The Slide Continues

It didn’t take long for England to follow its big partner in Economic Crisis. To buoy a sinking housing markets the US and England are cutting rates faster than greased lightning.

The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee cuts interest rates to 5.25% from 5.5%. : BBC News

The problem is that consumers mistake these cuts for being directly related to the rates that they get on their mortgages. This is not the case at all. When the Fed or MPC cut their rates they are making it cheaper for the banks to do business with each other when they buy and sell large packages of mortgages and various other financial packages. The idea is that this then translates into cheaper rates on the end users loans, but this is an indirect effect.

Right now the issue is of overall confidence in the economy. Many Investors/Banks are very nervous about the still unresolved Subprime debacle and continuing Credit Crisis. Fewer Investors are buying loans now because of fear of defaults. This means the Supply is going down and that always means that prices will go up.

Bank cuts interest rates to 5.25%

Get outside today!

Not shocking news, but definitely something worth noting. I run into this issue when I try to discuss environmental issues with my peers. the problem is that no one goes into nature anymore so they don’t care.

A new study finds that the number of Americans fishing, camping or engaging in other nature-based activities has substantially fallen since the late 1980s. Researchers say this fact has important implications for environmental protection.

: NPR Programs: Morning Edition

Americans Spending Less Time in Nature

Tea is making a Surge

Just saw this on the NPR site and it seems like Tea is really trying to make an emergence in the US market. I came across another company, Revolution Tea, a week ago based here in PHX.

Coca-Cola is branching out into the bottled iced-tea market. The soft drink company has acquired a 40 percent stake in Honest Tea for about $43 million.

: NPR Programs: Morning Edition

I think this is a good thing, people need to drink way less coffee for a number of reasons from health to the environment. Keep and eye out.

Coke Takes a Stake in Honest Tea

Weekly recap #1?

Well I have managed to get myself somewhat overwhelmed with all the extracurriculars I have picked up. Its amazing how fast the days go when you are keeping busy with stuff that is interesting.

I made my first Toastmasters, which was very cool indeed.

Last week was the first week of youth soccer, its called the Lil’ Hammers, and Sunday marked the first game of the league I am playing in: the Rio Salado Adult Soccer League or RSASL (quite possibly the worst acronym ever). ‘So, uh, what league are you playing in?’ ‘Oh, uh, that would be, um, oh, um … never-mind.’ More to come in that as it progresses, needless to say its a total riot.

My sister, Caroline, and brother in-law, Brian, were in for the week and left on Thursday, which sucked cause they just started being useful around the house. Brian and I went golfing on the prior Saturday and I had a really good time. It was quite perfect out for January in Chandler and we hung out with Chris the Plumbing Contractor whose business was slowed down a bit. Turns out most of his business was in new builds and those disappeared pretty completely and quickly. Way to diversify yourself my man. Nice enough guy anyway though. I cooked for them a couple of times and they repaid the favor with Zipp’s pizza and Rigatonis which was very kind of them. They weren’t such fans of Zipp’s but thats fine, their loss.

Made it to Yoga four times and went for my last run for a while. The knee is not liking the cold weather and wants to play stiff and not super comfortable. So now I am throwing some plyrometrics in with long walks. We shall see.

Eating has been going well. Did some stir-fry the other night and it was just like a restaurant’s only when they overdo the chicken and its a little dry. In a wok at high heat add 1 Tablespoons of Ginger minced, 2 Tablespoons of Garlic minced, cook them in 2 Tablespoons of Peanut Oil for 15 seconds and then throw in 2 medium sliced Onions and stir for 5 minutes and remove. Add another tablespoon of Peanut Oil and reduce heat to medium. Add a tablespoon of garlic and 1 pound of chicken breast chopped into 1/2 inch cubes. Go back to high heat and stir for 5 minutes or less, or till chicken no longer pink in center. go too far and get dry tough chicken, not so tasty. Add back the vegetables and a few cups of chopped bok choy along with 2 tablespoons of Fish Sauce. Mix and then add 1/2 cup of chicken broth and reduce water in pan. Eat and enjoy. (A quick word on heat: experiment, you might not need to have it all the way to high, just most of the way. Get it hot enough to do its thing, but don’t burn everything. Also stir a lot.)

Opening Pandora’s box

I almost wrote this horrible article on Search Engine Optimization but got 20% into it and wanted to stab myself. Then I realized I really needed to make mention of this website called Pandora.com.

If you haven’t heard of it then you arent spending enough time on Internet. If you have heard of it but aren’t completely addicted to it then you need to have another look, I suggest doing it now. Just go to the site and enter in a song or artist that you like and, via the Music Genome Project, Pandora creates a ‘Station’ that is based around various critera that are determined by much more than I expected as explained in this PC Mag article:
The program makes connections between songs, based on the findings of a team of 35 analysts who have rated over 400,000 songs on hundreds of different criteria—including vocals, lyrics, harmonies, tempo, instrumentation, mood, and inflections—that link them to genres or eras, without the actual genre labels. Pandora’s founder, Tim Westergren, also founded the Music Genome Project, which created an analytical process that identifies a song’s similarities and differences, in essence, its DNA.

After you listen for a few songs it will have you setup a profile, which is free as in beer, and just leave it on all the time. As you go along you can tell it what you like and more importantly what you do not like. You can bookmark or buy a song. You can learn more about the song or artist or album. Its really quite enlightening.

Naturally the social networking aspect of things happens and you can hook up with friends just like on myspace and facebook, but now its just about music. You can invite them via email or just search for them. My id is roger5800 so feel free to look me up. I am still just starting our so am well short of the 100 station max but I am working on it everyday.

So now when you read about a band or someone mentions it you just go to your Pandora and plug them in and bam you get them and a whole cadre of bands that you have probably never heard of, ever, in, your, life, before.

Oh and now I have to get me some of these:squeezebox and this.

Level 1-2 with Josh

The plan was to go and see ol’ Billy Clinton talk at ASU Gammage after youth soccer was done but I was running late and the rest of my party was way out of position, so I made yoga instead. I was excited about this anyway as I haven’t been going enough since my sister was in town all week. I have also been beating myself up a little with running and need to workout.

Josh is a new teacher and his style is very philosophical and meditative. I am pretty sure he has had a lot of Anusara training which is what they teach at Yoga Village, where I first got into Yoga. This style is less concerned with creating a Flow (that is akin to aerobics), and more about each pose and making sure you are in them fully. This means you are physically standing in that pose but also that your thoughts are in the pose as well.

Before class started I made sure to introduce myself to two strangers as a pseudo new rule of mine where I am trying to talk to as many people each day as I can. I met Nicole who wasn’t overly talkative but nice enough. Then I talked with Jackie who was much more comfortable and we talked about coaching youth teams. I mentioned the soccer league I was helping with and she talked about the Boys and Girls Club teams she worked with for basketball. She is also relatively new to Innervision and we talked about a few of the different classes we go to. I told her that Saturday morning at 730am is really good cause it gets you awake and productive for the rest of the day.

At the start of class Josh had each of us introduce who we are and something about ourselves. I mentioned that I just got done coaching soccer with 6 year olds and got a few comments. Everyone else seems pretty cool and we got started.

Josh likes to start his Level 1-2 classes lying on your back which is just a different way from most classes. We started by lifting the left leg straight up and then taking it out to the side and then bringing it back to center. The idea is to get familiar with how your hip joint rotates in the socket and to get that warmed up. Then we did the right leg in the same fashion for a few repetitions.

After that we started to move into the familiar sequence of Down Dog and Plank and Chaturanga, but Josh likes to throw all types of variation in and doesn’t let you fall into the repetitive Flow. This makes it more challenging because you lose sense of time and have to fight off the anxiety of not knowing how much longer the class is.

I am having some tightness in my right knee behind the kneecap which I guess is what they call Runner’s Knee. This is sucky as it gets really tight at various points in the session, enough to take me out of a few poses even when I have my right leg lifted off of the ground. From what I am reading it sounds like this is due to an Imbalance of my Quadriceps and I think its because my inner quads are slightly underdeveloped. I will work on a few quadriceps exercises to get things into shape, but it sounds like I need to take it easy on the running for a little while.

After class I ran into Reagan at the Sprouts right next door. We talked about going to Innervision a bit and how we are both quitting our regular gyms to just do yoga. Nice enough young woman.

Packing a Lunch

For the last few months I have made a conscious effort to pack my lunch everyday. The first reason for this is health. Eating out is just not healthy mainly because restaurants are not making food for it to be good for you, they are making food that tastes good so that people will keep coming back. The second reason is that most of the time I make much better tasting food, and the third reason is that it saves me a ton of money and time.

For a lot of people cooking is a total pain in the ass. Its just something that we don’t do in the USA. This is the land of the cheeseburger and the drive-through. Of course this is now evolving into the Subway sandwich, which after working in one for a few months in college isn’t much better. The trick is to find a few things that you like to eat and that are easy to prepare.

Here are a few ideas that I use:

  1. Chicken Breast with roasted veggies РOn Sunday take 5 chicken breasts and cook them however you like best. I prefer to grill but will saut̩ them on occasion. Then take a few potatoes, celery stalks, carrots, and onions and chop them into 1 inch parts. Coat them with Olive Oil, salt, and pepper and put into a casserole dish. Toss this into the oven at 400F for 40 minutes or until they start to brown. You can then package these up and microwave at the office. Add Cheese if you want.
  2. Crock-pot Chicken with veggies – This is something I have just started and am kicking myself for not doing it sooner. Buy a cheap crock-pot from walmart or get one at goodwill. A 2 quart is good size if you are single or a couple, you may want larger if there are children. This recipe assumes a 2 quart crock-pot. Chop up your veggies like in the roasted recipe but a little smaller, think quarter inch thickness. My sister had the great recommendation of putting the potatoes on the bottom! Then cut one large chicken breast up into 1/2 chunks and put on top of everything. Add a half cup of rice, I go with brown rice cause its much better for you. Add some spices, I like sage and pepper a 1/2 teaspoon of each, but you can experiment here. Then add 5 cups of Chicken Broth, this is the critical ingredient but try to get the Organic stuff as it will have less sodium and other junk in it. Chicken Broth is the secret ingredient in cooking. Anytime a recipe asks for water use chicken broth and you will amaze your family and friends at how good a cook you are (don’t try this with oatmeal though, yuck). Set the crock-pot on Low and 7 hours later you have an awesome chicken soup/stew. I do this when I get home late from Toastmasters or Yoga and turn it on at 10pm and by the time I am done with this article its ready to go. I take 2 servings to work and have some at 11pm and then at 3pm.
  3. Sandwiches – By far the easiest food in the world to make. Start off easy and make a PBnJ, you remember how don’t you? For an advanced technique change the Peanut Butter with Almond Butter. It costs a bit more but you can bargain hunt and the health benefits are huge. Then move onto the more advanced sandwiches: turkey, ham, roast beef, etc. Throw some spinach, tomato, sprouts, avocado, onion, and mustard on there. Try out a different type of bread each week. Rye bread is supposed to have a ton of healthy stuff in it, go for the marbled. If you add a dash of salt and pepper to your sandwich you will spice things up very nicely, but be sparing, especially if preparing for someone else.

The other thing to consider is snacks. I have been working on eating smaller portions but this means I need to eat more often. The best thing to have is Fruits, Nuts, and Veggies which I stock up on throughout the week and take a bagful into work with me everyday. If you go with seasonal choices the prices will be lower and they will be much tastier as they are fully ripened. I will eat 1-2 bananas a day, 3-4 apricots, a handful of almonds, a carrot, and a celery stalk. Find what works for you. I also throw in a cup of Soy Yogurt for the protein and to change things up.

Here are some other good articles:
Zen Habits on the Brown Bag
Brown Bag Lunches
Rediscovering the Homemade Lunch

Toastmasters – Desert Voices

One of my new initiatives this year is to expand my social circle by getting involved with various groups and activities. Last year I tried to start this by meeting with the Lions International, but while that is a great group with many redeeming aspects I need more. My sister was the one to suggest joining a business group which I put off for too long.

After spending a couple of weeks searching for a Toastmasters group to attend I found Desert Voices. They meet on Mondays at 7:30pm at the Burton Bar Central Library in downtown Phoenix. I decided it would be perfect as I wanted to work a little later yesterday to catch up on somethings and then I would miss all of the traffic since it goes in the opposite direction as that time of day. I also found Carly’s Bistro for a quick bite to eat.

At first I have some trouble finding the meeting room as they are tucked away into the corner. Once I get there I am impressed with the amount of activity going on. There are 9 members and 4 guests, including me. I am greeted by Fadi Hattendorf, who is the President of the Club. She welcomes me and introduces me to a few of the members. There seems to be a bit of a rush to get setup as a few members will not be there and their positions are hastily filled by the ones who have shown up.

I had read about Table Topics on another Toastmasters website and knew that Guests were encouraged to participate. I didn’t know that it would be at such an early point in the meeting but before I knew it I was being asked to stand in front of the group and talk about something scary I had experienced in the desert. They also give the group a word to use during your speech and tonight’s word was Hoodoo, which has 2 meanings: as a noun it is a rock formation created by sediment building up over the ages, as a verb it means to bring bad luck or misfortune. I already knew I was going to talk about Moab as it is one of my first desert experiences and I have so many stories about the place. It also fit in well with both aspects of the word of the night as the rock formations are all over the area and on more than one occasion I had experienced bad luck while there. I chose to tell the story of a bike trip around Porcupine Ridge since it was one of my most favorite rides and it would be an entertaining story for everyone. It was easier than I thought it would be and I enjoyed myself immensely.

I may return to Desert Voices as they were a very fun group to be with and I forgot all about the stresses of my day.