the other theo

There is no dark side of the moon really… as a matter of fact, it's all dark.

Month: June, 2015

An Accident of Mixology

Flaming cocktails do not have the same appeal for me in my mid-40’s as they did in my early 20’s.   A case in point occurred over the weekend when I got 2nd degree burns on the thumb and forefinger of my left hand and the middle knuckle of my right forefinger.

We got some new neighbors back in January, but we didn’t have much chance to meet them.  They seemed nice enough; both in their late 20’s to early 30’s somewhere, him an engineer of some kind, and her a lawyer.   They seemed relatively quiet, nice, and polite.   We spoke a bit over fences and chance encounters coming and going.   We met their dog.

So, it seemed natural that when they planned to host a barbecue at their place and invited the Peanut, the Missus, and me over that we should go and say hello.

It turned out to be generally pleasant evening with good food and drink, and our hosts were positively genial.  We learned that he is originally from the Ukraine and is working on some stealth tech idea that he wants to turn into a startup.   We also learned that she is in her second trimester and expecting a boy sometime around Halloween.   They are also vegetarians, but nicely asked friends to bring meat to grill — which other friends did, including some lamb chops that were cooked over a very hot fire to crispy meaty perfection.

After the Missus decided to take the Peanut back to our house for bath and bed, I decided to linger a bit to get a little more to eat.  It was at this point that our host asked if I wanted to try this flaming shot that his brother (or brother-in-law) showed him how to make.    He called it a “Gorilla Boob” but the closest thing I can find in the online cocktail guides is the Gorilla Tit. I hadn’t touched any kind of flaming drink in years, but I figured it would be an “adventure”.

The Gorilla Tit is composed of Kahlua, Yuckon Jack, and Bacardi 151, and recommended to be served in an Old Fashioned glass.  The Gorilla Boob as I experienced it on Saturday is made from something I didn’t quite catch, Jägermeister, and Bacardi 151 served in a tall shot glass.  Both drinks are to be drunk with straws.  My sense of adventure raised a notch when I saw him pouring the Jägermeister; cocktail culture has become a very adult, serious, almost gourmet kind of thing in the last few years and this was starting to feel more like the kind of thing you do on a dare at a keg party in college.

So drinks were poured and lit.  Someone wanted to take a picture.  A phone was produced and a flash went off.

I picked up my drink.  The glass was HOT.  I could feel my fingers burning.   I put it down on the table.  It spilled and the liquid on the table caught fire.   I put that out with a strawberry margarita someone left nearby.   I picked up the glass and sucked the remaining liquid through the straw.

It was agreed later that taking the time to take picture was a mistake — the glasses got too hot.  I would also suggest that the shot glass was a mistake.   An Old Fashioned glass would give more to hold onto.

In any case, I immediately shoved my fingers in ice water and kept them there for much of the remainder of the evening.   When I was asked if I wanted to try again, I politely declined.

It was an unusual end to an otherwise pleasant evening.  I hope we see our neighbors again.



Mischief and Exhaustion

There are two poles on which Father’s Day 2015 was hung: mischief and exhaustion.

To clarify that a bit, let me start by saying that the Peanut may as well be renamed Mischief these days.   If you leave something out sitting out he’ll open it.   If there is somewhere you don’t want him to go, he’ll likely end up there.    If you leave some food out on the counter that he likes, he’ll take it.   If you give him water to drink, he’ll take it a gulp at a time into his mouth, spit it out into potted plants, and then look at you for approval as if to say “well aren’t I so clever?”  Bed time, well bed time, has regressed from a 10-15 minute process of stories and prayers during the school year to a 60-90 minute process of stories, prayers, quiet play, and frequent cries of “will you get back in your room and go to bed?!?”

The Missus and I think the bedtime issues have a number of causes.   The length of the day seems to play a part.  We also think that school was using a lot of his excess energy before it ended about a month ago.   The Missus tries keep him engaged and plan activities for him during the day, but there is only so much she can do.   There is also the possibility that he just may be getting a little older and can go to bed a little later.

With all that in mind, I started Father’s Day weekend with the firm idea that I would try to tire the Peanut out if I could.   The Missus would be out most of the day on Saturday, and it seemed like a good day to take the Peanut to the playground.    My initial plan was supposed to unfold something like this:  start walking down to the playground a little before 10am, get there by 10:30, run around and play together for about 30-40 minutes, get home just before noon, and have lunch.   It’s about a 3.25 mile round trip walk to the park.   He would burn off to some energy and I would get some exercise pushing him there and back in a (soon to be too small) stroller.

Things didn’t exactly play out as planned.   We got started out about an hour late, just before 11am.   Since I knew that this would mean cutting play time close to lunch time, I had the idea that we could pick up a fresh bagel or two on the way to the park and then the Peanut would have something to tide him over.   I thought “Score!”   Once we got to the park by 11:30am or so, the Peanut just wanted to run and play all over the place.  We ended up staying there until after 1pm.   Again, I thought “Score!”  Barring the minor problem that I forgot to get some milk to wash down the bagel, it all seemed to go swimmingly.    We made it home by about 1:45pm.

It only became apparent a couple hours later after the Missus got home that I’d forgotten something: sunscreen.   Going to the park for 30-40 minutes between 10-11:30am is a little different than going to the park for 90+ minutes in noon day sun.   Sunscreen would be nice for the trip I originally planned, but not absolutely necessary.   Consequently, I didn’t put two and two together to realize that the later hour and longer exposure increased the chance that one or both of us would come home looking more like lobsters fresh out of the steam pot.

As it was, we escaped without serious damage.   The Peanut was covered in a stroller for nearly half the outing, so he was ok except for some rosiness on his cheeks.  Me, I had a pretty nice farmer tan… or farmer burn.  It wasn’t painful, just a little warm and uncomfortable.  In the end, I hoped that the burn would be worth it.  Though the Peanut spent the rest of the afternoon not far from the television, he got a lot of fresh air and exercise.

It wasn’t to be.  He was still his mischievous self and bed time and got me up when he climbed into our bed at about 3:30am.

This is how I started Father’s Day.

Our plans for the day were fairly simple.   The Missus’ Dad got some frozen Kansas City mail order steaks a gift a while back and I promised to grill them.  I caught the early morning 8am Mass, got some groceries, took an hour+ nap later in the morning, and put together the bill of fare:  grill sous vide bacon-wrapped filet medallions, fresh homemade fettuccine alfredo, and fresh English peas plus olives, cheese, and charcuterie for appetizer and wine to drink.

It call came together fairly easily.   The one hitch during the process was that I decided to sous vide the steaks in the vacuum sealed plastic wrappers used for shipment.  These were not up to the task, and three of them cracked while immersed in the warm water.

Here’s the dinner served on our patio:

fathers day 2015

The fettuccine turned out to be real treat.  It turns I didn’t have the recipe I got from my Mom handy in written down form, but I remembered it pretty well.    It’s been several years since I made it, and we used to use Kraft-type processed Parmesan cheese whenever my Mom or I made it before.   That was not the case, this time.   Here, the sauce got a big old block of real Parmigianio Reggiano.  That made a big difference.   The sauce had a nutty, creamy flavor that I never remembered before.

Since it was Father’s Day, I got a couple gifts.  The most interesting one was an old fashioned-type whiskey/cocktail glass that she etched with the family name and initial.

After dinner and some clean up, I faded pretty fast.   The Missus took her Dad home, and I stumbled through bath and bedtime for the Peanut.   After the Missus got home, I handed off to her and collapsed.

Let Down

Ok, I’m back again after a two month hiatus.    It turned out to be a pretty rough Spring, in some respects.   The Peanut brought home a cold in early April that got passed around to me by the end of the month, and ended in both sinus and ear infections.   Since then, my schedule at work has heated up.  Two week code development sprints became the rule of the day, starting in May.   Those sprints did a lot to end some work-related doldrums I experienced in the first quarter of the year; they forced me to travel more often to the office where the bulk of the team works, and I delivered key components of the new product we are creating.   I worked some long hours and burned myself out a bit, but my overall feeling is positive.

The main thing I want to write about right now is my weight.    The last year and a half have been both triumph and tragedy as far as my weight loss and fitness goals are concerned.   On January 1, 2014, I was hovering at about 24 pounds of weight loss from my peak weight almost 4 years ago.   That weight was a little higher than the 27-29 pounds of weight loss where I was  hovering for the previous two years.

So, I made a 2014 New Year’s resolution to lose some weight.  I checked some (seemingly credible) online sources, upped the amount of protein in my diet, cut out some carbs (but not completely), eliminated pretty much all between meal snacking, and pushed hard on my daily routine on the elliptical trainer.   The weight started coming off, and fairly quickly.   Soon, I was back down to 29 pounds of weight loss, and the weight kept coming off.    I dropped below my previous best weight since I turned 30, and crossed 37 pounds of weight loss — a key round number that I used to define my ultimate weight loss goal.  By early June 2014, I was hovering at around 46 pounds of weight loss.   That’s a huge number… the kind you see on weight loss ads on TV.   If I lost about 5 more pounds than that, I would cross another big round weight number that I never thought I would get close to again and weigh about what I did at age 19.

The Peanut, the Missus, and I had to travel to a family wedding in early July.   I was thrilled for everyone to see my “new” body, including wearing a nice wool suit that I bought sometime in the 1990’s.   It was, in some ways, the peak of a giddy climb.

It didn’t stay that way.   My resolve to let my body adjust to the “new” normal wavered.   I began to consume what I called “the fourth meal” in the evenings — snacks and alcohol, mostly.   There were lots of calories, and less nutritional value.  Some of it was a response to stress.   The Peanut started a new therapy regime in September,  and the first few weeks were tough.   It was a new routine for all of us, and he wasn’t a happy camper AT ALL for a while.    Then layoffs came at work in late October, followed by my assignment to a new team.  Some changes in my extended family also happened last Fall, and some of those added to already busy schedules.

By the end of the summer, I was hovering at about 42-43 pounds of weight loss and by December, it was hovering at about 38 pounds.

In December, my body failed.   I started experiencing pain in my right leg when it moved in certain ways.   This was especially problematic at night; sometimes I rolled over or my right foot got tangled in blankets in ways that caused shooting pains that woke me up.  I began to skip exercise days to try to rest my leg, if that was somehow aggravating the problem.   I saw the family doctor in February or March.   He determined that the problem was very likely not joint damage, and referred me for physical therapy.

The Peanut’s life also became more than a little chaotic from January through March.   He did not get along with his speech therapist, was evaluated for additional services, and then placed in a new preschool for kids with special needs.   This process had all of us just trying to roll with the changes.

The weight began to pile on: first 36 pounds of weight loss, then 34, and then… I stopped getting on the scale.

By the end of my physical therapy in April, we determined that the leg pain is very, very likely due to some kind of ergonomic issue at work.  Knowing that has helped me deal with the problem, but I still need to talk about it with human resources at work.   I need a better chair.    The physical therapy also helped me develop some muscle groups to combat the problem.

By May, I resolved to start working out more regularly again.   This was aided by the gym I belong to opening a new snazzy location much closer to our house.   The strength in my workouts has come back, and my resolve to eat better is returning. The scale says that I’m hovering it about 27 pounds of weight loss, about where I started on January 1, 2014.

I’m trying to take stock of the last 18 months.   Do I have the resolve to bear down and lose the weight again?  Can I do the same thing and repeat the result?    Did I lose the weight too fast for my body to adjust?   Did I just wear myself out in the process and increase the possibility of injury?

If I am a duality of body and spirit, I feel that each let the other down.   My spirit broke when I started eating and couldn’t stop.   My body broke when sleep and exercise became more difficult.  I reached for the brass ring, got it, and fell.   That’s a let down all the way around.