June 30, 2012 - And now for something completely different... pop culture is buzzing about an erotic novel called 50 Shades of Grey by UK writer E. L. James. And it's very popular - sales, if not subject matter, are comparable to Harry Potter. What sets it apart is a sado-masochistic bondage element that has feminists seriously chattering about women and power and submission... I'll leave it at that. The older I get the more apparent it is that we repeat the same things while totally convinced new ground is being broken.

ANYWAY... the truly new thing happening is a spoofing Twitter page called 50 Sheds of Grey - too funny. It raises the combination of sheds and sexual innuendo to an art form. Sample material: "We stood on the golden Caribbean beach. She shed her clothes. I shed my inhibitions. At that moment I knew it would always be about sheds."

Along with racy pics of sheds, the one that still has me laughing: "She knelt before me on the shed floor & tugged gently then harder until finally it came. I moaned with pleasure. Now for the other boot..."

Just too funny... more than any other form of pop culture, I love parody that reduces our pretensions to lighthearted levels. There are too many other important things in life to be concerned about.

June 29, 2012 - Allman Brothers, Padilla Miami, and a dry gin martini with olives... good to be home.

Back from a vacation in Southern California (damn those are long words!) and it was a very nice trip... the main purpose was to visit colleges for the Puzzle Master's daughter, who's a senior in high school this year. Went to UC San Diego and then to UCLA for the standard out-of-the-box college tour. Both were nice tours, though by the start of the second one (UCLA) we were awakening to the fact that these are really not good places to learn about colleges so much as participate in a drama performance while pretending to gain valuable information about the college. "We're number one!" only goes so far... give me something relevant, college boy.

In the end UCSD won out... smaller campus and just had a better feel to it.

June 22, 2012 - Allman Brothers, Padilla Miami Oscuro Limitado cigar, and a dry gin martini with olives... very sweet.

So tonight starts my week of vacation, which is followed by 2 days of work before taking another week off. And I've just been burned out at work... too much going on and I have run out of motivation to care... or even pretend to care. That's not good.

This next week we'll be heading down to SoCal to tour a couple of colleges and let the kids spend a few days at Disneyland. We're driving down with a rented van, and I don't mind road trips so it'll be a nice break.

I go back to work for 2 days before July 4th, which will be extended with another 3 working days off. That's when I'm hoping to recharge my motivation... don't have anything planned for that time except to get back into P90X and smoke a bunch of cigars. Not real ambitious but then that's what I consider quality time off.

Damn good multi-toolPicked up a Leatherman multitool for my Dad's birthday this year. I couldn't decide whether to give him a Skeletool CX or Blast, so I got both and whichever he doesn't choose I'll sell on Craigslist. I can't believe that after owning a hardware store for 25 years he's never had one of these. And for some reason I'm fascinated by them... I have a Skeletool CX and Charge TTi. The Charge is way too heavy for what he'd want and the Skeletool might not have enough tools to make him happy, so that's why I got a Blast to see if that might put a smile on his face.

Cigar update... the Padilla Miami mentioned above is a very nice smoke. I burned that puppy down to the nub and then fired up a Gurkha Vintage 1999, and the Gurkha makes the Padilla shine... for the most part the Gurkha doesn't draw as well, which I'm finding is pretty crucial to enjoying a good cigar. If you have to pull hard while puffing it feels like work instead of leisure - I know that may sound snobbish and petty but it's true. You want to PUFF a cigar... and drawing hard tends to cause it to burn harsh - not good.

Speaking of flames, the A's crashed and burned badly tonight. They were playing the evil SF Giants in an interleague game and coughed up a 2 run lead in the 9th to lose 5-4. Wasn't pretty... had their best guy pitching and he walked a couple before giving up a game tying double. The relievers after him couldn't close out the inning without giving up the lead and that was all she wrote - game over, we lose to a team that A's fans love to hate. Dammit...

Oh well - it's Friday, I'm in my office looking ahead to a week of vacation and can't complain too much. Life is still good.

June 15, 2012 - A mix of the Cars and Pretenders, Gurkha Vintage 1999 cigar, and a classic gin martini (with vermouth and olives... garlic stuffed!) - only for the serious Friday celebrations...

Starting my 4th week of P90X and it's going well. So far I've worked thru a tweaked wrist, tender knees, a strained shoulder, and most recently a sore right latissimus dorsi (back muscle). This is my second time doing P90X and one thing I've learned is to go easy, especially in the beginning. But even then your body will break down and when it does you can still workout - just very carefully. If an injury occurs, either stop using that part of your body altogether or, more importantly, use it but with light exercise.

A good example of this was blowing out my elbow the first time with P90X. Either pullups and/or curls did a number on my left elbow and I couldn't do these exercises without extreme pain. After a little research (actually a lot) I found some stretching exercises that helped, but also stopped reverse grip pullups and only did curls with very light 5lb weights. At first I thought I'd never again be able to do anything significant with these exercises. But after 2 weeks of steady light 5lb curls I noticed my elbow stopped hurting. I slowly increased the weight until I was back to 25-30lbs curls AND reverse pullups without pain. Amazing...

Again, the lesson was to reduce excercise without totally stopping, and slowly allow the injury to heal and strengthen. I think most of us would assume stopping completely would allow healing, but I'm convinced continuing to work the injured muscle very lightly was extremely beneficial - it not only heals but strengthens.

A's update - it's been a Jekyll and Hyde season... after a 9 game losing streak they won 4 in a row over the Rockies and Padres. Now granted, San Diego and Colorado are not good teams - but you still have to pitch, hit, and field so that's gotta count for something. Again, the A's have one of the lowest payrolls in the league and by any account would be considered a good Triple A team. But in every MLB game someone has to win and for the past 4 games that's been the legitimate claim of Oakland. We'll take it.

June 9, 2012 - Allman Brothers music, Gurkha Vintage 2001 cigar, and scotch w/Drambuie. A good base to start from...

Had to do some work tonight and spent 2 hours deleting workspaces for the SAP developer. VERY tedious... 100 user accounts and have to call them up one-by-one, search for workspaces, if they exist then select all and delete - then on to the next user. Ugh...

Today started out early... took the Puzzle Master's daughter to an ACT test (similar to SAT) at 7:30 AM. Did my Plyometrics workout afterward (and I'm not wiped out right now!) then got a call from Dad - he was stranded at a garage sale with a car that wouldn't start. 4 hours later we had it towed to the Ford dealer (waited most of the time for AAA to first send someone out to test the battery, then waited for ANOTHER guy to come out with a tow truck.) Everyone was spent.

Then it was off to Sushi Factory to celebrate the Puzzle Master's son's 8th grade graduation. I *LOVE* sushi... ate way more than I should, but it's SUSHI so what the heck.

And nothing settles an over stuffed stomach like a good cigar... yeah baby!

Loaded Windows 8 Preview on each of my laptops and am still convinced Microsoft is taking an admirable swing but ultimate miss on their commodity product. Everyone uses Windows - apologies and recognition to Apple, but Windows is the default standard computer OS and W8 just doesn't cut it. At least, so far it doesn't... the official release won't happen until later this year.

Microsoft is attempting to create the first OS that works on computers, tablets and phones. It's truly a noble effort which has never been done before. The problem is nearly all of Microsoft's customers are on computers, and W8 is horrible on a computer. There's no Start button, it takes multiple steps to get to the familiar desktop mode, and instead of swiping to move screens (as tablet and phone users will do) the computer user has to run scroll bars right and left and up and down. This is annoyingly cumbersome - even for someone who's relatively computer savvy and enjoys new features. But the vast majority of Windows users are not bleeding edge enthusiasts and they detest changes to their systems. We're talking about people who stayed on Vista - if they aren't still running XP.

Yet their next computer purchase will expose them to a version of Windows that might as well be in a different language. Seriously - this will give Apple a huge opportunity to jump up and claim their computers are more easy to use.

I think this will be another disaster for Microsoft along the lines of Vista. The only question will be whether the wizards in Redmond can scramble to produce a follow up version the same way W7 was rushed to answer the Vista fiasco.

And if they don't - we could be seeing another great company bite the dust similar to Blackberry... not a pretty picture.

The best workout routine!June 2, 2012 - Allman Brothers, Rocky Patel Decade, and Glenfiddich scotch with a splash of Drambuie... 'nuff said.

Tonight I'm feeling like C.R.A.P. and the reason is due to a workout program called P90X from an outfit called Beachbody. Now don't get me wrong... I'm not complaining so much as stating a fact. This is my 2nd week of P90X and this morning I did the Plyometrics workout. If there's ever an exercise routine that will thoroughly kick your butt, it's P90X Plyo. AKA jump training... a leg workout that is endless squats and lunges - except you jump while doing them. And then jump while doing other things, mixed in with more jumping squats and lunges... for 1 hour.

Again, I'm not complaining because P90X is simply a great workout program. My first time through it was last year and I was stunned at how effective it was... went from a size 36 waist to a comfortable 34 and was in the best shape of my life at the tender age of 52. All my life I've been a tall skinny dude with no expectation of building muscle, but after this workout I felt real strength - muscles in places that had never been before. Honestly it was like getting 5 years younger. I was pretty much resigned to weak knees for the rest of my life and hopping up stairs instead of normal climbing. After P90X (and Plyo in particular) I could go 2 stairs at a time with no pain... simply amaizing.

My final plug for P90X is this - I'd heard about it before and was kind of scared to do it. It's an extreme program, 12 weeks long, the DVDs cost $100 and I didn't want to buy something only to find I couldn't handle it. Then a friend, who was not doing it, told me about their 65 year-old father that was absolutely RIPPED from P90X. At that point I thought if someone that age could do it I should at least try. The rest is history - I'm a card-carrying believer with nothing sell, but will swear by this workout. It's the real deal for anyone serious about getting in the best shape of their life.

On the cigar topic, I finished my RP Decade and am now working on a Padilla Signature 1932 - very nice... smooth and mellow taste with a great draw. They'll be on my list of favorites.

Oh yeah - the A's won today and broke a 9 game losing streak. A welcome break from a nasty stretch of losing that was testing even the most faithful fans. Thank God for the Kansas City Royals - but then, they beat us yesterday 4-0 and are probably saying the same thing about us.