Las Vegas addendum

After finishing yesterday’s post I finally found what I was looking for last night. Turns out I did indeed write a review of Star Wars Episode II after my initial viewing in May 2002, but I’ll spare you that tripe. However, as a comparison, here’s the portion of that post where 23 year-old me described our quest to see Episode II shortly after it happened. I may have gotten some of the details wrong in my retelling yesterday!

“As soon as my dad and I got to Las Vegas I started calling movie theaters to see which one had a digital projector. Since ‘Attack of the Clones’ was filmed entirely in digital format we wanted to see the movie the way George Lucas intended it to be viewed. The Orleans casino turned out to be the place to see digital Star Wars in Las Vegas. It was absolutely amazing. The difference between digital and film is akin to the difference between DVD and video. The clarity (i.e., the lack of lines and spots on the screen) made every detail of an expression or a costume noticeable. If a director really wants to draw a viewer into a movie then digital is the way to go. That, and having a great story to tell (i.e., Star Wars).”
5/23/02 webpage post

Las Vegas

On Sunday I got back from spending the weekend in Las Vegas with my running buddies. I’ll write more about that later, but our trip reminded me of another time I was in Las Vegas and I wanted to share that story first.

In 2001 when Dan and I were first dating we spent a weekend in Las Vegas, but I was underwhelmed. I thought the variety of over-the-top themed hotels and casinos was novel and interesting, but since I don’t gamble, drink, or party the city didn’t really have anything to hold my interest. (FYI, on subsequent visits I was introduced to some of the lesser-known attractions that are much more my style. Like state parks, art museums, outstanding restaurants, beautiful shops, and the now sadly defunct Star Trek: The Experience at the hotel formerly known as the Las Vegas Hilton.) When we drove home from Las Vegas after that first trip I didn’t really have any desire to return. The second time I went there was a bit different. It was May 2002 and my dad and I were driving from Florida to California before I started my second Boeing internship. We spent two weeks on the road, visiting both sides of the family (in Ft. Smith, AR and Wichita, KS) as well as three of my top-choice grad schools (Georgia Tech, University of Colorado at Boulder, and Stanford). We had a fantastic time even though we basically had to live out of my tiny Dodge Neon and subsist on fast food hamburgers. About two-thirds of the way through the trip we found ourselves in the vicinity of Las Vegas and decided to spend a night there. I can’t remember exactly why, but it might have been because “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones” had just been released and we wanted to see it. I know it’s the standard now, but back in 2002 digital movie projection was new and exciting and Episode II was one of the first movies to employ it. Tallahassee didn’t have a theater with a digital projector, but I figured Las Vegas might have this thrilling new technology. This was back before smart phones or wifi (or even reliable cell phone service) so I must have done research on theaters on my laptop using the dial-up internet connection of the hotel where we were staying a day or two before. Super high tech, huh? Lucky for us there was a theater featuring digital projection in The Orleans Casino. The bottom line is that, Attack of the Clones was the first movie I saw in digital format. Also, that was probably my best trip to Las Vegas. Road trip with my dad plus Star Wars. What could be better?

P.S. Since I was blogging back then I though I had written an account of this experience at the time (or at the very least a first-impression review of Episode II), but I can’t seem to find anything. Maybe I have it in an old Word document. I’ll keep looking!

Retail therapy #4

Item: Tsum Tsum Marvel Countdown to Christmas Advent Calendar
Purchased: January 1, 2018

As I’ve previously described, on New Year’s Day I was sick with the flu. It was miserable. After my official diagnosis I spent most of the day on the computer, cancelling my highly anticipated Disney World vacation and feeling sorry for myself. An overabundance of time on the internet combined with my despair over the state of my health was arguably the catalyst for my glut of retail therapy. (Admittedly, some of it did happen in December, but I blame those particular purchases on the holidays.) At least it’s given me plenty to write about recently!

Speaking of the holidays, when we were growing up my brother and I had Advent calendars that had a piece of chocolate for December 1st through 24th. It was magical, given the fact that we were rarely allowed such treats. Now that I’m an adult and can buy chocolate whenever I want (much to the despair of my bathroom scale), a calendar full of sweets has lost its charm. But then last fall I was delighted to discover that Disney makes Tsum Tsum Advent calendars so I immediately bought one for myself! This is what adults do, right? The above photo includes all the characters I unboxed in December 2017. It was fantastic. On January 1st as I was browsing Amazon, feeling like crap and mourning the end of the holiday season, I saw something extraordinary – a MARVEL Tsum Tsum Advent calendar! My mind was blown. Of course I ordered one for 2018. Presents for yourself are the best kind. And let’s face it, most of these retail therapy purchases I’ve made lately are presents to myself. Granted, some of them are practical or utilitarian, like dress pants for work or household supplies, but a majority of them have been purely for amusement. Unlike all of the other items, this particular acquisition will have delayed gratification. The Advent calendar is something I’ll have to look forward to as end of the year approaches. Maybe I’ll even trim my Christmas tree this year. A girl can dream!

Day 26 – Voyage of “Discovery”

It’s Thursday night and I have dishes that need to be washed, laundry that needs to be folded, and a tomorrow’s lunch that needs to me made, but instead I’m here I am on my couch watching “Star Trek: Discovery.” This show annoys me, but not in the way you might think. As a huge Trekkie I was thrilled to hear that a new series was in development. It seems like forever since “Enterprise” was on TV and, except for the new movies that basically rewrote the original timeline, that was the last taste of Star Trek that we’ve had since 2005. I have I admit that there is already an abundance of fantastic television shows for nerds like me these days, so much so that I can’t keep up with all of the series I’d like to. I’ve tried really hard not to add any more shows to my “must watch” list this year, but for new Star Trek programming I’ll make an exception. But then came the unfortunate news that with the exception of the premiere episode, “Discovery” would be available only through the CBS All Access app and that viewers would be charged to stream the episodes. So frustrating! At first I declared that I would never pay to watch a show, even of the Star Trek variety, when cable already has so many great ones that don’t cost me anything extra. However, I still DVRed the first episode of “Discovery” when it aired on CBS on September 24th. Much to my chagrin I LOVED IT. Compelling female protagonists, cool spaceships, an exiting story, and crazy plot twists – what’s not to love? So I grudgingly signed up for a CBS All Access account so I could watch the rest of the series. Every week since then I’ve been equally captivated and annoyed because this is such an amazing show. It’s everything I wanted new Star Trek to be, but I hated having to pay for it! As much as I hate shelling out an extra $5.99 per month, it’s money well spent for this level of entertainment. So this overwrought explanation leads me to tonight, watching “Star Trek: Discovery” (and then “After Trek” with Matt Mira) on my iPad while writing this blog post when I should be getting ready for bed. Not only money well spent, but time well spent (even if I know I won’t get enough sleep before my 5 AM shift at work tomorrow).

Today’s meals:
Breakfast – Scrambled eggs and breakfast hash (sausage, butternut squash, onion, spinach, and apple)
Snack #1 – Apple, Larabar
Lunch – Carnitas, roasted broccoli and carrots, and roasted diced sweet potato
Snack #2 – Banana with almond butter
Dinner – Tomato soup with Italian sausage

New shirts

I’m spending the weekend sick at home with a wicked cold, which always seems to happen when I get back from vacation. With all this time spent on my couch in front of the TV I figured I’d have plenty of time to write some decent blog posts, but my brain isn’t cooperating. I can barely breathe, I have a lovely cough, and I’m reaching for my Rogue One Kleenex box pretty often. Doesn’t that sound like fun? So instead of working on my marathon recap post(s) I am writing about something silly instead. Silly is about all I can handle in my current state!

I used some of my down time over the holidays to clean out my closets, my dresser, and all of my storage boxes, and in the process I assembled a huge pile of clothes to donate. I seriously filled up the entire backseat of my car with bags. The discarded clothing was a mix of items that I haven’t worn in ages, items I don’t really like (i.e., ugly race shirts), and items that no longer fit since I’ve lost weight. It was a relief to drop off all of that stuff at Goodwill earlier this month, and also to have some free space in my closets and drawers that used to be filled to the brim. Even after reducing my wardrobe by getting rid of all that I still can’t believe how much I own. Which is why my acquisition of six new shirts (not including my Disney World marathon shirt which was included in my race registration) over the last week or so is pretty ridiculous. First of all, I picked up two of these shirts on my trip to Disney World (see bottom left of the above photo) – a Magic Kingdom 45th anniversary shirt and an Iron Man shirt from the Uniqlo store at Disney Springs. (If you’re a Disney fan and haven’t seen their line of shirts at Uniqlo yet you are missing out!) Next, I discovered that a package containing my Mystery Science Theater 3000 revival shirt (bottom right) arrived while I was in Orlando. I contributed to the Bring Back MST3K Kickstarter over Thanksgiving in 2014 so I guess it’s about time! Then I went to the Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend expo on Thursday at the Disneyland Hotel and rounded out my new collection. Not only did I get the Star Wars 5K shirt that came with mt registration (top left), but I bought two shirts from New Balance that struck my fancy (top right). I feel pretty ridiculous to acquire all of these shortly after donating so much to Goodwill, but it seems I have no restraint when it comes to graphic t-shirts. At least I’ve got my weekend outfits covered for a while!

A Christmas present and a tribute to a legend

For Christmas this year my parents gave me a new GPS watch for my running habit/obsession and I love it. It’s a Garmin Forerunner 235 with a color display and an optical heart rate sensor, which is an upgrade from my old GPS watch. I set it up and wore it for the first time on my 5-mile run around Seal Beach last night. The wristband is more flexible than my old watch so it fits well, and it’s incredibly comfortable, unlike a first-generation wrist-based heart rate monitor that I tried some years back. Technology improves at a fantastic rate these days! It was fascinating to see a plot of my heart rate from my run last night. I’ll have to check out trends over the next few months to compare my heart rate during runs where I feel great and compare it to runs where I feel terrible. As an engineer who loves to analyze data this is going to be fun.

I went running again tonight (6 miles) so I got to wear my new GPS watch a second time. Also, I wore my Princess Leia shirt, which I’ve worn for multiple half marathons (including the Star Wars Dark Side half marathon in April), in honor of Carrie Fisher who passed away this morning. I’m a child of the 80’s so I grew up watching the original Star Wars trilogy on a regular basis, and Princess Leia was one of my role models. She was a strong, independent woman who brought down empires. She was not only a princess, but a general who fought alongside the men and often eclipsed them. For a young girl who didn’t want to wait around for a man to come along and define her, Princess Leia was a beacon of hope. RIP Carrie Fisher. May the Force be with you.

Christmas tree 2016

It’s six days until Christmas and my tree is finally up (done after my 20 mile run yesterday) and fully trimmed (as of tonight). Took me long enough! I got a new pencil-style Christmas tree this year from Treetopia due to the lack of appropriate space for one of a more generous girth in my living room. The new tree is 6′ tall, but only 18″ wide at the base and it’s just perfect. I love it. And one of the best things is that the old angel ornament from Kmart that I’ve been using as a tree topper for the last 14 years still works! Next year I’ll have to prioritize finding a new tree topper (and a tree skirt), but for now my little angel is still doing a great job. I did buy six new ornaments this year (including a Kylo Ren!) which is probably going overboard. That number is not quite balanced by the three ornaments that I got rid of either. One animated Peanuts ornament was leaking battery acid so it definitely had to go. Yikes! And as I was putting on the last few ornaments tonight I came up with this little Christmas countdown based on the demographics of my collection. I can’t believe Christmas is only six days away, but at least I’m finally ready!

6 Hello Kitties
5 Harry Potters
4 Iron Mans (Iron Men?)
3 Elsas
2 Mickey Mouses (Mice?)
1 Weeping Angel

Week 13 done

This morning I ran 18 miles to close out week 13 of my marathon training plan. It was my longest run ever. Somehow I completed those 18 miles at an average pace of 11:19 min/mile, which is probably faster than I should have run (surprisingly, only a tiny bit slower than my half marathon PR time from last month). Those last two miles were really rough! I got up later than I originally planned this morning so I didn’t start running until right around sunrise (6:45 AM). This meant that I spent a lot of time out there while the sun was high up in the sky. Thankfully it was a lovely LA winter day with a high only in the 60s, but the sun still warmed me up considerably. I was running along the San Gabriel River so shade was hard to come by a majority the time. But I successfully completed my 18-mile run with minimal problems (thanks to my twice-repaired orthotics that I picked up from my podiatrist on Friday), and now I am much more confident that I’ll be able to cross the Disney World Marathon finish line without passing out. I have the Holiday Half Marathon next weekend with my running buddies, and then my last long run will be 20 miles the weekend after that. I am cautiously optimistic that I will finish this 18-week training plan and be completely prepared for the marathon in January!

P.S. My holiday celebratory activity today was fairly subdued – I watched last year’s Doctor Who Christmas special, “The Husbands of River Song,” while ordering some presents online. The presents were mostly for other people, but I also got some running pants from Lululemon for myself! I intended to put up my Christmas tree this afternoon, but I didn’t have enough energy after my 18-mile run. While lounging on my couch I should have worked on my Christmas cards, but that didn’t happen either. I’d better get my rear in gear soon because time is running out!

Thanksgiving 2016 (Part 2)

On Friday we decided to honor REI’s Opt Outside campaign, which emphasizes outdoor activities over shopping on Black Friday. Our first stop was Mission San Luis, a living history museum of that shows the interaction between native Apalachee Indians and Spanish settlers in the Tallahassee area. It’s a fascinating place and I can’t believe I’ve never been there before. After that we drove down to Wakulla Springs, a favorite childhood summer getaway, in the hopes of seeing some manatees in the springs. Unfortunately all of the boat tours in the near future were full by the time we got there so we only walked around for about an hour, but it was still fun to visit. There was even some beautiful fall color in the trees (not something that usually happens in North Florida), as you can see in the above panorama I took. The reason we couldn’t stay at Wakulla Springs and take a later boat tour was because we had tickets to see “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” at 6 PM. I was skeptical of the movie when it started out slow, but once it hit its stride I really enjoyed the film. I’m excited for the other Harry Potter universe movies that are coming in the next few years.

On Saturday morning I got up early again (doesn’t everyone do that on vacation?) because I needed to run 12 miles. I slept later than I planned, and I was worried that it was going to be too warm for my run, but luckily the weather was lovely. I always forget that the tall pine trees in North Florida provide very accommodating shade! Once again we had McDonald’s Egg McMuffins as a post-run meal, which was perfect for me. My mom and I did a little shopping afterwards, but except for purchasing a few things at Old Navy we were less successful than on Wednesday. Our time was limited because we had to get home and prepare for the UF vs. FSU football game that night. We had some leftover spaghetti for an early dinner, and then I set up the Roku streaming stick that I bought my parents as an early Christmas present. Inexplicably, neither their smart TV nor Blu-ray player had the capability to connect to the Amazon Prime Video app so I covertly ordered the Roku streaming stick so we could watch “The Grand Tour” while I was in town. We only had enough time to watch half of the first episode before leaving for the football game, though. My dad got some amazing sky box tickets for the game so we got to watch in luxury with catered food and spacious seating. It was a fantastic experience except for the fact that the Gators lost badly. Florida lost both of the football games I attended this year – I guess I was a jinx! We managed to get out of the stadium a little early after realizing that the Seminoles were going to prevail, and we got home around midnight.

My alarm went off at 4 AM on Sunday morning so that I could get ready to go to the airport for my 6:12 AM flight. It was rough only getting a few hours of sleep, but the trade-off was arriving back in Los Angeles in the early afternoon. In spite of the serious sleep deprivation I would have survived the trip unscathed except for the fact that I caught a cold on my flight home. (Luckily it turned out to be fairly mild, and I am feeling 100% better now.) It was a rough end to my Thanksgiving trip to Florida, but I had a great time. Now it’s time to put up my Christmas tree and prepare for Christmas!

Kickstarter rewards #1

I planned to use some of my free time after the Avengers Half Marathon today to write a comprehensive blog post about my weekend, but my brain just wasn’t up to it. After exhausting my body running this morning all I wanted to do was watch TV and zone out on the couch. So that’s what I did! But in order to continue fulfilling my NaBloPoMo commitment I need to write at least a little something today. Here it is!

When I got home from Anaheim this morning there was a package on my doorstep. I wasn’t expecting anything so I was intrigued. When I sliced open the envelope two t-shirts fell out and I was pleasantly surprised. They were my backer reward shirts for supporting the RiffTrax Live MST3K Reunion Show Kickstarter campaign! The campaign was launched in March and given my love of both RiffTrax and MST3K I couldn’t resist pledging some money. The reunion show itself was in theaters back in July and I attended it with a good friend. It was a lot of fun. But before I discovered those t-shirts on my porch this morning I had completely forgotten that I was owed them! That’s what happens when it takes four months after the actual event is over for the merchandise to arrive. I won’t complain about awesome new shirts, though! I wore one of them to see “Doctor Strange” tonight. (Great movie! I highly recommend it!) Now I’m just waiting for my backer reward shirt from the Bring Back Mystery Science Theater Kickstarter that I contributed to last Thanksgiving. Believe it or not, it’s been almost a year! But if this is the price I have to pay for new MST3K shows I’ll gladly accept it!