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Posted: February 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

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Last weekend I spent three LONG days at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois volunteering as a wish escort for Make-A-Wish.   This is the second time I volunteered to escort a wish child and family for a NASCAR wish.  Last year, I knew pratically nothing about NASCAR, except what I knew from the movies Days of Thunder (Rubbin’ is racing) and Talledega Nights (I wanna go fast!).  After a "crash course" all inclusive garage tour and history lesson from ISC Guest Services Director Dean Kurtz, I became an expert at NASCAR.  After seeing how kind and generous the folks from International Speedway Corporation, NASCAR Foundation, Chicagoland Speedway, and the drivers were to the wish kids and their families, I became a huge fan of the sport.  
Jennifer from Canada wished to meet driver Tony Stewart. Lindsey from Ohio wished to meet Dale Earnhardt Jr.  And Pierce from Michigan wished to meet Jeff Gordon.  Instead of driving home each night, I decided to just pay the extortion "special event" rate at the Fairfield Inn, the hotel the families were staying at.  This way I could save driving time, get a little extra sleep time, and also be able to participate in the morning teleconference calls on Thursday and Friday for work.  I can’t believe how much walking around I did this year.  My body was as sore as it was after doing the 2006 Chicago Marathon.  Although I was in a lot of pain, I didn’t care all that much… the wish kids had the time of their life, and that’s the only thing I cared about. 
Yesterday, I had another big Make-A-Wish day.  In the morning, I had to meet Cindy, my wish granting partner to  to drop off Aryln’s "goody-bag" and itinerary for her trip to NYC to go shopping, see a broadway play (Wicked), spend a day at the spa, see a mozart concert, and watch a WNBA basketball game.  Arlyn’s family didn’t have any lugguage, so Cindy and I decided to split the cost of a luggage set for her family.  I hope she has a wonderful trip.
Then in the afternoon, I volunteered to do magic for the CNBF (children’s neuroblastoma cancer foundation) 2009 conference.  I had previously volunteered at this conference before and looked forward to doing so again this year.  I have worked on wishes with children with neuroblastoma before, and support the work that the foundation does to help families that have a child with this terrible disease.  Because of an arthritis flare up, my ankle was swollen up and I was in a lot of pain.  Despite being on crutches and not being able to move very well… I had promised to do magic for the kids, and I couldn’t let them down.  I could have cancelled, but it really wasn’t an option.   I managed to ignore the excruciating pain and did a decent job entertaining the kids.  I know my swollen ankle won’t kill me and the cancer these kids face and the even more painful treatment they face is lot more serious… so I had to be there… the show must go on. The kids had a lot of fun and were amazed, which is all that really matters to me. 
Last night I was so tired, I fell asleep without eating dinner.  If you know me, you understand how tired I was.  I can’t remember the last time I forgot to eat dinner.  Usually, I have a late night fourth meal too. 
It was a very busy weekend for me.  The make-a-wish office called me last Monday, asking if I were availble to escort a child for his wish to meet George Lopez, the actor, commedian, and soon to be television talk show host.  The celebrity meet and greet was supposed to occur on Saturday.  I generally don’t have much planed on Saturdays.  I start the day blowing off half marathon triaining, then go to Eggstacy for breakfast (I’m trying to eat everything on the menu!), get my hair cut, then hang out at the magic shop.  
I really consider it a huge privilege to be asked to escort a wish child on his/her wish, so I of course said yes.   I’m generally known to be a prankster with an admitted immature sense of humor, but when I’m volunteering as a wish escort… I’m 100% focused on making sure the child’s wish is best experience possible.  I know that with celebrity wishes, things pretty much never go as planed, so the escort has to be able to think quickly, improvise, and get things on track.  I’m there to make sure the kid has a great experience, regardless of whether or not I’m having fun.
For example, the meet and greet with George Lopez was supposed to be at 7 PM on Saturday.   On Thursday, the plan changed and it was moved to Friday at 7 PM because George was going to be at the Cubs game on Saturday.  He wanted Dalton, the wish child, to see the show on Friday and then spend the next day with him at the Game because he was going to have a film crew from HBO that is doing a special on him.  So I had to make arrangements to do the escort on Friday afternoon/night and all day Saturday. So the volunteering time mushroomed from about 5 hours to a day and a half.  I’m not a Cubs fan (I’m a die hard White Sox fan), but on Saturday I had to act like a Cubs fan because it is Dalton’s wish.  Because of inter-league play, the Cubs were playing the Indians, so it made it easier cheering for the Cubs because the Indians are in the White Sox’s Division. 
Well on Friday,  after a really long weather delayed limo trip and quick dinner, we got to the Rosemont theater on time at 6:45 PM.  I gave RJ (George’s right hand man) a call to let them know we arrived.  George’s entrourage was stuck in the same traffic we fought through to get there and they were running seriously late. We were escorted to a dressing room in back and waited, and waited, and waited.  The meet and greet was supposed to happen at 7 PM, but it was now well passed that.  The actual show started at 8 PM.  But we were in back still waiting.  I started getting a sinking feeling in my stomach that the meet and greet would be really short; a quick hello and then "I got to go on stage. Nice meeting you."   To pass the time, I kept quizing Dalton on the questions he wanted to ask George and I took a lot of pictures.  Dalton’s mom asked if George was just going to pop in and say hi and that would be it.  I assured her he would never do that. (I really wasn’t sure, but I wasn’t going to let her or Dalton know that.)
Around 8:30 PM, George came in and Dalton’s eyes got really big and he had this great big smile on his face.  Instead of the quick hello, photo, and good-bye I thought may occur, George was cool as a cucumber, gracious and very genuine.  Nothing about the meeting was rushed.   George sat down with Dalton, chatted with him, posed for lots of pictures, and was extremely nice.  George was 100% focused on Dalton and making sure his wish surpassed his expectations.  Even though he was extremely late and needed to change and get ready for the show, which was already in progress, George made sure Dalton got all his questions answered and spent some quality time with him.  He truly made sure Dolton had the time of his life.
I had heard George was a truly nice person, extremely hard working, and completely magnanimous when it comes to his fans.   He was fantastic and treated Dalton with geniune kindness.  I remember reading that George hates Eric Estrada, because when he met him as a teenager, Eric refused to shake his hand.  That really ticked George off, and he vowed to never treat a fan like that.  George knew that Dalton could have wished for anything, and he wished to meet him. 
Dalton had gone through a lot in his young life.  Having fought through lymphoma, multiple operations and nearly dying several times from complications and infections.  He spent a lot of time in the hospital, and one of the things that kept him going was watching the George Lopez show on TV. George made him laugh, and that kept him alive.  Now that Dalton is hopefuly through the worst of his medical problems, he wanted to meet the man whose comedy helped him survive.  Being able to be there and help facillitate his wish truly made me feel good.  Having the opportunityh to meet and find out how nice a person George Lopez is was a wonderful bonus.  The show that night was very, very funny.   I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time.  I now understand how George’s humor helped save Dalton’s life.  
The next day at the Cub’s game, an HBO film crew was following George around for a special he is taping.  He had invited Dolton and his family to take part and hang out with him in the Suite he had at the game.  George threw out a ceremonial pitch before the game and sang "Take me out to the Ball Park" during the 7th inning stretch.  He nailed the pitch (he said he had to because the fans will boo you if you throw it in the dirt) and he nailed the song for the 7th inning (did it just like the great Harry Carey used to do).  The fans really gave him a loud roar of approval.  The funnest part of the day was when the desert cart came to the suite.  George went over and started tossing candy apples, cookies, and other goodies down to the fans sitting in the box seats below.  They loved him for it!  Now, it would have been one thing if the food he handed out was free, but it wasn’t.   He had to pay for it all, but he didn’t care (Last time he did it, it cost him $300!)   The fun he had was worth every penny to him.  He made a lot of friends that day.
George has a new talk show debuting this fall on TBS.  At the comedy show on Friday, they played some clips from the pilot, and it was very entertaining.  I’ve grown tired of Conan O’Brien and David Letterman.  The clips from Georges show were fresh and hip, and he didn’t sit behind a desk.  Instead, he and his guests say in a nice big lounge chairs right up front of the stage and he took questions from the audience.  I look forward to seeing his show when it debuts in the fall on TBS.  I hope you tune in too and support George.      
UPDATE:  I added a picture of some more vintage coffee cans I have acquired through the dreaded "buy it now" option on eBay.  I don’t have the patience to wait for an auction to end… so I ocassionally just pay the buy it now price if it is an option. I have some bids on others and another "buy it now" vintage coffee can is on its way. 
So last week I’m flipping through my hundreds of channels of Direct TV programming and can’t find anything I want to watch… at least not anything that I don’t have to pay on-demand to watch in four hour increments.  After several minutes of channel surffing,  I came across the 2007 Rob Reiner directed film, "The Bucket List" starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson.  I didn’t see it when it was in theaters, because it didn’t really sound all that appealing, a film about two guys that are going to die.  How morbid.  But at 2 AM on a Wednesday night, going up against Paid Infomercials and re-runs of shows I’ve seen already, it was my best "free" option.  I put the remote control down and began to watch.
The movie is about two terminally ill patients who meet after being diagnosed with cancer.  Carter, played by Morgan Freeman, is an amature historian, who because he was "broke, black, and with a baby on the way" never made it past working at the McCreath Body Shop.  Edward, played by Jack Nicholson, is a four time divorced billionaire health care tycoon, with more money than he knows what to do with.  Anyway, to summarize, the two, knowing they are going to die soon, break out of the hospital and end up taking a round the world vacation doing everything they wanted to do before they "kick the bucket."   Not to give too much away and spoil it for those that haven’t seen this movie, at the end of the film, the two friends, after they kick the bucket, end up interred in their own vintage tin can of "Chock Full of Nuts" coffee. 
After seeing the film, I thought to myself, yeah, if you’re going to kick the bucket, why not spend eternity in an old coffee can as an urn?  I thought that it would be a pretty funny thing to do.  So I got on the internet in search of the same exact vintage Chock Full of Nuts Coffee Tin used in the film.  Apparently, these things aren’t all that easy to find.  Turns out lots of other people that saw the movie had the same idea, and even the coffee’s website has stories of people looking for the vintage can to bury their terminally ill family members and, sadly, not being able to find one. The vintage "Chock Full of Nuts Coffee Can" market has all but dried up since the Bucket List came out.  But with my hours and hours of experience doing Internet Searches… I finally located one of these rare cans for sale and quickly snapped it up.  Compared to the asking prices for vintage coffee cans of other brands on eBay, I got this thing for an incredibily good deal of $12.  (Asking price for other vintage cans start around $30).   I found my vintage "Chock Full of Nuts" Coffee Can on etsy.com,  an online marketplace for things "hand made."  I’m pretty sure this vintage coffee can wasn’t hand made.  But I’m not going to complain to the etsy police.
Anyway, I can rest easy now that I have my very own vintage Chock Full of Nuts coffee can, the same exact kind used in the movie.  I can imagine that in time (hopefuly not any time soon), that my Chock full of Nuts tin can will be Chock full of Oliver.  Instead of ending up on top of a freezing mountain somewhere in the Himalayas, I hope to "witness something truly majestic" someplace warmer… and with a really truly majestic mountain view.  Perhaps somewhere on ipanema beach looking up at the mountains surrounding Rio de Janeiro or maybe somewhere else with an even more majestic view of mountains, like the dressing room in Le Crazy Horse Paris.  Where ever I end up, I guess the can needs to be labled, "Dead guy inside" so nobody decides open it up and drink me.  Then again, that would be pretty funny too. Liquid Oliver.  That is what the guys at the magic shop re-named a popular stinky prank product called "Liquid Ass".  If someone actually made Liquid Oliver, I wonder if it would smell/taste the same.  Depending what I had as my last meal… it just might. 
While in Dallas for work a couple weeks ago for work, the swine flu hysteria started.  The first confirmed death in the US occured in the area.  On TV, every newscast covering the breaking story showed scene after scene of frightened people in Mexico City wearing surgical masks to protect themselves from this new and possibly deadly virus that could possibly kill millions and millions of people and end all human life on earth as we know it.  The newspapers ran articles on N95 masks.  Serveral articles stated they really don’t protect you, so hoarding the masks is a waste of time.  They said washing your hands is better.  Being the cynic that I am, I figured that the authors of those articles are only saying this to deter people from buying the masks so they have a fighting chance to get their orders in and delivered before the killer pandemic kills all the suckers who listened to their deceptive advice and didn’t get any of the N95 respirators.  
Realizing that the news media has conspired to screw me over in their attempt to deprive me of my one and only chance to get these life saving N95 masks, I panicked.  I panicked big time.  I got on amazon.com and started ordering all the N95 respirator masks I could find.  I ordered from four different sources, figuring that if I’m freaked out and buying them, a whole bunch of other people must be trying to get their masks orders in also.  I was right.  One order was canceled the next day, saying they were out of stock, even though the website indicated they were definitely in stock when I ordered them.   I received another email saying another order was delayed because of the unbelievable surge in demand, and then later I got another email stating the delayed order was cancelled because they could not obtain new stock to fill my order (it was a big order of 6 boxes, 120 masks).  In response, I got on the Internet and started ordering more masks from even more vendors.  Well, it turns out I was smart to order from as many vendors as I could, because lots of sellers are out of stock and have no definite time frame in filling all the backorders.  Although most sellers screwed me over, about 1/3 of them did ship me my product. I now have approxiemately 200 surgical masks and another 120 N95 masks, and more orders are coming in each day.   I only hope what I do have is enough to last me though this pandemic.  
While researching N95 respirators, I discovered there are even more powerful and effective respirators called P100′s.  Unlike N95′s which only filter out 95% of the particulates, the P100′s filter out nearly 100%!    The P100′s are more expensive, but what the heck… You can only die from the swine flu once.  So I ordered 20 of these masks… which came in a big giant box.  The P100 masks cost 8 times more than the inferior N95, but they offer significantly more protection. I plan to use these bad boys when everyone around me is dropping dead like flies.    
I also considered ordering a reuseable, full faceplate, P100 respirator, but figured that my money is better spent obtaining a HAZMAT suit.  Ok, I admit, I did look into purchasing a Level A, vapor-tight total encapsulation HAZMAT suit, with a NIOSH-certified SCBA.  But further research uncovered the fact that you can’t really wear these things for more than 15 - 20 minutes at time, as the air supply in the SCBA is limited.  A level A HAZMAT suit is really designed for short term use in extremely harzardous enviroments, like a chemical spill or fire.  Another deterent is cost, as these things go for about $5,000 a piece, so I’d need 72 of them to get through a full day at a cost of $360,000 dollars.  That’s a lot of money.  Knowing full well that a full Level A HAZMAT suit cannot practially be worn 24/7 to protect me from the H1N1 swine flu pandemic, I ordered a more economical HAZMAT training suit, which simulates the look and feel of an actual HAZMAT suit, but offers absolutely no protection at all.  The training HAZMAT suit I bought looks pretty real, so I’m hoping that when I do don it, it would at least scare or intimidate the swine flu virus and make it decide to attack someone else.   If you can’t actually protect yourself with a real HAZMAT suit, it is better to at least look as if you are protected with a training HAZMAT suit than to not wear a fake HAZMAT suit at all.
From Costco.com, I also ordered a 7 day emergency food supply.  The Alpineaire Food emergency 7 day gourmet food kit says it is naturally good food Anytime/Anywhere.  Under ideal conditions, the freeze dried food pouches can have up to a 15 year shelf life, supposedly taste delicious, and only need hot water to prepare in 10 minutes, or in an emergency, cold water can be used to re-hydrate the food in 30 minutes.  I’m sure that if I had to eat these things in an end-of-the world scenario, they will taste absolutely delicious because they are labeled as gourmet.  With the stockpile of bottled water I have left over from the Y2K disaster preperations I made 9 years ago and my trusty zippo lighter, I’ll be eating fine food when the world ends.
I also have a pretty good stock of purell hand sanitizer and lysol (both aerosol spray and wipes).  I pretty much slather the Purell all over myself on a routine basis so I constantly have a nice layer of it shielding me from all germs and viruses.   Many people believe Howard Hughes was mentally ill at the end of his life… I think he was a genious, well ahead of his time and doing what needs to be done to protect himself from all the nasty microbes that will eventually kill us all. 
The great thing about my swine flu pandemic preperations and survival plan… it pretty much is the same thing I need to survive a zombie infestation, except my zombie attack survival plan also includes an aluminum baseball bat to knock the heads off any zombie stupid enough to attack me.  When it comes to swine flu and zombie infestations,  I’m pretty much covered.
Ok.  I haven’t updated my blog in years.  People keep asking me, "When are you going to update your blog?"  I’m tired of hearing it.  So I’m back.   I’m going to start blogging again.   But I guess there’s this big gap.  What have I been doing since August 27, 2006?  Let me explain, No, there is too much. Let me sum up. (quote from The Princess Bride, one of my favorite movies).
Yes. I finished the 2006 marathon.  More importantly, I helped raise a crap load of money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society for research for a cure for blood cancers.  Although I was certain I was going to finish in last, I didn’t.  I was the 31,351 runner to finish.  I figured out that I’m not built to go 26.2 miles.  13.1 is more my distance. I have finished five half-marathons since then.  I plan on doing the inaugural Chicago Rock n Roll half marathon this August.
A month and a half prior to the 2006 Marathon, I got laid off.   This was the first time I’d ever been out of work.  It freaked me out not having a job, but it really was a blessing in disguise.  It gave me more time to train for the marathon.  I suddenly had a lot of free time on my hands, so I didn’t have any excuses anymore.  When I wasn’t job hunting, I was either volunteering or training.  If it wasn’t for my goal of finishing the marathon, I don’t know if I would have made it through the stress of finding a job.  Turns out I wasn’t out of work very long.  I started my new job the Tuesday after Marathon Sunday.  I took that Monday in between to recover and do another WWE Wrestling wish escort for Make a Wish.   It took me a good week to fully recover. 
I spent a year working for a big bank negotiating IT contracts.  When the subprime mortgage crisis came up in late 2007… I figured I better get out of the financial industry.  I contacted a headhunting firm to start lining up interviews.  My first interview was with an IT Outsourcing firm.   It went very well and I accepted their offer.  I’m still working for them now, and I love it.  They treat me well and value my input.  The hours are long, but because I’m actually happy at what I’m doing, I don’t mind it at all.
As for volunteering.  I’m still on the ADA Diabetes Walk Committee, on the board for HOBY Youth Leadership, and volunteering with Make-A-Wish.  Sunday before last I did magic for Children’s Memorial Hospital Organ Transplant Celebrate Life party at Brookefield Zoo.  I truly enjoy doing magic at these events.  I have a lot of fun watching the looks of astonishment on the kid’s faces.  And last Sunday, I volunteered at the Wish Ball.  It always is a late night, but I enjoy helping out at this event.  I’m going to run the Rock N’ Roll Half with TNT this year.
The swine flu has got me freaked out.  I was in Dallas all last week for work, where the first death in the US occured due to swine flu. All week I saw pictures of people wearing masks in Mexico.  I started to panic and got on the Internet and started ordering N95 Masks.  I knew there was going to be a run on these things, so I ordered from four different suppliers, figuring that there will be problems getting my orders filled.  I was right.  One order was cancelled and another is delayed.  I ordered an emergency food supply kit from Costco.  While surfing the web learning how to protect myself from swine flu,  I discovered that there are even better respirator masks called P100′s.  They cost more, but what the heck.  What good is money if you’re dead?  So I ordered some of those masks too.  
Well… not much of a summary.  But that’s all you’re going to get.  No sense in talking about the past.  Blogs are about what’s going on now.   Right now it’s 12:35 AM, and I’m going to bed.

Nothing sweet about this 16

Posted: August 27, 2006 in TEAM in Training

All last week, my feet had been hurting from the last long run… which was only 12 miles.  That session was a cut-back week, where we do less mileage.  Because of my trip to Florida, I didn’t do all the base miles during the week that I was supposed to do before the last long run.  So my feet have been hurting all last week.  Beginning a sixteen mile training run in pain probably isn’t a good idea, so I decided to take it nice and slow (slower than usual) and see how it goes.  My goal was to just go the distance, no matter how long it would take.  The point of the long runs is to get time on your legs to get them used to all the stress of a marathon without injuring yourself. 

Well… the farthest I’ve gone at the Waterfall Glen Forrest Preserve is from the Northgate Trail Head to the Outdoor Education Parking Lot, which is just a tenth of a mile farther than a half marathon at 13.2 miles.  Today I’d be going almost all the way around the 9.5 mile trail, going to the 8 mile marker and then turning around and heading back (counter-clockwise) to achieve the sixteen mile distance.  This trail has a lot of nice long descents and gentle hills, but they suck a whole lot coming back, as those easy descents become ass kicking climbs. 

When I finally got to the eight mile maker… I took a picture of it with my camera phone. I have a picture of every mile marker, except number 9, which I haven’t seen yet because I haven’t gone far enough to see it.  As I stood there at the 8 mile marker, I thought about continuing on clockwise around the trail, as from where I stood, my car was only 1.5 miles away going clock-wise on the trail, but if I turned around and went back the way I came, it was eight miles away.  I decided to do the eight miles, a decision I knew I would eventually curse and regret, but if I’m going to do 26.2 miles in October, I have to be able to do 16 miles now.

My feet hurt pretty much the whole time on the trail. But by mile 12, my feet really started to bother me and I cursed my decision to do the full 16, when I turned around at mile marker 8.  Instead of a dull, constant pain in my feet, it turned into sharp, piercing pain.  Each step felt like walking on pins and needles.  I had no choice but to march onward.  They can’t bring an ambulance on the trail, so I’d have to make it back to the trail head all by myself. By mile fourteen, I had to bite my tongue to help dull the pain in my feet.  I know those last two miles of the trail very well, and knew exactly where I was and how much farther it would be to make it back.  By the last mile, I felt like a glacier… moving so slowly you can’t even tell.  Each step was, in medical terminology, "exquisite tenderness". The last mile hurt more than the first 15 all together.  When I finally made it back to the trail head, I had no feeling in my legs.  When I got home, I lay down on the couch and just stared at my dog Happy, who sat next to me and stared back.  I hurt so bad, I couldn’t even fall asleep. Normally my dog would beg me to take him for a walk, but he could tell I was in a lot of pain, so he just sat there looking at me.  That’s pretty much how I spent the afternoon, trying to recover. In the evening, I took an ice batch.  It was freezing cold and I suffered some extreme shrinkage… like a turtle, the head was definitely inside the shell.  

Now it is Sunday morning, the day after, and remarkably, I feel a whole lot better (but haven’t fully recoved from the ice bath, my nuts are still somewhere near my kidneys, I’m hoping they’ll drop down to normal sometime today)..  I’m still sore, but I’m not in extreme pain anymore. Today I’m supposed to do an hour of cross training.  I wonder if sitting on the couch and watching preseason football all afternoon counts?   Oh well, next week the fun begins again, and we get to do 18 miles.  If I felt like I was going to die after just 16 miles this week, I really wonder how I’m going to feel after 18 this Saturday?  Going the full 26.2 still seems like a fantasy at this point… but the Chicago Marathon is a pretty flat course (no hills!) and it will be significantly cooler in October.  (At least that’s what I keep telling myself).