Friday, May 20, 2011

Snapshot Book Review: Bossypants

BossypantsBossypants by Tina Fey

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Amusing, although not as good as I guess I had hoped. I needed more structure from the book (it wasn't quite a collection of vignettes, nor was it a chronological narrative), and as a close friend said, "This is a book that would have been better written ten years from now."

However, I did hear an interview with Fey on a NPR: Fresh Air podcast, and hearing her read passages from this book made me love it 100x more than when I read it on paper. So my advice, for those intending to read this book, is to get the audio version. I'd wager that it will be worth the auditory performance.

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Friday, May 13, 2011

Going Clipless: First Ride

I am beginning to think that winning the NYC Triathlon lottery is more similar to winning the lottery in that ___ short story where the winner gets stoned to death than to winning a million dollars. My quest to compete is bringing me closer to death than to money, anyway.

So as you probably know by now, I am a triathlete-minus-one. I tell runners that I am a swimmer. I tell swimmers that I am a runner. But to neither group would I ever deign to classify myself as a cyclist.

Thus, winning the lottery to enter the NYC Triathlon is pretty much the only reason I now own a Cannondale racing bike, complete with speedometer, tire repair kit, and—as of yesterday—clipless pedals. And to think, I really only wanted to buy a lighter-weight bike so I could carry it up and down from my apartment. . . .

Although I have owned the bike and most of the accoutrements since late last September, I only just bought clipless pedals (and the cleats and shoes to go with them) yesterday. I might have procrastinated even longer in making this scary, expensive (perhaps also scarily expensive) purchase had my caged pedal—the kind where you fit the front of your shoe inside a plastic cage and tighten a stirrup to keep it on—not broken on my last ride. Actually, the stirrup might have broken the ride before without my noticing, but when I got on my bike this last time, I quickly realized that the noisy flapping going on at my ankle was not an untied shoelace, but a broken stirrup. The entire thing had pulled free from one side of the pedal and was flapping wildly in the wind.

“This,” I told myself, “is a sign.” I had been meaning to get more advanced pedals, anyway, since my racing bike almost seemed to require them. Plus, if I wanted to get good at this sport before the race, I had better start practicing with the gear sooner rather than later.

With all of these factors in mind, I grit my teeth, took my Visa out of its vault (okay, make that out of my wallet), and sallied on down to the Grove Street Bike shop. Of course, I had to return to my apartment soon afterward, because they needed the bike in order to install the pedals . . . but as I said, I never claimed to be a bike pro.

Which leads me to today: my first ride with the new pedals.

For those of you who are as clueless as I was about competitive cycling, here is how clipless pedals work: first, you buy special shoes and cleats that you then screw into the bottom of those shoes. These cleats attach to special pedals, which you could never use with regular shoes. You get the cleat into them by sliding the toe of the shoe forward until the cleat catches the pedal; then, you push downward through a revolution to clip in the heel. Once you have done this with both of your feet, you are successfully attached to your bike. The bike and you are one. To get out, you have to twist your heel away from the bike to “un-clip.”

Sound pretty straightforward? I didn’t think so, either.

Here is the sum total of my first clipless pedal ride:
  • 5 falls while dismounting
  • 2 falls while mounting
  • 1 chain dislodgement (for which I had to ask for help from a man passing by on his bike)
  • 1 seat bent sideways
  • 1 skinned elbow
  • 1 pair of lost sunglasses
The scary part is that this list could easily include items such as:
  • almost hit by bus
  • collision with pedestrian
  • boken _______ (tibula/fibia/ulna/scapula/cranium/etc.)
  • broken bike!

So all in all, I guess I got away lightly with just a scraped elbow and sore shoulder. I am definitely going to have to take one of those bike repair classes, though. Because try as I might, I cannot get the seat back into alignment!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Snapshot Book Review: The Hiding Place

The Hiding PlaceThe Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As distressing as the Holocaust is, this book--unlike most WWII novels--was more a tale of the beauty of human kindness than an account of a gruesome war.

The Hiding Place is the true account of Corrie Ten Boom's experience during WWII, first as a key player in the Dutch underground resistance to the Nazis and then as a prisoner shipped off to a concentration camp. Yet despite the violent drama that typically surrounds these sorts of narratives, Corrie's account is one of love and admiration for those around her.

As a character and as a narrator, I especially related to Corrie because her sister Betsie is the "perfect Christian" who always seems to think of God and others first, while Corrie, the narrator, always finds herself falling short and wondering how Betsie can manage to be so selfless. This is one of the truer, more heartfelt accounts of the struggle that not just Christians, but anyone who upholds a moral code faces when they are confronted with horrific, all-consuming evil on one side and seemingly perfect selflessness and kindness on the other. Few if any of us fit into one category or the other, and Corrie's observations about each are worth reading.

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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

How to know when you are truly OUT of your parents’ house

You know you have officially moved out of your parents’ house when you return for a visit and find yourself sleeping on an air mattress on the floor of your sister’s old bedroom.

Now, I like to think of myself as a generous person. Whether or not this is actually true, I am at least practical enough to agree that it makes more sense to allow someone to stay in a fully furnished bedroom that used to be mine as a child than to keep it locked tight and gathering dust. Therefore, when my cousin K___ needed a place to live and my parents offered her my room, I agreed that this living arrangement was a good idea.

However, when I arrived home the weekend of my sister’s graduation, this “good idea” suddenly felt like a personal affront. I was forever going upstairs and heading straight into my old bedroom on autopilot, only to see an array of unfamiliar belongings strewn about the room. Not only that, but my formerly meticulously organized possessions and decorations were now scattered haphazardly about, buried beneath a pile of knickknacks or pushed aside to make way for an assortment of my cousin’s pictures, hair ties, and lotion bottles. I opened the dresser drawers (ostensibly looking for makeshift pajamas) and found myself facing a collection of clothes that were not at all mine.

While I wholeheartedly acknowledge that giving someone else my old bedroom when I am obviously no longer living there is, in fact, the best possible arrangement, I cannot say that seeing my room completely covered in someone else’s stuff didn’t make me feel somewhat replaced. I felt as though my parents had found a new daughter to live in my old space. Without my childhood sanctuary intact, I finally felt like a visitor in my childhood home. My neat, orderly, sunny yellow bedroom was no longer “mine”, and it probably never will be again.

Looking at the situation objectively, this is clearly a good and necessary thing—I need to be out on my own, earning and developing my own space in the world. Yet as I confronted this reality head-on in the span of one short weekend, I realized that I have not yet completely moved out of my parents’ house, at least mentally. I have not yet defined “home” for my adult self.