Friday, March 22, 2013

Shopping for a Gym in B/CS

Image source.

I've been asked how it is I can enjoy food so very much and yet stay healthy.  I love to work out - it's a reward for a hard day's work, not punishment for anything.

Anyways, with graduation quickly approaching I'm shopping for a new gym.  Requirements: must be within a reasonable distance of home, have reasonable rates, and have the equipment I need.  Mostly I need a power rack or squat rack with spotting arms. Here's what I've learned from free 7 day trial memberships to the ones that fit that description.

Aggieland Fitness Dome

Pros: perfect location, not too busy, and the clientele involve very few of that species I refer to as "dudebro". Very clean and well-maintained. Nice locker room with free lockers. Unlimited use of most fitness classes come with the membership. Nice and professional staff. Generally supportive, non-judgmental atmosphere.

Cons: a bit expensive and bench press racks do not have spotting arms.

$55 initiation fee (for the no-personal-trainer option) and $40, $45, or $50 per month depending on 2 year, 1 year or month-to-month memberships.

Anytime Fitness

Pros: good location, never overly busy, very nice staff, 24/7 access, everything is brand new, very clean. 2 power cages and an olympic platform, as well as bumper plates.  The other clients are nice enough. No need for lockers because of close proximity to car.

Cons: direct sunlight if you workout during the busy time of ~5-8 pm.  It's very bright and consistently gave me a headache.  Additionally since they very recently opened they only have 2 barbells for the entire facility. The power cages are used for bench press (no bench press racks), squats, and deadlifts and people cannot work in because there are only 2 barbells. I was there on Monday and there was a log jam in the gym...with only a handful of people there.

$100 initiation fee (currently waived as part of a special) + $49 for an electronic key + $35 or $40 per month depending on 18-month or 12-month membership + $25 annual improvement fee. They plan on purchasing more equipment as time goes on.  And they have only been open since January 2013. I'm sure the facility will improve with time.

Gold's Gym

Pros: large, established gym with a wide variety of equipment.  Clean locker room. Lots of classes. Just installed some new equipment.

Cons: gets quite busy at the times when I want to work out. Only one shaky power cage. Sometimes the equipment is not well maintained, particularly cardio. Some of the members have a problem of not wiping up after themselves.  No one wants to bench after you've left a puddle of sweat and hair gel, brah.

Rates range depending on a number of different promotional offers. Average rates I've seen are $0-60 initiation and $30-45 a month.

TAMU Rec Center

Pros: the best equipment and facility in town. Inexpensive.

Cons: extremely crowded. I haven't been able to find a time of day when classes are in session that doesn't involve a wait to use equipment. I've waited as long as 10-20 minutes between exercises when classes have been in session.  Limited hours, especially during academic breaks.  Closes for two weeks to a month every December. Membership is limited to students, faculty, staff, and their families. Parking is a challenge.  Parts of the gym are often inaccessible due to various events.

$150 a semester, $375 a year, or $32 a month. Classes cost an extra $2 each.

How is any of this relevant to a foodie blog? You can't lift well if you don't eat well.
Image source. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

TEDxAustin 2013

Greetings and salutations readers!

I've passed my defense (whoot!), my dissertation has been submitted to the graduate committee, and my peer reviewed manuscript is in a holding pattern for now, therefore I'm back to blogging!  [Along the way I became a fan of the Oxford comma and Dropbox...after figuring out how it works. And I had to replace the laptop after frying it - which meant learning Windows 8 two weeks before my defense. Ack!]

During my hiatus I attended not one, but two TEDx events in Texas.  The most recent was TEDxAustin, held at the Circuit of the Americas Formula One track just outside of Austin, Texas.  [I also attended TEDxSanAntonio, which will be the subject of another post.]

Just about anyone who spends any amount of time in academic circles and online is familiar with TED, which stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design and hosts a high profile who's-who event in California every year.  TEDx events are independently organized events held around the world.  TEDx is far less expensive to attend and tend to focus on themes and speakers with topics of local interest. Attendees (livestreamed online for free or present in the auditorium) experience a variety of talks throughout an entire day of events and activities.  People who attend in person have additional hands-on experiences and a wonderful networking opportunity with other attendees and the speakers.

So other than the cool factor, what does a foodie blog have to do with TEDx or TEDxAustin? Lunch.  Just prior to lunch Elizabeth Andoh presented her TEDxAustin talk on Kansha and Washoku cooking.  Simply defined, kansha cooking is a philosophy that encourages preparing food in a way that minimizes waste and maximizes diner satisfaction. Washoku is a set of guidelines to follow in order to achieve nutritional and aesthetic harmony at the dinner table. I am, of course, oversimplifying.  Please watch her TEDxAustin talk here (I tried to embed the video but blogger wasn't having it).  After the talk we had lunch prepared by local chefs according to these principles.  When we registered for the event we selected from a list of food choices: gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian, and FearLess.  I chose FearLess.

Dell donated these interesting biodegradable boxes for the event. 

We picked up lunch in the paddock area of the Circuit of the Americas. I know nothing about Formula One, but it's still cool.
We got to see a bit of the track on the way to lunch. 

Lunch was upstairs from the paddock.  This entire facility is less than a year old.

Lots of areas for networking or just hanging out.

Tables set for lunch.  That was water in the growlers, not beer. :-)   I met some really interesting people over lunch, including several primary school science teachers and a practicing shaman.
Steamed shrimp with a smoky gele.  I would love to figure out how to make that gel. It was quite fantastic.  The shrimp kind of reminded me of the steamed shrimp from back home.

A wonderfully pickled egg.  Subtle and not at all overpowering.

Surprisingly spicy seaweed with tofu stars. 

Pickles and daikon.  The rice had a sweet and umami character to it.

Beef tataki and shredded onions.  I know what you're saying "but aren't you intolerant to onions?"  Yes I am, and I just ate around them. 

Another shot of one of the dining rooms.

The ingredients were locally sourced.
So there you have it. TEDxAustin was surprisingly a foodie event. I learned some concepts about Buddhist and Japanese philosophy I hadn't even heard about previously and met some wonderful people while trying something new. Way cool.  Now, how's about some images of the rest of the conference?  Enjoy!  If you want to watch the rest of the videos go here.  If you're interested in attending next year's conference, follow them on facebook or on twitter at @TEDxAustin.

The living wall.

Detail of the living wall.

This cube was a really interesting set piece and backdrop.  It changed throughout the conference. 

The set as seen from the audience.

Book sale to raise money for TEDxYouth in Austin. This also featured books authored by the speakers.

An interesting interactive wall from Microsoft.  The squares are bar codes that can be read by the smart phone app for the conference and lead to supplemental material.

Networking galore. 

Entrance to the set or "the adult playground". It had a surreal feel to it.

More of the "adult playground"

One of the art installations around the set featured art in progress, including this really cool Formula One painting.

This playground even had a swing.

Another installation.
Many thanks to MisoHungry and WindAddict for a heads-up on TEDxAustin and for a place to stay.  Y'all are the best!