apartment tonight, I prepared my meals for the week (lunch/dinner: 6oz grilled chicken, 1/2-cup black beans, 1-cup broccoli), and then kicked back with my new Kindle. I'm digging the little thing - it's so light (about 8oz), and despite not having a backlight, is amazingly clear and easy to read, even in dim lighting.

Here's a photo of the Kindle from about 30 minutes ago. The only light sources in the room were: the television (about 10 feet in front of me), and a very slight hint of sunlight from a quickly-setting-sun. You can tell it was fairly dim in here from the grainy nature of the photo:

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And so, there you have it. With any luck, I'll be able to jog tomorrow. Enjoy your week!

It's a muhrrihcal!

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Quick update on the 'ole Achilles. I took a full 7 days off from running and only did very minimal, light duty riding during those seven days. It was making me absolutely mental to not be able to do much of anything... as burned out as I thought I was on running and working out, I felt like such a slug by not running/riding that I wanted nothing more than to be able to walk, run, and ride like "normal."

But every time I tried to do anything the least bit stressful (fast walking, climbing stairs, etc), my Achilles would burn and hurt like crazy. The best approach was going to be to continue to take it easy. Sigh.

And then, three days ago, I read about some Achilles treatments that included compression socks and Rock Tape. Some fellow triathletes had posted information on one of my tri message boards, so I rounded-up some Rock Tape, donned my compression socks, and continued to take it easy.

After day one, the results were astounding - my Achilles didn't hurt while walking or climbing stairs. So, I went for an 18-mile bike ride on day two, and... no pain. None.

So today, I went for a run, and while I felt a bit "tentative," the pain and tenderness wasn't anywhere near as bad as it had been last week. I only ran 1.25 miles, but man, did it feel good. Never thought I'd hear myself say that again. :-)

My plan is to keep the running light until there's absolutely no pain or discomfort at all. I figure a 1.25 - 1.50 mile easy run 4-5 times per week should be good, but I'll adjust as necessary.

Here's a picture of the Rock Tape "in action":

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It's a stretchy, cotton-based tape with a super-sticky adhesive, and it's designed specifically to help treat joint and tendon injuries. The theory is that the tape lifts the skin away from the affected area, which promotes blood flow. Your blood carries oxygen and nutrients, and helps heal an injured area. Tendons and joints aren't serviced by many capillaries, so there's not a lot of blood available to repair the area. The Rock Tape provides stability, support, and promotes blood flow to the affected area. I thought it was a load of hooey, but it really does seem to work. It also comes in cool patterns (I went with the cow pattern). :-)

And here are the compression socks - I've been in love with these for a long time, but today I feel they're worth their weight in gold. Such a great recovery tool:

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Yeah, they look funny, but they work. So, here's to the continued recovery; I'm hoping to be able to go for a 30-ish mile ride tomorrow morning (weather permitting), followed by a 1.25 - 1.30 mile run. I've got to do something to try and get my running volume back on track...


And in other news from this week, I mentioned that I've been riding the Capital Brewery bike rides; I was only able to ride on Thursday of this week (because of the Achilles), but man, what a great day it was for a ride. Weather was stellar - low 70s, no wind, sunny, and completely comfortable. I was tasked with leading the "Short Pour" tour group because the normal ride leader was out of town. So, we rode a nice 18-mile ride and had a great time.

After the ride, the crews normally order pizza or burritos and then drink some glorious Capital Brewery offerings in the outdoor Bier Garten while socializing. I knew that if I hung around, I'd quickly fall off my diet wagon, so I opted to ride over to the local Willy Street Co-Op store and make myself a fresh little salad.

Here I am, after the ride, enjoying the great outdoors (Willy Street has an outdoor eating/sitting area as well):

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If you look closely, you can see my bike in the background and the top "flap" of my salad container. The Co-Op has a wonderful salad bar that includes a ton of fresh, hand-cut, locally grown, organic veggies and three types of protein - organic oven roasted chicken, organic locally grown ham, and organic oven roasted turkey. I opted for the chicken with a few pieces of ham for good measure. I topped it all with some Sriracha sauce (Thai chili sauce - nice and spicy and only 5 calories), and washed it down with an unsweetened green tea. Yum.

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After 5 solid days of eating extremely clean, I feel good. It's amazing how great I feel when I'm sticking with the diet... why I cheat and eat crap when it makes me feel like crap remains a mystery... I need to remember how good my body feels when I'm feeding it with the proper goods.

So, if the weather holds tomorrow, I'll be riding, running, moving, and working on the new house. Should be a good day! Oh wait - isn't tomorrow supposed to be the rapture? Well, that would stink...

What a busy week; one that was filled with ups-and-downs. I'm not even sure where to begin, so I'll go in chronological order, starting with a diet/bike/exercise update.

I had been sticking true to the updated diet and workout plans - things were going really well in the kitchen, I wasn't having any urges or desires to eat poorly, even when my coworkers brought in a massive box of donuts and parked it in my cube:

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I'm proud to say that the donuts didn't phase me - I skipped them and didn't even indulge a single crumb. It probably helped that I had been riding the bike quite a bit; for some reason, I don't feel like eating poorly when I'm really hitting the exercise plan hard. Perhaps it's related to that infamous "endorphin rush" that exercise nuts (present company included) often refer to?

Speaking of biking... I spent last weekend test riding a new bike called the "X-Bow" from Ridley. Ridley is a rather legendary bike company from Belgium and they make some outstanding road bikes, tri bikes, and cyclocross bikes. Cyclocross bikes are a bit of a "hybrid" - they combine a road bike with a mountain bike to provide a blend of ground clearance, off-road capability, and on-road performance.

I had been contemplating a potential cyclocross purchase for some time... all of my road bikes are a bit "delicate" to serve as daily riders/commuters, not to mention a bit pricey to leave sitting in a bike rack for hours on end. A nice cyclocross bike seemed like a good fit, and the good folks down at Cronometro lent me the use of a Ridley for a week or so.

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After putting on 100-ish miles, and using it in every possible manner imaginable, I returned it to Cronometro and decided to wait on adding another bike to the stable. Why? I wanted to love the bike. I really did, because on paper, it seemed like a perfect fit. But, after riding it repeatedly, I didn't find myself feeling as if it suited my needs. I never got comfortable on it, and I never felt "at home" on it.

When I ride the Cervelo, everything feels "natural" - as if the bike is an extension of my body. The Ridley didn't offer that same feeling... Maybe I'm not a cross-bike kind of guy? It was somewhat disappointing to pass on the bike, but I'm convinced that it wasn't meant to be.

This week also marked my joining the Capital Brewery bike club, and as a newly minted member, I participated in two group rides. The brewery hosts 3 rides per week: Tuesday evening, Thursday evening, and Saturday morning.

I rode on Tuesday and Thursday night; the weather was gorgeous and a nice group ride after work seemed like a great idea. So, I ponied-up my $50 membership fee, got a complimentary Capital Brewery bicycle jersey and mug, and partook in the rides. After each ride, people gather in the Bier Garten for drinks and conversation. I met some really cool people, had a good time socializing, and managed to get a few extra riding miles in, which never hurts. Here I am on Thursday after our ride - you can see my road bike in the background:

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On one of the nights, someone brought down their Newfoundland dog, and he was an absolute beast of a creature. They said he was "just over 200-lbs," and I don't doubt it - he was mammoth. I wasn't able to get much of a picture of him as he was a young dog and quite "active" - he didn't seem to enjoy posing for any pictures, despite the many pleas from patrons of the Garten. Here's a head-shot of him, next to someone's belly... not sure who that is in the picture (it may have been "Dan" - a guy from the ride that I met), but the dog's name was Lewis:

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And for my last comment about diet and exercise, I managed to seriously injure my achilles tendon, and haven't been able to run since Wednesday night. Talk about bad luck.

The achilles started to feel "odd" during a run on Monday, but I chalked it up to carrying the extra weight, compliments of my "month of irresponsible eating" from April. I kept running on Monday and Tuesday, and it seemed to be bothersome but not debilitating. On Wednesday, I went out for a 5-mile run and with about 3 minutes remaining, I felt a massive burning sensation in my right ankle/achilles area. I couldn't put any weight on my foot, so I hobbled home, angry about what had just happened.

I wrapped my achilles, iced it, and limped into work. I tried to stay off my feet all day, and regularly iced the achilles. By Wednesday night, it was no better... On Thursday, it felt even worse; I was limping with every step, stairs were a nightmare, and ice wasn't doing much to help.

For some odd reason, I could ride a bike, and it didn't hurt at all... so, I rode the Capital ride, which in hindsight was a poor decision, because come Friday morning, my tendon was extremely tender - worse than it had been on Wednesday or Thursday. So, I did absolutely nothing on Friday, Saturday, or today.

After 3 days of rest, my tendon feels much better; I guess the rest is helping, but that same rest has resulted in my diet sliding completely off track. And by "sliding," I mean, "slipping, sliding, crashing, burning, and exploding" just like when a car would run-off the road in a cheesy 1980s made-for-television police drama movie...

How bad has the diet been? Well, let's see... there was a fritter, some fish fry, some soft pretzels, lots of cookies, some pizza, and even some Culver's. Oh man... no wonder my pants are fitting so snugly. I managed to consume nearly 15,000 total calories over the weekend; talk about disgusting. :-(

Although, I did have a stellar dinner on Saturday, compliments of some grilled bison from my boss's "Big Green Egg" smoker/grill. He invited me over to check out the infamous egg and to sample a few prized beverages with him and another friend. For those not familiar with The Big Green Egg, it's more or less the Mercedes of wood burning grills/smokers.

It's made from 2"-thick ceramic, which means it will heat-up and hold heat like nothing else. My boss uses it to smoke briskets, pork shoulders, turkeys, and so on, and he said that he can go 14-15 hours on a single load of wood (when smoking). That's unreal! Here it is, in all of its glory (and heft; the Egg weighs-in at more than 200-lbs):

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We fired-it up on Saturday, adjusted the vents, and within 20 minutes had a grill that was registering a rocket-hot 700F. We threw on the steaks, along with some asparagus, and before you could say "Doctor Seuss," the Big Green Egg had produced a perfect bounty. The steaks and food were so awesome that I forgot to take pictures... trust me when I say it was out of this world.

We finished the evening with a few of Steve's finest beverages - a 25 year old Scotch (I'd bet a bottle of this cost as much as my mortgage) and for comparison's sake, a 21 year old Scotch (think 2 car payments). I'm by no means an aficionado, but both were really good. Here's a photo of the 25 year old:

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And finally, I spent the better part of today prepping my new living quarters. Yep, I'm moving again, but this time, I'm truly excited because I absolutely will not have to deal with inconsiderate neighbors and intolerable noise-levels. How so? Well....

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Yep, I found a house to rent. It's an 1800-square foot ranch, with a huge garage, and a full basement (unfinished, but the basement is entirely epoxied and is absolutely spotless). It's got a new roof, all new windows and doors, brand new appliances (the refrigerator and dishwasher have never been used), and the furnace is about 2-years old.

I scored it from the aunt of a co-worker. The co-worker's aunt is stationed in Spain as a government contracts employee, and she'll be working there until around 2015. My co-worker lived in the house until October of last year, but then got married and moved to her new husband's house. As luck would have it, I was able to secure the house early so that when the lease on my craptacular apartment expires, I can move-in to the house.

I've been getting it ready by cleaning, mowing, and updating the inside of the house; the owner has agreed to allow me to replace all of the electrical components (switches, outlets, fixtures, fans, lights, etc) - she's paying for the parts, and I'm installing them. Why? Here's a before-and-after shot of the light switches from one of the bathrooms:

Before (switches from the 70s; I attempted to clean them several times prior to this photo):

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After:

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Not a bad improvement for less than $20 in parts, eh? It's amazing what an enhancement the "little things" can make - the house feels like "brand new," all through a simple update of some switches and outlets. It's been great working at the house for the past few weekends - I can get away from the apartment for a few hours, and I've been able to move small items ahead of time, which should make the official act of moving less painful.

And while I did try to stay completely off my feet this weekend, I did walk for a bit; I had to use my new mower:

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That's a Toro 3-in-1 Recycler that my good friends from Topel's helped source and supply to me. It's an absolute dream mower - starts on the first pull, makes short work of the large yard, and somehow manages to make mowing fun. I'm sure the novelty will eventually wear off, but I'm really enjoying it for now.

And that's all for now. I'll chat more in a bit - my goal is to start running by Tuesday or Wednesday and to get back on the diet wagon. Here's to hoping for a good week.

Eggs: Inspired to Share

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I recently stumbled across an interesting and fun blog called "The Healthy Everythingtarian". I found it while searching for information about Tera's Whey Protein Products, and discovered that I may have a female "twin" living somewhere in Madison...

The blog's author appears to have experienced some dramatic weight loss thanks to changing her lifestyle (started running and eating more responsibly) and now shares her experiences online, along with some interesting recipes and stories. Many of the stories resonate with me, as they often feature temptation, conflict, and redemption. Sounds familiar, eh? Now, if she reviewed fish frys on top of all of that, I'd really be spooked. :-D

Anywho... a few days ago, she posted something about eggs and eating them for dinner, and as luck would have it, yours truly was enjoying an egg dinner, so I felt it appropriate to share with you my very favorite egg recipe. You can eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or whenever - it's so tasty, super filling, and extremely good for you. So... without further ado, I present my "anytime eggs" dish:

Ingredients:

1tsp Macadamia Nut Oil (or less)
.5C chopped frozen spinach, preferably organic
.5C black beans (prepared "clean" from scratch - see end of entry for details)
2oz turkey breast (Applegate Organic); or substitute small grilled chicken breast
4oz grilled asparagus (optional, if available)
3 egg whites

Directions:

1. In a medium, non-stick skillet, add 1tsp (or less) Macadamia Nut Oil and heat over medium-low heat. Pan temperature should register no higher than 300F.

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2. When oil is heated, add the chopped spinach and cook until tender. It does not have to be "fully cooked" before proceeding to step 3.

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3. As spinach begins to become tender, add-in the black beans (this is .5C of black beans - there's a lot):

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4. Allow the beans to begin to "warm through" before adding the turkey (or chicken). Again, there's no need to worry about "cooking" any of the items at this point, as they're all pre-cooked. I usually grill 8-10 chicken breasts at a time, so I have plenty available for use, but tonight I felt like using some herbed-roasted turkey breast, so I diced it up and added it to the beans and spinach.

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5. I then added 4oz (about 4-5 stalks) of leftover asparagus from last night's dinner. I added this just a minute before the next step to insure that I didn't overcook the asparagus. There's nothing worse than overcooked asparagus!

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6. Add the egg whites, and season to taste. I'm really digging the Penzey's California Pepper, so I applied it quite liberally to the mixture. You can use as many egg whites as you'd like; I've made this with as few as one egg white, and with as many as five - it just depends on how hungry you may be. Three are quite filling.

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7. Stir/scramble the mixture until the eggs are cooked through. It usually takes about 3-4 minutes with my pan/stove combination - your cooking time will vary. Try to not overcook the eggs; you don't want them to be "browned" - they should be fluffy when done.


8. Plate, and top it all off with a little hot sauce, if you'd so like. My favorite hot sauce as of late is Uncle Frank's Extra Hot sauce. It'll set your mouth on fire, but there's just something about it that I love.

Here's the finished product:

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I apologize for the poor photos - as you know, I've been using my iPhone to take nearly every single photo on the blog, as it's so convenient. I didn't color-correct, adjust levels, etc, because I'm lazy. :-) I'll break out the old dSLR and Canon L-glass at some point to get some more "accurate" and "truly inspiring" photos at some point.

Nutritional summary: 1 serving (as prepared above)
272 calories
5g fat
665mg sodium
38g carbs
24g fiber
5g sugar
40g protein

Not bad, eh? And trust me when I say that it is f-i-l-l-i-n-g filling. And tasty, too. :-)

Try it and let me know your thoughts!


** "Clean Beans" recipe **

1-lb dry black beans (Goya or any brand will do)
5 bay leaves
1 bell pepper, quartered
1 onion, quartered
3 cloves garlic, minced
Ground cumin (to taste; I use a lot)
Ground black pepper (to taste; I use a lot)
Cayenne pepper (to taste; I use about .5-tsp)

Rinse the beans thoroughly, and add to a large, plastic container that provides approximately 3x the volume of the rinsed beans. Add all of the remaining ingredients and fill the container with water, until the water covers the beans by at least 2". Store/soak in the refrigerator for anywhere from 8-24 hours. Top-off with water as necessary to maintain 2" of coverage at all times.

When ready to cook, pour the entire mixture into a large stock pot (or dutch oven), and bring to a boil. Allow to boil for 5 minutes, then reduce to a very slow/light simmer. Skim any "scum" that forms.

Cook until beans are al dente; don't over cook them! It usually takes about 1.5 - 2.0 hours for my beans to cook in a Le Crueset 7Qt dutch oven.

Drain any excess water, remove the pepper, onion, and bay leaf remnants. Enjoy. The recipe will yield approximately 20, 1/2-cup servings; each serving delivers approximately 75-85 calories, most of which is protein and slow carbs (lots of fiber, no sugars).

And best of all, this recipe doesn't use bacon, fat, or extra calories, and yet they're super tasty. I make a batch of these once every 8-9 days, and store them in the refrigerator for use with just about every meal.

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You'll find Fish Tales nestled in one of the many nooks that border Lake Wisconsin, just a stone's throw from the intersection of 113 and 188, approximately 5-6 miles to the "other side" of Lodi proper. Sure, it's a bit of a drive from Madison - it took us about 45 minutes - but it's worth the time and fuel expense, even with gas running $4/gallon today.

I was originally scheduled to have fish this Friday with both my boss (Steve) and co-worker (Mark), but with my recent bingeing and out-of-control eating, I wasn't sure I'd be strong enough to avoid temptation, so I tentatively declined the invitation. A last minute audible (and confidence in my will power) meant I'd be joining them for fish, but vowing to stick to my diet in the process.

Well, due to the last minute audible, it was just my boss and I for dinner, which was fine; I rode with him in his incredible new car - the Audi TT-S convertible - and we had a great opportunity to chat, both about work and life away from the office. We arrived at approximately 6:30 and were shocked to find the place largely empty.

We were promptly seated; Fish Tales has a nice bar area that's separated from a medium-sized dining area by way of a half-wall. The dining room features a corner fireplace and about a dozen 4-top tables. The bar had a very limited selection of tap brews: Spotted Cow, New Belgium's Ranger IPA, Shock Top, and Bud Light... I opted for Diet Coke, my boss went with a bottle of Miller Lite (which sounded amazing, but alas, I remained strong).

A waitress quickly appeared and shared with us details about the specials, most of which revolved around fish. From broiled jumbo prawns to walleye to bluegills to haddock - everything sounded fantastic, as did the "stuffed pepper tomato soup."

I selected the baked haddock with a sweet potato and salad (no dressing, no cheese). My boss pulled a complete 180 and went with the 4-piece broasted chicken with hashbrowns and salad. I was really counting on him ordering the deep-fried haddock or cod so that I could get a full report, but alas, it wasn't in the cards.

Our salads arrived, accompanied by an interesting loaf of bread. My boss sampled the bread and reported that while it appeared to be a sour dough, it featured a wonderful garlic flavor. I'd be shocked to learn if this wasn't homemade... I couldn't resist sampling a small portion, so I cut a piece the size of a quarter and took a taste - sure enough, it was a wonderfully chewy, soft and just slightly crusty bread that boasted an amazing garlic punch. Wow.

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The salads were fresh and delicious - they featured bell peppers, mushrooms, cucumbers, tomato, and homemade croutons. I indulged in 2-3 croutons, and pushed the rest away, as hard as it was to do so. The rest of the salad was excellent; I could've had 3-4 plates and been more than happy.

The entrees arrived after 15 minutes or so; the chicken looked and smelled divine - the breading was absolutely perfectly applied, and my boss reported it had a great, slightly spiced taste. I could hear every single crunch of the golden-battered-and-broasted skin; the word came back that it was "superb." The hashbrowns featured an excellent sear and garnered accolades as well.

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The baked haddock was generous in size - I'd estimate it at 8-10 ounces - and featured the perfect blend of paprika and mild spices. It was baked to absolute perfection; it had a slightly "crisp" texture, as if it had been broiled for a few minutes or set on an uber hot griddle. I loved it. There wasn't a sign of butter/grease/oil anywhere - it was exactly what the doctor ordered. The sweet potato was stellar as well, and while it had more carbs than I would've cared to ingest tonight, I can assure you that it was worth every single calorie. It wasn't overbaked, nor was it underdone - it was perfect.

Our waitress and her support staff (there were 2-3 girls who cleared the tables and refilled water with regularity) was excellent. We had some of the best service I've ever experienced, even as the place grew more and more busy. By the time we paid our modest bill ($30 for the two of us), the place was jumpin' with patrons. I'd suggest that if you're adverse to waiting for a table that you arrive prior to 7:00pm.

I did manage to spy numerous plates of the fried fish fare as it left the kitchen, and every single plate looked absolutely amazing. Based on the feedback from the chicken, I have no reason to doubt or suspect that the fried fish is as every bit as good as (if not better than) the baked haddock. I can't wait to return to sample the fried goodies... oh, and for those keeping score, the cheese curds and hand-battered deep-fried pickles looked unreal as well. Why do I have to be such a chub?

Fish Tales = WIN
Food = 4.25 stars
Service = 4.25 stars
Value = 4.25 stars
MISC = 4.25 stars (has a huge outdoor lake-side patio and a great vibe as well)

I highly recommend that you give this place a try, and let me know how delectable the cheese curds and fried fish options are. I'm certain you won't be disappointed! To give you an idea of how impressed we were with the non-fried fish/food, Fish Tales almost cracked the top-10. That's sayin' something.

Siriusly Winning.

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Winning.

Purchased 2 years ago for pennies (literally). If only I had put every single dime into that stock... Oh well, at least I own some. Here's to another 2 years of 2000% growth. :-)

Argh.

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After 13 solid days of serious workouts and hardcore dieting (sticking to my plan without any deviation), I fell apart. The weaker side of me wants to blame it on work - we had a stressful week for one of my projects and it all came to a massive boil-over on Wednesday night, which led to an over-eating session on Thursday.

The harsher side of me says I fell apart because I'm trying to self-destruct my diet for some reason... there should've been no reason to ditch the plan, and times of extreme stress and challenge shouldn't provide an excuse to stuff my face with reckless abandon.

But, I did. I ate a boatload of bad food on Thursday. And just when I was really starting to get back on track. I was feeling great, making progress, and getting into a solid routine. And then it crumbled. I tried to reconcile the bad night by assuring myself that my upcoming Crazy Legs run (an 8K/5-mile fun run) would serve as a "spring board" to get me back on track...

But Saturday morning came, and...

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Why are there slippers instead of running shoes on that race tag?

Because I freaking overslept the race. What the heck is wrong with me? CRIKEY.

I know what's wrong... I'm not sleeping well - I haven't had a good night's sleep in what seems like a year or more. The primary reason lies with my crappy apartment(s).

This most recent apartment is so stressful and "toxic" to live in. I can't relax, I can't unwind, I can't escape, I can't do anything other than search for reasons to leave (whether it's going out to run or ride, or going for unnecessary drives, or spending a ton of time at friends' houses, or sitting at a bar or restaurant). I want nothing more than to not be at the apartment. I really dislike my neighbors, whom are noisy and inconsiderate, and I especially dislike the management - they don't care about the noise problems, and don't respond to any inquiries or pleas for help.

So it's impossible to sleep, because as soon as I do get back to the apartment and I try to unwind and fall asleep, my stress levels rise; I can hear every single sound/noise/conversation/bump/thump/etc., and as such, I don't sleep more than a few hours a night. I'm constantly being woken-up, and I'm usually wide awake every morning by 5:00am. The sleep systems I blogged about a few weeks ago help me to fall asleep, but they don't keep me asleep... so, I hit the bed at around 11:00pm or so and am usually awake at 1:30, 3:00, 4:00, and 5:00.... not good.

Well, I somehow managed to have an unbelievably good nights' worth of sleep on Friday night... I went to bed around 11:30 or so, and I don't think I moved a single inch until about 10:15am on Saturday... a full 15 minutes after the race started.

When I realized what time it was, I sprung out of bed and started racing around trying to find my shoes, shorts, etc... but it was for naught. Even if I could've made it downtown, found a parking spot, and hit the starting line in record time, I would've been at least an hour late. Instead, I channeled my efforts into preparing for a nice 5-mile run on my own race circuit.

I threw on the shoes, opened the door, took a wonderful breath of the spring air, and started my run. And that's when strike two hit... every single muscle in my upper core (from the base of my neck to the top of my pelvis) felt like someone was jamming knives into them. With each stride, I winced and lost my breath. What in the heck is wrong with me????

I walked for a bit and gave myself a bit of a self massage on my ribs, chest, arms, neck, and abs; my whole core was so incredibly tender that the self massage hurt like crazy. I tried some more jogging, but no way was that going to work. I alternated trying to walk and jog for about 10 minutes, but gave up. It was simply too painful. It hurt as bad as, if not worse than, my ribs did after my ice-dive from earlier this winter.

I was so angry; I'm not sure if I slept wrong, or "slept too hard," or if springing out of bed pulled something, but I had never felt such an unbelievable amount of pain over such a large area. I figured I could ride my bike on the trainer for a bit, and was correct. I "finished" the morning with a 3-hour session on the trainer, cursing my bad luck the entire time. I spent Saturday night with my friends Dan and Tara - had a great dinner in Fort Atkinson, and then hung out with them for a bit back at their house.

I woke-up this morning, took a quick inventory of the core-pain, and discovered it was slightly better but still very tender and sore, so... I took today off - I figured I would give myself a full weekend worth of rest, and with any luck will be ready for a 4-5 mile run tomorrow morning.

And finally, just to make sure that my path of self destruction continues to steam full speed ahead, I drove up to Fox Lake and had dinner at the infamous "Boat House" with my cousin and her husband. I've heard a lot about the place and had been wanting to try it for quite some time, so I took a drive up north to enjoy some of their infamous pizza.

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The pizza was phenomenal, as were the cheese curds, breaded mushrooms, and fresh-popped pop corn. Everything was superb. The Boat House sits right on Fox Lake and has an awesome view of the lake. There's a ton of outdoor seating, complete with a Tiki Bar; I'm confident this would be a great summer hang out spot. With any luck, I'll still fit into a swimming suit come summer time... :-)

Back at it on Monday, and I'll do my best to not let external stress sway me from eating well and sticking to my plans... one single event avalanched into 4 days of bad eating, bad workouts, and more stress.

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