Saturday, November 14, 2015

"Yes, I have plans for Saturday night."

A funny thing happened to me this summer.

I'm not sure when, exactly, it happened, but sometime over the course of the summer I became addicted to the Saturday night movie premiers on the Lifetime network. Part of it was that I was on call for the whole summer, so going to a movie and paying for a ticket when I might have to leave in the middle seemed foolish. Part of it was that I became part of a small but dedicated online community that live-Tweets the movies, and it's kind of fun to have the actors, writers, and sometimes the network itself favorite or respond to your tweets. And part of it is that the Saturday night movies are almost always that strange combination of wonderful and terrible that I've always loved.

It started out small. There were gateway movies, like gateway drugs, movies that I watched because they were based on a book I'd read or had someone I knew in them or something similar. Movies like Flowers in the Attic, or Liz and Dick (a movie so bad that when I watched it with my mom she asked, twenty minutes in, "Is this supposed to be a real movie? Seriously?"), or The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story were the gateway to other movies, and eventually to all of the movies. Dozens of movies. Hours of movies. Every Saturday night, more or less, watching a movie, playing video games, and live tweeting.

My brain is rarely as relaxed as it is every Saturday at 10 PM.

This hasn't been fully wasted time, though. I've also discovered that Lifetime movies are educational. As a matter of fact, here are the top five things I've learned:

1) Never date anyone you met online. Never. The husband she met online, the girl he met online, the wife he met online, the online abductor, they all turn out to be terrible. Sometimes, they just kidnap you, or just rob you. Most of the time, though, the person you met online either murders you, murders your friend, or occasionally sells you into international sex slavery. Online dating is always bad.

2) Never date anyone your family doesn't like. This is especially true if your family doesn't like someone you met online, but it is invalidated, of course, if your family realizes that there's a heart of gold beneath that troubled exterior. For the most part, though, people your family doesn't like almost always turn out to be murderers. They might drug you and make a sex video of you while you're wearing a dog collar, or they might tie you up in a sauna and stab you in the side, or they might push your sister to her death, but for the most part your family is always right. For every skateboarding punk who turns out to be an expert cybertracker who helps find your missing stepsister there are always ten more murdering psychopaths out there drugging their boss at the medical clinic while blackmailing them for money and pretending to love you.

3) Speaking of stairs (we did in the last point, I swear), they are America's silent killer. Anyone who falls, or is pushed, down the stairs dies.

4) Teenagers are always 17. There's actually a reason for this: a 17 year old is young enough that they are still under parental control but is old enough to have sex, drink, do drugs, etc. without the viewer squirming uncomfortably. Sure, those kids probably shouldn't be doing that, but they're almost 18, when whatever that is magically becomes slightly more ok.

5) Nothing all that shocking ever happened behind the scenes of a television show. Seriously, you never learn anything really juicy from an "unauthorized" movie.

You shouldn't skip them, though, because it's Saturday night.

And you should be home, watching Lifetime.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Month in Books: October

If I'd given October a little more thought, it would have been a great month to read ghost and monster stories in honor of Halloween. I didn't plan that far ahead, but I did end up spending the last half of the month in a state of "vampire madness", a condition I haven't suffered from since I read most of the Twilight saga back to back in 2010. Vampire Madness is the state of mind when you read books about vampires that slowly move from "just a little weird" to "batshit crazy" over the course of the series.

Before I fell into Vampire Madness, a state that I am half a book from getting out of, I read some other things. I also embarked on a major project regarding my books: getting rid of them.

I'm not getting rid of all of my books. There are sentimental books that I want to keep, but lately I've been looking around my apartment and wondering what I'm going to do with all these books. There are ten bookcases in my living room, stacks of books under all three end tables, a stack of books in the bedroom, a stack of books on the kitchen counter, a stack of books on the counters in both bathrooms... there are a lot of books in my apartment. I will reread some of them, but the rest? I just keep looking at them and wondering why I'm saving them. I'm not having kids. I don't have nieces or nephews. I don't have rare first editions or a valuable library that may sell well at an estate sale when I'm gone. With that in mind, I've been slowly evaluating and clearing out books this month, and anticipate that it will be a continuing project for a while. Eventually, it will have some definite benefits:

1) Fewer books in my house. Anything that makes me less of a hoarder has to be a good thing.

2) More books for me to read. Unless I'm giving them to someone specific or donating them to The Pride Center I take my books to McKay's for credit, which I can then use to buy more books, DVD's, and CD's. McKay's also has a donor bin for books they don't take, and people love picking things out of the free bin, so I'm still getting books out of the house and giving them to a stranger is better than throwing them away.

3) Eventually I will open enough shelf space to start putting my cookbooks on a shelf, rather than stacking them in multiple places around my apartment. This will let me use them more.

With all of that in mind, here are the books I read this month, and their final fates.

1) Erin Kelly's The Burning Air tells a story of revenge against the MacBride family. Privileged and comfortable, the three MacBride children were raised by their father, the headmaster of a private school, and their mother, a magistrate and social crusader. When they gather to spread their mother's ashes, together as a family for the first time since her death, the family immediately unravels as they discover a stranger in their midst and a master plan of revenge that someone has been waging against them for decades, convinced that their mother was a murderer who escaped justice, determined to right the wrong. Unfortunately for the reader, the twists and turns of the revenge plan turn out to be much more exciting and satisfying than the novel's conclusion, which seems rushed and falls a little flat.

I was so annoyed at the lack of actual revenge, and then dumb last minute "shocking twist" that I not only sent this book to McKay's but pulled both of her other books from my shelf and sent them, too.

2) Lauren Beukes' The Shining Girls is the story of Harper, a killer of women who moves throughout time thanks to a House that opens onto different decades at will, and Kirby, the girl who survived a serial killer that no one else believes exists. Troubled and bitter after barely surviving her attack, Kirby and newsman Dan Velasquez are trying to track down a killer who shouldn't exist, chasing clues scattered across decades and women with no links between them except the man who killed them. Even if they find him, how do they stop him when he can step away into their past or their future? And how will they see him coming when he sets his sights on finishing what he started with Kirby? This book was tense, gripping, and a really good read.

I read it on my kindle, so nothing went to the bookstore.

3) Chris Beckett's Dark Eden introduces us to The Family, a collection of a few hundred people living on a faraway world known as Eden, a cold place of eternal night where they huddle in a village beneath the light and warmth of the Forest's glowing trees. Surrounding the Forest are the dark frozen wastes of the Snowy Dark, a place they never venture into as they wait for the travelers from Earth, a legendary planet of brightness, to return to them in boats that sailed the skies. John Redlantern is different, though. He wants to know what lies beyond Snowy Dark, and as food becomes scarce and the Family begins to fight among themselves, John will venture where none of them have gone before, and will learn the shocking truth about their world.

This started out interesting, but ultimately turned into "Lord of the Flies" in space. I probably will not pick up the sequel, and I took it to the bookstore.

4) Douglas Coupland continues to trick me in Generation A. I'm sure I've explained this before: once I read a Douglas Coupland book and really liked it, and I continue to read his books with the assumption that I will find another that I enjoy as much as that first one. Once again, it hasn't happened, and I had to force myself through this unsatisfying story of five strangers in the near future, who are all stung by bees long after bees are declared extinct.

I was so enraged at being tricked, once again, by Douglas Coupland that this book turned out to be the straw that broke the camel's back. I took all of the Douglas Coupland books on my shelf, including Girlfriend in a Coma, the one that I read once a really long time ago and enjoyed, to the used bookstore. Not only did this fill me with momentary joy (almost as much as when I threw Jonathan Franzen's books in the bag later in the month; I thought I understood the true meaning of Freedom when I finally turned the last page and escaped that dreary paper doorstop, but it turns out that turning a profit on getting that thing out of here was even more uplifting), but I also discovered that Coupland didn't even write one of the other books that I was counting in the "sometimes he's not terrible" pile. I love Dictator Style, but somehow it's escaped me for the past eight years that Coupland only wrote the introduction.

5) Is Bruce Wayne doing the most good possible by being Batman, or could he help Gotham City more in other ways? Is it morally wrong to turn your ward into a crimefighter? Is Batman really any different from the Joker, or are both compelled to follow their absolute truths? Is Batman more heroic than Superman? And can Batman and Superman ever have a friendship of equals? If you've ever wondered about these, or a dozen or so other philosophical questions about Batman, then you might enjoy reading Batman and Philosophy, in which twenty authors dissect the ethical, moral, and philosophical implications of Batman and his actions through the writings of history's greatest philosophical minds. For the most part, I enjoyed this, except for one chapter that asks, "Could Batman ever be the Joker?", walks us through a dozen or so densely written and sometimes confusing pages, and then says, "Well, we didn't even really need to ask because it happened in this issue."

I got this from McKay's and it went back to McKay's when I was done.

6) In Lexicon, Wil is on the run from a mysterious organization. Wil has seen something that has killed three thousand people, and somehow he's survived. He is the outlier, immune to the effects of glimpsing a forbidden word that drives people to murder everyone around them. Emily is a Poet, trained by the organization chasing Wil. She can use language to confuse, mislead, or outright control people, and she and Wil are now on a collision course. They may not survive, and the world may not, either. This was a good read, fast paced and sometimes surprising.

I've read some of Max Barry's other work and enjoyed it, and I enjoyed this, so for now his books remain in the apartment.

7) V. E. Schwab's Vicious introduces us to Victor and Eli. Ten years ago, they were college roommates working on their senior thesis projects, Victor's on the body's adrenaline response and Eli's on the aftereffects of near death experiences. When they get the idea to combine them, the results are immediate and catastrophic. Ten years later, Victor is a convicted criminal, rumored to be superpowered and considered extremely dangerous after escaping prison. Eli is a hero, lauded in the newspaper for stopping a bank robbery. Victor is coming for Eli, to settle old scores and new ones, to determine once and for all which of them is really the hero and which is really the villain. This was a fast read, but entertaining and at times rather tense.

I read this on my kindle, but would probably have sent it to the used bookstore even though I liked it.


8) I thought "Twilight" was the most batshit insane vampire series I've ever read, but apparently that was only because I somehow forgot about reading Christopher Pike's "The Last Vampire" series when I was younger. Thirst: Book 2 finishes the reprint of the original six book series, with the three final books of Sita's story. For those who don't remember, the first three books introduced us to Sita, a five thousand year old blue eyed, blond vampire from India (she's ancient Aryan) who was the last vampire in the world, pursued by Yaksha, the first vampire and her creator. In the last book she fought Yaksha, went back to high school for some reason (why do vampires do this?), detonated a hydrogen bomb outside of Las Vegas, and the book ended when she used a mysterious alchemical process invented by her lover from the Dark Ages to change herself back into a human.

In this book, she gets impregnated by a ghost, gives birth to an Indian death goddess' human avatar, saves a reincarnated Baby Jesus from being eaten by lizard aliens, becomes an even more powerful vampire, then travels back in time to kill the first vampire before he can make any others, erasing herself from history. You'd think erasing herself from history would be the end, but no, there are somehow three more books after this one.

9) In Christopher Pike's Thirst 3: The Eternal Dawn it's been 15 years since Sita, the last vampire, went back in time and erased herself from history, except that it turns out she didn't! Like many time traveling vampire ladies, she telepathically commanded the author of her previous adventures, her friend Seymour, to believe that she was a figment of his imagination and that she'd erased herself, when in reality she went back in time to defeat alien lizard people working with the Moors to invade ninth century Europe through Sicily, and then she retired to a quiet life in an unspecified state to stalk Teri, the college athlete descendant of her daughter from before she became a vampire. After killing a rapist who is stalking Teri, Sita ingratiates herself into Teri's life, befriending her and Teri's sexy boyfriend, sexy Matt, who Sita cannot stop thinking sexy thoughts about even though she would never do anything to hurt Teri.

Meanwhile, Sita is being stalked by an evil corporation called the ICC, whose telepathic Array is letting them take over the world. Sita is also being stalked by an ancient race of Egyptian immortals, the enemies of the ICC. Both sides want to recruit her for reasons which are never specified, and their pursuit of Sita endangers her, Seymour, Teri, sexy Matt, all of humanity, and the reincarnated Jesus from the last book, who is now a video-game obsessed teenager. Can Sita protect herself and those she loves? And does sexy Matt hide a sexy secret? And, also, can Teri win gold in the Olympics because there isn't enough happening in this book already?

10) In Christopher Pike's Thirst Book4: The Shadow of Death, Sita and her friends are still fighting the mysterious IIC, the corporation bent on psychic manipulation and domination of the world's governments and financial markets, and the Telar, the race of Egyptian immortals determined to wipe out humanity with their genetically engineered supervirus plague that's also a toxic poison, because science works that way. At the same time, though, everything has changed! At the conclusion of the last book, Sita turned Teri into a vampire, but then Sita was killed... OR WAS SHE?


Teri died, but Sita is still alive in Teri's vampire body, because teenaged reincarnated Jesus stuck her in there for reasons! Some sort of mysterious reasons, because tennaged reincarnated video game playing Jesus works in mysterious ways. Now she has to continue the fight even though she is a newborn vampire and plagued by the thirst for blood for the first time in thousands of years. Also, she has to keep Sexy Matt from discovering that she's not really Teri, because she figured out that she and Sexy Matt can have sex now since he won't think he's cheating on Teri, and she gets right to the sexing even though the fate of the whole world is at stake. Now, can Sita use the IIC to destroy the Telar before the IIC betrays her? And even if it succeeds, can she also defeat the IIC? And keep Sexy Matt from discovering the unsexy truth? And also survive her trip to the Greek underworld? And defeat a surprise last minute villain: LUCIFER HIMSELF?

Despite this being marketed as the last final Last Vampire book, I'm currently halfway through the sequel, which has Sita fighting Nazis, Lucifer, a malevolent computer artificial intelligence, and her continuing sexy desires for sexy Matt.

Vampire Madness is real, and it's insane.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Who is... The Lumberjack?

Back in February I re-watched "Supergirl: The Movie" in response to news surfacing about Supergirl, the TV show, which finally premiers tomorrow. I've avoided hearing much about the show, preferring to watch the commercials and be surprised rather than go in with high (or low) expectations, but I did manage to pick up one piece of information somehow: in the first episode, Supergirl will face down... The Lumberjack.

I had no idea who that is.

After some googling, I discovered that the Lumberjack appeared one time, ever, in DC Comics:

Lumber jack blog entry 26

"Wonder Woman" #268, from June, 1980. He's not even from a Supergirl comic.

Lumber jack blog entry 27

Yes, Supergirl. A hand-me-down villain borrowed from someone else's book, but that's pretty common for Supergirl, actually. While Batman, the Flash, and to a lesser extant Wonder Woman, Superman, Green Lantern, and other heroes have iconic galleries of foes, Supergirl has never really built up a rogue's gallery of her own. While she has fought some characters more than once, for the most part she fights villains from all over the DC Universe. Off the top of my head, people like Silver Banshee (borrowed from Superman), Lex Luthor (again from Superman), Chemo (from the Metal Men), Gorilla Grodd (from the Flash), and so on. It's hard to build an entire superhero show around Blackstarr, Psi, and Satan Girl, so it makes sense that the show's creators will draw on DC's rather extensive character stable.

What makes less sense is why they chose to start with this particular character. Who is the Lumberjack, anyway?

Our story opens on the beach in the south of France, with Animal Man rubbing lotion all over Wonder Woman:

Lumber jack blog entry 24

What the hell? He's married, Wonder Woman. MARRIED. He has kids and everything.

Lumber jack blog entry 23

For him rubbing lotion all over you?

Lumber jack blog entry 25

What kind of comic book is this, anyway?

You said something about an explanation, Wonder Woman?

Lumber jack blog entry 22

Let's just get to it, then.

It turns out that Wonder Woman and Animal Man are in the south of France rubbing each other down because they found a map last issue that told them to go there:

Lumber jack blog entry 21

Last issue being "Wonder Woman" #267:

Lumber jack blog entry 19

which opened with Wonder Woman flying up to some animals in response to a tip she got while interrogating El Gaucho:

Lumber jack blog entry 20

which apparently happened in an even earlier issue:

Lumber jack blog entry 18

"Wonder Woman" #264:

Lumber jack blog entry 16

which opens with Wonder Woman already captured by El Gaucho:

Lumber jack blog entry 17

and you know what? I don't care about the first part of that story. It's a flashback too far. We'll just start figuring out who the Lumberjack is here, with Wonder Woman in the clutches of a man dressed like an Argentinian cowboy on a flying horse. El Gaucho drops Wonder Woman to her death, but she breaks the rope and, chasing him, runs right into his evil plan:

Lumber jack blog entry 14

Attacking the US capitol with giant birds.

Lumber jack blog entry 13

And some of the giant birds are robots, with bombs inside. Maybe I want to track down that first issue with El Gaucho after all, since it seems like it might easily be at least as partially insane as the time that Wonder Woman fought child slaving lesbian jewel thieves and their street gang.

Anyway, while Wonder Woman is dealing with the giant bird bombs, El Gaucho, a man dressed as a culturally insensitive Halloween costume, is trying to assassinate a senator by breaking into the capitol:

Lumber jack blog entry 12

Wonder Woman defeats El Gaucho pretty easily:

Lumber jack blog entry 11

unaware that the whole thing is the plot of a sinister mastermind:

Lumberjack blog entry 29

in a giant sub:

Lumber jack blog entry 15

on its way to the south of France.

Meanwhile, Wonder Woman follows El Gaucho's tip to an African safari hunting ground outside of Washington, DC. After a lot of boring exposition explaining who Animal Man is, why he's a superhero, and how the same mysterious group set up a friend of his, the two of them find a secret base under the safari:

Lumber jack blog entry 9

filled with evil soldiers:

Lumber jack blog entry 10

Just in case you couldn't tell they were evil by the fact that they're shooting at Wonder Woman, their helmets are helpfully labeled with skulls.

Wonder Woman and Animal Man defeat the evil soldiers, find the map to the south of France, and we pick up again where we started, on the beach, where assassins have come for their target, Msr. Krispin:

Lumber jack blog entry 8

Wonder Woman and Animal Man defeat the assassins and load the Krispins into her invisible plan, handily escaping:

Lumber jack blog entry 7

This leaves the shadowy mastermind furious, and he has no choice but to reveal his trio of superpowered assassins:

Lumber jack blog entry 5

One of these, finally, is clearly the Lumberjack:

Lumber jack blog entry 6

What's unclear is why he was in a circus sideshow. Some guys bite the heads off of live chickens, some ladies have bears, and some guys... chop wood? A lot? Maybe he was shunned by some anti-logging industry protestors? It's never really explained, and before you know it the trio of assassins are attacking the Krispins:

Lumber jack blog entry 4

but the Lumberjack never speaks:

Lumber jack blog entry 28

and actually shows up in less than a dozen panels, total. Wonder Woman is captured, and the gloating mastermind finally reveals himself:

Lumber jack blog entry 3


It's someone else I've never heard of! Who would have guessed?

Anyway, Wonder Woman defeats him by throwing the assassins at him:

Lumber jack blog entry 2

And she and Animal Man call it a day.

Lumber jack blog entry 1

That's a great question, Supergirl. What does this tell us about the show?

Potentially, the Lumberjack's appearance could be setting up a longer arc with multiple assassins, shadowy cartels, and a secret mastermind and potential ongoing nemesis.

Or the show could be a hot mess of exploding birds and bad costumes.

I guess I'll have to watch tomorrow.

Friday, October 23, 2015

My Sexy, Sexy 4 Quart Pyrex 664

Until today, my vintage Pyrex collection contained only two pieces in the Old Orchard pattern. This was deliberate, as it is one of my least favorite patterns, and not one I collect on purpose. You're probably thinking, On purpose? How do you end up with something you don't collect by accident?, but there's an obvious answer to that: sometimes the thrift stores around here sell a couple of bowls together as a set whether those bowls go together or not, and you really really need a Primary Colors 401 but the only way to get that 401 is to buy it as a set for three dollars with an ugly Old Orchard 402 but the pair is only three dollars and you can tolerate that Old Orchard for a dollar fifty and you might even throw it in the dishwasher sometimes, like you're not supposed to with vintage Pyrex, because Old Orchard, Amirite?

Anyway, shit happens, and I end up with 50% of an Old Orchard 400 series mixing bowl set but I'm not going to buy any more Old Orchard (on purpose), so that's that.

Except that it's not.

A few days ago my friend Brennan, who was visiting my friend Brooke in Houston, posted a few photos of an antique store with lots of Pyrex on Facebook and tagged me. As I do whenever my friends post a picture with dishware in it, I immediately scoured the photo for possibilities, and there, way down by the bottom, I thought I saw a Pyrex 664.

I don't own a 664.

The Pyrex 664 is a round 4 quart casserole with lid. It was made in a handful of patterns, including one (Polynesian) made in such limited quantity that it sells for a few hundred dollars every time I see one on ebay, and was only available for two years, manufactured from 1974-1976. This wasn't a Polynesian, but instead was Old Orchard. Still, it was a 664. It couldn't hurt to ask how much it cost, right? I asked, and Brennan and Brooke went back to the store, and it was cheap. Really cheap. Worth buying even though it was Old Orchard cheap.

Brennan then carried a ten inch wide, four inch deep glass casserole dish wrapped in packing paper, towels, and a plastic Wal Mart bag aboard a plane and back to Knoxville, and today we met up, and now I own this:

Pyrex 664

I know you're not that excited, though, right?

Don't worry. Hawkeye is here to help.

Hawkeye and Pyrex 664 (3)

Yeah, Hawkeye. Work that bowl.

Hawkeye and Pyrex 664 (2)

Show us how much you like that Pyrex. Sit like a female character would on a comic book cover marketed toward teenage boys and middle aged virgins.

Hawkeye and Pyrex 664 (1)

Good job, Hawkeye.

I bet everyone is excited about my Pyrex now.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

It Wasn't a Vacation

Three times in the last week I've had almost an identical conversation with three different friends:

"Hey, how was your vacation?"

"I wasn't on vacation. It was a conference."

"Really? Because it didn't look like a conference."

"It was! I was at a conference!"

"You didn't post any pictures of a conference. All of your pictures looked like vacation."

You want to know why I didn't post any pictures of the inside of the conference? Because it was a conference. It looked like a bunch of training sessions in a bunch of identical meeting rooms in the basement of a hotel. I only took one picture of the inside of the conference:

Keynote Speaker

The moment when the keynote speaker put on a Halloween wig and screamed Taylor Swift lyrics at us.

Other than that fifty-five minute break with reality (seriously, I think for a minute he was openly weeping, and there was also a story about the porter at the hotel that I was sure would end with one of them naked), the conference was great. I took a bunch of notes, co-presented two sessions, saw a bunch of friends, and also visited the beach a little bit.

OK, I visited the beach a lot.

St. Pete's Beach, on the gulf coast of Florida. In case you haven't been there, it's nice:

St. Pete's Beach (1)

St. Pete's Beach (6)

Really nice:

St. Pete's Beach (19)

The night we arrived I was a little confused because I couldn't quite see the beach from my room:

St. Pete's Beach (7)

but we managed to locate it the next day:

St. Pete's Beach (15)

That was also the first morning that I walked on the beach. Last year, when I went to a conference in California, the beach had a paved pathway all along it, for miles in both directions. This beach didn't seem to have any such path, but to be sure I asked at the desk.

"No, but you can walk on the sand."


"Lots of people do."

Yeah, well, lots of people get in the water with the sharks

St. Pete's Beach (12)

and the hypodermic needles and the jellyfish and that fish that Brooke Shields stepped on in "The Blue Lagoon" and the sting rays

St. Pete's Beach (3)

and everything else in there, but that doesn't mean it's ok. Still, I've seen people run on the beach in movies and stuff, so I guessed it was possible.

"Is there any way to tell distance?"

"If you go left when you hit the beach, there's a big pink hotel two miles away. You can't miss it."

This turned out to be partially true. You really couldn't miss that pink hotel:

St. Pete's Beach (9)

but it was only about a mile and three quarters down the beach. Still, it was a nice walk, and I made an interesting discovery about the beach.

See, I'm not a beach person. I don't like the water, and I kind of don't like sand. I don't like being barefoot, which is why all of my beach photos look like this:

St. Pete's Beach (11)

As such, I rarely actually go down to the water, so I never realized that the sand just above the tide line in the mornings is hard packed like concrete. It's not wet enough for your shoes to sink into, but it's actually great for walking, so I did. There are long stretches where there's a layer of shells along that line, too:

St. Pete's Beach (13)

so I walked it every day:

St. Pete's Beach (4)

St. Pete's Beach (8)

St. Pete's Beach (16)

St. Pete's Beach (17)

St. Pete's Beach (18)

but I wasn't on vacation.

I was at a conference.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

15 Months

15 months into my fitness journey, I'm still obese, just like last month, but there's kind of a difference: this month I didn't try to be less obese. This month I coasted and maintained, because this month I had two big achievements, and I decided to spend a couple of weeks slightly off program to reflect on that.

Actually, I may have three achievements, if you count that I now live in a way that "slightly off program" means, "I still walked seven miles every day, but a couple of times I had candy, cake, and cupcakes".

I'm still holding at 225 pounds. Still obese, but this month I hauled my obesity 13 miles across Tennessee for a half marathon, and doing it didn't kill me. That's an achievement from 15 months ago when walking across campus for less than a mile left me wheezing and sweaty.

The day after the half marathon, I climbed a mountain. This is my other achievement for September.

Clingman's Dome is the highest peak in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I've been to it once before this, with my parents. We'd read online that the path from the parking area to the observation tower at the top of the dome is fully paved and only a half mile long, but did not realize until we go there that the trail is extremely steep, so much so that it's not considered wheelchair accessible. It rises continuously for a half mile at an angle sharp enough that wheelchairs, strollers, and bicycles are forbidden on the fully paved path. My parents and I opted not to climb it that day, although they offered to wait in the parking lot for an hour while I climbed it if I really wanted to.

I did really want to, but didn't think I could.

One flight of stairs left me panting. 3XL shirts were straining to stay buttoned on my torso. My feet were so swollen at the end of the day that I didn't have ankles. I knew that I wouldn't be able to climb for a half mile without stopping repeatedly, sweating, and making a spectacle of myself, so I told my parents that I didn't want to make them wait in the car for that long, and that I'd come back and do it another time. That time finally came the day after the half marathon. I waved my friends off in their car, got in my car, and had a choice.

Left turn, I go straight home to do laundry, lay on my couch, and enjoy two recovery days off from work.

Right turn, I drive into the park and climb a mountain.

I turned right.

That early in the morning I didn't really encounter any traffic on my way to the parking area. Once I turned off the main road onto the road to the Clingman's Dome trailhead, I did not encounter a single other car during the slowly climbing seven mile drive. I did encounter a lot of fog, though, and noticed that the temperature was slowly dropping as I approached the parking lot. When I left the motel, the thermometer in my car said it was a balmy 74 degrees Fahrenheit. I was wearing shorts and a polo shirt, which was maybe not the best outfit for the temperature in the parking lot:

Clingman's Dome hike 6

Fortunately I'm a little slow to clean out my car, and still had my gloves, fleece, and insulated headband from the 5K I did on Valentine's Day sitting on the backseat. I bundled up, and headed out into the fog.

Clingman's Dome hike 8

Clingman's Dome hike 9

Clingman's Dome hike

Not only was it cold and foggy, it was silent. On my climb up the mountain I passed one other person, and he was on his way back down. I was moving kind of slowly, since I was still a little stiff and sore from the half marathon, but I made it to the observation tower at the top in about fifteen minutes.

Clingman's Dome hike 10

The observation tower doesn't have stairs or an elevator. You start at the bottom of that curved ramp and follow it all the way up:

Clingman's Dome hike 7

I had it all to myself, although the views seemed slightly less spectacular than I was promised:

Clingman's Dome 11

Clingman's Dome hike 4

Clingman's Dome hike 3

Clingman's Dome hike 2

Still, I climbed a mountain.

Clingman's Dome hike 1

15 months ago, I wouldn't have been able to.

Fitbit says that I have walked 2747 miles since July 2014. Only one of those was on Clingman's Dome, but I feel like that one was important.