Returning to Biking Home from Work

It’s been a while since I’ve biked home from work: April 2011, to be precise. That was when I used to live in Arlington, and while it was a convoluted route (due to a general lack of bike-friendly routes in McLean) it wasn’t too bad. Recently I decided it was time to try and bring that option back on the table, so after a lot of scouring of maps and checking out some areas in person, I found a method to get me from McLean into downtown DC in one piece. (Getting from there to home has many options.)

Biking Home

On the whole, it wasn’t a bad route, a little over 19 miles. There were only three parts where I found myself audibly groaning:

  • Within the first quarter mile, the sidewalk/path used to get out of downtown McLean safely became completely overgrown with plants. I had to go extra slow because it was like being in some sort of awful movie set in a jungle. Getting hit in the face with mammoth weeds, no thank you.
  • For the last little stretch in Virginia, there’s a route specifically for bikes to get down from the Military Road area to Chain Bridge. It’s probably a 60 degree incline. Maybe more. Not for the faint of heart. Fortunately it’s also very small. Next time I may actually walk my bike down it.
  • Finally, I made the decision to cut across the National Mall and then go home on the Metropolitan Branch Trail, instead of just hopping up the Rock Creek Park path to Blagden and then heading home that way. So many children on the Mall. So many school groups. All of them hogging all available points of egress. Next time I’m skipping the Mall.

I’d like to keep doing this once a week until the weather gets to be too hot. It’s a good way to get some extra exercise, and I need to start biking more often. For now, this will do.

Movies and Books: 2014

Once again, and attempt to keep track of films seen and books read… I know I missed a lot of graphic novels when you count the collected editions (since I read a fair number for review purposes in serialized formats), as well as for the various zines I’ve read. This was a hectic year in terms of school and this fell to the wayside a bit. I added a bunch in at the end of the year but still, I’m sure there were some big holes. Unsurprisingly, the numbers went down because of graduate school.

Movies:

  1. The Wolf of Wall Street
  2. Philomena
  3. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
  4. The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2014: Live Action
  5. The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2014: Animated
  6. The Lego Movie
  7. Stranger by the Lake
  8. The Grand Budapest Hotel
  9. Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me
  10. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  11. Under the Skin
  12. Late Spring [晩春 Banshun]
  13. The Immigrant
  14. 112 Weddings
  15. 1971
  16. Deor and I
  17. Art and Craft
  18. Snowpiercer
  19. Obvious Child
  20. Magic in the Moonlight
  21. Boyhood
  22. To Be Takei
  23. Guardians of the Galaxy
  24. The Skeleton Twins
  25. Gone Girl
  26. Nightcrawler
  27. Foxcatcher
  28. Human Capital [Il capitale umano]
  29. Two Days, One Night [Deux jours, une nuit]
  30. Falling Star [Stella cadente]

Plays/Performances:

  1. Richard III
  2. Welcome to Night Vale: The Librarian
  3. The Importance of Being Earnest
  4. Henry IV Part 1
  5. Wicked
  6. La bohème
  7. NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour Live Show: December 2014

Books:

  1. The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee’s, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table by Tracie McMillan
  2. The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon
  3. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  4. This is Oakland: A Guide to the City’s Most Interesting Places by Melissa Davis
  5. Organizing Knowledge: An Introduction to Managing Access to Information by J.E. Rowley
  6. The Drowning Girl by Caitlin R. Kiernan
  7. Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi
  8. The Process of Legal Research by Christina L. Kunz
  9. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
  10. Management Basics for Information Professionals by G. Edward Evans
  11. Unexpected Stories by Octavia E. Butler
  12. The Old Funny Stuff (Author’s Choice Monthly #1) by George Alec Effinger
  13. Emphatically Not SF, Almost (Author’s Choice Monthly #15) by Michael Bishop
  14. True Minds (Author’s Choice Monthly #12) by Spider Robinson
  15. Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino
  16. Understories by Tim Horvath
  17. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
  18. Who’s 50: 50 Doctor Who Stories To Watch Before You Die – An Unofficial Companion by Graeme Burk and Robert Smith?
  19. The Swimming-Pool Library by Alan Hollinghurst
  20. Digital Curation by Ross Harvey
  21. Miguel Covarrubias Caricatures by Beverley J. Cox
  22. Metadata for Digital Collections: A How-To-Do-It Manual by Steven J. Miller
  23. Cruddy by Lynda Barry

Fiction Magazines, Chapbooks, and Zines:

  1. Kinfolk Vol. 10
  2. Lucky Peach Vol. 6
  3. Kinfolk Vol. 11
  4. Lucky Peach Vol. 12
  5. Kinfolk Vol. 12

Graphic Novels: Continue reading Movies and Books: 2014

Vivat Grendel! Vivat Grendel!

You may already know that in addition to being a big comic book fan, I own a fair amount of original art from comics. And if you know me really well, you may know that I am a huge fan of Grendel, Matt Wagner’s signature series that my friend Dave Gross turned me onto in college. I already own some Grendel art that I adore; a Pander Brothers piece as well as a solo Arnold Pander piece, Jay Geldhof’s painting for Grendel Cycle, a J.K. Snyder III pin-up… well, now I have two more pieces that are both heading my way even as I type this, both in the hands of various shipping companies.

The first is a page from Grendel Tales: Devils and Deaths by the late, great Edvin Biukovic. Biukovic was an artist who had a short career in comics; he made his big North American debut through Grendel Tales and quickly became in-demand for his clean art style. Sadly his career ended at the age of 30 from a brain tumor, just as his career was getting huge. Earlier this month, his family released a limited number of his original art pages for sale, something that almost never happens. I ended up purchasing this beauty; I was a huge fan of Biukovic the second I bought Grendel Tales: Devils and Deaths #1, and he was a talent that was silenced far too soon.

Biukovic Grendel 04 Pg 18

The second is a page from this year’s Grendel vs. The Shadow, drawn by Matt Wagner himself. I never thought I’d own a Wagner Grendel page, and having the opportunity made my head explode. And if that’s not enough… just look at the detail and the graceful shading here. The art dealer whom I talked to about it said that it looks even more gorgeous in person. I cannot wait.

Grendel vs. Shadow 1 pg 10

Once I get them framed sometime in the new year, I’ll probably swap out some pieces either at home or in my office (or both?) with these. I love the art I have hanging right now. But I really, really love these. And it’ll be nice to see something new on the walls.

Too Much Travel

I love to travel. I own guide books to places I’ll probably never go; I love reading travel diaries. My biggest complaint with my job is that I don’t get a crazy amount of vacation time with which to travel all over the world. So it’s with that in mind that I must admit that over the past three weeks, I’ve had too much travel.

In Flight

I ended up with three trips; one for work, two for pleasure. And let me quickly state that the two for pleasure were both great. I had a fantastic time on both of them and I’m so glad I did them. But I am run ragged, now. I miss my routines, even if it’s just sleeping in my own bed and sitting down at my own desk.

It probably doesn’t help that in between trips #2 and 3, I also had a three-day work meeting which had me slightly wiped out by the end. Or that this semester of graduate school is proving to be the most difficult/intense one to date. (Fortunately the classes are also interesting.) Or that right before leaving for the third trip, I came down with a cold that I’m still trying to shake. None the less… it’s nice to be home. Very, very nice to be home. Fortunately that should last for the rest of the month and then some.

No doubt, by this time next month, I’ll be dreaming of travelling once more.

Halfway There

It’s a little hard for me to believe that I’m already halfway through my graduate school program. When classes began a year ago, graduation seemed very far away, although that could have been in part a level of nervousness. After all, it had been 18 years since I completed my undergraduate degree. And while I design online courses for a living, the idea of shifting to a fully online format for school was also a bit daunting. So, with that in mind… what have I learned so far?

Graduate school was a good idea. Of the six classes I’ve taken, I’d say that four of them were well-worth the money. I’ve learned a lot about cataloging and researching, adding to the skill sets that I already possessed. I also increased my knowledge of Access databases and SQL queries immensely, neither of which I knew very much about. Strictly from a “gaining knowledge” standpoint, those four classes have been automatic successes. As for the two other classes… well, honestly, if I was someone fresh out of my undergraduate degree and without any real-world/job-market experience, these would have probably been a lot more beneficial. So there’s certainly no anger or disappointment when it comes to those two remaining courses; they just weren’t helpful to me because they covered ground that I had already tackled or experienced on my own.

Something’s got to give. I knew, going into this, that I’d lose some free time. But somehow, it was still a bit of a surprise on just how much free time I ended up giving up. Usually at least one day on the weekend is devoured by schoolwork, for example. I’ve been reading a lot less, unfortunately, as well as finding it much more difficult to keep up with the few television shows I watch. I also had to scratch my plans to run the Nations Triathlon in DC next month; I have not made it to the pool at all this year to swim laps. (A full marathon is, needless to say, right out.) With less gym time, there’s also been a slight weight gain, too. Ugh.

Organization is key. I know, this is a library and information science degree, I should already know that. But in this case, I mean more along the lines of tracking my assignments. I create a master calendar with all of my assignments for the semester in the first week, highlight graded assignments in red so I don’t miss them, and then delete items as they’re finished. Additionally, I put the current week’s assignments in an app on my phone that I check off as they’re finished. It might sound like overkill (since I do have a syllabus for each class) but it makes a big difference in getting everything done.

schedule

I really do work harder now that I’m older. I will be the first to admit that I did not focus as much as I should have in my first two years of my undergraduate degree. (Spring 1991 and Fall 1992 in particular.) I buckled down after that and improved my grades a great deal, putting a lot more work into my classes. Well, that was apparently child’s play compared to the amount of effort I put into classes now. Sure, it’s graduate school so it should require more effort, but being in my 40s I find myself caring that much more about my assignments and getting them not just completed, but excellent. And honestly, at times I’m a little perplexed that not all of my fellow students are in the same boat. (Then I remember being in my 20s and I’m not that surprised. And there are some people who are almost 20 years younger than me who are even more driven and determined than I am, for that matter.)

Vacation is the best thing ever. I hadn’t realized just how important the three week break in December was, until I didn’t have any sort of break between my spring and summer classes. (Or as WSU refers to them, my Winter and my Spring/Summer classes.) There was definitely a little bit of burnout as a result; having a lot of the month of August off has helped a great deal in that regard now, but it was certainly a difficult May and June thanks to not having any real break.

And so, with all that in mind, classes officially kick off today. Six down, six to go. To use a running metaphor, this is the point in the marathon where you can start counting down the miles, because it’s no longer terrifying to do so. I can’t see the finish line yet, and won’t for a while, but at least I know it’s out there.

67 and Fitter Than Me

Dan Kois’s article “Tour de Gramps” — in which the author tries to keep up with his 67-year old father on a bike trip up a mountain in France — has in many ways every element I ask for in order to grab my attention. So if you need a bit of a lure to read this article (you should, you should), a quick rundown.

Kois doesn’t present himself as a hero who can just blast through this experience. Exercise when you push yourself is a struggle; if it’s easy, you’re not giving it that extra oomph. His descriptions of inwardly dying as he goes up Mont Ventoux are funny, but they’re also remarkably accurate. The deal-making, the game-playing, the obsessive counting of the distance to get to a pre-determined break.

He eats a lot of pain au chocolat while biking up this mountain. Honestly, this really just made me hungry more than anything else because breakfast has worn off and it’s too early for lunch. But mmmmm, chocolate bread.

He gets Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville album stuck in his head as a distraction. I feel like anyone who’s done an endurance sport understands this phenomenon all too well. (“Oh no, you’re not going to believe what’s stuck in my head now,” is a familiar chorus with my running buddies.) But it’s not just any music, it’s Liz Phair’s first (and unfortunately, best) album. It doesn’t matter that it’s now in my head too, I cheered.

Then and NowBest of all, though? It’s a reminder that it’s never too late to start exercising, never too late to make a big change. I was 27 when I gave distance running a whirl, and I remember even then a lot of people (including a certain family member) telling me that I shouldn’t even try it. I was fat, and I hadn’t done any sort of real exercise in years. 14 years later, I’m still going. Kois’s father was 50 (and also out of shape/overweight) when he took up cycling. At the age of 67, he’s powering up a mountain on his bike and in great shape. That’s a role model to look up to.

Anyway, it’s a fun article, and something that deserves more than a one-sentence “check it out” on Facebook. So. Check it out.

(Also, I need some inspiration to get back into the pool. I’ve added the cycling back into the schedule but it’s always squeezing in the third part of a triathlon that becomes a struggle. Sometimes it’s cycling, sometimes it’s swimming. Get it moving, Greg.)

Podcasts I Like: Radiolab

Radiolab logoOne of the podcasts I listen to and love is Radiolab, a public radio show produced by WNYC. It was pitched to me as, “If This American Life was primarily interested on science, but without losing the accessibility to a wide audience.” (The official description on the website is, “Radiolab is a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.”) At any rate, I’ve listened to it for a few years now, and I love how the podcast has both full hour-long episodes as well as Radiolab Shorts, which run usually in the 15-to-30-minute range.

One of my all-time favorite episodes from back in 2009 was about parasites, and for the longest time I would pitch it to people as, “Disturbing but immensely fascinating.” (The connection between the hookworm parasite and people’s allergies still makes my head explode every time I think about it.) And you can find that episode here, if you’re interested. But while catching up on episodes, I just listened to one from a month or so ago and it stuck with me. Here’s the official tag:

What’s Left When You’re Right?
More often than not, a fight is just a fight… Someone wins, someone loses. But this hour, we have a series of face-offs that shine a light on the human condition, the benefit of coming at something from a different side, and the price of being right.

It’s a fun episode, with three different stories that each approach confrontation in a different way. I liked them all, but I think my favorite was about two people (Lulu and Soo) who were on a cross-country bike trip and had two confrontations with people (a businessman and then a potentially mentally ill person) that reminded me a lot of the different ways that I and other people each approach a confrontation, and what the “right” way is. It closes with the following:

So the story leaves you with some questions, like if you agree that people are messed up… like, of course they are, we all are… then what’s the best way to heal people? I mean, do you decide as Lulu does, or did, that you should approach the world with kindness and happiness no matter how the world greets you? Or, is that kind of giving up? Like a happy hopelessness? So then, do you put your foot down as Soo did? And say, “No, you are messed up, don’t be messed up?” Is that hope? Or just being mean?

Maybe you need to hear the full story to appreciate it. Or maybe you need to have had the discussions I’ve had with others about how to deal with confrontation. But to me, it clicked, in a way that made me stop and think without ever saying, “This is the right answer.”

Anyway, I love Radiolab. You should too. Give it a whirl.