Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Lots of Little Updates

Hello, dear readers.

Sorry for taking so long to update, I've been both extremely busy and yet not doing much of anything, you know? Between the holidays and school and getting ready to head down to Florida for a few months, it's been a whole lot of running around and being double-booked. I'm even trying to do double-duty here by typing this on my steno machine. I have a program that allows me to type on the steno machine and it translates directly into English. Usually. As long as your dictionary has the word, it will translate, but if it doesn't, or if you misstroke a word, it looks something like this: /WUPBG can be /KPAUFG sometimes. You figure it out. (answer at the bottom of the post.)

I confess, I'm watching "America's Next Top Model," my not-so-secret guilty pleasure. It's an orgy of cattiness and Cover Girl product placement. Rumor has it that the actual winner is picked when the "final 13" are first chosen, but who cares, it's just so much fun! Best line ever, from Xiomara a few years ago: "Aside from being born, this is the best thing that's ever happened to me." Yeah, can't top that.

So this week I went to the cookie bake-a-thon held by Band of Parents, the group of parents with children being treated at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Their mission was to sell, bake and ship 96,000 cookies and give the proceeds to MSKCC. Well, there was no problem getting orders for the cookies, but they needed a lot of help with the baking, packing and shipping. So I went down to Brooklyn last week to volunteer some time with them. They were in a space called Kitchen For Hire, which is exactly what it is -- a kitchen for people doing stuff like this. It was really tiny, and both very cold and very hot at the same time (I ended up standing next to the space heater) I helped with the packing, so don't worry if you ordered from them, your cookies are safe. And as a bonus, I finally got to meet Gretchen! It was crowded with five people on the packing/shipping line, but as I was getting ready to go, ten firemen showed up (Gretchen's little boy, Liam, is something of a mascot around her local firehouse, and they all came down to volunteer.) Oh, boy. It was hard to leave, and let me tell you, there's nothing like seeing a burly fireman tie a little ribbon around a box of cookies. but my school decided to have evening tests at my speed, and I wanted to get the extra chance to test. PS, those cookies were good! We got to eat the broken ones.

A word about testing, if I haven't bored you with talk of steno in earlier posts. Steno school is not like regular school in that you progress at your own pace. The ultimate goal is to get to 225 words per minute, at which point you graduate. Classes are broken up into 30-40 wpm increments (70-90, 100-120, etc.) At least once a week, maybe more, the teachers will test. A test is a five minute take at the speed. You write the take on your writer -- yes, the machine with the paper strip coming out of the top -- and then you have an hour to transcribe it back into written English. Sounds easy, I assure you it ain't. Between misstrokes, strokes that you did correctly and yet still can't figure out what you wrote, dropping words and sentences, trying to make sense of bad grammar that may or may not be what the teacher actually said, it can be a mess. And you would be surprised at how fast you forget what was said during those five minutes. The ideal for a court reporter is that the minute you're done doing a job, you forget everything that was said. That means you're writing automatically -- in the ears and out the fingers.

Okay, they're doing the big finale fashion show part of ANTM, it's ridiculous. Imagine stilt walkers and giant umbrellas and the worst part -- an audience of what must have been prisoners -- or at least they must have felt like prisoners -- wearing coolie outfits (I apologize for using the term but that's what they were) and sitting evenly-spaced and in the exact same position on the ground. Yeah, real world fashion show. Not staged for the cameras at all.

I think last time I mentioned steno I was at 120 or 130 words per minute, and now I'm testing for 180. The amazing thing I've noticed over the last few months, especially in the thick of marathon training, is that my speed on the track and my speed on the machine kept pace. I don't know why, but since I was getting faster at both, I wasn't complaining. So now I feel I'm getting so much faster at running, and my steno speed is now just starting to catch up, right when I'm getting ready to leave. It's a little frustrating and I'm pushing myself to pass at least one 180 before I go, but I'm not there yet. I know that speed will come, it has before and it will again, but I want it now!! I know that I'll get a lot of good practice time in Florida, and hopefully when I get back to New York, I'll be able to fly through the 180s and get to the last class, the 190-225 class.

Speaking of Florida, I'll be working in Boca Raton -- in my other life, my life away from running and cookie-baking and stenography, I'm a professional stage manager. One of the theaters I've worked at a number of times, and one of my favorite places to work, is the Caldwell Theater Company. You know you're in good hands when you first arrive at the theater, and the first thing you see is the bar, and the first thing you're told is that staff drinks are half-price. Quite honestly, if I had to deal with the audience instead of the actors, I'd drink a lot, too. Oh, wait, I do. Yes, my liver is back in form, more on that in a second. Anyway, the Caldwell just opened up their own brand new state of the art theater, the first time they have ever owned their own space, and when they called me to come work there, I couldn't say no. I normally can't say no to them anyway, but the added treat of the new space is impossible to resist! So if you're in or near the Boca area and want to come see a show (which I heartily recommend!!) or just meet up for a run along A1A, drop me a line.

Yes, I did run a bit, too. I've been a bit unmotivated lately, but I'm pulling myself out of it. I indulged my lazy side for a few days, but between all the holiday eating and my own desire to keep up my new speed, I couldn't let it go for too long. Besides, I have my new toy, the Nike+, to play with. The weather has been cooperating here in NYC, although tonight we're supposed to get snow, so while I can, I've been heading out for a few more turns of Central Park. Strange how nicer running around the Park is now that the marathon is over, there was a point when I went to Staten Island rather than make one more loop, that's how sick I was of the Park. My average pace per mile has decreased to about an 8:15, and I couldn't be happier about that. I can't wait to put it into use in January, because that's when I will be doing the ING Miami Half-Marathon. Yeah, that's the next race! Thought about the Disney Half, but it's during tech week, and thought about doing the full marathon, but I don't think I have the motivation to train for a full one by myself, and also, I don't think I could get back to Boca in time to get to work afterwards if I do a full one. That's okay, a half in Florida in January is enough for me. For now.

Oh, did those of you who are runners know that Saucony has introduced the Pro Grid Triumph 5? Replaces my beloved 4. Lighter, and I think a little less cushioned, but also uglier. The ones I got come in white and gold and they look like boy's shoes. Not that I really consider what I look like when I run, as anyone who's seen pictures of me can attest. But I love my green Triumphs! I've spent the past few years experimenting with sneakers and finally found a brand and style that I like, and now...sigh.

One more thing before I go: yesterday I went to see "Mary Poppins" on Broadway. The Actors Fund was doing a benefit performance and they gave me some tickets. I went to my doctor earlier in the day to pick up a prescription for physical therapy for when I go to Florida, and I mentioned to her that I was seeing the show. She's one of the "theater doctors;" she sees a lot of people from the Broadway community and is one of the doctors most people call for performer related emergencies. So my doctor says, "At intermission, you've got to get a cocktail at the bar, they serve them in sippy cups and you can bring it back to your seat." Let me just say about the show, I'm not sure who it was created for. It was way too long (Act I alone was 90 minutes) and too depressing for children, and too much of a children's show for adults. So at intermission I went to the bar and got one of the very expensive -- and may I add, very potent -- signature cocktails, served in a sippy cup.

Doctor's orders!


PS: the steno phrase -- "Running can be exhausting sometimes." Did you get it?

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