Sunday, July 31, 2005

Sunday miscellany.

I'm sitting here at work on a sunny Sunday afternoon waiting to see if anyone will come in to do a code review for me and alternately wondering whether I should do any more work before checking in. I'm listening through to Chris's new Mountain Goats album for the first time continuously. It's pretty good! I remember seeing him a number of years ago opening for Lilys at a little anonymous venue in Philly. He's come a long way.

Last night was the Torchlight race associated with the Seafair Torchlight parade. It was hotter than hell, provided that hell is not hotter than 85 degrees. I'm not sure who organizes an unbroken western exposure race route at 6:30pm in July. Well, that's a lie -- I AM sure. It's the organizers of the Torchlight race. I am becoming so cranky with race organizers in my young-middle age. Under the circumstances I was happy with my time. Chopping the 30 seconds or so that I lost in the beginning because of the lack of chip time at the start, I finished the 8k in about 41 minutes. Not my fastest race, but fast given the crap heat conditions of the afternoon. I went with a bunch of other people, some of whom did the 8k and some of whom did the 5k, all of whom had pretty good races. I hate non-morning races. And yet I'm glad I did this race -- it feels like an important race to have done. It's nice to have done local races of local significance. It's situating, grounding, weirdly community-affirming.

This might be my last race until the SJnJ half-marathon on Labor Day. On the other hand, it might not be. Mike is talking about running the FootZone 5k next Sunday, so I'll play with the idea. I need to do fewer short races so that I can up my distance training again, but I have a hard time turning down a friendly local race when other people I know want to run it. We'll see how it goes. I kind of want to hit up some new trails next weekend if I can find anyone willing to go with me.

One more thing: anyone have the new Silversun Pickups album? Thinking of stopping to get it on my way home tonight...

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Habla baseball?

Heather posted a link to this story on her blog:

Little League umpires in rural Massachusetts ordering players not to speak Spanish during games? Yep. The umps said that they were concerned that coaches would use Spanish to communicate "illegal" instructions to their players. Putting aside the xenophobia that's in play here, I'm wondering how the umpires feel about the classic secret base-running and bat-swinging signs that have been standardly used by coaches and players more or less since the inception of baseball.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Of races and Renaissance fairs.

Traffic needs to die down so I can go home and relax at a normal time for one night this week. I'm wiped. Everyone is wiped. I'm cranky. Everyone is cranky. But I am especially cranky, this week. But as it happens, so is everyone else. Too much to do.

That notwithstanding, I liked the show last night. It turns out that I like Tullycraft, I love Math and Physics Club, and The Salteens (spelled wrong below) are kinda good and kinda Renaissance fair-ish. If I saw them at a Renaissance fair, I'd probably walk away thinking, hey, those guys were pretty good. Which is, incidentally, more or less what Chris thinks about the most recent Decemberists album.

I'm racing again tomorrow, the Torchlight thing downtown at 6:30pm. I don't like evening races, and yet I'm doing the 8k anyway. This has been the summer of the short race, one every two or three weeks. I feel like I'm constantly in weird race-driven training. I think this should be the last one until the half marathon I'm planning to do on Labor Day weekend. I'm feeling in desperate need of increasing my mileage these days. Maybe it'll help with the crankiness.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Forgive me, Heather, for I have sinned.

I bought the new Tullycraft album yesterday after hearing them on KEXP yesterday morning (and planning to go see them open for Math and Physics Club and the Saltines tomorrow night). I am totally smitten. I love the thing.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

The rurban lifestyle.

Yesterday we went to Simone's birthday party at Alex and Vilde's lake cabin in Snohomish county. Many hours of swimming and barbecuing and smore-making later, I was thinking about the appeal of cabins -- not just vacation getaways, but cabins specifically. There's something about the nature of the space and the fact that it's small that promotes intimacy among groups at several times normal speed. This is even true when it's summer and the weather is great and you're spending most of your time outside. This place isn't too far from the city, and yet it feels completely different, and your interactions with people, even people that you see and spend time with frequently in normal life, feel kind of different as a result.

Lately I'm feeling like a victim of too much activity again. The time in the woods yesterday was activity but it wasn't. Mainly what it did is make me look forward to my (non-cabin based) honeymoon. I'm questioning the wisdom of having delayed it.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

In search of bubblegum.

Continuing the musical theme...

I've been thinking lately about the perfect pop song. I'm not even sure what that means, except that I know what it means. I know it when I hear it. Maybe it's about three minutes long, maybe it has catchy hooks, many the lead vocal is alto or tenor. On the other hand, maybe not.

My nominees include:

"Good Vibrations" - The Beach Boys
"Vacation" - The Gogos
"Oh, L'Amour" - Erasure
"12:51" - The Strokes
"Wrapped Up in Books" - Belle and Sebastian

So, what are yours? Perfect pop song.

Monday, July 18, 2005

You might as well be dead, she said, if you're afraid to fall.

This morning I did something I haven't done in a while: I stayed in my car after getting to work to get to the end of the song I was listening to. Why? Because I heard "Not Too Soon" by Throwing Muses come on KEXP as I was arriving at work. And a day that begins with "Not Too Soon" is bound to be a good day.

So my question is: what song is it worth staying in your car to hear the end of?

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Dorky ways to spend a weekend.

The secrecy in my new marriage is officially at an end: yesterday was Puzzle Safari 2005. Our team (which had Ryan, Alex, and Brian in addition to me), The Ratio of People to Cake, finished 9th out of about 60 teams. Chris, who helped organize it, can now talk to me about puzzles again. Despite goading from Martyn, I managed to avoid blogging during the event itself. Somehow.

So the deal with Puzzle Safari is that the answers to puzzles are locations on the Microsoft campus, and you have to visit these locations on foot -- no cars, bikes, rollerblades, whatever -- to retrieve stamps for your logbook. I spent a couple of hours solving puzzles and about three and a half hours solving the traveling salesman problem plotting out the most efficient course around campus while running as fast as I could. The task of the runner is harder than it seems like it should be -- it's pretty hard to optimize your route in light of new solutions that your team is phoning in to you all the time and in light of the fact that you're finding challenges en route that you need to go complete for extra points (and in light of the fact that you're doing this all while running) and still hit the time deadlines that you need to hit each round for turning in your logbook. My quads and lower back are begging for mercy today. It was really fun, though.

It was a fun day, and I haven't even mentioned the fact that the new Harry Potter arrived yesterday!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Choosing a career path.

I didn't end up buying any of those CDs I was browsing the other day, at least not yet. But does anyone remember Stacey Q? Did she really exist, or was she just a figment of my imagination? How about the episode of The Facts of Life where Tootie did her big New York audition to the Stacey Q classic Two of Hearts? What was that song even about? Except that in the end Tootie (what kind of a name is Tootie?) didn't really audition because she felt bad about trying to sabotage the Budding Starlet whose audition song was also the Stacey Q classic Two of Hearts so she gave the Budding Starlet her own, final audition slot? And then the Budding Starlet no doubt went on to a highly successful career while Tootie returned to Peekskill to help manage a novelty store called "Over Our Heads" with her unemployed high school friends and their school cook/caretaker kind of woman and a barely pubescent George Clooney the handyman and wasn't that a great career move.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

The other side of age.

I'll never complain about this race again:

I finished first in my age cat! Apparently there is some advantage to getting old.

Hey, race directors!

This morning I ran the 5k associated with the Seafair Marathon. I was thinking of doing the half, but some other people I know were doing the 5k so I signed on for that as well. It was a weak field, so I ended up finishing fairly high within it (although I won't have the official results until tomorrow), but my time for me was only so-so; adjusting for the two extra blocks they apparently added to the official certified course, I finished in about 24 minutes.

More on those two blocks: they evidently set up the start line in the wrong place. In the end I can see how the organizers might think that it doesn't much matter; a local 5k is a local 5k is a local 5k. But it's the principle of the thing. As a race organizer, why bother arranging for course certification and paying for chip timing if you're not going to do it right? Because not only was the start line screwy, there was also chip timing only at the finish of the race. Seriously, if you're cashing out for chip timing anyway, how much more can it possibly cost to do it right and to include the timing mat at the start of the race as well as at the finish?

I estimate that I've run about a hundred races of varying distances. Maybe I'm becoming a snob. Okay, definitely I'm becoming a snob (becoming?), but there are some bare minimum requirements that I try to make sure that races I meet before I sign up for them:

1. Officially certified course.
2. Chip timing, and get it right.
3. Online registration works smoothly.
4. Interesting, well organized route.
5. Reasonably convenient parking at or transit to race start/finish.
6. Appropriate water/fuel on course.

I've done a couple of races in the last year that I absolutely won't run again -- such as the Beat the Bridge that I ran a few months ago -- because it falls short of these marks in multiple categories. There are some other niceties that are great to have (charity tie in that doesn't require fundraising, interestingly small or large field, etc.), but their absence doesn't cause a deal breaker.

There are a couple of novelty races that don't meet all these criteria, such as Hood to Coast, that I've really enjoyed and for which I'd sacrifice a lot of these requirements in order to be able to run it again. But it has to be a really cool event that offers a distinctive and fun experience separate from the racing itself.

You may be wondering why this stuff matters. After all, I may be competitive in my bracket but I'm not in danger of winning too many races. Who cares? Why not just enjoy the run?

Because the thing is that I don't need to sign up for a race if what I'm looking for is to enjoy a run. I enjoy a run almost every day. When I sign up for a race, I'm looking to enjoy the run, but I'm looking for more than that. I'm looking to race. To compete. And even if my accomplishments are never going to earn me anything more than second-place finishes in small, local races, having the rest of the field out there with me, racing to hit personal bests, makes me a better, faster runner. I perform better because of their presence. And, competitive or not, it's important to have benchmarks against which one can measure oneself. So what if I'm not winning? I still want to know how fast I can run 5k, or 10k, or a marathon. I want to know because I want to see the results of the hard work that I invest in training. The details matter. If the details didn't matter, I'd go hit the trails on my own all the time instead of signing up for races. And I think that runners at the middle of the pack or even the very back of the pack feel this way too. The goal isn't to win, but it is to race. And you need something to race against. For those of us who aren't elite, which is almost everyone in every road race, what we're racing against isn't the other runners. It's a standard that we can rely on, measure our progress with respect to, and feel our improvement.

Friday, July 08, 2005

We get one real summer, ridiculous and sublime.

Seriously, I am considering ordering CDs by The Primitives, The Housemartins, The Ocean Blue, and god help us Anything Box. This is only a tiny subset of the albums I've browsed online today, and most of them are things I owned on cassette back in the day. There's something comforting about having the soundtrack to the summer between my junior and senior years of high school on command, ready to go any time I need it. Even if, technically, The Housemartins well predated that. I've already replaced most of my The Beautiful South collection.

This is a good use of time on my day off.

In three years, that summer will have been half my life ago. You know you have your Anything Boxes too.

Thursday, July 07, 2005


I wanted to write a review of My Summer of Love tonight, but I can't, because of London. I have observations to make about a romance between two unstable teenage girls and I can't, because those observations are facile and stupid and a little bit glib, and I can't make myself write them all out when there are real things going on in the world that I feel like I should be writing about instead. Except I'm not. Because on the real things, all anyone can say is facile and stupid and a little bit glib, and with regard to real things, that feels facile and stupid and a little bit glib. Better to tailor the tone to the topic matter. Maybe. Except that today, I can't write about the movie either.

I have problems, but on the scale of people with problems I don't have problems. I have problems that most people, even people who know me pretty well, aren't aware of. I have other problems that other people are aware of, but on the scale of people with problems they're pretty normal problems to have (divorced parents are facile, stupid, glib; the normal range of vices are facile, stupid, glib; wanting stuff you can't have is facile, stupid, glib), which used to make them more interesting when I thought about it but which now makes them less. Which is not a bad thing, to have them be less interesting. The trick is making less interesting mean less important.

It's not trivial.

So I saw this movie, and I have things to say about it, but mainly what I can say is that it was fine. Both the movie and what I have to say about it are not too consequential. I mean it: no consequences. Or no interesting, important ones. Which I guess is not what you're going for, as a filmmaker or an artist or a writer or a musician or for that matter a teacher or a doctor or a ballroom dancer. People strive for consequence. Consequence adds meaning to our causal actions. Show me a cause without any effects and I'll show you an action that, in light of everything, is pretty unimportant. And most of our actions are pretty unimportant.

What I'm wondering is how many actions that are important are important because they create positive consequences, and how many are important because a few gloryhunters blow up some trains and buses and create a shitload of negative consequences for a bunch of people they don't know.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Things to read.

In the middle of everything else I somehow managed to finish both Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs and The Jane Austen Book Club in the last couple of weeks. I can recommend the first and less so the second (unless you're my mom, in which case you'll like the second but not the first).

I've been thinking lately that I need to finally read Anna Karenina, so I think that's going to be my next project after making my way through backlogged Harper's and the new Harry Potter in a couple of weeks. I just need to find a copy that's not emblazoned with the Oprah bookclub logo.


Thanks to everyone who has started sending us pictures. Once we have most of them in, I think we're going to repurpose our wedding website for people to see them. I am eager to get the pictures back from Brad, our photographer. His turnaround time is pretty fast, so we ought to have them by next week sometime. At least I am confident that I didn't look like a big pouf of tulle.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Photographic follow-up.

P.S. If anyone has pictures from Saturday, we'd love to have them. My plan is to put all the digital pictures that we receive from you guys on a website so that everyone can share them.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

The big day.

Plot summary of my wedding:

Spent the afternoon eating and hairing and makeupping with bridesmaids and generally chilling out and having all of the above documented by our photographers. After my panic at my hair trial, things actually worked out really well yesterday -- I was pretty happy with how both hair and makeup turned out for all of us.

We strove for brevity and irreverence in ceremony stylings. I think we accomplished both. It featured a romantic Bollywood number from Pankaj, a reading of The Owl and the Pussycat from Ray, articulate and sweet vows from Chris, and somewhat more scattered but well-intentioned vows from me. Recession to "Birdhouse in Your Soul."

Although I spilled salad on my dress (oops) a few bites into my dinner and spent the next half hour running around trying to remove it (which I mostly did) and therefore missed dinner, I am told that the food was reasonably good.

Although my sister told the one story I had expressly requested her not to tell because it makes me sound like a deranged young psycho, her toast and all the toasts were great.

Although it was an overcast day, the sun broke through the clouds around 9 and we got a very nice sunset.

Although lots of friends and relatives weren't able to make it, many of them were and we had a great time with everyone. And thank you to everyone for all the nice gifts, which continue to trickle in!

Although the song was started a little late, Chris and I nevertheless managed to make our marital debut to "The Final Countdown" in what we hope was a suitable nod to our Arrested Development brethren.

All in all it was wonderful. It passed by in kind of a blur and I didn't get to spend as much time talking with everyone as I wanted to, but things worked out pretty much exactly as we had hoped (minus the salad oil spill, maybe!). I can't wait to get the pictures back.

And no, I didn't change my name.