Sunday, October 17, 2010

The coolest science experiment for kids EVER

When I was in middle school, my science experiments ranged from testing the effects of acid rain (a big deal in the early 80s) to making a homemade wind tunnel with my dad and testing different wing designs carved out of balsa wood. Not exactly the Manhattan Project but they were fun, won an award or two, and my science teachers liked them.

Max Geissbuhler's science teachers ought to be completely blown away by his science experiment with his dad, Luke. Together, they sent a balloon, a parachute, an HD camera, and an iPhone up into the stratosphere, videotaping the entire ascent and virtually all of the descent (until the batteries ran out two minutes from touchdown 30 miles from their launch site. Steve Jobs and the PR folks at Apple ought to be all over this!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Participating in this fitness challenge is skewing my sense of perspective a bit. At this week's weigh-in on Monday morning, I found myself terribly frustrated at:

  • the discrepancy between scales again (note to self...I just assume that my official weigh-in result will be 4-5 lbs heavier than the result provided moments earlier on The Scale I Like)
  • the fact that I only lost 2 lbs in the preceding week
In the grand scheme of things, I should be thrilled that I've dropped another 2 lbs but part of the fitness challenge is trying to reach target percentages each week and I keep falling just a touch shy. The competitive part of me is sorry that I started the South Beach diet (loving it!) and exercise regimen several weeks before the challenge because that's when 20 lbs just melted off. I'd be kicking butt in this competition right now if I'd waited! 

However, that's not the point. I needed to lose it and there was no need to wait for the challenge. I have to keep telling myself that, especially when our fitness club posts the results of all four teams and my wife and I are the only ones on our team and, as a result, we're miles behind in the points tally.

During my private training session on Tuesday morning, after doing laps of walking lunges and squats while holding two 15 lb kettlebells followed by some upper body strength training, trainer D walks me over to the Stairmaster, which left me a total sweaty, gasping wreck the first time she had me use it. This time, I climb on and, as I trudge up its endless incline, D and I chat. I find myself increasing the steps per minute. Finally, at the 8:00 minute mark in a 10:00 minute sessions, D looks at me and says, "you realize you've been on this for 8 minutes and you've been talking with me the entire time. You couldn't do that before."

She's right. I'm finding that I can do a lot of things that I used to be able to do but haven't be capable of for quite some time. 

At Friday night's team session, it was the dreaded intervals on the treadmill. The first session had been miserable with a series of quarter-mile high and low stretches. This time? Quarter mile low followed by half mile high, quarter low, quarter high, quarter low, quarter high and cool-down. I was dreading it. I've never liked running (bikes and swimming for me, thank you) but could do it when needed. Friday night? Cruised through the half mile and actually increased my pace on the final high impact quarter mile. What the hell's up with that? I even did the same workout voluntarily on Monday morning just to prove to myself that it wasn't a fluke.

Yes, I dropped 2 lbs last week and other people in the challenge dropped more. Good for them but good for me, too. Sure, the team stuff is fine, but I'm not looking for a trophy at the end of this. I'm looking for the opportunity to donate all of the new pants that I bought two weeks ago because I'm even thinner. I'm looking to keep dropping weight steadily and then keep it off. I'm looking to reach my next major target so I can buy myself an iPad as a reward.

I've got a long way to go and a lot of weight to lose before I get there but I'm just keeping it all in perspective.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

History on the Road

For the history buffs out there, I can't recommend highly enough the current series on Slate called "A Civil War Road Trip", in which author John Swansburg and three buddies embark on a 10-day road trip to drive from New Orleans to New York and visit as many Civil War points of interest as possible. His columns are quick reads, humorous, and certainly not a dry travelogue. After I started reading these, my first thought (as a holder of a degree in history whose senior paper in college was a comparitive analysis of the sieges of Vickburg and Charleston) was "why the hell didn't I think of this first and why haven't I done this before?"

I think I know where I'll be lobbying for our next big vacation.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Hand Dancing

Really, I don't have any words to describe how cool this performance is. I just want to know how long it took to choreograph and practice!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Making Strides Against Breast Cancer

As readers of this blog may know, last year my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She fought like a trooper and with the help of amazing doctors, nurses, and medical treatments she beat it (none of us doubted that she would).

The relief at that news was overwhelming for all of us and that's why I'm walking in this year's Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event on October 24 at Roger Williams Park in Providence. Other women and other families should all be given every chance to experience the relief and joy that comes at the end of the fear and heartache that appears when cancer steals stealthily into their lives.

I encourage those of you in the region to come out for this walk. If you can't make it, I hope you'll consider making a donation to support our efforts to raise awareness and funds to support breast cancer research and treatment for our mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, aunts, friends, and coworkers.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Scales have become a major source of frustration as I proceed through the Fall Fitness Challenge, especially on Monday mornings when I absolutely know I'm weighing in heavier than I really am for the weekly official tally.

The standing balance scale (like the one in your doctor's office) in the fitness club men's locker room said I was 2 lbs down yesterday AM (with shoes on!) and then I step on the glass bathroom scale with no shoes for the official weigh-in moments later and it says I'm barely down a pound. What's up with that?

Then I try the standing scale again this evening (in shoes again!) and it says I'm down 5 lbs from yesterday. Seriously? I doubt I sweated off all those pounds in my spin class this evening.

I like the men's locker room scale. It's my friend. According to its oracular pronouncement this evening, I've dropped 36 pounds since this sweaty adventure began in early August. And really, the only practical measure I'm really noticing right now is that I just had to have a link taken out of my watchband because it kept falling down around my hand, a jeweler added a "ring guard" to keep my wedding ring from sliding off my now-thinner finger and into the green bean bin at the supermarket, and I've retired every pair of pants in my closet because they were falling off. Pleasantly, the new ones I bought a week ago are already feeling a touch loose, too. Well, those factors and the fact that it feels really good when people come up to me and say "wow, you look great!" and they're not just being polite.

Take that, you freaky bathroom scale!