Note:

This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

In My Ideal World...

...schools would be diverse *and* community-based. We all live integrated by default, not by force.

I was lucky. I lived the diverse life, not by force. As a military brat living primarily overseas (on the Pacific side), this was my exposure. I am eternally grateful for it because I believe that has made me the "diverse" individual that I am.

As a mestiza (a child of mixed race), I grew up with other mestizas and mestizos. This mixture was varied: black with Filipino, white with Filipino, black with Thai, hispanic with Thai, and so on. You get the picture. So my BFFs around me were white, or mixed from many possibilities.

The community we made was military brats. We united based on our common theme of being from a military base.

Our schools were not always community-based. We had to ride to the nearest school that was off the base. However, when I was in elementary school at some bases, I could walk or ride my bike to school.

I have had the best of both worlds.

I like the idea of community-based schools in the world that I grew up in: my kids and I can walk to school, join school activities without driving through traffic everyday, and they mingle with their classmates of all cultures and backgrounds.

Community-based schools also alleviate traffic and the number of buses that need to be employed.

It also allows kids to go to school with friends that they play with _after_ school.

The ole bitties of the neighborhood can watch out for who's good and bad and tell on them.

But my world doesn't discriminate based on class either. Again, in the military, us brats were all one class...except for NCO vs. officers' kids, but in the end, they were part of our community. We all lived in similar housing on the base. No one had a better neighborhood than the other.

I don't have my 'armchair quarterback' answer to this problem. We are facing it BIG TIME here in Raleigh. We were even mentioned in this USA Today article, pointing out the 'desegregation' of schools in our nation.

But I believe strongly that busing 'lower class' communities to schools too many miles away to meet a diversity number is wrong. In Raleigh, when a majority of minorities are working class citizens, this is logistically unfair. These are people with strict job schedules (unlike us white collar workers) who don't have the leisure of working, perhaps, only 8 hours a day, or can take off whenever they want, or can AFFORD to take time off to go to the other end of town and meet with a teacher. It's ridiculous to expect these families to do this...

And I have to ask: who are the biggest proponents for diversity? The yuppie parents, driving around in their big-ass, expensive SUV, drinking their Starbucks, boasting with their fellow McMansioned neighbors about how their little Johnny has a black friend and how culturally diverse he is for it?

Cheesy statement to be revealed: Cultural diversity starts within your heart, your home. You can't FORCE it. You can't put a statistic to it and then stamp yourself DIVERSE and walk around feeling good about yourself.

To what you wanted to see good, has made you blind
- Soundgarden

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Boooooo!

That's my sentiment about this past Tuesday's Amazing Race leg. I even had a new attitude to start the game!

Last week's counting fiasco made me think about how overexcited I am about this thing. So excited I am that I can't think straight. So Tuesday I thought: this is a lot of fun but I need to take the edge out of my intensity so I can actually THINK.

It also helps to be less intense when you are in 11th place.

Domino had us lined up and reminded us over and over "READ YOUR CLUES!" I do, Domino, it's the processing of the words and their meaning that I am having a problem with...

Our first clue was to search the pedestals at the cemetery (yes, we even have a cemetery for employees...JK). It didn't take much to search: we just needed to go to the place where all the other teams were huddled around.

This is my interpretation, which is pretty spot-on, as to what the original clue was:


For now, I am not going to reveal what the actual answer is because I would love it if some of you would try to solve this rebus. Please post your answer in a comment. Don't be embarrassed after all, I am revealing all of my failures and mistakes doing this game. :)

The clue for you is that Tim and I never solved it. Oh, we thought we had it solved in pieces but overall, our answers never made entirely 100% sense. We ran all over the place with some thought that we were close to something tangible. We were far, far, FAR from it.

We are in last place, along with two other teams who, like us, lost any determination to finish the task. I would have been more productive if I just never showed up! I ended up in the same place albeit, without a two minute penalty.

We have the rest of the week off, which mainly means we don't "play" Thursday. This works well since I have a race on Saturday.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Let's Try this Again...

So I thought I would check out a book for MiMi that was a bit "big" for her. An adult book but in a subject matter she would find interesting.

Before you all judge me and go: jeez, she's only seven! Yes. I know. But it's a _book_ and if she can't read it, no harm, no foul. If she can, then a win, win. I won't know until she tries.

I know how good she can read. She could read the Harry Potter books now, if only she would find them interesting.

I checked out "Cleo - The Cat Who Mended a Family". I told her that she could use a dictionary to look up the words that she may not understand. This is what I do :).

After a few days, I asked if she was enjoying it.

'I can't read it. There are too many big words!'

Really? I was skeptical. A book named Cleo, with the cutest picture of a baby black kitten, couldn't possibly have that many big words. And what does she mean by "big words".

I decided to read the first couple of pages to her, to help her with the so called "big words".

Here are some excerpts from only *two* pages:
...
The road to Lena's house was complicated by its undulations, not to mention the steepness. It snaked over what would qualify as mountains in most parts of the world.

...

Between two brothers aged nearly nine and six the dynamic was predictable. Sam would set Rob up with a surreptitious jab that would be rewarded with a kick, demanding retaliation with a thump, escalating into recriminations and tears -- "He punched me!" "That's 'cos he pinched me first." But this time they were on the same side, and my usual role of judge and relationship counselor had been supplanted by a simpler one -- The Enemy.

...

There was no point recalling the number of times we'd seen Rata disappear into undergrowth in pursuit of an unfortunate member of the feline species. Since Sam had given up trying to become a superhero and thrown his batman mask to the back of his wardrobe, he'd morphed into an obsessive reader brimming with facts to destroy any argument I could dredge up.

...

Personally, I wouldn't have been surprised if Lena had summoned her offspring from some parallel universe only she and Pablo Picasso had access codes to.

Man. I don't know if I would have been so WTF if I didn't read this *for* a 7 year old. But CJ, also a very mature reader told me yesterday "I tried to read that Cleo book and there were so many hard words!"

I may give it a go and just read it to her although now, I am very hypersensitive to the "big words". Or I'll just hunt down another book that might be of interest to her, whether an 'adult' book or not.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Lactic Acid Intolerant

Today's run, my last "long" one before next week's race, sucked. And today is Anna's Angels 10 mile race and if I had done that today, I would have been miserable.

As most of you runners know, that first mile can be a bit of hell. Getting the blood flowing, the kinks out, etc. But eventually, the strength comes back and the body (and in my case, sometimes the mind) gets into that zone. My run felt that way when I started but about a mile into it, I realized I wasn't getting out of that shitty zone. I felt as though I had to constantly push and pull on my legs to get them moving.

The past week has been a relatively normal workout week, despite having a late summer head cold. None of that has adversely affected me, unless I want to blame that today. One big think I noted this morning was: I had one of the most comfortable, best snoozes in a long time. I felt well-rested; during my shitty run I thought: I must have wasted all of my energy sleeping well. :)

The end result is: I ran. I ran six shitty miles. I did it. And that, to me, made the entire time worthwhile.

Friday, September 24, 2010

One Day You're Up and the Next Day You're Down

Yesterday: Amazing Race leg #6.

We are off and grab our first clue, which is a list of counts we have to do for various things.

First: count the number of pavers on the path starting at the clue box. Next, count the number of steps between two buildings, including the landings. As I was stepping down the steps I thought to myself "Shit, I do this all the time! Why is it so difficult now???"

Third: Count the number of hedges around the circle in front of another building. Next, find Internal Gear and count the number of lights around it. I was psyched since I knew exactly where this sculpture was. No one seemed to be in front of us. I didn't see Charles/Chad anywhere, and they were the team in front of us.

As we run back from the sculpture, I tell Tim: let's run through the building! And he was like "nope, we're not allowed". Thank goodness for someone paying attention because apparently I can't think well under Amazing Race circumstances.

Next, go back to another building and count the number of letters under Perseverance. This ended up being one of those inspirational posters with a lot of fricking words: 102 letters I counted.

Then it was counting the number of starting blocks at the pool; then counting the number of wall plaques in the trophy case. I am going to count those again NOW because we came up with a totally different number and yes, I know what wall plaques are!!!

The last two was to write down the maximum weight that the tricep machine could do and the number of RFC staff members.

With these numbers, we had to plug them into four 'formulas' to come up with an ending number. It would be something like 10 + < number from 3rd count > - 100. Then add that number to a large number like 1112345.

The resulting number, say 1123468, would then fit into another pattern like: _ _, _ _, _, _. Thus, the number would be 11, 23, 4, 6, 8. These numbers then would correlate to the alphabet as the key: a=1, b=2, c=3, d=4, etc.

However, if you had your count wrong, or are bad at math, then your numbers would mean nothing. That was our case. We could not get a distinguishable word made from our four clues. We worked on it forever, joined forces with others, only to come up with NOTHING. Well, my first word was UARIA. The end result was that word should have been UARGE, which is also a mistake on Domino's part where it should have been LARGE.

One funny story I got from a fellow team was, our friend Heman Robinson was in the gym as we were trying to figure out the clue and my team friend asked Heman "What is the hex translation for BA?" Which Heman then gives an answer to...which is so Heman's personality! But that's how bad we all were struggling...wondering if there were Hex codes involved in translating it to numbers and letters.

Regardless, we did not have the words and ended up "giving up" and following the crowd. Our first mob mistake was finding clues at a gazebo which were instructions to the pit stop. We ran like crazy to get there, only to have Janel give us the hand and was like "nope. you didn't finish the clues." As we now walked back, frustrated, I see and hear Domino telling us "You can't move on until you figure out your clues!"

Yes, Domino. If only it were that easy.

Tim was deflated and I was spazzy. Eventually, the clue was sort of figured out to be UARGE TREE NEAR DEER, and we were able to get the real clue, which was then a Detour...something about Cotton or Candy. We chose candy since the majority of the crowd went with cotton.

We ran back to another building and the task was to pick up an M&M with a straw, then walk over to another area and place the M&M on top of another straw. This was actually a lot of fun, despite feeling defeated at this point. We got through it fairly quickly and then ran to the pit stop (which the clue was to run to the gazebo for our next clue, but we had already known what that clue was).

We made it to the pit stop, FINALLY. Team number 11.

That's right. Fricking ELEVEN. From TWO to ELEVEN. I could see the life zapped out of Tim, to an already shitty week for him.

Some of us stood around for minutes afterward, comparing notes, complaining, whining. "Winning" a leg doesn't really mean anything until the last leg, where the top three teams move into the winner's leg. But it DOES mean something for my, I mean, OUR egos, winning a leg. And they all agree, whether they know it or not, because all the teams are running, sprinting, seriously assessing their clues, trying to beat each other to that pit stop mat.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

This book was one of my fabulous birthday gifts I received Saturday. It was great timing as I had finished The Hunger Games and was excited about reading the next one. I finished this one on Tuesday. They are just that good.

Catching Fire takes place well after Katniss and Peeta survive The Hunger Games. They are now part of The Victory Tour, where they will travel to each of the 12 districts and the Capitol. Again, a series of events to remind the districts of their loss in games and that the Capitol has an iron hold on them, except with a sick, twisted "let's all celebrate this occasion".

Katniss and Peeta now live a life of luxury. But they are haunted by the games, the people that died, and the fact that, with Katniss' last play to have a suicide pact with Peeta, that she has essentially mocked the Capitol and the nature of the games.

President Snow, the man behind the Capitol and it's tyranny, makes a surprise visit to Katniss, threatening her and her family, and Gabe (her true love?) because she and Peeta are not really the "couple" they claimed to be during the games. He knows her secrets and has given her, what may be, one last chance to live by doing what she can to make the districts, and Snow himself, that she and Peeta are deeply, madly in love.

The Victory Tour begins at district 11, where her fellow tribute and ally Rue came from, and despite her intended words of sorrow for Rue, leads to a demonstration from one man, then the crowd. The man is quickly killed in front of the crowd, and chaos ensues from Snow's Peacekeepers onto the crowd.

The tour continues and ends back in District 12. But a twist to the next Hunger Games comes in the name of Quarter Quell, where every 25 years a twist is introduced to the hunger games. The twist for this one? Taking tributes from the pool of victors. Each district would provide one woman, one man, from their pool of Hungry Game victors. Katniss is the only woman (girl, still) from district 12. It is guaranteed that she has to go BACK into the arena, to fight for her life again. And it is quite obvious that this is what Snow intended, to get rid of Katniss by putting her back into the games, with pass victors who are KNOWN to be strong killers.

It's amazing how this story just has me hook, line and sinker. It's just never-ending and fast-paced. The fact that I never see what's coming: my heart sank when I read that Katniss was going back into the Hunger Games. I mean, the relief I felt that she survived and would never have to go back...then this bit of twist.

The story goes on about the next game in the arena and it is fascinatingly creative. The arena is a "clock" with each hour bringing on a different threat: poisonous fog, blood rain, rabid monkeys, etc. An alliance is made with the most unlikely characters, but death is still prevalent in the games. It is unreal that a book of this subject matter would be so popular but there is good reason. In the end, it is a tale of survival and it puts the reader into the shoes of a young girl who is just trying to live and fend for her family.

I handed The Hunger Games to Tim after I finished it and demanded he read it. I thought: once he starts, there is no way he could put it down. He did. Night after night. Last night, however, he had gone to bed earlier, so CJ and I stayed up watching Survivor. When I got to bed, he was a good third into the book. I am hoping he enjoys it as much as I did. Not because I want him to like it like I love it, but because there is no greater feeling than reading a book that is just THAT GOOD...and I want him to have the same experience as I did.

I am also force-feeding the book to CJ. She's a little more resistant than Tim in that she will NOT budge. So far, she's been reading it. I dare not ask how she likes it yet. I'll just have to wait and see.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Amazing Race: Fifth Leg

Tuesdays seem to be "kick your ass" task day for this game.

We started off where we left off last week: at home base of the softball field. Tim and I were in position #2. Each week, each team sort of "evens up" by having a minute start time between each team. This is the day a team needed to be up toward the front as much as possible.

The first thing we were required to do was to tie our team bandanna (we are maroon, BTW) around our ankles. Tim took both of our bandannas and tied them together, then tied one end to his ankle and one to mine. We had a nice space between our two ankles.

Amy and Christine were off, trying their best to walk together while tied together. Tim said "start with the left...just walk until we get used to it". Well, we got used to it pretty quickly as we started running in rhythm.

The first clue was a picture of the sculpture that fronts our research & development building. We ran pretty quickly and passed Amy and Christine, who screamed at us when we passed. At the sculpture, we had to pick one of four color strips and then run to the picnic shelter. We maintained our lead pretty well to that point.

The next clue was a Road Block, where we had to announce who would do the task. Tim said he would, which left me to do mountain climbers while he finished his task.

And what a task: he had to lock himself into a rope (with the combo lock we had from the last task) and traverse the rope, as it looped around picnic tables. From where I was, I could not see him at all but Amy would give me the play-by-play of where he was located.

Amy and Christine made a very game-fatal mistake: they picked the same color as we did. They came in second to the picnic shelter but had to wait for Tim to be halfway done with the rope course before they could begin. This would be the task that would put a small portion of us into the lead and the rest pretty much dead last.

Tim got through the ropes course pretty well and with tired fricking arms, I managed to push myself up and run to him for the next clue: go to the yoga room.

One other team has us beat to the yoga room. The clue is to go in, remain quiet, find a mat and do the poses printed on the sheet of paper...and hold it for 15 seconds. We had four poses: eagle, dolphin, extended hand-to-big toe and one other warrior type pose that I couldn't remember. I actually thought "I GOT THIS" until I noticed I didn't recognize anything except eagle.

But we breezed through these pretty well and I was grateful that Tim was a Yoga Xer as I knew he could do these poses too.

After finishing that, the next clue was to find a word on the yoga mat in the room. We had to be very discreet and we were not allowed to speak out loud, especially to our partner. Charles was done pretty soon after I was and we were all over the room looking for the secret password. I gave the brand name listed on the mats themselves because I could not find it at all!

Finally, I looked very carefully and noticed the word "Yogurt" was written IN BLACK on the BLACK MAT. Our next clue was to go to the outside of the building, down the stairs. As we go down the stairs, Charles is right behind us. I almost go the wrong way, seeing a sign with "Amazing Race" and an arrow pointing right...which, I WAS GOING THAT WAY, JUST THROUGH THE DOOR THEN RIGHT. Apparently Domino later picked at me for not reading the clue.

ANYWAY, we go through a different door vs. the other door that would have put us in the exact same place and find the chalk writing to our next clue. It was the meditation garden (for those of you who work where I work, I am not sure if you can read this without thinking how absurd it is that I have named all these things that happen to be WHERE WE WORK!!! Yoga, softball, putting green, meditation garden???).

Tim is asking me "do you know where it is?" and I'm yelling yes, follow Charles, who barely finished the clue and ran off. I was a bit disoriented where we were and was hoping to have a bit more room to beat Charles and Chad in a race to the finish. However, it was a bit windy, not as long a straightaway as I hoped, and despite Tim saying RUN FASTER, I slipped and fell from some pine needles.

Alas, Charles and Chad make it first with Tim and I right at their heels. Domino said to me "when you fell, if you just looked over here, you would have seen the mat and cut through the damn pine needles you fell on". Okay, that was me paraphrasing what Domino said with my own words...but that's what happened. I saw nothing when I fell, and could have cut through and be FIRST.

A few more teams follow-up behind us but everyone else? They were still at the picnic shelter getting through the ropes.

The worst part of the task is: the first teams to start each colored rope task is at an advantage because they do not have to wait for anyone to finish. Everyone else had to wait and quite a few, ended up with the same color and were at least two in the queue.

I went back to the picnic shelter since I parked over there and there were at least four teams finishing up. Charles and I helped a couple of the teams finish and watching them go through the course made me grateful that I wasn't the one that had to do this task.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

It is a Privilege

This came in my inbox last week, from Visual Thesaurus:
Ever wonder what the most frequently misspelled word in English is? Seek no further! Privilege presents many challenges, mostly due to interference from other words with similar sounds but different spellings.

Whew. I thought it was just me. I am constantly spelling privilege as “priviledge” and the last sentence of the email has:
Try thinking of the vowels this way: it's two i's, then two e's. Then if you remember there's no edge in privilege, you've nailed it.

I will! I will!

And perhaps now that I have written about it, it will be ingrained in me from here on out.

The Magnificent Mile Race Report

I was nervous and excited about this race. I thought about it this morning and envisioned myself on the race course, only to have a rush of adrenaline run through my body, imagining the pain I'll be going through during my run.

This year Tim would join CJ and I for the run. Lucky for him, boys go first.

We got to the race pretty early, which leads to a long wait...which made me more nervous. We found our pals pretty quickly: Coach B and crew, Frank, and Jenian. Frank was very nervous which made me feel good because I wouldn't be the only one nervous as hell. And I knew poor little CJ was nervous as she was pretty quiet all morning.

Tim and Frank go off to begin their race. They are off and I see that they are in the last group towards the back of the start. The first guy running first was smoking. When we finally saw the winners running in? It wasn't the same guy, but a guy wearing, coincidentally, bib #1. I peeked at the timing clock and it looked like he crossed at 4:05. That's right, he ran one mile in FOUR MINUTES AND FIVE SECONDS. Wow.

We saw Tim and he looked great and crossed around 7:04. Not bad for a guy that doesn't run AS MUCH AS I FUCKING DO.

Frank, who was hoping to break 7:30, crossed at 7:29. Not that it matters to most of us anal-retentive runners, he was faster than that as he and Tim started a good 3 seconds behind the timing gun.

Seeing them cross just made the butterflies multiply. Why can't this be over with?

Jenian and I go for a quick warm-up run; CJ turns me down, flabbergasted as to why I would run before the run. I remember when I was like that too. :)

Man, my legs felt stiff. I could barely move. And my breathing was so labored. When we finished, I thought "what the fuck? there is no way I can get these legs to move fast if that quick warm-up felt that bad..."

Jenian, me and CJ start towards the back; it appears we are around the same place that Tim and Frank started from. After wishing my two gal pals Good Luck, the gun goes off and we're off.

Any reservations about how bad my warm-up felt were out the door at the start. I concentrated on getting around most people but I also didn't feel like I was in much of a hurry. :) But Tim and Douglas were like "don't push too hard until the first turn".

At the first turn, I sped up. I still felt really good and that made me 1) worried I wasn't running as fast as I should and 2) good that I might be able to pull through this without too much suffering.

At the halfway mark, I heard 3:45. Damn. That's 15 seconds slower than I wanted to be. I sped up a bit more and remembered this portion of the race sort of kicking my ass: last year, hearing a young girl breathing hard and her mom encouraging her. I wondered how CJ was doing, who is in much better condition this year than last...she looked good when I passed her...

I saw Jenian ahead of me and wondered how we got separated at the start. I just zoned out I guess.

I still feel pretty "rock starish" until the final turn to the finish. A slight panic takes over as I realize I am almost finished but not really. It's a downward finish and I want to take advantage of it but I sense I am taking an edge off my pace. Throughout the first 3/4 of the race, I only passed people; no one passed me. The last 1/4, however, there were a half a dozen girls passing me. I sprinted the very last few yards and saw the clock click to 7:14 (official time was 7:25). I was glad to see I was still in the upper 7s but I was bummed that I didn't match my time from last year. Not just match, mind you, BEST my time for last year.

Jenian crossed right behind me. I was so happy for her as this was the girl who was hoping to be in the 8s. She fricking knocked the run out of the park.

And I see CJ, looking determined as ever. She crossed around 8:35. WOO-HOO! She kicked butt and bettered her time from last year's race. And even better? She didn't throw up. :) She definitely was in running shape for this year's race. I am so proud of her.

So one race down, (counting out on my fingers) seven more to go.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

My friend Olivia mentioned this book to me awhile back. Then I saw that QRB was having a big MockingJay debut "party", which in turn had me read more about this series. I knew it was quite popular and I wondered how I hadn't really heard the buzz until recently (The Hunger Games came out in 2008).

Then my other friend Kerry asked me if I had read the series, not once, but several times. "Have you read it yet?" I remember her asking me one day. "What is it about?" I asked and she said it was about these teens trying to kill one another. Um...*this* is what the buzz is about? Why on earth would anyone want to read that? In a series? Kerry's excitement behind these words concerned me. And despite the fact that Kerry and Olivia are respectable folk, they are very much alike, to me, in their preferred genres.

So I thought: one day I'll read it.

But they both had me very curious...

I added the book to my library request a few weeks ago. I was number 100-something. Eh, I thought. I am in no rush anyway. Let me read my book club choice, then the second and maybe third Harry Potter book, and perhaps I'll have it by then to read.

I got an email Wednesday that the book was ready to be picked up. That was quicker than I thought...I picked it up Thursday...and decided I would, yet again, put the HP book down and start on this one. If it's not really my thing, and I don't think it will be, I'll put it back down and finish HP.

So I started...then forced a hard stop at 11:30 PM Thursday evening. I made it to Chapter 4, about 49 pages. I had already cried. I had already felt the pain of what had happened, and the dread of what was about to happen.

Today, my birthday, I took advantage of my day: I finished the book. The only reason why I didn't finish it sooner is because I had to work, eat, sleep and see the Durham Bulls lose last night.

This is definitely an amazing novel. My favorite so far of the year. I don't foresee anything else challenging it...and if I declared a favorite before now, this trumps it.

It is dreadful, funny, riveting. I was a quarter through the book and thought: there are not enough pages left! It will end too soon. And as I got closer to the end, the more excited and sad I became: I will know the outcome and then it will be over.

Lucky for me, there are two more books left. And I don't have to wait for them to be released.

*** SPOILER ALERT: ONLY THOSE WHO HAVE READ THE NOVEL SHOULD READ FURTHER ***
The novel is set, in what I think, is a post-Apocalyptic era. There is mention of the geographic area as once being called "North America" but now, the area is divided up into twelve districts under one governing city, the Capitol.

The twelve districts are working districts: coal mining, agricultural, etc. They are strictly governed and most of the inhabitants of these districts are poor and starved.

The protagonist of this story is Katniss Evergreen, a 16 year old girl, who hunts illegally past "the fence" that holds a boundary to her 12th district. Her father was killed in a coal mine accident, and she is left to fend for her remaining family: a desolate mother and her younger sister, Primrose.

Katniss has learned well from her father, who taught her (on purpose and by accident) how to hunt, to look for greens and berries around her, to trade in the black market, and who to trust in those trades. This is her strength at survival and she is able to keep her family from starving to death.

The novel opens during the day of the reaping: where one boy, and one girl, from each of the twelve districts, is chosen to represent their district in a nationwide, televised and celebrated game: The Hunger Games. Katniss has her name in the bowl twenty times. The name called for the boy of district 12: Peeta, a young boy Katniss has a vague memory of. The name of the girl: Primrose, Katniss' little sister. Who only had one slip of paper in the bowl for her name, since at 12 years old, it was her first year. Instead, Katniss volunteers to go in her sister's place.

The Hunger Games, after all, is a fight to the death, where only one can become victorious. We know this before the names are announced, so the panic - and for me - and surprise! was unnerving. The games were created as punishment for the 12 districts for a past uprising against the Capitol. Punish the people by taking their children, and thus, 24 kids, ages 12-18, will head off to an arena of sorts to survive the elements, and to kill each other, to come out alive and win a "free" pass to freedom from starvation and poverty.

It's a sick premise. It had my stomach in knots that anyone would get off on this. But I think back to the gladiators and other similar battles, that were well-celebrated.

It also has that element of Survivor - fending for yourself with what little supply you have, but also defending yourself from other kids. The entire time TV cameras follow each of the 12 "tributes", broadcasting it live across the nation. If the "story" becomes boring: no one is dying soon enough, the gamekeepers get involved by adding another element to make the kids come closer to battle.

What happens is captivating. I couldn't put the book down. There are no boring parts. Collins gets right to the point and does not drag anything out. She cleverly inserts history in the places that make sense and it all intertwines with the story. I wondered, as I started reading it Thursday, if the books got gradually thicker, much like the HP books do. My friend Audrey said that they didn't: about the same size through the trilogy. Fascinating that she could fit so much in so few pages (374 for the hardback version).

This will follow me around...the story that is. I will continue to reflect back...but only for a little bit as I hope to start on Catching Fire, the second in this trilogy, tonight.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The "Amazing Race" - Fourth Leg

Thursday's start is where we ended Tuesday, by the Initiation sculpture. At the end of the race, Tim said to me about needing to warm up before we start. "My warm up is getting TO the start" is what I answered.

At 12:46, while sitting in my office, I realized "Shit! I have a race at 1!!!" Granted, I knew I was doing this at 1PM but nothing really processed that I also need to be there BEFORE 12:45 to get ready.

So I am running down the hallways of my floor to the elevator. I get out and start running towards my car until I see...well, let's just say there's a certain person who I have a little crush on...and this person is walking back towards their building, which happens to be the way to my car. So I slow down to the sauntering pace and chit-chat with the crush for a bit.

I say a quick "good bye" and a "nice to see you again" :) and get in the car and head off (not speeding) to the picnic shelter, as there is no way I will have time to dress in the gym.

I get to the picnic shelter and a fellow teammate is like 'Tim's down there (by the gym) looking for you'. Shit, I think and say out loud "Well, he better come up here!" Next thing I hear is the teammate screaming 'TIM! CINDY'S UP HERE!"

I quickly dress and run to the start, seeing Tim's exasperated face as I get there, huffing and puffing.

Yes. I am warmed up.

So the first task we do is choose between spinning around, with a hand on a baseball bat, then running to a tree for a clue; or wheelbarrow-ing to a different tree for a clue. We chose the wheelbarrow with me steering Tim. Man, that dude was fast.

Next, we had to find our combo numbers in a set of trees in front of the picnic shelter (more sprinting). We found ours, got our number then headed to the softball field to find a lock that would unlock with our numbers. We were in luck as the second lock was the one that was ours. It was another sprint back to the Initiation sculpture for our next clue, which was to go to the gym.

We take off for the gym and I am reading way too much into the clue...mainly because Domino keeps saying "pay attention to the clue!" Do we take the lock or leave it? I ask. Tim says let's go and we take the lock. This would be another lucky break. :)

We get to the gym and we have to decide who is "Pete" and who is "Sam" (or some other cutesy name). Tim picks Pete and I am Sam. We go to the basketball court and Sam has to play a variation of beer pong while Tim has to shoot rubber bands at a cup and knock it down. If Tim can't knock it down with five rubber bands, then he has to do 50 sit ups.

This may be a big surprise to everyone but I have never in my life played beer pong or quarters. I played spoons ONCE and I don't even remember it. Not that it matters but afterward, a few folks were like "beer pong!" and I had no idea what they were talking about at first.

Anyway, I got the ball in the cup relatively quick. I would have done it faster had I not caught the ball in my hand every time it bounced almost into the cup. I don't know why I decided catching it with my hand was a reaction to it, but I kept doing it initially. Another lucky thing: I stopped and the ball landed in my cup.

Tim was lucky too, as he did his task at the third try so he didn't have to do 50 sit ups and we were off to the next clue. This is our next lucky task as it was to go to the Quest sculpture for our next clue. After Tuesday's race, I decided to look up the sculpture names so Quest was by my building. Which is really far away from where we are.

So off we go, sprinting yet again across the campus, up stairs, down hills and bam, we are the first ones to the sculpture, with Army Amy coming towards us. The next clue? Go back to the softball field! Which way back where we started!!!

Army Amy and her partner have already taken off. I look at the hill I have to sprint up, knowing that the rest of the way to the softball field is up. We start the sprint back and I am dying, telling Tim "I can't do this!" He's like "Come on, you got this".

I keep my sight on Army Amy, who is just happy as can be, sprinting ahead of us, encouraging her partner. If I can keep close to her, then we will be good, I am thinking. But damn, I am fucking SPENT. I have no breath left in me and I just keep pumping my legs.

At one point, I hear Amy tell her partner "Come on! It's going to be push and pull with these two!" talking about Tim and I. I think "IT'S GOING TO BE PUSH!!" And I floor it only to shortly stop for a walk and think back "it's going to be pull..."

We pass them!! And we have the edge until they get a second wind and we lose ours. I am thinking we have another task so I let the edge go even more as we run up the hill towards the softball field. Alas! I see Domino and the freaking mat for the pit stop and realize, too late, that it is the pit stop. We book it nonetheless and ended up Team Number Two. YEAH! THAT'S RIGHT! TEAM NUMBER TWO!

And while I am elated for that result I know that 1) there is a need for a bit of logic and a lot of luck to get through these tasks and 2) why the hell did we take the edge off and beat the heck out of Army Amy?? We had her in our sight!!!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Smarter than I Think?

I couldn't fit this into a tweet...

So, MiMi is making her lunch this morning: PB&J. Lucy, one half of the chicorgi < evil > twins is watching her diligently make her sandwich. She spread jelly on one slice of bread...then started spreading PB on the other slice. Suddenly, Lucy barks at her, which then made MiMi shake with shock, which in turn caused MiMi to drop the PB slice onto the floor.

That was hard enough to fit into 140 characters on twitter until...

MiMi started putting her banana pudding into the fridge when Lucy 'accidentally' stood in front of her, causing her to almost trip and throw the banana pudding all over the floor.

A dumb dumb of a dog? Or one with a devious plot to steal our food, targeting the smallest (but definitely not the weakest) person of the household?

I am on alert now (points two fingers at my eyes, then to Lucy's)...to be continued...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I Dream of School

I was listening to KATG episode #1250 Don't Ask, Don't Tell and the guest mentions how he has a recurring dream about school.

This perked up my ears as *I* *HAVE* *RECURRING* *DREAMS* *ABOUT* *SCHOOL*. So it was pretty amazing to hear that I am not alone.

Of course, I didn't think this was a big issue but found it interesting that others would have _recurring_ dreams about the same thing that I have _recurring_ dreams about.

My recurring dreams of school are common in, the end result is, I missed a lot of classes and I show up at the end of the course, or for a test, or for something that is towards the end. And I am disheartened because I have missed so many classes that I don't know anything at the end. Almost an equivalent to the stereotypical "I showed up for a test and don't know the answers", except it's not always a test...but it's usually the end of the course, semester, school year.

There is no clear detail that I am in high school or college, or just a voluntary course from a community college. The bottom line is that I have missed most of the given classes and know nothing about the subject matter, the teacher, nor the fellow students.

All I know is this: when I wake up, I have a huge, I mean HUMONGOUS, sigh of relief that it was all just a dream. As if these were nightmares, that is how relieved I am when I wake up and realize that it was all a dream.

What does it mean?

I never tried to analyze it.

Until now...

One site says this:
If you are the student you may be feeling inadequate or lack self confidence. Either way, going to school or attending class in a dream is your unconscious reminder that there is a need for new learning
and that you may have not learned an important lesson.

Actually, this seems to be the common interpretation for dreams about being *in* school: a feeling of inadequacy or a desire to learn more.

I don't really feel that inadequate. I mean, I mainly feel that way when it comes to competing in sports...specifically running...but I don't know if my feelings are that obsessive to make me dream about school so often.

Anyway, bottom line: apparently, I am not the only person in the world, who has been out of high school for YEARS, who continues to dream about being in school and stressing out about it. When I get the next one, I'll be sure to document it and perhaps, write it here.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tim and I: Amazing Race Leg 3

Don't look for a post for "leg 2". There isn't one. That's because I missed it entirely due to a preexisting condition.

So Leg 3 had Tim and I in last place due to our MIA for Thursday's leg. Not only were we last, we were 2 minutes behind the *last* team. We had some catching up to do.

Tim started off pretty cranky. He isn't very happy about being in last place.

When I met up with him at the start, I kindly asked if he had his bandanna (we are Tam Maroon) and the pencil (our "Phil", Domino, told us to make sure we had the pencil for every leg). He snapped that he did. And while we lined up, he asked me if I had my work badge (another requirement for the race). I did not so I fricking had to sprint back to the locker room to grab it then sprint back to the start line.

OF COURSE, while I was gone, Domino did the "check in" process and I wasn't there...

Our two minute penalty required us to go to the gym to fill up a cup with soda. Everyone else before us had the luxury of Domino filling it up for them. Then we were ready to start the race...

...so the first clue was to follow "plops", which were 'squirts' of flour on the ground. This would be our trail to follow. If we ended up at a "+" sign of flour, then this was a cross, where we would need to choose a direction to follow to stay on the "right" trail. If we followed a trail to three columns of flour lines, we hit a dead end and would have to go back to the last cross point.

Tim and I ended up hitting three dead ends. Not just three dead ends but three long running dead ends.

We ran clear to JG's gate: dead end; we ran to the end of the gym hill and Research drive: dead end; we ran clear across to near Cary Academy's far end softball field: dead end. We finally got lucky and got the right plops to follow, only to end up close to the end of the pack...

Not only that, to do the next task, we had to pour our soda into a bucket to a certain line...we didn't make that line, so we had to run to the RFC to refill our cup and come back to fill to that line. Sigh.
The task was to toss a ring onto a white pole. There were two for use to choose from, although it was just me, as I chose to do the task, while my partner did wall squats while waiting for me to ring the pole :).

In the mass confusion and chaos of the challenge, I was able to switch with Tim, who almost immediately ringed the pole. Then we were required to do 20 push-ups each in order to get our next clue. Once that was done, it was off to find a clue at a tree near the daycare center, which then pointed us to the racquetball room to find the clue to the pit stop...in the dark...with a teeny-tiny glow stick.

In the end, nearly everyone else caught up with us...as we were the only SECOND TEAM TO MAKE IT INTO THE RACQUETBALL ROOM. We finally got to the clue pretty quickly, which was '...the pit stop is where the sculpture of initiation is...'

I had no idea where the hell that was. My workplace is heavily populated with sculptures. The ones that stood out for me were: the sculpture near building R, and the sculpture right by the gym. I was wrong on both counts. It ended up being a sculpture near the softball field...where 13 teams before us made it before we did.

This was a fricking doozy of a leg. I was so fucking spent. I couldn't keep up with Tim, who at 6 feet tall strides wider than me. I would run to catch up to his walk, only to get there and have him start running. I felt like all I did was fricking run, no SPRINT, to catch up to him, or sprint to catch up period.

At the end, when we could see the pit stop, there was a team ahead of us. Tim was running and I was thinking: how the fuck does he have the energy and stamina to run??? I am fucking OUT. But the idea of these people surpassing me was too much...and Tim yelling at me to "come on!"...so I sprinted to the finish...only to hear "Your team #14". FUCK! was all I could muster.

The bright side is, we are no longer last, nor do we have a time penalty...but 14th? Out of 17? FUCK! So, we have to work harder next time to make up more time.

This is not as easy as I never thought it would be.

More Running

It's funny how many of my running friends can just go ad nauseum on the details of their swimming, running, biking, yoga-ing, IT-ing endeavors.

It's funny...well, because I love reading and hearing it...And because I do the same thing. :) Hey, there's a lot that goes through one's brain while doing these activities!!

Yesterday I had a 6 mile run scheduled. As par for the course for me, I wondered how the hell I could run 6 miles on a Monday after running 10 miles on Saturday.

I also stressed a bit because I had a busy work day where there was no room to add my run in unless I started early. Seeing that I haven't been very disciplined this past year with my morning routine, that was going to be a tough thing to do.

But yesterday started my week off fabulously: I got up early and took the little chicorgis for a good long walk. Got home, threw on my running gear and grabbed the first easy outfit (a dress) that I could put on after my run (and a shower). Got CJ off to school and headed into work.

The run would cover my standard 10K route from work through Umstead. The weather has been amazing so that is no longer a factor...so far. My legs ached but not too bad. I was ready to take walk breaks as I continued to think to myself that I wouldn't manage to big runs nearly back-to-back.

I was so wrong. And I love this change in me so far: a little more positive attitude about my runs. Even though it felt like a sluggish run for me, I managed to run up half mile hill and took zero walk breaks. I won't count the minute or two I had to wait at the intersection from I40. I felt good enough to end with a 9:30 mn/mile for the 6th mile. I was elated.

I walked into the gym for my after-workout drink of chocolate milk and saw my favorite curmudgeon Tom, who looked at the clock and then at me and said "Unusual time for you, isn't it?" Haha.

I then remembered to pick up tickets for the State Fair, as well as December's showing of A Christmas Carol. I noted that Tim and I were in last place for The Amazing Race since I missed Thursday's leg. But that didn't affect my great mood, start of the day, as well as the start of my birthday week.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The First 10 Miler of the Year?

Wow. I wanted to start this post by stating when the last ten mile run I had and according to my training log, the last one was last YEAR! WTF? Last November before I had my stress fracture and took a break.

Guess I took a long ass break. I am shocked, really. I could have swore I ran a long run before yesterday...

Nonetheless, I got my 10 miles done and I felt pretty darn good about it. My running buddy Frank joined me for about three miles (he had six) and I finished the rest on my own.

I don't mind running solo as I feel I can go my own pace, feel no pressure to keep running/pacing with my peers, and most of all, I can listen to my podcasts. But running with Frank reminded me how fast the miles go when you have someone with you. We had great conversations and while I looked forward to the rest of my miles alone, I did think how nice it would be to have him continue on for the rest.

We started at the picnic shelter where we work, then ran a nice route we take often into Black Creek greenway, then I proceeded into Umstead. It was an out-and-back for me, even knowing that the end would require me to run UP Harrison Avenue.

Quite honestly, and quite demented of me, I looked forward to the run up Harrison. I don't know how it happened because I haven't run with $Bill very often this year, but his fricking love of the bad is rubbing off on me.

I took a break to get my podcast in order when Frank and I parted ways. I didn't mind that I was ending my first half of my five miles into Umstead, which is UP. I knew I would be coming back down and mistakenly thought I would have the down part of Black Creek. It wasn't until I went up the first little hill, near the water fountain (these little landmarks are for my local readers :)), that I realized my mistake: this way of Black Creek is harder than the other way.

So I was a little daunted but I continued onward, with tired legs...wondering how these legs would fare on Harrison. Luckily, I had no idea that it has been that long since I've run 10 miles, or I would have psyched myself out. I know my friend Olivia would disagree with the "Ignorance is Bliss" mantra, but in this case, it works. :)

Once I finished Black Creek, I took another walk break. I knew what was ahead of me. And my legs were just screaming at me. I have been able to keep my heart rate in check and it appears, for the most part, that when I am working hard, I am keeping it within 180s. This is good news as I did a good two or so miles at a 10 minute pace (through the hills too :)).

So, as my podcast ended to an old Eddie Murphy bit...from Delirious...about Bill Cosby calling up Eddie and chastising him for his routine...I started up Harrison.

And I didn't stop.

Yes. I was so tired.

But somehow, mentally, I was determined. Where did that come from? It's so not me! I usually talk myself out of it, yell at everyone around me, and wonder why the hell I do this to myself.

Instead, I was just powering those legs forward. I said hello to a few bicyclers. I thought about my race: how I would be running hills at the end too, and this was good practice. Don't stop, or you'll remember this during race time and stop too.

That's the longest run I'll have before my half on October 2nd. I'm a little nervous about that...wondering, yesterday, if I had enough in me to go another 5K. I was pretty spent after that run...but I'll just have to wait and see.

Date Night: Dinner & a Laugh

One of our favorite comedians was coming to town again: Greg Giraldo.

If you know the song "Underwear Goes Inside the Pants", the comedian speaking is Greg Giraldo.


He's also been one of the judges on Last Comic Standing...and one of Keith's favorite comedians too. :)

We decided to eat at Irregardless Cafe, one of our earliest favorite places to hit in Raleigh. It's been a good long while since we ate here but it's right next door to the comedy club so it seemed to be a good choice.

The menu has expanded quite a bit since we came here. Used to, the menu for the evening fit on one page. Now, a good three pages: apps/salads, vegetarian/vegan, then entrees.

Our waitress, Olga, was frazzled but did a decent job. It was pretty crowded but not that bad so I think they were short a few wait staff? I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.

We ordered to Riojas and waited too long for the drinks. When I order my wine, I want it pretty pronto.

The bread, once a favorite of mine, was stale and not warm at all. I don't know what happened to the price of butter, but they are doling it out as though it were hard to come by. This is the second place where butter came in a teeny-tiny scoop.

We chose an app of bruschetta and a chicken entree to share. The chicken entree sounded divine as it would be served with risotto (I want to try a great risotto) and an arugula salad (I absolutely LOVE arugula).

It was a good ten minutes before Olga let us know (and before our wine was served) that I apparently had the wrong menu and ordered the one thing that wasn't available that night.

So I picked a different chicken dish that did NOT have risotto OR the arugula salad...which truthfully, was the main parts of the dish that I wanted.

So, needless to say, this was not starting off well nor did it get that much better. It didn't get WORSE but it was not the great meal that I remember enjoying time and time again at this place.

The chicken was dry and flavor-wise? Nothing I couldn't recreate at home. The veggies were a few thrown in pieces of broccoli and cauliflower that had no seasoning that I could detect. And the potatoes were just good. It's hard to make a bad potato dish but it's also cool to make a delicious one.

They failed on all counts. The irony is I told Tim I did not want to eat at the Old Bar because the food there is HORRIFIC. I wanted to spend my money on good food, not just go to just "eat" before the show.

Granted, the food wasn't horrific but definitely nothing that would bring me back anytime in the near future. There's just too many other amazing places (Hayes Barton) to go to instead.

The comedy show? Funny. Giraldo is great as usual. I always worry that the same material will be "played" and while a few tidbits were thrown in that I remember from his last show, overall, it was new material. It's nice when a comedian can do a show and it feels like he's doing it off the cuff, whether it's true or not. He enjoyed picking at the bachelorette party that sat in the front row, which is always fun to hear and watch.

Next week, I hope to catch Adam Kindler. We'll see where we put our money down on food. If you know the area and have recommendations, send them my way. I only ask that they are local places; food chains are reserved for my kids (not by my choice).

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

This book has my brain reeling. So much that most likely, I will have to divvy up what I want to write in various posts. So in this one, I need to find a way to just describe the book. The next one (or few?) will be about other aspects that have my brain in a frenzy.

This is September's book club choice. This is the second book choice by the same novelist. I haven't read anything by Picoult until now and honestly, I wasn't too enthused by this choice.

She is a popular novelist and my stereotype of her was fluff novels. The movie My Sister's Keeper is based on a novel by Picoult and by golly, the previews for that movie made me sick, it seemed so Hollywood drama, so sappy. So I was instantly turned off by what I thought Picoult would be writing about.

"Nineteen Minutes"? I have nineteen minutes left to live? What do I do with that time? Love someone and declare it for 451 pages? I was trying hard not to think about how much pain I would be in, struggling to read this book for book club. In fact, I put down my second Harry Potter book (BTW, I don't think I am going to make my HP challenge) and decided to 'get this one over with' and read it right away.

But the opening paragraphs shut me up right away:
In nineteen minutes, you can mow the front lawn, color your hair, watch a third of a hockey game. In nineteen minutes, you can bake scones or get a tooth filled by a dentist; you can fold laundry for a family of five.

...

In nineteen minutes, you can stop the world, or you can just jump off it.

In nineteen minutes, you can get revenge.

And that is what this book is about: a bullied teen goes on a rampage at school and shoots 10 classmates dead, wounding 19 others. It goes through time, back and forth, where we meet the killer, his best friend, and their parents - when he is born, in Kindergarten, the days before the shooting, and the time after it.

Jodi Picoult does something very controversial, IMO: she has the reader (or just me) sympathizing with the killer. In at least one case, there is no love lost for one of the dead.

But she doesn't outline it Hollywood style and here comes the happy ending. She plays out both sides: see the killer - how he viewed the world and what he suffered over the years; see the victims and what they suffered; what the result of a horrific tragedy does to the survivors.

I am amazed at the amount of work and knowledge goes into making a book. It becomes apparent to me that I have no way I could ever write a novel. Not even a 'good' novel...just a novel! Picoult has perspective from a judge, a computer programmer (she even includes a bit of C++ in it!), a detective, a defense attorney, parents who grieve for their children killed, as well as parents who grieve for their killer son. So many perspectives with so much detail that she had to have spent years just gathering information to make it sound right.

And while this is fiction, I couldn't help replaying the scenes of Columbine. But the difference is "seeing" this from the parents of the killer *and* from the killer's perspective.

It is a fascinating concept that reminds me of some of the younger me. I was much more bleeding heart than I am now...and reading this book reminded me of my old self, although it had no effect on how I feel now.

I really didn't get too emotionally charged...just entranced by the story line. I did cry once: when Lacy, mom to the killer, recalls a moment in time when their family dog died and no one had any memories to recount of their dog...except for Peter, the killer. It was poignant but subtle. And it recounts a mother's pain for her son, seeing his tenderness and realizing he is also a monster.

Anyway, a very good creative story that has changed my mind about Picoult.

Although I still have no interest in reading, or watching, My Sister's Keeper.

The "Amazing Race" - First Leg

Today was Tim and I's first day of a game called The Amazing Race. Yes, it is what you think but not entirely. It is loosely, very loosely, based on the real TV show with the same name. Except this one goes through my recreation and fitness center at the place I work.

Yes. This happens during time I spend at work.

No. It is not part of my job and thus, becomes a lunch time activity.

Yes. I work in a great mother-fucking place. Do you think I could do this anywhere else in the world?

Frank and I did this in May as a "preview" of the activity to come in the Fall. I can't believe we have already made it to this time...

Anyway, as I described it to the familia, Tim mentioned how fun it sounded so I asked if he wanted to do it with me instead. So I dumped Frank (sorry :)) and added Tim and today, despite how busy Tim is, we made it to our first leg of the race.

We met at the putting green (yes, we have a putting green at work) and the first thing we had to do was run up to the tennis courts :) and get our bandannas and our first clue, which included a pencil.

The clue was to run to the yellow gate of our company owner's drive :) :) and start at the birdhouse, then work our way back and follow the fence of the pasture for smiley face clues.

As I write this, I can't believe I am talking about my place of employment. I'll stop mentioning it now.

Well, because we did, what we tell everyone on the damn show NOT to do, is follow the people instead of the clue.

So we missed the damn birdhouse (the first one) and ran to the second one, because everyone was hovering around there. One of my foes ran away from the clue and said "we go the clue!" trying to trick us to go further out of our way.

We finally figured it out and the series of happy faces were words in a sentence that we had to figure out. Needless to say, we never figured it out until we came upon the people doing the next task.

I think the words were: task is double in front you your next of

or at least close to that...

In the end, this slowed us down as I had Tim write everything down and then double & triple checked the words. We gave up and just ran after others and figured out that it meant "in front of W" once we saw folks in front of W doing the next task.

The next task "in front of W" was to blow up a balloon then let it go and where it landed was where one player went to blow it up again until it went to the other side of the area. The other side is where I waited while Tim blew it up and luckily, did pretty good getting to me quickly.

The next clue was "Match Up" or "Catch Up". I wanted Catch Up, since it was in the cardio room and I figured this is a way for us to catch up to the other teams.

I was wrong.

It was: row to 500 yards/meters (whatever the rowing machine measuring system was). Tim jumped at the chance and he was kicking ass. I found out after he started rowing that *I* had to do the same thing but match his time with only 5 seconds to spare.

Um. Tim is rowing much faster than me.

Fortunately, I found out from Patti that Tim was rowing at a 10 level and thus, I could go lower and probably get there just as fast, if not faster. And I did, but not as much as you think.

So...we are sweating, tired, Tim's got cramps but we are running our little asses off.

The next clue was to run to the Yoga building :) and Tim kept telling me "GX" and I heard nothing but mumbling. I had no idea what he was saying. Finally, it registered but even in my adrenalized state, I was heading for the wrong building. I figured it out as I watched a team ahead of us go into GX. Here we just had a clue to the finish, which was "four big rocks by the softball field" :).

I had no idea where the rocks were, but I know where the softball field is. So we ran, SPRINTED...I saw one team and I knew we would pass them. They were spent -- and so were we -- but I wasn't going to stop. I could see the finish in sight, as other teams -- and Domino, our very own version of Phil -- was waiting.

But to get to the finish, one has to run up a hill. I was DYING. My legs were screaming at me. And I could care less how "close" Domino was to me, it seemed too far. I took a quick peek behind me to see how the team that we had just passed was faring and they were walking. So...I took a little break and Tim is egging me on to run, we're almost there. So I did and we made it.

We were Team #8.

And I kicked my fricking shoes off because my GD feet were so MFing hot.

Our downfall is clue reading. In the heat of the game, and the peer pressure from all the other players taking off as if they know what they are doing, makes us weak. I never really read through the clues...and I certainly didn't process the information. Me: miss "I love a puzzle" did not figure out a single bit of information from the clues.

But there are 17 teams, so 8 is not so bad. We do this again next week. No eliminations. Just the top three, in the end, will battle out for the win.

Thank you, $Bill, for picking us to win it. I noticed that someone else picked me and Tom. Hopefully, one of those dudes will help me win this thing.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Morning Cup o' Coffee

Man I love coffee.

Two things I look forward to in the morning: reading through stuff on my iTouch (WWF, USAToday, WRAL, Echofon, Facebook and my work email, to name a few) and getting my cup of coffee.

I have drank coffee nearly my entire life. And no, I never once stopped for any reason: new diet plan, side-effects from caffeine, yadda-yadda-yadda. Oh wait. I did when I was pregnant but I only went to decaf, so I still had my coffee.

I started very young.

When I lived in the Philippines, my aunties (that's what I call them) would make me coffee in the barrio.

They wouldn't have me drink the water...I drank pepsi's, halo-halo, or coffee. Well, mainly coffee in the morning.

So my Auntie would put a few scoops of Sanka instant coffee, some sugar, and warm goat milk and, voila! A wonderful concoction that I would drink as I ate my breakfast. And to this day, that is something I savor: coffee with breakfast.

My dad is old school: drinks it black and throughout the entire day. I wonder if he really drank it because it tasted so good or because, well, it was just something to drink. It didn't matter what brand was brewed, or how long it stayed in the pot! Just a hot cup of coffee in hand all day.

I used to drink more coffee than I do now, but that meant two to three cups in the morning. Now I stick to one and rarely, a second. I don't know how folks can drink coffee all day. For me, it messes with the "integrity" of the taste: it is why I look forward to having one every morning...having my fix and waiting a full day to get it again.

As most of you know, I can't stand Starbucks. It's mainly on principal vs. coffee taste. But quite honestly, one of my favorite coffees are the coffees at restaurants: waffle house, local breakfast places, etc. Something about just a good ole plain cup of black coffee is amazing. Course, I pour about seven packets of those teeny-tiny bags of sugar and a little bit of half-n-half.

Over the years I have tried variations of how I take my coffee: a little bit of sugar, no cream; a lot of sugar, a little bit of cream; flavored cream; and so on. I actually have a very fine line of how sweet I like my coffee: not too sweet but just enough to mix with the cream to make a very smooth taste. After all these years, I still haven't figured out how to make that happen every time.

Oh, and I stir my coffee counter-clockwise. Tim says that's "wrong" and I'm weird for stirring that way. I did a small case study at work one day, as me and my peers were in class for something and I watched them stir their coffee. Sure enough, they stir clockwise. Bizarre. But it makes my coffee taste better than theirs so I ain't a'changin' my ways.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Shiny Happy People

I did another long run solo today. I only had six today but have 10 next week, so I am enjoying the "low" mileage.

I decided to run the same route I did two weeks ago. This would be better, I thought to myself, because it is one mile shorter than when I ran it last.

And it was.

The coolness of the morning was fantastic. On this route, when you start, you run along some pasture belonging to the state, so a glance to the right and there are horses. I thought about how this would make a great photograph in that section of Runner's World where they take that high level photograph of a great running spot.

People were all over the place. It was like The Stepford Wives, we were all giddy and happy and "good morning" the crap out of each other.

I had a dream last night that I had hot feet and was throwing my shoes off. I remembered that dream as I finished up my run, thinking about my thick cotton socks I had on - since all my running socks (all four pair) were still in the laundry - and how I wasn't having my hot feet issue.

My pace was slower: I finished in roughly 1:03 minutes. It's hard not to feel humbled by that but I'm focused on keeping my heart rate down. I don't have all the numbers but as I kept track today, I kept my heart rate under 190...and the peak usually occurred running up a hill. However, I noticed a few times where I would dip into the 160s...going downhill...and I thought that I was taking too much off. So I'm getting the gist of watching that number and knowing my comfort zone. But for my head, it's a little tough to not imagine going faster.

I thought about my half marathon in October. I was actually excited. I used it to get my legs pumping up the hills. I'll be running through a battlefield, which apparently is quite hilly. I wondered about what I wanted to accomplish out of it and surprisingly, I didn't feel a need to have a "fast" finish time. But the other side of me argues with: you have to do something good. Good is finishing. That is what I want to do. But being proud, for me, will be doing it in a decent time. I just have to figure out what that "decent" time means to me.

Unprotected

This title is an ironic ode to one of my favorite comedians, Robert Schimmel. It is the title of one of his stand-up specials on HBO. I found out this morning, from a Doug Stanhope tweet, that Schimmel had died. I would later read that it wasn't from the cancer that had got to him a few years ago, after a heart attack that is largely addressed humorously in Unprotected, but from injuries he suffered from an accident.

We saw Schimmel at Goodnight's a couple of times and I remember being awed that I was seeing this man in person. He is truly one of the funniest comedians I have followed.

And I follow quite a few. Thanks to HBO, I was introduced to many. I remember Bill Cosby's stand-up as a teen and then one day - and I can remember it somewhat vividly - I was watching HBO in my parent's room and Eddie Murphy's Delirious came on. I found heaven and while Cosby rocked, the stuff that Murphy said that made me laugh? OMG. Talk about crossing the line.

Shortly after high school, I briefly dated a pretty conservative guy. One of our first dates was to see Raw, another stand-up routine from Eddie Murphy but this one was for theaters. This was a turning point for me, in hindsight, that 1) I love crass-y, nasty humor and 2) not everyone else does. While I was in tears laughing about his descriptions of shit (literally), my date was shifting uncomfortably in his chair.

Schimmel falls into that category. He is nasty but man, he is funny as hell. I think I'll have to watch my copy of Unprotected again this weekend and have a toast to one funny mother-fucking guy. Here's a nice compilation of some of his funny stuff from monstersandcritics.com.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Try Hard, Lose, then Try Harder

Today we found out that CJ did *not* make the middle school volleyball team. Not only did she NOT make it, she didn't make the first cut. Today was the announcement of who made the first cut, then Friday the full team announcement would be made.

She was extremely disappointed. And so was I. And so was Tim.

We weren't disappointed in her but disappointed in the outcome. Pissed really. I wanted to punch the "coach" and Tim wanted to have a "talk" with him. But of course, that is not what we did. :)

She really tried her best.

She took volleyball lessons with the city of Raleigh last Spring.

Then she did a summer camp of volleyball with the town of Cary.

She did tryouts on Monday and Tuesday, doing a lot of drills and a few volleyball skills of bumping, serving, and passing. She felt she did pretty good. The coach told her she had a good toss.

But that just wasn't enough to get her in the first cut.

She was so so sad. So what does a parent do?

I came home early, gave her a big hug, told her "Come on. We're going for ice cream." So we went to Fresh in Raleigh for good homemade, local ice cream. My usual not-so-revealing-of-emotions daughter let me have it: her frustration with who was chosen and not, and the lamest coach (which looks like a middle school kid, I might add) in the entire world.

Tim suggested we go to Outback for dinner, CJ's favorite place. What better way than to drown your sorrows by having a big juicy steak? Unless, of course, you are a vegetarian. She complained some more, talked of her vengeance (play for another team and show him "see what I have become?!") and overall, seemed to be no worse for the wear.

She still has to see the little bastard; he's her PE coach.

So the next step? Find a volleyball team for her to play on. We have some options. But, as Tim told her, the worst thing she could do is to give up something she enjoys doing.

And I told her, after leaving Outback happy-as-clams, that the next time we do something like that, it will be in celebration.