A Day for the X-Philes

X-Philes all over the world, rejoice!  Today, November 21 is X-Files Day!  Not in any legal sense, but all X-Philes know that 11/21 is a highly significant number that occurs very often on our favorite show.  Here is a cool page I just found that lists occurrences of special numbers on the X-Files.  For those who need be get caught up to speed, 11/21 is Chris Carter’s wife’s (Dori Pierson’s) birthday.  His is on October 13, another special X-Files number.  Today, we’re just focused on 1121.  It shows up on clocks, timestamps, case files, etc.

games_xfiles_ttl  If you’ve never seen this show, you’re seriously missing out!  It ran for nine glorious seasons (although I was only introduced to it after Season 5) and ended 12 1/2 years ago.  Yikes, that’s a long time!  It need on May 19, 2002, which also just happened to be my college graduation.

Gosh, I remember it all like it was yesterday.  The X-Files made my college years.  When I got there, those first couple of weeks before classes started, my mentor (an older student) introduced me to her friends, who happened to be on the geeky side– which is fine by me!!  So they had me over for a get-together once where we all watched the X-Files movie, and boy I was so confused!  I couldn’t keep track of which one was Mulder and which was Scully!

And then as Season 6 began, we would meet every Sunday night to watch the latest episode, and I soon became hooked, positively hooked, onto this show.  Then my mentor’s friends graduated, so now what was I to do?  Easy… I started my own X-Files viewing parties!

They were truly the best.  I also joined the X-Files forum on About.com (long since defunct) and was so active.  I made a lot of awesome friends on that forum, but unfortunately I’m only occasionally in touch with a  couple of them now.  But our love of the X-Files keeps us united :)

I also started buying all the seasons on DVD, wondering if I was just wasting my money, because would I really want to watch these again after a few years???  Haha, fast-forward to today, and the answer is a big, fat YUP!  Still watching them!

But by far the BEST moment I’ve ever had on X-Files Memory Lane had to be the time when I actually talked with Chris Carter.  Watch it here!

Fox Mulder and Dana Scully will always be the perfect couple.  I’m still seeking my own Fox Mulder (though not very actively) :)  And with that, I think it’s time to go celebrate by watching one of the 201 awesome episodes of the best.TV.show.ever!

X_Files_Wallpaper_3_by_SolidAlexei

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Book #16: In the Land of Invisible Women, by Qanta Ahmed, MD

Here is a story about a woman, a Muslim woman doctor who was raised in London and lives in the US, who went to Saudi Arabia for a residency. In In the Land of Invisible Women, by Qanta Ahmed, she writes about the struggles and wonders of being in the country which houses the epicenter of Islam, Mecca. An unexpected denial of a visa renewal led her to begin this journey into the Saudi Kingdom, and it is no exaggeration to say that her two years living there changed her forever.

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Ahmed is a Pakistani, Urdu-speaking woman who grew up in the Western world, just like me. As such, I found that I could really relate to her, and could easily see how I could be stuck in difficult situations just as she had been.

As is well known throughout the world, Saudi Arabia is a very conservative country and quite misogynistic, though Ahmed’s afterword hints at the promise of change. Wahabiism, the over-arching theological mindset of the Saudi Kingdom, is was forces women into oppression- the heavy veiling, the ban on driving, prohibition from consorting with unrelated men. Even though I thought I was somewhat familiar with the oppressive nature of the treatment of women in the Kingdom, Ahmed’s first-hand accounts are still shocking. I think what’s even more shocking is that of the several women she befriends, most of them are still strong people, dedicated to making their country progressive, or not letting their required public personas dictate their personal lives as well. Ahmed meets many women who are vivacious, but whom you would not know as such if you only saw them in public, veiled and scurrying from view.

Ahmed, in fact, though veiling is such a new and incomprehensible requirement for her, eventually finds herself to feel insecure when out in public, and feels like she needs to make herself invisible e.g. in the marketplace, the mall, etc. It speaks to the grand scale of the culture of oppression and fear in the Kingdom, and makes me unsure if I could bring myself to visit that country.

Ahmed does dedicate several chapters to her very sudden decision to go to Hajj during her time in the Kingdom, and it’s an absolutely transformational experience for her. Reading her account, I could almost feel myself there, the absolute beauty of Mecca and the Ka’aba. My parents have been there, and I wonder if I will ever make the journey. I have several concerns, but what disturbs me the most is the animal sacrifice that’s performed as a part of Hajj. I do not, under any circumstances, what someone to kill a sheep, goat, whichever other animal in my name. There’s got to be some sort of movement of other vegan Muslims. I mean, Islam is the second biggest religion in the world; with over one billion followers, there have got to be more than a handful of those who choose to live a life of nonviolence. Note to self: I need to look this up; I need to find how vegans complete Hajj.

Anyways, back to the book. Ahmed was in Saudi Arabia when 9/11 occurred and the reactions of the Saudis shocked her to her core. Even Saudi physicians with whom she worked, who had been trained in America, reacted to 9/11 in a way she would never have imagined. I, too, found it shocking, but not altogether surprising.

I really enjoyed reading …Invisible Women because it’s a look at world that is both fascinating and deserving of scorn. Ahmed does a good job of shedding light of daily life in the Kingdom and, as she is about to depart to return home to NYC, she experiences relief, but also a little sadness. But the overarching sensation was relief, relief to go back to place where women are valued as people and do not need to hide under an abbayah, and do not have to get a man’s permission for anything.

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The Best Holiday Ever!

November 5th, 2014 will forever be known as Britney Day. If you missed it, too bad for you. I, for one, was looking forward to it ever since Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak announced it a few weeks ago. “Britney Day? What would that entail?” I asked myself. The specifics didn’t matter so much as the fact that my love, my idol was getting her very own holiday!

Aaaaaaall my friends know—and even if you just met me, you will know—that I am a huge, HUGE Britney Spears fan. I just think she’s such an amazing person- an international superstar for 16 years, yet she’s humble and sweet, and also very shy. It’s those very qualities that make her so endearing, because you or I, or really just anyone, can imagine being friends with Britney because she’s so real and down-to-earth.

Photo By Denise Truscello

Contrast that with, say, Lady Gaga. Now I don’t mean to really throw shade on her, but every photo of I’ve seen is of her ultra-glammed up in some kind of costume. I have no idea what she really looks like. I don’t even know what her real hair looks like!

Anyway, back to Britney Day. A press release had announced that Britney would be receiving a key to the Las Vegas Strip and that the first 100 people named Britney (any variation of the spelling) at the venue (the LINQ Promenade) would get free tickets to her show that night. Why did my parents not think to name my Britney??? Sure, it’s not a very Muslim name, but couldn’t they have made an exception??? ;-)

Even though I wasn’t going to go through the process of changing my name (because that’s just a little too much), I did look into plane tickets to go to Vegas on November 4 and come back home on the 6th.   But I figured that the tickets, along with the concert ticket, hotel, food, etc. would be very expensive for a little more than a day in Vegas. Besides, I’m still planning to go sometime in the first half of 2015 :)

Why exactly did Britney Spears get her own holiday? As you should know, she has an extremely successful residency in Vegas, and her ‘Piece of Me’ show is bringing in lots of money.

strip view

This is literally what I saw what I looked at Planet Hollywood. Everything else was fuzzed out and my eyes zoomed in on Britney :)

And that’s why Commissioner Sisolak honored her with her own day- as a thank you for creating so much revenue for Las Vegas. If I’m not mistaken, she’s the first young person to have a residency there; people were uncertain how that’d turn out for her, but I’d say it’s working out very well for her! She’s said numerous times that it was exhausting to constantly be on tour and that she now wants to be able to watch her kids grow up. Her life has changed, so it makes sense that her priorities have as well.

All I can say is that I’ve believed in her every step of the way for the past 16 years (ever since I heard/saw “…Baby, One More Time”) and I continue to support her in every way I can. And if that means buying super-expensive (to me) lingerie from Britney Spears’ The Intimate Collection (www.intimatebritneyspears.com) , or wearing my Britney t-shirt to work, so be it :) Life is short, so why NOT indulge in my passions?

shirt

Probably the single most expensive piece of clothing I own….

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Race report: Marine Corps Marathon, October 26, 2014

The Marine Corps Marathon is a race that is near and dear to my heart, as it was my very first marathon 14 years ago. Fourteen years ago, and only my third race ever (if I remember correctly). I had previously only run two 5Ks. Nice leap, huh? Haha.

Well, I think we’re all aware of my never-ending weird leg pain that’s been haunting me for quite some time. I only very recently started to feel better to a point that I could run without that terrible feeling of something going awry inside. And without horrible pain afterwards. So, very humbly, I started with a run/walk. 2-min run/1-min walk, and repeat that several times. Seeing as how it’s only been two weeks since that first run/walk, I’m only up to 3-min run/1-min walk. It sucks. This can’t possibly be the same girl who used to run two marathons a year, and regularly go on three-hour runs on weekends.

For this race, I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do, but I was pretty darn sure I wouldn’t be traversing the entire course! I’ve walked a half-marathon recently, but I wasn’t about to do twice that distance. My feet would be horribly blistered and swollen and just plain achy! Well, the achiness would also result from running the whole thing, but still. The point is, I wasn’t ready to run or walk 26.2 miles. So then I decided that I’d run/walk the last seven miles, doing the 2/1 ratio. I remember looking at the course map and plotting out my strategy- which Metro stop I’d get off at, what time I should start, what I’d wear/carry.

And then, the night before, as I was lying in bed, (or maybe it was that morning when I got up!) I decided that seven miles was too measly and I had to do at least ten miles. And that was really convenient, because the 16-mile mark was right before the hairpin turn on Independence Ave, just south of the Lincoln Memorial. Being a little earlier in the course than, say, Mile 19, I didn’t need to wait so late in the day till my attempted jump-in. You see, I wanted to jump in and blend in, so I couldn’t just let myself be surrounded by sub-3 runners. Even though I was officially registered and had a bib, I was afraid that one of the officials would see me jumping in and cart me off the course, while I’m pleading with them to just humor me. But no one did. I just shed off my jacket (one I’d picked up from the ‘tossed clothing’ pile at the Army Ten-Miler, no big loss) and was on my way. I did have my hand-strap water bottle, for the sole reason that I wanted to be able to take a picture after the race and my phone just barely fit into the hand-strap pouch.

This was really just a jog/walk for me, but I really had fun running down all these very familiar, well-known areas, surrounded by throngs of people, and, the best part, not hitting the proverbial wall. The part of the course that I ran went from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol, back through the Mall to 14th St bridge and over it to Crystal City, then up Rte. 110 to the Iwo Jima Memorial. It was fun, and nice to run across the finish line, though what was lacking was this sense of accomplishment. I felt like a fraud, but hey, I wanted my medal!

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I shouldn’t complain too much, since my condition is better than before, though it’s still frustrating not-perfect. If only I could be in my blissful 20s again…

P.S. Yes, it’s true, I do end up wearing the same thing for every race, haha :-p

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Book #15: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

After reading the dry-as-the-Sahara novel Bleak House, I knew I needed a fun, easy read to remind me that reading should be enjoyable. And that is why I decided to read Mindy Kaling’s, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?. Mindy (I’m forgoing my standard of referring to author’s by their last name, because Mindy is just so apt) is one of the funnywomen from The Office, the comedy that aired on NBC. I really liked that show, because it was just so funny. Not like slapstick funny, but more like deadpan, or naturally fun. Anyway, Kelly Kapoor—one of the characters on the show—was played by Mindy Kaling. Now, I didn’t know Mindy, other than I’d see that she wote/directed/produced episodes, but I knew Kelly, and she was hilarious.

kelly

As I was reading this book, I was imagining it in Kelly/Mindy’s voice. Even though Mindy explicitly says that she is not Kelly and Kelly is not she, she did make a list of how they were similar and how they were different. While I agreed with the “similar” list, the “different” one seemed kind of fuzzy…. she should just admit that Kelly Kapoor is her alter ego!

I learned a lot about Mindy from reading …Without Me. Success for her wasn’t easy, but she shows how she kept trying, often failing, and maintains a self-deprecating attitude throughout. It’s true, I really could see myself hanging out with her, being friends.

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Two of the serious points that the talks about, I really agree. She talks about how some people say they’re “bad with names”, as if it’s a condition. It’s not. It’s not some affliction; you just can’t remember people’s names because you’re lazy. Although, as an aside, I have to say that it is really weird when someone calls out to me or says, “Hey, I know you!” and I could swear that I have never in my life seen that person. That’s different.

She also talks about how people are always complaining about being “soooo stressed out”. She calls bull on that, and cites the hard-working nature of her parents, whom she looks up to and respects (as any well-raised child should), and who have never in their lives uttered a complaint about being “stressed”. I can relate. My parents are very hard-working, but if they were to one day start talking about how stressed out they are, I would be shocked. Don’t get me wrong- my parents and Mindy’s parents surely endure a lot of stress on a regular basis- but they cope with it. people born and raised here just… let it all hang out and complain too much.

In an effort not to give out the entire book, I’d suggest that you run, don’t walk, to your nearest library or bookstore and get this book. You will love it. If I’m any indication, as you read it during your work commute, you’ll find yourself occasionally bursting out laughing while surrounded by strangers (who probably don’t even notice because they’re so tuned in to their “phones” (palm-sized processors)).

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Race report: Army Ten-Miler, October 12, 2014

In keeping with tradition, the ol’ race report arrives a week late!  Well, more of a brisk walk, but I really do hope this whole walking-my-race-instead-of-running-it will be coming to an end.  I want to run, dangit!  I want to feel tired, out of breath, I want to pass people, I want to chase those who pass me, I want to feel the victory of crossing the finish line!

One day, I shall return to that.  This was not that day.

Let’s start with the Army Ten-Miler (ATM) race expo.  Like all race expos, it was all about BUY, BUY, BUY!  So much “essential” stuff for enthusiastic runners to buy, all sorts of cutesy, ultra-feminine things (barf) geared towards women.  Gag me with a spoon.  I went only to get my race packet, which went pretty smoothly, except for one thing: the shirt.

When I got to the t-shirt table, some woman explained that they were out of Women’s X-Small (I didn’t even know that was an option!), Small, and Medium, but that they had a Men’s Small.  She looked at me inquiringly, as if she’d given me some kind of option.  “Umm, ok, since the alternative is no shirt,” I said.  It would have helped (no, actually, it wouldn’t have) if she really had asked a question.  Then the stupid look on her face might have made sense.  I was really annoyed, because I’d paid a lot of money for this race, as had a lot of other people, several months in advance, and now pretty much all the Women’s t-shirts are gone??!?  Unacceptable.  I took my ugly, ill-fitting Men’s shirt and pouted my way through the rest of the expo.

And now, race day.  This was the first race in several months where it was outright COLD in the morning.  I think back to the VA Beach half marathon and how it was so comfortably warm in the morning, only to become steamy through the race.

I don’t know why, but I always feel so sleepy when I wake up on race morning, even though I would definitely be up at that time on a weekday.  So my brilliant idea was that, to really wake myself up, and avoid the crush of already-smelly people (yes, runners stink before a race) on the Metro, I would bike to the Pentagon.  It was chilly, yes, but the ride itself was nice and easy, since it was all flat or downhill.  And that early in the morning, it was really peaceful, just me and the streetlights, and a couple cars here and there.  Can’t say I saw anyone else be savvy and bike to the race site.

Once I was there, then I saw the throngs of people, both standing around and spilling out of the Metro (oh I’m so glad I did not ride it).  Once I’d given away my bag in Gear Check, I could not wait for the ATM to begin, because I just wanted to start moving!  Now, this is a race with thousands, no, tens of thousands of people, so meticulous planning is required to make sure the race, especially the start, does not turn into a nightmare.  I would say that the ATM staff did a pretty good job.  It helped a lot that I started in my original wave, Wave 4, though I was fully aware of being THAT annoying slow person whom everybody passes.  But hey, I didn’t want a completely-bruised ego.

I was carrying a water bottle with me, so I didn’t need to slow down (haha) at any of the aid stations, other than to dodge other races and the multitude of cups on the road.  When you’re going to have 26,000 people coming through each aid station, it can be hard to keep it stocked in a timely manner, but I think the volunteers all did a good job.

I like that when I was around Mile 8, going over the bridge from DC back into VA, one guy said to me, “You’re not even sweating!”  To which I responded, “This is EEEASY!”  Even though I was just walking, I wasn’t going to waddle along like it was a walk in the part,  Oh no.  I still intended to get some exercise out of it.

When I finally finished, in over two hours (hangs head), my Garmin had recorded me as having traversed 10.11 miles, to give me a pace of 13:27/mile.  Wowee, I didn’t know I could walk that fast!  That’s even faster than my pace for the Philadelphia half marathon.  Well, I don’t plan on becoming a professional racewalker.  Just so we’re all clear, I’d rather be running.

I did happen to run into a couple friends at the end, which was nice.  As we headed back towards Gear Check/Metro, we saw humongous piles of clothing.  These were the jackets, long-sleeved tees, etc. discarded by runners, which are normally rounded up and donated to charity.  But I guess the ATM wanted the racers to have first dibs, so it was funny to see people wading through piles of other people’s clothing, looking for a steal.  I jokingly said that I was looking for a Women’s Small lululemon jacket.  Surprise, I didn’t find one!  I did let myself get talked into a large cycling jacket, which I’ve washed and is now sitting in my dryer.  But I’ve had second thoughts and I don’t actually want to wear it, so I’ll re-donate it!

Anyways, it was time to go home.  One benefit to walking was that my legs still had plenty of energy to pedal my bike, uphill, back home.  It was nice to have a race so close by, only a five-mile ride.  And then I relaxed for the rest of the day, but it was still only day 3 of my four-day weekend, yay!

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What happened today

Something happened to me today that was unimaginably terrible. Thinking back to it now, when I am in a rational state of mind, who cares what others say about me? But at that time, it was so incredibly painful and just brought back a flood of bad memories from high school. Here’s what happened:

At the end of my bike ride, I stopped at the Washington-Lee high school track to cool down a bit, since it was such a nice day. A few minutes later, several students came out of the building (early dismissal? break? lunch?) and soon a group of boys were sitting high in the bleachers as I sat on the field, stretching out.   I could hear them saying some things and, paranoid as I am, I thought they were talking and laughing about me. But I ignored them… and it continued.

At one point, one of these boys sat down right near me, ostensibly doing some stretches himself, but got up and went back to his group after about five seconds. I heard the boys say, “Did she say anything?” (I hadn’t.) I got done with my yoga/stretches (and then I heard them saying, “Noo!” to the fact that I wasn’t going to be their target anymore) and was about to go back to my bike and leave. At the last second, I instead marched up into the bleachers and confronted them. “Do you all have some kind of problem?” Complete, utter silence. “Is there some reason you were saying things to me?” More idiotic silence. “I don’t appreciate you all yelling at me. Try to act like adults.” I might as well have been talking to rocks.

I went back to my bike, and then one of those kids came up to me with a, “Ma’am?” I turn around. “I’m really sorry about what happened.”

I pressed him a bit, and his only explanation were that they were “stupid and immature” (hey, no argument from me!”). I accepted his apology, but all it did was to give me absolute confirmation that, yes, I had been the butt of their joking. Because without that one kid apologizing, I could still have gone with the belief that I was just being paranoid, and the kids were weirded out that I’d come to talk to them for no reason.

Sadly, my suspicions had been right. As I got on my bike to go home, the floodgates opened and I started crying. I had sunglasses on but still, I needed to get out of sight of those boys first. And then I started weeping uncontrollably.

It sucks, it’s just so awful. Rationally thinking, why would I care what a group of teenage boys whom I don’t even know are saying about me? But I recognize that my emotional response was irrational, as it stirred up painful memories from two decades ago, two decades ago, that could have just happened yesterday, they were so strong. All throughout high school, I was teased because I was different. I was book-smart, homely-looking, shy, awkward, and oh yeah I was one of the only people in the school who was something other than black or white.

The difference back then was that it was the snob squad (the group of rich, pretty, big-breasted girls) who instigated the incessant teasing. The boys who fawned over them would of course join in, but it was primarily the girls.

I thought that being done with high school, becoming an adult, and really discovering myself would have spelled an end to all that. Not so at all. What have I done to deserve this? And how am I ever going to conquer this kind of trigger?

 

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