Posts from the ‘Hobbies’ Category

“String theory”

Last Friday night I went to a scrapbooking crop night at a friend’s house. Now, I don’t scrapbook at all; however, she has crop night once a month, and she is nice enough to let me come over and knit and eat M&M’s while everybody else crops. Then I also get the satisfaction of watching other people use pretty paper without feeling the insatiable need to buy it myself. Sounds like a win-win to me. I haven’t been able to go in the last couple months, what with defending my thesis and graduation, so I was glad to be able to come back for this one. I got to visit with some of my friends and got some productive knitting time in.

I’m not sure what the deal is, but I’ve completely lost my knitting mojo since the beginning of the year. I know I was busy for a while with thesis stuff, but usually it’s something fun I can do to relax. Plus, I’ve had a lot of down time while watching the X-Files that would have been perfect for knitting. However, I’d try to get out my current project and make some progress but soon lose interest. For some reason, I’ve just been totally uninspired. A few weeks ago I thought about even starting a new project to get myself motivated, but that certainly didn’t happen, either. However, it appears that forcing myself to knit at the crop night has finally given me a boost; at least over the weekend I cranked through a few squares and still feel motivated to do more. Hopefully I’ve crested the peak and am now coasting downhill on this project; it would be great to get another 101-in-1001 item done!

While at the crop, my friend’s cat decided to take a nap on top of my knitting bag. I’m sure it was comfy because it was full of squishy yarn, so she made herself at home while I worked. However, she did finally notice the actual yarn I was working with, and that certainly got her attention.

I call that “string theory.” When I finally made her scram so I could get more yarn, she meandered around and visited some other folks. Then she found an empty box to play in. A cat in a box…for a physicist, the joke just writes itself. However, not all my friends were familiar with Schrodinger’s cat in a box paradox, so my joke fell as flat as, well, a collapsed wavefunction.

Maybe this is why physicists aren’t invited over to play with normal people all that often.


Mission Accomplished: Bolder Boulder 10k

This morning, I finally ran the 10k race that I have been training for. The Bolder Boulder is an annual Memorial Day event in which tens of thousands of participants run through downtown Boulder, finishing in a grand finale at the university stadium.

Yes, I did say tens of thousands of people…there were probably over 60,000 runners this year. They are all assigned to waves according to their approximate running time so you don’t have to trample slow people or get trampled by faster ones.  My friend and I were conservative in our choice of waves, since we didn’t want to over-commit ourselves on our first race; however, it seemed inevitable that you would be trampling or being trampled by so many folks regardless of your wave. Here’s our wave inching toward the starting line, waiting to start.

The course wound through the middle of town. Every few tenths of a mile, there were various bands and performers to entertain the runners. People also sat in their yards to spectate, sometimes providing such entertainment as slip-n-slides, belly dancers, music, cotton candy and marshmallows, beer bonging, and even a guy in a red, white, and blue speedo doing a pole dance (the low-point of spectator interaction, I’d say).

The whole course has a net uphill elevation gain with a summit of 5,381 ft, and I was a tiny bit concerned about it. However, the whole course was pretty reasonable with only a couple of notable uphill sections. The culmination of the race is up the hill going into the stadium. I was just sure I wouldn’t be able to tackle it, but when I got there, I actually made it, as it wasn’t as long a hill as I had previously heard. However, the turn into the stadium continued uphill, and I had to take it easy for a minute or two before entering the stadium so I could finish the final lap around the field with a final running surge.

I did completed the race in 74 minutes and some change, which I thought was not too bad, especially for my first race, and a longer one, too. So, in the month of May this year I have graduated with my PhD and run a 10k (both ending up in the same university stadium, too, coincidentally). That’s quite an eventful month. We’ll just have to see what June brings!


Given that we now have company at home, I decided to do my run from work today. I’ve only done this once before, so I haven’t thoroughly scoped out all possible routes radiating outward from my lab. However, one thing about our building is that we back directly up to the Boulder Flatirons, meaning that after only a few blocks of residential hiking you can pop right out into the middle of a an open plateau or a shady mountain forest. It’s certainly something I try not to take for granted while being here.

For today’s run, I quickly consulted Google Maps around my current location and noted that Chautauqua Park was only a mile or so away. I decided that this round trip sounded like a perfect candidate for a quick mid-day run, so I headed that direction.

The Chautauqua Movement of the late 1800s was a movement that brought cultural and educational experiences to small towns and cities all over the country. What began as a summer camp for educating Sunday school teachers in the northeast quickly exploded into a cross-country movement allowing working-class people with little opportunity for a formal college education to come together for lectures, concerts, the arts, and classes in their own cities and towns. Chautauqua halls were built in to house these events.

Today, the Colorado Chautauqua Auditorium still stands at the base of Boulder’s Foothills, preserved and still used after over one hundred years. And I make a public confession here that in my eight years of living here in Boulder, I have never actually been up there (hides from the torches, pitchforks, and rioting of disbelieving locals).

However, do give me a little credit that I made the one mile run up there this morning! And I do mean up…up and up and up. Lots of huffing and puffing and slowing to a walk to let my heart rate subside a bit. And I even had to abandon sidewalk for a mountainous trail to get up there. So, while this wasn’t my fastest run ever or my longest, it was definitely the most interesting. A couple of minutes into the trail, in my surprise I looked up to see the Chautauqua hall above me. I stopped to take a quick picture.

I kept on the trail a little bit further and veered off at the fork that I knew would take me up to the hall. It was quite interesting, though I was in the middle of a run and not really able to poke around the grounds very much. I did snap another quick picture of the view of Boulder from above. I told you it was “up!”

So, a mid-morning run from a national lab and up a mountain to a historic landmark, with blindingly blue skies and panoramic vistas. Just a typical day in Boulder, Colorado.

They see me runnin’…they hatin’

And by “they,” I evidently mean my calves or hip flexors. Every time I run it seems  a new muscle group decides to be mad at me. Actually, it seemed like my whole body hated me whenever I ran at first…

As you probably know, I am training to run a 10K race on Memorial Day. You probably also remember that I am not a runner at all; in fact, I am a failed runner. In the past, I have tried a running program a couple of times before getting sidetracked within a few weeks. This coupled with an entire semester sitting at my desk writing my thesis means I had to start absolutely from square one fitness-wise. However, this sitting around made me adamant to get up and moving again when I finally got finished, and I planned to try running again, though I didn’t have too much of a plan. However, when I found out my friend was inspired to begin running, too, with this Memorial Day 10K in mind, that motivated me to try, too; it gave me a goal and a buddy to focus my interest.

I started this 10K novice training program roughly three weeks ago (give or take a little while I was still busy with my defense). The training should take me right up until the weekend before the race. At first I didn’t think it would be enough time for me to condition up, but I’m slowly making progress, and it might actually not be as insane as I imagined.

Despite how miserable I often seem to feel in the middle of a run, in actuality everything is improving from those first few tough runs. Things that were sore after a run before are now not, so maybe I’ll cycle through everything once and be more or less good to go (especially as I’m diligent to stretch thoroughly afterward). And while I still gasp for air and my chest feels like it’s going to explode at times during my run, those moments pass and I can sometimes feel downright almost comfortable (how’s that for hedging?). I still have to push myself since I am training for more distance yet, but I could imagine finding some pretty moderate and recreational run almost enjoyable even in my current state.

For the majority of my runs, I have used an iPhone app to track my pace and distance. My first recorded run here was 2.15 miles with a pace of 14:04 minutes per mile. That’s pretty darned slow, but I was pretty stoked to have made it over 2 miles at that point. Yesterday, I squeezed in a “quick” run before sundown, logging 2.71 miles with a pace of 11:56 minutes per mile. Not a bad improvement at all, I must say. For distance, I’m up to 4 miles, and my pace for that was 12:34; I thought I was going to die about mile 2, but somehow I made it the distance and could possibly have gone even longer, though it’s not wise to push too hard at first.

The first couple of weeks are certainly hard, as it’s hardly motivating to get out of the house when you don’t see much progress and you feel like you’re going to keel over. However, I stuck with it, and going into week four I’m feeling much more optimistic. It’s still hard, like I said, but there’s hope! I really hope that sticking to an eight-week plan helps me firmly establish a good habit so that even after the race I continue to run as routine exercise. I know from experience it’s easy to have a hiccup in your training and never get back on until you’re starting from square one, but having done it before should at least be motivating if/when that happens again.

My enthusiasm has also inspired DH. He will quickly tell you he is no-sir-no-way-no-how not a runner; however, he does a “bootcamp” workout twice a week and has been gaining a lot of strength and endurance. After thinking about it a while and seeing my effort, he decide to run with me twice last week to supplement his other fitness training. It was nice to have someone to go with to encourage me and push me. After our first run, I felt he pushed me too hard, but I was able to increase my distance plus shave a whole minute off my average pace on the next run, so evidently it was good for me to get a little kick in the work-out pants.

I’m always interesting in knowing about peoples’ gadgets when they run, so I thought I’d share some of the stuff I’ve purchased for this endeavor. A few thoughtful investments have seemed to pay off, and I haven’t even really spent that much money, either.

First, I bought some new shoes a week or so ago. I had shoes that were probably okay, but I had the funds, so I decided to just go and spend as much as I decided I needed to for some good shoes. I tried on $100+ shoes and $40 shoes and everything in between. Turns out that I truly and honestly liked the less expensive Ryka Revive 2 the best–lightweight yet enough structure to help support my foot. I’ve done four runs in them, and they’ve done well so far.

Next, I wanted to make use of my iPhone to track my distance and pace as well as record my workouts. I downloaded a few free apps for that and ended up liking iMapMyRun. You do have to create an account, but it’s been easy to use and has some nice features, like voice feedback at your desired interval to tell you your pace and distance and displaying your route on a map. You can record your workout and can even share it on social media if you desire.

Knowing that I would be running with my phone, I wanted something to contain it. I don’t have many pockets in my running clothes, and a phone would fall out of the ones I do have. I looked into armbands but decided that would drive me crazy, plus I didn’t want to keep taking my phone out of my case every time I ran. I finally decided on the Amphipod AirFlow Microstretch waistpack. It looks impossibly small but stretches quite amazingly to accommodate my cased iPhone with enough room to spare for a key (probably not a whole keychain without poking and scratching). There’s still room for something like an ID card or some cash. Without the phone, you could stuff keys, maybe some sunglasses, and maybe even some small food/hydration items if you’re running long distance. I can zip it most of the way up and have my headphones stick out of the small gap, and it works great. I barely know it’s there.

Those are my main purchases, and I feel really great about them, and I didn’t need much else to hit the road.

Hopefully I can continue to report even more progress in the coming weeks. I think that for my next run I’m going to try tackling a route I did very early on that featured a pretty decent hill; I was not at all in condition to run up it earlier, but now I think I could do better. Of course, they say pride goes before a fall, too. 😉 Well, at the worst case I can call DH or 911 to come pick me up off the road, but you never know if you don’t go!

I can almost taste it

One thing that helps keep me going is thinking of all the fantastic things I will get to do once all of this is over! I will technically still be working after I defend (my appointment ends in June, I believe), but I don’t intend to do anything too complicated because I definitely need a break! It’s so close now, I can almost taste it all…I am so ready.

First of all, I’m finally going to start cooking again. I do still cook as much as I can, but I’m relying heavily on simple, quick-fix meals in my repertoire that I don’t have to think too much about, or ones that DH knows how to cook, as he does a lot of the meal prep for dinner most days. Unfortunately, most of these meals get repetitive and don’t feature as many veggies as I’d prefer to prepare for us. It takes quite a bit of time to be creative and find new recipes that incorporate a variety of foods to keep things exciting. Once you get them down, they become part of the repertoire, but it’s a slow process for me. Plus, with spring and summer coming, new foods and cooking methods abound! Out with the endless soups and casseroles, in with grilled veggies and fresh fruit. Yum, yum!

Related to food, I also plan to tend a veggie garden again this year. The weather is unseasonably nice for March (usually our snowiest month), and while I don’t want to rush things as there’s always a chance for snow through May, it’s already time to get the garden beds ready. Once I am done, I’ll have time to plant veggies, sow in rotation for continuing harvests through the season, and water (or plan some sort of drip system, which I’m very motivated to do this year). I already have some lettuce coming up in a planter, too! I’m super excited for gardening and plan to enjoy it when I’m done.

I also plan to exercise! I am sick of sitting at this desk in this chair for hours on end. I am not the world’s fittest person anyway, but I do try to get out and do some cardio and strength training every week. That’s gone down the tubes the last month, but I will get back into it when my time frees up. With the weather getting nice, I have grandiose plans of becoming a runner, too (I’ve tried at different times, but I always get off track and never can climb back on). Then more strength training and flexibility and stretching. I know I’m so out of shape right now that it’s going to hurt to get started again, but I’m determined!

There are also a ton of craft and home projects I want to get back into, most of which are on my 101 in 1001 list. The top priority is painting most of the trim and baseboards in the house. I’ve been putting this off for three years, ever since we repainted the walls and thought we might get new carpet and didn’t want newly-painted trim to get banged up. I was a little sloppy with the trim thinking it would get done soon…oops. I just bought the paint last weekend, so I am ready to jump on it. My second project will be making a home inventory.This involves going room to room and cataloging what you own and all its value, essentially what it would cost to replace if your whole house burned down or you got robbed. Your normal home owner’s insurance policy covers some percentage of your home value to go toward personal effects, but you typically have absolutely no idea how much it would actually cost to replace everything, especially if you’ve got nice clothes, fancy electronics, expensive instruments, professional tools and the like. We initially wanted to do this out of curiosity, but it is really practical to know in case you need to adjust your insurance coverage, and better to do it now than after your house burns down or blows away. You can’t just assume it will never happen to you.

I am also determined to finish knitting this one blanket I started over a year ago. Maybe closer to two. It’s knit in individual squares that are then seamed together at the end, and I’ve just been so slow finishing it. It’s bright and colorful and just interesting enough without being too complicated; I have no idea why I haven’t gotten into it. I have had exactly 0 % knitting motivation recently, but I intend to get the darned thing done now.

I also want to get out and about! We’d like to take a trip this summer, but we’re just playing that by ear. Even if we don’t go anywhere big, I’m still ready to get out of the house and go explore Colorado or surrounding areas.

Since I still don’t have a plan (i.e. job) after I finish, I really don’t know how the whole summer is going to play out. Are we going to have to move and sell the house? Will we stay here a few more months, or few more years? So I do have to keep that on the radar. However, I think most of my plans I can do regardless of other circumstances. I’m just so darned ready to get some semblance of a real life back. I’d say it can’t come fast enough, but I still have a lot to do in the meantime!!

101 in 1001–one year update

My friend and her long-time pal are blogging about 30 items they want to accomplish before they turn 30 later this year, and this reminded me that I should do an update about my 101 in 1001 list. It was just about one year ago now that DH and I started our list, and as of today I count 36 items that are completed, with a handful that have been started but need to be finished. Here are some notable ones we have recently accomplished:

42. Donate old clothes. Maybe I’m jumping the gun a tiny bit on this one, as they are not yet out of the house. But this week I finally rounded up everything in the closet and set them aside. I just need to clean out our dresser drawers (item number 39!) and wash a few things. Then they will go to the Denver Rescue Mission (donating something to them is number 100 on the list, too ;)). So this is quite a productive event!

72. Play a new game. We’ve actually played quite a few new games, but our most recent one was  “Dominion” with some friends Super Bowl Sunday, and I recorded that one since I remembered the date. 😉

98. Continue blogging regularly at least through 2011. That one was officially completed at New Years, and I am keeping on!

I see quite a few items, like going to the batting cages and riding our bikes, that we have a chance to do in a few months when the seasons change. I’m really looking forward to that! I also see a few local items, like going to the Denver Mint and hiking a 14-er, that might be top priority this summer, depending on where I get a job when I graduate.

And needless to say, there are a few numbers I hope very much to check off very soon…

89. Graduate

91. Introduce myself as Doctor “End of the Fiber”. 😉

Looking back a year after writing the list, there are a few things I’d probably change, things I’ve come across in the last year that I now want to do and would be perfect for the list. However, I am pretty surprised how well DH and I nailed some things that we still want to do but haven’t had the opportunity yet. I hope completing the list won’t be a drudgery, and hope we won’t feel bad if we don’t accomplish everything, as long as we gave it a good shot. Thirty-six down, and here’s to another 65 left to go!

A little drama

There’s been a lot of drama going on at our house lately. Well, in general it’s probably only a small amount of drama, but for a household that’s normally pretty low-key it seems like like a soap opera.

First, the search for another committee member continues. I got a rather unsure response from my first victim, er, nominee. He would do it, but only if he didn’t have to spend a lot of time studying topics he wasn’t familiar with. Understandable, but that’s still sort of the point of having a committee member outside the Physics Department. Of course, most groups in the Physics Department are so different from each other, they might as well be in different departments anyway. I told him I could look for someone else if he liked, but I would keep him in mind if I still needed someone. My second nominee had two problems…a joint appointment with both departments and twins due the week of my defense. Maybe that’s three problems?… Anyway, it’s time to move to the next name on the list. Third time’s a charm, right?

Other drama at home is over Craig’s List. Now, I love Craig’s List in general. We’ve bought and sold so much interesting stuff on it over the years…dog items, a blender, musical instruments, even my old car. Yesterday, DH listed a drum set that used to belong to my nephew but was given to me by my sister after he never played it. Well, I had wanted to play the drums for sooo many years in middle school and high school and college, but no matter how much I asked, I never got one. Of course, he gets one and then never plays it. Well, I thought it would be the way to finally enable my desire to play the drums after all these years. Of course, being a married grad student, I didn’t have the time I once did. Nor was I all that excited to go down into the cold basement to play it. So that meant that I, likewise, never played it.

I thought about it a long time. Even if I do finish up soon, I have other projects on my list to tackle when I get more time. Plus, if we move, we’ll just have to figure out whether it’s worth moving it or not. So, I finally decided that I could give it up now, and maybe in the future I could learn if the opportunity presented itself.

So, onto Craig’s List it went. We tried to price it competitively compared to others already listed, but I didn’t anticipate much interest at this time of year. Surprisingly, though, within an hour we had two calls from people begging to have it. DH asked the first caller when he would be by, and he said 3:00, though he was having to come from quite a ways away. DH said that the time was fine, and he would be around (he’s very flexible as he works at home). Well, he waited all evening, and the guy never showed. DH finally called to ask if he was even going to come, and it was good he did, because he hadn’t even left, nor seemed to even plan to leave.

DH then called the second guy in line, who was adamant that he wanted it. He said he would call this morning to let DH know when he could come up. However, by noon, DH hadn’t gotten a call. He tried to get in touch, but to no avail. Fortunately, two others had expressed interest in it by that point. The next in line actually lives right across the road in another neighborhood in our town. He claims that he’ll be by after work to get it for sure. We’ll see how that turns out.

While I am thankful for the interest and the high likelihood of getting rid of it, it has been a little silly how the prospective buyers have handled the situation. I’m all for giving people the benefit of the doubt, but when you’re four hours late, four hours away, and haven’t even left yet, WHY HAVEN’T YOU CALLED??? I think there are definite Craig’s List protocols for buyers and sellers both, just plain common courtesy. However, it can feel like most people haven’t read that memo. That being said, more often than not we have a good experience, despite the few pitfalls here and there.

I’m sure that hardly qualifies as real drama, but it can definitely be a distraction. Progress this week has been a lot slower, but I am still managing to creep forward at any speed, just making sure I don’t stop. Today has been better, though. Any progress is good progress, but hopefully I can continue to pick up the pace going into the end of the week.