Friday, March 11, 2011

As far as the eye can see

It seems like my world changes on a daily, weekly, monthly basis....

As I write this, I am mid-trip.  2 weeks... New York, Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Ho Chi Minh City, Singapore, Jakarta, Hong Kong, New York.

I decided that Hong Kong would be a good place to spend the weekend.  So I'm sitting at a roof top bar... working... blogging... surfing... eating... watching... sipping free champagne.

It is Saturday but, I already did the bulk of my work for the day because I was up at 5 AM like usual.  Then at noon I started my workout.  Today was a 2 hour Zone 2 brick workout.  1 hour on a bike 1 hour running.  It is about 70 F outside so it is great for running.  Victoria Park is next door to the Excelsior Hotel where I am staying for these 2 days.  Today was a flower show which used half the park, I ran laps around the remainder amidst locals practicing Tai Chi, jogging, sleeping, relaxing, or just spending family time together. 

I needed some lunch and had more work to do so I decided to head upstairs.  The food was a buffet.  I had some sushi, a scallop, a small amount of fillet mignon, a bit of rice, and a dumpling.  Amazingly the dumpling sucked.  Usually they are perfect here, but not so in this case.  The rest was very good.  The bartender "Sonny" says the champagne is complimentary.  Who am I to argue?

The thing that gets me is how diverse all the cultures are that I experience, yet they all have so much in common.  Sure, we all have our differences.  I fail to understand how slavery can still exist today, how gender equality doesn't exist, how the environment can be blatantly destroyed.  But, people are people, and we all have our reality.

All these experiences change my view of the world and my reflection on humanity.

With that said...  I long to be home, with familiar sounds, smells, and people.  When I am gone I miss my people.  That means Family and Friends.   I miss the look in their eye and the sound of their voice. 

My life can be surreal....

Thursday, March 3, 2011

How to make the perfect cheeseburger

I love cheeseburgers.  The people around me know this because I eat them.... often.
I don't think there is anything wrong with eating them as long as it isn't 100% of your diet.
For the Paleo people in my audience, feel free to eliminate the cheese... and the bun.... and just create the ulimate burger. 
I'm a firm believer that your body needs high quality protien to function properly.  If you want to grow, get faster, or kick ass the importance grows exponentially.

Ok so here it is... the magical recipe for the perfect cheeseburger.

It all starts with the meat.
We could get into the whole dry aged vs. grass fed vs. the stuff in the supermarket that is actually dyed red.

If we are gonna talk ultimate, we are gonna go with grass fed.  That means that Mr. Cow was able to roam around and experience a little American countryside before meeting his demise.  Kobe beef???? Don't give me that crap.  There is no such thing.  It is all BS when it comes to burger.  They don't grind any of that stuff up.  By the way, if you have the chance to have a Kobe beef steak, just realize it is pretty much a pile of fat.  I'll take a quality Ribeye or Delmonico any day of the week.

Sorry, let's get back on track.
You want to use a combination of round, chuck, and sirloin in equal proportions.  Look, nobody said it was going to be easy to make perfection.  Make sure it comes from a reliable source because some of the best burgers are served Rare, meaning they have a cool red center.  The meat should end up around 85% lean.

Next, let the meat reach room temperature.  This is important, so think ahead.

Hand form a patty that is about 3/4" thick by 5" across.  When I say hand form I really mean to massage the meat into a beautiful form like a talented artist. 

Next you will need a grill, and it can't be some wimpy grill either.  Charcoal or gas doesn't really matter.  What is important is temperature.  You have to get over 500 degrees, preferably 700.  For those without a temperature gauge this means that you can't hold your hand 4" above the grill for any length of time.  Don't worry about it being too hot.  Just turn it to high and let it get really hot.

Next, put the patty on the grill and don't screw with it, just let it sit there and sear.  Maybe 2 minutes depending on the temperature.  Then flip it and again don't screw with it.  When done it will still be soft like the pad on the palm of your hand. 

There are two important points during the cooking of the patty.
1. the outside needs some black marks
2. the inside needs to be red

The bun can be whatever you like.  Some people like sesame seeds, others like Ciabata, others like onion buns, others like potato rolls.  It doesn't matter to me.  But it must be toasted.  That means coating the bun with salted butter and giving it some grill marks and brown toasty goodness.

The cheese can change based on your taste.  If you want to make me happy it should be a nice aged cheddar cheese slice thick.

Toppings.... the best is just salt and pepper.  But, carmelized onions are good, or crispy smoked bacon, or sauted mushrooms.  Keep it simple to not overpower the flavor of the burger.  Mayo is tasty too.  Ketchup and BBQ sauce should be used only when your beef is sub par and needs to be covered up.

You put all these things together and you will have a beautiful creation.  Trust me, I know.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Bangladesh Experience

There are some things in life that no matter what, can not be fully appreciated unless you experience it yourself. 


There is no way I could say I have any level of appreciation for what it is like to go through childbirth.  I imagine it is something that must be experienced. 


No one can say they understand and appreciate war unless they have been on a battlefield.  Myself included.


Ok so a trip to Dhaka is not equal to going to war or childbirth, but let me tell you it isn't far off.
It is something that you truly need to experience in order to appreciate.  It is like no other place I have ever been. 

If I were to say it was dangerous, you would say to prove it with some statistics.  Well, that is impossible because if there were some data it would be wrong.  There isn't some department keeping track of crimes and deaths and robberies.   They happen and people go on with their day.

If I were to say it's polluted, you would want to show how the wildlife has declined.  Well, no data for that either.  But is is pretty easy to appreciate when normal visibility is under 4 km and the water is tinted whatever color they are dying textiles that day.

If I were to say the people were poor, you would want to know what the average wage is.  Put it this way, the IRS isn't auditing the average person because they claimed a "home office" on their taxes.  Who knows how much money people make there.  But, I can say that right now, at this minute my pocket contains more than the annual wages of most people in Bangladesh and my pocket doesn't contain much.

It isn't the worst place in the world, but, it is the worst place I have ever been. 

Before this trip, I had no appreciation for the circumstances and situation in that country.  Now, I am still no expert but I have a much better appreciation.  My appreciation for how fortunate I am has grown by a tremendous amount.  I just can't believe that a place like that exists on our planet. 

Friday, February 11, 2011

New England - a cold slap in the face!

"Across New England, where relatively balmy temperatures prevailed during the winter of 2009–2010, the upcoming winter will be the equivalent of a cold slap in the face, as we forecast much colder-than-normal temperatures."  This is from the 2011 Farmers Almanac website.  It was from August 2010.

I think they got it pretty close.

(it won't be long before polar bears move to new england)

Not to mention that we have been buried under piles of snow.  Roof leaks from endless ice dams have destroyed walls and ceilings.  You roll the dice every time you try to pull out from a side street or driveway because it is impossible to see.  Children are going uneducated because school is cancelled.  Summer break has been eliminated for all schools due to all the days they will need to make up.

If I was going to pick a winter to be outside the country and in a location only feet from the equator, this would be the one.  Fortunately the coldest place I have been has been South Korea and that was only for about 5 hours where I lounged in a massaging chair, sipped cappuccino, and crunched on Milano cookies.

This week I head to Bangladesh for the first time.  I've heard quite a bit about how bad this is going to be in regard to the sheer madness of trying to move about the country.  I think this trip I will bring the video camera to capture the excitement.  Hopefully I have something fun to share when I return.

But, while I am traveling, my heart is always in New England.  I love the fact that there are four strong seasons to enjoy.  As a matter of fact, I think the people of New England will truly appreciate Spring this year.  The complaints of 100 degree days will be a little less this summer as we remember the winter of 2010-2011. 

Now, if you will excuse me I need to go pack my shorts.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Philadelphia Steak and Cheese Challenge - Geno's vs Pat's

Today I find myself in Philadelphia for just long enough to conduct a very important comparison.  Geno's vs Pats.

So this all starts with your standard 48 minutes of flight time from Hartford to Philadelphia on US Airways. My final destination is Greensboro, NC for the rest of the week for meetings. 

Once I was off the plane it was a dash to "ground transport" to get a taxi.  I somehow get screwed up and arrive at the check in desk for US Airways.  So I figure why not check my bag so I don't have to drag it around with me.  So I do.

Then 37 seconds later I realize my coat and hat are inside the bag I just checked.  That was a pretty stupid move I must say.  So I ask "is there any place I can buy a sweatshirt"?  Yes, on the other side of security.

No Thanks, I can take the cold.

So off I go to find a taxi and I find a minivan driven by Steve Wall who is a 300 pound black man originally from Philly.  He doesn't prefer Geno's or Pat's, he thinks Jim's is the best.  On the way I ask him if I will be able to find another taxi when I get done eating.  Steve responds "you'd have to be blind not to find a taxi over there".  Ok, I'll take that as a yes.

So about 200 yards from the destination I look to my left and see a very Vegas like set of flashing neon lights, "GENOS" was lighting up the night sky.

So I say, "boy that is hard to miss" "where is Pat's"?  Steve lets me know it is the small building with the little sign on it.  Then he says "Pat says he don't need no F#(KING lights to sell his sandwiches"  This made me laugh.

This is my first taste of the Philly attitude. 

So I go to Geno's first, I step up and pretend I know what I'm doing "whiz wit" I say with some make believe confidence.  There was a group of asians in front of me who found one of the signs interesting.  It said "this is America, order in English".  About 34 seconds later I had a sandwich in my hand and I was stuffing it into my face with extreme joy.  Keep in mind that due to my new found diet I was "saving up" for this meal by not eating hardly anything all day.

So at this point I'm basically freezing my A$$ off, shoveling cheesesteak into my face and loving every second of it.

So next I stroll over to Pat's and get in line.  There is more of a line at Pat's and they took the ordering much more serously.  So once again I step up "whiz wit" I say as I'm getting the hang of this.  I think it helps to pretend like you are slightly irritated by everyone around you.  This one is even faster, I'd say 15 seconds max.  I was freezing at this point and focused the task at hand.  I have to say, this was a tasty sandwich too but there were distinct differences and I had found my favorite.

Geno's distributed the cheeze much better and layered the meat in a way that made it much more eatable.  Pat's just dumped the cheeze on top and it was a bit of a challenge to get that perfect bite.  The steak, although chopped up, tended to have more stringy bits in it that took away from the eating pleasure slightly.

Overall, Geno's is the winner for me.

I flagged another cab driven by Abolade Desalu from Nigeria.  He quickly told me that Geno's was his favorite too.  Then he drove like a mad man toward the airport.  I don't think he was in a hurry I think he just liked to drive fast.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

20/20 Memory - Your Mind's Eye

Do you have memories from times in your life where you can remember everything from that moment in time?  Maybe it was a significant moment in your life, or maybe just an experience that you treasure.

Some people always bring a camera with them during vacations and they snap photos of everything they think is interesting.  Other people carry the camera but never take it out.  Maybe there is nothing wrong with just allowing yourself to take it all in.  Take a picture with your "mind's eye" and store it away forever.

I have so many of these moments and I can play them in my mind anytime I want.  It is almost like I can go back in time and live it over again. 

Give it a try, close your eyes and go back to one of YOUR moments.  See it, smell it, feel it.

I have some favorite moments to remember... 

Walking into your grandparents home, the different smell, all the treasured old items from their life.  The stories that you have heard before but would give anything to hear again.

Sitting in your first car and realizing you can go anywhere you want.  It doesn't matter how old or beat up the car, I swear I can still feel the seat beneath me now.

Going brook fishing with my father, picking our way through the woods to secret fishing holes.  The moss covered forest floor was so soft, and the branches would catch the line of the fishing pole so I would stop to un-tangle it.  That vibration of the first bite from a fish and the excited yell "I got one!"

Climbing mountains and enjoying that moment when I reach the peak and stop to take in everything around me.  The cold of the sweat on my back when I removed my pack and sat down onto the uneven granite.

I would never trade these memories for a photograph.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Placenta Extract - No Thanks, I'll Pass...

There I was staring at a wall in a Hong Kong mall, looking at an advertisement for something I just didn't understand.  I'm still not sure I understand it now... even Google is struggling to help me on this one.

So basically from what I can find, people use Placenta Extract to gain these benefits:

-Regenerates cells, tissues and organs
-Increases flexibility in joints and discs
-Improves immune system against diseases
-Improves alertness and mental awareness
-Lightens facial pigmentation
-Refines facial pores and a glow to your skin
-Enhances skin texture
-Improves sleep patterns
-Improve in blood circulation, stamina and energy level
-Eliminates Constipation
-Decreases risk of heart diseases
-Relieves symptoms related to any chronic disease
-Stabilizes weight to normal level
-Enhances your body figure and skin elasticity

This is pretty impressive, it eliminates constipation and improves joint flexibility.  How many items can you think of that can do all these things?  It's like MAGIC!

How can I get some???  How much does it cost???

Like anything, you can buy it on the internet, but hang on to your hat.  It's $171 / gram!  Just to put that in perspective for you that is about 3X the cost of PLATINUM.

Maybe you wonder how they make this stuff.... who is the donor....
Don't ask questions you don't want the answer to. 

Now wait a minute.... lets look at the list again.  How many of these things can be improved by exercise?

-Regenerates cells, tissues and organs -Yes, but maybe not all organs
-Increases flexibility in joints and discs - Yes
-Improves immune system against diseases - Yes
-Improves alertness and mental awareness - Yes
-Lightens facial pigmentation - No, but who cares
-Refines facial pores and a glow to your skin - Yes
-Enhances skin texture - No, and as a matter of fact your feet will look like hell
-Improves sleep patterns - Yes
-Improve in blood circulation, stamina and energy level - Yes
-Eliminates Constipation - Yes, just ask the Dunkin Donuts that is .75 miles into my run route.
-Decreases risk of heart diseases - Yes
-Relieves symptoms related to any chronic disease - Yes, but depends on the disease
-Stabilizes weight to normal level - Yes
-Enhances your body figure and skin elasticity - Yes

So save your money, get off your a$$ and get busy with EXERCISE! 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Triathlons and Muscle Cramps

Interesting... for as much time as I spend training and thinking about Triathlons I don't spend much time writing about them.  Of course that could be because it is January, Btown just got 23 inches of snow and I am in Hong Kong. 

So if I were to write a chronicle of my tri experiences you would see a general theme.  During practically EVERY race I have had muscle cramps.  This has been the bane of my racing experience.  As a result, I have become an expert on the subject of muscle cramps and their potential causes.

So far, I have not been able to find the magic combination that eliminates my cramping.  If you don't think I have tried it all... so far I have explored the following causes and many more:

1.) Hydration - basically this is the most common suspected cause of cramping.  I'll admit that I have a hard time staying hydrated because I sweat at about 65 ounces per hour but can only hydrate at around 35 ounces per hour.  So I am bound to get dehydrated in hot conditions or when working hard during a race.  Probably the best thing I could do is lose some weight since that would help keep me a little cooler and make me work a little less.

2.) Electrolytes - this is the second most common suspected cause.  I have tried all levels of electrolyte replenishment using multiple sources.  My favorite is Endurolytes made by Hammer Nutrition, specifically in powder form so I can mix it with my drink.

3.) Nutrition - I have looked at my diet and found that I don't get enough essential minerals so I take a suppliment to make up the difference.  Basically I take Calcium, Magnesium, and Zinc to keep my muscles firing properly.  In the very beginning this made a great improvement in my cramping but that didn't last long.

4.) Fitness - The theory is that the cramps protect you from doing something beyond your capabilities so you need to train to force your body to adapt and be prepared.  I don't train as much as some triathletes, but I routinely get in 6 - 10 hours a week which is still quite a bit.  This winter we incorporated some strength training into the mix which made me strong as hell but didn't help the cramping.  In brick workouts I sometimes cramp and sometimes don't, it's a bit of a crap shoot.  Lately all my bricks have resulted in cramping.

5.) Caffeine - First it can cause dehydration, second it can cause muscle spasms which in my mind are related to cramping.  Either way I eliminated caffeine and it didn't make a bit of difference.

6.) pH balance - This is one that is hard for me to figure out because it is pretty dynamic.  There are many things that can throw your pH balance out of whack.  When it happens they think it can cause cramping. 

7.) I could go on and on forever because there are over 250 suspected causes for muscle cramps.  I'm hoping some day they will want to turn me into a science experiment at some medical school and they can do all the tests necessary to figure out my cause.  Until they call, I'll keep training hard and trying to stay hydrated, eat healthy, and lose some more weight.  Maybe some day they will call...

Friday, January 14, 2011

Pakistani point of view

I consider myself to be pretty outgoing, this typically results in conversations with all sorts of people as I travel through life.  Today was no different.

This is Mehas Wakas, he is from Pakistan and works at the hotel gift shop where I am staying in Malaysia.  Since I am flying to Hong Kong tomorrow I figured I would buy some small snacks for the trip.  As usual I was very friendly when I entered the shop. I made a point to smile and say hello.   I selected my items and went to the small desk where he sat. 

The conversation started with him asking where I was from.  I have learned that the easiest answer is "New York" so that is what I said.  Then I asked him where he was from, Mehas quickly responded Pakistan with a big smile.  Some how we ended up in a conversation mostly let by him.  The first topic was the relations between Pakistan and America.

Mehas told me that Pakistanis think that all Americans are angry at them and that Americans are nervous that the Pakistanis are going to shoot them.  I agreed on the American point of view.

Next Mehas went into a rant about how Malaysia was MORE dangerous than Pakistan.  This caught my interest for sure.  He quickly showed me a large scar on his hand and told me how he was robbed when he had only been here for 7 days.  He said if I was in Kuala Lumpur City Center (the place I went the other day) and I saw dark skinned men that I should "go the other way very quickly".   This from a man that clearly knows danger when he sees it.

Then he said that Pakistan was no more dangerous than Mexico.  I agreed, but added that I didn't consider Mexico very safe since they regularly have RPG attacks in the streets.  I suppose it is all relative to a man like Mehas.

Then he insisted that Pakistan was one of the most beautiful places in the world with much "natural beauty".  I couldn't comment since I have never been there.  We ended up chatting for 15 minutes or so before I asked if I could take his photo.  He gave me a puzzled look so I explained that I write about my experiences and that I would like to write about him.  He agreed to let me photograph him and he seemed to have a great amount of pride as I shot the photo.

I have to say it was really interesting to hear the point of view from someone who has seen some of the most dangerous places in the world.  Put it this way... Mehas has been to Afghanistan on vacation.   Let me say that again, VACATION in Afghanistan. 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Kuala Lumpur - not the home of the Koala Bear

This week I find myself in Malaysia, the home of the twin towers but not the home of the Koala Bear.  For someone as foolish as me it is easy to get confused Kuala does not equal Koala.
(I must say, I surprised myself with how good this photo came out)

Often when I arrive in a new location it is late at night and I have no idea what I will find in the morning.  That was the case with this trip too.  I arrived around 10:30 PM and cleared Customs around 11, walked out and my driver was nowhere to be found.  This really pisses me off if I've spent 30+ hours traveling and the last leg of the journey is delayed.  So I called the phone number for the service and had a painful conversation that ended up with me describing my clothing to the dispatcher and me wandering around the arrival terminal swearing and waving my arm.  Five minutes later a small asian woman ran over with my name on a sign.  She would attempt to unite me with my driver and car, so we stepped outside to wait another 10 minutes for him to pull around.  After 35 minutes of highway driving we arrive at the hotel, the rest is a blur because I was completely exhausted.

Work started at 8 AM the next morning and went until 10 PM that night... not exactly a short first day.

We did however make a trip to downtown Kuala Lumpur to have dinner and to view the Twin Towers.  We had dinner at a place that served traditional Malaysian food.  As is the usual case, one of our native associates ordered all the food.  You can see below that there was no shortage of food, but some of it was pretty hard to eat.  My boneless chicken and rice special request was, in a word, asian.  That means it had bones and was spicy as hell with some contents that could not be identified.  I tried about 10 different Malaysian foods, but can't say I really loved any of them.

We had about 25 people at dinner and it was full of interesting conversations.  I think we were from about 15 different countries.  We purpose fully mixed up the seating arrangement so we could get to know new people from different areas of the company and world.
We spent some of the time exploring the shopping mall that is in the base of the towers.  It is amazingly large and has any shop you might imagine.  The prices were equal to what we would see in the USA so no real incentive to buy anything.  I did get to try out one of the new SONY 3D TVs which was pretty cool. 

Overall, Malaysia has been a cool place to visit.  The people are nice, a high percentage speak english, the weather is warm, and the air quality isn't too bad.  A 5 star hotel is $90 / night and the airfare was only $1800 round trip from New York flying on Emirates through Dubai.  I just wish I had the time to explore the country a little more.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Five Guys - best burger in America???

This week I found myself in Greensboro, North Carolina.  As usual I enjoyed a variety of foods, including everything from Sushi to BBQ.  Anyone who knows me, knows that I LOVE cheeseburgers. 
About a millisecond after I heard about Five Guys I had already decided I was going to go there.

Five Guys is rated as the best burger in America by multiple authorities and also the best French Fries by many others.  This is pretty strong endorsement for lowbrow food considering that their burgers are around $5 each. 

So after about 10 hours at work, I made my way to the hotel, got all my workout gear and headed to the YMCA.  I did a swim / run workout that went until about 9 PM, needless to say I was pretty wasted by the time I rolled into the parking lot at Five Guys.

I walked in to find bags of potatoes, containers of fryer oil, and boxes of peanuts stacked all around the red and white tiled room like decorations.  The walls were covered with the various awards that the chain has received.  There were 4 groups of people in the restaurant basically all small families. 

When I stepped up to the counter I asked what I should get.  I wanted whatever they recommended as the best or most signature burger and side.  I ended up with a Bacon Double Cheeseburger "all the way" with fries and a Cherry Coke.  All The Way basically means it gets all the standard toppings (Mayo, Relish, Onions, Lettuce, Pickles, Tomatoes, Mushrooms, Ketchup, Mustard).  The fries were hand cut potatoes with the skin left on.  The Cherry Coke was there to wash it all down.

Was it the best burger I ever had?

Good question.

My answer:  It was damn good but I think my burgers are better.  The fries however are the best in the Universe.  They even beat Old Orchard "Pier Fries"  which have always set the standard.

The next time I am in Greensboro, I'll be back for sure.  No doubt.