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Pig in the Suburbs


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Salt Lake City Marathon 2013

I have a soft spot for Salt Lake City; I moved there straight out of college, and what with one degree or another we ended up staying for almost a decade.  It was a culture shock moving from the very liberal environment of Stanford — and northern California — to a city at the heart of the LDS faith (despite the fact that Mormons were, technically, the minority population).  I grew to like the city, and perhaps more importantly, I learned to do a proper parallel turn in skiing, back when Ladies’ Day (Tuesday or Wednesday) at Solitude was $7/day . . . .

We moved away about twenty years ago, but I have returned many times to visit my travel buddy (tongue firmly planted in cheek, some of my best friends are Mormons!), and each time I go back, things are different.  Some changes are subtle, along the lines of “Oh, that used to be ___,” while others are “Oh my gosh, where did those buildings come from?”  Bless the Church leadership: the City Creek project has rejuvenated downtown Salt Lake City, and though it has completely changed the physical landscape of the city core, I think it is mostly for the better.

This past weekend we were in SLC for the 10th running of the Salt Lake City Marathon (and half marathon, bike tour, and 5K), because what could possibly be more fun than destroying your quads on a Saturday morning with 4000 other runners?

The weekend highlights, and lowlights, in no particular order:

1.  It rained.  DH claims it wasn’t raining at the start, but it was.  And 13.1 miles later (we ran the half), it was still raining.  The only happy campers were the dogs along the route, in particular the Portuguese water dog who sat in the curb gutters happily swishing his tail, somewhere around mile 6.

2.  The bomb squad made us get out of the TRAX train one stop before the start line so that they could sweep the trains with the dogs.  Interestingly enough, if you had a seat — which of course 99% of the people did not — you did not have to leave during the sweep.

3.  Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” played at the start line, and at the time we didn’t know why.  We lived in Boston a couple of years, but this Red Sox tradition did not start until after we left.

4.  Helicopters overhead the entire race, security at pretty much every intersection, police on motorcycle, bikes, and at least one (wearing holster and belt) running the race.

5.  Did I mention it rained the entire race?  The hail came later.  It is absolutely possible to get wetter than wet: every time you land in a puddle, your feet really do get wetter . . . .

6.  Wyoming exists so that trucks have a place to park when WYDOT closes I-80.

7.  Corollary to #6:  24 mpg westbound, 34 mpg eastbound.

8.  I think races should have instant temperature probes at the finish line: DH tells me that if only I had a nice layer of fat for insulation, I would have felt much better.  Yup.

9.  A big Jacuzzi tub is a hypothermic runner’s best friend!

10.  Thank you to my favorite Saint for showing up at the finish line with jackets and blanket and a nice warm car!!!!!

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London Tube Map Quilt

A year and two machine quilting later, the London Tube Map Quilt:IMG_2457Pattern:  London Tube Map Quilt, from Tikki Patchwork.

Fabric:  Truly a work of scraps from pretty much every quilt I have ever made in my short quilting life.  I felt so very thrifty and virtuous while sewing 🙂

Quilting:  Long arm machine quilting done at The Sewing Circle.

Thoughts:  I balked at cutting out 653 (!) 2.5″ squares of the white background — so quite a few of them were in fact 4.5″ squares.  The actual sewing of the top did not take that long, but shortly after finishing the top and while piecing the back, I lost my quilting mojo . . . .  for about 7 months.

Last month I finally finished the back, and went to one of my favorite quilt stores to do the machine quilting.  Unfortunately, Bella the long arm machine was having fits that day, and the backside of my quilt had many (and I mean many) loops of loose threads — so many that the owner of the shop decided that we (or rather, they) needed to unpick ALL the quilting and start over.  Which they did, bless their collective hearts.  And now, the quilt is finally ready to give to my travel GF in Salt Lake City!  Given the price of plane tickets to London, it may be awhile before we head there again . . . .


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Red Chair Reads: The Hampstead Mystery

Another long-winded but fun Edwardian-era mystery from 1916: The Hampstead Mystery, by Arthur J. Rees and John R. Watson.  A mysterious anonymous note delivered to the local police station announced the murder of Sir Horace Fewbanks, a justice of the High Court.  But he was supposed to be in Scotland, shooting poor little birds!  Clearly not, since he was most definitely dead in his own library at Riversbrook, a bullet hole in the heart.  And the race was on, with two Scotland Yard policemen, Detective Inspector Chippenfield and his subordinate Inspector Rolfe, vying with each other as well as with the inscrutable private detective Crewe (no first name) to find the murderer.

And just who is this Mr. Crewe?  He is of course a brilliant young man of private means who took up detecting as a means of relieving his boredom at being a rich young man with no occupation.  Of course, he could have had a reasonably gentlemanly occupation as a stellar chess master, having been the only one to beat the Russian player Turgieff during one of the master’s famous simultaneous games against twelve different players.  But, Crewe broke all the old-time chess aficionados’ hearts by retiring and going into detective work, of all things — and him a gentleman of presumably impeccable lineage.  I love books where characters say things like: “I know I can rely on his word as a gentleman.”  Ah, the great class divide.

Lots of red herrings in this mystery: a couple of ex-cons, a spurned mistress (the old judge apparently had a weakness for young women, not all of them ladies), a K.C. on the outs with his young wife, a French mademoiselle . . . .  Rees and Watson piled it on, and on, and on — the book could have been shorter, but the readers of a hundred years ago would probably have felt justifiably gypped.


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Red Chair Reads: Medicine on the Santa Fe Trail

During my last trip to Santa Fe, I found Gunstock Hill Books, bookstore for rare and used 1st editions.  I spent an interesting hour talking to the proprietor, Henry Lewis, bibliophile and retired M.D.  It’s a good thing he made plenty of money before opening a bookstore: it is absolutely an act of foolhardy love.

Old medical texts are always interesting; when I hold one in my hands, I feel this kinship — usually tenuous, but nevertheless present — with the generations of doctors/healers who went before.  This kinship holds even when I read, in appalled fascination, the advice and practices of a bygone era.  So I made an impulse buy:  Medicine on the Santa Fe Trail, by Thomas B. Hall, Jr., M.D.

Dr. Hall may have been a good physician, but he was a lousy writer.  I thought the book might have been a vanity press book (limited edition of 1000 copies, of which I now own #542, signed by author), but it was not.  It was published in 1971 by the Friends of Arrow Rock, an organization dedicated to preserving and telling the story of historic Arrow Rock, Missouri.  The standards for a “local history” book is not usually high, and this book was no exception.  For non-fiction works, I like to know why the author wrote the book.  I read the acknowledgments, the introduction, the 11 pages on Dr. Thomas Bryan Lester, and realized that although Dr. Hall wanted to present a history of disease and trauma on the trail through the eyes of a physician who traveled with army units in 1847-48, he simply could not organize his material into a cogent narrative.  The introduction should have been an overview, but was all about Dr. John Sappington, who became “America’s strongest quinine protagonist and its largest user,” and ends abruptly with a sentence about the importance of buffalo robes on the trail.  The next chapter was on Thomas Bryan Lester . . . .  why?  Why did Dr. Hall choose Dr. Lester as the focal point for the book?

The internet to the rescue!

Dr. Lester (1824-1888) was the brother-in-law of Dr. Matthew Walton Hall, who, as it turned out, was the grandfather of the author.  The lineage itself probably is not all that important, but it was important enough to the author that he constructed his micro history around it, and I wish he had clarified it.  Dr. Hall’s narrative truly was excruciating, but I don’t suppose medical school was/is the place to learn the finer points of grammar, punctuation, and essay writing.  I am guessing either no one edited the book, or no one had the gumption to really go at it with a red pencil.  However, Dr Lester’s diary as well as the various tables and data the author gathered from archival sources were fascinating and would be of special interest for those researching life (and death) on the Santa Fe Trail.  I would love to have known about this book a few years back when I was working on my environmental history project.