Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Oh The Freedom

I finally freed myself from the tyranny of a cell phone contract! I feel so freeeeee!

Some background...

I was on a Sprint plan with Todd and my sis and BIL. It cost us about $100/month for all four lines sharing 800 minutes. I might use somewhere less than 40 minutes per month. Todd used maybe 120 minutes per month. The rest of the minutes was used up completely by my sis and BIL. Some months, they used up all 800 of the minutes and more, and I had to pay for the overage. Finally, when our Sprint contract was up after four years (two years at a time contract), I decided it was time for a change. And it was time to un-tether ourselves from my sister and BIL.

So Todd and I had a discussion about our cell phone needs and how we could save some money. It was around this time that we also both got invited to get Google Voice. It is FREE.  So now I have a phone number that I can set up to ring at home, at work, and on my cell phone.  It is my completely portable freedom number.  If I'm at home and someone calls my google voice number, I can just answer my home phone and save my cell phone minutes.  If I'm at work and someone calls my google voice number, I can pick up my work phone and save my cell phone minutes.  In effect, I had very little use for my cell phone anymore except for those times when I'm truly out and about and NEED to use my phone.  Oh and you can use your google voice number to call FREE long distance from your home phone.  So now, I might use 30 minutes on my cell phone per month, tops.

Todd has a work cell phone and a google voice number.  So he decided to just completely do away with his old cell phone number with Sprint.  So then I had complete freedom to set about researching a no-contract pay-as-you-go cell phone plan that meets my minimal needs.  If there's one thing I hate, it's the tyranny of cell phone contracts.  In order to get the phone hardware for a discounted price, most cell phone companies require that you sign up for a two-year contract.  That contract requires a monthly fee no matter how little you use your cell phone.  And if you break your contract, oh there are big fees to pay.  No more of that for me!

I present to you, my new Virgin Mobile cell phone.
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Todd found a deal online and got it for me, brand new, for $48.
I called their customer service number and was connected IMMEDIATELY to a live person!  (When's the last time THAT has happened???)  That person not only helped me activate my phone and port over my old phone number from Sprint in a speedy manner, she even asked how I was doing today.  My old cell phone number was ported over to my new cell phone in two hours.  Then I simply went online and used my credit card to pay for $10 worth of minutes.  I get 50 minutes for the $10.  I only have to add money to my account every 90 days, and I'm not bound to any long-term contracts.

So let's compare.  We were paying ~$1,200 per year ($100/month) for four cell phone lines.  I set my sister and BIL free.  Todd quit his personal cell phone.  Now I'm paying $10 (or less) per month for my cell phone.  The startup cost was $48.  So in the first 12 months, we're saving $1,032.  I'm beyond happy about this.  AND the bonus part?  I don't have to be tethered to a long-term contract.  Oh the freedom indeed!

PS - you can request your own Google Voice invite here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Look out! Cookies!

My company has a birthday party each month for the employees and I'm on the committee that provides the snacks. Unsurprisingly, the brownies you saw here last night were completely demolished by my coworkers. Photobucket Photobucket Before the carnage started. Photobucket The ice cream cake was still very firm but John managed to avoid injury. Photobucket Interest in the treats was high! As it is every month, it was fun. But today I have other things to talk about. I recently read about the origins of MRI technology and how it came to be used extensively in medicine. It's a wonderful application of technology that allows for non-invasive diagnosis of many, many conditions including many cancers. MRI stands for "Magnetic Resonance Imaging." What I didn't know is it was initially called Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Imaging (NMRI). Why was the "N" dropped? One reason is a fear that the public wouldn't accept the machine if they thought it would bombard them with "dangerous nuclear radiation." In fact, that's not what happens when you go in the machine. But the word "nuclear" is politically charged and the population at large is not scientifically educated enough to deconstruct the terminology. As a science-and-logic-loving guy, the poor level of scientific and philosophical education that we see in the public at large distresses me. Today, I'm focusing on science. I don't know if leaving "nuclear" in the name would have proved problematic. It might have. What if some entity (a company selling a competing but inferior technology for instance) decided to try to scare the public away from the new NMRI machines? Would we then today have fewer of the machines around and miss out on the benefits? Non-hypothetical examples abound relating to such topics as evolution, genetic engineering, nuclear power, stem cell research, and on and on. I don't want to turn this post into advocacy for something specific so I'll move on. And you know who is not helping? The media. Here is a recent headline from the UK: Crumbs: half of Britons injured by their biscuits on coffee break, survey reveals Yikes, I love cookies (cookies = biscuits in the UK). Should I be worried? Well, no. The reality of the situation is described comprehensively here. In brief... "Half of Britons" is 25 million people. It's completely unclear where that number comes from based on the study (and I use that term loosely) that was published. A number that is clear is the 500 people were hospitalized due to incidents which occurred while eating cookies. The hospitalizations were a result of such mishaps as "falling off a chair reaching for the [cookie] tin" and "being bitten by a pet." 500 is rather shy of 25,000,000. And I'm sure those people would have been much better off eating ice cream! <smirk> Digging deeper, we find that the study was conducted by a group of high school students at the behest of a cookie manufacturer. Oddly enough, names of the sponsoring company's products made it in to the press release but the same can't be said for competitors' products. So there we have it, the whole thing was just a bit of creative advertising. It was wrapped in scientific language and released as news. And the media - they ate it up and presented it for public consumption so to speak. I have more stories but I think this post is long enough already. Maybe a couple of my more gullible coworkers felt safer because I chose to serve brownies rather than cookies. I will console myself with the thought that Listgirl readers will no longer fall for such chicanery.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Interval Training At Home

I've been going to gym class after work at my work gym for the last three months, on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  I've noticed one thing.  Our instructor Pam likes to have us do interval workouts.  Which means a few minutes of cardio, interspersed with a few minutes of weights, squats, lunges, or other kind of strength exercise.  And since I've lost a couple of pounds (which isn't much, but considering my love of food, it's not bad), I thought I would try this interval training at home on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Here's a breakdown of my old vs. new workout schedule.

OLD:
Monday - run 30 minutes on treadmill + pushups + situps
Tuesday - weights at home in the am + 60 minute gym class in the evening
Wednesday - run 30 minutes on treadmill + pushups + situps
Thursday - weights at home in the am + 60 minute gym class in the evening
Friday - rest
Saturday - long run with West Coast Road Runners
Sun - rest or yoga

I didn't feel like working out twice on Tues/Thurs anymore.  It took too much time, and my showering schedule got all screwy from exercising twice.  So I modified my workout schedule to streamline the days while still getting the same benefits as before.

NEW:

Monday - interval training at home
Tuesday - 60 minute gym class 
Wednesday - interval training at home
Thursday - 60 minute gym class
Friday - rest
Saturday - long run with West Coast Road Runners
Sun - rest or yoga

So what does this interval training at home consist of?
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It is a combination of exercises which uses the above equipment. I get a total body workout in under 60 minutes.

-Sit-ups and side-crunches on the exercise ball (20+20+20)
-2 minutes fast walk warm-up on the treadmill
-12 pushups
-3 minutes running
-12 pushups
-3 minutes running
-One-arm row (weights)
-3 minutes running
-Triceps extension (weights)
-3 minutes running
-Overhead press (weights)
-3 minutes running
-Biceps curls (weights)
-2 minutes running
-Shoulder raises (weights)
-1 minute walk cool-down
-Bentover fly (weights)

Total treadmill time of 20 minutes + the strength exercises mixed in.
While I'm only running 20 minutes on the treadmill, the intervals accomplish two things. First, it alleviates my boredom of running on the treadmill by doing it for only 2-3 minutes at a time. Second, I can run faster during those intervals because I know I'm only running 3 minutes, not forever. So my total miles run is better than if I just ran 20 minutes straight.

I am liking this workout a lot. Especially since I can cut out the weights on Tues and Thurs mornings now.  You can read more about interval training here and here.  Or just google it.

All this talk about exercising makes me hungry! Mmm... let's see what good stuff we ate tonight.

Todd made a Korean stir fry consisting of veggies, chicken, and LOTS of garlic (like 10 cloves chopped up). Todd modified this recipe from a book somewhere, so I don't have a link for you. :(
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Ha ha, check out the amount of garlic.
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Todd also made the famous Dark Chocolate and Cherry Brownies.
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But alas it isn't for me. He's bringing it to work tomorrow to celebrate September birthdays at work. He did let me have a little piece. You think people will notice?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Not Exactly Sponge Bob

but the Subway Dude looks somewhat similar?

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Todd and I headed to Coronado Island (really an isthmus) today for lunch. Whenever I go to Coronado, I always feel like I'm on vacation and I relax immediately! Yes, I know it's only a short bridge away from downtown San Diego, but it just feels so different and relaxing over there.
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We went to the first Burger Lounge that we've ever been to. We discovered it back in December 2008 when we tried to go ice skating on the beach.

We shared a salad and a burger (no cheese, for Todd), and we didn't even get french fries!
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Then we walked a few blocks down to the Hotel Del Coronado to enjoy some views.
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And also to enjoy the best ice cream in the world, Moo Time. I think I've mentioned before that I really hate melted ice cream. I got the caramel ice cream, which is delicious.
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I don't talk during ice cream time, I just eat.
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Because look what happens two minutes later. Yucky ice cream soup!
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For dinner tonight, we HAD TO make American Chili.
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It is part of a time-sensitive project that we're putting together. It's our favorite chili recipe. Except that tonight we ran into a slight problem because we didn't have Merlot wine on hand. So we substituted with Zinfandel. The chili tasted a little more tart than I would have liked, so we added a little brown sugar to it and a disaster was avoided. Football and chili, one of our favorite fall combinations!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Foggy Seven

This morning we met up with our running club at Mission Bay High School at 6:45am again, just like last week.  The schedule called for seven miles again, for those of us training for half marathons or not racing.
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It was very foggy this morning.
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The group was very small, so I didn't find anyone who ran my same pace to run with. I ran alone. It kind of defeats the purpose of running with a running club, but if I didn't meet up with them, I doubt I would have gotten up at 5:30am on a Saturday to run seven miles. Running alone doesn't really bother me, unless I thought the route was confusing and I would get lost.  Todd ran the same route, but with his pace group.  Plus he ran only four miles, so he turned around at two miles.  He did well and had very minimal pain.

I ran on a nice trail by Sea World.
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Some early morning kayakers.
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Miles: 7.01
Time: 1:17:28
Avg time/mile: 11:03
Calories burned: 696

Todd took me to McDonalds on the way home and I got a sausage McMuffin with egg, but no cheese. I was really hungry. Todd doesn't like McDonald's breakfast food, so we stopped by our neighborhood bagel shop to get him a bagel, then next door to Starbucks for a Pumpkin Spiced Latte. Todd loves this drink, even though he's not a big fan of coffee. He's pretty excited that this seasonal drink is back in the fall..

We cleaned up, watched some football, and ate a homemade pesto caesar salad with grilled chicken for lunch. Then I felt tired from my run this morning still, so I took a nap on the couch while we watched college football. Our Buckeyes beat Illinois 30-0! This is now two weeks in a row that we shut out our opponent, which hasn't happened since 1996! (We beat Toledo last week 38-0.) I love our fall Saturday football rituals.

We had to go to Target and also grocery shopping in the evening, so we decided to try out an Italian restaurant called Cin Cin in the same plaza as Target. We had purchased a Restaurant.com coupon for Cin Cin for $1. The coupon was for $25 off purchases of $35 and over.

Todd had a pizza.
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I had linguini with clams.
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We got out of there paying $16, including a small dessert, taxes, and tip. Gotta love these Restaurant.com coupons!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Freeze Frame

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Todd found some leftover styrene board at work and brought them home. He saw some fun photographic potential with these, and he wasn't wrong!

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Don't Turn Off The Lights

Who knew that Enrique Iglesias could be so wise?

My workplace has been turning off the overhead lighting on the hot days when the state of California declares a "power curtailment" day.  Which means power conservation between the hours of 11am - 6pm.  I am for power conservation, but the eye-strain gives me a headache every time.

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So today when our facilities manager sent out an email survey asking if people preferred the lights on or off, I got really concerned. I know they aren't just asking for those days when we have power curtailment. They as asking about EVERYDAY. I find it unacceptable that they're even considering this. For those of us who sit far away from any windows with sunlight, it's really DARK when they turn the overhead lighting off. Plus the eye-strain and headaches for me. They saw the money they saved by shutting off the lights, and now they want to do it for everyday? I won't go for it. Plus, isn't "shutting off the lights" a metaphor for something else for a business? :|

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Heat Is On

Around lunch time today I was walking in the parking lot at work and it felt really hot, with hot winds blowing around. Sure enough, the outside thermometer said it was 96 degrees.
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So even though yesterday was the first full day of autumn, we are not showing signs of it here. However, since summer is officially over, I thought I'd do an update of our list of things to do this summer that we put together back on the first full day of summer, June 22.
  1. Rent a room on the beach. Skipping for budget reasons
  2. Go to Del Mar Fair  Missed
  3. Go to horse racing at Del Mar Fairgrounds. Not Going
  4. Lobster buffet at Valley View Casino.
  5. Taste of Gaslamp  6/14/09
  6. Padres game  7/5/09
  7. Run the AFC Half  sold out and conflicts with goalless running
  8. Take the train to an Angels game (9/26-27 vs As)
  9. Walk on the beach on a week night.  7/30/09
  10. Sea World  Skipping for budget reasons
  11. Photo shoot  Purchased on Groupon
  12. Rent the yellow street Go Cars down at the Embarcadero.  
  13. Read  Ongoing
  14. Hillcrest farmers market  7/12/09
  15. Grand Re-Opening party at our house.  9/12/09
  16. Go to Ohio for Todd's HS reunion.  Not going
  17. Hike Torrey Pines near glider port  9/6/09
  18. Photo Secret San Diego excursions.
  19. San Diego Symphony Pops at the Embarcadero. 7/23/09  (video games)
  20. Hornblower dinner cruise
  21. Run the Seattle RnR Half  6/27/09
  22. 15th wedding anniversary in Seattle  6/25/09
  23. Take ferry to Coronado and rollerblade
  24. Old Town Trolley Tour (with out-of-town visitors?)
  25. Ice cream at Seaport Village  Skipping in favor of Moo Time
  26. Peppermint & Tom fun  7/22-26
  27. Legoland  7/23/09
  28. Moo Time @ Hotel Del Coronado  7/25/09
  29. Burger Lounge  7/7/09, 7/15/09
  30. Cupcake Love  7/23/09
  31. Comic-Con  7/24/09
  32. Watch a sunset @ Sunset Cliffs  9/19/09
  33. Kayak to the Caves
  34. Grunion runs
  35. Old Town olive oil store  9/4/09
  36. Fireworks
  37. Cook for friends  7/11/09, 8/8/09, 8/15/09
  38. Boogie boarding with Sally  7/30/09, 8/12/09
  39. Scrap all our activities  Ongoing
  40. Go back to cardio gym class  6/30/09
  41. Green Flash Concert @ Birch Aquarium 
  42. Cinema Under The Stars 
  43. http://tasteofasiasd.com/ 9/26
  44. Breakfast at Big Kitchen
  45. Break stuff at the http://www.smashshack.com/
  46. Movies at Stone Brewery:  http://www.stonebrew.com/movies/  Lost interest when we heard about the quality issues
  47. Bike along the bay in Coronado.  (Rent a bike)  
Done: 22
Scheduled: 1
Missed/Skipped: 8

Not too shabby.  Lots of fun was had and new memories made!  And all photographically documented, thanks to Project 365.  :)

Tonight we tried a new recipe from Cooking Light called Cilantro-Lime Chicken with Avocado Salsa

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It was good, considering that it was very easy to make and took about 25 minutes.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Alternatives

I have spoken a couple of times now about my love of Coke. But a few other drinks make me jump out of my seat as well. Shall we list?
  1. Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf Raspberry Ceylon black tea. By far my favorite tea. This is a limited edition item (read: not available all the time.) But you can get it now and I recommend you stock up. I woefully ran out last time the stores stopped carrying it. That will not happen again - no it will not!
  2. Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte. Were he reading this, my coffee-aficionado neighbor would be shaking his head right now. A Starbucks drink among my favorites!? But the fact of the matter is I don't really like coffee - it's too bitter for me. But sugary-spicy drinks, that's another matter. This drink is only available in the fall and I love it.
  3. Swenson's California. (Only available in my home town of Akron, OH. I believe it's just grape juice and 7-Up, so it's not really that magical. But it's something unique to Akron that I enjoyed as a kid so it's special to me. I'll be back there in October and you can bet a trip to Swenson's is in order.
  4. HWA Tong Almond Drink. Let me tell you about a benefit to being related to people from a different country: you are exposed to some culinary gems that don't make the mainstream in your own part of the world. Listgirl's parents introduced me to this drink which is super yummy and smells fantastic. It is actually made from crushed almonds...and no other ingredients. But for some reason it tastes and smells better than the dozen other (!) almond drink powders I have tried. I hadn't had a cup in several months and something reminded me to whip it out today - it was as good as I remembered.
Photobucket Doesn't a cartoon-ized almond giving you the thumbs up just make you want to consume his pulverized peers? Now tell me gentle readers: do you think that Listgirl will sue me for copyright infringement since I wrote a list in this post? I am so nervous I've bitten my fingernails right off. At least I'm not a girl - most of the time. Hopefully that will keep me safe. You'll find out next week if I make it back...

Monday, September 21, 2009

On-Going Photo Project

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I have a long-term photo project that I've been working on sporadically. All my pre-digital photos are either in photo albums or in photo boxes. A few years ago I organized about 90% of my photo negatives and put them into archival sleeves which I keep in binders. Eventually I want to digitize all my old photos and catalog them and tag them in Adobe Lightroom. And I want to have photo albums organized in chronological fashion, by year. I want to get all my photos out of boxes and into albums. You can see that this will be a long-term project for me. I will be incorporating my parents' photos into this project too. Sadly, nobody in my family cares about the old photos as much as I do. My dad isn't very sentimental and is not big on attention to details. My sister doesn't get nostalgic and is too busy to care about it. So it's kind of just... me.

This weekend we found out something very sad on Facebook. One of Todd's high school friends, Wilson, died very suddenly while attending a wedding on the east coast. It's surreal to find out something like this on Facebook. Wilson lived in LA with his wife and kids. We hadn't seen them in a few years. He worked in the entertainment industry, as many people in LA do. Both Wilson and Todd were fans of the TV show "Buffy the Vampire Slayer". When they came out with the musical episode, Todd loved it. Wilson worked at Fox, so he sent Todd a special copy of the DVD that wasn't for sale or distribution. We're shocked and sad that Wilson passed away so suddenly at such a young age. This is our third friend this year who died in their 30's. Wow.

This post is turning into a real downer. I'll lighten things up a little bit. I wanted to let you all know how much I've appreciated receiving your comments about my monthly templates. It's also very cool to hear from many of you who have "delurked" and introduced yourselves! :) Speaking of which, I received a question from Diane E (who delurked a while ago) about where do I keep my camera while running? Do I hold it in my hand? I wear a utility/hydration belt when I run. It looks like this.
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You velcro it around your waist. The back of the belt can hold two 10 oz. water bottles. (Being hydrated on runs is VERY important!) There's also a little pouch where I keep my camera and my GU energy gels.  Here's the link to mine. They run small... mine is a medium and Todd wears a large.

Lastly, the perfect kit came along for my page about In-N-Out Burger.  It is a kit about Fall, but I found another use for it!  The kit is called "Love Fall", a collab between Designs by Lili and Michelle Filo (Mushy), out on Tuesday (or now!).

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Click here for full credits.

PS - to "TooManyHobbies" - Todd says you can get the "trophy wife" t-shirt for your DH here at Cafe Press.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Catching Up

I've said before that one of my favorite shows is the Travel Channel's "Man vs. Food".  They had an episode where Adam Richman tried to eat a 30 inch pizza at Pizzeria Luigi in San Diego.  Todd and I have gone to the Pizzeria Luigi in North Park, but we wanted to visit the original famous one.  So Todd deemed that today was the day.

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This Luigi's in Golden Hill is right south of Balboa Park, with nice views of large trees in the neighborhood.
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And very close to downtown.
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Todd insisted that we had to try the pizza here to make sure it is "okay for everyone else". Well, far be it for me to interfere with the charitable service.
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I think it's safe to say that the pizza is more than okay. Todd especially liked the thin, not-too-chewy crust.

After pizza, we drove to San Diego Desserts in Lemon Grove. We had purchased a Groupon for $5 a while ago, which was good for $15 worth of food/desserts at San Diego Desserts.
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We got a caramel chocolate bomb and a carrot cake, as well as a rooibos chai tea. Even though they were both good, it was too much dessert for us and we had to leave some behind. The service was very good though. We have another Groupon so we will be back.

For dinner tonight Todd made a vegetarian soup, Grilled Corn and Potato Chowder.
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Unfortunately, we didn't really like it for the amount of work it takes. The chowder was strangely sweet due to the corn, without adding any sugar into the soup. Not a winner! This breaks a winning streak of 3-4 new recipes that we've tried lately that we really liked.

I made my Project 365 weekly pages for weeks 35 & 36. I had done pages up to week 22 and never caught up. I decided to just do the most recent weeks instead. I can go back and catch up later.
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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Bleary-Eyed and Raggedy-Tailed

As opposed to "bright-eyed and bushy-tailed". Because that's how I felt this morning when the alarm went off at 5:30am. My eyes were still closed as I thought, "Really? Remind me why I get up so early to run on a Saturday again?"

Today was supposed to be hot, so I suppose it was a good thing that we started running so early at 6:45am. My body just didn't believe me that it was a good idea. We got down to Mission Bay High School around 6:30am to meet up with our running club West Coast Road Runners. The turnout today was pretty small. I ended up running with Cathy the whole seven miles. We ran west on Thomas street and then north along the beaches of Pacific Beach and then La Jolla.

Cathy pointing out the cool pier with the cottages on it in Pacific Beach.
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Lifeguard station in PB.
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Another lifeguard station about a mile further north.
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It was really humid and I felt pretty slow and energy-less. But alas, I ran 7.13 miles and made it back. When I got back to the parking lot, Todd was waiting for me, sitting in a lawn chair reading a book. He ran three miles with his group and then waited for me. The good news is his knee didn't feel hurt. The bad news is he felt out of running-shape after not running for about a month. Well, I can't say I felt that great today either, and I actually have been running lately!

We got back to our house in time for the 9am kickoff of the football game between our Ohio State Buckeyes and Toledo.  I don't know why, but they played the game at Cleveland Browns Stadium in Cleveland.  The game wasn't on TV, but it was on ESPN 360 on the internet.  So we hooked up our laptop to the TV and watched it that way.  It wasn't in HD, but at least we were able to watch it.  Todd made his standard gameday batch of popcorn and enjoyed his big glass of Coke immensely.  The game turned out to be no contest as we crushed Toledo 38-0.  Then, in a stunning development in the afternoon, the same USC Trojans who beat us last week lost to Washington Huskies 16-13 on a last second Washington field goal.

We decided to drive down to Point Loma Seafood for dinner, and watch the sunset at Sunset Cliffs.  Todd has his usual halibut sandwich, while I tried crab sandwich for the first time.  I didn't take any photos because I already have four or five sets of photos depicting eating at Point Loma Seafood this year.  :|   It was delicious, yet again, and such a bargain for fresh seafood!

A view of downtown San Diego from outside of the restaurant.
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It was very cloudy, but we decided to drive to Sunset Cliffs anyways for the sunset.
Even though it was cloudy, it was a different kind of beauty in the scenery.
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I used a Kelsey Smith Lightroom preset called "Ain't No Sunshine" on this photo. I like how it looks like a vintage surf photo.
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I love this photo of Todd. I used another Kelsey Smith Lightroom preset called "McDreamy" on it.
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Todd had the foresight to bring a tripod, so we took some photos of the two of us together. It was getting dark outside, so the photos turned out somewhat grainy. I used that same "McDreamy" preset on this to fade out the colors a little bit and make it less grainy.
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After such an early start to our day, I'm ready to get some good rest tonight!

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