Plants First, Fish Next

The original intent of this journal was to chronicle the trials and tribulations of the struggling twenty-something, as I searched for love and happiness in the small city-burb of ManchVegas, NH. Now, I'm thirty-something, I've found love in many forms, happiness in even more, and now the struggle is just... well... life. And finding time to do the million and one things I want to do- including writing.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

All the World is a Stage

So I received an email from a theatre company, Ghostlight, that I have some ties to.  It was a sorta mass e-mail encouraging me to be a member again and subscribe to their season.  Feeling generous and bored at work I reviewed what they had on tap.  I was intrigued especially by one play.  I looked a bit farther into it and found that I was a bit captivated by a certain role... a female role... a female in her mid-to-late-20's role... good golly with some moisturizer I could play that role....

I read a bit of the script, though honestly not all.  I reached out to Shorty for advice and feedback.  Then I shoved the idea to not just the back burner, but the nosebleed seats burner.  It stewed on low like a crockpot on the counter.  I'm still not sure what the final result will be, but I'll be damned if I can't stop from stirring the pot, taking a big whiff and seeing if I like what's cooking.

The current auditions are at a time I can't make.  Bummer- and said as much.  Well, what do I get for opening my mouth but another possible opportunity: a second audition date, even farther away with a schedule to be determined.  Since I like to book myself eons ahead, this could be an issue.  However, the rehearsal schedule would ALSO demand I take time from my current schedule and possibly sacrifice some plans I had already made.  Am I ready for that?

Audition calls for a prepared monologue.  Cool- I've done that.  In college, and a bit after... so that means all the characters in those monologues are in their early 20's and the plays they come from are all slightly dated, like Kim Kardashian's sex tape or Double Rainbow Guy's youtube video..  It's not that it's not entertaining, but.... well, we've heard it before.

So now I'm in a position... do I want to do all this work for possibly very little payoff?  What if it does pay off and I get the role and I can't do some of the runs or hikes I had planned?  Do I even still have that spark that a few special people saw in me once?  I feel the passion and the drive... Will that be enough for me?  If I prepare and don't get this, will that be ok?  If I prepare and I do get this, will that be ok?

Tomorrow I will search for a new monologue.  And we'll go from there.

 Ballet in first grade- this is where I learned I am NOT graceful.

College- where I had to dance again, but at least it was "modern" and "Greek"

Pocket found my true talent: awkward.  Yes, I'm pooping on a laptop.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

There is no "I" in "TEAM"

... of course there's an "EA" in both Team and Leah, so that's something....

Monday I had a FANTABULOUS mail day.  I received, along with the general junk mail, a package from my dad with some CD's and a book, my current issue of Cooks Illustrated (think Consumer Reports meets Joy of Cooking), a part of a preset for someone, a super Valentine from Shorty (send you a pic of the tat when I use it :-)  ), and a large package from Running Banana delivered at work.


This year My Runner and I went back and forth about "expanding" Team Robert.  TR was formed long before I was in the picture and included My Runner's Pops, who was his inspiration for Ultra Running, his half-siblings, and Puma.  I was happy when the team expanded to include me, and even happier when it expanded to include people we run/hike/snowshoe/spend time with.  A night with My Runner, Puma, and I resulted in the following message going out to those we thought might be interested:

Team Robert started as a family team.  In Josh's (and so many of our) words, "Friends are the family that you choose."  When you spend hours on the trail with someone, they know you on a deep level.  When you train with people weekend after weekend, they see the good and bad.  We've been through a lot together, on and off the trail, and we're all family: a team.  We're planning on many outdoor events together, and it would be great to have support of a team even when we're not close to each other.
I'd been a part of Team Robert.  I'd supported and taken part in Team Sherpa.  I'd been on the Patriot Team with my Dad and his buddy in the VT50.  We'd even started Hillsboro Trail Runners to have a group of like-minded folks be outside with us.  We had lofty ideas of posting events in the paper and in town... but the reality is that it's important to me to recognize the people with whom I spend mile after mile, hour after hour, trudging, trotting, jogging, running, hiking, snow shoeing, drinking, eating with.  The people that inspire me to get out there, and that I hope I can inspire back.  The people that hear me bitching but love me anyways, even if it is with an eye roll.  The people who understand that outside, with all it's "discomforts," is the place to be.

So, Team Robert initiated it's 2nd Generation t-shirts.  That's not to say if there's no shirt one isn't on the team, oh no... the Team is truely MORE than the sum of it's parts.  But this is the first step, I think, into what is important to us all.  "Friends are the family that you choose."  I love my family and have been blessed to be related to people that I would choose to hang out with.  I've ALSO been blessed with the understanding that friends ARE family, and we've always treated them as such.  My own mother often asks when we can get together with Smarty and Face, some of my closest friends and only two of many that my mother considers family.  Team Robert is a continuation of that sentiment, and one I'm more than happy to perpetuate.

One of the fun things we could incorporate with the Gen II shirts is personalized logos.

Believe it or not, it was not I who thought of the Ferret for my logo.  But as My Runner writes, it fits:
Common characteristics of the ferret are; curious, persistent, and fearless. All makes perfect sense to me. Leah's fearless hockey playing is what attracted me to her in the first place. Her curiosity is what got her into running with me, and if you read her blog she's very persistent in her research amongst other things. A once non-runner "unless being chased" is really coming into her own finishing a half marathon on the roads and in the woods in 2010.
So, that's me, on the Team.  I'm already excited with what other folks are doing with this idea: Taps is looking into utilizing the team to fundraise for Autism, a cause close to his girlfriend Wick's heart.  I'm hoping to get the team to run at this year's ARL 5K (organized by Face this year!!!).  I'm looking forward to showing up to events as a group and having folks ask us about our shirts- maybe even inspire others to form their own teams.  I like that we make plans to be outdoors together, encourage each other to train, and support each other when we need it.

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Friday, February 11, 2011

Compare and Contrast

I built a little spread sheet (because who doesn't like spread sheets?) comparing the car models I was interested in.  It helps me consider what the advantages and disadvantages are.

The biggest problem I have is that the prices aren't really going to be the prices.  I mean, how often do you hear about floor mats being "thrown in" or negotiating a discount on the model that's on the floor or whatever.  Still, it's what I got from building the cars on their individual websites as closely as I could match them.

Sorted by cheapest to most expensive.  I created the cars trying to get the three "options" that I'd really like to have, though as you can see I couldn't build the Fiesta or the Yaris with cruise control for some reason...  Still, since they're already topping the price list range and not offering very much in the way of cargo room (or any room in the Yaris' case).  It looks like I get the most from the Fit with the least amount of money as "options" that are important to me come standard.  The Nissan Versa is coming in a close second in the numbers game, though almost EVERYTHING is an add on, so we'll see what the real-world add-up is.  The Kia Soul + is in the top running as well; definitely the most distinctive vehicle of the group.

It's time to start setting up test drives.  Per Consumer Reports, I should have a checklist for inside and out (there example is WAY more thorough than I will ever be, but is a good reference), as well as a planned test driving route.  The route is planned to be about 45 minutes and includes all the types of driving I do: highway, city (residential and business), and dirt road.  They also recommended I call the dealership to make sure they at least have the model in the engine size and transmission I'm interested in so I can test the car I actually want, not the one they want to sell me.

I've got a lot going on, but I hope to set up at least the Honda, Nissan, and Kia test drives all on the same day and knock them out.  I'm sure I'll be taking notes and sharing my thoughts.


Wednesday, February 09, 2011

... And the Rest!

Rather weary with car research.  I think because I really need to start sitting in some of these cars to see if they're even worth learning more about.  Below are the basics on the Mazda 2, Ford Fiesta, and the Nissan Versa, all still in the running.  After this I'll analyze some data in spreadsheet form ('cause I'm a dork) and start setting up test driving sessions.

Mazda 2:
Sport (basic) $14,180
Touring (Cruise Control, Trip Computer) $15,635
EPA Mileage: 29/35

Need the Touring to have the Cruise Control.  Both versions have the electronic stability control.  I had originally looked at the Mazda 3, but like the Matrix the 3 is in the $20K range.  It's pretty small, but great gas mileage.  Consumer Reports (and Edmunds, and states it's great to drive, and the interior is surprisingly roomy for a small car.  The back seats don't lie flat, though, and cargo space is pretty limited... I just don't think this is going to end up being big enough.

Moving on...

Ford Fiesta:
SE (basic) $15,120
SES (sport) $17,120 (too much for this little car)
EPA Mileage: 28/37, Manual, or 29/40, Automatic w/Super Fuel Eco Pkg

LOTS of packages and add-ons.  After building the car I want, (heated seats & side mirrors; bumper guard & molded mud flaps; molded all-weather floor mats) we're looking at $16,365 for manual or $17,830 for the automatic with fuel economy.

Let's look at the "savings" of fuel economy.  The "combined" EPA mileage is 32mpg on the manual or 33mpg on the auto SFE.  Let's assume a 10 gallon tank for easy math (the tank capacity isn't listed on the specs), I'd get about 320 miles per tank on the AT and 330 miles per tank on the SFE.  If gas is $3/gallon, how many miles do I have to driver to make the SFE model, at $1,465 more, worth it?

So, divide $30 by.... no... wait.... $3 times 330 miles... no... erm... x = y?  Can I use a life line?

Smartie whipped up the math for me on her phone.  Her explanation below:
Assuming that there is really only 1mpg difference, the better deal by far is the cheaper one. The trick is to find the break even point.
First, you find the cost equation for each car, which is the initial cost added to the cost per mile times miles driven. To find cost per mile, you divide the price of gas by the miles per gallon (assuming $3/gal). The equations look like this:
A: C = 16365 + .09375x
B: C = 17830 + .09091x
To find the break even point, you set them equal to each other and solve for x. So...
16365 + .09375x = 17830 + .09091x
.00284x = 1465
X = 515,845 miles
So, if the only difference you're interested in is the cost, then you'd have to drive over half a million miles to make up the cost.
Hope that helps. :)
Aaaand this is why she's Smartie.  Half a million miles?  C'mon, people, it's a Ford....

Fuel economics aside, the back seat is quite small and visibility out the back stinks.  Reviews noted that there's a big trade-off in engine performance for the fuel economy.  Front seats and "cockpit" are comfortable even for a long ride, and road noise is pretty good for it's size.  All the reviews I read were of the suped-up SES hatchback, so I have no idea what else I'd "loose" by going with the more economic option.

Last but not least....

The Nissan Versa
18S Hatchback: $13,910
EPA Rating: 26/31 mpg

The more expensive SL option does not come with a manual transmission, but the automatic Continuously Variable Transmission does have an EPA rating of  28/34.  The Plus Package includes keyless entry and cruise control.  There are a few things that are strangely not even options on the base model, like overhead sunglasses storage or a vanity mirror on the driver's visor, armrest in the front AND back...  Really?  These seem like basic comfort options and relatively inexpensive- why leave them out?  Or give me the option to have them installed.  I also have to upgrade to get Electronic Stability Control on the VDC package.  With the two packages and the minor extras I applied to all the other cars, the total comes to $15,381.  Reviews come up with few negatives, and actually state the interior is well constructed for this level of car.  Sounds like a contender.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Bear Brook Fat Ass, January 29th, 2011

About Christmas time Dad let me know that he and his girlfriend L were going to be vacationing in the White Mountains the last week in January, and could they stop by and stay over on their way home?  This invited the idea of planning a "Fat Ass" event: a run (generally) with no aid stations, a group of crazy folks, and beer at the end.  I had initially planned on a 29K- about 18 miles total- in Bear Brook State Park.  I've never run this distance, plus it's the middle of winter and training time is sparse... this was gonna be a challenge to complete, never mind plan.

With all the snow we've had there was no way we were running without at least some serious traction.  I ended up suggesting snow shoes or cross country skis to anyone partaking.  I downloaded a map of Bear Brook's trails, read the descriptions of each one, coded them for difficulty, and mapped out a route with two "peaks" and plenty of rolling terrain.  Since snowshoeing is more taxing than "mere" running, I downgraded the distance.  The large loop measured a bit more than 9 miles according to the map scale, with three bail-out points between 5 and 6 miles.
Planned route at Bear Brook State Park

Know me and you know that I take my "planner" responsibilities pretty seriously.  I was worried no one would show up.  Then I was worried a lot of people would show up and they'd hate it.  I worried that I forgot something crucial.  The morning of the event came and I knew at least 7 people were coming out to play in the woods and at least 5 were coming back to eat at my place after.  My head swam with logistics about feeding people, ensuring my house guests were comfortable, packing proper food and hydration.

My Runner and Sherpa had met at 6:15am that morning to start on the trails and gain some extra mileage in anticipation of the Peak Snow Shoe Race in March.  Their pre-surveillance of the trails, as well as Sherpa's familiarity with BBSP, turned out to be very helpful.

So, I forgot the map.  Obviously.  Though it turns out I didn't even have the correct one- I had the Summer Trail Map that didn't show which trails were groomed for snowmobiles and what trails we'd have to break.  Luckily Sherpa came prepared (at least the tens of thousands of tuition dollars paid for SOMETHING... saving my ass!) with 6 copies of the winter trail maps. 

Next surprise- Dad and L had one pair of snow shoes between them.  Snow shoes that were likely made by Inuits at least 10 years before I was born.  Seriously, these things shoulda been in a museum.  After learning how groomed the trails were, I suggested they both wear their x-country skis.  L was still gaining confidence in her skis, and Sherpa re-assured her that she could handle the terrain. 

The group heading out from the parking area

Ten people and a doggie set out from the parking lot (which was NOT the lot I had planned on starting from- the gates to THAT lot were closed despite what I had been told by park staff).  The weather was warm: about 25* at 10am.  Spirits were high, and we were all chatting and having a grand time.  I felt great, despite being tired and having forgotten the map.

The first turn came to go up Bear Hill and the trail was steep and ungroomed.  A decision was made that the cross-country skiers, Dad and L, the two "novice" snow shoers G and J, and the doggie would go off on their own.  The rest of us would "catch up" (yeah right).  We didn't see Dad and L again until the parking lot. 

Gazelle, Sherpa, me, Taps, Puma, and photog My Runner

My Runner, Sherpa, Puma, Gazelle, Taps, and myself broke trail up the slope.  The trail on the map appeared to be no more than a quarter mile, but the sign at the trail head stated 1.2 miles to the summit (the first in MANY signs that this day would be longer than expected).  We all worked hard breaking the trail taking turns in the lead until we reached the summit.  About a tenth of a mile from the top we saw the quarter mile summit trail that was the PLANNED route... whoops.  We used it as a return route and began down the groomed Podunk Road.  (Seriously.  Podunk.  I *wish* I could make this shit up.)

The snowmobilers were out in droves.  I knew Bear Brook was popular for snow mobiles, but we spent a quarter of the time hunkered by the side of the groomed road choking on fumes.  The positive- at least half of them were polite and shared the roads with us. 

It wasn't long- ok, it WAS long, but we weren't far into my planned hike when I leaned over to Taps who has a fancy-schmancy GPS watch and said, "How long we been out here?"
"About two hours."
"And... how far have we gone?"
"5.3 miles."
"Shit.  Sherpa, lemme see that map...."

Taps and me on the trails

We were about a third of the way into the "9 mile" loop, and still quite a distance from the bail out points.  I was feeling great, but Gazel had only snowshoed about 4 times this year, and Puma was nursing an injury and coming back from time off.  We weren't going super fast, but I realized there was no way this was gonna be short for anyone.  I confided in Sherpa, who looked at me knowingly.  "I didn't know how to tell you without stepping on your toes..."  Whelp, in for a penny in for a pound today.  Shit, in for a penny in for a kilo and a bonus pack.
Gazelle, Puma, and Sherpa
My Runner giving me a (deserved) long-suffering look

Ultimately we were on the trail for about 5 hours and 11.5 miles.  Dad and L arrived at the parking lot an hour and change before us, and gallantly picked up beer for everyone.  At the mention of beer, Gazelle, true to her name, sprang ahead, eager to take of her snow shoes and relax.

Gazelle waiting impatiently for us to catch up, Sherpa with his trademark Shit-Eating-Grin

I felt GREAT at the end of 11.5 miles.  Puma was hurting, but in good spirits once her shoes were off.  Taps was still bouncing off the walls- that guy has ENDLESS energy.  Sherpa seemed to have a great time, but headed home early (poor guy can't have beer now anyways...).  My Runner had angered his achillies after 18+ miles of snowshoeing in boots not really made for hiking or outdoor sports.

Dad, L, Taps, Puma, My Runner, and I retired back to my place for salty snacks and crock-pot fajitas.  The beer flowed, we chatted about hiking, races and runs past and future, and much more.  Fred got some cuddle love.  I started to fade around 6:30, kicked out the guests, had one last beer with Dad, then excused myself and slept, SOUNDLY, for 10 hours.

I made many "mistakes" with this first Fat Ass.  I'm still not sure what happened with the map scale, and I really should have scouted at least the parking area.  While I understand the decision to break up the group, I was bummed I didn't spend more time with Dad on the trails.  However I was very happy snow shoeing ELEVEN MILES!  And luckily my mistakes didn't result in any serious injuries or illnesses.  Best of all, I got to explore an amazing park that's about twenty minutes from my apartment.

It'll be a while before I plan a Fat Ass again, but when I do I hope to at least not make the same mistakes twice.

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