Thursday, April 10, 2008

Restaurant Review - Dim Sum Garden

Hi - Jason here. I just had a restaurant review published over on Below is an except. Click on over if you want to read the full article. Thanks!

Dim Sum Garden

A rose by any other name…

Over the winter, a new restaurant opened up in Chinatown, and has quickly become my go-to place when I’m in that area. The place is easy to overlook, as it sits in that dark cavern on 11th Street, between Filbert and Arch - right next to the Chinatown bus terminal. So, as you might tell, it’s really not much of a garden at all, but what’s in a name? I’m more interested in what’s inside...

Click here to read the rest of this article.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Old School, meet New School

Spring has sprung here in Philadelphia, and the weather is (slowly) getting nicer. Time to spend more time outside. This means it's also time to start ramping up my on-bike training for the Livestrong Challenge ride, which takes place in August.

A few weeks ago, I pulled out my Trek 1200 road bike from the basement and started cleaning the crud off of it. I haven't ridden this bike in over a decade, and while it's in pretty good shape (thankfully, aluminum doesn't rust), it needed a good cleaning, and to have some of the consumables replaced. I replaced all the cables, and also the chain. All the bearing seemed to be rolling smoothly still, except for the headset bearings, which were badly indexed. To put that simply, the steering bits were toast and had to be replaced. As this required expensive tools that I'd probably only ever use once, I decided to drop it off at a local bike shop and have them take care of it.

In fact, I just got it back from them today... good as new! And a surprising thing happened at the shop... as the mechanic pulled my bike of the rack and gave it to me, he said something along the lines of, "wow... that's a pretty light bike!" I said, "yeah... especially considering it's 18 years old.". Now for you non-cyclists or casual bike riders out there, mentioning the apparent lightness of someone's bike is roughly equivalent to telling a woman she looks 10 years younger than she really is. In other words, I could feel myself on the verge of blushing and getting all giggly.

The "New School" mentioned in title of this post is the new bike computer I recently got - a Garmin Edge 305. Now, I tend not to fall all over myself when it comes to gadgetry, but this Garmin 305 has serious "Gee Whiz Factor". In a nutshell, it will tell me speed, distance, altitude climbed (and grade), pedaling cadence, heart rate, and countless other types of data that I'll probably never use. The clincher for me, however, was GPS capability - not to tell me where I'm going, but to record where I've been. What's cool about that, you ask? Well, it lets me do nifty things like import the ride data into Google Earth and view my route... like this:

That's the route of my first ride on the old Trek that I took tonight. Starting at the "Rocky Steps" at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, I headed up along West River Drive, across Falls Bridge, and then back down Kelly Drive. 8.5 miles, according to the GPS. What a difference a proper road bike makes! I did the same ride on my slick-tired mountain bike recently, and tonight was ~17 minutes faster for the loop on the Trek.

It's not all sunshine and happiness, though. The extreme riding position is going to take a while to get used to again. Plus, my butt really hurts now. Hopefully, both issues can be solved simply by getting some training under my belt.


Saturday, February 9, 2008

Kickboxing 101

Today was the 3rd session in an 8-week kickboxing class that Cherie and I decided to take at the gym. Don't misunderstand... there are no dreams of participating in some mixed martial arts tournament, or getting a guest appearance on a future episode of TapouT. Nope, this is sort of a beginner's non-contact course, primarily intended more for fitness rather than combat training. We thought this would be a good way to mix things up a bit and kick-start our bodies heading into spring, so when the weather warms and the time comes to venture back outside, we can hit the ground running.

The question I have is this: If this is a non-contact class, why do I leave each week feeling like I just got my ass kicked?

We did this circuit course today, and one of the exercises involved moving up and down the length of a rope ladder on the floor, jumping in and out of the "squares". Fun, right? Actually, that's not bad. The part where we had to lift a medicine ball over our heads on each jump "in" was slightly less fun. OK, even that's not too bad, as it's not a particularly heavy ball. And this was a circuit course, so you only spend about 2 minutes at each exercise before moving to the next. Somehow, the 2 minutes I spent on the medicine ball thing lasted exactly 72 minutes, at least in my head. Remember that scene in the movie "Risky Business" where Joel is staring at the clock, waiting for the bell to ring at the end of class, and the clock suddenly ticks backwards and he's really pissed off? Yeah, well if Joel had been jumping around hoisting a medicine ball over his head, that would have been how I felt.

And so it goes in the struggle to build Jason 2.0. It's all for the best, however. The way I see it, the more pain I endure now, the easier it will be fore me when I ride the 100 miles in August. Eye of the tiger. I'm hoping that next week, we can play "catch the chicken."

Sunday, January 27, 2008

2008 Livestrong Challenge

As mentioned in my previous post, this August I am planning to ride 100 miles as part of the Livestrong Challenge charity event. This will be a big milestone for me, because even when I was a young lad that rode constantly, I never once attempted to tackle a 100 mile ride before. I'm not sure what I'm getting myself into...

At any rate, if you would like to show your support for the Lance Armstrong Foundation, and support me while I train for this event, a you can donate online here:

(Note: donated money goes to the LAF, not to me! However, the more donations I can get, the more motivation I'll have to successfully complete this ride!)


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Building Jason 2.0

It was around May, 2007. I finally had enough. Enough struggle. Enough suffering. Enough pain. I was also sick of being winded from climbing a couple flights of stairs, and having to suck in my gut to button my pants.

That's right. I was sick of being fat and lazy.

As you can see from the diagram of Jason 1.0, I was primarily composed of fat and weakness. Those rolls in the diagram are not from a billowing shirt. Nope. Fat.

Now, I know... some of you might look at me as say "Jason, you're really not that fat." Well, yes and no. While I certainly wasn't to the point of having to wash myself with a rag on stick, I was most certainly overweight. You have to understand, I'm what they call an "ectomorph". That is to say, I'm a thin person - or should be a thin person. Common descriptors of ectomorphs are things like "delicate", "lean", "thin", "Hard Gainer". I've been skinny most of my life. To put that in some sort of perspective, when I graduated from high school, I was 6' 2" and probably less than 170 lbs. See? Skinny.

The other thing to note is that I'm one of those people that puts all of their extra weight on around the waist. This is not good. They say that people that distribute their fat evenly around the body can live long and healthy lives, even though technically, they are overweight. I'm not one of those people. People like me that put all their weight on around their trunk are much more likely to suffer from thinks like heart disease, stroke, cancer, etc.

In other words, what I'm trying to say is that I was really a skinny person trapped in a spare tire. My "fragile" body was going to collapse as a result. But Mr. Fat's days were numbered. I was formulating a game plan.

Step 1:
Adjust how I eat. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I have a thing for food. All kinds of food. I don't do diets. I've tried, and failed. You will not be able to sustain any kind of diet that deprives you of the things you love. And I love all kinds of food. So, my plan is to keep eating whatever the hell I want, but use my brain a bit more in doing so. For instance, in stead of skipping breakfast, and then getting so hungry at lunch that I gorge on junk, I will now eat smaller, regularly spaced meals throughout the day. The trick is to eat something relatively small before you get hungry. That way, you're body's not going into a defensive mode and forcing you to eat more than you need, just because it doesn't know when food is coming along. I'm not religious about this, but much better than I used to be, and it makes a difference.

Step 2:
Get active again. Back in the day when I was truly skinny, it was easy to stay that way. Primarily due to the fact that I typically cycled 100+ miles a week. For whatever reason (laziness?), I stopped riding regularly close to 15 years ago. Huge mistake. Well, I'm getting back in the saddle again... literally. A couple years ago, Cherie and I bought some new mountain bikes, but this starting last summer, we really got serious about putting them to good use. The fact that we live in Philadelphia, which has the largest municipal park system in the US, certainly helps. We have a lot of bike-friendly places to ride. There is even a mixed-use recreational path that goes from our doorstep (practically) all the way to Valley Forge Park - a round trip of ~42 miles. No more excuses. And now that we've made it a habit, we really love riding regularly. Well, I always loved it... but now Cherie has developed a fondness for it as well.

Step 3:
Get back to the gym. I've been going to the gym on and off for years. Which usually means, a few months on, followed by a few years off. Starting last July(ish), that's changed. Cherie and I are both going regularly now, and the results are starting to show. Part of my motivation for hitting the gym? Simple: muscle burns more calories at rest than fat does. That means, if I can keep my overall body weight approximately the same, but lose most of the fat while replacing it with muscle, my basal metabolic rate will naturally increase. What does that mean? It means I'll burn more calories without even trying. Which means, it will be harder to gain fat as long as I keep my eating under control. Nice.

Step 4:
Set goals. I'm the sort of person who needs to set goals. Setting a tangible milestone to work towards really helps keep me focused. Last fall, Cherie and I were to take part in the City of Hope charity bike ride here in Philly as part of the team from Sutter Home. It wasn't a super long ride - only 25 miles - but we made sure we were in good enough shape to pull it off with ease. Here we are with the Sutter Home group, including 5 time (and currently reigning) National Criterium Champion, Tina Pic from the Sutter Home women's pro team.

It was a fun ride. Alot of good people.

This year, I've decided to bump it up a notch. My goal for this year will be the 100-mile Livestrong Challenge "century" ride, which is scheduled for late August here in Philadelphia. Even when I used to ride all the time, I never once banged out a ride of this distance. 50 miles is about the most I've ever done in one day. But this year, I've decided to pull out my old road bike from the basement, blow the dust off it, and get some serious training in once again.

That's my goal. For now. The fact that I'm putting it in writing here for the world to see just helps to solidify my commitment.

It's a somewhat personal challenge, but the fact that my success will help contribute to a good cause gives me even more motivation.

Oh, and my overall fitness progress so far? Since last June, I've lost 25 pounds overall and went from ~23% body fat, to ~16%. By August, I hope to be close to 10%.

Wish me luck.