Sunday, November 23, 2008

Until the Sun Went Down Over Santa Monica Blvd.


I don't usually like a good beer buzz early in the morning, but I definitely longed for alcohol soon after completing the Great L.A. Walk yesterday. I ran a marathon last Sunday, and I can honestly say my legs and feet were more sore from walking yesterday than it was running 26.2 miles a week earlier. What can you expect from being on your feet for nine hours?

But it was all worth it. I had a blast! Our merry band of walkers fell behind early on and never caught up the big group. It was my fault as I led them on an excursion to find Carroll Avenue so I can show off the great houses there. Unfortunately we got a little turned around and my friends got cranky at the hilly sidetrip we took. But we had a blast the rest of the way. We took yummy pit stops at Cafe Tropical in Silver Lake, Sasoun Bakery in Little Armenia, and Fulfilled Pastries in Beverly Hills, which made up for our run-of-the-mill lunch at the French Market Place.

Last year I did the Pico Walk on my own and stuck mostly with the main pack. But this year, as part of a group, including Sameer, who I met at last year's walk, I had a whole different experience. We may have been the last group to arrive, but we surely had an amazing experience. I can't wait to do it again next year.

A sampling of photos from the Walk. More on Flickr.

In Echo Park
Pastry Case at Cafe Tropical
Mile 4: Vote 4 Obama
Lahmejune Minus the Lahme
Mile 8
Fun With Public Art
Mile 17

Thursday, November 20, 2008


No, I didn't win the marathon this weekend--I finished in 4 hours, 2 minutes--but our trivia team, Pochi Pochi, won a massive victory last night. We scored 124 out of 130 possible points--and we were down one team member. Sameer came in for the last round and helped us with the final bonus question: What country was the first republic in Africa? The answer: my favorite African country, Liberia! We were fortunate with questions that we immediately knew the answers for, but with victories in three of the last four weeks, we are on quite a roll (asterisk still firmly in place for the first victory in which the leading team stopped answering questions paving the way for us to win). We are officially a dominant team.

As for the marathon, I will hopefully have pictures and a longer report posted later this evening.

Monday, October 27, 2008

20 Miles

Having not run much the last three weeks, I worried about trying to do a 20 miler this weekend. My last long run was a 15 miler with Katie over a month ago. Can I manage 20 miles?

I did! I guess after four years of running, my body is used to it and would require a longer period of inactivity for it to fall apart. Not to say it wasn't tough, but then again running 20 miles is never easy. However, this ranks as one of my better 20 milers. I only fell apart the last couple of miles when I ran alone as FJ and Katie took a detour to extend their run. We were a half mile short of a full 20, so they kept going. I just wanted to finish.

My legs weren't as strong as I would like and it was tough for me to keep pace with FJ and Katie, but I managed. I still don't think I'm in any shape to set a personal best, but at least I know I will finish respectably.

It definitely helped that we ran the same 20 mile course Andy and I ran just before San Diego this year. We ran an out-and-back course from FJ's house to Elmer Smith--just under 10 miles point to point. We also managed to beat the hot weather by starting at 7:30 and there was the promise of donuts waiting at the finish. Mmm, donuts.

I neglected to start my chrono, but based on FJ's watch I finished at around 3 hours, 10 minutes, under a 10 minute pace!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Downtown to West Hollywood!

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8.7 miles
Time: 1:29:12

On Sunday I backed out of a planned run with FJ. I was just too tired from an all-day outing with Sameer that included hiking in Eaton Canyon and biking through North Long Beach and valeting bikes in Hollywood in the evening. Needless to say, I woke up Sunday morning not feeling up to running fifteen miles. It was all for the best. I woke up in the morning with a headache and felt too nauseous to be of much use the rest of the day. I actually went back to sleep after eating breakfast and didn't get up until almost 3pm.

Despite having a good excuse not to run, I was annoyed to miss out on a long run, especially since the race is in a month and I haven't been running as much as I should. Therefore I told myself that I will run Monday and Tuesday. No excuses.

I almost didn't make it out of the house to run on Monday out of laziness, but I forced myself. And as often happens, I actually ran farther than I had intended because it felt good. I ran from my house and planned to run down 4th Street and turning around at Rossmore then up to Beverly and back home through Larchmont. Instead I extended it by turning at Highland instead, adding about a 1.5 miles to what should have been a five mile run. I finished in less than an hour, kind of tired, but glad that I got a good run in.

On Tuesday I committed myself to running from work in downtown to West Hollywood for the GLU meeting. Per Google Maps it was about an 8.7 mile run. I thought it would be farther, but Google does not lie--at least I hope it doesn't.

I packed as minimally as possible, but even that was an annoyance. Running with a bag on my back just bothered me even though it was extremely light, containing only a clean shirt for later and my phone. By the time I got to Vermont I took the bag off and ran with it in my hand.

As for my course, I took 7th Street from downtown all the way until it gets blocked by the Ambassador Hotel at Catalina. From there I headed north on Catalina and turned left on 6th. From 6th I ran until the sidewalk was useless, which turned out to be at Oxford. I arrived at Oxford and 6th 40 minutes into my run, so basically if I ran from work to home, I would probably arrive no more than ten minutes later than if I had driven. And I probably would have arrived home faster running than by bus.

I headed north on Oxford and took the same route as the previous night--4th Street but instead of turning at Highland, I turned on La Brea and headed north to Fountain and from Fountain to my old street, Martel. All this in an hour and a half. Not bad.

The start of the run was difficult, having to dodge pedestrians in downtown and inhaling massive amounts of auto and bus exhaust as I ran down major streets. 4th Street was very pleasant with great neighborhood scenery.

During the run, I nearly got clipped by at least two cars, dodged a lot of cars pulling out of driveways without watching for pedestrians. Most drivers can't fathom the fact that there are people who actually use the sidewalks in L.A. The worst was tripping on the uneven sidewalk, though. Thankfully I didn't fall down.

I considered running back home after GLU, but with a mile left in my run I knew it would be a tall order. I was exhausted!

While running over fifteen miles over two nights doesn't equate to running fifteen miles at one time, I'm still proud of it. I'm really not in great shape, and I'm going to misss another weekend since I'll be up in Santa Barbara this weekend. I doubt I can get my ass in gear to run when I'm supposed to be relaxing. However, I'm still holding out hope that I can get myself together in the last couple of weeks before I start tapering. Tapering? Heck, that's what I've been doing all this time!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Laundry Service

Gentleman's Lozenge Socks, originally uploaded by adamknits.

I'm out of socks. I haven't done laundry in almost three weeks and I've exhausted my supply. I would prefer not to resort to the hole-y socks, so either I recycle some used socks or I do laundry soon. I can always just buy some socks at one of the shops on Broadway I pass by on my way to and from the subway, too, but in a few days I will also run out of underwear.

Monday, October 06, 2008

My Favorite Weekend

Having not read the paper version of the L.A. Times in months, I'm not sure if they are still running the "My Favorite Weekend" column on Thursdays. Who knows what changes Sam Zell has wreaked on the paper. But if it still is, my weekend should qualify for it. Even more impressive is the fact that it actually happened and wasn't just an imaginary weekend from some B-level celebrity. And even more impressive than that, it was relatively affordable. No over-priced sushi for me.

Saturday started with Sameer and me riding Metro to South Pasadena and from the Mission station we rode our bikes to San Gabriel for dim sum at New Capital. It was a great morning for riding--overcast and cool--and the streets were still lightly trafficked, even notoriously gridlocked Garfield.

We arrived on time for our 10:30 dim sum date with the GLU fellas. Being rather indifferent to dim sum in general, I can happily report that I thoroughly enjoyed my meal on Saturday. I gorged myself on everything--even chicken feet. I left the table thoroughly full. Afterwards Sameer was on a mission to cap off the meal with some dan taat, which weren't able to get at New Capital. No problem. We just went downstairs to a Chinese bakery and ordered three different kinds. The Portuguese-style was the best.

By the time Sameer and I hopped back on our bikes it had started to sprinkle lightly, but not bad enough to prevent us from going to our next destination: Galco's in Highland Park.

Oh, Galco's! I've been wanting to visit for a while now, and now that I have I will definitely come back over and over again. I don't even drink soda! Since I hadn't had my daily cup of coffee yet, I bought an espresso coffee cola, which basically tasted like iced coffee with some carbonation. I also bought a root beer, a dandelion and burdock soda, cream soda, and a pear soda. They are all chilling in my refrigerator.

Post-Galco's we biked back to South Pasadena to drop by FJ's house. He finally got to meet Sameer and we talked for a bit before we cycled back to the Gold Line station.

After a quick clean up, we hopped back on Metro and headed down to Long Beach on a mission to eat Cambodian food and maybe watch a movie, time permitting. Time didn't permit for the movie, but we did have some tasty Cambodian cuisine. The restaurant we were going to check out turned out to be closed for a wedding reception. We were told there was another restaurant a couple of blocks down. Sure enough that restaurant also was hosting a wedding reception. We went inside a market and asked the proprietors if they knew of any other restaurants. They scoffed at first, but the older lady did point us to a couple of restaurants in the other direction of Anaheim Street. Just four blocks down, we settled on New Paradise.

Without going into much detail, dinner was good and we were treated to some line dancing by other diners and musical performances. Afterwards, we got some after dinner coffee at the Library. After a long day, I got back home at 11:30 in time to catch "Saturday Night Live."

Sunday was slower-paced but still fun. I got up early and went for a 10 mile run with Katie. Great weather and we made great time, finishing the run in 1hr, 34 min. I went to hang out with my family before my parents left for the Philippines this Wednesday. This entailed more eating. We love shabu shabu, which became my only meal for the day. I ate so much, that there really wasn't room for anything else.

To close out the weekend, I went to see Liz Phair perform Exile in Guyville at the Troubadour with FJ and his friend Dave. Good, solid show. Liz didn't do much with the songs, no reinvention, but it was fine. She sounded great, too, which was a relief.

So, there you go. My favorite weekend: lots of eating, a concert, running, cycling and great company. What more could a guy want?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

09.21.2008: 15.3 Miles

Distance: 15.3 miles
Time: 2:29

It's no big miracle that FJ and I survived today's run. Between the two of us we either fell or rolled our ankles five times. It's been a few hours since and I'm glad I'm not too sore at all. I guess FJ and I just weren't used to the terrain beyond the Elmer Smith bridge. I slipped while crossing a small creek and rolled my right ankle as we approached another creek on the way back. FJ rolled his ankle a couple of times too. Thankfully none of our mishaps were too serious.

Apart from that, it was a good run. I really didn't feel like doing 15 miles at the beginning, but by the time we were wrapping it up we both felt strong enough to do another three miles. We both whined with about a mile and a half left but ultimately finished strong.

Hopefully this week I can get in more runs. I ran twice last week and the goal this week is three weeknight runs. These runs will be important in case I'm not able to run this coming weekend. I'm helping my parents move and this may prevent me from running.

With about two months before the San Antonio Rock N' Roll Marathon, I'm getting back into the swing of things. I'm not in the shape I want to be yet, but I'm at least off my ass and running.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Getting Older All the Time

Ready to Blow

On Monday I turned 32, which--to me--sounds old. 32. It's no longer the cusp--I'm well in to my 30's, but ask any thirtysomething and they'll tell you they don't feel their age. What is 32 supposed to feel like anyway?

Instead of getting older I seem mired in immaturity. I'm not settled down, although I am seeing someone great at the moment. No marriage any time soon, nor kids. Not for a long time.

Much of the reason I don't feel 32 is that I'm far from settled into a career. I'm still making a pittance compared to what bankers my age (at least until Monday) are making. I live in a studio apartment and I'm continuously counting pennies. I suppose I'm not alone in this boat, but when I was younger, I always thought 30 was an age where everything has been figured out and life was just a matter of getting up every day. Thankfully that's not the case. I get up and wonder what new adventure awaits me. There's something disappointing about not figuring everything out by now, but at the same time the possibilities and opportunities that open up are thrilling. Eventually I'll feel like an old man. Heck, I'm already being treated like one. I cringe whenever anyone calls me "sir," but I'm also delighted that some people out there don't realize I'm 32. Most think I'm younger. Yay!

As for my celebration this year, it was low-key. The date just snuck up on me, and I couldn't come up with something fun to do that was also easy to plan. I hate planning big events, so I settled on a casual soul food dinner at Larkin's in Eagle Rock. I had a great time and enjoyed the company and the food. I hope everyone did too.

I am also happy to say that my 33rd year is off to a great start.

The Whole Gang

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Raul Hasn't Been Running

Raul has been a lazy runner the last few weeks. I did run the San Francisco Half Marathon but with very minimal training, and I have been running with FJ, Andy and Katie on the weekends. This past weekend we ran 7 on Saturday and another 6 on Sunday, but even then my lack of training was evident. Those short runs wore me out. At the end of the Sunday run, Katie still had plenty of energy and I could barely keep up with her at the finish. In any event, I was hoping I would jump start my training this week. So far I've been unsuccessful.

In November I will be running a full marathon in San Antonio. I've been underperforming all year. No personal bests this year. I don't know what the conditions in San Antonio will be, but I am going to shoot for a 3:45. To do so, I will need to start putting in more miles and pushing my pace. With about 2.5 months left, I may have enough time to do so. I figure Mondays and Thursdays are good nights for running. I can probably squeeze in a short run either on Tuesday or Wednesday. Hopefully cooler weather will soon be upon us so I can't use the heat as an excuse. Knowing me, though, I'd likely use cold weather as an excuse too.

I, herefore, commit myself to training for the Inaugural San Antonio Rock N' Roll Marathon!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Race Report: 08.03.2008 - San Francisco Half Marathon

Distance: 13.1 miles
Time: 1:59:54
Pace: 9:09/mile
Place: 1578/6697
Men: 1067/2994
30-39: 395/1091

This marks my slowest half marathon ever. I figured I would have a hard time trying to run a personal best considering the lack of quality training, so I decided to take it easy and enjoy the run. I paced myself at around 9 minutes per mile. I brought my camera along to document the run, so I stopped often to snap a picture of the view, mostly the Golden Gate Bridge. I got some great shots but it made for a slow run.

The first half of the marathon traces a similar route as the Nike Women's Marathon. We started at the Embarcadero on Mission and ran along it up to the Presidio. It's a demanding course, lots of hills, and when on the bridge, strong wind gusts. Overall it was a fun run. The worst part was when I finished. I did not pack properly and neglected to pack a sweater. All I had was a thin windbreaker which was not enough to keep off the cold while I waited for Audrey to finish. Audrey finished in three hours, but with the staggered start, I was actually waiting for almost two hours. It gets cold, and I was hungry.

San Francisco is definitely a great place to run. I'm not enthused by the 5:30AM start time, but I suppose it's good that you finish early and can nap the rest of the day. I would consider doing the race again, maybe even the full.

In any event, here are samples of the pictures I snapped during the run. For the rest, check out my Flickr.

Awake at 4 in the Morning
4 in the morning. Getting ready for the race.

Embarcadero before the start.

A Little Closer
Approaching the Bridge.

View From Marin County
View of runners on the Bridge from the vista point on the Marin County side.

Me and Him
Running on the Bridge.

Hotties #6 and 7
Enjoying the view after the run.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Raul is Biking

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After much deliberation I finally bought a bike last night from Sameer's friend, Lauren. It's a cute bike, a Univega. I picked it up after work at Lauren's place in Echo Park and Sameer met me there so he can escort me to Hollywood for the GLU meeting. I think he was terrified I would get myself killed. It was only later in the evening that he revealed that he had packed medical supplies with him, gauzes, scissors, morphine. That's how much faith he had in me. Frankly, I didn't have much faith either. In the morning I made a point to find my Blue Shield card and stuff it in my wallet.

From Echo Park we took Sunset all the way to my old street, Martel. 6.2 miles according to Google. I did 10K in my first bike ride. The ride was fun and exciting. I tried to be vigilant the whole time and watch out for crazy drivers. I know there are horrible drivers out there, but to really get a sense of how bad some folks are, get on a bike and feel how dangerous it can be out there. Echo Park wasn't bad with its bike lanes, but once we got to Hollywood it got a little scarier. Actually the worst part of the ride for me was how bumpy it was. They really need to do something about those potholes.

It was exhilarating getting to our destination. I think I was just relieved to have made it in one piece. I was sweaty and thirsty, but I was alive.

We also rode back home to Koreatown and riding down 7th Street was fun. It was late at night and no cars. I need to get a frontlight, though.

Today my butt is a little sore, but I'm looking forward to getting on the bike again. Maybe next week I can start taking the bike to work.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

400th Post!

It's been a while since I've posted anything. I'd like to say that it's because I wanted something special for my 400th post, but really I've just been busy. Lots of changes! I started seeing someone, I moved and other things in life just kept me from posting, but I'll try to be better.

I haven't been running very much since San Diego, though. I'm out of shape. I ran a couple of weekends, but with a half marathon in three weeks, I'm not in the best shape. To get back into it, I went for a run last night around my new neighborhood. I mapped out a scenic five mile course that took me down Sixth Street to Rossmore. I continued on Rossmore to Beverly then to Larchmont. I then took 2nd Street all the way back home.

According to my watch it took me 43 minutes. Either I was fast or Google Maps is wrong in its calculation. Maybe it helped that I did stop halfway at Larchmont Village to buy a cupcake at the newly opened Crumbs Bakeshop. I ate half of it and took the other half home. Is eating a cupcake counterproductive during a run? Perhaps, but I won't make it a habit. Next time I'll map a course that takes me by Scoops Ice Cream.

When I got home I also bought two tacos al pastor from the taco truck in front of my apartment. How many of you have your own taco truck?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

When You Wake Up Feeling Old

It was odd. I've been using the same password at work for the last six months to log on to my work computer, but as soon as I sat in front of the computer today, I knew I had forgotten it. I recalled how it began but the numbers that comprised it just went away. I tried various combinations. I tried letting my fingers remember the key strokes. I tried listing the possible combinations. I even took a break and bought a cup of yogurt with granola and strawberries hoping that food will help me remember. The yogurt was delicious but it didn't help. I finally gave up and called our IT guy who was able to give me the password.

The sad thing was that I was nowhere close to the number. I was using three digits when it was actually four. What happened? It's a little scary, actually. Did I get bonked on the head? Was a section of my memory erased? Maybe I'm just getting old.

Monday, June 09, 2008

San Diego RNR Marathon Splits

When I posted my race report on last weekend's marathon, I neglected to include my splits. Here they are. Looking at them now they don't seem so bad. Apart from the last three miles, I maintained a strong pace. I wasn't slower than 11 minutes per mile. Note that I missed the split for the first mile, so the splits for mile 1 and 2 are an average. Most likely I ran mile 2 faster than the first.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Race Report: 06.01.2008 - San Diego Rock N Roll Marathon

Chip Time: 3:58:08
Pace: 9:05/mile
10K: 53:21
Half: 1:52:28
30K: 3:02:49

On my seventh marathon I learned that you should not disrespect the distance. I thought I had this marathon thing figured out and can go do it with ease. It was not the case. This marathon hurt. My experience, though, helped get me through it but I wound up running it eight minutes slower than last year's personal best. The marathon doesn't really get any easier. Afterwards I was hurting like it was my first race. Still, I did finish under four hours again, so it wasn't all bad.

A couple of things undid me last Sunday. First I didn't maintain my training the last couple of weeks. I ran twice in the last two weeks. As a result my legs and I felt sluggish the entire race. I also started off too fast and at mile 8 I knew I wouldn't be able to maintain the pace. I was already feeling tired by then. But I kept the pace longer than I expected, but perhaps if I only slowed down a little I might have staved off the cramping that occurred beginning at mile 18.

Mile 18 was the wall for me. Looking back at my splits I maintained a decent pace through mile 21 and then quickly faded. The cramping was tough. It started with my left calf, followed by the right, followed by the muscle just above my right knee. By the finish even my groin was cramping. It was awful. I imagined I looked like Igor as I dragged my legs in the last few miles.

The weather was also a factor. Even with the early morning cloud cover, the temperature wasn't cool. By mile 14 the haze burned off and the sun just sapped my energy. Last year I finished the race without the sun peaking through the clouds. I had to pour water over my head several times to keep cool.

So, no PR, but I doubted I would do it anyway. Still I was hoping for a time closer to it, but I'll take the sub four as a consolation prize.

On the upside, my pictures are up and they're not bad. Perhaps one of my better races picture-wise. Maybe it's the sunshine. At least it did some good after all.

Glad It's Over

Mid Race
Somewhere in the middle

Crossing the finish line.

Other photos can be seen here.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

1 Day Until San Diego

I'm still at home. I haven't packed, I haven't showered, but I have eaten a nice bowl of oatmeal to ensure regularity tomorrow. I'll hopefully jump in the shower in a few minutes, throw some clothes in a bag and drive off to San Diego.

The BioBlitz last night was fun if only for the fact that I got to be out in nature in the dark of night. It was almost too quiet at Topanga State Park. I guess I'm too accustomed to city life. As for the bugs, we didn't really catch anything too interesting. Mostly moths, but we did catch some interesting crickets, a katydid, and a wind scorpion. We also saw a huge frog as we we were walking. Two hours in I began to worry that I've been on my feet for too long, but I think I should be rested enough for tomorrow's race. I slept about eight hours last night, which is a lot for me.

I haven't given the race a lot of thought. No special race plan apart from what I've done before. I'm just going to keep an eye on my pace and see how I feel. I'll attempt to keep to an 8:30 pace, which will get me to around 3:43 if successful. This race can really go any way tomorrow and I'm not really confident about which way it will go. It could be good, it could be bad. If it goes bad, I'll just try to enjoy it as much as I can.

Wish me luck!

Friday, May 30, 2008

2 Days Until San Diego!

I had hoped to get in two more runs this week before the marathon, but that didn't turn out so well. Going into Sunday's race, my last run was Monday. In the two weeks leading into the race, I've run twice for a total of 14 miles. Not the best way to head into a marathon. I suppose I needed to lay off my feet anyway with my IT band issues. We shall see how it holds up.

If that wasn't enough, I'm also not preparing for this race very well. Tonight, when I should be trying to get plenty of sleep, I'll be traipsing around Topanga State Park counting grasshoppers as part of National Geographic's BioBlitz. It sounded like fun, so I couldn't very well turn it down. Thankfully we'll be done by midnight. My bedtime tends to be 1 or 2am anyway. I plan on sleeping in until 10, and head off for the drive to San Diego.

I had planned to stay two nights in San Diego, but I changed that to one. I'll drive back after the race. I hope I don't regret that decision!

When I get back I'll probably be craving steak, lots of sleep and a good massage.

Goal time: 3:45

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

5 Days Until San Diego

I finally signed up for the marathon on Sunday. The prices went up yesterday, so I saved a grand total of $9.05. Woo hoo!

Over the weekend I ran twice but erased any benefits by eating and drinking a lot. On Saturday FJ, Rachel, Andy and I ran eight miles, and then yesterday I ran with FJ for another six. While the runs went well, I unfortunately continue to feel a little something that I think might be my IT band. It's not painful but it's irritating, and I wonder how it will hold up over 26.2 miles. Eight and six were fine and doable with it, but I think it will be an issue over a longer distance. I'll take it a little easy this week.

FJ asked me if I was excited, but I think I stopped being "excited" over marathons a couple of races ago. The adrenaline rush still comes when I start, but the days leading up to it aren't as nerve-wracking or anxiety-ridden as they used to be. I've become a little jaded now.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Save the Taco Truck, Save L.A.?

Taco Truck 1 am, originally uploaded by janelbot.

I checked out Zocalo's panel discussion on taco trucks called "Remember the Taco Truck!" at the L.A. Theatre Center last night. It was all last minute since I didn't find out until half an hour before. Thankfully I wasn't too far from the theater. L.A. Weekly food critic, Jonathan Gold, was part of the panel, as well as Chris Rutherford, one of the guys spearheading the online petition to save the taco trucks. Chris and I went to graduate school together and it was great to catch up with him afterwards and reminisce about the film class we took together--a class with only four students that we took turns teaching.

The panel was admittedly one-sided. Everyone there was in favor of taco trucks, although Barry Glassner was a voice of reason. He viewed the current ordinance as preposterous but believes the ordinance is seeking to address legitimate concerns. But everyone agreed that the one hour restriction is preposterous, not to mention the fine and six-month jail time truck operators might face. Hopefully a compromise can be reached, perhaps one that requires a truck not to park within 500 feet of another restaurant.

I think the discussion could have been better moderated as the moderator tended to draw attention to himself rather than keep the dialogue going. It was basically a taco truck love-in. Maybe everyone just loves taco trucks.

After the panel discussion a reception took place in front of the theater where a taco truck, Gorditas Lupita's, was parked and served complimentary food. I had the torta al pastor with a bottle of Jarritos. Ironically, a cop came by near the end of the reception and ordered them to move the truck. It was a beautiful scene as we all stood on the sidewalk with our food and clapped and waved as the truck packed up and drove off.

I don't eat at taco trucks very often, but I have never had a bad experience. The food is always great. I agree with the panelists that the taco truck helps create a street scene that is sorely lacking in LA. There are few places I can think of where people congregate with the various types of people who inhabit LA and the taco truck do just that. Concerns about safety is silly too. I've eaten at taco trucks in neighborhoods I would be scared of walking around in, but under the lights of a parking lot with dozens of people surrounding a taco turck, there is no safer place to be.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Losing Night

Are You A Loser?, originally uploaded by splorp.

It was an evening of losses last night.

Our trivia team lost another hard fought battle at Casey's. Last week we were firmly in the lead but wagered badly on the final question we got right and landed in second. Last night was closer. We were tied for third but only five points behind the first place team. We were sure we had learned our lesson last week, but once again we wagered conservatively on the final question, which we again correctly answered. We still wouldn't have won had we bet the maximum 20 points, but we would have been in second. Instead we finished in a tie for third and lost the tiebreaker, so we didn't get a prize.

I'm more beat up about the loss last week because we should have won that. We were kicking ass last week. Last night was a satisfying defeat because most of the answers didn't come easy but we thought the questions out, and more often than not, we got it right. We earned those points. I screwed up on a question about tennis: "Who defeated Boris Becker in the 1988 and 1990 Wimbledon championship but lost to Becker in 1989?" My first instinct was "Stefan Edberg" but then I started doubting myself and wrote down "Mats Wilander." Aaarghh. Whatever. It was another strong showing, though, and I'm sure it's just a matter of time until we win the evening outright.

After trivia I was on a mission to get fried chicken from Bon Chon in Koreatown. Franklin Avenue wrote about it and as a fan of fried food I had to try it. I think I circled for half an hour and could not find parking. My bladder was just about full, so I decided to save the chicken for another night.

At home I settled in to watch "American Idol" on DVR. My pick, David Archuleta, lost in a landslide to David Cook. My DVR actually cut out just as Ryan was saying, "The winner is David..." Had I not already looked up who won, I would have been pissed. The finale itself was actually very satisfying. Cook may have won, but Michael Johns stole the show. He was great, especially his duet with Carly Smithson on "The Letter." He should have been the American Idol. Of all the contestants I think I'm more likely to buy a Michael Johns album.

To cap it off, I watched "Top Chef." I wasn't so much bummed that Dale was eliminated as I was that Lisa survived yet another round. What a sucky way to end an evening.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

05.20.2008 - AI Review

David Cook

1) "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" - Why take such a rousing song and take away the rouse? He was being given an opportunity to blow the roof and instead takes away the best thing about the song and turns it into a mopey and, at times, screechy version.

2) "Dream Big" - He sang this well, but the song itself is awful. It sounded like something from the '80's. It's the kind of song you expect to hear in some 1980s movie about a group of misfit high schoolers who enter an academic decathlon even though most of them are illiterate. They perservere, however, and in the days leading up to the competition they study their nuts off. "Dream Big" would play over the montage as the kids study all over the place--at the library, a basketball court, at a grocery store, at a carwash, at the toilet. I can see it. Will they pass? What makes the song worse is that it tries to hide its treacle in a bouncy pop melody, but there's no hiding the cheesy lyrics. It's schlock.

3) "The World I Know" - Every rock star knows you don't end on a whimper, but whimper David Cook does here. He takes an already downbeat song and slows it down to a crawl. He sounds good, as usual, but it makes me fear based on his song choices that he'll be a vaguely Christian empowerment rocker. I tremble at the idea.

David Archuleta

1) "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me" - His best performance of the night, and perhaps the whole competition. He threw himself into the performance and I actually got goosebumps. The best moment, surprisingly, is when he struggles for a note because he's just singing from the gut. If anything it gives me hope that he'll move beyond the robotic element of his performing style.

2) "In This Moment" - Like Cook's song its message is pure cheese, but it embraces the cheese. Lesson: embrace the cheese. The song fit the Archuleta model for the season and he sang it well, but it's easily the most dismissible of his performances.

3) "Imagine" - The second time of anything is never as good. I was hoping he would add more to the song, but I think I was more riveted the first time he sang this. Like his other performances tonight, he was on point though.

Archuleta takes the evening, and he would be my choice to win. However, I think the winner will be David Cook.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Piazza, [L.A.] Catcher Retires

Mike Piazza is retiring from baseball, which is enough to make me feel old, but couple that with the fact that he played 16 seasons and it makes me realize exactly how old I am. I remember when he started playing! Can it really be that long ago?

So long, Piazza, Dodger catcher. I guess we'll never know if you are straight or if you are gay.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Trivial Pursuit

Guinness @ Fado in Seattle, originally uploaded by Kell Bailey.

Oh, the heartbreak!

I recently started attending trivia night at Casey's Irish Bar & Grill in downtown with Davey and his friend, Brian. They have been going regularly but last night was my second time. Last week, my first, we finished dead last, and being the competitive guy I am I was looking forward to redeeming ourselves this week.

We got off to a great start last week, getting 24 out of 24 points in the first round, but then we fell apart the next round. We bounced back, though, but in the end we wagered the full 20 points and got the last question wrong, putting us dead last. No guts, no glory.

Last night we once again swept the first round. and it looked like we were once again going to tank the second round. We got the first two questions wrong but we wagered the lowest points possible. After that, we were on a roll. We missed a couple more questions wrong, but we were in the top 3 for all four rounds. In fact, at the end of round 4 heading into the final question, we were in first--ahead of the second place team by 11 points.

For the final question we could bet between 2 and 20 points. If we get the answer wrong we lose half of what we bet. The question: What port did the Mayflower depart from?

None of us knew the answer, but Davey had a great guess. Plymouth. Since we weren't sure we only bet 2 points hoping that the others also got it wrong.

Sometimes the song the quizmaster plays while we're answering is a clue. If we had paid attention we would have realized that the song for that questions was: Maxine Nightingale's "Right Back Where We Started From." As it turned out, a bunch of teams got it right too, but they wagered big. We managed to finish second, but another team leapfrogged over us. The agony!

We won bar bucks, though, and I have a feeling we're going to soon dominate. I can feel it! Chalk this one up to a lesson learned. Next time!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

05.13.2008 - AI Review

Everyone was bad tonight. I think David Cook was more consistent but not in a great way. He was passable but made no mistakes. "I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing" was shrieky, I thought, and he was off pitch on "Dare You To Move." But of the three contestants he was the one who stayed on message and didn't doubt who he was. However, I thought David Archuleta's "And So It Goes" was the best single performance of the night. Too bad "With You" was awkward, but I give him props for trying to do something different.

1. David Cook
2. David Archuleta
3. Syesha Mercado

Sunday, May 11, 2008

05.10.2008: 20 Miles

Distance: 20 miles (or according to Andy's Garmin, 19.51)
Time: 3:33
Where: South Pasadena to Elmer Smith Bridge and back!

For our 20 miler, we did something different. We ran the same course we always do, but this time we met up at FJ's house in South Pasadena and started our trek there. It's just about 10 miles from FJ's house to our turnaround point at Elmer Smith Bridge, but even though it's the same course, the slight change made for a whole different experience. With the help of perfect weather, I would say that yesterday's 20 miler was my best 20 miler ever. My 20 milers are usually tough slogs, but this one was, dare I say, easy. I could be jinxing myself. A great 20 miler might turn into a bad marathon in three weeks. I hope not.

One big difference about yesterday's run is that it eliminates the psychological hurdle of having to cross the "finish line" more than once and having to double back on yourself. Had we started at our usual spot at Lot K, we would have to run south along the arroyo to the York Blvd. exit by the 110 then run back to where we started, head north, run a switchback, then get back on the course, run up the hill to JPL and to Elmer Smith and then head back. It's essentially the same run, but with our course yesterday it was simplified. We ran out and back. None of the mental hurdle of having to run back to where you started twice.

I was actually surprised that our finish time was as slow as it was. I felt great. I had none of the soreness and side stitches I suffered last week. I think the slow time is due to the extended stops we made to talk to friends we encountered. Our time is probably closer to 3:20.

Another great thing about the new course is getting to collapse on FJ's front lawn at the finish. Andy and I sat there for a few minutes. I swear we got some suspicious stares from FJ's neighbors as they drove by.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

05.06.2008 - AI Review

1. David Archuleta - This was his best night in a long while. I'm not sure I liked that he included a little bit of Sean Kingston's abominal "Beautiful Girls" in his performance of "Stand By Me," but I guess he was trying to prove that he's hip with what the kids his age are listening to. On both songs, he sounded great and connected with the lyrics. I've always found his voice interesting and rich, and tonight it was again both those things.

2. Syesha Mercado
- Syesha sounded very good, but unfortunately her song choices pointed out a flaw. In choosing two soul classics, she highlights the fact that she lacks soul. She tends to beautify her renditions and the same was true tonight. It sounded good, but it lacked the urgency of those classics. She proved that she can sing well, but she also proved that there's very little soul in the package.

3. David Cook
- His version of Duran Duran's "Hungry Like the Wolf" was a miss, but I almost think the band and/or the sound was to blame. His vocals were too much in the foreground and overwhelmed the music. Even if the mix was right, though, it still sounded like karaoke. As for "Baba O'Riley," the beginning demonstrated Cook's best vocal feature, a slow-burning growl. He lost me, though, when he got to the rock n'roll part of the song. It also didn't help matters that the song was truncated. It's a damn long song with an extended instrumental section that makes the song, but we don't get any of that. He chose the songs, though.

4. Jason Castro
- Awful. Awful. Awful. Not only that but his attitude made it seem like a big joke. For a sincere, singer-songwriter type, he seems to take everything as a lighthearted joke. "I Shot the Sheriff" was toothless and "Mr. Tambourine Man" was horrible. His vocals may be more understandable than Bob Dylan's bleating, but what Dylan lacked in vocal prowess he made up for in intense feeling. Castro seemed more preoccupied with finding the best place to make his voice crack so that the teenage girls would think it was cute and sincere than actually understanding the songs. I hope he goes tomorrow.

Monday, May 05, 2008

05.04.2008 - 18 Miles

Distance: 18 miles
Time: 2:49:15
Where: Rose Bowl

It probably wasn't ideal to run 18 miles a day after running a strenuous, hilly 6.2 miles. It's ill-advised, to say the least. But I did it and I felt it early on. Rachel ran the first half with me and we were both complaining of feeling stiff, her from having not run much as of late and me from the day before. Three miles in and I was still not loosened up. We wound up running the nine miles in 1:27, though, even with a couple of extended walk breaks.

The weather was suited for my 18. Katie said she might run the second half with me, but she probably couldn't find a babysitter because she was nowhere in sight when Rachel and I made it back. I ran the second half on my own, and with the weather being fine--overcast and cool--I made good time. I was telling myself that I can abandon the 18 miler and do 16 instead when my legs can't handle it any more. My longest run so far was 13 miles, so adding five miles was a big step, but I persevered and went all the way. It didn't feel good, though. On the way back from the horse stables, with about four miles left to go, my tired, sore legs were having a tough time of it. However, the legs weren't the biggest issue. Even though they felt heavy I could move very well. The big problem was the side stitch that had developed early in the second half. It didn't bother me at first, but on the way back it became an aggravation, enough for me to slow down.

I ran the last 4 miles slower, running at a 10 minute pace most likely. If I am to do San Diego next month, I ought to run my 20 miler this weekend. We'll see if that is in the cards.

6.2 miles + 18 miles = 24.2 miles this weekend. None too shabby.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Out Run

I've been wanting to run with Frontrunners on their Saturday morning runs at Griffith Park, but since I'm usually running in Pasadena on those days, I haven't had a chance. I finally made it there today, though. I had done the Frontrunners Fun Run in Santa Monica on Wednesday evenings but I haven't made it there in months. On those runs I was one of the faster runners and I thought I'd be able to hold my own with the big group. Boy, was I wrong.

Actually I held my own, but I just happened to run with some impressively strong and fast runners. Anyone who thinks gays aren't athletic and run funny need to check these guys out. I got my ass handed to me. Since I don't know the trails around Griffith Park all that well, I stuck with a group. It would be a disaster if I got lost. They decided to run a course today they referred to as "7 Hills." I figured seven is doable. I got too competitive, though, and tried to keep up with the others. I started huffing and puffing by the fourth hill--and I swear there were more than seven hills. Almost as bad were the steep downhills. The others were racing down it but I slowed down because I have a fear of tripping and rolling down. That would be embarrassing.

I thought I was fast, but I had nothing on these guys. Maybe after a few more runs I can master this course, but this was tough. I thought I was going to poop my shorts. I was told the course we ran was 6.2 miles but with all the hills I felt like I ran 10. I'm not sure what my time is, but it was definitely a good workout. I don't know what I have left for tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

04.29.2008 - AI Review

I won't even go into detail about the debacle that was last night's show. From Paula's goof to the uninspired performances, last night's show was a disappointment, and I'm not blaming Neil Diamond. He and his songs rock. The Idols should have been able to do more with those songs, but either they were daunted by having to do two songs or their energies are flagging. Regardless, they need to do better.

I will rank the Idols in order of overall performance.

1. Syesha Mercado - She's #1 but I really thought she was going to be better than she was. Like the other Idols, she sounded much better performing in front of Neil Diamond than the actual show. Still, she's stepping it up. I think Simon's warning about her being in trouble is to encourage her fans to vote. I think he really wants her to stay longer.

2. David Cook - Yes, he's consistent but I don't get the praise of originality. There's nothing original about his performances. They're all Nickelback-ed renditions. Original for "Idol" maybe but in the bigger scheme of things it's the same treacle that you hear on the radio. I actually disliked the arrangements to the songs last night.

3. David Archuleta - I liked the arrangements of the songs but I didn't like the execution. There should have been more teenage exuberance on "Sweet Caroline." That was a song he should have hit out of the park. I also heard his voice squeak a couple of times, but I still believe in this kid. He needs polishing and a few more years of living before he can become an interesting singer.

4. Jason Cook
- I liked his low register on "Forever in Blue Jeans" but then he shifted to his moaning voice, which I now realize turns me off. It's the sound of someone trying too hard to seduce the panties off a girl. He probably should have taken lessons from Michael Johns about how to really do it, but unfortunately Johns left too soon. "September Morn" was just a snoozer.

5. Brooke White - She's back to her annoying habit of cutting off the judges before they can criticize her. She points out the bum note at the end of "I Am I Said." "I'm A Believer" was fake joy. No amount of smiling while performing can hide the insecurity that permeates through her performance. At least it wasn't as creepy as when she smiled her way through "You Must Love Me" last week.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

04.22.2008 - AI Review

1. Syesha Mercado - Her best performance. She exuded confidence and charisma, something she hasn't done the last few weeks.

2. Carly Smithson
- She could have done more on the chorus. The verses was where she shined, but she did a terrific job. She's got great stage presence too.

3. David Archuleta - The most radio-friendly of the performances tonight, but I doubt any radio station would be playing it. It sounded like something on Radio Disney, which I guess would be a station that would play it. With that said, he sang it well and made the song work to his strengths.

4. David Cook
- He sang it well but it was drained of any real charisma. The need to hit notes seemed to preoccupy him. I've heard this song performed just like this many times and while it does it justice, it is hardly memorable.

5. Brooke White - I didn't mind the do-over so much, but as Simon pointed out, it made her tense. She's a trooper for getting through it, but it was like cheering on a third grader at a Spelling Bee.

6. Jason Castro
- Bad song choice. What made him think he could sing this? The song didn't work as a simplified song. It's all about the big emotional end, which he stripped off. It almost sounded like he was trying to do "Hallelujah" again but this time the Rufus Wainwright version. I cringed throughout.

By the way, I'm in New York today. Check out this picture. Craziness!

LA Cafe Held Hostage By Film Crew

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day

Mile 11

Today is Earth Day and to celebrate I'm going to leave my car at home. I'm taking the subway today, including a trip to Pasadena after work. Wish me luck!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Tift Merritt Interview for LAist

I've written another piece for LAist. This time it's an interview with Tift Merritt. I interviewed her over the phone on Sunday during "60 Minutes." I don't like talking on the phone as it is, so interviewing her on the phone was a bit tough. My note taking skills aren't the best and I had a hard time hearing her and her me since she was at a venue gearing up for a show. I'm going to see her show tonight.

Tift Merritt Interview

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

04.15.2008 - AI Review

1. David Cook - It was a terrific arrangement with OK vocals. The strings were the best thing about it. Like last week he went with his lower register, and while not as shaky, it is not the best use of his voice. He sounds best when on full rock mode.

2. Carly Smithson
- I'd disagree with Randy and say that I liked the beginning more than I did the shrieking. She was trying too hard to reach those Mariah notes and she couldn't. Too many bottom 3 placements has shaken her confidence and she's second-guessing herself. She should stick to her instincts and not try to figure out what the audience wants.

3. Jason Castro - Castro needs to stop with the falsetto. It failed him on "Hallelujah" and it failed him again in the beginning of the song. Thankfully the song turned out to be quite pleasant and true to his self.

4. David Archuleta - He hit some flat notes and the falsetto also failed him, but overall a good effort from the kid. This is his comfort zone but he needs to show versatility. The song that really made me a believer was actually the only upbeat song I remember him singing, "Shop Around."

5. Syesha Mercado - Pretty voice but tries too hard to be so. She does pick difficult songs to sing but whether she succeeds is a matter of debate. It's not that she has no personality, it's that it gets overshadowed by too much strain and effort showing. Her best moment was in Hollywood Week when confronted with losing her voice, she delivered a gutsy performance.

6. Brooke White - Having her sixth seems weird because I actually didn't dislike her performance. It was good, but just not particularly memorable. A little on the dull side but it didn't make me cringe.

7. Kristy Lee Cook
- Also not bad, but just merely passable. She has improved, though, from her awful early performances. I still don't think she should be here.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

AI Review - 04.08.08

1. Jason Castro - He stuck to the arrangement but was not a slave to it. He avoided mimicry and imbued the performance with something of himself. Comparatively it wasn't as good as the original, but it was unique enough to be appreciated on its own terms. The producers seem to have learned their lesson from the Chris Cornell issue and allowed Jason to thoroughly credit the the original.

2. Kristy Lee Cook - Wait, I really have her in second? Yikes! I guess it points out the uneven nature of tonight's show. Truthfully, she was at her best tonight. I'd also give her credit as being the savviest contestant left. She knows how to play to her audience and pick songs. I'd say she has been improving the last couple of weeks.

3. David Archuleta -Archuleta probably isn't as comfortable playing and singing as the others and it showed. He seemed a little unfocused at times, but he picked a great song and sang it effectively and well.

4. Syesha Mercado - She's no Fantasia. I agree with Simon's assessment. She sang it technically well but there wasn't the rich emotion that made Fantasia's performance so galvanizing. Lack of emotion has actually been a problem for her all season. There's not doubt she can sing but the substance is lacking. That high note was flat too.

5. Brooke White - Pretty performance but dull. I like her as a singer, and she performs the songs admirably, but in a competition like this they need to also be memorable. I don't think I remember anything about her rendition tonight.

6. Michael Johns - That falsetto in the end diminished an otherwise good performance. I agree with the judges that as much as he wants to be a rock guy, he really isn't interesting as one. He's more interesting as the bluesy, seductive singer of last week. I'm still in heat from that one.

7. Carly Smithson - She was out of control--and that's not good. What I love about her every week is how in control of her voice she is, but this week the song got the better of her. Flat notes, lackluster singing, and it sounded unwieldy. She might be in trouble.

8. David Cook - Just a big old mess. What was up with that beginning? The shift in the beginning from low-voiced spoken word to full-on rock voice was jarring. The whole performance seemed off and all over the place. He looked great, channeling a little bit of Chris Martin complete with a message painted on his hand. I'd almost agree with Simon that it was a little pompous, but I blame it on the song. Bad, awful song.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

It's Definitely Alright

I guess I've been smitten by Michael Johns's performance of "It's All Wrong, But It's Alright" on "American Idol" because I've rewatched the performance a few times now. I'm even contemplating actually buying it on iTunes. I still think he's older than he claims, but it certainly helped the performance. He's the only "Idol" contestant who can sing the line "Tell me sexy, lovin' lies" and not sound ridiculous. It actually sounded, well, sexy. Ultimately it might be too much grown-up sex appeal for "Idol's" main audience, but for a grown-up like myself that was definitely a treat. I might just be a puddle if he ever sings something like "Let's Get It On."

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Here I Go Again

I posted another piece on LAist. Hopefully I'll continue to be somewhat productive over there. This piece is an interview with the Morales brothers from the terrific local band, Astra Heights. Check it out.

AI Review - 04.01.2008

1. Michael Johns - Now this is the performance from him I've been waiting for. Well-rounded, mature, and just utterly soulful. One of the standout performances of the season.

2. David Archuleta - He seems to have regained his confidence and plugged into the song. It's my favorite performance of his this season.

3. Carly Smithson - Again she displays amazing control of her voice. She and Michael are showing how age can endow a singer with great emotional depth.

4. Syesha Mercado - The two-for-one performance didn't bother me, especially since she pulled off both successfully, if a bit restrained.

5. David Cook - An original arrangement, but not a very good one. His vocals here, though, remain strong and I appreciated that he saw the value in simplicity.

6. Brooke White - It's unfair to have to rank her since she doesn't have the powerhouse vocals of the others, but Brooke would probably be closer to the kind of singer I would like. I have a feeling she would be an interesting performing artist outside of "Idol."

7. Jason Castro - I look at this guy and I see boy band. He'd be the rebellious one in the group, the guy with the whacked out hair, but as his vocals prove, he's really a puppy dog. His performance of "Travelin' Thru" does nothing to enhance his persona, as this is yet another in an increasingly long line of laidback performances in the vein of Jack Johnson. The song was cleanly delivered and he has a pleasant voice, but I don't hear anything interesting here.

8. Kristy Lee Cook - Yes, another pleasant but forgettable performance. No personality whatsoever.

9. Ramiele Malubay - Lacks the concentration to sing a song through. It seems like she gets bored 2/3 of the way through a song, as she did again tonight. I doubt she thinks about what she's singing, but instead focuses on making herself sound pretty. Surprisingly, this was better than her last two performances, but that's not saying a lot.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

LAist Piece

Check out the piece I wrote about Team in Training for the blog LAist.

AI Review - 03.25.2008

1. David C - Ha! I called it this afternoon. Based on his tendency for picking "interesting" rock covers, I knew he would do the Chris Cornell version. To his credit, he performed it very well, and also to his credit, he's smart in finding versions that make him seem original and different. I call b.s. on the "brave" comment. There was nothing brave about it when another artist already did it exceedingly well.

However, I just see him as another Daughtry, another uninteresting rocker in the Nickelback vein. Maybe he'll prove me wrong when he writes his own stuff, but the last thing I want to hear is another Nickelback or Buckcherry or Daughtry or Creed or 3 Doors Down or Matchbox 20 and so on.

2. Michael - Welcome back! Of all the men, he's the one most willing to test the boundaries of his vocals. He repeatedly picks songs that are tough and challenging. He hit some bumps tonight, but it was 99% on.

3. Brooke - Hers is a thoughtful way of singing, somewhat brooding. The problem with last week was she was trying to be Miss Sunshine. The judges were right about the shift in the song, but it was nitpicking.

4. Syesha - I think she ran out of breath in the end, but she's someone who can be easily improved with slight touches in the recording process. It was confidently delivered.

5. Carly - She was no match for the song--and Bonnie Tyler. It was the first time it felt like she lost control of her voice. Shaky.

6. David A. - Awful song choice. He's proven that he can sing and he sang well again tonight, but this was an awful, awful song choice. Cheesy. He needs to demonstrate his pop chops.

7. Chikezie - Boring. There's a radio station in LA that plays songs like this in the evenings. Growing up we would listen to it so we'd fall asleep. I almost did listening to Chikezie. He may have found an unexpected panache for country music, so I suggest he go back to it.

8. Ramiele - Her voice is weak during quiet passages, but she gets by on yelling. Randy is right about pitch issues during the song, but I'll give her a pass for being sick. Had she been better, though, I doubt it would have been any better.

9. Jason - Completely forgettable. Even Adam Duritz knows to rock it hard once in a while. I think I've had my fill ever since "Hallelujah."

10. Kristy - She actually has a pretty voice and this was her best performance, but at the same time it made me cringe. She's a vacant vocalist. However, she might be very savvy. She might have just earned all of the Red States tonight with that song.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

AI Review - 03.18.2008

1. David Archuleta - Still not his best performance, but it's the winner in a weak night. Technically proficient and on point, with a startling maturity. He avoids the foolish tendency of others to embellish and overdo a song. He certainly does best on the power ballads and still has to prove his versatility.

2. David Cook - Might have been first if it wasn't for the ill-conceived vocoder and the increasingly off-putting smugness.

3. Michael Johns - He overreached. "A Day in the Life" is a tough song to sing and he sounded winded by the end. I appreciated his maturity during the criticism. He didn't speak and just took it all in. He also avoided milking the sentimental factor of his song choice and only revealed it when prodded by Ryan. A very mature guy in more ways than one.

4. Carly Smithson - She again demonstrates amazing control in her voice.

5. Syesha Mercado - An overcooked performance that tested the limits of her voice. The emotions were too much on the surface. It sounded pretty, though.

6. Brooke White
- A very disappointing, awkward performance this week after the exquisiteness of last week. The goofy dancing and the desperate attempt to punch up the song's energy level hurt more than helped. The nervous, passive-aggresive attempt at justifying her failings tonight was a little annoying.

7. Ramiele Malubay - She certainly gave it her best, and for the most part she sounded fine. Her forte is in big ballads and her song choice this week showed the failings of her vocals when forced to add energy and fun to her performance.

8. Jason Castro - Dull and amateurish. The goofiness may be endearing but this week it just made it seem like he was unprepared and was just screwing around tonight. He gets bonus points for pointing out the "nails-on-chalkboard" moment during "Hallelujah."

9. Amanda Overmyer - She was singing ahead of the song. She's pretty much a one-trick pony and her personality adds to her unlikability. She could have an interesting voice. As of now she's getting by on the benefits of smoking two packs a day.

10. Chikezie - The first part was dull but sounded fine, then all of a sudden he started singing a different song. He must have gotten carried away after the praise last week, and instead he winds up with a baffling performance.

11. Kristy Lee Cook - She ruined one of my favorite songs. She hit the notes but this was a vacant lifeless performance. What a strange arrangement too.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

03.15.2008 - 7 Miles

Distance: 7 miles approx.
Time: 1:04
Where: Rose Bowl (south side)

After a flurry of e-mails and texts and concern over the fact that the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure will be taking place at the Rose Bowl on Saturday morning, I wound up doing the run by myself. I had to be there any way for my swim lessons, but I could have slept in. Ultimately I'm glad I ran because Sunday turned out to be a very, very lazy day. I haven't left my apartment all day. Is there even a world outside my studio?

The run went well even if I wasn't feeling it for the first two miles. By the time I hit the horse stables I was warmed up. As I ran past the baseball fields I tried to keep an eye out for FJ since he was going to be there for his kids' Little League games. It turned out he was the one who spotted me. Trying to spot him amongst the other Dads was a tougher task than I expected.

I hadn't run anything more than four miles since the marathon, so I was a little rusty. I was a little tired by mile four but I still had enough energy to finish strongly but the legs felt heavy and tired.

Right after I went for my last swim lesson at the Aquatics Center. In three lessons I've made some progress. I'm more confident about my breathing and my form has improved. I even made it from one end of the pool to the other a few times. 25 meters in one try! Now if I can only do that 32 more times straight I might be able to do a sprint triathlon.

We also worked on treading water (egg beaters) but that still needs practice. I think once I've got that figured out, I'd feel more confident about going into the deep end. I'm not yet a swimmer, but I'm working on it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

AI Review

1. Brooke White - She doesn't have the most conventional voice for a female Idol, but she knows how to wield it. She wasn't just covering a Beatles song, she was interpreting it.

2. Chikezie - He surprised me. He has been dull so far, but this was a breakout, joyous performance.

3. Carly - She's a pro and it shows. Just a very solid singer in full control of her voice.

4. David Cook - He's growing confident with a second straight strong performance, but I have a feeling he'll cross over into cockiness in no time. Leave the microphone stand alone. It can stand by itself.

5. Michael Johns - The judges expect a lot from him. He was shaky in the beginning, but he had a strong moment in the middle.

6. Amanda Overmyer - Surprisingly good. Her voice verges on screechy, but it was under control tonight.

7. Syesha - Weak beginning, but it settled in the middle and through the end. Not memorable, though.

8. Jason Castro - He's dull. Pretty enough voice but being given too much credit. He's essentially the Jack Johnson of this group. Good enough, but tiresome in its mellowness.

9. Ramiele - Dull tonight. Perhaps listening to too much Filipino pop music as it shows in her [i]maarte[/i] vocals.

10. David Archuleta - I love the kid, but he had a rough night tonight. Nerves got the best of him and stumbled. Apart from that he was actually decent, but this wasn't his best moment.

11. Kristy Lee Cook - I thought her vocals were OK. I blame the band and the arrangement. It went extreme. Even if the band had been better, there's no disguising her forgettable voice.

12. David Hernandez - Not playing up to his strengths. I was tired of it within the first few seconds.

I rarely call in to vote, but tonight, I felt so bad for David A. that I actually called in a couple--alright, a few--times tonight for him, and I'm sure quite a few others did too. Anyone who doesn't like him must hate puppies.

New York Times Wedding Announcement of the Week

It's not every bride who can claim their father-in-law is the Greatest Actor of His Generation.

Claudine DeMatos and Raphael De Niro

It always bothers me when the NY Times tries to explain too much who the famous parent is. All they really have to say is "actor" "Robert De Niro" and "Raging Bull" and everyone ought to know who he is. Instead they lay on a bunch of credits. It's De Niro!

Girls Are Having Too Much Fun

Now my suspicions about teenage girls have been validated.

"One in Four Teenage Girls Have STD's, Study Finds"

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Not Drowning But Swimming...

Little swimmer, originally uploaded by capitan-patata.

Some time next year, I think, I will be competing in my first triathlon. That's the goal at least. To work towards it I've started taking swimming lessons at the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center. Yesterday was my second class and it went better than my first.

I kind of know how to swim, but not very efficiently. My legs keep dragging and I'm winded after only ten meters. Needless to say I'm not taking to swimming as quickly and as well as I did to running. Swimming requires more coordination than I'm capable of, the leg movements, the strokes, the breathing, it's all too much for me at times. With some regular practice, though, I can see myself becoming a decent swimmer by the end of the year. To that end Jane and I are thinking of getting a membership and practicing together. I'd feel self-conscious going to a pool by myself and looking like an amateur, but with two of us amateurs at least we'll have each other. Who knows? Maybe I'll turn out a better swimmer than I could ever expect.

Not likely.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Race Report: LA Marathon - 03.02.2008

Mile 26!, originally uploaded by savemejebus.

Time: 4:47:26
Pace: 10:57/mile

It wasn't my fastest marathon--just seven minutes faster than my very first LA Marathon--but it was certainly the easiest, the most relaxed and the most fun. It was the first time I ran a marathon all the way through with others, and it made a huge difference. It took us almost five hours but the miles flew by. The next thing I knew we were in downtown heading out for the final six miles.

The weather turned out to be not much of a factor. It was sunny and warm, but it didn't bother me too much. Still, I would have preferred running the race during Saturday's weather.

FJ, Andy and I ran a very even race. We stuck to about an 11 minute pace and got through the run with no major hassles. Andy held up extremely well in his first marathon even though his longest run was an 18 miler. Truth be told, though, he has been training for his first marathon for the last three years. The anticipation was so great that an entourage followed Andy to support him. By mile 19 our entourage grew with the addition of Jimmy and Kate who ran the rest of the way with us and Katie joined as we were going over the 6th Street bridge. Even without the big posse, though, Andy said he realized with an hour left in the race that he was going to finish. And we did!

When I got home I ordered Thai food and tried to sleep. The sleep wouldn't come though and I wound up staying up until 2 AM. The food, though, was tasty. For dinner I cooked a steak, but the Thai food was what hit the spot. When I woke up this morning, I was barely sore. It felt like I had just gone on a 16 mile training run. Perhaps the days of incapacitating soreness after a marathon are gone. Recovery is faster as the soreness subsides within a day. During the race, though, my legs felt quite heavy while my breathing remained calm and steady.

The count now stands: 4 straight L.A. Marathons, 6th overall, and many more to come.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Just When I Think I'm Out...

26 Mile, originally uploaded by savemejebus.

Before last year's Los Angeles Marathon I told myself that it would be my last one for a while. There are many other marathons out there that I have to run and three was enough--for now--of the L.A. Marathon. For the rest of the year I was secure and satisfied with the decision and looked forward to cheering friends on in the race. With my recent move to Hollywood, it also put me in the perfect location to catch the runners at mile 3 at Hollywood and Highland, hop on the subway and catch them again in Koreatown, then to downtown. I was happy.

Two weeks ago, I got the itch. I looked up at a billboard promoting the marathon and I thought it looked cool. I bet the shirt would be awesome this year. Maybe I ought to run it and get the shirt, I thought. A shirt! $100 and 26.2 miles of running for a shirt! I quickly dismissed it but the seed had been planted. I then let it drop to my running buddies that I'm "mildly considering" running the race. It took very little persuading, actually no persuading, and I agreed to do the race.

I guess I really did want to do the marathon after all, but this year will be different in that I'm running it for fun. Honest. I'm not trained well for it, I still have a nagging issue with my knee, and I'm just not in the mindset to run a fast race. FJ and I are doing it to support Andy on his first marathon. If we post a PR, which I doubt, it would be fantastic. I'll be there to soak in the crowds, run with friends for the first time after being very much a solo runner at my previous marathons, and enjoying the wonderful soreness that will follow.

So look for me somewhere on the course. This will be L.A. Marathon #4 and my 6th overall. See you there, L.A.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

New York Times Wedding Announcement of the Week

This week's couple survived a months-long separation as the groom worked in Europe.

Lili Monowitz and John Lampasona

It appears that the two of them come from different worlds. For one thing her last name is Monowitz, his is Lampasona. Her father was an executive at Revlon, his father is the assistant superintendent of the mechanical department for New York for New Jersey Transit Rail Operations. Yet they found love.

What really grabbed me is the description of Mr. Lampasona's attempt at getting the approval of her parents to propose. According to the announcement, the Monowitzes were "having cocktails and hors d’oeuvres." I never realized people had hors d'oeuvres outside of parties and formal dinners. Maybe next time I'm enjoying a bag of Doritos and a pint of beer I'll tell people that I'm actually having cocktails and hors d'oeuvres.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


Someone did pretty well in his Oscar predictions.

Oscar Predictions

Best Picture
Will/Should: No Country For Old Men

Best Actor
Will/Should: Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood

Best Actress
Will: Marion Cotillard, La Vie En Rose
Should: Laura Linney, The Savages

Best Director
Will/Should: Joel and Ethan Coen

Best Supporting Actor
Will: Javier Bardem, No Country For Old Men
Should: Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Best Supporting Actress
Will/Should: Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton

Best Original Screenplay
Will: Juno
Should: Ratatouille

Best Adapted Screenplay
Will/Should: No Country For Old Men

Best Animated Film
Will/Should: Ratatouille

Best Documentary Feature
Will/Should: No End In Sight

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

New York Times Wedding Announcement of the Week

Nepotism? I hope not, but at the very least this week's couple have used the clout of their parents to pursue their line of work.

Christine Pelosi and Peter Kaufman

I can't say that this is a union of two powerful families. Philip Kaufman hasn't made a significant film in a long time and even at his prime, the Kaufman name didn't carry the cache of a Spielberg or a Coppola. Still, it's a significant convergence of two liberal families.

Good luck to the happy couple!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Weekend Numbers

Total Miles Run: 18

Birthday Parties: 2

Taco Truck Meals at 1AM: 1

Pancakes Consumed: approx. 5 pounds (I'm not exaggerating)

Amount Spent in 2 Hours of Shopping: $350 (2 Kenneth Cole trousers, 1 Kenneth Cole Reaction cologne gift package, 1 pair of Kenneth Cole shoes, 2 Banana Republic polos, 1 Banana Republic jacket, 5 DVD's, 1 pair of Lucky Brand jeans)

DVD's Watched: 2

Weight Gained: ???

Sunday, February 10, 2008

02.09.2008: 17.5 miles (or so)

Distance: approx. 17.5 miles
Time: roughly 3 hours
Location: Rose Bowl/Arroyo Seco

I had intended to run no more than 14 miles but I was feeling good so I kept going with Andy and FJ, who were planning to run 20. My legs were tight early on for the first five miles and I doubted I'd even last 14 miles, but by the time we made our way back from the north side and stopped off at Lot K for a short break I was feeling warmed up. My right calf and hamstring felt a little tight but not bad enough to affect or slow me down. I took a Gu at this point and I think it gave me a second wind.

The night before I had a couple glasses of wine and didn't get as much sleep as I would have liked, but ultimately it didn't become a factor. It was also the first warm Saturday in a while. At the start it was a cool 50 degrees but by the time we finished it was in the 70s--not terribly hot but after being spoiled by the cool winter weather it felt almost unbearable. It beats the rainy weather from last Sunday, though.

On the running fashion front, I wore a brand new Adidas top I had bought from the Adidas outlet in Ontario Mills. I was all Adidas-ed out--top, shorts, socks--but as FJ pointed out I wasn't matching. Waking up bleary-eyed on a Saturday morning, figuring out how my shirt and shorts match is too much thinking than I'm willing to do. In any event, I loved the shirt I was wearing. It might have rocketed to the top as my favorite running shirt. It was comfortable, moved well, felt soft on my skin, and it did a great job of keeping me dry. I ran for three hours and it looked like I had only done 3. Actually that might not be such a good thing. I may have to make another trip to Ontario Mills and stock up on more shirts.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

New York Times Wedding Announcement of the Week

There are a couple of ways you can look at the story of this week's couple

Lucy Demerjian and Joseph Flynn

Romantic - It took years, but they fell in love and lived happily ever after.
Cynical - She only liked him after a friend expressed interest.
Pessimistic - She settled for the nice guy.
Opportunistic - Days after breaking up, he calls her up. She may be accused of going after a friend's "sloppy seconds."

Regardless, they're together and I wish them the best.