Sunday, February 13, 2011

41 is the new 40

My birthday was last weekend. It seems sort of unimportant when I don't change age groups. Although this year does mark an age-group milestone of sorts, in that I believe my coach ages up out of my AG, which can only do good things for my chance at bringing home hardware in local events.

Unimportant or not, I am a big believer in birthdays and in telling everyone you're having one, so they feel the need to acknowledge it. As my late father used to say about turning another year older, "It's always better than the alternative."And yes, I realize that my modifier placement in the first sentence here implies that I, rather than my birthday, may be unimportant.  I was going to fix that, but then I decided to embrace the irony.

I got awesome presents, including a load of Smartwool socks from my husband. I love running in these in the winter, and it's also nice to have more socks I can shovel snow in, since apparently that's the main activity in my life this winter. He also had the good sense to get me some black running socks, which came in handy this week when I ran in the morning at work and forgot "real" socks--I wore running socks all day with my respectable work clothes, and no one was the wiser.

My mom got me the waffle maker I asked for:

My kids thought it was beyond hilarious to offer me this pile of "presents," which are blocks wrapped in silly bands:

I had to unwrap each one and pretend to try to open the blocks, which of course wouldn't open. Just as funny the 20th time as the first.

And my husband made me this awesome dinner,

seared scallops and watermelon with a sesame dressing over arugula, one of our favorite recipes from The Athlete's Plate, which is a great cookbook for endurance athletes who like good food.  I highly recommend purchasing it along with a spouse who will do all the cooking from it--this combination has worked really well for me.

In training news, this week I had a swim test: a 500 yard time trial. I am not going to publish my time, because it's sort of embarrassing. Let's just say most of the 8-yr-olds on the local swim team could beat it. But what's important to me is that I was 6 seconds per 100 faster than last year. OK, I'm sort of lying--it is mortifying to me to realize how slow I am, and I called my husband (a high school and college swimmer) and had to have him talk me down from a full-on anxiety attack about how I'll never be a decent swimmer. I also had a swim session with my coach, and she pointed out that I am over-rotating (and also have a bad hand entry), so perhaps fixing those things will help. And really, the improvement is good. I seem not to be someone who makes massive leaps in fitness/ability, so I am working to be happy with continual, if slow, improvement.

And now a totally unrelated story from the end of my work week. Friday in my class we got to the equation for Gibbs Free Energy, G = H - TS. I told my students, as I always do at this point, about the mnemonic my high school chemistry teacher gave us to remember this: Goldfish taste Horrible without Tartar Sauce.  (The "without" even gives you the minus sign. How awesome is that?)

On the spur of the moment I was inspired to tell them more of the story: at the time I learned this in high school, my sister was in college and dating a guy who, among other accomplishments, set a record in his fraternity for the number of goldfish consumed at one sitting, so that mnemonic has always had a special place in my heart.  (If my sister is reading this, she's probably mad I've written about this. But she's changed her name, so I think her secret is safe.) The class of 60 students laughed, then a moment later, someone asked, "Do you mean the crackers?" I stopped, put down my chalk, and asked for a show of hands for how many people thought I was talking about this kind of goldfish.  About half of them did.

About 10 minutes later, while we were in the middle of some fascinating discussion of entropy and spontaneity, a student suddenly asked, "Wait--were the goldfish dead when he ate them?" My students are so naive, it's really kind of touching.

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