Saturday, March 28, 2015

Back on the Bike

I (sort of accidentally) took three weeks off from exercising. I never mean to do this, but it happens. When it does, it's always so hard to get back into the routines that were so easy to let slip

It started with the fancy dinner party we threw a few weeks back when Chev was in town. We moved the bike to the laundry room so we'd have space to play True American. Then we never quite moved it back. The week ended up being incredibly busy. We were trying to clean up after the party, and then clean up more in preparation for the cleaning people. Plus we had to do laundry and pack and were leaving straight from work on Friday. So, knowing how little time I had anyway, working out was the first sacrifice I made to fit everything else in.

Then we were on vacation and instead of working out every day, I was eating out and drinking with friends and family. I was sick when I got home, which ended up killing another week's worth of exercise as I tried to pull myself back into normality. During this time I also stopped weighing myself. There's this weird fear that builds when you've been weighing yourself every day, trying to lose weight, and then you just stop for a while like this. I dealt by not dealing and took to avoiding the scale along with the bike.

Last weekend, even though I still wasn't feeling 100%, I went to buy a new bike. I'm determined to spend more time riding outside this year, and this seemed like the right weekend to get started on that. I even went for a ride, though it was short because Kevin got another flat tire less than a mile in. It felt good, though, to be back on the bike.

The next week I screwed up my courage and got on the scale, convinced I would find that I'd regained the three pounds I've managed to lose since the new year. To my surprise I'd managed to lose a pound instead.

It makes sense, once I stopped and thought about it. I hadn't really quit exercising as completely as I thought. I still met with my trainer that week after fancy dinner party. In San Diego we went on a 3 mile hike up a hill and along the beach. In Colorado I skied for two full days. Well, almost full days. And last week, sick as I felt, I still managed to get my butt to the gym and walk on the treadmill for half an hour.

Getting back in the habit of riding the bike hasn't been too bad. I've had to work up to it, because my cough is still lingering and breathing has been harder than it should be. Instead of 45 minutes on the bike each day, I managed to do 20. Then 30.

I'm hoping to get out for a ride this weekend, though that will depend a bit on the weather. Despite the warming weather during the week, we might be backtracking to winter for a day or two. Maybe I'll be okay with a sweatshirt and some ear muffs, though. I'm ready for Spring to get here, definitively, so I can go for nice long bike rides. I think  I may even be able to keep up with Kevin this year. Or at least not slow him down too horribly.

That may have to wait until next month though. In the meantime, I'll keep going with the stationary bike. Slowly but steadily losing some weight and getting in better shape.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Book Review: Eric

I don't remember liking Eric the first time around, and a second read through didn't change my mind. I used to think it was just that I didn't understand the Faust references, but I have a decent handle on those now. It's more Rincewind. Not Rincewind the character, who remains reasonabley likable in all his cowardice and practicality. But the Rincewind books and vehicles for Pratchett to poke fun at other culture, which is offensive at worst and just falls flat at best.

Really, the best that can be said about this book is that it's the shortest in the Discworld series. Which is a good quality for the worst book to have.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Book Review: Ms Marvel, Volume 1: No Normal

One of my favorite things about warmer weather is being able to spend a few lazy hours outside reading comic books. I'm not sure how or when I got it into my head that comic books are better enjoyed out in the sun, but it definitely stuck. Which puts me in a weird place where I hear about all these great comics and then wait forever until the weather is actually warm enough (for me) to read them.

All this to say that I've been looking forward to Ms. Marvel for over a year, and I finally got around to it. I'd seen a few scenes online and read more than a few gushing essays about this or that aspect of the story. When you wait that long to read something, absorbing all the hype in the meantime, there's a very, very good chance that it will let you down. But Ms. Marvel didn't. It was exactly what I expected and wanted it to be. And there's something special and perfect about that.

This is the story of a teenager who is already struggling with her identity when she is suddenly bestowed with super powers. She's a first-generation Pakistani-American living in Jersey City. She constantly comes into conflict with her parents who are strict and traditional but also endlessly caring and supportive. She loves super heroes and positively idolizes Captain Marvel, who she's sure has everything figured out. She wants to be normal without forsaking her heritage and has no idea how to balance that. Then, suddenly, she can shape-shift.

What's really impressive is how quickly she begins to use her powers to help the people around her. It's not even a question. She saves the life of the nastiest girl in school, without even a hope of recognition, because it's the right thing to do. She risks the ire of her parents time and again to help her friend's brother, who has gotten in over his head with some local criminals. She's so determined to be a super hero, and she's such a fundamentally good person besides. It's a bit of a relief that her identity crisis is more about balancing the tradition of her heritage with the progressiveness of being an American teen, rather than figuring out what to do with her new powers.

This volume ends with a cliffhanger with the main villain, The Inventor, revealed but still in the shadows and Kamala unable to yet tell her parents what's going on with her. I don't feel like there's any real question that she will, eventually, tell them. Their love is too strong for her to keep this a secret forever. But I'm excited to see how she gets there, what finally pushes her to come clean.

The good news is, since I waited so long to read this volume, I only have to wait a couple more weeks until the second volume is out.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Book Review: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Maya Angelou's first autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, is a quick but intense read. The language flows the way you'd expect from a world-renowned poet. And then it cuts. The words are light enough to let you skip down the page and heavy enough to punch you in the gut and make you really feel it.

This book is less a cohesive story and more a series of vignettes that paint the picture of Angelou's childhood. It begins when she is three years old, being sent to live with her grandmother in Arkansas and ends when at the age of seventeen, she graduates high school and gives birth to her first child within a month. Along the way she moves between the strict discipline of her grandmother and the much more relaxed but empowering guidance of her mom. She encounters problems with her parents' lovers and learns how to rely on herself to get what she wants.

I had a slight problem with some of the sudden time jumps leaving me a bit confused. But mostly this is a beautiful, powerful book that every American should read. My mom was actually surprised that I hadn't read this in high school, and now I am too.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Things That Are the Worst Things About Having a Cold

When you're brushing your teeth but your nose is so stuffed you can only breathe through your mouth

When you're brushing your teeth and your nose starts running

When you're brushing your teeth and all of the sudden you have to cough

When your daytime medicine has worn off and it's too late to take more but too early to switch to the nighttime medicine

When you lay down and you start coughing so you have to sit back up

When you're so tired you finally just fall asleep sitting up

When you have to choose between the hot toddy to soothe your throat and the NyQuil that will help you sleep maybe

When you realize you bought the stupid over-the-counter medicine instead of the good stuff with pseudoephedrine. Past-me, what were you thinking?

When your nose is running so much you have to actually carry the box of kleenex around with you

When your nose gets all raw because you've been blowing it too much, but it's not like you can stop blowing it

When the sun is finally shining after a long, cold winter and it feels like the whole universe is mocking you

When all you want to do is sleep, but instead your have to walk the dog and feed the cat

When you cough so hard you pee a little

Monday, March 23, 2015

Book Review: The Flight of the Silvers

I do a pretty good job of paying attention to what's happening in the book world. I may be constantly 2-3 years behind because of my tendency to wait for paper backs or even for books to make it to the used book store. But I at least know what's coming out and what everyone's talking about. So when my mother-in-law gave me The Flight of the Silvers for Christmas this past year, the biggest surprise of all was that I hadn't ever heard of it. Even though it was on a few "best sci-fi of 2014" lists.

I was actually blown away by how much I enjoyed this book. At the beginning of the story, the world ends. A handful of people are transported to a parallel Earth that's similar but different to the world their familiar to. They eventually come to find each other and learn about the key differences in the two parallel earths. They also discover some handy new powers.

On the new earth, a cataclysmic event in 1912 led physicists to a much deeper understanding of time than exists on our world. They eventually learned how to manipulate it and can create small fields where the flow of time can be slowed, increased, and even reversed. This mostly results in kitchen appliances that can restore overly-ripe food to a more edible state or assist in defrosting and cabs that can get you to your destination faster for an increased fare.

The people who have been transported to this new world, the silvers as they come to be called, can perform these time manipulations without the aid of technology. They quickly find themselves fighting off people who want to study them, other people who want to kill them, and more malicious people who plan to use them in a mysterious plot.

The characters are fantastic and watching them slowly go from strangers to family is a big part of why I like this book so much. The world is fascinating, too, and the author has a lot of fun playing with time in various ways. Even if it does lower the stakes somewhat when you realize that there's usually a way to prevent the death of a main character.

The biggest problem I have is that this book is merely the first in a series that is projected to be 3-5 books long. Because I definitely don't need to be getting invested in another series right now, but I will almost certainly pick up the second book as soon as it's out. I just need to know what happens next.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Ski Trip

Every year our friends Alyssa and Brian organize a week-long ski trip in Colorado. Every year we have to miss it because our plans are so full of weddings and family that we can't find the extra time or money for a week-long vacation. But this year they added their wedding to the festivities and we were finally able to join everyone in Colorado for a few days of skiing and partying.

It's been five years since I've been skiing, and that was true the last time I went skiing, too. But last time it came back quickly, so I was confident it would this time too. And it mostly did, except that I no longer live in Colorado and hadn't quite thought to account for the extreme elevation change I would be dealing with.

This was somewhat mitigated by our arrival in Colorado on Monday with no plans to ski until Thursday. I figured this would give me plenty of time to adjust to the climate. Especially since we were spending two nights with my mom who lives at 8000 feet. It mostly worked. But with everything together (elevation, dry air, crowded condo, lots of skiing, impending illness), I was off balance for most of the week. Which mostly manifested as a lack of partying or even staying up late.

The skiing itself was a lot of fun. After a bumpy first run, during which I fell and spent several minutes wondering if I'd be able to get back up, I traded in for better equipment and did enough to have fun for the next couple of days. When I fell, I was convinced I had managed to twist my ankle. This should be (and is) impossible in ski boots, but my boots didn't fit great and my ankles are horrifically weak. I figured if there was going to be an exception, it would probably be me. Instead it appears that I merely bruised my ankle, albeit in the place that bugs me whenever I do twist or sprain it. Which happens entirely too often.

After that mishap and a bit of time to recover from it, Kevin and I had a lot of fun on the blues over on the west side of the mountain. They're a bit shorter and less steep than the ones on the east side of the mountain, and I had a lot of fun flying down them.

Around all of the skiing, the bride and groom had planned a bunch of events, including happy hours, lunch barbeques, and the bachelor ad bachelorette party. As I said, I wasn't up for much partying, but I did manage to hang out with everyone until at least 10 every night. I'm such an old person.

The wedding was on Saturday, but not until late in the day. Kevin and I used the time to go tubing (expensive, but highly recommended), wander around the village (I bought a sweatshirt) and hang out with beer and board games before it was time to get ready. The ceremony was lovely, with Bryan and Alyssa officiating their own wedding, which is a thing that I think should spread throughout the country. Currently it's only legal in Colorado and Pennsylvania. It adds a nice, personalized touch to weddings, especially those without a religious component.

Around our time in Copper, we also had a few meals in Idaho Springs (pizza at BaeuJo's and beer at Tommyknockers), visited with my parents, and read a bunch. We also go sick, with Kevin getting the bulk of his illness out of the way on Tuesday before we went up to the mountains and me suffering on the trip home. At least it didn't interfere too much with skiing and socializing. I just hope we didn't give it to anyone else staying in the condo with us.