Sunday night

Sunday was Football Day. My dad is quite the football fan, so he’s spent the last week or so watching every bowl imaginable–from the Rose Bowl to the Beef O’Brady Bowl to the Chick-fil-A Bowl. (Right now, he’s watching the Sugar Bowl.) Accordingly, we spent Sunday night at a sports bar here in Berkeley.

Now, I am not a football fan. I can talk baseball with the best of them, but football? Not my thing. So I was very glad to see this:

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Yes, that is a chair and bookcase combined. Pretty awesome, I thought. I also took it to mean no one would bat an eye if I read my book while my dad and sister watched the game. (I’m in the middle of the Game of Thrones series (exciting!) so I spend a lot of time carting my book everywhere in case I can read another page or so.) I don’t even remember who played, but I spent a highly enjoyable evening with my family and my book. And sliders. It turns out I might not like football, but I sure like football food.

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superbowl sunday

So, last week, I went to my very first Superbowl event. I know, how could I have never experienced the delight that is the Superbowl? (I’m obviously not talking about the football here. Even after watching my dad watch many many games, and even attending a 49’ers game way back when, I still have no clue what’s going on. Give me baseball any day, I can appreciate its intricacies in a heartbeat. But football? No. They play for like three seconds and then have to stop and start all over again and it takes forever. Sorry, all you football fans out there. I just don’t get it.)

No, what I loved about the Superbowl was the food, and the guys getting all technical in the living room and the girls congregating in the kitchen and the other room, occasionally wandering back to the game. Oh, and the Puppybowl. How could I not have known about the Puppybowl – and the Kitty Halftime Show? Sure, Madonna may have been more mystifying, especially with that guy slacklining, but nothing could beat a bunch of puppies running around and ‘scoring’ touchdowns while a human ref stands by to keep score. I mean, I don’t even really like animals and I thought this was awesome.

Any time you feel depressed this week, go to YouTube and look up the Puppybowl. I guarantee that will make your day – there were some seriously cute animals on the field last week.

Add a bit of nostalgia, as we went to the house of our old neighbors to watch (they still live in the neighborhood I grew up in) and you’ve got yourself a very good Sunday.

just keep swimming

I live approximately 500 m from my local swimming pool, so I try to go two or three times a week. Usually in the morning, because experience tells me that swimming after spending the day at the office sounds appetizing in the morning (yay! procrastinating exercise!) but won’t sound so appealing at 5 PM, either because I’m still working on something but now have to stop halfway through to catch the train to go exercise, or because I’m tired and just want to go have dinner and read a book on the couch. I know, first world problems.

I used to swim in Nijmegen, too, until I graduated and became unemployed and just couldn’t afford the 4,70 euros it cost to go per swim. But we had a nice pool there, and I used to go with a friend, so that was fun. It wasn’t usually very busy, just busy enough. And I occasionally had the pool all to myself there, which was really nice too. (It probably helped that I braved the outdoor pool before anyone else would.)

I also swam in Berkeley. I think I lived 500m from the pool there too, and it was especially nice because it was on the roof of the gym, and it was in California, which meant you could swim outdoors pretty much year-round (eliminating the heavy chlorine smell), and if you timed it right, you could watch the sun set while doing laps. Heavenly. Also, they provided you with towels, which is a nice gesture and made it easier to go swim in between classes. (The smell of moldy wet towels that you’ve carried around all day? Not good.) So the Berkeley pool was my hands-down favorite, even if it did sometimes feel like a race to keep up with the person in front of you (and more importantly, with the person in back of you, so you wouldn’t be run over).

the Hearst pool. Lovely, isn't it? Especially with the hills on the other side. I still miss it.

And now I swim in Dortmund. You know, when I first came here, I expected Germans to be all neat and orderly and efficient. (I think this stereotype comes from reading too many Agatha Christie novels – the criminal masterminds are usually very organized Germans.) My department at the university certainly isn’t like that, and neither is my pool. Some people swim in lanes, like they’re supposed to, some go back and forth, using the same bit of pool for both laps, and some crisscross. This makes swimming a bit of an obstacle course – you need to avoid the men coming up behind you with big, powerful strokes (the men usually don’t look where they’re going, making it your responsibility to get out of their way or suffer the consequences) while not accidentally kicking some old lady who is going really slow.

So while swimming isn’t quite the tranquil exercise it used to be, at least I’m making more meters these days, with all the zigzagging I have to do to avoid everyone else. So that’s good.

it’s how you play the game, or something

Whenever I come back from a grueling run, I wonder why I persist in putting on my running shoes twice a week and going out to slowly kill myself in the presence of strangers.* But then I saw this, and I remembered why.

original here.

I’ll have to keep that in mind when I run the Marikenloop in a month and end up somewhere in the bottom half. At least I’m out there doing it, even if everyone and their grandma is faster than I am..

*People on the street will sometimes encourage me, although these are mostly ethnic strangers. I love it when they cheer me on. Dutch passersby will usually look at me with a half-concealed smile since I’m so obviously having to work really hard to just keep going as slowly as I am. I always hope they’ll think I’ve already done 10 miles and that’s why I’m exhausted, but what’s the chance of that?

take me out to the ball game

I love baseball. A lot of my favorite summer memories are centered around it. My family used to go to so many games, and it’s one of the things I always make time for when I’m in the US. I even played for several years – Little League in California, and the Dutch equivalent when we moved. I played catcher, third base, and outfield. I think third base was my favorite, although the endurance needed for the catcher’s squat was also very rewarding. But then a sports injury forced me to stop playing. I still regret that, because I can remember the feel of my glove on my hand, the sting that stayed with you after you caught an especially hard-hit ball, and the adrenaline rush that occurred when the whole team got it together and we managed a spectacular double out. I still dream of that, sometimes.

 

photo: REUTERS

 

All of this is a prelude to today’s exciting news: the Giants won the World Series! (That sentence really deserves more than one exclamation point.) I’ve been cheering for the San Francisco Giants since I was a kid, which is why it’s so exciting that they’ve ended up as this year’s World Champions – for the first time in over fifty years.* I wish I could have been in the Bay Area for this – tickets to the game would have been impossible, but I would have loved watching this game with friends in a bar somewhere. I’ll have to settle for watching as much as I can of the final game on the internet.

Whichever way you put it, today is a happy day.

*apparently, the world consists of the US and Canada.

ditch the workout, join the party?

look at all the pretty people! (taken off Zumba.com)

I went to my first Zumba class yesterday. A friend of mine goes regularly and likes it, so I figured I’d give it a try. This is what I learned.

  • I am rhythmically challenged. Asking me to do stuff in time with a beat only works if I can copy someone else’s moves at first.
  • Please don’t ask me to do sexy moves in my workout clothes. The only way I am going to shake my ass or move my hips seductively is if you let me have some alcohol first.
  • When starting a new routine, it might be helpful if you actually demonstrated them, instead of slightly moving your body and saying, “and then we’ll do salsa, mambo, bla bla bla, you’ve got it”. No, I didn’t get it, and it’ll take me three of the five minutes that this routine lasts to get it.
  • Always stand in the back, where less people can see your pathetic attempts.
  • A sense of humor helps. Being able to laugh at yourself is useful, too.
  • Once I got over the whole awkwardness of it, it actually was fun. The hour did go really fast and it was a good workout. I think that if I went back I might be able to do the moves more confidently and get more out of the class.
  • Zumba turns out to be a really good way to prepare for a wedding, considering all the time I spent dancing last night. Of course, I could thank the champagne and wine for that..

Conclusion? I still think it’s weird to do pelvic grinds in a workout. But, I have to say, it sure is a fun way to get me out of my comfort zone!

Bridge over troubled … heights?

For the past month, maybe month-and-a-half, I’ve been running twice or three times a week. It’s making me physically fitter, but I’ve also noticed an interesting side-effect: I’m getting over my fear of heights.

See, the route I run carries me over two bridges. Usually I hate bridges, I only cross them when I really have to and then I have to be far away from the sides. But while running, I can’t do that, as the sidewalk is directly next to the "cliff" (I know, I know, it’s not that big a distance to the ground, but for me it doesn’t matter. Any slight drop in elevation looks like a cliff to me, waiting for me to somehow fall off and die). So thanks to this form of casual exposure therapy, these days, I’m actually looking down at the street underneath the bridges and not feeling light-headed at all! (okay, okay, only slightly. But baby steps people, baby steps). The rate this is going, by the time I can run a 5K I can also take up rock climbing.

Now there’s a horrifying thought.