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polo adventure

This past weekend, Em and I really classed it up.  We went to our first ever polo match. Yes, with the horses and the mallets, and the fancy spectators.  This was a part of a fundraising event to raise money for the Marines.  Truth and transparency, it wasn’t actually the polo game that drew us to the event.   We were most excited to go on a hot air balloon ride – also a part of the event to raise money.  However, the weather didn’t cooperate and there were no balloon rides, due to the windy weather.

We really didn’t know much about polo – other than that it’s played on horses and you use mallets to try and hit a small ball through a goal – but the guy who was doing the announcing did a nice job of throwing out tidbits of information throughout the game, as he knew that many in attendance were not intimately familiar with the game.  The match was divided in 4, seven minute “chukkas” with a short break between each (sounds like “chuckers” when he said it); the field is 300 yards long by 160 yards wide (it’s actually tough to see what’s going on at far ends of the field because it is so large); and the teams each have 4 players on the field (which is a total of 9 horses running around when you account for the referee).  Each team is trying to club the little white ball through their goal, which consists of two red poles about 8 yards apart at opposite ends of the field (neither team has a goalie).  There are plenty of other intricacies as well, but once you understand those basics, you’re pretty well set to watch and be entertained.

I will say that one thing that stuck out to me was the relative lack of control and precision that the players had over the ball; I expected to see something akin to soccer or hockey with players passing back and forth while trying to march toward their goalpost.  Instead, the strategy seemed more along the lines of – try to hit the ball in the general direction of your goal and follow it so that you can try to hit it again.  I suppose that maybe I should have expected that since they are on large horses moving at high speed trying to hit a small ball with a skinny mallet several feet below – it’s not built for precision.  Again, it was entertaining and interesting to watch.  Check out a couple of pictures and short videos that I took from the event:

“The token American”:

 

em, enjoying the match

em, enjoying the match

 they really do invite the crowd onto the field in the middle of the match to fill in divets

they really do invite the crowd onto the field in the middle of the match to fill in divets

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Click for: Another YouTube video of the match. This one is a bit closer.

Again, although we weren’t able to take a hot air balloon ride, we were still glad that we did get a chance to see a polo match.  I’m not sure that we’ll become regulars at the polo country club, but we did enjoy the event.

 
 

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NASA: Bed Rest Study

On my drive home from work today, I listened in to an interesting – yet bizarre – topic.  Apparently NASA is running a study where you can earn $15,000 for laying in bed.  Sounds pretty cushy, but when you learn that the study is designed to help them investigate the effects of zero gravity on muscle atrophy and potential bone density loss, it might cause you to pause before leaping at the chance to participate.  It also might make you think twice when you find out that the study lasts just over 3 months.

nasa

 

After looking around a bit, it appears that this line of investigation has been going on for at least a few years at NASA (2004 is the start date that I found).  Here‘s a brief description that I found for one of the studies (this description was taken from NASA’s website at the time, but the current version I found was a bit different):

“During the (first 15 days) of the study, participants will be free to move around inside the bed rest facility and do normal things. They will also take part in a number of tests to find out the normal state of their bone, muscle, heart and circulatory system, brain and nervous system, and vestibular (inner ear balance) system as well as their nutritional condition and their ability to fight off infections.

After the first 11-15-day period, participants will spend 60 days lying in bed, (except for limited times for specific tests) with their body slightly tilted downward (head down, feet up). Every day, they will be awake for 16 hours and lights out (asleep) for 8 hours. During the bed rest time they will also take part in a number of tests to find out changes in the state of their bone, muscle, heart and circulatory system, and nervous system, as well as their nutritional condition and their ability to fight off infections.”

I wasn’t able to find that exact study on NASA’s current website.  However, I did find what appears to be the next round of the same (or at least a very similar study).  It looks like maybe in this newer version has an exercise and a non-exercise group to spend either 97 or 105 days horizontal in bed, slightly inverted.  My educated guess is that they want to observe how each group fares after this extended period – do those who get a specific exercise routine wind up with less muscle atrophy and bone density loss?  Current study here.

Now, as I said in the beginning, NASA is willing to pay. And pay a decent amount: $15,000.  But would it be worth it?

The money: 

$15,000 in about 3 months isn’t a bad chunk of change.  You’d be making around $60,000 a year at that pace.  So if you’re making substantially less than that, then maybe it’s worth considering for the money.  But you have to remember that this is temporary (so don’t go quitting your $45,000 a year job, because when NASA’s $15,000 is gone, it’s gone!).  Maybe if you’re in between jobs or in a low-paying job where you could easily get rehired at a similar rate after the 3 months, then you may want to consider this.

Time:

Three months – actually 97 or 105 days in the current study offered – is a long time.  I think that’s something that a lot of people may underestimate.  And even though NASA gives you access to television, video games, internet, and visitors (though no conjugal visits per NASA officials), I still think it would be incredibly difficult to endure such a long time spent in a room lying down.  In the same interview with NASA officials, they do recommend that people who participate come in with some type of big goal in mind – to learn a language for example.  But when I think about all of the things that often happen in a typical three month span, it’s hard for me to imagine missing out on everything!

Health:

This should probably be one of your biggest considerations!  The study is designed to simulate zero gravity and hopefully give researchers insight into muscle atrophy and bone density loss that may be associated with space travel.  That means that, yes, your body will have some of those effects.  Are they permanent? Well, in the interview with the NASA official, she seems careful in her answer, making sure to just mention that a “significant number” get back to normal bone density levels.  The final two week period of the study is actually designed to re-acclimate the individual to being upright and regaining some of their lost strength.  They also do a couple more check-ins several months later to make sure that people are recovering as fully as possible.  Still, when the study is designed to mimic muscle and bone density loss, be advised that there are real physical and health effects.

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But maybe the only thing that matters is that you are helping out NASA and fulfilling your childhood dream of being an astronaut (to some extent anyway).

What do you think? Worth it or not, and why?!?

This immediately made me think of this “isolation test” scene from the movie RocketMan.  It is absolutely hilarious…I just imagine this scene (1 day) multiplied by 90 or 100 in the above study (even though they’re not actually isolated)!

 

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the journey

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This past weekend I happened to be at a fun little beach bar with some friends who were visiting from out of town. While there, we happened to run into a chatty guy who had had a little (maybe a lot) too much to drink.  He had just moved to the beach town a few months ago, and was apparently very happy with his new situation.  While I’m not sure you could take everything he said at face value (“No way I would trade in my tiny place here for a mansion even 10 minutes away”…”I’m telling you, I make crazy money”), the underlying message that he was trying to get across was clear: For him, being happy and enjoying life along the way was important, perhaps the most important.

Drunken wisdom from a stranger who approaches you and chats your ear off at a beach bar is not always the most sound wisdom.  However, in this case, I kind of liked his point (when you finally got down to the core, at least).  It reminded me of the following story:

An American businessman visits a small village while on vacation.  He sees a local fisherman coming ashore mid-morning with a small basket of fish.  He asks the fisherman if he’s done fishing for the day.  The fisherman replies, “I have enough fish to help feed my family and a little extra to sell at market to take care of our needs.  It’s early enough in the day that I can make it home to be with my family.”

The businessman, confused, responded, “But if you worked more hours you could catch so many more of these excellent fish.”

“What would I do with all those extra fish?” said the fisherman.

“Sell them, of course!” exclaimed the businessman.  “You could really make quite a bit of money selling them.”

“What do I need more money for?” questioned the fisherman.

“Well if you had more money you could purchase more boats and hire fisherman to work for you,” stated the businessman.

“But why would I want an entire fleet of boats and fisherman?” asked the fisherman.

“Well, as you grow, you could move to a big city to manage your enterprise. And when the time is right and you become big enough, you can go public.  Then you would really be wealthy.”

“How long does this all take?” asked the fisherman.

“If you’re lucky, only about 15-20 years! By the time you are 60, you will be able to retire to a relaxing village, and spend your days fishing and visiting your family!” said the excited businessman.

The fisherman paused and looked at the businessman. A smile slowly crept over his lips, and he gave a nod to the businessman and walked on with his basket of fish to see his wife and kids.

I kind of like that little story, even if it’s a romanticized notion that’s not entirely realistic for many of us.  Again, I think it’s the underlying point that has some real value: Enjoy the journey and realize that time is valuable; spend as much of it as you can with those you care about, doing things you care about.

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Two quick things to clarify. First: This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to live at/near a beach.  As Corona says, “Find your beach.”  This could be in the mountains, in the cold, or in the middle of the Midwest. Or it could be near friends or family.  It’s not necessarily a specific place.  Second: This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t work hard or have big aspirations.  Go for them. What I do think is that while working hard (or doing whatever you’re doing), you do the best you can to enjoy the journey.  Again, do your best to make time for people and things that you care about and make you happy.

 

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Posted by on April 10, 2014 in Advice, Uncategorized

 

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Summer jam?

It seems like every summer there are a few songs that dominate pop radio.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that they are the best songs of the summer, but they sure get played an awful lot.  Here’s one that has summer play potential:

 

 

Best line: “What should my caption be? I want it to be clever. How about, ‘livin’ with my ladies [edited version] #livin?’”  Just listening to the song makes me think of spoiled reality tv high schoolers from Beverly Hills or Jersey, and the video (which I saw for the first time recently) confirms it.

Like so many summer songs before it, I don’t necessarily think it’s a great work of art (though the line above does bring a smile every time I hear it), but I can definitely see it being played ad nauseam. It actually reminds me of a few summers ago – LMFAO’s “I’m in Miami, B*#@#” (another hit that I was not a huge fan of).

Prepare yourselves for the summer of the selfie song.

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2014 in Media/Movies/TV

 

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What is sport?

sport

What is sport?  This might seem like a silly question as it is one that we often take for granted. “Of course, I know what sport is,” you might say.  But how do we actually define sport?  This is a question that I use to start my sociology of sport courses each semester, and it is one that it is a bit more complicated than we might think.

I usually show a little slide show and we give the thumbs up/down as to is it a sport and why.  Some sports people don’t have any trouble identifying as sports – basketball, baseball, soccer, hockey, etc.  But then we get into some that maybe aren’t as clear-cut.  What about mountain climbing, cheerleading, auto-racing, leisurely jogging (or marathon running), poker, equestrian, figure skating, BMX biking, and many others?

What makes them a sport or not a sport?  Is there a professional organization/association that helps give legitimacy? If it’s shown on ESPN is it a sport?  If you don’t get paid for it or do it purely for fun is it sport or a hobby?  Do there have to be winners and losers?  Does context matter (i.e. Tiger Woods on tour vs. a game of putt putt, or two people playing catch vs. a baseball game)?  What if you don’t compete directly against someone else, but against the clock or yourself? Or for judges?  These are some of the questions that are worthy of considering.

curling

It’s especially salient during the Winter Olympics* as we might see many events that we are not familiar with and may not consider “sports” at first glance.  The biathlon (a combination of cross country skiing and rifle shooting… Sport? Or hobby consisting of two seemingly unrelated activities?); figure skating (they’re not competing against one another, but being judged/scored by a set of judges); half-pipe (sport or extreme sport? And is there a difference?); curling (isn’t that just shuffleboard on ice?).  They are in the Olympics as sports, selected and backed by the IOC…is that good enough for them to be unquestionably defined as sports?

In my sociology of sport courses, after we’ve discussed and debated some of these questions, I give them two different definitions.  The first is more of a “hard-line” and what we end up calling absolutist definition, while the second is more of a relativist definition that seeks to take into account specific groups context:

1)  “Sports are institutionalized competitive activities that involve rigorous physical exertion or the use of relatively complex physical skills by participants motivated by internal and external rewards.”  In this institutionalization includes standardized rules, official regulatory agencies, organizational and technological aspects, and learning the rules and skills becomes formalized.

2) The relativist definition seeks to look at whether or not something is sport according to two broad questions: What is considered sport by particular groups at particular times in particular places? And, Whose sports count the most in particular places when it comes to obtaining support, funding, and resources?

I like both, and find that they can both be valuable when deciding to give the thumbs up/down on whether something is sport.  I also heard a good piece on NPR near the end of this year’s Winter Olympics that I really found valuable as well.  (It’s only about three minutes, and is worth a quick listen.)

In this piece, Frank Deford keeps his definition broad, simple and then goes on to provide a hierarchy, or purity, of sport.  His definition is “anytime you compete in a physical activity”; with “compete” and “physical activity” being the keys.

The purest form of sport, he argues, is when one individual competes directly against a rival, “mano a mano.” In this, you and your rival are competing to win, while at the same time trying to stop the other from winning. Example: wrestling, tennis.

Just below this, he says, are things like racing.  Individuals are competing directly against one another, but they are generally not trying to impede the other’s chance of success. Example: track, swimming.

Slightly lower in the hierarchy is when there is an “apparatus” involved, such as a horse or car.

Another notch lower is when an individual competes by him/herself and then is measured against others competing by him/herself.  This would include sports like golf or bowling.

And finally, according to Deford, at the bottom of the hierarchy (but still sport), is when individuals are judged/scored on their performances and then this judging/scoring is used to determine a victor. This would include things like gymnastics, diving, snowboarding, or figure skating.

Of course, it’s not perfect and it may not cover every possible scenario of sport, but I do like it in a broad sense. I don’t think it completely solves the debate of is it/isn’t it sport, but it does give a nice framework for having said debate.

judges

*I’ve had this post on the docket since the Winter Olympics, but am just now getting to it!  

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2014 in sociology, Sports, Uncategorized

 

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The Bachelor: Odds Makers for JP’s finalists

bachelor

This season’s, The Bachelor, featuring Juan Pablo is winding down.  JP is now down to his final four ladies and will be going on hometown visits as well as fantasy suite dates with the remaining women.  They’ve been teasing some major drama going down ever since the show started, and now we’re finally about to see what it is.  A few general thoughts about this season before getting to the final four:

Where has Chris Harrison been??  Harrison loves to play the role of counselor and adviser to both male and female contestants.  I’m pretty sure that he and Sean Lowe (the last male bachelor before JP) were besties.  They spent countless airtime hours talking things out (and who knows how much time that was edited out!), with Sean more than happy to tell us (Harrison) everything he was thinking and feeling along the way with each lady.  I think that we really got some insight into Sean’s feelings and thought process.  And I think that Harrison loved it.  But JP has not had any heart to hearts with Harrison; in fact, we’ve barely had any Harrison time.  This may have backfired a little bit, as some have criticized JP as being a “bad bachelor.”  Which leads to…

What’s up with all the JP haters??  Look, he’s not my favorite bachelor ever, nor was he my pick to be the next bachelor (I wanted Zak).  That said, I don’t think that he is a bad guy or that he “ruined the bachelor.”  For people saying that he is terrible, my main question would be: Do you know what the show is, and have you ever seen it before?  No one will look great when they are dating 25 people at the same time – kissing them, trying to get to know them, trying to make each of them feel special and liked, and trying not to give away too much information to any one of them about how you’re feeling.  It’s a recipe for disaster if you’re trying to look innocent or like a “genuine person.” (Or if you’re trying to prove you’re there for the “right reasons“)

jp

Latina women??  I was a little bit surprised at the lack of latina women on the show.  JP is from Venezuela and lives in Miami.  Now this doesn’t mean that he can only date Venezuelan or latina women, but I was surprised to see very few (and no finalists) from a similar background/ethnicity/culture.  In fact, I believe that the only other person from South America was a young woman from Brazil, who was dismissed very early on because she got a little too wasted.  I know that in the past, they have mentioned that they specifically ask the bachelor(ette) specifically what type of person they are looking for and try to cast accordingly (to an extent), so it might actually be JP’s preference…who knows.

Juan Pablo as sexiest man alive…  One of the running themes has been just how amazingly SEXY Juan Pablo is.  The women truly believe it, and ABC has pushed that message forward.  And here’s the thing, yes, JP is an attractive guy, but he’s not that attractive.  He’s not head and shoulders above every other guy out there to the extent that these young, attractive, and successful women should be swooning every time his name is mentioned (seriously, even the finalists still seem in awe of him at times).  I would expect that they are accustomed to dating men in a similar class of attractiveness as JP.  But, I don’t know, maybe it’s the accent?

 

 

nikkiNikki:

Nikki, the 26 year old pediatric nurse, was one of my picks from day one.  She seems fun, she’s attractive, and she works at a children’s hospital — a plus for JP who says that his daughter, Camila, is a top priority.  She also seems really into JP, but not in a desperate way.  Last episode, she further solidified her position as the favorite when JP invited her to attend Camila’s dance recital and meet her, the family, and Camila’s mother (JP’s ex).  My only reservation with Nikki is that she doesn’t seem to get along with all of the other girls.  Even Renee (among a few others), who gets along with everyone, has expressed concerns about how Nikki interacts with the other females and seems to really turn into a different person when JP is around.  There haven’t been any full-on blow-ups (though last episode with Clare was awfully close), but there is enough doubt to wonder if Nikki is really a genuinely nice person.

 

To win:  65%     [I think you're it. If you do win, I hope that you don't turn out to be crazy like some of the girls suspect]

 

 

andiAndi:

Andi is a 26 year old assistant district attorney.  She was originally on my list as most likely to stir up some drama; I really thought that she would be the “Type A in-your-face, confrontational, pushy attorney.”  As it turns out, that really hasn’t been the case.  She is likeable and kind of silly at times, but you know that she’s got her head on straight (despite being on the bacholor) and has a great career.  Thus far, we really haven’t seen a whole lot of a “connection” between JP and Andi, other than the fact that they really enjoy making out and are obviously quite attracted to one another.  I also wonder about Andi’s desire to step into being a mother figure so immediately.  She seems like a real go-getter, and probably has career goals and other things that she wants to achieve before settling down completely.

 

 

To win:  40%     [You seem like a good person with a lot to achieve. Go achieve. Don't win, it's not in your best interest!]

 

 

reneeRenee:

Renee is a 32 year old real estate agent from Sarasota, Florida.  She’s the right age, and a single mother.  And completely sane!  She is probably the best choice, but I’m not sure she is the best choice for JP.  I want her to win and find love, but at the same time, I’m not sure I want her to be picked by JP.  I think that they are in slightly different places, despite both being single parents.  Renee seems ready to settle down and live a low-key family life, while JP, regardless of how much he touts being a single (and dedicated!) father, seems to want a more fast paced life.  He seems like he’s still got some party mode in him, doesn’t seem to have full responsibility as a parent, and his job causes him to travel all over.  I just don’t think it’s a great fit, and honestly, I’m a little bit surprised that she is still seriously invested in him (even though she doesn’t seem quite as head over heels as the other ladies).

 

 

To win: 20%    [I want the best for you, so please don't win, actually.]

 

 

clareClare:

Clare is a 32 year old hairstylist from CA.  Clare is also crazy.  Really.  I think that her main goal is to be married, and she seems willing to do whatever it takes to get there.  At one point, she snuck out at 3am to knock on JP’s door and go out into the ocean with him.  I think that we can be fairly certain that they partook in certain physical pleasures at that point.  Clare then proceeded to lose it and force an apology from JP when he tried to explain that he was not proud of what he had done (on camera!) and that it couldn’t happen again because his daughter was old enough to understand.  She also gets that kind of crazy and arrogant glimmer in her eye every time JP picks her or something not so great happens to another female contestant.  I am not a fan of Clare.  That said, I do think that JP likes her quite a bit…

 

To win: 60%   [I think you're crazy, but honestly, I wouldn't be at all surprised (or disappointed, really) if you won.]

 

End note:  With all of the foreshadowing about drama and crazy shit that goes down with the fantasy suite and hometown visits, I wouldn’t be surprised if no one wins (20%).  I could easily see Clare and Nikki (outright enemies, also my two favorites to win) being angry enough with each other to somehow knock themselves both out of the running.  I’m also not convinced that it will last, regardless of who he picks.

 

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2014 in Advice, Projects/Activities, Uncategorized

 

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Best Thing I’ve Eaten This Week

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of my old favorite segments: “Best Thing I’ve Eaten This Week.”  For those who have forgotten, I basically highlight one of the best things I’ve eaten that particular week (cleverly named segment).  I also like to provide a cost breakdown of the meal, when possible, to show that eating great food can almost always be achieved on a pretty reasonable budget.

So here we go.  A fun night in Italia. Or at least, we made it feel a little bit like that in our apartment over the weekend. Saturday night, we decided to surpass a “normal dinner” and decided to make a couple of apps – stuffed mushrooms and bruschetta (and some vino to boot!).

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We are big fans of both bruschetta and stuffed mushrooms.  We’ve made bruschetta many times, and we like ours more than a lot of restaurants we’ve tried, but this was our first attempt at stuffed mushrooms.  I think we decided that that they turned out really well, and they really weren’t much work at all.

The Bruschetta:

Em made the bread using this recipe (we would probably recommend using a little less cayenne than the recipe called for, although we kind of liked the kick!).  The topping for the bruschetta is simple and delicious: diced red onions, tomatoes, basil, some garlic salt, a bit of olive oil, and a bit of balsamic vinegar.  

bruschetta topping

bruschetta topping, pre olive oil and balsamic vin 

Toast the bread partially, add some of that topping to each slice.  Top with some mozzarella and parmesan cheese and put back in the oven until the cheese melts/toasts to your liking (we like to broil for just a few minutes to give the cheese just a slight golden brown!).  Yummy!

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Stuffed Mushrooms:

We decided to keep it simple for these, and it worked out.  We used regular white mushrooms (be sure to take out the middle stem and peel off the outer skin layer from the head).  We used ground sausage with some onion, garlic, and italian seasoning to make a filling.  We added a scoop of that filling to each mushroom (we made 8), added just a bit of parmesan and a thin slice of mozzarella to top it off. We put a thin layer of olive oil on the bottom of the pan to make sure they didn’t stick, and a dollop of butter in the middle of the mushrooms to melt out and add a bit of flavor.  We then put them in the oven just long enough to melt the cheese and warm the mushrooms all the way through. Delicious.

not the best pic of the mushrooms, but the only one we got

not the best pic of the mushrooms, but the only one we got

So now the cost breakdown:

~$0.30 :  Em’s bread (bread is so cheap if you are willing to bake it!)
~$0.50 :  Bruschetta topping (1 roma tomato, 1/2 a read onion, spices/oil/vinegar)
~$0.75 :  Mozz and Parm cheeses for bruschetta and stuffed mushrooms
~$0.75 :  Sausage filling (we really only needed 8 small scoops, saved the rest)
~$0.50 :  Mushrooms (we used 8)
~$2.80 Total for our yummy little Italian app night!

 

So there you have it, a truly delicious meal full of great Italian flavors that really pop!  And it was plenty of food to feed both of us – for less than 3 bucks!

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As Always: Eat. Be Happy.

Bonus:  The following night we decided to make some homemade pizza with some of the extra sausage that we saved from the stuffed mushroom filling.  It prolonged our Italian weekend!  We love a good, homemade pizza…and they’re fun to make!

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