Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Race Report: GYRIG 5K

Distance: 5K
Goal Time: None
Actual Time: 1:10:??

This 5K was really just a chance to do something active with the family while my sister was visiting.  In our family, Beth and I lead the health kick, but it has rubbed off on Theresa as she works off her baby weight and to Mom as she works to keep her diabetes in check. I succeeded in bribing Beth to do this event as a chance to meet Scotty in person.  Mom was relieved when I told her that Brackenridge Park is flat and shady - quite the opposite from her previous 5K experience.  Theresa came along for the ride with the kids in tow.  I was really glad that Amanda decided to come out too!  She kidnapped Brittany and bribed her with brunch to round out our posse at the event.  

It was cool and breezy  on race day.  The course was perfect - shady and picturesque.  We took a short break about halfway, but we had to stop a couple of times to put the wheel back on Theresa's wagon for the kids.  We just chatted and made faces at the kids the whole way and crossed the finish around 1:10:00.  As walkers, we weren't officially timed, but I'm proud of it considering we started at the very back and had the few stops.  Brittany didn't start out believing me that it wouldn't be too bad.  Just get her chatting and the time just flies by! I hope she's a convert and that she and Amanda and I will do another walk together in the future (hint hint!). 

It was a great way to start the day.  Afterward came brunch with everyone at the nearest IHOP, then our family split off for more playing in the park.  It was a beautiful way to spend the a gorgeous San Antonio spring day. 

I'll end with a shout out to Cotton "Pa" Hobson, my brother-in-law's grandfather who died of colon cancer a few years ago.  Beth dedicated her walk to him. 

Other race reports: 
Scotty's Race Report
Running Raider
Amanda's report
Official Photographs

Check back later for more pictures! (I'll upload them soon, I promise!)

The Gerard Butler Double Feature Weekend

This weekend was incredibly busy, going to and fro to different family events to entertain my visiting sister.  Gerard Butler is one of our favorite actors so it was a no-brainer that these movies were on our radar. We made it to two movies, both with Gerard Butler as one of the key cast members: Bounty Hunter at Alamo Drafthouse was our "twin date," and How to Train Your Dragon was something we watched with our mom.

Bounty Hunter follows a reporter chasing a story who fails to appear at her court date.  Her ex-husband, a bounty hunter, takes the job of bringing her back to jail for skipping bail. 

I was hoping that this movie would be the next Mr. and Mrs. Smith - no pun or social commentary intended.  It wasn't.  I think it could have been with more work on the script or better storyboards or photography.  It ended up just being a cute movie instead of a great movie.  I had a blast watching this with my sister, but overall it's forgettable.  However I highly recommend Breckenridge's Agave Wheat seasonal- a very refreshing hefeweisen.

Again, I was put off by Gerard Butler's "I haven't shaved in two weeks" look.  Perhaps that was applicable to this particular character, but to me it just looks messy and lazy.  It still does the trick for my sister, so there's still at least some demand for it somewhere.

How to Train Your Dragon follows Hiccup, a teenage viking that is the laughingstock of his town because he is too puny to fight dragons, the town's main occupation.  He uses his ingenuity with mechanics to catch the dreaded nightfury and prove himself to the clan in a way he never intended.

Dreamworks did a great job with this movie.  Everything came together well: characters were unique individuals, the animation really established the culture and environment, and the story was really moving.  (No, I didn't cry.)  I'm definitely going to buy this when it comes out.

The cast on this were all relatively up-and-coming younger actors as the viking teenagers- America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, and Jay Baruchel. I'm really looking forward to seeing what they will do next.  Gerard Butler does a great job as the town chief and Hiccup's father.

We saw this movie at Santikos Silverado.  I was reminded again why I prefer the Drafthouse, even besides the food and beverage service.  Perhaps the mistake was ours by seeing a PG movie on a Sunday afternoon.  There were kids screaming in the theater every thirty minutes or so.  It completely ruined a poignant scene.  The 18-and-up-all-shows rule at Drafthouse has sheltered me for a long while.

If you're going to see a Gerard Butler move, go see How to Train Your Dragon, or rent Timeline or 300. I imagine Bounty Hunter will go down on the list of movies that no one will remember.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Angel Time by Anne Rice

I finally finished Angel Time by Anne Rice.  This book is the first in her new Songs of the Seraphim series, focusing on the intervention of angels into the human world.  Angel Time follows Toby O'Dare, a professional assassin who is offered a chance at redemption.  It is a Christian historical novel that looks into Jewish-Christian relations in Europe in the Middle Ages. 

This is my first time to read Anne Rice, Christian fiction, or a historical novel.  I'm thinking that it's just not my thing which is why I really contemplating abandoning it.  The book is written from mostly Toby's point of view, with a short stint from the angel Malchiah's point of view.  The whole middle was mostly listening to other characters relate previous events.  I was only intrigued by the first few and final few chapters where the main character was actually doing something.  Maybe I'm too used to fantasy books where the main character is actively slaying dragons or some such. 

For me, this book was a snooze-fest. I really wanted to like Anne Rice, but Angel Time just didn't do it for me.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

I don't remember how I came across Stardust, but I know I was attracted first to the movie, then to the book.  I am notorious for picking up random "B" movies from the local movie rental establishment, especially bad sci-fi/fantasy.  I don't even remember this movie coming out in theaters in 2007.  Either way, it was a random pick off the wall for a movie rental sometime last year.  I immediately loved it.
In the tranquil fields and meadows of long-ago England, there is a small hamlet that has stood on a jut of granite for 600 years. Just to the east stands a high stone wall, for which the village is named. Here, in the hamlet of Wall, young Tristran Thorn has lost his heart to the hauntingly beautiful Victoria Forester. And here, one crisp October eve, Tristran makes his love a promise -- an impetuous vow that will send him through the only breach in the wall, across the pasture... and into the most exhilarating adventure of his life.  - from neilgaiman.com.
The movie was great. Great story with adventure, excitement, and a melt-your-heart love story.  Great cast including Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert De Niro, I adore Claire Danes, and I think that's what attracted me to this movie first. (I absolutely adored Stage Beauty.) The male lead Charlie Cox also did a great job.  As soon as I saw the DVD in the previewed pile for less than ten bucks (my requirements for adding movies to my already ridiculous collection), it was mine.

After that, I discovered Neil Gaiman as an author.  I read Neverwhere last fall, which I picked up because the cover cited Stardust.  It is only now that I managed to finish Stardust the novel, and it is even better than the movie. 

The ending is different than that of the movie, which I understand why the movie people changed it for a more dramatic culminating point.  I loved the sword fight scene at the end of the movie, but the real ending has so much more finesse.  It's so subtle, you don't even see it coming, but it doesn't hit you like a slap in the face, more like a brand-new pillow cased in Egyptian cotton.  It lets you know that all is right with the world, there are unseen forces pulling strings behind the scenes, but the good guys get rewarded in the end.

His style is different than what I remembered about Neverwhere.  In this book, his voice is fairly whimsical, mainly accomplished through asides about miscellaneous creatures in the land of Faerie.  He uses third omniscient to jump between characters, and it is amazing how much you can tell about a person without having to know their thoughts.  As a novice writer, after reading this I realize much I rely on being able to know the character's thoughts in order to advance a story.

I highly recommend the movie, but even more so the book.  Your life will be enriched by it.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Race Report: Run Wild for Brainpower

Distance: 5K
Goal Time: 36-38 minutes
Actual Time: 37:44 (12:10 min/mi)
Alamo Series Tally: 1 of 1

This is my second March 5K benefiting University of the Incarnate Word’s Track and Field team.  They advertised the course as flat and fast around the UIW campus. This was my first time to run this event, but it was well organized and fast indeed.

This is the first of 2010’s Alamo Series, which is a collection of nine local races leading up to the November Rock’N’Roll Marathon/Half Marathon.  If you finish seven or more races, you get some pretty nice swag –embroidered clothing with the Alamo Series logo.  I finished 6 last year, missing the first two events.  I’m going to try to do the longer of the available distances at these races.  The longest events are a 20 miler in September and a 25K (15.5 miles) in October.

I really had some motivation issues race morning.  First it was twenty degrees colder than I was expecting – in the 30s when I woke up, rising into the 40s during the race, with a wicked cold wind.  Then I didn’t want to make breakfast.  I got to the race start with my stomach growling and mumbling something about coffee. I wanted to ditch the race, go home and curl up under the covers.  I had to call my personal cheerleader/life coach (my sister) who yelled at me for even thinking about getting fast food breakfast and guilted me into staying for the short time it would take me to finish the short race. Then they delayed race start, which meant I would definitely not be done and cleaned up in time for my editing group. 

Once I got rid of the stress of trying to do too much in a day, I relaxed a bit.  The race itself was nice.  I should have worn my trail shoes for the bits of off-roading along the course, but my regular shoes did fine. Again, my HR monitor was out of batteries so I just ran how I felt. I kind of zoned out and hardly looked at my watch.  The campus was pretty, red brink with white stone accents that made me miss the architecture of Texas Tech a little bit.

I really wanted a 36 minute time, but I’m happy with my 37:44, my fastest 5K yet in 2010. Granted, this was much less difficult than the recent trail runs and not nearly as hilly as the AHHS run.  According to the stats I keep, I did a lot better in the field than in my February runs.  I was in the 95th and 90th percentile in my age group for the Eisenhower 10K and the Salado 8mi, respectively.  I was 82nd percentile at the AHHS 5K, and 55th percentile yesterday.  (Yes, I know I’m a nerd about numbers.  At least I’m not yet as obsessed with number of miles per week.)   My time is pretty average for me, so I’m curious to see if this was an anomaly or if I have in fact improved compared to others in my age group.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Going Solo

So I’ve had to rework some of my previous plans for a vacation in Orlando.  I “won” a five night stay at a timeshare with free tickets to Universal Orlando and Islands of Adventure.  I’m making the most out ouf in and turning it into my first ever solo adventure/vacation! 

I figure that it’s as safe as the rest of the country; being a single woman in Orlando would be similar to being a single woman in San Antonio.  If anyone knows of specific places in Orlando to avoid or be wary of, please let me know!  (I can't avoid the timeshare, part of the contract. Yeah I was dumb to do that.)

I’m going to try to be spontaneous for this trip.  It’s something I’m notoriously bad at.  I’m sure those who don’t know me in person can tell by my blog how much of a planner I am.  So the rough plan is to go to the theme parks until I’ve seen everything I want to or it gets too crowded.  I want to see fireworks, ride some roller coasters, have one evening out. 

I have been to Universal Orlando before when Texas Tech played for the Tangerine Bowl in 2002.  The roller coasters there were awesome.  I’m looking forward to being able make full use of the “single rider” lines.  I know I want to do the Dueling Dragons ride again.  It looks like the park has done a lot of expansion and renovations since then, including the unveiling of the World of Harry Potter this spring.  Any other recommendations of what to do or skip?

I am going to look up different things to do in Orlando on the chance that I get bored with the theme parks. Seeing a Blue Man Group performance is on my life's to-do list.  The CityWalk area sounds like just a big string of bars, but maybe there'll be a decent concert at one of the venues.  Then if I put in a volunteer day, I'll see if the Walt Disney World tickets have run out yet. 

Any other recommendations of things to check into if the theme parks are ridiculously crowded?  Are the aquarium or botanical gardens any good? Any unusual museums or historic sites?  Where should I get seafood or sushi?

Help me make my solo adventure a success!  I’m depending on you!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

She’s Out of My League

I really had no previous intention of seeing She's Out of My League.  I went to this movie as a way to get out of my house this past weekend.  It was the only thing showing at that particular time.  It wasn’t as much of a waste of time as I thought it would be.

Kirk meets a beautiful woman scored by his friends as a ten whereas his score is a five.  As they start dating, the difference in their scores is clearly evident.  As their relationship turns more serious, they either have to go their separate ways or find a way to bridge the gap.

Again, I went to the Drafthouse to watch this since it was around dinner time when I went to see it.  I must sound like a broken record.  But it’s my favorite!  I had my usual pizza/salad combo with Woodchuck Amber cider to wash it down.

This movie started off being a guy’s movie but ended more like a chick-flick.  This would probably make a really good compromise on date night if you’re looking to go see something with your significant other.

Kirk had really good bromance chemistry with both his friend Stainer and his brother.  I assume that is how guys really do interact together.  But I’m a girl, so I’ll never really know, and I’m okay with that. The lead actress was okay; her character was a bit too perfect for me to care much about her.  I really liked her friend Patty though. 

On the radio earlier in the week my morning show was talking about more “average” guys being shown on screen: more Topher Grace, Seth Rogen and John C. Reilly than Taylor Lautner, Jake Gyllenhal, and Brad Pitt.  (I also like the trend of distinguished older gents like Liam Neeson, Dennis Quaid, and Chris Cooper.)  This movie was full of average guys, and they did really well. 

On the other hand, all the women in the movie were definitely in the above-average category.  They were all on the top end of the attractiveness spectrum.  I think movies have gone a long way in casting more average people, but it’s still far behind with females.  Hopefully movies like Precious will help move in that direction. 

In case you think I see a lot of movies already, there are a ton of upcoming ones that are already on my radar.  And these are the ones just through this summer!  

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

I went into Leviathan knowing only that Amanda really likes Scott Westerfeld and that it was steampunk, facts reiterated any time either Westerfeld or steampunk came up in conversation and Amanda was within earshot.  I was not at all disappointed.  I should understand by know that she has very good taste.  Leviathan was a quick read and very entertaining along the way.

Aleksander of Austria is on the run after his parents are murdered.  Deryn disguises herself as a boy (“Dylan”) to get into Britain’s Air Service.  As the Great War spreads across continental Europe, both Alek and Dylan have to face unforeseen challenges and make new alliances in order to survive.

This is a really well done book.  The conflicts build almost naturally.  The characters think and act like real people. The world is complete.  The words are clear and concise; not too little to make it believable, not too much to make it boring.  I have a feeling that this is the case with all of Westerfeld’s works, as it feels so natural.  It’s a style of writing I can definitely see myself aspiring to. I’ll need to get Amanda’s recommendation of what of his to read next. (Hint, hint.)

I was amazed as to the amount of thought that must have gone into the physics and engineering of this world.   The major forces in the world are divided into “Clankers” and “Darwinists.”  Clankers get the name from their machine-based military.  Darwinists use animal-based genetically engineered life forms as their weapons of mass destruction.   The physical details of the action scenes made it real to me. 

It was also interesting is that Westerfeld tweaked details of actual history in order to get this alternate universe.  Why does that remind me of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure?  

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Mad Tea Party

So this weekend I got to go to Alamo Drafthouse's Mad Tea Party!  This was one of their special events complete with a special three-course menu.  

The party included a showing of Alice In Wonderland.  Both of the Drafthouse venues in town had this special, but I opted for the non-3D version of the film. I'm not a huge fan of watching films in 3D.  I have enough problems with astigmatism without movies playing with my depth perception.

I love the pre-show entertainment that  Drafthouse has. Did you know that Disney's Alice in Wonderland was its third feature length film?  And how could the introduction to this movie be complete without a clip from Edward Scissorhands? They got in a tribute to Tim Burton with Nightmare Before Christmas.  I was most surprised by the inclusion of some clips from an old TV version of Alice in Wonderland.  We had this on VHS recorded from when it originally aired when I was growing up.  The recollection of Through the Looking Glass is solely from that version.  I would love to watch it again, but haven't been able to find it anywhere.

First course was a Shrimp Ceviche in cucmber cups with champagne.  This was my favorite course.  They were the perfect little bite-size noshes.  The cucumber cups were star-shaped.  I wished the theater had more light in it so I could tell how they cut the cucumber into that shape.  But alas, it shall remain a mystery.  The ceviche had a good spice in it; it tasted like sour cream, cayenne, and paprika.  I am definitely a champagne fan.  I didn't used to be, but now I like having champagne to celebrate the everyday.  The Wycliff was a brut, which I prefer.  It had only a little bit of sweetness, with a bit of an apple taste.  I doubled up and got a small bottle of Korbel Brut to sip through the rest of the film.

The second course was a Eggs Benedict with honey-cured ham on sourdough with Kendall Jackson Chardonnay.  The poached eggs were good, and the ham was tasty, but my sourdough was all sorts of soggy.  I absolutely despise soggy bread.  It's one of the few textures I can't deal with.  The green onion butter that came on top was okay, but not fantastic.  I was impressed by the KJ Chardonnay.  I normally veer away from both "brand name" wines and chardonnay.  I don't particularly like sweet wines, and most of the chardonnays I've had are too sweet for me.  This one had more of a citrus flavor and paired nicely with what I ate of the Eggs Benedict.

The third course was an apple tea cake with Earl Grey tea.   I love hot tea.  I've mostly had green tea lately, so it was nice to have a black tea for a change.  The Earl Grey was nice, though I normally like it stronger.  I probably have let it steep for longer.  You needed the tea to eat the tea cake.  It was muffin-shaped, but a bit on the dry side.  It was like an under-sweetened individual-sized apple coffee cake.  Okay, but not great.

The movie however was a great remake of the classic tale that most people know but hardly ever have read.  My version of Lewis Carroll's Alice In Wonderland had oodles of footnotes.  The book shows why using contemporary slang and obscure politics are not a good idea.  It sounds like nonsense now, but every one of the nonsense words had solid definition.  I liked how they kept some of the great details from the book though: for example, the chess board, the pots flying around in the kitchen, and the queen screaming for her tarts. hey gave the story more a direct conflict - the White Queen versus the Red Queen.  It made it a bit more accessible to modern audiences.

The cast was perfect.  Johnny Depp, of course, who really excels at the oddball characters.  I liked his "mad" spells a whole lot.  His elocution of the Jabberwocky soliloquy was perfect.  Again, loved Anne Hathaway.  The White Queen's floaty-arm movements cracked me up.  I recognized Alan Rickman's voice as the caterpillar immediately.  Mia Wasikowska was lovely as Alice.  She looks so much like a young Gweneth Paltrow, another of my fave actresses.

Wonderland is obviously one of those places where you have to have a vast variety of colors.  So many movies use the absence of color as a statement, but here I think the intense and varied presence of color was an equally powerful thing.  It's used more often in fantastical movies, like in Peter Pan, but why isn't it used in more modern settings?  As I look around my desk right now I am see (my lack of a cohesive interior decorating scheme and ) lots of varied hues and shades of color. 

Just a random thought to leave you "curiouser and curiouser."

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Remember Me

Remember Me is the story of 21-year-old Tyler Hawkins who is approaching the same age at which his older brother killed himself.  His roommate Aidan convinces him to date Ally Craig, the daughter of a police officer who arrested Tyler and Aidan during a night out.  Earlier traumas to the Hawkins and Craig families still test their relationships years later. As love develops between Tyler and Ally, there is a hope for healing that may finally put their families back together.

The choice for this movie was based on the requirement that I go to a socially accepted venue where I could sit alone in the dark, drink, and cry.   So I saw Remember Me at the Alamo Drafthouse. I'm not a Robert Pattinson fan.  He looks like a drug addict. It was the only chick flick playing at the theater. Most of the theater was filled with groups of three or four girls and a sprinkling of couples.  After the movie I saw a few girls who looked like they barely surpassed the PG-13 distinction.

I got pizza and beer.  I really wanted a margarita, but it feels wrong to order one at a beer-based place.  I got Smithwick's Irish Ale, a dark beer with a reddish hue, with a roasted flavor.  I haven't had it in a really long time, and the heartiness of it was perfect for the purpose.

My bet is that this movie wins awards. The writing of this movie was fantastic.  There were some really great lines that I wish I remembered better to quote them.  The ensemble was also really good, particularly: Aidan, the roommate (Tate Ellington); Caroline, the little sister(Ruby Jerins), Tyler's father (Pierce Brosnan), and Ally's father (Chris Cooper).

As much as I hate to admit it, Pattinson does a fantastic job.  They were clearly playing off his popularity in casting him in this movie, confirmed by the cheers in the theater when the Eclipse trailer came on. He's probably in 90% of this film.  They costumed him as a grungy, smoking, college-aged guy, complete with the "I haven't shaved in a week" stubble.  (I'm getting really tired of that trend, by the way. Well, really average guys using it as an excuse to not shave ever.) They didn't try to make him look attractive in this movie. But he photographs really well- his features make it easy to play with lighting.

My bet is that there are nominations for Best Supporting Actor/Actress and Writing.  It's too early in the year to tell if there will be nominations for Best Actor, Best Director, or Best Film.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Rosencrantz and Gildenstern Are Dead

For Amanda’s birthday, Brittany and I took her out to dinner and to see a stage performance of Rosencrantz and Gildenstern Are Dead.  I oh-so-cunningly got to pay for the theater tickets and dessert, much to Amanda’s chagrin.  It definitely was a birthday of WIN!  Check out her recollection of the evening here!

We went to Paesano’s in the Quarry where Amanda got a Seared Tuna, Brittany got the Lobster Linguine, and I got Coriander-Crusted Salmon and we shared the Grand Marnier Souffle.  The bread selection was more varied than the Paesano’s on 1604 since they have a bakery on location in the Quarry.  The Grand Marnier soufflé was very nice - not super sweet, but sufficiently indulgent. All of the dishes were fantastic, per usual.

The play was at the Sterling Houston Theater in the Blue Star Arts complex downtown.  It was my first time to this theater and my second time to the Blue Star district at all.  I definitely want to go back again, perhaps to try out the Blue Star Brewery or Casbeers.  The theater itself was small, probably seating no more than a hundred people on small risers facing a floor stage.  We got seats on the second row stage right side.  We were really close to the stage and they were great seats.

I remember seeing the original Tom Stoppard movie (on VHS) in high school after we studied Hamlet.  My mom, as a statistics teacher, likes to quote the opening coin-flipping scene in some of her lessons. But other than that, I barely remembered the content of Hamlet, much less Rosencrantz and Gildenstern Are Dead.  

The San Antonio Shakespeare Company put on a really well done performance.  The actors did a really great job and the staging was great.  The title pair confuse their names, so I will refer to Guildenstern as the talkative one and Rosencrantz as the oblivious one.  My favorite performance was Guildenstern’s, and I got to shake his hand after the show.  It was hard to follow along with the Guil’s logic, but that’s kind of the point.  He talks himself in circles.  I was still really impressed by Rosencrantz.  I loved the small mannerisms Ros used instead of words to portray the character.  Alfred, the token transvestite, was also a great addition to the cast.  I was originally put off by Hamlet, thought his “insanity” was overdone, especially with the crazy-eyes he used.  After reading Hamlet, now I think it was a good choice.   We went from laughing with and at the cast at the beginning to at the edge of our seats at the end.  I felt attached to the characters, so their death made me tear up a little.  Truly a great performance.

Afterward I did manage to get through Hamlet.  Hamlet really is a player, in both the actor and a**hole sense of the word, though it is explained as his way of dealing with his father’s death.  The only person he’s even honest around is Horatio.  To everyone else he presents a different face.  Hamlet is funniest when he’s with Polonius, Ophelia’s father.  He wordsmiths circles around Polonius using completely sound logic that sounds insane.  He sends Ophelia long letters but is a jerk to her face, part of what drives her to instability and suicide.  Ros and Guil get called in by the King and Queen to try to find out what’s bothering Hamlet.  Hamlet finds out and becomes insincere and evasive with Ros and Guil in an effort to thwart the King’s desires.     

Rosencrantz and Gildenstern Are Dead flips Hamlet so that the minor characters become major and vice versa.  The action follows Ros and Guil as they get called to Denmark to help the King and Queen to discover why Hamlet is acting so weird. They do everything they are asked to do, but still end up dead at the end.  

I only read an analytical summary of the play rather than reading the original, but it was really eye opening.  Death is a huge theme in the play, in particular the inability to accurately portray death onstage.  Guil ends up deciding that death is failing to reappear, so at the end Ros and Guil disappear off the stage instead of dying onstage like the players.  Fate versus chance is also a major theme, first shown in the unlikely coin toss at the beginning.  Is it chance that Ros gets over a hundred “heads” in a row, or is it fate?

Tom Stoppard did a fantastic job with Rosencrantz and Gildenstern Are Dead and the end result is a play I wouldn’t mind analyzing in detail.  I think I would do well to never have to read Hamlet again.  I’ll be looking at San Antonio Shakespeare Company to see what else they put on in the future.  And I’ll definitely try to get down to the Blue Star Arts district soon.  This just proves that San Antonio really is arts-friendly, you just have to know where to find it!

Monday, March 08, 2010

Race Report: AHHS Run/Walk with the Band

Race: Alamo Heights High School Run/Walk to the Beat 5K/10K
Distance: 5K
Goal Time: 38-40 minutes
Actual Time: 39:09 (12:38 min/mi)

This race was definitely a blast from the past.  I signed up for this run in particular so I could support a local high school band program.  This was apparently the twenty-something-th year they've had this event, which makes sense due to the higher per capita running stores around Alamo Heights than in the rest of the city.

I timed my arrival to be cutting it kind of close.  I was getting tired of arriving at events forty five minutes to an hour before the event.  I got to this one at about thirty minutes to start.  It was enough to pick up my packet, gear up, and make the parade over to the start line.

You heard right- PARADE!  The AHHS drumline (three snares, one quints, three bass drums, two cymbals), lead the pack through the neighborhood to the start line.  I decided to walk in step with them.  They weren't playing very tight and they had some tempo issues.  But since it's a few months out of marching season, I assume they were just out of practice.  I'm pretty certain my high school drumline wouldn't have done much better.  Walking over to drum cadence put me in a nostalgic mood.

I met up with a forum-friend on the Runner's World Beginner's forums.  Scotty is a cute man who wears a bright "I Beat Cancer Never Give Up" singlet at all the events he does.  His first comment to me was, "You're taller than you look in your picture."  I get that a lot.  I was fortunate to be added to his gallery of Great Legs after meeting up with him at the starting line.  See his race report here!

The start caught me by surprise.  The drumline suddenly burst out with a fast cadence that I liked for the first ten seconds I heard it.  After that, there were two small groups of band students playing along the course.  The first was a trumpet quartet that played a StarWars theme as I passed.  The next was a brass group that played Rocky which was appropriate for the big hill right after where they were camped out.

The course itself was fairly hilly, but more low rolling hills and an overall positive grade then a whole lot of steep inclines.  Apparently the 10K course was much worse, including the HILL from HELL.  I was glad that my poor planning and execution earlier in the week meant that running the 10K would be a very bad idea.

Again, I went out way to fast to start.  It's probably due to not having any mid-week runs as the reminder of what my pace should be.  That faster pace feels really awesome though.  It feels natural, like my body is taking over function from my brain.  "Don't worry about it.  I got this." My heart just can't keep up.  I need routine back in my training routine.  Maybe I'm on the verge of a training breakthrough.  Maybe 12 (or 10!) minute miles are only a couple months out of my grasp.

This weekend's race reinforced the desire to be more consistent and prescribed with my training.   If I can just wake up and knock out a 39 minute 5K, what can I do at something I train for?  Maybe I need a more tangible end goal. My next race is in two weeks, and it's another 5K, this time at Incarnate Word.  It's the first race in this year's Alamo Series.  Ooh! I feel challenged already!

Sunday, March 07, 2010

International Women's Day

I love being a woman.  People would probably consider me feminist.  I think I raged on it a lot more in high school, but haven't done a whole lot of thinking about it recently.  I feel a little obligated to represent women in a lot of what I do on a daily basis.  I work in a male-dominated field, and am currently one of two women on a team of sixteen.  My culinary classes are also male dominated, in both students and faculty.

Tomorrow, March 8th, is International Women's Day (IWD).  I heard about it from one of my favorite people  to follow on Twitter, Padmasree Warrior, who is Cisco's CTO (and one of the top 5 women to follow).  According to Wikipedia, the holiday started in former Soviet countries as a kind of blend of Valentine's Day and Mother's day in 1909.  The United Nations declared 1975 International Women's Year and has sponsored International Women's Day ever since.   2010's theme as designated by the UN is "Equal rights, equal opportunities: Progress for all." 

For the rest of this blog, I will be sharing articles on women's issues.  They're listed below by topic.  If you have an article that you want to share, let me know and I'll add it to this list (with credit, of course)!

Women Displaced by Armed Conflict
"Women displaced by armed conflict – often living alone with their children – are frequently exposed to sexual violence, discrimination and intimidation." International Committee of the Red Cross

Gender Equality
"One of the first lessons that girls often learn in elementary school is that boys are better at math." Scientific American.
"70 per cent of the 1.2 billion people living in poverty worldwide are female." Red Cross
"Men are from Earth, and So are Women." Anarchist Writers

Women in the Workforce
"Manuela Maier was branded a bad mother. ... Her crime? Signing up her 9-year-old son when the local primary school first offered lunch and afternoon classes last autumn — and returning to work." New York Times
"Why do Indian women keep quitting their careers for marriage?" Priya Ramani
View a Live Feed of Women in Particle Physics CERN
Pledge for Ada Lovelace Day FindingAda.com
Kathryn Bigelow is the first woman to win a Best Director Oscar with The Hurt Locker.
Tips for a Top Career - Padmasree Warrior

Reproductive Freedom & Health
"Today, more than half a million women living in poverty will die from pregnancy-related causes and the vast majority of these deaths are preventable." CARE USA
A review of Monique and the Mango Rains includes discussion of the midwife profession and genital mutilation in Mali.  Amanda Gignac, The Zen Leaf

Proven Steps to Advance Women Around the World New York Times
Womanity  Girl Geekdom

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Waking Up Is Hard To Do

So the start of March kicks off a tweaked schedule for me.  So far it’s not working out so well. 

The plan was to switch up my workout time from lunchtime to early in the morning, which means waking up earlier than I already do.  Monday’s cold turkey attempt to wake up one hour earlier than normal was brilliantly unsuccessful.  Tuesday’s attempt to wake up half an hour earlier than normal was an improvement over Monday – only one snooze used.  The attempts the rest of this week back up the alarm until I get to the wake up time I need.  That’s been more successful, but in the meantime I still haven’t been to the gym this week.

For the last couple months it’s been a real struggle to get myself out of bed.  My brain will be awake, but my body rebels against movement.  It feels like it takes a force of nature to get me to move.  Does anyone else get like that?  Like it's almost an insurmountable obstacle to get yourself out of bed?  It makes me feel like I have lost control of myself, an idea that scares me. 

The point of being hyper-involved in lots of disparate activities is to keep me distracted from the day-to-day dull ebb and flow of being a twenty-something.  Maybe I’m too involved and I need the rest to recover from everything I’m doing.  Maybe I have too many aspirations and can’t accomplish everything concurrently.  Then why an I even more lazy if I don’t have “too much” going on.  I need the stress in order to be productive at anything, but recently it seems like the gap between enough stress to be productive and enough stress to be incapacitated is too small to find a life in the middle.

I want so much out of life and I don’t want to give up on anything I currently have going on.  It would feel like I’m letting myself down.  So then is it a question of how much do I want it?  What am I willing to give up in order to accomplish my goals?  Am I willing to give up the extra hour of sleep every day? I know it’s a girl thing to have every thing I’m doing so intimately tied to everything else so that if I don’t have success in all of my goals, then it feels like I’m a failure.  Worse still is the idea that I didn’t do enough. 

I see so many working moms who are successful at work, get dinner on the table, support the kids' after school activities, leave time for their spouse, and achieve amazing physical feats all at the same time.  I know one such person who reports that they go to bed around midnight and wake up at four.  If I only had four hours of sleep I would not be lovely to be around.   Right now I need seven to eight hours of sleep and a Grande Americano before talking to anyone civilly.  How do they make it work? Some say it's something you acquire through parenthood and takes years of practice to be able to juggle so much.  How do you ever get used to that little sleep?   If that's something I want in the long run, shouldn't I practice some of the juggling now?  What does it mean if I can't seem to keep all the balls in the air? 

“Enough” is one of my least favorite words, right below “should.”  

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The Demonica Series by Larissa Ione

Okay.  I admit it.  I read romance.

This was probably the first series I knowingly read that can be classified under the romance genre.  Larissa Ione's Demonica Series (Pleasure Unbound, Desire Unchained, Passion Unleashed, Ecstasy Unveiled) in particular is also paranormal, so it lines up with the fact that I normally gravitate toward fantasy fiction.  I struggled with if I should review this in such a public forum, but then the lovely Amanda reminded me that romance is a very popular genre and widely read.   Backing up her insight is the fact that the most recent in the series, Ecstasy Unveiled, was on the USA Today and NY Times best seller lists for the three weeks following its release at the end of January. (I couldn't find it on the lists for week of 2/25: USA Today, NY Times.)  This was my favorite cover of the four.

The series follows a set of brothers who are Seminus demons.  This particular breed of demon strives to procreate through incredible charm, "f- me pheromones," and individualized talents meant to ensure impregnation.  Each book of the four follows one of the brothers in his struggles to find a mate to stave of the insanity that follows a stage of development that occurs at the 100 year old mark.  They have to balance keeping their close brotherly bond, saving the world, and getting their respective girl. 

Each book bounces around between several points of view for some of the key players in Ione's world, though stays primarily with one particular brother and his mate.  I loved that all of the women portrayed in the series are fiesty and incredibly capable.  They were strong women that held their own ground, even in the presence of  "f- me pheromones."  All the brothers have their particular hangups, but they all appear to fall in love with the heroines really quickly.  I'm assuming this is a device that is normal for romance writing since I don't have another reference for comparison.  It just felt quicker than the fantasy I usually read.

The "good parts" were incredibly graphic and occurred every few pages, but suited my tastes just fine.  I don't have any formulated thoughts on what such scenes should or shouldn't be or include.  So for my taste, I can enjoy the artistic fade out as well as the nitty gritty sweat fests.  I don't think I could read this type of book exclusively, but maybe every once in a while for a quickie (pun intended).  The story line between the "good parts" in the first two books was somewhat forgettable.  in the third and fourth books, I breezed right through the "good parts" to continue on with the story.  It might be that I read the series out of order (2, 3, 1, 4) but it felt like Ione just got better at putting all the different story threads together.  Seeing Ione develop the story and her talent over the course of the series helped me see the difference between an okay story and a enthralling one which I hope to help me in my writing.

Tattoos comprised a major theme central to the definition of the Seminus breed.  It makes me think about getting a tattoo again.  Torture and BDSM were also common themes.  I took it as something you would expect demons in romance novels to do.  There had to be a "bad" influence there somewhere, right?

Reason #2 to love my nook: Don't have to worry about the embarrasing covers when reading in public!  So I'm still a little embarrassed by the romance covers and wouldn't want to read one of the paperbacks on a subway or anything.

I also just realized that Kim Harrison's Hollows series (that I loved) also counts as a paranormal romance by virtue of the fact that it has some genre awards.  The "good parts" in the Hollows are much less graphic than the ones in Demonica, and Hollows has usually only one scene to that effect.  So maybe I need to read more in this category in order to figure out what is normal and what isn't for the genre.  I might even take my Naiads story and try my hand at writing some romance.  If my main character is a water nymph, then it goes without saying, right?

So I renounce my previous thoughts that romance is something less than other genres.  Now I need to go apologize to my mom for making fun of her for reading romance.

Monday, March 01, 2010

February Wrap-Up

The year is flying by so quickly! Already another month gone.  I have a warm fuzzy feeling about February, but I think that's because it ended better than it started. 
  • Read 4 books: He's Just not that Into You, and three of the four books in Larissa Ione's Daemonica Series.  I muscled through three-quarters of Love in the Time of Cholera, but I definitely was trudging along. I think Amanda has the right idea and it should be abandoned.  My perfectionist nature doesn't want to let it go unfinished, but I really don't want to go back to it.  I just finished the fourth book of Ione's series, so a review of that will go up soon.
  • Made lots of progress on the debt home front.  Car is paid off and now attacking the second mortgage. Still fortunate to have gotten a raise with the current economy. I need to be more cognizant of how I spend my money. So I'll be watching that closer in the upcoming months. 
  • Wrote more words this month!  Another 12k to the total.  I was trying to make it to 15k and finish the NaNo Novel, but that didn't happen.  I think 12k is a good goal number.  10k was too doable, and 15k is a little further of a stretch than I had thought.  Again, I did a fair share of the words on the blog, still around 55%.  I'm so close to the ending of the NaNo novel that it's irritating. 
  • Raced well!  The first trail run was a success, though I'm still hurting from the second trail run. I have learned my lesson: be much more discerning when signing up for another trail run.  Looking back at my training log, I was less consistent this month. A couple weeks were good; a couple weeks had nothing. My schedule is getting tweaked a bit starting in March, so I'm hoping that will help.  
  • I upped my artsy quotient this month with a concert at Luna and seeing Rosencrantz and Gildenstern Are Dead with the girls.  I'm now re-reading Hamlet because I'm not sure how I feel about an actor's take on their character and want to formulate my own opinion before I comment on it.  Look for the review soon!
  • Cooking skills were definitely worked this month.  Valentine's Day dinner was a blast.  Homemade doughnuts went over well at work!   Loved making salads in class; mine turned out awesome. I killed at making the sauces in class. I am not doing a very good job of feeding myself.  I tended to eat more fast food than real food.  That goes along with my spending comments above.  My sister has given me a new mantra to help with this goal: "Cut that s**t out!"  
  • Had a little breakdown in the middle of the month, but got through it.  I think it helped me grow some and realize some things.  I'm a hyper-planner and a dreamer, so I'm dreaming of life a few years from now.  It's not really conducive to living in the moment.
Again, a month well lived.  I realize now how much I actually did in February- and how much fun I had at the movies, runs, write-ins, girl chats, everything.  The time between drags and stalls, but looking back, those bright lights are going to be the things I remember.

I know there are still more bright lights to come this year.