Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!







We are back; man are we all wiped out. That was a whirlwind of a trip, but completely worth the effort. Today's highlight was stopping in Big Sur and going to for a little hike to the waterfall. It was very cool and I am fairly certain that BIg Sur is the prettiest place in the continental US.

The pictures here, in order, are: the famous Bixby Bridge in Big Sure; the aforementioned waterfall; the $40 million painting in William Randolph Hearst's room that I referenced in yesterday's post; a shot of his office; the outdoor pool, and the Kids.

Anyway, a short post tonight. Gotta get ready for our big night, which includes a lot of nothing. I wish you all nothing but peace, good health, and happiness in the New Year. And a big thank you for coming back to this blog on a regular basis. I don't have many readers, but I love the ones I have and appreciate this little community more than you know.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hearst Castle Redux

I don't know what to say: I am borderline obsessed with this damn house. It truly is one of the most amazing places I have ever visited. We opted for a different tour than last year; this one took us upstairs, where we saw multiple guest suites, Mr. Hearst's bedroom, his private study, the library and guest library, the kitchen, indoor and outdoor pool. My favorite part fo the day was when I told the tour guide (who, I might add, was also our tour guide last year) that I was surprised how modest his bedroom was, given the expanse of the rest of the room. He said to me "yes, it's modest, but in rather good taste. See that picture over there? It's worth in excess of $40 million dollars." See bad picture, attached. Being a year older, the kids were into this and were very good.I bought "The Chief," the definitive autobiography of William Randolph Hearst, and look forward to reading it. It's pretty dense and I expect I will be finished around this time next year.

After visiting the castle, we went to see the Elephant Lions. I accidently slipped while taking pictures with the kids and slied my finger pretty badly on the ground. If I was closer to civilization, I would likely have gone for stitches. Instead, I sucked it up and we cruised around downtown Cambria. I really dig this place; if it was practical, and I could afford it, I'd buy a place here in a heartbeat. As is, we are considering renting for a week or so. After that, we headed to the beach: I neglected to mention that the weather here is about 67 and just about perfect, I ever managed to get a mini sunburn.

All in all a great day. Tomorrow we will head home but not before stopping in Big Sur to check out a 80 foot waterfall and take a little hike.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Back to Cambria


The natives (read: Kids) were getting a bit restless and given that we have another week together cooped up in the house, action needed to be taken. So, the Wife extraordinaire sprang into action, made a few reservations and by noon we were in the car headed to Cambria. Unlike last year, we are only going away for two nights as we want to be relatively close to town for a good friend who's due to give birth any day/hour/moment now.

Riding on Highway 1 through Big Sur is something everyone should do at least once a year (or, one in a lifetime if you live in the East Coast); it's just that remarkably beautiful. Words really don't begin to describe the coastline from half moon bay up through Cambria, which is where we are now. All I can say is that it's good for the soul and it is so astonishing that it makes you believe in a higher power (in the event you don't!).

Tomorrow morning we will go back to Hearst Castle; I enjoyed it so much last year (as did the family) we are returning to check out the upper floors: library, master bedroom, kitchen and more. I will be sure to post pictures. That place is fascinating and once i get back I intend to do some reading on Mr. Hearst. He was quite the fascinating character. After that, the plan is to walk around the quaint town of Cambria, and hopefully go on a hike. We will head home on Wednesday late afternoon, after hopefully stopping in Big Sur for yet another hike.

Man I love California.

More tomorrow.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Top Ten Albums of 2008

Ok, here goes nothing: my list of top albums for 2008. A few caveats that bear repeating. One: I like music that rocks. There is plenty of interesting, artsy bands out there that are creating great music, but I'm not into the "beta band" thing, to borrow a phrase from my boy Beno. The other thing worth mentioning is that about 90 percent of the time in which I am listening to music, I am doing so while running (the other 10 percent is while traveling), and generally when I run I prefer music that has a more aggressive, faster beat. Thus, "slow" music doesn't end up being terribly high on my list(s).

Anyway, with that being said and without further ado, I present to you:

10. Guns n Roses, Chinese Democracy

I don't care what the critics say (you will find this to be a recurring sentiment in this post), this album is solid, and I find myself going to it with increasing frequency. Yes, it's a bit overproduced, yes it is a bit over the topic in terms of its ambition, but Axl has a voice like no other and several songs on this album absolutely rock and are up there with some of his earlier classics. I think it's easy to cast aspersion given how long it took, which I agree is a bit of a joke, but just focusing on the record itself, one has to admit it's pretty darn good. Plus, Pitchfork hated it, which is so utterly predictable yet makes me like it even more.

9. Kanye West, 808's & Heartbreak

Ok, two very important caveats. One: I have owned this album for less than 24 hours. Two: I think Kanye is a pompous, arrogant ass. I find him and his self indulgent antics borderline despicable. That being said, as stated above, I think you have to judge an artist singularly on his/her merits, and guess what: this album is amazing. I listened to it straight through during my two hour run today and then I immediately listened to it again, which is something I never, ever do. This album is interesting, inventive and unlike nearly anything I have heard this year. I suspect with the benefit of more time, this one could have moved even higher on my list.

8. The Bug, London Zoo

This is hard to explain. I am not entirely in love with this album per se but I do admire it's ambition. I find dubstep to be very interesting; perhaps the most interesting new genre to emerge over the past several years. This is one reason why I had Burial on my list last year, and I think The Bug's London Zoo is an even better effort. It's got a heavier reggae beat, which appeals and it's very listenable, particularly if you are in a dark mood or find yourself running on a track in the dark of night.

7. Blitzen Trapper, Furr

The critics loved this one (Pitchfork gave it an 8.5) and for good reason: it's wildly eclectic, has a good sense of continuity throughout and it touches on multiple genres. It also features what might possibly be my song of the year: Black River Killer. If you are afraid to try the entire album, buy this track. The other thing I like about this album is that I keep discovering new elements; it is most definitely a "grower."

6. Coldplay, Viva La Vida

I don't care if I catch flack for this one. Much like Kanye, yes, Chris Martin is a bit of a tool, and yes, I agree that they are unoriginal and somewhat derivative, but you know what? They make awfully good, listenable songs that are arguably timeless (though I guess only time will tell if that statement holds true). Fact is, they are today's "Supergroup"" for good reason; they keep putting out solid material. And while I am at it, their accompanying EP, Prospekts March, is also pretty darn good in its own right.

5. Deerhunter, Microcastle

One of those bands that I don't know a lot about and find hard to describe, but I know that my favorite artists are ones who get me on first listen and this one grabbed me at the outset. Their lead singer, Brandon Cox, strikes me as one seriously talented -- and interesting -- dude. This is another one of those albums, similiar to Blitzen Trappen, that continually reveals itself with successive listens.

4. Frightened Rabbit, The Modern Leper

I think this is Beno's favorite album of the year so I will let him describe this one: he could do it far greater justice. LIke a lot of Scottish bands, they have a lot of soul yet at the same time are pretty rocking. In certain respects, they remind me of 60's mod bands, ala The Jam. Every song on this one is good. It's just a flat out enjoyable listen, all the way through.

3. The Killers, Day & Age

I don't understand why the critics ripped Sam's Town and I don't understand why they were so hard on this one either. Yes, Brandon can at times fall into the Chris Martin, Kanye West school of tools, but there's no denying he creates catchy pop songs. I love that this one is an homage to the 80's, and it's, dare I say, a fun and light album that gets eminently better with each successive listen. Even my six year old, who's boasting her very own ipod Nano, is singing songs from this one and I don't necessarily thing that's a bad thing.

2. TV on the Radio, Dear Science

The critics were right about this one: it straight up rocks, it's inventive annd it grabs you from the outset and never lets go. I believe that these guys have the potential to become as popular as they want to: in certain ways, they remind me when I saw U2 play back in the early 80's. Note there music isn't even remotely comparable, but I knew when i saw U2 that they would ultimately be an important band and I feel the same way about TVOTR.

1. Girl Talk, Feed the Animals

This probably isn't the "best" album of the year: I would probably defer that to TVOTR, above, but in my opinion, it is certainly the most fun. I declared this my album of the year when I first heard it about six months ago, and haven't heard anything since to change my mind. I never even heard of this dude before getting this album and it blew my mind upon first listen. It's completely original yet in an unoriginal kind of way: it melds together countless songs from the sixties to today's raps and even as it crosses genres and generations, its transitions are utterly seamless. I can see myself going back to this one years from now, which makes it my "winner."

A special shout out goes to several others that didn't make the cut, but were definitely noteworthy, including Cut Copy, Helio Sequence, MIA, Beck, Santogold, DJ Rupture, Metallica, Fleet Foxes and KInds of Leon.

Friday, December 26, 2008

ipods


A nice past few days. We had dinner at friends house the past two nights and hosted other friends this evening. Last night the Kids got their "big" Hanukah gift; "his" and "hers" Nano ipods. To say they are stoked would be an understatement. They are going absolutely bananas and don't know what to do first: listen to music, watch movies, or play games. Or in the case of all The Girl, attempt all three at once.

Today was a fair weathered day and we kept busy. This morning we went hiking up Ring Mountain, which has some of the best views in the entire Bay Area. It's about a mile up to the peak and a mile down and the kids seem to like this one; might have had something to do with their ipods. Later in the afternoon I went for a run and the girl accompanied me on her bike. As I have said before, this kid is an amazing athlete and I am thinking that her secret is that she's impervious to pain. We were out for an hour and she was cruising the entire time; on several occasions I had to have her wait up for me. My favorite part of our little jaunt was when I was listening to Notorious B.I.G. on my ipod, and she was singing rudolph to herself and any and all passerby's. About as disparate as it gets in terms of music, but it seemed to work for the two of us.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays

We just celebrated our first ever Christmas eve at our friend's the Hughes, and it was awesome. We even integrated a little Hanukah into the mix. All in all, it made for a terrific evening. I'm looking forward to Christmas day; more than anything, I like the stillness of the day; the (rare) feeling that there's nothing to get stressed about. If the weather is accomodating, I plan to take the kids to the track; I have given them each their first "official" track workouts. We will see how that goes. After that, we plan to chill out, relax and then to a friends house for Christmas dinner. I have to say that us Jews are pretty popular this holiday season.

Anyway, regardless of your religion, happy holidays, all. I hope that your New Year is filled with health, happiness and prosperity.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Weather


I am going to sound horribly obnoxious in this post, but so be it.

As a relative newcomer to California, people ask me all the time whether I miss the four seasons of the East Coast, snow in Chicago in December etc. etc. My answer? A resounding freaking no.

Honestly, if I never saw snow again in this lifetime, I am not sure I'd care. Sure it's pretty to look at, sure it's fun to cross country ski, sure it's fun to play in (if you are under the age of 10, that is) but there's one major issue: by definition, it is accompanied by cold weather. And cold weather, ladies and gentlemen, blows. Sorry, but I have to say it.

This morning I woke up to the news, where the report was live from Chi-town, where with wind chill it was thirty below zero.
We turned the channel and reports were coming in live from the Northeast, Pacific Northwest, Midwest, replete with major snowstorms, freezing colder weather, plane cancellations, etc. etc. With this in mind I did what I had to do: grabbed the boy, threw our bikes in the car (actually, just his bike) and went for a bike/run. You'll note the boy is wearing a sweatshirt and gloves; it was a brisk 57 today but he took this all off at mile 2 of our six mile bike/run. Afterwards, we went mini golfing for a few hours.

All that being said, I will state for the record that Bay Area Weather isn't exactly all that, but man: I will take 57 any day over minus 30. Sorry, but human beings simply aren't supposed to live like that. Again, apologies for being obnoxious, and for ending so many sentences with prepositions, but I gotta tell it like it is.

(Plus, I am waging a massive California-recruiting campaign in regards to one of my buddies, so consider this a not-so-thinly veiled message at him in particular).

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Hanukah

This video says it all. video

40!

Happy 40th birthday to The Wife. She is a great wife and an even better mom, and I hope she's having a good day.

To celebrate, we woke up early - if not a bit slowly- this morning after a terrific holiday party at our friends house. We immediately headed into the City, so that the kids could run a mile race and the Wife, a 5k. I was reduced to bystander, which was just fine by me.

Warning that I am going to sound like an obnoxious parent for a paragraph or two, but I cannot express how impressed I am with my Kids. I ran the mile with them and the Boy started off so fast I literally could not keep up, so I sat back with the Girl. At the half mile mark I noticed faltering a bit, so I sped up and ran with him. He picked it up big time at the end and finished in an amazing time of 6:56. That's fast for an adult, let alone a kid. He ended up winning the 12 and under division (and he's only nine!) by more than a minute. The Girl cruised it in and as she was approaching the finish, people were going bananas for her; she's so tiny and cute. She ended up finishing second in the female 12 and under, in an time of 8:07, which is pretty amazing considering she is only six!

I think they have discovered their sport; two people came up to me after the race to tell me that I had to get her in a junior track program. And to close off a nice morning, the Wife finished in 29 minutes, which for her is a great time. And she did it in a driving rain to boot. All in all, a good, fun day for the Solomon's.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Twitter

I haven't been a big fan of Twitter: I find it kind of self indulgent, to be honest. I say this of course with all due respect to my fellow twitter-ers (tweets?).

That being said, it is interesting to follow various reporters and tech cognescenti. I am also getting a kick out of following Lance, too. Though I have had an account for the past seven months, it's been relatively dormant. Until now; figure I will give it a whirl. Part of my job responsibility is to stay on top of new technology, so that's what I will do. You can follow me at www.twitter.com/howardsol.

If you use Twitter, I'd greatly appreciate if you'd follow me (even that sounded terribly self indulgent; it would be kind of sad though to be talking to myself). Maybe Senor Beno can help me figure out a way to send my "tweets" directly to these pages. That could be quasi interesting.

In other news .. well, I don't have much news to report. The holidays are upon us and work has slowed down, which is good. Family is all good and the weather was really nice today; so much so that we were able to take a nice two mile family hike and barely needed jackets.

Anyway, more later this weekend. I'm compiling my thoughts for 2008 albums of the year. Stay tuned......

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

New Things for the New Year

I've been giving a bit of thought about some goals for the New Year, all of which are non work-related. Work related ones would probably require a separate post altogether. In no particular order, I hope to:

1. Cut back on travel and spend even more time with the family

2. Pick up an interesting, non-endurance sport or hobby that I can share with the the kids. Two thoughts that come to mind: rock climbing (with the Boy) and/or guitar lesson with the Girl. The Girl definitely is definitely rocker material, so may as well get her started early.

3. Do something epic in the world of endurance sports. Leading candidates include some sort of epic swim, the 6 day, 120 race across the rockies, or the biggie of them all, a 100 miler. And who knows: maybe I'll throw my hat in the lottery ring for Ironman Hawaii.

4. Read more books. I have always been a voracious readers and I still read a ton, but mostly in the form of magazines, mostly due to lack of time. This year I'm hoping to forego some of the magazines in favor of books. Five and five is the goal: five fiction, five non-fiction.

5. Have no major health issues whatsoever. This one is obviously a goal all the same.

4. Travel somewhere really interesting. Machu Piccu is the early favorite; this has long been on my list of places to visit and I think the kids are old enough. Hopefully.

3. I am sure there is more but that's what comes to mind at the moment. Any suggestions in regards to others?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Games

My Kids are at the fun age where they can play "real" games and I'm not talking Chutes and Ladders et al. The Little Girl struggles a little as she's only in first grade, but she puts forth a noble effort. The Boy? Let's say he's a very quick study. Thus far our three favorite "go to" games are Yatzee (great for the entire family; helps hone strategy and math skills), Monopoly (my person favorite; a little long for the Kids, though the Little Boy loves horse trading properties) and Stratego, which is a timeless classic. And yes, I will once again go on record saying I dominated Stratego in the 80's. Fire away, Michigan boys.

Anyway, those are our three stalwarts, but I am absolutely open to other suggestions. Feel free to offer up any other recommendations; we need activities for the upcoming holidays.

(And oh, my least favorite? Anything having to do with the Wii?. Not that I am opposed to Wii -- it's a ton of fun -- but The Boy in particular is consumed by it, to the point where it's become a bit of a problem as relates to him homework. For all you on-the-fence Wii buyers: my personal recommendation is to proceed with caution)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Lazy Weekend

A Lazy Weekend here at the old homestead; something I haven't had in a long, long while. Had to do with a combination of utter exhaustion coupled with a few rainy days.

Couple of things in no particular order:

-- took the Little Boy to see James Bond. I deliberated as to whether he was ready to see a PG-13 movie but he followed the storyline just fine, wasn't too fazed by the violence and was generally pretty stoked. Too bad the movie itself kind of sucked.

-- Speaking of suckie movies, I watched I am Legend last night on HBO. Absolutely stunk; even worse than the Pacquio vs. De la Hoya fight that I watched afterwards. Time to pack it in, Oscar.

-- I am typing this posting and simultaneously watching House of Saddam on HBO. I enjoyed it immensely; if you have HBO, I recommend checking it out. Interesting perspective and very well done.

-- After a long, long hiatus, Michigan basketball appears to be back. I am cautiously optimistic, but we are definitely looking pretty good thus far this yea.r We run a complicated offense, but when it clicks it is a sight to behold.

-- I signed up for the Phoenix Rock and Roll marathon. My rationale is that it's only five more weeks of training and according to Coach Phil, the training shouldn't be that egregious. I believe I have the five minutes in me - that five minutes necessary to qualify for Boston -- and I figure I might as well give it one last go. After this I won't be running a competitive marathon for at least two years, so it's kind of my last hurrah. Note I will probably run the occasional trail ultra, but generally speaking, they are a lot easier on the body than these fast road marathons.

-- I am still obsessed about the Governor Blagojevitch story and am amazed -- and proud of -- my good friend who is an Illinois state legislator who is front and center in the maelstrom -- in a good way (to the extent of course that there's anything good about this story).

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Governor Blagojevitch

I'm a fervent consumer of media, but every so often a story comes along that utterly obsesses me; that happened this week with the breaking news about Governor Rod's arrest.

A little background. I have a close friend who's a fairly major player in Illinois politics. As a result, having lived in Chicago for nearly ten years, I have some to become somewhat of a student of Illinois politics, for no other reason than it's so darn interesting. And as a result of my relationship with my friend, I have also come to meet several of the players, including our President Elect and Governor Rod.

I met Rod twice. The first time I was a sponsor of a fundraiser in his honor, back when he was a Congressman. The second time I met him was at his inauguration; I was actually in the VIP area sitting not for than a few feet away from him and his family for a good portion of the night. It was a very exciting evening.

Over the years, though, I've heard the whispers -- hushed and not so hushed -- from a number of different people, all claiming that he was a tier one jerk (my word, not theirs).

And then this news breaks, yesterday. If you haven't read the indictment, I suggest you do. It reads like a modern day greek tragedy and if true, is one of the more astonishing stories that I have ever read and a black mark on the face of Illinois politics that will last for a very long time, despite even the halo effect of our new President-elect.

I could go on for a long time on this subject and I probably will write on this again, but the lesson here is that regardless the man or his or station in life, hubris and greed truly are the great equalizers in life. It is astonishing to me how they can reduce a man from Governor in one day, to abhorred monster the next.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Garmin

It was pretty ironic that after defending the (relatively) new Garmin 405 to Wiley and Nick for three consecutive days, it failed me most by locking up completely at mile 18 and failing to reboot.

In the grand scheme of life, it's obviously not a big deal, but when you are using something to pace yourself through a race you have prepared for meticulously for three damn months, it's not a lot of fun when technology fails you completely. I probably sound whiny, I get that, but I was using this thing to pace myself and keep an eye on my time and I had no backup, short of Wiley. I don't want to say it ruined my race - my legs failed me worse -- but it surely didn't help matters.
As Wiley can attest it knocked me completely off my game mentally and energy-wise, and I was *very* close to taking it off my wrist and pitching it into the concrete.

Just not sure how a product - and a fairly expensive one at that -- designed for a specific sport can fail so miserably .. while doing that sport.

Anyone at Garmin care to offer an explanation?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Well, That's Over

So, the bottom line is I didn't qualify. I was on a pretty good pace up through mile 21 when the wheels came off, and when the wheels come off, there isn't anything you can do. I finished in 3:25, which, all things considered is a pretty good time and the best part about the day was that I finished holding hands with my buddy Wiley (yes, I know how that sounds, but when you run 26.2 miles together, prodding each other through highs and lows - and we both had plenty - it's like you become a band of brothers).

All in all, it was a fantastic weekend and I have no regrets whatsoever. I've become very zen about all this stuff in my post-cancer world and all that matters is that you give it your best effort, and there's no doubt I did so.

I think Nick and Wiley would agree that we had a kick ass weekend; in fact, we had more fun than I expected. Those two didn't even know one another but left fast friends. Everything was totally cool from the hotel in Sacramento, to meeting up with a colleague for dinner, to hanging out at the Expo, to taking the bus the 26 miles to Folson to the race and post race. I suspect I will remember the weekend much longer than I will my race time.

Wiley did exceptionally, finishing his first marathon in ten years, as noted, in a time of 3:25, which best his previous best by more than a half hour. I coach Nick and he had a disappointing Chicago marathon, whoch had everything to do with the hot weather and nothing to do with his running ability. He came into this race with something to prove, which is exactly what he did with a fine time of 3:56. I am very proud of both of them.

I was very well trained thanks to coach Phil, but probably could have benefitted from one more 20 miler. Not to make excuses, but this fall was difficult with sundry weddings and bachelor parties, and I think my legs were lacking one more long one (my last one was more than four weeks ago, which is a tad too long). Considering that, I am happy.

And though I absolutely hobbling today -- and I mean hobbling -- I am giving VERY strong consideration to running the Phoenix Rock N Roll marathon next month. I know how that makes me sound but here's my rationale: it's only five weeks away (and hopefully I should be recovered by then) and I think I still can go a few minutes faster. I think a tough long run such as yesterday would make a huge difference and I have free Southwest flights to burn. Given my fitness level and what I have invested in all this training already, what's a few more weeks and a little more suffering?

I know ... crazy.

Anyway, that's that. Tomorrow stay tuned for a little diatribe about my Garmin 405, which failed me miserably. Will be interesting to see if they pay attention to this posting.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Off to Sacramento

This has got to be a short post. First and foremost, thanks everyone for the nice notes in regards to the blood test. Much appreciated.

My boys Nick, Wiley and myself are getting set to head to Sacramento for the California International Marathon; wish us luck. Should be a good day weather wise and all systems are go. Wish us luck. Note to Danielle by the way, if you are out there: I love your husband - I consider him one of my closest friends in the world -- but let's just say you are destined for Sainthood. I suspect you know what I am talking about.

Anyway, full race report some time tomorrow.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Blood Test Results -- Clean!

I just got back the call anyone would want to get under the cicumstances: blood work was clean, with no indication of antibodies! Even my doctor was surprised.

But here's the thing (there's always a thing): my last blood work was sent to a different lab (I believe Mayo Clinic). Prior to that, all my bloodwork was done at UCSF. Blood work is very dependent on the particular assay used. This latest round -- the clean one -- was done at UCSF.

So, just to make certain, he wants to do what my father called a "rubber round": one more test next month which gets sent back to Mayo Clinic, just to make sure everything is indeed clean. That all make sense? I am pretty much processing this in real time too as I just got the call a few moments ago.

Regardless, I am stoked. Super stoked, actually. Thank you everyone for all the good wishes and positive vibes. They were put to good use.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Blood Test Redux

I've been kind of putting off my blood test of late, but decided today was the day. So, I will likely get results by Friday or so. I have my head around the fact that in all likelihood the antibodies will still be present, which will result in my having to have another full body scan. This would necessitate going hypo again (off my synthroid) and back on the diet from hell, but if that's the case, so be it. Such is life. Not trying to be negative and deeply hope I am wrong, but my point being I will try not to be disappointed if it's not the outcome I am looking for. I've learned this is the best way to deal with the uncertainty that constantly surrounds cancer. Anyway, will let you know on Friday.

In other news, I have a long ass work week but I did manage to get a pre-marathon massage in tonight. Every time I get a massage I wonder why I don't do that more frequently. There's nothing better than a good massage.

Lastly, I want to send a shout out to my main man, Dave M who's having some medical issues of his own. He'll be fine but has had a rough few days, so please send good vibes his way. He's an off the chart good friend who had my back like no one else when I was going through my cancer stuff, short of The Wife.

Feel better, homie.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Great Day

We had a long but terrific day today. We started off with a visit to the Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, which is an amazing museum for children and kid's alike. Evidently, we are members, which is cool and we walked through several exhibitions, the best being the planetarium. If you ever find yourself in San Francisco, put this on your must-do list.

Afterwards, our friends from the East Bay (newly arrived from Chicago) and we went on a killer hike (with their kid, ours and two friends) nearly all the way up Mount Tam, where we tried to find the wreckage from a plane crash from 1944. Evidently, much of the debris is still intact. We unfortunately bypassed the accident site (informally called Old Plane Trail) as it isn't marked, and it was getting dark in a hurry and we had to get the kid's (and adults for that mater) off the mountain. It was a pretty tough hike and I was very impressed by and proud of all the kids We must have hiked in excess of thee, maybe four miles in total. Nothing better than a good hike with kids, especially in beautiful terrain such as this; the views from the mountain were astonishing. And oh yeah, did I mention that the temperature was around 67? Can't say that I miss Chicago weather.

In other news, t-minus one week to my marathon and I cannot wait to get it over with. I'm on the verge of complete burnout and have been discouraged by the fact that my last several runs have absolutely sucked. I am starting to get my head around the fact that my goal for this race - 3:19:59 might be unattainable. Regardless, I will put in my best effort and whatever happens, happens. Such is life.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Kid's First Race






On Wednesday afternoon I discovered that my normal Thanksgiving Day run had been moved to the preceding Sunday. Not wanting to give up my tradition of running a race on thanksgiving day, I did some research and found out that there was a cross country race in Marin, not far from our house, that featured a kid's mile race and a 2.8 course for adults.

I thought the kids would bristle but on the contrary; they were pretty stoked. Not sure whether they could run a full mile I took The Boy to the track to see if he could simply finish the distance without stopping, and he surprised me by running an 8:35 mile. Not bad at all. The Little Girl didn't accompany us but made it clear that if her brother could do it, so could she.

So, we woke up bright and early and registered them for their first race. Since someone had to watch them after their race, we decided The Wife could run the adult rae. I am pretty fried anyway from all this marathon training.

Not sure of the final tally for the kid's race, but it well exceeded one hundred. The race goes off and they disappear for a little while and when they come out of the woods, I note the boy is in eight place and cruising. I have to confess, I was very excited, more so than I've been for any baseball game. He went up a hill and disappeared again and when he came back into view he had given up a few spots but was still in 11th place. I ran with him and he cruised in much faster than I expected. I hit my watch and -- 8:12! That's a pretty good time for an adult, let alone a kid who's never really run before. Less than two minutes later his sister came cruising in at time of 10:15. That too is a great time (note it was a fairly hill course) and we soon discovered that the girl won her age group.

The one photo is of her receiving her medal. It could have the podium at Beijing I was so proud (as was she) when they called her name. The Boy was bummed that he missed the podium by one spot, but he was hapy for his sister, which was very cool.

I think they might have found their sport.

Alas, no podium or medals for The Wife, who is still complaining about the hills on the adult course, but a nice effort all the same.

All in all, a perfect kick off to a perfect day.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Without doubt, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. I like everything about it: the extended weekend, the food, running a 5k race in the morning (my own little tradition), watching football, the fact that everything is closed. It's generally just a nice, relaxed day and that has become a bit of a rarity, in my own life at least.

We have a mini tradition in our family where before we eat, all the kids (I say plural in that since moving to California, we always do Thanksgiving with friends) all the kids go around the table and mention something they are thankful for for. SInce I am a big kid at heart myself, here goes a few things for I am thankful for as well:

--TrueBlood (I'm gonna miss that one)
-- the new Guns n Roses, which is good, regardless of what the critics say
-- the new Artie Lange biography, which is simultaneously hilarious and poignant
-- all my friends across the world, including everyone who is reading these words
-- my San Francisco family and my disbursed family
-- a very special shout out to my mother-in-law, who rules
-- my health -- and yours too

Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Measure of Redemption

I am just back from Detroit, where my main man Steve-O got married. At 42, it was a long time coming but in the end, he did very, very well and his bride is super cool (arguably cooler than him -- let's see if that merits a response). Anyway, it was a festive occasion and we did more than our fare share of celebrating. It was a Sunday night wedding so we had plenty of warm up getting ready for the big event. I am so tired I literally feel like a zombie.

Aside from watching one of my closest friends walk down the aisle, one of the more gratifying elements for me personally was the toast I gave on Saturday night. A little background: about 17 years ago, I gave a toast for another friend's wedding, and I bombed. And I mean bombed. I don't really mind, especially in that I learned an important lesson that I have continued to apply to this day: never go into a speech unprepared. And by that, I mean it's imperative to have written remarks.

However, my boys have been giving me nonstop grief over this speech literally every time we are together. It's not a matter of when I will catch (at least) ten minutes of grief about that speech, it's a matter of when the discussion will arise.

After 17 years, I can take it, as it's deserved, and I am fairly adept at dishing it out pretty well myself. However, when I was asked to give a speech at this wedding, I knew this was my one shot at relative redemption and if I bombed again, I'd have no choice but to jump over the Golden Gate Bridge. It would have been my only recourse.

So, I took this speech pretty seriously. I wasn't really too concerned about the other 140 guests or so who were listening; again, it was the Michigan boys I was singularly worried about.

The long story short, I think and hope that I earned myself a measure of redemption. I will let Dave, Payro or Wiley to post a comment beyond that if they are so inclined, but suffice to say, for one weekend at least, I was able to put my performance from 17 years ago behind me.

Anyway, that's about it for tonight; I am literally falling asleep standing.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Economy and New Things

Just a quick post because I have had a ferocious week, that's about to get even worse (a 7:15 am flight to Denver tomorrow and another one on Friday to Detroit at about the same hour).

I don't write too often about work because I really try to keep this blog separate to the best extent possible from that area of my life, but things are definitely starting to get bad out there. My industry, public relations, generally feels downturns early, but that hasn't been the case this time around. Obviously, it has started with financial services, but the trickle down effect isfinally starting to happen. I have been through two bad downturns in my career so I feel like I know what to expect,as well as how to navigate through it, but my suspicion is that this is the tip of the iceberg and this one will be particularly bad. Note we haven't been affected just yet, at least not in a material way, but I can absolutely see which way the winds are blowing. Anyway, let's hope I am wrong. But I don't thing I am in this instance.

On a different and more upbeat note, I got a few new things of late, including:

-- a new bathroom, which is costing me an arm and leg, but starting to look really, really good
-- the new Guns n Roses album, which leaked yesterday and is *much* better than expected. Axyl has a voice like no other and it's good to hear him again after so many years
-- the New Killers album, which also leaked. Not so sure what to make of this one yet but I'm not blown away based on my first listen
-- The New Yorker; my favorite magazine in the world (though I confess that I am so pinched for time I don't get enough time with each individual issue). This was a gift from my mother and one of the best gift I've received in a long while.

Lastly, happy retirement, Mike Mussina. I hope you go to the Hall of Fame and I hope you go as a Yankee.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Weddings

I don't think I have ben to the wedding of a close friend in nearly a decade, and yet I have back-to-back wedding weekends these past two weeks. Last weekend our friend Blake got married in Sonoma (alas, a shot commute from Marin County) and I had the honor along with my friend Todd, of being best man. It was a terrific wedding that featured fantastic 80 degree weather and a good time was had by all. This coming weekend we are headed to Detroit for the nuptials of our good friend Steve-O. 42 years in the making but alas, all good things must come to an end. Looking forward to seeing almost all the Michigan boys. Nana Silk, the best mother-in-law a boy could ask for, was kind enough to fly in to help watch the Kids. If you are reading (versus chasing two hyperactive kids, both of whom have some sort of mystery fever virus), you are the best, Nana.

Speaking of Michigan, this is one putrid season and it seems to get worse (today's news is that two of our young guys are transferring). Alas, there's always next year and things have got to get better.

Lastly, t minus two and a half weeks to this damn marathon and I cannot wait. It's been a long season, I am constantly tired and hungry and it's getting to be a pain running in the dark. I'm at the stage where if I qualify for Boston, great, and if not, not: i just want the damn thing to be over.

Monday, November 17, 2008

He Finishes!

Super huge props to my boy Payro for finishing his first (and from the sounds of it, last) 100 mile run. He ran under really tough circumstances (Arizona desert heat) and from what I understand he suffered greatly the last feww hours, but I never questions that he'd finish -- and in the spectacular time of 23 (that's hours): 46. Under 24 hours is a huge benchmark in ultrarunning and a major, major accomplishment.

I'm stoked for him and now that I saw a picture of his belt buckle (what you get for finishing under 24 hours), I'm thinking I want one too. Not sure if I have the time in my life to do the kind fo training that a race like this necessitates, but something I am giving consideration to all the same.

Congrats and well done, Payro; feel free to post a race report.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Things That Stoke Me

Things in general that stoke me:

-- A harvest full moon glistening off the San Francisco Bay on a crisp Fall evening. I wish I could capture the a photo of the view from my house right now. It's indescribeable.

-- Our new President-elect.

-- New (and free), interesting music from the boys at RTP.

-- 75 degree weather in November.

-- Back to back weekend weddings for two good friends (which will necessitate a bit of travel over the next two weeks, but such is life).

-- Impending Thanksgiving Day holiday; my favorite holiday of the year.

-- Baseball offseason awards and free agent signings. Keeps baseball season alive in a sense for me and the Little Boy.

-- Miami Ink and LA Ink. I don't make it a point to watch this show but it's a great one to stumble upon randomly. Almost makes me want to get inked myself. Almost being the operative word.

-- On the subject of TV, HBO's TrueBlood, the best show of the season. This one keeps getting better and better.

-- Howard Stern Show and these days in particular, Artie Lange (anyone read his new book lately).

-- A new botle of Macallan 12.

-- My boy Payro getting ready to tow the line, solo. Godspeed, Kid.

-- Visitors from NYC. Chicago too for that matter.

-- Tony Tuttas Pizza in Marin. Organic pizza? I must be turning into a Californian. this is worth the trip to Cali alone though.

-- Being one last long run away (tomorrow morning -- 18.6 miles) from being done with this marathon training. I'm starting to get a tad burnt out and looking forward to putting this season behind me.

-- The Wife and Kids, all of whom have been pretty darn terrific of late.

I could do a length of things that don't stoke me (hello economy), but trying to avoid negative ju ju.

Anyone care to add to the list?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Go Get 'Em Kid

My main man Payro, who's my good friend and training/ultra buddy, is getting set to head out to Arizona for the Javelina Jundred; his first 100 mile run. I am sad and admittedly a bit jealous that I'm not running this one with him, but alas it wasn't in the cards this year. Wasn't even in the cards for me to get out their and crew for him in the Arizona desert. Anyway, I am sure he will do great; working with Coach Phil, he's executed on a solid plan and I am sure all the training will manifest itself in a great race this weekend. He is a fairly regular reader and poster to this site, so wish him well in the comments section. I will be posting race updates to the blog through the course of the weekend.

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On the topic of races, I am trying to figure out what I am going to do in 2009. My problem at the moment is that nothing really stokes me. Triathlon? Been there, done that. Ultrarunning? Short of a 100 miler, same thing (though the 100 miler does hold appeal). Marathon training? That is my current objective. Coach Phil came up with an interesting idea though: an epic swim and an epic, multi-day run. I've long wanted to the Maui Roughwater swim (around 7 miles I think) but this looks interesting too. Thoughts and anyone interested in possibly joining as my partner?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Party!

Through a bit of a surprise party on Saturday for the Wife, who's 40th birthday is around the corner. I'm hoping everyone who attended had a good time (and based on the bar bill, I am gong to assume that was the case) but I think the best part for me was both the buildup and actually getting her into the room without her knowing. Not sure exactly how I did it, but I think I pulled it off. I got video from my new flip camera phone and a number of photos that I will post later this week. The room was dimly lit so quality is a bit lacking but they capture the essence of the moment(s). I was glad I was able to do this for The Wife; as I said in my toast, she's a terrific wife and a better mom, and she deserved something special to mark the occasion.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Long Week

Just now back from an unbelieveably long week, the last two of which were spent in LA. Last night my firm put on a pretty cool event on behalf of Li Ning, which is the Nike of China. We were celebrating their deal with NBA superstar Baron David (formerly of the Warriors, currently with LA Clippers) who is a super cool dude. We had quite a number of celebrities and NBA players their, and overall is was quite fun evening. I definitely met some interesting people, to say the least. I woke up early morning after a long night to go for a run, and long story short I got VERY lost. What was meant to be a 40 minute run turned into an hour and half death march. It was actually to the point where I got (more than) a tad bit nervous. Anyway, long few days and now The Wife's cousin has arrived somewhat unexpectadely from Portland, so more tomorrow.Should be a good weekend.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Food

I think this is my first food related post out of 401. As you could probably ascertain based on that, I'm not much of a foodie, though I do eat a lot. Some might say I eat a staggering amount, actually (right Beno?). There might be a correlation with all my aerobic activities.

My mother, as anyone who knows her could attest, is an amazing -- and I mean amazing -- cook, but we were a family of three very active boys (not to mention a father with a pretty large appetite) and we ate what was put in front of us and didn't give it much thought. That being said, much like anyone else, I appreciate a fine meal.

Anyway, what got me thinking about this subject is I just had some killer sushi (not hard to find in California) and was thinking that sushi just might be my favorite food. Which got me thinking to five foods I couldn't live without. It's a bit of an unusual list, and it goes something like this:

1. As mentioned, sushi. I just love good sushi and could eat it every day (and when I'm in LA, which is often, I DO in fact eat it every day, because pound for pound, LA has the best sushi in the country!). I'm particularly partial to tuna, yellowtail and shrimp (ebi) bit I love it all.

2. Pretzels. I am a pretzel-maniac. Hot, cold, salty, non-salty, hard, soft, I love them all. Always have. I think it has something to do with the Solomon genetic predisposition to salt. Thanks to my brother Scott, I have found the holy grail of prezels, Happy Herbert's (www.happyherberts.com. Go and buy a case. Now). I literally buy them by the caseload and the hardest thing is during my non-iodine radiation diet was not being able to eat them for a month.

3. Artichokes. My super food; I eat them every day when they are in season. I've loved 'chokes since I was a little boy, and the tradition carries over with The Little Girl. I am proud to say she can devour one in under five minutes.

4. Steak. I am and always will be a steak kind of guy. Porterhouse and filets are my cut, and steakhouses are my preferred restaurant (favorites include Peter Lugers in NYC; Gibson's in Chicago, Prime in Las Vegas and Bob's in San Francisco)

5. Odwalla Protein Shakes. Ok, not really a food and in a certain sense not exactly a favorite, but I couldn't live without this (expensive) drink. They contain about 400 calories with 20 grams of protein, so they are the equivalent of a meal and they almost singularly get me through my business travels. They are the first thing I look for in airports.

If I had to list a sixth, it would probably be an In and Out burger, but they merit are so special they merit their very own post.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Wow

What a historic evening. Incredible. I predicted a route a month ago but I did not expect it to be this big. Can't believe I can say that I've actually met the President of the United States. It was about six years ago in Chicago and boy, if only i knew.

So, now the heavy lifting begins and does he ever have his work cut out for him. He'll get to that in due time, obviously, but tonight, whether you voted for him or not, let's all relish in our democratic process.

(and ps -- that was really some victory speech; maybe the greatest speech I have ever heard)

Monday, November 3, 2008

400!

This is my 400th post. Damn. That is something, if I do say so myself. The equivalent of more than a year's worth of consecutive posting. I never, ever, ever thought when I started this thing that I'd make it this far. Some days when I go to post I Iook at my screen and think "enough. I've written about everything I have to say." And then on other days I have three or four topics in mind. Go figure. I've wrestled with possibly calling it a day and starting a blog that's focused on a more singular subject (one NOT having to do with cancer) but I'm not exactly sure what that subject would be. Plus, I think I'd miss this and my daily postings. It helps keep my writing (relatively) sharp, which has benefitted me work-wise and hell, I'll say: it's actually fun. And not to mention all the comments from my father; without question, this has become our front line for communicating. And who else would I have to regale with stories regarding my training, dumb races, etc? Riveting stuff, I know. So, I think, to quote Mr. Dylan, I will keep on keeping home. Hope you decide to stick it out with me.

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In other news, I would like to Congratulate The Wife for singularly keeping our economy moving forward. Our little (actually, not so little) bathroom project has morphed into much, much more. All of a sudden I have six painters in the house (for the record, painting all the doors in the house white was her idea, not mine. Someone has forgotten we have two little kids, But that's a story for another day), and a decorator has been brought into the mix. And there's rumor of new carpet for the upstairs. And something about track lighting. As we approach election day, and in the face of a recession, you really have to hand it to her for showing her patriotism and not being afraid to spend.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

US Half Marathon

I ran the US Half Marathon early this morning (emphasis on early; damn race started at 7 am). Didn't quite go as I had hoped; legs were a bit shelled from the last week and it featured three monster climbs. I finished in 1:42 which I guess is somewhat respectable given the course profile, but was a tad disappointed nonetheless. Such is life. As Coach Phil says "just be happy to be out there." Works for me.

I got home and the kids were going bonkers from being indoors all weekend (we had an epic rain yesterday, our first of the season) so I took them for a walk. And man, did we ever walk. We went from our house all the way downtown and as any of you who've visited us can attest, that's a haul. I was pretty proud of them for making it the entire way without complaining. I think it had a lot to do with the candy.

Tomorrow am, for the first time in my life, I report to jury duty. I postponed two times and there's not longer any evading it. With my luck, I will get a six week murder trial.

Anyway, pretty wiped out so that's about it for this evening. Big week coming up. As they say in Chicago, be sure to vote early and often. Should be interesting to see how it unfolds. I think the talking heads are trying to make this seem closer than it is; I am predicting a landslide for Obama.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Living

Everyone has the experienced the moment or time in place where they really feel like they are living. Or at least I hope they have. For some, it might be the thrill of skydiving. Maybe it's the thrill of high stakes poker. For others it might be watching their favorite team. I had one such moment earlier tonight. There I was standing on the track, running 2000 and 1000 meter repeats and sucking wind beyond belief. I'm standing there in the pitch black, not another human being in site wondering what in the hell I was doing -- when it started pouring rain (editors note: first rain in about six months). I just started laughing -- and ran another few laps. I couldn't help but smile; I was completely and utterly miserable but at the same time, there's no place I rather would have been.

(That said, enjoying a glass of scotch and watching The Office, which is what I am doing right now, is a pretty darn close second.)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Interesting Night

So I am sitting outside at the new most excellent (organic) pizza place that just opened in town with Coach Phil and the owner of the restaurant. Coach Phil is a renowned beer brewer and the resident expert on all things beer related, so we were sampling some local microbrews . In walks an elderly couple who knows the owner. The Old Man sits down to join us in sampling the beers and I notice he's wearing a sweat shirt that says "Rat Dog." I jokingly ask him if he's a fan of the band (thinking maybe it was a brand of clothing I was unfamiliar with) and he says to me, "You know Rat Dog? That's my son's band." Turns out his son is Bobby Weir of Grateful Dead fame. So he proceeds to regale us with really interesting stories about the Man himself. Probably not a big deal for most of you, but if you are a fan of the Dead, it was pretty cool. Only in California.....

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Five Year Anniversary

I talk a bit about my own bout with cancer but as many of you know, The Wife is a cancer survivor too, and today marks the fifth anniversary of her surgery for cervical cancer. Congrats, Wife, on this milestone, who's one tough lady. This day five years ago was one of the roughest days of both our lives. Without question, her diagnosis was tougher on me than my own. One memory I will never forget from that day was my boy Billy Z walking into the waiting room at the hospital, completely unannounced, and sitting with me for the duration of her three hour surgery. It was one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me. So, thanks for that Diamond, if you are out there. And please leave a shout out for The Wife in comments if you would; I think she'd appreciate that.

That's about it for tonight. I had a 13 hour day in San Diego (where the weather was 80 degrees and freaking perfect; per usual and am shelled. Think I might also be coming down with something from all this freaking marathon training. More tomorrow.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Top Sporting Events

On the heels of my somewhat popular post from last week concerning my favorite concerts of all time comes another "list" -- this one being favorite sporting events I've attended in my lifetime. In no particular order, the list is as follows:

-- World Series game number five, 1997: Yankees vs. Dodgers. otherwise knows as the "Willie Randolph" game. Yanks won in a comeback, the stadium went berserk and sitting in the stands was one wide eyed little Kid. This one pretty much solidified my lifelong love affair with the Yankees. Thanks for that, Old Man.

-- Rose Bowl, Michigan vs. Washington, 1986. Otherwise knows as the Steve Emtman game. The dude beat us almost singlehandledly. Probably sounds weird to be listing a Michigan loss as one of my favorite games, but at the end of the day it really didn't matter much: it was my first Rose Bowl, I was there with my closest buddies and come to think of it, it was my first trip to California. Note that this entire list could probably consist of Michigan games, but at the end of the day this the one that really stood out.

-- The Hambeltonian, 1983. What in the world is the Hambeltonian you ask? Well, think of it as the Kentucky Derby of harness racing. I was big into horse racing in high school (I will allow my father to elaborate) and this was the big race of the year. Part of what stoked me about this is that my parents thought I was at SAT class but instead I was at the racetrack, where I proceeded to win $200. That might be about the most dangerous thing I ever did, which pretty much explains my high school years in a nutshell. Only downside to this short tale is that after this race, horse racing became a bit of a, umm, consuming passion for a few years. But alas, that's a story for another day.

-- The first time I saw Michael Jordan play live. Not sure what game it was; I saw him play dozens of times during my Chicago tenure (I even saw him at my gym, playing pickup games). It wasn't until that game though that I realized I was witnessing the modern day equivalent of Babe Ruth, and that this was an experience I'd one day share with my grandkids. And oh yeah: he scored fifty points that game. That much I do remember.

-- Every one of the Little Boy's baseball games. I don't mean this in a corny way either; I can't tell you how much pleasure I get out if watching him play baseball. It has nothing to do with how well he does or doesn't play (and I must say that he's constantly improving and getting pretty darn good). It's his complete and utter love of the game. The best part is the look in his eye after he makes a great play; it trumps any feeling I get out of watching professional sports.

But enough about me -- let's hear from the peanut gallery on this one.

--

Weather

This is the best time to be in the Bay Area; it is our Indian Summer and the weather is far nicer than our "regular" summer. It's just perfect out and if nothing else, a bit too hot. Saturday's temperature hit 88, which made for a rather uncomfortable 18 miler run, but that's a story for another day (my nine mile run yesterday wasn't much better). However, according to the weather this morning, the rainy season is upon us. The rain usually starts around now and ends in, oh April or so. It's not quite a bad as it sounds but there are moments when it becomes a bit much. One of the things I have learned these past three years is that California is a very tempermental State. Not enough rain and you quickly get wildfires and drought. Too much rain and you get mudslides and flooding. The Santa Ana winds blow in and all of a sudden a small fire becomes massive. We didn't have any of these problems in New Jersey. All that being said, and at the risk of sounding like a complete Homer, I do think this is the coolest State (and place) in the continental United States (that I have experienced, anyway) and if I had to move, I'd be bummed (to say the least).

In other news, one more week of Fall Ball (the Boy's baseball league). I am the coach and it's been a lot of fun but time to say goodbye to baseball and move on to other pastures. The Boy is obsessed with baseball to the point where it's a bit much; he needs a break. Almost halloween, too, which is always a lot fo fun. I'll post pictures from later in the week.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Random Thoughts

-- Anyone watch that new Christian Slater show? If so, thoughts? I've heard it's pretty good. Not sure if I have the bandwidth for another show, but I can be sold.

-- My boy Scooter raised a most excellent point in his comment: Yellowman was definitely concert number five on my list of best show. I've seen Yellowman dozens of times, mostly with Todd and Scooter, and each has been unbelieveable in their own right. I emailed with Yellowman a few years back; turns out he is a major Panerai (watch) collector, as I am (qualifier: I love the brand. I would not categorize myself though as a major collector).

-- Next week's "list" -- the top five sporting events I've attended of all time Put your thinking caps on now; this one requires some thought.

-- Best reality show of all-time? For me, Survivor. For my son, The Amazing Race. For the Wife, the Bachelor. Anything egregiously missing? (egregious just doesn't fit into context when applied to reality TV, does it?).

-- Just downloaded the new Cure album today. To me, the quintessential 80's band but not sure how they hold up today. Stand by for a review.

-- On the topic, I also downloaded Johnny Cash, Live from Folsom Prison. Has there ever been a better opening in the history of recorded music than "Hello. I'm Johnny Cash."?

-- Ran on the track with the kid's tonight. Workout consisted of 1/2 mile warmup followed by 2 x 400 at 6:00 minute pace, 1 x 1000 at 6:45 and 1 x 2000 at 7:30. then the whole thing again. It's harder than it sounds. The best thing though about my track nights is being out there with my kids. They absolutely love it; they throw a baseball around by themselves; they yell "go daddy, go" every time I pass by, and ever fourth lap or so they join me for a slow jog around the track. We have a great time together, it's become a weekly ritual and I am sure this is a memory that will last a lifetime. And I have to say, they both show great potential as runners, most especially the girl. She ran a quarter mile with me tonight at 8:00 pace and she was running pretty effortlessly.

Anyway -- that's about it for tonight.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Favorite Concerts of All-Time

I went for a run tonight after a very long day, and was listening to The Clash, who have a new album out, The Clash Live from Shea Stadium. Hard to believe that the Shea Stadium show was more than 25 years ago -- especially as I was there. Which got me to thinking of my all-time favorite shows. Without a whole lot of thought, I'd list them as follows:

4. My first Grateful Dead show at RFK in 1985 or so. It wasn't that it was that spectacular of a Dead show; I went on to see another 20 plus shows, many of which had much better sets, but this one was, shall we say, enlightening. Love 'em or hate 'em, there was nothing like the experience of a Dead show. Nothing. Hard to believe that I live in the same town/county as most of the Dead. I've even seen Bobby Weir at our local pool.

3. U2 Live at Pier 84, circa 1980. This was right after the debut album, Boy, and there could not have been more than 2,000 people in attendance. It wasn't remotely sold out. In fact, at the time I was just as excited to see the opening band, The Alarm ("The Stand"). If I am not mistaken it was one of their first US shows and they were absolutely transcendent. There was no question they were going to be a major, major, arena-style band and even at a relatively young age, Bono was tremendously charismatic. This was a show for the ages.

2. The above Clash show, live from Shea. This was my first big arena show and the Clash were and remain today my favorite band of all-time. This was one of the best line-ups ever: David Johansen, followed by Black Uhuru, followed by the Clash and then The Who. In the pouring, driving rain. And while The Clash were beyond fantastic, The Who put on quite the show as well. I still get chills thinking of their rendition of "Love Reign O'er Me" in the rain. Epic.

1. The Smashing Pumpkin's Last Show in Chicago, circa 2004 (I think). Not sure if it was the fact that it was a much heralded show and yet I managed to somehow get a ticket though my good buddy. In the VIP section. Where I proceeded to befriend and hang out all night with actor Bill Zane. Who invited me to the after party. Where I hung with Bill Corgan until 3 in the morning (see why it's my favorite show of all-time?). But all that being said, the music carried the day. The Pumpkin's played all their classic, they played 'em loud and they were having a lot of fun. It wasn
't at all funeral, but rather a celebration of their work.

Anyway, there's more -- a lot more -- but those are four that really stand out. But enough about me -- what about y'all?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

One Cool Dude

When I was traveling last Wednesday on a most insufferable flight from Chicago to Albany (replete with three hour delay) I started reading my new issue of UltaRunning. The guy next to me turned and said "UltraRunning. Cool." When your seat mate says something to that effect, you're off and running. Turns out this guy was formerly both an ex ski pro and an ex mountain bike pro who currently lives in Park City, Utah. He regaled me literally for hours with stories of racing against Lance, Dave Wiens and other legends of cycling; he told me stories of getting lost after dark while mountain biking and having to sleep out in the wilderness; he told me stories of riding 240 freaking miles in a single 24 hour solo race. 240 miles on trails! That is incomprehensible!

Simply put, he was one gnarly dude.

He now has a dream job; he is director of sales for Rocky Mountain bikes. Coincidentally, I own a Rocky Mountain mountain bike, so we chatted about that for oh, about another two hours or so. He was travelling around the country visiting "accounts" (read: bike shops) and was showing his 09 line up ("showing" petty much consisting of taking clients out on epic rides on beautiful terrain).

Now, I love my job and all - I really do -- but man oh man, was I jealous when I got off the plane. There truly is something to be said about marrying your passion with your job and in this instance, I've never seen a better example.

I know what you might be thinking "Yeah, but does he really make any money?"

My answer: who freaking cares. To live in Park City, ride mountain bikes across killer terrain virtually every ay and then incorporate that into your work life? There's only one way to describe that.

Word.

Good on you, Cool Mountain Biking Dude from Park City ( I never did catch his name). Maybe in my next life........

Monday, October 20, 2008

Things I like

Couple of things I have been enjoying of late:

-- Born Standing Up, Steve Martin's autobiography. This was voted top ten book of the year by many reviewers, for very good reason. It's now out in paperwork and it's a very quick, very enjoyable read.

-- Wurdle; the greatest iPhone app ever. iPhone owners take heed of this one; a great value for $1.99, especially if you enjoy Scrabble-like word games.

-- The Tampa Bay Rays for reasons explained yesterday.

-- Tru Blood on HBO, which gets better with each episode. Best line, from last night's episode: "I'm not human, Sookie. I'm vampire."

-- The new AC/DC -- yeah, I said it, AC/DC --album which came out last week. Perfect for running.

-- DogFish Head 90 Second Imperial IPA. Good lord; if you are a beer fan, go find this one. Best beer I have ever had; better even than Racer 5.

-- Losing money at Reno and Vegas (not). If I see Nevada again any time in the next two years it will be too soon.

-- Michigan football (double not). I can't even talk about this one. Things are so bad in Wolverineland it's almost inexplicable. And yes Neil, I'm willing to give RichRod some time. As in, one more season. We can have one 3-6 season; not two.

-- The Flip Camera Phone. I'll save this for a separate review, which I will post this week but what a cool, cool product.

That's about as much as my Vegas-addled brain can muster for one night. Should be back to normal tomorrow.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Back

I am back from an extended week of travelling. As a result, this has been the longest period I have gone without blogging since I started this thing. .

What a whirlwind. Since last Tuesday I have been to the following airports: Oakland, Long Beach, LAX, San Francisco, Chicago, Albany, Baltimore, Los Vegas. I've literally cross crossed the country. HIghlights included a three day work retreat in Hunter Mountain, NY which was really great and a three days boys weekend that was .. well, let's just say it was a lot of fun. We'll leave it at that but suffice to say it is always great to hang out with my boys, and this was an epic crew.

So now I am back and I am so brain dead I'm amazed that I have been able to post even this much though if you will note, I have not used many multisyllable words. It's going to be at least until Wednesday until I am recovered from this.

Just minutes ago, since I started this post, the Tampa Bay Rays have knocked off the Red Sox; this is cause for major celebration in our household (a major Sox loss is almost as good as a Yankees win) so pardon me while I go dance with the Little Boy.

More later.

(Ps. Highlight of the week. Coming home early this evening and waiting outside San Francisco airport for the Wife to pick me up.
I call her and she says she's pulling into the airport --in Oakland).

Monday, October 13, 2008

Thanks

Thanks, everyone who can called, emailed, texted etc. with good wishes. Gestures such as that are appreciated more than you know.

I'm not even sure if good wishes are really in order. This may be something, it may not. I've decided to orient on the side of optimism and have pushed it to the back of my head; not much I can do about it anyway.

My office was closed today for Columbus Day; kind of a ridiculous holiday, but one that was perfectly timed. A three day weekend was frankly just what I needed.

I pretty much had a perfect day: woke up, did some work, hung out with my good buddy Brian, who started the remodel of our bathroom today (more on this later), then went to school and helped out with the Girl's art class, which was great fun. Afterwards I took the Wife to lunch, did some more work, went for a trail run, and then took the Girl for a long walk with Coach Phil's dog. I think the walk was the most fun, as my daughter is generally terrified of dogs but couldn't stop hugging and kissing Kylie.

Now that our Indian Summer is in full effect (it was 77 and PERFECT), it was the textbook definition of a great day; days like this really make me appreciate life.

Tomorrow is back to the real world: 7:30 flight to LA. Get back and then have a 6:15 am flight to New York (upstate, New York peeps -- not Manhattan) on Wednesday for two days of meetings and then straight from there to Vegas for my second bachelor party in two weeks.

If the cancer doesn't kill me, I think this week might.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Angel Island Fire

This is a test of my new Flip video camera; let's see if I can figure out how to upload video. This is a pretty big fire that's burning at Angel Island, just a few short miles from our house. The video probably doesn't do this justice, but it's lighting up the entire skyline. It would actually be quite beautiful if it wasn't what i think is a fairly destructive event.


video

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Not Exactly What I Expected

Well, the results of my scan are in and I have to confess they aren't exactly what I expected or hoped for.

First, a bit of background, which I will try to break down to laymen's terms. My quarterly scans are essentially two sets of tests. The first is a blood workup, focused on TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) and TG (thyroid globulin). TG in particular is key; you hope that it tests as undetectable. This has been the case for my past three tests and I have come to accept it as rote. The second is a neck ultrasound, where they search for aberrent looking lymph nodes.

The good news is that my neck ultrasound was clean. So, I got that going for me. And that is important, without doubt. The problem, though, was with my blood work. They picked up "antibodies" which essentially render the TG test moot. This is my first experience with "antibodies" and I'm still getting my arms around exactly what it means, but basically, an antibody is something that identifies and attempts to fight foreign matter. According to my doctor, the presence of antibodies can be attributed to one of several things: it's an anomoly (false positive), there's an auto immune issue at play, or it's fighting emerging cancer cells. It's the latter that's obviously disconcerting and according to the Internet research I've conducted, the presence of antibodies seems pretty decent early indicator of a recurrence.

So, we're going to do another round of bloodwork in about a month and will decide where to go from there. Hopefully, they will have disappeared. So, I'd be lying if I didn't say I was a bit bummed but such is life.

The ironic thing is that I've never felt better and earlier today I completed an absolutely epic run - 9 mile hilly trail run at average of about 7:25 per mile - followed immediately by 10 x 1000 meters on the track at average of about 7:30 pace. This latest quasi-setback is providing even further motivation for me to really give it a good go at the Cal International marathon in December.


(PS. CrazyMama and Gail; hit me on comments or offline if you have any perspective on this matter)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Scan Day

Today was/is Yom Kippur, the most important holiday of the Jewish year. It's also a fast day, which is never a particularly good time. I had a mild grade headache but otherwise, not too bad. The wife and I went to temple together in the am (as well as last night) and this afternoon we took the kid's to the children's service. I have to say that our synogogue, Temple Emmanuel in San Francisco, is pretty impressive. Afterwards, we had a couple of friends over for dinner, which was great. Each day I feel like we become a bigger part of the fabric of this place.

Anyway, it was probably good timing for the holidays and a solid day of prayer, because tomorrow I have my quarterly ultrasound in the am, and get results of that and my blood work in the afternoon. I don't really write about cancer as pertains to me anymore, becuase fortunately, there's no real reason to, but I confess to being a tad bit apprehensive (not nervous -- apprehensive) prior to my tests. I feel great and am very optimistic and all, but I think any cancer patient would concur that there's always that nagging little voice that resides in the back of ones head, and that voice naturally becomes a tad bit louder during scan days.

Anyway, that's my maudlin message of the day/month/hopefully year. I am sure everything will turn out great and I will post results tomorrow.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Random Thoughts

A couple of predictions, apropos of absolutely nothing in particular:

-- While I hate the Red Sox with the passion of a million burning suns, they now enter round two of the playoffs as the prohibitive favorites and I predict they will win the World Series. Pains me just to write those words.

-- The media needs a good story, but I am calling it now: short of some sort of miracle on the part of the McCain campaign, this election is over. I suspect Obama will not just win, but will win in a route. I am calling 300 plus electroral votes. While I am a big Obama fan, given the state of the county and economy, I am not exactly sure why he would want this job, but since he appears destined to win it he better do one hell of a good job for all our sake.

-- Chris McCormack and Chrissie Wellington will repeat as 2008 Ironman World Championsthis coming Saturday in Kona. In related news, I predict that for the 11th consecutive year, I wil ger rejected by the Ironman lottery.

-- Michigan will finish 6-6 in football, which given the state of this team, will be deemed a success. We will lose key games to Penn State and MSU but in one of the biggest upsets of the season, we will defeat Ohio State. Hey, a guy can dream, can't he?

-- The situation with the economy will get much, much worse before it starts to get better (which won't occur until 2010). Once doesn't need to be Milton Friedman to make this prediction.

-- Warren Sapp will win Dancing with Stars? Why? Cause the Big Man can flat out dance.

-- The Cubs will disappoint in 2009? Why? Cause that's what the Cub's have been doing for more than a 100 years.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Reno, NV

I just got back from a two day bachelor party in Reno for my friend Blake. Being that it was a bachelor party, by definition, it was a lot of fun (I am finding that any and all activities that do not involve human beings under the age of eight are more fun than ever). We gambled (I got killed), ate, hung out, slept late (9:30!), ran (at least I did), gambled, checked out Reno and did I say gambled?

I cannot even describe Reno. Words simply fail me. I'm not sure I could ever recommend it but at the same time, it's something everyone should experience -- once. I am not even sure how or where to being: it's like the devil offspring of Vegas. Vegas is all glitz and glamour. Reno is all honky and tonk. It's like Atlantic City though transposed to a beautiful locale, and it is pretty darn redneck to put it mildly. We went walking from hotel to hotel yesterday and they were all the same: darn and dank. Another thing I noticed is that in Vegas, you get rollers and you get people who are in town looking to have fun. In Reno you get degenerate gamblers who carry with them a whiff of desperation. I was sitting in the sports book watching the Michigan game (about the smartest thing I did all weekend was NOT bet on Michigan, though I was very, very tempted) and you could tell that some of the people sitting near me were losing their shirts. It would have been entertaining in a weird sort of way, if it wasn't depressing.

Anyway, as stated, it was fun and something I'm glad to have experienced -- once. I will say that the road home up and over Lake Tahoe features some of the most spectacular scenery I have seen this side of Highway One up the coast to LA.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Go Cubs

Well, my Yankees are out, the Mets are out, The Twins are out so who's a guy to root for? Pretty easy: Go Cubs. As I was telling a colleague earlier today: It's impossible to have spent as much time in Chicago as I have (nine years to be precise) without developing some form of affinity for the Cub's. They truly are the most loveable losers, and I mean that in the most genuine manner possible. Both my kids were born in Chicago and the Little Boy remains true to the Cubs. In a sense, it's his last connection to the City and that is meaningful.

I was in Chicago foir five or six Bull's championships and those were good times That being said, I think it would absolutely pale in comparison to the Cub's. So, a long winded way of saying -- Go Cubbies. May this be your year. But you only get one.

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In other news, busy work week. Spectacularly busy week, actually, but it's mostly good, despite the market meltdown. Come Friday, I am headed to Reno for a bachelor party. Stay tuned for pictures and details.....

Monday, September 29, 2008

L'Shana Tova

Today, as many of you know, is the Jewish New Year. We celebrate the coming year and at the same time begin a ten day period of introspection that culminates in Yom Kippur, the day of repentance. To all of my friends reading this -- Jewish or not -- I wish you a shana tova -- a very happy New Year, filled with health, happiness and prosperity (though after watching the market sink today, prosperity seems like a lofty goal). And to my cancer survivor friends out there, I wish you an extra special shana tova. May you all be inscribed in the book of life for this coming year, and many, many more to follow.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Earrings

Well, it's a done deal: the Girl is the proud bearer (wearer?) of earrings. We finally capitulated and took her to get them today. She is on cloud nine and for some reason, I feel like I have failed as a father. They just don't look right on a six year in my opinion. Unfortunately, my daughter is just like e (and her mom) in that she is a bit obsessive/compulsive and she has been pining (an understatement) for them for the last six months. I will say this though --while I thought her brother was going to faint, this kid didn't even flinch. The piecer lady said in her 20 years, she never saw a kid her age sit so still and demonstrate no emotion/pain whatsoever. This kid is cut a bit different. Whether that's in a good or bad way remains to be seen.

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Boy, my young Michigan Wolverines made me proud yesterday. I watched the first half and it was beyond abysmal. It might have been the worst football I have ever seen. It was a gorgeous day here in old Marin County, so I felt compelled to take the kids out to play. I was just out of house when my iphone started blowing up with texts from my brother Neil (thanks again, Neil) sending updates. The comeback was so epic that after a quarter I threw the kids in the car and put the game on Sirius. I don't think the kids really knew what was going on but I know they had fun screaming "Go Blue" at the top of their lungs. I had fun with that too. Got home and caught the last few moments of what might be one of the greatest comebacks I have seen. it wasn't the amount of points scored that made this game so epic, it was the difference between the two halves. The first half we looked like Paramus High School; the second half we were the new look Wolverines. A heck of a comeback for Coach Rod and a harbinger of what we can expect to see in the future from the new regime. Very encouraging, indeed. As Neil said: speed and fitness trumps size.

Go Blue.

The Old Guys

If you hang out anywhere long enough, I guess you start to become a regular. And that's what has happened to me at my local pool.

I've been swimming there regularly for more than two years and over that time have gotten to know most of the regulars. Most of whom are pretty old dudes. Of course, California being California, here old dudes swim every day. But I digress.

So anyway I'm hanging out in the locker room post swim on Friday when one of the old dude comes in and starts chatting away with me (note to old dude: you're a cool guy and all but put some clothes on next time please). In the middle of our chat in walks another old dude, so now the three of us start chatting. Two minutes later, you guessed it: another old dude. We're having a regular koffeeklatsch the four of us, chit chatting away (about what, I couldn't tell you) when it hits me like a thunderbolt: I'm an old dude. Or at least, I'm one of the old dudes. And it's doubtful I'll ever be the young dude anymore.

Weird thing is -- I think I'm ok with this all. Because old dudes are cool.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

News of the Day

So, what's the big news of the day? hmm. Could it be the disintegrating financial markets? Nope.

How about the presidential campaign and McCain's (strange) effort to cancel Friday's debate? Somewhat attention grabbing but not it.

Lance's press conference spelling the details of his 2009 season? Let's see: I am pretty much the biggest cycling fan ever but nope, not it.

Which leaves us with only one more thing: Clay Aiken declaring he is gay.

I am still in a state of utter shock and am not certain how I made it through the day. I mean -- Clay Aiken? Who EVER would have thought that?

Not sure if I will ever manage to accept this as the truth.

In other news, McCain is out of his mind and I am counting the hours, minutes and seconds until the 2009 Tour de France. I might need to take the month of July off and head to Paris -- and unlike the above, that's no joke.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Fall TV

Fall is the season of so many things: college football. NFL. Baseball playoffs. Marathon training. And new TV season. Thus far, with the exception of marathon training, all of the above kind of stink (read: Michigan, Jets, Yanks) but alas, hope springs eternal.

Not so sure what to make of the TV season, though I sure am happy that it's back. Here's a few initial thoughts:

The New 90210. Horrific. Unwatcheable. Maybe the worst show I have ever seen in my life and that is saying something considering that I am the master of junk TV. I gave up halfway through the first episode, and that's saying something.

Entourage: Still one of the greatest shows of all-time, but this season is off to an uneven start. The storyline (Vince's descent) has been predictable as are the characters. They need an injection of new energy because it's on the precipice of becoming stale. That said, I could also see things changing quickly. And Ari is still as entertaining as hell.

True Blood: I like this one. A lot. It's definitely getting better each week and it's a real unique take on the typical vampire genre. I'm very optimistic that this is only going to get better though it's been slightly plodding. I'll write that off though to character development.

Fringe: I missed the boat on the whole Lost craze and wasn't going to do the same with this new JJ Abrams show. And I hae to say: it is awesome. Without question my favorite new show of the season thus far. If you haven't checked it out yet, I believe it's available through itunes, and it's well worth the purchase. But act now, as this plotline is moving quickly.

Boston Legal: Last night was the season premier but I was kind of disappointed. See Entourage for an explanation as to why. bUt even a "bad" Boston Legal is better than 90% of anything else on TV.

So, that's my thoughts. Anyone catch a new show(s) that I should be checking out?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Weekend

One of the coolest aspects of the Bay Area is that nearly everyone is fitness minded. This region is most definitely not a New York or even a Chicago from a cultural perspective (the museums and theater don't compare) but people really take advantage of the great outdoors; everywhere you turn people are swimming, biking, running, hiking, playing baseball, lacrosse, etc. The area is so beautiful that you can't help but not take advantage of it.

Yesterday morning we drove into the City early and watched my buddy Mark and his pal from SoCal do a swim from Alcatraz to shore. Mark did great and I was stoked for him but at the same time I confess to being green with envy; I wanted to jump in and join him. Alas, despite my feelings, it's good to be rooting others on, especially a friend. I did run 12 miles home; first time I have ever run from the City, up and over the Golden Gate bridge and back into Marin. Beautiful views on a beautiful day.

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Today I coached the Little Boy's fall baseball team; that's right I am the "official" coach. It's pretty rewarding, though coaching third and fourth graders definitely has its moments. Nice kids though, and it really is amazing to me how much little kids love baseball. Actually, it shouldn't be that amazing: here I am at 42 watching the Yankees game and screaming at the TV. I'm sad to say goodbye to the stadium.

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I am not exactly knows as a fan of heavy metal music, but I very much recommend the new Metallica album. It's loud, aggressive, catchy and perfect for running. I've listened to it twice this weekend and it's pretty epic.

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Off to LA tomorrow for something like the 25th time this year. I was looking at my calender last week and realized that last week was the first time in about eight weeks that I wasn't on a plane. Getting a tad bit tired of the constant traveling, but as Michael Corleone so elegantly said, this is the life I've chosen.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Market

I was going to write about my new favorite show, Fringe, which is quickly becoming my new 24, but events of the past week take precedence. So I will save that post for another day.

In all my days, I have never seen anything like what's been going on in the financial markets this week. It is utterly astonishing and interestingly (if that's the right word), communications, my chosen profession, appears to be playing a large role in what's occurring. What I mean by this is that "bad news' -- or even the rumor of bad news -- is spreading like wildfire, and is becoming almost a self-fulfilling prophesy. And sadly, the weight of the market appears to be stronger than the weight of the message and there's not much that these companies (Lehman, Morgan, AIG, WaMu, et al) can do for say from a communication perspective to provide counterbalance to the utter fear that's currently running rampant. I only hope for all of our sake that calmer heads ultimately prevail before there's more carnage (Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs). Tomorrow will be interesting to say the least.

Here's hoping to a rally.