What are we talking about today?

I'll get back to theme days once I find a groove of posting regularly. In the meantime, most of my posts are about some variation of books, bikes, buses, or Broadway. Plus bits about writing, nonprofits, and grief from time to time.

This blog is mostly lighthearted and pretty silly. It's not about the terrible things happening in the world, but please know that I'm not ignoring those things. I just generally don't write about them here.

31 January 2017

Oath of Allegiance

Once upon a time, this happened:
Gorgeous Allegiance logo is from
the Allegiance website. Seriously,
go see it on Feb 19. It's critical
to where we are now.
And yes, I can hear you all reminding me that you haven't forgotten yet because I haven't given you the chance. However, should our current course continue following its likely trajectory, many folks will have tough decisions to make in the coming weeks and months about where their allegiance lies. (Allegiance is great musical, by the way, that's also worth checking out in regard to where we're headed--it's being encored in cinemas on February 19.)

I can't help with making those tough choices, because that's something each person has to decide. What I can do, on my designated book day, is share the moment when Georg von Trapp has to make that decision for himself--a moment the musical speeds past in a hurry, as if the decision had already been made, when the book shows that it hadn't:
"Listen. This is the chance of a lifetime, it really is. Just think what can be done with such a submarine. It is perfectly incredible. ... Of course one has to accept such an amazing offer."

We turned back, and suddenly he said, "... I can't run a submarine for the Nazis, can I? Of course not. It's absolutely out of the question."

We were on the other side and turned again. On the way back: "But perhaps it's wrong not to do it. After all, he is the head of the State now. I am a Navy man. This is really the only thing I know and can do well. Perhaps this is the Will of God!" and he waved the letter. "Everybody is warning me to think of the future of my children, which is gravely endangered, the way we live now."

Once more we turned. I knew there was nothing I could say. This is one of the times when a man is all alone--just he and his God. It is one of those dangerously precious moments when he has to say yes or no, and only he can make the decision. ...

Our speed slowed down remarkably. We were heading for the exit of the park. Before we reached it, Georg came out of deep, deep thinking and, a little woefully, he said, "No, I can't do it. When I took my oath on our proud old flag, I swore: 'With the Emperor for God and my country.' This would be against God and against my country. I'd break my old oath."
Your reasons and my reasons for what we do next may not be the same as Georg's reasons. You and I may not even have the same reasons, even if we reach the same conclusions. I can only say this: do not take our coming days and weeks and months lightly. Let's all give our next steps the consideration that they deserve--and then act.

Book excerpt is trimmed to meet the general guidelines of keeping quoted material to 300 words or less to avoid violating copyright. As far as I know, The Sound of Music is not in the public domain.

30 January 2017

Desperate Times

Last week, I went running on Sunday afternoon after church, and happened to see a couple of folks (who happen to be a couple) I'd chatted with at church that morning. Fortunately, they both remembered me, instead of me having to remember them, because when I'm in running mode, all other areas of my brain are switched off.

Last Sunday was unseasonably warm, and as a result my run was quite pleasant. This weekend? Well, it was back to seasonable, with gusty winds and some snow to boot, so... I stayed inside. Not the smartest move with three weeks to go until a half marathon, I know. I tell myself I'm still getting acclimated to the Ohio winter, that I'll do better eventually, but obviously these are dumb excuses and "eventually" will never arrive if I don't go outside to meet it. Ugh.

I went digging into my blog archives
for old running pics as a show of
solidarity with myself. IIRC, this was
our first race with the West Texas
Running Club
in 2007. 
So, after chatting to one of the aforementioned folks again yesterday, and hearing her reassurance that she didn't go running this weekend, either (solidarity from the real Ohioans!), I happened to run across both of them online yesterday afternoon and read his blog about going out in the freezing rain a couple weeks back when once upon a time he would have stayed indoors. I'm choosing to see that as more solidarity with my adjustment phase, mostly because he's trying to qualify for Boston and I'm just trying not to turn into a lump.

Anyway, on to the good stuff from last week, such as it is. I started using the treadmill at work on colder days, which while mind-numbing, also has many upsides, to wit: 1) I'm not thinking about how cold I am; 2) I can go at a consistent pace; 3) In fact, since running on the treadmill is easier than outside, I'm going a bit faster than I normally would; 4) I get it all done and am still home before 6:30; 5) I can read while running. I'm unhappy about skipping out on some miles, but am pretty chuffed at my treadmill times.

This week: probably more miles on the treadmill, because the forecast is not encouraging, and figure something out for next week's long run. I can't skip another one, so this may be the week I grit my teeth and bear it. Three weeks to El Paso!

29 January 2017

Lift Your Lamp

I was there. I've seen her with
my own eyes. Let's not make
her into a liar.
If in your church today: nobody is talking about the stranded legal residents and visa holders who spent the weekend in a state of uncertainty and undeserved fear (and those who still are); nobody is discussing how to help refugees around the world; nobody mentions the human rights atrocities that are being committed right now; then you're in the wrong building.

In fact, if you haven't been talking about refugees and what the Bible has to say about the stranger in your midst for the past year (at least), you may be in the wrong building anyway. We know what happens when we ignore people in a humanitarian crisis. We know. We swore "never again;" did we really mean it? I can't think of many better ways of creating bitter enemies than this.

Miss Saigon is a problematic musical that deserves most of the criticism it receives. Yet for all its problems, there's a clear moment that should be heart-wrenching and condemning--when the gates of the embassy are flooded by hundreds of people of Saigon, begging for their lives. Chris is frantically searching the crowds for Kim, unwilling to leave her behind, and when John forces Chris into the helicopter, he tells him, "She won't be the only one we betrayed." In the literal name of everything holy, please let's not do that again. And folks who claim to be Christians first--before nation, before political party, before all else--cannot be silent while we go down that road.

28 January 2017

After All

We have to live in a world without Mary Tyler Moore now? Geez, that sucks. Hang in there, Carol Burnett!

Yeah, like there was a chance I grew up in
the U.S. without having ever seen the best
title sequence in TV history.
Ever since I announced my plans to leave Austin, taking my 30-something newly-single self to a city that didn't have my husband's footprints all over it, with the hope that a job and apartment would turn up when the time was right, I've endured a steady stream of Baby Boomers bringing the Mary Tyler Moore references. "You're Mary Richards!" they said, or "Are you going to get a job at a news station?" or the somehow even less subtle "Do you have a hat to throw in the air?" And then they inevitably follow it up with, "But of course you're too young to know what I'm talking about." Baby Boomers, y'all are lovely and wonderful on a case-by-case basis, but as a group you have a bit of a hivemind thing going on. You might want to look to that.

Anyway. Of course I knew what they were talking about, and while I watched the show when I was too young to really get it, I do own many hats. (Throwability of some of them is unknown.) And of course, it wasn't her iconic hat, it was her slacks that were the critical part of her wardrobe, back in the 60s on The Dick van Dyke Show, when TV execs didn't know that women owned trousers. I have plenty of those, too.

We'll miss you, Mary. Thanks for using your talent to make the world a brighter place. And for wearing such a great hat.

27 January 2017

Today's Topic is Pretty Obvious

One of my favourite lines from The West Wing (a show from which I have many, many favourite lines) comes from S3E2, when a frustrated campaign staffer shouts at the regular West Wing staff, "You people are never happier than when you're educating the public!"


You know who else enjoys educating the public? NASA. The National Parks. The USDA. The EPA. Researchers who rely on grants and whose findings are often taxpayer-funded. Want access to all this wealth of information? Call your elected officials and express your frustration about things like gag orders, hiring freezes that leave offices unstaffed, cabinet members being appointed with no qualifications to run some pretty important departments, data being withheld subject to the whims of politicians, and whatever new thing comes up today. The USDA's gag order was already lifted after public outcry. Let's keep it up.

Columbia River, 1973 vs 2012.
Image source: US EPA Ungagged.
Because having an educated public is critical, and we can't be educated without access.

26 January 2017

Reflecting Better

A few viewings of Much Ado About Nothing ago, I had gone with a friend who, on the way home, mentioned the destructive power of slander as demonstrated in the show. I agreed, and as we talked, I said, "I still can't believe the most level-headed of the gents turns out to be goofy Benedick."

I haven't changed my mind about that. Of all the awful things that could have happened as a result of Don John's lies and Claudio's gullibility, for the fracture that arose between Benedick and his friends to have remained permanent would have been minor, but still sad. As it is, no matter how many times I see it, I'll always cringe at the argument between Benedick and Claudio. I'll always be horrified when Benedick slaps him. Watching such a brilliant friendship come to literal blows underscores how serious Claudio's choices were.

So in our post-show conversation that day, I went on to say, "If only Benedick had been there with Claudio when John tricked them." If only, indeed. Of course, had he been there, we would have no conflict to drive this show. I'm pretty sure Benedick would have been skeptical of John's news and his declarations of his own good intentions, and if nothing else, Benedick would have immediately acted to set the record straight one way or another. Instead, Claudio went off hurt and angry to stew for a few hours before publicly humiliating Hero. Benedick wouldn't have allowed his friend to do that to himself if he had been able to stop it.

See? Much better as friends. Hey, have I mentioned my
crush on--no, never mind.
I've seen approximately two episodes of Sex and the City, but one line has stuck with me: "Did he have no friends to mirror a healthier view of himself?" It doesn't take a lot to see that both Benedick and Claudio are better for being friends. (You can see that in Beatrice and Hero, too, but the women manage to express it without having to declare war on each other. As women do.) They keep each other in check, they help each other make sense of the world around them, and when they're apart they both tend to tilt a bit away from reality. The mirror they provide for one another is invaluable, and they don't even know it. Thank goodness they marry cousins and end up as relatives--I'm not sure how they could have coped otherwise.

I don't know whether Shakepeare intended this play to be instructive, but he still sneaked in this bit of truth: Friends make us better. And from a guy who wrote more murderous enemies than besties, I'll take all the awesome friendships I can get. (See also: Hamlet and Horatio.)

How do your friends make you better?

25 January 2017

Time to Park

Today's my transportation day, and I have good news: you can bike, walk, roll a wheelchair, kayak, ride a horse, drive, and some combination of the above through the great treasures that are our national parks.

Getting there? Well, we have planes, trains, automobiles, buses, streetcars, bicycles--however works best for you. See? Transportation!

Visit a national park near you. Check out their websites and learn things. Send them an email or a tweet to let them know how awesome they are. Contact your elected officials and tell them what our parks mean to you. (While you're doing that, the Bureau of Land Management could also benefit from your voice.)

Look at this trail! LOOK at it!! It's not nearly finished, but once it is--wow.
And one of the finished segments is near me!

And you can support the national parks here.

24 January 2017

Teaser Tuesday #46

Source: Goodreads.
Also, I'd like to add that I borrowed
this book from the Marion Regional
Campus of Ohio State University via
OhioLINK and the Cincinnati library,
because Ohio libraries are incredible.
One Less Car: Bicycling and the Politics of Automobility, Zack Furness

Bicycles not only offer a logical and pragmatic solution to this problem of the "global everyday"; they are also beneficial to those groups traditionally ignored within the dominant paradigm of economic development theory--rural women and girls.

Transportation researchers like Julia Philpott and Karen Overton have been instrumental in bringing the relationships between gender, economics, and non-motorized transportation to the attention of international NGOs, and there are a number of organizations that actively engage with these issues in their daily work.

(I promise I really did open to a random page! It's just that when you read an entire book that's relevant to your interests and the world at large, well, relevant things tend to happen.)

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, once upon a time hosted by MizB from Should Be Reading (and now I just can't tell if it has a host at all. But why stop?). Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (Make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers

23 January 2017


I decided one day last week to finally look at the course map and elevation chart for the Springfoot Half Marathon that I'm training for (four more weeks. Is it too early to panic?) and my hopes for a flat half were dashed. Good news: there's only one serious hill. Okay news: it's right in the middle. Bad news: I have to abandon my attempts to find the flattest stretches of Cincinnati available to run on.

I went downtown and crossed the river one day last week.
Yes, my weekday runs are long enough to run to
Kentucky now.
I live on top of a hill, so all of my runs start off downhill and finish uphill, no matter which direction I go. But for the middle miles, I have a few options--although running in the dark in a city I still don't know that well means that most of the options are varying degrees of scary. I've heard, "You went running where?" so many times that I'm starting to think no one feels safe anywhere in this city, ever, despite the fact that I see plenty of other runners out every direction that I go. (Non-runners. They don't speak my language.)

Anyway! All those hills paid off yesterday, though, when I managed a 10-miler at a slightly faster pace than any of my other runs last week. It was flattish in the middle, which I didn't do on purpose but really enjoyed once I got past the long downhill and slightly less long uphill that I started with. As they say, hills are speedwork in disguise.

Today starts a new training week! And then another, and another, and another... and then race day will be here.

22 January 2017

Finding Home

There's a chance that moving to a new city doesn't have to be the protracted mess I've managed to turn it into, but why do things the easy way?

I don't really know how to find a new church. I've done it twice in my life, both times with another person to also consider, so picking a place that's right for just me is very much uncharted territory. Obviously, what I want is to arrive somewhere one Sunday morning and think, "This is it. I'm home." Even more obviously: that's not how life works.

The right church doesn't have to be as
pretty as this, but it wouldn't hurt.
Source: Júlia Tan on freeimages.com.
It doesn't help that my church home in Austin, Red River Church, set the bar so high. Trying to find Red River Junior is terribly unfair to the many (presumably) lovely and wonderful churches in Cincinnati that are (one hopes) doing good in the world in the way that best suits their surroundings. Chadwick and I did have a "This is it!" moment our first Sunday at Red River, but that was after about two months of visiting many churches within reasonable bus distance of our home and not finding our people, and after spending six months with a church we had hoped would be right for us but turned out to not quite be the one. That we found our people at Red River one June Sunday was a bit of divine intervention.*

So I've fallen into a cycle of getting up on Sunday morning, full of determination to get at least a step closer to finding the right place for me, only to be discouraged by the time I need to head out because I don't know what set of doors my people are hiding behind. And so I think, "Maybe next week," and kick the discomfort forward to Future Su. Which solves nothing.

By the time this post goes live Sunday morning, I should be somewhere looking for my people. I don't know if I'll find them today, or next week, or next month, and that uncertainty has me in a vortex of displacement.

I wonder if there's a bike church around here?

*So, funny story about our first Sunday in Red River: someone who ended up being a very good friend later on shook my hand with such force that the bones in my hand popped, which happens a lot, but they popped with enough enthusiasm that he felt it, too, and he thought he'd broken something. It was totally worth it just for the look of horror that crossed his face.

21 January 2017

We Don't Play. We March.

This may be one of those posts that sends my Facebook friend count plummeting, and I spent approximately three nanoseconds fretting about that before I remembered that those likely to go are the ones who can't stand to be friends with people who disagree with them politically anyway. So everything's fine. (Plus I give Facebook about three minutes a day anyway, which is about three minutes more than it deserves, so what difference does it make?)

So! I knew there was no way I was getting to D.C. for a third time in two months, so I thought the Women's March was a no-go for me. I was planning to spend my Saturday running 10 miles and then watching musicals to care for my mental health.

But then.

As if I wasn't angry/worried enough, I saw the news Friday evening that the White House website had experienced a bit of a culling, with casualties including pages about climate change, LGBT rights, healthcare, civil rights, etc, because heaven forbid the White House be the ones to remind people they have rights. So I was delighted to see an article scroll across my news updates about the Cincinnati Women's March on Saturday. Sold.

Gathering in the park pre-march. I was on the less-full
side. Also? These ladies were not the only grey-headed
folks in attendance. Senior citizens were well
The organizers originally planned for 3,000 people, but as of the article being published the response to the Facebook event was much higher than 3,000. By the time we all assembled on Saturday afternoon, word had gotten out pretty well--I've heard numbers between 12,000-15,000. Wherever it landed, the march was a mite bigger than anticipated. They had to extend the march route in a hurry once the folks in front got back to the beginning, only to run into people still leaving the park.

I don't know a lot about who was there, except what I saw: people of all ages, people of many races, people with physical disabilities, church groups, Girl Scouts, college students, women, men. People with bikes. People who arrived by bus and streetcar. One person who arrived too late to get parked and, being stuck in his car in the middle of marchers, turned off his car and climbed on top. People who were on their way somewhere else who got stuck when the roads were shut down and smiled and waved from inside their cars instead of ranting.

People who have hopes and fears and dreams and want to be heard. That's who marched in Cincinnati today.

Edited to add: in case you don't have every musical in the world memorized, the post title is a reference to The Sound of Music. You know, the show about these folks:

20 January 2017

Self-Care is Green, Too

Source: Vivek Chugh on freeimages.com.
Take a nap. Read a book. Listen to soothing music. Spend time with a friend. Turn off your TV. Check out. Whatever you need to do to get ready to face the day and make your corner of the world a better place, every day.

Especially this day.

19 January 2017

One of Many

My current MC, Sybil, has gone a bit quiet but is not forgotten. She and I still meet to talk about her life and what new thing I'm going to throw at her next. This is a school story, because it's a genre that I've loved most of my life (more like Chalet School than Harry Potter), and it will certainly never see the light in its current form, so I'm thinking about the first round of revisions even as I finish the ending. (And it's a series. Yeah, I'm doing everything I can to make sure it never finds a publisher.)

I still think this probably looks like
Sybil. Maybe not in her best moment.
Source: Martin Walls on freeimages.com.
Sybil comes from a remarkably large family, which I've gone back and forth on keeping. They don't all come into the story, apart from the occasional mention, and sometimes I've wondered if that's just one ridiculous thing too many for Sybil's life. I had almost decided to bring her sibling roster down to perhaps still being a large family by today's standards--like four or five children--instead of the current ocean of people who live in Sybil's house.

And then I changed my mind. Because big families get enough bad press and I'd like to bring a more positive look, if I can. (Not that Sybil necessarily loves it. Coping with so many people is one of her challenges.) Because I keep meeting big families in my real life that confirm that what I'm writing is not out of the realm of possibility. Because I ran across an interview with an actor who I like who described being from a family of more children than I would ever think to cram into one house, not even in a fantasy novel.

And because it's fun. My day-to-day life is mostly one of solitude, which I've come to enjoy most of the time, so being able to write about all the people and the noise and the activity is a nice escape. I think if I rewrote her with just one or two siblings, Sybil would be lonely.

What are you going back and forth on lately?

18 January 2017

Sudden Stop

My father has been a CDL holder since the licensing began in 1986. When the program was coming into effect, his employer handed round training materials to all of their drivers to study for the written exam. For the couple weeks before the exam date, watching the CDL training videos was a fun-filled family activity--we probably could have all passed the written exam after our intense studying.

Image source: Reddit.
One of the training videos was all about driving on steep grades, including the use of a runaway truck ramp if the truck loses brakes in the mountains. (Said ramps often slope uphill--sometimes a really steep hill if it's a short ramp--and are filled with deep gravel or sand to bring the truck to a safe stop. There are other kinds, too, with mechanical arrestors and barricades and whatnot.) Central Indiana is not really known for its mountains, so the existence of runaway truck ramps has been something that's lurked in the back of my brain for 30 years with no practical use, since driving large and heavy vehicles is on my Never-Ever list for this lifetime.

Until I drove from Cincinnati to D.C. a few weeks ago, passing through West Virginia. I saw a sign that read, "Runaway Truck Ramp 1 Mile" and of course the "useless information" section of my brain lit right up. Sure enough, it looked exactly like I'd always pictured it.

The day I drove to D.C. was also my father's birthday, so I called him that evening to tell him I was walking along Pennsylvania Avenue toward the White House, and oh, I saw some runaway truck ramps on the drive in. No prizes for guessing which one he was more excited about--he's never seen one in person, either.

"Did you have to use it?" he asked, because everybody's a comedian, and then he went on to tell me that if I used it, I'd have to be towed back out. Then he said, "You probably wouldn't have to have your bicycle towed out. You can probably just pick that up and walk out." I was about to ask how far he thought I would fly if I hit one of those ramps on a bicycle, when he added, "Of course, you're going to go over the handlebars if you hit one of those on a bike." Yeah. Wherever I landed, I doubt I would be walking away.

Anyway, like many last-ditch safety features, most of these ramps are not used a lot (thank goodness, although there's one in Colorado that's used 20+ times a year), but when they're needed, they're critical. Caltrans posted a video a few months back of one in action--you can see in the video how fast the truck stopped. It's incredible how such a simple idea as having a gravel pit as a backup plan can save lives.

What's a backup plan you hope to never, ever use?

17 January 2017

Best Books of 2016

As promised, the top five books that I read last year. Of course, this is highly subjective and my loving a book is no guarantee that you will. Please note that these aren't necessarily books published in 2016, but rather books I read in 2016. I'm not that fancy.

I read 112 books in 2016 (I had a lot of free time while I was funemployed), rated 32 of those with five stars on Goodreads, and had to narrow it down to five. Yikes! So here we are, my favourite books from 2016 (all images are from Goodreads):

5. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Michelle Alexander

When a Supreme Court justice quotes a book, it's good to pay attention. This is a book that will fill you with anger and despair (I hope!) and, if it doesn't inspire you to push for change, will at least tell you something has gone horribly wrong.

4. As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride, Cary Elwes & Joe Layden

If I hadn't already had a crush on Cary Elwes (and come on, who doesn't?), this book would have done it. If you're a fan of the movie, a fan of Mr. Elwes, or a fan of moviemaking, be sure to pick this one up. I've heard Mr. Elwes reads the audiobook himself, in that lovely lovely accent of his, so it's on to-listen list.

3. Streetfight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution, Janette Sadik-Khan & Seth Solomonow

The revolution's happening in New York! Yes, okay, that line technically belongs with book #2, but it also applies to this one. Active transportation dominates NYC, and Ms. Sadik-Khan worked as transportation commissioner to make the streets of NYC reflect that reality. The work is hardly done: in 2015 alone, reckless NYC drivers killed at least 16 people who were either on a sidewalk or in a building, for goodness' sakes, and many, many more who were lawfully in a crosswalk or bike lane. (Or even unlawfully--jaywalking is not, after all, a capital offence, nor are drivers authorized to impose said sentencing themselves. Yet.)

Regardless of the work yet to be done, Ms. Sadik-Khan planned and worked and pushed and cajoled New York into being a slightly better place for people who aren't in cars, and having visited some of the changed roads and plazas myself, I'm a fan. Read the book to find out more and be amazed.

2. Hamilton: The Revolution, Lin-Manuel Miranda & Jeremy McCarter

Despite my disclaimer, I managed two books in a row that were published in 2016. How about that. Enjoy the cast album? Enjoy Lin-Manuel's sense of humor? Enjoy not spending thousands on a ticket to a Broadway show? Read this and wait patiently with the rest of us for the day when Hamilton will finally be on tour and/or affordable to see in person. And laugh. Lin-Manuel really is a funny guy.

1. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Harriet Jacobs

Our legacy of slavery can feel like the distant past, but to not see that it reverberates all around us today is to be willfully ignorant. Bring your whole heart and your mind to this book and let it teach you. Did you read it in school? Good. Read it again.


Brailling For Wile, Jamie Zerndt
The Fault in Our Stars, John Green
Streetlights Like Fireworks, David Pandolfe

Want to see more of what I read in 2016? Check out my Year in Books on Goodreads.

16 January 2017

Running Crazy

This is pretty much what it looks like to run in Cincy
lately, except we have more hills. Image source:
Patrick Nijhuis on freeimages.com.
Running metaphors tend to make me a little stabby, not because they're (necessarily) untrue, but because geez, surely there are other ways to encourage humans to live life as it comes or take it one day at a time without resorting to "It's a marathon, not a sprint!" Running metaphors date at least as far back as the apostle Paul. Let them go, y'all.

So it's a little crazy-making when I catch myself thinking, "You don't have to go fast, you just have to go," or similar platitudes when I'm running. And then I waste valuable energy being annoyed at myself for not coming up with anything better than clichés to pep talk myself with. It's not that they aren't true; it's that I, as always, want more words. Or at least different ones. Because it's my intention in life as well as running to be here for the long haul, which will take all the words and energy I can muster.

Yeah, half marathon training is going great.

What's making you crazy today?

14 January 2017

Will It Grow? Secret Garden, Round Two

I do not consider myself particularly lucky, especially when it comes to critical life moments like choosing a checkout queue at the supermarket or finding a good parking space, but sometimes, some really great times, I'm the luckiest person alive.

Signed by (top to bottom) Jason
Forbach (Albert Lennox), Jared
Michael Brown (Lieutenant
Wright), Maya Maniar (Ayah),
& Henry Baratz (Colin Craven).
I had one of those great times when I got to return to D.C. only a couple weeks after I saw The Secret Garden to see it a second time. My show ticket and place to stay were provided by other kind and generous folks, making this trip both awesome and affordable. Thank you, kind and generous folks!

This show closed in D.C. last weekend, but if you're in Seattle, you're in luck--they're coming to you soon. Don't miss it. Please don't miss it. If nothing else, you'll get to see it in the spring, which is obviously the correct season for a show that includes a song called "Winter's on the Wing."

Spoilers after the jump.

13 January 2017

Heat It Up

Y'all. It's cold outside.

That being the case, I'm using up a lot of electricity. And I'm betting you are, too, even you lucky folks in Austin, who I've heard have also been a mite chilly lately.

Once upon a time in the depths of environmental bloggers past, Crunchy Chicken used to run a Freeze Yer Buns Challenge. (She may still, from another platform where I don't follow her.) I'm a person who is cold all summer long because air conditioning, so being cold all winter long just makes me sad. Alas, that's how winter works.

So! If you want to be green and save some green at the same time, it helps if you can put your thermostat as low as you can stand it. Age-old strategies like wearing sweaters in the house and curling up under blankets still work just fine. And wrapping your fingers around a mug of hot tea, cocoa, or coffee always helps. (Decaf only after 9 AM for me. I know, so boring!)

You're gonna need a bunch of these.
Image source: Dr. Manhatthan on freeimages.com.
A couple other strategies I use that are more "move the energy around" than strictly "saving energy": I turn the thermostat down for the house and carry a space heater from place to place with me. If you're doing this, please don't dig your 20-year-old one out of the attic. For safety's sake, get a newer one with all the up-to-date safety features. Thanks to considerable advances, this is one appliance where older is not better.

I also had a brainwave before Christmas and asked for an electric blanket, thus making my Grandma's shopping easier and my own nights more pleasant. This does make it harder to get out of bed in the morning, but that's better than shivering all night, methinks. And when my electric bill comes, heating up just me does turn out to be cheaper than heating up all of my square feet.

What do you do to keep your electricity (or gas) use under control during the winter?

12 January 2017

Because I Can Never Say Enough Things About Libraries

It was a very bookish trip to D.C. this time around (the more so if I count The Secret Garden under "books"), with visits to Folger Shakespeare Library, the Library of Congress, and Politics and Prose bookstore.

I landed at Folger Shakespeare Library first, where I was met by a docent at the door who asked, "Are you here for the tour or the exhibit?" Naturally, I said, "Can I do both?" and she agreed that that was a terrific idea.

The exhibit at the moment holds various folios have have travelled around the US during 2016 so that folks across the country could have a look at some of the Folger collection, which was pretty cool, but no matter how amazing the exhibit is, it can't hold a candle to the Folger tour. (Not that candles are allowed. That would be dangerous with all the old books.)

If you're even a little bit interested in theatre or Shakespeare, and you think you may ever visit D.C., put the Folger Library on your list and be sure to take the tour. The docents are incredibly knowledgeable, anxious to answer as many questions as possible, and just all-round fun, as you can imagine from people who spend their professional lives around Shakespeare's words. (Their social media team is also fantastic & worth a follow.) Whether you can visit the library or not, the Folger editions of Shakespeare's plays are helpfully annotated and good choices for reading/homeschooling/keeping on your shelf/etc. Although if you're teaching your kids Shakespeare, please please PLEASE be sure to see the plays onstage, too. That's how they're meant to be experienced!

It's possible I may have been humming "God, I Hate Shakespeare" from Something Rotten through the whole tour. Maybe. It could have been someone else.

Top row: theatre inside the library, Hamlet, Puck, Romeo and Juliet.
One down, two to go. Next up was the Library of Congress, and I bet you've already guessed what I'm going to say next: GO! The artwork alone is worth a trip, but then you get a peek into the main reading room (and have to take a break to get over fits of jealousy for people who're allowed in there), and the Jefferson Library, with quite a lot of his original books still intact and on display (not in use, of course), and whatever exhibits are in season.

I was there for the final week of the "America Reads" exhibit, which showcases American authors who've shaped the country with their work. Obviously, that's a pretty wide range of folks, so it's probably just as well that I wasn't responsible for deciding which authors and books were included. God bless librarians who are capable of making those kinds of tough choices.
L to R, top row first: Christmas tree; Jefferson Library; stairs to the reading room;
Jefferson Library entrance; two of the many quotes near the ceiling;
building front; one of many pretty parts of the ceiling.
And finally--Politics and Prose Bookstore. They were listed in an article about bookstores worth travelling for that someone sent me recently, and since I was already travelling, I took a train and a Capital Bikeshare out to have a look. And then wished I'd started there.

While I have a running list of favourite bookstores on the planet*, my real favourite is usually whichever one I'm standing in. And Politics and Prose is delightful. First of all, I'm fairly convinced they use a Charles Rennie Mackintosh font, although I've not been able to find confirmation on this so far (but it sure looks like it).

It's a beautiful store, with lots of friendly staff and happy (at least when I was there) patrons. And a fantastic cafe downstairs. While I of course want you to visit, I'm a book person. I just want you to go to whatever bookstore, or library, or provider of books is near you. No airplanes required.
I own three copies of Les Misérables and don't need a fourth,
so I settled for taking a pic of this gorgeous, amazing cover.
Just looking at it again makes me sad I left it behind.
What I didn't leave behind: This beautiful picture created out of the early chapters
of The Secret Garden. And since I was in D.C. to see Secret Garden onstage,
it wasn't a hard decision.
What's your favourite book place? (And if you want to spend some relaxing and entertaining time on Twitter, I have a list of just book places.)

*In approximate order of current love: BookPeople, Austin; Strand Books, New York; Bookmamas, Indianapolis; Caledonian Books, Glasgow; Hester Books, Lubbock; Booksellers, Cincinnati; Books & Brews, Indianapolis. Politics and Prose will have to fit in there somewhere.

11 January 2017

Rolling Right Along: Capital Bikeshare and Pennsylvania Avenue

I went to D.C. twice in December. Not on purpose.

Well, okay, yes on purpose, but while the first one was planned a few weeks ahead of time, the second one was a surprise that I willingly said 'yes, please!' to and had a lot less time to make plans for.

Anyway. Y'all know my life is basically about books, bikes, and buses, right? With some (frequently book-based) theatre on the side? Those are also what my two days in D.C. were all about on trip #2. I navigated the city via train (instead of buses, and it was very easy. For a tourist, anyway. I might be less pleased if I lived there all the time), with a couple breaks in the middle to take a spin on Capital Bikeshare.

It's going to be a while before I get tired
of looking at this pic. Pennsylvania Avenue
bike lanes, with the Capitol in the background.
Naturally, I chose the bike lanes that run between the White House and the Capitol via the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue for this adventure, although the D.C. bikeway network is growing, and I definitely want to check out more of it in the future. Due to some nightmare construction or upgrages or whatever at DC Metro, Capital Bikeshare has a one-way $2 fare right now, in addition to the $8 day pass or other memberships, which is meant to help commuters cover their first and last mile needs. I wasn't planning to ride all day, so $2 for a one-way zoom through the nation's capital was a pretty good deal. (Although I did not zoom. As I told my friend Scott, I rode as slowly as possible to savour the trip while it lasted.)

I did not take a picture of my bikeshare bike, for reasons passing understanding, but I did at least stop for a quick Periscope, and I think there's a glimpse of the bike in there. I haven't rewatched it, and I was pretty excited, so there's no telling what gibberish comes out of my mouth in that video. Ye be warned.

I managed another quick trip on Day 2, this time to complete a literal last mile between my train stop and the bookstore I was headed to. Just as I experienced in D.C. (and in Austin, and in Cincinnati), researchers have found over and over again that bike share works best when it's integrated into the public transportation system. And D.C.'s current $2 promotion to help bridge some gaps in the transit network is a great step in the right direction. I'm so glad I got to be a part of it, even if it was for one short day.

What's a cool/exciting/out-of-the-ordinary thing you've done lately?

10 January 2017

Reading Challenges Update: December

I finished all of my reading challenges for 2016!

Will you do that again? No, I don't think so. Most of them I forgot to check in on more than once or twice all year, and therefore I didn't technically fulfill the challenge requirements. It was fun, but I'm ready for different fun now.

What, no challenges at all for 2017? Well, let's not go that far. I've signed up for the Goodreads Challenge again. Of all the challenges from 2016, my favourite was probably the Woman Challenge, so my plan is to make sure at least half the books I read in 2017 are written by women.

What's your Goodreads goal? I'm glad you asked! I like reading over 100 books in a year, because it gives me things to think/tweet/talk about all the time. However, setting such a high goal makes it rough to tackle longer books, and since I have a few of those on the to-read list I'm setting my goal lower--52 books--in the hopes that I can get through some longer ones without feeling like I'm failing at an arbitrary challenge.

Any other suggestions or ideas? I'm thinking over my favourites from 2016 and will share those next week! Another thing I'm planning to do in 2017 is read a few things that I wouldn't normally pick up--I'm hoping to choose at least one book per month from Goodreads friends' lists that make me say, "But why?" to find out what the fuss is all about. Particularly people with short lists--those are much easier to peruse. (And that being the case, my apologies to all my Goodreads friends for the excessive length of my lists. By the way, are you on Goodreads? Let's be friends.)

So here's December. As always, links are to and images are from Goodreads, where all my reviews are written.

I Love Libraries Challenge CHALLENGE COMPLETED (53/50 books)
Black Man, White House: An Oral History of the Obama Years, D.L. Hughley
Make Good Art, Neil Gaiman, Chip Kidd (Designer)
This is a Book, Demetri Martin
Sweater Quest: My Year of Knitting Dangerously, Adrienne Martini
The Scribe: Silas, Francine Rivers
How to Sleep Alone in a King-Size Bed: A Memoir, Theo Pauline Nestor
Real Artists Have Day Jobs: (And Other Awesome Things They Don't Teach You in School), Sara Benincasa
A Family on Wheels: Further Adventures of the Trapp Family, Maria Augusta von Trapp & Ruth T. Murdoch

Read It Again, Sam CHALLENGE COMPLETED (6/4 books)
The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett (Read this ahead of seeing the musical!)
Dash & Lily's Book of Dares, Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

Woman Challenge CHALLENGE COMPLETED (61/20 books)
The Wednesday Sisters, Meg Waite Clayton
Sweater Quest: My Year of Knitting Dangerously, Adrienne Martini
The Scribe: Silas, Francine Rivers
Bronze, Kerri-Anne Weston
How to Sleep Alone in a King-Size Bed: A Memoir, Theo Pauline Nestor
Real Artists Have Day Jobs: (And Other Awesome Things They Don't Teach You in School), Sara Benincasa
A Family on Wheels: Further Adventures of the Trapp Family, Maria Augusta von Trapp & Ruth T. Murdoch

Mount TBR Challenge CHALLENGE COMPLETED (51/48 books)
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Franklin
Bronze, Kerri-Anne Weston
The Buttersmiths' Gold, Adam Glendon Sidwell
For 91 Days In Idaho, Michael Powell, Jürgen Horn (Photographer)
The Canterville Ghost, Oscar Wilde
Walking, Henry David Thoreau

Goodreads Challenge CHALLENGE COMPLETED (112/100 books)
The Wednesday Sisters, Meg Waite Clayton
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Franklin
Black Man, White House: An Oral History of the Obama Years, D.L. Hughley
Make Good Art, Neil Gaiman, Chip Kidd (Designer)
This is a Book, Demetri Martin
Sweater Quest: My Year of Knitting Dangerously, Adrienne Martini
The Scribe: Silas, Francine Rivers
Bronze, Kerri-Anne Weston
The Buttersmiths' Gold, Adam Glendon Sidwell
How to Sleep Alone in a King-Size Bed: A Memoir, Theo Pauline Nestor
For 91 Days In Idaho, Michael Powell, Jürgen Horn (Photographer)
The Canterville Ghost, Oscar Wilde
Walking, Henry David Thoreau
Real Artists Have Day Jobs: (And Other Awesome Things They Don't Teach You in School), Sara Benincasa
A Family on Wheels: Further Adventures of the Trapp Family, Maria Augusta von Trapp & Ruth T. Murdoch

What are you reading?

09 January 2017

Crawling Might Be Faster

Remember how I said I'm running the El Paso Half Marathon? Yeah, well, it's now six weeks away, heaven help me, and Cincinnati is a frigid place to be running in. I'd be lying if I didn't say I'm looking forward to the warmth of El Paso almost as much as I'm looking forward to seeing my friends who live there. One of those warms the cockles of my heart; the other warms my numb fingertips so I can feel them again.

Because I don't know this city well yet, my long runs have been a bit of a challenge. I'm trying to stick to straight lines as much as possible until I have a better map of the city in my head, because while getting lost is a wonderful way to fill in the gaps in that map, getting lost while in the middle of a 9-mile run in 25-degree weather is not my idea of a good time.

We happened to have a warm (55°) but rainy day last week, and that's when I decided to head out for my scheduled 8-miler. And I decided to go downtown to run near the river. Great ideas so far, right?


Try not to look too closely at my speed. This is going to be a slow race.
My neighborhood is on top of a hill. Downtown has a river running through it (hence the low & flat, once I got there). Why the hill back up looks more gradual than the hill going down I don't know, because it was the exact same hill, and I barely dragged myself up it. If a bus had been coming by while I was trying to get through that last quarter mile, I probably would have gotten aboard. And then dripped all over everything, because I was soaked through from the rain. I think I got drier when I got into the shower.

I know, some of you live in hillier places than I do and manage to go out and crush your runs. Please don't tell me about it. It's depressing enough thinking about doing this one again. But, another one finished, another day closer to my next half.

What are you one day closer to?

07 January 2017

New Year, God Help Us All

Source: Pinterest.
Yes, I willingly join in the general discontent with The Year That Must Not Be Named And Has Finally Gone Away, Praise Pope Gregory XIII. Not that I have much hope for 2017, because my high degree of cynicism/crankiness has only been enhanced by the personal and societal turmoils of the last few months.

However! I'm going to pretend that I'm the Cheery Su some of you once knew, if only for the sake of resetting, in a "fake it til I make it" kind of way. Since my 2016 kind of fell apart, I didn't do any regular checking in on my 2016 goals, so this is about to be as much of a surprise to me as it is to anyone:

1. Run the Indy Mini in May. Done. 
And scheduled to do again in 2017.

2. Eat the correct nutrients to fuel the running/riding/etc. Disaster.
I'll try a bit harder on this one in 2017.

3. Arrive everywhere early enough to get in at least five minutes of writing. Maybe half done?
I may arrive early, but that doesn't mean I automatically use that time to write. Sometimes I read, sometimes I talk, sometimes I stare into space. Also, if I continue this into 2017 (haven't decided on that yet), I'm going to have to exempt work from this. Being in the office=no writing is being done, no matter how much extra time I give myself.

4. Write every day. Nearly done.
To say I wrote every day is untrue, but I wrote most days. Probably 300 out of 366 days included some writing. Some days included a lot, some days a little. Continuing this into 2017.

5. Take on some writing I wouldn't normally do. Done, but not as much as I'd like.
I even tried writing some Little House on the Prairie fanfiction a few months back (I haven't posted it anywhere yet). So I'm continuing this one. And, since I start a new job next week, I'm sure more new writing will be coming my way.

6. Read 100+ books. Done.
More about this coming on Tuesday, with my final Reading Challenge update from 2016.

You can try and stop the hands of time
But ya know it just can't be.
Image source: André Montejorge on

(Words are from "You Can't Stop
the Beat," from Hairspray. Yes, I
can sometimes quote musicals that
aren't Les Misérables.)
New Goals for 2017:

1. Get my running in.
I have a few more weeks of a half marathon training plan in the lead-up to the El Paso Half Marathon, and then I'll take a week off before plunging back into training for the Indy Mini. After that... ?? I have no more races planned for 2017, but since I only had two planned for 2016 and ended up doing five, I'm sure something will come up. Regardless, running is too important for my physical and mental health for me to ignore it.

2. Go outside every day.
I know this sounds crazy, but I have a tendency to hide inside all day long on days off or cold days. And especially on cold days off. Having a new job should help, since my weekdays will be filled once again, but I hate to waste my weekends locked inside when there's a big world out there waiting for me to go look at it.

3. Remember that this is my life now.
After a couple years of upheaval, some of it my own doing and some of it inflicted upon me by outside forces, I have a hard time some days remembering that this is where I live and these people are the ones around me now (the temptation to live online and not make any in-person friends is way strong). Maybe I need to cross-stitch a sampler to hang by my bed that says something like "You live in Cincinnati. Try not to forget."

4. Learn how to write a real review of anything.
I review books. I review musicals. Most of my reviews are variations on a theme of "This is so fantastic!" which is not particularly helpful to others. I don't necessarily want to learn this to get paid, although that would be great. I just want to do it well enough to have a reason to continue doing it.

No super-ambitious goals for the year, but I'm good with small ones. What are your goals for 2017?

06 January 2017

Small Forest, Slightly Processed

There's some book news doing the rounds this week (two Facebook friends have already sent me links to two different articles, so at least I know I'm known for being bookish as well as bikeish) about a library in Florida that created a dummy account to check out books, so that less-checked-out but still-beloved books wouldn't be culled based on a software algorithm.

Y'all. Can we talk about how crazy this is? Librarians are highly skilled professionals in a competitive field--if they aren't good at what they do, they don't last long. Why on earth would you hire someone with that much knowledge and then use automation instead of their professional judgment? The article I linked above makes a comparison to teachers, to which I can only say: Yes! Let's get back to treating experts in their fields as experts in their fields and stop second-guessing them every step of the way until they throw up their hands in frustration at not being able to do the job they were trained and hired to do.

That's not actually what today's post is about. Instead, I want to praise libraries more generally, for the earth-friendly, budget-friendly, people-friendly intuitions that they are. I'm sure it's no secret that I love libraries even more than I love theatres, and utilize their services a lot more frequently. (Although I've never once asked a librarian for an autograph. Clearly, I've been doing it wrong.) Support your local library, y'all. PLEASE. The range of services that a library offers is invaluable, and I started to make a list of just the things I've done at the library this week but it got too long for one sentence. Suffice to say, they've been invaluable in both my job search and my sanity preservation for these last nine months especially. And I'm just one person--multiply my experience by millions of people using these spaces every day. We need our libraries.

And, of course, since it's earth-loving day here at Cheekyness, keep in mind that me sharing one of 10 copies of a book with the other 300,000 folks who live in Cincinnati requires far fewer trees than every one of us running out and buying a copy. Multiply that by every library in the country and that's a lot of forest-saving.

I know there are many folks who prefer to own every book they've read. If that's you, fine. Thanks for supporting authors this way. But if you can't buy a copy of every book you want to read (and I can't!), you know who else supports authors by buying their books? The library. And when you check a book out, you're letting them know that you like that book and they should keep it in circulation, and perhaps buy more copies. No less a person that John Green says so.

Speaking of circulation--one final thing before I go, and it's a thing I just learned this week. It's not just about books that are checked out, it's also about ones that are read in-house. So, if you pick up a book off a library shelf and read it without checking it out, don't put it back on the shelf! Put it on one of the carts designated for that purpose throughout the library, so the library staff can note it was used before returning it to its proper spot. This helps with their funding and their justification to keep a book that may seem like it's not getting a lot of action. If you put a book back, the library has no way of knowing how many pairs of eyes were on it.

See the full Tumblr post here.
In short: Libraries are vortexes of awesome innocently plunked down in the middle of neighborhoods. If you haven't been to one in a while, it's time to find out what you're missing. Let's show our libraries we have their backs as much as they have ours.

05 January 2017

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas

For the 12 Days of Christmas, I'm sharing second, third, or otherwise not-first verses of popular Christmas carols.

A somewhat stylized version of the visit of the Magi.
Image source: Bartek Ambrozik on freeimages.com.
"We Three Kings"

By: John Henry Hopkins, Jr

Written in: Williamsport, Pennsylvania, 1857

I have thoughts: First of all, what kind of a ridiculous word is "twelfth," am I right? English is goofy. No wonder it's so hard for folks to learn it as a second language; plenty of people have trouble learning it as a first language. (The number of times I've said to my father, "How do you even come up with a sentence like that? You are a native English speaker." Apparently, he speaks some unknown dialect of Indiana English that is incomprehensible to even his own children.)

Where were we? Oh, yeah, the three kings. So, tonight is Twelfth Night, when the Three Kings visit children and leave presents (some families celebrate both Christmas and Three Kings Day, while others just choose one) in various cultures around the world. Tomorrow is Epiphany, when people will celebrate with King's Cakes, family dinners, and (for those of us who stick with tradition) taking down the Christmas tree. It is the final day of Christmas.

This is quite a sweeping overview I'm giving you, and doesn't even begin to capture the historical importance of Epiphany to the Christian calendar, so if you want to know more, the Wikipedia article is long and detailed and contains links to sources.

So, what better song for Twelfth Night than "We Three Kings"? Most folks will note that in the Biblical account there were three gifts, not three visitors, and that three gents undertaking such a journey without a big crowd with them is pretty unlikely. It's a song that draws heavily on legend and tradition, since we don't have a lot of information about these travellers.

Verse: The three middle verses describing the gifts, naturally, since those tend not to be sung much.
Born a king on Bethlehem's plain,
Gold I bring to crown Him again,
King forever, ceasing never
Over us all to reign.

Frankincense to offer have I.
Incense owns a Deity nigh.
Prayer and praising all men raising,
Worship Him, God on high.

Myrrh is mine: Its bitter perfume
Breaths a life of gathering gloom.
Sorrow, sighing, bleeding, dying,
Sealed in a stone-cold tomb.
Watch: Because I'm not turning down singing Hugh Jackman. Australians sure know how to party. Especially that bit toward the end when they get a bit prophetic about Hugh's future and start marching like it's "One Day More." (In case you're wondering--I did, so I looked it up--yes, Hugh Jackman is left-handed.)

And that brings this fun little series to an end. I hope you've had a delightful holiday season, no matter which day you chose to stop celebrating. Tomorrow we're back to my usual books, bikes, and buses.

Metro Lyrics