Tuesday, November 24, 2015

What's Kristine Reading? November Edition

   For the past two years, I've been a part of the Goodreads Book Reading Challenge. I have a set goal to read 52 books a year. I've actually achieved that goal both years without "too" much trouble as I'm a pretty fast reader and I just love to read. However, this year, I've read several books that were 900+ pages, and I forced myself to finish my two-year journey of reading Wolf Hall, which is not only long but incredibly boring. Plus, I just got busy. As a result, I'm six books behind and only have five weeks left in the year. That means I need to knock out 11 books by the end of the year.  
   This may sound a little daunting, but this time last week I was nine books behind. How have I been catching up? By reading good, but short books that I can knock out in a day. They've actually been pretty easy to find too, as a quick Internet search of "Good, short books" will bring up a variety of lists from different sources.
   One of the more interesting books I read is the focus of this post - Nikola Tesla: Imagination and the Man That Invented the 20th Century by Sean Patrick. If you only know of Tesla as the name of the high-end electric car, then you need to read this book. This guy was brilliant and responsible for inventing many of the things we use today including alternating current electricity, fluorescent bulbs, neon lights and x-rays. Oh yeah, he also invented a little thing called the radio.
    What? You thought that Thomas Edison and Guglielmo Marconi were responsible for electricity, light bulbs (Edison) and the radio (Marconi)? Nope. It was Tesla. Edison and Marconi were just better connected politically and financially, and were able to be awarded credit. What's even more amazing is that, with the exception of Edison (who totally screwed Tesla out of a ton of money while Tesla was working for him and THEN tried to destroy Tesla professionally), Tesla didn't really seem to mind that he wasn't getting credit for his work. He wanted to advance science, not get rich and famous. 
   I could go on and on about everything that Tesla did, but then you wouldn't have to read the book. Seriously - it's that short. I think I read it on a lunch hour. It's an easy read and very interesting. But if you don't have that much time and want to know more about Nikola Tesla, check out The Oatmeal's comic on him. This is how I first heard of him. 
   Happy Reading!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Marine Corps Marathon - Race Recap

   Dudley and I rolled into the DC area the Wednesday prior to Sunday's race. My parents still live in the DC area, and the race gave us an excuse to have a quick family visit and to catch up with some long-time friends. Plus, was nice that we didn't have to rush around the day prior to the marathon like we did in Chicago.
   The expo was on Friday. We had plans to meet up with our friend Ron, his friend Amanda and several of her friends, who were also running the race. Amanda ran MCM last year and told us we needed to be there right when it opened to avoid the lines. I was kind of confused about this, but then remembered that the MCM has higher security than most races - even for the expo. Fortunately, the security line wasn't too bad and after a few minutes we were in.

Hello, Expo!

   We picked up our shirts and bib numbers. I was happily surprised because rather than regular shirts, we got long-sleeve fleeces! Very nice.  I'm generally happy with any shirt I get, but it's fun to get something different every once in a while.

   I'd love to give you a rundown of what was at the expo, but I really don't have any idea. Why? Because the line in the merch area was so long that it took us almost an hour to buy a shirt and a visor. It was crazy. There were a lot people, but apparently the registers went down for a while, too.  By the time we bought our swag, we only had about 10 minutes before we had to leave for the Pentagon where we were meeting people for lunch and a tour. I did a quick lap around the expo, got some free ice cream and left. I'm sure it was quite nice though. Any expo with free ice cream gets a big thumb's up from me.
   We then all headed down to the Metro and went to the Pentagon where we met up with Darrin and Shane for the aforementioned lunch and VIP tour. (Thanks, guys!)  Though I grew up in the DC area, I had never been to the Pentagon. It's a pretty amazing place. Really fascinating, especially for a history buff like I am. I'd love to show you a bunch a photos but, as you can imagine, they don't allow cameras in there. But if you're ever in the DC area, I highly recommend taking a tour. Wear some comfortable shoes though. We walked about four miles - that place is huge.


   Sunday morning, Dudley and I got up around 4:30am. We had plans to meet Ron at the Pentagon (where the race started and finished) at 6:00am. This was a little early, but as with the expo, there was security we had to go through and we wanted to miss the lines. I'm REALLY glad we did. While we waited about 20 minutes, other people who arrived later actually missed the start of the race because the lines were so long. This wasn't a regular bag check either. We had to go through metal detectors. That was a first for me. 

The Marines don't slack on security.

   Once through security, we had a while to hang out. It started to sprinkle a little bit, but nothing too bad. We were under a giant tent and we also all brought trash bags so we didn't get wet. 

Who can rock a trash bag?  We can rock a trash bag!  

   I want to take a minute here to talk about the organization we ran for: wear blue to remember.  This organization "is a national nonprofit running community that honors the service and sacrifice of the American Military." We learned about this group through Amanda, who I connected with a few months ago on Facebook but hadn't met until this weekend. She's the wife of an Army man, and has run with wear blue for several years. When I heard about the group, I knew I wanted to run with them during the MCM. What an amazing organization.  Founded by the spouses and friends of the 5-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, which suffered a large amount of casualties in Afghanistan, the group got together to run as a way of supporting each other. The organization then grew throughout the country and now has official wear blue events, with the MCM being one of them. 
   Prior to the race, all of the wear blue runners got together for the Circle of Remembrance, where the runners called out the names of the fallen service members they were running for that day. This was the first time I cried that day.  
   After the Circle, we headed to the start line. As with Chicago, it was crazy crowded. But unlike Chicago, the MCM didn't have corrals. They had self-seeding areas based on time, but they weren't separated by ropes or anything. We were just kind of crammed in there. But we were all so excited about the race that we didn't really care. 
   The MCM doesn't slack on the opening ceremonies. You know how some sporting events has military fly-overs? Well, so does the MCM. With V-22 Ospreys. 

Bad. Ass.

   At 7:55 am, the howitzer fired and we were off! And yes, you read that correctly. Not a starting pistol - a howitzer.  As I said, the MCM doesn't mess around.
   The first few miles were really congested. REALLY congested. With Chicago only two weeks behind me, I was OK with starting slow. In fact, I was OK with running slow the entire race. I had felt really good the two weeks in-between Chicago and MCM, but as the race went on, the fatigue set in. Setting it on cruise-control for this marathon was good with me. 
   The MCM course is fantastic. As I mentioned, it starts at the Pentagon and continues into Virginia for a bit.  This section was really pretty, as we ran down George Washington Parkway which has a lot of trees and the leaves were all turning. From there we ran into Georgetown, where I had flashbacks from when I used to go down there in high school and college. It was kind of rainy at this point, so there weren't many spectators on this part of the course, but it was so fun going down memory lane that I didn't miss them too much. We wound our way through DC, running along the Potomac River and passing landmarks like the Kennedy Center. Around the half-way mark, we hit Hains Point and the wear blue mile. And this was the second time I cried. 
   The wear blue mile honors fallen service members by posting their photos on both sides of the course with their name, date of birth and date of death. I swear, even though there were thousands of runners on the course with me, you could have heard a pin drop while we were running through this section. It was very emotional. After we passed the photos, we ran through 300 (I think) American flags held by wear blue volunteers who lined the course. Again, this was just awe-inspiring. They were cheering, clapping and thanking all of us for running. It was, by far, my favorite part of the course. 
   We then headed back into the city where we passed most of the monuments and the Capitol. I can't tell you how much I love this city. I've been fortunate to have participated in several runs through the DC and every time I do, I'm floored by how beautiful this city is. I'm so lucky to have grown up there.
   But back to the race... After we passed the Capitol, we headed down towards the 14th Street Bridge at mile 20. This bridge is infamous during for this race because it's the time check. You have to "Beat the Bridge" by a certain time (1:30 maybe?) in order to finish the race. Fortunately, we made it to the bridge with plenty of time.  It was right before the bridge that I saw a pony on the course. That's right - a pony. A Marine Corps Pony to be exact. 

Of COURSE, there's a pony on the course.  And I just noticed the expletives on the signs behind the pony.  Oops.  

   We then headed back to the Pentagon for the finish line.  Let me say for the record - two marathons in a month was tough! Fortunately, I didn't have any of the problems here that I had in Chicago, but it still hurt. Unfortunately, Dudley DID have issues and had a hard time running, but I stuck with him like he did with me in Chicago. We were both really relieved when we saw that 25 mile marker. I kept hearing about a hill at the end of the race, and we finally hit it....at mile 26.1. Are you kidding me? The LAST thing we do before crossing a finish line is climb a hill? Yep. That's exactly what we did. It was brutal. But as my husband said, "If you go deep enough into the pain cave, there is a Marine there waiting to give you a medal." Which is exactly what happened.


God Bless America.

   I loved this race so much. I can see why people run it every year. It's a beautiful, scenic course that is well-supported by both the race organizers and the crowd (who came out in force once the weather cleared up). The only thing I would have changed about it is that I would have worn something to honor my dad, who was a Marine. A lot of people did that and I wish I would have had the foresight to think of something to honor him during the race. If I run it again, I'll definitely do that. 
   I have no idea what's next. As of this moment, I don't have anything official on the calendar other than a Thanksgiving Day Fun Run. I've been recovering over the past few weeks, and it's been great. I'll start planning things soon enough though. If anyone has any suggestions for 2016, let me know!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

What's Kristine Reading? Belated October Edition

   Wow - I'm bad at this. I just started my monthly reviews of books a few months ago and I've already forgotten a month.  In my defense though, I've been thinking about this book for so long that I actually kind of thought I already wrote a review for it.  And I've also been traveling a lot and ran two marathons this past month, so I deserve a little slack, right? OK- enough with the excuses. Here is the book: Room by Emma Donoghue.

   Y'all - this book!  I don't think I've ever read a book that has disturbed me so much, but yet couldn't put down. Room is told from the perspective of a five-year-old boy, Jack, who lives in a fortified 11 by 11 backyard garden shed, known as Room, with his Ma. They live here because Ma was kidnapped by creepy pervert (Old Nick) when she was in college and has been forced to live in the shed ever since as his sex slave. Jack was conceived and born in the shed, and it is the only world he has ever known.
   Ma is fiercely protective of Jack, and tries to make his childhood as happy as it could be in spite the horrific circumstances of their entrapment. Given that Jack was conceived of rape, the book really didn't have to go in this direction, but I'm glad it did. It would have made a dark book even more dark and possibly impossible to read if Ma wasn't such so loving of Jack and didn't shield him from the horrors of her own existence. And this is why the book is so fascinating for me. Since Jack is so young and Ma is so strong, Jack has no idea that he's in captivity. Ma has a routine, limited as it may be, of exercise, education and playtime for Jack. He even has some TV time, though not too much because too much TV is bad according to Ma. And, of course, Ma keeps Jack as separate from Old Nick as she possibly can.  Jack doesn't know that there is literally an entire world outside of Room with other children, toys and family. Because of this ignorance, Jack seems to be relatively happy in the confines of Room, which is kind of off-putting as a reader of obvious reasons, but it works.
    However, all that Jack knows might change when Ma sees a chance to escape from Room and Old Nick. And she needs Jack to make it happen. Think about this for a minute. You're five. You're happy. You've been in one room your entire life. It's ALL you know. And suddenly your mom is telling you that she wants to leave and you have to help. It'd be terrifying. Again - there's the conflict. Jack SHOULD want to leave. He should be terrified of where he is, not where he might go. But he's not. If he were older and could comprehend more of what was truly going on, yes. But he's five and scared of what might be outside of Room, not what's inside.
   I'm not going further with the plot as I don't want to ruin the book for anyone, but I absolutely recommend this book. I feel weird recommending it because of the horrible subject matter, but Donoghue does such a great job of writing through the innocent eyes of Jack, so it's not as brutal of a read as it could have been. Read it and let me know what you think!