Sunday, January 23, 2011

NW Nostalgia...Regional Humor

From the Desert Southwest, I post this 'ad' of sorts, encouraging you to check out a newly premiered comedy show poking fun at the Pacific Northwest.

The recent issue of Newsweek magazine had a brief article about it:

...and here's a link to the show's site:

...and just because I can--here's a videoclip of a segment from the premiere episode:

I'm not completely convinced if the rest of the country will 'get' this regional farce. I hope so, though.

A couple of years ago, there was a series of articles in our local paper here, looking at 'what works' in Portland, and what, if anything, Tucson might do to emulate that mossy metropolis of the NW...which led, of course, to lots of letters-to-the-editor comparing/complaining/berating/wishing, etc. etc...

I'm reminded of "Almost Live"...any of you remember that, from years ago--the Seattle take on the SNL concept?

Northwest nostalgia--only to a point, though.

Earlier today, my wife and I were conversing with a visiting friend, also an erstwhile Pacific NWesterner...being in the sunny seventy-something-degree outdoors in January: ahh, Tucson--you can't get that in Portland.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Have you ever seen one of those simple oval bumper stickers that just have "13.1" in it?

I'd never noticed them until Sunday afternoon in Phoenix...
...this past Sunday afternoon, after I RAN MY FIRST HALF-MARATHON!!!
Thirteen-point-one MILES. was fun. I certainly did not do it for competitive reasons. I was fourthousand-somethingth out of over 19,000 half-marathoners...but very pleased that I clocked in at just under two hours on my first try!
In fact, I had just registered for it only a week-and-a-half ago.

As you can tell--it took a long time to get out of the long, (almost half-an-hour!) that by the time I actually started running, I had to go to the bathroom.

So I did what all the advice says NOT to do--I sprinted at the beginning. You're supposed to take it nice and easy, saving up fuel for later in the race, but I knew that I needed to make it to the first porta-potty station pronto...So I was weaving in and out of the crowd for the first mile-and-a-half, and I looked down and noticed on my watch (one of those runners' GPS things; my wife got it for me) that my pace was a 5:30 mile--I have NEVER run that fast! I sprinted to the row of blue toilets--STOPPED my watch-timer--answered nature--and then re-started my watch as I sprinted back to the join the sea of runners, hoping that I hadn't 'burned' too much too early...
And so, due to that first (and only) bathroom break, my 'official chip time' is two minutes slower than what my watch time says--but I am sticking to my watch: 1:58.
(despite the blurred face and bib number--this IS me;
indulge me in my semi-anonymity--I am not a facebooker...)

If you can make out the course map below, you'll see that every mile-and-a-half or so along the course--both for the marathoners and the half-marathoners--there are rock-bands set up in addition to tables of water, sports-drinks, and about 2/3 of the way, 'GU' nutrition gel...The music was a nice addition--already, the adrenalin cloud from the 19,000 runners is heady, but the rock bands are a nice spaced-out audio-motivator...

I even got a medal (!), and of course the obligatory T-shirt:
I like the graphic on the back of the t-shirt--
succinctly captures what's so nice about running in AZ--
sun, wide open spaces, and the desert vegetation.
Come run it.
Thank you, dear reader, for indulging me so now:
Why a Big Deal For Me
  • First of all, I now weigh 20 pounds less than when I moved to AZ three years ago, mostly due to running.

  • I was a sedentary teenager--bookish and into music.

  • I never ran. "5k" and "PR" were not in my vocabulary.

  • I always thought runners were super-lean OTHER people.

  • I loved hiking--or at least the idea of it, while living in non-hike-friendly eastern Georgia, but the idea of running was utterly off my radar.

  • I'm 35 now--halfway to the proverbial, poetical and Biblical 'three-score-years-and-ten;' recent deaths of relatives and friends have underscored my own mortality...

  • My father had emphysema and later lung cancer--after my early childhood, I never saw him run.

And now I know what the "13.1"-in-an-oval bumper stickers mean.
No, I'm not going to stick one of those on my car.
But this past weekend will definitely not be my last half-marathon...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Links for the sources in what is becoming the 'Tiger Parent' Debate...

My wife heard part of this interview on the radio yesterday:

She told me about it, the topic intrigued me, and so I found the original source of what has become a very popular and controversial topic:
an essay, by Amy Chua, in this past weekend's Wall Street Journal:
"Chinese Mothers Are Superior" (you must remember the tongue-in-cheek nature of this title)
Can a regimen of no playdates, no TV, no computer games and hours of music practice create happy kids? And what happens when they fight back?
In today's Wall Street Journal,
the author responds to readers; thousands of comments were left on the original article's website...
Think what you will, this is very thought-provoking.
I see the results of these differing models of parenting every day in the classroom--
it's been a decade, now, that I've been teaching...

I can't help but think, too, of my own upbringing--one Asian parent, one non-Asian parent.
Self-esteem can be over-rated.
But so is strictness-for-strictness'-sake.
Here's a review from Britain, from yesterday's Guardian.

...and from today's CNN website:

(Loosely related to this topic--Asian parenting, and more specifically Asian MOTHERing--
here's a joke I once heard:
   "What's the first thing a Korean mother does when she finds out she's going to have a baby?"
                   ..."She buys a piano." )

In all seriousness, though--
   look at the permissive, mediocrity-praising nature of much of modern Western parenting--what is it producing?!
   At the same time--the ulcer-inducing competition that is the reality of much of East Asian adolescence--do we really want to copy that here?

Balance, please.
Less can be more--but less of what? and what 'more' do we need less of?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Local. Unspeakable...Perspectives Internationales

The last thing anyone needs is more political commentary about this past weekend's horrific events that have put Tucson on the front page of newspapers worldwide...I guess I can't have a blog from Tucson, though, and not write something about last Saturday. Tragic--this untimely instance of mental instability swayed by political vitriol...What's truly shocking, though, is the fact that this type of event is no longer shocking. A mass shooting. Yet another one...

My mother is visiting from out of town. Saturday, S. and I were going to take her for lunch at that very shopping center...The radio news alerted me as we were getting ready to leave...

Today in my advanced French class, the topic came up--inevitably--especially since it was during that class that the nationwide moment of silence was announced over the school intercom...So, the teachable moment...

In the interest of showing my students the fact that the shooting was truly a worldwide news-maker, I showed them various French-language news sites from France and Canada--the headlines, the commentary, etc...English/French classroom discussion and reading comprehension...and then one particular column became the focus of the class.

Yesterday morning, at home, I spent some time browsing international headlines on the laptop, and I was perusing one of the major French dailies--Le Figaro. ( One column caught my eye: 
"Pourquoi six meurtres et tant de haine en Arizona"--translation: Why six murders and so much hate in Arizona. I don't often respond to articles online, but for some reason I felt compelled, as a French-speaking Tucson resident, to add my deux sous' worth...After a few minutes, the journalist replied! I replied...and then a while later--another reply! It was stimulating to have this 'dialogue' with a French journalist...

So. I did show that interaction--as an exercise in reading comprehension--to my students in class today...and then they wanted to reply. So, as a class, (with me as 'grammar-coach'), they wrote a commentaire...and later in the day, I checked back on the website and saw that the journalist had not only posted their comments, but also wrote back to them! While it is such a morbid thing to have to write about, I was so glad, though, that these students--'specimens' of the increasingly insular youth of America--were taking an interest in international perspectives about a very local issue. (One of the shooting victims--the judge--was the boss of the mother of one of my students.)

A very local issue--but instantly internationalized in today's environment.

In this same class I have an exchange student from Germany. He said that Saturday morning, his family in Hamburg called him to make sure he was okay, hoping that he was not in that part of Tucson where the slaughter occured; when they called him, even he and his host family hadn't heard about the news yet!

Mass shooting.
Another one.
Infamous, but not unique...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New decade. The 'noughts' are in the past...does anybody really call them "the noughts?"

I've signed up, paid, and am therefore obligated--
I will be running my first half-marathon in a couple of weeks!
Up in Phoenix...over twenty THOUSAND other runners--the "Rock'n'Roll" 1/2 and full marathon...

It snowed last week--even down here in the Tucson basin--nothing stuck, but we flirted with sleet and flakes for a good half-hour...
My "wife's-eye-view" of the winter storm clearing last week--
sun, saguaros, and snow on the Santa Catalinas:

Later that afternoon, I went for a run in our neighborhood, taking my cellphone with me--took a few pictures from the 'natural' area of a nearby park (creosote flats), and stitched them together into this panorama when I got home--The Santa Catalina mountain range, half-covered with new snow:
(yep, that's my shadow in the bottom right...)

OK...lunch break over...back to work...
When's the next vacation? Winter break was BUSY...