Saturday, December 20, 2014

"Bulletproof Coffee" - Take 1...

So, since I can't seem to keep this blog updated consistently, I've decided to make a bit of New Year's Resolution with it and update it with all sorts of crap in the coming months... (I give this about 3 months tops before I lose momentum and it ends up in the stack of my other old New Year's resolutions... hanging out there with "Run More", "Be Nicer", "Don't Make Fun of People", etc...)
    So rest assured that within the next week there's gonna be my totally unbiased list of top albums of 2014... But till then... Let me tell you about the time I made Bulletproof coffee... (uh... that time being 3 days ago)...

    It'd be nice to say that I came across the whole Bulletproof Coffee thing on my own, searching for something to make my body work more effectively and improve it's performance - as if I scoured the internet or went on my own journey to Nepal to see a bunch of Sherpas ingesting their ethnic variation of it. But no.
    I read about it in Men's Journal....

    Obviously, I'm not some fitness fanatic. Or nutritional nazi. I drink a bit more than I should. I sometimes eat horrible food, (rarely I might add).  But I'm not without the vague interest of self-improvement. Thus, this article mentioned the possibility of this coffee giving me more energy (God knows I need that) and increase my IQ (I definitely need that)... So what the hell, I'll give it a shot.
     All you apparently need is brewed coffee, coconut oil, and grass-fed butter. 
     Luckily, two of those ingredients are easy to find. The grass-fed butter required some quick internet searching while in the "Organic" section of Fred Meyer... (Mainly, I was too damn cheap to head over to New Seasons or Whole Foods, and I didn't have any of my hipster friends to lead the way in this journey)...
     But nonetheless, I found some "probably" grass-fed butter from New Zealand that should work... 
    Now, I know what you're thinking... "Dude... You're putting butter and coconut oil in coffee. Weird. Sounds like some sort of self-help fad." And yes. It smacks of an Atkins/grapefruit/South Beach diet fad from over the years. BUT.... 
     When I work 12 hour shifts, I tend to skip a morning meal and drink coffee before work anyway... And usually end my day only having had a lunch somewhere between 11:30am-2:00pm... So, an early morning alternative with some (possible) nutrient adjunct and (possibly) increased energy, is at least worth a try in my book.
     Here's a quick breakdown of how it went...

0645: Well.... I pulled my ass out of bed, and before I woke the kids up for school I started the coffee a-brewing...
      Roughly 2 tablespoons of "grass-fed" butter... Unsalted, (by the way)... If you want it to get really weird, I suppose you could try it with salted butter... But I wouldn't suggest it.
      Then, I toss roughly 1 teaspoon of coconut oil in there as well... (these all went into my wife's Magic Bullet for ease of blending purposes)....
      The coffee's done, so I pour that into the ol' Magic Bullet there, and blend the hell out of it because I'm not too keen on having chunks of butter in a morning beverage.
      Surprisingly, it blends pretty well and and has a cool layering effect when viewed in a cup...

     It doesn't look half bad... So, I toss this so-called "bulletproof coffee" into a mug and at long last.... give it a try....
     Honestly, it's not that bad.... In fact, it's quite  good.... Kind of like a latte, in a fashion. So taste-wise... I can handle it and it's no big deal.

0830: I head to the gym... Run a couple miles...(which I probably would have done anyway)...

0940:   I head to Music Millennium to pick up some new music... I'm not hungry...yet.... (Oh, I should mention that this Bulletproof Coffee is to be used in place of eating a huge, carb-heavy breakfast.... Did I leave that out? Oops..)

1200: Alright, by about noon I'm getting hungry, but not ravenous... So, I have a normal lunch and spend most of the day not being energized, but somehow I don't feel as tired as I normally do in the late afternoon, (where I would usually just drink another couple cups of coffee)....

2032:  Alright... So, Bulletproof Coffee didn't change my life significantly... I'm still tired by the end of the day, but not completely exhausted.
     So maybe there's a bit to this crazy concoction...

Final Verdict: Okay. So it might not be a cure-all for making my body work better, but I did find it helpful for energy when used in place of a breakfast.  Thus, I'm going to give this a secondary experiment over the next  days that I work 12 hour shifts and see if there is a noticeable difference in my energy level throughout the day....
        It warrants further investigation... But on the other hand, it actually tastes pretty good. Just simply a variation on the ol' creamer added to your coffee. I guess those crazy Sherpas might be on to something.... But as far as the "life-changing" qualities go.... I'll get back to you in 5-6 days... I'll either increase my productivity... Or... Gain 50 pounds from all this butter.. The sky's the limit!

Monday, August 18, 2014

If 4 Were 6... or ...(How I Survived the Spokane to Sandpoint Relay)

 Appropriate soundtrack to reading this week's blog, would be My Chemical Romance's  "Desolation Row"

Where to begin again?

Friday, August 15th, 2014 - Approximately 10:45am - Spokane, Washington

     So, some how or another, I opted to do another relay race this year. Where this finds me is in my Chevy Traverse with 4 other people at the Spokane Airport, picking up our 6th member, Sarah. (The names of all parties may or may not have been changed in order to protect the innocent... Although there weren't that many innocent people in our van)
     And as soon as Sarah's in the van, it's full throttle to our first check-in point on the outskirts of Spokane. Our counterpart in Van 1, (also a group of six other classy individuals), has been running their legs of this crazy relay since approximately 8:15am this morning.
     Our course looks much like this:
  So, it's going to be a long 24+ hours...
    We arrive at the first exchange point, and proceed to decorate our van with the only thing available, which happens to be washable chalk. So, to the windows we write our team name "Scrambled Legs and Achin'" and make labelled tally marks regarding how many kills* we've made, and/or how many beers have been drank, and how many Honey Bucket* visits have been accrued by our elite team.
    However, our first debacle of the day is when we realize that none of our directions and street names make any sense to the exchange point where we're located. We then realize that we have arrived at exchange point 7, not exchange point 6 at Sontag Park. We urgently pile in the van and take to the road in order to be in the appropriate spot to meet our teammates before their runner crosses the exchange.
     We're in luck, and we have a good 20 minutes or more of downtime in the park, which looks like this:

       Then it really begins. Erik crosses the exchange, trading off the wrist wrap baton, (if you will),  that looks like these cool bracelets from the 80's, but with less neon colors.
     We greet Erik with our gift of the most disgusting, wussy-type drink we could purchase from a 7-Eleven earlier in the morning: a Bud Light Raz-Ber-Rita. And amazingly, Erik chugs the whole thing upon immediately handing off to Jacob - elliciting cheers from our team as a whole.

     And Jacob is the first one to go from our van. He's got 3.5 miles, and the weather looks like it's about to rain and/or thunderstorm, so there's a touch of apprehension on what the weather is going to do. We load-in and head to the exact same spot where we were before, and await his arrival.
       Jacob burns through the 3.5 miles and hands off to Shelley, who has 3.66 miles to go. There's some sporadic sprinkling, but it hasn't rained yet. And then it's me.
      So, a bit of background here: I'm still not a very fast runner, but I've improved since last year. I've been training with 4.8 to 5 mile runs for this, and can easily do those. Thus, I'm as prepared as I could ever be, since my three assigned legs are all 4+ miles, and not over 5 miles.
      This is where I'm wrong.
      The next exchange point is at a place called Bowl and Pitcher State Park, and has a beautiful bridge that looks like this:

   There's a bunch of stairs at the far end of that bridge. But I'm fine with that.
   However, after conversing with the volunteer at my exchange point, she has a look at her map of this leg and I find out that this stretch is not the Moderate 4.3 miles I had anticipated.
    The map shows a leg that is rated as "Very Hard" and is 6.32 miles instead. It's roughly about this time, that we realize the print-outs I had of my "assigned legs" were old 2013 maps that were no longer accurate.
So, after a mild panic attack, Sarah talks me down with words of encouragement, and then Shelley arrives and I'm off.
     Despite my apprehension, the leg is a beautiful winding run that is partially gravel that then gives way to concrete, and then paved bike trail. And it truly is one of the most scenic runs I've ever done, (I even ran right past a deer that was hanging out on the edge of the bike path), although there are numerous ascents and drops in elevation throughout.
    However, the worst drawback is that there are little to no directions on where exactly to go. The signage is terrible, and only sporadically appears about every mile or so - giving me at least 5 or 6 opportunities to worry that I may have taken a wrong turn and ended up lost somewhere out here in the woods. Luckily, at each little area there finally comes a small pink little flag that at least re-affirms that I'm not completely lost.
     Somehow or another, I make it to the next exchange point and I trade off to Bruce and I've finished... And by some miracle, I finished in exactly an hour.
     After a granola bar and water, we load-in and head to meet Bruce at his exchange, which is coincidentally at the No-Li Brewhouse parking lot. So, the trade off occurs, and the first thing mentioned by Bruce, (in between ragged breaths), is: "Perfect! A brewhouse. First round's on me. I'm buying!!"
     Supportive and loyal teammates that we are, we decide to get a couple sampler beers for everyone to share.... in Matt's absence as he runs his 6.17 miles.
Friday, August 15th, 2014 - Approximately 8:45pm

      After all 6 of us ran our legs, we met the other part of our team at the van exchange and they had bought us Krispee Kream donuts, (which we found out later that one donut may or may not have been tea-bagged by someone in their van), which we eventually threw out.  This seemed to keep in pace with their first "gift" to us at the first van exchange in the morning which had been a bag of pork rinds and a bottle of Olde English 800 Malt Liqour.
      We had a little over 3 hours to eat and/or sleep at McEuen Park before the next van exchange - so, after dinner at some wood-fired pizza place, (which seemed to be strangely run by only teenagers), where this picture was taken, and where most of the conversation was built around discussing definitions from Urban Dictionary - we finally attempted some sleep at the next van exchange point.
       That, of course, was made difficult by someone's brilliant idea to set off colorful fireworks across (what I can only assume was) Lake Coeur d'Alene while all the runners were supposed to be resting up for the next leg.
        Thus, no sleep here.

Saturday, August 16th, 2014 - Approximately 12:50am

      My next leg is in complete darkness over 4 miles of what I assume is a paved bicycle trail. This is where the headlamp came in handy. However, upon starting the run, the red strobe light I have hooked to my reflective jersey keeps pummeling my chest with each stride - till I make the intelligent decision to hold the damn thing, rather than have a ginormous bruise on my chest  by the end of the run.
       The sky wasn't particularly clear, but it was fantastic to run in complete darkness - and a couple Arcade Fire songs on my iPod made this run even a bit more surreal. Definitely the best run I've ever done. Ever.
      Somehow, I score 3 kills on this run - and actually arrive at the exchange point a minute or more before Bruce even had his shoes on.
      So, after carb-loading with a beer from the back cooler - (I believe I forgot to mention that there was an unholy amount of beer in the 2 ice chests we had in the back of the car. It's as if we were on our way to a frat party... But basically an  absolutely ridiculous amount of beer, which Bruce, [well, all of us], had been going through at a fevered pace) - we elected to start watching the movie "Zoolander" at the next exchange. Which we did. And endlessly quoted for the next 2+ hours, whilst giggling like the bunch of sleep-deprived individuals that we were.

Saturday, August 16th, 2014 - Approximately 4:15am

        After Matt and Sarah finish their legs, (7.56 and 6.65 miles, respectively), we head to Priest River High School where we find that we have the opportunity to sleep on a gym floor for a few hours while the other team finishes their final legs. After you've been in a van for 18 hours, a gym floor sounds absolutely amazing - plus, they had free showers at the gym which was unheard of in the last relay I did.
       I went to sleep listening to the Future Sound of London's "Lifeforms" album... and passed out exhausted.

Saturday, August 16th, 2014 - Approximately 9:30am

         After waking up in the gym, (and after gathering my surroundings), I stumble outside to blazing sunlight, and a ridiculous amount of people. There's still a lot of teams in the parking lot, waiting for their own individual hand-offs.
      So, I buy a hard-boiled egg and an "endless" cup of coffee from the donation food cart that is selling breakfast food to a bunch of starving runners.  Three cups of coffee later, I'm more or less ready for the next few hours.
      We load-in again, and Jacob tackles an 8-mile nightmare on a two-lane road, and in no time at all - it's my last run.
     By now it's getting closer to noon, and the sun is already ridiculously hot - even though I'm doing a little under 4 miles, I'm losing it. My hips are sore, my calves are on fire. The last 24 hours have started to take their toll. It's the longest 3+ miles I've ever run.
     Somehow, I manage to make 1 kill on this last leg. But it's all I have. I'm done. And of course, I made the smart decision to wear a tank top without using sunblock - thus, I end up with a terrible tank top-shaped sunburn as a special prize for finishing my last leg. 
      Bruce finishes his leg with flying colors, and returns back to being our official iPod DJ of the van, and Matt heads out on another lengthy run. It's at this time that we decide we should drive up ahead and offer the runners free beer while they're in mid-leg, and of course, we decide that we do the "slow clap from Rudy" as runners come around the corner of where we're parked - which of course ends with us cheering incessantly and offering them free beer as they pass by, of which a few partake.
      Of course, after Matt passes us, we hop in to get Sarah to her final leg, and we head into Sandpoint to the finish line. Van 1 is already there, looking moderately rested, and before long Sarah comes down the hill, and we all run in together to cross the finish line - and it's over.
      We pose for a team picture, we get 1 free drink token, a running shirt, and medal. And then we all have to figure out our way back home from Sandpoint.
      So, at the end of it all, I didn't really learn any new life changing lessons - but I had found myself more prepared for the non-stop, traveling circus of debauchery that 6 people in a van can endure over a period of a day and half. And again, I learned that I packed way too many clothes. We certainly had enough beer to go around this time, so that was an improvement over a year ago. And, I learned that Bruce is a pretty sweet  iPod DJ.  Overall, I'm still not sure if I'm up for another year of this, next August, when Eric plans on doing the Cascade Lakes Relay again... The jury's still out on that, for me.

     But hell... I'm considering it.

*Kills: a reference for when you pass a runner from another team on any given leg of the relay race
*Honey Buckets: a reference to the multitude of plastic contraptions known as port-a-pottys that are found to be at every exchange point throughout the relay

Monday, January 6, 2014

Top 10 Albums of 2013.... (One Week Later)...

It seems I'm always late with getting this blog posted... Usually a couple of weeks... But hey, 6 days into the new year isn't too bad... 
 So, without further ado.... Here is my completely "unbiased" opinion of the best 10 albums that came out last year... (In no particular order)...

Yeezus - Kanye West
    I'm not a big Kanye fan. 
    In fact, I'm pretty sure he's lost his mind and is completely out of touch with reality. On the other hand, Yeezus is pretty damn awesome.  Sounding like early 80's rap taking its cue from Kraftwerk records and creating a freakin' icy, cold vibe throughout - this album surprised me. It has a scattering of samples, but is mostly dominated by squelchy, minimalist synths with Kanye rapping about (seemingly) anything that comes to mind - whether he's ranting about consumerism/racism on "New Slaves" or about hurrying up with his damn croissants on "I Am a God"... The whole thing sounds like a mental breakdown on tape... Which is actually, (possibly unintentionally), the allure of this album.
    Egotistical maniac he may be, but Kanye has made an album that seems an attempt to weed out true fans and, (in it's own way), stand alone as a piece of art - just take a look at the album's packaging and artwork, (or lack there of)...
    People are gonna hate it, but this album is impressive. 
The Silver Gymnasium - Okkervil River
    I was lucky enough to get this album as a birthday gift on my 33rd birthday during an epic pub crawl, (tune back in another week or so for more on that)....
     Anyway, this album is a brilliant Americana album, with every song telling a story in a grand hometown sorta feel... (see the songs "Pink Slip" and "Where The Spirit Left Us" ).... Every time I sit and really listen to this album, I think Bruce Springsteen.  Hell, "Down Down the Deep River"  has a keyboard lick that brings the essence of "Hungry Heart" to this album. Not to say that the rest of the album doesn't solidify the Springsteen-esque inference, but that song pretty much seals the deal - and it's only the third track!
       Seriously. Do yourself a favor and run down to Music Millenium and pick this up. No, seriously.
Pick up a physical, "in your hands" copy. Cause if there was an award for cool packaging and album artwork design - this album would win. Hands down.
Spreading Rumours - Grouplove
     I have a bit of a soft spot for this band. Not that I feel guilty for loving them, cause they're pretty damn amazing, (and if you have the opportunity to catch them live, do it... They're freakin' awesome!)
      But this album was one of 2 that I anticipated for this last year, and it was certainly worth the wait. This album defies your expectations of what pop music should be.
   We have strangely perfect electro-pop ("Ways To Go"), the best Pixies song since 1992 ("Raspberry"), weird Muse-like awesomeness ("I'm With You"), and riffy guitar alterna-rock worthy of a 90's grunge band, ("Borderlines and Aliens").  
       Rolling Stone gave this album 3 stars.... (Which isn't too bad).... But I say fuck that... Five stars all the way. This is a great pop album that doesn't mind changing genres even between songs, yet remains cohesive. 
        And the interplay between Christian Zucconi and Hannah Hooper's vocals is textbook Frank Black and Kim Deal. That combination seems to only come along every 15 years or so, so check it out and enjoy it while you can....
Bankrupt! - Phoenix
    Where to begin... 
     This was the other hotly anticipated album that I waited impatiently for.... And it totally delivers.
     This one isn't a big surprise. Phoenix has an impressive track record of shifting styles a bit, but making it feel natural... (and if all you've heard is "Wolfgang Amadeus", I encourage you to dig a bit further in their back catalog)....
      If there's a psychadelic new wave album, this one is it.  Covered in synths, and practically mutating into each following song - this album hits every milestone from their career and moves it further into the unknown... ("Trying To Be Cool" sounds like it should be on Alphabetical, and "Don't" from "It's Never Been Like That" to name a couple)...
    These guys got a lot of credit for this album, but it's deserved. They've done a solid job on creating a good album, and making it enjoyable. It's not a challenging album, but it's impressive none the less.
AM - Arctic Monkeys
    I've been saying this for at least two years - Arctic Monkeys are the sh*t. 
    Yeah, I might've come to the party late, (liking their first album, but losing track of them since).  But after "Humbug" these guys have continually impressed me with their willingness to experiment. (Plus, hanging out with Josh Homme can't hurt)...
    And after the perfect pop of "Suck It and See", these guys created a dark and sensuous masterpiece here. Attention should be drawn to the sleek opening track "Do I Wanna Know", and the Black Sabbath inspired "Arabella." 
      Enjoy this album, and then wait impatiently for their next one.
More Than Just A Dream - Fit and the Tantrums
     I'm a sucker for good pop music. You should already know this by now. 
     But these guys followed up a R&B-flavored debut album - (which was great in it's own right) - with an album that added more synths to the mix, making them sound more like an updated ABC, than Motown revivalists... (Case in point: "Fools Gold")...
      These guys could've just done a repeat of their previous album, but they pushed it a bit further and made a cool pop album that has paid off well for them, (as evidenced by their increase of radio play)...

Sunbather - Deafheaven
    Ever wondered what Sigur Ros or My Bloody Valentine would sound like if they played black metal? Well, that's basically what Deafheaven sounds like.
    Anthemic and beautiful, with buzz-saw guitars and unintelligible vocals.
    This type of style is bound to turn off a lot of people - but honestly, those people need to experiment a bit more with their musical palate.
     Despite my name-checking description above, these guys have made a metal album that dapples liberally in the shoe-gazing and post-rock vein. with several songs reaching the 10 minute mark, and a few short songs that are ethereal interludes - there are moments of calm on this album that are epically beautiful...and the whole thing is a cool sonic experience.
     Whether this is your type of music or not, this album deserves your attention.

Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Actions - Franz Ferdinand
      I'd say it's been easy to write off Franz Ferdinand. These once reigning kings of the mid-2000's post punk revival released their 4th album this last year. And needless to say, I didn't rush right out and buy it, (though the reviews I'd read were positive).
    Kind of a loss for me - cause this album is freakin' great! They've certainly not lost any of the appeal that they exuded on their 2004 debut. They're still sarcastic and/or snarky in their lyrics, (as evidenced by the shout-outs of "You randy bastard!" that punctuate "Evil Eye".... Or the possibly serious "Goodbye Lovers and Friends" that seems like a sly song to end their career on...)
     There's some cool acapella vocals at the apex of "Stand On The Horizon" that make it sound like the most mature song these guys have written.... (But don't worry, it's still easy to dance to...
     The main stand out for me, is the quirky "Fresh Strawberries", which turns a few odd little phrases, and ends up being a cool pop song - that only these guys could do.
   Sure, these songs still sound like Franz Ferdinand - but at times, there is something to be said for creating  a working formula and then adding the tiniest of tweaks to make an album familiar, but different. The whole album goes down easy, doesn't hang around too long, and makes itself easy to revisit.  And in that regard, it's fantastic.

Reflektor - Arcade Fire
   Despite my initial concern about this upcoming album being partly produced by James Murphy, (and don't get me wrong, LCD Soundsystem is absolutely amazing... But I wasn't so sure I wanted to hear an overly dancey Arcade Fire), I really had nothing to fear. Arcade Fire doesn't sound more dance-like than they have on previous albums.
 I remember reading an interview somewhere with Win Butler regarding "The Suburbs" as  trying to sound like Depeche Mode meets Neil Young... Well, I would definitely say that that's a better description of "Reflektor", rather than "The Suburbs."
     Either way, it's probably already dividing fans - but it's still a fantastic, if not darker, journey  with these guys. Stand outs are of course, the title track, "Afterlife" and "Here Comes the Night Time"...

 More Light - Primal Scream
     Well, this album basically works as a best of Primal Scream primer, in that it pretty much explores every facet this band has ever shown - but in the form of 13 new songs.
      Starting off with "2013" and "River of Pain", the first two tracks mine the psychadelic rock of their mid 90's explorations - (i.e. "Vanishing Point" and "Give Out But Don't Give Up") - the second of which breaks down into a spatial orchestra arrangement, before heading back into it's acoustic guitar and drum-loop.
      Other songs find the dark electronica elements these guys used way back in 2000 on "Xtrmntr" and smooth out some of the atonalness of it. (see: "Cultercide").... There's straight-ahead rockers here, too - (see: "Hit Void", "Invisible City", and "Turn Each Other Inside Out").        The whole album is a dark, druggy trip into psychadelic-electro-rock, that comes out at the end with "It's Alright, It's OK" shedding a bit of light on the precedings - and giving more than a generous wink to their classic "Screamadelica" album.
        It's not the best album of the year, but it's one of the most interesting.

 So, there's my 10.   And yes, you're asking "What about Vampire Weekend's album? Or Daft Punk's album? They should be on there."
     And yeah, they would be if I could choose 12 albums - but I've kept myself to 10. And I have my reasons why they didn't make it on here, (of which I won't go into now...)...
   But, these are my totally subjective top 10 - the ones I listened to the most, and enjoyed the most.
  So, what are your ten?