They say that when it rains, it pours. And so it does in my life, apparently! On my morning run on Thursday, during which I was going at a rapid (for me) clip due to working out some things in my mind (read: fuming about some recent news I had learned), I got hit by a car driving FORWARDS out of an alley. I’m fine — but after I stared at the driver until she opened her window, she chastised me, saying, “You’re supposed to stop and look both ways before crossing!” Uh, no. As a pedestrian on a sidewalk, I have the right of way, lady, and by the way, since you’re so concerned, I’m fine. Of course, that put me in a fine mood, leaving me with the perverse joy knowing that when I planted my left hand on the car hood, I most likely keyed it

Then I ran the last .7 miles home. Apparently, I was running at such a good clip that it was my fastest per mile training time to date, including getting hit and talking to the woman.

After sharing my story with some friends, it turns out that several of them have also been hit by slow-moving, absent-minded drivers. I find the most funny story to be that of one friend, who was hit days before sitting for the bar exam. Her only concern was whether her hand would be okay for the exam (it was).

More Social Networking for Book Readers

Coincidentally, perhaps, I was invited to join Goodreads today by another bibliophile friend, and I prefer it to Shelfari. Writes Goodreads founder Otis Chandler on the website’s “About” page:

[Goodreads] is a place where you can see what your friends are reading and vice versa. You can create “bookshelves” to organize what you’ve read (or want to read). You can comment on each other’s reviews. And on this journey with your friends you can explore new territory, gather information, and expand your mind.

In general, Goodreads’s design is more sophisticated than Shelfari’s. The first time I visited Shelfari, I felt like I was on Friendster, circa 2002. Shelfari’s default “shelves” read like a cross between an ownership inventory, gift registry, and personal “bestseller” list. In short, it appears that it was created for social networking because the shelves were not labeled with a habitual reader in mind.

The default “shelves” on Goodreads are more intuitive. As anyone who calls him or herself a reader will tell you, there is a pile of books somewhere in the house, or a list of those books, at least, that he or she wants to get to. On Goodreads, the “to-read” shelf is a default tag, as is “currently-reading.” And there’s a place to record when the reader finishes the book. The site just seems more tailored to a reader. Finally, the Amazon infiltration isn’t as blatant on Goodreads because a book’s profile page contains links to several online retailers — not just Amazon. Ha. No more vertical monopoly! Or whatever.

So, check out the Goodreads widget (there actually was a typo in the HTML code of the Goodreads-provided widget that took me about 15 minutes to figure out….) at the bottom of the left column to see what I’m reading.

Covert Amazon Infiltration

Recently, I was invited to join Shelfari, whose website says that it’s the “first social media site focused on books.” I’m miserable at online social networking – my friends and associates just aren’t people who have caught the social networking wave. I’ve never sat down and actually counted the number of people I know, but I do know that it’s more than what my social networking profiles represent. I’m, therefore, pretty lame when it comes to these things.

So Shelfari, like BookCrossing, is about books. Unlike BookCrossing, Shelfari counts Amazon.com as an investor. The downside of this is that although there is a nifty bookshelf at the top of this blog showing the books that I allegedly own, if you scroll over a book on this shelf, it’s easier to see the icon with a dollar sign and what is assumed to be a link to Amazon’s site for the book. I’ve also had a bunch of technical problems with getting an appropriately-sized bookshelf onto this blog, and right now it seems like the links on the books and the Shelfari icon are broken. Don’t blame me. I don’t know any programming languages other than HTML, BASIC, and LOGO. Also, I’m confused about what my “goal” as a Shelfari member is. I’m not sure of what’s supposed to go onto the bookshelf. All the books I own? The ones that I’ve read (but don’t necessarily own)? I don’t get it. My solution is to place on my bookshelf the stuff I’ve read since July, and then add on some books that reflect my personality. To that end, I am one of only one or two people on Shelfari that own books like the Appalachian Mountain Club’s White Mountain Guide, Lonely Planet’s Trekking in the Nepal Himalaya (no, I still haven’t made it there), and Backcountry First Aid and Extended Care (my Wilderness First Aid certification expired in 2004, but all the information I learned kicked in when I had altitude sickness 2 years ago). Mostly, though, I dislike being a free advertiser for Amazon. This bookshelf probably will not remain here.

Stealth Squirrel

For the last few months I’ve been observing what I’ve called “stealth squirrels” in the DC area, and from a quick internet search, I am not the only one. However, no one I know has noticed when a squirrel basically flattens itself against the ground, splaying its hind limbs back behind itself and tucking the arms underneath. Think commando, or Navy Seal. Or, just look at the crummy photo I took with my cell phone camera:

Recognizing that my photograph is similar to those that have documented the existence of Bigfoot and Nessie, I have vowed to one day have a decent camera with me when I see a stealth squirrel. And maybe it won’t be a hazy 101F degrees, either.

Baseball Milestones

A-Rod becomes the youngest player to reach the 500-HR milestone, Bonds catches Aaron’s 755 (although the Giants lose to the Padres in 12), the Nationals give out Thomas Jefferson bobbleheads and beat the Cardinals in commanding fashion (12-1) — perhaps in fear of being the team that gives up the home run that will propel Bonds into the record books — and I get hit on by a guy standing outside Rumors at 3pm and wearing a Red Sox t-shirt, all in the same day. Mere coincidence? Baseball sprites? Moons of Jupiter aligning? And who’s outside on the patio at Rumors on a sweltering Saturday afternoon when there’s Mackeys, Porters, Lucky Bar and the Big Hunt all within spitting distance?? Gah.

My favorite post-500 home run quote from A-Rod, by the way, is:

You wish you could pay each fan back by shaking their hands, but all I could do is hit a home run and win a game. They wasted a lot of Kodak film on me this week, I’m just glad I was able to pay them back.

Digital, Alex, we live in a digital world now.

It’s Not Resonance this Time (nor was it the last time, for what it’s worth)

Ever since watching, in my high school physics class, the video of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge undulating at what was then believed to be its natural frequency (aka, the resonance theory) before collapsing into the waters below, I’ve had an irrational fear of driving over bridges. It’s not so much a fear that I won’t drive over a bridge, but I’ve got distract myself a little or otherwise drive speedily over to the other side. It’s when I’m stuck in traffic on a bridge that I start getting a little panicky. This usually happens on a Hudson River crossing — good thing I don’t do that regularly.

A few months ago, during a slow day at work, I came up with a 4-part extraction plan* in the event I’m on a collapsing bridge and survive the initial plunge into the waters. Paranoid, right? Well, truthfully, I don’t frequently think about this fear. It’s ironic because I am not inherently afraid of heights, and I’m a decent swimmer. Thanks to some winning crews I’ve coxed in college, I’ve been tossed into water that still had icebergs. Thanks to a diabolical crew coach, I can even tread water for 30 minutes while wearing over-sized sweatpants and a sweatshirt. But the idea of being trapped in a sinking vehicle makes my heart race in a bad way.

Learning of tonight’s collapse of the I-35W bridge over the Mississippi River and connecting Minneapolis and St. Paul makes me edgy. For me, it is a reminder that perhaps my fear isn’t as irrational as it appears at first glance.

*The 4-part extraction plan consists of: (1) releasing seat belt; (2) moving to the back of the car; (3) painstakingly wait for the car to fill up with water and then opening door or window (and taking a wicked huge breath); (4) swim like Michael Phelps towards the surface.