NKADDSNAP Challenge Day Five

Community Shares of Greater Cincinnati SNAP out of it! Challenge is going on now too.
Community Shares of Greater Cincinnati SNAP out of it! Challenge is going on now too.

Today is my last day of the SNAP Challenge where I’ll be at work. Current stock suggests I’ll be eating small amounts of chicken and the rest of my eggs over the weekend with potatoes, soup, and beans. I did go running last night but forgot to grab my GPS watch, therefore those calories are not reflected in yesterday’s totals.

For breakfast I had two glasses of milk, a glass of apple juice, and a granola bar. My fiancee and I ended up eating the rest of the Avgolemono last night. Therefore I’m eating PB&J again for lunch today. I tried to make up for the lack of yogurt today by drinking an extra glass of milk. Running out of yogurt means I won’t be eating any honey today, which should positively impact my sugar consumption.

For dinner I’m planning to have a chicken and kidney bean omelette with a side of peas. I expect to repeat the omelette dinner two more times over the weekend, swapping kidney beans for chili beans and dropping the vegetable because I don’t have any other green items. With proper seasoning I imagine these omelettes taking on a somewhat Mexican influence.

Day 5 Nutritional Summary
Day 5 Nutritional Summary

Using my entire budget at the beginning of the week and then flexibly preparing meals worked well. I’ve speculated before that I would end up with food to carry over into next week. As of now it looks like I’ll end the week with extra ramen, apple juice, potatoes, and striped peanut butter and jelly. The extra $4.50 from not having to buy juice, ramen or potatoes next week would make it easier to add real fruit or produce and cheese to my diet. That would solve some of the problems I’ve had this week getting in my services of fruit and dairy.

Day 5 Inventory
Day 5 Inventory

Was this a breeze to do? No. Is it entirely possible to live with some focus on nutrition on roughly $30? Yes. Those answers come with some caveats though: 1) the cost of living in Cincinnati is fairly low compared to most of the nation and 2) while I’m fine with eating canned vegetables I’m sure some people would push me to use fresh produce. I can’t argue much with the cost of living, I pay a really low rent and price for food here compared to the places some of my friends live; I would not want to live in Washington D.C. on my current salary. Canned vegetables were an effective choice in my mind because any stock I could create would be non perishing. I think the main priority when living on this budget is to focus on immediate needs and ensuring future stability. Fresh produce, while nice, comes with a certain intangible cost due to its perishable nature.

I’ll be glad to get back to my normal coffee routine next week, and to have a Coke or Pepsi every once in a while. I’ll probably continue to pack my lunch though, as anyone offering financial advice would tell you, its cheaper than going out to lunch a few times a week.

While I’ve focused on the quantitative this week, I think its worth noting the qualitative and social aspects of food. I say that this budget is livable purely in the mathematical sense. It’s possible to make choices about food that will allow you to eat, get sustenance, and meet basic nutritional needs. That doesn’t cover the sociology and psychology of food as it relates to cultural expectations and family tradition/ritual. I gotten some inquiries through the week about why I wasn’t going to eat a free cookie, eat a free lunch at a meeting, or “at least have a coke.” Food is something we use to bond with others. Whether they be new acquaintances or family members. I cannot count the innumerable times talked about the best pizza place, how I like my chili (Cincinnati style or with beans), or which is my favorite burrito chain.

I got the chance to talk about Avgolemono earlier this week. My family goes nuts for the stuff and it is an important part of bonding for us. We do the same for a few other things like the caramel cake my grandma makes or the tomato pilaf that my great-grandmother used to make. Food is tied up in our identity as a family and as people with Greek heritage.

What is inescapable, then, is how food threads through our lives and our interaction with others. Therefore, while $30.00 will buy you food for the week, it will not buy you a fulfilling social life. If there is any reason SNAP is supplemental, beyond the simple economic contribution the program suggests, it is so that we can continue to take part in these social interactions. Some might be very cheap, as was the case with Avgolemano, while others might be trying for someone on a budget, like eating out with co-workers at lunch. That is why SNAP is so important and why cutting it has such an impact. It not only takes away from the extra nutrition a family can get by having these benefits but it also makes it even harder or impossible to take part in some of the social aspects of food that I and many others take for granted.

NKADDSNAP Challenge Day Four:

Today I remember my yogurt and my granola bar, but I won’t be eating PB&J for lunch. Instead, I took the box of brown rice and the remaining chicken broth and cooked it all. I then took four eggs and separated the whites. While my chicken-rice cooked I whipped the egg whites until they started to peak, added the yolks and blended them. Finally, I slowly poured the chicken-rice into the egg mixture tempering the eggs so they did not curdle. After the mix was fully combined I added lemon juice, salt and pepper. Had I used long grain white rice and started with a stick of butter, my Greek family would have called this Avgolemono.

Today's lunch is Avgo Lemano.
Today’s Lunch: Avgolemono

What I made was nearly the same except I used brown rice and didn’t throw in a stick of butter. Avgolemono when made like my family makes it is a hardy soup that is great for winter and really cheap to make. I had planned on making this from the start of the SNAP Challenge. The per serving cost is almost the cost of the rice and eggs, save the chicken stock used to cook the rice. The box of rice cost $1.49 while the four eggs cost  $0.57. The soup should have about 8-9 servings (though I often eat two cups at a time). The per serving cost of the Avgolemono is $0.23 per serving. We often break up a piece of bread and toss it into our individual servings which adds $0.05 to each serving. It will likely keep for two to three days in the refrigerator and it freezes with few problems.

I plan to run three miles again today which means I’ll probably end up on a  carb binge later tonight or I’ll be eating the rest of the soup.

With a little more than half the SNAP Challenge week completed, I feel like things are going better than I expected in terms of overall nutrition. I know I’ll run out of chicken before Sunday. I’m also fairly certain I’ll run out of green vegetables by Sunday but likely have a can of chili beans left over. I’ll definitely have some combination of bread, potatoes and ramen left over which isn’t a bad thing since those don’t perish in a weeks time.

My weekly food groups chart (below the inventory table on the Google doc) shows that I’m doing well managing most of my nutrition (though I still find the math questionable). With fruits and dairy being the only major concerns. Given my current stock of dairy products I won’t be able to get above 60% of my weekly need. Fruits face the same fate with it being impossible to get about 50% of my weekly fruit needs. I can’t remember the price of grapes, but I know I would have had to give something else up to afford them.

Day four nutritional summary before I go running.
Summary for Day 4 (Pre-running)

My food diary for the day is (mostly) filled out. After dinner I’ll be 183 calories, 25 carbs, 86 protein, and 62 sugar over my daily goal while coming in 30 fat and 1,125 sodium under my daily goal. With my planned 3 mi run I should come in at about 560 calories below my daily goal. As I mentioned above I’ll be filling that gap with more Avgolemono.

NKADDSNAP Day Three

Today I remembered that I needed to pack my lunch (thanks to Rebecca making my sandwich I got out the door pretty quickly) but in my flurry to leave I forgot my granola bar. I also didn’t have any apple juice or milk though I had planned to have some. My Sandwich today has an extra tablespoon of the striped peanut butter and jelly after noticing yesterday that two was throwing off the ratio of bread to PB&J.

Wednesday's Breakfast, I forgot my granola bar.
Wednesday’s Breakfast, I forgot my granola bar.

I’m feeling a bit better without coffee today, I think I’m through the worst of my coffee withdrawal. I ended up eating a whole box of spaghetti last night to compensate for my run, not my proudest moment but I had to fill that gap in my nutrition. I’ve also added a new table to my inventory spreadsheet. I’m attempting to track general food group servings in the same way someone might follow the ChooseMyPlate.gov meal plan (18+ / 2800 Calories per day). I converted all my food items into the units of measurement used in the website’s meal plan and I’m tracking everything against a weekly total of servings. That yielded some surprising results after only two and a half days I’m already over 25% on my weekly servings of grains, proteins and fats; sugars; and sodium (FS&S). While an excess of protein is likely the least of my concerns, the FS&S allotment is a bit smaller than I would have expected. Lumping the three together does not  reliably represent the quality of one’s diet. Fats and sugars aren’t necessarily bad while sodium is likely a problem for most households that consume any take-out, frozen food, or ramen.

Summary of day three eating.
Day Three Summary

I’m planning on having beans with bacon, cream style corn, and chicken on rice cooked in a cup of chicken broth and water. I’ll be drinking the cup of apple juice that I missed this morning and having a glass of milk with dinner.

Link to the Google Doc

MyFitnessPal Food Diary

Updated with a final count and the links above.

NKADDSNAP Challenge Day Two

Yogurt, Honey, and Granola
Breakfast: Yogurt, Honey, and Granola

It’s only Tuesday and I’m already missing my normal coffee routine. By now I’d have started my first cup and, as is the ritual of the start to my workday, I would’ve blown the steam off the top for fifteen minutes while I checked my urban planning/public administration news-feed on Digg Reader. Instead I’ve got a slight headache that I could attribute to the change in weather or the change in caffeine. I’m noticing that I’m mentally a bit slower today, groggy even. Waking up was fine, I packed lunch with the same panic of remembrance that I was doing the SNAP Challenge as yesterday.

Lunch and breakfast are exactly the same. I’m eating a cup of yogurt with honey, a granola and peanut butter bar, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch. These things did little to help me by 4:00p yesterday when I started to feel some hunger pangs and exhaustion. This is strange given that I often skip breakfast and sometimes even lunch. Perhaps coffee was more integral to my daily routine than I thought?

Tonight I’ll be making spaghetti with chili beans with bacon topped with some chicken chunks (breast meat) and a side of green beans (1/2 can). I’m planning to go for a run before dinner, which should contribute a burn of about 700 calories. My perspective from this end of the week says I’ll run out of food by Friday if I try to keep up with my half-marathon training plan this week (by the way, I’m going to run a half-marathon).

I’ll update this post with the exact number from today’s food and exercise tonight when I get everything logged into MyFitnessPal.

End of Day Two:

Tonight for dinner I improvised and made spaghetti with chicken, mixed vegetables, baked potato cubes, and (kidney) beans. I made a roux with chicken broth for a sauce. It wasn’t exactly the most beautiful culinary improvisation I’ve ever made, but it worked.

I’ve started keeping an inventory in addition to the food diary (I think the social scientist in me knew it would come down to tracking as much data as possible). You can look at the tracking sheet at any time.

This might normally mean I would have finished my food diary, but I went for a run today and in the process burned about 740 calories. As of the time of this update I’m now 729 calories , 32 fat and 1,082 sodium under my daily limit and 56 carbs, 7 protein, and 56 sugar over my daily limit. I’ll likely have to fill in the deficit in calories with carbs since I can’t really spare any chicken at my current rate of use and I seem to have an abundance of grains and pasta.

Day 2 Food Diary, missing calories to compensate for running.
Today’s Diary before the carb binge.

Update Two:

I quickly figured out that I was going to have to eat essentially the whole box of spaghetti. So I did. That left me about 271 calories over my daily limit and really increased the number of carbs I had:

Final summary for day two.
Final counts for day two.

NKADDSNAP Challenge Day One:

I woke up this morning, as I do most Mondays, and went to leave without packing lunch and getting something quick for breakfast. The realization quickly hit me that I need to pack my peanut butter and jelly sandwich and organize my breakfast.SNAP_Day1

I’m still bitter about having to eat non-fat yogurt all week. But the cup with honey I had wasn’t terrible and took me forever to eat (because it was just so runny). I went for a triple-decker PB&J after seeing that with what I had planned for dinner that I would not hit my calorie needs. Breakfast ended up being yogurt, honey, a glass of half-and-half apple juice and water, and a granola peanut butter bar. Lunch is the PB&J.

For dinner I’m planning to take my whole chicken out of the crock pot, reserving the bones and broth. I’ll use one thigh for tonight’s dinner, boiling some broth with water and ramen noodles and adding half a can of mixed vegetables and either frying an egg or cooking it by poaching it in the broth.

If you look at the image above, you’ll see the nutrition and calories for everything I ate today. I have MyFitnessPal (link to my food diary) set up to put me on a 2 lbs. per week diet (980 calories less than my 2,830 I need), meaning I’m already eating a calorie deficit with these figures. You’ll also  see that with that extra $0.43 I spent I’m still not even meeting my daily calorie need and consuming more sugar and sodium than I should be while missing the mark on carbohydrates. I think the sodium count is a bit high since I discard the seasoning packets in favor of real broth and vegetables.

Since I’m eating yogurt and peanut butter & jelly all week, I’ll likely continue to add to that sugar deficit.

Any exercise I do this week will make it painfully clear how little food I’m eating. Yesterday’s 50 minute run was a burn of 680 calories.  If I ran three times a week and continued the current shortfall from my meal planning (in addition to the diet’s deficit) I’d be 9,761 calories shy of my weekly maintenance calories. That is about 3 lbs. of fat using the old 3,500 calories = 1 lbs. of fat rule.

An updated meal plan image.
Here are the updated numbers.

Edit 12:00pm: After giving it some more thought, I updated my meal plan and decided to add a potato to the ramen. That pushed me over the daily calorie need I had set for losing 2 lbs/week.  I’m now 2 carbs and 4 fats less than the daily limit and 11 protein, 627 sodium and 57 sugar over the daily limit.

#NKADDSNAP Challenge

1:30pm 1/12/2014:

Aldi's breakfast bars.
Deciding on what breakfast was going to make sense.

I just got back from my last run before the snap challenge that starts tomorrow. Unlike the SNAP recipients that depend on these benefits, I will be eating a big supper tonight. I’m planning to go to Aldi’s, where my family shopped back when we were a family of four with a single income. I double checked to confirm that Aldi’s does take SNAP (USDA has a store locator to check who accepts benefits).

I will take pictures of my receipts and I plan to track the nutrition in myfitnesspal. I’m planning to focus on repeating the same meal for seven days, with the idea that if I was doing this for weeks at a time, I would rotate my main grain and protein while sticking to simple staples like peanut butter and jelly for lunch. I am a bit concerned that I won’t be able to get enough calories to continue running this week.

A picture of the USDA locator map showing Aldi's
Aldi’s is in the USDA’s locator.

This week I’m hoping to focus on rice and chicken as my two staples since they are easy to vary perpetration and taste/texture. I’ll be including a simple (and low fat) slaw with most of my meals as a convenient way of prepping a lot of vegetables and eating them multiple times.

3:05pm:

The trip to Aldi’s was a success, I managed to spend $30.23 (thats $0.42 more than I had planned to spend based on a budget of $29.82). However, there were a series of things I had to adjust for since Aldi’s didn’t have everything I wanted to get and I thought (assumed) someone on SNAP benefits couldn’t necessarily drive to multiple stores.

What I ended up with was calorie dense, flexible, but questionable in terms of nutrition. Prices and having to adjust on the fly meant I ended up with all canned vegetables. Thats not bad in and of itself, I only ate canned vegetables when I was younger, but I would have liked to include some fresh produce. Aldi’s did not have black beans in stock and cabbage was no where to be found (eliminating the slaw idea I had).

On top of that, I was disappointed by the prevalence of low-fat products, specifically low fat yogurt. I firmly believe that 2% yogurt is by far more filling than low-fat (and obviously more calorie dense). I didn’t even get the chance to check whether the yogurt contained active cultures or not.

I’ve uploaded all the pictures I took to a google+ album I’ve made public here.

NKADDSNAP2014
Here’s what I purchased for $30.23.

I plan to have a granola “protein” bar for breakfast M-F and to have a larger brunch on Sat/Sun. For lunch I’ll be sticking to peanut butter and jelly (though I was dismayed to find I could not squeeze in actual jelly, instead opting for what is pictured). For dinner I’ll be having half or a whole can of vegetables paired with some chicken and a grain (ramen, brown rice, or whole grain spaghetti). I also regret not being able to squeeze in cheese. If I had to do it again I think I would have given up the third grain variety in favor of the dairy addition.

Google Wallet Card

I’m waiting on my Google Wallet Card to get to my house. I have tried to imagine what I might use it for since a majority of my spending is done on credit cards. Most of my monthly and daily expenses go own a few credit cards and I pay off everything once a month. (I do this because I can keep one card at home that has all my monthly charges on it (netflix, hulu, etc.) and not have to cancel it if my wallet is stolen).

Barring any specific use for me, I think the Google Wallet Card is going to be a great way to teach my (future) kids about personal finances.  The Google Wallet Card operates similarly to a prepaid visa or top up card, when the balance is depleted more money must be added to continue using it. My wife and I can pay their allowance to a Wallet Card and then let them use the balance. My parents taught my sister and I using actual money. I think that may be a useful means at first, but I think this will provide an excellent stepping stone to full independence.

I’ll post more about the Wallet Card when I receive it.

A Tiny Hiatus and Elections

I haven’t updated since mid October. I had suspected that might happen when my workload expanded more rapidly than I had expected. Now that things are a bit more under control, lets talk about the rest of last month:

PAS Retreat

Every Area Development District in Kentucky has persons holding the same job title I do; Public Administration Specialist (PAS) (though whether I hold that title is sometimes up for debate as my e-mail signature, job description, and work tasks fall between Community Development Specialist and Public Administration Specialist). Every quarter or so, the PAS meet and discuss issues developing at their ADDs or issues affecting PAS directly. As part of those series of meetings, the PAS also have a retreat.

This year’s retreat was held in Lake Cumberland, a lovely park that looks like everyone forgot about (architecturally) since the 1970s. At one point it was described to me as having a certain The Shining element to it. I think that when it got dark, that became especially true. The rain and cloud cover over the three days we were there didn’t help either.

Putting aside the professional development that occurred at the retreat, I want to quickly relate a story from the trip:

We arrived at Lake Cumberland on Wendesday and had finished up for the day. The PAS chair told us that there was a lovely restaurant up the road. Through a cascade of wrong turns, weather, and the fact that a whole caravan of cars was being used to transport all of us to this place, we got a bit lost and ended up driving for an hour and forty minutes before arriving for dinner. Worse still, the time zone changes near Lake Cumberland and we arrived in Eastern Time standards about 40 minutes before the place closed. Thankfully the restaurant was accommodating and we had a nice dinner (I had a bourbon burger that was great). Upon leaving we immediately found the nearest (only) grocery store (Wal-Mart) and got enough “vittles” for the rest of the trip. I wasn’t about to make that drive again.

The PAS retreat centered on the implementation of KY House Bill 1, which induces new regulations of transparency on Special Government Entities (SPGEs). The part of the new law that affects me the most is the inclusion of SPGEs under their parent jurisdiction’s ethics authority. I currently staff the Northern Kentucky Regional Ethics Authority. The changes will likely mean additional work for us as we now need to collect ethics related materials from jurisdictions (counties and cities) and now SPGEs as sub-units of these jurisdictions.

We also had the opportunity to meet with some of the Judge Executives from Lake Cumberland area. They gave us insight into the various aspects of a Judge Executive’s needs and responsibilities at various stages of experience from newly elected or getting the hang of it all the way to “I’m so popular I’ll likely retire from this.” (Which, by the way, its always great to have a Judge Executive with that sort of political will in their community, it goes a long way to implementing projects and getting people excited).

All in all the trip was a nice reprieve from the urban life I enjoy so much in Cincinnati. The fresh air and dreary weather really reminded me of the fall in Youngstown.

CDBG Certified Administrator Training

The purpose of CDBG Certified Administrator Training (CDBG Training from here on), is to ensure that public service employees and/or elected officials are properly prepared to handle and execute CDBG money and projects. I spoke with a friend of mine at HUD and they indicated that not even they have to take tests on this stuff, but I think its good that the Dept. for Local Government in KY is proactive in this sort of training (large amounts of money are handled through CDBG, and it seems like a great idea to ensure that those handling it have been fully prepared).

The training was pretty intense, it consisted of 3 days of 8:30-5:30 class over two binders full of information and regulations concerning the use of CDBG funds and how to plan and implement CDBG projects. On the fourth day a 100 question test is given, consisting of true/false, short answer, and multiple choice questions with a 3.5 hour window for completion. I was among the first people to finish. Although we’re still waiting for results (that could take up to 90 days) I’m fairly confident I was able to pass the test.

While at CDBG training I met a Community Development Specialist from the Green River Area Development District. From our conversation it sounds as if Green River has some really interesting things going on and some great ideas planned for the future. I was glad to have made the connection as its rare to find people as passionate about their work as this person was.

Elections

Elections took place on Tuesday (11/5) this week, and I can’t say I was very happy with the results. With Mayor-elect John Cranley soon taking office, the future of the street car is in question. Say what you will about the streetcar, but I’m pretty certain I don’t want another half completed public transportation project in Cincinnati. Aaron Ren over at the Urbanophile has a great write up on Cincinnati’s Culture of Self-sabotage. Its worth reading if you’re not familiar with Cincinnati’s storied history of shooting itself in the foot.

Next week:

Next week I’ll be going back to writing about brewing as we ramp up toward the colder weather. I believe we currently have a chili stout in the works and need to begin considering the beers we hope to have for our wedding in June.

Kentucky Affordable Housing Conference 2013

Let me first get some musings out of the way:

I love it when conferences have a twitter hash-tag with no intended use or purpose, it reminds me of the sort of pseudo embrace the practice of planning has often (but not always) given social media (we’ll use it, but we’re not sure if its actually participation). The 2013 KY Affordable Housing Conference had a hash-tag, #KAHC13. Of course, I and a few other people immediately got it wrong with #KAHC2013. Afterward, I think I saw maybe a handful of tweets in the correct hash-tag (with my tweet of all things being the “top tweet” for that hash-tag). Clearly if a conference wants to have a hash-tag it might also be prudent to have a plan or strategy. For instance, I think allocating one of the door prices to a random user of the KAHC hash-tag might have been a useful driver for more tweets.

The Conference

The conference itself left me a little disappointed, which doesn’t say much since I found myself disappointed even by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning Conference I went to last year. But more on that in a second.

The keynotes were both great, Rick McQuady, CEO of the Kentucky Housing Corporation, was both an excellent opening speaker and a great emcee. His conversational tone and light humor kept things lively. The final keynote was given by Nancy Welsh, current chair of the Board of Directors (and founder) of Builders of Hope in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her message was clear, her slides easily connected to what she was trying to teach, and her presence on stage was engaging if not engrossing. I left her keynote feeling excited.

The sessions I attended, however, fell bellow my expectations. Session descriptions were farther reaching than their execution. The content of every session failed to match the breadth promised in its respective description. Reflecting upon it now, I think that perhaps given the time limitations (an hour and a half) that many of the sessions did the best they could given the opulence of backgrounds found in the attendees. Even still, I often find myself taking notes on a slide only to find that the slide and the elements being discussed overlapped nearly to the word. Public speaking is not easy, but I’m not entirely sure that reading from your slides can be called public speaking as opposed to a reading.

With my laid out, I should also talk about the the silver lining. The sessions I attended were a good refresher on what I learned in school. As well the networking was pretty decent with plenty of opportunities to meet others on Wednesday night. Even the screening of Potter’s Field proved interesting and entertaining.

Overall the KAHC conference was a worthwhile attendance, but the sessions of this conference (like most conferences I’ve attended) needs a tighter grip on presenters to ensure they deliver what they’ve promised. Though my experience with academic conferences remains supreme in this category as often presenters would have completely changed the topic of their presentation or not done any of what the talk had promised.

This week I’ll be attending a retreat for those with a similar title in other Area Development Districts. One thing I’m eager to find out more about is the implementation of KY HB1.

KY APA and the Awesomeness Mini-conference

Last update, Sept. 19th? Yikes!

Since the 19th I attended the Kentucky APA conference down in Louisville and the Awesome Collective’s mini-conference in Covington, Ky.

The government also shut down and the ACA’s health care exchanges went live. Its been a busy few weeks.

Kentucky APA

The Kentucky APA conference was held on Friday, September 27th, and it was my first state APA conferenc. The buffet lunch was hearty and almost broke my calories budget for the day! Luckily I came in 100 calories below my goal thanks to a long evening walk.

We ended up arriving late and missed the Ethics session but arrived right on time for the Law session. The presenter was interesting and the topics covered all centered around how to stay out of court and whether you could be charged with practicing law without a license.

The session over lunch discussed the successes of various groups and their urban redevelopment projects in and around Louisville. I found the delicious lunch a little more than distracting.

The afternoon started with a round table on rural development. Everyone had something to say about “poo” (waster water treatment). However, the session was marked by a lack of depth as each presenter shotgunned through data, maps, and discussion point.

Finally, the conference ended with a presentation from the NKAPC (and friends) to discuss the Crittenden-Piner Tornado, which I’ve heard about in other venues. The breakout success of the presentation was Andy Hatzos of the National Weather Service, whose sheer passion kept my interest throughout.

Be Awsome! A Mini-conference for Community Change-makers.

Held yesterday, October 3rd, the Awesomeness Mini-conference was held at various locations around Covington, Ky. Highlights from the parts I attended (there were breakout sessions at time) included Griffin Van Meter, whose epic beard nearly stole the show, Tarek Kamil, who inspired my to start tracking my own awesomeness index, and Seth Beattie and Brian Friedman from Collinwood in Cleveland, Ohio.

Seth and Brian’s presentation was near and dear to my heart as an ex-rust belt native. Their project and its success was worth hearing about. Redevelopment attuned to the creative class is working for them on both the engagement and revitalization levels.

Tarek Kamil had excellent presenting skills and had a topic that anyone could relate to. The major take away is, in a nut shell, track something (like happiness) because tracking something is better than knowing nothing. And when you track something you can change try to change something.

Griffin Van Meter was perhaps the most disorganized but also the most engaging. His oratory style is unique and his passion is contagious. His success with the NoLi CDC was interesting to hear about if only because I’m an Economic Developer/Urban Planner, and that type of work is our bread and butter.

Overall the conference was interesting, informative, and inspiring. Hopefully some community change does arise from the conference.

Government Shutdown

You never realize how much you need government websites until they’re gone. For work I find myself cruising Census.gov and other data sources at least weekly. Tuesday morning, a midst the growing pains of the ACA Exchange websites, I found myself stopped from completing a good chunk of work on my current projects.

Hopefully the whole shutdown is resolved sooner, rather than later, and without any major concessions on the Affordable Care Act. I’m not a hardcore liberal, but the stories I’ve heard on the ground here in Kentucky suggest that its as necessary and prescient as Gov. Beshear says it is.

Health Care Exchanges

I’ve managed to get quotes from both Kentucky and Ohio’s exchanges now, and in both states my healthcare costs would be less than a third of my employer’s current cost to provide health insurance with similar benefits, similar deductible, and the same provider if I lived in Kentucky (where I currently work).

Stories have been coming out all week about the demand placed on these exchange websites alongside success stories of people from all over the political spectrum. Though, the one that caught my eye was that of an Alabama man who voted for Ron Paul that is touting the insurance he gets through Alabama’s exchange a success. Take this with a grain of salt, though, it comes from ThinkProgress.

Reggae Run

This weekend I’ll be running my first official 5k race, which I’m calling the Hell Hill Run. The 3.1 mi course takes place mostly up hill and will likely be the death of me.

I’ll report back Monday with a completion time (supposing I survive).

That about covers the last two weeks, now its all smooth sailing to the weekend.