Sunday, February 22, 2004

Sore legs

My legs are sore. I covered over two-and-a-half miles today on the treadmill. In response to Renice's comment, I don't pronate my feet when I run (though I did have to look up the word). I do the opposite. I come down on the outside edge of my foot and then roll inward. The past few days I've made a conscious effort to come down evenly on the front of my foot. I've felt some strain on my calves, but it's the strain of use, not the pain of misuse. Anyway, my long run has left my legs sore in a good way.

I made fudge today. Real fudge. The kind where you cook the ingredients to 234ºF, then let it cool to 110 then stir it with a wooden spoon until it loses its gloss. If you cook it too hot it becomes brittle. If you don't cook it hot enough, it stays soft. If you stir it too long it becomes rock hard. Not long enough, it never sets; it's just a fudge soup. My dad can do it perfectly every time. I think I'm getting there. I've blown a lot of batches in the past, but I think those days are over. I didn't have a thermometer, so I had to pick one up. I got a cool in-oven digital. It has a metal sensor attached to a long cord which plugs into a display unit. You can stick the sensor into a turkey or something and run the cord outside of the oven to the display. I think it's pretty cool. And my fudge is delicious.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Baton Girl

What's the deal with the baton girl? I went to the Illinois vs. Wisconsin game last night. It was a great game. Illinois started behind, but then took the lead near the end of the first half. They held their lead through to the end of the game.

Back to my original question. I remember being at football games and asking myself that same question. How does someone get started twirling a baton? What motivates them to keep doing it? I can see a little girl thinking she's a princess twirling the baton, ooh look at how sparkly it is, I'm so elegant, I'm going to dance around while I spin this thing! Then I imagine the girl growing out of it. Certainly they'd grow out of it before they went off to college. I don't get it. The baton girl just sort of runs around the court independent of everyone else. She's not part of the band, she's not quite a cheerleader and she's not part of the dance team. She is the baton girl. I don't get it.

In other news, I tried an elliptical machine today instead of a treadmill. I was able to cover more distance without that shin pain. Maybe I'll keep doing it. It doesn't feel as natural as running but I still burned a bunch of calories and worked up a good sweat. It kind of feels like running uphill but with an unnatural stride length.

I learned a new way to tie my shoes today. I was reading a Slashdot poll and came across a link in the comments. For years, I've double-knotted my shoes. Whenever I would tie a single knot, it would come undone. The problem with a double-knot is that it's hard to untie. Just wearing shoes with a double-knot can tighten the knot, making it harder to untie. I'm hoping that this new knot, which is only slightly different from how I normally tie my shoes, is the solution I didn't even know I was looking for. It unties with a gentle tug and so far it's held well. I tied my running shoes this way today and the knots held. I must say, it's a little awkward relearning how to tie shoes.

And that concludes today's random entry.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Debt's a bitch

According to Consumer Credit Services of San Francisco, the average American now has $8500 in unpaid credit card bills. That number shocks me...$8500. Everyone in my family only puts on their credit cards what they can pay off that month. That's the way I was raised, and that's the way I live. I only know of one person who has that kind of credit card debt (in fact, that person has quite a lot more than that). I don't know how people can live with that kind of debt. The weight of it must cause an awful lot of anxiety.

My debt story is a relatively short one. When I graduated, I ended up taking on a fair amount of credit card debt that I could not pay off right away. I knew that I would be able to relatively soon, so I wasn't too worried about it. My parents loaned me a grand for a down payment on my car. I paid them back over my first two paychecks. That didn't leave very much left for living expenses. The answer was--you guessed it--credit cards. It was suggested to me that I find some "0% for six months" card and pay it off. I did, and it was a good move.

Paying off credit cards is hard. If I could have just stopped living my life and diverted my entire pay to credit cards, I would have been out of debt in no time. But it's impossible to do that. You end up living and buying more. The effective amount you debt pay off is limited by how much more you take on. The cycle is hard to get out of, and I can see how it would be possible to get into mountains of debt.

I am proud to say that my credit card debt is under control. Before graduating, I had never carried a balance. Getting started on my own, buying a car and buying things for my unfurnished apartment led me to take on more debt than I wanted. My total credit card debt never came anywhere near the "average" amount. And yet, it caused me quite a bit of anxiety. Whenever I would balance my books, I would cringe. My plans to get out of debt kept slipping. I kept living my life and putting purchases on my cards, pushing back the timeline that would set me free.

Today is a landmark day. I got my tax refund and I got paid. I was able to pay off my final carryover balance. I'll be able to pay off the balances that will be due before I get paid next month. I'm actually going to have money left over from this paycheck. I'll finally be able to save money. The weight has been lifted. I'll be able to purchase things outright. It feels good. I'm on my way to having a positive net worth...I just have to pay off those pesky student loans. So where do I go from here? Africa, of course.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Changing vowels

Every once in a while when I open my mouth and speak, I hear myself pronounce vowels in a manner that I do not recognize. "Ahs" come out like "awes" and "oohs" sounds like "ooes." Granted, writing a subtle difference in pronunciation is a little difficult. I think the easiest way to describe this slight shift in my vowels is almost as a drawl. It's too faint to really notice by anyone other than me, but I do notice it, and it bothers me.

I finished Touching the Void last night. I couldn't stop, even though I knew I had to get to bed. I read about fifty pages each Monday and Tuesday, then the remaining 100 pages last night. It is an amazing story. I mean, I knew he was going to make it (he wrote the book and I saw him on Letterman). But the story kept building. He was almost dead, he was delusional, rambling. He had been without food or water for four days. If he had delayed another few hours, stopped to sleep that last night, he would have made it back to an empty camp and died after all that struggling. But when he was rescued, it made me excited, happy, and relieved. I was filled with joy. A book has never brought about such emotion in me before. It was truly amazing for me. Maybe I should read one of those books with Fabio on the cover so I could experience a whole different kind of emotion. :p

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Brad's Boxers

Last night, I was invited to go the Illinois vs. Michigan State basketball game. It was a blowout, 75-51. I think this means that Illinois has a share of first place in the Big Ten. I don't really know. I'm not a big sports guy. Actually, last night was my first Illini basketball game ever. I was a student for four years, and I never made it. Only when a coworker had a complimentary ticket (I think he got it from another coworker who works for DIA; not sure) did I finally make it to a game. I'm glad I finally went to a one.

Right now I'm reading a great book. I think it might go down in the record books for me as the fastest read ever. It's called Touching the Void, by Joe Simpson. It's a true story about these two guys who are climbing a mountain in the Andes. On their way down, Joe falls and breaks his leg. He said that the bottom half of his leg went up through his knee, shattering it. His climbing partner, Simon, has been lowering him down the side of the mountain, 300ft of rope at a time. Eventually, they're out of rope and Joe is hanging from a cliff. Simon is falling. Joe feels jerking as he falls...inch by inch as Simon loses control of the belay. Simon had to make a decision to cut the rope. Either one of them dies or both of them die. Joe managed to survive the fall, but Simon doesn't know that, leaving Joe and his broken leg in the bottom of a crevasse. That's as far as I've read. It's very easy to read, and the imagery is pretty vivid.

In my previous entry, I wrote about laundry and how underwear is my litmus. Brad told me that he never washes his underwear. He just wears each pair once and then sells it on ebay. I thought that was pretty funny. How much would you bid for a pair of Brad's dirty underwear?

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Beware falling ice

The weather today, as many of you know, is bad. The temperature has been right around thee freezing point, and it's been raining. That, of course, leads to freezing rain. I was driving this evening and all of the sudden I saw this huge sheet of ice falling. I think it was about four feet by one foot in size, just falling down in front of my car. At first, I was confused. I thought the sky was crumbling. I slowed down to give it time to reach the ground. I looked up and noticed power lines. The ice had formed on the power lines and fell right as I drove past it. How crazy is that?

As I was turning a corner, I watched the person turning in front of me slide across both lanes and smack into the pile of snow on the far curb. Way to slow down for the ice, buddy. I let him back out and then head down the street. I kept an ample following distance. Fortunately, this was in a quiet neighborhood street in Savoy, so there was no real danger.

Iffy and I watched Friends, then he came with me to The Fitness Center. He's using a seven day free pass. It was nice having a friend there with me. I don't mind going alone, but it's a little better when you know someone.

I got home from working out after 9. I had some chili for dinner. Right now, I have some blueberry muffins in the oven. The only problem is that I don't have a muffin pan, so instead I'm using a bread pan. So I guess I should say I have a blueberry loaf in the oven. It should work just fine. If it does, I think I'll bring it into the office tomorrow. Otherwise, I won't. We have a meeting at ten, so I have to actually wake up at a "normal" hour. Yuck. I really like that most nights, I don't set an alarm; when I wake up, I go to work. Tomorrow, I have to get up at like 8:30 or 9:00. That's rough. Just kidding :)