Monday, January 26, 2015

Why ABC's "Scandal" could definitely use some more diversity

ABC's "Scandal" is one of those shows, like "24," that are compulsively and obsessively watchable despite the utter ridiculousness of the plotlines. To be successful, the action on the screen has to come so fast that the viewer doesn't have time to register skepticism, because something else demands immediate attention.

Of course, "Scandal" drew much attention early on for being the first TV show in a long, long, long time to star an African-American actress. Kerry Washington certainly deserves accolades for her portrayal of D.C. fixer Olivia Pope, who exudes competence and control no matter how absurd or seemingly hopeless the latest political crisis to deal with (except when she's swooning over the President, and he over her, which is the weakest part of the show's DNA).

The show can even be given a pass on the diversity front for not having any Asian characters; producer/creator Shonda Rhimes cast Sandra Oh as one of the main characters of "Grey's Anatomy," so it appears that the absence of Asians on "Scandal" is not some sort of blind spot.

However, where "Scandal" falls completely apart on the diversity front appears to be in the ideological diversity of its writers. If there's anyone on the writing staff who isn't at least a mainstream liberal, if not more progressive, you wouldn't know it from the show.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

First world problems . . . so much TV, so little running time

This is obviously a "first world problem" of the most insignificant kind, unless, of course, you are TV obsessed like I am. But here it is: I'm slightly more than halfway through (re)watching season 5 of "24," but now that FX's "Justified" has started its sixth - and last - season, last year's episodes are now available for streaming via Amazon Prime.

"24," season 5 cast
Promo for "Justified," season 5
What am I to do? "24" is my favorite TV show of all-time, and season 5 is the best season of "24," which makes it the best of the best. On the other hand, "Justified" is really, really good. I think it's not quite as good of a show to watch while running, because it has a more laidback tone punctuated by occasional bits of violence, whereas "24" is nonstop suspense with lots more violence. Still, "Justified" is all new to me, which is obviously worth something extra.

For now, anyway, I've decided to power through "24." That meant I ran my long run today on the treadmill even though it was sunny and relatively mild outside. I know a lot of runners can't stand the treadmill. But I may be using it for the foreseeable future for at least a few more weeks . . . .

Thursday, January 8, 2015

My most lingering running injury, a year later

Photo courtesy of
About a year ago, during a 5K race on a cold January morning, I injured both of my Achilles tendons. I managed to finish the race, but it was a subpar time for me, mostly because I had run the 1 mile race just 30 minutes earlier. (It was a double race.) I'm guessing that the cold and fast pace combined to push things over the edge.

At first, I didn't realize I was injured. I thought it was just the kind of DOMS you sometimes get after a hard workout. Unlike the DOMS soreness, however, this didn't go recede the next day. When we went out to brunch with friends, I found that I was limping.

That evening, I discovered that spending a lot of time rubbing at the painful tender spots helped to a degree, but that there were still two spots - one on each ankle - that hurt just to touch.

Like the stereotypical runner, I went ahead with self-diagnosis and treatment. It wasn't too hard to figure out that I had some form of Achilles tendinitis, and that eccentric stretching/calf raises are a commonly recommended course of physical therapy.

In looking over my running log from last year, I see that did not run at all for six days, and then I went for a 5+ mile run on the treadmill.* Apparently that was not a good idea, because I did not run again for five days.

* This was the run when I learned for certain that I do not heel strike, because for the first half mile or so, the Achilles tendons were pretty rigid, forcing me to heel strike - and it felt quite weird.

After that, my Achilles tendons were still sore, but not while running, so I went ahead and resumed something vaguely normal, although it was more than three weeks since the initial injury before I got up to 9 miles, and 10+ miles wouldn't come until late February.

Not surprisingly, total mileage for January and February were well below my usual monthly totals, and it wasn't until April that I got back to the 150 mile mark.

In retrospect, I would have had a faster recovery if I had taken more time off from running, rather than resuming when I was able to. I don't think I aggravated my injuries, but it's highly likely that I slowed the healing process. In fact, while I was able to run several races from March onward, I didn't feel completely pain-free until halfway through the year. Until then, even if the tendons didn't bother me, I could easily pinpoint the injured spots by squeezing.

I would like to think that the next time something like this happens, I will accept a longer period of non-running in exchange for a faster recovery. Now that I have my own rowing machine, perhaps that will be easier to do. For now, though, I am reveling in feeling 100 percent and hoping to set some PRs this year!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

NBC's "The Celebrity Apprentice"

I should be ashamed to admit that I've watched all seasons of "The Celebrity Apprentice." Okay, I'm ashamed. But how can I not like the ridiculousness of it? Washed up celebrities, Donald Trump constantly praising himself, it's awesome!

At one point, "The Apprentice" was one of the top rated TV shows, but that was a long time ago. Its ratings have slipped so much that the currently airing edition, which just started Sunday night, finished filming a year ago. NBC could've aired it in the spring, but didn't. It could've aired it in the summer, but didn't.

And there are some oddities resulting from the untimely delay. For one thing, Joan Rivers will be in several of the episodes as one of Trump's eyes and ears, having "won" a previous season,* despite having passed away four months ago. 

* She "won" meaning that Trump selected her as the winner, even though pro poker player Annie Dukes outperformed Rivers by virtually every measure that Trump said mattered.

For another thing, one of the celebrity contestants is Keshia Knight Pulliam, who played Bill Cosby's youngest TV daughter on "The Cosby Show." Naturally, when it came time to discuss fundraising, the others on Pulliam's teammates wondered why she didn't seek donations from Cosby.

Oops. Today, one can certainly imagine reasons for not contacting him, but of course, this was filmed back in 2013. Oh well, I guess it actually accentuates the show.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Southern California running

I grew up in Southern California but haven't lived there in a long time. The traffic, smog, and high cost of living have pretty much killed any interest I might have in moving back, but it is a nice place to visit, especially in colder months.

No, this is not a big lake. That's Catalina Island in the distance.
One of the weird tricks that your mind plays on you is how a temperature that would seem warm in a cooler location (say, the Pacific Northwest) ends up feeling cold when you're in a place that you expect to be warm. On my recent winter break trip to Southern California, it wasn't cold by any stretch - daytime temps in the 60s and nighttime in the 50s! - but there were a few nights when I layered up in a longsleeve T-shirt and a light sweatshirt.

It is just a mind trick, though, and once I started running, whether day or night, it quickly felt comfortable. And aside from Hawaii, it's hard to beat Southern California winters and scenery.

Crystal Cove State Park
Can you believe it costs $15 per car to park in the lot for this park? Fortunately, I was able to run into the park and avoid paying any entrance fee. (I did wonder if there would be one for pedestrians, but there was not.)

A steep path down to the beach
Yeah, I ran down to the beach. But I didn't go on the sand; instead, I turned around and headed back up. I don't much like getting sand in my shoes, and while I could've stopped to take my shoes off, then I would've had to carry them.

Odd enough, this was the only day time outside run that I managed during the entire week. Family vacation time plays havoc with my running schedule! I did have one other outside run at night, after I determined that it was (relatively) safe enough. Not for fear of being attacked, just not being hit by a car. There weren't a lot of street lights around the area I was staying. I did somewhat foolishly extent that night-time run along a dark stretch of Pacific Coast Highway, but there was a sidewalk at least.

Anyway, I'm back in the Pacific Northwest now, and have my first race of the new year under my belt already. Quite a different experience: sub-40 degree weather and damp air add up to cold weather running gear.