January 30, 2009

In the Ether

I've recently noticed that there are two kinds of travelers, professionally.

See, I do tons of conference calls. Other than redlined documents, I live and breathe conference calls, really. So I feel somewhat qualified to state that professional travelers belong in two categories, generally speaking:

1. Those who live in the physical world


2. Those who are comfortable in the ether

What do I mean?

Well, take Kathy, for example, an executive with whom I need to speak sometime next week. She thinks that where she is on any given day or time is important, and that not only me, but everyone involved with her should know where she will be, what time zone she will be in, and why she will be intermittently unavailable due to traveling inconveniences before and after the windows when she is available.

I can only assume this is because she thinks it is somehow relevant to the the contract we are working on. This may or may not be true. I do not know. It may very well be that she would give me different edits from NYC than she would from ATL, or LAX, or MEX. Regardless, I learn many things about her comings and goings throughout the world and the associated inconveniences every time I speak with her. If nothing else, her stories are very entertaining.

Kathy is a member of group #1.

For a counterexample, take Elizabeth. Elizabeth, an executive for a different client, also travels often for work. But I will never know that she's traveled unless, on a call, I say something like, "how's the weather in Chicago (her home-base)?" and then, she will reply, "oh, actually, I'm in Washington D.C." Or, she will mention that on Wednesday she met with so-and-so at such-and-such headquarters, and I will realize that the call we did last Wednesday was actually when she was in such-and-such and not Chicago.

Elizabeth believes that where she is does not matter for the purposes of doing her job and thus, it should not affect those with whom she must work. She does her job from the ether. She is comfortable scheduling meetings to meet the time zone default of the party she is working with, and for clarity, in her meeting invitations, or email, she will just say, "3 PM PST" instead of 3 PM. She will default to my time zone even if she is in Chicago, Washington D.C., or Bermuda. She declines meeting invitations where her travel plans get in the way, but much like I don't ask my other clients why they are unavailable, it never occurs to me to ask her why she is unavailable. I assume she is working. Aren't we all?

Elizabeth is a member of group #2.

I have to say, members of group #2 spend much less on legal fees because there isn't time spent discussing, maneuvering, or rescheduling around travel. They have found a way to manage the inconveniences of physical travel such that they don't pay for it in legal fees. I have to assume this extends to inconveniencing others as well.

I wonder what splits the two groups.

January 28, 2009

I guess I'm a morning person

2 and 1/4 years of being a lawyer and I've finally started to figure out my work style.

During the day, I fight fires, chase partners, and take calls. I used to try to get substantive drafting done, but more often than not, I'd fail. I've evolved to fitting smaller bite-sized tasks into the day where they fit, but it's a rare day when I can actually turn a document larger than 10 pages between 9 AM and 7 PM.

If I can't finish everything I've allocated to the day, I like to do diligence and easy turns of documents (edits of 2-3 sentences) after dinner.

And, if I've got a huge complex document drafting and/or editing task, I'll put it off as long as possible under the delusion that it'll fit during the day or after dinner. Eventually, though, the deadlines will loom heavy and gray, and I'll finally buckle down to finish the huge task -- in the early AM.

I'm fresh and there are no clients bothering me (most start-ups don't really start to function 'til 9 AM at the earliest).

I just got up to grab my second diet coke this AM and realized that I'm having fun making my way through the current 34-page monstrosity. I very much enjoy the mental game of drafting complex documents without interruptions -- and, I like doing it in the morning.

This switch is a big change from when I was a night-owl. If push comes to shove and I'm really worried about a deadline, I'll work late into the night. But that's only because I'm worried there may not be enough time to finish it at all. If I know it's doable, I'd rather get up at 5, or even earlier and finish it before work.

I guess this fits with my evolution to someone who likes to fit in yoga or running in the early mornings as well.

Apparently, I'm at my best early in the AM. I wonder when that happened.

January 26, 2009

I take back *everything* I ever said about the winter garden

Tonight, E became an official winter garden supporter, when he stated the phrase above.

Until now, he's been conflicted. It's nice to have a garden year round, and it's a fun hobby, plus, it keeps me less stressed, and it provides us with some nice additions to meals. But, at the end of the day, it's mainly dark green leafy things, which, frankly, if you ask him, suck, compared to the glorious harvests of summer.

That is, the winter garden sucked until tonight.

Silly me, I waited 'til now to apply pork to the situation. What was I thinking? Pork makes everything better!

Herbed Pork Chops over Brussel Sprouts and Red Onions

-2 large pork chops, washed and dried
-2 sprigs fresh marjoram, leaves removed from the stem
-1 large sprig fresh rosemary, needles removed from the stem
-2 sprigs lemon thyme, leaves removed from the stem
-1 red onion, sliced into 1 cm rounds and chopped into quarters or sixths
-2-3 T olive oil
-1/2 meyer lemon, in quarters, seeds removed, ready for squeezing
-black pepper
-sea salt
-2 T pickled horseradish purée
-and, of course, from the winter garden, 1 stem of fresh brussel sprouts


1. Pre-heat oven to 400F. Wash and Prep vegetables. Remove all brussel sprouts from the stem, wash thoroughly, cut the stem-ends from the sprouts so that they have a flat end to set in the baking dish. (NOTE: If you are using a 9X13 Pyrex dish, remember to keep it fully on the counter while chopping brussel sprouts on the cutting board. Otherwise, it will weigh the cutting board down, on the portion of the cutting board that is not on the counter, and you will have many shards of pyrex to clean up...you could even lose a few brussel sprouts that had been placed in the dish...theoretically speaking.)

2. Layer onions and brussel sprouts (chopped stem flat-side down) into a baking dish.

3. Mince herbs. Mix with olive oil, salt, pepper, and horseradish. Sprinkle 1/2 the mixture over brussel sprouts and onions in the baking dish.

4. Wash and dry pork chops. Spoon mixture on all sides of pork chops and layer on top of vegetables. It should look more or less like this:


5. Place into pre-heated 400F oven for 10 minutes. At the 10 minute bell, remove the dish and flip the pork chops (they should be white on the side you put down and slightly pink on the side you put to the top). Squeeze 1 lemon wedge over the chops and vegetables. Return the dish to the oven and turn heat up to 500F, and set the timer for 10 minutes.

6. At the timer, check the dish. Turn the pork chops one final time. Squeeze the other lemon over the non-lemon-flavored side for another 5 minutes of heat.

7. Remove from the oven. Arrange on two plates, and allow it to sit for 5 minutes before eating a delicious meal (which could look something like this):


8. Enjoy! (And enjoy the validation of the winter garden because these truly are the best brussel sprouts you've ever had in your life!)

January 25, 2009

Saturday Night Party at Our House

Last night, after a gloriously lazy day of sleeping in, dim sum with friends, reading on the couch, and a nap, I managed to get some semblance of motivation.

So, I went grocery shopping for the week and then did the Ashtanga primary series as led by the ridiculously freakily flexible David Swenson in our living room.

Damn, that's hard, yo. Someday. Maybe. Probably not, though. I've got a short torso and the whole jump your legs through your arms into a sitting position just doesn't work for me. Perhaps I need to work on it. We'll see.

Anyways, approximately 2 hours later, I was ready to make dinner. So I made a Lao-style yellow rice in a pot preparation from Hot, Salty, Sour, Sweet. I used venison instead of duck, but otherwise followed the wacky instructions and learned a new way of making a rice-based meat dish with spices. Mmmm... 7.5 cloves of garlic, 1 Tbsp of cracked black peppercorns, and 2 scallions split into a dinner for 2. I was surprised to find that we found it a bit bland, but perhaps that was because it called for very little else other than the small bits of meat, oil, garlic, peppercorns, turmeric, curry powder, fish sauce, and scallions other than quite a bit of rice and water.

Dinner was a hit, but next time it could use more salt and perhaps slightly more peppers (perhaps some minced fresh thai peppers should be added to the paste that is fried in the oil before adding the meat).

From there, we were done for the night. And we'd killed our netflix options by watching The Yakuza (AMAZING!) the night before.

What could we possibly do?

Oh, that's right, we could play Scrabble. And we did.

In case you were wondering:

-Wapaw is not a word.
-Saxany is a word.
-A good player in a two player game gets a score between 300 and 400 (or so says the instruction booklet).
-I lost to E -- 278 to 245.

Clearly, we need more Scrabble nights.

January 22, 2009

A Real Life Yogi

As you may know, I am a huge fan of Bryan Kest's Yoga DVD.

At $16.25 for 3 classes, this DVD is a great value if you only do each level once. However, E and I have consistently turned to this DVD for at least 5 years, making it one of the best investments I've ever made.

Tonight, I had the pleasure of attending a 3-hour master class taught by Bryan, in person.

Wow. First, there was the 1 hour lecture on his philosophy of yoga. Then a break. Then an extremely intense class composed of very simple poses collected in a very fluid flow that left me dripping with sweat, but able to keep my face relaxed and breathing somewhat even.

My favorite thing about Bryan live? He cusses like crazy, makes crass inappropriate jokes, and in general, takes himself even less seriously than the DVD's.

Best quote of the night? While extolling the importance of quieting the mind and focusing on the breath, and trying to emphasize the lack of importance of the physical aspect of the practice and how we shouldn't try to be more flexible or strong than we can be while being comfortable, he said the following, more or less:

The poses -- they're just like everything else in your life. Fucking Stupid. They're fucking stupid poses unless you decide to do them in a way that's smart.

How's that for some yogic wisdom?

January 21, 2009

Put Together

I've been at work for about an hour now, and I just stood up to go to the kitchen to get some tea. When I returned to my chair I realized I had a large purple stain on the right leg of pants and the lower portion of my sweater.


Because I'd taken my chipped burgundy nail polish off this AM.

In the home office.

At the computer.

While checking my email.

In the dark.

Worst part is, I didn't even get all the nail polish off -- the edges of my nails are still dark burgundy and look terrible (but they do match the stains...).

Clearly, my colored nail polish privileges have been revoked.

January 19, 2009

2008: 21 and 1/2 Books

So, I barely squeaked by my pseudo-goal of 20 books this year. I reviewed some after I read them, so if you are interested, check out books.

Like last year, I think this list is a good summary of where I spent the majority of my spare thought cycles in 2008: 6 books related to Japan, 1 book related to Savannah, 2 books focused on zen or letting go, 4 stories set in far away places I'd love to visit, 4 on food and cooking, 1 on gardening (I didn't list the Master Gardner Handbook because it's more of a reference manual), 3 telling stories of overcoming severe adversity, 2 on humor, 2 of pure fun fluff, and 1/2 a book on economics.

  1. Gweilo: Memories of a Hong Kong Childhood (Martin Booth)

  2. I choose to live (Sabine Dardenne)

  3. The curious incident of the dog in the nighttime (Mark Haddon)

  4. Pictures from the water trade (John David Morley)

  5. Norwegian Wood (Haruki Murakami)

  6. Kitchen (Banana Yoshimoto)

  7. The Teahouse Fire (Ellis Avery)

  8. Japanland: A year in search of Wa (Karin Muller)

  9. Dave Barry Does Japan (Dave Barry)

  10. The man who ate everything (Jeffrey Steingarten)

  11. My grandfather's blessings (Rachel Noami Remen)

  12. Ladies with Options (Cynthia Hartwick)

  13. Skinny Dip (Carl Hiaasen)

  14. If you lived here I'd know your name (Heather Lende)

  15. Square Foot Gardening (Mel Bartholomew)

  16. Nothing Special; Living Zen (Charlotte Joko Beck)

  17. When You Are Engulfed In flames (David Sedaris)

  18. Salt: A World History (Mark Kurlansky)

  19. Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet: A culinary journey through Southeast Asia (Jeffrey Alford & Naomi Duguid)

  20. The White Tiger (Aravind Adiga)

  21. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (John Berendt)

  22. The Black Swan (p. 215/366) (Nassim Nicholas Taleb) (I just could not get past Mr. Taleb's arrogance and finally stopped reading. Unfortunately, much of the analysis he published in 2007 was spot on in many areas of our current economy. Given that very few people predicted much of the current mess, I'm guessing I'm not going to like his next book for the same reason. Oh well.)

I like 20. It's hard for me to fit 'em in my current life, but not so hard that it's untenable. So I think I'll shoot for 20 for this year, too.
The Long Weekend

MLK day! How can you not love yet another holiday this close to the winter holidays? E and I are spending the long weekend doing chores and catching up around the house. With every item crossed off the todo list, I'm feeling less and less stressed.

Joint Asset-Liability sheet for 2008? Done. The best way to look at it, our net worth decreased a little over 6% between January of 2007 and January of 2008. The worst way, it decreased 47%. Or, if you look at the columns independently, our assets decreased about 6.06% and our liabilities increased about 3.64%. Clearly, this is not the direction you want either of these categories to be trending...

2008 Taxes? Estimation is done. For the first time in a long time, we're actually getting a refund! Yay! Better hurry up and send off our request for a refund check before the government runs out of money.

Garden? The winter garden has been such fun and very delicious, but it needed a little love after our 2 week hiatus in the South. It's been reasonably productive and has supplemented our kitchen each week with one or more harvests of leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, radishes, or snow peas, but it was time to pull out some of the plants.

So, yesterday, we weeded, harvested, and planted new stuff and now we are growing the following (fingers crossed):

-Secondary shoots of florets on two of the broccoli plants
-snow peas
-new mixed greens (mustard greens, red romaine, green romaine, frisée, something that looks like bok choy, and two I can't name)
-4 brussel sprout plants
-onions galore
-garlic galore
-radishes & beets (planted new seeds yesterday, so we'll see...)
-3 artichoke plants
-italian parsely
-chives (planted seeds to replace the dead chive plant)
-cilantro (planted seeds for the 3rd attempt -- we have not managed to succeed with this seed packet)

Lemon Saffron Risotto with Baby Brussel Sprouts

As a treat (and a break from the taxes), after harvesting 2 plants of baby brussel sprouts, I made the following recipe for dinner. It was very healthy AND very delicious.

-3 T butter
-2 T olive oil
-1 C rice
-2 cans chicken broth
-pinch saffron
-1 ziplock frozen basil from the summer's garden output
-1 meyer lemon from sister's tree
-baby brussel sprouts from 2 stalks from the garden, removed from stalk and washed
-1 small-medium yellow onion, diced
-3 cloves garlic, minced

1. Sautée onion and garlic in olive oil until clear on medium heat. Add rice and stir until rice is evenly coated.

2. Add saffron and 1 can of broth, and stir intermittently.

3. Juice the lemon, and zest the majority of the yellow off. Chop basil & mix with lemon juice and zest (or just throw the juice, zest, and basil in the cuisinart).

4. Turn up the heat to high. Add the second can of broth, lemon-basil mixture, and brussel sprouts. Stir continuously and quickly evaporate all of the liquid off.

5. Remove from heat. Stir in the butter and cover. Allow to sit for 10-15 minutes to set the risotto and to finish steaming the brussel sprouts.

6. Serve immediately and enjoy!

January 14, 2009

It would appear that I am not alone

My New Year's resolution to be healthier in my own way, and to do more yoga, is a popular one, methinks. That must be why all of the classes I have taken on my 30-day-unlimited-pass at a local Yoga Studio have been so ridiculously full (except, of course, the 7 AM Power Yoga classes, which are less full but bring their own brand of amazing ridiculousness to my life).

And, of course, today, when I decided I should pre-register for the 21K trail run I've tentatively scheduled for this weekend, because it looks like the weather is cooperating -- oh, yeah, that would be Sold Out. Bastards!

I briefly considered signing up for the 30K and then had a moment of sanity. That would be stupid! The last time I ran anything more than 15 miles was the San Francisco Marathon in August. My body would not be pleased to go from last weekend's 8.5 mile long run to 18+.

So, maybe I'll be doing a medium-long run all by myself this weekend. Or, maybe I'll opt out of the long run altogether and maximize the benefit I derive from my 30-day yoga pass before it expires and hit up as many yoga classes as I can fit in this weekend. At the rate I'm going, I should definitely fit in 10 classes in 30 days, which averages out to $4 per class -- a STEAL! If I can fit in an extra 2 classes, that's a rockin' $3.33 per class -- which makes the $10 for a yoga class I paid in Zihuatanejo look like highway robbery! Given that I'm cheap like that, you can imagine where this is likely to go...

Sure, this 30-day pass is a promotion. Yes, they want me to try their classes and realize the benefits and join their yoga studio permanently. No doubt, many people take advantage of this offer and do so.

But, for me, I'm fairly certain it's not gonna happen. While physically, I'm definitely enjoying the benefits of this studio, it doesn't have everything I'm looking for. For one, there's too much loud, high-spirited music in all of the classes except Bikram. For two, the classes are too physical, and there's not enough focus on meditation, breathing, alignment, and spirituality.

Who woulda thunk that me, of all people, would be considering rejecting a yoga studio for not being hippy enough? But, truth be told, if I truly want to get my ass kicked, I'm not even thinking about heading to a yoga studio at this point in my life -- I'm doing sprints, I'm going to a boxing gym, I'm doing martial arts, I'm even considering taking a kick-boxing class. But yoga? No. Yoga, for me, is not supposed to be focused on ass-kicking, it's supposed to focused on life-balancing (which is actually much more difficult than ass-kicking).

For now, I'll chalk it up to the noise -- I mean, Beastie Boys in a 7 AM yoga class? This is not what I had in mind. And for $40 for 30 days, I can put up with it, but when it expires, I'm going to try another studio.

Thankfully, no one else is invited to garage night, where E and I go into our garage and watch a Simpsons episode while I push myself for extreme speed training intervals on the treadmill and he bikes on a difficult setting on his trainer. So at least that commitment to working out went according to plan this week.

In other news, the plan for the next couple of days involves soup, salad, and multiple workouts with a goal of final recovery from Christmas in the South, and being comfortably back within my California 10-lb weight range.

What happens after that, of course, is entirely up to chance...

January 10, 2009

Mmmm...Math is Tasty

I know the current wisdom is that the mortgage markets are in crisis, the housing market sucks, and the fed funds rate is at its lowest point in history -- and that, given all of the foreclosures and the popping of the housing bubble, we are fucked when it comes to the housing credit market.

I also know that the although the fed funds rate has declined significantly over the last year (to almost zero!), 30-yr fixed mortgage rates for folks with almost perfect credit have not decreased below the 5% mark.

So, I started asking some questions about the history of the fed funds rate, the history of the average 30-yr fixed mortgage rate, and, well... you know me, I love data.

Next thing you know, I've got an excel spreadsheet that is teaching me all sorts of interesting things (click the chart and select "all sizes" to see the whole graph):


For example, while the spread between the fed funds rate and the average 30-yr fixed mortgage is currently 5.17%, it is definitely not at its highest, which was 6.15 in August of 1982.

In fact, the spread, while averaging 2.67% since 1971 (when the Fed started reporting average 30-yr mortgage rates), has been larger than its current value on several occasions in the past.

What's more impressive is that the difference between the two has ranged from 6.15% to -4.18%! Yes, that's right. There have been periods of time when it was much cheaper for a homeowner to get a 30-yr fixed home mortgage than for a member of the Federal Reserve to borrow money from other members of the Federal Reserve.

This graph shows that the fed funds rate and mortgage rates have been in periods of much larger turmoil and helps to put our current situation into perspective. The most mathematically interesting thing about our current situation is the depths to which the fed is trying to push the fed funds rate (approaching zero), and not the reaction of the market to that action, which looks pretty normal when compared against history.

And yet, the current talk is all about how the banking credit crisis and failure to lend between banks is fueling the lack of mortgages being offered to qualified homeowners. Clearly, this is not the whole picture.

The entire spreadsheet is available to the first ten takers here: http://rapidshare.com/files/181802534/Book1.xls.html

January 6, 2009

The Remnants of the South

The scale informed me that I brought 5.5 lbs of Georgia back to California with me.


A co-worker informed me today that she was pregnant. She felt she needed to start telling people because her pants had started to get tight.

Honey! All of our pants are tight after the holidays! You had at least another month before you had to tell me. But CONGRATS! So Exciting!

You'd think, given what the scale told me on Sunday AM at our arrival about the approximate 5% increase in body mass, that I'd immediately embark upon a path of self-restraint.

But you'd be wrong, because we had green tomatoes from the last final output of our sad California Tomatoes who hate the onslaught of winter.

So, we did what anyone who returned from holidays in the south would do, and we coated them in flour, dipped them in egg, and breaded them in panko:


(You will note, we took pity on a few small red tomatoes too. FYI -- They turn to ketchup-like substances when deep-fried. We don't recommend it.)

And then, in true southern style, we brought the oil to somewhere between 350F and 375F (always hard to tell with a manual thermometer when the scale can actually move in the tube due to shaking):


And deep fried the tomatoes:


The final result was delicious (and even better when topped with horseradish and/or habanero-garlic mustard!):


If you have green tomatoes, I cannot recommend any use other than the salted, peppered, and fried green tomato use (possibly served with various mustard, horseradish, and other savory sauces), which, in my experience, is one of the great food pinnacles available on this planet today.

January 5, 2009

A new perspective

This morning, I tried my first class at a local yoga studio that's on the way to work.

Power Yoga.

I've done power yoga before: Sometimes heated room (but if so, generally not quite Bikram hot), ashtanga-inspired sun salutation modifications. Balancing poses. Fast flow. Very physically demanding.

I thought I knew what to expect. Instead, I found myself completely forgetting my breath and straining at all times except those when I was flat out unable to keep up.

This was the most physically demanding yoga class I've ever attended, by far.

First, it was hot. The thermostat read 103F on exit! Second, because you can only fit so much in a 90 minute class, it was heavy on physical instructions, but very light on breathing and focus instruction as well as alignment corrections. In general, I think I prefer a more balanced yoga practice, but, that's why I'm going to as many studio classes as I can in early 2009 -- to figure out how best to deepen my yoga practice this year.

Today, I was thankful for the workout. And the shower at work, since I was drenched in sweat and the studio didn't have a shower.

I had to come out of (read: fall) several of the single-leg stands because after the "warm-up," we did at least 5 minutes of continuous balancing poses on each side (or more?) and by the end, my supporting leg was shaking too badly to continue.

I had to opt out of some of the push-ups because my arms just couldn't support me.

Also, for the first time in I can't remember when, I did a headstand.

How hilarious is that? I'm in my thirties and on my way to work, I'm stopping off to do headstands in a heated room with a bunch of strangers.

Wonders never cease.

January 4, 2009

You've had Bao?

A while back E's sister had lived on the bwest coast and had developed an addiction to Bao (of the steamed beef curry variety from Pike's Place Market).

Since returning to the South, she'd become friends with a woman, ("M"), of Chinese descent, whose family had lived in Taiwan and Jamaica.

When M heard that E's sister loved Bao, M had invited her to come over one day to make her family's traditional recipe, which was not the sweet char sui bao of barbeque sweet pork, but rather, was more acidic, vinegar-based, and savory. I will get the recipe one of these days, but to my recollection it involved a day-long crock-pot preparation of pork with many savory spices, and further stewing in a pot with water chestnuts, mushrooms, additional spices and additions. It was phenomenal.

In other words, if I could design a bao for me, this would be it.

But, I digress. One night while in the South this winter break, E's sister casually mentioned that the next day she was headed to M's to make the bao. I wanted to go. I did my best to be Southernly polite but also explain that it would be so-so-so-so-so-super-cool if I could somehow manage to score myself an invitation. Despite my desire to go, rude Californian that I am, I also assumed I could fit in my yoga class in the AM, and when I realized it did not fit in the schedule, I tried to retract my request and ask E's sister to go without me and report back with detailed directions on how to prepare the buns.

Slowly, I am learning the Southern ways, and the next day, I learned that my behavior actually translated as a request that the schedule be altered on my behalf. Thankfully, no one involved with the Bao appeared to have a serious schedule and all was well.

E's sister, of course, is an angel, and while I was at my yoga class, assuming I'd miss the bao cooking, she called to ask M if she could bring a guest and postpone her arrival. I returned from the yoga studio sweaty, red-faced, and surprised by E's sister's prompts to take a quick shower so we could go make bao.

Hell Yeah! Talk about the perfect day! So, after waking to a great yoga class, a shower, and a BLT "snack" (how awesome is the south?), I arrived as a guest at my new friend M's, who presented us with this wonderous sight:


That would be the bao dough in the background (which, apparently, fizzes when you add the liquid to the dry portions), and the beautiful savory filling in the foreground.

M showed us to how to make the shell to be filled:


And how to keep twisting:


And pinching, until it was closed:


Apparently, bad-ass chefs leave their twisted sides up during steaming, but it's much safer to put them down on the parchment, so that's what we did:


And finally, after 20 minutes of steaming, we had success:


Savory, delicious success:


I heart bao.

January 3, 2009

From the Obsessive Compulsive Department

My excel running log for 2008 is complete:

1,391.38 miles on my feet -- or an average of 26.75 miles per week. It didn't feel like I ran that much. It is amazing how much something can just become a habit such that you don't even realize how much of your life is defined by it.

For 2009, I wish to continue running, and to increase my speed -- perhaps I'll even do another marathon. But, for the big picture, I'm not focused on trying to beat the mileage from 2008. In fact, I suspect my mileage will be much less than 2008 because I'm going to be changing my focus this year.

In 2009, I have decided that I want to try to do more yoga and to deepen my practice. This is likely to come at the expense of some hours in my running shoes, and that is okay.

December 2008 was the most yoga-filled month that I can recall. Prior to leaving for the holidays, in addition to my at-home once-a-week DVD or book-based practice with E, I fit in several Anusara classes at work before our instructor's last class, one Ashtanga-inspired session with my sister, and a hatha class with B at her gym.

I do not know where the new yoga drive came from, but it continued in full force after we landed in Atlanta. While here, in addition to fitting in some medium-intensity running I had the pleasure of attending five yoga classes, at Atlanta Hot Yoga.

If you ask me, Yoga studios, while expensive, can be better than practice at home for three reasons:

1. The friendliness and community of taking a class with folks who are focused on the same practice that you are.

2. The spiritual leadership that a truly accomplished yogi can offer while you struggle through the physical and breathing aspects of the practice.

3. A more physically demanding practice than you would otherwise challenge yourself to have.

I picked Atlanta Hot Yoga for the location, and was pleased to find that it (and particularly Bethany) exceeded my highest expectations in all 3 areas. In just 5 classes I pushed my yoga practice way beyond what it had ever been and I achieved a level of meditative peace at times that I had never experienced before. In two separate classes, I had to stop and skip poses because the *hot* part of the hot yoga classes was too intense for me to handle at the level I was pushing myself. I very much enjoyed the environment where I was not alone in hitting the edge of my fitness and needing to lie down, skip poses, and recover (and in one case, leave early). It may sound as if this would be unpleasant, but I assure you, it was the opposite. It was a relief of immense psychological and physical tension to show up to class and to push myself as far as I could, sometimes even beyond success and all the way to failure. I left each class feeling as if I was in better shape, stronger, more flexible, humbled, and that I'd learned an important life lesson.

Certainly, the timing was perfect -- I had done both hot yoga and power yoga in the past, so I was prepared to handle the difficulty (although it still kicked my ass like nothing I have done in years!), I was on vacation and had more time to donate to my practice than I ordinarily do, my yoga practice had not been seriously challenged by a knowledgeable instructor for at least a year (so I was ready), and my Zen studies are similar to and allow me to be very open to accepting the spiritual side of a yoga practice.

However, even if I was just in the right place at the right time, I felt so lucky to experience it and sad to say good bye after my last class today ... I won't be back for several months and I felt more of a bond with this studio than with any studio I've ever attended.

While I expected this to be yet another Bacon Christmas in the South, in truth there was much less bacon than last time. I have a suspicion that this may go down in history as the yoga Christmas, when I made a transition from being a casual once-a-week practitioner of yoga to someone who is slightly more dedicated. As for just how much more dedicated, only 2009 will tell.