February 29, 2012

Meet George Jetson and his Iced Tea

I was always a big fan of the Jetsons as a kid.  I loved to see the new technology that they imagined.  It was always fun looking to the future and imagining what our life would be like.  Looking back, it's funny that it seems science fiction never really imagined the cell phone.

Technology always made the Jetsons lives better.  Arguably, perhaps "too better".  Since it is, of course, only a cartoon, everyone always looks happy and healthy.  The reality is that people of that world, or at least those in the US of that time, would probably be like those people floating in the chairs in Wall-E.

I'm a fan of technology that makes our lives better.  I know that there are some scary things about technology as well.  Facebook knows a great deal of personal information about us.  (Never mind that we willingly volunteered that information).  The big Google "boogey man" knows what city I live in and what web sites I might go to.  (I'm comforted by the fact that I'm not so interesting that anyone gives a rip about what I do).  Robots are being developed to mimic natural behavior, like the BigDog Beta.  SkyNet is a near reality, as evidenced by these freaky things that are completely autonomous.

But there are some technological that make our lives better.  The internet, for one.  Believing that it doesn't is like "guns kill people" and "credit cards get you into trouble".  It's people that make the bad decisions, and we always have.  (Of course, those with that belief are probably not online reading this anyway).  Cell phones have become an integral part of everyone's ensemble.  Yes, they can be a distraction but again, it's all in how you use it.  BluRay and HD TV makes us wonder how we did so long without them.  Watching 2001 on Blu-Ray and having the surround sound shake my windows during "Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite" is probably the closest I'll ever get to experiencing seeing that movie for the first time.  And, most especially, Single Cup Coffee Makers.  These things are amazing.  I have a Keurig  and there are many others like Tassimo and many of the major appliance makers have their versions of those.

I love the concept.  You simply place a single serve cup in the machine, push a button, and viola, hot coffee.  Just like on the Jetsons.  I like coffee, but I don't need a lot.  I drink a cup and it's usually on my way out the door.  I usually only drink a cup in a day.  My wife doesn't like coffee.  With the Keurig, we don't have to make a full pot.  Every morning it turns on automatically, I push a button, and we're in business.  My wife occasionally drinks a cup of tea and she doesn't have to boil whole pot.  Nor does she have to wait for water to boil since it brews in a couple of minutes.

This concept has now been taken to a whole new level.  It now goes to 11!  My single cup coffee maker now makes single serve sweet iced tea.  This is earth shattering for me.  I may only drink a cup of coffee in a day, but I drink a lot of iced tea.  Sweet tea, at that.  And I try to be pure about it by sweetening my tea with  all natural evaporated cane juice rather than artificial sweeteners.  I thought that I would be severely disappointed with the K-Cup sweet tea.  Surely it's high-fructose corn syrup, saccharin, or some other cancer-causing-terrible-for-you chemical.  It's bad enough I'm consuming all of that caffeine, I don't need to add to it.  To my elation, Celestial Seasonings Southern Sweet Perfect Iced Tea is sweetened with evaporated cane juice and stevia.

This truly is technology that makes our lives better.  Or, it makes mine better anyway.  Now, we're not quite to the level of Capt. Picard just stating "Earl Grey, hot!" and out slides a hot cuppa tea.  However, considering I can talk to my phone and tell it to get me "un-lost" or find a dry cleaners we can't be that far off.  And to you my new friend Celestial Seasonings Southern Sweet Perfect Iced Tea, I can only say "Eep Opp Ork Ah-ah"!

February 6, 2012

Dustin' Off the Bike

Now that I've concluded a rich food, beer, and laziness infused football watching season, I've started ramping up my cycling training.  By ramping up, I mean finally hitting it hard and heavy.  I've been in my routine of 5:30 AM spin class three times a week for a good while.  Now it's time to move from washing lettuce up to fries.  After all, I am training for a number of organized rides over the next few months leading up to the BP MS150.

This past weekend, I decided to dust off the bike and take it out on my first outdoor ride of the season.  Getting the bike out of the garage, I discovered that it's still in pretty good shape.  The tires inflate easily and seem to be holding air pretty well and don't have any bubbles or worn spots. Both wheels seem to be relatively true.  After lubing the chain, I discover the derailleurs are shifting with ease.  Other than the dust that covers the bike, everything seems to be in the same working order as when I last rode.  Which is outstanding since the last time I rode was much longer ago than I care to admit.

After a good cleaning, I put everything back together and it seems like everything is set to go.  It's then that I discover that my cycling computer has been wiped clean.  Damn.  Not only was I look forward to getting inspired by seeing that  my last ride was a good 80+ miles, knowing that was preceded the day before by a century.  I've had this as long as I've had the bike and I've loved the fact that I can see the odometer increasing year after year.  Now I'm starting over.  Oh well.  Time to gather the rest of my gear like my helmet, gloves, glasses, etc. and get out on the ride.

Several months ago, I had a "clean out and organize the garage" bender.  I purged a lot of junk.  I gathered up and organized the fishing gear, the camping gear, tools, and of course the cycling gear.  Knowing year after year I go through these episodes where I just can't seem to find what I'm looking for.  On my cleaning bender, I was determined not only to organize everything but also to have everything easily accessible and in obvious places.  Somewhere, something has gone wrong.  It was much more difficult and took way too long to find my stuff.  The same stuff I knew I would need and account for that when I organized it.  The same stuff I have trouble finding every year.  This wasn't doing anything for reducing my stress and frustration.

After let's call it "aggressive" rearranging of items in the garage and finally finding everything I was going to need on my  ride.  After winning the debate with my inner apathetic negotiator and not allowing myself to be talked out of my ride, I was finally ready to go.  So off I went, heading down to the Veloway near my house.  The Veloway is a 3 mile, paved looped that is only accessible to roller-bladers and cyclists.

I got the bike together.  Got all geared up.  I then decided I would take quick spin down the road before getting on the Veloway.  I knew that either something was going to need adjustment or, more likely, after being off the bike for so long I would do something to embarrass myself.  I thought it better that either, or both, of these things happen away from the masses of serious and semi-serious riders.As I'm cruising down the road, I realized two things: 1) I seriously underestimated how much I missed being on the bike.  It felt really great to finally be riding again.  2) I seriously underestimated the wind chill.  Despite the fact that the Veloway is less than 5 miles from my house, there was a noticeable difference between my shorts and short-sleeved jersey being adequate at the house and on the bike, not so much.

After some gritting of the teeth, I screwed my courage to the sticking post and headed off.  As this was my first actual ride of the season I wasn't sure how far I would be able to ride, what sort of average speed I'd be able to maintain, and just how far out of shape I was.  In the end, it was a fantastic ride.  My distance was in between my lofty, high-end goal and my minimally-acceptable-if-I-can't-ride-this-far-at-this-point-I've-got-problems distance.  I was able to maintain the average speed I had targeted, which means I might be able to increase it.  And, much to my surprise, I learned that after all the food, beer, and couch surfing, I wasn't in as bad of shape as I thought.  So, I've got that going for me.  Onwards and upwards!

Post Ride!