Posted in Resolutions

Resolutions Update: October

It’s been too long since I’ve done one of these. As an aside, how exactly is it October already?

Boston skyline from the Arnold Arboretum
Boston skyline from the Arnold Arboretum

Here’s my 2013 Resolutions update:

Completed: Earn $3760

Yes, this one was smashed quite a few months ago – in fact I’ve earned around $7k this year as a teacher.  What made me sad was when I realized that in 6 months of teaching I’d earned the same as one month of work in my old job. SIGH.

Of course, now the summer’s over the teaching work has dried up a bit, so instead I’ve taken up two (unpaid) internships at the Museum of Science!

Still in progress: Buy some shares

I’ve hit a few roadblocks here.  One, my nice list and all my research into what shares to buy was lost during a backup sync (stupid OneNote, grr); Two, there are logistical reasons why buying shares in the country in which you are not resident for tax purposes is awkward; Three, it’s too boring to look into.  So, I don’t know what’s going to happen here.

Still in progress: Write a newspaper article, a short story and a book outline

I have several half-formed ideas for book outline (non-fiction mostly), I’m working on a short story or ten from my travels as a teenager (coming soon to this blog!). And the newspaper article – well, I need to think about that some more.

Still in progress: Make a website/blog for me

Yes, sporadic updates are made, but no real audience has been identified.  Travel posts attract the most attention, followed by running posts. ESL posts attract almost zero attention.  I’ll continue to work on it – and I’ll continue to post on travel and running and other things as inspiration hits me.

Likely abandoned: Get a US driver’s license

My husband got his, but there’s really no reason for me to get one, so the motivation has gone.  We’ll see, it could still happen I suppose.

Abandoned: See at least one sunrise per month

Yep, the summer months and working made it extra hard for me to be motivated to get up for the extra-early sunrises.  I know, lame.

Posted in Life, Resolutions, Travel

New York: 4th July weekend

On 4th July we travelled by train from Boston to Penn Station, NYC, for a four day weekend. We stayed at the Sofitel (my review here) near 5th Av and W 44th St which was the perfect mid-town base from which to explore the city. New York actually felt strangely empty compared to last time I was there (er, 1997) but I guess that was due to the holiday weekend.

We did the Empire State Building (at dusk – only waited an hour to go up), Central Park (so hot!), the Museum of Modern Art (‘Starry Night’ by Van Gogh – epic), Wall Street and the High Line.  We also checked out a bunch of landmarks within the few blocks of the hotel including: The Rockefeller Center, Grand Central Station, 5th Avenue, UN Building, Bryant Park and Times Square.  And of course, on the evening of the 4th we went to the river to see the fireworks – we didn’t have a great view but we saw enough to get the idea.

I bought a shiny new happy-snap camera for the trip – a Nikon Coolpix S3500 – and I was extremely impressed with the image quality it produced.  Below are 10 of my favorite pictures from the trip.

We enjoyed it so much we’ll definitely be going back. And I can now cross two things off my 2013 resolutions list. Yay!

Posted in Resolutions, Writing

Film Night with John Williams – review

What could be better than hearing the Boston Pops, conducted by John Williams, playing classic movie themes?

John Williams walking on stage to conduct the Boston Pops.
John Williams walking on stage to conduct the Boston Pops.

Williams was in fine form on Friday night at a packed Symphony Hall in Boston.  The performance, and the first half, started with The Cowboys Overture and over the next hour Williams led us through three pieces from Lincoln and onto Marion’s Theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Random youtube clips of music in this post — not taken by me.  This one – Marion’s Theme.

The highlight of the first half was the flight-themed movie-clip-coordinated Flight to Neverland from Hook. Williams directed the Pops with precision as we tried to name all the clips – our tally was: ET, Harry Potter, Toy Story, Star Trek, Up, Wall-E, Superman, Iron Man, Star Wars, Hook, and Dragonheart. There were, of course, many more. Looking over his shoulder, as we were able to from the second balcony, we were given a glimpse of how Williams operates: he has his own personal screen of the movie with an added sweeping vertical line to count down when the picture is about to change.

Flight to Neverland.

The second half was even more spectacular.  The opening piece was entitled A Tribute to the Film Composer, another clip montage with brilliantly familiar themes. It was a little strange to hear the 20th Century Fox theme whilst not sitting in front of a TV. We heard snippits from Titanic, The Great Escape and The Godfather, among many others.

Williams then gave the audience a masterclass on how to score a movie scene.  The clip was The Circus Train Chase from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  He talked us through the clip without music, pointing out where he decided to change the feel of the music, where he inserted pauses and where he introduced the first hint of the Indiana Jones theme.  He then conducted the Pops in the actual score, alongside the clip. Amazing.

The Circus Train Chase – you can see the sweeping line prompt Williams uses.

The Duel, from the Adventures of Tin-Tin, followed — a sword-fighting mélange of epic proportions. In my view this was by far the best coordinated music-clip piece of the evening.  Naturally the piece ended, with second-perfect timing, on the clip from The Last Crusade where Indiana Jones dispatches the sword-wielding samurai.

When Williams introduced the final (minus two encores) pieces – from Star Wars – he noted that since a new addition to this movie set was being planned for 2015 he’d “better eat my wheaties”.  The Star Wars themes Throne Room and Imperial March were magnificent.

Williams left the stage and was given a standing ovation, but of course he came back for an encore.  The Pops played a crowd-favourite: the theme from ET.

Again Williams left the stage and was given another standing ovation. From our high vantage point we could see he had closed his music folder on this stand, but this still wasn’t the end.

Out he came again to what we can only assume is a Pops tradition: Stars and Stripes Forever.

Stars and Stripes Forever.

The audience enthusiastically clapped along and Williams barely did anything as conductor, keeping only a cursory rhythm with his baton.  As the music continued he turned to the audience and suddenly we were being conducted.  He motioned for the audience to cease as they came to the middle of the piece. As the end approached the clapping resumed, and the flag was (literally) unfurled. Williams turned to the audience again and with a flourish signaled the end of the piece and the end of the concert.

We had a fantastic evening and it’s one we look forward to repeating this time next year.

Program and ticket

Posted in Half-marathon, Resolutions

Resolutions update – May

Here’s a late May update on a few things:

Run a half-marathon

Oh yeah – it’s done!  And in under two hours (1:57:17).  Full race recap here.

half_medal

Earn $3760

Got paid for April: $802, which leaves me with $3132-$802= $2330 to earn.  I’ve had a fair bit of work this month so with any luck I’ll be another $1500 closer in a few days!

April_pay

Make a website/blog for me

So I was going pretty well with this, but then I got too busy to blog.  At least I got too busy to put it ahead of running, sleeping, doing the housework etc.  Need to work on the frequency of posts.

Get a US Driver’s license

I’ve persuaded my friend Julia to lend her person as “MA licensed driver with 1 years experience”, we believe we can use a Zipcar in the test, so now we just need to do some practice, and then do the test. I doubt this is going to happen in the near future.

See at least 1 sunrise per month

Failed for April, but technically I was up before sunrise on 26th May for my half-marathon.  There wasn’t much in the way of sun though…

May 'sunrise'
May ‘sunrise’

Buy some shares

I looked into my late grandfather’s share portfolio for some ideas and honestly, it’s not great: at least it’s not ‘ethically’ great. It’s all oil and defense technology companies.  I think I’ll look further.  As for the actual process of buying shares, I’m looking into Barclays Stockbrokers to see how they work.

And for June:

Keep working to earn money, go to the Boston Pops, plan a trip to NYC and work on some writing.

Posted in Half-marathon, Resolutions

Race Recap – Boston’s Run to Remember

I’ve been training for the Run to Remember to fulfill one of my 2013 Resolutions… here’s what happened!

My alarm woke me at 5.10am and I saw the day had dawned rainy and cold.

Great - rainy and cold

Google weather
Google weather

At 5.55am I jogged to the train station to catch the first Red Line train of the morning and pretty much the only people I saw were runners.  It was drizzling a bit but the rain wasn’t too heavy.

I met Hélène on the train and we walked together to the start – and immediately found Helen and Geoff.  Score.

We lined up for the abundant portapotties then went to drop off Helen’s bag.  The hall of the World Trade Center was completely packed and we could barely move.  When we finally emerged we saw we were at the 10.30/mile pacing point and couldn’t do anything about it.

While the drizzle continued there were speeches, a minute’s silence and the national anthem, then at 7.10am the horn sounded and we were off.

The route as per my Garmin (from connect.garmin.com)
The route as per my Garmin (from connect.garmin.com)

Of course, when I say “we were off” I mean, we shuffled forward for a few minutes before it was possible to break into a walk, and then into a ‘run’ – I did the first four km of the race at 7:24/km, 6:26/km, 5:48/km and 6.07/km.  I was getting really angry at this point because the runner traffic was so heavy – my goal of a sub-two hour half seemed impossible and now I was just going for a slow run in the rain.  It was at this point that Helen caught me up – we were just crossing Longfellow Bridge.  She told me Geoff was way ahead and this gave me hope – maybe it would be possible to fight my way through the crowd and make some progress.

So after that 30 minute warm up I decided to get on with the race.  We ran along Memorial Drive – we gave hi-fives to the police officers at MIT, I tried my first ever water stop and managed to inhale half of the cup and spill the other half on my shoes and down my leg.  (By the third water stop I’d go the hang of it).

At the turn-around point at Harvard (and please note, about half a km from my house) my husband was waiting for me and snapped this great picture! This was at about 10km.

At the half-way point.
At the half-way point.

Then it started to rain quite heavily.  I didn’t mind too much though – I had a fantastic view of the city across the river (it reminded my a lot of certain parts of the Brisbane skyline (circa 2002)).  I broke out the GU I had brought with me – just as well as it turns out: the GU table that was supposed to be at mile 8 was nowhere to be seen (it turned up at mile 11).

My splits for this section (5km – 15km) were mostly in the 5.20/km area. I honestly thought there was no way I could keep that up for the rest of the race, but I kept pushing, telling myself to “go hard or go home” (corny, I know).

As we got back into the city – crossing Longfellow again – we passed the 10 mile marker and I looked at the gun-time clock – 1hr 33 mins – and I realised I was in with a chance of a sub-2hr race. All I had to do (ha!) was pull out a 27 minute 5km and I’d be there. My pace for 16km-19km slowed a bit to more like 5.30/km, but I only needed about 5.40/km to make it inside the goal.

As we reached Downtown Crossing T station and I was on very familiar ground, I just started flying. I did the 19th km at 5.01/km and the 20th at 4.39/km. And as I approached the finish line I saw the gun-time was 2:00:30 or so and I knew I’d done it.

Immediately after the finish line we were funnelled into the World Trade Center hall which was completely full again and all I wanted to do was faint/throw up/lie down. The crowd pressed me forward and I got water, a medal and a bagel.  I fought my way outside and ran into Hélène who had finished about 1 minute before me.

Medal and T-shirt.
Medal and T-shirt.

We walked to our meeting point where my husband (bearing the most important post-race food product) and two friends were waiting:

mmmm donuts.
mmmm donuts.

When Helen and Geoff arrived – they had done a 2hr 6min – we discussed what we thought of the race.  We decided:

1. It seemed poorly organized (too many people for the size of the streets, missing GU stand to name but two problems).

2. The race packet was just plain weird  (a single advil, some cereal, and some athlete’s foot powder?)

3. The race t-shirt was pretty crappy – cotton and essentially see-through.

4. The entrance fee was very expensive but the medal was excellent.

BUT we were all extremely happy to have met our goals and run the race so overall we really didn’t care.

Final result:

Place      Div /Tot  Div     Nettime   Pace
2544/6389  383/1286  F3039   1:57:17   8:57
Helen, Geoff, Hélène and me.
Helen, Geoff, Hélène and me – victorious!

[The training plan I used is this one, and my training updates are here].