About this Site

Leslie Beslie is a personal blog of me, Leslie. I share articles and thoughts on where I live and things I like. This includes NYC, books, finances, running, music, cats, and drawing.

Other Projects: French Toast Brigade | Life & Spending 2016 Weekly Planner | College Football Daybreak Podcast

Weekly Recap: Indie Video Games & Erik Larson

Video Games: Unfinished Swan

Indie game Unfinished Swan is available free this month if you have a PS+ subscription. This is a wonderful, short, artistic game. There was far more detail, originality, and difficulty than I had expected. The story itself is linear but doesn’t make a ton of sense. It is set in the first person; you are a little boy following a random swan around this drawing world.

The game play changes each level and all of it is fun. I thought the entire game would be about paint splatters but they did a good job at really making each level different. Some don’t involve paint at all. But all involve light and contrast. It really is beautiful.

You can’t really die in the game. If you go where you’re not supposed to, you just come back to a near-by checkpoint. Also, saving only happens when you actually reach the end of a level. The first time I played it, I quit after reaching the first Storybook, and was disappointed to find I had to start over because it didn’t save.

This is more of an exploratory game than a puzzle, platformer, or shooter. Definitely unique style and wonderful artwork. I really recommend this one.

Books: Dead Wake by Erik Larson

Erik Larson is most known for Devil in the White City. His narrative non-fiction take on the serial killer H.H. Holmes at the Chicago World’s Fair. That book is fantastic. Larson did his research and it shows. He includes mundane yet interesting facts about the fair, Chicago, and the world at this time. At the same time, he builds tension surrounding Holmes’s behavior. It never felt dull.

Since I love history, I really was looking forward to reading his latest Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania. I have read many World War II books but not as many books on the first war. I do know all about the context of the sinking of the Lusitania and what it meant for the US’s involvement. Typically I find these types of stories interesting.

At 100-pages in, I’m considering bailing on this one. Larson goes way off the scope here with extraneous mundane details. Some of it is interesting. Like, that President Wilson was extremely depressed after his wife died. So much that he walked around Manhattan hoping to be assassinated. But… that has nothing to do with the Lusitania.

Larson gives us the life stories of several passengers. None of them are interesting. There isn’t a main character so we never develop emotions for anyone. And for some it just goes on for pages. At least this is slightly more related to the Lusitania.

The weaving of random facts that have a very tiny thread linking them reminds me a lot of a Bill Bryson book. Specifically, One Summer: America, 1927. Bryson took a specific year and wrote about a whole lot of various things that happened in that time period. It is all over the place. It seems that is what Larson was trying to do here. Unfortunately, ships are pretty well-contained. Unlike a huge event like the World’s Fair, a ship is pretty routine. There is a small crew. There weren’t that many passengers. Because of this, Larson has to write a lot of filler to make this full book length. He includes lots of information about events happening around the same time as the Lusitania sinking. But those have nothing to do with the actual event. This isn’t the type of book I want to read.

Without a main character, it is really difficult to care about the fate of the ship. Especially since we all know what happens. There is zero tension. And zero emotional connection. It’s more like Larson is practicing the “spray and pray” mentality of writing a hundred thousand random facts and hoping we find at least one of them interesting.

Weekly Updates: March Madness + Half Marathon Training Modified

Life: Half Marathon Training – Weeks 6 & 7

After receiving advice from a very helpful comment and another running friend, I’ve decided to completely modify my current training plan. I had been following Run Keeper’s sub 2:15 half marathon plan.

The plan itself is a bit advanced for what I need. So using advice from last week’s comment, and listening to my body, I wrote up an entirely new calendar for training. The new training plan consists of two runs during the week day, one of them speed work. And two runs over the weekend, one of them long. Then two days of cross training and a rest day.

For this race, my minimum goal is sub-2:20 to PR. In 2012 I ran the Brooklyn Half in 2:22:52 and the NYC Half in 2:21:13. I don’t care how much I PR by. For training purposes, I’m giving myself a goal race pace of 10:30mm. That’s an estimated finish time of 2:17:39. This current week was my first modified week and it’s been going really well. I might be able to take it up a notch. But it feels better than not being able to keep up. In the long run that wouldn’t help anything and could really cause injury.

Here’s my training workouts from the past two weeks!

Half Marathon Training – Week 6

  • 12 x 400: 5mi / 0:52:01 / 10:24mm
  • Treadmill: 3.1 / 0:33:55 / 10:56mm
  • 4 x 1: 6 / 1:04:57 / 10:49mm

Week 6 Total: 14.1 / 2:30:53 / 10:43mm

I also spent 30 minutes strength training three of the days. This is something I like about going to a gym. It is a nice change and is really helping me feel more fit.

Half Marathon Training – Week 7

  • Running: 4.01 / 0:54:38 / 0:13:37mm
  • Treadmill: 2.67 / 0:30:00 / 11:14mm
  • Elliptical: 2 / 0:30:00
  • Treadmill: 6 / 1:06:23 / 11:04mm
  • Running: 10.4 / 1:58:00 / 11:21mm

Week 7 Total: 25.08 / 4:29:01 / 11:49mm

Life: March Madness – Go Green!

Perfect Bracket Go Spartans March Madness MSU
Go Spartans!!!!!!!!!

I’m sorry if you don’t like basketball, really I am. I don’t get award shows and I know how annoying those are when they’re happening. And the NCAAM tournament isn’t just one night. But I do think it’s fun even if you don’t like basketball. Usually people who randomly guess brackets end up doing a lot better anyway.

I’ve made three brackets this year: two for groups and one for me. This year is strange with so many non-fans rooting for my team to win the national championship (MSU alum here). Even the president pick them to win! Thanks, Obama.

After two days, my brackets aren’t in terrible shape. My picks were all over the place but I am winning in one of the groups with 260 points. Thank you NDSU.

Really I love all the stories. Like the Olympics, I love hearing the struggles schools and athletes faced to get there. The records the underdogs break when they win. And the look of determination on all their faces. Remember folks, these are college kids. Little babies! The oldest on a team might be a 22 year old fifth-year senior. Little babies running around with a basketball doing amazing things.

Fun fact: North Dakota State University is the first team from the entire state of North Dakota to win a game in the NCAAM tournament.

Book: Have You Found Her?

Have You Found Her? A memoir by Janice Erlbaum

Have You Found Her? A memoir by Janice Erlbaum

This is one of those books I was able to finish in one sitting. That doesn’t mean it was good. I spent four hours on the couch last Sunday reading this memoir and being a bed for the cats. What kept me reading this pretentious tale was the predictable-ness of the story.

Within the first fifteen pages I had predicted an ending. I basically kept reading to see if I was right. It took a while, the reveal wasn’t until the very end, but it turns out my plot prediction was correct. It’s difficult to read true stories like this and not be able to understand how the author couldn’t ‘see this one coming too’. Yes, I know, it’s different being inside something than outside looking in. It’s just frustrating at as a reader.

The writing style was fine and easy-going. Erlbaum’s thoughts and actions were so goddamn pretentious though. Unbelievable in some cases. Like she really thought she was saving the world.

Erlbaum starts the story explaining she lived in a girl’s shelter in NYC for a few months as a teenager. Now she’s a grown-up living the good life in a fancy pants apartment. She wants to give back. So she starts volunteering at that same shelter. She immediately makes favorites, bringing certain girls gifts and things, getting pretty obsessed about how helpful she is. How much of a difference she can make on these girl’s lives.

Then she meets Sam. This is not a book about her volunteering at the shelter and all the different girl’s she meets. It is not about her learning the stories of other’s. This is her story about how her intimate (platonically) relationship with one of these girls. It is about how she tries to saves someone. I guess that’s why it is a memoir. It is all about her and her supposedly good intentions.

Then Erlbaum meets Sam and immediately starts taking care of this girl who is in and out of hospitals.
Sam is in constant need of attention. There is always a drama. There is always something wrong with her. Her life was extremely bad growing up. Though she can expertly play a piano (she said she learned from a drug dealer…)

It’s really one thing after another, which is enough to keep the reader interested. But only because you’re waiting for the truth to come out.

If you like memoirs, stories of mentally/physically ill teenagers, or NYC stories I recommend this. But it is easy reading and predictable. I give it 3/5.

Internet Best Of: Links

Impostor Syndrome and Writing – Fit is the New Poor

Baby Steps in the Morning – The Asian Pear

Cheap Eats: Dollar Samosa’s – The NY Budget

Food & Health
This Infographic Shows the Phytonutrients You Need to Stay Healthy – Lifehacker

Stick A Fork In It (Or: When Food Blogs Stopped Being Food Blogs) – The Amateur Gourmet

March Madness & Bracketology
Statistical NCAA Tournament Predictions – FiveThirtyEight

Brooklyn News
Driver charged after SUV ends up on subway car in Brooklyn – ABC News

Brooklyn History
How Brooklyn Neighborhoods Got Their Names – Mental Floss

Donate to Stephanie’s 2014 Walk for Hunger – Project Bread

Weekly Updates: Half-Marathon Training Week 5 + Quesadilla Quiche

Race Training Week 5 – Running for the First Time

Even though I’ve been running for practically a decade, this time around feels like I’m running for the first time. Taking last year off from running & racing was a great decision.

In the past, my mental state definitely wasn’t very positive. And especially not during running. I generally say that I hate running. Even while doing it. Even after doing it. Even when racing. Even after running for so long. I say it is horrible terrible. I say that I hate running culture, and runners, and races, and outside, and parks, and shoes, and clothes, and gadgets. Everything. I would run and think to myself how much I hate everything. That is far from relaxing.

Now I’m at a point in my life where I can be kind to myself. I don’t have to be “that type of runner.” This race can be mine. My time is mine. My run is mine. These shoes are mine. Not yours.

I feel like I’m finally discovering all those things people have said about running. It can be relaxing. It is time for myself. It’s as hard as I make it. I don’t have to be fast. Listen to my body, instead of other’s.

As expected, this has really changed how I feel during running. Instead of negativity and anger filling up my head, I’m trying to empty it. Think positive or think nothing at all. The latter is what usually happens but that’s better than nothing.

This week I did not do a long run but I did listen to my body. I did some strength training, something I’ve never focused on before, and really enjoy it. It helps me feel fit all over. From that, I was feeling sore and tired. Listening to my body, I did some shorter comfortable run instead. I’m not racing to win, here.

Sub 2:15 Half Marathon – Week 5
Treadmill: 4 mi / 0:44:08 / 11:02 pace
Running: 2 mi / 0:20:00 / 10:00 pace
Treadmill: 3.1 mi / 0:34:40 / 11:10 pace
Elliptical: 1.86 mi / 0:20:00 / 10:45 pace

Week Total: 10.96 mi / 1h 59m 48s / 10:44 pace

Food: Quiche-adilla

Quesadilla’s are a staple of my cooking rotation. They can be as simple or complicated as I make them. Cheese ones are perfect for a quick dinner. Vegetable + chicken are perfect when I want something heartier. I always have my mexican spice mix on hand which adds just the right flavor.

This week I wanted to try something new with quesadilla’s. So with the help if the Internet, I decided to make a quesadilla quiche. A quiche-adilla if you will. It turned out really tasty and I definitely recommend it.

Quesadilla Quiche Recipe

  1. Put a large tortilla in a pie plate
  2. Mix shredded chicken + cheese in a separate bowl
  3. Optional add-ins: jalapenos, spices, peppers, tomatoes
  4. Spread mix onto tortilla
  5. Whisk 2 eggs, 1C milk or water, 1C flour in a separate bowl
  6. Pour liquid mixture over meat mixture on tortilla
  7. Bake in oven at 450 for 20 minutes

Books: The Essential George Sheehan

the essential george sheehan

As I stated above, I was never a fan of running culture. So I never spent time reading books, magazines, articles, or anything else about running. It felt none of it related to how I ran. Or it perpetuated the running culture that I did not like. Either way, this is why I had never heard of George Sheehan until this year.

The Essential Sheehan is an anthology of sorts of selections from articles & books written by Dr. George Sheehan. Dr. Sheehan retired from cardiology at 44 and took up long distance running in the 70’s. He was one of the first to incorporate fitness into medical science. And looked at life and running in a different way.

It is notable that I read this book immediately following Leo Babauta’s The Power of Less because they are both quite similar. On the content that crosses over from one book to another, both author has the same opinion on it. The only difference is Babauta tells his in bullet points and Sheehan tells his in essay form. This is personal preference but I really enjoyed Sheehan’s essays. Adding context and personal stories can provide much more motivation than a simple bullet point statement.

For example, both authors say to start with one, simple goal. Don’t try to do too much at once. Don’t attempt to quit smoking and take up running in the same week. Don’t attempt to run a marathon a week into running. Sheehan provided examples that he saw from his fellow runners and even the mistakes he himself made. This really helped to hit home why doing these things were important.

Another example is both authors say to hold yourself back. Which might not make sense at first. Dr. Sheehan explains this is to prevent burn-out and injuries. He then tells stories of runners who take 3-6 months or more off after a race because of feeling staleness in running. Babauta explains burn-out as well but in terms of momentum. We start out a change with so much momentum and excitement that if we do too much at first, we will not be able to motivate ourselves when it becomes challenging. Even if you know you can 4 miles today instead of your usual 3, hold yourself back. Run 4 next week as that will give you something to look forward to.

I recommend Dr. Sheehan’s writings for everyone, runners and non-runners alike. He writes a lot of good life stories and incorporates positivity without this coming off as self-help at all. It is also interesting seeing his perspective change throughout his life. Since this is a collection of his works, he goes from being an intense racer to being a social runner. There are also some articles about his experience with cancer, which is a whole other thing altogether.

Internet Best Of: Links

Why I Don’t Set Long Term Goals – Budget and the Beach

Personal Finance
Traditional IRA: Saving Broke Millennials Hundreds of Dollars – Broke Millenial

Sunset Park is home of Brooklyn’s cheapest pizza pies – Brokelyn

10 Things I Like About Myself: A Link-Up – Avoiding Atrophy

Why My Business is Breaking Up With Facebook – Nuts + Bolts Media

Internet Privacy
This Infographic Shows You How to Delete Yourself from the Internet – Lifehacker

College Basketball
Onions! The Never-Made-the-NCAA Tournament Club, 2014 edition – SB Nation

Jobs & Life
A Day in the Life of a Cruise Ship Stage Manager

Weekly Updates: Race Training Week 4 & DIY Oatmeal

Half Marathon Training – Week 4

Brooklyn Half Marathon at Coney Island

Brooklyn Half Marathon at Coney Island

I wish I never started writing about my training. Because now I have to admit to all my mistakes. In week 4, I skipped my long run, again. That’s twice in a row. I spent a lot of time beating myself up over it, which certainly didn’t help anything. I need to remind myself that it’s still February. I have three solid months before the race.

Training is starting to be a boon to my working out. If I miss a day I feel guilty for most of the morning. Missing a day certainly isn’t going to seriously affect my running. And for the four half marathons I ran in the past, I never even trained at all! I need to relax and enjoy what I’m doing – currently working on the mental aspect of running which I’ve never been very good at.

Aside from cardio, I have began taking advantage of the other stuff in the gym by strength training. I’ve got a handle on lat pull downs and the leg press. Then at home I can do some squats, stair work, and lunges. Surprisingly, I’ve never done any of this stuff before. It was always only about the running. Probably because that’s the free part.

Sub 2:15 Half Marathon – Week 4
Treadmill: 5 mi / 56m 22s / 11:16 pace
Spinning: 4.7 mi / 20m
Elliptical: 0.9mi / 10m
Running: 4.7mi / 55m 56s / 11:54 pace – Ocean Parkway to Coney Island

Week Total: 15.3 mi / 2h 22m 18s / 11:35 pace

Food: DIY Instant Oatmeal

diy instant oatmeal in containers or packets

Bring diy instant oatmeal with you to work

Several years ago I wrote about bringing diy oatmeal with you to work. But since then I’ve perfected this!

Here’s what I do for an individual serving but I suggest multiplying this and storing the bulk mix in a jar. Then when you want oatmeal in the morning, just take out about a quarter cup and you should be good to go.

Ideally, this requires use of a food chopper or food processor. I bought this mini food chopper for $9.

To Blend:

  • 2 Tablespoons quick oats (cooks in 1 min)
  • 1 teaspoon cranberries
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon nuts (almonds, walnuts, etc)
  • dash of salt

Add these to your food chopper then run for about 30 seconds. This mixes everything together, gets rid of brown sugar lumps, chops up the nuts, and cuts the oats almost to a flour texture. That is the key! Adding this “oat flour” helps thickens your oatmeal and makes it very creamy without needing milk.

In a plastic bag or container (I use a small tumbler glass covered with saran wrap), put in another 2 Tablespoons of quick oats, then add your blended mixture. This is one serving.

To eat, pour very hot water into the oats, stir. Let sit for 1+ minutes. Water & sit time depend on your preference of thickness. I prefer mine thicker while a friend prefers to drink his.

This is a quick and super filling breakfast, especially great for wintertime. I promise it will leave your belly warm and full.

Books: Power of Less by Leo Babauta

Productivity from Leo Babauta of Zen Habits: The Power of Less

Productivity from Leo Babauta of Zen Habits: The Power of Less

There’s more I could say about this book but really it comes down to this: just read his blog

After this, I started reading “The Essential Sheehan” which is a compilation of various George Sheehan articles and talks. He was a runner but what he talks about can apply to life in general. A lot of his principles over lap with Leo Babauta’s as well, so I will write about them as one next week.

Internet Best Of: Links

The Cost of Living in Paradise – Budget and the Beach

114 Side Hustles: Ways to Make Money – Broke Girl Rich

Running Every Block in Ditmas Park – The Weekly Nabe

Weekly Updates: Race Training Week 3

Half Marathon Training – Week 3

Coney Island Boardwalk

Coney Island Boardwalk

Last week I wrote about the beginning of my training for the Brookyln Half in May. This is the first time I’ve really adhered to a training schedule instead of just winging it before a race. For me, having a gym membership really has helped keep me on track and provide motivation. Sure the treadmill isn’t the same environment as outdoors but I no longer have weather-related excuses.

I’ve also started cross training for the first time in my life. Not belonging to a gym and wanting to keep my workouts as cheap as possible, I’ve pretty much only engaged in running as a workout. I’ve dabbled in pilates but that gets expensive fast. I have a bicycle now but that’s been impossible to ride outdoors this winter. I like being able to do more than run. The gym allows me to learn new workouts and use new muscles of my body. For as much as I’ve ran, I can tell you that some days on the elliptical are downright tough. Do you know how out of shape that makes me feel? I can run 10 miles but doing two minutes in reverse on the elliptical has me in tears!

My training plan doesn’t include cross training so I’m trying to integrate it myself. I believe in the necessity of rest days so instead of doing 4/5 miles on a Tuesday, I’ll do half running and half elliptical. Or half spin and half weights. If anyone has a good strength training routine for runners, please share!

Sub 2:15 Half Marathon – Week 3:
Treadmill: 3.15 miles in 37 mins with a pace of 0:11:51/mi
Elliptical: 1.97 miles in 25 mins with a pace of 0:12:41/mi
Treadmill: 3.11 miles in 39 mins with a pace of 0:12:42/mi
Treadmill: 5 miles in 1 hr with a pace of 0:12:00/mi

Week Total: 13 miles in 2 hr 41 min with an average pace of 0:12:18/mi

All week long I felt tired and out of it. Even after sleeping for 10 hours Fri and Sat nights, I was still groggy. Listening to my body, I decided to skip running 10-miles on Sunday. I just didn’t have it in me. On Monday I did five-miles on the treadmill and it felt much more comfortable than any of my runs the previous week. Ramping up my mileage so much has definitely taken a toll on my body. I want to avoid injuries as much as possible and will listen closely to my body from here on out. Missing one long-run isn’t going to ruin my entire training.

Music: Instrumental Ambient Rock

Explosions in the Sky Performing Live

Explosions in the Sky Performing Live

As a lover of instrumental rock, I thought I’d share some of my favorite experimental/math/post/ambient rock bands. I even made a Spotify playlist for you!

Bands Include:

  • Pele
  • This Will Destroy You
  • Explosions in the Sky
  • Mogwai
  • The Album Leaf
  • El Ten Eleven
  • God Is An Astronaut
  • Helios
  • Hammock
  • Stars of the Lid
  • Do Make Say Think
  • You Bred Raptors
  • Russian Circles

Spotify Playlist: The Instrumental List

Here’s a sample of what this is like. You’ve probably heard a few This Will Destroy You songs by now, they’ve been used in commercials and on soundtracks:

Books: Welcome to Shirley by Kelly McMasters

Kelly McMasters' Welcome to Shirley

Kelly McMasters’ Welcome to Shirley: A Memoir from an Atomic Town

Welcome to Shirley: A Memoir from an Atomic Town by Kelly McMasters is a very well-written and researched memoir + environmentalism piece of non-fiction. McMaster’s moved to the town of Shirley, Long Island when she was a child and shares the pleasant memories she had of the town growing up. The community feels real to the reader and the writing sincere. This isn’t just anyone writing the story of a toxic town. This is someone who actually lived in it.

Hearing the quirky stories from her point of view really allows the reader to grow with McMasters. You start out viewing the town positively, though always knowing in the background that something toxic is lurking. Yet when it finally comes into the picture, it is still rather surprising.

McMaster’s does a great job at keeping this memoir more about the town than about her. The entire time she focuses on sharing her experiences with the town, rather than simply her life growing up.

Reading Welcome to Shirley reminded me of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Both stories went between sharing researched information and also sharing personal experiences. However, McMaster’s really has an advantage here. Since she grew up there, she never passed judgement. Skloot on the other hand, tried too hard to give the Lacks’ family some credit and turned the second half of the book into a circus. McMaster’s doesn’t have this problem because she is honest. When she explains the day she realized that Shirley was not a nice place to live and was actually thought of as “white trash” by the nearby Hamptons’ folks, you can really feel for her.

This is certainly more of a memoir than a heavily researched piece of environmental activism. With that said, McMaster’s did do a good job interviewing locals and employees from the Brookhaven Laboratory – the site of the toxins leaking into Shirley causing an abnormal rise in breast & rare cancers in residents.

As a perfect combination of light yet researched non-fiction that is told by someone who lived through it and not just a scientist or doctor, I really recommend Welcome to Shirley. The writing is tight and the story is very readable – McMaster’s rarely loses focus of the story she’s telling: 4/5 rating from me.

Internet Best Of: Links

How I Conduct My Business – Zen Habits

Extra Income
How Non-Theater People Can Make Money in Theater – Broke Girl Rich

Freelance Business & Taxes – Diversified Finances

Family Finance
7 Tips to Raising a Financially Fit Kid – Financially Blonde

Weekly Updates: Half Marathon Training at the Gym

My First Gym Membership

“Gyms Are Bad”
I’ve heard so many negative things about gyms from bloggers, runners, and well, everyone. I never even considered one until very recently. I heard that you’re not a real runner if you run on a treadmill. (And apparently you’re not a real runner if you run below a 10 min mi/pace so there goes my title). I heard that gyms are a waste of money. I heard that gyms are an uncomfortable environment for women. I heard a lot of things. But mainly due to the cost, I have always ran outside. I’ve been running outside since I started running for health back in college (over a decade ago!)

But it’s cold outside!
Recently I realized that I haven’t been running because of the weather. It’s been cold, snowy, and rainy here in nyc. It’s hard to motivate yourself to run in those conditions. I’m sure ‘real runners’ do it all the time. So call me lazy but I have no desire to go run in a blizzard. So, I decided, that something is better than nothing despite what “everyone” else says. At the beginning of February I joined a gym.

Maybe it depends on the gym
Unlike the chain gyms, this is a private facility. It is very nyc-esque in it’s size. A reviewed referred to it as a hotel gym. There aren’t classes and the treadmills don’t have screens. But everyone who’s there, is there to work out, not instagram themselves. Thankfully the pricing isn’t contract based. So after I did a trial run of 3 days/$25, I signed up for a full month for $50. I plan to do this for the wintry month of February. I’ll gauge the weather for March. Then probably go back in the summer because running in July is just as bad as running in a blizzard.

Yep, I’m not a real runner
I guess I’m not a real runner because I don’t mind the treadmill. I like that I can control my pace. I’ve tried using a Garmin watch and it’s just too distracting for me. I don’t like to run with any gadgets. So the Treadmill is nice that it provides me all the information of a gadget without actually getting in the way.

Running is Boring
The “treadmills are boring” argument doesn’t up for me. In my opinion, running is boring. Running is hard. Whether you’re outside or inside or on the moon, running 9 miles is a challenge. Sure, outside the scenery changes. But things change inside too. The one disadvantage I’ve found on the treadmill is that at anytime, I can just stop and walk the three blocks home. When I’m out on a long run, even if I stop running, I still have to either walk to a train or walk the rest of the way home – so I might as well just keep running. For the record, I have yet to stop mid-run on the treadmill and bail.

Half Marathon Training for the Brooklyn Half

After running four half-marathons and not using an actual training plan, I’ve decided to try one this time. I’m currently following Run Keeper’s Sub 2:15 Half Marathon Training Plan. I’m at the end of the third week now. I’m hoping I’ll be able to find a safe snow-cleared path for the 10 miler scheduled on Sunday.

Using a Training Plan
I’m enjoying following a training schedule. It takes a lot of the guess work out of running. Instead of asking myself how far I feel like running today, I already know how far I have to run. Whether I feel like it or not. It also forces me to do speed work. Without ever using a treadmill, I’ve never been able to really do speed work. I’m excited to give that a go and hopefully will see improvements.

In the spirit of taking advantage of my $50/mo gym membership, I’m also trying to use some of the other equipment like the elliptical and weights to build up my strength in other places. I have been running for a decade but that’s it. I haven’t done much other cross-training other than biking around Manhattan in the summer. Doing non-running workouts helps to bring more variety into my life as well.

Fine, I don’t actually hate running
One thing I’ve been trying to incorporate into this training is a positive attitude. Although I have been running for over 10 years, I have never enjoyed it. I can flat out say that I hate running. It is always hard. It is never fun. I hate runners. I hate how expensive running clothes are. I hate the pretentious attitude in the running world. I hate I hate I hate. Clearly, thinking such negativity is not helping my running! So instead of telling myself how stupid running is while I’m running. I’m trying to flip this around a little bit. I’ve been saying, “I don’t feel like doing this right now but I’m already here so let’s make the best of it.” It’s actually been helping!

Training for Speed
Again, I’ve been running for a long time but never cared about speed. My half marathon PR is 2:20, which I’m proud of. Since I have ran four of these races, I’ve decided to try to up the challenge by using this sub 2:15 training plan. It would be nice to PR this one. I’m guessing this will be my last half for a while. I don’t really enjoy the races (as I don’t enjoy running culture). I’d prefer to just run 4-5 miles in the morning to keep up my health. I don’t really need long runs or speed work if I’m not racing.

Here’s the first two weeks of my sub 2:15 training plan workouts:
Week 1
Miles: 19.55
Time: 3:50:15
Pace: 0:11:25
# Workouts: 5

Week 2
Miles: 22.15
Time: 4:17:39
Pace: 0:11:41
# Workouts: 5

Books: Horns by Joe Hill

Joe Hill's Horns

Joe Hill’s Horns

“Horns” by Joe Hill is a great page-turner that is not quite fantasy and not quite horror, but it is about the Devil. I appreciate Joe Hill not trying to bank on his father’s name, Stephen King. Especially because the writing is so different. I enjoyed this more than most of King’s stories.

Hill tells the story from almost every character’s perspective, which keeps things interesting even though it is the same story each time. Using the multiple perspective technique, eventually you are able to piece together the entire story.

At it’s heart, this is a mystery crime solver. The story starts by the main character, Ig, waking up with horns and with some strange super powers. As the story goes on, you never learn why this has happened to him but that isn’t really important. The crime happened a year ago when Ig’s girlfriend was found raped and murdered in the woods on the same night she broke up with him loudly at a bar. Everyone in town and his family assumed he did it but he was never charged nor cleared. The story of that night unravels through the perspectives of various characters until you finally learn who did it.

The Devil’s powers are explained well and I enjoyed seeing the transformation of Ig from “a man with Horns growing out of his head” into a full fledged red devil with a pitchfork. It’s an easy read but well-written. The characters could have been a bit less caricature but it worked fine in this story.

I rate it 3/5 and recommend it as a good weekend read.

Internet Best Of: Links

How I feel After a Run

Six Ways to Increase Productivity and Get Shit Done – Johnny Moneyseed

Best Manhattan Coffee Shops by Subway Stop via Poncho

February statistically proven to have the shittiest movies – AV Club

Affordability in Kensington – NY Times

Letting Go of Judging People – Zen Habits

Weekly Updates: Awkward Wedding Proposal + Brennan & Carr + Bill Bryson’s One Summer

Life: A Live Awkward Wedding Proposal

A few weeks ago, I saw the band Self live at Gramercy Theater. The band hasn’t played a show in 10 years. It was a fantastic concert, where the audience was singing along to every song. Their stage presence was great and the lead singer’s banter was perfect.

During a break between songs, the lead singer goes: “There’s some super fans here tonight! This guy down here has been singing every single word. Why don’t you come up and sing the next one? Is that your girlfriend next to you? Bring her up too!”

Now, this isn’t unheard of at shows. I’ve been to several where the band brought a fan up to sing or play guitar with them.

Once on stage, the guy takes the mic and says: “I hope you don’t mind, I changed some of the words.”

And then this happened:

I have never had so much second-hand embarrassment for any person as I had for that guy at that moment.

The worst part is, this is actually an amazing proposal. The guy had planned everything to a T. Clearly the band was in on it. It wasn’t obvious right away. If the guy and girl were both huge fans of the band, getting engaged on stage at their first show in ten years would be pretty amazing. But it seemed like the girl just wasn’t into it.

Food: Brennan & Carr

Brennan & Carr offers delicious roast beef in Sheepshead Bay Brooklyn

Brennan & Carr offers delicious roast beef in Sheepshead Bay Brooklyn

Brennan & Carr is the best place to go for roast beef in Brooklyn. It’s cheap. Delicious. In the middle of nowhere. We went around 7:30p on a Friday night and there wasn’t a wait at all. It felt like I was back home. There was no air of pretentiousness. Nothing was organic or natural. The beef broth was salty (and phenomenal). The waiters were wearing butcher coats. Beer was cheap. Napkins were on the table. It was comfortable. Exactly what you want in the winter.

This is some of the best roast beef I’ve ever had! I ordered The Gargiulo Burger. This is a cheeseburger topped with roast beef. Yum! You can get it dipped, dry, or juice on the side. I got the broth on the side so I could dip the sandwich myself. SO GOOD.

And, being at the bottom of Brooklyn, everything was totally affordable. About $7 for the burger. I’m excited to go back and just eat the roast beef. I don’t want anything getting in the way. Even though the roast beef is really just a vessel to get to the broth!

Books: One Summer America, 1927 by Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson's One Summer: America, 1927 is like reading Wikipedia

Bill Bryson’s One Summer: America, 1927 is like reading Wikipedia

There were three phases of this book for me. The first third was very exciting. I learned a lot. The story telling was great. Bryson had a rhythm. The second phase was getting dull. A lot was overlapping and being repeated. Some of it wasn’t going anywhere. Then the third phase was like being attacked with a diluge of information. Topics would change so fast I couldn’t even keep track anymore. Finished the book feeling informed but overloaded.

Reading this book is like spending eight hours on Wikipedia. You start on one topic, click a link to a related topic, then a few hours later you’re reading about Ponzi schemes where you started at Babe Ruth.

The equation to Wikipedia goes with the writing too. Bryson’s humor was stretched at times, with most of it being unnecessarily added. It would also feel out of place in most situations. Some of his wrap-up sentences were rather painful. Ending chapters with, essentially, “but that was only the beginning” came off lazy and childish. There was a grade-school essay quality to some topics.

However, the information was fantastic! I know there are criticisms of his sources but I didn’t feel that way while reading. Bryson acknowledged whenever a fact had been disputed. He quoted other references and authors frequently.

There is so much information in this book! It was all very interesting. And is a wonderful history reference for so many other aspects of American history. My only problem here is that, especially toward the end, it became too much. The information became so overwhelming, I didn’t want to read about yet another new thing that happened. I’d say the book as a whole could have used a few more rounds of editing (for content and writing).

I have only previously read A Walk in the Woods but, comparing the two, I prefer Bryson’s writing when it’s autobiographical than merely re-telling history.

Internet Best Of: Links

Current Events Portal – Wikipedia

English Muffins – Kara Cooks

Nescafe Gold Blend Commercials from the 80’s – Jenny Trout

The Groupon Trap – The NY Budget

Complete List of Excel Keyboard Shortcuts – Chandoo

Weekly Updates: Colum McCann Transatlantic + Video Game Nostalgia

Life: Video Game Nostalgia

Playing Animal Crossing for Gamecube for the first time in 7 years

Playing Animal Crossing for Gamecube for the first time in 7 years

I’m only slightly embarrassed to say that I’ve began playing the original Animal Crossing for Nintendo’s Game Cube – copyright 2001.

If you’ve never played, the gist of the game is… life. You don’t really do anything. There isn’t a villain. But there is money in the currency of bells. A store run by Nook (the crook) who buys/sells various items. Loans that need to be paid off before you can progress. A bank account that collects interest. You don’t have a job but you can do favors for your animal neighbors. Or pick fruit from trees and sell them.

Because of it’s lack of plot, the game can get monotonous. Nintendo livens it up by having the weather change, the in-game time matches your timezone, and holidays get celebrated. Even with these interruptions. I can’t play more than about 30 minutes a day. Which is just about the time it takes to cook dinner. Not the worse use of half an hour.

Aspects of the game that aren’t in life but I wish they were: Digging up money bags out of the ground. Shaking trees and having money fall from them. Planting a money tree. Ah, if only it were so easy.

Television: 30 for 30: Price of Gold

Tonya Harding + Nancy Kerrigan re-enactment via 90's revue

Tonya Harding + Nancy Kerrigan re-enactment via 90’s revue

I love these ESPN programs. This one was about the Tonya Harding Nancy Kerrigan scandal. I was 12 at the time, so a little young to understand everything. The ESPN show focused exclusively on Tonya Harding, since Nancy Kerrigan wouldn’t be interviewed. It’s interesting that still, to this day, Harding denies any prior knowledge of the event.

Learning about Harding’s background makes it a little bit easier to understand her intentions. Sympathy still can’t be had since the attack was so unsportsman-like. But hearing about her childhood also makes the story much more sad.

She grew up in a low-income family (‘trailer trash’ was used at one point) with an abusive mother and neglectful father. No one was supportive. No surprise, she ended up marrying someone who was abusive. When explaining that she got married to flee from her parents, she said this in the interview, “He [her husband] beat me, but she [her mother] also beat me, so…”. When people ask why children of abusive parents marry abusive partners – that’s why.

The truly saddest part of all this, is Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan were both really talented skaters. After this fiasco, their careers were ruined.

Topically related: Nancy Kerrigan will be part of the broadcast team for this year’s Sochi Winter Olympics. She will also be part of a documentary about this scandal.

Books: Transatlantic by Colum McCann

Colum McCann

Colum McCann “Transatlantic”

I loved Let the Great World Spin. That was the first book I’ve read by McCann. The multiple-story lines were intriguing and the story was interesting. The one event tied everything together. It was very well done.

I just can’t say the same for Transatlantic. I didn’t like the fictional history of it. I didn’t like the story line that tied it together. I didn’t care for any of the characters. It was also more difficult to see how each character fit into each part.

With that said, I love his writing. It’s beautiful. I could read a technical manual written by him. His prose flows naturally. Descriptions aren’t over-done. For this reason, I didn’t like the more historical-fiction stories as it just sounded too ‘pretty’ for the material it was. While reading “Transatlantic”, I was reminded of E. L. Doctorow’s novel “Ragtime”, which is also historical fiction told in a roundabout way. For what it’s worth, I recommend Ragtime over this one.

I give Colum McCann’s “Transatlantic” 3 out of 5 stars because his writing is wonderful to read. But I can’t recommend it as an interesting story.

Internet Best Of: Links

Real-Life Depression
The Fart Party’s Over – Julia Wertz

Grantland Dictionary: NHL Edition – Grantland

15 Alternative 24-Hour Locations in NYC – Untapped Cities

The 3 Steps That’ll Get You Meetings With High Value People – Dumb Little Man

Proof that practice is more important than talent – Cash Rebel

Plastic-free produce – Tropical Vegan

Basic Red (Tomato) Sauce – Kara Cooks

Nikki tells us why she’s invincible – Nikki DeSautelle

Life Updates: Polar Bear Swim + Happy New Year

Life: Polar Bear Swim at Coney Island

Polar Bear Swim at Coney Island on 31 degree day Jan 1, 2014

Polar Bear Swim at Coney Island on 31 degree day Jan 1, 2014

On New Years Day, at a temperature of 31 degrees, over 2,500 idiots jumped in the Atlantic ocean at Coney Island, Brooklyn. I was one of them.

This was my fourth year participating in the polar bear swim at coney island, brooklyn. It was terrible and great. I loved every second of it. Each year I sucker someone new into doing this with me.

This year I suckered two friends, Joseph & Pavel, into doing the plunge. And they did. But I’m not quite sure they’ll do it again. There was definitely a full minute there where we were not friends anymore.

I thought it was great! The weather was chilly but not too cold. There was a huge crowd as usual (hundreds of people). The drunk older Russian guy in a leopard-print speedo was entertaining. Lots of costumes all around.

The water was… cold. It’s always cold. I can’t tell you if it was colder than in previous years. It’s just… cold. Initially your toes will start to burn with pain and your natural reflex is to GTFO. But if you keep walking, everything numbs up and you’re fine! Well, just be careful. But I waded up to my waist then plunged under the water. Going under doesn’t make you any colder than you already are! It was 31 degrees, the water is a bit warmer than that.

Toes are certainly the worst off. Your body will turn red when you get out of the water but nothing feels cold except your toes. Next year I need to talk someone into coming out as a spectator to help me put my socks on when my fingers won’t move. Also need a photography assistant because we were all too cold to take pictures.

My first polar bear swim at Coney Island 2010

My first polar bear swim at Coney Island 2010

That's a whole lots of idiots ready to jump in the ocean on New Years Day

That’s a whole lots of idiots ready to jump in the ocean on New Years Day

Life: Happy New Year!

New Year's Eve Fireworks at Prospect Park Brooklyn

New Year’s Eve Fireworks at Prospect Park Brooklyn

This year I had one of the best New Year’s to date. Which is surprising because I’m not the biggest fan of New Year’s as a holiday. Well, specifically, New Year’s Eve. For some reason, NYE is made out to be a big event but really it’s just another party. Or another night at a bar with friends. Except extra obnoxious. Nothing to get excited about.

And this year I wasn’t planning on doing anything until my friend Allison last-minute invited me to a party at her apartment. Within walking distance. Around 11:30pm, the group of us walked across the street and up to Prospect Park.

Every year there is New Year’s fireworks at Prospect Park in Brooklyn. It was great to finally see them! What a fun way to ring in the new year. There were quite a few people in the park to watch the light show. It felt really cozy. And wasn’t crowded at all. I’m guessing it was mostly people who lived in the area. For a pleasant and celebratory NYE experience in NYC I definitely suggest doing this. I am pretty sure there were tables with hot cocoa and coffee closer to Grand Army Plaza.

Sports: MSU Won the Rosebowl

Michigan State won the 100th Rose Bowl Game against Stanford

Michigan State won the 100th Rose Bowl Game against Stanford

I realize this is of little relevant interest to most of you. But I’m a spartan at heart. And having them win the 100th Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day made me very very happy.

So college football season is officially over. Time to re-focus on MSU Basketball! Speaking of which, they beat previously undefeated OSU this past week. Sorry Buckeyes!

Sports: Devils vs Flyers

Philadelphia Flyers vs New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center

Philadelphia Flyers vs New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center

This was my second NHL game. It was the New Jersey Devils playing the Philadelphia Flyers at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. The arena was great. I had a soft pretzel larger than my head for dinner.

The game was exciting too, which is always a gamble when seeing live sports. The Flyers won in OT. Sorry Devil’s fans. I love sports but am not the biggest fan of hockey. With that said, I enjoyed watching the game live and wasn’t bored for too much of it.

Movies: Hobbit – The Desolation of Smaug

Hobbit Desolation of Smaug Feet Prop

Feet of Hobbitses

I have one word for the second Hobbit movie: disappointing

At its heart, the story in The Hobbit is about character-building. A coming of age story. A story of personal growth in Bilbo. It is not an action story. It is not about fighting. It is about Bilbo becoming a courageous little Hobbit. It is a story of bravery not heroics.

It is possible to make a movie like this. But clearly that is not what Peter Jackson intended to do. Removing all of Tolkien’s voice, the story in the movie is one of heroism and large cgi battles. There is less character development.

The focus is on the world as a whole. Leading up to the battle of five armies. A great battle that I am sure will be full of plenty of CGI goblins and special effects. Bilbo’s character will be lost and forgotten. The story will be simplified into Good and Evil. Making it a great segue into the rest of the Lord of the Rings story.

Internet Best Of: Links

my tails froze and my nose is froze and my ears are froze and my toes are froze

Me, when the weather is in the single digits

The Calm Approach – Zen Habits

10 Things to Avoid for a Happier 2014 – Positivity Blog

Religion in the Soviet Union – Wikipedia

Goals vs Plans – Fairytales and Fitness

What I wish I’d known about travel – NZ Muse

Blog Marketing Part 1 – SEO Keywords – Mo Money Mo Houses

Weekly Updates: Christmas + Trees + Hobbitses

Life Upcoming: Christmas Tree Crawl

Christmas Trees in Manhattan Highlights Map

Christmas Trees in Manhattan Highlights Map

I plan to do a full post on this after I do it, but wanted to talk about my plan. Every year I see the tree in rockefeller center. It’s anxiety inducing, gaudy, obnoxious. Not very Christmasy at all in fact. I’ve known that there are other trees. I love the Bryant Park tree. But this year, I’ve decided to go on a Christmas Tree Tour to look at a lot of them!

Not all, because there are tons, but most of the prominent ones in Manhattan. Nine to be exact. Nine Christmas Trees. The map above shows the ones on my list. Here’s the order. View the map on Google Maps.

  1. Lincoln Center
  2. American Museum of Natural History
  3. Cathedral of Saint John the Divine
  4. The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  5. Plaza Hotel
  6. Rockefeller Center
  7. Bryant Park
  8. Washington Square Park
  9. New York Stock Exchange

I’ll be sure to take pictures and report back on all the trees! In my Christmas tree research, I learned that there are lots of Christmas trees all around the city! I’ve added some to my honorable mention list and hope I can get to some of them later. Or next year. Sometimes I really love NYC.

Life Upcoming: Christmas & The Hobbit

Christmas Lights Display in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn

Christmas Lights Display in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn

This Christmas and Christmas Eve will be spent with friends in the city. Some friends are hosting a Christmas Eve dinner, which I’m quite looking forward too. My plan for Christmas this year is pretty low-key.

Start off the morning with a cooked breakfast, yule log on my tv, and watching my cats destroy the tree some more. The afternoon will be spent watching The Hobbit part two. After dinner time, I’ll spend the evening walking around Dyker Heights looking at the amazing Christmas light displays. Then it’ll be time for second dinner and to pass outunder the Christmas tree with a full belly.

Last year I began what will be a short tradition of re-reading The Hobbit then going to see the movie on Christmas day. I continued that this year and am looking forward to seeing the movie. My third read of The Hobbit was just as good as the first.

I love Bilbo as an anti-hero. He doesn’t really care about dragon slaying or gold, he just wants to be home drinking tea! Even right at the end when they have all the gold, he still would rather be home, like the little hobbitses he is.

Internet Best Of: Links

A New Gift Giving Paradigm - Chainsaw Suit

A New Gift Giving Paradigm – Chainsaw Suit

Word Count Tracking Spreadsheet – Jenny Trout

Holiday Tipping Etiquette – Ditmas Park Corner

Movies + Booze
Lord of the Rings Drinking Game – Kohler Created

Cat Video
Lil Bub’s Magical Yule Log – Lil Bub

Social Issues
What if girls were rewarded for being authentic instead of being thin? – Justine Musk

Manhattan Bridal Boutiques To Avoid – Bored in Brooklyn

Homemade Eggnog – Buttered Side Up

16 Surprising Lessons from My First 50-Mile Ultramarathon – Zen Habits