Sunday, September 30, 2007

Five out of five.

The five bands whose most recent albums are also the last five albums that I've bought are:

The National
Imperial Teen
The New Pornographers

What a great surprise Maps was. I am one of those customers, who went into Sonic Boom with no intention of buying anything, won over by the album playing in the store at the time. How good it is to be susceptible.

Nothing unanticipated with the Stars album (In Our Bedroom After the War), which I've been waiting for for months. I guess the album leaked online in an earlier stage, but I'd held off for the real release. Stars and the New Pornographers seem to be on a simultaneous release schedule. Last time, the Stars album was a clear winner for me; Set Yourself on Fire is in my top few albums ever, while Twin Cinema was merely very good. This time I think I'm giving the edge to the New Pornographers, but both are in pretty heavy rotation right now.

I'm in a music acquisition mode and I'm apparently all about what's happening right now -- anything else recent and great to recommend?

Monday, September 24, 2007

How do I love thee, Deborah Madison?

Deborah Madison, you're a freakin genius. I've long been a fan of Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, which really is for everyone, vegetarian or not. I've given the big orange cookbook as a gift at least ten different times, and we use it every week or two in our house. The recipes are simple and as close to foolproof as I can imagine. And they're pretty darn tasty to boot.

But with this soup cookbook, you've outdone yourself. We bought it on a snowy day in our neighborhood last year and we've never looked back. And I'm sitting here right now eating the smoky tomato bisque and giving thanks to the cookbook gods that you're willing to share your recipes. You are a culinary hero!

Go get this cookbook, people. Seriously.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The grass is always greener on the other side of the border.

The last few weeks have been about regional and personal exploration, from Vancouver and the Puyallup Fair to family relationships and job satisfaction. Some of these have been more fun than the others.

Dispensing with the clear highlight right off the bat: Everything that Chris told me about Mutton Bustin last year is true. It's like a rodeo, only with kids under six and sheep. It turns out that those sheep can really move! Well, you'd move too if you had a random unexpected kindergartener hanging on to your back for dear life. If you are or have a child under six years old and under 60 pounds, don't wait -- get to the fair next year before it's too late!

In other news, I kind of want to move to Vancouver. Until last weekend I'd only been there to run the marathon, which is a good way to see a lot of the city but not to really experience it. It feels a little like San Francisco to me, which is to say that it feels like a real city kind of city, with real pedestrian life, stuff open into the night, a large and populated downtown. And it's Canadian! And surrounded by beautiful things in the same way that Seattle is.

Travel aside, I'm feeling kind of generally burned out this week. So that probably means that I need more travel! Good thing we have Hong Kong and Australia coming up.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

On your mark, get set, wait five seconds to cross the start line!

I've been racing a lot lately. Two weeks ago I did Hood to Coast with a great group of people, none of whom had I met until the day before the race. This was my first year in Van 2, and I ran legs 7, 19, and 31. Wow the first two made me glad that I've still been hill training even since leaving Capitol Hill. Anyway the whole thing was a lot of fun, and my legs recovered a lot faster than they did the last couple of times.

So I was only too happy to sign up for the Iron Girl Seattle when one of my Hood to Coast teammates emailed me about it. I did the 5k event that took place at Green Lake this morning. What a great event! I wasn't sure how it was going to go -- there's nothing too special about running at Green Lake for me since I do a lot of my regular mileage there, plus this is a nationally sponsored race rather than a local one. (Ryka sponsors.) Well, it was great!

This is the first women's-only race that I've done, and this definitely made me want to do more. One thing that totally cracked me up was the dynamic in the start line. General race ettiquette asks that people line up approximately according to where they intend to finish, by their projected pace. In this way faster runners are supposed to be closer to the front, with walkers at the very back of the line. The goal is to get the race going smoothly and avoid congestion, so that faster runners don't spend the first mile passing and dodging strollers and slower athletes. In many races, this expectation is formalized by pace signs, so that for instance if you're planning to run 9 min/mi you should line up near the sign that says 9 min/mi. It's a good system, if people use it. It's a terrible system, if most people don't.

I've never been to a race where this really works, because people are always trying to squeeze as close to the front as possible, stretching for the extra couple of feet advantage. Never mind that in this day and age this kind of jockeying for position has no point, since all runners wear chips that gauge their start and finish times electronically anyway. As sure as there is a start line, there will be be slowpokes mixed in with the faster people right up against it.

Except... not today. In fact, the women in this race were so determined to line up appropriately that there were actually no women yes NO WOMEN lined up in front of the 7 min/mi sign. This left a gap of at least 20 yards between the actual start line and the first few runners. The commentator had to actually ask everyone to move forward to compress nearer to the start line. That's crazy! And also awesome. It made for a very smooth race. I didn't notice myself passing in builk or being passed in bulk at any point during the race, so at least from where I sat in the field, it worked really well.

And if you had asked me yesterday if I thought that such a thing were possible based on the approximately 100 races of various distances that I've run, I would have told you no way. And laughed at the question for good measure.

Next race is the Run for Children's on September 30, another 5k. I'm definitely going for speed in the next few months.

(I was happy with my finish time today also: 22:50, 7:24min/mi pace, finished 29th out of 775 overall.)

Monday, September 03, 2007

Welcome to paradise.

It has been an eventful few weeks: a trip back east to see family, Hood to Coast, some other stuff, much of which really deserves blog posts. But the item that has brought me out of my blog-free lull is none of those. What is it? Why, it's the FOX Reality Labor Day marathon of Paradise Hotel!

The concept behind this show is right out of the reality playbook: Take a whole bunch of attractive men and women, put them in a tropical setting with access to limitless alcohol, make them pair off as roommates on a weekly basis, and send the one without a roommate home. But then... replace the poor roommateless sap with another person of the opposite sex! Repeat for weeks on end, sending contestants (or "guests") in search of some unspecified ULTIMATE PRIZE, with no clear idea of how the ULTIMATE PRIZE might be earned or attained. It's genius! Since there was no obvious end point to the game, no clear idea of what the ULTIMATE PRIZE was or how it might be earned, the formula allowed FOX to arbitrarily extend the show's run in the summer of 2003 by an additional several episodes because ratings were so good.

The best thing about the Labor Day marathon is that FOX has interspersed the old episodes with current-day interviews with America's favorite hote guests. Oh Zach and Amy, how I've missed your abusive, dysfunctional relationship! Oh Dave, you are even dorkier than I remember! And Toni! Oh, Toni. YAHTZEE! Game on!

If you're not TiVoing this, you really need to be. Don't worry that you've missed the first half of the marathon. We're still several episodes away from revealing the ULTIMATE PRIZE!