Throwback Thursday – The Easter Keg

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This weekend is going to be crazy busy – both boys perform at the NYSSMA school music competition, Danny has his girlfriend’s prom, the SAT’s are the following weekend, closely followed by AP exams for both (e.g. loads of study time), there is a concert for both boys on Monday, Lisa has an important work trip next week she needs to prepare for … oh, and I’m going back to my alma mater for the 150th anniversary celebration for my fraternity.

I’m a member of Theta Xi, which was founded at RPI (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) on April 29. 1864. The national fraternity (there are chapters all over the place) hosts a national conference every two years in a different location. A few of us went to one in Scottsdale AZ in 1986, then I went to Washington DC in 1988, and then I actually went to the 125th convention in 1989, which was held in St. Louis due to costs of holding it on an off-year. This year the celebration moves to glorious (not glorious) Troy, NY! I have been back to Troy a few times through the years, the last time in 2009.

The big thing for me is getting to see loads of friends from throughout the years, some of whom I’ve not seen since I lost weight coming out of college. I am very much looking forward to having fun, relaxing, seeing the house, getting to watch it get entered into the New York State historical buildings registry, and just spend time sharing stories.

The picture above was from Easter 1986, and is really pretty self-explanatory – Easter weekend we had a keg party, and some of the more artistic and architectural types created this exoskeleton – which of course also had to keep the keg cold! Fun stuff!

Happy Thursday! Were you in a fraternity/sorority? Do you still keep up with your friends and chapter?

Wandering Through Thursday – Throwback, MiMM, Thoughts and Tasty Tunes!

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Wow … holy ‘what happened to Wednesday’, Batman!?! Actually I know EXACTLY what happened … and it is a good thing. Aside from craziness at work, three areas I have talked about addressing – dawdling before my run, doing bodyweight exercises, and no computer in bed – have all been going well, and that immediately cuts into the time I would use for blogging.

So Wednesday’s post had already been changed around (hopefully all these changes means next week will be smoother), but I never finished it and ran out of time, so today I have a whole bunch of stuff crammed together – so let’s get to it!

Throwback Thursday

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This isn’t too old – just last year. We brought Danny to East Stroudburg University for the American Music Abroad program, and before they headed to Europe they had a few days of intense rehearsals. That left Lisa, Chris and I to do things for a few days. One thing we wanted to to was hit NYC for the day … and while the weather was pretty miseable, we had a blast.

Going to a music store if you are a non-musician is boring at best, but for musicians Guitar Center is a blast! The Boston store is better than the one in NYC, but they are both loads of fun. Since I play guitar, bass and keyboards and have a digital music studio … I could lose myself for the day if I wasn’t painfully aware of how awful it is for Lisa. But apparently I lost myself enough while noodling on a cool semi-hollow jazz guitar that Lisa grabbed this picture of me. Chris was in his element working the CDJ-2000! If only he had a spare $10k it would have been his!

New York City is one of the places we are considering for vacation this summer, because we have never all gone together, and there are colleges both kids want to visit – which is a key element to our vacation plans. I’m sure we’ll find a bit of Guitar Center time in there as well!

Hurray for Spring!

I was so thrilled Tuesday morning when I woke up before my alarm and was ready to head out on my run. It was made better because the temperature hadn’t dropped close to zero as was predicted, and was 19F with light winds when I started out. That was still cold, but rather than worrying so much about being warm enough, I could just toss on a pretty standard outfit and go!

Wednesday was an odd one because the thermometer read 39, but it was windy … and the wind was quite chilly, making it feel more like 25. Still … 25F is pretty nice running weather! The issue is always getting too warm when the wind is blocked and then chilled when the wind kicks up.

And for the first day of spring? Again it was 39, but the wind was much warmer, and it was just a glorious day for running!

Oh, and how I talked about ‘working my plan’? By Thursday most weeks I would have about 26 miles done (not counting Sunday) … this week? 35 miles Monday – Thursday! And still home by 6AM every day! Sorry I’m not sorry that has messed up my blogging and writing for other sites!

Marvelous in My Monday Wednesday

On Monday I whined talked about dealing with the winter blahs … but what that really meant for me was how to get the weather out of the way so I could enjoy my run. Apparently expecting -2F and getting +20F was JUST the thing! So suddenly things went from ‘blah’ to … marvelous!

MiMM

And as I thought about it, another draft-in-progress got kicked to next week, as I decided a hybrid of sorts was in order – my normal ‘thinking out loud’ along with a ‘marvelous in my Monday’. I loved Arman’s take this week, and want to link up for MiMM with … so here goes:

Danny Tux

Marvelous is – a picture of my older son in his tux at a fitting, seeing how much he has grown into a young man and how great he looks.

Chris Mens Wearhouse

Marvelous is – a selfie from my younger son from the same location, just hanging out being him.
Marvelous is – practicing ballroom dancing with Lisa, not being very good, but laughing and banging into each other and other things and getting the dogs all riled up.

Marvelous is – my running. I am not the fastest or best by any stretch. I am me … and that is good enough.

Marvelous is – reading. I had really wanted a minimum of a book a month, but haven’t finished ANY yet; with my Lenten commitment to keeping the computer away, I have been SO much better, and am nearly finished with ‘Night Watch’. Will I re-read the full series before the new one? Who knows … but at least I have a good start!

Marvelous is – my ability to get up tomorrow and run. I never take it for granted. I am not yet old, but certainly not young … and I know too many people who cannot do it.

Marvelous is – Food. In every sense. I talk about my disordered dealings with food, and it is a constant challenge for me. I am happy with how I am balancing fueling and control … I am not gorging myself, nor am I denying myself or restricting. Balance.

Marvelous is – my marriage. For whatever reason, yesterday we each had people at work remarking positively on our relationship, which always feels good – after so many years we don’t need external validation … but hearing that those feelings shine outside of ourselves is pretty cool.

Marvelous is – my wife, who makes me proud and happy and giddy all the time.

Marvelous is – our dogs, who are so full of love and joy and spirit.

Marvelous is – our 13-year old ‘cancer kitty’ Leo, who we decided not to have treated two years ago … and he is still happily tormenting the neighbrhood!

Marvelous is – Dolly, the 9 or 10 year old cat we have been ‘cat sitting’ for three years …

Marvelous is – music; I wish there was more time for me to work on playing and writing music … but what time I DO get fills my heart with joy.

Marvelous is – reading all of the awesome race summaries from last weekend. There were great reads from Cori, Hollie, Lisa and Lauren among others. Each has loads of interesting insights and details. It is a reminder that no two races are the same … which is true even when it is the same race.

A few other things (since this is a Wednesday):
The Post-Google Post-Buzzfeed World
We all see the headlines like ‘5 Power Mega Super Marathon Tips You MUST DO NOW’ … and of course the article tells you ‘hydrate, build mileage, fuel, practice race pace, and taper’. Um, yeah thanks.

The reality is that bloggers live in a world where Google’s page rank dominates search traffic and makes people use SEO as a guiding light of life. The result is that more and more blogs look like Buzzfeed (or Upworthy) with a bunch of over-blown titles that claim the universe.

Depending on who is reading this, there might be one or two recent articles that come to mind. I am not singling anyone out – because it is much more of a cumulative problem!

I was cleaning out my various feeds – Feedly, email subscriptions, Bloglovin and WordPress – and I have a HUGE number of feeds in differemnt areas. I track stuff from running, health, music, technology, video games, gadgets, deals, statistics, science, humor and offbeat stuff, and so on. And guess what – ALL of those areas are moving to the SEO-centric view.

The problem when you are confronted with dozens of titles with ‘Must Read’ or ‘Ultimate’ or ‘Essential’ or whatever other hyperbolic terms you can imagine? They stop being eye-catching and become annoying. And when I start to feel like I am being ‘gamed’, I bristle. I had friends at blogs in the past who I have stopped following and commenting … and when they asked why I would say ‘when you stop with 300 iPhone link-bait posts during the pre-announcement cycle I will come back’.

Fortunately there were very few of my running/health blogs falling into that category … and those that are, I am willing to cut some slack for a bit …

The Power of Optimized Mediocrity

I love this article called “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Mediocre People”, on accepting that most of us are not the whiz-kid billionaire types, but still want to do well and make a good life.

As far as I can tell, Larry Page has never failed. He went straight from graduate school to billions. Ditto for Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and a few others. But again, by definition, most of us are pretty mediocre. We can strive for greatness but we will never hit it. So it means we will often fail. Not always fail. But often.

I often read there motivational images about ‘being anything you want’. That is a nice aspiration, but the reality is you should focus on figuring out who you are and becoming the best version of that!

Totally NOT Marvelous Race Reports

As much as I love reading a great race report, there was also some tough news out of this weekend.

At the Shamrock, 16-year old Cameron Gallagher collapsed seconds after finishing and never regained a heart beat. It is a sad and tragic story …

But according to Runner’s World not the only one. In the UK at the Brooks Fleet Pre-London Half Marathon, an unidentified 40+ year old man collapsed and died near the end of the race.

And at the NYC half-marathon, a runner collapsed but was resuscitated quickly.

It is a sad reminder of the risks associated with any physical exertion – and that a half marathon is not a trivial challenge.

Still not sure about the ‘student athlete’

Because we are plunging into ‘March Madness’, it is time once again to remind ourselves that these kids are supposedly ‘students’. Of course, most are SINO (students in name only), having been recruited based on non-scholastic skills, put into ‘academic’ programs designed around the athletic department, and so on. Realistically, these kids are pro athletes, in the business of playing a sport for a school rather than a city.

I think my biggest problem is the distinction between ‘pros in college’ and ‘student athletes’. When I was at RPI the hockey team won the national championship and was a major powerhouse. The school also gave scholarships for other sports, but it was different. The hockey players had their own housing, whereas my first roommate was on the basketball team. Hockey players were almost all in the same academic program, basketball players were accepted into the school and THEN given scholarships.
Of course even hockey players were not all the same – there were some ‘pucks’ as we called them who had little academic skill to offer, others who might not have made it in without hockey, and still others who were both smart AND good players.

Lauren at WillRunForBoston talked about it recently, about how “In college, running wasn’t a hobby. I was on scholarship at a Division I team and I had to give cross country and track 110%.”

But I also draw a distinction between a more ‘pure’ athletic pursuit like track, and the ‘road to pro’ sports such as football and basketball. Think about it – I remember that Larry Bird went to Indiana State and Magic Johnson went to Michigan State … and those schools use that information to get more money for everything they do.

How You Game vs. How You Work

While my constant chatter on video games gives some a case of MEGO, there is a lot that can be learned about people by how they play games. This study just came up again, and talks about different types of video games and how the players approach work and other problems.

I was going to talk about this for Friday, but it really isn’t worth it … I am an engineer and statistician, whose life every day includes planning experiments, analyzing results, and so on. It is not surprising that strategic games or number-heavy role-playing games are most interesting to me, as well as story-centric action games.

And for this totally random brain-dump I’m linking up with Amanda once again. I have really enjoyed doing this, if you can’t tell …

Thinking-Out-Loud

This week’s JAM is Jack DeJohnette ‘Special Edition’ box set

This isn’t really new, but is one of those things that I never gave proper attention when it came out a couple of years ago – it is a remastered box set and I own two of the albums already. But rather than immerse myself, I just listened to the new versions of what I already owned and then moved on.

Last week I had the song ‘Third World Anthem’ in my head, so I pulled out my CD of ‘Irresistable Forces’, from the 1987 incarnation of Jack Dejohnette’s Special Edition. The CD is out of print, so when I left it in my car but wanted to hear it in the house I realized I hadn’t imported it into iTunes … and that the version from ‘Album Album’ WAS on my iTunes. So suddenly I was listening to this amazing four album set …

Here is the press info:

Special Edition – a band with revolving membership and an incredible cast of soloists including David Murray, Arthur Blythe and Chico Freeman – was one of the most sophisticated vehicles for Jack DeJohnette’s all-around talents. This set brings together the albums Special Edition (ECM 1152), Tin Can Alley (ECM 1189), Inflation Blues (ECM 1244) and Album Album (ECM 1280), underscoring the excitement of invention and possibility one can hear in this era of DeJohnette’s career. The recordings reveal him as an artist in touch with tradition even as he sought the cutting edge of the day, paying homage to his jazz heroes yet experimenting with new sounds. There are echoes of old New Orleans grooves and Swing-era big bands in this collection, as well as material crafted with the techniques of ’80s pop singles; there are ambitious suite-like compositions, and there is spontaneously lowdown rhythm & blues.
Recorded 1979-1984 and remastered from original tapes for ECM’s Old & New Masters series.

Across the four albums we hear the following musicians:

Jack DeJohnette on drums, piano, organ, congas, timpani, melodica, vocals; David Murray on tenor saxophone, bass clarinet; Arthur Blythe on alto saxophone; Chico Freeman on soprano and tenor saxophones, flute, bass clarinet; John Purcell on alto and baritone saxophones, flutes, alto clarinet; Rufus Reid on bass, electric bass; Peter Warren on double bass, cello; Baikida Carroll on trumpet.

What I love about ‘Special Edition’ is that it is a free jazz group working in a highly composed environment and led by one of the great drummers of jazz. DeJohnette played with Miles Davis on Bitches Brew and On The Corner amongst others – he could play straight jazz, fusion, funk and free.

The rest of the group is like a who’s who of the late-70s free jazz movement, so if you look up any of them on AllMusic and look at their output you will find some real gems. Rufus Read is responsible for one of the ‘must have’ books for bass players (The Evolving Bassist) … and all of that knowledge just spills out on these recordings.

Ultimately ‘Album Album’ remains my favorite recording from this collection, but that is largely because of ‘Third World Anthem’. Check it out below!

The albums are available on ECM Records for 19.90 Euros (converted)and Amazon for $28.49.

Here is a live recording of the 1988 band playing Third World Anthem:

So … what is running through YOUR mind this Thursday?

Throwback Thursday – The Zoo Crew

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Some of my greatest memories from college are wrapped around my fraternity and the great friends I had there. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the founding, so there will be a big celebration in late April that I will be attending – and as a result my times at the fraternity have been in my mind quite a bit lately.

Theta Xi fraternity was founded at my alma mater (RPI), making our chapter the Alpha chapter and making us feel connected to not just the history of our chapter, but also the overall history of the organization.

But that isn’t why we’re here …

I have a bunch of pictures taken through the years, many on my classic Kodak Disc camera. I also accumulated a few from others, and since two of my best friends (Ken and Jeff) were really good photographers – and Ken took a photography class that gave him access to a darkroom and development equipment – I ended up with even more.

The ‘collage’ at the top is a set of those, and was hung on my wall for a while, and has been safely stored since. You might notice at the bottom right a set of evenly-spaced holes on a tear-off strip. If you don’t know what this is, please setop – you’re making me feel old!

Here are the pictures one at a time:

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My caption was ‘The Big McNugget’ … yeah, not a small guy, and really in need of a shave.

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Ken being Ken. We all know those people who CAN actually pose for a nice picture, but has much more fun putting on a bit of a show. I would say that ~75% of my pictures of Ken featuer ‘personality in action’.

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Jeff – or JT as we called him – could grow a major beard back in high school, and sported one throughout college. He also had a green jacket and overall look that earned him the ‘terrorist’ label back before that was something you just wouldn’t say.

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The crew and the Zoo Mobile – this one Ken took of us out shopping in the Albany area. It is JT, myself and Nigel. Nigel transferred in and quickly became one of our best friends, and the group of us – including Pete K and some others – were inseparable. He definitely played up his British accent for the ladies, and so it is too bad that he left owing the house a decent debt and has basically not been heard from since. I had a brief exchange several years ago after I found him online, but that went cold as well.

We are leaning against what we called the Zoo Mobile. It was a little beater that Ken bought, and it really needed some help in terms of appearance, so we decided to really do it up! It was over summer break and … well, you can see the results.

To this day most of us are still in contact, and many of us will be back in Troy in late April. That particular weekend is overflowing with other family things (Proms, music events, etc) which makes leaving more stressful, but I am completely ready and excited to get to hang out with old friends, none of whom I’ve seen in 5 years, and many of whom I haven’t seen in more than 25 years!

So what special college memories do you have? Do you do any reunion things?

ThrowBack Thursday – Vacation Time

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Recently I have asked myself – what do I really want from ”Throwback Thursday’? Back on Valentine’s Day I had my #TBT post all ready – I had the idea, the story, and even the full text written. The only thing missing was the picture – and I discovered I didn’t have a picture that represented what I wanted, which was the trip Lisa and I took to the Captain Daniel Stone Inn in Brunswick Maine for our 6 month anniversary.

So as I was contemplating whether or not I would do one this week, I drove home from work on Tuesday just as a super-long train was passing the back of our facility. The rail weaves around Rte 64 that I take home as well as the maine highway Rte 86. So as I was driving I saw portions of the train on the other side of the brook alongside the road, then it passed under me as I went over a bridge and we split off in different directions.

As I headed home from there I knew what pictures I wanted – the four of us on the Cape Cod Railroad on vacation when the kids were young.

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All I had to do now was find it.

Fortunately I hit the right shoe box and had the envelope in hand in no time; I scanned these pictures and was done.

When the kids were little we would take vacations in June (well, we did Disney in May) in order to get ‘warm enough’ temperatures, fewer crowds, and better prices. We loved going to Cape Cod – beaches, ocean, and plenty to do for all of us. It always acted as the perfect intersection between busy and relaxing – definitely never ‘Disney busy’.

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In 2002 we had a ‘mixed bag’ year, it was a bit cooler and damper on a few days than in other years. We used that as an opportunity to hit places on ‘scenic Route 6’ such as the fireman museum, the old general store, Cuffy’s and the Cape Cod Railroad … fortunately we also had some warm and sunny days for Nauset beach, Chatham, and more.

The Cape Cod Railroad was perfect for one cool and damp morning. If you look at us, everyone but me has layers on to keep warm. The route is from Hyannis to the Cape Cod Canal and back, and it is very scenic and relaxing. There was some snoozing, and plenty of books were read.

There is so much about the boys that comes through in these pictures – Danny loved Spiderman (I think he was Spidey for 5 Halloweens!), Chris loved cool glasses, both loved reading, and so on. It is also interesting framing Chris next to Lisa and I separately – because each boy constantly hears ‘you look just like mom/dad/ depending on which they are with … and here you can see those elements, though I think Chris looks more like Lisa, and Danny more like me.

It is interesting to me seeing myself in just a t-shirt and shorts. Until my thyroid died I was always very warm, and so it is not surprising that I wasn’t layered. If we took the same picture now, I would definitely have a sweatshirt on, but still shorts … and the boys would likely be less covered. Funny how these things change.

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I love looking back at things like this – especially as my kids are racing through high school and seemingly getting older and more mature by the day. I don’t wish for those years to come back, but I do enjoy revisiting them through these pictures.

What are some of your best ‘non-event’ vacation memories?

Throwback Thursday: Smartfood

My beautiful picture

OK, so how many of you have eaten Smartfood? Y’know, the white cheddar coated air-popped popcorn that has been part of Frito Lay since 1990 according to Wikipedia? Honestly I have no idea how popular it is anymore, how it is viewed by anyone buying snacks, or … well, pretty much anything.

Here is about all I know:
– Smartfood was started almost by accident in 1985 … and was a fast success in the Boston area. I remember it hitting stores in my home area and thinking it was really good.
– A couple of years later we were approached by their marketing team, they were looking for energetic college kids to wear the bags, wave to cars, and hand out samples. Our pay? Smartfood of course!

For more details you can check out the link above or this 1990 article from right after Frito Lay bought Smartfood looking at the boom in bagged popcorn.

I remember a constant stream of boxes full of bags of Smartfood coming into the fraternity house, and then as the campaign tapered, we got our final reward – an entire truck full of boxes that we unloaded and worked through way too quickly.

I love this picture – taken in Albany in the depths of winter, you see the snowbanks and an old car in the background, and we are wearing the big bags, boxer shorts and a couple of us also wore headbands. We kept the shorts and headbands, which I had for a number of years.

I am on the left side of the picture, clapping when I should have been high-stepping. Oh well, I was never going to be a dancer …

Throwback Thursday – Thinking About Named Storms

Blizzard of 781

So I complained about the incessent need to name storms and weather events, and it got me thinking about storms in general through the years. This week in addition to the historic cold, in New York we’ve had portions of the NY Thruway west of Buffalo and route 81 from Watertown to Syracuse closed for extended periods due to the extreme cold and wind from the storm.

For me, when I think of a major named storm I always go back to the Blizzard of ’78. Anyone who was around back then in the northeast marks that as the storm to measure all other storms. When we lived in Townsend MA later, we would get at least one snow dump of 3 feet or more every winter, eclipsing the snow total of the 1978 blizzard – but not the impact. In that snow-belt area, the heavy snow would just be an incnvenience, and I would still head to work after working my way through the snow.

In contrast, in 1978 the entire region was shut down for about a week – the image shows my dad, older brother and myself a couple of days later just shoveling out. There was no school for a while, and without cell phones people who were stranded on the highway had trouble connecting with their families – I remember waiting for my dad to make it home down 128 – it was a tense day!

I typically pull out this picture in February (when the storm happened), but it seemed appropriate right now. Here is a remembrance marking 30 years from NOAA, and one from the Taunton National Weather Service. Boston.com had a great slideshow as well.