Saturday, December 26, 2009

Year End Book Reviews

Remember writing book reports in 3rd grade? Actually, I recall writing book reports for as long as I was in school - college included. Needless to say, book reports may be the reason many children hate reading; because your reward for finishing a book is that you get to write a big paper at the end.

It's now 2009, and I still don't want to write book reports. Thus, rather than making a blog post after every book I read, I figured I'd do one mass year-end post. Here is a quick synopsis of the books I read in 2009 - maybe you'll pick up something new to read.

'The Devil We Know - Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower' - Robert Baer
I heard this author give an interview on XM Radio this spring, and was pretty intrigued. He is the ex-CIA operative that the movie Syriana is roughly based on. This book discusses Iran's rise to power, and lays out exactly what the USA needs to understand about Middle Eastern culture - and their struggle for power and recognition. Take home lesson: the Iranians aren't harden terrorists, but methodical and calculating in their grab for dominance in the Middle East. A bit of a heady read - but worth the time if you are into global politics or badass CIA guys.

'It's Not About The Bike - My Journey Back To Life' - Lance Armstrong
Probably the best book I read this year. Written in 2001, I just got around to it this year. This book documents Lance's diagnosis with cancer, his treatment, and eventual recovery. The book culminates with his return to the bike and first Tour de France victory. Definitely inspirational, and a great read if you're interested in what drives and motivates people.

'My Booky Wook: A Memoir of Sex, Drugs, and Stand-Up' - Russell Brand
You'll remember this guy as the eccentric British rock star from Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Turns out his real life isn't all that unlike the character he plays in the movie. I can't remember what inspired me to buy this book - other than I think he's mildly entertaining and could possibly offer me some tips on shagging women. It was a fairly entertaining biography, and reads exactly like the title suggests: sex, drugs, and stand-up.

'The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World' - Alan Greenspan
At 576 pages, this is no quick read. However, the man has led such a long and remarkable career - you can break the book up into smaller parts to make it more manageable. This was a particularly timely read early in 2009, when the world economies were still highly unstable. Greenspan explains many of the decisions he made during his 5 terms as Chairman of the Fed, and why those decisions were necessary. Greenspan presided over the US Economy for the last 20 years, so his insight into the financial world is second to none.

'American History in 100 Nutshells' - Thaddeus Tuleja
This book had been on my bookshelf for about a decade, and it finally got it's turn at the plate. Each 'nutshell' is a 2 page synopsis of a major event in US History. Forgot what the Teapot Dome Scandal was all about? It's here. I didn't sit down and bust this out in a week or two, but just gradually chewed on it over the fall. This book will not help you pick up chicks, but may come in handy for an appearance on Jeopardy!

'Angels and Demons' - Dan Brown
No synopsis needed here. However, I will brag that I finished this book in about 24 hours - because I wanted to go see the movie the next day...after having read the book first. I must say, this is a bad idea to power read a book - and then go see the movie 3 hours later. You need a little gap to forget some of the small details. As is, I really hated the movie because they changed so many things that I was keenly aware of. Still, a very solid and enjoyable page turner.

'The Old Man and The Sea' - Ernest Hemingway
A Classic. Quick read. This was another book I recall reading in high school, and this year it jumped off the table at me at the book store. Probably another poignant book to read in a year of a tough economy. A story about an old man battling it out, day after day, ...and well, I won't give away the ending. Hemingway wrote this in Cuba in 1951, and won him the Nobel Prize in Literature.

'In The President's Secret Service' - Ronald Kessler
I saw a piece on CNN about all the preparations going into Obama's inauguration, and it sparked my interest in this book. Turns out it wasn't all that interesting of a read. However, there was some insight into how over-stretched the Secret Service is, and how most agents just put in a few years until they can go get a much higher paying job in private security.

'1984' - George Orwell
Big Brother is watching you. The Obama Administration inspired me to read this one. The administration's lust for making government bigger and bigger, and sticking their hand into every aspect of our lives...well, Big Brother would be proud. One of my favorites this year, and I enjoyed it much better than the first time I read it (a decade ago). The themes here are probably too advanced for a high school student to fully appreciate. Give it another read.

'To Kill a Mockingbird' - Harper Lee
My Aunt sent me a first edition print of this book from 1960. I know I've read this before, but I couldn't remember much about the story other than the mysterious 'Boo Radley' and sturdy 'Atticus Finch'. The language is rather colorful, but has warm and comforting tones of family life in the South. I'm still working on this one, only about halfway through after having started it in mid-December.

'Going Rogue' - Sarah Palin
I haven't yet started this, but it's on my bookshelf waiting it's rightful turn in line - I'm hoping to get to it before the new year. McCain was never exactly my guy, but I did find Palin to be incredibly interesting, and she stands to be a major cog in the Republican process for the next several (8?) years. Mitt Romney is still my guy to be our next president, but Sarah Palin is far too well liked to simply disappear. We're here, we shoot deer, get used to it.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Awesome 4 Year Old

I have a new role model. This may be my favorite story of the year - A heartwarming tale that will warm your soul during this joyful holiday season. Let's watch:

My favorite quote was the mother saying, "Kids do things like this."

Kids do things like this? Really? Drunken cross-dressing burglary? It really is the most awesome thing I've ever heard. Kid gets ripped, steals the presents, and THEN decides to put on the dress!

Some day, this kid is going to go to college - and he will play this video for all his frat buddies, and he will never pay for another drink at the bar ever again.

east coast mark salutes you.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

George Clooney and Derek Jeter Cast Dissaproving Looks at Tiger Woods

George: Tiger, what the hell.

Derek: Seriously Tiger? Didn't we teach you anything?

George: You know how you see me in the tabloids dating a different cocktail waitress every week? Well let me tell you, it's awesome. And you know what else is awesome? Not marrying the first blonde chick I nailed and then having 2 kids and goofy looking dog.

Derek: Seriously Bro. What's with that dog. You have a Billion dollars, and you buy the ugliest dog ever created? It's gotta be retaahhded.

George: Tiger, take a look at Derek here. Let me show you just some of the hoodrats he's slayed in the last couple years:

George: Derek, that's good work not getting married. Keep it up.

Derek: Thanks George. It certainly is awesome being single and running around with different women. The awesome part is, the media celebrate my daliances. In fact, when they don't see me with a new woman every few months, they start to question if something is wrong.

George: Same with me. We're more celebrated and adored because we had the foresight not to settle down; and instead be millionaires who have hos in different area codes. Well Tiger, I hope you've learned your lesson. Cut this Elin chick loose - she's past her prime anyway. Had you come to us sooner, we could have brought in Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn - they might have been able to break up the wedding.

Derek: George, we've gotta be going. We've got pick up Leonardo DiCaprio and head over to the intervention for Tom Brady.

Yes Man

Today it was 66 degrees here on the East Coast - not exactly the weather one would expect in December with three weeks until Christmas. The Rockefeller Center Tree is lit, the Menorah's are out, and the Kwanzaa folks are...watching Shaft..or whatever they do.

Aside from gorging ourselves on fudge, candy canes, and egg nog - December is also a good time to catch up on one's charitable giving. Partially for tax write-off reasons, but mostly because it's a good time of year to give back in thanks for all you have - and all that Obama has borrowed to keep the bailouts coming.

I've started my own little way to give back, modeled after the Jim Carrey movie 'Yes Man'. Basically it goes like this: Anytime someone asks me to donate or give to a cause/charity in November or December, I say Yes. No questions, no hesitation.

The most common place you'll see this happening is at the cash register at a retail store. It seems more common these days; before the cashier gives you your total for whatever buying, they'll ask if you'd like to donate a dollar or three to the Leukemia Society, or whatever. "Absolutely." Want to purchase a children's book for a child in need? "Yes Ma'am."

It's kind of a Russian Roulette sort of game when I go out shopping now. I have to arm myself with a stack of $1 bills - who knows what I might be donating to. Makes it kind of fun knowing you can't say 'no', and to be honest - giving feels good.

I heard a story once about a woman who had been going to the same church for 50 years. One day there was a story in the paper about how this woman had donated $100,000 to a church on the other side of town, to help them with a renovation. When the pastor from her home church asked why she'd given to another church instead of her own; her answer was, "Because they asked."

So, join me and become a Yes Man this December.

Monday, November 30, 2009

So I Met Lance Armstrong

The best book I've read this year was Lance Armstrong's 'It's Not About The Bike'. It was Lance's first book (released several years ago), which details his battle with cancer, recovery, and his first Tour de France victory.

This summer, I got into cycling and triathlons quite a bit - which happened to coincide with the 2009 Tour de France. The 2009 version saw Lance emerge from retirement and finish a very respectable 3rd place - after a 4 year retirement at 37 years of age. I followed the Tour daily, read Lance's book, and have continued to follow his career and training pretty closely.

During the year of training for his comeback, Lance had a photographer document the entire process - which they have compiled into his newest book, Comeback 2.0. Tonight, in Northern New Jersey, Lance had a book signing - and I decided I'd turn out.

The signing was held at a fairly small book shop called Bookends, and when I arrived there were probably 200 people already in line. However, they seemed to be moving through the line pretty quickly, and within a half hour I was speaking with Juan Pelota himself. We'll get back to that.

This actually wasn't the first time I'd been up close with Lance. About 5 years ago I was in Austin Texas on a business trip, and at a certain point during dinner with some colleagues, I looked over to see Lance sitting at the table next to me. I don't recall much about the encounter; other than nobody at my table besides me seemed to recognize him, and he had very distinct eyes (no homo).

Back to this evening. They kept the line moving pretty quickly, so there wasn't really time for handshakes and photos. However, I had about 10 seconds with him as he signed my copy of the book. I thanked him for coming out, and said I was happy to meet him. He said, 'You bet. Glad to meet you.' When great athletes come face to face, it's rare to have anything beyond striaght-forward conversation. It's almost like we both recognized the epic greatness in each other, and little else needed to be spoken.

Here's his autograph in the book. It says 'Lance Armstrong 7' - for his seven Tour victories.

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Moment In Time - Episode 2, Josh Gets Captured

When we last left our superheroes, they were lamenting the marathon hijinks that had broken up the running threesome. Now, we re-join them as they exact their revenge:

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Moment In Time - Re-enacted

I know I've been a bit delinquent in posting a full recap of my third marathon from this fall. However, I do have a bit of a teaser to get you through. Below is a re-enactment I've created of the pivitol moment in the race - when our threesome got separated by an ill-fated bathroom break by Josh. I'm the guy in the red.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Racism and Ballads

Two things we love here at east coast mark are 1.) blatant racism and 2.) ballads. Fortunately for us, Eric Cartman was able to combine them both in his song 'Not My Waterpark' from last week's season finale of South Park.

I guarantee this melody will be in your head all day - just don't belt it out when your boss is within earshot, or if you're in line at the DMV or KFC.

What's always been great about South Park is that they nail the subtle stuff - like people wearing t-shirts in the pool at a waterpark. I'm not sure which is worse; fat rolls, or an oversized t-shirt clinging to those fat rolls.

Lay off the egg nog this holiday season everyone. Especially you minorities.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Alien Hottie of the Week: Laura Vandervoort

If you're watching the new ABC show 'V', you've no doubt taken notice of blonde 'Visitor' hottie "Lisa" - a.k.a actress Laura Vandervoort.

Despite the fact that she's a green alien from another planet, here for some yet unknown sinister purpose - we'll enjoy her curves and lips until such a time as we're forced to destroy her species and drive them from the Galaxy. USA! USA!

Enjoy the goods.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Million Dollar Baby - In Five Seconds

These 5 Second Movies have been around for awhile, but this one of Million Dollar Baby is about the best I've seen.

That is all.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

November Golf

One benefit to living in the Mid-Atlantic is that golf courses stay open until December or later. This past weekend, with temperatures hovering around 65, I hit the links for a little Sunday night twilight golf.

Considering I hadn't played in about 2 months due to marathon training, I hit the ball really well. 3 pars, 4 bogeys. Got in 7 holes before being chased off the course by darkness. And because I got to the course so late - the Ranger let me go out for free. Free golf...and in November? Neither of these things ever happen in Minnesota.

Here's a photo blog of the afternoon:

That last one is just a moment of pride when my car is the only one in the parking lot, and it's pitch black as I'm taking my spikes off. There's also something satisfying about taking your final swing at a ball, hitting it off down the fairway into the darkness - knowing full well you'll never see that ball again.

Check back in December to see if there's a 'December Golf' blog post.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Soccer Just Got Real

This past week, a homosexual blogger friend of mine published a blog post about the state of Soccer in America. I typically run across this type of article about once a year - where some rube talks about how soccer is on the verge of becoming a breakout smash here in America.

These posts are usually made by leftist hippies who wish we could fit in with Europe and the rest of the world, and embrace the beautiful sport of futbol. Let me just get you another beret and some face paint, Your Majesty.

However, after seeing some spectacularly awesome footage of a women's NCAA soccer match of BYU vs. New Mexico, I may have changed my mind.

I’d by lying if I said I wasn’t a little turned on…BYU won this game, 1-0. No, I didn’t really care either.

Thank You, Reebok

In an effort to get handballer Derek Jeter off the front page of east coast mark - Reebok is here to help. Last week, Reebok came out with a commercial to advertise their new EasyTone Shoes - which apparently work your butt and hamstrings 28% more than regular shoes.

The good news is, this wasn't just one ad - but a whole campaign. Thank You, Reebok.

Enjoy your weekend. Get hopped up and make some bad decisions.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Is Derek Jeter Gay? Hard to say. - Updated

10/26: New evidence has surfaced in our fact-finding mission. This screencap from the '09 postseason:

I find no redeeming qualities in Derek Jeter or the Skankees. Evidence proves conclusive:

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Twins vs. Yankees - mobile live blogging

11:00 - longest walk of my life. These fags are screaming at me every 10 feet. End of blog.

10:30 - now Rocky II clips. Bunch of queers here in NY.

10:10 - I have never screamed louder and had so many people stare at me

10:05 - praying for an 11th. Jumbotron is playing the speech from Any Given Sunday. Bad news yanks - it's Friday

9:50 - iconic moment of the nite. At the bottom of the 9th, someone (yanks fan) throws a beer over the railing into the lower deck. I get up to pee. As I'm in line, 3 security guards storm into the bathroom and physically pull me out of line. "We have witnesses that say you threw the beer. Let me see a ticket."
In my best Joshn Grisham voice, "you KNOW this is a frame job!". They let me go, begrudginegly

9:45 - if you've been a MN sports fan for 29 yrs - you knew it

9:30 - "Stand UP, Stand UP and shout!!!". Nathan theme music in my head.

9:15 - And the silence you hear is no...the silence you hear is 50,000 tony soprano meatheads

9:07 - they are playing the rocky theme song at full blast. I am playing the "suck my balls" themesong from my pants. Pretty much evens out. Just heard my first "kirby touches women" taunt". I reply, "hip hip, so Gay!!"

9;00 - PUUUUUNTO!!! They play Enter Sandman as RIvera enters. I think of Rock band. Ear to ear baby.

8:45 - they just played an "anti-steroidd PSA" in yankee stadium. Can't make it up.

8:35 - pretty good stuff - all of Yankee stadium singing God bless america. This game is going to be heartache for one team in pinstripes.

8:25 - tension. Beer 4 and 5.

8:15 - AROD may have hit that with a syringe, I don't have my glasses on

7:59 - ear to ear baby. Picture screaming by yourself in church. Taunts of "suck it puckett" rain down. Posada? "Hip hip, so gay!!!"

7:40 - particularly interesting moment as I went to pee between innings. Have you ever tried to fend off stage fright as 300 men hecle you from behind? In true MN fashion, I delivered a hearty stream for a solid 45 seconds. Go Twins. Most lopsided 0-0 game I've ever seen.

7:20 - palpable nervous energy from the yanks fan. Their lineup is just sick though - you never get a break. I'm ordering my third beer. Emily is only on 2.

7:10 - total vomit.

7:05 - this is awesome. Everytime I stand and clap, they're all sitting. I keep piping up the "man, sure is a lot of nervous energy in this crowd".

6:55 - the strike out felt like a makeup call for Span

6:45 - fans in my section turning against me. Its like standing up to cheer in church.
They're now showing Trump, Big Pun, and Bill O'reilly on the big screen. No Kate Hudson??

6:25 - Emily and I are trading smack talk. I remind her the skankees are steroid using fags.

6:15 - audible MVP chant heard when Mauer was up

6:04 - Teixeira is a total fag. Just saying. Punto is batting .667 in the series. Looking for a big game out of Cuddy.the jumbotron is sick

6:00 - national anthem. 2 hot dogs, 2 beers, and potato chips: $35. The guy in front of me is eating a noodle bowl...WITH CHOPSTICKS!!!

5:30 - even less twins fans than usual, due to the quick turnaround time. I am in the beast

5:15 - outside the stadium. Cat calls of "twinkie!!". Though, they have been showing respect to the Puckett jersey.

4:10 - spotted empire state building. Switching trains to head into the bronx. Still no other twins fans spotted. Train attendant yells out "go twins!" And reveals he is a Red Sox fan.

3:45 - train has stopped at 3 stations, and I haven't seen another Twins Jersey. Also, I'm craving a beer and a dog.

3:30 - we're walking up to the train, the conductor sees my jersey - and he shuts the door. Train leaves the station as the conductor laughs maniaclly and points. We catch the next train. And so it begins.

Test of mobile live blogging

2:17 - Appears to be working, thus east coast mark will attempt to do some live-blogging from Yankee Stadium as the Twins take on the Skankees. Check back Friday night for regular updates.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Gunslinger

He's like a little kid out there - just having so much fun.

Next week - Vikings vs. Packers. More soon on the titillation that will be Minnesota Sports this coming weekend.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Movember - Who Wants A Moustache Ride?

I really hope this catches on. (Watch the video)

When I was in college, I made a bet with a buddy (I forget what the bet was) - but the loser had to grow a mustache. I lost. I think I made it 2 weeks, but had to shave it off for a wedding or work or something. I kind of hope this Movember project catches on - both so that I can grow an awesome mustache, but also because the ladies love it. You know you do.

You can check out more about the Movember project at their website. I'm kind of thinking we should start a team - who's with me?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Poetry Thursday? Why Not.

The Hollow Men
T. S. Eliot, 1925

Mistah Kurtz—he dead.

A penny for the Old Guy


We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us—if at all—not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.


Eyes I dare not meet in dreams
In death’s dream kingdom
These do not appear:
There, the eyes are
Sunlight on a broken column
There, is a tree swinging
And voices are
In the wind’s singing
More distant and more solemn
Than a fading star.

Let me be no nearer
In death’s dream kingdom
Let me also wear
Such deliberate disguises
Rat’s coat, crowskin, crossed staves
In a field
Behaving as the wind behaves
No nearer—

Not that final meeting
In the twilight kingdom


This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man’s hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.

Is it like this
In death’s other kingdom
Waking alone
At the hour when we are
Trembling with tenderness
Lips that would kiss
Form prayers to broken stone.


The eyes are not here
There are no eyes here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley
This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms

In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of the tumid river

Sightless, unless
The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star
Multifoliate rose
Of death’s twilight kingdom
The hope only
Of empty men.


Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o’clock in the morning.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow

For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow

Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow

For Thine is the Kingdom

For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Brett Whatshisface

He’s just a little kid running around out there having fun and playing the game the way it was meant to be played runnin’ around gun slingin’ and huntin’ and putin’ it all on the line and drawing up plays in the sand with his finger and fartin’ in the huddle to make guys laugh and playing practical jokes in the locker room like hangin’ dead animals in lockers or dressin’ in a separate room and runnin’ and throwin’ and playin’ the game like they did in the throwback days and he should be wearing a leather helmet he’s so tough and he plays the way we’d play the game if we could, but we can’t, and it’s all just classic Favre. The ole’ little kid gun slinger and he's just havin' so much fun out there.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Daily Fun Fact - Marathon Distance

When one is training for a marathon, one tends to talk about it a lot. Part of the reason for this is that training for a marathon is like a part time job. You schedule your days around specific workouts, you manage your diet around your daily runs, you think about things like 'how long will I be on my feet if we go shopping all day?' - etc.

Given that your running creeps into all aspects of daily life, one can't help but bring up running several times a day to various people. It's not as intentional or self serving as people who talk about their kids nonstop all day long...but nonetheless, when someone suggests, "Hey, let's go have 19 beers and a few cheeseburgers" - your instinctive response is, 'Can't. Training for a marathon.'

The point of all this rambling is that in these casual conversations, I'm routinely amazed at how few people know how long a marathon is. Most people grasp that a marathon involves running. For a long distance. But they seemingly have no clue if it's 5 miles or 50 miles.

I always assumed that knowing that a marathon is 26.2 miles was somewhat standard knowledge - but apparently not. I'd say 2 out of 3 people say, "A marathon huh? How far is that?" I'm going to start telling people it's 74 miles, and see if I get any pushback.

It could be that my assumption on marathon distance being common knowledge is jaded by the fact that I grew up in a family with a father who ran marathons every year. But my question to other runners; do you also come across such general cluelessness when it comes to marathons or other racing distances?

Daily Fun Fact - A Marathon is 26.2 miles. The name 'marathon' comes from the legend of Pheidippides, a Greek messenger. The legend states that he was sent from the town of Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persians had been defeated in the Battle of Marathon. It is said that he ran the entire distance without stopping and burst into the assembly, exclaiming 'We have won.' before collapsing and dying.

*Sarah Palin is an avid jogger, and loves to sweat. Women joggers are totally hot.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Tri Recap

Last Sunday I competed in my first triathlon. I'd been thinking about doing one for maybe a year - but just a vague thought, kind of like, 'it would be cool to climb a mountain some day.' However, after purchasing a bicycle this spring, and continuing my marathon training, it seemed like a logical progression - so why not. Let's dive in.

I signed up for the triathlon about three weeks before race day, so it was a bit of a crash course in preparation. I bought a book, and read every blog and online article I could find on the subject. In fact, I realized that my whole life I never knew how to properly spell triathlon. I'd always spelled it with an extra 'a' - triathalon.

All told, I got in plenty of training runs (3 to 4 days a week), sufficient bike training (2 to 3 days a week), and well, less swim training. My building does have a decent pool, but it's by no means Olympic length or ideal for lap swimming. Nonetheless, two evenings I got in a few laps. In an effort to stretch the distance, I went over to the Rutgers Aquatic center and did some laps one evening. In total, 3 swimming training sessions. None of them in the ocean, where the swim would be held.

This might also be a good time to mention that I'd never been swimming in the ocean. Ever. The two times I'd been in the ocean previously, I'd simply waded in up to my knees. Now I was staring down a quarter mile swim in open water, with the threat of waves and sharks bringing my triathlon career to a screeching halt. We'll get back to that.

The morning of the race I rose at 3:30am, had a breakfast of a blueberry muffin, chocolate doughnut, banana, OJ, and a diet coke. I don't drink coffee, so diet coke is my caffeine equivalent. Check in time for the race was 5:30am - and with the hour drive to the shore, the early wake-up call was necessary.

There were about 450 people in the race, and it was still dark out as we checked in and started getting our transition stations setup. You basically have a little 3 foot by 3 foot space of ground below your bike stand where you setup all your gear for the transitions between events. Helmet, sunglasses, race number, shoes, etc. I quickly assess that probably 75% of the field look like seasoned triathletes, with bikes and bodies that are not seen in everyday life.

After a quick pre-race meeting, the 450 of us clad in wetsuits (not me), swim caps, and goggles...head off down to the ocean shore to begin the race. The people around me are commenting on 'how calm the water looks today'. I take their word for it, but still notice breakers that give me a momentary vision of the final scene in Point Break.

The swim starts in 5 'waves', so that everyone isn't on top of each other in the water. I am assigned to the last wave - which is men ages 20-29, and we're designated by our blue swim caps. The swim course is like a big rectangle. You swim straight out to a buoy probably 100 meters out, then make a right turn and swim parallel to the shore for another 200 meters or so, and then back into the shore.

Right before the first wave is set to go off, they announce that if you're a first time triathlete...or if you're not the strongest swimmer, they have bright orange swim caps that you can put on - signifying to the lifeguards to keep a special eye on you. I have an internal debate with myself about whether I will emasculate myself by putting on the orange 'rookie' cap, or weather I'll stick to my blue cap at the risk of drowning. Self preservation wins, and I swap the blue cap for an orange one.

Race starts.

I watch the fist few waves go off in three minute intervals. Probably a half dozen people don't make it out past the first few waves, and float back into shore and give up. This is slightly unnerving, but it's mostly old men and small women - not strapping bucks like myself.

My wave starts. We charge into the ocean, and are immediately hit by 2 or 3 breakers. The only way to get through them is to dive at the base of them, and pop out the other side. The very first one sends my goggles climbing up my forehead. I quickly get them back in place, and continue on - slightly shocked by how salty the water is. The elite guys take off, and I'm toward the back of the pack, acclimating myself to my first strokes in open water. Within 50 meters, I'm already slightly out of breath - and definitely not moving at Michael Phelps pace.

Making it to the first buoy wasn't terribly difficult, but my stroke form quickly broke down - and I'd downshifted into a modified side stroke. The water was littered with lifeguards on surfboards, kayaks, and jetskis - and if you get tired you're allowed to grab onto one to catch your breath. Needless to say, I got to know one of the kayak guys on a first name basis. Once it became clear that I was pretty overmatched by the ocean, my swim was all about just a slow and steady progress - and just finishing became the only priority. Since I was in the last wave, and now near the back of the pack - it's pretty much just me and about 5 other guys bringing up the rear.

When I made the final buoy and started the turn for home, it was a huge relief. All I really had to do at that point was float - and I'd make it back to shore with the current. Myself and the final 3 guys all made it out of the ocean at about the same time, probably a good 12 minutes behind the leaders. Stumbling out of the ocean after that struggle was like something out of the movie Cast Away.

The swim had taken a bit more out of me than I'd planned - but I quickly recovered and was jogging up the beach toward the transition area. Once back at my spot, I dump the swim cap and goggles, do my best to towel the sand out from between my toes before slipping on socks and shoes for the cycling leg of the race. Helmet, sunglasses, grab the bike - and we're off onto the 12 mile bike course. Physically I was good for the bike leg, but my Mountain Bike wasn't able to keep up with the elite guys on their $5,000 Triathlon bikes. I'm thinking I'll upgrade to a nice road bike next spring.

The second transition is considerably less work; simply re-racking the bike, dropping the bike helmet, and strapping on a race number for the run portion. I'm noticeably at the back of the field after my slow swim and sub-optimal bike, but fortunately the run was my strong suit.

To my surprise, my legs felt unusually strong during the run - not cashed like I'd expected. Within a mile I was quickly passing people - which was the first time all race I'd passed anyone.

Crossing the finish line was definitely a different sensation than crossing the finish line in my 2 previous marathons. This sensation was more of a relief that I'd survived, but also it felt like a bit of a challenge - knowing I'd left a lot of time out on the course. There was an immediate sensation of, 'well, I've got to do that again - and next time do it better.' A wetsuit would help with the buoyancy. More time in the pool or ocean would improve my endurance. A race bike would help. All things that can easily be accomplished before my next race. All in all it was a pretty fun experience, and also strangely bizarre switching between 3 events like that all in rapid succession.

The next day I signed up for another triathlon; September 5th. This one has the swim in a lake, not in the ocean. At least it takes the shark attack equation out of the mix.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


Something new on the agenda for this weekend; Sunday I'll be competing in my first Triathlon. I'd been running 3+ days a week in training for the marathon, and also biking 2-3 times a I figured a triathlon might be a fun way to pull them all together.

The race is known as a 'Sprint Triathlon' - which is the entry level triathlon distance. It's a quarter-mile ocean swim, 11.5 mile bike ride, topped off with a 5k run. The swim will probably be the most challenging part - dodging waves, other swimmers, and perhaps the occasional shark. I've spent the week doing laps in the pool at my building, and also hitting up the Rutgers aquatic facility for some longer swims. I've got a fairly decent stroke, but it's amazing how quickly you get winded.

Surprisingly, most people I've told about the race have said, "Well, that doesn't seem too hard." I've been a bit surprised at the cavalier attitude from the peanut gallery. True, I think each one of these distances don't sound terrible individually, but the back-to-back-to-back nature...while racing for the fastest time should be a challenge. As a friend of mine said, "If it were easy, everyone would be running triathlons."

The race is being held at Belmar on the Jersey Shore, at the deliciously early starting time of 7am. Just another day at the beach.

If you're curious, the famous Ironman Triathlon is a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride, finished off with a full marathon of 26.2 miles. Just wrong.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Obama Matrix

"If there's a blue pill and a red pill, and the blue pill is half the price of the red pill and works just as well, why not pay half price for the thing that's going to make you well?" -- President Obama

In last night's press conference, President Obama seemed to be reliving that famous scene from The Matrix. The main character is offered a choice between a red pill that makes him see reality for what it is, and a blue pill that allows him to continue living in a pleasant world of illusions.

Last night, President Obama appeared to have taken the blue pill before his press conference. How else could he convince himself, the Congressional Budget Office's numbers notwithstanding, that his health care reform bill will not increase both health care costs and the federal deficit? How else can he continue to make the argument that a massive expansion of government spending on health care will solve rather than exacerbate the current problems? How can he repeatedly express such absolute certainty that such a measure will easily pay for itself several times over in the long run? Why can he not at least acknowledge the possibility that it will become a costly and useless trillion-dollar boondoggle that follows in the footsteps of his stimulus package?

With his example of the red and blue pills, and another about whether a child's hypothetical tonsils should be removed, President Obama unwittingly presents the real problem with his plan for reform. Here is a well-meaning government official who so fails to grasp the problem in health care that he can present such absurd oversimplifications and suggest that this sort of thing is the real problem -- doctors simply lack the common sense to make obvious medical decisions. President Obama wants us to solve this problem by putting himself and other government officials in charge of rescuing medicine from the medical profession. If medical doctors with a decade of schooling cannot distinguish between good cures and ineffective ones that must be discontinued, then by gosh, we're lucky that the good folks from the government can.

President Obama thus frames the issue as a false choice between doing nothing at all and handing over to Washington complicated, case-by-case medical decisions that cannot possibly be legislated or dictated by government.

This transfer of medical authority to the bureaucracy is intended to curb costs. Unfortunately, there is exactly one thing that government can do to control costs in health care: it can insist on paying below cost. This shifts the cost burden to private insurance companies, which in turn pass along higher premiums to their patients. This is what government-run Medicare does today for many treatments, including cancer. Government will do more of this kind of "saving" when it assumes greater responsibility for funding citizens' health care, particularly if a government-option health care plan is established. The Mayo Clinic which President Obama praised in his speech last night is the same Mayo Clinic whose president signed onto a letter to Congress yesterday, expressing fears that a government-option health care plan Obama wants to establish will do more of this cost-shifting. The letter states:
Under the current Medicare system, a majority of doctors and hospitals that care for Medicare patients are paid substantially less than it costs to treat them. Many providers are therefore already approaching a point where they can not afford to see Medicare patients. Expansion of a Medicare-type plan without a method to define, measure, and pay for healthy outcomes for patients will move many doctors and hospitals across this threshold, and ultimately hurt the patients who seek our care. We should not put more Americans into the current unsustainable system.
President Obama brushed off this concern last night near the end of his press conference, citing a hopeful but very vague blog post on Mayo's website that went up a day before the letter was sent. In addition to ignoring budgetary and medical concerns, he repeated his dubious promise that his plan will not force millions of Americans out of health insurance plans they already have and like. He had no comforting words to convince anyone of the wisdom of creating two new taxes on employers -- one of them a tax that punishes small businesses with a higher tax rate if they create more jobs -- in the middle of a recession.

The one thing President Obama did not do last night was address directly any of the concerns that Americans have about his pending reform proposals. With this sort of rhetorical detachment from reality, it is not surprising that public support for his vision of health care reform is gradually eroding.

President Obama needs to take the red pill, even if it does cost twice as much.

By David Freddoso of the Washington Examiner

Unintentional Villains

If you've sat down to watch any major sporting event in the past decade, you are keenly aware that network sports broadcasts are now a huge production - some might say over-produced. No longer do we simply have two sportscasters chit-chatting their way through the Super Bowl or US Open. Instead, we're routinely hit with the tear jerking vignettes about our sports heros growing up without any legs, and then going on to win 19 consecutive marathons after battling cancer and AIDS. Or, the like. And we can't get enough.

Jim Nantz, of course, is the master. Bob Costas and Rick Reilly are close behind. These guys could turn Michael Vick into a hard-knock story of redemption and pride, and by the end of the 4 minute segment you'd be in the bathroom trying to put your hair in cornrows. We're suckers for emotion, and we love the underdog.

And if there's one thing we've learned about the American sports fan lately - it's that we love old guys. Tom Watson, Lance Armstrong, Greg Norman, Brett Favre (depending on who you ask).

This past Sunday, at roughly the same time, two of our favorite geezers were center stage - making a run at history: 59 year old Tom Watson was teeing it up with a chance to win the British Open, and 37 year old Lance Armstrong was in the French Alps, 8 seconds off the lead in the Tour de France. However, by the end of the afternoon, it was all over - and both men had their dreams dashed, by villains. Dirty, dirty villains.

Now, these villains probably aren't bad guys at heart...but you can't help but hate Stewart Cink and Alberto Contador a little bit. Stewart Cink wore his green highlighter shirt, and beat Tom Watson in a playoff - robbing us of one of the great sports stories of all time. Contador (Armstrong's teammate) sprinted ahead of Lance during the 15th stage, and Armstrong had no choice but to stay back - and not chase down his teammate. Both were tough to watch. Truthfully, we probably hate Contador more because he's from Spain (and fuck the Spanish, right?)

So these guys are now unintentional villains because they robbed us of our climax at the end of the old-guy-vignette-foreplay. If you're not a fan of golf or cycling - fast forward to the 2010 Superbowl...with Brett Favre on the field with a chance to take the Vikings to a win, and then at the last second they lose on a flea flicker by the goddam Patriots. Fuck Boston too. Spain and Boston can go get bent.

Here are our unintentional villains of the week, with their villainous mustaches:

This may be a running theme, so feel free to submit your weekly picks for 'Villain of the Week'.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Senators and Judges? Top Notch.

An excerpt from today's 'grilling' of potential Justice Sotomayor...

Glad we've got this brain trust locked up.

Bush: 1, Obama: 0

The matchup of the Presidential first pitches goes to W.

Now, Obama's throw last night wasn't completely pathetic - but it definitely reeks of 'throwing like a girl'. No doubt he had a team of people doing their best to beef up his throw in the days leading up to the All Star Game. I know Obama is a basketball guy, and we've all seen the countless 'one-of-us' videos as he drained jump shots while hooping it up during his campaign. But what always baffles me is how a male in this country can be proficient in one sport, yet be mostly inept at other sports. True well rounded athletes can do it all.

I never played organized basketball, but I can still make a layup and drain the occasional 3 pointer. I didn't go to bowling camp, but I can regularly top 160+ on the hardwood (Obama famously bowled a 37 last year). Tennis, golf, skiing, wakeboarding, marathons - east coast mark is ready to roll.

But do you ever see some of these professional basketball players try and pick up a golf club? Baffling how they can be so terrible. How can you be a dominant athlete in one sport, and never learn to throw a spiral with a football? Or these guys that were a star wide receiver, but if you put a tennis racket in their hand they look like Special Olympic rejects. I do like guys like Tony Romo - an NFL starting QB, and also has a 2 handicap on the golf course.

Conclusion: If you're a 50 year old man and you throw like a girl, it's already too late.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Le Tour

About five years ago, I was having dinner with some people at a restaurant in Austin, Texas. It remember it being a fairly fancy place, dimly lit and quiet. About midway through the meal, I took a breather from my steak and took a look around the room. I had to do a double-take, but it turned out Lance Armstrong was sitting about 5 feet from me at the next table - and I hadn't even noticed. We happened to make eye contact for just a moment later in the evening, and I can still recall how steely and cutting his eyes were (no homo).

This encounter happened right about the time he was winning his 6th or 7th tour, and I was fairly star struck - and have followed his career closely ever since.

Fast forward to 2009, and Lance is back on the bike - taking a run at another Tour de France; following a 4 year retirement from cycling. A week into the tour, the 37 year old Texan is in third place - 8 seconds out of the lead, and a serious threat to win another Tour. Not many gave Lance much of a chance to truly be in the mix, but he's showing everyone that he's not just along for the ride.

The 'Versus' channel has live coverage of every stage each morning, starting around 7:30am EST, with replays throughout the day. It's especially nice that the coverage is in HD this year - with some great sweeping helicopter shots of the French and Spanish countryside. I'd encourage you all to take a break from those replays of Law and Order, and find Versus on your dial sometime in the next 2 weeks.

I'll say this for the Tour; it's definitely inspired me to get out on my bike more - I think I've logged about 30 miles this week. In true rube-like fashion - I'm also one of those people sporting a yellow Livestrong bracelet for the next month.

Here's a montage of some of Lance's greatest hits:

Saturday, July 4, 2009

You Stay Classy, America

Today the USA celebrates 233 years of being awesome. American tennis player Andy Roddick got the weekend off to a fine start by stomping Brit Andy Murray in the Semifinals of Wimbledon, shaming Murray in front of his fellow countrymen on his home turf (literally). Then, on the 4th of July, two American Women (Serena vs. Venus) will have their way on the Wimbledon center court - playing for the women's championship. USA! USA!

No word yet if the Brits will be having lemon or milk in their tea (by the way, tea is so damn gay). There is simply no way for a male to drink tea and look manly. But I digress.

Aside from watching Tennis - the rest of the Republic will spend the weekend having a burger, brat, and a steak. We usually wouldn't have all three - but...we'll need our strength if we're going to blow shit up later.

To get everyone in the spirit - we'll continue a July 4th tradition here at east coast mark, and send you off with a photo blog of Awesomeness in America:

No political bashing today - but do take a few minutes this 4th of July to reflect on the great men and great ideas that have made the USA the greatest nation to ever grace the Earth. Take some time to think about if you'd like to have another great 233 years - or if you're ready to follow Obama on the riskiest left turn we've ever seen.

Finally, for you true patriots out there - I highly recommend picking up the book Liberty and Tyranny by Mark Levin. It's been on the best seller list for months, and is a must-read if you'd like a concise and clear viewpoint on the issues facing America today. Also, comes in handy if you'd like to regularly trounce liberals in impromptu debates at cocktail parties.