Sunday, March 30, 2008

Thank you Maxim Magazine

For the most part, Maxim Magazine is a piece of trash. But when it's right, it's right:

Apparently, Maxim Magazine ranked Sex and the City star Sara Jessica Parker the unsexiest woman in the world. I've been saying this for years. Actually, that's not quite true. I think she's the third unsexiest woman in Hollywood. Two of her three co-stars take the top two spots. You know which two I'm talking about. My problem with her entire show was the leap of logic it took to buy that men might find her and her ugly friends attractive. It's not like any of them had good personalities either.

SJP is all pissed that Maxim is telling it like it is. She's clearly a glass-is-half-empty kind of person. She shouldn't be upset that she is an ugly movie start. She should be happy that despite being ugly, she still became a movie star. She also made some public response about how she's not unsexy just because she doesn't have fake boobs and fake lips or something. This is true. She's unsexy because her face is shaped like a foot. That has nothing to do with boobs or lips.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

"That's Kenseth country."

That's what the lady at the rental car place in North Carolina told me when she looked at my drivers license and saw that I'm from Milwaukee.

Danny from Milwaukee: Excuse me?

Rental Car Lady: Milwaukee is Kenseth country.

DFM: What's Kenseth?

RCL: Matt Kenseth is from Milwaukee.

DFM: Who's Matt Kenseth?

RCL: You must not be a racing fan.

DFM: Racing isn't actually very big in Milwaukee. I'm sure Matt Kenseth is very good, but it's more like Favre country up there. Of Fielder country.

I assume she meant auto-racing because I actually am a racing fan. I ran in college and everything. This woman seemed appalled that I could live in "Kenseth country" and not even appreciate the significance. I looked up Matt Kenseth on wikipedia and found out that he is in fact a stock car driver from Wisconsin (Cambridge, not Milwaukee). I actually remember some of the dudes at the Wisconsin Sport Bar blog talking about him in the past, but that's about it. It's funny that a whole segment of society (if all Nascar fans think like the rental car lady) could think of Wisconsin as "Kenseth country" when most of us up here don't really give a crap about him.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

On Wisconsin

I don't really give a crap about the NCAA Basketball Tournament. I somehow maintain my sanity throughout the madness. I'm usually too excited about spring training and the upcoming baseball season to be much more than a casual basketball fan. I fill out a bracket and I cheer on my alma mater, Wisconsin, and the local team, Marquette, but that's about it.

And I also read, which had some pretty mean-spirited things to say about Wisconsin in their "Teams we hate" article:

University of Wisconsin, Big Ten Conference, No. 3 in Midwest Region

Everyone bags on Big Ten football, and appropriately so, but the Midwestern brand of pigskin is easy on the eyes compared with Big Ten hoops: a raft of mediocre teams, plenty of flow-restricting physicality, and, all-too-often, Brent Musberger, looking live from Champaign or Iowa City. The most painful Big Ten team to endure is the Badgers, a team that combines brutishness and blandness into an unwatchable goulash.

I blame Bo Ryan, the coach who has created a top program in Madison by installing all manner of defensive tactics while forgetting the game is supposed to be entertainment. To use a soccer analogy, the Badgers always appear to be playing for a draw but manage to get enough muscled-in offensive rebounds from the likes of Brian Butch to get past the league's weak competition. Wisconsin will muck along in the tournament until it runs into a team that knows how to execute a crossover dribble. Until then, I'll be singing my own version of the Badgers' fight song every time they clog up my TV: "Off, Wisconsin!"—Robert Weintraub

First of all, all basketball games are brutish and bland. The problem with basketball is that scoring a point is virtually meaningless since it's so easy to score. Most games have half time scores of something like 34 to 32. To me, that translates to zero-zero. Why'd they even play that half? Then the time outs and the fouls start. Borrrr-rrrinng. And, although I don't know what a "crossover dribble" is, I'm guessing it's part of the reason that scoring is so easy and games are so boring.

Wisconsin basketball is good basketball - at least comparatively. It's like baseball, sort of. First, they sign guys that will stick around until they are juniors and seniors. Bo Ryan and Dick Bennet knew that a team full of experienced players with good fundamentals and strong defense would be competitive from year to year and make the tournament in most years. Let Ohio State and Florida have the superstars (how's that NIT tournament going this year anyway?). Also, they know that a prevented basket is the same as a scored basket, even if it isn't as entertaining for shit-chucking chimps like Robert Weintraub of So they prevent baskets, and it works pretty well.

Strategy is what makes sports exciting, not cross-over dribbles.

Go Badgers!

Did you bring treats?

It's my last day at the old job today. I'm starting my new one on Monday. When they found out I was leaving, no less than four of the secretaries asked me if I'd be bringing in treats for my last day. The answer to that, of course, is "no." My last day on the job, particularly when I'm leaving for a different firm, does not strike me as a treat occasion. Am I wrong about this?

I have to admit, I don't really understand this treat-based culture of the staff here. Is it like this in all offices? They bring in treats for every occasion you can imagine. Cookies, cakes, doughnuts, etc. And they talk about it. What they eat or have eaten is actually a topic of conversation. It's weird. And I thought that one thing that defined a "treat" was its rarity? It's not exactly special if it happens every day. And it's really really unhealthy if it's every day too!!! I certainly don't want to be a part of that.

I went 20 rounds with "Cindy" last night.

A bunch of the Crossfit benchmark workouts have girls' names. So in this particular case, Cindy isn't a real person, she's a workout, and those "rounds" I did with her consisted of pull-ups, push-ups and squats. The workout is as many rounds as possible in 20 minutes of 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, and 15 air squats. I got 20 rounds. One round per minute. That's 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, and 300 squats in less time than it takes to listen to one song at a Phish concert. I was gassed. I also got on the record board again. This time, the guy I knocked off is the stud of my gym.* He has almost all of the records. I really can't say enough about this stuff. Doing 100 pull-ups in 20 minutes seemed unfathomable to me a few months ago.

*Full disclosure: he had been lifting heavy for about an hour before he did the workout. He got 19 rounds + the pull-ups and push-ups. If he tried "Cindy" again he'd take his record right back.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Air-Cobain sneaker to "honor" Kurt

I never understood the concept of naming a shoe after a person that wasn't the designer. I guess naming a basketball sneaker after the best basketball player makes a certain amount of sense, but it always seemed silly to me. But not this silly.

Converse have announced plans to release a new limited edition series of shoes inspired by late-Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, each decorated with drawings and writing from his posthumously released journals. The line will include Converse High Tops and rather more morbidly a pair of black One Tops, the shoes Cobain was wearing when he committed suicide in 1994.

In a press release, Converse said: "To honor Cobain, in May, Converse will debut their Kurt Cobain collection of shoes featuring artwork and scribbles borrowed from Cobain's personal notebooks.

Actually, that's more than just silly. It's kind of sick. Remember, this is Kurt Cobain we're talking about. You know, the guy that wore this t-shirt on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine:

Kidneys not for sale

Lately I've been watching ReasonTV's Drew Carey Project. It's a series of videos available for free on line at ReasonTV that discuss a number of political issues and hosted by Drew Carey. They are straight-forward, informative and entertaining. And you can watch them on your iPod when you're in the waiting room at the doctor's office or whatever (but not if you're waiting in the doctor's office to sell a kidney because that's illegal). You should really check them all out, but I found the most recent one very compelling:

Although I don't like to talk too much about politics on this here rag, this is one issue where I just can't wrap my head around the other side's position. 3,000 Americans die each year waiting for a kidney while 300,000,000 of us have an extra one. At least some of that latter number could really use $15,000 or so too.

What do you think? Should we be allowed to sell our kidneys?

Monday, March 17, 2008

The King of Kong

Movie Review: The King of Kong: A Fist Full of Quarters

I just watched what I believe was the best film of 2007. I haven't seen No Country For Old Men (I heard it's just a rip-off of The Terminator) but I have a hard time believing it could possibly be better than The King of Kong. It's about a guy named Steve Weibe and his quest to break the world record for the highest score in the 1981 arcade classic, Donkey Kong. But it's more than that. It's hilarious, somewhat unsettling, occasionally sweet and always intriguing. It's a look inside of a bizarre subculture as an outsider attempts to dethrone their hero.

Steve Weibe is a likable "aw shucks" kind of guy. He's a musician, an artist and an athlete. When he got laid off from his job at Boeing, he decided to spend his free time to try and break the world record for Donkey Kong. The problem is that the record was currently held by one of the doucheist characters in cinema history: Billy Mitchel. Billy was a video game "prodigy" in the 1980s and in 1982, he scored 874,300 points on Donkey Kong to set the world record. The second highest score (something like 500,000. I forget exactly.) was set by Billy's sidekick/toady Brian Kuh. As the film begins, Billy's '82 record still stands and Billy is still remarkably cocky as a result. He's also a dead-ringer for Ben Stiller's character in Dodgeball. But he's way funnier than Ben Stiller and this movie is way funnier than Dodgeball.

Billy is also a "referee" for Twin Galaxies, the organization that governs "world records" for video games. This makes Weibe's quest all the more difficult. It's as much about politics as it is about hand-eye coordination. It really is a fantastic movie that I highly recommend.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Mark A. in the Milwaukee Business Journal

Every time I read something about the Brewer's owner, I like him more and more.

Attanasio, team chairman and principal owner, confirmed this week that the Brewers' 2008 payroll will exceed $80 million, a franchise record, just four years after it was $27.5 million, the lowest amount in Major League Baseball. In 2004, the team was highly criticized for cutting its payroll by 25 percent and for the departure of team president Ulice Payne.


"When I bought the team, everyone wanted me to get it to $40 million. But we have had a process in place that has worked in allowing us to set a payroll to make sure we are competitive. We do have some challenges in this media market, but we have remained flexible and taken opportunities when they have presented themselves.

"We also have gotten money from Major League Baseball in revenue sharing and from shares of other revenue, such as national television contracts. Shared revenue is very important to this team. All of the money has gone back into payroll."

Mark A., I salute you.

Markets in... nothing?

The Freakonomics Blog is talking about the University of Wisconsin's business school.

Michael Knetter may just go down in history as one of the greatest fundraisers of all time. Knetter is the dean of the Wisconsin Business School. Other universities have managed to raise substantial amounts of money by naming their business schools after generous donors (think Carlson, Tuck, Goizueta, Sloan, etc.). But Knetter did something far more impressive. He managed to raise $85 million in return for promising not to name the school for the next 20 years. A bunch of boosters liked the fact that the school is simply called the “University of Wisconsin Business School,” and they were willing to pay to keep it that way, at least for 20 years.

I guess the lesson is that sometimes a lot of sort-of-rich alumni can outspend one very-rich alumnus.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

How does the Brewer's bullpen rank?

According to Tom Singer of it ranks 4th in the majors:

4. Brewers: How can a team let a 44-save closer (Cordero) and a valued middle man (Linebrink) walk, yet still rate a top-notch bullpen? Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin scores on the proactive meter.

Cordero already had a track record (with Texas) for crash-landing after a big season, so Melvin felt better about rebuilding his bullpen and went all out. A lot rides on whether Guillermo Mota and Eric Gagne can re-enact the deadly combination they formed with the 2002-04 Dodgers.

There are people with closing experience all over the place. Melvin also added David Riske and Salomon Torres, and Derrick Turnbow is still on the scene. Brian Shouse has aged into a trusted matchup lefty (only 24 of the 94 he faced reached base).

If you see Mr. Singer you are advised to immediately flee as fast as you can in the opposite direction as he has clearly lost his mind. I like this the best: "There are people with closing experience all over the place." Yeah, you know, guys like Dan Kolb.

In all honesty, I think the bullpen will be alright. Bullpens are hard to predict because the lifespan of a relief pitcher, especially a closer, is pretty short. But I don't think there's much chance that it'll be the 4th best in baseball. Maybe the 4th most recognizable.

I don't normally post sappy poetry about death...

but this struck me as being about right:

I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
From the beginning to the end

He noted that first came the date of her birth
And spoke the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years

For that dash represents all the time
That she spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved her
Know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not how much we own;
The cars, the house, the cash,
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard.
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left,
That can still be rearranged.

If we could just slow down enough
To consider what’s true and real
And always try to understand
The way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger,
And show appreciation more
And love the people in our lives
Like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect,
And more often wear a smile
Remembering that this special dash
Might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy is being read
With your life’s actions to rehash
Would you be proud of the things they say
About how you spent your dash?

It's called "The Dash" and it was written by Linda Ellis on a lunch break in 1996. I like that the verse is simple and that it rhymes (I hate the other kind of poetry). But I really like that it's about living in the now rather than appealing to the supernatural.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Earth-like planets orbiting Alpha Centauri


Habitable rocky planets are likely to have formed in the Alpha Centauri system, a trio of stars 4.37 light years, or 25.8 trillion miles, away, a study has shown. Astronomers say if such worlds exist they could be detected using a dedicated telescope.


Anyone standing on a planet orbiting Alpha Centauri B would see two "suns" in the sky, a bright "primary" sun and a "secondary" sun which would be much weaker but still many times brighter than the full moon as seen from Earth.

Just like Luke Skywalker's planet.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Are Push-ups the ultimate barometer of fitness?

This NY-Times article makes a pretty good case. It also tells us what Jack Lalane is up to at 93years old:

Mr. LaLanne, who once set a world record by doing 1,000 push-ups in 23 minutes, still does push-ups as part of his daily workout. Now he balances his feet and each hand on three chairs. "That way I can go way down, even lower than if I was on the floor,” he said. “That’s really tough.”

Mr. Lalane, I salute you.

My MLB Season Prediction

AL East
1. Boston
2. NY
3. TB
4. Baltimore
5. Toronto

AL Central
1. Detroit
2. Cleveland
3. KC
4. Chicago
5. Minnesota

AL West
1. Anaheim
2. Oakland
3. Seatle
4. Texas

NL East
1. Mets
2. Philly
3. Florida
4. Washington
5. Atlanta

NL Central
1. Milwaukee
2. Chicago
3. Cinci
4. Houston
5. Cards
6. Bucs

NL West
1. LA
2. Arizona
3. Colorado
4. Padres
5. Giants

AL Wild Card: Yankees
NL Wild Card: Chicago

Detroit defeats NY.
Boston defeats Anaheim

Detroit defeats Boston

Milwaukee defeats LA
Mets defeat Chicago

Mets defeat Milwaukee

World Series:
Detroit defeats NYMets in 5

What do you think?

Monday, March 10, 2008

It could be worse

Ned Yost is a mediocre manager. He's probably below average when it comes to strategy. But it's important for Brewer Fans to remember, it could be worse. Read this fisking of a Dusty Baker praiser over at One of the better bits:

Stupid Dusty Baker Fan: Anyone with a laptop can locate the Web site baseball- and sound like an expert. Anyone with a library card can pick up one of [Bill] James' mind-numbing baseball "abstracts," in which the author makes the game sound like a first cousin to biomechanical engineering.

Ken Tremendous: Which is why it boggles the mind that some people don't. Especially the ones paid millions of dollars to operate one of 30 several-hundred-million-dollar franchises. And for the record, I'm not trying to sound like an expert. I'm trying to sound like a dude with a computer who can look shit up and point out that Adam Dunn is doing just fine, thank you, and if you start making him swing at pitches he doesn't like, you're going to screw up your team.


I hope they paid their taxes

The big news of the day is that Elliot Spitzer likes to bang hookers. Now, since this is a decidedly apolitical blog and I don't really care, I won't comment too much on the issues surrounding illegal prostitution or budding politicians. But I will say, given Spitzer's push for taxing illicit activities, I really hope they paid their taxes.

Feb 17, 2008

That seems to be the axiom in New York these days, where Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer (D), struggling to close a $4.4 billion budget gap, has proposed making drug dealers pay tax on their stashes of illegal drugs. The new tax would apply to cocaine, heroin and marijuana, and could be paid with pre-bought "tax stamps" affixed to the bags of dope.

"It was a way of getting tougher on criminals," said Joseph D. Henchman, tax counsel for the Tax Foundation, a Washington-based educational group.


Saturday, March 8, 2008

Featured in the CFM Newsletter

I'm featured in the Crossfit Milwaukee Newsletter for March. It's here, complete with nerdy pictures.


I got a new job. A good one. I'm pumped about it.

Waayy too cold to be a gangster.

The word on the street yesterday was that the upcoming Johnny Depp/Christian Bale flick Public Enemies was casting extras for non-speaking parts at the Italian Community center. They were looking for guys that are under 6'1" with "good faces." If that doesn't describe me to a "T" I don't know what does. So me and some friends headed over to the ICC in our suits and overcoats. Thankfully, recommended attire is what I wear to work. When we got there, the line was around the block. Actually it was about three blocks long. And 20 degrees at best. Most of the women in line were weaing skirts and high-heels. Although some of them made valliant efforts to keep warm - I saw one girl with her left foot in her purse and her right foot wrapped in a scarf - they looked miserable. We waited for about an hour and a half and then threw in the towel. I figured the odds of one of the women in our group dieing from exposure were greater than the odds of me getting held up by Johnny Depp on the big screen. My fame will have to wait.

We went to Elsa's on the Park for food and drink instead. I'm a bit fan of Elsa's. It always has a good crowd and feels like a lively place to be. The atmosphere is a little fancy, but it's basically a burger joint. We had some nachos and wings and a bunch of brown beers in .75L bottles. It turned out to be a good night.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

and the ol' gun-slinger road off into the Mississippi sunset on a John Deere lawn tractor...

I'm part of an entire generation of Wisconsin sports fan that has never really known a Green Bay Packers team that didn't have Brett Favre lined up over center. I vaguely remember the 1989 season in which Don Majkoski took us to a 10 and 6 record and led the NFL in passing yards. I think the two seasons after that featured Don splitting time with Blair Kiel and Anthony Dilweg and taking us to a 6 and 10 record and a 4 and 12 record. Then Number 4 took over. Since then, Favre has set almost every NFL passing record. He has also started in 275 consecutive games. As Paul at the Electric Commentary notes, he's the finest QB in Packer history, the toughest QB in NFL history, and a better QB than John fucking Elway. It won't be the same without him.

[ed. I looked up Favre on wikipedia and got a disambiguation page that listed several "Favres." Next to Brett he was identified as "forever and American football player." I checked the history of the page, and it seems one editor changed it to "former American football player" and another changed it to what I saw. It's less accurate, but more awesome.]

Monday, March 3, 2008

Dear Prince Fielder,

I'd like to start out by saying that you are a fantastic baseball player, and by all accounts, a great leader and person in general. But I'm worried about you. Let's start with your new diet. When choosing a diet, it's important to keep in mind that you are a professional athlete and that your strength is your strength. On the athleticism spectrum, you fit somewhere near the top. At the bottom of this spectrum, right below starving children in third world countries, you will find a group known as "fashion models." People in this group are in such bad shape because they have shitty diets. Now, just to help you connect the dots, I'm going to be very clear about this; YOU SHOULDN'T TAKE DIETARY ADVICE FROM FUCKING FASHION MODELS!

I read that you decided to go on your new vegetarian diet after reading a book called Skinny Bitch. This book was written by two fucking fashion models. Neither of them would have a very good OPS. Here is the cover of the book:

You'll notice that there is not a professional baseball player pictured on the cover. Instead it features a caricature of a woman that is built like a pretzel. I do not believe that this cartoon woman could pick up a cartoon bat.

This book sold about 5 copies until some paparazzi snapped a picture of Posh Spice reading it. Here is a picture of posh spice:

You'll notice that Posh is built sort of like the woman on the book jacket, only not quite as shapely, despite some surgical augmentation. Her legs could be described as "lines." This is not a physique that a professional home-run hitter should aspire to have.

It's not impossible to be healthy without eating meat, but it's really really hard. You can't just eat 30 Boca Burgers per day. (This is literally what you would need to eat to get close to the amount of protein a man of your stature requires to work out like a man in your line of work needs to). Please start eating meat. And if you're not going to do that, at least hire a nutritionist that isn't in the fashion industry.

Very truly yours,


P.S. Remember this?

Friday, February 29, 2008

The Marvels of Medical Technology

DUBLIN (AFP) - An Irishman blinded by an explosion two years ago has had his sight restored after doctors inserted his son's tooth in his eye, he said on Wednesday.


The procedure used on McNichol involved his son Robert, 23, donating a tooth, its root and part of the jaw. McNichol's right eye socket was rebuilt, part of the tooth inserted and a lens inserted in a hole drilled in the tooth.


"Nor do they allow marketing that suggests a drink can be consumed without feeling the effects of alcohol."

Some annoying anti-alcohol group is suing Miller over their surprisingly awesome beverage, Sparks.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest said Thursday that Anheuser-Busch's Bud Extra and Tilt, and Miller's Sparks, contain stimulants that are not officially approved for use in alcohol drinks. The group also accused the companies of falsely suggesting those stimulants will help combat the effects of alcohol.

Falsely suggesting those stimulants will help combat the effects of alcohol? So Miller is telling people, "drink our alcoholic beverage. It's just like drinking a non-alcoholic beverage!"? That just doesn't make sense.

The nonprofit health advocacy group, based in Washington, D.C., will seek a judge's order prohibiting the companies from combining stimulants with alcohol.

Why do people always have to fight against convenience? The great thing about Sparks is that you just pop open the can and start drinking. No mixing involved. They even sell it at Miller Park. These people essentially want you to drink Redbull and vodka instead. Which is more expensive and less convenient.

I like this bit:

Federal regulations do not allow advertisements implying that such drinks have a stimulating effect. Nor do they allow marketing that suggests a drink can be consumed without feeling the effects of alcohol.

So first, you're not allowed to say that your drink has a stimulating effect. But here's a little secret about Sparks: it DOES have a stimulating effect! So this is a federal regulation requiring a company to lie about it's product. Secondly, you're not allowed to say that your product doesn't exhibit the properties that consumers want in your product. So it would be like if the federal government told Coke that they couldn't say, "Coke doesn't taste like Coke." What a useful law!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Stuff White People Like: Wrigley Field

The other day, a friend sent me the link to a hilarious website called "Stuff White People Like." I've been gradually making my way through all of the posts. Given that it's the start of baseball [pre-]season, I found this entry pretty funny:

#30 Wrigley Field

One of the best things someone can do to gain the respect and trust of a white person, is to attend a baseball game with them at Wrigley Field, the home of the Chicago Cubs. When most people think of the Chicago Cubs they think of tradition, ivy covered walls, Fergie Jenkins & Harry Caray. A more accurate representation would be khaki shorts, frat boys & rich white business men on their iphones.

Yeah, that's about right. He adds:

Wrigley is an old stadium where people still pee in troths, but white people love paying top dollar to do this. They also like being around “real baseball fans”, even though most of the people in the bleachers are drunk rich frat kids that aren’t from Chicago and have no idea who Ernie Banks is.

Read the whole thing.

The whole website is really funny. I'd guess that the majority of the site's readers are white. Which makes this one true.

There are few things in this world sweeter than seeing something like this in print:

Cactus League Action: Brewers (Vargas) vs Athletics (Blanton), February 28. 2008, 2:05 CST

Welcome back Baseball Season. I missed you terribly. GO BREWERS!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Book Shelf Etiquette

Here's an interesting article on the Rules of Library Management, by some jag-off at TIME Magazine's website. His "Prime Directive" is:

RULE #1: THE PRIME DIRECTIVE -- It is unacceptable to display any book in a public space of your home if you have not read it. Therefore, to be placed on Matt Selman's living room bookshelves, a book must have been read cover to cover, every word, by Matt Selman. If you are in the home of Matt Selman and see a book on the living room shelves, you know FOR SURE it has been read by Matt Selman.

The first thing this article tells us is that Matt Selman, whoever he is, is a fucking dork. The second thing it tells us is that Matt Selman doesn't really understand what shelves are for. Or maybe he just has a different idea of what shelves should be for than I do.

I view the books that I own as having two functions. We'll call them the "primary function" and the "secondary function." The primary function, is of course, providing information to me, the owner/reader. The secondary function is providing information to people that might observe what books are on my shelves and form conclusions about what kind of person I am based on said books. We'll call these people "chicks that come over to my apartment."

I have four book shelves. The first is located in my bedroom. It contains approximately 15 books (and a plant, some candles, this sculpture thing and some book-ends). I have read 100% of the books on this shelf. The books on this self are mostly my favorites. All of them are newish hardcovers or decently kept up, newer paperbacks. In other words, I've read them and they look pretty nice. They include Neal Stephenson's "Cryptonomicon" and "The Baroque Cycle," Michael Lewis's "Moneyball" and "The Blind Side," Carl Sagan's "The Demonhaunted World," Scott Adams's "God's Debris" Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink" and the entire Harry Potter series.

The second shelf is located in my living room. It is in an area of the room that can be seen by anyone sitting in any of the chairs in said living room. There are about 30 books on this shelf. I've read approximately 25% of these books. They are all thick hardcovers, from which I've removed the nerdy book-jackets. I obtained most of them from my grandparents' place after they passed away. They include many biographies and historical accounts of wars and things. I'm interested in all of the topics covered in them, but haven't gotten around to reading all of them yet. I think that even though I haven't read all of these books, they still convey something about who I am. They tell visitors that I'm well-read and interested in history. And I am pretty well-read and interested in history. So I don't really think that makes me a poser.

The third shelf is also in my living room. It is a "barrister's cabinet," which means it has doors on it. They're glass, so you can still see what books are inside, but not as well. And it's in a place in the room where it's harder to see unless you're looking right at it. There are about 100 books on this shelf and I've read approximately 95% of them. Some of the books on this shelf are my favorites, but the copies I have of them kinda look like shit. They're mostly beat up old paperbacks I bought at used books stores during college.

The final shelf is in my spare bedroom. I got this shelf at Wal*Mart in like 1999 and it's a piece of garbage that is falling apart. The books on this shelf are mostly textbooks from college and law school, coffee table books I got on sale at Borders and a few miscellaneous others. I'd say there are about 200 books on this shelf... and a small collection of Milwaukee Brewers bobble-head dolls. I read most of most of these books, and they look alright, but one message I'm most definitely not trying to convey is "I went to law school." That's why they're in a room where nobody really goes.

Basically, my system involves accepting the idea that books that I'm interested in, but haven't read, say something about me too. So the books that are the most prominently displayed are the ones that look the nicest. I didn't really do that on purpose, that's just how it ended up. But I like that system, and I'm sticking to it.

How are your books displayed?

Workin' Late

Sometimes I don't think I'm cut out for the real world. I say this based totally on the nine 7:30 to five 6:45 schedule. I do my best work at night and at the last minute. This has always been the case. One of the several corny sayings that I throw around on a regularly basis is "pressure creates diamonds." For me that's totally true. I'm one efficient mo-fo when there's a deadline looming (I say, ironically, as I'm writing a post on my blog). But whatever, it'll all get done. It always does.

Knowing I was in for a late one, I was faced with the decision of whether I plug away until it's done, or go to the gym and then come back. I chose the latter, and I've been a machine since then. I work better when I get in a good workout.

Does anyone else think the 9-5 schedule is stupid?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Incentives and weight loss

In the post below, I noted that keeping in shape is easier when you have benchmarks. Benchmarks simply provide an incentive. For me, that incentive is simply a predetermined task that allows me to measure my accomplishments. Pride, in other words.

Interestingly, the Freakonomics Blog has this guest post by Ian Ayres about incentives and weight loss. Mr. Ayers notes that commercial weight loss programs (Atkins, Ornish, Weight Watchers and Zone) aren't all that effective for keeping weight off for over a year. He came up with a solution:

In the last decade, I’ve yoyo-ed several times. I’d take off a bunch a weight, but by the end of the year I’d put it all back on plus a little extra.

Until this last year, when I did something different. As described in this L.A. Times op-ed, I put $500 each week on safely losing and keeping off my extra weight...


I originally had to lose a pound a week (or else lose money). Then I had to keep my weight below my contractual target of 185 pounds.

In contrast to Weight Watchers, which can cost about $500 a year and helps you lose on average 6 or 7 lbs (about 3 percent of your initial weight), I put $500 at risk each week. In equilibrium, I’ve lost 25 pounds (12 percent of my pre-diet body weight) and so far it has cost me nothing.

Based on this principle, Mr. Ayers created, a website on which you enter into a commitment contract to do anything from lose weight to quit smoking to reconnect with old friends. The site essentially allows you to place a financial wager on weather or not you achieve your goal. If you accomplish your goal, you get your money back. If you don’t, your money goes to charity or to someone you’ve designated in advance.

Here's where it gets intriguing to me. If I have to pay $500 if I skip my workout today, I probably won't skip it. But if that money is going to the Make-A-Wish Foundation or the Red Cross, it wouldn't really be the end of the world. But what if the money would go to an organization I hate? Think of the possibilities. If you're a Democrat, would you even consider lighting up a cig if it meant that $500 of your money would go to Mike Huckabee's campaign? If you're an atheist, would you consider having a doughnut if you had to lose a pound or donate $500 to your local archdiocese? If you're a Michigan grad, wouldn't it be easier for you exercise every day if missing a day meant a substantial donation to Ohio State University?

What goals do you want to accomplish, and what organization do you find objectionable enough that a donation to said organization would help you accomplish your goals?


I think one important factor in getting into peak fitness is setting goals. In the past, I was always in much better shape when I was training for competition. It's always harder to make yourself train hard when there's not an upcoming race or game or competition of some sort. The exception to this was weightlifting. I always liked weightlifting and never competed in it. But with lifting, the benchmarks were clear. If I benched 185lbs 10 times last month, I knew I was improving if I could do 195lbs this month.

One of the great things about Crossfit is that there are many, many benchmarks for measuring your progress. Most of them are short, custom-designed workouts that bear girls' names, like "Angie" (100 pull-ups, 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, 100 air-squats , for time), "Diane" (21+15+9 reps of 225lb deadlifts and handstand push-ups, for time), or "Nancy" (5 rounds of 400 meter run, 15 overhead squats at 95lbs, for time).

[The fact that most of the benchmark workouts have girls' names also makes it fun because you can say things like, "I did Fran last night in five minutes and thirty-two seconds."]

But some of the relevant benchmarks are much simpler. Like pull-ups. When I started Crossfit in early December, I could do about 2 legit pull-ups. When I was in college I could probably do 5 or 6. Last night I did 17. By June 1st I hope to double that.

Does Jason Kendall Suck?

The short answer to this is: "yeah, pretty much."

Paul at the Wisconsin Sports Bar notes that Kendall is "gritty," which is a fancy way of saying that he sucks but the old-school baseball media likes him for stupid reasons. Paul concludes:

Anyway, he gives everyone a "GRIT" score. Note that being gritty means that you are gritty, and that you are probably bad at baseball. Over the last 25 years, Jason Kendall has 3 of the to 12 scores. He ranks as the 3rd grittiest player of all time with a 214.62 career GRIT, or about 19.51 per year. He trails only Ron Hunt and Craig Biggio. Flotsam also calculated the list of least gritty seasons/players. They feature guys like Ted Williams, Barry Bonds, and Ernie Banks. You know, good players. In closing, Jason Kendall sucks balls, and will be a giant black hole for the Brewers all year. Or until he is replaced.

Paul is probably right for the most part. But it's important to note several things before we completely right off Kendall. The first is that Johnny Estrada sucked a lot too. The second is that maybe Kendall does "call a good game" or bring some other hard-to-measure benefits to the team. Paul doesn't think so. Or at least he doesn't think it's worth factoring in. But I find this relatively interesting. Here are the A's records and ERAs with Kendall catching:

Dan Haren 10-3 2.30 ERA
Joe Blanton 8-5 3.28 ERA
Chad Gaudin 8-3 2.88 ERA
Lenny Dinardo 3-5 2.72 ERA

Here they are after Kendall:

Dan Haren 5-6 4.15 ERA
Joe Blanton 6-5 4.89 ERA
Chad Gaudin 3-10 6.30 ERA
Lenny Dinardo 5-5 5.27 ERA

Now obviously a lot of that has to do with fatigue over a long season and "luck", but those are some pretty huge jumps. If Kendall is at all responsible for improving pitching, I'll take him.

Cuban sandwiches are gross

In honor of the fall of Castro from power, I had a mojito and some empanadas at Cubanitas last weekend. I'm a big fan of Cubanitas. It's a lively place, with good food and fun drinks, and it's certainly something "different" in Milwaukee. The one exception to the "good food" is the Sandwich Cubano. I can't blame Cubanitas specifically for this disgusting thing, because I'm sure they make a lovely version of it. The problem is the sandwich itself, so I blame the whole country of Cuba. The Cuban sandwich starts off with roasted pork, Virginia ham and Swiss cheese. We're okay so far. Nothing wrong with pig and cheese. But then they start to lose me: a dill pickle. Now, I don't know what the difference between a dill pickle and a sweet pickle is, but I do know that I'd rather eat a bug than either of them. I find pickles to be the absolute most disgusting food on earth (except maybe strawberries) and I'm grossed out when even the juice of one touches some french fries on my plate. But it gets worse: with a mustard- aioli spread. I'm not sure what a mustard-aioli spread is, but I do know it burns my nose when I smell it. That can't be good. All that said, the rest of their food is pretty awesome and it's a great place to go if you're into toasting to the fall stepping down of a cruel dictator. And who isn't?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

I heard you guys got some snow

I'm sitting in the Las Vegas airport right now. I'm here for a business trip, which is pretty cool. Or it would be cool if I hadn't lost like $300 at the craps table and had my flight home delayed by four of five hours.

As I was sitting here bored out of my mind, I told myself, "at least it beats a day at the office." But as I thought about it more, I'm not sure it does. I like Las Vegas and all, but this kind of trip can really be a pain in the neck for several reasons.

For one thing, it's expensive. Even though I didn't have to pay for my flight and my room, being in Vegas ain't cheap. Between the casino, the overpriced food and drinks and the ocasional lap dance, your money just flies away.

For another thing, I haven't exercised very much in the last three days. When I was looking for hotels, I made sure to check for a fitness room. But when I got here I learned that the fitness room: (1) Costs $20.00 per day, and (2) Blows. So I did an impromptu workout in my room yesterday (5 rounds of 25 pushups, 50 situps and 75 airsquats) but other than that, I didn't do jack. Well, actually, I probably improved my grip strength by farmer carrying my filecase and suitcase. Imagine the guy below, but instead of a muscular guy in a tank top carrying a bunch of o-plates, think of a wimpy guy in a suit with a big pleather file case full of medical records in one hand and a dufflebag full of other crap in the other.

To make it worse, I've been eating like garbage for the past few days. In actuallity, I wasn't eating any different than I did all the time a few months ago, but now it's making me feel like hell, mentally and physically. I've only been dieting and crossfitting for a few months, but after a few days, I've realized just how much I'm on board with the program. I'm "drinking the kool-aid"* as they say.

*I think it's stupid that crossfitters say that. But they do. I'm not sure why anyone would want their fitness program compared to some suicide cult, but whatever.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

That bar is heavier than it looks when you're lunging with it.

5 X [30 walking overhead lunges, 20 push-presses] I'm the one in the red.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Getting [Cross]fit

Hello friends, I realize it's been a super long time since I wrote anything, but I'd like to take a minute to tell you about something that's been taking up a little bit of my time over the past two months or so. It's called Crossfit and it's fucking awesome. Sorry about the profanity, but some things require so much emphasis that only an F-bomb adverb can sufficiently modify the "awesome."

As many of you know, I'm no slouch when it comes to working out. I'm no pro either, but my resume includes being a college distance runner and swimmer (full disclosure: Division III) and several triathlons including Ironman Wisconsin in 2004. I've also lifted weights pretty regularly since high school. What I'm saying is that there have been times in my life where I've been in pretty great shape.

Over the past two years or so, I had kind of let myself go. Some shin problems limited my running and the real world limited my time to do much of anything else. Plus I just wasn't as motivated to get in shape anymore. I stepped on the scale in November and was astonished to see that I weighted 192 lbs. I was FAT. Freshman year of college I was about 160lbs - still big for a runner, but it was mostly in my shoulders and I was definitely "fit" any way you sliced it. My weight fluctuated between 160 and 175 or so for years after that. When I ran Ironman three years ago I was around 165lbs. I don't recall ever being over 180 so I was shocked to see that I was over 190lbs!

So in late November I discovered, and started doing, Crossfit. Eight weeks later, I weigh 182 lbs and I'm jacked. My shoulders are bigger, my core is tighter, my legs are stronger and I'm probably just about at the elusive "best shape of my life" point. 182 is still bigger than normal for me, but I look about at good as I've ever looked, and I'm functionally more fit.

What is Crossfit? Crossfit is a training routine used by a lot of stud athletes, soldiers, cops, firefighters and those dudes in the movie 300 [Sort of. The guys in 300 trained with Gym Jones, which is a gym that employes many of the same concepts as Crossfit but it's kind of elitist]. Crossfit was developed by a guy named Greg Glassman. Practitioners like to say that its specialty is not specializing. It trains you in cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, agility, balance, coordination and accuracy all at the same time. It embraces gymnastic movements, Olympic lifts (squats, dead-lifts, cleans etc.) and metabolic conditioning and it scoffs at "isolation" exercises. A typical workout lasts around 20 minutes (but more like an hour if you warm up and do a "finisher") so it's easy to fit into a schedule. But it's hard.

Most of the workouts consist of two or three different exercises done without rest and for time. For instance, yesterday I did a workout called "Fran" [Many of the workouts have girls' names. I'm not really sure why.] It consists of two exercises; Thrusters [basically a squat plus a push-press] with 95lbs, and pull-ups. You first do 21 reps of each, then 15 reps of each, and then 9 reps of each. I did it in about 11 minutes, which is actually pretty slow. But give me a break, I'm still working on the pull-ups and can't do more than like 5 in a row during a workout. The point is, it's short, but I guarantee you that you get more out of 11 minutes of Fran then you do from 45 minutes on an elliptical machine.

I'm sure I'll be posting more about crossfit. In the meantime, if you're interested in getting in fucking awesome shape, here's the official website. And if you're local, here's the website for Crossfit Milwaukee. Crossfit Milwaukee lets anyone try the Saturday noon class for free.