May 5, 2015 § Leave a comment
April 21, 2015 § Leave a comment
The other day I was doing work at a hip, super minimalist cafe located in an old warehouse that only provides agave syrup to sweeten your artisanal coffee, and I watched while the girl sitting next to me spent (no exaggeration) 10 minutes arranging her glass of coffee (coffee here is served in glasses, water in mason jars) and the 2 succulent plants on the table, and took about 45 pictures from about 20 different angles.
It took a very long time. She looked ridiculous. And her coffee must have been cold by the time she actually sat down to drink it.
Not that I am one to throw stones. As a reader of this blog you know I do shit like this all the time.
But watching this girl I thought, this has surpassed fun and morphed into something weird.
Last night, after MONTHS of talking about it, we finally decided to switch to a new carrier and get new phones (my phone has been in it’s death throes for almost a year).
Our new carrier does not subsidize the cost of the hardware of the phone. So we walked into the store and I started looking at the retail prices of new smartphones.
$600, $700, $800…
Hold up. Do I really need a $700 phone?
I found myself thinking about life before my smartphone. When I had to look up a recipe before I went into the store. When I couldn’t check my email unless I was at my computer, at my desk. When I had to wait more than 30 seconds to actually listen to a song that was stuck in my head.
But along with this convenience I’ve undoubtedly experienced a loss of basic skills, including (but not limited to) the ability to:
- Read a map/have any sense at all of where I am when I’m driving (a couple of months ago as I was driving to an office in Hawthorne for the 5th time in 14 days, Waze bailed on me…and I FREAKED, convinced I was about to accidentally turn down South Vermont because I had no idea that it was 5 miles away. Because I had no idea where I was. Because I hadn’t paid attention before. Because I hadn’t needed to.)
- Take longer than 3 seconds to try to figure something out.
- Remain calm when a public facility has horrible or no wireless or cell service.
- Wait in line.
- Relax and enjoy anything without fighting the urge to pull my phone out to take a picture.
I do really love that I can hail a car, find a recipe, or see what my friend in Shanghai ate for breakfast whenever the mood strikes. But it’s a tradeoff. Because I am pretty sure that net-net, my smartphone has made me dumber.
A flip phone is smaller and cheaper. And if HH accidentally dials my old boss again, I know for a fact that I can hang up (because even if the touch screen goes blank, I can always just close the phone) and not force both of us into an awkward conversation. I could stop feeling the compulsion to constantly check my emails, texts, Instagram, FB feed…it would allow me to break free from these Pavlovian reflexes and reconnect with the real world!
I got the Samsung Galaxy 5. Because podcasts.
Maybe I can hold off installing Instagram…
…at least for a week.
April 8, 2015 § Leave a comment
We’re going to pretend like these past few days didn’t happen. Paul won’t let me talk about it anyway. (Like, really. Still. He’s not joking.)
Instead, I want to point you in the direction of this. Because a.) it’s come up in conversation about 4x in the past month with different people for some reason, and only one of them has known about it, and b.) how else are you going to learn that cinnamon most likely won’t cure your diabetes?
But really. It’s awesome. I wish all information could come pre-packaged like this. I might be more inclined to learn than binge watch Netflix. But probably not.
April 2, 2015 § 2 Comments
One of my current coworkers went to Duke and is a self-proclaimed die-hard Duke fan. He’s always talking about Duke, which is obnoxious (but really, is there any other kind of Duke fan?) So naturally I turned to him to inquire about our office’s March Madness pool.
Turns out our office has never had a March Madness pool before. Weird. But just another reminder that I’m back in the regular world where people don’t do this with their corn fields.
But Duke Fan was like, “THIS IS A GREAT IDEA! If you set it up I’ll put up the $$ for the prize, so there doesn’t have to be a buy in.”
Awesome. So I set up our office pool. Because this:
Kentucky’s been crushing it this year. CRUSHING IT. They are poised to be the first team to go through an entire season, including the tournament, undefeated since something like 1796. Or maybe 1976.
And Duke. I was only in Kentucky for four years, but if there is one thing that I fully bought into it’s that Duke is horrible. So this was going to be awesome.
Anyway, very few people here know or care about this. Except my husband.
That’s been hanging outside our house all month.
So I set up the pool and sent out the invite, and was immediately contacted by half of the people in our office asking how this works and letting me know they’d never done one of these before (again, weird), but that this was great, thank you!
So last week going into the Sweet 16 I went to check on the standings, and in addition to seeing that I was second to last (what else is new) I noticed that Duke Fan, the same Duke Fan that was TOTALLY into doing the pool, who can’t stop talking about how Duke is better than everyone, had picked Kentucky OVER Duke IN THE FINAL GAME.
I didn’t even know how to respond. I am not exaggerating when I say Paul would probably cut off his right leg before he EVER chose Duke to over Kentucky. EVER. In ANY game.
Paul’s response: “That is so typical of a Duke fan.”
I’m not even serious basketball fan, but the world feels very confusing right now. This is a whole new kind of madness.
But things like this make it a little better.
March 25, 2015 § Leave a comment
Finally. FINALLY. After 2 years of hardly anything, I’ve got a schedule happening for 2015.
So far it’s just water (I have some foot stuff going on, I’m going to go see a doctor about it soon, still hoping to sign up for a half or two in the fall, but for now no running.)
- June 13: Del Valle Open Water Festival–10K swim, Livermore, CA
- July 18: TRANS TAHOOOOOOE!, 11 mile relay swim, Lake Tahoe
- Sept 12: Big Shoulders 5K open water swim, Lake Michigan, Chicago, IL
I realize this is backwards in terms of distance, going from the longest swim to the shortest, but what are you going to do. Also, note that none of these are in the ocean (that’s really just coincidence.)
Time to start ramping up the yardage…
It’s been so long. So happy to be back.
March 10, 2015 § 4 Comments
this is not ‘nam. there are rules.
You may have noticed the lack of running talk here. I haven’t run in almost 2 months due to some foot issues. So I’ve been spending more time in the pool. This means a lot of time at lap swim.
I’ve been told that lap swimming can be intimidating for non-swimmers. I assume it’s like the one time I decided to go on a ride with the local cycling club. I was stressed and felt like I was in everybody’s way the entire ride. That is why it only happened once.
I like to think that swimmers are not like that group of cyclists. But that is not always the case (see: here).
Once, I swam for a team in the Czech Republic.
That is (a very pale) me and my Czech coach, Jura, at a meet in Vienna. And for posterity’s sake, here is Jura in his coaching uniform:
But before Jura saw me swimming one day and invited me to join the local club team, I swam during lap swim at the local pool. The pool was next to my apartment and was actually really awesome.
Lap swim at this pool, however, was not awesome. Couples would make out in the middle of the pool, people swam on whatever side the lane they wanted to, and sometimes the guards just wouldn’t put lane lines in and people would swim both the long and short length of the pool, like this:
Total chaos. (That picture is actually WAY more orderly than the pool ever was, because without lane lines nobody was swimming in a straight line.)
Imagine it’s a beautiful day and you head out on a run. But every time you pass a bush or a parked car someone jumps out in front of you. That is exactly what it was like. And after colliding head on into the supple belly of yet another scantily clad octogenarian for the umpteenth time, I would be like, “WHAT IS HAPPENING! THIS ISN’T THAT COMPLICATED! DOESN’T ANYONE HERE FOLLOW THE RULES?!?!?”
So many days I left the pool knowing that the only reason my heart rate went up at all during my “workout” was because I was about to get homicidal.
But those days are behind me. Now I swim at an absolutely gorgeous Olympic-sized pool, where there are rules posted in English and established lane lines and I can converse with people outside of a simple “Excuse me”.
And yet lap lane strife continues. And not just between experienced swimmers and new swimmers. I watch new swimmers butt heads with other new swimmers every day. Figuratively and literally. Lap swim strife abounds.
Sharing a lane with other people is easy. It really is. Sharing with people who aren’t the same speed as you is totally doable. You just have to know the rules.
SO! For everyone’s sake…
BASIC RULES ON HOW TO SHARE A LANE
First things first: Where to swim
- Splitting a lane–When there are only two people in a lane, you can “split” the lane. That means you just stay on one side of the black line, that is your side of the lane. Simple. No reason for any conflict.
- Circle Swimming— This happens when there are more than 2 people in a lane. As the picture at the top of this post depicts, it means you always stay to right. Much like you would if you were driving (in the US).
Odds are, if it’s at all crowded, you’re going to have to circle. Just the way it goes. And in my experience, circle swimming is where things begin to go downhill. So…
Next: 5 Basic Rules for Circle Swimming
- If the lanes are marked by speed (slow, medium, fast), do the best you can to be honest about where you belong compared to the other swimmers in that lane.
- Swim on the right side of the lane (as mentioned above)
- Pass on the left (as you would driving or cycling)
- Give people space. Don’t push off the wall right in front of someone else who is about to turn and start a new lap, and don’t push off the wall right behind someone who just started a new lap. Give a person 5 seconds at least before you push off behind them. Personal space. Recognize.
- Be aware of your lane mates.
Rule #5 is really what it all comes down to. When your head is in the water it’s easy to be oblivious to everything else around you. But lanes can get crowded, and not everyone swims at the same speed. You’re sharing the space with varying ability levels and should act accordingly. Which brings us to…
- If someone is about to pass you in the middle of the lane, just stay calm and keep swimming straight and to the right and leave it up to them to get around you. And don’t be an asshat and speed up and race them as they pass.
- If someone is on your feet when you come into the wall, or if you notice someone is catching you, just stop on the wall, in the corner, and let them pass you there. It’s a lot easier than passing in the middle of the pool.
- If you are the person passing someone, make sure no one else is heading down the lane in the other direction. Avoid collisions.
There are certain situations that are, in the long run, unavoidable at lap swim (the lady with the breaststroke kick that takes up the entire lane, the old dude who crosses over onto your side every time he breathes…) That is the nature of the beast. It’s always a craps shoot. Which leads to….
My biggest piece of advice: when you head into lap swim, be prepared to be flexible. Pool’s is empty? Awesome! Killer workout exactly as you have planned. One of those days when everyone decides to go to the pool at exactly the same time and there are 8 people in each short course lane, at least two of which are old ladies that don’t want to get their hair wet? That sucks. Do your best. And next time you might have 4 lanes to yourself. You just never know.
Stick to the rules, apologize when you run into someone, forgive others for their trespasses, and keep things in perspective. It’s just one swim. Everything will be fine.
awesome square-headed swimming diagram via
March 5, 2015 § 3 Comments
I recently finished reading The Endurance. I really need to stop whining about how cold our house is in the mornings.
A few years ago I started following a blogger who may have mentioned once or twice that Shackleton is her hero. At the time I was like, pfft, explorer, whatever. Then a few months ago my dad mentioned him and was like, no, seriously, that is a crazy story, it’s such a good book. And I was looking for a book anyway. So I went online to check it out and ordered a used copy for one cent on Amazon Prime.
…and this hardcopy behemoth was delivered. But turns out it is actually great, because the photos in there are incredible.
Basic synopsis: British explorer attempts to make the first land crossing of the Antarctic continent in 1914. Not something I would have ever picked up on my own.
Legend has it that Shackleton placed this ad in the paper to find his crew:
“MEN WANTED: FOR HAZARDOUS JOURNEY. SMALL WAGES, BITTER COLD, LONG MONTHS OF COMPLETE DARKNESS, CONSTANT DANGER, SAFE RETURN DOUBTFUL. HONOUR AND RECOGNITION IN CASE OF SUCCESS.
– SIR ERNEST SHACKLETON”
Tim Ferris recently used this to advertise for a personal assistant (true story). The book never mentioned it, and from what I’ve read elsewhere it sounds like there’s no proof that it ever existed. But it’s awesome to think that the crew was made up of people who would respond to that.
One of the remarkable things about this trip is that in addition to including a photographer, Frank Hurley, on the crew, Shackleton and a large number of the crew kept journals religiously. Shackleton had struggled to scrape together the financing for the expedition and had sold exclusive story and film rights prior to his departure, so the trip was documented extensively. When things were looking really, really bad, many continued to write. Even when (SPOILER ALERT!) they had to abandon ship and had to leave behind everything except for emergency provisions, all of the journals and a sizable portion of Hurley’s negatives, as well as his basic photography equipment, were considered important enough to be saved.
Pretty awesome. A few other takeaways:
First: You (or at least, I) would assume that there would only be room for one expedition of this magnitude, with this amount of risk, in a lifetime. But for Shackleton, and many crew members, this was their second, or third, or FOURTH trip to the south pole. From England. On a boat. In the early 1900s. Following the expedition, a number of them went to fight in the war, then came back and went on even MORE arctic explorations, then finally settled down and led regular lives as pub owners or fishermen. What.
Lesson 1: there is time to accomplish a lot of big things in life. Don’t let the magnitude of something stop you from trying.
Second: (again, SPOILER ALERT!) The expedition never even set foot on the continent, and yet their story is held up as one of the greatest, most amazing adventure/survival stories of all time. In a letter to his wife Shackleton wrote, “I have done it. Damn the Admiralty…not a life lost and we have been through Hell.”
Lesson 2: “Success” redefines itself over time. You never know what it will look like.
Third: Shackleton was a badass and that was why his crew survived. Not because he performed superhuman feats of strength, but because through subtle, everyday actions he conveyed a fortitude and unwavering faith in the crew’s collective ability to succeed, no matter how horrifically bleak the situation. Caroline Alexander wrote:
“(Shackleton) would be remembered not so much for his own accomplishment….as for what he was capable of drawing out of others. … The mystique that Shackleton acquired as a leader may partly be attributed to the fact that he elicited from his men strength and endurance they had never imagined they possessed; he ennobled them.”
Lesson 3: How you act really does effect others. Stop complaining so much.
And seriously, the pictures.
Good read. Great story. Check it out.