We Are Going On A Roadtrip In A Few Days And We Are At DEFCON THREE

We all are overdue for a break. School has ended and everyone passed. The kids performed valiantly at their piano recital. Baseball is over and softball should mercifully end this week. (I love softball, I do. I just have no motivation for sports after school ends. Playoffs are this week and the coach recommends no more than 45 minutes outdoors so I won’t overtire my daughter, and for an added bonus, they’re calling for severe thunderstorms during the game.)

We will miss the end of playoffs because we are going on a 10-day roadtrip, and everyone is so excited they’re starting to pack even though we are not leaving for three more days. I don’t know about you and yours, but this is how my husband and children prepare for a trip:

1. The kids just packed all their electronics that they will immediately unearth tomorrow morning and then forget to bring on the trip itself.

2. My husband wants to load the GPS with all the addresses we will need but forgets I need to get to the (away) softball game first. 

3. We had a 30-minute discussion about the bike rack.

4. The kids decided to pack all their underwear and even though I’ll do laundry right before I leave and we won’t need that much time to pack clothes I will still need to undo what they just did.

(Side note: I won’t be able to do laundry for nearly 10 days and that is harshing my mellow. I am trying to deal.)

5. They already picked out movies to watch and they’ll change their minds 57 times before we actually get in the car.

On the bright side: we all are looking forward to cooler weather and not having to deal with air travel.

We Are Going On A Roadtrip In A Few Days And We Are At DEFCON THREE

Basebrawl

Yesterday afternoon, who-dat Giants relief pitcher Hunter Strickland plunked Nationals wunderkind and future Pantene spokesman Bryce Harper. Harper charged the mound, where Strickland was waiting, punches were thrown and the benches for both teams cleared.

I saw highlights and there are various entertaining stills from the brawl on Twitter, but especially in light of Mike Trout going on the DL, I just watched with a surprising amount of dread and discomfort, considering how much animosity I have for both teams.

You hear of old timers talk about intentionally hit batters as the result of a violation of the unspoken rules of baseball. Former Phillie and current Dodger Chase Utley gets hit all the time, mostly because his take-out slides, in which he basically slide-tackled infielders, are incredibly vicious. Other violations include taking too long to admire a home run. Harper’s transgression, according to the article referenced above, is simply hitting home runs off Strickland three years ago.

(Aside: Interesting how women are considered the more petty sex but a grown man getting paid exceptionally well to play a child’s game can hold a grudge for three years and start a fight because the other guy hit the ball well is acceptable behavior.)

The brawl was interesting in other ways. The Nationals are running away with the National League East, mainly because all of the Mets are in sick bay. (The Phillies have forgotten how to pitch and hit.) The Giants are floundering in their division. Why did Harper—the best Nats player and arguably a league icon—even engage? Giants catcher Posey, who clearly did not call for a fastball inside, stands up, sighs, and almost audibly says “NOPE,” when his pitcher starts swinging. He doesn’t enter the fracas at all. Neither does most of the Giants’ infield. National Jayson Werth, elder statesman and future Loreal spokesman, literally looks like Jesus as he scrambles to separate everyone. Are the subsequent fines and suspensions even worth it? And these are guys who depend on their health to play every day; depending on how their contracts are structured, they get bonuses for how many games they start. Their chances for injury increase exponentially when they enter that scrum. 

If I’m a Nats fan attending a game this week, I’m going to be pissed I’m not going to be able see franchise star Harper as he sits out a suspension because he couldn’t just stare down Strickland for a few seconds, slowly take the base and afterward tell reporters he doesn’t even know who the reliever is.

Basebrawl

This Is the Best Story I’ve Read This Week

This story affected me on two levels:

I used to eat lunch once former colleagues. More often than not, it’s always the same day and always at the same place. Once, I suggested meeting at another location and the response was mild alarm: why would I try to change something that was working so well for everyone? My answer-—I was tired of the regular spot and wanted to try a new spot—was inconsequential. (I don’t eat with them that much anymore, maybe once every other month, but the same routine applies.)

I live on a street sort of like the one described in the story. My neighbors, who are extremely kind and gracious people, look out for one another. They know who is visiting my house because they recognize relatives’ and friends’ cars. One neighbor apologized that her daughter’s boyfriend’s car was always parked in front of my house. We have two cars and they’re most always in the garage or the driveway. It’s OK.

A moment of silence for the guy who has to change his entire routine because some neighbors think it’s not OK to park on their street for 15 minutes and eat a hoagie.

This Is the Best Story I’ve Read This Week

Escape TV: The Second Seasons of The Magicians and Shadowhunters

Both Young Adult series The Magicians and Shadowhunters have strayed so far from their source material that I gave up comparing the TV shows to the books and just enjoyed the ride.

Shadowhunters had a bit more substance this season with meeting new characters (especially fierce and formidable females) and making series regulars more enriched and complex. It’s finally revealed why Clary is so special and important. We meet the Iron Sisters, who develop and test all weapons for the Shadowhunters. There is a full-fledged gay relationship that is addressed front and center, not treated like a subplot or ignored entirely after a smooch last season. A character develops an addiction. The second half of the season starts in a couple months, with a secret son and I hope, a trip to Idris to explore that world.


(Image source: Syfy.com)

Speaking of new worlds, The Magicians delivered in spades. We spent a lot of time in Fillory (a place that was thought to exist solely in novels but in fact is real) this season. My expectations for this show are a lot higher, and this season was uneven (people in Fillory singing show tunes from Les Miserables on the way to battle another kingdom made my eyes roll so hard) but everyone was committed, I give them that. 

Only one character, Margo, remains stubbornly one-dimensional despite being Fillory’s sole ruler for a good chunk of time. The actress’ delivery of lines is slow and deliberate and caustic. 

My favorite places are The Library, where Penny works to pay off a debt; and Brakebills South, a facility in Antarctica where the school’s most brilliant magician has been outcast.

The season ends with the total eradication of magic in both worlds. The show has been renewed for a third season; I hope time travel–the lazy way out– is not involved in restoring magic to both Earth and Fillory.

Escape TV: The Second Seasons of The Magicians and Shadowhunters

The Biggest Racket: Airline Travel

As someone who’s studied a bit of psychology, I know that many people crammed into an enclosed space rapidly can become unruly. And I know from first hand experience that traveling in an airplane is a miserable experience, start to finish.

Since the government bailed out the industry in 2001 with $15 billion in compensation and loan guarantees, the industry has thanked the taxpayer by not only imposing ludicrous fees on everything from reserving a seat to carrying on luggage, but also designing narrower seats with vanishing legroom.

For two summers in a row, we traveled out west, to Arizona in 2015 and to California in 2016. Here’s how our experience with air travel went:

1. Because of various bankruptcies and mergers in the industry, we’re quite limited in choices of airlines. We always go to a smaller airport because it’s not as crowded and closer to home. (We would have a greater selection if we used a larger city’s airport, but it’s much more of a hassle to get there.) 

2. When we check in, we always find that we have to rearrange our seats, despite selecting them online ahead of time. My children are too young to travel without my husband or me next to them.

3. The flight has been overbooked. The boarding procedures are time-consuming and asinine.

4. The first leg of our trip always is to the “hub” of the airline. Most often, there are delays at the hub because the plane for the second leg of the trip hasn’t arrived yet, or something’s broken, or there’s inclement weather, or we’re waiting for the crew.

5. Repeat #3, but with an honorable mention: the crew on the first flight can do nothing about connecting flights. Amazon recommends stuff for me before I need it, but an airline can’t flag passengers who are going to potentially miss connecting flights because of unforced delays and log it so personnel can already work on accommodating them by the time the passengers reach the gate?

6. Despite the second flight taking at least four hours, there is no movie and all the airline offers is free soft drinks. Do you know how happy my kids would be if they got to see a movie on a plane? They wouldn’t even fight over any of the selections, something that takes up a good 30 minutes of our “family movie night” now. Because the airlines prioritize profit over comfort, long flights are terrible. I have to shift every 10 minutes to stave off potential cramping in my legs. Getting to the restroom is a feat of ingenuity because the aisle is so narrow.

When staff ask for volunteers to give up seats on overbooked flights, my price is an upgrade to first class for my family and me for the entire trip. (When we were discussing an overbooked flight from Flagstaff to Phoenix, I was willing to forgo the flight entirely for a kickass rental and first class the rest of the way home.) No one has taken me up on it yet.

As of late this afternoon, United CEO Oscar Munoz, after two failed attempts, completely apologized for forcibly dragging a passenger off a plane who did not volunteer to give up his seat. You know, creating more stress and havoc over a process that does not seem to go easy, ever. I’d love to see some rules in place preventing airlines from overbooking, but given our president’s penchant for eliminating regulations that help consumers–and his lack of experience in flying coach–I don’t think he’ll help any time soon.

The Biggest Racket: Airline Travel

Bear Crawls Are the New Planks. I Hate Them.

Ever since late summer, I’ve been working out at the gym in a small-group setting. I’d had a personal trainer before who focused solely on strength; the program at my gym, THRIVE, also emphasizes balance and functionality. New gym members are given two months’ worth of free sessions. My original trainer wasn’t a great fit, and it was an adjustment for me to go from one-on-one attention to being in a small group.

I signed up with a new trainer last summer and this second time around has gone a bit smoother. I work out with the same person, more or less, and we get along well. The new trainer has adjusted to me, too. I am mouthy and tend to get inordinately crabby when he tells me to do an extra round of exercises at the last minute or when he’s inflexible about the order of exercises or when he changes the music so I have to listen to the Timberlake station on Pandora for a whole hour, AGAIN.

But he bears the full brunt of my wrath when the workout calls for bear crawls. I thought my workout anger had peaked when I had to plank, but it dwarfs in comparison to the rage I feel about bear crawls.

Here is a prototypical enthusiastic personal trainer cheerfully advising others on how to make poor, unsuspecting clients instantly miserable:

I tweaked my back while doing some lateral bear crawls yesterday (and promptly exacerbated the pain while doing kettle ball deadlifts) and earned myself some snuggle time with a heating pad today.

My problem, even when I plank, is I stiffen my back and not my core. Like the trainer explains in the video, my legs make larger strides to overcompensate for weak upper body strength and in the process strain my quads. My trainer constantly corrects me on my large stride and I helpfully tell him large strides make the exercise go by quicker so I can stop using all my mental facilities in channeling my hate toward him, and use them toward something positive and productive.

He tries to sugarcoat with smiley faces and exclamation points on the workout boards, and when I tell him that I’ve watched lots of NatGeo specials and highlights of Chicago Bears games and the Chicago Cubs victory parade and I can say with some authority BEARS DO NOT CRAWL LIKE THIS, he just shrugs and tells me I have to do three sets of 20 yards of crawls.

Bear Crawls Are the New Planks. I Hate Them.