Weight Loss Ultimatum – Day 31 | Not This Again

I’ve been MIA on my blog for about 10 days now. I haven’t posted anything about my ultimatum and I haven’t really been working at it either. Plenty of excuses and distractions and whatnot have gotten in the way. Nothing valid enough to warrant not eating right of course, but you know how it is. Anyway, it’s Friday and I’m back and looking forward to picking up where I left off.

Before I do that, I thought I’d share a little bit of what I’ve been up to, because it wasn’t all bad. I took my family up north to the wonderful town of Two Harbors, MN. It’s about 20 miles north of Duluth, so yeah it snowed while we were there. It’s northern Minnesota in April, what else could you expect? Anyway, we stayed in a really cool hotel call the Northern Rail Traincar Hotel. It’s a hotel, made from old train cars. It was pretty cool. My oldest girls love the Boxcar Kids books so this was right up their alley.

The highlight of the trip was hiking around the Gooseberry Falls State Park, which I highly recommend taking your family if you’re ever in the northern Minnesota area. As always, the scenery was amazingly beautiful. We even had the fortune of seeing a River Otter. Not only that, we saw him catch a fish and eat it. I got a short video of it, but it wasn’t a very good one so there’s no point posting that up, but it was super fun.

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That was our adventure. It wasn’t warm or sunny much while we were there, but that’s ok, we had time with each other and got to see a lot of wonderful things.

Did you do anything over your spring break? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.


MainPain Challenge – Day 94 | It’s My Own Fault

I have not posted anything for about 14 days about how my challenge has been going. The reason… vacation. We took two vacations in the span of about 3 weeks and it just overtook my life. No excuses, I just didn’t care to worry about how much food I ate, or how active I was. It was so liberating.

There were consequences, though. Yes, I gained weight. I’ve gained a fair amount since my very lowest weigh in during my Weight Loss Challenge. Here’s where I’m at right now.

Current Weight = 188.2 lbs

That’s up from my final weight of the Weight Loss Challenge by about 15 lbs. Yeah, I’ve gained 15 lbs. I’m not too concerned. Yesterday I got back on the horse. I’ve set myself back up on a small weight loss program just to get myself back to a little more manageable weight. I’m hoping for 180-185 in the next several weeks. I’m going to focus a little more on cardio to help with that, but not entirely. I’m still working on this body challenge to see what I can do, so I still need to post some progress pics. They aren’t going to be as drastic as I had hoped at the start of this challenge, but again, I’m okay with this.

It wasn’t all bad though. We did a lot of walking. A lot, at least for what I typically do on a daily basis. Over the four days we were there, I averaged just over 8 miles.

Luckily, I don’t have anymore vacations planned for the near future so that’s good.

On a final note, I highly recommend you go visit Duluth, MN. It’s a wonderfully beautiful place. I’m very biased since I lived there for about 5 years and worked right in the Canal Park area which is where most of the pictures I took are from. Here’s a small gallery of pics we took. Enjoy.

Microsoft Ignite Activity Overload

I am so excited. On Sunday I get to hop on a plane headed for Chicago for the Microsoft Ignite conference May 4th-8th. Of all the nerd inspired things one could do, going to a Microsoft technology conference has got to be at the top of the list.

I’m learning pretty quickly, though that nerds apparently know how to party, or at least to appear to know how to party. I’ve not been to a conference of this size, so having to pick and choose my after-hours entertainment from the slew of options available to me is a bit daunting, but a nice problem to have.

I, and my employer are hoping I’ll come away from this 5 day experience with some valuable knowledge, skills, and contacts regarding SharePoint, Office 365, OneDrive for Business, Skype for Business, Windows PowerShell and so many other technologies.

I’m not sure if I have any readers that are also going to Ignite, but if you are, what sessions are you looking forward too and what after-hours stuff are you hoping to do? I’m really hoping I’ll bump elbows with someone important who has extra tickets to one of the Wild vs. Blackhawks playoff games as I’d love to see my team when I’m in Chicago.

For those of you not a member of the nerd world of enterprise technologies, what are your recommendations for things to do in the great Windy City of Chicago USA next week? Any great restaurants you can recommend? We’re going to be downtown in the Michigan ave area so I’m looking for great ideas there?

If any of you are going, I’d say we should meet up and have a drink, but let’s be honest, are we really going to do that? Do you really want to meet me? Of all the people out there, I’ll be honest, it’s not going to be that awesome meeting me… ha ha or is it? If you’re willing to go to a midnight viewing of the new Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) movie with me, then I’ll meet up with pretty much anybody, or you have tickets to the Hawks game, just don’t plan on murdering me please, that would be a pretty big downer.

Weight Loss Challenge – Day 133 | Silence is Golden

<I thought this post got published last Monday, but as I started working on my post for today, I discovered this post never published. I didn’t want my thoughts to go unpublished and my wonderful readers to be short changed on some amazing insight, so I figured I’d post it now. (note the sarcasm regarding “my amazing insight”)>

I’ve not written anything in 8 days again. I’m still on the challenge, but things have drastically changed. On Thursday I went with my Father-in-Law and Brother-in-Law on a 4 day silent retreat at a Jesuit retreat house at Lake Elmo, MN. I’ve never been on a silent retreat nor have I done anything that involved Jesuits so you can imagine my trepidation.

I won’t go too far into the details of the retreat, but I will say, it was very much a life changing experience. How much so, I guess I’ll find out a year from now as this is intended to be at the very least, an annual thing.

There were two primary things I noticed when dinner completed Thursday evening and strict silence was expected the remainder of the retreat.

  1. My mind was filled with a million useless thoughts, most of which I couldn’t concentrate on enough to parse into a coherent thought in the first place.
  2. When silent long enough, my thoughts became theological and somewhat poetic. I started thinking I might actually be a smart person (when I left and started talking again that feeling went away… ha ha ha)

I was so anxious the weeks and days leading up to the retreat. I worried about what I would do for four days with no phone, no Internet, no TV, no anything I loved. How uncomfortable was it going to be, being around 70 other men who also could not talk but had all mostly already been to several retreats themselves? How will I ask where the bathroom is? How will I know what to do?

Getting there and diving in, I found the silence was my favorite part. Growing up on the farm I loved going out into the woods for hours alone and just listening. I was able to do this again and it was wonderful. I felt like I was a part of some secret society of brothers. A very, very quiet society of brothers. But our eyes say so much. A head nod meant more than simply “hello,” it meant “Welcome friend and brother.” A quick point at the dinner table meant so much more than just “Please pass the butter.” It meant, “Please pass the butter, so I can eat my 4th slice of bread because there’s no way I’m eating these disgusting prunes, which I saw you try, and yes, I saw you almost threw up, and yes, I did that 10 years ago at my first retreat too, welcome brother.”

My first experience at the Jesuit retreat house was wonderful. I will be going again every year so long as I’m able. The retreat didn’t particularly help my weight loss, but I wouldn’t say it hurt it that much. Yes, on Monday when I weighed myself, I was up 1.6 lbs, but I still felt I did quite well. Considering they provided 3 very square meals per day as well as coffee and cookies twice per day, I think only being up 1.6 lbs is pretty good. I started very strong, passing on extra bread and cookies. By the last day, yes, I caved. I could not resist the cookies any longer and I had 7. It was pretty bad, but so so good. The main thing is that Monday, I got back on my diet. Today, I’m on my diet. Not only was the retreat a mental/spiritual growth opportunity, but it was a great opportunity to test what I’ve learned and built in these last 133 days of my weight loss challenge. I wasn’t perfect, but I also didn’t go hog wild. I ate well, and I tracked what I ate. I had to do a lot of guessing, and I had to do all my tracking on paper, but I did it, and it was easy to do.

I’m so thankful for the opportunity, and I can’t wait for next year, but more importantly, I can’t wait until lunch, because I’m pretty darn hungry. 🙂

Have a great day everyone!

Weight Loss Challenge – Day 112 | It’s Cold Out

I am cold all the time. Yes, I live in Minnesota, so it’s cold here. No matter what, it’s cold during the winter. We’re a hardy people. We’re the people who will claim anything over 20 degrees Fahrenheit is warm in the winter.

I’ve found, since I’ve been losing all this weight, I now am constantly cold. All the time. Typically I’m a pretty warm person. So much so, it could get pretty uncomfortable. Now, however, I’ve got the opposite problem.

My house can be set to 68 and I’ll still be cold. What gives? I get it, now I’ve got less fat to insulate me. Seriously though, it’s getting to be a little annoying. I’m literally wearing a sweatshirt to bed now. I used to go without a shirt and just boxers. No more.

I cannot complain. It’s not a bad problem to have, I just need to get used to it. Either that, or just wait for spring.

Have a great day all.

Weight Loss Challenge – Day 70 | An Unexpected Workout

Day 70 and things got off to a bit of a cold start. Living in Minnesota, you get pretty used to cold temperatures, but this morning, I wasn’t expecting to be out in -6 degrees Fahrenheit for as long as I was.

My wife and I have a minivan that we purchased about 1 1/2 years ago. We bought it knowing it only had 1 of the original sets of keys. No worries, we’ll just get a new set to go with the one we have right? WRONG!! Low and behold, we never got around to doing that. I took off for the bus this morning, with my car keys and the van keys stashed safely away in my jacket pocket. No worries right, my wife stays at home with the kids, there’s no school, all should be fine right? On most days, yes. Today… NO! The kids spent the night at their grandparents house last night and they (the grandparents) needed to go to a morning funeral. Needless to say, my wife, not too happy with me. Me… Not too happy with me. Long story short, I spent more time than I would have wanted outside, waiting for the bus to come. Then raced home to get the keys into the right hands. Then, decided I’d drive to work and find a parking spot (free mind you). Well, the free parking spots by 10am are about 1 mile away.


This is where my unexpected workout comes in. I’m not typically against walking 1 mile. No biggie right? When it’s -6 degrees Fahrenheit with a slight windchill, 1 mile feels like a marathon. Not only that, I didn’t want to wear a hat, otherwise my hair would look like a cheap toupee. So, there I was, trudging along, burning calories every step and every shiver as I went. And that’s where my mind is now. The positive side of me being careless and not checking my pockets for the keys before I left the house. I got a little extra workout in and hey, I’ve got an impending cold weather workout looming over my head at the end of the day too.

Minnesota… What a wonderful place to live. Especially in the winter. Come on up, we’ll leave the lights on for ya. 🙂

Snowshoeing in April

I traveled to Northern Minnesota Thursday morning to spend time with my family. I went from no snow at my house, to a winter wonderland. What a weird April it has been here in Minnesota. Here are some pictures of my snowshoeing adventure.

NOTE: I am not a professional photographer, let alone even an amateur or hobby photographer. I’ve done nothing to the pics to make them look better as I wouldn’t know what to do anyway.

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Rochester Half Marathon

It’s been nearly 1 week since the Rochester Half Marathon and I’m finally ready to talk about it. This race certainly wasn’t what I was expecting. The course had more hills than I had expected. My goal was to run the race in 1 hour and 45 minutes. That is an 8 minute mile average. I did not meet that goal.

I managed to run the first 5 miles at about an 8 minute mile. I was pretty happy about that since the first 5 miles have quite a few hills.

At mile 6 I hit my wall and never really recovered. I didn’t hit the wall because I was out of shape. I hit the wall for several reasons.

  • I only ate two 90 calorie granola bars for breakfast
  • I ran the first 5 miles too fast

Had I not done those two things the race would have ended up much more positive. I managed to finish the race in 2 hours and 31 seconds placing overall 274th.

I’m happy that I accomplished this but it still stings knowing I could have done better.

Improving MN Online Testing?

If you work at a public school in the state of Minnesota and you haven’t heard of online testing, you’re either lucky, or you haven’t read an e-mail in about 5 years.

The state started off with the “Online in 09” motto in which the goal was to get all required state testing done via computer. That motto soon dissolved.

So, as a question to all I ask; “What can be done to improve MN State Online Testing?”

Here are just a few of my own ideas. Agree or disagree. I’m interested in your opinions.

  • Web-based (supposedly coming in 2010-2011 and should eliminate the need for a client)
  • If going web-based ensure it works with IE, Mozilla, Opera, Safari
  • Use SSL encryption
  • Eliminate video/graphics (most aren’t very helpful)
  • Eliminate need for Caching
  • Multiple Choice, True/False, Essay only (no drag and drop matching)
  • Do not require antivirus to be disabled. EVER!
  • Allow the volume to be set after testing has begun
  • Make the test management site easier for proctors
  • Using practice content is cumbersome
  • Make it easier to find useful instructions
  • Update software 1 or 2 times per year, NEVER during testing windows
  • Ensure state staff have working knowledge of the products being used
  • Work more with MN educators to develop testing content
  • Require password change 2 times per year, not every 30 days
  • Do not impose testing on schools if the tests don’t need to be passed to graduate
  • Trust schools to prevent test cheating, reduce security restrictions

Online testing in Minnesota can’t be all bad can it? They have done some good things right? Here are just a few things I have either been impressed with or at least satisfied with.

  • Support has been relatively good
  • System status site is very helpful
  • Webinars are helpful (as long as staff presenting know the products)

Unfortunately the list of good is much smaller. Perhaps it is unfair to be so critical, but it is hard when the state is requiring so much testing and then they produce a very inefficient way of administering the tests. Schools are worried that state testing will begin taking over their classrooms to the point there will be little time for teaching. With the Math and Reading retakes this year going online we have had testing every month which has taken labs out of commission for long periods of time and disrupted many students daily learning.

Testing is good but teaching is more important and I don’t feel we can afford to give up so much teaching time for such inefficient testing time.

If you have ideas that you think would benefit MN Online Testing be vocal when you attend testing webinars. Ask lots of questions and when given the chance submit your ideas to the state. I plan to submit some of my ideas to the state as well. MN Online Testing is not an entirely bad endeavour, it just needs some polishing.