Monday, February 28, 2005

In a short addendum to the email sent to me by CJ last week, i would like to just mention that this email caused CJ and his wife Clar to be refused entry to their then current fitness club. Apparently the Aspen Fitness Club in Cedar Rapids, Iowa found that CJ's vociferousness had no home in their establishment. Maybe it hit a little too close to home.

Friday, February 25, 2005

I'd like to post an email that I received from a friend of my family's CJ Ong, fitness consultant and multiple time Ultraman Athlete. Ultraman is like an Ironman (2 mile swim, 100miles on the bike and then a marathon) but in Ultraman you do multiply those distances by a factor of 2 or 3. He's finished several doubles and a triple. My point is, this is a guy who knows what he's talking about, and additionally, he's one of the few guys who really looks good in a moustache and ponytail.

I often wonder why America is the fattest nation in the world. With 60% of our adult population consider overweight or obese I offer the following opinion: The fitness club or facility industry is partially at fault.

A poster in a gym that I was recently in proclaims "cardio does not have to be so hard" and that working with the fitness professionals there will provide "maximum results with minimum effort."

Excuse my French but who are we fkn kidding here?

I agree that cardio does not have to be so hard but in reality it needs to be structured intelligently and offered to the members of a gym in a productive fashion. Offering 4 rip roaring high heart rate group cycling classes per week is counterproductive to weight loss! Look at the research.

And as for the farce of minimum effort for maximum results let's get real! People are lazy. So if they think they can get the maximum results in a minimum amount of time that is what they will buy into. And the fitness clubs bank on that. Most fitness clubs foster deception -- just like the infomercials hawking home gyms that will yield a beautifully sculpted physique in just 20 minutes a day! News flash: Those physiques were not built on just 20 minutes a day or with minimum investment! (some were built with the help of a plastic surgeon but that's a different subject!) Why would you want a client to actually reach the "apex" of fitness when you can keep stringing them along with false hope? More gadgets, supplements, pretty workout clothes in plus sizes - need I say more?

At the gym I see a few trainers who actually practice "personal training". Sadly most trainers are nothing more than glorified "fitness baby-sitters" who use a canned program for all their clients - everyone does plyos for six weeks-regardless if you are a grandmother who simply wants to be able to play with her grandchildren or a triathlete looking to improve their performance. The good trainers utilize differentiation and discrimination in their fitness program design as opposed to approaching personal training with a "no child left behind" philosophy.

The "no child left behind" philosophy that permeates many of today's fitness clubs is making America die a slow and agonizing death. It costs the country money in increasing health costs. In most group fitness class settings the emphasis on the part of the management is making sure that everyone has FUN, FUN, FUN. The QUALITY of the instruction is not measured at all by most management but rather the QUANTITY of instruction - NUMBERS, NUMBERS, NUMBERS! And woe be to the instructor wants to teach above the average! They might as well put on pair of safety glasses and be prepared to take a donut hole in the eye - wait it's been done! Here's another news flash: Even those below average (which is 49% of the population) need to be challenged so they can advance.

It's time for the fitness club industry to practice what they preach! One of the greatest athletes of all time is Olympian Dan Gable - he never deluded himself into thinking he could achieve maximum results with minimum effort. And as a coach he practiced what he preached. There was none of this bullshit of standing around with a whistle and a potbelly saying it doesn't do the athletes any good to have me do push-ups along side of them in practice.

It is time to have good representives in the fitness industry. I am offended by fitness class instructors with a roll of fat around their middle telling people to work harder.
Why would anyone want to join a gym where the membership counselors are fat?
I cringe when I see a client working with a personal trainer who allows them to bring the back in hyper extension when doing a standing bicep curl.

It is time for the fitness club industry to shape up! Quit dumbing it down, be honest to the members - quit stringing them along to make money and quit looking at them as a cash cow.

Instead of a fitness apex America is destined for a fitness nadir. It's gonna hurt!


Thursday, February 24, 2005

I realize that I have often posted about my increasingly AWESOME physique resulting from my extensive weight training, rock climbing and Atkins Diet, but last week I suffered a psychological setback. While comparing arm sizes with Jennifer and flexing in the bathroom mirror, I discovered to my chagrin that her arms are still bigger than mine. I can empathize with my friend Ben Knudson's recent shock to find that his neck size is significantly smaller than expected. I guess that maybe it's easier for me to accept my scrawnyness in Japan where I tower over most people and am bulkier than a good number. I've got evidence, I go to onsens (Japanese communal baths). Ben, however, lives in the land of the large, and what's more, a good number of his friends are pushing 200 lbs.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Last night we watched "Touching the Void" it's the documentary style film about Simon Yeates and Joe Simpson, the guy who while climbing a mountain in the Andes broke his leg and then fell over a cliff and then was abandoned as dead and miraculously arrived in camp some 3 days later after crawling off of a mountain. The film was really well done and thrilling to the last, even though we know that the story worked itself out alright in the end. It kind of tempered my desire to be a mountaineer, though I really want to go to the Andes now. I recommend the film to anyone, and particularly those with an outdoorsy bent.

Coincidentally, I believe my brother Ian is flying to Chile today. I'm not sure of his exact itinerary, but he'll be flying out of Miami and eventually ending up in the city of Valparaiso somewhere along the coast of that oddly shaped country. He'll then hang out and be disoriented for a day or two and afterwords he'll celebrate his twenty first birthday someplace south of the equator, making him the first Ritz to venture south of that mark and certainly the only one to celebrate a birthday outside of our hemisphere. Buena suerte Ian y cupleanos feliz!

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

I just thought I'd post my proof positive that I'm actually paid up on my student loans. I've been holding on to this email from the Sally Mae corporation for a couple of months and I thought that i'd just share my joy with y'all now.

The list below includes all the loans in your account with us. Loans marked with a star (*) are the loans referred to in this letter.
Original Loan Date: 01/17/03
Original loan amount: $12,661.17
Outstanding Principal: $0.00
Well, another set of my friends has become homeowners. Emi and Tim Baldoni are now the proud owners of a house, in Minneapolis of all places. I guess there is no reason for me not to get a house of my own, particularly now that Jennifer is on track to save $40,000 from our time spent in Japan. That's right, 40 grand in a little over 2 years. As for me, if we count my paying off of college loans as savings, I've saved more like $14,000 since I got here. Since much of that has been erased due to Dear Old Macalester, I'll probably go home with something like $7000 when all is said and done. Not bad, but not even in the same ballpark as Jennifer.

I guess this is Emi and Tim's new abode. It looks nice, quaint in that sort of twin cities way, makes me want to drink a Dunn Brothers coffee and raid the Whole Foods dumpster of plenty.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Another week has gone by and what do I have to say for myself? Not much, that's what. My job is fine, my home is comfortable, I am living the life of a foreigner in a strange land. I discovered to my surprise the other day that there's a girlie club near my office called "The New Ritz". I asked, and they are offering me a free round of drinks for me and 20 of my closest friends along with the company of any of the fabulous Filipina women they employ. The catch is that I would have to join the Yakuza and drive a black Toyota luxury car or maybe a Mercedes. The only catch would be that I'd have to bleach my hair a little an grow it into a mullet. So yeah, life is good.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

I just caught wind of this from Alf's Mom, all you people who may have known the glory days of Alf should really check it out. It reminds me of what could have been. Alf, while not blogging has apparently been busy in China nonetheless.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

ok, I forgot to post in reverse chronological order, so the posting is kind of screwy. You should start first at the bottom of the pictures and work your way up for maximum dramatic effect.

Our last day in Sapporo was spent recuperating from the previous day in Sapporo and we capped it of with a nice round of crabs. Expensive but tasty. I'm just glad we didnt' have to cook the poor bastards, they've got quite a personality.

needless to say, drunkenness ensued, though no really reckless behavior on the part of anyone in our immediate party. I was the DP, designated photographer, so I went light on the booze.

And then to the bar with the free drinks for women. As we entered Shane made a count, 47 women to 12 men, including the 4 bartenders. Now that's what I call a meat market.

Next came the hot baileys ice tent, a cup for 200 yen, what a bargain.

There was also a good selection of ice sculpture. Apparently one can make a pretty good living from being an ice sculptor, weddings, bar mitzvas, tractor pulls, you name it, they want sculpted ice.

We later toured the Sapporo Brewery where I bought a cool T shirt and marveled at the universal

Here's a fine example of snow sculpture from the Sapporo snow festival. Imagine a bunch of small sculptures, mostly cute, and then some giant and really cool things such as this one and you have a good picture of what was going on.
I'm going to post a photo history of our Sapporo trip, prepare for a lot of photos.

We started out on Thursday about noon and got in to Sapporo about 5, found our hotel and then ventured out on the coldest day i've experienced in Japan. It was snowing like hell as we perused through the streets filled with snow and snow sculptures. We decided on ramen that night and found our way to a famous ramen district of Sapporo. It's pretty close to the red light district but a block over. After this we stopped in a trendy little bar and after headed back to the hotel. My pictures start the next day when the weather was a little better.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

We're headed up to snow country tomorrow. Hokkaido, the northern most island beckons us. Thanks to the lovely birthday discount fare, Jennifer, Lara, Shane and I are going to see the famous Sapporo Snow Festival. We also intend to sample Sapporo beer and various otherworldly delicacies. Most interestingly, for Japan that is, is that the roads are all supposed to be straight and intersect at right angles in this miracle city. We'll have a boatload of lovely pictures to share with everyone when we return.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Jennifer and I had a pretty good weekend leading up to her birthday yesterday, superbowl sunday in fact. Saturday involved a trek to the neighboring city of Ueda, one of the top 3 sunniest cities in Japan. The aim of our trip was beef, big and bloody and brasilian. For some reason, Ueda has a lot of Brasilian immigrants and therefore hosts a lively subculture that is very interested in BBQ. After procuring our 2 kilos of red flesh we returned to lovely Nagano and socked it in the fridge. The evening was filled, incedentally with the always lovely but now ridiculously popular because it's illuminated in several colors Zenkoji temple. We stopped on by and then on to dinner and what else? Karaoke!! It wasn't my idea and Jennifer and I had planned to maybe do something else with our time and avoid hangovers, but what can you really do when everyone wants you for your lovely personality and great looks? Nothing, so you go and you sing your heart out to a room full of drunkards and a TV while the shocked attendant brings drink after drink to the room. Such a lovely hobby. Such despicable things done to fine songs.

For me, karaoke is one of those things that I don't really have a good time doing but at the end I can look back and say, "Hey, I'm glad that I did that." In particular there was another midwesterner there saturday, Tim, from Milwaukee. It was great to be around another one of my own kind, people who know what High-life is and who can appreciate mosquitoes. I can't wait to get back to the motherland people, it's calling my name.

Now here's a midwesterner by god, and what a man, a beer drinking, sausage loving, Milwaukee son. I knew one of those good but lazy men once...

Debauchery in no uncertain terms. If a man can't stand, he ain't much of a man, but he'll carry on with the tunes until they rip the mike from his hand.

Beef, as big as your head, how do you explain that?

lovely Zenkoji temple scene of many tripods and about $100,000.00 worth in cameras per evening (for real, I saw like 20 nikons)

Thursday, February 03, 2005

I can tell that I'm a little bummed, I get the urge to buy stuff. I can't recall if it's always been like this, but recently I've been trying to buy my way out of depression (mild). My other problem is that I love gear intensive sports. I love cycling, skiing and rock climbing and I particularly love all the cool gadgets that you can buy to make it seem more enjoyable. I always say to myself that I am just a conneseur of fine products, that it's ok as long as they're high quality that i'm not wasting my money, but really, it's just a lie to allow me to buy cool stuff.

Don't fool yourself people, your not enjoying the finer things in life, you're enjoying toys.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Anyone who says that sake is hangover free is a damn liar.

Saturday we spent a sizeable chunk of the afternoon touring one of the locally renowned sake breweries. The brewery is called Waka-midori and means "Light Green", like the color of new shoots of rice. We arrived about 2:00, Shane, Lara, Jennifer and I along with the hookup; one of lara'a co-workers and his wife. They were both flight attendants in a previous line of work and therefore both had impeccable English. It was the first time that I'd heard a Japanese person use the term "microbe" in a sentence. Not that I doubt the abilities of some of my students, but this was pretty much unheard of from a higshool english teacher. Anyway, we arrived about 2:00 and took a nice little tour of the brewery, tasted some of the fermenting rice sludge and saw the room where they make the starter batch of koji and yeast to get the sake really rocking in the fermenters. They use open fermentation tanks, which I thought was pretty odd, most beer brewers want to seal off any outside influence from various yeasties floating in the air, but I guess that this brewer is famous for his distinctively flavored sake, probably a result of the airborne wild yeast. We sampled some sake from every stage of the process, the rice, the rice mash, the bubbling concoction in the tanks, the freshly pressed finished sake and then some other stuff that had been ageing for a couple of months. The time was about 2:45 and I was a little tipsy due to the high octane levels present in our various samplings and also the fact that among our group, I liked sake the best, therefore prompting me to drink the leftovers from everyone else. Our tour now over, had but to sample the finished wares and be on our way. Little did we know that this would be a 4 hour process.
Mister Imai, the owner brought us into his 100 year old house with magnificent japanese woodwork and screens and sat us all down at his heated kotatsu table where we had a spread of appetizers including salad, fried chicken bits and pickles as well as an assorted selection of at least 9 liters of sake for the group of us. Not only was it sake, but particularly it was "Dai-ginjo" sake which is made from only the core of the rice grain and is also about 20-22 percent alchohol. The weakest stuff at the table was apricot wine which had about 12 percent alchohol. We did our kanpais and our toasts and then proceeded to drink about 7 of those 9 liters. This was followed closely by the owner's wife introducing herself briefly and then whipping up some fried noodles and gyoza dumplings for us. After this last feast we packed up and prepared to go (rather tipsy by now, but since Shane and I at least had ridden bikes, no big problem) only to find that Imai-san had already ordered two pre-paid taxis and refused to let us ride our bikes home. A more awesome display of hospitaltiy I have never seen. Not a yen paid by us and we each left with a giant magnum bottle tucked away in our jackets.

Oh yeah, and we went skiing on sunday, but really, how can you top an evening like that!