Monday, June 30, 2008

Measure Up Monday

I saw Janet off at the airport this morning. I'll be following in 5 days. I don't have access to a scale or measuring tape, so there's no data update today. I've been trying to at least eat sensibly. I'll be happy if I return home with no gain. I was walking to and from work last week, and we walked and climbed a lot of stairs this weekend, so hopefully that will balance the food and wine we enjoyed. This week has me staying at a different hotel, that is not walking distance from where I'll be working, so I may need to just get out and do some walking on my own to keep in shape. I return home Saturday. I'll give you an update on my weight the following Monday.

Sunday, June 29, 2008


Today we drove to Salzberg Austria, the birhtplace of W. A. Mozart. We bought a Salzberg guide book, and took ourselves on a self guided tour. Besides being Mozart's home, and the setting for much of "The Sound of Music", we found that Salzberg is a town full of churches. There are 14 catholic churches on the map in Salzberg, and we visited 6 of them.

A church

Another church

There is also an ancient fortress, the Festung Hohensalzburg rising above the city. The fortress dates to the 9th century. We toured the fortress and were treated to some nice views of the city below.

Fortress above Salzberg

View from fortress

We stopped for lunch at a popular restaurant near St Peter's church, and ate in a pleasant open courtyard.

Lunch at St. Peters Restaurant

One of the sights we had on our agenda was a fountain called the Rezidenzbrunnen, but unfortunately there was some kind of festival taking place in Salzberg, and the fountain was surrounded by food vendor's tents. We did see some other nice sights though.

Rezidenzbrunnen with vendor tents

Other interesting site :)

Janet leaves for home tomorrow morning. It was a brief stay, but we took in a lot.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Castles in the Air

Today we embarked on a castles adventure. We drove to a little town called Hohenschwangau that hosts 2 castles. The drive was interesting. I had asked directions at the hotel desk, but my rental car has a built in navigation system, so we entered our destination, and followed the machine. I got concerned when it directed us right past the entrance to A95 which is what the hotel desk clerk told me to take, but I figured it was just taking us on an alternate route. We drove quite a while, and I knew the castles were in the Alps, but we weren't seeing any mountains. At some point we stopped at a gas station and bought a map, but we couldn't find where we were on the map. So I went back inside, and with a few remembered words of German, asked "Wo sind wir?" (where are we) That was a mistake, because the gas station cashier began to answer me in rapid German that I couldn't catch a word of. I slowed her down with some English questions, and she showed me on the map where we were, and where we were going. It turns out the nav system was right after all, and we didn't have much farther to go. We saw some really nice scenic views while driving there.

Scenic views enroute to Hohenschwangau

We arrived at Hohenschwangau and bought tickets to visit both of the castles. The first castle, Schloss Hohenschwangau, is the older one, and was about a 15-20 minute walk up the mountainside. Once you arrive at the castle courtyard, you wait for your tour number to come up and they take you on a guided tour inside. The yellow colored castle was the home of the Bavarian King Maximilian II, along with his wife Marie, and sons Ludwig and Otto.

Schloss Hohenschwangau

View from the courtyard.

After the Schloss Hohenschwangau tour, we walked back down to the town, and started up the walk to Neuschwanstein castle. Schloss Neuschwanstein was built by Maximilian's son Ludwig after he became King Ludwig II of Bavaria. Ludwig was a big fan of Richard Wagner, and dedicated the castle to him. There are 3 options for getting to the castle, Bus, horse drawn carriage, or walk. The bus and horse carriage both only get you close to the castle, but you must still walk some distance to get to the castle entrance. We opted to walk the whole way. The walk (hike) takes about 45 minutes, and is up a rather steep mountainside. But its worth going up to see the castle, it is really impressive.

We're getting up there HOW?

When you arrive, you once again wait in the courtyard for your tour number, and are then taken on a guided tour of the inside. There are some beautiful rooms and furnishings inside, but the most beautiful part are the views through the windows of the surrounding mountains and countryside. After we toured the castle we stopped at a small cafe within the castle and had a small bite to eat.
View from Schloss Neuschwanstein

The view would be breathtaking, if you had any breath left after the walk up.

Lunch in the castle, just like Disney

Near the castle is a bridge called Marianbrücke, named for Ludwig's mother Marie. It is about another 10 minute walk (uphill) to get there, but it is worth it for the magnificent view of Schloss Neuschwanstein it offers.

View from Marianbrüke

After walking back down (more difficult than it sounds) we set the nav system to take us to the town of Garmisch. It guided us along a very scenic route, but must have had an error in its program because it took us to a road that definitely was not going to bring us to Garmisch. So we reset for Munich, and returned to the hotel.

It was late, when we got back, but we wanted to try and have dinner in the rotating tower restaurant at the Munich Olympic Park, so we headed over there. When we got to the tower restaurant they told us the kitchen was already closed, so we stayed for a drink in the bar, and headed back to the hotel, hoping we could still get something to eat there. The hotel kitchen was closed too, so dinner tonight was a bag of pretzels Janet had left over from her flight. I'm looking forward to breakfast. :)

Friday, June 27, 2008

Munich Run Around

Janet arrived this morning, all smiles from her delightful flight over the Atlantic. Well, maybe not. But she was smiling about something. Could it be seeing me? I greeted her with a cold bottle of Evian, a rose, and a couple of croissants. I think she appreciated all three. I drove her back to the hotel, where she unpacked and freshened up. Then, in true whirl wind weekend fashion, we headed for Munich city center to take in as many sights as we could.

We started with a visit to St. Peter's church, near the Marianplatz. Then we walked over to the Marianplatz, which is in the heart of Munich, and the location of the Rathaus (city hall). The Rathaus has a glockenspeil that plays 3 times a day, but we managed to miss all 3.

Janet by the Rathaus in Marianplatz

We visited the Frauenkirche (Cathedral of our Blessed Lady), the largest church in Munich. It is a major landmark, and its bell towers are recognized in almost every commercial picture of Munich.

Frauenkirche bell tower

From the Frauenkirche, we walked to the Hofbrauhaus. Originally a brewery, it is now a famous beerhall/restaurant/beergarden. We enjoyed a 0.5l of beer and a big soft pretzel there as an afternoon snack.

Enjoying beer and pretzels at the Hofbrauhaus

After that we walked to the Englisher Garten, a large city park in the middle of Munich. It is larger than Central Park in New York. It's very pretty, and has a rapid stream running through it, where we saw something I'd never heard of before: river surfing. There is a point where the water enters the park from under a bridge and creates a standing wave that some young men were actually surfing on. There are plenty of wide open green spaces in the park, one with a horse track where we saw riders actually running their horses.

From the English Garden, we went to the Odeonsplatz, a large beautiful square bordered by the Theatinerkirche. The Theatinerkirche is unique with its bright yellow exterior.

Yellow Theatinerkirche bell towers

Prominent in the Odeonsplatz is a large arched structure called the Feldherrnhalle. On the other side of the Odeonsplatz is the Hofgarten, another beautiful landscaped garden that we visited next. It contains a central domed structure where an excellent guitarist happened to be playing. We sat on the grass and listened for a while.

From the Hofgarten, we headed back to the center of town, and had dinner in an outdoor cafe in the middle of the Marianplatz. Janet enjoyed a tomato and mozzarella pizza, while I sampled some bavarian sausage and sauerkraut. We washed it down with some weinschorle, which I found out later is white wine mixed with soda water.

By the time we finished with dinner, it was after 9pm, so we headed back to the hotel. We stopped in the hotel lobby bar for a couple of drinks and some Apfelstrudel with ice cream. It seemed like a perfect finish to a long and busy day.

Tomorrow? Maybe Neuschwanstein.

Joke Friday

An older, tired-looking dog wandered into my yard; I could tell from his collar and well-fed belly that he had a home and was well taken care of. He calmly came over to me, I gave him a few pats on his head; he then followed me into my house, slowly walked down the hall, curled up in the corner and fell asleep. An hour later, he went to the door, and I let him out. The next day he was back, greeted me in my yard, walked inside and resumed his spot in the hall and again slept for about an hour. This continued off and on for several weeks. Curious I pinned a note to his collar: 'I would like to find out who the owner of this wonderful sweet dog is and ask if you are aware that almost every after noon your dog comes to my house for a nap.' The next day he arrived for his nap, with a different note pinned to his collar: 'He lives in a home with 6 children, 2 under the age of 3 - he's trying to catch up on his sleep. Can I come with him tomorrow?'

Thursday, June 26, 2008

If it's Thursday, this must be Munich

I went to dinner around 7pm last night, and it was so nice out on my way home from work that I thought I'd sit outside on the terrace again. I was surprised to find it pouring down rain when I got to the terrace doors. I hadn't heard a thing from my room. So I ended up in the regular dining room. I had an interesting dish called Münchner Schweinekrustenbraten mit Dunklebiersauce. Which is Munich style pork roast and gravy. I had a nice riesling along with it. I'm trying not to overeat, but I'm not exactly dieting either. I've walked nearly 2 miles a day since I've been here, so I'm hoping that helps.

I caught the tail end of the soccer game on TV, and Germany has made it into the finals. I've also been catching up on some reading this trip. There's a book by Cynthia Lennon called "John" that I've been meaning to read since Janet got it a while back. It's turning out to be an good read, with some interesting views into the lives of the Beatles before they were famous.

Today was a bit cooler, and cloudy. It rained during the night, and streets were wet when I left for the office today. But I walked anyway. Today was a busy day, testing a new instance of the product database, and finding quite a few problems that need to be fixed. I ended up working late. I was invited to dinner with a group from the McDonalds office that were hosting some other visitors from the Netherlands. I arrived about an hour late, but they were still on drinks and appetizers, so I made the dinner. It was at a Greek restaurant near my hotel. The menu was in Greek, with German translations, so I was totally lost. Fortunately, the person to my left came to my rescue and translated the menu for me. I ended up with a kind of meat loaf with feta cheese in the center. It was pretty good.

Tomorrow morning Janet arrives. I have arranged to have Friday off so I can pick her up from the airport, and we can get started on sightseeing. I don't know how much blogging time I'll have over the weekend, but I may post a few pictures.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Munich Mittwoch

I had an excellent dinner at the hotel restaurant last night. The restaurant has a wooden deck terrace area with a nice courtyard view. The weather was beautiful, perfect for an outdoor dinner.
I think I've adjusted to the time change. I went to bed around midnight, and slept through until my alarm went off at 6:45. It was another beautiful day today so I walked to and from the office again. The walk takes me through a nice residential area with a park on one side. We had lunch at the employee cafeteria again, and the chicken wings were pretty good.

While walking to and from work, I've noticed many of the cars have German flags flying from the windows. I thought the Germans must be very patriotic, until I was talking with one of the German guys today and found out that Germany is playing Turkey tonight in the Euro Soccer Semi Finals. I guess there will be some partying if they win.

The work is going good. I expect to be able to take some free time to enjoy the sights Munich has to offer this weekend. I'll take some pictures and post them here.
Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Munich Report

Today was my first day of working here in Munich. I arrived around 11:30 AM yesterday, but it was about 2:30 by the time I actually arrived at the McDonald's Germany offices. After introductions and a tour of their facility, I left there for my hotel. The hotel is a Holiday Inn, situated on a shady tree lined street near a residential area. I went out for a walk yesterday evening, and found a chinese restaurant not far away where I had dinner. I haven't quite adjusted to the jet lag yet. I got to bed around 11:30pm, but slept restlessly, and woke up at 4:30am unable to go back to sleep. Hopefully tonight I'll start adjusting to Mitteleuroäische Sommerzeit (Central Europe Daylight Time).

The weather is very pleasant here, so this morning I decided to walk to the McD office. It is only about 0.8 miles from the hotel, about the same as walking from Gram's to the little league field. It was beautiful walking back to the hotel as well, but I carried an umbrella just in case.

The MCD offices are nice. There is a McDonald's restaurant right next door, but they also have a cafeteria where employees can buy a discounted hot lunch. We ate there today, and I think it was only about 2.5€. The I/T guy I'm working with said he's been going there for 2 weeks, and the entree has been different every time.

We got a lot accomplished today. Tomorrow we'll be running a trial upgrade on the lab system. How that goes will be an indicator of how the real thing will be in the restaurant next week. Stand by for a new Munich Report in a day or two.

Monday, June 23, 2008


(Measure Up Monday Phase 2 Week 1)

I'm off on a trip to Munich. My plane left Sunday evening, and didn't arrive here until Monday afternoon, so I'm posting Sunday morning's weight for today. I didn't take tape measurments, but I'm at 216, which is 3 pounds down from last Monday, and 1 pound under the target I had set and reached on 6/12. The Lose Weight by Blogging plan still seems to be working.

My flight here to Munich had ups and downs. The downside was that I was delayed for 2 hours leaving O'Hare. Fortunately, I had booked a direct flight to Munich, so I didn't have to worry about missing a connection. When we finally boarded, I made my way to my seat, only to find a lady sitting in it, talking on her cellphone. I was worried that she had settled in the window seat instead of the aisle, and I was going to have to make a stink about wanting the window, when she realized she was in 9A instead of 8A. I said, "No problem, I'll just sit in 8A", and started putting my carryon away when the flight attendant came up and said "Mr Hamilton?, We're moving you up to 1F." Cool! First Class, and a window seat to boot! (often those complimentary upgrades are the untaken center aisle seats) The first class seats were not the fancy lie-flat seats that some international flights have, but were essentially the same style seat as in business, with a little more room, and a notch higher level of service. (the flight purser introduces himself, shakes your hand, and offers you a drink) After take-off, I had a nice meal, a couple of glasses of wine, and read for a while. Then decided to see if I could get some sleep. The wine must have helped, because I managed to sleep through most of the flight. I woke up when they were serving breakfast.

I'll be here in Munich for 2 weeks, and I'll try to post some comments about my trip from time to time, so check back occasionally if you're interested.

DateWeightGain/LossUpper WaistLower Waist

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

YouTube Update

YouTube has added a new feature called "annotations", where you can add notes or messages that appear while your video is being watched. I played around with it a little bit and annotated my "Flowers of Edinburgh" video. Take a look if you care to.

Question of the day: Would you buy tickets to see Michael Jackson in Las Vegas?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Measure Up Monday - Phase II

Thursday last week I hit a weight of 217 pounds, the 20 pound loss I declared as a target back on March 31st. This weekend I rested on those laurels a bit too much, and my weight crept back up as I enjoyed extra pizza on Friday, margaritas and delicious catering at Saturday's graduation party, and BBQ chicken with potent pina coladas on Father's day. But no matter, I know I can get back on track.

Losing 20 pounds has made a big difference in how I feel, and how my clothes fit. I don't have to stretch my shirts before buttoning the middle buttons any more. And if you can imagine having a 20# bag of kitty litter, or 18# sack of charcoal strapped to your belly 24/7, and then finally taking it off, you'll have an idea of how much better it feels.

But I'm not stopping here. I'm still overweight by any standard, so I'm setting a new target. While taking off 20 pounds isn't easy for anyone, those were the easy pounds. Continuing to lose is going to be harder and slower. So, I'm setting my new goal a little farther out. My next target is to get under 200 pounds. I don't think I've been under 200 in 8 years, since the summer of 2000 when I last got serious about getting fit. September 23rd has always been a significant date for Janet and me, so I'm going to use that as my target date. Based on this morning's weight, that's 20 pounds in 14 weeks, or about 1.5 pounds a week, which I think is a reasonable pace.

I'll keep posting the weekly updates because I think the Monday morning weigh and tell helps me avoid slipping back on the weekend.

DateWeightGain/LossUpper WaistLower Waist

Friday, June 13, 2008

Joke Friday

In My Day...

When I was a kid, adults used to bore me to tears with their tedious diatribes about how hard things were when they were growing up; what, with walking twenty-five miles to school every morning ... uphill both ways, yada, yada!

And I remember promising myself that when I grew up, there was no way in hell I was going to lay a bunch of crap like that on my kids about how hard I had it and how easy they've got it!

But now that I'm over the ripe old age of thirty, I can't help but look around and notice the youth of today. You've got it so easy! I mean, compared to my childhood, you live in a damn Utopia!

And I hate to say it but you kids today you don't know how good you've got it.

I mean, when I was a kid we didn't have The Internet. If we wanted to know something, we had to go to the damn library and look it up ourselves, in the card catalog!!

There was no email! We had to actually write somebody a letter -- with a pen! Then you had to walk all the way across the street and put it in the mailbox and it would take like a week to get there!

There were no MP3s, and no Napster! If you wanted to steal music, you had to hitchhike to the damn record store and shoplift it yourself! Or you had to wait around all day to tape it off the radio and the DJs usually talk over the beginning and messed it all up.

We didn't have fancy crap like Call Waiting. If you were on the phone and somebody else called they got a busy signal -- and that's it. And we didn't have fancy Caller ID Boxes either. When the phone rang, you had no idea who it was. It could be your school, your mom, your boss, your bookie, your drug dealer, a collections agent, you just didn't know! You had to pick it up and take your chances, mister. Don't even get me started on cell phones.

We didn't have any fancy Sony PlayStation video games with high resolution 3-D graphics, we had the Atari 2600 with games like "Space Invaders" and "asteroids". And the graphics sucked -- your guy was a little square. You actually had to use your imagination! And there were no multiple levels or screens, it was just one screen forever. And you could never win. The game just kept getting harder and harder and faster and faster until you died! Just like life!

Sure, we had cable television, but back then that was only like 15 channels and there was no onscreen menu and no remote control! You had to use a little book called TV Guide to find out what was on! You were screwed when it came to channel surfing! You had to get off your little hind end and walk over to the TV to change the channel. And there was no Cartoon Network either! You could only get cartoons on Saturday morning. Do you hear what I'm saying!?! We had to wait all week for cartoons, you spoiled little ingrates!

And we didn't have microwaves, if we wanted to heat something up we had to use the stove or go build a frigging fire -- imagine that!

If we wanted popcorn, we had to use that stupid Jiffy Pop thing and shake it over the stove forever like an idiot.

That's exactly what I'm talking about! You kids today have got it too easy. You're spoiled!

You guys wouldn't have lasted five minutes back in 1978! Oh yeah, and a "seatbelt" was Mom throwing her arm across your chest every time she hit the brakes.

Bonus Joke
I missed a couple of Joke Fridays, so here's an extra one.

A guy is 71 years old and loves to fish. He was sitting in his boat the other day when he heard a voice say, "Pick me up."
He looked around and couldn't see any one. He thought he was dreaming when he heard the voice say again, "Pick me up." He looked in the water and there, floating on the top, was a frog.
The man said, "Are you talking to me?"
The frog said, "Yes, I'm talking to you. Pick me up. Then, kiss me and I'll turn into the most beautiful woman you have ever seen. I'll make sure that all your friends are envious and jealous because you will have me as your bride."
The man looked at the frog for a short time, reached over, picked it up carefully, and placed it in his front breast pocket.
Then the frog said, "What, are you nuts? Didn't you hear what I said? I said kiss me and I will be your beautiful bride."
He opened his pocket, looked at the frog and said, "Nah, at my age I'd rather have a talking frog."

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Measure Up Monday - Special Edition

At the end of March, at a weight of 237 pounds, I announced a goal to lose 20 pounds in 10 weeks. Sticking to an eating plan that would allow that to happen has been a challenge. Initially, I counted every calorie, but after a while, I got to where I knew how much food I could eat, and still stay on track. In fact, as I got used to eating less, my stomach seemed to feel full sooner, and I would use that cue to know when to stop eating a restaurant meal before I finished it. I've done without a lot of things I like. I can't remember the last time I ate a Big Mac. But I've also still enjoyed pizza night, birthday cakes, and the occasional libation.

So, after 73 days, I'm happy to announce that when I stepped on the scale today, it read 217 pounds.

I celebrated with a Big Mac for lunch.
No fries with that.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Measure Up Monday - Week 10

Yeah, I know. I forgot Joke Friday again. Deal with it.

We left Wednesday night last week, and enjoyed a few days away at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennesee. While there, I indulged in some good food and drink, and even some guilty pleasures I have been denying myself lately, like jelly beans and twizzlers. I did at least try to be sensible, and avoid over indulgence. But then we came home to a pizza and birthday cake celebration. So this morning, I fully expected to see a weight gain on the scale. I was surprised to see that I "broke even", with no loss, but no gain either.

We have one of those digital readout scales that reports your weight in 10ths of a pound, but I don't really trust its accuracy at the 0.1 pound level. I can get on and off the scale multiple times and get a different fractional amount each time. I could go for the best 2 out of 3, or 4 out of 7, depending on how many trials it takes to get the reading I want. :) So I don't report the scale's fractional reading. Instead of rounding, which would be subject to the 'retry until you can round in the direction you want' problem, I adopted a policy of truncating the fractional amount. That means whether I'm 222.8 or 222.1 I still report it as 222. The point of all this is that while I showed no loss this week, I was really, really close to being able to claim a 1 pound drop.

DateWeightGain/LossUpper WaistLower Waist
5/12/08226 046.542.0
5/19/08222 -445.541.5
5/26/08220 -245.041.5
6/02/08219 -144.541.5
6/09/08219 044.541.5

Monday, June 2, 2008

Measure Up Monday - Week 9

Well, I just realized that I never put up a Joke Friday post. I could probably make excuses about being too busy, but really I just plain forgot, sorry. I did have a productive weekend though. The pool is opened (thanks Jeff!), the filter is up an running, the air conditioners are installed in the windows, and the new window blinds are hung. And just in time too. It feels like summer may have arrived today.

Last weekend we enjoyed a short getaway in downtown Chicago. We stayed at the newly rennovated Blackstone hotel that is now a Marriott Renaissance. It was nice, the rooms are completely refurbished, with modern bathroom facilites, HD flat panel TV, and a nice comfy bed. Our room had a nice, if somewhat obstructed, view of Buckingham Fountain, and the lake. We could see and hear the fireworks on the lake Sunday night. However, the rooms are still the size of turn of the century hotel rooms, small by today's standards. We had a problem with the air conditioner not working, but they fixed it by the time it got cold out Monday night. :) We had a yummy breakfast at Yolk, and sampled Oprah's favorite pizza at Pizano's. I think Oprah needs to try a few more pizzas before declaring a favorite. We visited Buckingham Fountain, which I don't think we've done since the kids were little, and also took a double decker bus tour of the city, which turns out to be a great way to see the city from a perspective that you can't enjoy while driving the streets dodging pedestrians. After completing 1½ loops, we exited our bus tour near the water tower, and walked over to Rush street to find an outdoor table where we could have a drink and appetizers. We settled on delicious guacamole and quesadillas at Mexx. Their sangria and margaritas were excellent too. Afterwards, we walked the 2.1 miles back to the hotel, which Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time. We were footsore, and I needed a nap by the time we got back to our room. I woke up hungry after my nap, and we went over to Kitty O'Shea's in the Hilton, to hear some Irish music and share a couple more appetizers. In all, we had a very pleasant weekend. Thank you to Jen & Paul for getting us the Marriott discount that made the whole thing affordable.

But that isn't what this post is about. This post is about reporting in on the progress of my quest to lose 20 pounds in 10 weeks. I was a little worried earlier in the week, what with indulging in margaritas et al on our weekend getaway, but I'm pleased to report that I didn't totally blow it. I'm only down 1 pound this week, but I'm happy with that result. We're going away again this coming weekend, so taking off that last 2 pounds in the next week is going to be a challenge.

DateWeightGain/LossUpper WaistLower Waist
5/12/08226 046.542.0
5/19/08222 -445.541.5
5/26/08220 -245.041.5
6/02/08219 -144.541.5