Apr 28, 2014

How to Acquire a Title

I'm sure you can do this by any of several different methods.  Off the top of my head, maybe:
  1. Befriending the queen
  2. Saving a royal grandchild
  3. Doing a favor for a royal
  4. Marrying a royal
  5. You get the idea
The problem with these is that they're time consuming, costly (if there's no royal family in your country), rely too much on chance, and are, well, stalkerish.  I've been to Buckingham Palace and, while beautiful, it must be something of a nightmare to be surrounded by crowds of adoring, gawking fans ALL THE TIME.  I'm glad I'm not famous.

To get to the point.  I took the easy way out.  I bought my title.  That's right, you may now address me as Lady Jennifer of Sealand.

My super awesome noble title from Sealand

Oh.  I guess I should explain what Sealand is.  The noble country of Sealand is, in fact, the smallest country (and the word country is pretty loosely used here) in the world, and its history is hilarious.  So after World War II, one of the military forts sitting a few miles off the coast has been abandoned.  Major Paddy Roy Bates basically came along and said, "Hmm... I own this now."  Because of some legal loophole and the location of the fort being more than 3 miles from the shore, England technically did not have the authority to oust this upstart without the situation being considered an "international conflict."  So, realizing the fort really wasn't that big a deal, especially in peace time, England said screw it, and let Bates keep his new country, which he named Sealand.

Other interesting facts:
  • Sealand has since formed their own constitution, anthem, and currency
  • The country has fended off a takeover attempt by the now ex-prime minister of Sealand, who treacherously hired mercenaries and took over while the ruling family (and presumably only occupants) were away.  The family returned, fought them off, and even held the prime minister hostage for several weeks before releasing him to his home country of Germany
  • As you may have already guessed, they sell titles, knighthoods, and even land to silly people like me, who think it's great fun to be nobility, even if it's just from Sealand.  You can buy one on their website: SealandGov.org.

Me with my title.  You can bet this baby's going on the mantel!

Apr 23, 2014

Meetups and Figure Drawing

I met some people!  And I drew one naked.  Yep.  That's what "figure drawing" really means.

The Meetup group is an art hobbyist group called Art Among Us.  From what I can tell, they haven't been super active lately, but they do have a couple of monthly meetups for fun things like the Wilmington Art Loop and figure drawing.  I didn't know what to expect from figure drawing, because I'd never done it before.  I mean, I knew there would be a naked person to draw, but I didn't know how serious or relaxed the environment was or how weird it would be for all of us to be staring at someone without clothes on.

It's really awesome and not weird at all!  They start you off with some shorter poses, meaning that you only have 30 seconds or so to sketch the model.  So you're not really focused on how naked they are, you're too busy trying to get the lines down on paper.  Then the poses get longer, and you have more time to start filling in and adding detail.  By the time we got to the 20 minute poses, everyone had relaxed and was chatting about art, and husbands, and backpacking.  You could tell everyone was there to draw, and while we admired our model's body, it was from an artistic, aesthetic viewpoint.  We were making shapes and curves, and really not putting anything in terms of sexual attractiveness.

I found this to be incredibly refreshing, especially with the increased prevalence of lust and nudity that a new season of Game of Thrones inevitably brings.  Which is not to bash GoT; I just think we're so focused on the human form as a sex object that we can't just enjoy our own natural beauty.  And I think it'd be great if everyone could take a break and look at shapes with me.

Apr 21, 2014

"Facts" That Really Weren't Facts at All

Yep, I was wrong.  Not just a trifle incorrect, or a teeny bit away from the truth, but flat out, 180 degrees from the truth, wrong.  Even better, I have a whole list of interesting facts and trivia that I've been confidently rattling off to people that are totally incorrect.

More details at ListVerse.com

1. Ernie Sabella (aka Pumba) also Provided the Singing Voice for Scar in The Lion King

No idea where I got this tidbit.  But I can distinctly recall waxing poetic on my amazement that anyone could imitate Jeremy Irons distinctive voice so well, and if said actor could, why didn't he just do the whole role?  My apologies, Jeremy Irons.  No one can do your voice like you.

2. Bill Nye the Science Guy was Played by Bob Saget

No, he was not.  Totally false.  At this point, a lot more people are aware of this, thanks to the highly popularized debate between Bill Nye (who is his own, real person) and Ken Ham.  (Link if you're interested: Creationism vs Evolution Debate)

3. Ordament

It's not a word.  It's really, really not a word.  There are no "ordaments" decorating the Christmas tree, and you can't buy them from the "ordament store."  I suppose I shouldn't feel too bad, since Sister3 struggled with "conveytor belts" and "mare-ackles."  Maybe it's a family thing.

4. Lemmings Commit Suicide

This is both the most appalling and the one I had the best reason to believe.  I never actually saw the documentary, but it was a fairly common "interesting fact" after the Disney documentary ("White Wilderness") that when they get overpopulated, the lemmings migrate in a huge herd off the edge of cliffs and into the ocean.  Not true at all.  The Disney filmographers patently made this up, going so far as to import lemmings into a non-native area, and then drive the poor creatures off the cliff.  You know, to make the documentary more interesting.  Snopes did the crackdown on this one: Snopes - Lemming Myth.

5. "No day in which you learn something is a total loss" was not said by Eleanor Roosevelt

I had been wracking my brain and scouring the Internet and could not find any variant of this quote by Eleanor Roosevelt.  Finally, I switched the wording up enough and found this phrasing, which is listed as a quote by David Eddings, who is one of my favorite authors.  Evidently the quote is in one of the books I have in my very own home, but why I was so certain Eleanor Roosevelt said it, I don't know.  Maybe because she said so many other wise things?

Learn About Your Own Non-Facts!

If you're interested in common misconceptions, you're in luck!  There's a Wikipedia Article.  I learned several things from just a quick read-through (ex. milk doesn't make you more mucus-y when you're sick, and searing meat doesn't seal in "the juices").  Also, Snopes is pretty well known for uncovering the truth behind urban myths and misinformation: www.Snopes.com.

Apr 18, 2014

First Ever Business Trip! - April Self Actualization

I went on a business trip!  I've never been sent anywhere for work before (at least not far enough to require air travel), and it was really exciting.  At first I felt all super grown up and stuff, and I was jazzed that my room was so nice.

Fancy, schmancy room

Large, beautiful bathroom with open shower (half open - there's a glass wall, but no door or anything for the other half)

I also managed to add a license plate pic to my collection, which leaves only 8 that I need to finish my game.

License plate picture for Illinois, number 42 in my collection (also the plate from our rental car)

The purpose of the trip was for PowerWorld training.  PowerWorld Corporation is one of many small businesses and start-ups in the area, except that in their case, they've been going strong for 14 years and demand is only increasing!  They have a cool little back story, so I'm going to elaborate: the software started as a project within the University of Illinois, as a tool to explain the power grid to non-technical people.  As the energy market expanded and became less rigidly controlled, the tool became more and more in demand by participants in the market, especially energy traders.  I have to admit, I'm somewhat in awe and a little envious (in a good way, right?  Is that possible?) when I hear success stories like this.  These people didn't even need marketing - they just developed a tool that was so useful and so unique that the customers came to them.

Anyway, I learned what I went here to learn, and greatly enjoyed meeting the employees.  They were all very friendly and down-to-earth, which made the training very pleasant.  Then, of course, we hit the town!  I think we were all pretty amused by the name of this little shop...

"No Regrets" Tattoo Parlor

And this martini flight from Houlihans (holy shit, I just went to their website to get the link and it looks like a social media site!) was the perfect ending to my trip the night before flying home.

Most delicious martini flight, and, uh, yes that is a glass of wine behind it...

To sum up, business trips are awesome!  Even if you don't love traveling (which I do), and your boss doesn't spring for nice accommodations (which mine did), you still get to meet new people, learn some things, and feel like a valued and valuable employee.  If you can find any related purpose possible, submit a proposal to your boss.  You might be surprised what you can work out!

Apr 16, 2014

Feline/Canine Hairball Disparity - A (Somewhat) Scientific Approach

So, super thoughtful, charming Significant sent me this Youtube video: Cats Puking to Techno.  I wouldn't recommend it.  I like the song, and have definitely thumbs-ed up it on my Pandora station, but the cat part is kind of gross and maybe only a tiny part funny.  Like 1 or 2%.

However, it led me to wonder why cats get hairballs and dogs don't.  To my astonishment, this man of mine, whose intellect I always begin to doubt when he sends me these things, immediately shot off several different hypothesis.  For your edification and amusement (mostly amusement)...

Why Cats Get Hairballs and Dogs Don't (Significant's Hypothesis)

  1. They don't lick themselves nearly as much.
  2. And, I guess, the hair vs throat size ratio is different.
  3. Or their stomachs just don't give a shit.
  4. Cats have those rough tongues too, so they probably get more hair-per-lick.

The Researched Answer

Yep.  I looked it up.

I was tempted to link to a really cruddy source, like Yahoo Answers, as a continuation of the levity of this post, but I couldn't make myself do it.  I hate those open forums where it's random (and often uneducated) people answering someone's question instead of a credible source with at least a nodding understanding of the topic (not to mention punctuation).  And, oh, the pet owners.  So self righteous!  And THEN there's the "you should look it up" people.  How that bugs me!  I, personally, got to the question by looking it up, and unfortunately the popularity of these stupid forums puts them right to the top of my search list, and here you are providing a completely useless answer!  (Although I have to admit, when I take the time to format my queries instead of just typing the whole question, I don't get nearly as many of these.)

Anyway.  Here's the real answer.  Dogs can get hairballs.  They just get them less frequently because they don't have the extensive grooming habits that cats do.  Or #1 in The Significant Hypothesis list.  Though I'd like to think his other guesses contribute as well.  This is from PetCareRx.com: Hairballs in Dogs and JustAnswer.com: Can Dogs Get Hairballs Like Cats?, where at least the people answering the questions are professionals.  So I guess if a vet says it, I can believe it.

Apr 14, 2014

Ain't Misbehavin' and "Networking"

After being unexpectedly blown away by Bring it On: The Musical, I resolved to see more shows.  So, when I saw that United Way of Delaware was hosting a networking event/theater performance for only $25, I was totally in!  One of my other resolves for this year is to be more social, so it was really 2 birds with one stone, plus wine, and for a decent price.  Going in, I had no idea what the show was about, which I think made it more fun, because I got to absorb it without any expectations.

In prior "networking" experiences, I've found them to be rather pointless.  It seems like most people attend with an agenda and they all just pretend to listen to each other until it's their turn to pitch their business/idea/whatever.  This networking event was specifically targeting young professionals, so I had higher hopes, and it definitely wasn't business oriented.  If anything, it was too far skewed to the other side - people were there because a friend had asked them to come, and they were polite enough, but not terribly interested in trying to get to know new people.

Never fear!  I still managed to force my way into several conversations.  And I enjoyed meeting a few new people.  But something about it made me feel a little bit strange.  Almost like a dating scenario, where you're trying to gauge other people's interest level, so you can figure out whether or not to ask for their number.  I'm not even single, but it had that same feel to it.  Making new friends is hard, guys!

While the social part of the event was just so-so, the show, Ain't Misbehaving, was very interesting.

Playbill from Ain't Misbehavin' at the Delaware Theatre Company

It was set in the Jazz era (I could look up time period, but eh, why bother?!), and it was about the dating intricacies and mishaps of a group of seemingly shallow socialites and musicians.  There were a few scenes that revealed that there was more beneath the surface, and some real feeling hidden beneath the web of jealousy, adultery, and general hedonism, and the music tied it all together.  I'm sure there were some deeper, social themes, but I can be a little obtuse sometimes, so here's what it was for me:

  • A new musical experience
  • Funny not-so-subtle innuendos
  • Lots of boob shaking
  • Somewhat dissatisfying when the relationships weren't resolved at the end (logically, it makes sense, it certainly wasn't a "happy ever after" performance, but emotionally I always want to pair people off)

Oh, and the best part is that the ladies were bigger.  Why, you ask?  Something about how confident they were, and how unabashedly they seduced and flirted with the men.  It made me really happy to see rather large women portrayed that way.  And you rarely see heavier people in productions, probably because it's so physically taxing, but these ladies had no problem shaking it for 2 hours!

Apr 11, 2014

Boardgames, Nerd Style - 5 New Favorites

I just discovered fantasy themed board games.  Apparently there are tons of these!  I'm so thrilled to have been introduced to some of them and to realize that this is a whole genre of board game.

My 5 New Favorite Games

1. Harry Potter Clue

One of our first game nights involved this game, so I suppose I have some addition sentimental reasons for liking the Harry Potter adaptation of Clue.  However, if you, like me, find that Clue has gotten a bit stale now that we've all grown up and we're all using the same strategy, the Harry Potter adaptation mixes it up delightfully!

Each turn, there's the possibility of rolling "the dark mark" at which point a card is drawn to see who gets hit and what bad things happens to them (usually along the lines of losing a turn or some of your precious floo powder - see next paragraph).  You have a certain number of magical items, spells, and "helpers" that can save you from the penalty, but you usually have the wrong ones.

You also turn the gears at the corners of the board, and some floo networks (yep, instead of trap doors) are closed off and others opened.  I spent 4 turns one game trapped in a room where the flue networks had closed on me!  Plus my friends and I got all silly, and every time we rolled it we'd all call out "The Dark Mark" and wave our hands in mock terror and then their kids would get excited even though they're too young to really understand what's going on.  Yep.  Good stuff.

2. Small World

On a ski trip back in January, Significant had insisted on buying this game to play in the cabin with the family.  He assured me that it was an awesome game and that he had loved it as a child.  This reassurance, having been worn a bit thin by the numerous times he's tried to get to play various video games that have some fond memory for him, didn't do much to convince me, but I allowed myself to get sucked into it.  It is awesome.  

My dad likes to play Titan, which is a game where you recruit monsters from various tiles, and then attack each other's armies with the resulting stacks.  Lots of dice rolling, lots of wandering around on the board and trying to recruit specific things, and loooots of time.

Small World is like the simplified version of this.  You only get one army at a time, you know exactly what their abilities to are, and everyone tries to wipe everyone else's army off the board.  Like Risk but with fantasy creatures.  Best part?  There's a set number of turns, so you really have to strategize each turn and it ends long before you're tired of it.

3. Star Wars Life

My friend had purchased this second hand as a gift for her husband.  Great deal, price-wise!  Not so good for instructions.  However, we googled it, found the details, and plowed through.  The basic premise is the regular Life game, where you choose your path (how much education/debt/etc before getting started), and then try to collect money, cars, family, and experiences as you go along.  Except... you're a Jedi student and you're collecting an instructor, light saber, and power!

The first one to get to the end with enough power to pass the exams will probably win (whoever has the most "power" wins, but you get such awesome bonuses by being first there that the others will be hard pressed to overcome that).  Unless... any of the other players has taken short cuts or made immoral choices, in which case they've become Sith.

If a Sith and a Jedi make it to the end, they battle it out and whoever is more powerful wins.  When we played, it became clear that I was not going to beat the other to the finish line.  I rolled so many 1's and 2's!  So I went over to the dark side AND I was the only one who took the dark path, so I didn't have a ton of competition.  As you've probably guessed, I kicked everyone's butt, and it was awesome, and that is the main reason this is my new favorite game ever!

4. Lord of the Rings Monopoly

Another adaptation of a pretty popular game for the better!  The locations are all places from the movie, the railroads are THE HORSES (Back off Bitch, Shadowfax is mine!), and the electric company/waterworks are the staves of Gandalf and Saruman.

Best part?  As you play, the ring moves around the board.  It starts in the Shire, and then each time "the eye" is rolled (counts as a 1 for your actual roll), the ring moves one property space.  The game is over when the ring reaches the last space, which is (did you guess) Mount Doom.

I loved that the ring stays integral to the game because it sets the pace and also that the game doesn't drag on.  I also really enjoyed introducing my friends to the concept of free rides, and then getting in the midst of every tense negotiation that took place (which, scarily enough, is what my father does, but I flatter myself that I did it in a nicer, less obnoxious way. :-)

5. Tsuro

This one isn't exactly a "nerd" game (in that there's no fantasy element), but I'm including it because it's a board game, we played it on game night, and it's super fun!  Tsuro is really easy to learn and play - it's just a strategy game involving tiles, where you build paths, trying to keep yourself on the board, while directing your fellow players off the edge.

Each tile is roughly square, with 2 paths on each edge, so it gets tough to keep track of all the possibilities each time you set one down.  I did really well at this, until I tried to mess with other people's paths, which almost always resulted in my own demise.  I guess that's karma.

I'm sure there's so many more than this and I'm already excited to do some online shopping (I think this clearly constitutes a necessary hosting expense).

What other great games are out there that we should include in our next game night?

Apr 9, 2014

What? Thin People Have Feelings?

I am not thin.  Not even close - I'm pretty solidly in the "overweight" category of your average BMI chart.  And, until recently, I was a total hypocrite.  Here I was, heavier than I wanted to be, and certainly not at an optimal level for my health, and I made fun of thin people.  A fairly thoughtless action, but I guess it gave me the illusion of being secure with myself.  To not only NOT desire to have that body type, but to be disgusted by it.

The Wake Up Call

When I started high school, my sisters and I were all pretty much in the same boat, size wise.  Then the Sister2 joined the track team.  Naturally she lost weight, and got all kinds of healthy and active.  As an adult, I would have said, "Good for you!" but since I was an insecure teenager I didn't.  Instead, I sniped at her for it.  She was "too thin."  I called her names.  Her response?  To return fire with insults of her own.  Now, her response makes perfect sense, but in my mind it was unfair.  I was allowed to make fun of her; she couldn't hit me back again!

So you'd think that would make me realize that all of us are susceptible to feeling insecure about ourselves and no one is deserving of mockery.  Nope.  Open-mindedness?  New ideas?  That didn't happen until later.  I wasn't as mean about it, but that phrase, you know, about "eating a sandwich" still came out of my mouth far too often.  And my friends were mostly heavy, so we were on the same page.

Enter The Significant into the picture.  Significant is thin, very much so.  This doesn't bother me, and I just assumed it didn't bother him either.  But a pattern developed that I didn't notice for far too long.  Boyfriend would make a comment about one of my friend's weights, and I'd explode.  Friend1 or Friend2 would make a comment about Significant's weight and I'd laugh it off.

It wasn't until a frank talk with Significant a while ago that I realized the hypocrisy of it all.  Here he was, eating as much or more than most of us, and he doesn't gain weight.  He wouldn't mind being heavier, but wishing doesn't make it so.  In the same way that I don't lose weight because I don't work at it, he doesn't gain when he doesn't work at it.  And he's as sick of the comments as I would be of being made fun of.  Except that I haven't been since... I don't know.  High school, maybe?

Some people do make fun of overweight people for being fat.  But we pretty much all accept that this is wrong and condemn them for it.  Many more people, including those same overweight people, make fun of underweight, or even healthy people for being too skinny.  We just assume that it's ok, because a thin person surely isn't as sensitive to this issue.  How could a thin person lack confidence?

But they can, of course they can!  We're all human, and we all need reassurance from time to time.  Even someone who is comfortable with their body is going to get sick of being judged for it or being told to "eat a burger" or "you don't need to work out."  Who said working out is exclusively for heavy people?  Everyone needs to be healthy.  And almost everyone could stand to substitute some of those burgers and sandwiches for some fruits and vegetables.  Being thin isn't going to stop you from having a heart attack if you eat deep fried crud all day every day.

Let's be nice to each other.

Is it really that hard?  And if you're not willing to stop making fun of people, then you'd damn well deserve it when someone hits you where it hurts.  I know I did.

This is an older article in reference to the Victoria's Secret fashion show in December (maybe?), but Tyler Lucille at ArkanSassy says this better than I did.  This is the kind of In-Your-Face eloquence that I like to think I possess, but a reread of my posts usually proves otherwise.

Apr 8, 2014

March Self Actualization - The Part Where Our Minds Get Blown

Jumping all the way back to the beginning.  Friday morning, we were fresh and ready for some excitement!  Mostly, anyway, it hadn't been a great week for catching up on sleep.  I was up stupid early and drove up to Sister2's place in Philly, bringing along Luke, since Significant and I would both be in and around Philadelphia for the next couple days.  I planned for heavy traffic, got none, and arrived in plenty of time to walk dogs (Sister2 and Soon-to-be-Brother have a dog also, named Maverick for his tendencies to be, well, a total pain in the ass.  I mean, this dog has psychological issues in abundance!  But they didn't realize that when they got him.  They just thought he'd be on the slight level of annoying that it's almost cute, like Tom Cruise in that movie.)

So we did that, and chattered excitedly all the way to the TEDx conference, where we slowly, over the course of the day, had our minds blown, and our faith in humanity restored.  I don't even know where to start with summing up the conference.  The theme was Philadelphia, the New Workshop of the World, and the talks ranged from tech, to community, education, and even fashion.  Here's my favorites:

Dominique Streater - Peer to Peer Relationships

Streater was actually a winner on that reality show, Project Runway, and naturally her topic involved fashion.  While her message was interesting and worth considering (she thought we should have more of a peer to peer connection with the people who create the things we wear), it was her presentation that really got my attention.  She started by demonstrating the power of appearance, by stripping out of her baggy sweatpants to reveal the stylish outfit concealed underneath.  I'm also fairly sure her slide presentation used Prezi instead of the more common PowerPoint, and I just blogged about that recently!

Simran Sidhu - A Fresh Start for Our Youth

Sidhu was so impassioned, it was hard not to get swept up in her enthusiasm.  She was discussing the YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School, which takes young people who have been kicked out or dropped out of other high schools, who are considered "problem" students, and gives them a fresh start.

Austin Seraphin - Accessibility and Challenges for the Blind

Seraphin is actually a neighbor of Sister2 and Soon-to-be-Brother.  Born blind, he works with technology, adapting it to provide accessibility to other blind people.  His story was simply amazing because of the handicap that he has more than overcome and the humor and stoicism with which he deals with everyday issues.  He also summed up his presentation in the most concise and to-the-point way I can think of, "Just f'ing do it."

There were so many speakers and most of them had interesting mannerisms worth discussion and all of them left us with something inspiring.  So I won't go through them all, though I almost feel it's not fair to the others.  From community and discussion of Philly's "gayborhood" to the amazing advances in technology, the conference covered the whole gamut of what makes Philadelphia remarkable.  We listened to poets and musicians, we listened to speakers discuss business, photo-journalism and gun crime, the flaws and potentials in education, we saw more than one Prezi user (which gladdened this graphic designer), and most importantly, we discussed a topic that I had been thinking about already.

Katherina Rosqueta - High Impact Philanthropy

So I hadn't heard this term before, but I had been looking for a charity where I knew where my money was going, and felt like it was going to have a strong impact on fighting the disease, rather than the symptoms.  The Center for High Impact Philanthropy is all about this and they've done all the research as to what charities have the most impact dollar for dollar.  The best example in the presentation was the amount of food you can buy with $10 vs the amount the food bank can obtain for the same amount.  Your $10 at a grocery store will buy the ingredients for a PJB, maybe.  The Food Bank can provide enough food for multiple families for the same amount, because they have free access to overstocked supplies, mislabeled products, and so on, and they just have to pay to transport them to where it's needed.

After listening to Rosqueta's talk, and visiting their website, I've chosen the Nurse Family Partnership as my current charity.  The idea is that a nurse is made available to teach young, low-income parents good habits, so that children can be raised in healthier and safer environments, and also to help them plan for the future, so more of those children can go on to pursue higher education.  I like everything about it.  I like the work that they do, that it's close to home, that it's setting things up for success, rather than trying to come back from failure.

Overall the TEDx Event was full of impassioned speakers and inspiring ideas, but I found a way to improve my life (and hopefully others), and that's really the most important thing.

EDIT: I accidently hit "publish" on this like 2 times, so sorry for those who somehow managed to see it before it was completed!  I'm really done this time.  :P

Apr 7, 2014

NCAA Tournament Bracket Win!

This just in: I won!  I never should have doubted my strategy - for it has taken me to glory.  Actually, Michigan state didn't win, but because I didn't lose as badly as the rest of the company, I still win.  And they cobbled together this beauteous trophy, just for me.  :)

I think the worst part about my victory (for my coworkers) is that when I first came in, and someone congratulated me, I just started blankly at him.  He had to tell me that I won, because, let's be honest, unless it's a group event and there's some drinking going on, I'm not going to watch sports.  We don't even have access to them at home.  Netflix all the way!

Any other undeserved, but still relished victories out there?

Apr 4, 2014

March Self Actualization - The Part Where We Absorbed Culture

Taking a step back in time.  Friday night, after sitting through the amazing insights and amusing banter of the TEDx speakers, we were stressed and rushed, trying to get from Philadelphia to Lancaster in time for the show.  After TEDx ran a half hour late, Sister2 and I finally settled into the inevitable fact: we were going to be late.

As it turned out, we weren't terribly late, but we were those annoying people with seats in the very center of the row who have to scootch over and around about 20 people's legs while whispering, "Sorry... I'm sorry... So sorry..."

As for the show, I knew Bring it On: The Musical was about cheerleaders.  And I had seen the movie and wasn't terribly impressed.  So I wasn't expecting much; though I was excited to see my cousin (This is Tyler's IMDb page, there's not much there, but isn't it cool that he has one?  Also, I'm assuming he's ok with not being anonymous, he's an actor, after all) perform for the first time (see him for the first time - he's performed plenty).

It was great!

And I was surprised and somewhat chagrined that I hadn't been more open-minded from the start.  Some of the language made me cringe, but that makes perfect sense - it was high school vernacular and I'm particularly sensitive to reminders of how incredibly stupid I was as a high-schooler.  There were themes in there that I don't remember from the movie, about acceptance and forgiveness, and self-confidence.  The singing was great, and Tyler rocked his roll!  He was "Randall," the sage and confident school DJ who provides advice to the female lead.  And then, of course, there was the hilarious and adorable "Bridget" who is one of the primary proponents of self-confidence in the plot, and who we got to meet afterwards.

Over drinks afterwards with Tyler and his friends we listened, fascinated to stories from a very different worlds.  My parents and sisters are in very technical fields.  We have a nuclear engineer, computer programmer, electrical engineer, and med school student (I'm the "super artsy" one, as a graphic designer).  So listening to these young people gush about their job, from the dangers of some of the acrobatic stunts, to their love for their work, was like opening the door to a completely different life.  And I think we were all a tiny bit envious of their carefree friendliness and social ease.

To sum up: plays are great.  Go see some!  For our next "cultural" experience, we're thinking Sleep No More, an interactive version of Macbeth in NYC.  What plays or musicals do you think are absolute must-sees?

Apr 2, 2014

March Self Actualization - The Part Where We Ran

We sat in awe, listening to impassioned, humorous speakers wax eloquent on the topics that inspired them at TEDxPhiladelphia.  We cheered as my cousin made his entrance onto the stage of the traveling Broadway tour of Bring it On: The Musical, and then amazed us with the smooth beauty of his voice as we heard him sing for the first time.  We powered our sluggish bodies through sheer force of will over hills and around the winding path of the Back on My Feet 5-Miler.

And that was all in one weekend!

So now I'm going to tell you all about it, and I'm going to do it in reverse order.

Saturday morning... 

We were already sleep deprived from a late night hanging out with some of the cast members from the musical, as well as a long drive back to Philly, and our brains were exhausted from the events the day before.  With this mindset, it was difficult to imagine myself running the entire 5 miles, let alone making a good time (for me - hey now, success is all relative).  The weather had predicted rain, but as we scrambled from our taxi and rushed to check in and get our numbers in place, the sky was barely dripping and the temperature was warm enough to raise our spirits a bit.

Mile 1 went well, and I began to feel myself settling into my comfortable 5mph slogging pace.  Mile 2 had a hill, which almost destroyed everything.  By the time we reached the top, my breathing was no longer under control (I have "exercise induced respiratory ailment" which is basically just a mild level of asthma that only affects me when I run), and I was no longer enjoying this.  Mile 3: a long downhill!  I managed to catch my breath and was able to completely fill my lungs with air again; then we picked up the pace, stretching our legs into lengthy strides and letting the slope carry us down.

Miles 4 and 5 were unremarkable, boring, and hard, as they always are, but at the end, when I saw Sister2 and her fiance (we'll just call him Soon-to-be-Brother) waiting for us at the finish line and cheering, I managed a slightly faster burst to the end and saw, with amazement, that I had finished at almost exactly 55 minutes!!!  Considering my treadmill pace of 12 minute miles, completing something outdoors at 11 minute miles was a pretty hefty accomplishment.  Then, of course, the adrenaline died down and my lungs closed up, and I had to spend the next 10 minutes pacing back and forth, gasping like a fish out of water.  But hey, what doesn't kill you...

While I was immensely proud of myself, I think the best part of ending the race was knowing that it was over (that or the huge brunch we ate afterwards - butterscotch pancakes, mm hmm...).  The weekend, because, although enjoyable, there was a lot of timing issues, and stress, and definitely not enough sleep.  And my training, because while I plan to continue running, I no longer have to stress over whether or not I reached 5 miles each week, and I can just do what's enjoyable at that moment.  Right now, I'm thinking I'll try out intervals.

What's your favorite way to stay in shape?