Friday, July 29, 2011

The Time of Your Life

I want to do the following things right now:

- Play video games
- Go for a run
- Write
- Hang out with Erika
- Play guitar
- Learn how to shoot a F$%^#ing hockey puck properly

Why? Because I want to:

- Be good at my job
- Be in good shape
- Be a good writer
- Be a good husband
- Be a good guitar player
- Be a non-pathetic hockey player

When you look at this list though, how many of those things are actually possible to put serious time towards in an evening? Maybe 3 at the best? And that’s assuming you’re ok with not just vegging out a little after work.

Now let’s think about how many times a week you need to do the things on List A in order to accomplish the goals on List B. I would argue that if you actually want to accomplish the items on List B at a high level you need to do them at least 3 days a week, and if you’re not already good at them you need to do them 4 times to get any better. Oh sure, you can do things less often, but then you end up with this:

(If that’s not enough, you can come over and I’ll play guitar for you)

My point is, as you get older you need to pick: Do you want to be an expert at something or do you want to be average? Personally, I think many people focus on too many things and as a result float along as average in a bunch of areas. If you want to be an expert though, it becomes pretty clear that you need to let some casual interests fall to the wayside… and trust me, it’s hard to swallow that if I’m to be an expert writer it means letting go of some long-dreamed dreams. I’ll never have a wicked wrist-shot, I’ll never be able to wow a campfire with the guitar, and I’ll never be a pirate. But those are the sacrifices you make.

Since Erika's in Vancouver, I've settled on Writing, Running, and Games tonight. This concludes my writing, and now I'm going for a run.

How do you split up your time?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Change You Can't Count On!

I need someone to explain the concept of Change to me. Not “This shirt smells, time for Plan G” kind of change, I mean the jingle in your pocket kind. Why do I still have Change in my life?

For starters, I understand that for a couple of thousand years this was a highly effective way to move your money around. You had to walk a long way into town, so better to carry a few coins than a half-dozen cows right? I mean, this was a Class-A innovation in world history, right up there with fire and the concept of zero. But hasn’t Change fallen upon tough times lately? Isn’t the luster gone, just a bit, from Change? There’s new upstarts in town. First it was paper currency (“Phaw,” says Change “It’ll fall apart under my kind of workload”). Then there was letters of credit and cheques (“Sure, you can stockpile funds but most transactions are going to need me”). After that we saw credit cards, who had a great run but now there’s debit cards giving Change and Paper the old one-two (“Oh Paper, I’m so sorry”). Now there’s the internet, credit cards, debit cards, cheques, pay-by-phone; and they’re all making it easier than ever not to pay any attention to Change at all (“Spare some change?” says Change from his bundle of rags). And above all this, Change has been slammed, positively SLAMMED by inflation! Just when Change thinks it’s gaining ground it gets devalued to the point that nobody pays with Change as a first option. It’s only when you’re desperate!

Do you know what got me thinking about this? I was at the drive-through, and the fetus working the till tried to pull the old “I’m going to lay your receipt on your hand in order to create a perfect ramp upon which to slide your Change into the space between this window and the car so that I can pick it up later trick” but Erika managed to thwart her, only to give it to me using basically the same trick, which led to me angrily jamming a mixture of American and Canadian Change into the overflowing ashtray and ranting about why this was a part of my life anymore! And really, it doesn’t need to be. I can fill my 1L steins with beer, thank you very much. I don’t need Change to do it for me.

Bring on the completely digital economy, I’m done with Change.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Follow up to Portugal foods!

I just discovered this is what a Monkfish looks like. Seriously? The most tasty new animal I was exposed to in Portugal is some sort of Tim Burton nightmare creature?

Although to be honest, I do feel a sense of pride in eating something that looks like it could have bitten my arm off. Even if I did just eat its tail. With butter. And never having seen it.

Hear me roar.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

P90 Hexed

Well, we’re now at day 45 of Paul’s 90 day challenge! For those of you who remember, I started blogging and working out every day, following the P90X program. Since we’re at the halfway point, why don’t we recap?

Ok! Let’s see… umm. Well, I’ve blogged semi-consistently. Aaaand, I did a bunch of P90X in a row. And then I didn’t. But I was on vacation, so... well the internet was sparse. And I couldn’t very well put a chin up bar in my suitcase could I?

AAAH! Stop looking at me like that! I had perfectly good reasons for not sticking with this friggin’ program! For starters, I didn’t like it. What the hell is the point of doing a fitness program where every day you stare at a chin-up bar and think to yourself “I wish I could just go for a run”. How broken is that? Running is good for you! I should just be able to go for a run! I should be able to write a blog that uses less exclamation points than periods!

Ok, let me break it down. P90X in a nutshell is: 3 days of weights, 1 day explosive training (think “jumping”. It’s called Plyometrics), 1 day yoga, 1 day endurance training, 1 day rest or stretching, and 3 days a week of core abdominal work. I’m a gonna go through each element now:

This is done well. If you want to put on muscle you need to hit each muscle group once a week, and they do this by breaking the days down into Chest & Back, Arms & Shoulders, and Legs & Back. Wait… wasn’t that Back in there twice? Yes, that’s the one failing of the weight programs, where they acknowledge that most guys who want a “Beach Body” don’t care about leg workouts. As a consolation they dumb down the leg workout and throw in extra back work, which is ridiculous. Just give me my leg workout, I don’t need to look like I’m riding a chicken.

I like this, but it’s not necessary for most folks. It’s good for any explosive activity though, and if you play hockey or basketball it’ll be excellent. Paul approved.

Holy crap was this the most ridiculous experience ever. Erika and I tried it out, here’s how it went:

PAUL: Wait, what am I supposed to do right now?

ERIKA: Warrior pose I think

PAUL: What the hell is that? I can’t see the TV, he’s got me looking at my balls and then just shouting out random nouns like they mean something to me!

ERIKA: When did we switch to Warrior 2?

PAUL: Dammit! I’m jumping ahead to Right Angle Pose, at least I’ve seen a photo of that.

ERIKA: Ouch!

TONY HORTON (on the TV): Then back into Warrior 2, reverse, 2, , 1 and out


ERIKA: ARGH… why won’t he ever tell us how to do anything properly?

TONY HORTON (on the TV): And calm yourself… focus on a pleasant thought

PAUL: I’m holding Tony… we’re looking into each other’s eyes… he can’t get to the surface… he’s not struggling anymore…

The guy never repeats anything, never gives any clear instruction, and acts like you should be relaxed. Suffice to say that if they really cared about my inner peace this video would end with Tony Horton being gored by a rhino.

You’re not going to get in good cardiovascular shape in front of your TV without an exercise machine. Leave your freaking house.

Rest is important, but to be honest, I think the stretching option is only in there so that they can claim to have 90 straight days of training available. Stretching needs to be done more than one day a week to be effective.

I really think this is good, especially making sure it’s done 3 days a week. The downside is dealing with Tony’s “look at me!” personality over and over again since you see the same video 3 times a week.

So the take home message? If you want to gain muscle you would be fine with the weight workouts and abs three days a week. Then go for a couple of runs as well, even on the same days as the weights if you want. There’s no reason not to do cardio the same day you do a weight workout. You don’t need to eat up all of your spare time with this thing, it’s pointless.

Also, as a side note it’s incredibly annoying that the whole time you watch these videos he says “Left” and “Right” meaning his left and right, instead of yours (since you will naturally want to mirror image the screen). Staggeringly frustrating.

So that’s my P90X summary. See you on Wednesday!

Post to come!

I have been so bad of late! I will be posting later today though, so bear with me.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Trip Recap with Pictures!

I have been remiss in my posts!

Erika and I just returned from Portugal on Tuesday, a 21 hour slog via Philly that culminated in the joy of having Erika’s bag not make it onto our connecting flight, despite a 4.5 hour layover. I can only assume the TSA agent assigned to her bag had extremely small hands. In going through the photos on my phone though, I realized that I have a bunch of miscellaneous thoughts that started which I haven’t shared, so here’s some of my miscellaneous holiday thoughts:


This was the “window” in our hotel room:

If you walked up, you could literally just step out onto the roof (see below). A recurring theme when you go to Europe is “Your safety, Your problem”. I am a fan of this. If you fall off a ledge because there wasn’t a rail, well, you decided to walk out there in the first place right?

I was actually quite impressed with the packaged food in the Glasgow airport. It had these convenient “traffic light” labels, which is coincidentally a design tool I use. No need to make things overly complex right?:

Here’s a description of what the labels meant:

I think this is a really effective way of getting across the relative healthiness of things in a simple manner. It certainly affected my choice. And the package opened really simply as well, just peeling aside so that it was almost all a recyclable cardboard instead of being predominantly plastic:

I know you’re all thinking “Well how did it taste?” Um… it tasted like a low-fat sandwich packaged in cardboard. So there’s that.


I already mentioned this, but we biked out to Sagres and were surprised how close we were able to bike to the cliff’s edge:

I like food in pots:

Especially when they look like this on your plate (monkfish, potato, and shrimp):

The end
All good things coming to an end, as this is our last night in Lisbon:


Two final images. For some reason our plane was billowing clouds of something, which is, um… weird

And finally, it’s so good to get home. Or as close as US Airways will let you:

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Erika and I are on the bus leaving the Algarve right now (the picture is from Sagres, we rented bikes and rode to where we took that photo. Directly behind me is a 400 foot drop straight into the ocean, great spot for a picnic!), but I thought I'd share a story from Glasgow given that I couldn't post it before due to lack of available Internet.

Erika and I had decided that we would walk to one of the parks in Glasgow (they're quite nice), then find somewhere nearby to have dinner. We wandered in the general direction of one, and at first things were fine. Shopping, touristy kinds of things going on. But then it started to get progressively more sketchy. Erika didn't seem to notice, and may have thought I was overreacting. I said as much, but she rolled her eyes in that way that says "oh come on, nobody is going to stab you in broad daylight in a major city 3 blocks from a Marks and Spencer". We soldiered on.

See of you can guess which event over the following 20 minutes led us to decide "we should get out of here before someone stabs us in broad daylight in a major city 3 blocks from a Marks and Spencer":
1. Seeing people spill out of a pub blind stinking drunk and swearing at each other, and it's 5pm
2. Stepping into that same pub and having a guy stare at me for the entire duration of our time there
3. In the pub washroom: LADY: "What brings you to Gallow's Gate?" ERIKA: "Oh, just grabbing a pint" LADY: "SURE luv... HAH!"
4. Discovering the area of town we were in was referred to as "Gallow's Gate"
5. Seeing a pigeon that I'm pretty sure had AIDS
6. Watching a drunk old man stumble and fall off the curb
7. See a different old man stumble into a bus stop ad-board, cut his head on the glass... then relieve himself on the sign

Good times!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Mmm... meaty

Through a combination of the weather (see above), crappy Internet availability, and not wanting to ignore Erika; I have not been posting much. I do have a nice list of topics to post about now though, and since I got up early today here's one:

It always surprises me how much meat there is on an animal. This though occured to me when looking at the shrimp we had for dinner last night. Those suckers are little more than one big hunk of meat with a head. But when you think about it, why not? Realistically what else would an animal be made out of if not guts and meat and connective tissue like bones 'n things? (name trademarked in case I ever divert into voodoo and want to open a shop)

Naturally this got me thinking about insects. Shouldn't eating a bug be much the same experience as eating a shrimp? I think it all boils down to the ratio of guts to meat. When I think of a shrimp I think of a big hunk of meat, whereas when I think of a bug like a beetle or a spider or a cricket I think of a little bag of goop. Everyone who was a kid stomped on a bug or two in their youth; it's tough to get that imagery out of your head. Shrimp are made of meat and bugs are made of guts. End of story, thanks for coming.

Or is it? After all, if I dropped a Smart Car onto a pig it's not like ham and bacon would go shooting all over the place. No, it would be the guts, just like all the bugs I stomped on as a kid. I guarantee you that if my first experiences with pig guts as a child had been in the form of Smart Car stompings instead of hot dogs I'd feel a lot differently about eating anything that came from a pig today.

So maybe there's a lot more meat on a bug than I've been willing to consider? Seems likely. Not that I'm about to do an anteater impression in my back yard with a chunk of garden hose and a fur coat, but in the right circumstance I woul now be willing to at least try an insect. With a good sauce. Like when I first tried shrimp (those suckers looked like bugs... gross).

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Trying the local food

However, this is what Erika had:

Hers was tastier.Just had an awesome day on the beach in Faro with Erika. This was my dinner tonight:

Monday, July 4, 2011

I Glasgow now, with only passing Internet availability. Next post will hopefully be via Portugal!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Fashioning a Post

For some reason I've been thinking a lot about fashion on this trip. If you know me at all you'll understand how weird this is. I'm not what you'd call a "fashionable guy", or a "snappy dresser", or even a "person who doesn't buy the same shoes three times in a row."*

The funny thing is, I'm actually able to break down the mechanics of fashion pretty well at a rudimentary level. Erika will say something like "Should I wear a necklace with this dress?" and I can muster a response along the lines of "I don't think so because the shape of your collar is meant to draw attention to your neck and shoulders, so the triangle of the necklace would go in the other direction and ruin the effect." Then I'll put on my black pants and brown shoes and leave the house.**

See, the problem is that I have no ability to look at the whole picture when it comes to fashion. I can get into the core principles but I can't look at a closet and pick out an outfit that doesn't look like something a drunken lumberjack would wear into town to get groceries. It's basically the opposite of food. I can tell you in a heartbeat if something is damn tasty, but if I have to tell you why the flavours work together I'm at a complete loss.***

Which is why me thinking about fashion is a bit odd. But I've been in London for a few days and have thus been exposed to some cutting-edge fashion as it were. It's tough not to notice the differences to the rest of the world after you've been here for a while, and above all else the thing that stands out is just how many different styles there are. I'm used to living in a place where that variety just doesn't exist. Every girl in Vancouver or Seattle seems to decide at once what's fashionable this year and then either go with it or put on some gore-tex because it's raining again (I worked in a bar so I've at least got a decent sample-size to work with. I'm also a guy, so looking at girls isn't exactly an unrefined skill of mine). In London however, women are way more likely to dress in a style appropriate for their body type and shape. Makes sense though right? They've got a bunch of options to pick from! Sadly, this means that looking fashionable in a place like Vancouver requires you to either
   a) Be lucky and have the body type that's in style this year
   b) Move, or
   c) Look bad

Here's an example: I have seen a number of very fashionable women here sporting a haircut that can only be called "The Lisbeth Salander". If you've read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo or seen the movie you'll know what I mean, but here's a photo from the movie (the version around here is more sexy, less harsh though):

The haircut itself is basically very rockerish, with short sides and a fair bit of the 80's in there. On the right girl it can look smoking hot (minus the nose-ring, I'm not a fan), and I say "on the right girl" because on 99.98% of the population it would make you look like Ronald McDonald with an undercut. But what's a girl to do if this becomes the style that leaks out into the general population this year? My sister went through this in high school: To this day she can't look at photos of herself with that haircut and not tear up (at gunpoint I would not include a picture of it in this blog. We'd probably never speak again and we have a good relationship).

I'm not sure if I have a thesis that I'm getting at here. It's more just an expunging of thoughts. But if I did have one, it would be that our perception of the average woman in a city like London as being more fashionable than elsewhere is wrong. They're just exposed to more options.****

*I wish I was joking about this but I'm not. I went shopping with Erika once and she helped me pick shoes. The next two times she let me go on my own under the mistaken belief that I now had the fundamental skills required to pick shoes for myself. Instead I just bought identical new ones under the belief that I could wear the same style of shoes for 5 years and nobody would notice. After the third pair I was informed that this is not the case. Who knew?

**Actually no, I wouldn't do that. Erika told me not to.

***Game design is a different beast, if you don't understand what's going on at both a macro and a micro level you're DOA. At my core I would say that I'm a pretty mechanistic thinker when it comes to design, but if you can't experience the final product in your brain and say whether it's fun or not well, you're going to make some pretty crappy games in your career.

****Yes, a woman could be as fashionable anywhere on the planet. The difference? In Vancouver you have to read magazines and then order clothes from Milan. In London you see it on your daily commute and then try it on in the store. A bit less of a hurdle.

NOTE 1: I recognize that you can replace Milan, Paris, New York, Tokyo, etc. in this post wherever I've said "London". Please do so as you wish.

NOTE 2: I realize I don't spend any time talking about men's fashion here so let me summarize the differences I did notice:
  a) some guys wore cufflinks

Friday, July 1, 2011

Tweets I would have sent while drinking on Canada Day if I had a data plan in England:

There are 12 different ways to qualify as "fashionable" in London. In Seattle? 1

There are an ass-ton of people dressed in red in Trafalgar Square. Some of them are even Canadian.

I think the rest of the planet sees Canada as the folksy uncle who makes pun jokes when he comes over.

When did Blue Rodeo get appointed Canada's global musical representatives? I'm assuming this was by acclimation?

Walk up to someone and say "I loved Duck Hunt" really fast. Now you know why we're all giggling.

"I'd like a round of tequila and a round of sambuca." How could this possibly end poorly?

An hour later and they haven't arrived. I guess my question has been answered?

Mmm... red bull. (insert sloppy make-out sounds here)

I think when I decided to only bring two pairs of shorts on this two week trip I grossly underestimated the amount of beer I would spill on them over the first 3 days.

I need one hundred thousand cc's of cheeseburger STAT!

Hm. My taxi driver has an English accent. That was unexpected.

The Future Will Have to Wait

Can someone explain to me why I pay for anything but data anymore? Seriously, let's look at the things I'm forced to pay for that I could easily get with a data plan:

Landline = Skype or cell phone. This is the easiest one, and that's assuming you even want a landline, which I don't. Comcast is having a REALLY hard time wrapping their heads around this idea btw.

COMCAST: We have a great offer for you to add a landline to your plan!

ME: I don't want a landline.

COMCAST: But it's very cheap.

ME: Cheaper than free?

COMCAST: How can you say no to a landline for $7?

ME: Well, you're giving me a lot of practice for starters.

Really? You're charging me piecemeal for data than you squeeze through a different pipe and which doesn't cost you anything? HOW IS THIS LEGAL?

This is the thing that chews people up the most, myself included. Everyone I know who has cable says some variant of "If I could just get live sports I wouldn't need cable anymore". Sigh.

Sadly, this is why the awesome future we have the the technology for will not come to fruition any time soon. Too many companies who know it's better to maximize profit over awesomeness.