Algorithm gone wild, or…?

Amazon’s “Gold Box Deals” offer up a bunch of specially priced items to everyone; if you scroll down the page, they often have additional deals that are supposedly tailored to you. Today I was greeted with the following:

Trapped Like Mice... Rats!

My first reaction was to laugh and say, “Amazon’s selection software is misfiring a bit today.”

My second reaction was to think of those reports of parents receiving coupons for those newly pregnant and getting livid, only to discover later that in fact their daughter really is pregnant.

…I hope this is just an algorithm gone wild. *gulp*

A Year Later

This Thursday is the one-year anniversary of Charlie and I buying a home together. It’s a little hard to believe it’s been that long; the continuing sensation of time moving faster as I get older instead of slower, I guess. But looking back, I feel like we’ve gotten so much accomplished in that year. Merging possessions with someone else is almost never an easy process, and there was a lot of “what do we keep / what do we get rid of / what goes into storage?” and that certainly takes time.

We’ve made a couple of small improvements to our home. We had new carpeting put in on the stairs, which looks so much nicer than what was there before it’s not even funny. We’ve had a much-needed ceiling fan installed upstairs (although the installation is temporarily wired right now; they’ll finish the job next week). The upstairs has Charlie’s movie posters hung, and down the stairs is some of my original comic art that I’ve purchased over the years. (We might put one or two more pieces up, but that’s still to be determined.) The downstairs is more or less completely done. And we’ve got a cute little jungle of plants out on the porch.

It’s great to have just a few small things left at this point. Now that most of the stuff that we’re hanging on the walls has been placed, we need to put the rest of the art and vintage posters down into the storage unit, which means making some space for it. I went down there yesterday and spent a while going through my boxes of books that I’d placed there last year, and finally hauled out five boxes worth of material that’s going away. On the one hand it’s sad to see them go—as a book collector getting rid of any of them is always painful—but they’ve been gathering dust for a year now and it’s time to admit to myself that they’ll probably continue to sit there, untouched, for many years to come. So, time to find new homes for them via eBay and the like. And it’s not like I don’t still have a zillion other books still in our home and in my office, after all.

More importantly, I feel like our neighborhood really is our home. I do genuinely love living in Takoma, even with the twice-as-long commute. We have some truly fantastic neighbors. There are some great stores (both food and merchandise) that I enjoy going to. I’d wager that in the last year I’ve missed maybe 5 of our weekly Takoma Park Farmer’s Market Sundays. I’ve been volunteering with the local Friends of the Library group. I’ve got easy access to some good bike trails (Sligo Creek, Rock Creek, Metropolitan Branch) and last week with the help of Charlie I’ve finally gotten back into a routine of going to the Takoma Aquatic Center (a whopping four blocks away) for lap swimming.

And of course, the quiet aspect of the neighborhood is still a big charm. When we first moved I described our neighborhood as “small town living in a big city” and I think that’s still quite apt. Live can be as busy or as quiet as we need it to be.

Who knows? Maybe one of these days we’ll finally have a housewarming. I feel like that moment is getting closer… honest!

Five Things That Make Me Happy (part 14)

A Bride’s Story by Kaoru Mori
I utterly missed out on Japanese comics creator’s last series to be translated into English, Emma (the story of a Victorian era maid) but it’s nice to not be too far behind the times with her new series A Bride’s Story. It’s set in the 19th century and details a woman in the Silk Road area (near the Caspian Sea) who is the new bride to a young man in a neighboring tribe. It’s half relationship drama (and in a good, non-melodramatic way) and half anthropological study of that time and place. I just finished the first volume and was completely and utterly sucked into it. Also, it’s gorgeously drawn, an immense amount of detail packed into each page and on even what might otherwise feel like small, trivial details. I’m dying to pick up the next two that’ve been published in English to see what happens next. Absolutely charming.

Fra’ Mani Salametto
I picked up this dry salame for when guests were coming over, at Arrowine in Arlington, and I am so glad that I’ve had some leftover because it is divine. Soft, delicious flavor that just explodes in my mouth with each bite. Right now I’m slowly rationing out what I have left, but it’s good enough that I will definitely buy more. One of those slightly expensive foods that’s worth every penny you pay for it.

Home Improvements
In the past month or so, we’ve bought new blinds for the bedrooms (that better block light, a job the old ones did not quite handle properly), ordered new carpet for the stairs, and today a magnetic knife rack arrived. They’re all little changes, but it’s a real pleasure to get these things taken care of and have our home feel that much more… well… homey.

Back to Exercise
After a month off of exercising post-marathon (thanks to the delightful stress fracture in my right tibia), last week I finally got back to the gym… for five days in a row, no less. The things I’m limited to are a little boring, but I have caught up a great deal on my podcasts. And I keep vowing I’ll make it to the pool (for both lap swimming and pool running!) soon, honest, no really. It has felt good to do so. This week might be a little less energetic but there will be more exercise on the horizon, too. Time to use the non-busted parts and have them earn their keep. And speaking of stress fractures…

Being Halfway Done With My Air Cast
As of today it’s been three full weeks in the air cast! I find that hard to believe myself. I’d mentioned it already on Facebook and the like, but in short I developed a stress fracture in my right leg sometime in February, didn’t realize I had one, ran a marathon on it, then realized that the pain I was having was not a pulled muscle and went to a specialist to figure out the problem. I’ve been told that I’ll be in “das boot” (as I’ve named it) for six weeks. So, halfway done! Once I’m out of it I’ll get to go to PT to slowly ramp up returning to running, but that’ll be a slow process (in more ways than one) for a while. But it’s nice to be about to tip into the realm of over 50% complete with the truly annoying part of this little adventure.

Grim Truths

I don’t even want to admit how true this is, at times, in regard to myself.

(P.S. Will someone please reissue Dave Louapre and Dan Sweetman’s The Wasteland? I would buy several dozen copies of it as gifts. Instead I treasure my lone copy, and while I’m at it also wish for collections of their other big collaboration, Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children. Seriously people, it’s a license to print money.)


Just a quick knee update; had the first physical therapy session today and it looks like it’s just something that needs to be strengthened more than anything else.

That said? I’d forgotten how things that look awfully simple end up being harder than one imagined. I’d say that the people at the gym are going to get a good chuckle with me doing my squats or curls, but let’s face it, if you’re at the gym  you know how easily these things can kick your butt. (And part of why I like going to the TJ Community Center is the lack of judgmental people there.)

On an utterly different note, I am determined that this week I will finally dig everything out of the kitchen cabinets underneath the bar/countertop and re-arrange. It’s been in progress since… um… December. It would be nice to have that countertop back into something usable again. Fingers crossed.

Cleaning, Sorting, Re-arranging

I literally just spent the last three hours cleaning my bedroom. It’s amazing how much I’ll let some stuff pile up; it was almost all at one spot in particular where books and comics (both read and unread) were slowly accumulating. So instead of getting writing done (which also needed to be tackled today) I rolled up the proverbial sleeves and dug in like there was no tomorrow.

On the bright side, what a difference. All sorts of stuff earmarked for library donation, thrown away, or kept but now in a place where I’ll actually see it again. Always a nice feeling to get that sort of stuff done, even if it was long overdue. Next weekend’s goal is to wipe out the now five(!) bags of books that need to be sorted into library, Amazon re-selling, or eBay. Oof.

Of course, the stuff in the bedroom isn’t the only thing that’s being re-arranged. After a good 20-miler last Saturday, my right calf was feeling pretty sore on Sunday and part of Monday. It felt ok on Tuesday, but after just two miles of running it started hurting again. I went to a Foot & Ankle Sports Medicine doctor who diagnosed it as a strain, and also gave me an insert for my right running shoe to hopefully help prevent this in the future. But it does mean a couple of weeks off of running.

I took this as an opportunity to finally buy a 25-punch visitor pass for the pool near work on Friday (as well as heading over and swimming 32 laps), since it and spinning were both deemed acceptable. If I just keep active between these two, it should hopefully help minimize the amount of rebuilding I have to do before November 1st. I’m hoping the slight break will also help me get a little more jazzed about it when it rolls around; a solid year of marathon training is getting a little mentally wearing as time goes on. As psyched as I am for the Disneyworld races in January, I’ll be glad when they’re done.

Ka-boom Ka-boom

Have you ever had one of those moments where every time you turn around, something has blown up? First thing this morning was when I shut the mirrored medicine cabinet (after taking out my allergy medicine) and it promptly swung back open. Turns out the magnet on the door itself is no longer attached to the door. Fortunately I think some kind of really strong glue should do the trick there.

Then I got out the Norelco Bodygroom electric razor so that I could shave and shower before heading off to the pool this morning (30 laps/1500 yards, a new record for me!) only to discover that the trimmer/shaver foil was mysteriously missing. I checked the box from the Container Store that I keep my clippers and such in. Nothing. Next I checked the floor around the closet where the box is. Nothing. I even scoured the path between the bathroom and the closet, but came up empty handed. Argh. At least replacement foils are available and so I should have a new one arriving on Wednesday.

In the future, I would like this sort of thing to happen once I am fully awake, because I’m not entirely capable of dealing with it at 6am. (Normally I’d have just fixed the mirror right then and there, for instance.)

On the bright side, I don’t believe that bad things happen in threes, so with any luck that will be the end of it for today. Maybe?

(Tune in tomorrow when we discover that a trip to the gym after work resulted in Greg getting his toes snagged on the chain on the rowing machine.)

All That We Leave Behind

I spent part of last weekend helping my parents go through my grandfather’s house and sort through things that were keepable versus donatable (or destroyable). He recently moved into an assisted living facility, and since we were already going to Pennsylvania for a memorial service, we decided to roll up our sleeves and give a hand.

It’s amazing how much random stuff we accumulate over time. I know I regularly write here about needing to get rid of books I’ll never read again, but this opened my eyes up moreso than usual. Half-used bridge scoring notebooks, empty wine bottles that a friend had wanted to bottle his own wine (but never picked up), bags of old golf balls, recipe books that hadn’t been opened in decades.

And of course, the whole time, I’m thinking about my own apartment and wincing. Partially because I’m now of course thinking, “How much stuff should I be getting rid of?” And partially because it made me wonder what would happen if someone else had to go through all of my things. So I’m mentally pencilling in the weekend of the 27th (aka the only free one I have in a five week zone) to try and not just get rid of some books and clothes (my usual targets) but, well… all the little odds and ends.

(How many times have I claimed this?)

On the bright side, the mystery crud seems to have finally gone away, hurrah. Aside from that, it’s just been a little chaotic in Gregland, trying to get nine billion things done this week before heading back out of town tomorrow morning. And of course, the first of my four “preview week” performances at Shakespeare Theatre is tonight (Romeo & Juliet); if it was a regular ticket I’d have just exchanged them for ones later along, but because I went with the preview week package… not really that much of an option.

Oh, and clearly the new fall season is back because I am already behind on tv shows. How is that possible? And yet… and yet… oh well. Here’s what’s programmed into the DVR right now.

  • Project Runway: Still amuses me, and with the shift to Lifetime (and BMP producing instead of Magical Elves) starting next season, this could potentially be the final hurrah.
  • True Blood: I liked the pilot, in part because of the strength of the cast; definitely sticking around for more.
  • Entourage: Was Vince always this punchable? Then again, he’s never been the “lead” really.
  • 90210: Stop looking at me that way. I had to watch the 2-hour premiere, if only for nostalgia’s sake. And I swear, it’s like they dusted off 18-year old scripts and updated technology references. Bizarrely old fashioned. I suspect once the rest of the shows I like (or will try out) roll around, this will get the boot. And I’m already an episode behind.
  • Fringe: Well, I recorded it, have yet to watch it. You see what I mean? Already getting behind. I’m cautiously optimistic, and I’ll probably give it at least two or three episodes. I enjoy Lost enough that a new J.J. Abrams show gets a shot. Hopefully it will be more Lost and less What About Brian? (which was wretched).
  • America’s Next Top Model: The lure of the transgendered model who’s a local was enough to make me watch the first episode, which was entertaining. But I haven’t watched last night’s episode. Behind yet again!

And this is with How I Met Your Mother, Ugly Betty, The Office, Amazing Race, Pushing Daisies, 30 Rock, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and Life on Mars all on deck for the fall season. Yeesh. I think this is why when shows go bad I don’t get upset (like Boston Legal or My Name is Earl), because it just means time spent doing other things.

On the bright side, unwatched tv shows only take up space on the DVR, not in my home. Unlike books. Ahem.

Excavating Sanity

It’s pretty bad when someone asks what the most exciting thing you did last weekend and your response is, “Cleaned my apartment.” It’s doubly bad when you’re not even done, yet. But it’s actually at the top of the list for me. That’s probably because when things slide in my home, it’s not a build-up of trash or dirt, but rather piles of stuff everywhere. At first it’s just a small stack of books next to the desk, and the next thing I know half of my home is infested with piles of things.

So, I’m folding in the “clean this stuff up” path with a “get rid of things you don’t need any more” mission, and so far it’s a success. I have three bags of books and videos to go to the library; I’m especially excited about having sorted through the two comic book “long boxes” that housed my Doctor Who VHS tapes and pared them down to just two “short boxes” instead, thanks to weeding out the ones that have been released on DVD. Suddenly I have a lot more room in my closet, hurrah! That whole section of my bedroom is now a thousand times better; the stacks of books and unsorted CDs are all put away, I’ve rearranged some of the shelves, and I no longer cringe when I look at my room.

I’m not sure why I ever let it get to this level when I look at what a relief it always is to take care of it—I mean, we’re talking about an end result where I walk into my room and just stop and beam at how much better it looks. You’d think I’d be going crazy to keep it that way. The strange dichotomy of my head, I suppose. And until then I have to just keep excavating my room like some sort of bizarre archaeological dig.

It was a good weekend in addition to that, though. Charlie’s good friend Devo is visiting from Boston, and she’s super-sweet and nice to be around. We hit the Jim Henson exhibit at the Smithsonian, and while I’ve heard complaints that there aren’t that many actual Muppets on display, I really love the behind-the-scenes sketches and drawings that he created. They’re both beautiful and a creative inspiration to look at. We also hit my favorite Smithsonian museum, the Sackler Gallery; the new Yellow Mountains exhibit on that region in China was simply breathtaking.

I also finally caught The Dark Knight, which I thought was very good, although not the nerdgasm that so many others seemed to be claiming. A really cheesy ending, but so many small and individual good scenes that I’m willing to forgive. I’d be happy to see a third Nolan Bat-movie down the line.

(And last but not least, while I did not miss going to Comic-Con in the slightest, seeing everyone’s pictures makes me miss seeing my friends there. Maybe I could just go to San Diego and not enter the show? Ha ha.)

Today my throat is a little sore from running in the bad air quality. I suppose I should be thankful it’s just Code Orange and not Code Red or Purple (aka, “Don’t even think about breathing” levels of badness). By the time I was done with my run it was too late to take the bus into work, but I might just leave my car here and take the bus home, then bus it back in tomorrow. I’m enjoying my extra reading time that I get from my once-a-week public transportation.

A First for Everything

This will sound strange to many people, I’m sure, but amidst runs to the grocery store and other errands (oh, the excitement) I ended up doing something that I’d never done before—I met one of my neighbors.

I’m not entirely sure why I haven’t ever met any of my neighbors before. At Peachtree (1996-2001), I honestly didn’t even see the three neighbors on my floor for a couple of months, and then I just felt silly introducing myself at that point. I know, I should’ve said something, but… well, there we go. Then at Archstone (2001-2005), I only had one neighbor on my floor because the ground floor was built into a hill and so two of the four areas were equipment storage. There I’d occasionally smile and nod at the person who lived across the way, but neither of us ever talked to the other person. So there you go.

Now that I’m in Woodbury Park (2005+), I had once or twice held the door for the older woman on my floor, but she never seemed really ready to talk. (And she’s since moved out, and while I think there might be someone else there now, I have yet to see any real evidence of him or her, just that flyers on the doorstep vanish.) The people on either side I also hadn’t ever seen for months, and I am never even entirely sure at any given moment if there’s anyone in apartment on my left.

However! The apartment on my right which went vacant about two months ago now has a new inhabitant. He had the door propped open while I was heading out, so I said hello and gave him my name (and vice versa). That was painless.

But… I dunno… for some reason I’ve never felt like really introducing myself. Like doing so would be saying, “You’re going to be living there forever, time to know the locals.” Is this just me when it comes to a rented apartment?

(That said, I do quite love my neighborhood. If I could afford to buy in it, I would!)