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Turkey Trottin'

Thursday, November 26, 2009
This morning I ran in the Turkey Trot at the Zoo. It's a 4-mile run that starts at the Oregon Zoo Forestry Center, descends down to the street next to the International Rose Test Garden at Washington Park, goes back up, and then back down again into the zoo itself. There's about 550 feet of elevation difference between the top and bottom, and I ran the whole thing.

Since I started at the back of the crowd (the front was where the people running 5-minute miles were), it was almost 30 seconds after the race started before I actually was moving because 1000 people don't just all start running at once. And, when we did start, we immediately bottlenecked going down the hill so it took several minutes for the crowd to spread out enough to where I could find a pace. After that, I just kept running along.

Now let me be clear: by "running" I mean "moving at a pace faster than walking". While the timer said 44 minutes 39 seconds as I crossed the finish line (indicating a pace of about 11:10 per mile), that's still faster than I could have walked it and I never stopped running. So, while I wasn't fast, I still did it. (Speed will, I'm sure, come with time.) Also, I'm pretty sure I wasn't the slowest runner there.

A lot of people commented that it was going to be difficult to start going downhill and then have to finish going up. I didn't actually find that to be the case. It always takes me a few minutes to warm up and fall into a pace anyway, so I'd have just fatigued myself faster by starting uphill. As it was, the downhill portion gave me a chance to warm up before tackling the hill back to the top.

It was an extremely fun run, with the temperature in the low 40s and a light rain keeping me cool, and I'm definitely looking forward to doing the next run farther and faster!

House on a Pedestal

Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Today's ramble (at the 4.5 level) started off with the announcement by the ramble leader, "I'm going to go a little faster today because we need to cover the distance." Behind him, someone quietly quipped, "and this is different how?"

Our destination wasn't as clear as they normally are. Instead of "Pittock Mansion", "Governor's Park", or "Council Crest", today's ramble destination was rather obliquely referred to as "A house on a pedestal."

A trip to the house on a pedestal

So off we went. We managed to cover over seven miles in almost exactly 2 hours; no small feat considering there was at least a five-minute break at our destination. Furthermore, we gained nearly 1000 feet of elevation in this ramble. I know that I was working hard for it - and I may even be a little sore in the morning.

View Larger Map

The ramble was fast and fun, and the house we traveled to was impressive to see. It literally looked like an enlarged stereotypical birdhouse, and it was just plain cool to look at.

Rambling back, however, is always the hardest part for me. After an hour of working hard (and I like going uphill), I'm just a little slower - and I don't like going downhill. I have to work a lot harder to keep up with the group on the return trip than I do on the ascent. It's something I have to work on; I'm not sure if it's stamina or just pacing, but I will one day be just as good at the return trip as I am on the adventure out.

Movie Review: Inglourious Basterds

Monday, November 23, 2009
I watched "Inglourious Basterds" at the McMenamins Kennedy School the other night. This is Quentin Tarantino's latest film, following the exploits of a Jewish-American team of guerilla fighters (and a traumatized teenage girl) in Nazi-occupied France.

This isn't going to be a super-long review, because I honestly didn't think much of the film. Nothing about the movie screamed "great". Perhaps it was that the movie definitely felt like a comfortable Quentin Tarantino film, or perhaps because the whole "alternate history" genre has never really resonated with me, but the movie simply wasn't that captivating.

thanks to warthroughthegenerations for the poster

Except for Christoph Waltz. He managed to steal every scene he was in, and not only made the characters on the screen uncomfortable, he made everyone in the audience uncomfortable. He was a perfect antagonist; he smiled a little too broadly, he laughed a little too hard, and he committed violence with little warning. He played the role to perfection; give him an award!

Final word on Inglorious Basterds? Worth renting simply to watch Christoph Waltz, but don't have high expectations for anything else about the film.

Left 4 Dead 2

Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Today is the release day for the highly anticipated sequel to the successful multiplayer zombie survival game Left 4 Dead: Valve's Left 4 Dead 2.

On my calendar you'll see an entry for the release of Left 4 Dead 2. I've been anticipating it, I've been waiting for it, and I've been dying to kill some new zombies. I can tell you right now; I successfully killed plenty tonight.

The game is pretty much Left 4 Dead, but bigger and with more options. At its core, it's a cooperative multiplayer zombie survival game. You (and up to three other players) are just trying to escape as zombies pour upon you from the surrounding landscape. The problem is, it's not just the regular walking dead; some zombies have mutated, becoming stronger and much more able to kill you. Survival is tough, challenging, and fun.

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Left 4 Dead 2 has more of everything than the original had. There are more types of special infected to kill you. There are more weapons to use to fight back. There are more sniper rifles, assault rifes, shotguns, handguns - and there are even melee weapons, such as fire axes, chainsaws, and frying pans. There are more campaigns to play, and there are more surprises in store.

Of course, the ultimate question is: is it fun? Yes, of course it is, but's not flawless. The game, of course, demands comparison to the original. It's bigger, but it's more chaotic. There's never time, it seems, to appreciate where you are and the environment surrounding you; Valve's vaunted AI Director makes sure you don't have time to breathe. The first game was simple; there was you and there were a bunch of zombies, with four types of special infected to kill you. Now there are eight types, plus some uncommon infected, like the highly ridiculous clown zombies (that will alert other zombies) or CEDA operatives with their fire-resistant suits. Some of the changes almost make the sequel feel cheapened. Finally, of course, the system requirements are astronomical. My gaming PC, while not brand new, is no slouch - and yet the game is still frequently choppy in outdoor situations.

But still, is the game fun? Yes it is. I'll probably be playing it - and culling the zombie horde - for quite some time to come. I just hope that this game expands better than the first one.

And let me paraphrase a movie quote: AK-47, the very best there is. When you absolutely, positively, have to kill every single zombie in the room; accept no substitute.

Portland Heights

Tuesday, November 10, 2009
This last ramble that I went on was a trip to Portland Heights, which, as the ramble leader put it, "is where the super-rich went after they fled 19th street". Yes, we're talking about history.

And our ramble leader knew his history. He narrated many stories for our group, a rather sizable 20+ people - which was more than I expected given the weather. We heard about the local trees, the scandals that led to the building (or selling) of some of the historical homes there, and about the people for whom so many Portland landmarks are named. It was quite a learning experience.

Map of the trip

The ramble itself, however, was disappointingly easy. From a technical standpoint, there weren't many hills and, while I managed to raise my heart-rate a few times, the actually amount of rambling left me wanting more. I partially have only myself to blame as I went on a slightly easier ramble, as I'm getting over being quite sick last week. Still, I was hoping for more.



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