Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Dirty Dozen

On Saturday I did the Dirty Dozen ride/race. Read about it here and see a map here.

The start was only a few blocks from the apartment and at 10AM, so that was nice. Everyone was complaining about how cold it was, but I thought it was pretty nice, which I attribute to how cold our apartment has been lately (55-60 degrees!). There were 50 people at the start (only 3 women, although one was 46-years-old).

Between the hills everyone would ride together slowly, and then at the base of each climb, the ride leader would blow his whistle and about a dozen guys would race up trying to get the points for the top five finishers while the rest of us just tried to survive. At the top we'd wait for everyone to finish and there was even a car with food and drinks that would drive ahead and wait for us at all the hill tops. Because of all this sitting around and slow riding though, it took us 7 hours to complete the entire 50-mile loop.

Here are some pictures:
Rialto St. One of the steepest, but also one of the shortest.

Forget which one this is, but what you're looking at is only the last section. There was a lot more before this, most of it steeper, but not cobbled.

This is Nick from the Pitt Cycling Club. He was the only one on the ride without an expensive bike and proper clothing and gear, so everyone was impressed and making a big deal about the fact that he could even make it up most of these climbs.

The group on top of Mt. Washington with the city in the background.

A panoramic view of Pittsburgh from atop Mt. Washington.

This is Canton, which at 37% is the steepest in the city and one of the steepest in the world. From an article about the street: Figures can be fuzzy, but the best San Francisco can do are grades of 31.5 percent. The world's steepest claim is made by Baldwin Street in Dunedin, New Zealand, but its steepest part, according to the town's own Web site, is only 35 percent. See the entire article here.

Another shot from the bottom of Canton. Yes it's very steep, but it's also very short and I was able to do it. A big part of it is having the right technique. Apparently only about half of the riders are able to do it.

From the top of Canton. Notice that the sidewalk is actually steps!

One more of Canton.

This is the last section of the last climb, Tesla. It's hard to really compare the climbs since ones towards the end were made worse by effort already put in on the previous climbs. Couldn't hold the camera still for this shot because I was so tired.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Woohoo! Zoo!

My teammate Jackie works in the education department at the Pittsburgh Zoo. Since I hadn't been there yet and she wanted some overtime hours, she took me on a private, behind-the-scenes zoo tour! It was so neat! I got to see tree frogs and millipedes and chincillas and giraffes, everything! I learned about the mating habits of gorillas. For example, usually there is a group of female gorillas with one grayback male. When the boy babies are old enough, the alpha male kicks him out and makes him find his own family. But the Pittsburgh grayback has a brother who he didn't kick out. The brother just tags along, never mates, and hangs out. His name is Harry. He pounded his chest while I was there today.

And then we saw elephants. Elephants are really awesome because the matriarch is the leader of each herd. She bosses all the men around. So they have to keep the male elephant, Jack, in a separate pen or he'll try to mate with the babies.

And then Jackie told me I could totally work as a zoo camp teacher at the zoo this summer. Teaching experience, elephants, walking distance of home...what a perfect summer job! And to think Destiny almost had me convinced to waitress!


Jordan commented that he was told I didn't want alchohol at my wedding. That's a huge lie! The hugest lie in the entire world! Whoever said that is no longer invited to the wedding. What I said was I didn't want an open bar, but to just have wine and kegs. (And Corey shot that idea down anyway) Why would anyone think a wedding full of rugby players, cyclists, and Ranks would be alchohol free? That's the most absurd thing in the entire universe. I would rather not have a DRESS than not have beer there!

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Oh! PS

I went to the new Harry Potter movie last night! Yay! It was really good, although I can't help but be disappointed by the little things they left out. Like Winkie! and SPEW! But it was really good. I like that the guy from the English Patient is Voldemort. It makes me excited for book 7 to come out all over again. Before we went, Corey and I had dinner with the upstairs folks and Ms. Destiny Miller from downstairs. Then we filled our purses with M&Ms and got our free popcorn at Lowes. Why free pop corn, you ask? Because Lowes is in Homestead, a crappy, drug action neighborhood on the south side of the city. There was a fatal, drug-related shooting at the Tupac or whatever rapper movie last week. So the theater is giving out free popcorn to entice viewers to go! How great!

Anyway, the movie was nice, the chairs reclined, everyone was unshot. It was a fabulous evening. I provided the mashed taters. Corey ate rice beforehand. And skipped going to the movie. All 15 of us piled into cars and left and he just went home. Why?

Bride on a mission

So Freya upstairs got engaged three days after I did. That evening, she came home with a box full of binders, magazines, phone numbers, and business cards. She is a woman on a mission. She and JP have decided on a May 2006 wedding, which left her seven months to plan. In the time I decided I should learn what different shape wedding gowns exist, Freya has a caterer, reception site, guest list, dress (!!!), ceremony location, bridesmaids, bridesmaids gowns...she's basically done organizing. I don't even know where to start!

Despite buying The Knot's ULTIMATE GUIDE TO WEDDINGS IN THE REAL WORLD, I feel clueless. Freya took this project under her wing and made a scrapbook full of magazine images in one day. She made her fiance comment on each idea. He wrote things like "Hm" and "Yes" in the 500-word spaces she allotted for each theme, bouquet, color scheme. She got him to come with her to the travel agent to plan their Scandonavian adventure honeymoon. He even went along when they registered! Could it be possible that Corey will assist in these endeavors?

At any rate, when Freya is not tasting cakes or budgeting flowers, she is more than happy to show me her web journal and bride packages. Apparently The Knot online lets you create any number of online wedding things. A website, budget tracker, phone number organizer, guest list status sheet that will create table arrangements based on last name and table size, gift registry list...Weddings are a scary, corporate monster endeavor. Do I really want to go down this road? Can I hire Freya to be my tour guide?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Wedding Gown 101

I am learning the most amazing things. For starters, I had no idea certain dress top designs were more or less flattering for specific body types. Since I usually wear a t-shirt or turtle neck, I pretty much assumed you either look nice in a shirt or you don't. But no! You can custom select your wardrobe (or bridal gown) based on your boob size!

I learned that the spaghetti strap corset top I so admire on other people really DOES make me look plump! It's not in my head. Those tiny straps are clinging to my broad shoulders like string through a pork loin. Other shapes that I shouldn't dream of for my wedding gown include a bateau, halter, v-neck, portrait, high collar, off shoulder, asymmetric, or jewel top. Suddenly everything makes sense! The reason I look like I have triple F cup gongas in my v-neck red shirt from Nordstrom is that I'm not supposed to wear v-neck things!

According to The Knot, v-necks make my bodice look too full. Off shoulder gowns emphasize broad shoulderrs, scoop necks do the same. Bateau necks, whatever they are, emphasize the bust. All this time I've been attempting to dress mself without professional assistance I've been emphasizing the very things I want to hide. What is a girl with big knockers and rugby shoulders supposed to wear to dress up functions, I ask you??

The answer, clearly, is a strapless gown or a square cut with wide straps. Now, in my proven unexpert opinion, I would have thought a strapless gown would be a bad idea. I can just see the spare skin in my armpit region squirting over the top seam, my back flesh bulging out the top. I have been assured this is not so. This design is listed as good for broad shoulders and big busts. The square cut is listed as being bad for almost no one. I wish The Knot would publish a guide for how to buy business casual clothes.

At what point did my mother give up and allow me to grow into a woman with no idea how to purchase clothing? Was it during my vintage shopping days in high school? I know she had a rough time with the checkered pants from the Salvation Army and the mechanic shirt with the Craig nametag for school pictures. But couldn't she have gently suggested that I start to purchase a nice wardrobe of classic, square neck pieces I could wear forever? Or was she doing this all along as she nudged me into the Misses section at Boscov's. Perhaps if they named the department something else, it wouldn't make the struggling sweatpants wearing high school girls think of Mom Jeans and run screaming.

My enlightenment for clothing did not stop with dress tops. Oh no! I learned about skirts, too. I remember the beautiful ball gown I wore to prom. The tiny straps didn't look too bad on my pre-weight regimen shoulders. I now know that such a design is bad not only for short people but also for those with "a lot on top." A-lines! I need a-lines forever. Imagine the tears I saved myself. Thanks to The Knot, I know to turn away from the frothy, layered cakey ball gowns. I can head straight for the a-line strapless numbers and, maybe, feel good about myself in a fancy dress for once.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

A Visit from Onion

Corey's mom came to spend the weekend. We had a fabulous time despite several time-related freakouts from me and a spat of bad weather for twenty minutes on Sunday. Here is a blurry view of the city from the Duquesne Incline at night time. You can see the point and some of the illuminated bridges reflecting on the water. After our lovely incline ride and walk around Mt. Washington (in November, wearing open toed shoes and no jacket!), we had a lovely dinner at Bella Vista. I think that means pretty view in Italian. I think you can say that's an understatement!

Earlier in the morning we went to my favorite Pittsburgh place--the Strip District market. I pumped my own olive oil again and infused it again! I love zesting limes in the kitchen! Ellen took us on an Ikea adventure as well. You should just see the apartment after her handywork.

Sunday we made pancakes at home and Corey had to entertain his mommy while I was at work and then Monday we walked around Point Park. As you can see, it is really pretty there and you get to see lots of the bridges up close. I can't wait for Jordan to come here and see all the fabulous bridges. Corey took a neat reflection photo in Jordan's honor and we attempted to take pictures of Corey and me where my face didn't look terrible. I don't think it worked, though....