Monday, January 28, 2013

Happy bicentennial, Pride and Prejudice!


I first read Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice in my senior AP English class in high school, and I've been obsessed with it ever since. I read it again later in my 18th-century Brit Lit class in college and in my grad-level Austen seminar at UC Irvine, and eventually wrote my Master's Thesis on it. If I were to go on for my  PhD, I would without question join the scores of Austen scholars everywhere. 

And, OH, the adaptations! I've seen all but maybe two (the BBC version from the 80's and Bride and Prejudice). I even kind of enjoyed Lost in Austen, non-canon though it is. (I even watched Bridget Jones' Diary, which I felt was an extreme insult to my intelligence.) I've seen the 1995 one about a million times - it's my favorite. I'm currently obsessed with The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. I've even suffered through a couple of "sequels," although admittedly, they were kind of dumb. But I understand the compulsion to want the story to continue, because it's such a wonderful story. 

It's not JUST the love story. - I'm not knocking the love story. I'm totally NOT claiming that I'm above it, because I am just as guilty as any other fan of sitting there and sighing and being like, "OH THE FEELS!!!!1!!!" - It's that Austen is a masterful writer. Austen's name often comes up (along with Shakespeare's) when discussing classic writers who just made AMAZING use of the English language. There have been MANY times when I have sat there, stuck on the same sentence for an inordinate amount of time because Austen has this ability to pack SO MUCH information into such a seemingly-simple group of words that it takes me a little while to decode it all. And then I'm left gaping in awe.

Mr. Bennet was so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve, and caprice, that the experience of three-and-twenty years had been insufficient to make his wife understand his character. Her mind was less difficult to develop. She was a woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper. When she was discontented, she fancied herself nervous. The business of her life was to get her daughters married; its solace was visiting and news.

This is an easy paragraph to read through quickly and get the gist of how she is characterizing Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. But when you stop to look at her word choice, it's kind of astounding because... what IS she getting at, really? I'll have you know that we spent a good 20-30 minutes on this paragraph alone in my grad seminar. (Professor Richard Kroll - I will never forget you. The world lost an amazing mind when you passed away.) 

There's a lot of social commentary in Austen - critiques of the class system, entailments, gender roles, and the military abound. My Master's thesis surmised that Austen uses the characters' attitudes towards literacy as a form of characterization, which of course says a lot about her own attitude towards reading and writing. (That it's AWESOME. And she's RIGHT.)

But... okay, let's talk about the love story. Austen is one of those amazing authors who is highbrow literature while simultaneously being "chick lit," and not many authors can occupy both spheres at the same time the way she does. There are a bunch of us snobby literature scholars who adore her, and there are a bunch of swoony girls and housewives who just want to see Colin Firth in a wet shirt as well. (I count myself as both, after all.) 

Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are one of my favorite couples in literature. (For the record, I also love Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe from the Anne of Green Gables series and Beatrice and Benedick from Much Ado About Nothing.) Why? For one thing, they're a HEALTHY couple. Some writer recently compared Darcy to Edward Cullen and I just about threw up in my mouth. What makes Lizzie and Darcy so great as a couple is that they make each other BETTER. They are each other's catalysts for self-examination and personal growth. They both challenge each other to examine their assumptions, and they both come out as better people for having known each other. Darcy also rescues her sister, and at the same time, Elizabeth becomes someone important to his sister as well. They are both passionate, intelligent people, neither willing to settle for the first thing that comes along, neither willing to settle even for the earlier versions of each other. It's a relationship I hold far above nearly any other literary couple, way more than Catherine & Heathcliff or Jane & Rochester. They are flawed people to start with, and it's not that they make each other perfect (because there's no such thing), but one could easily believe that they will have a long and happy life together, a love that is lively and full of lively debates, passion, and smirking :)

Elizabeth is... a really cool chick :) (Yup, all that money spent on higher education, that ends up being my assessment.) She is smart and strong and has a healthy sense of humor. She enjoys reading and going on walks. She refuses to marry unless it's for love. 

Darcy is... well, yes, dreamy and all that, but I will be honest and say that Darcy is the character I relate to the most. I too am socially awkward and have trouble at parties, and I too put people off. Some of that is snobbery, but some of that is actual awkwardness. He is fiercely loyal to the people he loves and really takes care of them. 

The two of them... they have real discussions and they call each other out on their flaws, and then they both fall in love. (Well, Darcy fell in love with her first, but really, it's not like he was ever far from Elizabeth's mind.) And this story has survived 200 years and is still one of the most beloved stories ever. It's not just about love. It's about the flaws and follies of being human.

So, yes... this is my ode. I love you, P&P. Happy 200th! Here's to 200 more!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Faith, trust, and pixie dust

Half marathon #2 of 2013 is in the books. And it was AWESOME.

At last year's Tinkerbell, I finished under 3:30 for the first time EVER. In July, I PRed again with a time of 3:06 at the Jungle Run.

This weekend? 2:47.


The course was nice and easy. They actually changed it this year, and I thought it was better. Most of the first 6 miles were on the Disneyland premises (through the parks, Downtown Disney, etc), which meant that the most grueling part of the course (for me, anyway - around the streets of Anaheim with little cover in the later-morning heat) was much more bearable and was over more quickly.

It wasn't without its share of frustrations though. I would like to issue this request to all runners everywhere, of all levels and abilities:

I IMPLORE YOU, please be mindful of race etiquette. Obviously, I support walkers, and generally I'm fine with "non-serious" stuff like tutus and stopping to take pictures, but PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY IN RUNNING - if you're going to walk, walk to the right. If you're going to walk IN TUTUS, please do not walk three abreast spanning an entire narrow roadway because your tutus make your hips take up twice as much space as normal. If you're going to stop and take pictures, do not come to a dead stop RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE of the roadway, RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME, while I'm coming at you almost full-speed. Please, just PLEASE, remember that this race is not for you alone - there are over 15,000 of us, with different skills and different goals, and some of us really, really care about our finish time. I should not have to bust up my knees trying to dart around you and your frilly fairy wings, waving your iPhone around in the air.

Speaking of my finish time... my timing chip did NOT record it. This is the most upsetting part of all. I ran the best race of my life so far, and it did not get recorded, so for all intents and purposes, it looks like I did not finish the race. At least Becca's did, so I have a reference point (we finished together, there are photos of us). I am mostly worried because I am trying to complete the Coast to Coast challenge - the only reason why we're bothering to GO to Florida next month is to complete this challenge (otherwise, I would stay close to home as usual), so if they tell me my run was invalid, my head might explode.

But okay, now that that negativity is done, it was an otherwise really awesome, really fun weekend with my bestie. Highlights include:

- Cars land!
- The Mad Hatter's Tea Party (which is this steampunky-looking cover band that plays at CA Adventure Park)
- The 50/50 burger at Slater's in Anaheim Hills (as well as their pumpkin dipping sauce with their sweet potato fries)
- Splash Mountain
- Seeing the fireworks show at night at Disneyland
- It's a Small World, Christmas-style (which was closed last year when we went)
- Getting a new sticker for my car
- Bacon-wrapped asparagus skewers
- The smell of caramel corn and churros (though, no, I did not eat any)
- Getting Jolie her first set of ears:

All in all, an awesome weekend. Next stop: ORLANDO.

More photos:

Friday, January 18, 2013

Random. Blah.


Haven't blogged in a while. Been busy obsessing over the Lizzie Bennet Diaries getting the new year (and new semester of school) started. Lots of things are going on.

The biggest one is that I've "retired" from derby. I say "retired" because you can't REALLY retire if you haven't had much of a career. (I only skated for three years total, and only a year and a half of that was with PRG.) I guess the only accurate word to use is "quitting," but that just sounds so negative. There were a lot of different things that contributed to the decision, but the most basic reason I can give is that I lost my fire for it. I'm ready at this point to hang up my skates and move on to other things. Be assured that I will forever love Peninsula Roller Girls and will continue to root for them.

What kind of other things? Well, my life is very running-busy right now. I'm actually heading down to Disneyland tomorrow to run the Tinkerbell Half Marathon again, and have a whole bunch of races lined up. (I'm registered through MAY.) I am also setting my sights on marathon #2, the California International Marathon in Sacramento.

I've also gotten a lot more involved with CrossFit Milpitas. (And by that I mean, I'm trying to show up more.) I've always known the benefits of CrossFit and was just never able to make it work - it always played second/third fiddle to my other two sports. It continues to challenge me in new and excruciating ways,  but it helps keep me fit and healthy.

One of the things I jumped on is CFM's Paleo challenge. I was off-Paleo pretty much since after my marathon (sometimes mostly Paleo, sometimes totally NOT Paleo), and I wanted to get back to it for the new year. I could easily do Paleo by myself, but what I wanted to was to something to be involved with CFM and just be a joiner, you know? So, so far it's going well. The diet part is actually really easy for me, since I've got lots of experience with Paleo from this past year. The hard part has been and will always continue to be getting enough sleep, because I never do - I either can't go to bed early (staying up to work) or I get caught up in whatever I'm doing for fun, and I don't want to go to sleep yet. Sigh. I will figure this out someday.

Otherwise, it's business as usual.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Urban Decay Naked nail set - swatches!

I'm not usually someone who gets excited about nail polish (especially UD nail polish, which I'm not particularly impressed with after buying the Apocalyptic nail set), but since I'm a big fan of the Naked collection and I adore the idea of nail polish neutrals, I wanted to give this one a try. It is available exclusively through Sephora at the moment, though I'm sure it will find its way to UD's website at some point.

I haven't tested this for wear, but if it's like the Apocalyptic set, then I don't have high hopes in that department. It's okay - someone who knits, Crossfits, and chases a three-year-old around doesn't usually expect much from nail polish anyway. But I was pleased to find that these polishes were generally better pigmented than the other set, and they applied pretty well.

- Naked was surprising. It's a nude that leans slightly peachy (at least, in my room lighting =P) and has a cream finish. Looking at it in the bottle, I would've thought that it would apply thin and milky, but I was surprised to see it was pretty much opaque in one thick-ish coat. (I'm no nail polish expert, and I kinda just glop it on.) It's REALLY pretty :)

- Sidecar is beige in the bottle, but went on rather clear in one coat. Like its eyeshadow counterpart, it has a ton of micro glitter, and the glitter went on pretty thick.

- Toasted is a shimmery nude, slightly on the cool side. It was mostly opaque in two coats. It wouldn't be my first choice for a nail color, but it does look really pretty.

- Smog was the one I was most excited about. It's just a regular dark-ish bronze as an eye shadow, but the nail polish is like a dark rose bronze. A pinkish copper? It looks GREAT. Metallic finish.

- Hustle as a nail polish goes on more purpley than it does as an eye shadow, and I LOVE it. (You know me and purples!) It's a gorgeous color, in my opinion.

- Creep was the only one I was actually disappointed in. It's a black with silver micro glitter, and it went on pretty sheer - I was hoping for a more creamy, inky black. Even with two coats it wasn't as dark as I would like, but it's still pretty.

So, I pretty much liked all of them except one. Again, I haven't tested them for wear, and again, I'm no nail polish aficionado - I just kinda put them on and put on a topcoat, because I don't have the time or the patience to put on all this other stuff and REALLY do my nails. (You can see that I don't put much priority on my hands in my photos below.) I'm pretty sure my nail color will start chipping off tomorrow. But... I don't really care. I don't have high expectations for nail polish, like I said.

Here are some photos!

One coat: Toasted, Sidecar, Naked
Two coats: Toasted, Sidecar, Naked
One coat: Smog, Hustle, Creep
Two coats: Smog, Hustle, Creep

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

"We're beaten and blown by the wind, trampled in dust"

No time like the present! I decided to kick off my 13 13s in '13 quest right off the bat with the New Year's Day Half Marathon.

This one was a tough one - not as hard as Summit Rock, but pretty comparable to (maybe harder than?) Morgan Hill. The difficult parts (hills) were brutal and long, while the easy parts were WHEEEEEE LOOK AT ME GO.

I wonder if Brazen has other races at this location (Lake Chabot) at another point during the year, because I would be interested in trying this course again in warmer weather. It was FREEZING at the start. (Of course it was - it's January, after all.) The wind was like a knife in my face. At some point during the race, I realized that the waistband of my pants had slipped down a little, and that there was a small part of my stomach showing, but I'd had NO idea, because it was so cold that I couldn't feel anything. (Like, I'd lost feeling in that small patch of stomach from the cold.) The other "seasonal" obstacle for me was all the MUD - thick, slippery, be-careful-or-you-could-twist-an-ankle, grabbing-ahold-of-your-feet-with-a-sucking-sound mud. I was NOT comfortable running through it, which was unfortunate, because a lot of the muddy areas happened to occur on the flat parts that I actually could run. Going up or down a muddy hill proved to be a little scary as well.

I did this one all alone - it's been a long time since I've done a race completely by myself. I think sometimes it's important to see how well you fare when you only have yourself to rely on to push yourself on. (That's not to say that I completely chose to do this alone - I would've welcomed a race buddy if anyone was available.) It's a different experience when the only voice in your head for over three hours is just your own, and I think that while I am fairly comfortable alone my thoughts, I do tend to rely on external motivation and other people to push me through. Today was a nice little "reset," some me-time to start the new year. I didn't have any crazy epiphanies or spiritual discoveries, but I did learn that, even all alone, I am stronger than I think I am.

Brazen, as always, never disappoints. The volunteers are always friendly, the aid stations always have good snacks, and after I finally finished (in 3:31:46), the Its-It I devoured was probably the best one I'd ever had in my life. (ALL post-race food is the best food ever.)

One down, twelve to go. Next stop: DISNEYLAND.

Pause and reflect

I haven't written a blog post in almost a year. I've had a lot of stuff happen, some good and some bad, and I could've written a...