August 31, 2012


Every once in a while, I am reminded that I was very spoiled to have a mother with a degree in home economics who taught "foods" and "sewing" and various other skills that were not commonly acquired in a formal manner by American women my age.

I did 4-H as a kid (primarily because my father had done it his entire childhood until college).  Many years my mom would lead a 4-H group on a topic of her choosing that I had to participate in and many other young girls (always girls) joined.

I have strong memories of the bread group, the preserves group, and the international foods group, all led by mom.  (I also have strong memories of the unicycling and clowning group, the rabbit group, the stained glass group, and others, but those memories aren't centered around my mother.)

Last night, at the last summer barbeque of the season, I was reminded again of the blessing that is my mother's formal training in foods.

I had made gazpacho from garden tomatoes, garden cucumbers, garden hungarian carrot peppers, and grocery store onions and bell peppers (plus the required olive oil and spices).  I offered it to everyone who attended.

Gazpacho is E's favorite soup, and easily one of my top 3 favorite soups.  Early in our relationship, he made me ask his mother for her recipe and I was amused to find it almost identical to the recipe (if you can call it that) I know from my mother.  Given that his family is from NY and the South and I'm a west-coaster through and through, since we both considered it a staple, I guess I assumed gazpacho was ubiquitous in America.

But at last night's BBQ, at least 15% of the recipients (in this so-called land of the foodies) had *never* had it.  And many of the others were pleasantly surprised, saying things like, "I hope this doesn't offend you, but this is like the best salsa ever" or "Wow, this is amazing.  I've never liked gazpacho before."  This reminded me that when I made it once for my childhood best friend, she said, "Doesn't gazpacho have garbanzo beans?"  In other words, last night, I realized that almost everyone I know isn't as familiar with gazpacho as E and me.

Today, after giving it a bit more thought, I realized the reason I'm so comfortable with gazpacho is that my mother went out of her way to expose us kids to international foods. She went out of her way to educate us on foreign culture in areas where she had expertise.  And she did such a good job that I am occasionally shocked to learn that despite my rural upbringing, I was given a much  more worldly perspective in childhood than I ever realized.  When a group of professionals in Silicon Valley from all over the country and the world don't know the name of the food you are serving, you quickly realize that your food knowledge is more extensive and worldy than you thought. 

Also, there is nothing like getting a group of folks to agree that Californian grown gazpacho is delicious!

Thanks, Mom.

August 28, 2012

Worst Camping Ever

So, back in early August, E and I joined some friends for two days in Yosemite to send them off on their trek down the John Muir Trail.

By the time we booked, the only accommodations that were available were in Curry Village.

No cooking, no fires, no outdoor seating. Just tightly packed tent cabins with easy noise carriage between them.

I whined quite a bit.  This was not at all what I wanted to do when I went camping. I wanted fires, and the lounging and cooking thereby.  This was *fake* camping.  

But, I got over it.  I did get a gorgeous drive through California and a relaxing weekend with views of Half Dome, a hike with E and C to Bridal Veil Falls, and I was able to join our friends on their first few miles of the JMT.  Plus I got in some great running coming down from the uphill hikes and on the valley floor.

The company, hikes, and runs were so awesome that I refrained from continuing my complaints.

But this whole hantavirus thing reminded me that I shouldn't give up whining so easily.

So, I'll just say it:  Curry Village is officially the worst camping I've ever done.  We could have stayed in a motel outside of the park and it would have been vastly superior.

August 26, 2012

The Blissful Filling of the Nothingness

This weekend, we didn't really have plans.

Sure, I'd tentatively decided to do a half marathon in the Santa Cruz mountains on Sunday AM, but I wasn't committed enough to register, so, by our standards, we had no plans.

Friday night, after a very long week of work and increased running mileage, I fell asleep by 9:45 PM, on the couch, book on chest, almost, but not quite to the end of The Crossing.  Sometime later, E woke me (grumpy), and somehow convinced me to go to bed.  I woke this AM, embarrased at how much I'd fought back.  He informed me, "It's actually not so bad when you wake up.  I can reason with you.  When I have to deal with sleepwalking BT, it's surreal."

Yup.  Friday night is a party at our house.  Sleeping by 9:45 and arguments about going to bed by 10.  Oh... did I mention I've been a bit busy and stressed and not sleeping well?

Thank goodness for marathon training, even if it's not going totally according to any published schedule.  There's still nothing like long runs and short hard speed intervals to fix the insomnia that comes from too much stress.  Sure, perhaps it fixes it too well, but, beggars can't be choosers.

Saturday AM, we slept in, relaxed (I finished my book!), took a nice 17 mile mountain bike ride followed by brunch at our local mexi-cali-diner, and then we hunkered down and tended to the general life stuff that everyone must handle and that we've been ignoring (who doesn't?) before heading out.

Then we headed over the hill to Santa Cruz, to spend the evening with E2 & P.  Actually, we tried to head over Highway 17, but Google Traffic informed us there was a vehicle fire at the summit, so we opted for Highway 9 to Highway 35 until we finally got back on the 17 after the traffic had cleared but before they'd towed the shocking smoking shell of a burnt-out van away (as in, no tires!).  It was great to catch up while driving the gorgeous twisting-turning back-roads through the redwoods, eucalyptus, and Christmas tree farms.  Upon arrival, hungry and late, our awesome hosts welcomed us despite our tardiness with open wine and ceviche made of fresh-caught tuna.  (HOLY HAPPINESS, IT'S GOOD TO KNOW PEOPLE WHO ARE AWESOME HOSTS!)

This AM, E2 opted into an AM of pilates and woke early to take me to the start of a very elevation-heavy half marathon in the Santa Cruz mountains as part of my training for the Equinox, and while I was slow, I was pleased to do the elevation, even if half of the race was an obstacle course and people yelled at me when I opted to tip-toe my way across the rocks rather than just run across the creek.

We followed up the race with brunch with E2 and P and E in a delicious visit to their local Crepe Awesomeness.  My salsa crepe had at least an entire avocado in it.  Life was good.

In short,the true list of what we actually did this weekend involves gardening and laundry and thank you notes and dry cleaning and other long and boring chores and errands not worth reading at all.  But thanks to making the most of our gifts of friends and the beautiful location where we live, we both feel like we accomplished a ton, and we also had a relaxing treat of a weekend. So we're less stressed, more alive, calmer and just generally happy.  In fact, we found ourselves saying, we should have more weekends like this one.

Here's to goals!

August 25, 2012

Garden Update

Better late than never!

The latest garden post is up at Tech Law Garden.

August 19, 2012

Summer Heat

Today, at mile 12 of my 18 mile long run, I ducked into a bathroom at a local park and was met by a bright red face. Possibly purple.

Also, I was slightly nauseous. And, (TMI warning) despite feeling like I needed to pee... nothing.

Did I mention I got a ridiculous sunburn at the airfield shooting off rockets yesterday? How about the fact that I've been consistently 5-20 miles short on my target training mileage each week for about 6 weeks? (I blame my inability to maintain a work-life balance for this one).

For today I was smart enough to pick a flatter course to extend the distance from last week's 14 to this week's 18, but I forgot that much of the San Francisco Bay Trail is wide open with no tree cover in the direct sun. And, I started an hour later in the day this time.

Despite the disadvantage of the hour delay in starting, I ran the initial 12 miles for the most part at an even pace without stopping to walk, which was a big improvement over last week.

But, when I saw the face in the mirror, I had to admit, I looked like someone who might be about to enter heat sickness territory. In fact, in a supreme example of hindsight being 20/20, while overheating in the direct sun and humdity of the Nagano Marathon, I realized that the 14-miler-from-hell was actually most likely me suffering from mild heat exhaustion. Thanks to the terrible experience on the 14-miler, I slowed down in Nagano, abandoned any commitment to pace, and finished slowly but surely with no ill effects other than a terrible sunburn:

So, back to today at the park with the purple face. I was still sweating. I definitely could have found a way to complete the final 6 (and possibly even do so intelligently if I slowed down and ran-walked and picked a shady route home).

But my thirst response was overwhelming and yet my stomach was not pleased with anything going down.

My stomach is almost invincible. Despite severe sickness of traveling campanions, Mexico, China, and Cambodia have failed to conquer my stomach. When it decides to pack up and go home,  I've learned to listen (I'm looking at you Egypt, oh, and a few folly-filled workouts).

Thanks to the nausea, I did what I'm great at doing when it comes to running schedules. I decided to bail, and live with what I'd done as good enough.

I convinced a nice guy with a gorgeous yellow lab at the park to let me use his phone to call E, and E came to my rescue. Adorably, the guy loaded up his dog in his truck to leave, but when he saw I was still waiting for my ride, he waived from afar and hung around to wait to make sure that E arrived before he left. What a nice (and politely executed) gesture!

I arrived home 2.5 pounds lighter than when I left despite drinking at least 3 re-fills of my 16 oz sports drink holder in addition to stopping and gulping at multiple water fountains.

The short story is that I find myself in a hilariously common situation for me -- close to yet another marathon and short on long runs and undertrained due to my own lack of discipline and idiocy.

Part of me wants to say that my goals are flexible this time around, so I can relax because I know that if I go slow I'm in more than good enough shape to finish. But, my goals are almost the same as Arvay's (and I don't want to slow her and G down):

1) Do not die.
2) Do not injure myself.
3) Finish with G and Arvay.
4) Feel okay the next day. (I've never felt okay the day after a marathon.So, I'm impressed with her goal and hope it means I can be a slowing influence by pointing to it, often.)

Here's to less missed runs and more early mornings.

August 12, 2012

The Mystery of Pruned Fingers and Toes

It's happened to all of us: the pruned wrinkly fingers from taking too long of a bath, too much time in the hot tub, or, worst case scenario, too long doing dishes without gloves.

Today, in the post-long-run shower, I noticed that my fingers immediately pruned severely.  I recalled that this had happened to me a few times after long runs, and I had no idea why.  I was staring at my hands in fascination and thought to myself, "Huh.  I wonder why that happens.  I'll look it up."

So I did.

I expected the Osmosis Explanation.  I'd been sweating, so my tissue was likely highly dehydrated and the concentration of solutes should be higher than normal.  But, no.  Osmosis is not generally accepted as the explanation because the wrinkling in water effect is only observed on fingers, hands, and feet, not over the entire epidermis.

I read the explanation that loss of the protective layer of Sebum may be a precursor to pruning with interest.  This ties nicely with the long run as the constant sweating for multiple hours likely removed much of the sebum that would ordinarily be on my fingers before I even entered the shower. 

But sebum is where the general agreement seemed to stop. Everyone seems to agree that sebum is supposed to function as a water barrier and that after a while in water, it would wash off and be unable to do its job. But, I couldn't actually find a consensus on what happens after the sebum is gone to cause the wrinkles.

Some people (like the folks at the Library of Congress) hypothesize that the attachments between the live and dead layers of the epidermis are the valleys in the wrinkles and that the raised areas are the dead areas where the water is free to flow and be absorbed in the swelling. They claim that since the dead layers of the epidermis are the largest on the hands and feet, the swelling and valleys are only observed in those areas.

Okay, I can believe that might be the explanation.  In fact, if you couple it with the sebum as being a water barrier to absorption, it seems like I’ve found a reasonable answer.

But, wait. 

Apparently, fingers and toes don’t wrinkle under water exposure if the person has nerve damage to the hand or foot. This goes against a purely chemical/mechanical explanation like simple absorption and biological structure.

The nerve piece and the fact that the wet wrinkling response has only been observed in humans and macauques caused the fine folks at 2AI Labs to publish a paper in Brain, Behavior, and Evolution that hypothesizes that the wrinkles in our fingers and toes are actually *rain treads.*

But, not everyone accepts this explanation either.  Some claim that the waterlogged fingers and feet are much less able to grip and navigate in watery environments because they are so soft, supple, likely to deform under pressure, and likely to be injured.

So, for now.  I just don't know.  I guess I'll wait for 2AI Labs to publish their follow-up research on whether grip is actually improved by the so-called "rain treads."

It's nice to be reminded that every once in a while even Google doesn't know the answer

August 11, 2012


Tuesday, through an unpredictable chain of events, I found myself at Crossfit.

First we ran around the parking lot twice.  Easy.

Then we did a series of butt kicks, high knees, some lunges, burpees, pushups, and short sprints where each exercise culminated in a pullup. Not too bad.

Then we did two handstands against the wall for 30 seconds to a minute each.  Fun.

Then we did the WOD (Workout Of the Day):

18 overhead squats
3 pullups
15 overhead squats
6 pullups
12 overhead squats
9 pullups
9 overhead squats
12 pullups
6 overhead squats
15 pullups
3 overhead squats
18 pullups

Conservatively, I did about 50 pullups

Some were just hanging from the bar and kipping or jumping up.  Some were with the aid of the resistance bands.  The last 18 were on the rings, with my feet in front of me and my body at a 45 degree angle.

I think in the 2 years prior to that night, I might have done a total of 25 pullup-like activities.

It's Sunday now.  And I still can't straighten my arms without external resistance.  I wonder when my arms will forgive me.