Laughter & Maryment

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Location: Tampa, Florida, United States

A girl living in Tampa Bay for the last 11 years. I mostly fill my time with friends, creative hobbies like community theater and arts and crafts, movies and tv, and other random fun things to try.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Why I run

Running, running, running.

So as I was leaving the Fit2Run at International Mall on Monday, it occurred to me that running, like many of my hobbies before it, has become quite expensive.  I have nice running shoes, 3 running skirts from SparkleSkirts, headbands, specific running socks, bamboo running shirts, a running hoodie (for our long and dark winter here in Tampa, Florida), and now a GPS watch. 

I have to say that the SparkleSkirts are very cool.  They have lots of pockets, which are hard to come by in running gear.  They fit nicely and comfortably and I like the way they look.  This is even despite the strange comment I got on Wednesday when I wore one to Running for Brews.  Yes, it's kind of costume-y.  But it's shiny (hello, high-visibility) and green and did I MENTION THE POCKETS?  They are not cheap, but they're made locally in Lakeland and they are very well-made.  I wear mine pretty much every time I go out.  I really hate how short running shorts are and the weird underwear-things in them.  The skirts feel modest and are comfy in this climate.

The GPS watch was more of a gadgety want.  I've tried different running apps on the phone, but there is always something wanting there.  The phone GPS and location is not very accurate.  You have to strap the big old smartphone to your arm, and then when you're sweaty, the screen is hard to use.  And none of the apps seem to do all of the things I want them to do -- varied intervals, GPS and pace tracking, etc.  So I did some shopping and settled on the perfect device. 

But I don't run for the stuff, of course.  So why am I out there?

The first reason is actually social.   It is actually a very good excuse to get out of the house and gossip and gab with my friends.  The so-far established geek girls who run on Saturdays are a core of friends I love to talk to.  We have our fandoms and books we read in common.  We enjoy talking movies and comics, and even geekier stuff like science and feminism.  They are a great support team.  We are doing a lot of events together too -- Disney races and some others around Central Florida.  When some are doing events and others are not, we go and cheer each other on.  The hotel stays and weekends away are not cheap either, but the companionship is more than worth it.

Then there's the fitness and exercise reasons.  I'm over 30 now, and I'm not as trim as I used to be.  Running helps me stay at a comfortable size and fitness level.  A couple years ago, I was facing changing my wardrobe or losing weight.  The latter was the best option for my health and my pocketbook.

There is also a comfort in being as physically tired as you are mentally.  In the past couple of years, the bulk of my job has turned more into helping my team and colleagues figure out what to do about the problems we have.  I always enjoyed the partnership with customers and reveled in the orderliness of my to-do lists and process maps.  But I am at a point where I leave a lot of that to others while I work on even harder and more complex problems than before.  All that can just leave you so drained and mentally wrung out.  A good run, where there's nothing to do but count breaths, can really take you out of yourself.  And on a night when your brain is more likely to keep you awake trying to mull over all the outstanding problems, an exhausted body can allow you to get the rest you need. 

Then there are the medals.  I have a running buddy who says there's no point in running a race that doesn't offer a medal.  While I don't require a physical medal at the end of each race, I do get that feeling of accomplishment, even when I just finished a 5k.  I did that.  I got up at 5AM (or earlier sometimes) and I got to the finish line with nothing but my shoes and usually, my friends. 

If you'd told me 5 years ago that I would take up running, I wouldn't have believed you.  Heck, my parents still don't believe me!  But I'm glad I have.  It's a wonderful thing.

2014 update -- Are you still out there?

Wow.  3 years of silence.  The last time I wrote, I had no idea it would be that long.  It's time to get back to it.  The more I've thought over the last week, the more I know that I need to revive this old thing. 

Lots have changed since the last time I wrote.  Eric & I are living together (and we're engaged) in my condo near USF.  I'm now the Assistant Director of Application Development at USF Health IS and I'm leading a small team of business analysts and testers. 

I'm doing a lot of running these days.  I never thought I'd take it up, but here I am, doing at least a few miles a week with good friends at social runs like Running for Brews Tampa and Geek Girls Run Tampa.  Anne Jones started the latter as an affiliate of a group we ran with in Atlanta at DragonCon 2013 and it's a small but dedicated group of social runner geeks. 

I'm knitting a lot.  Got a blue ribbon at the Strawberry Festival for my first lace shawl project.  It is quite a beauty.  I really need to get some good photos of it.

I'm working on different cosplay projects with Anne and Linda and Tamarah.  We are doing a range of things from Steampunk, genre and fandom cross-overs, and running cosplay costumes.  This is causing me to learn more about my sewing machine and honing other craft skills while giving me an outlet for the creative ideas.

Things are going well.  As Marilyn Michele reminded me recently, though, happiness is a bit boring.  But I am enjoying it.

So here we are, in 2014, picking up this old thread.  Dust it off and keep moving, I guess.

Monday, November 7, 2011

State of Florida Employees Health Benefits Change

So Governor Rick Scott has limited the number of health plans that State workers like myself can choose. Now we're down to AvMed and Blue Cross Blue Shield, which both gave generously to his campaign.

In response, I've written him the following postcard:

I am a state employee. You reduced my health plan options, and this will force me to switch doctors and to pay premiums to your cronies. WHO ARE YOU TO COME BETWEEN ME AND MY DOCTOR?

Postcard political messages is something I'm working on right now. It keeps your message concise and you don't have to spend much time on it. I think this is the first I'll be sending to his door. I've sent some in the past to my congressmen in Washington.

It is true that my regular doctor doesn't take either of the insurance policies offered by the state now. It's truly annoying, because who wants to switch doctors after you know and trust someone?

This is also a rude reminder to me to pay more attention to local (state-level and down) politics. Sure, all the drama is in national items, but the stuff that really affects my everyday life is no farther away than Tallahassee most days, and usually it's a lot closer. Local politics affect our quality of life, and yet so many people don't vote if it's not a presidential election.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Taiwan Trip Pics

Hi, folks. So I spent some time putting together the pics from Taiwan. Here, in no particular order, are the Flickr slide shows. Just a note, I added captions to most of the photos, but for some reason in the little Flash shows below, they don't show up. But if you click on the links provided and then click "show info" on the full screen versions, you can read the captions.

Last day first. Ok, not quite the last day. The Sunday before we left Taiwan, Eric and I went to the Yangmingshan National Park and had a look at the sulfer deposits and the surrounding territory. It was very pretty, but kinda smelly. Full screen slideshow.

Here are some photos from around Taipei. We spent most of our days in the city. We did a little shopping and a little sight-seeing. The metro system is very efficient and goes just about everywhere. They have these little cards you can buy and use for the metro, buses, and some taxis. Full screen slideshow.

We also took a little trip to Taroko Gorge National Park and stayed 2 nights at the Silks Place. The scenery was Gorge-ous. No, really. This is the biggest slideshow. There were trails to hike and many spots to see. We only had one full day in the park, so only got to see a fraction of the scenery. But it was amazing. These photos can't really capture it at all. Some of the mountains are limestone and some of them are marble. Rock slides are a somewhat normal occurrence (especially when it rains, like when we were there). The resort we stayed at was lovely, and it was right in the middle of mountains and near the river and across from a Buddhist temple. Just walking out of the hotel was really breath-taking. Full screen slideshow.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Taiwan Trip: Part 1

First day in Taiwan. Had breakfast at an authentic Chinese place. Deep fried dough broken up into a bowl with vinegar and soy milk (it curdles up to be like liquid tofu), deep fried dough sandwich, and a steamed cabbage bun. A little salty but nice.

Went to the Chiang Kai-Shek memorial hall (AKA Freedom Plaza) and found the military band and rifle and saber drill teams practicing on the grounds. Pretty cool. I posted a video on YouTube ( The building behind is a concert hall.

Inside the memorial hall was an exhibit on the general, which included what Eric calls the Shek-mobile. It's a Cadillac, which amused me. The other exhibit was Chinese calligraphy, which for obvious reasons was pretty much lost on me.

Lunch was at a Japanese-Italian fusion place. We had a curry-risotto dish with bacon. It was strange but good. The afternoon tea at a place called (yep) Afternoon Tea. Chestnut cake was interesting.

I had managed to avoid jet lag this morning since we got here in the evening and I slept through the night. Here's hoping the 3+ hour nap I took this afternoon/evening doesn't set me back too much. Had Peking duck and some local liquor for dinner. Eric's dad brought out a bottle that was made in 1992. Eric doesn't care for the liquor particularly, but it reminded me of feni. It's made of sorghum.

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Monday, April 11, 2011

"Great" Films of the 1970's -- Dersu Uzala (1975)

Dersu Uzala was on a list of best foreign films of the 1970s. It actually won the foreign film Oscar. It took some doing to get a copy that wasn't dubbed in English, but thankfully, Netflix came through. For foreign film/Japanese film buffs, this is the first film Akira Kurosawa made that wasn't in Japanese and was a Russo-Japanese collaboration.

The story takes place in the early 20th century in eastern Russia before the fall of Nicolas II. The two main characters are Captain Arseniev of the Russian Army and Dersu Uzala, an aboriginal Nanai tribesman. The meet in the wilds of Eastern Russia in the woods, where Dersu acts as a guide for the small military group surveying the territory. They go through several survival scenarios, Dersu's Russian grammar is terrible, and time goes by.

I liked the locations of the movie -- big woods and large outdoor spaces. There's a reverence for the landscape that comes through to the viewer. The theme of wilderness that will yield to civilization and urbanization is present, especially at the beginning and end of the film.

What I didn't like about the film was the "mystic native" theme. Dersu is the better hunter, better tracker, better shot. That's appropriate because he's lived his life and made a living in the woods. However, the emphasis on how perfect he is as a woodsman is perhaps overdone. Between that and Dersu's charming-yet-bad grammar, it's somewhat cliche.

The end is abrupt and appropriate to a Russian story. I was disappointed that the ending in particular was limited to Captain Arseniev's point of view, but when one looks back on the whole movie, nothing takes place out of his sight. It's a very pure way to tell a story, if it does take away from the narrative in the ending.

Overall, I must say I enjoyed the movie and Dersu's quaint view of the world. We see him through Arseniev's "modern", industrialized eyes. There's a feeling of longing, as if we are missing out on a part of our world that only the woodsman can see. But there's also the comfort of knowing that we aren't out of place in an industrialized world.

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Monday, March 14, 2011

Vegas Trip

So the trip to Las Vegas was lots of fun. Marilyn, Jarrett, Anne, and I didn't do a lot of gambling. We lost a couple bucks on the slot machines, but nothing too silly. I put $45 on a blackjack table and lost $40 of it in about 5 hands. That was pretty much the extent of our gambling. Most of the time we were too busy walking around and looking at everything. There's lots to see and we poked our heads into a lot of casinos.

The place really is like Disney World for adults -- it's engineered for complete sensory overload at all times. Sometimes it was stunning, sometimes it was tacky, sometimes it was just overwhelming. It was fun when we all walked around together, because we would all notice different stuff.

On the first night, Jarrett, Marilyn, and I went to the top of the Stratosphere. The view was nice of the strip. We sat in the bar and had a drink (better than buying a ticket to the top). The indoor observation deck was closed on the side with the Strip -- there was a private event. So we had to go upstairs to the outdoor observation deck to get our photos. I will say, though at that height, I was not tempted to get a ticket to the roller coaster. Yikes.

Alcohol was stupidly expensive -- we found a relatively reasonable liquor store on day 2 and a couple of flasks. For all that, I didn't do as much drinking as I thought I would. Or as much eating. But it was a good time.

I really really enjoyed the Cirque du Soleil show. Thanks to Aunt Kelly for recommending it. I thought "Something in the Way She Moves" was my favorite number, and then they did "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" which blew me away. The whole show was mezmerizing. If only the guy behind me hadn't sung along to Otherwise, it was amazing. And from what I could tell, there wasn't a bad seat in the house.

Anne and I had one really nice meal at Mandalay Bay. They actually have a wine bar/restaurant with a wine tower (rather than a cellar). When you order a bottle, they send women up on cables to go get the wine. It was pretty cool to watch. The food was good too.

Anne and I also took a spa day at Caesar's Palace. The Roman Baths were my favorite part. It was a relaxing day -- we just spent 5 hours in the spa. I read a little, soaked in the hot tub a little. We even took a bit of time in the sauna and all. It was great. I would do it again, definitely. And my masseuse's name was Spirit. I kid you not.

Enjoy the photos: