Thursday, May 25, 2017

Liked but did I loved?

Marathon Woman
Running the Race to Revolutionize Women's Sports
by Kathrine Switzer

This is one tough woman!  And a good memoir writer, too.  She wasn't afraid to talk of "women things" like periods or tears, either.  Describing the 1971 Boston Marathon:

The women at Wellesley at last were all I had hoped for, and more. In 1967 they were nonexistent, and in 1970, also a cold and miserable rain, they were scarce. Today they were out in force and went absolutely crazy when they saw me. For the first time, I felt the noise of their screaming bounce off my chest; the only time I'd felt that before was when I was a kid at a parade and felt the concussion of the big drums in the marching band. I was always proud of being a woman and I was proud enough of my running to need little outside affirmation, but the cheers of the Wellesley women made up for a lot of dark training nights. I felt my eyes sting with tears; I knew the cheers would sustain me for months.

Kathrine Switzer is, of course, famous as the woman who gate-crashed the 1967 all-male Boston Marathon, causing one of the race directors to attempt to forcibly eject her. She finished the race, too.  But I found out there were other women there and there had been others in previous races, and some of them also finished.  The difference is, they didn't wear a number.

She went on to win the 1974 New York City marathon with 3:07:59 and to chase the 3-minute mark with all her might.  She caught it--doing a 2:51:37 at Boston in 1975.  But soon her life filled up with organization and promotion; her hard training days were over but it seems her life had just begun.

So in addition to being a memoir, this is Ms. Switzer's tribute to all the women runners who paved the way.  She helped them immensely--she helped organize and promote so many marathons, mini-marathons that I fail to remember them all other than to mention a few--The New York marathon, the Crazylegs mini-marathon, the Avon races, what else?

As you've no doubt guessed, I enjoyed this a lot.  If you aren't interested in running, it might bore you--a little.  Only a little. Give it a shot and let me know.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

State of the Garden Report, mid-May

This should be remembered as the month when it rained all over North Texas--and the garden stayed dry.  Like a cartoon umbrella considerately sheltered the one spot.  Gardens to the north got rain; gardens to the west got rain; and then it skipped neatly over mine and drenched the gardens to the south.  Not that far south, either--on Saturday I went jogging and saw puddles in driveways less than two miles away.

Aside from what didn't happen this week, what did happen?  Well for one, the onion tops fell over.  The book says I'm supposed to 'withhold water' to let the onions cure.  Which would be easy, except I put them in the middle of the garden and I really need to water the rest of the stuff.  I think I'll harvest half of them just in case they start to rot. 

A lot of the potatoes are dying and I wonder if it's my highly alkaline soil that's the culprit.  Usually potatoes go to seed before they die back, but this is a new variety for me and maybe they're simply ready to go underground.  Just for an experiment, I'll try digging one up and see.  But not this weekend--I'm too tired.

Tired from what? you say accusingly.  Doesn't sound like you did much of anything.  Except complain about the rain.  Answer: I didn't.  I spend the whole weekend picking beans and searching for missing personal documents for a certain son who is overseas.  But the beans will need picking every single day for a while.

I harvested squash!

Incidentally, I recorded this observation: there is war among the vegetable kingdom.

The Delicata squash is trying to climb on the bean vines. Who should be the winner? 
(Actually that's a no-brainer for me--I absolutely love Delicatta squash.  So it can climb all it wants to.  Why should it want to, I dunno.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Running for beginners...or not

No Need for Speed
A Beginner's Guide to the Joy of Running

by John "The Penguin" Bingham

What a charming little book!  Best of all are the little quotes from runners old and young, new and experienced, fast and slow.  They're like little voices from running companions, spurring you on.

In the same way that Colin Fletcher explored the "feel how" of walking, he explores the feel how of running.  And of walking and cross-training, which in his opinion, are all part of running.  In fact, about the only thing that's not part of running is sitting...which is what I did while reading his book.  Sad, isn't it?  I should have found an audio version.

His tips and techniques are often quite perfect for the 'adult-onset' athlete, and best of all, he doesn't insist that the best treatment for any injury is to run (or hobble) to the doctor.  Rest, icing, elevation are often the best treatment--and then figure out what's causing the problem and you change your ways.  I've often found that running on the right side of the road makes my legs hurt in a peculiar way but the minute I switch to the left, they're happy campers. He mentions this issue--so it's not just me.  He also describes a time when he endured a bad, almost crippling, sciatic pain.  It ended up being caused by a poorly-designed office chair--which he only discovered by accident after trying all sorts of other treatments. 

So here's the point I took away:  if you're going to be a runner, or support a runner, don't assume all problems are caused by running. Don't, Oh, Honey, you need to cut down on your mileage, instead say: Oh, Honey, I'll help with the brush hauling this weekend.  I've been jogging for years, and I happen to know that the only time I have knee problems is after I've been digging with a shovel.

The section Finding the Joy was my favorite.  Here's a sample--while standing at the finish line and watching the runners cross, he observed many emotions. Some people seemed stunned--some crying--others even seemed angry.

But the emotion I saw on the faces of the vast majority of first-time marathoners as they cross the finish line was joy--real, hones, earned joy.  It was joy that they could see, feel, and believe in, that they could cling to. It was theirs alone. It can never be taken away from them.


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Cooking adventure sort of

Still working on the "real" post for this weekend.  Meanwhile, back on the ranch,

Korean-style Cucumbers and Edamame

I made this salad last week and happily ate the leftovers for luch every day.  But the recipe had an issue that's I've regretted all week--it called for cayenne pepper.  I'm not a gourmet cook.  I'm not Korean, nor a purist, nor even a foodie.  But even I know that cayenne pepper was not the right spice for this dish.  Next time it'll be gochugaru or maybe a ground up, dried red chile pepper or one of the Thai hot peppers.

If only I get some cucumbers soon.

Friday, May 19, 2017

More gardening books, I know, I know. I'm stuck in a rut.

Gardening with Nature in Texas
by Karen M. Breneman

Chock full of useful stuff and a really good section on water gardens.  Some of the tidbits I absorbed seemed new to me, or if I already knew them, I'd forgotten.  Such as:

Alkaline tap water results in salt build-up in potted plants. Try to water with collected rainwater to avoid problems.

Now, I know how come the soil got so salty after we had a water line break that went undetected for several weeks.  I'd assumed the hard pan clay held the water in the low spots and that dissolved the salt in the soil and let it float to the surface.  Maybe so, but another factor could have been the salts in the tap water.

I'm going to collect all the buckets I can find and set up a rain water collection site.  Sadly I can't tap into my nearly non-existent gutters without a lot of work.  But someday, I will.

Among many other things, I learned that "Mosquito Dunks" are a useful biological control, targeting mosquito larvae and pretty much nothing else.  That we know of.

Other than an introduction to companion planting, there's not a lot on vegetable gardening. But you can tell she knows her stuff--it's little help for people to say that good companion plants for tomatoes are chives, onion, parsley, and carrots, when anyone knows that tomatoes are warm season crops and those are cool-season crops.  She gives useful alternatives, such as using non-commercial relatives of these plants.

Overall it's a great reading book or reference book, whichever you prefer.  If you love Texas or happen to be stuck there, get a copy.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Beanie babies!

More like beanie teenagers!  A harvest hard to put a $$ amount on, because I can't buy fresh yellow wax beans anywhere.  I'll be eating them in a minute and "fingers-crossed" for the best.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Rainbow Rowell please write more!

I was in two minds about reading this. In Fangirl, the Simon and Bas story was an amusing side plot and wasn't meant to be a story in its own merits.  To me it was just a way of experiencing the main character's imaginary world...of getting into her with her most intimate thoughts....

Which, of course, she put on computer and posted to the world.  Fan fiction is great, don't you think?  But I never bother to read fan fic--so much to read, so little time, you know.

So, I wasn't going to read this imaginary fan fic.  But after I finished Eleanor and Park I felt hungry like a junkie.  I needed a Rainbow Rowell fix and the library had this on CD.  So I got it. And--tentatively--tried it. And I was hooked.  Again.

In fact, I was so hooked that when it got near the end and I realized my copy on the Ipod had somehow missed a chapter or two, I couldn't simply stop listening, go get the original CDs again, and replace the missing pieces.   Nope--I let her sweep me on to the end. 

When I realized I'd missed something, I thought for a minute that maybe she'd just skipped on.  But no, I realized--that's not her style.  She doesn't skip the good stuff and leave you guessing.   So I went and got the paper copy, and here it is, sitting here on my table, sure to deliver the missing piece of the perfect puzzle.

Enough about me and my Ipod+Itunes incompetence--what about the book?  It's simply this--an imaginary fan fic about an imaginary wizarding world in its final hours before the ultimate battle of good versus evil.  Sure, it's derivative of Harry Potter--except that it isn't.  Not in any of the ways that matter.  There's a wizarding school; there's a boy wizard of great but uncontrollable power with a girl sidekick; there's a powerful headmaster of enigmatic motives; there's an enemy of ultimate evil...but also there's a roommate who's a vampire, a love triangle that isn't quite, a magic-sucking menace, and a spirit from the past with a need for justice.

In short, it's smashing!  You don't have to have read Fangirl first to enjoy it, but if you did then you do--it's that simple.