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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

What I'm Reading Wednesday: How Long is Too Long?

You may remember me posting that I was reading Goodwin's Lincoln bio, "Team of Rivals."  Or, maybe you had better things to remember. 

Anyhoo, I was reading that tome.

I've since decided to throw in the towel.  It's too dense.  I'm bored with it and can't press on.  Game over.

I learned long ago, as a reader, that my time was more precious than my bragging rights, so if a book doesn't "have" me, I let it go.  That doesn't mean it has to be a lengthy book; it just may not interest me.  But, this book got me to thinking about length, particularly the question of "how long is too long?"

See, I can read a long book.  Two of my all time favs are long books (Les Miz and Gone with the Wind), but I'm a reader who enjoys brevity, and I hate any piece of writing that bloats itself on unnecessary material.  Mostly, I don't blame writers for this.  I blame editors who let writers get away with this.

I think it usually happens once a writer gets popular, and editors just let the writers run hog-wild.  Cases in point:

George R.R. 500-words-for-a-breakfast-description Martin.
"Game of Thrones" is awesome.  First book?  Killed it.  But, then...2nd and 3rd books have great moments, but the reader has to first wade through half of each of those books to get to the great stuff.  I'm taking a sabbatical from his series right now because I was just getting so frustrated with his looooooong ass descriptions of people, places, and items that do nothing to advance the plot.  Dude. 

If I get to the end of this series and a Stark doesn't prevail, and I've read a couple thousand pages about some side character's dinner, the big vein in my head is gonna POP!

Stephen I-think-long-is-awesome King
Look at King's early novels.  "Carrie"?  "The Shining"?  Short, short.  Awesome books.  His more recent stuff?  "11/22/63"?  Really?  Really.  See, unlike some academics, I actually think King has some merit as literature.  His novellas, in particular, are really good.  His short story "The Man in the Black Suit"?  The bestest!  Notice, however, that I pointed to his short works.  The long stuff is best used as kindling ("The Stand" aside -- although, I, unlike Jerry, do NOT think it needed those "50 extra pages" that were included in the most recent, updated edition).

J.K. Potter-riffic Rowling
Notice how, in the Potter series, each novel gets longer and longer?  You can't convince me that the 7th novel needed to be THAT long.  C'mon, everyone was bored to death with that long wait in the woods that took up the entire middle 100 pages of the book.

To me, if the art is good, the length can sustain it.  But if the art is lagging, then the writing is just taking up space.  In the case of "Team of Rivals," I think there maybe need to be two editions: One for the history novice, who just wants to read a Lincoln bio; and one for the history experts/profs out there who have to wade through all the side stuff.  Because, you know, that's their job.  I don't like it when my pleasure reading feels like a job.

So, what about you?  What's too long?  Ever abandon a read because of length or boredom?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Time Travel

Who says it's just for sci-fi?

It exists in my day-to-day life as well.  And, probably in yours.

With kids, work, running, the days often fold into each other with surprising speed.  So much so, that I'm often stunned to sit down and realize that a few days or weeks have slipped through my fingers.  Or, that a month is nearly at its close.

The days go so quickly, and I know that means I'm supposed to sit down and value them that much more, but man alive, I'd love to freeze it -- Matrix-style -- so that everything else around me gets suspended, but I get to catch up.  Thankfully, I kinda DO get to do that.

Next week is spring break.  Thank god.  A week to breathe. 

If only I didn't have about 125 essays to read...

Thursday, February 21, 2013

As Seen on TV

Last week, Norah called me a "chickenhead" and then she did this version of a "cock-a-doodle-do," accompanied by a physical "chicken" dance that reminded me of every single character on "Arrested Development," and Michael Bluth declaring, "Has anyone in this family ever even seen a chicken?"

Since then, I've been noticing TV-resemblences in all kinds of things the kids do.  This probably indicates that I watch too much TV, but whatever, it's hilarious, bear with me.

For Chirstmas, Norah got a scooter.  She loves it.  And she rolls everywhere on it.  It totally reminds me of Gob on "Arrested Development" with his segway:

So, yeah, I'm hotly anticipating Nexflix's release of the new "Arrested Development" in May (because it's the best show that ever got cancelled), but I have also observed the kids as other TV characters.  Principally, Caleb has a way of drinking from a water fountain that is EXACTLY like Andy Dwyer on "Parks and Rec."  Observe: Me thinks he may be part-Pawneean!

Norah also does a great version of "Big Bang Theory's" Sheldon's favorite tune: "Soft Kitty."  But, Blogger is being a be-yotch about loading all these videos, so you'll just have to imagine that one.

Trust me, it's a gem.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What I'm Reading Wednesday

Last week, my SIL, Carrie, was visiting and she was finishing up Mindy Kaling's "Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?" and she left it for me to read (and, Jerry forced Harry Potter on her, because to him, it doesn't matter that she has zero Potter-interest; to him, it's a crime for a person to not have read Harry Potter.  ever.).

It's hard to mention Kaling and not "The Office" in the same sentence, so if you like "The Office" (and I mean "The Office of Yore" not the current version that's parading around on TV as an Office-imitator that is no longer very funny), you might share Kaling's sense of humor.  Actually, her show "The Mindy Project" is much closer to her voice in this book -- which is a show I sometimes find funny and sometimes don't (but, the first 3 minutes of the Valentine's episode?  hil.ar.i.ous.) -- so when my SIL left it for me, I wasn't entirely sure if I would like it.

The long and short of it is: I loved her book.  And that surprised me.  It was a fun, funny, easy, refreshing read.  Her voice is kinda Valley-girl, but I found it charming, not annoying, because it's a smarter, sassier version of Valley-girl.

Despite the comparison of her to Tina Fey, Kaling freely acknowledges in the book's prologue that she's no Fey (agreed.  I read "Bossypants" twice, back-to-back, because I thought it was so great; I don't think I'd read this twice despite enjoying it), and I think that's part of why I found her writing likable.  Kaling's very self-aware despite the satirical way she sometimes creates a more grandiose characterization of herself.  Keeping her humor grounded, and realizing perhaps her limitations, made the book feel genuine. 

One bit of criticism is really an editing tidbit, and that is some of her word choice got repetitive: I think she used "behoove" and "pejorative" about 20 times each, and those are not words you need 20 times in a book that's about 200 pages.  But, aside from that small gripe, the book is fun: It's like a bouncy-house at a kids' party.  Who doesn't have fun in a bouncy house?  Everyone needs a fun, light read from time to time.  And, as I say above, it's short -- as she describes, "this book will only take 2 days to read!" -- and that's about all it took me.

On to my other recent read, which I'm not quite done with: Melanie Shankle's Mom-Memoir "Sparkly Green Earrings."
It is ok.

Well, I should qualify that "ok" with the explanation that it's maybe just not a book to my taste.  It may very well suit many others' taste perfectly.

First off, at times, it is awesomely hilarious, and she has some moments where I literally LOL'd as she describes pregnancy, children, and motherhood.  And, I like her down-to-earth approach about many of these topics.

However, how can I put this?  Well, she's a bit Jesus-y for my taste. 

Which, had I read the description better before I downloaded it via iBooks, I probably would've caught, but alas, I am a lazy e-reader-browser, and I read the description too hurriedly and what I got then was a book that's not entirely up my alley.  Don't get me wrong, I gotz no beef with God or God-talk...if done right.

This, however, is not really done naturally.  A writer like Anne Lamott seamlessly weaves her faith into her essays without it feeling like all of sudden the reader is getting beaten over the head by the interjection of religion.  Unfortunately, Shankle is no Lamott, and the book will be tra-la-la-ing along in this light-hearted humorous way, and then BAM!  God.  So my beef isn't with the inclusion of her faith; it's in the clumsy writing.

Still, I'd recommend it to some readers, especially those who may not mind the Bible-babble, alongside the mom-narrative.  For me, though, it just doesn't entirely work.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Does Size Matter?

Below, from left to right, are the medals from the 2008, 2010, 2012, and 2013 A1A Half Marathon. 

Notice a trend?

They seem to be adopting an American favorite: Bigger = better.

I'm not necessarily gonna transform this post into a Grumpelstilskin rant about how the world isn't as great now as it used to be, but I'll be honest, I kinda want to stand at the end of a driveway and throw empty beer cans at this most recent medal.  It's just so...obnoxious. 

Not to mention, inaccurate (there are no seahorses to be found off Ft. Lauderdale's coast).

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not arguing that race medals aren't totally rad.  You finish a race, and you want something to display that says, "BOOM!  I killed it!"  Medals, thus, are a wonderful, tangible symbol of a runner's accomplishment. 

But...I don't think a GIGANTOR medal validates the experience more than the regular-sized race medals of yore (equally, I don't think a bigger diamond on an engagement ring means that that couple's love is better than any other couple's; the symbolism is the same -- and don't get me off topic about that because I could, for sure, take a looooooong detour about how diamonds in and of themselves have zero symbolism; it's the ring that shoulders the symbolic weight of "eternity" -- anyhoo, so much for "not getting off track").

Disney has always had their trademark character medals, which are famously large and intricate, but Disney is a fantasyland, and their races seek to continue a fantasy atmosphere in their design, so big ole medals make sense for those venues, and you expect to pay a little more* for that experience.

But, I've observed that in the last few years, race medals in general seem to be racing each other for Disney-fication and one-upmanship.  To the point that I think they're starting to get absurd.  The progression of A1A medals point to this evolution.

Below, is the back of the 2008 medal (which is a seashell -- fitting).  Cool, right?

It's a nice, unique looking medal.

In 2010, they modified the original by making the shell open to display the interior info and design that was on the back of the original:

Ok.  A cool idea and still not a Hulk of a medal.

I liked the flip flops from 2012 (only pictured in the first pic at the top), but I said last year to Jerry that it weighed "as much as Caleb."  Also, notice how the 2012 ribbon suddenly got upgraded and fancified.

Which then leads into 2013's Monstro, which essentially combines a few qualities from the previous medal ideas into one: Hugeness, opening center, and a fancy ribbon.

So, the original medal got bastardized into this ostentatious sumbitch that weighs as much as Norah and Caleb combined; it's so heavy around the neck, I immediately removed it because it felt like I'd just been noosed with an albatross.
I'll grant that the design is pretty and the concept is cool...HOWEVER, how much does a mutha like this cost to manufacture?
Because, I for one (and, I may be the minority here), would rather a cheaper, smaller, more subtle medal and also pay a wee bit less in my entrance fee.  (I'd also opt out of a shirt for a more affordable race fee).  I want my race fees to go to the stuff that matters to me as a runner: Refreshment, safety, and porta potties.  And, I'd be willing to pay less for fewer frills.
Or, at least, I'd like the a la carte option (like Bolder Boulder does).
Geez, never mind my prologue about avoiding being a Grump on this topic; looks like Grump snuck in despite my best efforts.  Guess it's time to go buy some beer and get ready to yell at kids to "stay off my lawn!"
*Disney is getting redonkulous with their race fees.  I wanted to run their Tower of Terror 10 Miler in October, but Christ on Crutches, do you know what the entry fee is?  $135!  That, to me, is a jaw-dropping fee.  If the race were half that cost, I'd have registered as soon as I got the heads-up email; as it is, I think I'll skip it.

Monday, February 18, 2013

13.1 Things about A1A

I definitely have a long, windbag race report in me about this race, but I decided to forgo boring you.  Because I like you.  Remember that.

So, in loo of said lengthy race report, I figure I'll just summarize some of the race's highlights:

1.  It was cold.  45 degrees at the start.  For FL, there are not enough hyperbolized comparisons to describe that kind of cold.

2.  Thankfully, my race morning timing was near-perfect and I only had to stand in the corral and suffer that cold for about 10 minutes.

3.  Once running, I definitely prefer 45 degrees to 85 degrees.

4.  It wasn't the cold that was running's enemy in this race; it was the wind.  For the portion on A1A itself, there were some powerful headwinds.

5.  I was thankful I wasn't running the marathon; those runners had a much longer section straight into that wind.

6.  Each time I run an HM and I'm thankful for the turn-off from the marathon, I know that I'm not yet ready to return to marathons.  It's been 6 years, and each time I get to turn off where the two courses split, I feel nothing but relieved.

7.  Note to self: If I ever do return to marathons, I must choose races where a half isn't an option.  I believe it would eff with my brain seeing that option.

8.  In a turn-around course, like this one, a headwind eventually becomes a tailwind.  Lovely.

9.  I wore my long sleeves the entire race.

10.  And I was thankful I had decided, at the last minute, to wear tights.

11.  I was probably too conservative with my pace, especially in the first half of the race, because when I finished, I felt like I could go another few miles.

12.  Oh well, I don't mind being conservative if it means I can run a steady, consistent race, which I did.

13.  I never consumed anything on the course: Not a drop of water nor a Shot Blok.  Nada.  I think I barely sweated through the entirety of the race and I honestly wasn't thirsty until I finished.

.1.  I finished in 2:13:29.  Not even close to a PR, but as I said above, a solid race where I ran an average 10:08 min/mile pace.  I'm happy with that.

That's a mega medal, isn't it?  Yeah, I have thoughts on that behemoth as well.  Think I'll explore those thoughts tomorrow.

Friday, February 15, 2013

A1A: HM Race Preview

On Sunday, I'll be running my 5th A1A HM. 

Well, technically, it's my 5th.

I first ran it in 2007, just a few weeks after completing the Disney Marathon, after which I was suffering from a bad case of ITBS, but I was pretending that I wasn't.  So, I started A1A that year, but only ran about 2-3 miles before bowing out, shamefully.  It is one of 2 races where I DNF'd.

Since that 2007 embarrassment, I've returned to the race and successfully finished it 3 times.  My fastest time on the course was my first time; I ran it in about 2:09.  Last year, when Caleb was almost 9 months old, I ran my slowest course time; I can't recall specifically what my time was, but it hovered somewhere around 2:27.  I had an awful race last year where I just completely bonked around mile 9 and never found the hutzpah to recover myself.

This year?  Who knows what's in store.

The weather is promising (for runners), as the temp is supposed to dip tonight into the 40s, and the current forecast predicts it will be right about 50 degrees at the start on Sunday (maybe colder, depends on which weather forecast you trust).  For me, that bodes well.  I run best in that "perfect" range of temp. 

My one contemplative point about the weather is whether (like that word play?  aren't I clever?  do clever people point out their cleverness?) or not to invest in a pair of arm warmers, which can probably be easily snagged at the expo this afternoon.

Otherwise, my training has been solid -- nothing that promises that I'll run an awesome, PR-setting race, but solid.  And, I've been pleased that I've been able to maintain my streak while also doing the HM training.

So, the training is under my belt, the weather should be pleasant for a race (perhaps, too windy, but that's always a risk for a beachfront course), my Forerunner 110 once again resurrected itself (zombie Garmins!); thus, I think I'm all set.  Now, we'll just see how race day plays out.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Be Mine: Sweetheart Week

Some people are rather cynical about Valentine's day -- which, hey, I get it; it does feel like forced, expected sentiment, and no one appreciates feeling like they have to express a certain emotion on a designated day -- but, I like Valentine's Day.

And, with kids, all holidays are more.  Just MORE.

So, the Valentine lead-up has first and foremost included some Valentine cupcake making and decorating, which apparently, is done in your undies:

So much sweetness for the sweeties!

Speaking of sweeties...yeah, I'm that smooth with transitions...As for the Jer-Bear and I, we celebrated our V-Day this past Saturday by having a date night.  We went to a nearby brewery/restaurant and enjoyed some brews and some good food:

After dinner, we went to see "Argo" (finally! we've been wanting to go since it came out more than 6 months ago, but time at the movies is limited, ya know), and it was...wait for it...awesome.  One of the best movies I've seen in awhile (I do also recommend "Looper," which we saw via OnDemand recently; very smart sci-fi flick).  "Argo" was thoughtful, but also incredibly suspenseful!  The last 30 minutes have you on the edge of your seat; plus, I appreciate a movie that doesn't "waste" any time and bloat itself on its self-importance. 

Anyhoo, yeah, I'm gushing more about my love of the movie than my love of my husband.  But, you know, I've had 7 and 1/2 years of marriage and I just saw "Argo" -- like most love stories, it's two different romances: the story of falling in love vs. the story of staying in love.

Lastly, the kids have been working on crafting their Valentine's cards the past few days, which really means a mess of glitter and stickers.  And, mostly, their Auntie Care-Bear has done 99.9% of the crafting; still, Norah was proud of this one that she made for her boyfriend, Brady: 

As a final thought, in keeping with the romance of Valentine's week, as I celebrate my love with my husband and with my family, I'm also thinking about other loves in my life: Friendship, work, and, of course, running.
For me and running, we didn't share "love at first sight"; instead, it was a slow romance, but in the end, like some of the best romances, it has been consistent and reliable.  And as I touched on above, the best part of my run-mance, is that we have stayed in love, which is maybe most genuine kind of love.  Sometimes I take running for granted, and sometimes, running and I get into fights and misunderstandings, but I always like running.  As in, like-like.
What about your love affair with running?  Was it love at first sight or were you like a modern romantic comedy that began as, or has evolved into, a love-hate?

Monday, February 11, 2013

What to Do, What to Do

So, in 6 days, I'm running the A1A half marathon and I don't have a reliable Garmin.

The 305, which briefly seemed revived after a software update, resumed its previous comatose state, and shortly thereafter, my 110 followed suit.  Garmins, sheesh, they're SO cliquey!

Occassionally, some combination of random button-pushing, time on their respective chargers, and prayers received by the Garmin Gods, spontaneously turns them on, but then, tired, they got back into what I now think of as "rest" mode. 

Because of my own combination of procrastination and delusional belief that I can fix things on my own, sending either one in to Garmin headquarters for repair and getting it back in time for the race is no longer an option.

Can I run a race "blind"? 

I'm sure I can, but I really don't want to.

Which leaves me with one or two race day options: A.) Buy a new Garmin or, B.) Cross my fingers, sacrifice a chicken, and work what voodoo I can.

Either one seems a legit possibility.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

That's What He Said

After all the poop talk here on my blog, it probably shocks you that my kids have become "potty" mouths.

You might think it natural for Norah -- she is 3, and the very nature of 3 year olds is to be little shits -- but for Caleb, who is still an innocent 20 month old, it might come as a surprise.  Alas, the little dude has discovered the descriptive language to identify the critical emission of bodily functions.

On the practical end, he's begun telling us (sometimes) when he's pooped.  He approaches, tilting his hips and holding out his butt and declares, simply, "Poop!"  It's helpful.  Seriously, it's actually awesome.  It makes the guessing game of "What's that stink?" way easier.

On the not-so-practical end, he's begun identifying farts.  Which, for him, probably is practical.  To us, it's just hilarious. 

The dude has less than 50 words in his lexicon, but last week, he tooted and said matter of factly: "Fart."  I agreed, by all technical terminology, it was a "fart"; however, in terms of the physical traits, it seems that the little poot emitted by a toddler should be labeled something far cuter, something like a "fuzzy bunny."  As in, "Awwwww, Caleb just let a fuzzy bunny loose!"

Anyhoo...if I haven't lost you by now, I'll move forward. 

On Sunday, the kids and I were at the dinner table and Jerry was in the kitchen finishing up the cooking, and Jerry farted -- a classic Jerry move; it was loud and rumbly and everything that's the opposite of a "fuzzy bunny."  Caleb didn't miss a beat, he pointed a finger at the kitchen and yelled: "Fart!"

Yes, I certainly agreed: THAT was a fart.

Monday, February 04, 2013

So, That was January

January is the Monday of Months.

It's tough to get back into the swing of things after the holidays, and even though the month feels like a fresh start to the new year, like the first day of the work week, it's generally hard to get excited about it.

For me, though, it was a nice way to ease back to streaking.  No super high mileage, just the steady routine of running every day.  So, the month shaped up like so:

31 days of running

110 miles run.

Decent.  Last time I broke 100 miles in a month was September, so it felt good to be back what feels like a "full" month of running.  Now, we'll see what February has in store!