Thursday, March 31, 2005

Triathlon Training Update:

Two new records!!
1. Tuesday: swam 1250 yds in 33 minutes. All freestyle+breaststroke, no rest. That's a new personal best.
2. Wednesday: 2.3 mile jog to work (in hills) in 20 minutes. Also a new personal best.

The 4.3 mile jog home from work is still about 43 minutes, so I think I'm going slower as I get more tired. Or maybe it's an evening thing.

In light of how fast "runners" run and how fast "swimmers" swim, I know my times don't look like much. But I'm neither a "runner" nor a "swimmer," so I'm pretty darn pleased!
WHEW! Posting all those pictures sure was exhausting! That's my excuse for not posting in over a week. But really the excuse is that I've been out of town (as usual!). And, of course, when I got back, catching up with things I couldn't do because I was out of town.

March 18 was SNG's and my 10th anniversary so we took a weekend trip to Wilmington. We had a hotel room on Wrightsville beach with a balcony overlooking the Atlantic. The weather was a little crappy. Saturday was cold, windy, and a little bit rainy, but we were determined to have fun, so we just did all the things we wanted to do only we did them in the cold, windy, rainy weather. Except I didn't get to use my new swimsuit. Bummer.

We ate at terrific seafood places all weekend. One place, called Bridge Minder's, was good enough that we went twice! We also found a funky place for breakfast called Middle of the Island. It's a little diner that was mostly full of locals as far as we could tell. On Saturday we rented a couple of beach cruisers for the day (see SNG's picture below this post). They were single-speed bikes with coaster brakes. Scary! But fun. Way fun. Sunday the weather was gorgeous (but still cold & windy). We walked on the beach and watched the surfers. Then we drove home.

And I packed for Milwaukee. And left Monday morning. And was there until Friday night.

Actually, Milwaukee (hereafter referred to as MKE) wasn't too bad. The hotel I stayed in was average, but it was attached to a (second-rate) mall downtown, so I was able to do some l├ęcher vitrines. The restaurants within walking distance of the hotel were of the highest calibur: Applebee's was the crowning glory, but there was also Mo's Irish Pub and a burrito place. And of course, we cannot forget to mention the decadent food court at the mall. Only at the mall food court can you find Bourbon Street Chicken, a dish so exclusive that even I, who grew up in New Orleans and spend many evenings during those formative teenage years on Bourbon street, had never heard of it until about 5 years ago, when I first saw it in Boston, MA. Only fast-food chinese food chefs know the secret to this gourmet delicacy. And then there is Sbarro, the pinnacle of Italian culinary mastery. BIG slices of pizza. Shaker jars of powdered parmesan cheese-food product. It's genius, I tell you.

Sadly, I was only able to experience these restaurants on the first day I was in town. After that, the client for whom I was teaching had planned lunch and dinner dates for me with students every day. Now I have to say, this is something I wish every onsite customer would do. Normally, I teach classes full of students who may or may not want to be there. If it's an on-site class, it is usually arranged by someone who is not actually taking the class. I show up, I teach all day, I go back to my hotel, I eat alone, I go to sleep, get up, shampoo, rinse, repeat.

But this class was arranged by a director who asked all his managers to send their statisticians for 3 weeks of training (I was week 3) and he sat in on the whole thing. One of his motives for having the onsite class was the opportunity to have a captive instructor-- someone who is devoted to that one company for the entire time. This opens opportunities for one-on-one discussions that you can't really have in public training courses. So I think he arranged all the lunch and dinner dates for 2 reasons-- 1, to help me feel welcome and 2, to get a little free consulting for his statisticians. Which is just fine with me! I love having company, I love talking shop, and I really liked these students. They were really friendly and seemed to genuinely want to be in class. And they know some really good places to eat in MKE (only accessible by car).

It's those kind of classes that remind me why I like my job.

The trip home and last weekend are topics for a new post- this one is getting really long.

If I leave you with a cliffhanger, maybe you'll all come back and anxiously await the next post! While you're waiting, why not leave me a comment? I love comments. They are evidence that I'm not just talking to thin air.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

SNG says this picture must be posted on Alphagal's blog
(it is from the weekend trip to Wrightsville Beach) Posted by Hello

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

But we sure felt safe with this nearby. ;-P Posted by Hello

They're sppoky at night, no? Posted by Hello

A little closer view... Posted by Hello

Here are The Gates from a tall bldg at 51st and Broadway Posted by Hello

Voldemort's cat says: "You are SO going to pay for this." Posted by Hello

Modean says: "Remember this face, because someday, it'll be on the dollar bill. And you will have to give me all the cheese I want! MUWAHAHAHAHAA!" Posted by Hello

Goofch says "I like cheese. Do you have any cheese?" Posted by Hello

Honestly, they do this on their own. And yes, my dog is wearing another dork sweater. That one is from Old Navy and it's his favorite.  Posted by Hello

Monday, March 14, 2005

OK, so as you have no doubt noticed by now, I have finally started using Hello to post pictures to my blog. Which is really neat and fun, but they're posting as posts, and I think I'd rather have them in the margin somewhere. Unfortunately, I am a klutz with all object-oriented languages, so trying to work out the html to get a separate column in my blog that only posts pictures will be a chore that I'm probably too lazy to take on.

Since my blog automatically archives, I guess I'll just have to keep my pictures up-to-date! That's probably a good idea anyway.

We had a fun weekend. SNG and I are starting to feel guilty about having such nice weekends during lent. Maybe we should drive up to Erie next weekend for penance. I am sure I just jinxed us really bad there. Anyway, we went on the frosty 50 ride Saturday and it wasn't frosty at all. But it was very very windy. The kind of thing where you ride along nestled as close as possible to the rear wheel of the rider in front of you, wheezing for breath, and look down to find you're going 13 mph.

And on the way back-- everyone is gunning down the road at 23 mph with the wind at our backs, one guy empties his bottle on the ground just before the last hill of the ride and there's a mad dash for the bike shop. At that point everyone has forgotten that there ever was a headwind.

We did some shopping later and bought a new George. We got the "next generation" one with the removable grill plates. The old miniGeorge is going to Goodwill. For fun we grilled all the vegetables that could be balanced on the grill plates without rolling off and then we grilled some wet paper towels, our fingers, whatever we could find. A good time all around.

Sunday we took an easy trail ride with some friends who are going on the Montreal trip this summer. We watched the water in Umstead park. We passed a lot of horses. And horsepoo. And afterwards we went swimming, but not serious swimming. More like put-on-the-fins-and-see-how-fast-you-can-get-across-the-pool swimming. And practice-walking-handstands-up-&-down-the-lane swimming.

In other words, we didn't do anything responsible at all. Yay!

Look at these cool guys I found in France. Posted by Hello

SNG on a mountain top in Colorado Posted by Hello

Don't eat yellow snow, Goofch! (Yup, he's wearing a sweater. My dog is a dork.) Posted by Hello

Modean is hunting for mice in the snow. Posted by Hello

This was a big, tasty ham, egg, & cheese crepe in Avignon. Yes, I ate the WHOLE THING!  Posted by Hello

I just figured out how to add pictures to my blog. So now I'm going to have fun adding pictures.  Posted by Hello

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Three weeks in a row on the road. In short: Big city good, Small city bad, Small city good. I'll exapnd on this later.

I'm in the office this week and next, which of course means that everyone has dibs on my time. And all that stuff I should be working on when I'm in the office? Yeah, that's on hold until everyone and their lawnboy has a conference call with me first. Why oh why do I need to be on these conference calls that actually have nothing to do with me? I think it's because when someone sets up a conference call, they try to add as many people to it as possible so that they feel like it's a really important call. Because everything they do must be really important to everyone else, right?

Hey, Cat's been out of the office for 3 weeks. She's here this week- let's get her in on a conference call!
Yeah! Good idea! She'll be glad to be kept in the loop!

One of the best things about being home is that I can eat home-cooked food. I am so tired of beef and black olives (long story). I spend the first few days after I got home bloated like a salted slug from all the beef and black olives and MSG-saturated restaurant food. No kidding, my weight dropped 3 pounds in 4 days after I got home.

I'll tell you about the trips...
First, I spent a week in Manhattan. Which was terrific. I was traveling with a colleague who happens to be a dear friend, so I had someone to go and do stuff with every evening. We went shopping in all those little la-de-da boutiques that I'd never venture into alone. I played with Pucci shoes and scarves, we laughed at a $3000 pair of Gucci granny-panties, we saw just how ugly Stella McCartney's animal-friendly fashions can be (pictures don't fully convey the fug-factor here), we got dirty looks from security guards hovering around the J-Lo collection at Saks (which were deserved, since we were kind of talking trash about the ugly clothes...).

We saw The Gates. Orange. Shower curtains. A lot of them. The same color as construction cones. Enough said.

We went to some really good restaurants for dinner, including a thai-fusion place called Vong, a brasilian hole in the wall called Ipanema (get whatever the waiter recommends, but skip the paella), and L'Ecole, the restaurant associated with the French Culinary Institute, one of Jaques Pepin's little projects. Basically, you eat the homework. Four courses, all outstanding. That dinner, we were joined by my cousin Cosmopolitan and got to catch up on things in her life. My favorite place to visit is wherever I have family. I have a lot of family, but too few of them live in places where my job sends me. Hey, can someone move to Minneapolis, or maybe Denver, please?

But all good things must end. It is Lent, time to sacrifice and atone for sins. So I went to Erie, PA. Have I not suffered enough? Please oh please don't ever make me go to Erie again, Dreary Erie, Land of Great Sadness, Frozen Core of Hell's Misery. All the local restaurants specialized in local cuisine-- Frozen Vegetables. All the people specialize in the local pasttime-- Cold Stares.

If I get assigned to Erie again, I will start updating my resume.

I can't talk about it anymore, it's too painful.

After Erie, I flew to Lubbock. Lubbock, where there's something interesting behind every tree. I was there the better part of 5 days and kind of dreading it, since Lubbock has a pretty lame repuation among Texans-- it's out in the West where there's nothing but dust, tumbleweed, cattle, and Cadillacs. It's so flat that you actually can fall off the edge. It's so desolate that wind doesn't even slow down as it passes through. This is the birthplace of the Tornado Cannon, which is used to shoot 2x4's through brick walls to simulate tornado debris. I'm not joking.

Believe it or not, I had a terrific time. The restaurants were good, the students in my class were fun to go out with, and I had 2 friends who came to town to attend the class. I guess the worst thing about it was that I ate alot of the local cuisine-- beef. You can't get much to eat other than beef in Lubbock. Their veggies are very good. Their seafood is older than my shoes. Chicken? They don't go in for that sort of PETA-vegetarian-pinko food. So I had Steak. Steak Steak and Brisket. And Ribs. And some more Steak. And ranchero sauce. With black olives on top. Of everything.

Hence the salted slug.

After this brief hiatus at home, I'll be going to Milwaukee for a week. Never been there. Not really excited about it, but I'm keeping an open mind. Hey, why don't any of my family live in Milwaukee?

What kind of food do they eat in Milwaukee?

Tuesday, March 8, 2005

*for anyone waiting on a normal post, that's coming soon. This was a recreation/fitness post I started a few weeks ago and just never finished*

I've been on a bike for a long time, to say the least. My dad is one of those dads who always wanted to give us bikes for Christmas and birthdays, and he had a tandem, which meant we could go riding after school and I wouldn't have to work as hard as if I was on my own (hee!). And I could postpone homework for just a little longer.

There were a few years in high school when a car superceded a bicycle on all counts, but living in a little college town rekindled the velo-love pretty quickly. I've played for both teams (mountain vs road biking) and am currently in a road-biking phase that has lasted about the last 6 years.

There are other sports I love (none of them involving a ball or a team strategy, BTW), and then there are the sports that I mostly do for the exercise, because they support my other sports: running and swimming.

In the summer of '97 or '98 (can't recall) I ganked up my ankle pretty badly after teaching high-impact aerobics 6 times a week for a few months. I didn't have fellowship money that summer, and I needed the extra income, what can I say. The sports med guy at the university health care center sent me to physical therapy- I had the therapist who takes care of all the women's athletics for the university. He was really good. In our first meeting, I asked him, "so doc, will I be able to run a 10K when we're finished?" and he says "Sure, I don't see why not!" and I say "Great 'cause I never could before!" (heehee, it really was almost like that). See, back in high school I ganked the same foot and it never quite healed right, and as a result I was unable to run. Literally. A block or 2, and then I was crippled with pain for the next few days. So when this PT guy says he'll get me running, I didn't believe him. But he did it. So I learned to run. I still don't like it, but the worse you are at something, the better the exercise, right?

I was always trying to find things to do outside of my graduate department- with only 10 people, you need a break from each other now and then- so the next year I took a few semesters of swimming stroke technique classes. For somebody who grew up waterskiing and fishing, I am an abysmal swimmer. The classes helped- I learned some formal strokes, I learned how to breathe properly, how to get a little bit faster, how to turn, all that good stuff.

For several years I've been thinking, "I could do a triathlon, something small like the Danskin" but I never quite got up the nerve to do it.

Until now.

I've registered for the White Lake sprint triathlon. OK, it isn't Ironman. It is a 750 m swim, a 17 mi bike ride (totally flat land) and a 5K run. It's only about 2 hours, but I am still pretty excited about it. And nervous. My "real" triathlete friends laugh at my little sprint-triathlon, but I just judo-throw them until they apologize for making fun...

So I've been swimming and running a lot more than usual lately. Maybe this time next year I'll do a big-kids triathlon. Or maybe the sprint will just kick my ass so hard that I'll never do another tri again. Or maybe I'll drown during the 750m open swim.

Or maybe I won't finish in the 2hr15min time limit and will be pulled off the course sometime halfway through the run, along with the other pathetic people who have no business doing triathlons.

Did you see that? From excited to pulled-off-the-track in 2 paragraphs!

Anyway, when you're a novice, and a woman, they let you (okay, the require that you) wear a pink swim cap during the swim. I might just have to sew little plastic daisies onto mine, just for a little style.

Anyway, so that's the latest on the recreational scene. In biking news, we've been doing more 50-mile rides on the weekends, and I think it's about time we started doing a 50 + a 70-80 mile ride some weekends. Especially since it's getting to be Spring, and for the MS150 this year SNG & I want to do the double century.