Time to get serious

About marathon training that is! With about two and a half weeks left before the Queens Half-Marathon, and then a headfirst dive into marathon training the week after that, it was time to nail down a training plan and memorialize it in a calendar format (e.g. our lives for the months of August, September, and October). First and foremost, which training plan to go with? Apparently my friend and I had picked a different “novice” plan from the other, and after some discussion and some math:

We went with plan numero uno. Now to address this whole food issue…I ran a grand total of three miles this morning. Three. I nearly inhaled a breakfast sandwich as soon as I got to work and maybe two hours later, I was stupid hungry again. I just ate “brunch” (otherwise known as breakfast #2 / lunch #1 on weekdays), and I have a feeling this will not be the end of my hunger anytime soon. Just imagine what our respective grocery bills / food expenses will be once those 7, 8, and even 10 mile weekdays and the double-digit mile weekends start. I’m half-tempted to keep track of those expenses throughout this process but I think I might cry afterward, so I’ll probably just remain blissfully ignorant.

Ah well, November 6, 2011? Here we come!

Weekly Roundup

Currently in NYC it’s 94 degrees outside. With the 38% humidity, it “feels like” 96 degrees. Having this at the forefront of my decision-making process, I have opted to not leave this building until at least 5:30 tonight when these ridiculous temperatures have already started subsiding and have entered the “free fall” stage (somewhat misleading at this rate, but when it’s mid-to-high 90s, you’d be happy for mid-80s too!). That said, here’s what you’ve missed this week:

  • I am now an Astorian. After a ridiculous time of it battling brokers and relying on nonsensical advice (scroll down for review), I finally found a good deal (again, scroll down for review) that landed me right where I wanted to be in the neighborhood for an amazing price. The best part? My kitchen is awesomely huge (for you non-New Yorkers, shut it, this is *big* by our standards):
  • We are house and cat-sitting at the moment, and will be until I move into this new apartment. I’ve pretty much fallen in love with the feline and have decided that Toni really does want a new friend. I mean who wouldn’t when it’s something this cute:
  • I beat Bioshock 2 on Sunday (see previous mid-game review). Everything I said there still holds true, but I will say this about the ending: it’s probably about an hour or so longer than it really needed to be. Still thought it was a great game and really can’t wait for Bioshock: Infinite to be released!
  • I’m purchasing new running shoes tonight from The Running Company. While I’m not entirely positive that Super Runner’s Shop put me in the wrong shoes this time around, I’d like to have a second opinion and see what the former comes up with. Occasionally I have some soreness in my left arch (I have low arches so I may over-pronate), but that might just be a product of the fact that I need new shoes. I’m getting them now in order to have them broken in by the Queens Half-Marathon on July 30th! This way I’ll get tonight’s (blisteringly hot to be sure) training run in, I’ll also manage two long runs plus 2 1/2 weeks of training runs before the Half, so I’m pretty confident that the new shoes will be ready for Queens and the rat maze that it will be!
  • I had no idea that the North Atlantic was actually capable of creating real waves on its beaches until this past weekend. At Long Beach we not only got to experience swimming in an ocean that’s crashing all around you and the closure of the water due to a strong riptide, we got to see the ocean advance on the beach and send sunbathers scattering for cover. See?

Mid-game Review: Bioshock 2

***WARNING: VIDEO GAME NERD ALERT (if you are not interested in games in the slightest, you won’t much care about what is included in this post)***

The season of completing law school apps has started (and if there were any question about whether or not it had, you can look at the number of “apply to our random school in who knows where USA and we’ll even waive the application fee!” in my inbox right now).

As I begin to address the numerous things I need to accomplish in the next 2 months in order to execute the perfect “applied in September” rolling admissions strategy, I’m using up every last second not spent at work, running (Queens Half-Marathon is at the end of this month!), or finishing necessary errands on Bioshock 2.

Initially, I tried the original Bioshock, didn’t like it, and eventually ended up trying it again a year or so later and loved it. As soon as I finished playing the original, I wanted to play the sequel. Sometimes a sequel will land pretty flat after an amazing debut game, but with the Bioshock franchise, that is thankfully not the case.

In the original you were expected to take down some Big Daddies in order to rescue/harvest (I always rescued) the Little Sisters (yes, you, a mere mortal, are expected to take down those big things encased entirely in metal). Rescuing them garnered you some ADAM, which you could use to level up. Harvesting them garnered you even more ADAM, but that also made you kind of evil and I have this weird thing with video games where I just gravitate more toward the more conscientious character. In the sequel, you are the Big Daddy and your job is to basically rescue (read: steal) Little Sisters from other Big Daddies, use them to harvest for ADAM, and then opt to either rescue/harvest them for more ADAM. Pretty much everything that made the original game great is back in the sequel, so there’s not much to complain about if you really liked the first game. Additionally, there are some new odds and ends that I like better in Bioshock 2:

  • First, the research camera is actually far more workable in the sequel and I can actually use it without getting killed/seriously injured. You aim it at the enemy you want to research, start recording, and then go about your business taking it down. The entire scene is recorded for posterity and you garner research points, which go toward increased abilities against different enemies you’ve researched as well as additional capabilities (e.g. plasmids for example).
  • Also, while a lot of the weapons from the original make a return in the sequel, there are some new additions like the spear gun and drill, which are loads ‘o fun. Unlike the original game where you can get away with relying on one or two weapons to the exclusion of everything else, you will most likely need to cycle through all of the weapons as different weapons work better on some enemies and not others (e.g. Splicer versus a Big Daddy).
  • The boss fights in the sequel remind me a lot more of a, you know, boss fight. They seemed sort of like formalities in the original game, but in the sequel they are far more defined and even somewhat difficult. I beat the Preacher last night who was kind of a pain in the ass, and I will say that it’s always funny how in the video game world, you can always tell when something’s about to go down because you will come across a literal cache of weapons, power ups, items, etc. It’s one of those “gee, I wonder if a boss fight is coming?” moments.

I haven’t finished Bioshock 2 yet, but I’ve played through about 4 levels or so and I’ve loved every minute of it. It’s fun and seriously mindless entertainment that is always helpful when the rest of your day is consumed by working hard, running hard, and navigating the seemingly endless world of applying to law schools.

Ridiculously Busy Week

This past week and weekend have been sheer insanity of awesome and busy; consequently, you get a bullet-point recap (complete with photos and links!):

  • New York, the state I call home, passed that one bit of legislation that you probably haven’t heard anything about…as a result, this year’s Pride celebration was crazy, awesome, and exhausting all at the same time. I need a weekend to recover from my weekend! We found out while we were out to dinner at a Cuban place a few blocks from where we’re staying in Fort Greene, and had it not been for the Pride race I was in the next morning, we would’ve probably been out all night. A 3 1/2 hour march down 5th Avenue, people spilling out of bars and restaurants in the village, frozen margaritas, Governor Cuomo, etc.
  • President Obama demonstrates that he still doesn’t get it even after Cuomo’s accomplishment in a Republican-controlled Senate, which is notorious for its dysfunction. His team uses the word “evolving” to describe his position and I use the word “bullsh*t” to describe it.
  • My LSAT score came back, and while I consider it to be a pretty douche move to post things like LSAT scores or even law school grades online (remember this? Cause I do…), I’ll let you all know it was in the 160s, which was not as high as I was hoping for, but still good enough to get me into the law schools I planned on applying to before I took it. There was a harder than average curve (meaning I had to miss less in order to make into the higher scores), but I’m glad it’s over!
  • I ran the 30th annual Pride race in Central Park a mere 12-14 hours after same sex marriage was legalized, and despite the 2 miles we did before the race because we needed to get in 7 that day and the 93% humidity which felt more like 100%, it felt awesome. And most importantly? Rainbow popsicles after the finish line. This should happen at every race.
  • I’m in the process of moving out of my old apartment this week. One funny story so far is Tuesday night I decided that we just had to have my TV and Xbox, and I’d estimate that the place we’re cat/house-sitting at is about half a mile from my old apartment. Paranoid about rolling a 32 inch flat-screen TV along the not-so-even sidewalks of Brooklyn, I enlisted M to come with me after work to help me take the TV and Xbox over. With no car, and the option of an easier method for transportation out of the question, I carried that TV down 3 flights of stairs, the half a mile from Boerum Hill to Fort Greene, and up 4 flights of stairs…my arms are still sore today.
  • I discovered a laundromat around the corner from me that has CNN on the TV’s while you wait, e.g. perfect laundromat for me. There’s some serious stuff going down in Greece and Kabul right now. Yeesh!
  • Rise Against released their video for the song “Make It Stop” last week (or two weeks ago?), and you should watch it if you haven’t already. Fantastic video that had me holding my breath for about 4 minutes:

Battling the Brokers

I have been living in New York for going on 4 years now, and for each apartment that I have lived in here, I either found the place on Craigslist or through a word of mouth recommendation. Last year I moved to Brooklyn from Manhattan, found that I didn’t really like it all that much, and decided to move to Astoria this summer after I finished taking the LSAT in June. Speaking of that pesky LSAT, scores should be coming out in the next few days or so, but as you’ll see in this post, I haven’t had all that much time to worry about it.

There are some areas of New York where brokers have a monopoly on all of the good apartment listings. For example, when M and I moved in together in “Manhattan Valley” (yuppie speak for the neighborhood between the upper west side and Morningside Heights), we had a broker but the economy and housing market was in such dire straights that the management company for the building paid his fee. For those who are uninitiated to apartment searching in NYC, a broker’s fee is generally equal to one month’s rent. Add on the fact that you always pay one month’s security and the first month’s rent at signing, and you’re expected to shell out at least several thousand dollars on the spot. A lot of people try to find an apartment on their own so that they don’t have to shell out that extra thousand or so, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way.

Unfortunately for me, it seems to be my turn in the vicious broker cycle. The housing market in NYC is much better than it was in 2009 when M and I moved in together, and it’s prime-time real estate season, so I’ve had to try my luck with brokers because Astoria’s market is simply dominated by them. First I tried this guy, who after telling me he could work with me even though I couldn’t pay his full fee up-front (I was honest about it because it was true) but was willing to sign a contract stipulating I would at the end of the first month after I moved in and scheduling an appointment for the next day, he wouldn’t return my calls nor my emails asking where and what time to meet. Finally on the day of our appointment, I emailed him after I was done at the office stating I was going home because I hadn’t heard from him and I’d be available the next day; to which he responded almost immediately saying “okay great, tomorrow’s good!” So the next day rolls around, I contact him again after waiting several hours for him to contact me to ask him what time and, you guessed it, nothing. Lovely. Good business model.

Enter the next broker who I contacted after seeing a $900 studio on Craigslist. It should have tipped me off that her fee was less than one month’s rent ($750), but my attitude at this point was “what could it hurt?” going to see the place. So, I went out to Astoria at the appointment time of 8:00 p.m. and found that not only was she trying to show it to 4 different people at once (myself and 3 others), she also couldn’t show it to us at all because the owner was in Brooklyn at the time. She asked if we could reschedule for the next day at noon, and of course, I was working at that time. I think this was also the point where she told us “oh sorry, the owner also gave the tenant another month, so this is actually not available until August 1st now.” Well thank you for the heads up on, oh, all of these developments. The next day rolls around and she texts me saying she has some “options” for studios to show me if I was interested, and I said okay. We made an appointment for the next day, and I was to meet her at a Starbucks by the train. Fast forward to that meeting time at the Starbucks, and…she’s not there. Instead, she’s at the old $900 studio and tells me she can show it to me now. Okay fine, I replied, but you’re going to have to wait there because I’m at the Starbucks you told me to meet you at, which is a 10 minute walk away from that apartment. No problem she says, so I walk over. Guess what is waiting for me there? A very small, basement studio apartment, with zero counter space in the “kitchen” area. Yes, it’s a steal at $900 with Astoria Park, the trains, and plenty of restaurants/bars around the area, but a tiny, humid, underground space? Eh, no thanks. I actually struggled with this decision a bit because it was $900 with all utilities plus laundry included, which is unheard of in NYC, but I ultimately turned it down.

Oh, and I haven’t heard from this broker since. Luckily for me, we are currently in a house/cat-sitting arrangement that could possibly be extended through the end of the summer, so I am no longer on a July 1st deadline. I still have to get myself out of the old place next week, but with some storage options available as well as place to stay for now (rent free, which helps with that whole broker’s fee thing, so bonus!), I can put plan B into action, which is a July 15th or (more probable) August 1st move-in date. I’m currently registered with this agency who echoed what this guy also told me about finding a good studio, which is to get on it near the end of this month and beginning of next month for an August move-in because that’s when they come up and they go very quickly. They both seem to have a good reputation in the area, so I’m going to try my luck with them now. I liked the woman I spoke to from Avanguard who was very nice and the fact that two reputable agencies said the exact same thing about the best way to attack this gives me some confidence that they know what they’re doing.

However, I will say that all of this nonsense with a few of the brokers who comprise the 95% portion of asshat brokers in NYC did a wonderful job of distracting me from the fact that I don’t have my LSAT score back yet. So there’s that.

June LSAT Recap + Staycation Recap

Yup, I’ve got a LOT to cover in this one, so let’s get right to it, shall we?

Day 3 of my first ever “staycation” since, well, since I moved to NYC in 2007 also happened to be the June 2011 administration of the LSAT, which I signed up for because in my infinite brilliance, I let the last one I took during undergrad expire. Who says that one gets wiser with age? I opted to take it at Fordham Law School, which gave me the benefit of knowing exactly where I was going and not having to deal with any of that “oh my god where is it where is it WHERE IS IT??” anxiety that can happen when you don’t know where your testing center is. However, it also formally introduced Fordham’s tendency to, oh, I don’t know, not have any clue what’s happening the day of an event. For example, a little over a year ago, we tried to visit the school because M had been admitted and had arranged a visit to the campus. When we got there, they had no idea what we were talking about. Furthermore, the school was locked up for the day, so our effort was pretty much a bust. When I arrived 15 minutes before the 12:30 deadline to be at the testing center, there was a man from the law library running around trying to figure out what was happening. His question to the group of neurotic 20-22 year olds in the room was “so, is this like a practice test or a study session or something?”

Several people belt out “NO IT’S THE REAL THING AHH!”

Him: “oh, they didn’t tell us about this at all.” And then he ran off to try and figure out what was happening.

Hmmm, this seems familiar. After a while, a group of proctors came down and brought us upstairs a grand total of 15 minutes before the test was supposed to start. My sunglasses got confiscated because, you know, they could really have some sort of secret x-ray or video camera device that will enable me to record the test and transmit it via infrared to the people on the west coast who paid me thousands of dollars to send them the test (never mind that there are multiple versions of the test and they would be playing a kind of roulette hoping to get the same one I had, but hey, it’s their money)…or the more likely option of just being absolutely silly. The test started a full hour after it was supposed to start and other fun moments include when the girl next to me managed to do something to her pencil sharpener that caused it to explode and send pencil shavings everywhere or when the proctors realized they’d handed the tests out incorrectly and had to take them all back and start over.

All things considered, the fact that I felt pretty much fine after it was all over is kind of impressive given the fact that it’s a) the LSAT and b) the sheer volume of nonsense that preceded it.

I promptly went to the pub around the corner from my house afterward and enjoyed my first LSAT-free evening in months. The next day kicked off my actual “staycation,” and it began with the Natural History Museum. I learned very important things on this day including the fact that dinosaurs are ginormous:

And jelly fish still freak me the F out…even when they are GIGANTIC fake ones:

The next day (Wednesday), I went to the beach. It was awesome, and I will never make fun of kids’ sunblock again because this is the first year in several that I did not walk away with a ridiculous sunburn. Cheers to the kids’ SPF 50 sunblock!

On Thursday we attempted to go to the final Yankees-Red Sox game, but we were thwarted by a 3 1/2 hour rain delay. However, it doesn’t appear like we missed much. Thankfully, the Yankees box office announced that our basically unusable tickets would be accepted for a future game as long as it’s not a special event game.

I also read some books, ate some good (and sometimes not so good) food, played some video games, and slept occasionally. I deem this staycation a success!

Last night before…

Tomorrow’s LSAT and then my week long vacation!

The nice folks over at PowerScore highly suggest taking the day before the test off and doing something you enjoy instead. Having done this once before, and also recognizing that if I don’t have it now, no amount of last minute cramming’s really gonna make much of a difference, Margot and I decided to visit a street fair and walk around our old neighborhood instead. After I woke up this morning and completed my first long run since the Brooklyn Half-Marathon of course…if there’s anything that keeps my mind clear and my nerves steady, it’s running. 🙂

To be honest, I’ve been ready to take it for the past two or three weeks, so I’ve simply had to pursue a “maintenance” plan in order to keep it in my brain through tomorrow. For those who don’t know, the LSAT is a test that consists of the following qualities:

  • Tests your reading comprehension and ability to ascertain abstract concepts like how the author “feels” about the topic or a particular point in the passage based on his/her word choice and/or overall tone in the passage. Other items can include what was the main point the author was driving at, and hey, if you were going to give this rather nebulous bit of text a title, what would it be?
  • In a section known as “logic games” (officially called “analytical reasoning”) it will set up something like a fruit-eating scenario and tell you certain things that you must remember at all times such as: 1) if Kay eats the apple, then Larry eats the orange; 2) if Larry eats the orange, then Nina does not the banana because she thinks it’s gross; and 3) if Kay does not eat the apple, then Peter eats the banana. You got all that? Okay, now you need to tell me what must absolutely happen if Nina eats the banana. [hint: every rule has a contrapositive, and for #2, that is if Nina eats the banana, then Larry does not eat the orange; furthermore, if Larry does not eat the orange, then Kay does not eat the apple, etc…]
  • You will not be tested, in the least, on your ability to practice law or be a lawyer.
  • There will be an “experimental” section that will try out new ways to screw with your brain (because that’s what LSAC likes to do) that will not be counted against your score, but you’ll have to do it anyway. Also, this section will be one of the first three sections, and you will be expected to keep your wits about you for the final two sections because those definitely count. And no, LSAC does not pay you for this; consider it your community service for the month.
  • The word “statute” will not appear (okay, most likely won’t appear anyway…) on this test. You will not read a single statute on this test. This is not about testing you trying to be a lawyer, remember?
  • You will be asked to read numerous random arguments about anything from the process of photosynthesis to whether or not the town’s proposal to ban a hotdog eating contest should be implemented. Most of these will be an argument of some kind (e.g. there will be a main conclusion and then underlying premises of some kind that hopefully back that conclusion) though some will not be. You must now strengthen this POS argument, or perhaps further weaken it because it sucks lots, OR even better, you’ll have to identify a similarly bad argument (e.g. “parallel”) from among the 5 answer choice paragraphs that do wonders for your ability to stay within the 35 minute time limit for that section.
  • And last but not least, you’ll be asked to provide a writing sample (in pencil…bleh) after you’ve finished your five 35 minute sections of fun (of which, remember, only four will count). This sample may be used by law schools looking at your application; it may not be. It certainly doesn’t count for or against your score, but hey, it’ll be fun! I promise!
Yes, I’ve taken this test before. Over 5 years ago in fact, which means my score expired and I have to do it again. However, I’d argue that even if one had not taken this test before, they should be able to come up with the characteristics I outlined above, with varying levels of snark of course, because they should have been studying and practicing up to this point. If not, well, not my problem and hey, you’ll benefit me in the curve, so have at it! Tomorrow’s plan is this (thank all that is sacred for the 1 pm start time tomorrow): wake up around 8ish, shower, breakfast, 1 or 2 logic games, a couple of logical reasonings, and perhaps a reading comp passage if I have time before jumping on the train with plenty of time to spare and a ride up to Fordham. Check-in time is 12:30, and at that point that’s all she wrote. A final note: why on earth did I need to print out a 2×2 inch photo of myself as I will appear on test day, affix it to my admission ticket, AND provide my driver’s license and be thumb-printed? The 2×2 inch photo requirement is apparently new, but I’m not exactly sure why it is necessary given that my official state driver’s license plus thumb print will be taken…I’m trying to take the law school admissions test here. If I was THAT good at faking my identity and/or committing fraud, do you really think I’d be looking into the legal profession right now? Next stop after the LSAT? Most likely the beach. I have a serious vacation that’s calling my name here.