Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Big-O debacle

My car eats tires for breakfast...and then snacks on them again later in the day...and then feasts on them for dinner. The funny thing is that my alignment is fine and always has been. Mechanics are frequently surprised to see the condition of my tires after the see that the alignment is cool. Yeah, me too. Anyways, recently DJC convinced me that I needed at least two new tires. So, I high-tailed it over to the Alameda Big-O. Upon walking in the door, things immediately went south.

The first person to talk to me was Brian. He informed me that the computer said that there were two tires in my size in stock, but upon trying to verify that, he was able to actually locate only one. He said that he would have to order one from the Fremont store and that it wouldn't be delivered until the next day. OK, I thought, I'll just come back. But Brian said, "WHOAAA. We have to ask you to pay for them know, to reserve them." Ummm, OK. So I coughed up $120 for nothing and went home.

The next day, I returned only to find that my tires, you know, the ones I had paid for to "reserve" had been put on another car. This might have been the closest I've been to really hauling off and punching someone in a long time. To rectify the situation, Brian upgraded my tires to the next ones up for free. Whatever, I thought. Just as long as they were round, and would allow my car to move forward and back, I didn't really care. I was steaming mad.

Well, between the "technicians" taking countless cigarette and cell phone breaks, the tires somehow got mounted onto my car. I drove away two hours later. This is where things really went to hell in a handbag, though.

At speeds over 50mph my car shook violently. My freaking teeth rattled in my head. I vowed to take the car back the next day and have this whole shaking thing sorted.

The "technician" I spoke with during my second visit told me, in no uncertain terms, that they had done everything correctly the first time and that if there was a problem now, it was my fault. My car sure as hell didn't shake like that before the tires were replaced, dude! Clearly, it was my fault. Ass. Anyway, he said they'd take the tires off, re-balance them and all would be well. Two hours later, I drove off, steaming mad again.

Everything worked out this time, right? Except not so much. If anything, after the second round of balancing, the shaking and rattling and vibrations at high speeds were WORSE. I was livid. There was no way I was going to take my car back to the Alameda Big-O, so I decided to drive all the way out to Danville to have the guys there take a look. I'd had good luck with service there before and the Alameda ass-clowns were clearly entirely too busy to properly assess what was causing the shaking. Too busy or too lazy...I can't tell which.

Here's what the Danville folks found: During the first trip in to the Alamdea store, the new tires had been put on the rear (pretty standard), and the rear tires moved to the front. Well, those tires had not worn evenly and were wobbling all over the place. Apparently, a bracket had been broken during the process of the installation as well (nice). The Danville guys took the new back tires and swapped them to the front, putting the old ones back on the rear axles. And here's the cool part....they test drove it to make sure that everything was fine. Well, it wasn't. The car still shook and wobbled. They then took a look at the new tires themselves and found that one wasn't completely round (?!?!). Mind you, these are the tires I purchased less than a week ago!

The Danville guys agreed to provide a new, perfectly round tire to me at no cost, which is what is being installed currently. So, here I sit at the local Chargebucks, killing time. I'm just glad they were able to figure out what was wrong. They put in the extra effort that Alameda wasn't willing to do. Eff those turkeys. Never going back there again. Danville Big-O FO' EVA!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

iPole...Part Deux

After Coby's pole dancing bachelorette party, I was really excited to take another class a little closer to home. I called Sedusa Studios in Campbell and made a reservation for myself and AG about two weeks ago. Today, we headed down to the South Bay, met BL for a quick lunch and a drink, and then hustled over to the studio to make the 3pm class. We were almost late because, of course, BL offered us a shot of vodka that we couldn't turn down. A little social lubrication certainly couldn't hurt...

This studio was VERY well hidden and difficult to find. Once we walked in the door, we were greeted by the skinniest lady I have seen in a long time. She had us sign release forms and handed us 5" clear stripper heels. Yeah, these:

The Manolo would SO not approve of these. They are so tacky it hurts. AG wanted flashing lights in the soles of hers. Flashing lights could have only improved their look. The funny thing was that AG and I agreed that we were both waaaay too comfortable in these things. Scary. And, BONUS, I didn't roll an ankle or stumble in any way! WOOT!

The class itself was a bit of a disappointment. It really was geared to beginners in every sense of the word, and for coordinated folks like AG and I, it moved a little too slowly. Despite the fact that each of us had our own pole, we only learned one move on that pole, and the "combination" that Skinny Lady taught us was ridiculously short. I would have liked to learn a few more moves and spend less time working on hip circles. But then again, it was just an introductory class. Apparently, participants work all the way up to flipping upside down on the pole in the actual 5 week series (which will set you back $200), but for $25, I guess what we learned in the intro class was OK.

I managed not to injure myself at all during this class, which is a plus. But on the downside, we barely did anything but walk really slowly, touch ourselves in sexy ways, and do lots and lots of hip circles. There wasn't really a whole lot of opportunity for injury.

I think the next place AG and I are going to hit up is S-Factor in San Francisco. I have it on good word that their method is pretty tough and traditional. I'll report back if and when we give it a go.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Vai love

Ok, so we all know that I have a serious thing for Steve Vai. True, most of what I listen to these days is heavily influenced by DJC's taste in drum n' bass, dubstep and other electronic genres (not that I'm complaining), but I will never give up or get over my ridiculous love for the simple sound of the guitar. Or in Steve Vai's case, the FUCKING AMAZING things he can do with a guitar. The man is, simply put, a guitar god (I've raved about him before here). If I were stranded on a desert island and could only take five CDs with me, "Fire Garden" would be one of them, for sure.

A few nights ago while looking for something to watch on TV, I cam across a Steve Vai concert. JACKPOT! It was ninety minutes of some of the awesomest live music ever. I've seen him live only once (the G3 tour) and I was totally blown away. While I was watching his most recent show on TV, I realized how little post-production work goes into his music. He has some seriously talented musicians in his band and they execute his vision without the help of studio tools. He writes the music for every single instrument, he arranges it, and he sometimes even sings. The man is nothing short of incredible. His sounds are lush and different and no matter what he does, you can be sure that he's always pushing things as far as he can.

Here is my favorite song from the recent TV concert:

The solo in the middle is normally performed by Vai on the guitar, but the fact that he chose to have his violinist do it instead was a genius move. Its a show-stopper. I honestly got chills. I love that his music can still do that to me.

Enjoy, peeps. =)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Fitness fanatics

The gym I give my heart and soul to on a daily basis, the Bladium, teaches Les Mills classes. I think I've raved about them before on my blog in various forms (RPM, BodyJam, BodyPump, BodyFlow, etc), but here's a closer look. You'll understand why in a sec...

Basically, the Les Mills programs, which also include step, kickboxing, and good old fashioned high-low 80's aerobics, were developed in New Zealand and have since become VERY popular around the world. The choreography and music are updated quarterly. Each new "release" is sent out to instructors world-wide and for a period of time, everyone around the world does the same stuff in their classes. For example, my good friend R is currently in Beirut and he and I have talked about the releases for RPM and BodyCombat. Its pretty cool that we're taking the same classes even though he's on the other side of the world. When he comes back to the US, he'll be able to jump right in without missing a beat.

Its impossible to take a class from any of the Bladium's high-energy instructors without getting sucked into the Les Mills world. The classes and choreography are so well designed that you can't help but feel motivated and excited to come back for more. Yes, they're a hell of a workout, but what makes it so easy to get hooked is that they're FUN. I honestly never thought I'd really enjoy the BodyStep class, but I don't even realize that I'm kicking my own ass because I'm having such a good time. Same goes for BodyCombat and BodyJam. It also helps that the music and choreo change so frequently. Les Mills makes it easy to have a good time while working out. Crazy, I know.

Anyways, on to the point of this post....Every four months, Les Mills holds a Quarterly Conference in various cities to celebrate the release of their new material. One of these conferences just took place in Santa Clara, CA last weekend. Originally, they were only for instructors to get a sneak peak of the new releases, but recently, members were included as well. A large group of ladies from the Bladium all decided to go, and when Brent, one of the Step instructors, egged me on, I joined in as well.

I had no idea what to expect. I knew that it was an entire day of fitness, with classes running back to back from 7am until 6pm, but what exactly did that mean? Well, lemme tell you, this was like nothing I've ever seen in my life! A full stage. Lighting effects. Participants dressed up for their favorite class (like wearing hip-hop clothes for Jam or wearing cammo stuff for Combat). It was nuts! It was like a concert/rave/cardio-fest complete with the rock star program directors (some from New Zealand who had flown in just for the event) presenting the new stuff to about 250 crazed Les Mills fanatics fans.

The guy in the blue shirt is Brent, one of the Step and Attack instructors at the Bladium. Although you can't tell from this pic, he is about 5'8" of pure muscle and cheerleading energy. His classes are insanely fun and sometimes silly and he has quite a following world-wide. He is bubbly and sweats sunshine and he's everything you'd expect a former cheerleader to be. I luf him and his gorgeous wife Michelle. The other two instructors in the pic are from New Zealand. I couldn't understand a word either of them said despite the fact that they were speaking English. They were awesome.

So, the rest of the ballroom was totally dark and the only reason this picture came out kinda OK is because the people in it were literally inches away from the stage and the lights. Not sure if you can tell, but try to see how far back the group goes. These pics were taken during Attack, which was the second-to-last class of the day (there were eight in total). A large number of people had already left, and there were STILL this many people there. The Les Mills machine can almost be described as a cult. People were SO into it. Like, they-had-Les-Mills-tattoos-on-their-arms into it.

Oh yeah, did I mention I had a horrid cold on this day? Well, I did. After coughing my way through Step, an hour-long educational session, Flow, and Jam, I couldn't quite handle Attack. Hell, Combat was still to come! I opted to sit out and take pictures instead. About 10 people saw me and immediately shoved their cameras at me so I could capture the class for them as well. Instructors posed for pictures with everyone after the class ended. People were sweaty and not looking their best, but it didn't matter. They wanted pictures with their fitness idols.

All in all, this was the single most wild, crazy, painful, sweaty, and amazing day of fitness I've ever experienced. I'm as sore and as tired as I've ever been, and I think its safe to say I am forever hooked. Wherever I go in the world, I will always have to be near a gym that offers the Les Mills programs. The classes, the instructors, the choreography, the feeling I get from doing them...I have to have it all. I've finally found something I can stick with for life. Now, if only I could get my diet in order...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


The occasion: BT's little sis's bachelorette party.

The scene: A yoga/pole dancing studio for an introduction to sluttin' it up on the pole. The dim red lights inside the studio in place of overhead fluorescents were a nice touch.

The crew: Eighteen of us in various workout outfits, sans stripper heels or shoes of any kind, feeling a little timid.

The instructor: A 40-ish lady with a ridiculously SLAMMIN' body and insane control of her hips. I envied this woman instantly.

The class: We learned that we all possess something called a "naughty squat". This was news to me (and my knees). We also learned that when approaching the pole, the ONLY acceptable walk was a sexy one. This proved difficult for some, but everyone gave it their best shot. We were taught a short combination, which included a back bend to the floor, a front twirl, and a back hook twirl. While I managed to look OK doing most of the moves, I royally SUCKED at the back hook twirl. I just couldn't get it. Despite several tries and special attention from Ms. 40 Year Old Perfect Ass, I couldn't figure out what to do with my free leg. As BT so eloquently phrased it, "There were moments of 'sexy', and moments of 'awkward'." I think in my case, the awkward moments were really, really awkward.

The carnage: I kinda tweaked my left wrist, both of my forearms were screaming, I sustained minor floor burn on both tops of my feet (which would turn into bruises the next day), bruises on both insides of my knees, and damn near every muscle in my upper back and shoulders was sore the next day.

The verdict: I had a great time. Despite being the biggest girl there, I really enjoyed myself and felt pretty hot at some points. I never realized how much core strength is involved in pole dancing. I have an all new respect for the girls that can hoist themselves high up on the pole, flip upside down, spin around and not land in a heap on the floor the way I'm sure I would if I were to ever try something like that.

I've decided that I must take another class. There's a great studio in the South Bay where an old athlete of mine teaches classes. I signed AG and I up for one of their introductory classes in two weeks. The difference: this studio lends its participants 5" clear stripper heels for the class. All tackiness aside, if I ended up with as many injuries as I did from doing the class barefoot, just imagine the list I'm gonna come home with after trying to dance, let alone walk, in 5" clear stripper heels. Talk about awkward!

I can't wait. =)