Monday, May 22, 2017

Austin Distance Challenge 2016-17

 
This past year, I signed up for the Austin Distance Challenge again, because it was intrinsically fun, but also to ensure that I would get enough running in for the Austin Marathon. The Distance Challenge, sponsored by the Austin Runners Club, involved five races: The Run Free 8k, the Run for the Water 10 miler, the Decker Challenge half marathon, the 3M Half Marathon, and the Austin Marathon.

The Run Free 8K is out in Cedar Park, a considerable distance from downtown.  It leaves from one of the high school football stadiums and winds through residential neighborhoods before returning to the starting line. It's a nice start to the fall training season.


The first piece of the puzzle
Run for the Water goes through downtown and along the lakefront. It's one of the prettiest routes in the challenge and much of it is along routes I train on.

Starting line on Cesar Chavez
The drum group at the finish line
A friend got this shot of me at the starting line.
After that came the Decker Challenge -- a hilly route just east of Austin in Decker, and notorious for terrible weather.  This year, it wasn't bad --- a bit misty with a steady drizzle. By the finish line, my glasses were so fogged up I had to take them off to see anything at all. Which made it difficult to see things like potholes...

Glasses fogging up as I climb the hills
Blindly crossing the finish line

 Not on the Challenge, but still an Austin staple was the Turkey Trot!  One of the more fun races, it usually features a good number of costumes and a large helping of whimsy.



After the holidays, the next race was the 3M Half Marathon. It's almost the exact opposite to the Decker Challenge, because it's all downhill. It starts up in the Great Hills area and winds its way downtown. This year it was a particularly fast run because there was an incredible wind out of the north. Several folks, including myself, were nearly blown over as we ran past the UT football stadium.

A selfie at the starting line
the 3M photographer got a shot of me taking my selfie
After the finish in sight of the Capitol

And the last race was the Austin Marathon!

But. About three weeks before the race, in the middle of the night, I slipped and came down on the edge of my entertainment console and tile floors. Result? A nice set of bruised ribs and a strangely linear scar on my right side.

By race day, I could still feel it a bit but had gone on short runs with only minor discomfort, so I decided to go for it.  The first half went pretty well, but the second was less pleasant.  But I'm still glad I did it...

Looking all chipper and optimistic before the race starts
Vulcan salute for the photographer
Gritting it out with a hundred yards to go
Finished!

So my time for the marathon ended up being a personal worst, although I did make it under five hours :-).

Anyway, thanks to all the organizers, volunteers, emergency personnel, and everyone else involved in putting on these races! You keep Austin running!

Next up? The Capital of Texas Triathlon! Hopefully there won't be rain...

Monday, May 15, 2017

2017 Books by Austinites

I'm a bit late this year, but here is a preliminary listing of books written and illustrated by Austinites with releases in 2017!  Note that publication dates may change and/or slip...

For books from earlier years, go here.

Picture Books

BOOK OR BELL, by Chris Barton, ill. by Ashley Spires (Bloomsbury 2017).

MIGHTY TRUCK: MUDDY MANIA, by Chris Barton, ill. by Troy Cummings (HarperCollins 2017).

DAZZLE SHIPS: WORLD WAR I AND THE ART OF CONFUSION,  by Chris Barton, ill. by Victo Ngai (Millbrook 2017).

 WHY AM I ME?, by Paige Britt, ill. by Sean Qualls & Selina Alko (Scholastic Press, Sept. 2017).
 
WHOBERT WHOVER, OWL DETECTIVE, by Jason Gallaher (@DraftingJason), ill. by Jess Pauwels (Margaret McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster, July 2017).
 
 CINNAMON, by Neil Gaiman, ill. by Divya Srinivasan (HarperCollins, May 2017).

THE YOUNGEST MARCHER; THE STORY OF AUDREY MAY HENDRICKS, A YOUNG CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST, by Cynthia Levinson (Atheneum/Simon & Schuster 2017)

BOB, NOT BOB, by Liz Garton Scanlon, ill. by Audrey Vernick (Disney Hyperion, Winter 2017)

ANOTHER WAY TO CLIMB A TREE, by Liz Garton Scanlon, ill. by Hadley Hooper (Neal Porter Books/Roaring Brook Press, Aug. 2017).

STRONG AS SANDOW: HOW EUGEN SANDOW BECAME THE STRONGEST MAN ON EARTH, by Don Tate (Charlesbridge, Aug. 2017).

WHAT THIS STORY NEEDS IS A BANG AND A CLANG, by Emma Virjan (HarperCollins 2017).

Middle Grade/Tween

THE GREAT HIBERNATION, by Tara Dairman (Wendy Lamb Books/Random House, September 2017).

GNOMEAGEDDON, by K.A. Holt (McElderry Book/S&S, Fall 2017)

TUT: MY EPIC BATTLE TO SAVE THE WORLD, by P.J. Hoover (Tor 2017).

FAULT LINES IN THE CONSTITUTION: THE FRAMERS, THEIR FIGHTS, AND THE FLAWS THAT AFFECT US TODAY, by Cynthia Levinson and Sanford Levinson (Peachtree 2017).

IF THE SHOE FITS, by Mari Mancusi (Aladdin/Simon & Schuster, Fall 2017).

IN A DARK LAND, by Christina Soontornvat (Sourcebooks 2017).

REVENGE OF THE HAPPY CAMPERS, by Jennifer Ziegler (Scholastic 2017).


Young Adult

THIS IS NOT THE END, by Chandler Baker (Disney-Hyperion, Aug. 2017).

WITCHTOWN, by Cory Putnam Oakes (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Oct. 2017).

THE SANDCASTLE EMPIRE, by Kayla Olson (HarperTeen 2017).

AVENGED, by Amy Tintera (HarperTeen May 2017).



Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Star Trek: The Cruise 2017!

Ever since November 2, 2016, I've been meaning to blog about the Cubs winning the World Series, and I may yet, but I think my post about their getting into the World Series ("Every Cubs Fan is Ten Years Old Tonight") pretty much sums things up (though obviously it didn't cover their blowing the lead in game 7, extra innings, and that rain delay...).

But for now, I thought I'd blog about what happened this year, between January 9 and 15, when I boarded a very large ship for the first time and set sail with some 2000+ like-minded individuals for the first annual Star Trek Cruise.

All the elevators were decorated like this
Many of the restaurants and bars were similarly themed...
It was an absolutely fantastic and fun experience: the cruise ship was decorated (as much as possible on a finite budget) to recreate Federation technology and decor and there were activities and performances and autograph and photo opportunities by and with the likes of William Shatner, John deLancie, Denise Crosby, Marina Sirtis, Terry Farrell, Ethan Phillips, Max Grodenchik, Robert O'Reilly, Casey Biggs, and Chase Masterson.

My mess dress uniform for the formal
There were also four official theme nights: (i) A Night in the Holodeck, where you were supposed to dress as your favorite holodeck/holosuite character; (ii) Q's Masquerade Ball, where the sky was the limit; (iii) the Captain's Formal Gala; and (iv) an Evening on Risa.

I first heard about the cruise back in August of 2015 or so, when it was first announced, and decided that I really had to go. Now, although I've been a Star Trek fan since I was a kid, I've never been to a con or on a cruise, but there was just something about this idea that I found fascinating. 

So I decided I'd go, and I made the affirmative decision that I was going to embrace the cosplay.  Granted, I didn't have to, and there were a significant number of folks who ended up wearing Star Trek-related garb or generically appropriate clothing, but I decided that I would dive in, as it were (In part, I did so because half the fun of a vacation is anticipating it, and preparing the cosplay was an engaging extension.

At first, I debated doing makeup and going all out as a Trill or a Vulcan (and took the appropriate
Go Niners!
accoutrements onto the ship, but ended up not going that extra step for logistical reasons).  And there were a couple costume ideas I considered and then discarded as either too unwieldy or just not right.

Eventually, though, I decided to do costumes not based on individual particular characters per se, but ones that would evoke an episode or the world of an episode (Incidentally, I tend to think this is one of the reasons for the appeal of books like Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. Readers who like imaginative play like to imagine themselves in those worlds, perhaps more so than they imagine themselves as Harry Potter or Frodo).

So, what were my favorite episodes that lent themselves to cosplay? Well, for the favorite holodeck character, I decided early on that I wanted to do something related to baseball, since it was the favorite game of Captain Sisko on Deep Space Nine and the subject of one of the more goofily charming episodes, "Take Me Out to the Holosuite," in which a Vulcan captain challenges Sisko and the crew of DS9 to a baseball game.  Both sides had their own uniforms and the DS9 crew were the "Niners."

I ended up having problems figuring out how to do the uniform in a screen accurate manner, so decided to wing it and do what I ended up calling a "Deep Space Nine throwback uniform," complete with Terok Nor (the former name of Deep Space Nine) logo. :-). As you can see, though, there were a number of people who had less difficulty than I did in getting a screen accurate uniform :-):
  

And people were already pulling out the stops for the evening. Here are a couple pics:

The Q Continuum made an appearance
Really creative holodeck no. 1
A transport in progress. The photo doesn't really do it justice
Really creative holodeck no. 2
A very nice historical look

For Q's Masquerade, I found myself with a dilemma: the idea was that it would be a masked ball, but when you wear eyeglasses, masks can prove to be a bit difficult.  In the end, I went with a wild west outfit, because I figured I could wear an "outlaw bandana" as the mask.

The costume is based on the worlds of either the Original Series episode "Spectre of the Gun" or the Next Generation episode "Fistful of Datas." Ultimately, I kept the mask in my pocket since it interfered with the eating and drinking.

As you can see, there were a number of folks who had similar ideas:


They had to change the venue for the masquerade due to weather, so I didn't get as many shots as I'd've liked, but here are a few:
 
 
 
 
 



For the Captain's Formal Gala, I decided that I could wear my tux, but I'd always liked the formal dress uniform that was introduced in Star Trek: Insurrection and also appeared in DS9, so I went with that.  I confess that at first I had thought it would be the most boring night of cosplay, since everyone would be in Star Fleet formal uniforms.  And people did that, but there was a bit of variety as well...

 
 
 
 
 
 
The last official theme night, an evening and barbecue ("Targ-BQ") on Risa, seemed to be the most troublesome costume-wise, or at least the one that stretched people's creativity, especially since the only really distinctive Risan outfit was Picard's infamous "silver speedo."  There actually were brave folks who went with that, but one of my favorites was the couple who dressed up as George and Gracie, the humpback whales from Star Trek IV.

And what am I wearing? A conventional pair of board shorts and a garment called a "sleeveless hoodie." It's actually off the rack, but I did have someone ask me if I'd made it myself. I bought it because I'd never heard of such a thing before and the idea of a sleeveless hoodie seemed kind of bizarre to me and therefore suitably Risan :-).

Another of my favorites of the night was The Game headsets (from the eponymous Next Gen episode) that a couple of guys brought:
And then there were these guys whose three hour tour seemed to have gotten a bit sidetracked:

There was a lot of other stuff going on, as well, including the chance to randomly encounter the actors...

...pictures and autographs...
 
 
 
 
The Grand Nagus signed my novel! :-)
...shore excursions...
 
 
 
...on board lectures, panels, and performances...
William Shatner "christens" the cruise
Terry Farrell leads yoga

Lolita Fatjo discusses script coordinating...

Terry Farrell, Chase Masterson, and James Darren

Casey Biggs leads a wine tasting
...and, of course, the great tribble hunt:
There was way too much going on for me to have caught even a fraction of it, but you can see a ton of pictures at the 2017 Star Trek Cruise photo gallery and there's a great video here.

You can also check out the blog reports from StarTrek.com here: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6.

Live long and prosper!



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