No matter how you spell it, “j-oh-dee”s are fast

Ran the Mankato Half Marathon on Saturday with Isaac Watkins.

Here’s what Isaac and I felt like for the first 10 miles.


Here’s what Isaac and I felt like for the last 3.1 miles.


Here’s what we sounded like for just about all of it.


No, we didn’t have a rock star finishing time. But I had the time of my life (and I’ve never felt this way before). We’re not quite picking out window treatments together yet, but he did mention something about going away to Canada with him someday. So, yeah, fingers crossed!

Other than the part about getting up at 3:45 a.m., and the part about not being able to find our way into the parking ramp, it was a hard-chargin’, ass-kickin’ kind of day. The weather was perfect, and we just jogged along and talked the whole way.

Those of you who know me pretty well know that I’m ridiculously introverted. I’m so awkward, I can make The Hulk look like a snappy conversationalist. (“So… Hulk. What is it you say you do?” “HULK SMASH!” “Oh, yeah, yeah, that’s right… And, um… How long have you been in the smashing business?..”)

Those of you who know me really well know that I’m capable of droning on and on with one boring non sequitur of a story after another if I’m comfortable about the people I’m with. That’s what Isaac got to deal with.

Anyway, we had a great time, and I don’t even care that we weren’t running competitively. Everyone we were there with took care of that part for us!

  • Congratulations to Shannon McClellan, who trained really hard and set a PR.
  • Congratulations to Jody Sayre, who was running her tenth half marathon of the year and passed us with a mocking laugh in the last quarter mile on her way to a PR.
  • Congratulations to Jodi Rohi, who gets my vote for Comeback Runner of the Year after turning in a sub-4 in the full marathon.)

It was all good, I wasn’t jealous. After all, Isaac and I weren’t there for personal records. We were there for Eric. That’s how we got talked into this race in the first place: we were going to run along with a friend on his first half marathon. (Eric’s a great friend. I would do just about anything for him. So running 13.1 miles seemed like a pretty small request.) But Eric’s calf came up lame and, rather than risk damaging anything, it made more sense to push this goal off till next year. (Earth Day?!)

For awhile, that kind of left Isaac and I questioning the purpose of our participation. I toyed with the idea of bailing on the race and sparing myself the early morning drive and the pain of a half marathon. But I’m far too cheap to skip out when I’ve already paid. Now I’m totally glad I went. Thanks Isaac and Shannon and Jody and Jodi and Chad (who is one of the finest Bag Support Engineers of this or any other generation – but, it should be noted, is not the first to ride/bike along in support of a crazy, racing loved one). Good friends made even those last 3.1 miles fun.

On a scale from one to Chuck Norris…

A couple of weekends ago was the 34th annual Diamond Nationals WORLD Karate Championships (only 10 minutes from airport and Mall of America!). Now, to be honest, believing that the legitimate “world karate championships” are held in Bloomington, Minnesota, is akin to believing that the Beer Pong Hall of Fame is currently being constructed in Salt Lake.

But so what? It’s still a pretty kick-ass tournament. (Not that I have very many tournaments against which to judge it.) On a scale from one to Chuck Norris, I’d rate it about a Brandon Lee. (Not quite as awesome as Bruce Lee, which is not quite as awesome as Chuck Norris…but still pretty darned awesome.)

Quinn’s a red belt–brown stripe this year, meaning he has three belts to go before receiving his black belt. That means he’s getting up there. He’s at the point where watching him compete is sort of like watching an above-average drag show. You can tell what it’s supposed to look like, and it looks right enough of the time that you’re willing to ignore the times when it doesn’t, just because you’re so impressed that it’s this close.

So that Saturday, Quinn, his friend Ethan and I drove down to Bloomington so Quinn could compete in weapons forms, traditional forms and sparring.

Weapons form

Traditional form

Sparring

I’m not going to go into how he placed or how I’d evaluate the judging. (Though I will point out that he had a big ol’ raw spot covering the better part of his forearm from those kicks he “didn’t block” in his sparring match. Whatever.) I just want him and the world to know how proud I am of him and how much fun I had watching him compete in an event that generates so much passion and excitement in him.

We had a great time. We got to do some people watching. (We were hoping the “M” stands for “Moe.”)

We had lunch at a Dairy Queen that featured the most amazing pop dispenser on the planet.



 




We got to hang out and watch some of the black belts practicing some crazy-ass spin moves. (I don’t care what anyone says. This is dancing. I’m not saying it’s not mind-blowingly cool. I’m just saying it’s dancing.)





We got to watch some of the black belts doing their weapons forms. (This is one baton twirler with whom you seriously do not want to f*ck.)

And we got to stick around long enough to watch Quinn’s friend/mentor Mr. Bell compete in his black-belt division.

A great part of a great weekend. (How great, on a scale from one to Chuck Norris? Uh… I’d say about a Steven Seagal. So, um… Yeah.)





I’ve been to Duluth

I love my job. And I love my close personal friend Nancy O’Dell. But we’ve had a historically awesome stretch of great weather and Corinne and I have missed almost all of it – predominantly because we were holed up at work helping Nancy put together her upcoming best seller Secret Ingredients (available in November from your Creative Memories Consultant or creativememories.com).

So when we wrapped that project last Thursday night, Corinne and I were ready to sneak off for just a little bit of R&R. Destination? Duluth.

Duluth is a city I really enjoy, but rarely ever visit – partly because it always depresses me to return to St. Cloud. Just seeing the way they’ve managed to embrace, celebrate and build to enhance their Lake Superior shoreline makes me frustrated about how hidden the Mississippi River is in St. Cloud.

But whatever.

We had two nights booked at the historic A.G. Thomson House – the first bed & breakfast experience for either of us.

Um. Wow. Here’s my review:

Thomson House : Holiday Inn :: Unicorn : Eeyore

(Did I mention I scored 1250 on my SATs?)
The rooms were great, the grounds were beautiful and the food was insanely good. That’s my review.

Here’s a question though. Now, being new to the B&B format, it seems like “romantic” is a key adjective that they try to hit. And, if the proprietors manage to achieve that kind of ambiance, there are certain intimate celebrations that tend to result.

So, assuming you want to retain your ambiance level of “romantic B&B” and not slip toward an ambiance level of “just-off-the-interstate love shack”, is there a certain degree of periodic due diligence required on your part? More to the point, if Corinne and I were to someday become B&B owners, would it be our responsibility to test-drive each of the rooms at least once a season or so to check for creaky floorboards or loose frame bolts or anything like that?

I’m just asking.

Touristy/Sightseeing Stuff
We went up to the Split Rock Lighthouse. We stopped at Gooseberry Falls. We walked part of the lakefront. It was all sensational, mostly because we had weather close to 80 degrees and sunny in northern Minnesota in mid-October. Loved it. We might have to make another Duluth trip next year with kids and bikes. I’ll shut up and show some pictures now.

Eating/Drinking Stuff
Friday night we walked to Fitger’s Brewhouse. We’d both heard good things and, based on that, I’m assuming the place can’t be all bad. (People found nice things to say to us about it, right?)

We got a crappy table by the door. I ordered the sampler of 7 mini beers (it is a brewery, after all). Some of them were flat, others were just generally not very good. I followed it up with a pint of the best one – a double IPA – which kind of made up for it. My burger was overdone and the service was terrible. (I’m usually pretty empathetic with wait staff, but our waitress only had five tables. We counted while we watched her amble obliviously back and forth among them.)

Corinne’s vegetarian wild rice burger was pretty awesome. That and the IPA were the saving graces.

If Fitger’s wants to improve its wait staff, they should march down the street and hire the girl who helped us at Walgreen’s. In our rush to get on our way, we’d forgotten the bag with all the make-yourself-prettier stuff (and the toothpaste). So we stopped in at Walgreen’s to try and piece together an inexpensive interim solution. Not only did the girl allow us access to the employee restroom (We WERE just coming from a brewery), but she spent five minutes sifting through her basket of store/manufacturer’s coupons and ended up saving us about $20. (And then, we still forgot to buy toothpaste. Which would have been fine except it’s a B&B, we were going to meet new people at breakfast in the morning. So, Corinne brushed her teeth with rum in an attempt to kill the morning breath. Mouthwash, rum, it’s all alcohol, right?)

Saturday night we went across the bridge into Superior to the Anchor Bar, as recommended by Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives and by Bethany Drake and her parents.

If our B&B had turned out to be a roach-infested dump…
If the car had gotten a flat on the drive up north…
If the gales of November had come early…
This place would have made up for it all.

We sat at the bar, which made it even better. The bartender was quick-witted and not at all hesitant to mock or belittle us (a dicey strategy, but for this young man it seemed to work). I started out by ordered a reliably delicious Summit EPA.

“Short or tall?”
“Um… What the heck, let’s go tall.”
“Go big or go home, right?”
“You betcha.”
He then proceeded to roll out a frosty, glass horse trough full of beer. Had to be 32 ounces, easy.

But the stars of the Anchor are the burgers. The beef itself was truly amazing. And it was a perfect medium-well without my even having to request it. Some burger places are good because they’re innovative with the ingredients. Some burger places are good because they’re good at keeping it simple. This place walks both side of that street. Corinne had a very clever and delicious Cashew Burger. Mine was straight-up simple: a 2/3 lb bacon cheeseburger smothered in fantastic barbecue sauce. (FYI, the guy sitting next to us ordered that Gullybuster and it looked like a worthy challenge. Yum.)

Loved it.

Okay, that’s it. That was our weekend. And it was all good.

Thanks, Steve

In the last 24 hours I’ve seen, read and heard so many tributes to the ways Steve Jobs “changed the world” that it kind of verges on hyperbole. Steve Wozniak was on Today this morning and it sounded as if the sweet, sweet love child of Jesus and Dolly Madison had been tragically crushed under a bus driven by rabid Nazi dingoes.

But I heard one person’s eulogy to Mr. Jobs that really did hit home for me.

Like Steve, she dropped out of college early. After a semester and a half, the idea of growing up to become an English teacher just didn’t have quite enough bang to it. She quit to join the Army. She was going to jump out of planes, learn foreign languages and screw with the heads of whatever bad guys popped up in the wake of communism.

An unexpected pregnancy ambushed that plan and left her spinning. She was a single mom with a beautiful daughter and a supportive family … but no direction.

Eventually she decided to go back to school and become a dental hygienist. Fortunately, that randomly spinning compass of hers had one more unpredictable spin in it. On a whim, just before classes started, she switched to a graphic design program. She liked art, but didn’t really have much (read: ANY) background in computers. She’d never even typed a school paper on a computer before.

That all changed the day she walked into that first Intro to Quark class. Oh, those Macs. They were beautiful. (For me, the amazing thing about a Mac is the way that it plays both ends of the spectrum. It’s so easy to get started with… But it’s not an entry-level machine. Quite the opposite. It’s amazingly powerful and does fantastic things that other computers just can’t do.)

She grew and learned and the Mac became her totem – her own little bondi-blue spirit animal helper. She had an eye for design, but what really drove her was a relentless search for answers that would combine creative aesthetic with practical functionality. Over time she quit accepting half-assed crap and began demanding more from herself and the people she works with. And – seriously – she learned that from watching the footsteps of Apple.

Today she has a drive and a passion for beauty with purpose. It makes her very good at her job and it makes her continuously fascinating to live and work with.

So this is what I have to say on the occasion of Steve Jobs’ passing. Thank you, Steve. Thank you for the huge role you played in making my wife the amazing, creative, techie dork that I love.