Tuesday, July 13, 2010

thank god for swimming

I had the best swimming lesson of my life yesterday and I can't believe how my swimming--and my life--has changed in just those 45 minutes. Kim Bierwert is the coach at Smith College, which is near us, and he's amazing. I've been coached by fantastic, elite swimmers, but this was way above all that. I guess I'd have to go back to the swim training class I took at Wellesley from the swim coach there. She was awesome--this was better.

A little background: Maybe I've written this already, but getting exercise outside of the city is really hard for me. I completely underestimated how much walking I did in New York--and I was a bus and subway junkie--and how alluring a car is here. It's so fast. It's easy. It's cool in the summer and warm in the winter. And dry, did I mention dry? I could get soaked walking around NYC.

I seem to workout in phases. Last year it was months of hot yoga three or four times a week. A few months before that I had a trainer I saw weekly, and we didgym stuff, like weights and treadmill. In my early 30s I ran upwards of 30 miles a week at one point. Central Park is fantastic for running. Working at Sports Illustrated was very conducive to exercise and working out: A group of us ran most lunches: Central Park was just a few blocks away and SI had showers. At one point I took a 10-week speed class at the NY Road Runners' Club, and just running splits for an hour a week cut two minutes off my rate, from 10 minute miles to eight. But then I left SI for LIFE, and I left the Upper West Side for Brooklyn, and it all became a lot harder. I ran a bit in Prospect Park, also an excellent running park, but soon we'd moved a few blocks down the hill, and running around the streets and up the mile just to get to the park was a drag. Eventually I developed a bone spur, so running was out.

I fell into swimming when a friend's sister mentioned her Master's team. For two+ years I left my apartment at 5:30am three mornings a week to ride from Brooklyn to John Jay College off Columbus Circle to swim with Red Tide. We'd get in the pool by 6:30 to swim 3000 yards, give or take. I was always in the slowest lane, but my Wellesley class paid off. Boris, our Soviet-era boy-wonder coach--not an Olympic competitor, but almost--and our other coaches really taught me a lot. Saturdays I'd often go all the way to W. 136th Street in Manhattan to swim with the team at City College. Those were two-hour workouts, and boy was I tired at the end of a four-day swim week.

For those who don't know, Masters swimming was started so people could keep swimming competitively after they got out of college. Today not every Masters swimmer competes, but it always entails regular workouts with quality coaching. Swimming's not like running, you can't just go to the pool and do a few laps. I mean, you can, but the drills and the yardage and the stroke critique you get on a team are essential to being a strong efficient swimmer. You just don't need that to run, although lots of people do have teams and all. And of course lots of people just swim, even strong swimmers. But while a serious runner doesn't necessarily need a coach, the same could not be said for a serious swimmer. (Do you agree, Mike?)

At any rate, then Lily was born and taking two hour-long subway rides didn't work. It was too complicated, what with me nursing and Dave working. I couldn't continue and there were no nearby pools or teams. Eventually they built a YMCA in Downtown Brooklyn and started a Masters team, which I tried for awhile, very excited, but did not like the coach. I quit before he did and then we moved north.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Buffy P.S.

What I like about Buffy is how she kicks ass, and is vulnerable too. She always gets up to fight again, and yes, this being TV, she always comes back to win again. She's got the witty comeback and she's way strong and fast.

But I realized last night that I've been watching way too much Buffy when we went to see Winter's Bone, a really bleak movie with a very strong young woman trying to take care of her family. It's incredible, incredibly bleak, but also hopeful, and this young actress is in every scene. At one point she gets beat up and I'm embarrassed to admit my first, reflexive reaction was, okay, now kick their asses! and of course she doesn't, and it hurts, and she takes some time to recuperate. Nope, this is reality, this is true; Buffy is a fantasy, and when you get hit in the face most people don't bounce back up with a witty comeback.

Really great movie.

IMDb on this movie.
Wikipedia on this movie.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

BA -- Buffy Anonymous

Okay, I'm addicted. Not sure how it all happened, but happened, it has. Here's a link to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in case you don't know what I'm talking about. I started watching in early May for lots of reasons, but partly because I know so many smart, interesting women who love it. "Love" is too weak a word. Adore, feel passionate about, lovelovelove, choose your verb.

In the past I could never been able to watch Buffy because I got too scared. Thinking about that now kinda makes me laugh, but it's true. At first I made Dave watch with me--no, at first I made Lily watch, and we both got creeped out. She stopped but I made Dave watch a couple with me. Soon I could watch alone if Dave and Lily weren't too far away.

Episode 5, "Never Kill a Boy On a First Date," was okay for me to watch alone-alone, when D&L were at school/work, but when I tried episode 6, "The Pack," I couldn't do it. My friend Lisa said, don't watch that one alone! and came over and did her laundry while we watched and she told me all the things she loves about Buffy. That day may have been what got me hooked: The premise is that a demon (I was about to write "an evil demon," but are there any other kinds?) inhabit Xander and some other kids who become more and more like feral hyenas. They attack the principal, and the next scene shows Buffy hearing about it, saying, incredulously, "They ate the principal?" I couldn't stop laughing, and it still makes me laugh. [Gee, I haven't blogged in so long I've forgotten how to write.]

Here's a list of the episodes so you can keep up.

From then on, I was sunk. The story starts to unfold, as you Buffyphiles know, and you get to know more about everyone. Angel, Buffy's great love. The first "Big Bad" -- there's so much Buffy lingo and shorthand you need a dictionary if you haven't kept up, but that's why the internet was invented, for Buffy fans. The Scoopy Gang. Giles, Buffy's Watcher, and his potential girlfriend, Miss Calendar, the Roma. Oz. Cordelia.

This is one of many sites that discusses the Buffy lexicon. Here's the Wikipedia entry on Buffy slang.

My Buffy addiction took a huge leap this week when I discovered I can watch it on my laptop over my Netflix account. They stream every episode. I am sunk. I watched most of season 3, episode 7, Revelations, during my lunch break in my all-day library management class yesterday. I was halfway through the big fight scene at the end when class started again. Bummer. But I watched the rest of the episode during the next break. Dangerous stuff.

One thing I don't see a lot of online: The Buffy - Harry Potter Comparison. Lots of parallels.
Both . . .

. . . are the Chosen One, the savior of all humanity.

. . . were normal children until they reach adolescence, when they discover their true callings, along with their extraordinary abilities.

. . . live in two worlds at the same time, one magical, one ordinary, that don't mix -- until they do.

. . . have boy and girl sidekicks (Willow and Xander; Hermione and Ron); the girls are brainy, the boys are goofy.

. . . have a gang of followers, which have cool names (the Scooby Gang; Dumbledore's Army).

. . . have an adult watching over them (Giles and Dumbledore) but they have to strike out on their own too.

. . . have one Big Bad trying to get them (well, Buffy keeps killing hers).

. . . largely take place at a high school.

. . . have cool weapons and spells and animals.

. . . have other-worldly villains with weird heads.

. . . have platinum-blond villains with English accents who eventually become somewhat friendlier (Spike; Draco).

. . . have a boy/girl friend they can't be with but they still pine for (Angel; Ginny).

. . . have best friends with troublesome love lives who fall for each other.

. . . have parental units who resist their calling but come around, eventually, somewhat.

. . . were written at the same time in the late '90s, independent of each other.

. . . have rabid internet fans, fan fiction, etc.

. . . are still immensely popular.

I don't think either stole from the other. I think they were both onto something. Here's a couple of websites comparing them both. One and two. This is the great: the Buffy theme set to Harry Potter clips.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Simmons blog this spring

Here's my two latest postings for the GSLIS blog:

take reference first


summer semester


out of school