June 11, 2013

I think the needle's moving?

I'm sure yesterday's blueberry cake binge didn't help much -- which is why I dumped blueberries into my oatmeal (with almond butter, yum!) this morning to try and curb some cravings later.

I'm also taking a break from running today, as I hit a total wall yesterday. I didn't sleep enough Sunday night and just couldn't handle the aftermath of the run yesterday -- achy, tired, low energy. And with a long weekend of hiking ahead of me, I want to make sure I'm well-rested.

That's all for now. 

June 9, 2013

Lessons of an internship, 10 years later

I had a lot of memories triggered this morning by a New York Times article about the invention of the Reuben sandwich. I remember the phone conversation with my mother, 10 years ago, fairly clearly. I was in my Chicago suburban college apartment -- where I lived in a curtained-off area of the living room. She was at home in rural Pennsylvania. I was ecstatic, having pulled off a remarkable feat: From the annual wave of newspaper internship rejections I typically received, I’d pulled an acceptance letter. For the summer after my junior year of college, I had a real, live, paid gig -- and one for which I needed a car.  “But you don’t have a car,” Mom said, obviously perplexed.  “I know,” I said. “So what will you do?” she asked. “I’ll rent one, I suppose.” A ferocious debate ensued, filled with advice on not blowing all of one’s earnings on the experience itself and soapbox speeches about the importance of experience to getting a real job one day. But I was sold. There was never any doubt in mind that I was going. Such was the importance of getting -- and, more so, completing -- an internship in college -- an all-important, all-inclusive experience for most reporters in continuing our learning outside the classroom. And I learned a ton at The Morning Call. Luckily, I ended up not needing to rent a car, as my grandfather loaned me his old one -- a 1986 Buick Regal that smelled of cigarette smoke even with all the windows rolled down. It wasn’t exactly a hot rod, but it allowed me to spend my meager earnings that summer on other items: my first-ever gym membership (I think it was $90 for the whole summer at the YMCA), gas (then still less than $2.00/gal) and rent ($200 a month for a room in a huge old house with a wonderful couple who lived 30 minutes from the office). Needless to say, I didn’t have a ton of money left over -- but I made an exception for spending it on lunch one day when my editor, Jack Tobias, an assistant metro editor legendary to interns from Northwestern University’s journalism school, suggested I try the Reuben sandwich at the DogStar Cafe down the street. Jack, it turns out, was not just a great editor -- he also knew good food. I’d grown up in a tiny town and hadn’t eaten a lot of fancy deli sandwiches at that point in my life. Sure, I had three years of college behind me -- but I’d been fairly preoccupied with the more exotic Thai, Indian and deep dish pizza available to me in Evanston. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to think about the Reuben. What a clash of tastes! Sour, tangy, creamy, salty. It was probably also my first experience with rye bread -- now a favorite but then an unknown to me. I remember sitting alone and feeling slightly awkward about ordering such an extravagant meal for one. (And also feeling a little proud that, as an apparently bona fide adult, I could.) It was way too much to experience on a lunch break. Mostly, though, I remember that I could barely finish the sandwich -- and that, combined with a real-world price tag up against an intern’s salary, made it my last, I believe, for the summer. It was back to packed lunches -- PB&Js, grapes and chips -- for me. I’ve rarely had a Reuben sandwich since that summer. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I ordered one. But with all these memories, I’d place a good bet on my ordering one later today. --- SIDENOTE: I haven’t spoken with Jack in years -- in fact, probably not since my internship -- but I found him on LinkedIn today and sent him a request to connect.

June 8, 2013

Truly a wizard of lies -- and hearts

Someday, I’ll review an article -- but for now, I’m going to do another book.

My book club discussion on “Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust,” by Diana B. Henriques, is starting in just a few hours -- and I want to get my notes down before the discussion. You’ll just have to trust me that I wrote this section before I let the opinions of others color my review.

I gave this one five out of five stars -- and I think, as an American citizen that wants to retire someday, that this should be required reading in high schools. The fraud that Madoff perpetrated is on a scale I simply couldn’t believe possible until I dove into these 350 pages -- and the way it transpired, including both the regulatory issues and, perhaps more importantly, the issues of the human heart, is an incredible lesson that we shouldn’t ignore. (I suspect, unfortunately, that it won’t get its due.)

The most appealing parts of the book, of course, are the beginning and the end, where Henriques displays her narrative skills in giving us a truly thrilling ride through Madoff’s arrest. The middle, full of history, is as interesting as it could be, I think -- but any history is bound to get dull.

Of note: I thought it was interesting that, in discussing reasons for and against having the “profit” amounts being covered by SIPC - that Henriques never introduced the concept of incentive. If “profit” that never truly existed could be seen as covered by the fund, what incentive would investment managers have to be truthful? It would simply be someone else’s problem if they they made everything up along the way -- but the investors would still get their money.

Overall, great read. I’d highly recommend it to anyone who is invested or who plans to invest in their retirement -- with a “prepared to be scared” caveat.

UPDATE: Of the five of us who made it to book club that night, only two (including me) really seemed to enjoy “Wizard of Lies.” Suspicions that this book won’t get its due seem to be confirmed.

Is the needle moving?

Or is it my imagination? Honestly, I can't really tell.

But I'm still feeling good. I ran a full three miles today, followed by a latte and a half a delicious bagel sandwich. (Second half might be lunch soon.)


June 6, 2013

I just couldn't resist

I started running again this week, on a whim. A work friend of mine -- a girl I love hanging out with, who shares my insane love of and snobbery for correct grammar, spelling and punctuation -- decided to captain a group in the Nike Women's Half-Marathon lottery, and I couldn't resist signing up. (We'll find out later this month if we're in.)

I'm cutting it close in terms of being able to prepare for the race, which is only about 20 weeks away, and that's something I would usually rail against -- but I had few other reasons not to train right now, so I'm going for it. In fact, I went into full attack mode on Monday, drawing up a training spreadsheet and mapping out several 2-, 3- and 4-mile runs for myself across San Francisco. I'm ready to train!

There are two things I'm thinking on as I get started. The first is that I haven't really run in about two years, favoring sprinting-walking intervals as a more efficient way to do my cardio. That's worked out well until the last two months when, probably more so due to poor schedules and a whole lot of stress eating, I have -- second item -- gained about 10 pounds. (I know I said "a little weight" last week, but that's the number.) No, really. I'm as stunned as you are. OK, maybe you're not that stunned. But I am. How did that happen? Seriously?

The good news is that, despite these items to ponder, my pace seems to be on par with where I left off a few years back: Around 13 minutes per mile, if the miles aren't all in Russian Hill. Yes, I'm slow, and I'm OK with that. Most importantly: I'm really enjoying the running. I had forgotten it! This week, I've felt strong, powerful and more relaxed after my runs. Sprints just don't achieve quite the same boost.

If we get into the race, I'm poised, I think, to squeeze the training in. But if we don't, I'm going to shoot instead for the Hark the Herald Angels 12K on Angel Island in December. It's a race I've always wanted to run, what with its Christmas theme and the fact that it's on trails -- and this just might be the perfect excuse to get all trained up for it.