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

Friday, December 31, 2010

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson

This is the last novel in Larsson's Millennium Trilogy although I believe there will actually be a fourth novel. Larsson died while writing the fourth novel so I would guess that there will be a fourth, which will be something I would look forward to reading.

The series of novels really flowed well together. This last one chronicles Lisbeth's recovery from three gunshot wounds, one in her head, by her half-brother, a Goliath of a man who buried her alive.

What is truly amazing about this particular novel is the legal case that builds up against Lisbeth's violators: a child-porn sicko psychiatrist (Telaborian), the "Section" of secret police that did what they could to 'put away' Lisbeth, to cover up their alliance with the ex-Soviet spy, and Lisbeth's father, Zalachenko.

The readers know the story. We know that Mikael Blomkvist, one of the main characters throughout the series, investigates and discovers the truth behind Lisbeth's tormented life: she watched her mother get beat into a vegetative state by Zalachenko, she set Zalachenko on fire (he survived), Zalachenko was a protected Russian ex-spy by SAPO, Lisbeth was sent to a psychiatric ward (at age 12), she was sexually and physically abused by a pedophile psychiatrist working with SAPO.

SAPO, well, the "Section" of SAPO that was protecting Zalachenko, started to conspire once again to protect Zalachenko's involvement with them, especially since they operated outside of the legal means that Sweden has in place. So in this novel, the case against the Section builds, as well as the case the Section has against Lisbeth.

It is fascinating because for most of the novel, I was so worried about Lisbeth going back to Teleborian. But the reader KNOWS that Lisbeth has many allies: Blomkvist has made sure that many important people know what is taking place. So it's very interesting to see the parallels between what the Section is trying to do and what Blomkvist is doing.

There is a lot of action, tension, and relief. When the trial comes into play, I wanted to scream with vengeance...the build up is written brilliantly. An amazing feat since the reader pretty much has the case laid out before the we know what is going to happen...and to be able to bring that kind of excitement out in a novel, vs. seeing it in a movie, is pretty brilliant.

Lisbeth is one of the most amazing characters ever created. I love how brilliant she is...this non-emotional person (she has asperger's) who kicks ass at, not only hacking computers, but actually kicking ass. She is a character outlined as being about 4'11" and 80-something pounds, full of tattoos and piercings...but a doll-like look...yet she has the ingenuity of a Russian spy, getting out of precarious situations with her lithe, scheming skills.

I will miss these characters but hopefully, Larsson's legacy isn't over.

The story behind this series is pretty amazing too. The first novel is actually titled (in Sweden) as Men Who Hate Women and throughout the novel, we meet men who do hate women. They think of them as second-class citizens with no intelligence. If they have sex with more than one man, or with a woman, they are essentially whores. The fascinating thing is that Larsson creates only strong women characters - every single woman he introduces in the books are smart and physically adept, despite the fact that they may be surrounded by misogynists.

And one more tidbit: the character Lisbeth was named after a girl that Larsson (in real life) witnessed get gang-raped. It seemed to do something to him that made him write such amazing women characters. Shame that I couldn't know of him while he was alive but I am proud for his legacy to live on...

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Book Challenges

I love reading books but I especially love doing it as a "challenge". You know, like, how many can I read in a month, or how many can I check off a list. I prefer the latter as there's no way to tell how long it will take me to read a book. I like to take my time and absorb the story line.

I will continue the Harry Potter Challenge. I don't know if I'll make the July part two movie timeline but I do plan to attempt to get through book two in hopes of getting to book three, and then hopefully, it will be more appealing to me and I won't stop until the end. :)

Another book challenge I created on my own is to read the winners of the 2010 National Book Foundation. Those winners are the following:
Fiction: Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon
Non-Fiction: Just Kids by Patti Smith
Young People Literature: MockingBird by Kathryn Erskine

There is a winner for Poetry - Lighthead by Terrance Hayes. This is on my optional list as I am not a big fan of poetry. I mean, I like _some_of it but to read an entire book on poetry is not very appealing.

I am eyeing some other book prize winners to add to my challenge but for now, this is my goal for 2011.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Gift Giving

I hope everyone has enjoyed their Christmas this year. I know we did. The girls were up at 6:01 - I told them they couldn't go downstairs until after 6AM. I actually woke up at 6:30, without thinking it was 6:30, since it seemed that 10 minutes before, it was 5:30 and I knew I had time before the girls went amok.

As I came down the stairs, they were surrounded by Santa's gifts and both excitedly told me what they had received...of course, at the same time.

Every Christmas I think back to when I was a kid. It is vastly different now. The concept of "instant gratification" seems to be more prevalent in the world I live in. Kids want a bike? Run to Walmart, or in many cases - the high-end bike store, and get the bike. It doesn't have to be a birthday or Christmas gift - just any old day of the week.

The same goes for most things: "I need jeans and a t-shirt" - head to Tar-jay and ta-da! It's yours. A new phone? Hey, the contract is up, we can get new phones for cheap.

So what do we save for the Christmas and birthdays? It's the same stuff, essentially, just more of it at once.

When I was a kid, I remembered getting my 10 speed bike. I wanted it all year. And when I got it on Christmas Day, I was the happiest kid in the 'hood. My feet couldn't even reach the pedals but I rode that bitch like it was MINE...cuz it was...finally.

I also got an organ one year. Yes. Laugh as you must. I was 'forced' to take organ lessons as a child. The image you see on the right is the type of organ I played on. I practiced at a neighbor's house and then one year, I got one for Christmas. It wasn't much of a surprise since my mom told me. One thing my mother cannot do is keep a secret and I almost always knew what big gifts I was getting for my birthday or Christmas. I LOVE surprises, so in my old age, I beg my children not to tell me what I am getting.

Anyway, again, I got the big gift one or two times a year. Not Wednesday. Not Thursday. But Christmas Day. Or my birthday.

Our Christmases have gotten less expensive over the years. One reason was that we were buying crap and the kids just discarded them without care after day one. I also was turned off by attending birthday parties and seeing the kids open one present, toss it aside, and open another without consideration of the value of the gift or the value of the 'idea' of giving. I toned down our birthday parties too, which many friends find cruel. If you knew how much crap we shovel out of their rooms...even NOW after toning wouldn't think it was cruel.

Anyway, I'm far from banning materialism in this household but I am very thankful that my kids do appreciate the gift -- even when there are socks and undies -- and appreciate the gift-givers. It is the one time of the year that CJ and MiMi actually get along and say THANK YOU to one another. And for me, that's enough of a "big gift" to wait all year for.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Came Early

I outlined my Christmas list earlier this month...both of them...and I can now cross three things off my list.

First: Tim fixed the GPS in my car. So far, so good. I no longer feel like punching it. It may take awhile, but I am learning to rebuild trust in her.

Second: my good friend Elizabeth loaned me her copy of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. I will probably be close to done by Christmas Day. She was right: the books gets better and better.

Third: Tim found an adapter that works with my iTouch. It's what he uses to charge his phone and it works for my iTouch too. Now, I don't have to feel like a miser when I use it before I go to sleep at night, trying to figure out what I can read/play/do and what I can save for my morning wake-up call.

Merry Christmas to me!!!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Spirit of Christmas

And it's not what you think...

Do not watch this video if you are religious, fear blasphemy, or faint at the drop of the f-bomb. If you are not familiar with South Park and are easily offended by The Simpson's (yes, the cartoon series), I recommend you skip this post all together.

This is one of my favorite South Park toons. If I remember correctly, it was one of the original 'episodes' of South Park, created as a video Christmas card. If you haven't seen it (and you've read this far with my warning above), then it is a must watch. If you have seen it, like me, it had to be years walk down memory lane with me and watch it again.

Here's the English version:

And for my Russian fans:

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson

This is the second novel within the Millennium Trilogy. I've got one more to go. I don't know if I can wait until Santa Claus brings it to me...

The novel continues with Lisbeth Salander, one of the baddest motherfuckers out there. In the previous novel, while we meet Lisbeth, the novel concentrates on Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist who solves the disappearance of a woman with the help of Salander. This time, it's mainly Salander.

Continuing from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Lisbeth is as heartbroken as a character like Lisbeth can be...but she is also filthy rich. She vanishes from Sweden and travels the world.

After saving a battered woman in Grenada by killing her abusive husband, Lisbeth returns to Sweden and builds her anonymous life. But unfortunately, she can't stay out of trouble and becomes involved in a triple murder. Not just involved, but is the main suspect and the hunt is on by the entire country for her.

The great thing about Larsson's story-telling is the build-up of the mystery of the crime. Lisbeth visits two of the victims and the next day, we learn that the people she met with are dead. We also learn that Bjurman, the rapist who was Lisbeth's guardian, is also dead...after Lisbeth had already decided she needed to pay him a visit.

For several chapters, we no longer 'hear' Lisbeth's side of the story. Instead, we read how the police get involved, how the magazine Millenium gets involved, Mikael, and Milton Security. All evidence points to Lisbeth but after reading so much about Lisbeth, it's just not easy to believe. The mystery continues and finally, Lisbeth enters the novel again.

Of course, she is innocent but does her own investigation. She manages to elude everyone. And the climactic end? Wow. It's like a Bruce Willis movie, only it's a 4'11" 90 pound soaking wet gal who plays that role.

I can see how Larsson's writing style could annoy the impatient reader. It may be in the translation too, but Larsson writes a lot of details. I love it. I find it endearing.

What is really cool is the geek factor: Lisbeth is a top-notch hacker and Larsson infuses a lot of techie jargon. Sure, it's a stretch sometimes but a stretch I love reading about.

I will hold off on watching any of the movies. I have a wonderful image of Lisbeth in my mind which didn't match up with the 'dragon tattoo' movie...which I did see. It managed to hose my image of Mikael but hopefully I can get it back in book three.

Trust Us, We Know What We Are Doing

The hubbub over the TSA pat downs and screenings make me angry. Angry that we are taking this. Angry that anyone thinks these muggles have the aptitude to determine what is a bomb. Angry that no one seems to think that the loss of logic and rationale has come into play and that all are created equal. It's the laziest form of regulation: we don't have the intel to figure out who might be dangerous, so we will pat you old ladies and you young ladies (hehehe) because we are sheep and can't do any better.

This is the guy looking through your bags. I retrieved this picture straight from the TSA website. While I don't normally judge a book by its cover, the very fact that I have personally interacted with TSA agents in the past leads me to stereotype these folks as this picture summarizes.

I will be honest. I have no idea what type of training they go through *but* I find it very very very very difficult to believe that these are people who would be EOD-worthy. Call me a little jaded: both my dad was a "bomb-dumper" and my husband was a security policeman while they were in the military.

OK. I have a little bit of an idea, based on TSA job qualifications for a Transportation Security's lengthy but I read through it and it certainly doesn't make me feel like changing my stereotype.

First, the job description:
You will perform a variety of duties related to providing security and protection of air travelers, airports and aircraft. As a TSO, you may be required to perform passenger screening, baggage screening or both. You are expected to perform all of these duties in a courteous and professional manner. The principal duties and responsibilities include the following:

* Perform security screening:
o Of persons, including tasks such as: hand-wanding (which includes the requirement to reach and wand the individual from the floor to over head), pat-down searches, and monitoring walk-through metal detector screening equipment

o Of property, including the operation of x-ray machines to identify dangerous objects in baggage, cargo and on passengers; and preventing those objects from being transported onto aircraft

* Control entry and exit points
* Continuously improve security screening processes and personal performance through training and development
Qualifications required:
* Have reached his/her 18th birthday at the time of application submission;
* Be proficient in English (e.g., reading, writing, speaking, and listening);
* Have a high school diploma, GED or equivalent; OR
* Have at least one year of full-time work experience in security work, aviation screener work, or X-ray technician work.
For those considered for evaluation:
Applicants who meet the minimum qualifications may be invited to take the computerized Screener Assessment Battery. These tests evaluate English proficiency, and the aptitude for x-ray interpretation.

If you pass the computerized Screener Assessment Battery, you will be eligible to be scheduled for additional assessments. Additional assessments include: (1) a color vision test; (2) a job-related medical evaluation; (3) a drug test; and (4) a structured interview.

In addition you may undergo a personal interview. If you successfully pass each of the above assessments, you will be considered further for employment. Preference will also be afforded to veterans (under Title V and ATSA) when candidates are referred for consideration and in the selection process.

However, if you *don't* pass the first time, not to worry!
If you take the computerized Screener Assessment Battery and do not pass, you must wait six (6) months before you can be tested again. Also, if you fail any of the other assessments, you cannot be re-assessed for a TSO position for a minimum of six (6) months after the date you failed.

Did they copy that verbatim for how to retest for your driver's license?

Don't get me wrong. I don't want any plane to go boom. And that's what becomes the frustrating argument FOR the TSA methods: they are securing the airways. PUHLEEZE motherfuckers? You think these guys, who have ogled me and flirted with me, or who have treated me with an elitist attitude of power, are the people saving us from planes blowing up?

Doug Stanhope, one of my favorite comedians (he's coming to Raleigh, but perhaps I shouldn't see him since I recently saw Giraldo and Schimmel and look where they are now...) wrote this on his website, which inspired me to write my own TSA musing that has been simmering in my head for some time now. A few of my favorite quotes from his post:
Some Job Corps airport chump watching the x-ray images, getting a weeping erection staring at the images of your naked youngster? The idea that over a course of time these screenings could make your child look like a bullfrog with his new neck cancer? Or simply settle for the out-right humiliation of watching him be molested right in front of you while the other TSA goons shove you in the chest and direct you where to stand?
Either way, remember - and remember this clearly - that to quietly accept the current TSA rules without protest is exactly the same as saying "It's perfectly okay with me for the government to ogle or fondle my child's sexual organs as well as rape my grandmother."

When Parents Text

I found this site yesterday from my Huffington Post email. While I don't consider myself the type of "parent" they are typecasting, I can see where I send some funny text messages -- whether intentional or not -- to my kids (including Tim).

Here are a few of my favorites:

While on the site, check out the "Our Favorites" section and the original "Tacos for Dinner".


Friday, December 17, 2010

A Christmas Carol

Every year, the family and I go see Theatre in the Park's rendition of A Christmas Carol. This is Ira David Wood III's (a favorite Raleigh "celebrity") vision of Charles Dickens' classic novel.

This year, Ira David Wood III, would not be playing the role of Scrooge, the first time in its 35 year history. In November, IDWIII had open heart surgery. While we all love all the folks who put out this great show, IDWIII is the heart and soul of the production.

Instead, his son, the IV, stood in for him this year. And I must say, he was spot on. It was very difficult to distinguish him from his father: his mannerisms, his tone of voice, his enunciation of words - a brilliant copycat of his dad. If I wanted to point out a flaw it would only that he didn't attempt to put a bit of his own flair into the role. But I think this hometown would have had issues with it.

Nonetheless, the play is a wonderful tradition for us. IDWIII's production of this story is funny. Every year, there is some poke at something going on in the world...this year, bed bugs.

Sure. Some of the one-liners are repeats from the years before, but it's still a wonderful, fun show to watch and experience.

My co-worker mentioned that he knew a few of the musicians, specifically the bass guitar player. So I took MiMi with me and walked over to the pit (where the musicians play) and found two guitar players. I asked "which one of you is the bass player?" where two sets of curious eyes looked up at me and one man pointing to the other, while the other pointing to himself. We had a nice chat about how long they have been doing the show (about 20-some-odd years) and how well he knew my co-worker. I can't tell you how 'christmas spirity' that whole interaction was for me.

My other disappointment was not seeing IDWIII's daughter, Evan Rachel Wood. She was co-director of the production and I fully expected to see her SOMEWHERE...but alas, no luck. However, Ira David Wood III *did* walk across the stage during one part of the show, while his son stared at him in a weird, alternate world kind of way.

The very nice surprise was when the actors came to bow...and when Ira David Wood the IV came out? Without makeup? Wow. Or perhaps...YUMMMMMM...

Don't Do Me Any Favors

The other day, while at volleyball practice, Tim and I decided to go out for a snack run. We hit Food Lion, a grocery chain mainly on the East Coast (headquartered in NC) because I remembered a promotion there, from my visit to it a day or two prior, for buy one get one free M&Ms. Ever since NOT purchasing them the day I saw the promotion, I couldn't stop thinking about grabbing a bag of Christmas decorated, peanut M&Ms.

We stopped at one and picked up two bags of M&Ms (peanut and peanut butter), along with a bag of twizzlers and pistachios.

We hit the self-checkout and noticed that our bags of M&Ms were not ringing up as BOGO free. We hit the HELP button, since we couldn't cancel the transaction, and for about 2 minutes, no one indicated they were even paying attention to us.

So...a bit annoyed...we head to the checkout line (non-self-checkout). Again, our M&Ms ring up differently and *still* not BOGOF. We mention it to the lady, who explains that it took $1.80 off. We remind her that the bag is 4.29 each...and that 1.80 does not equal 4.29.

She calls on another person to come over and discuss this with us. THAT person also states "it took 1.80 off". Um...that is NOT equal to BOGOF. I am baffled that they are justifying the 1.80.

So the 'another person' looks at us and says "is there a sign?" Jeezuz. There were signs everywhere! Right next to the register was a sign for the promotion. I point it out. Guess what she said? That is for the *holiday* version of M&Ms.

Arrrrgghhh. I tell the 'another person' 'come with me; i will show you the signs'. So I escort her to the candy aisle, and right there is the sign that says "Buy one, get one free M&Ms". She then says "that sign is under _these_ M&Ms".


Instead, I said "Um, it doesn't say a specific M&M type. You will have to honor this promotion."

"Let me get my manager".

I wait at the register while she shuffles along looking for the store manager. Who the fuck was she anyway? I thought I was already dealing with the manager?

We had another idiotic conversation with the cashier, who was saying 'yeah, sometimes the position of the signs throws people off...that's our fault' implying that, indeed, where the sign is located is where the promotion applies. WHICH IS FUCKING INSANE?

I told MiMi: this is a user experience problem: they expect the user to figure out how to shop according to their rules.

Finally, the 'another' person comes to the register and she says the following: "I just talked to my manager and I am going to do this for you this time..." This is when Tim blew a gasket and told her "you aren't doing me a favor...i just want to pay for this for the price it's supposed to be".

In the end, we had a bit of an exchange of words: she justifying that she is doing us a favor by honoring the BOGOF, Tim telling her he wasn't interested in anything she had to say and that she was NOT doing us a favor.

Eventually, she made eye contact with me to tell me that it was actually taking the price off for taking a 1.80 off each bag. The math didn't add up and I was just keeping it together so I could have my M&Ms.

But we had frazzled her so much that we were charged $7.xx for our entire order. Tim challenged her:
did you ring up the twizzlers?
Did you ring up the pistachios?
The pistachios are nearly $6.00; the twizzlers and M&Ms are $2?
That's how it's ringing up after the discount.
< sarcastic laughter > OK.

So grocery chains, listen to me:
1. It's not worth fighting with the customer over a 4.00 bag of anything.
2. Don't get anal retentive about your signage. Either honor everything or say so on the sign. ONLY THE YELLOW BAGS OF M&Ms are BOGOF. FWIW, they are not...the other Food Lions allow a customer to pick any M&M bag...
3. If you have BOGOF, make it look like that on the receipt. Why do you expect customers to figure out the math? It was only lucky that we had a few items. If I had my weekly cart full of food, I would have missed this completely.

Did I ever mention the other great customer service I had several years ago? From KFC?

It was a picnic day at CJ's elementary school. We picked up chicken for our meal. We got one of those big family meal specials: chicken, cake and soda - a humongous 32 oz jug of coke. I asked the KFC attendant if I could have three cups to pour the coke into. She said no, they don't do that and shut the window.

Oh yeah. And this KFC, located on Duraleigh, has at least twice this year (with me) NOT HAD CHICKEN. And were fine letting me know that there was no more chicken to serve. Period. Done. No 'we will have some finished in 10 minutes'...nothing. Kaput.

Yes, I have written to KFC about these incidents, never expecting anything in return. The place is still a piece of shit and I have received no apologies.

Guess it's time to write my friendly, neighborhood Food Lion.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Age of Reason

I have mentioned before that I volunteer for a teen writing club. I am mainly the substitute now but I have made friends with a few of the teens who have been with the club for a while.

I try to keep up with Danny, Ezra and Olivia. I love reading their stories, songs and poems and especially, their blogs. They amaze me. And they give me hope. They inspire me.

I can blow off the conservative view for the most part...but when Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Fox News, and all the right-wing bullshit that I HATE gets quoted, applauded, and revered by other americans (disappointingly, by people I know), I think "what the fuck is wrong with our nation?" That is BULLSHIT and any intelligent person can see that what they say or do is WRONG. It leaves me bewildered.

But then I read this and I am thankful and hopeful that there are intelligent folks out there - the wave of our future - who are putting things into perspective. Thank you Ezra, for posting this article:

Jolly Elf Trail Run Race Report

WE DID IT! CJ and I got our last qualifying race of the Grand Prix series in this morning. IT. WAS. COLD. Despite chilly temps for our last two races, this one was by far the coldest we have felt.

This time, I pre-registered, so race t-shirt was in. HOWEVER...more insanity with race set up. Let me complain and get it over with: we got to the race start, where there are lots of booths and such set up. I saw chip pick up but nothing with bibs or shirts. So I asked 'where do we pick up our bibs?' They pointed in the direction that was a good 4th of a mile away from the start. Seriously? So bib pick up is way the fuck over there and the start is way the fuck over here...

Now that I have my complaint out of the way...this was such a fun run! And despite the fact that our time (somewhere in the 9:32 mn/mile range...29-something) does not reflect how quickly we felt we were running, CJ and I found this to be one of our favorite races of the season.

The race weaved through Bond Park, which has a mixture of asphalt trails, but mostly the trails are through the wooded areas. I thought we would be falling down a lot (as I did a few weeks ago, during a lunch run with $Bill and Nancy) but we had no issues running through the woods. The worst part would be the "stairs" towards the end of the race: big long gaps, with wooden "steps" that went straight up. I almost started walking them but CJ was running past everyone who did I thought 'if she can run it, so can I'.

She did awesome. And when the finish came into view, it was a straight-away run toward it...and so she took off...and I tried my best to keep up...which I did pretty well.

We waited a bit to see the results, just to see how we did in this race, as well as in the series. Despite the fact that both of us were in fourth place within our age group for the entire series (I just found this out this morning, since I paid zero attention to my own placement since I was concentrating on CJ), we were outrun by the first three folks jockeying for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place. So we are done for the season, with no prize, other than t-shirts and a satisfaction that we ran six races in three months and almost placed. :)

I had left CJ in the car to check out the results...I did walk away with prizes: candy, sausage-and-egg biscuits, and krispy kreme chocolate donuts. They had more food than people eating so they were like "take it with you!" So I did which made CJ and the rest of the family very happy.

The coolest thing was when CJ and I were looking for the bib pick up and I turned around and right smack in front of me was one of my FB pals Pauline. She had contacted me earlier in the week to give CJ her Turkey Trot shirt, since I whined about the fact that I was unable to get one for her. Seriously - was that kismet or what? Pauline said she was just getting her phone out to call me and there we were, staring at each other. CJ got her shirt and Pauline cinched her second place age group win. It was a great day for all.

Wait - There's More!

When I originally had this blog post written in my head, I had all of my christmas wish items outlined. But since I didn't write the original blog post when I had it in my head, I have forgotten more things.

So...two things I forgot to add to the original list:

* a big purse - those big ass hobo looking types...I like those even though I can't find a damn thing in any purse I use now, and end up getting so irritated that I have to figure out a mantra to keep me calm when I have to rummage through my purse. Now, I just need a bigger purse to annoy me more.

* scarves - this is on CJ's list too. She's been wearing them lately. I like the way it looks. I want to be like her.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

I Forgot One Thing...

I forgot to add to my christmas wish list an AC adapter for my iPod touch.

Monday, December 06, 2010

What I Want for Christmas

Look what happens when you get old...your Christmas list vastly changes:

* new speakers for my car
* fix my GPS or get me a new one before I punch out the one that doesn't seem to work anymore
* running shoes
* cool bumper stickers
* The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
* running socks
* running pants
* sports bras
* make up/nail polish as stocking stuffers

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Jingle Bell 5K Race Report

This was me and CJ's sixth race in the Second Empire Grand Prix series.

The morning started out pretty cold, 33 degrees, despite a 10:30 start time. I layered: tights, with running pants over tights; long (cotton) socks over my tights to keep those tucked in and not a single piece of skin showing. Then I had my running tank, an old wick long-sleeve shirt with another one over it, then my fleece jacket. I put gloves in the pocket for later and added a beanie cap on top of my head. The whole time I layered my clothing, I mumbled how I need to forget that my body temp changed in any way. I'm still the same person I was a year ago.

CJ's BFF "R" was staying the night, so she joined us for our morning adventure to the race. No, she wasn't running it. But we all got in the car and headed for Saint Mary's School, where the race would take place.

It was, surprisingly, crowded. Tim decided to drop CJ and I off in front of the school, since I still had to get us registered. As he pulled over, a volunteer was frantically waving us away, thinking we were going into the school.

This would be the first of my bah humbug attitude.

I got out of the car and tried to, as politely as I can be when I get annoyed, that we were not going into the school. Let's just say that this went incessantly too long for her to speak to me and, while I was not overly gruff, I was tense...

So CJ and I are in a building to register. I learned the sometimes overly-complicated process from the Free to Breath race.

The registration forms are on a table, with a big sign that has the fees listed for each race, and who to write the check to. Because I am a participant, I don't bring my purse but one check to write the amount for me and CJ.

The registration fee states $25 for the 5K. I write the check out for $50 and get in line to get our bib and chip.

CJ is first and they give her everything, including her shirt. The only thing CJ gives a crap about with these races? She wants the shirt. I didn't pre-register for the Turkey Trot, so she didn't get her shirt right away for that race...and was none-too-happy with mom about the fact that I didn't pre-register for this one.

But it looks like I am off the hook when they hand her a shirt. Then they get my check for $50 and the woman looks confused. She starts talking to the folks around her and now, bah humbug attitude # 2 hits me.

I find out that the shirt is $5 extra, over the registration fee. So it should be $60 for two fees and two shirts. They all stare at me like "What do we do?" And I just glare back like, are fricking kidding me?

And I bit my tongue so hard that it bled (exaggeration). Perhaps the christmas spirit _was_ in me because I didn't want to start bitching at volunteers with elf outfits on...but what I wanted to say was "You're stupid sign says $25. Why don't you add $5 for a t-shirt?" They took the shirt out of CJ's hands and put it back. Fucking assholes. I would have donated more money if they had just given it to her.

We make it to the start, hoping to find Tim and the gang so I can get him to get her a shirt before they run out. I noticed that, over the course of the morning, maybe due to my anger issues, I was quite warm. Hmmm...I think I overdressed, I think to myself. Fortunately, we see Tim and I hand over my jacket and Tim directs him to find her a shirt.

The race is on and it takes a good few minutes for us to cross the timing mat. It was a very slow start but once we got a brisk pace, I asked CJ if it was too fast or too slow. She said it was fine. This surprised me because it did feel fast, for what we have been doing these past races.

CJ turned to me about 3/4 mile into the race and said "Hey, isn't that Frank?" and I look ahead and sure enough, there's my ex-running buddy Frank. I thought "man, he's taking it slow today" because while we were running briskly, we were not running that fast. I would later learn that he was way behind us in the beginning and then ended up running around 26 minutes.

The route was awesome. It's the same route that the old Second Empire 5K used to have, which is rolling but not that hilly. One funny memory of this route was the time $Bill, Tim and I were running the Second Empire 5K years ago...we ran like a bat out of hell and the first mile split was called out to us and the guy said something like "7:50" and I remember we all reacted like "WTF? We don't run that fast!" It ended up being my PR race for a long time...

Anyway, towards the end, I could hear CJ starting to get really tired. I didn't want to say anything because when I do, she gets upset. I just wanted her to keep going without me disrupting it and then if she felt like she needed to walk, I would let her know that we were a 1/4 mile away.

When we turned the corner to the finish, I finally said to her "Look, the finish is right there" and then she took off. I kept up for a bit but at some point, I just couldn't get my legs to sprint as fast as she could. I noticed the official clock and just turned to 29, so I was a little disappointed that we didn't beat 29 minutes, as fast as it felt to me.

I found out that we were several seconds behind the timer because our chip time was 28:35 (my watch was 28:34). Woo-hoo! I was so proud of her...again.

Afterward, we headed to Krispy Kreme for a donut celebration. She's still in 4th place in the series and overall, it doesn't look like she is going to place. The three girls in front of her are just faster. But regardless, she's trying and being competitive about it.

And she's getting the shirts, which we were able to get after the race.