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JCC St. Louis and my exercise

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JCC St. Louis (2 locations, Creve Coeur and Chesterfield) are very good. I joined JCC in early 2012 mostly for its exercise facilities. At the time I got discounted rate through my employer, and at the same time the employer paid 3/4 of the membership fee. Over the years I changed my employer couple times, and I still kept the membership (paying the full price from my own pocket). But I felt it’s worth it, not only I used it for exercise, but also my family esp. my kids have lots of funs at the recreational pools. Also my old daughter had her art summer camp there last summer.

Keep in mind JCC is more than an exercise facility, or a summer camp. It also has a lot educational, cultural, or health related facilities and activities. Recently I attended a free seminar hosted by St. Lukes Hospital which talked about joint health and replacement (mostly knees and hips). For me it’s mostly educational since I am still in 40s and there is no need for replacement, the reason I went there is I got some hip pain, and I like to get more information out of it. Also, my doctor is also working at St. Luke’s orthopedic and joint center. Let me back to the exercise topic. Over the years I started pay attention to my activities esp. daily walking steps (read my post about this one 10 years ago>pedometers I used over the years). In St. Louis weather, there are some days in summer and winter, it will be too hot or cold to walk outside, we can walk in mall, in company hallway (if they have a long one, note I try to stay away from stairs recently as it may have contribute to my hip issue). JCC always offers the opportunities for me to walk or swim, probably more swim than walk for me. Most recently as I mentioned my hip issue, I started doing walk in water instead of swimming, using the floating drum-bells. It can exercise my upper body nicely. And in the past I used the steam room, recently I started using the whirlpool. It’s funny I heard once from a gentleman says he has been to 5 JCCs across the country, the St. Louis one is the best (I think he meant the Creve Coeur one 🙂 So basically I used water to relax and get the stress out of my hip and back. I will try get back to swim soon, hopefully. Maybe someday I will find a swimming coach to correct my technique.

I used the Chesterfield facility too, both for exercise (again walk/swim) and kids activity (KinderMusik). My old daughter attended kindermusik for 2 years (between 2.5 years old to 4.5 years old). I recall when she was switching from toddler program to the preschool (when she became 3), for a brief period, KinderMusik class is the only class she wanted to go. The indoor swim pool at Chesterfield is not as big as Creve Coeur (it has 2, a lap pool and a recreational pool). But Chesterfield has one advantage, the water temperature there is just about right, vs “a bit cold” in Creve Coeur lap pool, and “a bit warm” for the recreational pool.

I recall once I went to see the shabach on Friday afternoon during my daughter’s summer camp, it’s fun and interesting to see how they share the special bread. And also kids perform. It’s something that will stay in my memory for a long long time. Note they have koshal food too. I esp. like their corn beef, which I can also get from Kohn’s, which is down the street.

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Resources for aspiring software developers in St. Louis

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We know St. Louis is not a hot (or cool) place as Seattle/Silicon Valley in terms of job opportunities for software engineers. But St. Louis area have plenty of opportunities from small to large organizations, with a diverse industries. There are also many resources for aspiring software developers who like to join the industry.

The No. 1 resource I recommend is LaunchCode. It was relatively new, but I personally knew 3 people got internship position through them, and 2 of them received full time offers, in last few years. They seemed really got the non-traditional students/newbies connected with the industry.

The No. 2 resource I like to mention is all these “user groups”, e.g., the old ones such as St. Louis Java User Group, St. Louis .Net User Group, St. Louis Unix User Group. They are mostly free and open to everyone, here is a list of monthly calendar compiled by the good folks at sluug. There are also some groups concentrate on newer technologies, such as iOS, Android, Angular JS Group, and functional and dynamic languages. Relate to the last one, there is also a conference on coding StrangeLoop which is considered good in the midwest (if not the US). I have been to most of the user group meetings and StrangeLoop conference (a while ago, when I’ve not got busy with 2 young kids), and I think they are good in terms of two aspects: 1) Learn new trends on the technology; 2) Get to know some of the people (they are not all nerds 🙂 Last but not least for user groups sometimes they have free food or door prizes: they are usually sponsored by the hosting companies or the recruiters who are looking for developers.

This is also my last bullet point. The recruiters. I know in this day of the age, we have a somewhat love/hate relationship with recruiters because they spam us on the phone, and on linkedIn. But looking at another way, for many openings esp. contractor positions are coming through recruiters. And also keep in mind not all recruiters are the same, there are some (if not a few) who are really good at finding positions and are also pleasant to work with. Not all are like car salesperson (for that matter, I think the perception on car salesperson is also rated unfairly). So my advice for aspiring developers is to establish something on LinkedIn, and start looking for a few good recruiters. I personally have worked with some very good recruiters, and my friend who found internship via LaunchCode worked with a recruiter at one time too (both out of necessity, sometimes companies can only hire contractor).

Will update this post as time goes.

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Some thoughts after seeing movie “Up in the Air”

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(Update 04Feb10) Watched the “Outsourced” movie from Netflix on Feb 02 night, quite interesting. It has a similar theme with “Up in the Air”.

(Original) Went to see movie “Up in the Air”. That’s the first time my wife and I went to see a movie. We figured time is running out for us to go cinema in the near future as we expect our new baby this March.

Couple thoughts after seeing the movie:

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MUNY: Meet Me in St. Louis

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We went to MUNY last night, Meeting Me in St. Louis is on.

Meet me in St. Louis pic

It’s 4th season I went to MUNY, I still remember in year 2001/2, I did not even know what MUNY is when a colleague wanted to give away MUNY tickets. Long words short, MUNY is the largest outdoor musical in the US. It’s being shown every summer in the outdoor MUNY theater at beautiful forrest park (history of MUNY). You don’t have to pay to see the show, the last 7 rows of seats are available on “first come, first serve” basis.

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DTV day, PBS and NPR

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Today is DTV day, the analog TV will be turned off and the local TV stations will broadcast digital signals only. Go to for the government coupon Digital TV converter box and other information.

Local PBS station (KETC) is running short of funds recently, partly due to the recession, corporate underwriting and viewer donations declined quite a bit. Similar situation is facing KWMU, local NPR station. I am both a fan of PBS and NPR, the programs I paid attention to is Nightly Business News (NBR), and MarketPlace at NPR. The reasons I like them is: they are much better than those Mad Money, Fast Money and other programs on CNBC. I used to watch quite a bit Mad Money for entertainment, but unfortunately it influenced my thinking, from time to time. In the past year I still watch them, but with a much critical mind.

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Wifi hot spots and plan

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Mobile broadband (3G) is getting popular these days, but for most people (esp. consumers) that’s still a bit too expensive. At this time I think the good old Wifi is more suitable for me and many working from home (Starbucks, Panera Bread, Borders, Barnes Noble, or McDonald) type.

I used to use Free Wifi at Panera/St. Louis Bread Co. But “free” usually comes with a price, such as the new policy of “limit to 30 minutes use” between 11 AM to 2 PM. I have used two Wifi plan so far, T-mobile hotspot (Borders) and Boingo (many airports, Starbucks, McDonald). Let me compare those two plans:

Cost: T-mobile $19.99 per month for everyone ($9.99 for T-mobile wireless users, like me); Boingo costs $9.99 per month (US)

Coverage: Boingo wins this one because it is available in most Starbucks, McDonald, and airports. T-mobile hotspot is available in Borders bookstore, and it has a free roaming agreement with Starbucks (using AT&T Wifi), but I got some connection problem in one of my two visits to Starbucks. Of course the downside of Starbucks and McDonald is it’s more noisy than Borders (usually).

BTW, I found the iPhone Wifi Finder to be cool.

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PBS NewsHour doing weekly series on Saint Louis

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Yesterday was series one. The series is about the new stimulus package, economy and comparison of (1930s) new deal with current stimulus package. The first one showed many St. Louis landmark, such as St. Louis zoo, Forest Park (Jewel Box). I did not know many of those were built in 1930s (the New Deal).

StreamVideo link here.

It’s said that President will be here for a Townhall tomorrow (Wednesday), to get some feedback for his first 100 days. Suddenly, St. Louis is under spotlight.

Here is a link to “recent programs” at PBS NewsHour.

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Ameren responds to anti-Ameren TV Ads

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I was a bit surprised to see the anti-Ameren (local ulitily company) TV ads (link here), which shows an old person, feeling stressed by the potential 40% rate hike of electricity by Ameren. This thing reminds me of the political Ads during campaign season.

Interestingly enough, Ameren is fighting back with its own Ads.