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Dog days of summer

sunThe end of a long, hot week is in sight. Thankfully. Fun fact: DC has not dropped below 80 degrees for more than 99 hours. Ugh, is it fall yet?

The extreme heat has made running especially miserable, not to mention the slog to work in the morning. Even though the thermometer hovered around 90 degrees at 6 p.m. on Sunday, I had a great run. I averaged 9 minute 39 second miles. I’ve noticed that I really hit my stride during mile two. I clocked in at just over 8 minutes and 30 seconds. This may sound like a good thing, but it ends up making the miles that follow more difficult. I’m working to maintain a steadier pace throughout. If anything I want to reserve some energy for a burst of speed toward the end. If I burn out too soon, I definitely won’t have a strong finish. With a good run in the bag at the outset of the week, I was hoping to follow with an equally awesome run mid-week. The best laid plans…

On Wednesday, I caved to the 100+ heat index and retreated to the air conditioning in the gym to log some miles on the treadmill. I might have been more productive out in the heat, I’m afraid. I managed to eek out just under four miles, but not at a good pace. Truth be told, I hate running on a treadmill. There is something about looking ahead to the next block, or getting across the street before the light changes, or feeling the drag of a hill. The treadmill lacks the variation and challenge that I crave. I find it more of a mental game than a physical one. The treadmill gives me an understanding of why people dislike running. As soon as I get on and the belt starts going, I can’t wait to be done. That’s no way to go into a workout, and probably why it never goes very well for me. I go and go, and I don’t get anywhere. It’s the worst. In this case, something was better nothing. At least that’s what I told myself.

I’ve got one more run this week and weather be damned, I’ll be running outside. I know, I know. It can be dangerous, but I will be taking the precautions shared below. The heat wave is supposed to break on Sunday. It will still be hot, but so long triple digits!

Three Ways to Safely Run in a Heat Wave
http://www.runnersworld.com/running-tips/three-ways-to-safely-run-in-a-heat-wave

Hot Weather Running Tips
http://www.rrca.org/education-advocacy/hot-weather-running-tips/

8 Tips for Running in Hot Weather
http://beta.active.com/running/Articles/8-Tips-for-Running-in-Hot-Weather

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Pushing ahead

flabby-dog-sent-to-boot-camp-makes-sweatbands-cool-9860-1314879798-10

This might be what I look like when I run.
Photo from Buzzfeed.

My second run of the week is behind me (woot!), but it was’t an easy one. Even at 6:15 p.m. the heat index hovered around 95 degrees. That’s hot to be standing around doing nothing, but alas I’d committed to a run and there was no getting around or out of it. I’m happy to report that I did not eat Mexican food yesterday and I wore a pair of shorts that fit just right. It was late enough and overcast that I didn’t need sunglasses or hat. Three for three! A sweatband of the wrist variety might still have been good to wear. I actually don’t own one and think I will make a point of stopping by City Sports tomorrow to see what they have. Sweat in the eyes is just flat out unpleasant and frankly it’s starting to frustrate me. Is this a shut up and deal sort of situation? I think it might be…

I know I said last time that I had found mascara that could last through even the sweatiest of runs. Well, I was proven wrong. Only around the edges of my eyes, but still. Thank you, DC weather. Granted between last night’s heat and humidity, what wouldn’t melt?

Despite the challenges the heat has presented, I can tell that my endurance is increasing. Even on the elliptical at the gym, I can push harder and farther. I’m excited that my body seems to be responding so well. I don’t feel especially sore or stiff. A little pain in my left hip, but I knew that would come and will likely just be something I have to deal with. I’m working to strengthening my left leg to match my right (dominant) leg. With special attention I think I can minimize the imbalance. Running is helping me to reconnect with my body again. It’s been a while since I’ve felt so in tune. Being aware and thoughtful of my body’s abilities and limitations is one of my favorite aspects of being physically active. I guess you could say that I like a challenge and learning as a result of being challenged. Perhaps why running appeals?

My next run is slated for Sunday. Forecast says 85. Here’s hoping!

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On my way to 6.2, miles that is

Feet-Running2

Photo from shutterstock.com

“If you want it bad enough, you’ll make it happen.” A recent motivational quote from a fitness trainer that I came across this afternoon and seemed fitting. I had started writing a post about eating well (something that’s been a struggle with all the BBQs of late), but I’ve decided instead to share some lessons learned since signing up for the Marine Corps 10K. The race is the last weekend in October, so I’ve got roughly 3.5 months to prepare both physically and mentally to run 6.2 miles–each mile in less than 15 minutes per the race rules. While this sounds somewhat daunting, I’m actually very much enjoying the challenge. For those out there that know me, determination is not a quality I lack. Over the last two weeks I’ve been running at least two, if not three, times a week, increasing mileage every week and trying to keep my splits (time per mile) within 15-20 second of each other. I’m already at about four miles with splits under 11 minutes. There is still a long road ahead. The hottest time of the year in Washington, DC, is fast approaching making running outdoors especially taxing. The running has to get done though, and I’ve had to suffer a bit in order to keep up with the training I’ve set up for myself. Now, I’m not a novice runner. I’ve been running as part of sports and exercise for most of my life. Yet, I still find myself not being as thoughtful as I could be when it comes to planning. Otherwise known as learning the hard way. Three things I don’t recommend:

1) Running mid-day without a hat or sunglasses.

2) Eating Mexican food for lunch.

3) Wearing shorts that are too loose.

Running is difficult enough, and this is coming from someone who actually likes running. You don’t want to be distracted by burning eyes (sweat and sunscreen dripping down your face), an upset stomach (who knew queso sits in your tummy for so long…), or clothing that rides up with every step. Some level of discomfort is just the name of the game. Whatever you can do though to minimize unnecessary discomfort, I highly suggest you do so before you get miles into your run with your watch or iPhone app ticking away. Wishing you could run with your eyes closed or that you could take your shorts off (yes, that’s how I felt last night and no I will NEVER wear those shorts again), takes you out of the head space you need to be in to be successful. Also, to enjoy what you’re doing. Anytime you’re not able to give your full attention to something you won’t enjoy it as fully.

It’s hard to ever be perfectly prepared. Sometimes you doing everything right and you still don’t have a great run. There’s always next time. One good thing I’ve discovered: mascara so waterproof I can sweat buckets and it doesn’t budge. I may have blurred vision and too much leg showing, but my eyelashes look damn good! At this point, I’ll take what I can get.

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Spring to summer, I’m really back this time!

I even made time to take a few runs on the beach while on vacation in Florida in late March. Photo by Anna Miars

I even made time to run on the beach while on vacation in Florida earlier this year.
Photo by Anna Miars

I find it funny (and in some way fitting) that I’m returning to my blog once again as the seasons begin to change. The AC is now on in my building, and although I haven’t used it yet, there is no mistaking that summer is fast approaching. I just took my very first open top bus tour of DC and from the sunburn incurred by myself and most of my colleagues, there is no doubt that the sun is closing in on its peak time of year. Aside from the pinkish hue I’m now sporting, it was fun to see the city from a different, if not totally tourist, perspective. The 18 photos I took and posted on Facebook are a testament to seeing the city for all its history and significance, not just the place I live and work. Oh, and workout too!

In my last post, I was hoping to find my stride again with regard to exercise. I’m happy to report that I have indeed integrated, or should I say reintegrated, working out into my daily routine. What I enjoy doing and when has changed significantly, however. Before I get into that, let’s back up to the start of 2013.

Now, I’m not a New Year’s resolutions person. Too much hype and often not enough follow through (and that goes for everybody, I’m a guilty as anyone else). I do support using the new year as a catalyst to start fresh with new goals. There is something empowering about feeling like you have a clean slate. So, on December 31, I signed up for a year at the Washington Sports Club that I used to frequent back in 2009 and 2010. The guy who I sat down with to sign the contract asked if I intended to stay for a workout that afternoon. “No,” I replied, with a mix of shame and confidence in my voice, knowing that I was actively making a commitment but wasn’t yet ready to act on it. “I’ll be back January 2.” And I did just that. I showed up on the second day of the year and set about finding my old, if not innate love, of physical activity. Four months to the day later, I’m exercising four to five days a week.

What I think has surprised me the most, is that the gym is now my least favorite place to break a sweat. I wouldn’t say I was a gym rate before, but I enjoyed being at the gym. What more could a girl who preferred to workout solo vs. in a group setting ask for? Fast forward and I find myself irritated by having to wait for a machine or for a spot on the overly crowded stretching mat. Most of the time I just want to get out of the gym as quickly as possible after a long session on the elliptical or treadmill. I’ll do a few quick, essential stretches and forgo any weight or ab work just to get out the door. Where I used to feel a sense of freedom in being able to choose the course of my workout, I now enjoy being led through a series of moves in a class. I’m guaranteed a spot and know I’ll be done and on to the next thing in 45 minutes to an hour. I go to barre and spinning classes at Biker Barre, Pilates at Fuse Pilates, Total Body Conditioning at WSC (the gym I belong to), and will soon try barre classes at Pure Barre. It’s been a fun mental and physical challenge to try all these different types of exercise. My mind and body are engaged in way that I’m not sure they’ve ever have been before.

My regimen before was somewhat mindless, I hate to admit. I’ve always been a pretty athletic person, so jumping on the elliptical or going for a run were activities I didn’t have to put much thought into. My body knew what to do. Each of the classes I go to force me to focus on my body (breathing, form, etc.) and be present in the moment. It’s no longer about hitting 60 minutes of cardio or a certain amount of weight on a machine, but successfully completing the task at hand like a series jumps on a bike or keeping my balance while holding a side plank. I think much like our food preferences change over time, so do our workout preferences. Remember, when you hated crab, tomatoes, pineapple, insert your food here, as a kid and now you love it? Same idea. Three years ago, I had the time and energy to spend hours at the gym. Today, I want the most bang for my effort. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as invested as ever in my physical health and overall well-being. It’s just that I’m now in a place in my life where the things I do for exercise have to fit within the bigger picture. Spending my time wisely is important (I’m a busy girl!). I’m sure my “taste” will change many times over in the future. For now though, I’m feeling good about where I’m at and for getting back on the wagon again, even if this new wagon is a bit different from the old one. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I’ve made major changes in the way I eat as well (eating and exercise are two sides of the same healthy living coin), but I’ll save that for another post. Until then!

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Change is in the air

Photo by Anna Miars

Ah, the change of seasons. Always a welcome development. It truly feels like fall has settled in, replacing the hot, humid days of summer. Every time the wind blows, I hear leaves that have already fallen from the trees scitter across the ground. A sure sign of the transition that is underway.

Speaking of change, it’s been just about a year since my last personal blog post. My grad school program and life in general diverted my attention from writing about my passions on a regular basis (it happens to the best of us). Four months after graduation, I find myself with both the time and desire to resume this pursuit. As I have focused heavily on digital media for the past two years, academically and professionally, I have a feeling that future posts will be split between health and fitness and developments, or at least points of controversy, in the journalism/communications field. There is much to talk about and debate these days.

I have to admit at the outset that I have somewhat fallen off the wagon with regards to eating well and exercising. Again, I will point to grad school and life more broadly as the reason. Of course, at the end of it all, it’s ultimately my lack of resolve and commitment when I got busy that are to blame. I’m dedicated to returning to a healthier lifestyle and hope to use this space as a way to hold myself accountable, and perhaps, find motivation. I’m definitely not as gung-ho as I used to be (hard to imagine, I know), but we all go through phases. Maybe I just haven’t hit the next upswing yet. Here’s to finding my stride!

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My critique of Jolie’s JQuery cycle plug-in tutorial

Right off the bat I appreciated that Jolie laid out the objective, time frame, and skills needed to complete the tutorial. I went in knowing exactly what to expect. In today’s busy world, I think giving people the information they need up front to make a decision about whether or not something is right for them is a wise decision. It reflects an understanding and respect for the demands on people’s time. Also, for someone like me who is new to web design, it’s helpful to know what I’m getting myself into before getting started. I often find the tutorials end up being much more complicated and time consuming than I expect.

I found Jolie’s tutorial to be simple yet very effective. I liked that she didn’t overstate. She provided the necessary information and instruction to complete the tutorial effectively and nothing more. She stayed focused and concise. I liked that there were five distinct steps with screenshots. I thought the structure was really well thought out. You could stop after any of the steps and come back at a later time to finish. It was well organized and never felt overwhelming.

The option to watch a video or follow written instructions or both was a great idea too. Some people are visual learners; some people need everything written out. I personally followed the written instructions and then watched the video. Each could stand alone or serve to complement the other.

My only criticism is that you have to click on the player and go out to the Vimeo page where the video lives to watch it. It took me a few minutes to figure out how to get the video to play. I’m sure this a minor technical issue that was overlooked and not intentional. Also, a little bit more personality in the video would have made it more lively. Perhaps even an extra tip could have been included in the video to add extra value.

In all, a great tutorial that I would highly recommend. Nice work, Jolie!

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My Wireframe Tutorial

Please go through the tutorial using issuu. You can also download a PDF: Wireframe Tutorial. The text and images needed for the tutorial are below. Feel free to leave your thoughts and suggestions as a comment. Happy wireframing!

Text:

The Washington Literacy Council (WLC), founded in 1963, is one of the oldest adult literacy programs in the District. We serve adults who have the most limited reading skills, fewest job resources and greatest employment needs in the District of Columbia.

Update: Something that gives people a quick idea of what’s going on at the organization. Perhaps on a monthly or even quarterly basis. This will make the website appear more dynamic and make it clear that it’s an important mode of communication.

News

July 1, 2011

This year’s Congressional Baseball Game drew record numbers. WLC raised $$$.

August 1, 2011

Summer event.

September 1, 2011

Our second annual graduation ceremony was a huge success again. Check out photos from the event.

October 1, 2011

Name:

I found the Washington Literacy Council in October 2004 after years as an adult struggling with my reading and spelling. I can say this program is the one I have found to be most effective for me.

I managed to land a government job but I knew my reading and spelling skills needed a lot of help. The WLC program uses an excellent method by Barbara Wilson. After trying about five other methods and programs I found this one the most helpful. The staff at the Washington Literacy Council is very experienced and helpful. They found me a tutor who is very patient and works with me on a weekly basis.

WLC Partners

Kramerbooks & Afterwords

National Capital Bank

Morton’s Steakhouse

Copyright 2011 Washington Literacy Center

1918 18th St., NW, Suite B2, Washington, DC 20009
Phone: 202-387-9029 | Fax: 202-387-0271

Images:

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Mario Kart & Narrative

I’ve never been a huge fan of video games. It’s not that I don’t love to play them; it’s just that I’m not very good at them. I guess I didn’t gain the necessary dexterity and coordination because my parents never allowed me to have a gaming system as a kid. There are, however, two exceptions to my lackluster feelings about video games: Mario Kart and Wii Bowling. Since many of us in the cohort don’t own a Wii or an Xbox, and it’s always more fun to play with people than by yourself (in my opinion), we had a little video game get together where we happened to play my favorite games.

Mario Kart is a go-kart style racing game that offers players numerous levels of choice. First you have to pick what character(s) you want to play as, what kart he/she will drive, and finally, what course to drive. Peach Beach, Moo Moo Meadows, and DK Mountain were just a few of the courses we chose to play as a group. Before you’ve even hit the gas you’ve made a series of selections that will impact your success in the game as well as the story you create. I think one of the main factors that makes video games fun—at least for me—is being familiar with the game. If you’re constantly falling off a cliff or getting lapped, the game just gets frustrating. What I like about Mario Kart is that each course is a mini world with its own unique elements—that once you learn, you know how to use to your advantage, or, in my case, how not to get yourself killed.These choices and knowledge allow each player to experience the game in a highly personal way. It really comes down to strategy. Drawing on it and to what degree determines how complex your story becomes.

While we played four-person Mario Kart, I noticed that we were also creating a narrative as a group. The courses we chose to play, who won and who came in last, who was vicious with red shells, etc. How we interacted as players in the game resulted in real-time outcomes that influenced every interaction that followed. It was a dynamic process that built upon itself. Remove one action or alter one decision and everything would have played out differently. The way each person played changed the game for everyone else. We were creating a shared story, again related to strategy—who had it and who didn’t. Win or lose we all had a good time.

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Interactivity by Design at the Lincoln Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum

I walked into the National Portrait Gallery thinking that I would find interactivity around every corner. My world is so often besieged with interactivity that I failed to remember that not every experience necessitates interactive components. Moving from room to room around the museum, I noticed that pieces in most exhibits were only loosely connected; pieces didn’t build upon each other to establish a narrative. A theme perhaps, but not a story. Interactivity wasn’t needed to create a framework. The fact that a work had been selected for an exhibit was the context. Art, after all, is an experience in and of itself, without timelines, video, or touchscreens to explain significance. Quickly gathering that I wasn’t going to find what I had envisioned, I started to look for other ways that interactivity was present, and eventually found myself in the Lincoln Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art.

Located on the east side of the third floor (a section of the museum I’d never visited), the interactivity of the Lincoln Gallery was not the result of added interactive features, but simply the nature of the art and the space that it inhabited. All of the pieces were either three-dimensional—meaning you could walk around the work and view it from all sides—or if hanging on the wall, was two-dimensional and could be viewed from a seating area. The gallery itself was large and airy, allowing people to spread out and move at their own pace. The artwork was not arranged in any particular order. All of these characteristics encouraged the viewer to experience the gallery and each work in their own way. While not what I was initially expecting, I realized that this was a form of interaction; encouraging personalization and the creation of individual meaning. I think that is what interactivity is all about: allowing the viewer to customize their experience. Choice affords a degree of control and depth not attainable in a static presentation.

An additional layer of interactivity was facilitated by the furniture in the gallery. Curved modern couches filled the main space, inviting an alternate viewing experience or the option to comfortably converse. The entire length of the gallery was visible, giving a different perspective on the works within it. Small colorful stools and minimal leather benches placed at random throughout the space changed the height at which pieces could be viewed and provided an opportunity to linger. Despite a lack of familiar interactive elements—such as multimedia—interactivity was present in the overall concept and design of the gallery. The ability to take in the artwork from different angles, heights, and vantage points promoted a sense of engagement not found in many other parts of the Portrait Gallery.

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