25 Books in 2011 Update

I set a goal to read 25 books in 2011, with a secret goal of getting closer to 30.  As of today, I’m at 13!  So just over halfway to the goal, just under halfway though the year.  Good stuff!  These are the eight books I’d read at the beginning of March, and here’s where I’ve gone since:

Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship

Let’s Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship by Gail Caldwell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Oh, I just don’t know. For some reason I had a really hard time picturing these two women in my mind, even after looking for photographs of them on the internet. I thought it was going to be more about…moments of their friendship, I suppose, and less about their relationship in the broader sense. Two ladies being bffs with their dogs? It sounded right up my alley but never quite got there for me.

SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes And Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance

SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes And Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance by Steven D. Levitt

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I like this book. It’s like reading a really long magazine article.

Confessions of a Tax Collector: One Man's Tour of Duty Inside the IRSConfessions of a Tax Collector: One Man’s Tour of Duty Inside the IRS by Rick Yancey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this a lot. I thought the information about the job was interesting and the writing was good as well.

It felt just a touch like…it was trying to tell the story of working for the IRS AND trying to tell this personal tale of woe and redemption? And not quite getting to the depth it needed to on either side.

But I still liked it. Interesting characters, for sure.


Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It was strange to not like any of the characters and yet to enjoy the story so much nonetheless. The ending was a little tidy, but after sticking with these characters through almost 600 pages and four decades, you want them to have a reasonably happy ending.

The 100 Thing Challenge: How I Got Rid of Almost Everything, Remade My Life, and Regained My Soul

The 100 Thing Challenge: How I Got Rid of Almost Everything, Remade My Life, and Regained My Soul by Dave Bruno
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

So boring! A ridiculously fast read, I literally zipped through it in about four hours the night before it was “due” for book club. I felt terrible because everyone hated it (and it was my suggested pick, le sigh). I’ll just quote my favorite review:

“This guy is a TOOL.

Whine, whine, whine, brag, whine, whine, brag, cheat, condescend, rationalize, whine some more, relate some tangential story that leaves the reader scratching their head, more whining, more rationalizing, “gee, aren’t I great? whine, etc., etc., etc., ad nauseum.”

Abandoned Books!  Ones I started, didn’t finish, and don’t count in the total:

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver

I had to abandon this because I had other things to read and my library e-copy expired. I liked it so far, and I hope to come back to it at some point.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

Just never really grabbed me.

Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error

Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error by Kathryn Schulz
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I just could not get into this. I may come back to it. I was trying to make it my bedtime read and it was just a bit dry for that.


I know good sunsets.  For reference, this was one block from our place in San Diego:

This was my view when I went for a run in the neighborhood:

And this is my parents’ backyard:

Denver doesn’t really get spectacular sunsets.  For one thing, the sun sets in the west (duh) but to the west we have the Rocky Mountains.  By the time the sun is low enough to put on a real show, it’s normally behind the mountains already.  Also, we just don’t get a lot of clouds, and there’s no marine layer to refract the light.  It’s a trade off I’ve just come to accept.  Denver has a lot of things going for it, but sunsets are not one of them.

So this little gem?  This tiny, spectacular light show on Thursday night?  Was amazing.  I sat on my stoop to enjoy it, and I called a friend to make sure she got to see it.  Neighbors came out, and we enjoyed the sky and each other’s company, and I loved it.

Gratuitous Picture of Yourself Wednesday! Bike to Work Day Edition

I am a Bike to Work Day Success story!  I rode my nearly-antique tricycle to work last year in the spirit of the holiday, accompanied/chaperoned by my favorite seasoned cyclist.

Very long story short, I bought a real bike the next month and I have ridden to work almost every day since, including through the snow.  

Bike, bike, bike!

La La!

The Little America is a magic place 100 miles away where ladies get to drink beer, read US Weekly and spawn inside jokes.

LALA 2011 (Ladies at Little America) is ON.  Sunscreen, beach towels, trashy magazines. Check, check, and check!

Yeah.  My bikini matches my suitcase. It also has a belt! Because it’s awesome.

Magazines from the library! I know I’m several months behind here.  No spoilers, please!



I’m not much one for thrills.  I don’t drive fast, you couldn’t pay me enough to do something crazy like skydiving.   What makes my heart race is standing up in front of strangers, with a microphone, spelling words.  

I have been going to this spelling bee, each third Thursday of the month, for over a year! Not every time, but I’ve probably attended at least a dozen and gotten out on a variety of words.  Some I remember getting out on: wharf, flaccid, diocese, peloton.

Spelling is hard!  I’ve usually gotten out on the third or fourth round.  One time I made it to the sixth round, and I was giddy.  

But! Last night the stars aligned in my favor (well, actually the word list aligned in my favor) and I just kept getting lucky with words I knew or words I could make good guesses at.

And I friggin’ won!  I won the whole damn thing.  First place! Squeee!

This gal is named Katrina!  She’s a science teacher and she came in second.

I wish I could remember more of the words I spelled.  Revenuer, borzoi, catchpenny, philately…those are the only ones I remember!  I was so excited, I still can’t even believe I won.  

Swim, Bike, Run, Blog

Okay, time for the long recap.

The Greeley Triathlon was, oh, about 10,000 billion times better than the Blaster Blast!  I had a laundry list of complaints about the last race, and this one I only had one: post race burritos were not vegetarian.  (But it is Greeley—number one employer in town is a meat packing plant.)

The Approach

We got up at 4 in the morning and were out the door by 4:30, and we got there so early, 5:20!  Packet pickup didn’t even begin officially until 5:45.  Racked the bikes right by the exit to the transition area.  Check out my number: 333! At a triathlon! Good luck for sure, right?

Also note we were close to the port-a-loos. This was important!

The Swim

They allowed for a short “test the waters” period before people got in.  I was glad to get the chance to get in and swim a few strokes before starting.  Of course, by the time my real swim started, it was over and hour later, but I think it still helped.

You can only barely see it in this photo, but the orange buoys are half way markers to the yellow ones we had to swim around.  I snapped this with my phone when we arrived.  It was sunny during the swim.

Transition set up closed at 6:30, but due to some delays, they didn’t really start letting swimmers into the water until after 8.  I was one of the last to get in, because we entered one at a time at about five second intervals, and the order was men then women, oldest to youngest.  Out of about 250 participants, only about 15 got in after me.  It was about 9 o’clock when my race actually started!

By the time I got into the water, my 4 am breakfast and 5:30 snack was long gone and I was starving and I had to pee.  I still swam pretty well, though.  I breathed almost every other stroke, but it was fine.  I just had a lot of nervous, pent up energy!  I actually passed a few people on the swim, which I was not expecting at all.

When I got out I took advantage of the volunteers who were designated as “wetsuit strippers.”  I got my wetsuit down over my shoulders, sat on the grass, and they pulled it off for me.  Kinda neat, kinda weird.

Transition One:

Since I was near the exit of the transition area, I had to run all the way through it to get to my bike.  I was starving and I really, really had to pee by now.  Remembering what I’d read about multitasking in transition, I grabbed my shirt, helmet, and sunglasses and ran into the port-a-loo with them and put them on while I went.  I grabbed a clif bar from my bag to eat while I rode my bike.

The Bike

My bike ride was full of small, manageable disasters:

  1. One of my brakes didn’t work.  Eek!  One of my brake cables popped out of the little tube that holds it close to the top tube.  I had to pull over and pop it back in.
  2. I couldn’t friggin’ shift! My front gears would not go into high gear.  I had to shift from 2 to 3 and back again, like, ten times before the damn thing finally caught.  I was super afraid of throwing my chain, but finally it decided to stick after like a mile.
  3. My shoe lace got wrapped around my crank.  The most potentially dangerous, but it didn’t feel too scary.  I managed to get it untangled, but I had to stop (again) and retie my shoes and tuck my laces in.  I’m glad it was just annoying and didn’t make me crash.

After that, I felt great, though!  It was windy on the long downhill stretch at the beginning, so I didn’t get quite the speed boost I was expecting.  After that, it was pretty steady rolling with an overall uphill, and I felt strong but I didn’t push too hard because I didn’t want my legs to be shot for the run.

I even passed a few folks on the up hills!  And I only got passed while I was dealing with the braking/shifting/shoelace situation.

Transition Two:

Chris, getting to start over 100 people ahead of me, and being way faster than I am, was already finished by the time I came in with my bike, and was fussing around where we had parked.  “MOVE!” I bellowed, racked my bike, grabbed a bottle of water from his hand, and waved for a photo as I left.

The Effing Run

Longest. Three Miles.  EVER.  I felt like death.  Beyond the normal “I can’t feel my leggggs!” sensation, I was hot, I could tell I was getting sunburned, and to flesh out the full 3.1 miles the course was full of annoying little detours.  Like, run up this driveway for 200 feet then turn around and come back. I just felt like I was turning a lot and going up hill a lot.  By this time it was after 10 am, the sun was out in full force, there was no shade, and I just felt so heavy.

I tried to engage all of the volunteers and fellow runners to keep myself occupied. I saw one of my old clients from my old job!  He was a volunteer, and I stopped for a few seconds.  “Jack! It’s Mel!  How are you?”  And then I was like “Wait, I have to go run, bye!”

I chased one girl the last half mile.  She crossed the finish line maybe 30 seconds ahead of me, but she was wearing banned-from-the-event headphones!  I. Was. Pissed. 

But then I was done, so I wasn’t pissed.  I was pumped!

I finished!  And if I ever am in charge of a race, I will do this:

Part of the schwag (along with a cool tech shirt, medal, pint glass, and totebag) was a “FInisher’s Towel.”  And they kept the towels in a kiddie pool filled with ice and water.  So after I crossed the finish line I was handed a medal, a bottle of water, and the most guh-lorious icy cold towel.  I put it on my face, on my legs, on my neck.  Amazing.  Is this common?  It should be.

My medal!  And a not awesome shot of my body marking—333!

We stopped for Subway on the way home, then took a nap, and then enjoyed some beers, and a MacBook photo shoot with our medals.

Time breakdown! 

Swim goal: 12 minutes, a number picked somewhat arbitrarily.

Swim time: 12:31, not too shabby!

Transition one goal: Under two minutes.

Transition one time: 2:46, not too bad considering this included an unplanned snack and a potty break.

Bike goal: Under 40 minutes.

Bike time: 42:18, ugh.  My biggest disappointment.  I thought I was doing well!  But considering the wind, my brakes, my gears, and my shoelaces were against me, I’m fine with that.

Transition two goal: Under one minute.

Transition two time: 41 seconds, sweet!  Threw down my bike and kept going!

Run goal: Under 35 minutes.

Run time: 34:41, made my goal by 20 seconds!  Even if it felt like death.

Overall goal: 1:30:00.

Overall time: 1:32:55.  I’m bummed to be so far back in the standings (187th out of 212) but one, it’s just for fun, and two, I beat everyone who was at home on the couch.

Next race is in September!


Despite a brake cable issue, getting my shoelaces stuck in my crank, and, uh, hunger/bathroom issues, I felt really good as I crossed the finish line!  Three minutes off from hitting my goal, but I felt great about my performance.

I wore that medal the rest of the day.  I wore it to bed.  I half considered wearing it to work today.