Category Archives: travel

The Apple Watch Sport and the (sort of) Perfect Month

If you had told me this time last year that half my laundry each week would be in the form of workout clothes, I would have laughed hysterically.  For me, exercise is something that often goes along with avoidance behavior.  Don’t want to write an article?  Jump on the elliptical (it’s work/productivity)!  It is also something that I tend to say I’m going to do starting around January, and by February, I’m sleeping in again.

The last two years have been a time of transition for me.  2014 was definitely the year to Get Happy.  And 2015 has turned out to be the year to Get Healthy.  Since last January, I have been keeping an eye on food and exercise in a way I never have.  And it shows.  I feel stronger and more flexible than I have since college, which is really my goal.  I haven’t been “dieting” or “cutting carbs” or anything–just eating slightly less, cooking at home, and making sure I move around more.  And yes, I’ve lost weight, but in healthy, consistent ways.

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The Activity app gives you achievements.  They’re like Xbox achievements, but with less Cheetos and more going outside.

I’ve had an Apple Watch (38mm Space Gray Aluminum Case with Black Sport Band) since June and have come to appreciate many of its functions.  Without question, my favorite feature is getting navigation steps on my wrist rather than having to look down at my phone while driving.  But the apps I use most by far are the Activity and Workout apps.  For the first several months, I kept myself aware of the parameters it was monitoring–Move, Exercise, and Stand–but I really didn’t care too much about them.  But with the increasingly shorter autumn days and the lack of sunlight making me crabby (and knowing that exercise really helps), I made the decision to shoot for a perfect month in November:  290 calories of movement, 30 minutes of exercise, and 12 hours of standing/moving each hour for 30 days.  Looming holiday weight gain was also another motivating factor (last year’s for me was about 4 pounds).

First, some statistics:  I’m 30, 5’0″, and my basal metabolic rate is roughly 1352 calories per day (I’m currently shooting for 1200 calories of food a day if I don’t exercise).  I set a goal of 290 calories of additional movement per day–a goal that was totally doable on days I went to the gym (a “normal” gym day plus my normal movement gets me in at closer to 385 calories) but slightly difficult on days off.  These parameters allowed this 30 day challenge to myself to actually be a challenge.  Luckily, I had friends along for the ride to keep me on track (thanks, B, B, S, and T!).

And now, Some Things I Learned About Myself and the Watch in November:

  1. I don’t move enough when I’m working – the Watch, if you enable the feature, reminds you to stand up at the :50s of every hour if you haven’t moved around.  Standing is not enough–you’ve got to move around a little (or, as I learned, do 30 squats).  If I’m really focused on writing or grading, I apparently can sit in place for 3-4 hours straight.  Everything I’ve ever been told about working at computers (or working in general) states that you should take small breaks every hour to move around and focus.  Having a reminder to do that (and a daily goal of 12 hours of standing) really helped me to realize how sedentary graduate school can make me sometimes.  And I’ve found that at the end of a day of writing where I move around appropriately, I’m far less stiff at night.
  2. Lazy Sundays really are lazy – by far, the most difficult day each
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    The Activity app gives you achievements.  They’re like Xbox achievements, but with less Cheetos and more going outside.

    week for me was Sunday.  My gym access is at work, which I’m at MWF.  On TTh, I generally walk downtown to work.  On Saturdays, my brother and I usually run errands and I do stuff around my apartment.  Sundays are total slug days, meant for catching up on TV, grading, and general lack of changing out of pajamas.  There were days that I had to exercise for nearly an hour at night just to make up for how little I had done during the day (and getting motivated to do that at 7:30 p.m. wasn’t always easy).  Luckily, I had friends keeping me motivated when I couldn’t find the motivation myself.
  3. It’s possible to psych out the Watch – The first three weeks of this challenge were hard but doable; I would exercise before bed if I had
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    I was in the car from noon to 7:30. You can totally see my once-per-hour-fist-bump-for-stand-goal in the exercise chart.

    not met my goals by the end of the day.  But by week four, holiday travel got in the way, and there were times that I simply could not stand up each hour (being stuck in the car for 7.5 hours on the Sunday after Thanksgiving will do that).  Fist-pumping raises your blood pressure and moves your arm around enough to make the watch think you’re moving (in some cases, it also gives you exercise minutes).  Bumpy car rides also psych it out–according to my Sunday statistics, I was moving around a little bit all day on Sunday.  So you might be asking, how accurate are the metrics?  When used normally, the metrics seem to be very accurate.  But as with all new tech, it’s not perfect yet.  So technically, did I have a Perfect Month? No…  But I did stay mindful daily of taking care of myself, so in that way, yes, it was perfect.
  4. Aristotle was right about habits – Several things kept me motivated this month:  not letting my friends also doing this 30 day challenge win/beat me (this was a huge motivator), wanting to continue this year of positive life-changes, wanting to stay ahead of the winter blues.  By the end of this month, though, I found myself feeling ooky on days I wasn’t moving around enough.  And consistent exercise every day made gym goals (including increasing weight at my BodyPump class) come easier.  I find myself breathing easier during cardio and feeling less fatigued after 30-45 minutes of hard exercise.  Many people say it takes 21 days to make something a habit (though others argue that depending on the difficulty of the habit, it could take longer), and on some level, I think that was part of what made that last week so hard–getting over that hurdle.  While this month (and all of my life changes this year) weren’t about losing weight, I did find that this consistent movement helped me break through a weight plateau I’ve been waffling around since May.  But I’m less concerned about weight and more about strength, and I’m definitely stronger now.

So what does that say about the coming month?  I’ve already been challenged by my peers to keep going (and, conversely, to keep supporting them of course), but with all of the upcoming travel I have for Christmukkah, I worry that this will cause more stress than good (plus, not gonna lie, it’s gray and gross outside, and I just want to stay on the couch).  But the voice in the back of my head, augmented by writing all this up, is reminding me just how much better I’ve felt this month.  So yeah, I’ll probably try.  Plus, the app is already peer pressuring me in continuing…

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That 12/2015 showed up out of nowhere. And I wants it…

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Thoughts on Not Being Vegetarian (in California)

I need to admit something to all of you:  I’m in a mixed relationship.

You see… sometimes, I eat meat.  My partner… well, he’s a lifelong vegetarian.

I’ve dabbled in vegetarianism for years, sometimes for ethical reasons, more often for health reasons.  Most days, I prefer getting my protein from plant-based sources, finding I feel healthier on days my stomach isn’t weighed down with animal parts.

And then, about once a year, I have a Ron Swanson-level squee-fest over the mere idea of a steak.

Thanks http://nbcparksandrec.tumblr.com/ for the perfect visual.

Thanks http://nbcparksandrec.tumblr.com/ for the perfect visual.

This preference toward vegetarianism is on a moving spectrum, from complete vegetarianism in high school to having chicken and turkey in the house during most of grad school.  The last year or two has been mostly a “I don’t have meat in the house, but sometimes I eat it out” sort of situation.

So where’s my “so what?’ of this post?  Let me tell you a story.

As of today, I’ve been living in California for a month.  San Jose, to be specific.  And I’ve noticed a few differences between my current home and where I live 9 months out of the year:  gas and groceries are way higher priced, diversity is actually a thing here, annnd there are usually way more vegetarian items on a menu (complete with being able to eat my body weight in avocado – yay!).

While I may not be ethically/religiously vegetarian, my partner is.  So while I honestly will eat whatever you put in front of me (including hákarl with a brennivín chaser while attending a conference in Iceland), I’ve learned to be more mindful of scouting out vegetarian options (don’t even get me started on being on the lookout for hidden gelatin and chicken broth…) when we go out.

And we’ve had some pretty good food the last month.  By far, my favorite find has been the Haute Enchilada in Moss Landing, whose vegetarian/vegan and seafood options are truly top-notch.

But lately, I’ve been noticing a trend when we order food.  I do say trend, as at this point, it’s happened multiple times.  The first couple times, I chalked it up to the server mixing up seats on an order.  Or the fact that often, a second person (not our server) would bring our food to the table.  No big deal.

But then it kept happening.  The most recent example was when we went out for pho on Saturday.  We’ve found a lovely place near us that does a decent vegetarian pho, which I’d ordered the first time we went.  But this time, I was feeling seafood.  I’m from the Chesapeake.  For me, seafood is generally always going to win over a vegetarian option.

So we’re sitting there, munching on vegetarian spring rolls when our food comes out.  The gentleman carrying our food announces “vegetarian?” and before we can answer begins putting it down in front of me.

Actually, no, thank you, that delicious bowl of seafood is mine, thanks.

So what’s going on here?  I’ve come up with a two options.  Either

  • there still is an inherent bias that women are more likely to be vegetarians than men, or
  • given my partner’s height, people assume that he can’t be vegetarian.

This second option has actually come up repeatedly.  People legitimately think that if you’re tall, you must eat meat.  When visiting family in India, people actually vocalized on several occasions that my partner must eat meat in America because there’s no way he could be that tall otherwise.

If I really wanted to make this article even more confusing, I could add in an entire side adventure about misconceptions in the West about Indians and vegetarianism.  But it seems that conceptions about size, masculinity, and vegetarianism, at least with what I have encountered, trump the “all Indians are vegetarians” myth (though you would think the conflicting perceptions would at least make servers pause before automatically plunking down a bowl of veggies in front of me).

I’m laughing to myself as I sit here thinking about all of this–in California.  In the Bay Area.  You know, the part of the US that all of us East Coast snobs refer to as “crunchy,” “granola,” “organic,” and high on its own smug (thanks Matt and Trey).  If any place were going to be openminded about vegetarianism, this would be it, right??

The good news is, through all of this, I’m having to rethink my preconceptions about living on the West Coast.  Yeah, there might be more vegetarian options (and yes, the aforementioned avocado comment is real – you really can get avocado added to anything) out here on the Left Coast, but male vegetarians still confuse people (apparently).

Which is intrinsically ridiculous.  I started doing some research and came up with some things, including a website devoted to vegan bodybuilders and this list of famous vegetarians (including Sir Paul, Mike Tyson, Ben Franklin, and, of course, Gandhiji).  I even found this really interesting article about Griff Whalen, a wide receiver for the Indianapolis Colts who decided to go vegan for health reasons.  Just read this excerpt from the article:

Despite the health benefits and Whalen’s decided push for such a diet, being a vegan is not the most popular move to make in the NFL. The few other players who have professed plant-only diets have riled up fans, media pundits and even teammates.

They’ll ruin the team’s chances of a winning season. They’ll be weaker on the field. They’ll get tackled and outplayed more easily. Meat is a must for the NFL. Protein. Manly food. To eat plants-only is foolish for a football player.

So yeah, there definitely seems to still be a misconception here about size, strength, and the health benefits of a vegetarian/vegan diet.  And of course, we can debate all day about size, strength, and whether or not vegetarianism affects either.  But the bias really seems to be clearly on the side of “of course you can’t be big and strong only eating plants.”  Unless, of course, you’re Popeye.

Notice he's not standing up straight...

Notice he’s not standing up straight…

So does what I’ve been witnessing at restaurants really come down to this continued belief?  Does it really just come down to the 15-inch height difference between myself and my partner?

I have no idea.  But it keeps happening.  And every time, I roll my eyes, and my (far more) gracious partner smiles and tells the waiter “No, actually I’m the vegetarian.”

And then I chow down on the souls of recently departed shellfish, preferably slathered with all the avocado the kitchen has.

Shellfish that, from what I’ve been told, apparently isn’t kosher

Road Trip 2015 Entry 5 (Day 3 – MO to TX): Everything is Bigger (and Weirder) in Texas

As promised, I’ve got some more thoughts and stats about Day 3.  Between a lack of internet and sheer exhaustion, I’ve gotten behind on this blog.  Luckily, I took trip notes.

I-40 went on forever... and ever...

I-40 went on forever… and ever…

Left Springfield and made it to Oklahoma within the first hour or so.  I was immediately surprised by the speed limits on many of the state routes and highways.  I don’t believe I’ve ever driven on roads were the posted speed limit was 75 mph.  (I have, however, driven I-85/I-285 in Atlanta hundreds of times, and while the understood speed limit was at least 75, it wasn’t, exactly, legal.)  My mileage was definitely affected by going this quickly, but it was completely worth it.

As I mentioned before, Oklahoma looked nothing like I expected.  I think we get this impression growing up on the coasts that the “middle” of the country is just open, brown, and boring.  Oklahoma was anything but boring.  Rolling hills out of the Ozarks morphed to wide open spaces full of trees.  I only really got to the prairies I was expecting toward western OK going into Texas.  Tulsa was kind of a weird city to drive through.  Both kind of cooly modern while simultaneously weirdly dappled with casinos.

Me and my Aunt!

Me and my Aunt!

Stopped in Shawnee, OK to have lunch with my awesome Aunt T.  She’s my aunt in the sense that she is my mom’s oldest friend/maid of honor.  While the trip that day wasn’t particularly long mileage-wise, it was nice to have the break in the middle to catch up (I hadn’t seen Aunt T. since high school) and have some Pho at the brand-new Shawnee Pho (I’d link to it, but that’s how new it is).  Got that selfie in for Mom (how adorable are we?) before hitting the road again for Amarillo.

Leaving Shawnee began the long trek across I-40/Route 66.  Once I passed Oklahoma City, the road completely opened up and it began to get flatter.  The cross into Texas  was exactly what I expected.  Lots of oil fields and refineries.  The largest free-standing cross in the Americas (complete with matching late 90s style website!).  The prairie got more scrubby and desert-like as I went.  Absolutely stunning.


Got to Amarillo right before sunset for my second night of Couchsurfing.  While I still completely recommend it, I was a little wiped by the time I got there.  I get unusually (for me)  introverted when I get tired/stressed, so as lovely as Angela and her family were, I found myself struggling to be sociable.  Luckily, she and her kids seemed to get it and let me sit there watching Full House and Fresh Prince with them without expecting all that much interaction with me.  Went to sleep relatively early, as Angela needed me to get out of the house by about 6 a.m. (kids had to go to school), which gave me the opportunity to get going on my longest leg of the trip pretty early.

At this point in the trip, I’m at 1514 miles, so over halfway.  Definitely going to need an oil change once I get to California.

More posts coming up in the next few days.  Don’t want to rush this.  Luckily, all of the tech I used on this trip (and the actual handwritten notes I took) are allowing me to reconstruct this pretty well.

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Genius playlist based on “Everlong”

Trip Stats:
Starting OD (Springfield, MO):  214830
Ending OD (Amarillo, TX):  215407
Stop 1:  277 miles (Shawnee, OK)
Stop 2:  Some Miles (Somewhere near Texas?)
Stop 3: 299.3 Miles (Amarillo, TX)

Gas:
Fill-up 4:  12.263 gallons @ 2.36/gal – $29.05
Fill-up 5:  10.217 gal @ 2.37/gal – $24.20

MPG Day 2:  Tank 1:  27.23 mpg.  Tank 2:  27.11 MPG.  75 MPH highways had a lot to do with this.

Music:
Walk the Moon – Talking is Hard
Genius Playlist based on Foo Fighters “Everlong”
Jimmy Eat World – Futures
Kongos – Lunatic
matchbox twenty – Yourself or Someone Like You
MuteMath – Armistice

Road Trip 2015 Entry 4 (Day 3 – MO to TX): Brief Edition

Apparently this is the Largest Cross in the Western Hemisphere...  East Coast, take note.

Apparently this is the Largest Cross in the Western Hemisphere… East Coast, take note.

Made it to Amarillo, Texas in one piece (though I am a little scarred already).  This is going to be a brief update, as I don’t have access to wifi at the house I’m surfing at today (I’m using my phone’s hotspot).  I’ll do something more extensive later today or tomorrow.

Oklahoma was far greener and prettier than I could have possibly imagined.  Apparently, there has been a ton of rain in the last couple weeks, so it was unseasonably green.  The rolling hills of Eastern Oklahoma slowly blended into the flatter plains and scrub of Western Oklahoma right as I dumped into Texas (I’ve finally made it to I-40 y’all).

Couchsurfed with the lovely Angela, her two daughters, and three dachshunds.  Got my own room and everything, so I feel very spoiled.

Today’s goal is Laughlin, NV (via Route 66).  Who can say no to a $15 hotel room ON A BOAT??

Like I said, I’ll do a far longer post later, including trip stats.  Music yesterday included Walk the Moon, Foo Fighters, matchbox twenty, and MuteMath.

Peace, Love, and *cough*Signal Boost*cough*!

Road Trip 2015 Entry 3 (Day 2 – KY to MO): I Crossed the Mississippi And None of My Oxen Died (with Couchsurfing!)

Day two was pretty amazing.  I’m currently importing all of the photos from the GoPro, and I can’t wait to see this timelapse (This might be delayed, y’all.  It’s really big).  Kentucky continued along with rolling hills until Illinois (which I was in for all of about 10 miles).  Torrential downpours from the end of KY through the beginning of MO made the trip a little gross, but when the sky cleared up.

So you know how you know something will happen but you don’t know it because you just didn’t think about it?  Yeah, totally had that moment crossing the Mississippi.  To be fair, it was pouring and I’d just crossed several other rivers.  But there was definitely a “oh hey, look at that!” moment.

Crossed into Central time at some point.  Have no idea where.

Missouri was beautiful.  A little flatter than I expected at first, but then I entered the Ozarks.  Best part of the Ozarks:  passing all of the Laura Ingalls Wilder stuff while simultaneously passing Amish buggies on US-60.  For a hot second, it felt like being in an episode of Little House on the Prairie.  With cars.

Stopped in Poplar Bluff, MO at a Harps grocery store for a homemade hoagie.  Totally worth the stop.  Am starting to think I’ll stop at grocery stores instead of fast food joints from now on (except Taco Bell.  Please.).

Made it into Springfield in early evening and met up with my Couchsurfer hosts Melanie and Holly.  If you’re looking to do this same cross-country route, I highly recommend them as hosts.  Holly and Melanie, their two dogs, and one super fluffy cat made me feel quite at home.

Beer Mac and Cheese.  OM NOM.

Beer Mac and Cheese. OM NOM.

After arriving, they took me to downtown Springfield, which has a wicked cool college town vibe.  After dinner at the Springfield Brewing Company, we popped over to this amazing townie bar, the Patton Alley Pub, which was having a tap takeover by Mother’s Brewing Company, a local brewery out of Springfield (beers I tried:  McJagger Irish Red, Ruby).  Another friend of theirs, Devin, joined us, and we had a fantastic time.  At the end of the night, we returned to their place to marathon HIMYM and have a few more beers.

Congrats, Melanie and Holly, you have set the CS bar way too high.  I look forward to seeing if my next couple stops can compete!

Today I head to Amarillo, TX by way of Shawnee, OK (where I will be having lunch with my awesome Aunt!).  Leave me some love!

Trip Stats:
Starting OD (Fort Knox, KY):  214326
Ending OD (Springfield, MO):  214830
Stop 1:  176 miles (Paducah, KY)
Stop 2:  114 Miles (Poplar Bluff, MO)
Stop 3: 191 Miles (Springfield, MO)

Gas:
Fill-up 3:  11.187 gallons @ 2.59/gal – $29.08
Should have done Fill-up 4 before I got to my host’s house…

MPG Day 2:  25.65 for first tank.  Not sure what the second one is.  Given I was averaging in the 30s before I left, I’m going to blame weight and the untested cruise.  Other suggestions would be welcome.  This is making me angry.

Music:
Grouplove – Never Trust A Happy Song
Fall Out Boy – Save Rock And Roll, Folie A Deux, and Infinity On High
The Heavy – The Glorious Dead and The House that Dirt Built

Road Trip 2015 Entry 2 (Day 1 – VA to KY): “Sister” Time and Childhood Lies

The first part of my trip was relatively short and pleasant.  I met my college best friend (and “big sis”) in Lexington, KY along with her family before a quick jaunt to Best Buy (I’ll explain) on the way to Fort Knox, KY.

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Morton Travel Plaza, WV

The trip started pretty frustratingly.  My plan to use the GoPro for the trip was (nearly) foiled by a firmware update.  Went to update the Hero3+ Silver for the first time in (probably) months, and for some reason, it wouldn’t turn back on after the install.  Several bad words later, I left for breakfast with the brother, the brother’s roommate, and the brother’s roommate’s dad.  After a brief respite from the camera stress, we went back, hoping that it had magically fixed itself.

It hadn’t.

Angry, I made my last stop on the way out of town, gassed up at the University City Kroger, and headed out.

IMG_3519Not going to lie, I was super bummed about the GoPro.  If you’ve never done it, the drive up US-460 West to I-77 North/I-64 West through Charleston and Huntington, WV is some of the most beautiful driving on the East Coast.  I’ve done the trip a few times (though never past Charleston prior), but never in bright, green spring.  Nearly every time I drive through West Virginia, some well-intentioned person always warns me about being “safe.”  “Hillbilly” prejudice drives me nuts, especially given I was raised in WV for many years (and I’m related to half of Keyser, WV…).  It’s a bias that just grates on me.  Not having the video of the trip to show people just how lovely one of my homes is is going to be one of my biggest regrets of the trip.

IMG_3651Yesterday was my first time in Kentucky.  Fun fact:  the grass is not blue.  It’s not.  At all.  I feel lied to.

Once I crossed the WV/KY border, the mountains died down, and I was driving through gorgeous piedmont.  I don’t know why I assumed KY would be more mountainous.  Probably because elementary school geography was over twenty years ago… (my G-d).  The drive was stunning.  I cannot wait to see more states I haven’t seen before!  Plus, the roads seriously opened up the second I entered KY.  If this is any indication about how driving is going to be in “the middle part of the US,” I’m really looking forward to the pace.

Made it to Lexington with relatively few problems (springtime roadwork is going to destroy me on this trip, I think).  The cruise control has kind of a weird relationship with my throttle, but I’m getting used to it.  Ate at the Cracker Barrel in Lexington (I seriously hadn’t eaten there since college.  It did not disappoint.) before swinging by Best Buy.  My awesome partner ordered me a new camera for the trip (we’re not 100% if the other one is fixable.  It’s being sent off), so we did manage to get video from Lexington to Fort Knox.

This was set to take photos every 5 seconds.  Let me know if you have any suggestions on changing that.

Today is a chill day in KY with J.  Watching The Fast and the Furious 1-4 (relationships make you do funny things…) and staying in on a truly miserable rainy day.  Tomorrow I leave at the crack of dawn to drive to Springfield, MO.  Looking to Couchsurf across the country (Yes, it’s safe.  No, don’t yell at me).  Any suggestions for stuff to do in Springfield if I get there early?

Remember, please signal boost if you’re enjoying these updates!

Trip Stats:
Starting OD (Blacksburg, VA):  213894
Ending OD (Fort Knox, KY):  214326
Stop 1:  108 miles, 2 hours (Morton Rest Stop, 77N/64W, WV)
Stop 2:  201 miles, 3 hours (Lexington, KY)
Stop 3:  119 miles, 2.25 hours (Fort Knox, KY)

Gas:
Fill-up 1:  8.18 gallons @ 2.09/gal – $17.17
Fill-up 2:  11.335 gallons @ 2.69/gal – $30.59

MPG Day 1:  27.6mpg.  Terrible, given I’ve been averaging over 30 since I had all the work done.  I blame weight (my entire trunk is full with clothes and books) and mountains.  We’ll see how this goes now that I’m in flatter areas.

Music:
Beck – Mellow Gold
Broken Bells – Broken Bells and Meyrin Fields (EP)
Kelly Clarkson – Breakaway
Lieutenant – If I Kill This Thing We’re All Going to Eat For A Week
Plain White Ts – All That We Needed
Silversun Pickups – Seasick (Single)

Road Trip 2015 Entry 1: Car Upgrades and Music Requests

Well the road trip officially starts Friday, but I’ll be packing and getting ready all day today and tomorrow.  Finally got all the last bits of Nigel squared away, including her stickers and cruise control.

Still need to fix the stickers...

Still need to fix the stickers… “SUBARU” is a bit wibbly and in the wrong spot, and the Impreza sticker is wrong and in the wrong spot.

Look, Ma! No Feet!

Look, Ma! No Feet!

Thanks so much to all the fantastic employees at Shelor Motor Mile Subaru (especially Michael in the Parts and Accessories department) for the new car parts and at Main Auto Spa for all the hard work they put into making my old girl sparkle inside and out.

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Compare that to the paint on my last post!

Now we all know how boring those 2700 miles I’ll be taking can get, even with brand-new scenery, so I’m asking for your help, Constant Readers.  I’ve gotten a bunch of new music for the trip, but I could use some suggestions.  If you go over to my last.fm profile, you can see my overall top artists plus what I’ve really been jamming to the last six months or so.  Anything alt. rock (especially lesser-known stuff) would be right up my alley.

So feel free to leave me a comment here (or wherever it gets publicized) with an artist, album, or if you’re feeling really creative, an entire playlist!  If you need to email me something, just let me know, and I can shoot you my email address!  The music you suggest will help me both get to California and through the writing of my dissertation this summer!

Finally, if y’all are interested in this trip (or know someone who may be), please feel free to give me a signal boost along the way.

Love: It’s What Makes a Subaru MY Subaru

I will start this post off by saying that yes, this is shameless pandering on some level.  But nothing I’m about to say about my car isn’t completely true (and anyone who has ever heard me wax on and on about my nearly eighteen-year-old car can confirm the validity of the sentiments hereafter).

My parents purchased our 1997 Subaru Impreza Brighton (2-door, green) at the end of the model year, just prior to the unfortunate exploding of our faithful 1987 Volvo 240DL station wagon.  The car was my mother’s, then my father’s after the Volvo’s demise (Mom got a 1999 Honda CRV that she still drives).  When I finally got my learner’s and then my license in 2003, the Subaru became mine.

Early 2014 (or: the Year I (Finally) Learned To Park Backwards). Look at that pretty Impreza (covered in salt)!

Early 2014 (or: the Year I (Finally) Learned To Park Backwards). Look at that pretty Impreza (covered in salt)!

Her name is Nigel.  Yes, her.  My roommate M. was there when she was finally named.  I really wish I had noted how many miles she had on her when I got her.  Definitely over 100,000.  Probably closer to 110,000 because that’s when her last timing belt went on until recently.  She currently stands at 214,000 well-earned miles.

There is a bond that comes from your first car, whether you like the car or not.  My brother’s first car, my cousin’s Passat, met an early demise due to rapidly falling snow, and I’m pretty sure my brother is still mourning its loss.  I wasn’t around for my partner’s first car, but the first car I knew him with, a purple (yes, purple) Honda, was one of my great loves (though, I’m pretty sure, he would have purposely wrecked that car to collect the insurance money if it had been worth it).

So many times different people have told me to junk this car.  The vinyl is starting to tear, I’ve had to put about 1500 bucks into her this year alone (all general maintenance stuff i’d have to do on a 5-6 year old car, too, I would add), and I’m sure she’s not as safe as a brand-new car.  But I love her, and like the love of Joni Mitchell, true love lasts a lifetime.

Clearly she needs new paint (and a bath)...

Clearly she needed new paint (and a bath)…

So now that she’s just hit 200,000, and I get ever closer to 30, I find myself getting nostalgic.  In an attempt to channel that nostalgia in some meaningful way, my goal this summer is to drive my love across the country to San Jose, to spend the summer with my partner writing (finishing?) my dissertation:

Roughly 2800 miles.  The first half I have places to stop (J. and Aunt T., you’ve been warned).  After that it gets murky.  If you live along this route, and I don’t know it (and you want to see me), please respond.  Or if you want me to pick you up and you want to come along, I can promise Haribo and music.  All in all, it’ll be about 6000 miles before I return to the East Coast just in time for my 30th birthday.

In an ideal world, some of the people who have taken the many East Coast road trips I’ve been on (Boston to Atlanta, Savannah to Orlando, North Carolina to Ohio to Boston) would be there for stints of the drive.  And in a really ideal world, Nigel won’t blow up from the stress (notice I’m taking the southern route).

In the most amazing world ever, Subaru would make an epic commercial out of the experience.  They’ve done it before, focusing on families and the lived, loved experience of owning a Subaru.  Why not make one about a (nearly) vintage car still on the road?

My father, in what I can only hope is my 30th (and 40th…) birthday present (it’s on the internet now, Dad, so it must be true), has taken care of having most of her current wears and tears replaced or shined up.  She’s even had her headlights realigned, so now she can see properly.  Add to that a new axle, new hubcap covers, and a paint job to cover with new bumper stickers.  Heck, with the amount he’s done, there’s probably a new primary buffer panel and port compression coil (with functioning catalyzer) in there somewhere (seriously, thanks again, Dad).  In addition to all of the repairs Dad did, I have replaced the head gasket and the steering column wiring.  I also splurged for cruise control and new window cranks.  I’m waiting on the last couple stickers to put on the trunk (It’s a Subaru Nothing at the moment), and then I’ll post photos.  According to my mechanics at the wonderful Shelor Motor Mile, what I’m doing is actually “restoring” this car, not “repairing” it.  Who knew?

I’ll be writing a few more posts in the next couple days.  One will most definitely be a request for music suggestions and/or playlists.  Once the last touches are on the car, I’ll post a gallery of photos.  And I will definitely be GoPro-ing and live-tweeting the trip as I go.  Wish me luck!

In Defense of the Selfie

So I promise you this post isn’t trying to piggyback off the success(?) of ABC’s new show, but hey, if it gets me traffic, who am I to complain?

There are tons of arguments out there against selfies.  That they add to our society’s narcissism.  That people are taking them at really inappropriate times.  And this might be a fair assessment, but I look at it this way:  if someone wants to find a way to express themselves, they’re going to.  This generation’s way of doing it is selfies.  And it’s not like we haven’t done this before (Polaroid selfies ftw).

But today, I write in defense of the selfie.  And this is why.

For my parents’ twentieth anniversary, I thought it would be nice to get twenty pictures of them from throughout their marriage to put into a matted picture frame.  My parents’ anniversary was in mid-December, so I had to find a day when my brother and I were home and they were out to go through photos and pick out the best ones.  It was a hurried affair, as we didn’t have much time before they got home, so I didn’t notice the size of the pile as I went through.  I pretty much just threw anything aside that might vaguely count, figuring I’d go through them later after they went to bed.

Wait, did I say “pile”?  I really meant a complete lack of pile.

In the 20 years of marriage my parents had had prior to that point, there were 16 pictures.  I’m not including any formal Olan Mills’ family shots.  I mean candids and home photos.

Sixteen.

But why?  Why would there be so few?  My parents were together constantly.  Neither traveled much for work (Dad had the occasional Navy TEMDU, but that was about it), and nearly both always went on vacation together.  You’d think there would be more photographic evidence of their marriage.  My mom has had a beautiful film SLR my whole life and was the photographer of the family.  I had just been through bags and bags of old photos and found a mere 16.

Mom always took the pictures in the family.  The few pictures of my mom separately from my dad were from the random times he would grab the camera to make sure there was at least one picture of Mom from our trip (usually so my grandparents could see it).  There are lots of pictures of me/Mom/bro and me/Dad/bro, but very few of the four of us together.

Now, I’m sure if I went to my aunts and uncles, I could have found many more photos.  But in my parents’ personal collection, in twenty years, there were so few pictures chronicling their life together.

I’d give anything to have some ridiculous pictures of my parents in their 20s and early 30s.

So why write this post, and why now?  I just sent on a seven day road trip with my partner from Blacksburg, VA to Boston, MA.  Seven days together is an eternity when you’re in a long distance relationship (He’s in SoCal; I’m in SoVa).  When you have so few moments together throughout a year, everything suddenly becomes more important.  So yes, I have pictures of our food, of that horribly amazing round of Cards Against Humanity that Rando Cardrissian won, of our family and friends.

And of course, of us.

Are most selfies ridiculous wastes of “film”?  Probably (thank G-d I didn’t have to spend money to develop these).  Exhibits A-D:

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Then, there are the ones that your mother gets pissed at you for:

Okay, so she *may* have a point...

Okay, so she *may* have a point…

But then, when you get it right, it makes her so happy:

You're pretty gorgeous too, Mom!

You’re pretty gorgeous too, Mom! Also, my screenshot skills are really poor.

Yeah, we’re (and by “we” I mean those of us lucky enough to have cell phones…) taking more photos these days.  Front-facing cameras and the fact that you don’t have to pay to develop film mean we’re photodocumenting our lives at a much larger rate of speed.  But I hope that when my kids (G-d willing) are going through old photos, whether it be for my 50th birthday or my retirement from teaching at the ripe old age of 80, they will have evidence of a happy life, full of friends, family, and love.

So if the selfie is the only way I can take a picture with my partner near the Robin Williams memorial in the Boston Public Gardens:

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Or during one of my best friend’s wedding reception:

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Then, I’m going to do it.  And when I go through the photos with someone else, I’ll have a story I can put with each photo.  A snippet of a memory, captured in pixels (or if I can actually get myself to CVS, ink!).

So I stand firmly in support of the selfie.  Selfies, you’re alright.

5 Things I Learned the First Time I Wore a Sari. Or, Bring Aspirin to an Indian Wedding.

This East Coast woman has been living in California the last almost-month, predominately in Irvine, with stints to LA, Hemet, Huntington Beach, and Newport Beach. What I did not expect was to experience complete and utter culture shock in my mother’s own home state. So what I plan to do in this post is to give all of you attending an Indian wedding for the first time some tips for getting through the multitude of events you are about to experience.

My current S.O. is Indian, and as part of this trip, I attended the wedding of the fantastic N. & N. (names redacted to protect the spiderphobic subjects of this post). I’ve been to all sorts of weddings, and for crying out loud, I study and teach both religions (Jainism/Islam) covered by this wedding. I’ve heard stories of other weddings and seen my fair share of Bollywood movies. Yet, nothing could have prepared me for these series of days.

Yes, days. We actually missed one of the first events, being held on a Wednesday, or otherwise, it would have been a Wednesday thru Saturday celebration. Traditional American weddings: take notes.

I won’t bore y’all with the details of every single ceremony (by my count, we attended at least 6 separate things spread out from Orange County to the LAX Hilton), but I thought I would share some things I’ve learned about myself and my new partner’s traditions while attending the various portions of this wedding week.

(Thanks to N&N if they’re reading this for inviting me to be a part of their special week. But seriously, y’all, stop getting married. What are you up to, 15 separate sets of vows?)

5 Things I Learned the First Time I Wore a Sari. Or, Bring Aspirin to an Indian Wedding.
1) Let’s start with “bring aspirin.” Unless you’re a dancer used to dancing barefoot, parts of your body you didn’t even know could hurt will hurt for 2-3 days afterward. And yes, part of this may be a “Holly needs to be in better shape” issue, but part of it definitely was a lack of arch support. And with regards to arch support, in the immortal words of Danny Glover’s Murtaugh, “I’m getting too old for this shit.”

2) Aunties are your friend. No seriously, collect them like Pokémon or POGs. Aunties will help you redo your sari when the pleats get screwed up (they will), will reattach your bindi, and will explain to you what the hell is going on with all the ceremonies you’ve never seen before (assuming you’re white or non-Indian like me). They are basically G-d’s gift to first-time wedding-goers. Ask questions. Many people from the community my own age didn’t even know what was going on (Indian traditions are so varied, after all), so chances are you’re not the only one with questions.

3) Prepare to be emotionally and physically wiped. Seriously. You’re going to be active for 15 hours a day. And most of what you experience is going to be brand new and wonderful, from the music, to the food, to the conversations. There will be so much sensory input your brain is honestly just going to get tired. And after your third night of only 5 hours of sleep, you’re going to get cranky. Plan ahead, stay hydrated, and remember, you will have fond memories of your experience (G-d willing) after you get some much-needed sleep. (And you will need sleep. Prepare to take an entire day off after the last event).

4. Don’t be surprised when you start picking up on Hindi/Indian vernacular words in future conversations. You absorbed a lot more than you realized the last few days. This literally just happened to me. Some woman on my plane literally just hollered “Chalo!” (Let’s go!) at her kid. (If you’ve ever travelled to the Middle East, this is gonna be your “yalla.”) My head whipped up like I was being yelled at. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you start acclimating to the new culture and traditions you find yourself surrounded by.

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5. Finally, embrace the sari. Or whatever clothing you wear, even if it’s Western. I was terrified of the sari for the first hour I wore it. It wasn’t mine (Thanks, S., for letting me borrow yours!), it is different to wear than any other formal clothing I have ever worn, and I was terrified I was going to trip and munch it horribly. (I did, once. And I didn’t faceplant, so go me.) And know that there are probably at least 5 other people there just as uncomfortable for that first hour as you. At least two Indian women approached me to tell me I was wearing the sari well and asked me how often I’d worn them. They were shocked to find out it was my first time and responded that even they avoided them at all costs. What I’m trying to say is you’re going to be far more comfortable and confident than you thought you would be. Be prepared to kick off your shoes and dance for hours. Feel free to move and have fun in whatever you’re wearing, whether it be a sari, kurta, or suit.

So, hopefully the spirit intended by this list comes across. Of course, everyone’s experience will be different, but this is what has been mulling around in my mind since the wedding was over on Saturday (at 2 a.m.). On my way back to Hartsfield-Jackson (ATL) now. Y’all have a pleasant sleep.