Cinema 2012: the Movies We Watched this Year

Throughout 2012, there were a healthy amount of movies that Alana and I saw in theaters. Even though tomorrow is the last day of the year and we might see a movie (Les Miserables, most likely), this post comes now.

Here are the 30 movies that we saw in theaters this year, basically in order. There were plenty of movies that we saw out of theaters as well; the first one that comes to mind is actually Kung Fu Panda 2. Also, we just recently watched Safety Not Guaranteed. Throw Alana’s first time seeing Nightmare Before Christmas and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation to that list.
It’s funny because we’ve already seen so many of these movies, but this was the year of the re-release in 3d, or at least it feels like it.

I’ll just throw a few words about each movie, some we did actual reviews for and others didn’t make it in time.

Beauty and the Beast 3d: Arguably my favorite animated movie, and feature film, of all time, it’s easily in the top ten if you ask me any day. We had seen The Lion King re-release last year and this was a no brainer. Alana had to stop me from singing along throughout the movie. It’s always in the discussion and usually the front runner for favorite Disney movie of all time.
The Grey: It was about Liam Neeson and wolves so we had to see it. Plus, I love snow and the cold. This movie was such a let down with an awful anti-climatic ending and a series of ridiculous deaths. The scenery was beautiful and the soundtrack was intriguing though.
Star Wars Episode 1: Phantom Menace 3d: Even Alana’s hatred of the new trilogy couldn’t keep us away from this one. It’s my favorite of the new trilogy because of Qui Gon, Darth Maul, and Duel of the Fates, thank you John Williams. The 3d felt non-existent but we enjoyed it being loud and large.

Cover of "Star Wars - Episode I, The Phan...

The Secret World of Arrietty: Continuing the streak of seeing anything related to Hayao Miyazaki whenever possible. It’s not one of his classics, but that still ranks it as an amazing movie. We loved it, the soundtrack was out of this world good.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi: Arguably my favorite movie of the year and the simplest one at that. I love sushi and Japan and Jiro Ono is the master of serving the finest. This was a masterpiece, perfectly put together with the most amazing images. We got sushi outside Lincoln Center right after it.
The Hunger Games: We did not enjoy this one even though one of us read the book prior and one didn’t. Obviously Alana read it. Mainstream trash in my opinion, although there were a few good special effects, costumes, and performances… Stanley Tucci.
Wrath of the Titans: It was nowhere near as good as the first one but Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, and Ralph Fiennes did the best they could to convince. It was too over the top, Bill Nighy, but my love for Greek mythology left me with a smile at the end. There was just so much more they could have done, recast Gemma Arterton as Ao, so it was the worst thing a movie could be, disappointing.
Titanic 3d: Smiled throughout the whole film. The 3d wasn’t very good, but Celine Dion and this movie on the big screen made for a great time.
Cover of "Titanic (Three-Disc Special Col...

Classic story

Avengers: Being a big comic book nerd and having seen all of the movies leading up to this one, we were thrilled with this movie. Great casting Thor and Captain America, finally getting a good Hulk, Joss Whedon is a genius (See Firefly), I could go on for a long time. Alana bought it the day it came out on blu-ray and we watched it that night.
Men in Black 3: I love this series and Will Smith is great. This movie had such great witty humor in it, we were laughing, we were biting our nails, we were just loving it. It had a better story than the second one and potentially the first. It was a fun movie.
Snow White and the Huntsman: I actually was really looking forward to this one based on the trailer but I didn’t have huge expectations because I didn’t want to be disappointed and it hit home just right. It wasn’t amazing but it was good. I enjoyed it thoroughly although a second viewing is questionable.
Brave: We enjoyed seeing this one in Chicago while going across the country and it was just a nice movie. I’m not a huge Pixar fan so it was definitely one of my top choices from them, but it was the ancient lore of the world they created in it that made me like it so much.
Beasts of the Southern Wild: We saw this one at the FOX lot in Los Angeles and it was amazing. The little girl who plays the lead gets my breakout actress of the year award, and arguably best female lead of the year. The cinematography was perfect. In a league with Jiro in terms of quality.
Ice Age Continental Drift: A fun family movie we all saw together for free again at the FOX lot. I didn’t see all the prequels but it was clever enough and fun enough to deliver well… enough.
The Dark Knight Rises: It was good, I enjoyed the ending no spoilers, but it doesn’t live up to the hype for me. I haven’t been too crazy about the series despite having a long history with Batman. People can call me crazy but I have my experience and I enjoyed Michael Keaton’s movies the most, although these have some great qualities.
Ruby Sparks: A really cute creative movie that made us smile a lot. We enjoyed it when we all saw it at FOX. Great showing from independent movies this year, really.
Resident Evil Retribution: This was the MOST disappointing movie of the year for me. I see the Resident Evil movies for my birthday every year and they always are garbage, but this was the worst by far. They tore the actual story line apart and threw away everything Capcom has done for the last near twenty years.
Hotel Transylvania: Cute, about what we expected from it. Good cast of voice actors, but nothing special got across from this one. No amazing messages, it was just blah.
FrankenweenieReally didn’t enjoy this one as much as critics did, it was the same recycled material Tim Burton has been using for years. Batman was great, Edward Scissorhands was perfect, and Nightmare was a classic, but everything since then, including this, has just been pieces of each.
Pitch Perfect: We loved this movie, I even bought the soundtrack the next day on iTunes and it’s still on my phone. It was predictable but the comedy and performances were good enough to keep us very entertained.
Taken 2: I loved Taken, but this was awful. Huge disappointment. They really messed this one up. All you needed to do was make Liam Neeson be really cool for an hour and a half. Instead you decide to spend half the movie chatting in a car, mansion and hotel with no action at all. Trying to set up a huge ending? Failed.
007 Skyfall: In the running for favorite movie of the year, which says a lot since this year was stacked. Daniel Craig is phenomenal in living up to the man that Ian Fleming actually created in his books. Bond is a ladies man, but he also has a dark side and mysterious past and this movie really focused on that. The action was great, the villain was one of the best ever, it was Bond.
Wreck it Ralph: Not quite a Disney classic, but the nostalgic effect of the characters involved with the smart humor and fun story line made a very good movie. It was very good. I would imagine best animated film of the year, edging Arrietty.
Lincoln: Daniel Day Lewis did a creepy job capturing Lincoln and the movie focused on a subject we feel so strongly about, but it was just very long. I’m sure a few scenes, including when he failed to garner a vote from one man, could have been left out with the same effect. Maybe some people like that scene, but it’s just me.
Rise of the Guardians: Really fun voice acting and the kids probably loved this one. We enjoyed it but it wasn’t anything special.
Fellowship of the Ring14 hour marathon.
The Two Towers: We were sick.
Return of the King: We enjoyed every minute of it.
LOTR
The Hobbit 3d: We loved the lore, the soundtrack, the acting, we loved everything. We thought Peter Jackson cut it off at the perfect spot. But we wish we didn’t see it in 3d Dolby Atmos because the frame rate was just too high and it was so loud it was 4d with an earthquake. We are going to see this one again in the regular showing and I think it will be multiple times better. Can’t wait for the next one.
The Hobbit
Life of Pi 3d: Beautiful visuals and captivating performances. It was very enjoyable and something we expect from Ang Lee, who brought us Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.

So, not including all of the movies that we had already seen (Beauty and the Beast, Phantom Menace, Titanic, LOTR Trilogy) we have 25 new movies that we saw in theaters this year. I think it’s time for some awards! (These are Chris, not Alana… sorry she’s at work and has better taste)

Starting with the bad awards! Every movie here gets an award, maybe.
Worst Ending: The Grey
Worst Adaptation: The Hunger Games
Biggest Disappointment: Resident Evil Retribution
Worst Sequel: Taken 2
Longest Feeling Movie: Lincoln
Most Unoriginal: Frankenweenie
Most Blah: Hotel Transylvania
Most Potential Lost: Wrath of the Titans
Best Effort: Ice Age Continental Drift
Animated Honorable Mention: Rise of the Guardians
Feature Honorable Mention: Snow White and the Huntsman
Best Import: The Secret World of Arrietty
Best Animated Feature: Wreck it Ralph
Best Sequel: Men in Black 3
Best Family Movie: Brave
Most Satisfying Release: 007 Skyfall
Best Directing: The Avengers
Most Visually Stunning: Life of Pi
Best Breakout Movie: Beasts of the Southern Wild
Most Captivating Acting Performances: Ruby Sparks
Best in Humor: Pitch Perfect
Best Adventure: The Hobbit
My Personal Favorite of the Year: Jiro Dreams of Sushi

For me, that turns into a top 10 of the year (of 25), that more or less looks like this off the top of my head:
1. Jiro Dreams of Sushi
2. 007 Skyfall
3. The Avengers
4. The Hobbit
5. The Secret World of Arrietty
6. Pitch Perfect
7. Beasts of the Southern Wild
8. Wreck it Ralph
9. Ruby Sparks
10. Life of Pi

Honorable Mentions: Brave, Men in Black 3

And like I mentioned earlier, hopefully we get to see Les Miserables tomorrow night. It will probably crack the top 5 easily, top three maybe, number one potentially. I have a long history with Les Mis and it could really hit me in the right, or wrong, spot. I will be VERY critical based on reading the book in French and English, seeing the Broadway play in New York multiple times, seeing the past movie with Liam Neeson as Valjean, and creating my own arrangements of the broadway soundtrack.

We really wanted to see Cloud Atlas but never got around to it. We, aka I, also had interest in but either missed out or will probably miss out on Argo, Silent Hill, Man with the Iron Fists, and Cirque du Soleil. I’m probably going to try to get Alana to see Django also, but we’ll let you know in a future review post if we see it!

Boycott United

Even though our heads are still pounding, we’ve been feeling guilty every day about breaking our streak of posting so I’m dealing with the headaches to get this out, even though it’s more of a rant and less of an informative post. But these can be fun, right? Especially if, or rather when, you can relate.

 

So we recently flew back to Denver from Los Angeles, a non-stop flight from LAX to DIA. We took United Airlines, and we will never fly or let anyone we know fly with them again. Before I get into this in more detail, I’m going to throw some of my flying experiences and how I grade airlines down to establish that I do have a basis for being allowed to evaluate their performance. Alana was going to help but she feels like someone is hitting her inside the head with a hammer so she’s in bed.

 

 

We’ve been to North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Oceania (or what some people call Australia) making a grand total of six of the seven continents in the world. Sorry Antarctica, not quite yet. We’ve been to South Korea, North Korea, New Zealand, Tanzania, Sweden, Peru, Canada, Bermuda, the United States, etc. We’ve spent a fair amount of time on planes, with my longest flight being a little over 15 hours, Alana’s about 14 hours if I’m not mistaken. We’ve flown on the monster planes with three stories and the huge engines on the top, and we’ve flown on little planes that hold less than 20 people and only know the meaning of turbulence. So we have a fair share of experience for people our age.

 

 

Here are my reviews for airlines: Anything with a positive review comes first, then anything with a mixed review will probably be neglected because I’ve only flown it once or twice and can’t even remember it, and lastly the negative reviews.

 

 

Virgin: A-
Who cares about paying a few extra dollars when you feel like you’re the most important person in the world? That’s how I feel whenever I fly Virgin. And they haven’t always had the most expensive flights, you can always find a deal. From the cool atmosphere inside the plane, to the great customer service throughout the process, the practical personal screen that allows you television, games, movies, and ordering food with just a touch, flying Virgin is my number one choice for domestic flights.

 

 

Continental: B+
Continental got me to South America and back on eight hour flights without any issues. Good customer service, reasonable rates, and smooth flights. Amenities were good on both flights and never any significant delays. Functional terminals and everything else I could ask for from an airline. Overall top choice for international service.

 

 

Delta: B
The only issue I ever had with Delta was actually United’s fault. So I still am docking points from Delta, but they don’t even deserve it. Delta got me across the Pacific Ocean, while I had food poisoning from another source, without a hitch. The flight was over 15 hours long, but it didn’t feel like it with the non-stop meal service and consistent flow of good movies and television shows. The stewardess was very nice in dealing with my stomach problems, even allowing me to use the bathroom when the seatbelt light was on. Would fly again without any hesitation. Top choice for long international service.

 

 

Jet Blue: C+
I want to give Jet Blue lower because I had the worst pilot of my life on a Jet Blue flight. He started the descent into Miami around Washington D.C. and it felt like the longest roller coaster ride ever. It was the only time I’ve ever been nauseous on a plane. It was misery. However, the flight crew on all my Jet Blue flights have been the most entertaining and personable individuals I have ever flown with in my life. Jet Blue also rivals Virgin for in-flight amenities ranging from viewing selections to functional eating. Good terminals and online booking make Jet Blue my number two choice for domestic flights. One time the televisions weren’t working on the flight so they gave everyone an eight dollar credit for their next flight for a free movie. Never used it, but it was nice of them.

 

C: A good grade because average is good in this industry nowadays thanks to certain airlines. Here we can throw in all the airlines that I totally forgot about because they were short flights or no longer exist so thank you all for providing me with good service.

 

 

American Airlines: D+
Nothing memorable except delays nearly every time for at least thirty minutes. Not the best pilots or smoothest flights. Bad or average amenities. I always try to avoid if possible. I might have slept through these flights, sorry LAN and AirTran, etc.

 

 

Frontier: D
Frontier flew us to California without any delays and plenty of leg room, but they lack in customer service and their pet policies are absurd. They were not willing to negotiate with us at all, despite contacting them weeks ahead of time to try to exchange flights so we could fly with our cats. It would have been $500 round trip for the two (three pound) kittens, non-negotiable. Customer service was not helpful or understanding in any way, so we will not be flying Frontier again.

 

United Airlines
United: F
I will never fly United again, and will do everything non-violent in my power to make sure no one I know uses United. They are very cheap, compared to some of the choices above and offer more flights than most providers but that’s like eating Hershey’s for the same reason. I will cover the cost of friend’s tickets to use other airlines because United employs some disgusting individuals, Carlos Menendez, Service Director at Denver International Airport, I am talking about you mainly. United has no sense of responsibility or pride in what they do. I cannot believe the lack of communication, respect and customer service that they have. to put this into perspective, this was arguably the absolute worst service I have EVER received in ANY form of business whatsoever. It was worse than purchasing products at the mall or online, staying at hotels or eating at restaurants, and any other service… and I am talking about ALL OVER THE WORLD. When I couldn’t speak Korean, I had servers in restaurants in Seoul that took me into the kitchen to show them what I wanted because we had trouble communicating. This was the opposite effect. Here’s the general narrative:

 

Friday, Alana and I are incredibly sick and have been for a full week, most sick I’ve ever been, and we have a 5:47 p.m. flight PST from LAX. Being responsible and knowing that it’s a busy travel time of year, we decide to go to the airport nice and early, leaving Santa Monica at 3:00 p.m. There isn’t too much traffic and we’re at the airport checking baggage at 3:50 p.m. We check two bags for the regular rate with a nice LA lady working for United, then head through a very easy security process and we’re actually at our gate waiting at 4:00 p.m.

 

Boarding is around 5:20 p.m. so Alana goes to get something to eat so she can take her medicine to feel a little better because flying with congestion and head pressure is the worst. When she gets back I find it a little funny that the plane hasn’t shown up, the service crew isn’t at the desk, and the digital board isn’t displaying anything about our flight. I take a walk to the departure board a few gates down and it says that our flight, is “awaiting aircraft” and is “departing at 8:20 p.m.” But that can’t be right because that’s almost three hours after its departure on our newly printed boarding passes from checking in our baggage. Alana checks her mail, and at 3:47 p.m. she received an email simply stating that our flight was delayed but we should still show up in time for our 5:20 boarding. Weird, no? We checked baggage after that and the boarding pass didn’t say the time had changed, none of the employees throughout baggage check said anything, our gate didn’t have a service member appear to say anything. Do they assume everyone has a smartphone and checks it every five minutes? But they still said show up on time in that awful email.

 

Ridiculousness

 

Now it’s about 5:00 p.m. or a little later and the flight has arrived, so our plane is here, fueled and ready to go. A United member who was not part of our flight crew out of her own kindness and she was very nice decided to call in to see what was going on since United didn’t feel they were obligated to tell a hundred people with connecting flight and ground transportation plans about their mistake. Apparently, the plane was here and ready but there wasn’t a crew for the plane. Specifically, there wasn’t a pilot, but we could see that no crew was here. I check the departures board and see that there is another Denver bound flight that leaves at 7:29 p.m. but when we check it only has standby seats so they’re not willing to help us there since people with connecting flights get the first standby seats.

 

So we wait for an hour and still no United employees show up to tell us what is going on, no surprise at this point. Hours later, two United people show up to work the desk and they get a flood of people who will be missing connecting flights, etc. At this point, we realize that we are totally screwed (forgive my language) for ground transportation. Our ride we had set up shouldn’t have to stay up all night for us with dangerous driving conditions and the Skyride only runs until a certain time. So our two affordable means of getting home are now gone. We were supposed to land around 9:00 p.m. There are Skyrides at 9:20, 10:20 and 11:20 p.m. Now, after another delay because United can’t find us a flight crew, we are departing at 8:50 p.m. and we land around midnight. The flight itself was quiet, empty because so many people left the airport. A few families re-booked flights for the next day because they didn’t want their whole day ruined. United ruined our whole day. So now, it’s past midnight in Denver and we need to get back to Boulder because we’re sick and the kittens are at home and we need to rest so we can work.

 

 

While in LAX we asked the United employee, a man whose name Alana doesn’t remember, how we should get home because their mistake turned into no ground transportation. We felt they should pay for it and we let him know that. He said to go to the United Customer Service desk in Denver and that they would get us home, we wouldn’t need to worry about the cost. I wish we recorded that because United is full of lies. When we land we ask the United members what to do and they say go to the people at baggage and they’ll help you get home. We get our baggage, no serious damage, and Alana who has a better temper goes to the two ladies at the desk while I sit. The nice ladies tell Alana that we don’t usually do that but we’ll check for you on your ticket and reservation and then they call over Carlos Menendez who says no we don’t do that our contract got you to Denver. Alana gets mad claiming that they screwed up and he just walks away, the ladies say sorry he is the boss and Alana comes back to me. May I add that this guy was checking baggage (scanning barcodes on bags that are just lying around) twenty feet from the desk and when they page him he shouts angrily let me finish this first before he comes over. Alana tells me that they said they fulfilled their contract and we can get no compensation. Now I enter, here comes the rant.

 

 

I come stomping over, face half paralyzed, eye dripping water from the Bell’s, head pounding, voice thick with phlegm, and aggravated as all hell that this guy treated Alana so poorly. I walk past him like he’s nothing because he truly is nothing, muttering under my breath, “you didn’t fulfill your contract, I’ll get my compensation and then some.” He tries to bump me (good thing he missed) with some cocky look on his face and in his tone, says “what you say?” I stare over him in the eyes and repeat exactly what I say and he says we got you to Denver as our contact states, you get nothing else….

 

Chris: You didn’t fulfill your contract actually as you can see, and now we have no way to get back to Boulder. Can you tell me how to get back?

 

Carlos: No, United does air transportation not ground.

 

Chris: Well you work in an airport, you must know something or somewhere I can go to get information.

 

Carlos: We don’t do ground transportation.

 

Chris: I need a way back to Boulder and compensation because United screwed up. Now.

 

Carlos: I can’t help you. File a complaint online.

 

Chris: Do you have a manager or someone that has knowledge or authority?

 

Carlos: No.

 

Chris: So you have the most authority of any United employee in this airport and that authority is nothing?

 

Carlos: Yes.

 

Chris: Well you don’t know anything at all, so I’ll ask your employees where I can find a way home.

 

Carlos: Do not talk to them.

 

Chris: I NEED TO GET HOME.

 

Carlos: If you give them a hard time I will call the police. (Goes for the phone)

 

Chris: I’ll give them whatever time I need to find us a way home. Our phones are dead because your airline did such a poor job.

 

Carlos: Then I’m calling the police to have you removed from this airport and arrested.

 

Chris: NO. (FULL ANGER) I’m calling the police right now because you’re harassing me, maybe they will know how I can get home. (Starts dialing)

 

At this point, Carlos knowing he’s a useless little man who should have never been given a position in customer service let alone as a supervisor or director walks/runs away never to be seen again, leaving his employees there. I never even talked to the two women because I knew it would do nothing since United put a  man in charge who should not even have a job in customer service. Customer service meaning he deals with customers. He should be loading baggage onto the airplanes, if anything, never to be seen by people. He had no tact, no diplomatic skill, no patience, no information, he had nothing. He was the worst employee I have ever seen and if he wasn’t there or if he handled the situation in any other way, we wouldn’t have this problem.

 

I don’t know the airport well but I saw signs for ground transportation. It was right next to the United desk, so Carlos was truly useless or the biggest prick ever. The guys working there were nice and gave us our options. All very expensive. We ended up splitting an independent shuttle with a random guy that flew in form Atlanta to Boulder for the first time. It was about $100 for the trip to Boulder. It would have been free, or $26 if United hadn’t screwed up so in my book they owe us at least $70 in compensation just for that, let alone ruining our day, making us sicker, and putting us through that hell and web of lies. You have some employees telling us it will be covered just go to the next desk and the end of the road is Carlos, who offers no help.

 

On a side note, the man who drove us to Boulder did a phenomenal job. If you want to know the best shuttle service from Denver, please email me or leave a comment for information.

 

I just will never get over how poorly Carlos dealt with the situation. He could have simply told me to go to the ground transportation desk and then ask for compensation after because he doesn’t have the means to pay for it at the time. That would have been enough. But he didn’t, he was aggressive and cocky and did the worst possible thing, threaten me.

 

I’ll be filing complaints with United about the situation, trying to get compensation because of their mistake, and trying to remove Carlos from his position. He should not work in customer service, since he isn’t able to do his duty.

 

Anyways, never sacrifice your morals or values for a few bucks. Pay the extra money for the better flight, for the money to go to the right people! Do the right thing, as we will never fly United again, no matter what.

Slow Down: Be Grateful and Feel Thankful

Too often, I believe this culture is too busy to remember what we are grateful for. What we should feel so eternally thankful for. And this is just a gentle short reminder post on the long-running list of things you are and can be thankful for. Being thankful isn’t just to ease your morality and do your “good deed for the day,” it makes you happy too. Who can beat a free dose of happiness?

Can’t particularly think of anything right now? Let me start you off…

Feel thankful for your health. Too often we forget this…until we become ill.

Feel thankful for those in your life who impact you every day. 

Starting to get the notion? I’ll throw out some more random ones that I may or may not feel…

Feel thankful for the random Christmas card from a professor that you didn’t expect.

Feel thankful that just as you feel like falling, someone is there to pick you up.

Feel thankful you have a beautiful amount of life thriving around you, it’s everywhere when you look.

Be grateful that your partner understands you as a best friend/soul mate freakish hybrid would. 

Be grateful for the kindness and humor of an Emergency Room doctor late in her shift. 

Be grateful when your 6-month old kitten buries her head in your arm and snuggles like there’s no tomorrow.

Feel thankful when you have the chance look at the snow slowly falling from the trees, the salt misting above the sea, and the fog rolling off the plains. 

Be grateful for the ability to ground yourself in peace with a few thoughts.

Feel thankful for the ready availability of water, shelter, and food.

Feel thankful that your family and friends accept you for who you are.

Be grateful that thoughts are immortal no matter what their contents contain…you can always remember them. 

Feel thankful for the way you are raised and the way you are today…all those good traits.

Be grateful for the imagination that rules your mind and can let you escape to somewhere else whenever you choose.

Be grateful for family who will cry with you. 

Sunset

The list plunges ever on, but I wanted to share a few with you that perhaps you can connect with. I know that Thanksgiving has passed, but I believe in stopping for just a moment or two, to find something to be thankful for and smile about. In an era of business and money, this is a small place of refuge.

Thanks to you all!

I’ll Need a Bigger Helmet: Biking in Boulder

This will be a quick one, mainly because we had long days and have an early day tomorrow, but also because I don’t have much to say about this, or perhaps I actually do and want to prevent an all out rant.

Essentially, again today on the way home from work I almost got hit by a car… in the sidewalk. I’m a responsible bike rider and good on my bike. I ride it at least 4 days a week, typically more. Some days I only ride it 2-3 miles to and from work but some days, doing multiple jobs, I can ride up to 12 miles a day. These are all commuting miles, on a mix of flat and graded terrain, typically sidewalks and roads. I have an old Trek mountain bike that has been transformed into a commuter bike and I custom fit it to meet my needs.

 
It has a 17″ frame, and some extra grooved tires for the snow. It has trigger gear shift capabilities that work relatively well and old but reliable brakes. It has a loud bell, a retractable steel grocery basket that fits onto the mountain rack on back, that I use as a makeshift splash guard. I have a decently comfortable seat that is locked to the frame with a wire lock. I keep my heavy duty u-lock attached to the frame and I use a large thick black bell dome helmet. I have all my reflectors in place, plus a flashing or steady rear led red light in addition to my steady or flashing led headlights.
 
Even with my ability and all these flashing lights, I almost always get hit day or night and it happens in the crosswalks! I come from an area where drivers have a tendency to lack patience and manners, but they are extremely efficient in terms of keeping traffic moving but also very aware of the stop signs, lines, lights and pedestrians.
Many of the drivers in Boulder are the opposite and it’s been tough to get used to it, but that’s not the issue. The issue comes with how bike friendly the actual city of Boulder is! There are crosswalks for pedestrians and bikers that have flashing lights and announce to slow down and stop, and there are bike lanes everywhere.
Bike are people too!
So every day I happen to be riding in the bike lane, or on the sidewalk if there aren’t any and someone almost hits me in that safe area! It’s because many of the drivers here happen to think that the stop line is for your back tire or the back of your car! Then they usually try to make some apologetic gesture, knowing that if they hit me, they would be in a big trouble, legally. So please, be considerate of pedestrians, be efficient but aware, and recognize the fact that your automobile is a powerful weapon if not handled properly.

Let’s keep our streets and sidewalks safe for everyone! Biking is a physically and mentally rewarding activity and although I may not like the snobby cyclists that wear racing gear and use $5,000 bikes to commute, I enjoy biking to work everyday. It is great for the environment, which I care much about, and it’s a decent leg workout if done correctly. Plus, it always wakes me up before I get to work on the early cold days. I love riding through the snow in the mornings here when the powder is untouched.

Oh well, enough of that, thanks for reading and remember to use green and alternative transportation!

11 Ways to Maintain or Lose Weight Throughout the Holidays

The holidays are never easy for those trying to maintain or lose weight. Never ever. You’re typically surrounded by family shoving food in your face like ham and cookies. We’ve created a guide that you should follow to weather this tumultuous season. Let’s stay on track!

  1. Exercise or MOVE 30 minutes a day. Minimum. That sounds like a lot. It’s not. Walk the dog, take a brisk walk round the neighborhood, scrub the floors, hop on the treadmill or elliptical. It is worth it. 
  2. Limit yourself to 2-3 treats a week. This plays a big part in maintaining all of your progress. Don’t binge on treats all the time, it’s about moderation.
  3. Strength train 2-3 times a week. Whether that means getting on the floor and doing core work, picking up weights, or using machines in a gym facility, get your muscles working. Keep up the toning and strength work. We want to keep burning calories after our workout! Chris pumping some good weight
  4. Resist temptation most of the time. Say that pack of oreos or that ice cream sundae is looking fabulous. Try to resist as much as possible, but again, have a treat now and then. When you resist the cookies, supplement it with something else like banana and peanut butter, greek yogurt, crackers and peanut butter, or fruit. Still tasty, but tremendously better for maintaining your progress.
  5. Get your friends and family in on the exercise. Think of how funny a plank or push up contest would be with all the folks. Get people to go for walks or jogs with you. Do a 15-minute timed abs routine with your cousins or siblings. Create family time around something other than food–and make it fun. Think how hilarious it would be to see your dad playing Just Dance.  
  6. Look at ingredient labels. If it has anything like “high fructose corn syrup” on it, STAY AWAY.
  7. Eat breakfastA simple simple way to control your metabolism and eating for the entire rest of the day. Not very hungry? Just have some greek yogurt and nuts, eggs on whole wheat toast, or a smoothie. Just to get the metabolism started and preventing a binge-fest later. Alana's typical house breakfast
  8. Control your portion size.We eat with our eyes and then we feel bad if we leave food on our plate. Break that habit and get small servings to start. You can always get more if you’re still hungry, right? Be smart about these choices. Use a smaller plate or bowl. 
  9. Eat often and well. When our glucose levels drop, we usually scrounge for something to satiate it: cookies, chips, ice cream, etc. However, when we eat often throughout the day (every 2-3 hours), that doesn’t happen. Have carrots, fruit, and nuts around the house—easy fix.
  10. When you eat, just eat. Sounds weird, but if you eat while distracted, say, while watching television, you don’t pay attention to your food or how your body is responding to it. Take the time to eat and really enjoy the food. It’s a good meditation and you won’t overeat.
  11. Is it worth it? Look at that piece of unhealthy food. Is it worth it? Is the satisfaction going to last more than ten minutes? What about that feeling of progress with weight or lean muscle? Weigh your decisions (no pun intended). Then reward yourself with a smile and know you did the right thing. 

So there you have it. Not too difficult to follow because you do get some cheats and treats every once in a while. It’s all about moderation. Be realistic,  but don’t overdo it. Good cheer and good luck this holiday season!

The Importance of Enjoying Work: Love What You Do and Do What You Love

I know these are hard economic times. I conducted five interviews on Friday with lots of amazing candidates with tons of experience in different fields to accompany their college degrees. People are forced to apply to any job that can pay the bills, whether they know how to do it or don’t, whether they’ll love every minute of it or wish the nightmare would just end. Alana and I both recently went through a lot of interviews of our own trying to figure out post-graduate work situations that would sustain our life in Boulder and, most importantly, for now, help pay off the student loans as soon as possible. But we were either smart or lucky, or a little bit of both. Our stubbornness in terms of applying to the right jobs and choosing the right jobs amongst a sea of interviews and offers seems to have paid off well.

 
Alana and I worked three jobs at one point over the past few months; one full time, one part time, and one very part time unofficial off-the-books job. Alana stopped doing her off-the-books job because it was just too much work for her when she was going seven days a week. Although, it was work that she enjoyed, it was too much and it’s important to know yourself and to know when to say enough is enough. Money is important, but we’re not the kind of people that enjoy the finer things in terms of clothing and cars and the flashy stuff. We’re happy with good food, good exercise, good family, and some nice books and video games. So our income doesn’t need to be excessive or even average, because it just needs to be coming from jobs that we enjoy.

Things we buy

Things we buy

For our personal update, without saying too much, Alana is working as a full-time certified personal trainer at the Longmont YMCA, Monday through Friday. On Sundays, she works as a caregiver at an assisted living home in Boulder. She loves training and this YMCA is very warm and friendly, so the job makes perfect sense. The commute is a little bit long for her liking, but it’s worth it. She works her second job to gain experience in the health care field in order to make her training in becoming a nurse a little easier. She just recently registered as a student with Front Range Community College so that she could take her pre-requisites for nursing school.

 

I am working as a full time swim teacher at the Swim School of Boulder. I also will be, or already am, the head coach of the Swim School of Boulder Club Swim Team. It officially launches January 1st 2013, but I’ve been working hard to make sure everything is prepared. Secondly, I work one or two days and seven to fourteen hours a week also at the Longmont YMCA as the instructional swim coordinator and aquatics advisor. I am trying to rebuild the aquatics department in order to provide the services to the community that I feel they deserve from an Aquatics department. Third, I walk a large dog in North Boulder, some times seven days a week typically for an hour at a time or some weeks not at all so it’s very on and off.

Despite working 45-50 hours a week each, on average, we’re extremely happy with our jobs and employers. It makes the rest of life a lot easier and even though we don’t make as much money as we might be able to, we appreciate the fact that we are employed and able to feed ourselves and stay warm at night. We try not to take anything for granted and remember we’re just the same as everyone else in terms of having to face this struggle.

So even though I can’t do anything to make you as lucky as us, be stubborn, and try your hardest without starving to find a job that you really enjoy, because it will make you that much happier.

Responsibility of Guardians Does Not Stop in the Gym

This is for you, parents, guardians, care-takers, and so forth. You’ve made it to the gym. Good job. You’ve brought a tag-along (no, not the cookies, a child) and feel satisfied that the gym is a good, safe place they can roam around and have fun. Wrong. Let me share with you a few ways kids unsupervised in gyms can go poorly:

1. They can injure themselves via weightlifting. We saw this yesterday. A kid, no more than twelve, somehow wearing weightlifting gloves (I don’t even wear them) doing curls. And he was lifting way too much weight. Which is when he compromises the proper form and uses his shoulders instead. It is so easy to injure your shoulders. Do your son or daughter a favor, and watch them if they are lifting, don’t let them build horrific injury-leading motions that can hurt them in the future. We were wary of the guardian nearby, because sometimes poor form comes from them.

2. They can distract, injure, or anger someone else. This may seem odd, but sometimes meat heads hit the gym. And they often come with a temper and seriousness to accompany their workouts. As if those workouts are the most important event occurring at the time. Obviously wrong, but many do exist. Say your kid is running around, hopping over weights and bumping into equipment. Besides messing up a roider’s reps, who could release some serious anger at your kid and, ultimately–you, but he/she could also injure someone. Say somebody is far down in their squat and the youngster bumps into them. Wham goes their knees. And wham goes your pocketbook when they sue you.

3. They can injure themselves simply moving around the gym. The gym is not a safe area. It is for people to increase their fitness, which includes heavy machinery, weights, long bars, and lots of pointy edges. Can you imagine how easy it would be for them to trip and fall face-first on an 80-pound dumbbell? Not a pretty sight.

Gym media center

Gym

Those are a few reasons off the top of my head. I’m not saying don’t bring your kid to the gym, I’m saying watch your kids if they’re performing exercises or doing some type of exercise. It’s great for them to be active and healthy. Just keep them close to you and under your eye. Put them in child-watch, most gyms have them nowadays. You don’t want to risk their injury or someone else’s. You don’t want to risk getting booted out of your favorite gym. Just a heads up as safety is always most important to us.

Breakfast Spotlight: Dot’s Diner

Alana would probably be more fitting to write this post about Dot’s Diner because she’s been there more and she also likes it a bit more, but I can still tell people how delicious it can be. Dot’s is a throwback baby-boomer themed breakfast diner that has a little bit of a Nepali twist to it. Their Nepali cooks make sure that the daily curries and chai are up to authentic standards, but we haven’t tried any lunch entrees there yet. We go for the breakfast and have brought everyone that has visited, from parents, to grandparents, to friends to Dot’s for breakfast. Everything here is good and some things are really good, nothing bad so far for us and we’ve been nearly ten times in just the few months we’ve been in Boulder.

I’ve gotten the trout and eggs, AM sandwich, omelettes, and house breakfast. I like their eggs and they have really good home made hashbrowns, no grease or excess oil to be found. The service is typically good, usually the water is always refilled quickly, but not today. My hands are still cold and my stomach still isn’t feeling good so this isn’t the best, most in depth, lengthy post like usual.

Nice hot Chai

Their standout feature, typically but not today, are their biscuits. They are made in the kitchen and typically aren’t greasy, or too hard, they just have a very nice fluffy inside and some crunch on the outside. And they’re huge, and they have this amazing jelly that comes out of a squeeze bottle, which is a genius idea. I usually have more jelly than biscuit.

Remnants of a biscuit

Finally, it’s always busy but never so much that you have to wait, and it’s very affordable. A $20 bill for a breakfast that leaves two people nice and full.

A.M. Sandwich with avocado

Alana's typical house breakfast

So if you’re in Boulder and want a local breakfast spot that serves top five breakfast food, stop by Dot’s and play some baby boomer trivial pursuit and appreciate the warm decor throughout for a nice meal.

Midnight Showing Review: The Hobbit

If you know us, or if you’ve read this post, you know we are huge Tolkien/Middle Earth fans. So, obviously, we were at the midnight premiere of The Hobbit by the wonderful Peter Jackson & Co. Although we didn’t dress up (sigh), we were brimming with excitement. Finally! It’s out! So I was expecting to leave about 9:30/10PM to wait in line, my cousin said that there won’t be crazy lines. You never know, coming from Los Angeles and New York, we’ve both waited in hefty lines for big movies like this. So we left at 11 (took us ten minutes to get to the theatre).

We packed into the car and got there–no line. Yes! We didn’t have to wait in the cold. Plus, if we paid an extra $1 per ticket, we would get a free t-shirt. Uh, duh. So we got our shirts, our tickets, my smuggled popcorn and sat down for a 3D Dolby Atmos viewing.

Sick Hobbit Shirt

Eventually, the movie started. Now with this insane amazing sound system, our ears kind of hurt. And it wasn’t just mine (I have sensitive ears, Chris calls me “wolf ears”), everyone’s was kind of ringing after. Especially battle scenes. The 3D was good, immersive, and not that silly “pop-out” kind of 3D that I hate. And for the picture…I believe it was a much faster frame rate. Now this was distracting. It looked like a filmed play, it was too realistic, and not theatrical enough. If you have an HD tv, sometime you can see this in certain shows. However, the action was pretty incredible and had a good flow. But…onto the story!

The story was pretty accurate to the book, though I haven’t read it in awhile. And he obviously split it up. I would give the Best Acting Awards to Martin Freeman (Bilbo), Ian McKellen (Gandalf), and Richard Armitage (Thorin). And of course, to Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, and Christopher Lee, though small roles in this movie they played. One thing I wished is that they made Thorin look more like a Dwarf and less like a Man. I know people were nervous about Martin Freeman playing Bilbo, but let me tell you, he was spot on. Seriously. And of course there’s Andy Serkis as Gollum who really just brings the caliber up. The riddle scene between Bilbo and Gollum was absolutely brilliant.

I started off unsure about it, how I felt, because it takes a little while to get rolling. There’s good humor with the dwarves and it’s fun to see Bilbo before he was an adventurer. By the end, after all the lore (which we love to see), fight scenes, troll scenes, and excellent dialog, I was happy. I want to see it again when it’s not 12 AM. Perhaps during Christmas week with the family.

Lastly…Howard Shore. What would the Lord of the Rings trilogy be without those held-close-to-heart themes that you know as soon as you hear them…the Shire…the Trio…Gollum’s music…It’s all Howard Shore. And he brings it back just as well this time. When we see the Shire, that familiar light-of-heart music comes on and you can’t help but smile. When Gollum comes creeping into the movie, so does his eerie music. And, with this new story (or old, if we’re talking timeline wise), he created a brilliant sound bit for the new adventure gang.

 Rest assured, you will be laughing, gripping your seat, and holding your breath. Now stop reading this and go see it!

Gotta Keep Your Head Up

Lately, things have not been easy. In the past month, I’ve had two major stomach problems. First, either the stomach flu or food poisoning that made me miss two of my busiest days of work during the week. This weekend, a hyper secretion of the acid in my stomach irritated and led to inflammation in my digestive track, which caused me to miss one of my busiest days of work. I hate missing work, not just for the loss of money, but just because it’s how I am. So that upset me.

Along with that, I’m obviously not in physical condition to do the two most important things to get me in better shape, eat and workout. Most importantly, eat. It’s my favorite thing to do, probably. I can eat all day, anything really, although I can be picky-ish sometimes. My favorite combination is working out and then eating. It’s how I got in the best shape of my life really, a ton of each. And with those stomach problems, it’s been a month of not good eating or working out.

In March of 2011, right before we went to Alana’s house for Spring Break, where we took time off working out, I was in the best shape of my life, arguably. Then, when we returned, I suffered a major tear in my left posterior labrum, shoulder. My conditioning was great on land, doing circuit training for sustained periods of time. My pullups and pushups were good, dips were the best they’ve ever been. I wasn’t running much, but I never really have except in youth, high school, and one summer.

My heavy lifts were heavy, decline bench for 365 for reps, olympic squats for 495 for reps, leg press for nearly 1000 for reps, and toe press for nearly 2000 for reps. But that all went to nothing after the injury, and I’ve been dealing with it ever since. I’m not trying to sound sad, but what I’m getting at is that I know I can’t get back to that point without surgery. Thus, I’m not overly critical on myself for not eating and working out to “get in shape.” The thing is, I work out mainly because I think it’s fun.
 

(from shirt.woot.com)
So, between the stomach problems, Misty’s passing, Sajah’s running away, and us living independently for the most part, it’s been tough figuring out the right job situation, getting all our chores done, working out, eating right, and getting in shape. BUT THAT’S FINE!

Because it’s a great time of year, we’re going to see family in a little over a week in LA, and planning a trip to go back to New Jersey and New York sooner than later. We’re figuring out goals for our always continuing education, how and when to pay off student loans, and all sorts of other stuff. This was a little bit more of a journal entry than a blog post like all of our others, and there might be a few more of these this year before we head out for a great, productive, fun, exciting, and adventurous 2013. That is, you can see them once we’ve figured them out ourselves! But we have a lot to look forward to, so always keep your head up and remember all the good things in your life even when some stuff doesn’t seem to be going your way.

Sleepy lion cub

PS- We found Sajah