Sunday, September 11, 2016

My Heart Will Go On

In considering yesterday's race, it's possible that I may have been too hard on myself.

This is a typical problem for me. If I do a presentation and receive five positive comments and one negative one on the evaluations, I only remember the negative one. I've never in my life walked out of anything I've done, a play or a presentation or a workshop or a training, and not dwelled on something that I could have done better.

Now that I've had a good night's sleep and some time to think about it, I wondered if this might be the case. Just this morning, I asked my good friends Angelina Jolie:

Pigeon Forge Hollywood Wax Museum

Dolly Parton:

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and Jennifer Lawrence:

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if they thought I was being too hard on myself, while my friend Orlando Bloom asked to see my finisher's medal more closely:

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Those two jerks from "Twilight" tried to see it, too, but I pretended not to hear them.

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Angelina, Dolly, and J-Law suggested that yes, maybe I was dwelling excessively on the negative. Yes, I was unhappy with my race time, but that was partially my own fault, and I was definitely overlooking the fact that I finished at all. Lots of people wouldn't have.

Thinking about that, I asked a few more friends what they thought.

Brad Pitt wanted me to hit him, as hard as I could.

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I wasn't really down for that.

James Dean thought self doubt was tearing me apart.

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Maybe he was right. After all, Katie Perry thought I was a firework.

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And Dale Jr. thought I was a champ.

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Adam Sandler was slightly skeptical of this whole exercise:

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Cameron Diaz was bored by the whole thing:

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and I didn't really care what Shia LaBeouf had to say:

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but Taylor Swift advised me to just shake this off:

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and Tom Hanks reminded me that races are sometimes like a box of chocolates, and you never know what you're going to get:

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I had a bad race, but it's not the end of the world.

As Channing Tatum and I stared off into the distance, contemplating the race after this one:

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Jack Dawson reminded me to never let go:

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and I decided that yes, my heart will go on.

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There's another race after this one, and I'll do better.

But I also completed this race, and that's also an achievement.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Mystery Finish

I did the Great Smoky Mountains Half Marathon today, for the second time. Unlike the first time, though, I don't really know how I did. The published finishing times don't include me, which would not be terrible if I had noted what time I crossed the starting line.

I, of course, did not do so.

I was at the start line:

Great Smoky Mtns Half Marathon 2016

I was actually at the start line well in advance, before daylight was at the start line:

Great Smoky Mtns Half Marathon 2016

but they start us in waves depending on when our projected finishing time is. I was so focused on getting in my wave and starting in a good mental place that when I finally made it over the start line I didn't think to check the clock. I did think to take a photo of every mile, though, and by adding up the time in between them I have an idea of how I did.

The answer to that question is "not so good".

I finished somewhere before the 3:30 pacer, but I have no idea how much before, since I finished and immediately headed to the car, because my feet were killing me. I was also mentally drained, since I did this race by myself, and wasn't really thinking anything other than "Shower, chocolate milk, I might be crippled, shower, I have a medal, chocolate milk, shower..." on endless repeat through my head.

So how did the race go?

Mile 1

Great Smoky Mtns Half Marathon 2016

I was mostly fine here. A little cranky, as I usually am at the beginning of races, but moving at a good pace.

Mile 2

Great Smoky Mtns Half Marathon 2016

No matter where I am walking or racing, there is always someone pushing a baby stroller who manages to be faster than me. You can't see the stroller in that picture, but right around Mile 2 it went past me and I never saw it again.

I was walking a solid 15 minute mile pace at this point, based on photo time stamps, and managed to do so for five or six miles. Overall, I managed to keep on a 14-16 minute pace the whole way, except for a weird blip about 2/3 of the way through where I dropped down to a 19 minute mile, then must have realized I had slowed down, and did the next mile in 13 minutes.

Mile 3

I have no memory of Mile 3.

It is a thing that existed.

Mile 4

Great Smoky Mtns Half Marathon 2016

Mile 4 also exists. While I don't remember anything specific about it, it was around this point that the road really started to tilt. It's a very winding road, so it tilted one way and then the other, and the uneven walking started to loosen one of my shoes.

This will be important later.

Mile 5

Great Smoky Mtns Half Marathon 2016

I was in my zone at this point. Around the 5 or 6 mile mark, I can usually forget that I'm walking, and just move forward automatically.

That blonde in the light blue shirt next to the girl in the orange shirt? I stayed with her almost the entire race. She was doing a run/walk thing, so she would run ahead, then when she slowed down to walk I would pass her. We did this until Mile 12, when she finally passed me for good and I did not catch up.

Mile 6

Great Smoky Mtns Half Marathon 2016

Mile 6 is where I lost track of reality for a minute.

Somewhere after Mile 5 I decided that we had actually already passed Mile 6, and that the next mile marker, Mile 7, would mean we were over halfway done. So there I was, happily trucking along, and then I came around the corner and saw that we were at Mile 6, not Mile 7.

For a second I thought, "Why did they put up the six mile marker twice?" and almost said something to the people around me, but then I realized that no one else thought it was weird, so I wisely did not say anything.

Mile 7

This is the best photo I have of Mile 7:

Great Smoky Mtns Half Marathon 2016

I was really trucking along at that point, I guess, because all three photos of the Mile 7 marker are blurry.

Note that the road is still slanting.

Mile 8

Great Smoky Mtns Half Marathon 2016

Mile 8 is also slightly blurry, but it's because we were going downhill for a second. Not only that, but there was also suddenly a breeze at Mile 8. I don't know what happened there, but for a minute or two, it was fantastic.

Mile 9

Great Smoky Mtns Half Marathon 2016

Mile 9 is where I realized I had a problem with my shoe.

The tilting, uneven road had caused one of my shoes to loosen a little, so now instead of a snug fit, my left foot was rubbing back and forth on the bottom of the shoe with every step, and my sock was in between my foot and the shoe, rubbing and bunching and chafing.

I should have stopped for a second to re-tie my shoe, so that it would be good and tight again, but since I was making such good time and I was probably getting a little exhausted, I decided that I should just finish instead, because four miles is nothing. I walk four miles after work all the time. I'd just power through those four miles, and then my foot would be fine.

Mile 10

Great Smoky Mtns Half Marathon 2016

At Mile 10, I could feel a blister forming on the foot with the loose shoe.

I convinced myself that I only had a 5K left, and I walk those all the time, so fuck that shoe. Fuck that blister. I am a warrior, and I walk through the pain.

I really should have tied my shoe again.

Mile 11

Great Smoky Mtns Half Marathon 2016

Sometime during Mile 11 I realized that I had a problem in my other shoe, too.

At first, I thought there was a rock in my shoe. I don't know how one would have gotten in there, eleven miles in, but there was definitely a small stone-like object in my right shoe. On each step, I tried to shake my foot around a little, so that it would end up between my toes and not right in ball of my foot (the same spot where a blister continued to form on my left foot), and when I did get it up by my toes I realized I could feel it with my toes.

One of my toenails fell off inside my shoe.

After the race, I discovered that it was my pinky toe nail, and that it will grow back. During the race, I was filled with uncertainty.

"Do I need that toenail? Will it grow back? Did it cut the bottom of my foot, or is my foot just sweaty? I can't tell, but what if my shoe is filling up with blood? How many miles are left until I can take this toenail out of my sock?"

Mile 12

Great Smoky Mtns Half Marathon 2016

I slowed down here. People that I passed early in the race started to pass me now. My left foot was killing me, since the blister wouldn't burst for some reason, and every few steps I had to shake the toenail in my right shoe back into place.

I'm going to say right now, though, that these are not the only reasons why I slowed down. The God's honest truth is that I was not in the shape that I should have been for this race. I took a bunch of rest days all summer long, and ate a bunch of garbage. I have put some weight back on, and my speed is down because I have become a slightly larger person who didn't train enough.

This is my own fault, and I admit that.

These are problems that I will remedy.

In the meantime, I hit Mile 13:

Great Smoky Mtns Half Marathon 2016

I was almost limping at this point, definitely favoring my right foot over my left, but I was still ahead of the 3:30 pacer. Someone called my name, someone gave me a medal:

Great Smoky Mtns Half Marathon 2016

and I gave myself a chocolate milk and a donut.

Now, I'm waiting to hear back from the race management, to find out what my actual times were.

In the meantime, I've resolved to do better next time.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Month in Books: August

I may have gotten a lot of reading done in July, but that didn't happen again in August. It rarely does, because August is one of our busiest times at work, so I'm always happy I got to read anything at all. Unfortunately, most of what I did read was kind of a waste.

With that ringing endorsement in mind, here are the four books I read:

1) It's been years since we saw the Adare family of VC Andrews' Whitefern, and the years have not been kind. While Sylvia has grown into a beautiful young woman, she still has the mind of a child, helpless to care for herself. Papa is in frail health, Arden is drinking heavily, and Audrina is surrounded by memories of the past. When Papa dies, his lawyer reveals the shocking news that Papa cut Arden out of the will, leaving the business and Whitefern to Audrina and Sylvia. What shocking secret prompted him to do so? And how does it threaten the fragile peace of Whitefern and threaten Audrina's quiet, peaceful life?

All of the "shocking twists" in this book were telegraphed chapters before they happened. Read it if you're curious, but you're not missing much. I expected this to be trashy garbage going in, though, so I wasn't really disappointed.

2) Cassandra French is a bored lawyer in LA, tired of dating the wrong man over and over. They're crass, uncultured, insensitive, selfish, and boring, but some of them seem to have a little bit of potential. Cassie, deciding that the best way to find the man of her dreams is to train them herself, opens Cassandra French's Finishing School for Boys, and promptly sets out drugging men and chaining them to cots in her basement. Each day she drugs them with morphine and takes them through a series of lessons in things like matching clothes, getting in touch with their feelings, and how to please a woman. She thinks they're getting closer to graduation, but will she be able to keep the school from being discovered before they can finish their course of study?

This wasn't funny, or clever, or witty, or any of the other words it said on the cover. It was boring.

3) Patrick deWitt's Undermajordomo Minor was a fairy tale that didn't seem to really go anywhere. Lucien "Lucy" Minor leaves the tiny village where he's unhappy to take up a position at the Castle von Aux, where he'll be assisting the majordomo. The castle is full of secrets, and the village below full of quirky characters, and Lucy might fall in love, and the Baroness may return from her long exile, but really none of this seemed terribly interesting. I was bored for most of the book, and when I got to the end I wasn't sure why I'd bother to read it.

This was recommended by a website that usually points me to good things, so I'm wondering what I missed here. Something about it just didn't work for me.

4) Ron Horsley's Beyond the Grass Ocean is a children's book, but engaging and moving enough for adults as well.

Nary, a young girl in the fishing village of Rains Perish, lives alongside the great Grass Ocean, a wide sea of grass so deep that ships sail on it and unknown creatures live in its dark depths. When Nary was younger, her mother got very sick, and then went away, forever away, and now Nary wants to know where forever away is, and why the people who go there never come back. When no one can answer her question, she and her friends set off across the Grass Ocean, searching for the Twined Cities and the twins, Somnol and Mortol, who run the world.

In some ways, this is a typical coming of age novel, but it's also filled with magical, lingering imagery. It made me think a lot about grief, loss, and coping, but also it was just an interesting read. The illustrations are well done, too.

I'm glad I read this. It's the only book out of the four I read this month that I'm going to keep.

The book I'm reading now is pretty entertaining, so I have high hopes for September.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

"Which one of these stupid pencils is Pale Rose?"

A friend recently told me I should relax more.

"You know, try a new hobby or something."

"But I do have relaxing hobbies. I read, and play video games, and I walk. Those are really relaxing."

"Maybe you should try... something more relaxing. I don't know if the stuff you're doing is working."

"I'm not allowed to day drink at work."

"Not that."

I thought about it for a while, wondering if I should be concerned. What if I'm not relaxed enough? Stress can negatively impact your health, and I don't need the extra impact on top of my obesity and violent mood swings. Was I so stressed that my friends were now worried about me or about themselves? Was I projecting some sort of terrible signal that suggested I might either die or snap? Why would my friend even ask that, knowing that wondering about the answer would stress me out even more? What kind of friend does that?

Clearly, I needed to reduce my stress level by reducing my number of friends.

Aside from that, I decided to ask some of my friends who seemed relaxed what they did to get that way. Other than smoking pot (nope), yoga (nope), and having more sex (maybe?), the only other answer that came up more than once was, "You should try coloring! It's really relaxing!" I've seen adult coloring books at the bookstore and Target, and I'll admit that they look sort of interesting. I always though the idea of seriously using one was some kind of weird childhood throwback, though, like, "Everything was fine when I was five! I'll just take this coloring book and pretend I'm five and everything will be fine again!", so I kind of always looked at them with a mixture of intrigue and mild scorn. Still, they seem to make a coloring book for everybody, across all ranges of interest, so I figured I would give this a try.

Adult coloring

I started by becoming immediately annoyed with my colored pencils.

When I was in junior high and high school, I colored all the time in little spiral notebooks, drawing superheroes and then coloring them in. I kept about 100 or so colored pencils in the plastic case from a 1970s vintage Fisher Price medical kit with all the guts removed, and periodically bought new pencils to throw in there. It was perfect because I could see all the pencils at once, and rifle through them for a particular color. The new pencils I bought for these coloring books came in a box.

Sure, it tries to be a helpful box:

Adult coloring

You look at that picture as you're coloring and think, "Oh, yes, I think I need Pale Rose here." Then you open up the box, looking for Pale Rose, and you get this:

Adult coloring

Which one of those very similar pinks is Pale Rose?

Not the first, second, or third one.

You know what's not relaxing? Pulling every single pink colored pencil out of a box until you find the exact shade you want and getting more and more annoyed as each one is Pink and Salmon and Bubblegum and not God damned Pale Rose.

Eventually I moved on from this, and paged through my first coloring book until I saw something that struck my fancy, and then I began coloring:

Adult coloring

My first attempt at relaxation through coloring isn't terrible, but I ran into some problems here as well.

1) The turquoise on that frozen ghost's headdress is too turquoise. I was trying for an overall "shades of blue" look for him, because he's frozen, and that color is jarringly discordant. Coloring books are an unforgiving medium, and once you start using a color you kind of have to commit even if it's the wrong color.

2) I found myself wondering too much about the people in the picture. Who was that lady? What was she doing at the lake? Was she hiking? I doubt it, because she doesn't have a hair tie, and none of the ladies with long hair that I know who go hiking do it with their hair down. If she wasn't hiking, was she a scientist? Maybe a ghost hunter? But if she was a ghost hunter, wouldn't she be prepared for a frozen ghost?

Wondering about the people in the pictures and realizing I had no hope of gaining answers was not relaxing, and the problem continued when I switched over to the gay romance coloring book:

Adult coloring

Where are his pants?

Is he supposed to be romantic because he has no pants on? Because that heart tattoo isn't romantic. It's kind of tacky. And why does he have that dumb look on his face? And why don't I have any better colored pencils for Caucasian skin tones? I was so annoyed with this that I stopped coloring halfway up his arm and just gave up.

I colored, but I'm not sure I feel relaxed.

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Month in Books: July Edition

I read a slightly higher than usual number of books in July, most likely because I took that trip to Seattle and had a lot of time to read on planes. Like, a lot. I read three books on the way there, and I think three on the way back, plus all the books for the rest of the month. Unlike I did in June, July did not have a theme, and was a mixed bag of stuff that looked interesting or just stuff that was on top of the stacks when I went looking for a book.

Here's what I ended up reading:

1) Larry Kramer's Faggots was a leftover from June that I finished in July, and there was a note inside my copy that hoped the content is better than the title. Oddly, the note is also dated "Christmas, 1978", and I find myself caring more about the people involved in the note than I do about any of the people in this book. Who looked at this in late 1978, when it was published, and thought, "What a great Christmas gift!"? And what did the person who received it think? How did it end up at the library book sale, decades later?

I guessed while reading that this was very controversial when it was published, and a quick look at Wikipedia suggests that I'm right. I'm pretty sure that was the goal, though, since it opens with repeated use of the title word, and then in the first 50 pages takes us to a sex dungeon where the protagonist is peed on by a stranger while having sex with another stranger, then launches right into a discussion of rimjobs. While those might be a punchline on "South Park" now, I'm going to assume they were not quite so widely discussed in 1978, at least not on television.

The book itself isn't that interesting. The main character, Fred Lemish, searches for a man to love and build a life with before his impending 40th birthday. His search takes him across a pre-AIDS-epidemic New York City and surrounding locales, from clubs to parties to Fire Island to bathhouses and back, a graphic crawl of anonymous sex and drug abuse that, again, seems designed more to shock than to inform. When I finished, I felt both slight disgust and also sadness. Everything here seemed a bit of a waste, both in the sense that there was very little "there" there, and also in the sense that the entire world and lifestyle that this book describes died out in the early days of the HIV epidemic. If the characters in this book were real people, almost all of them would now be dead.

2) In Grady Hendrix's Horrorstor, things are a little bit off at the Cleveland, Ohio Orsk furniture superstore. When staff comes in each day, bookcases are out of place. Glassware is broken. Couches are soiled with foul substances. Sales are down, so the night before a visit from the corporate office Byron, one of the managers, recruits some of the staff to stay overnight to monitor the store, and try to keep an eye on whatever is happening when the lights are off and everyone is gone. It should be an easy nine hours of overtime, but there is suddenly graffiti multiplying on the staff bathroom walls, rats climbing out of the fake kitchens, and the artificial doors in the showroom are open to hallways that shouldn't exist. It's the last shift for the Orsk staff, and they may never leave the store, dead or alive.

This was a fast read, but entertaining. The book design was really amusing, too, and that's generally not something I pay much attention to. Each chapter page is a little catalog shot of a piece of furniture, and as you get deeper into the book the product descriptions start changing to horrible things. I didn't notice it at first until the picture of the treadmill had spikes on the track, and then I went back and looked at the rest and realized that it had gradually built up as the plot did.

3) Patrick Di Justo's This is what you just put in your mouth? was edu-taining. He takes a lot of household products (not always things you put in your mouth, despite the title), breaks down what's in them, and talks about why it's in there. I learned something in every single chapter, and each entry is only a few pages long, so it's easy to read and take breaks.

Random things I learned:

- A1 Steak Sauce has raisin paste as a base flavor
- One of the main causes of dandruff is a yeast infection in your scalp
- Slim Jims, like yogurt, are partially alive
- Downy Fabric Softener makes your clothes so soft by coating the fibers with a thin layer of lard
- Eggnog producers have been illegally adding yellow food coloring to eggnog for 30+ years with no consequences due to a technicality

From the title and cover, you would probably think this was an anti-science, "OMG YOUR FOOD IS FULL OF CHEMICALS!" book, but it really was pretty unbiased and entertaining.

4) Philip K. Dick's The Man In The High Castle wasn't what I was expecting. It's listed as science fiction, but it's more like fantasy. The story of the US after it lost World War II and was invaded by Germany and Japan, it contains some sci fi elements but for the most part it's alternative history. It was interesting, but I was hoping for a little more resolution. I picked it up with the intention of watching the series, but now that I've read it I'm kind of indifferent. It's been less than a month and I already don't really remember anything about it.

5) David Mitchell's Slade House is a charming British house in a walled, terraced garden. Every nine years the door to the garden appears in nearby Slade Alley, and someone finds their way into Slade House, discovering friends, food, and often a party. Those people are never seen again, except by the next person to find their way into Slade House.

The people I sat next to on the plane to Seattle were very excited about this book, and kept asking me questions about whether it was good ("It seems to be so far"), if I'd read anything by him before ("No"), and if I thought it might make a good movie someday ("I guess it could"), but seemed oblivious to the fact that their constant interruptions to ask those questions made actually reading it a struggle.

6) Truman Capote may not have finished Answered Prayers, but it doesn't feel unfinished. We never find out some of the things that the narrator references, or how some of the narrator's plans turn out, but you could say the same for a lot of Capote's work other than "In Cold Blood". I didn't realize until reading this that Dominick Dunne, whose work I also enjoy, made a career out of copying Truman Capote's, down to modeling his work after some of the same real people and same events.

7) Mark Adams, freelance travel writer, decides to take a trip to a lost land in Meet Me In Atlantis. Drawing on sources both reputable and crackpot, Adams tries to determine whether the lost city ever actually did exist, and if so, where it was. Traveling around the world to meet experts and tour possible sites, Adams keeps up a healthy dose of sarcasm and skepticism even as he finds himself believing more and more in the lost city.

This was a lot of fun to read, and I have to admire someone who can take a subject so often immediately ridiculed and try to dig some archeological science out of it.

8) At the end of her freshman year of college, Genna's roommate, a black scholarship student at a mostly white female liberal arts college, dies under mysterious circumstances after a long campaign of racial harassment. Fifteen years later, Genna tries to come to terms with her own behavior during that time, and whether her fierce desire to protect her roommate helped or hurt her. What happened to Minette Swift, and why? Who was harassing her? And why does her boyfriend seem so interested in Genna and Genna's father, a prominent civil rights attorney? Black Girl, White Girl doesn't quite answer all of these questions, but Joyce Carol Oates does a good job of making you wonder.

I find some of Oates' work stronger than others, in that some of it feels unfinished to me (or, in the case of Carthage finished but terrible, because Carthage is nothing like the town in that book and why base it on a real town if you're not even going to try to make it anything like the town?), but this was a satisfying read. It didn't answer every question, but left a lot of room open for thought and speculation.

9) In Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven, Arthur Leander is a famous actor orbited by a collection of friends, family, and strangers. Kirsten Raymonde, a child actress, is onstage with Arthur the night he dies of a heart attack during "King Lear", and it's also the night that the rapidly lethal Georgia Flu breaks out in Toronto. Within days, civilization as we know it collapses, and fifteen years later Kirsten wanders the ruins of the country with the Travelling Symphony, a troupe of musicians and actors. They move from town to town until they meet the Prophet, a man who may destroy them. In a world of survivors, what else is important besides continuing to survive? What's worth fighting for? And how is Arthur still guiding Kirsten, long after his death and the death of modern civilization entirely?

This was definitely worth reading and worth thinking about. Weeks later, I can still see some of the scenes in my mind.

10) Neil Gaiman's Trigger Warning was an interesting collection of short stories and poems, both modern and fairy tale. Some of them are a little familiar, but with a slightly unfamiliar spin. Not being a Dr. Who fan, I thought the Dr. Who story was interesting, but lack the larger context to really judge it. I liked most of the work here, though, and in some cases wanted to see them expanded into a novel or at least a novella.

11) Megan Abbott's You Will Know Me introduces us to promising gymnast Devon, a prodigy who has a serious shot at making the Olympics, bringing prestige to her gym, her gymnastics club, and her coach. It also introduces us to Devon's family, from her overshadowed, quiet younger brother Drew to her gregarious, charming father Eric, a gymnastics booster club officer who spends most of his time wooing sponsors and organizing events, to her mother, Katie, a woman who is almost willfully blind to a number of obvious things about her daughter, her husband, and their friends that she should have seen much earlier but has to be forced to face.

When Ryan, the coach's niece's boyfriend, is killed in a hit and run, questions swirl through their small, privileged gym community. Does Devon know something? Does the coach? Or was it all just a tragic accident that now threatens Devon's chance to make the nationals? As Katie begins to question everything she knows and everything their family has sacrificed for Devon's dream, she has to ask herself if it was worth it, and if there are still more hard choices and sacrifices to be made.

I liked this, but there was a lot that Katie didn't see because she chose not to. Had she actually taken the time to see a bunch of stuff right in front of her face, this book would have moved along a lot quicker. I like Megan Abbott's work enough that I actually had a note on my calendar to go buy this the day it came out, but this is her weakest book. I spent so much of it grumbling for Katie to just open her damn eyes.

12) Jake Logan's Homecoming is planned to be the first in a series, so I'll need to keep my eye out for the follow up books. It introduces us to Brent Rogers, a soldier in Afghanistan who is a member of the Army's Magi Corps. Trained in healing, force fields, and sensing bombs and mines, Brent struggles to keep the men is his patrol alive until he's sent home for a month by the Army for leave. Now, in Worcester, MA, he struggles to fit in with family and friends who have changed while he's been gone, and a set of senses and reflexes that he doesn't need, or does he? In a hometown crawling with werewolves, vampires, and other unseen threats, is Brent as safe as he thinks, or does danger still lurk around every corner?

I found this enjoyable, but the ending was a little abrupt.

I'm not sure how August is going to look, because August is the busy time in higher education. So far, the regular book I'm reading is slow, and the kindle book I'm reading on the treadmill is full of sex.

I'm not sure what that bodes for the rest of the month.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Seattle

When I was little and we lived in Alaska, all of our mail went through Seattle before it came to us. It was even in our address: APO Seattle Washington, 98733. (APO stands for Army Post Office. Since Alaska is part of the United States but also sort of overseas, all of our mail had to be addressed that way.) As of last week, I have now also been to Seattle, because I went to a conference there.

I arrived a day early, landing on Friday, which gave me most of Saturday to explore before the opening session on Saturday night. Before I could do any exploring, though, I had to make a purchase:

Seattle

I realized after I got there that I forgot to pack a hat. As a bald person (a person who has baldness?) I can't walk around without a hat unless I want a sunburned scalp, so I selected the least offensive reasonably priced hat at the drugstore by the hotel.

Apparently, I selected poorly.

Look, I don't know a lot about the Seahawks. I know that they are a football team, that they play in Seattle, and that when we lived in Alaska and all of our mail went to Seattle there was a player on the team named Brian Bosworth, who later starred in a terrible movie where he had a mullet and rode a motorcycle, and who dated the blonde lady who played Dolph Lundgren's wife in the "Rocky" movie where they went to Russia, and that's all I know about the Seahawks. Several of my friends, though, have greeted that hat with outrage, horror, and repeated suggestions that I both burn it and that I use it as toilet paper. Whoever the Seahawks are, they are apparently terrible.

They did a bang up job of covering my head, though.

I realize I only saw a few blocks of Seattle, but my overall impressions were that it was very clean, very walkable, and full of trees. So many trees, in the middle of downtown even!

Seattle

Seattle

Seattle

Seattle

More Seattle

There was also a lot of art, much of which I was directed toward by PokemonGO, which had many of the locations labeled as Pokestops.

Seattle

More Seattle

Seattle

Seattle

Seattle

Seattle

Seattle

Seattle

I went to a couple of standard tourist places, like the Space Needle:

Seattle

which I went to but did not go up, because I got there at 1 PM and the next available ticket was for 4 PM. I also accidentally called it the CN Tower when I was asking how to walk to it at the hotel desk, and no one corrected me.

I also went to the Pike Place Market:

Seattle

down by the water:

Seattle

and I stayed there for hours! I looked at art:

Seattle

Seattle

and had some mac and cheese from Beecher's:

Seattle

but mostly I just went into stores and looked at things and stared at people:

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I also took myself out one night for an entertaining dinner:

More Seattle

More Seattle

and on the last morning of the conference a delicious hot chocolate and donut breakfast:

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Best of all, I got to see a lot of old friends and former coworkers that I hadn't seen in years, including my former RA, Erika:

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who not only took me out to a delicious Indian dinner:

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but also referred to me as her favorite former supervisor, without prompting or bribing!

I also went to a lot of conference sessions and took a lot of notes, which was the point of my department sending me.

All of the sightseeing was just a bonus on top of that.