Friday, August 31, 2012

Early Childhood 'Education'

            All parents want the best for their children. And if said parent is a university professor, they probably want their kids to be as well-educated as they are. What better way to expose your budding Einstein or Plato to the joys of learning than raising them on a college campus?
            Now, real estate in some prime areas of most campuses—the nice houses, where the rich sorority girls live, or those big, cool looking buildings called ‘halls’—is way beyond the budget of your average academic, or even a small country, like Liechtenstein (scratch that. Apparently, Liechtenstein has a lot of money).
The lovely mountains of Liechtenstein.

            But, anyway, there’s one place where university faculty members can really live in close contact with the intellect of the students—the dorms.
             ‘Faculty in residence’ programs exist in major universities all across the USA. They’re supposed to teach students that professors are approachable, normal people—just like those jerks downstairs who knock on your door at 2AM because they think you have fruit snacks. But what about the children of these professors? They stand to learn all kinds of valuable things, too. Here’s a few:
            1. How to operate an elevator. In a building where you’ve got tons of people going up and down at any given moment for any kind of reason, elevators are of paramount importance. If you want to go downstairs, and the elevator opens in front of you, you have to actually ask the people inside which direction they’re going, or you might end up going from floor 3 to 5 to 2 back to 3 before you actually get down to the ground. Elevator skills are especially difficult for children, who might not be able to push the highest buttons or intelligently articulate where they’re actually headed. Children stand to gain both motor skills and social skills from this exercise.
            2. How to use profanity. Whether it’s just minor expletives after being stuck in an elevator for over five minutes (see above) or more serious language after realizing one’s bathroom mirror isn’t actually there, children living in the dorms will gather valuable English language skills. Sure, most children learn dirty words when their friends whisper ‘em to each other on the playground, but in the dorms, children will learn these words in their proper context. And as any language teacher will tell you, it’s always better to learn a language in its native environment than by simply memorizing vocabulary.
            3. How to study. The children of academics are unfortunately, hopelessly doomed to an education at one point or another in their lives. Living in a community of young adults already suffering such a fate, children learn the valuable survival skills necessary to escape this part of their lives with minimal scarring. Simply by watching and mimicking, children learn that the most affective way to study is either: sitting in one’s room and watching Mad Men, lying on a balcony in a string bikini, or donning a pair of booty shorts and a lace camisole and going to the mythical font of knowledge found in ‘Collegetown’. As any parent will tell their child, college is a time for studying—and when your kid sees students studying so hard they start throwing up, they will probably conclude knowledge is a lot like the flu.
            Welcome to academia, little Johnny!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Book Review: Maledictions: The Offering, by Michael Gettings

            After waking up early Monday morning and rushing out the door without showering to make a eight AM class (that had been moved to nine AM without my knowledge), I realized I hadn’t done my weekly book review yet. So I picked up Maledictions: The Offering, by Michael Gettings. This YA coming of age story, while tinged with supernatural elements, is at heart a story about growing up and dealing with tragedy. It might be a slow read for those expecting action-packed hardcore fantasy—in no way could this be considered epic fantasy—but for readers who prefer tension and romance, Maledictions: The Offering, delivers.

Cover really doesn't do it justice. 

            We meet the lead character Beau Grace as he begins his senior year just after moving to the small town of Fort Flagg to live with the mother he barely knows. Raised by his alcoholic, abusive father, Beau doesn’t expect to have a good time in his new town—yet no sooner than has he walked through the doors of his new high school when he finds himself unexplainably popular. Three chatty girls vie for his attention, but Beau only has eyes for the mysterious Ezra, a girl whose parents recently died in a mysterious fire, a girl who sneaks out of drama class to read books in the rafter, and the only girl in school who doesn’t seem to be fawning over the new arrival.

            Yet instead of writing her off as just a weirdo, Beau continues to try and befriend her. Not only does he succeed at that goal, but he also manages to attract a beautiful, funny girlfriend and beat up the school bully. Yet instead of turning into another tale of high-school-success, this novel takes a suddenly shocking twist that blows apart Beau’s new life and casts a shadow of tragedy over Fort Flagg. As Beau struggles to recover, he draws even closer to Ezra—and soon learns she’s got some amazing secrets.

            Beau’s voice really makes the story worth reading. It evolves very nicely over the course of the book, from sarcastic and edgy at the beginning to mature and composed by the end. We really get to see his growth as a character. He’s quite sympathetic and realistic.

             Unfortunately, I didn’t really get drawn in by the mysterious Ezra. Her role in the story seems to be only to enable Beau’s growth, and we don’t really see her change much at all. While reading this book, I felt like quite a few foreshadowed hints didn’t play out. One scene that sticks in my mind, where a crazy drama teacher instructs her students to ‘hear the voices’ in an imaginary crowd, never really developed into anything.

             The plot initially reminded me a great deal of Twilight with the genders switched around, but this is a much deeper story here. It’s a story of innocence lost, of hopeless romance . . . but the rather slow beginning may convince readers to move along, there’s nothing to see here. The fantasy in this book is never on the central stage, which may be more enjoyable for some readers than others.

            High Points: Beau’s voice. Realistic, strong, and evolving throughout the story. The dramatic climax. It throws in some unexpected plot twists which make total sense in hindsight, which is very well done. The epilogue. Ties up all the loose ends, which is nice. A certain dramatic plot twist at the end of Part One. I won’t give it away, but it really shocked me. Beau’s relationship with his mother. The way he always pulls cigarettes out of her mouth at night is both gritty and sweet at the same time.

            Low Points: Foreshadowing. I thought there was a reason to why all the students at this school wanted to be Beau’s friends, but I guess Fort Flagg must just be a really boring town. Ezra’s character. I care about Beau, but I never really care about this girl. The way Twilight is mirrored in the first few chapters. I like Twilight pretty well, but I think a more original plot structure could have been used.  

Did I like this book? Yes. Would I read it again? Yes. Would I recommend it to people who like YA fiction? Yes. Maybe not for those who like hardcore fantasy, but any fan of more serious YA would enjoy this book. My rating? As serious YA fiction, I’ll give it five stars out of five. As a novel? Four and a half.

--Liz Ellor, O43

You can download Maledictions: The Offering here

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Staying Classy: How to survive your first day of higher education

So I wake up this morning to the beautiful aroma of whatever's stuck in these trash cans.

Sooner or later, I'm going to empty these, I swear.

But then, after telling myself to get out of bed and go down to the trash room, I remember something very important: I actually have classes today. Granted, they're all between the hours of nine and eleven, but clearly this is a very serious and important work day.

So I eat my frosted mini-wheats, make a mental note to buy dishwashing liquid, get dressed, change my shirt around a few times, and walk down to campus, singing 'Payphone' by Maroon 5 all the way. Luckily, I'm in the furthest dorm from campus, so this really only takes me . . . twenty minutes. The same amount of time it takes me to drive to Katherine Sheridan's house in Vienna. I miss my car.

I walk into Uris Library and ask the guy behind the desk where room G-01 is. He looks at me like I'm a total idiot. 

"That's in Uris Hall," he says, glaring out from behind his wire-rimmed glasses. "This is Uris Library." I make a mental note to track down any living descendants of the Uris family and tell 'em not to donate any more money to Cornell as I walk up the quad to a slightly uglier building.

The auditorium is absolutely packed. I squeeze into an open corner of the back row, pull out my laptop, and start taking notes. Here's some of the things I learned:

  • I need two hundred dollars worth of books
  • Absolutely everyone in this class is a pre-med
  • If happy ever after did exist, I would still be holding you like this.
After fifty minutes of the professor reassuring us this wasn't a weed-out class and reminding us that this is one of the hardest classes EVER, I slid quaking out of my seat and proceeded back across the quad to my introductory Spanish class, a language I chose on the basis of it not being French.

The classroom is almost totally full, and I'm forced to once again sit in the back. Not that I mind that. What I do mind is sitting next to a guy whose fat is spilling out of the seat and onto my chair. Trying to ignore him, I lean to my left as the teacher begins to lecture. She shows us pictures of all the TAs. Surprise! The fat guy sitting next to me is actually a TA!

Then, after she shows us the pictures, she has us all go through and try to name them. Since it's important to participate in one's first day of a new language, I raise my hand and volunteer to try and name the TAs. Naturally, my Spanish is horrible and I'm the only one in the whole class to get it wrong. The professor flashes me a look of pity and quickly turns her attention to the more gifted side of class.

I put my head down (to the left) and hope she doesn't call on me again. She doesn't.

Eventually, class ends and I'm free to go for the rest of the day. It may have only been two hours, but don't fool yourselves, people. Higher education is mouy hardo. I think. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Book Review: Kickshaw Candies, by R. K. Finnell

            After last week’s cover contest, I absolutely had to pick up Kickshaw Candies, by R. K. Finnell. Half faerie tale, half horror story, I couldn’t put the book down as I explored the small Irish town of Baile and watched what the mysterious candies of the title would do to its residents. Even as my roommate pulled out a box of chocolates and offered me one, I found myself staring suspiciously at her before coming to my senses. When twisted, supernatural punishments befall bad parents and little children find joy in every bite, this story glows. Unfortunately, when this story deviates from its strong point, it suffers.

According to the author, this animal is actually a stoat. 

            After a rather confusing prologue, we meet Teagan O’Brien, a charming, mysterious man who moves to Baile and opens a candy shop. Right away, it’s clear that there’s something different about the candies. The children in school learn faster. The village pub begins selling Kickshaw’s sugared peanuts. The local grocery throws away its candy stock. Fondant palm trees and edible teacups add a bright splash of color to the tale—as does Teagan himself. With the help of his pet stoat, he manages to bring a smile to the face of every child in town . . . save for poor five-year-old Liam Kavanaugh, whose health-obsessed mother, Molly, doesn’t let eat candy.  Liam is so distraught about his strict mother that he goes home and dreams about having sex with faeries—

            Wait. What did I just write?

            This story has a gift for turning from charming to creepy on a dime. We meet Osán Murphy, who owns the local pub, Martin O’Grady, the town drunk, Kelly Flannery, the local librarian, and a madwoman who coos over her daughter’s corpse in quick succession. As the story progresses, we watch individuals meet strange, gruesome fates. A woman is transformed into a monster. Young Liam discovers he has the ability to grant wishes. And in one amazing chapter, one of those wishes goes horribly wrong as a man makes a wish for eternal love. 

            The first half of the book is comprised of twisted faerie tales with a real human heart, and the mysterious Kickshaw candies are at the center of each tale. Teagan’s mysterious motive keeps the reader reading on. Part of you wants to know what’s going on, and part wants to enjoy the mystery just a little longer. The author does a great job of weaving different stories together. Characters move smoothly in and out of a narrative that really tells the story of a town.
            Unfortunately, the second half doesn’t seem to have the same magic. As the children of Baile grow up, the candy disappears from the scene and the story becomes one about fighting an evil faerie who wants to conquer the world. The down-to-earth characters gain fantastic powers and abilities, which is fine, but they seem to loose a lot of their personalities with it. The mood becomes decidedly fatalistic, and the lure dies down a little. The same element of twisted magic remains, and all the scattered plotlines are resolved, but the charm was gone. When the final battle began, I found myself not really caring whether the main characters lived or dies . . . especially because, well, the main characters themselves seemed pretty apathetic about them.

            High Points: The mystery. I really did want to find out who Teagan was and why he was in town. The pacing. The interlocking stories made the narrative hold together very well, and characters moved on and off stage with excellent timing. The creepiness. This story does creepy very, very well. Bean Sidhe, the stoat. This cute animal knows way more than she lets on.
            Low Points: The prologue. I didn’t think it was necessary, and the information in it could have easily been established in different ways. The character of Fáelán. Lots of potential here for an interesting character, but had no personality. The deviation of the second half. The story was much stronger in the beginning. The formatting. The paragraphs weren't indented correctly and the chapters weren't correctly page-broken.

            It’s not a day and night separation. The first half dragged at times, and there were one or two confusing moments. The second half had several powerful scenes, including a bloody sacrifice over a cauldron. Part of the issue was the way the main conflict wasn’t foreshadowed enough in the beginning, with a villain popping out of nowhere to resolve the story in a conventional way—which it really didn’t need, in my opinion.

Did I like this book? Yes. Would I read it again? Probably. Would I recommend it to people who like horror stories? Yes. It delivers all the thrills, scares, and disgust you’d want in a scary story, but it could have used more of a narrative push at the end. My rating? In the paranormal horror genre, I’ll give it four stars out of five. As a novel? Three.

--Liz Ellor, O43

You can download Kickshaw Candies here

Friday, August 17, 2012

How to pass (barely) a university mandated swim test

Today's modern universities face a unique challenge in preparing students for success in an ever-changing, globally-connected society. At least, that's what the brochures say. Part of this challenge is, apparently, ensuring graduates are capable of swimming exactly 75 yards without drowning.

Now, if you're smart enough to get into college, you're probably smart enough to paddle across a pool, so I'm expecting this challenge was imposed by bored PE faculty as a tool for humiliating students. I was a little suspicious going into it, as mandatory tests of basic skills haven't been a historical strong point with me (that learner's permit exam was rigged, I swear). Still, nevertheless, I show up at Helen Newman Hall at three thirty sharp, my bathing suit on and my swimming skills ready. 

That's when I encountered a little problem.

See this? This is what we call a problem.
So, for every week leading up to this test, I told myself to bring goggles. I'm a little sensitive about water in my eyes, so it's very important I have these. I dug in my old sports bag and found a pair. I packed them. I sat them down on my desk. And when I pulled on my bathing suit and shoved my towel into my bag, I made sure to shove them in too.

Only somehow they stayed on my desk. 

So as I stand, toe deep in other peoples' dripped-off water, I have no choice but to throw my shirt in my bag and follow the other shivering students into the pool. A lady starts screaming at me for no other reason than I'm . . . there . . . and grabs my student ID in a rather forceful manner. I am told to line up. I am told to jump in feet first.

This involves my head going underwater. Even worse, this might mean I get water in my eyes. See, I wear contact lenses. I really don't want to loose those lenses, because I've paid for them and they're pretty expensive for tiny pieces of plastic. 

So when the loud woman says go, I pretty much steel myself, squeeze my eyes shut, and jump.

I'm underwater for about a split second, at which point I frantically kick myself up and strike out for the opposite side. The rules say I can take as much time as I want, and, boy, do I take advantage of that. I hold my head above the water and frog-kick my way across the pool as the girls with goggles stream past besides me.

When I finally grab the other side and flip onto my back, sighing with relief, I think the worst is over. Right at that moment, the girl in the lane next to me kicks a crapload of water right in my face. As I enter my backstroke, I realize I'm kicking water into my own face. I proceed to frog-kick on my back all the way down the lane.

By the third and final lap, in which we can use whatever stroke we want. I stop caring and turn corkscrews all the way down. The lifeguard stares at me like I'm a total idiot, and right then and there I'm thinking she might not be too far off the mark. As I reach the end, I pull myself from the pool, walk over to the sign-out table, and babble an explanation about me and my missing goggles. "I'm actually a good swimmer!" I explain, frantically.

"Oh, really?" The student test administrator smiles at me. "You want to sign up to lifeguard?"

I laugh. "Trust me. I'm not that good."

Monday, August 13, 2012

Judge a Book by its Cover 1: Because I'm moving

Well, it's finally move-in week at school and my schedule has exploded. So this week's review is going to be a little late. However, I hope you enjoy this review of some of the covers of books people have posted in the Amazon KDP forum.

There's a reason it's called the book jacket, people. It's the first thing people see when your book walks into their house and, believe me, if someone with a hobo jacket walks into your house, you're not going to break open the good wine. You're gonna call the police.

So if you really want to market your book, I suggest employing a professional graphic designer or at least your fourteen year old niece who wears thick-rimmed glasses and sits in her room playing with Photoshop all day.

This book, for example, looks very funny and you can download it here. The cover art, however, is somewhat . . . pornish? Is that a word? Those glowing tube thingies look like they're under a blacklight in a police drama and I don't want to know how they got that way. Cursive fonts are generally for the covers of romances and period dramas, not sci-fi, and the font for the author's name makes me think this is a book about Christian cowboys. Victorian women meeting cowboys in a church . . . now we know why the tubes are suspiciously glowing. 

My score? Three out of ten

Next, we've got this book (available here), which appears to be about Irish mythology and a candy shop. I haven't seen as disturbing an image associated with candy since the boat ride scene in the original Willy Wonka (you know, the one with the bugs and freaky chanting). Much better font use, although repeating the title on the bag of candies is a bit of a distraction and I can't tell whether the creature on top is a cat, an otter, or a polar bear. Simple, elegant, creepy (in a good way)

My score? Eight out of ten.

Next, we've got this beauty, in what appears to be a story about disturbingly sexy demon women (available here). I can't honestly tell what this story is about from the description, but the cover makes it plain that tail is going somewhere the good Lord never intended. Very much in tune with the style of three-dollar fantasy hanging out in the used book store, but the pinkish color of that font is just a little disturbing, as is the lack of color contrast and those huge fingernails. I look at this cover and think porn. If that's what the authors are going for, great. If not . . .  they might have an image problem on hand. I can't stop thinking about that tail.

My score? Five out of ten.

--Liz Ellor, O43 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Bourne Obsession: How I watched all four Bourne movies in a single day

Okay, this is one of the cooler/lamer things I've done with my life.

My friend Taylor is one of the kindest vegans obsessed with rock music and action movies I've ever met. After noting the way she intently stared during an in-class viewing of 24 (yes, this was a film study class), a friend recommended she try watching the Bourne movies.

Oh, Olympic diving is on. Am I the only one who saw USA diver Katie Bell and thought 'Harry Potter'? It's okay, because the diver comes up first when you google her name.

So eventually Taylor watches the movies. She likes them. She wants me to go see 'The Bourne Legacy' with her. Problem is? The Olympics are on. I don't have time to watch movies. Unless I undertook the Herculean feat of watching even more TV, there was no way I'd be able to watch all three movies in time to catch the midnight premier tonight.

And yet, this morning, I had the gold in my sight. I knew I could make it.

8:45 AM: Boot up 'The Bourne Identity' on my Kindle Fire. Mom pops in to tell me to start packing for school. I nod and smile.

9:15 AM: In the middle of the first of many, many car chases, Mom comes back. Asks why I haven't started packing yet. Like a Treadstone assassin dodging a punch, I dodge the question. "Um. I got distracted," I say, pointing to my Kindle. I hit pause and start packing.

9:30 AM: Mom announces she's leaving to run some errands. Says she wants to see major progress when she returns. I nod, hop back in bed, and return to Paris with Jason and Marie. 

11:00 AM: Finish 'Identity'. Download 'Supremacy'.

11:20 AM: Freak out. Curse assassins, the director, and the nature of the universe.

11:30 AM: Mom returns. Says she's making lunch. Asks if I want some soup. I walk downstairs, Kindle in hand, and wave apologetically at the screen. I get a weird look as I proceed to eat with one hand and hold Kindle in other. More car chases. I start wondering why the CIA gets surprised every time Bourne kills the guy sent to kill him. Really. I also start wondering why they keep chasing him with cars. And why the police cars are always going in the opposite direction.

12:00 PM: Is forced to pack. Shoves clothing in bags. Digs out long underwear, spandex, sweaters (it's cold in New York)

12:30 PM: Back to Bourne! Sheesh, can't the CIA leave the poor dude alone?

1:30 PM: Finish 'Supremacy'. Download 'Ultimatum'.

2:00 PM: Mom tells me I can't watch the Olympics until I finish packing. Holds Kindle in hand while shoving clothing into bags as Bourne guides a journalist through a train station. Journalist gets shot. Should have listened to Bourne, the fool.

2:30 PM: Sneaks down to basement to watch USA v. Japan in women's soccer finals. Watches Bourne on one screen, Olympics on the other.

2:31 PM: Achieves inner peace.

4:00 PM: Finish 'Ultimatum'. Still not sure where the ultimatum occurs in the movie. Actually, I don'tremember much of anything, save that it was awesome and Borne survives to the end. Hooray! Call Taylor. Tell her how much I loved the moves.

Destiny Hooker is a horrible name for a child.

Anyway, my chat with Taylor involves me asking her to go to the midnight premier of 'Legacy' with me. Since that happens to be in less then six hours, she is a little skeptical of my abilities to get tickets. She tells me to call her if I can find any.

She never should have doubted :)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Book Review: The Newts, by Matt Valenti

            I confess, I have a soft spot for political satire. Conservative, liberal, whatever, it’s humor that makes me feel sophisticated just for reading it. If you’re a fan of the genre—or if you’re a fan of the satirical story style of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens—you’ll probably enjoy The Newts, by Matt Valenti. The story of a befuddled Tea Partier on a quest to save the USA may seem slow at times, but it always comes back to life with a quick quip that, I kid you not, made me laugh out loud.

One of the best book covers I've seen in a long time. Slicing amphibians in half works well artistically.

            The hero of this story, electrician Ed Wurlitzerbachermann, is the kind of man who dresses up like Sam Adams—“just like the guy on the beer bottle”—and makes heroic speeches to a splinter-splinter-group of the local Tea Party. Worried about the state of the Republican Party’s presidential nominee, he sets out on a heroic quest to the afterlife. His goal? Bringing Ronald Regan back from the dead, of course! Aided by Greek deity turned lobbyist Hermes, Ed journeys across Hades to the thriving metropolis of Dead City. Along the way, he meets both the victims of the foreclosure crisis, a trio of greedy ministers banned from Heaven, and the title characters—a Greek chorus of newts, whose songs represent the vicious side of American conservatism even as Ed represents its best.
            While Ed’s goal of returning Regan to life sometimes takes a back seat to the cast of colorful characters he meets along the journey, the humor makes most of the detours worth taking. I found my interest slowing a little as three ancient Greek politicians recounted tales of their careers—the author’s interest in Greek tragedy shines throughout the book—but when these three tales reach their peaks, each revealing an intrinsic truth about modern American politics, I cracked up. A graveyard where dead corporations are buried and the red furred Fox Newts crack past in quick succession—the pace of the story is one of the few things I had major issues with. Some incidents are too slow, some too fast. But by the time the book reaches its climax—a dramatic debate between Regan and FDR over which should return to the land of the living to re-assume the presidency—I couldn’t stop reading.

            Not that the book is perfect. As the author states in the preface, he was inspired by Aristophanes’ Frogs. The influence of Greek drama sometimes is pushed on a little heavily. The overt sexual innuendo from the god Dionysus can be funny at times, but intrudes rather heavily on the climax. Nevertheless, the humor can always be relied upon to inject new energy into the story.

            High points: The humor and wit. No one can say this book isn’t funny—it’s one of the funnier pieces of satire I’ve read in a long time, and satirical novels are very hard to write. The chorus of newts. These mischievous little dervishes always made me laugh. Ed’s Sam Adams suit. This constant costume is a massive symbol for the character’s patriotism and says something about the idealism in this story.

            Low points: The pacing. It can be too slow in some places and too fast in others—a little more editing might improve it. The sexual innuendo in the climax. It’s very distracting.  The epilogue. It doesn’t leave as much of a humorous punch as it could.

            Did I like this book? Yes. Would I read it again? Probably. Would I recommend it to people who like political satire? Yes. It’s a very funny story, written with wit, humor, and heart. My rating? In the political satire genre, I’ll give it three stars out of five. As a novel? Four and a half stars out of five.

--Liz Ellor, O43

You can download The Newts hereYou can also go here and purchase my book, Iceclaw.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Anatomy of a Captains' Practice

Ahh, the Captains' Practice . . . so called because no teams in the league are supposed to hold practices before August 1st--unless, of course, the team captains organize it. So as a recent alumni of my school's cross country team, I show up at the lovely Burke Lake Park, 6:15 sharp, eagerly awaiting the embrace of my greatest, oldest friends.

 There's still .475 miles of pain after this point . . . . especially when you  get lost at the amphitheater

Instead, I find five guys and a bunch of confused  looking freshmen.

So with a half-marathon coming  up Saturday and with my coach's (okay, my father's) orders not to do more than four miles, I volunteer to run with the seven freshmen. They can't be that slow. They're men, right?

Turns out, Burke Lake Park is what separates the boys from the men.

"So, how many *puff* years did you *huff* run cross country?" one skinny shirtless kid asked me, as I looked backwards to make sure all six of them were on pace.

"Four," I said. "And I ran both seasons of track, too." They were looking pretty tired. "You five doing okay?"

"Where is the two mile point? I've never run two miles." squeaked another of the four a few minutes later.

"In a few minutes. You know, if the three of you are getting tired, we can always slow down." Of course, being boys, they didn't want to.

"So . . . tired . . ." one freshman said to the other two miles later.

So I straightened my spine and talked some fire into him. I told him that if he could finish the run, he could do anything. That I had nine hundred practices under my belt. Lying, I told him that I'd never once stopped in the middle of a run. Finally, the lone freshman and I finished the loop and went back to stretch.

It was then I met Emily, one of our team's seniors, who had just returned from Chicago. Since she was in the middle of a run, I told her we'd catch up Saturday, when we held Captains' Practice at the equally lovely Wakefield park.

"Awesome!" she says. "I'll see you there! Saturday at nine, right? Can you give me directions?"

There's a few problems with that sentence. One, she's been there before. Two, she's one of the aforementioned Captains.

On a totally unrelated note, these Russian gymnasts keep falling apart on the balance beam. Olympic time!

--Liz Ellor, O43