Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Summertime is here...let's open the pool, freezing meat and Iron Man

Lately, I've taken a bit of a hiatus from The Balanced Guy with this being only my second post in more than a month. I really have needed it and wasn't feeling terribly inspired to write, but I think I have things to share including: opening your pool for spring, building a lacrosse goal for your kids, freezing meat, some book and movie reviews along with whatever else happens to cross my brain.
So let's get into that pool opening. I envisioned myself a master alchemist ready to transform lead into gold (or in this case, pond scum into sparkling spring water), but in reality I was more like the sorcerer's apprentice where Mickey couldn't control the bucket-carrying brooms and they flooded the workshop. While I've had a pool for a number of years, this is the first time I've ever opened one here in the northeast after the winter (my previous experience with pools is 24/7/365 in Florida). So I removed the pool cover and promptly manage to dump most of the leaves into the verdant, pond-like body of water in the backyard. If a turtle had popped it's head up I wouldn't have been a bit surprised and I was nearly tempted to drop a hook and line in. Next step was to fill the pool back up so the water level was above the skimmer and hook up the pump. Done. Trip to the pool store for enough chemicals that the FBI might wonder exactly what I was doing. Done. Next step: spend several days scooping leaves I couldn't see out of a pool the Creature from the Black Lagoon would feel at home in.

After about 10 days and finally getting rid of most of the leaves (I think), I can actually see the bottom in the shallow end. It seemed like the water was never going to clear up. I got rid of the green pretty quickly but it was cloudy, cloudy, cloudy. I'm just hoping it'll look good for our Memorial Day cook out next weekend.

Lacrosse season is almost over and the NCAA Div I Men's Championship weekend is coming up. I never played organized lacrosse since it wasn't played where we lived, but I still grew up with the game as my father played goalie for Rutgers from 1959-63 (although did I continue the family tradition of earning varsity letters as a Scarlet Knight).  This year the lacrosse family tradition picked up once again as my 2nd grader started playing lax with Lightning Lacrosse. It's a great program and he's already looking forward to the summer and fall leagues. As a way for him to improve at home, I built a goal.

Fortunately a lacrosse goal is only 6'x6', so it's relatively simple to create (as opposed to a full-sized soccer goal). Using 2" PVC piping I managed to put together a pretty effective goal. If you want to see how I did it, click on the following link to the video here.

Now I know you've been wondering since the opening paragraph what the hell is so interesting about freezing meat that I had to write about it. Truth be told - not much. However, my wife figured out a pretty neat trick for the BBQ season, especially during the week. This'll be over quickly so pay attention and don't blink. You get home from the grocery store (having bought beef, chicken, pork, lamb, buffalo, frog, or iguana to grill up...or having stopped by the side of the road and picked up raccoon, venison, squirrel, opossum, or groundhog...as well as some kind of marinade) and you're ready to put some of that dead animal in the freezer to save for a rainy day - STOP! Before you do that, unwrap it, put it in a freezer Ziploc and add the marinade, THEN put it in the freezer. This way, the meat is marinating while it freezes and while it's defrosting. Now look, some of you hardcore BBQ types out there need to unwad your panties and get over it. This ain't a contest; it's an easy way to get a tasty dinner on the grill when you get home from work.

A few reviews for you. If you haven't seen it yet, Iron Man 2 rocks. Robert Downey Jr. pulls off Tony Stark like no one else could. Nuff said.

I finally got around to reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. Quite an interesting read and he makes some very convincing arguments with respect to individual success. I do have some questions about societal success and I actually sent him an email with my questions - I'll let you know if I hear back.

Mari Malcolm provides this Amazon review - "Now that he's gotten us talking about the viral life of ideas and the power of gut reactions, Malcolm Gladwell poses a more provocative question in Outliers: why do some people succeed, living remarkably productive and impactful lives, while so many more never reach their potential? Challenging our cherished belief of the "self-made man," he makes the democratic assertion that superstars don't arise out of nowhere, propelled by genius and talent: "they are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot." Examining the lives of outliers from Mozart to Bill Gates, he builds a convincing case for how successful people rise on a tide of advantages, "some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky."

Outliers can be enjoyed for its bits of trivia, like why most pro hockey players were born in January, how many hours of practice it takes to master a skill, why the descendents of Jewish immigrant garment workers became the most powerful lawyers in New York, how a pilots' culture impacts their crash record, how a centuries-old culture of rice farming helps Asian kids master math. But there's more to it than that. Throughout all of these examples--and in more that delve into the social benefits of lighter skin color, and the reasons for school achievement gaps--Gladwell invites conversations about the complex ways privilege manifests in our culture. He leaves us pondering the gifts of our own history, and how the world could benefit if more of our kids were granted the opportunities to fulfill their remarkable potential."
And just to keep the joke going...here she is once again. Why do I even bother?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Whipping a rope and other sundry things

It's been a few weeks since I last updated The Balanced Guy. I needed a break and let it go a little longer than I originally intended. However I'm coming back at you with a new feature this week with the addition of video, and not just a clip I grabbed from the web but something I made myself (as is evident from the cheap production quality). Not only did I make it but I ad-libbed it and did it in one take. Sometimes I impress even myself.So you've always wondered how to keep a length of rope from unraveling (admit it, it's true). Well, I'm a gonna learn ya... just watch.

Now here's how you do it...

I've been feeling (for no good reason whatsoever) somewhat overwhelmed lately by my household "To Do" list. Just been having serious motivation issues to tackle much of it. Therefore I figure a good way to possibly get past that is to publicly announce my intentions to get around to checking off more of the items.

Actually I made a "public" announcement the other day when I signed the MBA Oath, vowing to "create value responsibly and ethically" along with a host of other line items. Developed by a group of Harvard MBA students of the Class of 2009, the Oath (read it here) has been commented on by those on the pro and con sides of the aisle. The cynics claim it will do little to stem fraud and deception in the business world as long as there is money to be made. The "glass half-full" crowd (myself among them) see it, if nothing else, as a start. As Confucius (I think) said "A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step." So if you hold an MBA or will earn it by 2011, I urge you to visit the site, read through it and, if you feel it is right for you, take the Oath. You'll be glad you did.