Category Archives: Personal

Here’s a big +1 for AquaSource Customer Service

So I am currently redoing my downstairs bathroom (in brief for those that don’t know: completely gutted and replaced with awesomeness).  Cecily and I found what we considered to be the perfect faucet at Lowes:  AquaSource #0476590A with pull-down sprayer.

The problem is, I installed it, and somewhere along the line it started leaking on the top side of the sprayhead.  Fortunately, I kept the documentation, gave the AquaSource customer service department a call, and told them the part I needed (which was clearly listed in the documentation).  They told me there was no charge, and the item would be shipped out this week.

Talk about flooring me.  I’m honest, so being as I didn’t know what caused the problem (me or factory defect), I was expecting to pay for it.  Since I just got off the phone, there may be updates to this post, but assuming the part comes as expected (which I have no reason to doubt at this moment), now would be a good time to read this post’s title.  🙂


Posted by on August 30, 2011 in Personal, Reviews


A Change Of Pace: 803 calories, 4.20 miles, 42 minutes … on a Saturday

I’ve posted before about how playing basketball causes me to be anti-motivated to work out on Fridays.  Typically, I schedule 3 workouts a week: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings before work.  Basketball, however, is Wednesday evenings, and, although I have rarely skipped the Wednesday workout the morning before, basketball puts me home late, I go to bed late, and I’m tired which tends to last into Friday mornings as well.  On top of that, I’m usually pretty sore.

That has been evolving, however, and I’d thought this week that I’d finally get that Friday workout in — really boost the stats.  After all, I’ve hit that 6 month mark, and I’m itching to see drastic results.

Well, Friday morning came and went, and although the soreness didn’t keep me away, the tiredness did.  However, my home projects, other than music, are relatively slim, so I decided my time would be better spent at work this Saturday.  I got in around noon, worked on a few things — mostly I just needed to get me upcoming road map in place, clear out itineral clutter (yes I just copyrighted that phrase).  That being done, I decided to go work out.

Things did not go as planned.  I started out, did my walk minute, sprint minute, walk minute, and into my first 8 minute mile, and I felt like I was going to die.  I was moving at 7.5 mph @ 0.5% incline, but I just couldn’t make it.  Four minutes in, I had to reduce the incline, and after the mile, I had to walk.  This seemed like a setback, because I’ve been doing 2 consecutive miles for a few weeks now.

Then I talked myself out of it.  I wasn’t even going to work out at all again until Monday, so this was just a freebie.  So, I walked a bit, and tried for that second mile.  Might as well try for 2, even if they aren’t consecutive right?

Well that lasted 2 minutes.  Side splitting, breathing issues, imminent death — you know the routine.  So I walked a bit more, and decided I had to hit 2 running miles even if they were slower.  I set the speed at 6mph (10 minute mile) @ 2% incline.  I made it a half mile.

A few minutes of walking, I was bound and determined.  After all, I’ve even been talking about going for 3 consecutive miles (and given that I just did 2 the other day for the first time ever, 3 would obviously be unprecedented) — could I really stop myself if I hadn’t even actually “run” for 2 total?

So, back to the 7.5mph again (8 minute mile).  I made it 4 minutes.  At this point, do the math, I was at 2.25 miles.  I walked a bit, and did another half mile at 7.5 (4 minutes).  I couldn’t make it any further, so I had to stop.  Well, the walking changed my mind, so I did yet another 2 minutes at 7.5.  Psychologically, I needed to be able to say I ran 3 miles, even if they weren’t back to back to back.

All said and done, given that I wasn’t in a rush (as I usually am — have to get done before everyone else shows up … can’t just go an hour every day), I ended up burning, according to the machine, 803 calories, walking/running 4.20 miles, all in 42 minutes.  That’s effectively 4.2 back to back to back to back 10 minutes miles.

That’s worth writing about.  I think I will when I get the time.

Oh, and all that was on top of adding some tricep exercises to my weight routine and 10 lbs. to my curl bar.  At this rate, I will be crazy super buff just in time for the Dolphins to win the Super Bowl again.


Posted by on February 5, 2011 in Personal

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Six months and still working out

Today I hit a personal milestone in my workout — something I had never done previously in my life.  I ran back-to-back 8 minute miles.  (Yes, 2 miles in 16 minutes.)

Better yet, today is the 6 month anniversary of when I started working out.

The down side of it all is I still have not really lost any weight, but I keep reminding myself that that was never the point.  I did lose about 10 lbs in the first 2 weeks, but since then, nothing.  In fact, in all of my diets and exercise programs over the years, I have never been able to drop my weight below 255 lbs (which is where I am idling now).  I think this is a footnote, but it’s worth mentioning.

Fact is, I am very out of shape, and so I just have to keep pushing myself, and I’m clearly doing that.  I am constantly increasing weight in my weights exercises, and there’s no question of the pointed drama comparing where I started running to where I am now.

About half way into this workout routine, I also started playing basketball once a week — full court, usually 5-on-5 for at least an hour — usually closer to 2.  This gave me an immediate boost to stamina and undoubtedly pushed me to where I could actually do 2 miles.  I’m not sure I push myself hard enough on my own.

I do need to keep pushing and keep increasing my times.  Eventually, I will have to either run longer or work out more times per week, but the weekly basketball helps keep my weekly elevated heart rate requirements satisfied, although it generally leaves me too sore to work out on Friday mornings.

So here’s to 6 more months.  I do plan on sticking to some sort of equivalent plan indefinitely, and eventually, I’ll start dropping pounds again.  I think my body has just been too out of tune for too long, and I just have to keep working on it.


Posted by on February 2, 2011 in Personal

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Another (hopefully shorter) workout report

Four and a half months.  That’s what it’s been so far.

Today I ran 2 consecutive miles for the first time in my life!  (Apathetic applause?)

Total workout was 23 minutes and some change … 1 minute walk, 1 minute sprint (9mph — sprinting for me), 1 minute walk, 19 minute random incline at 6.1mph average.  So 2 miles, random incline in just about 19 minutes.  More than 500 calories according to the machine (and who knows how accurate that is).  Nonetheless, to date I’d only once eclipsed 400.

I’m pretty happy with it.

Still no real change in weight my weight (still locked in at 255 lbs), but my waist is steadily shrinking, and I’m getting more divots all over my body.  lol

I think the most dramatic changes I’ll be able to report on in another 4 and a half months, but surely anyone who hasn’t seen me since I started this workout is gonna notice a difference.

Now, can I keep this up until the end of time?  🙂


Posted by on December 15, 2010 in Personal

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Three months in: a workout report

Summary: I ran a mile today!

The succinctly verbose edition:

On August 2 (2010), I decided I needed to implement regular cardio activity into my life.  Yeah, I am active — cutting trees, splitting wood, working on and around the house, working in the shop, etc., but, not being one to avoid indulgence in anything that piques my interest or effervesces my senses, food is not something I am loathe to regulate.

I am not sure what level of detail is relevant, but since this is really the first note I’ve even written about this workout regime, I’m just gonna give whatever back story seems relevant.

I have always carried a few extra pounds, but I have always been pretty athletic and active.  It was never an issue at all (other than teen self identity issues) until I went to college.  There, I realized I could sit in my dorm room all day, play Quake 2 until 4am in the morning, sleep until 3pm, and go to the dining hall and down 8 grilled cheese sandwiches.  (Yes, 8 was my record.)

By the end of my sophomore year, I clocked in at 315 lbs!  Granted, at least 25 lbs. of this was water weight, presumably from the high sodium content of dining hall nourriture.  By the end of that summer, my weight had settled to, and would stay at, 285 lbs, for the next few years.  By 2003, the end of my first year of graduate French studies, Metabolife was the big dieting pill on the market, and I tried it.

It worked.  I lost 30 lbs. in 2 months, and felt quite good about myself.  That summer, I took a trip to France, where I did not hesitate to indulge in food.  I lost an additional 10 lbs (despite my concerns that the indulgence was going to do the opposite.)  Apparently, walking a minimum of a mile a day, and drinking a gallon or so of water helps with the “staying trim” trend.

There are other details I could fill this story with, but I realize 334 words in that I’ve yet to mention what any of it has to do with my current workout which many of you reading (especially those who know me) did not even know I was engaged in (eww … finished the sentence with a proposition — oh look I corrected it with a sentence fragment enclosed in parentheses … [ellipse … ooh brackets!]).

So after France, and after I took a most-likely-permanent hiatus from my graduate studies, I was able to maintain my weight at about 255 lbs.  Again, as it turns out, doing a minimum two-hour-per-workday workout of sorting/stacking pallets probably helped with that, as I certainly wasn’t being calorie conscious.

Then, somewhere in that mix the love bug hit and took away 15 lbs. without my really doing anything!  But, my pallet utopia came to an end, and I entered my current path of employ which is notably much more sedentary.  Eventually, I balanced myself back up to that 285 lb. range.

Finally, I got fed up with that.  Metabolife was no longer an option because of the whole ephedra thing, not to mention it was not really the most enjoyable diet in many ways.  I decided I was just going to have to exercise.  That winter (of 2007 I believe) I started regularly using the treadmill at work.  No heavy cardio, just walking, every day.  However, the stress of work, and the continuing pressing requirement to do that every day made me stop.  I’m sure it helped some cardiovascularly, but nothing I recall noting.

Finally, I just decided I had to eat less.  I just cut my portions in thirds, and tried to use water/coffee as vice substitutes.  Guess what?  It worked!  Once again, I dropped 30 lbs over a period of a few months.  However, I eventually got back into loving food, and weight started coming back on.  Not as much this time, however.  I was able to balance myself at around 265 (probably because I’d trained myself to be more portion-conscious — eat until you’re full, and for pete’s sake, drink water — a lot of it!).

In addition, I’m in my 30s now, and apparently all kinds of quirky health things happen.  You feel like you’re having a heart attack, but it’s just indigestion … your back hurts, mostly because it’s been carrying you for 30 years.  Well, I just decided it was no longer an issue of weight loss.

So along comes “old man hoops.”  I start playing basketball once a week for a few hours.  It did make me feel better, but it ended in April 2009.  Again, I started gaining weight.  By July, I looked back at pictures of me from March, and I realized that one day a week of basketball was significantly contributing to an improved physique.  I realized that if that little bit of exercise was helping, and I was enjoying it, that all I needed to do was commit to having an active life style — a minimum amount of cardio exercise, EVERY week, no exception, no short term — for the rest of my life.  And this amount, is really only in the ball park of 75 minutes.

Finally, here we are present day.  August 2, 2010, I did my first cardio workout — get up early (around 6am), get to work early, do a few weight exercises, and hit the treadmill.  I hate running … I really do, but that is what is available.  I picked a small amount — just 15 minutes of fast paced walking/jogging — enough to get my heart rate above 130.

I tried different ideas.  The weights part has pretty much stayed the same:

  • 10 reps (or whatever I could do) knee raises on the dip machine (mostly to help with lower back problems, but also great for legs and abs)
  • 10 pushups (or whatever I could do — I admit I can still only do about 7 at a time)
  • 10 straight arm butterflies on the BowFlex (probably the best exercise I do)
  • 25 upright crunches using the BowFlex for resistance
  • Repeat one time

Cardio?  I realized quickly that a graduated routine with short term goals was the easiest.  I just picked a slow speed, and a small incline, and decided to work my way up.

The basic concept I eventually settled on (I can’t remember where because I didn’t write it down) was to do a 2 minute warmup brisk walk, 3 minutes at speed, walk 1 minute, 2.5 minutes at increased speed, walk 1 minute, 2 minutes at increased speed, walk 1 minute, 1.5 jog, 1 walk, 1 sprint, 2.5 min cool down.

This created a 18 minute treadmill routine.  It didn’t seem like much, but I figured I’d work on it.

It only took 2 weeks to notice changes.  Muscles started showing through my skin, then bones, then even more muscles.  I had shape to my obliques … amazing.

So the summary to this point:  I have only lost maybe 10 lbs. (still hovering around 255).  I have a noticeably different shape — my pants fit better, more bones/muscles jutting out.  I am by no means super trim, but I’m on my way I think.  Again, the one thing that keeps me going, given, as I said, that I hate running, is my commitment to cardiovascular health.  Weight loss and improved physical appearance would just be great bonuses.  My goal is just to keep this up until I die (because it killed me, or saved me  😉  ).

Back to the reason I wrote this article, I am now up to a base speed of 6.0mph, and 4.0% incline, and this morning, for the first time in quite some time, I ran a non-stop mile — yep: 6.0mph @ 4.0% incline for appx. 10.5 minutes.  (Yeah, sometimes I just feel like continuing to run rather than graduate the routine …)

I figured that was enough to give me something to write about, though it appears I am not lacking in things to say.  Historically, whenever I’ve done longer runs than the graduated method prescribes, it’s the only time I can do it for weeks, but I’m going to try again on Friday.  Ultimately, I’d like my 16 minutes of running to be non-stop, where I just increase the speed and incline until I just can’t do more, or am a world-class uphill sprinter. 🙂

Next update in 3-6 months (give or take).


Posted by on November 3, 2010 in Personal


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Customer Review –

I have a 1990 Ford F-250 pickup truck that is pretty much a beater, but it’s a damn workhorse. I love the truck, but I am always fixing things on it. 😉 Pretty soon it will be a 2010 model. Anyway, recently I was hauling a load of stone, and the driver’s side rear spring hanger’s rivets broke lose and bent the hanger away from the frame. On closer inspection, the rear hangers on both side are quite rusted, and they should have been replaced years ago.

I checked around local junk yards, and most of them wanted anywhere from $40 to $60 a piece for replacement hangers, or they just didn’t have them, or only had 1 (and I’m replacing both). So, being employed in a field directly tied to the internet, I checked Google. If any of you have ever searched for car parts online, you know that carries pretty much everything you can find, and their prices are very reasonable (usually the cheapest outright on Google Shopping).

Lo and behold, they have my part — more importantly, they have at least 2 — new — for $20 ea. plus $10 shipping. Mondary morning (May 24, 2010) I placed the order. When I came home from work on Tuesday, the parts had arrived.

With the recent string of crappy companies I’ve been dealing with in terms of purchasing online, is the most amazing breath of fresh air ever (pardon the poetical slathering, but seriously … they are awesome.) Do not hesitate to buy from them!


Posted by on May 27, 2010 in Commentary, Personal, Reviews

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FedEx Shipping XML API Idiosyncrasies — the saga continues (PHP & Soap envelopes)

I am doing a fairly large implementation using the exposed APIs of all 4 major shippers.  I’ve posted a few notes on USPS, and I’ve been using UPS for so long it almost seems to make perfect sense.

So, while I have to applaud FedEx for the granularity and versatility of the API they have exposed, it has caused me severe headaches due to the PHP SimpleXML issues it brings up with SOAP envelopes — particularly nested soap envelopes.

Long story short, the jist of this post is to help others deal with the responses they receive from the FedEx servers (if, like me, their pre-packaged methods do not implement tidily into your application structure).

Here is a sample response of a rate request (NOTE: this is a “Warning” response, only here for demo purposes):

   <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<soapenv:Envelope xmlns:soapenv="">
    <env:Header xmlns:env="" xmlns:xsi="" />
    <env:Body xmlns:env="" xmlns:xsi="">
        <v8:RateReply xmlns:v8="">
                <v8:Message>There are no valid services available. </v8:Message>
                <v8:LocalizedMessage>There are no valid services available. </v8:LocalizedMessage>
            <v8:TransactionDetail xmlns:SOAP-ENV="" xmlns:xsd="" xmlns:SOAP-ENC="">
            <v8:Version xmlns:SOAP-ENV="" xmlns:xsd="" xmlns:SOAP-ENC="">

There are lots of ways you might envision accessing that precious “RateReply” tag, but to keep it simple and avoid inferences, you get to it like this:

$xml = simplexml_load_string ($xml_from_above);

I do suppose this is obvious enough, but believe me, the nuances that can throw it off can still cause you to inadvertently lose ridiculous amounts of time on it.

Furthermore, if you prefer to do direct PHP cURL XML calls (which you probably do given that you’re reading this), you’ll find that FedEx is not terribly interested in your type of programmer. To find a simple sample XML call, you’ll have a tough time (although I managed to find it in the WSDL downloadable ZIP). However, this is a very basic call. To add additional data (such as the exotic field that apparently no one would ever think to use — “InsuredValue”) — this field has the form (EXACTLY, stuff in brackets is what can be changed) “<InsuredValue><Currency>[currencytype]</Currency><Amount>[float]</Amount></InsuredValue>”

The “InsuredValue” node/field must go immediately before the “Weight” node in the “RequestedPackageLineItems” node. (This of course reference FedEx API v8 — things may be different in future releases.)


Posted by on May 24, 2010 in Computers, How-To, Personal


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A few thoughts on How To Train Your Dragon

Cecily and I saw this last night as a double feature (paired with Iron Man 2) at The Family Drive In Theatre in Stephens City Virginia.  Short and simple — great movie. The plot was intriguing and somewhat surprising (not like EUREKA! but Oooooh … interesting). Had all the appropriate elements, but most importantly, it kept me interested.

Summary: a young boy growing up in a village of dragon-slaying Vikings is neither strong enough to slay a dragon, nor eager to do so. In fact, he befriends one, and eventually is able to reveal things to both the dragons and the Vikings that neither knew.

Good date film, good kids film, and good manly man film as long as you don’t tell anyone how much you love it (and I loved it!). 😉


Posted by on May 17, 2010 in Personal, Reviews

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The Family Drive-In Theatre (Stephens City, Virginia) — new ownership

Recently, The Family Drive-In Theatre in Stephens City, Virginia came under new management, and I had some thoughts about the experience that I conveyed to the new owners. Rather than write a formal review here, I’m simply posting the contents of the email:

Hi, just wanted to give feedback on the theater experience.  I'll try to keep it brief, but my wife and I watched Iron Man 2/How To Train Your Dragon.

The new ticket price is still a deal, so that is good, but what I most wanted to comment on is the "announcing" over the broadcast system.

Please, if you really want to do a message like that, record it in advance, and keep it concise.  It was some very boring rambling about the new ownership, the new website, patronizing the concession stand, and while all these points are worth knowing about, it seemed like 10 minutes.  Record it early, keep it brief and upbeat.

Also, the film cut out quite a few times in the middle.  It would have been nice if someone came over the system and explained what was going on.

Otherwise, same old theater, and I look forward to seeing more movies there.  It is also a welcome change that you are bringing new movies, although an unfortunate side effect to that is increased wait times and longer lines.

Anyway, just my two cents, thought you'd be interested.

And the reply (addended 5-18-10):

Thanks Jeremy for the feedback.

We will attempt to keep announcements short.   As for the projector cutting out, it normally doesn't do that--it was pulling the film harder than it should have been on one of the projectors and we had to adjust the film tension a few times to keep from damaging the print.

look forward to seeing you again.


Jim Kopp
Family Drive-In Theatre
Stephens City, VA 22655

Posted by on May 17, 2010 in Personal, Reviews

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A few thoughts on Iron Man 2 (Review)

Cecily and I went to see Iron Man 2 at The Family Drive In Theatre in Stephens City, Virginia (not necessarily relevant, but I thought I would mention). Actually, the film was paired with How To Train Your Dragon (film) — very good pair. Anyway, I wanted to jot a few notes/give a small review (and this should be fairly brief).

Overall it was a fair to good movie — certain it would have been just as good as the first had it actually been the first. That being said, in my opinion it went a little over the top with the cheese/tongue-in-cheek/comic book cliche. The biggest example to me is the pepper spray scene. While funny, the timing was very awkward and it really kind of cheapened the scene.

Best line of the movie? (paraphrased) “Excuse me I’m fighting off a Hammer-Roid attack.” 😀 That is good stuff!

Also another major high point? Scarlett Johansson in tight leather (a la Uma Thurman — The Avengers) and a very hot hairdo.

So while the movie didn’t wow me, it was actually very good, just familiar and so it didn’t excite me, but it’s certainly worth seeing, and I would definitely see it again.

And the icing of the experience was when our two-year-old son woke up at the end of the movie (when AC/DC was playing over the credits) and very sleepily headbanged and rocked out. 🙂


Oh and if anyone else wondered what they found in the teaser at the end of the credits, apparently it was the Hammer of Thor.


Posted by on May 17, 2010 in Personal, Reviews

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