Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.

Six years, six posts, and a random crayon story.

I wrote my first blog post – and came up with the name Cornfield Meet – six years ago today.

The six most-visited posts since then, in ascending order:

#6 A Dollar Well Spent – 6/15/11 – Hardly surprising, I suppose: I mean, a 1970s science fiction fan magazine with a Forbidden Planet / 2001 / Star Wars mash-up poster? Come on.

#5 The Rebellious Robot at 30 – 9/10/09 – A rework of an interview-based piece I originally wrote folliwing a 2004 conversation with one-time Star Wars illustrator Mark Corcoran. Incredibly nice guy, and still super-talented.

#4 My Concerns with Ohio’s New Passenger Rail – 1/31/10 – The issue itself has been dead for awhile, but this one seemed to attract searches for a map of Ohio’s population density. Weird.

#3 “Smoke up, Johnny!” – Things I Love So Far About “Community” – 9/23/09 – No question, this one drew searches for the origin of that particular quote. And the show has only gotten better.

#2 Remembering Ralph McQuarrie – 1929-2012 – 3/4/12 – The most recent post on this list, my tribute to the late Star Wars concept artist was the beneficiary of some serious signal boostage from both Bonnie Burton and the official Star Wars Twitter feed.

And in the top spot,

#1 John Hughes and “The Breakfast Club” – Forever Quotable – 8/6/09 – And there’s a sizable gap between this one and second place. True, this one’s been on the site for three years, where the McQuarrie piece isn’t even a month old, but I love the fact that this essay/research project/weird obsession still sits here quietly pulling in people looking for the source of a quote they’re sure they know from somewhere, or wondering what song Bender air guitars in the library, or what the heck he says in that line which begins, “So, Ahab…”

I should note that this ranking reflects only the visits since I moved the site over to WordPress in early 2009. (The posts from 2006-2009 made the move, of course, although their traffic stats did not.) Still, looking at which posts have attracted the most traffic and why, it’s highly unlikely that anything from the first three years would have cracked this list.

At any rate, this blog is now as old as I was when I learned that trick of snapping crayons in two over my middle finger, as a direct result of which my school “art box” was suddenly filled with half-length Crayolas.

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March 27, 2012 Posted by | geek, Ohio, Weblogs, writing | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Eighteen Saturdays: Canton Marathon 2012, Week Six

Week six felt almost like an inverse of week five: The weekday runs provided the highlights, while the long run was a mental battle.

Tuesday morning was incredible: 60 degrees at 5:30 a.m.. In full sun, this would feel uncomfortably warm, but in the pre-dawn darkness, it was perfect. I stuck to my tripled-up half-mile out-and-back route and managed a 23:04, which works out to 7:40 per mile, and starts to reach that pace territory where, last summer, Adam and I built up to a speed of about 7:24 for a 3.15-mile loop. Felt good to be in that neighborhood again, even though I know this is the final week for three milers, at least until the pre-race taper.

Wednesday morning was a six-miler, with the goal of tackling it at race pace, 8:23. It had been two weeks since our last pace run – which I hadn’t enjoyed, and during which I struggled to finish with an 8:40 – and we were covering the same distance and route. This time, I wanted to try to get out to a little bit faster start, and after a warm-up first half-mile, Adam and I picked things up and took advantage of a nice downhill to pass the first marker at 8:03. We felt good enough to keep that overall pace going, and through two miles, we were still averaging just over 8 minutes, prompting Adam to note that the third mile of this loop had tended to be one of the most difficult, but if we could just manage to keep this pace up, we’d have almost a half-minute-per-mile cushion for the second half of the run. And the third mile was tough – and it felt tough – but still: We did it in 8:15, and our overall pace was, frankly, starting to surprise me.

The fourth mile has two nice downhill stretches, and we used them to our advantage, marking our fastest mile of the run (7:44) and knowing full well that the fifth mile would feel like a real slog. And it did – but we still managed to get it behind us in 8:25, and with an 8:13 final mile, we completed the run in 48:38 for an overall pace of 8:07.

I couldn’t believe it. 33 seconds per mile shaved off the same course from two weeks ago, and I felt great. This was a confidence-booster that I really needed.

I rode the adrenaline to a relatively easy Thursday morning three-miler, which I put behind me in 24:14.

So after those runs, Saturday’s nine miles didn’t seem too daunting: It was a perfect, windless, overcast morning of about 55 degrees, we didn’t have to run for pace, and this was a step back from the previous Saturday’s 12-mile run. And yet here was my weekly lesson in overconfidence – three miles in, I was already feeling like I was up against the wall. We got off to a decent enough start – 16:11 over the first two miles, and an 8:32 third – but I felt like I was fighting every footstep of miles four through eight. That stretch took us nearly 45 minutes – close to nine minutes a mile. I knocked a couple seconds off the overall pace by pushing for an 8:28 final mile, but wow, was I glad when this one was over.

Next week, the mileage jumps: 4, 7, and 4 on the weekdays, and 14 on Saturday. It’s a steep curve: We’re one full third of the way through in terms of training days. Distance-wise, however, the 124 miles we’ve put in so far are only only just over one-fourth of the 488.3 total we’ll run, counting the marathon itself.

By the numbers:

  • Tuesday,  March 20 – Schedule: 3 miles. Actual: 3 miles. Time: 23:04. Pace: 7:40/mi.
  • Wednesday, March 21 – Schedule: 6 miles, race pace (8:23). Actual: 6 miles. Time: 48:38. Pace: 8:07/mi.
  • Thursday,  March 22 – Schedule: 3 miles. Actual: 3 miles. Time: 24:14. Pace: 8:04/mi.
  • Saturday, March 24 – Schedule: 9 miles. Actual: 9 miles. Time: 1:18:02. Pace: 8:40/mi.

March 26, 2012 Posted by | Ohio, running, Sports | , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy 15th, Kelsey!

Photo by Jim Carchidi

It’s my daughter’s 15th birthday today, and she is celebrating it in awesome fashion: performing with her high school orchestra at Walt Disney World. In lieu of cake, I believe there will be generous portions of Star Tours, Tower of Terror, and Rock’n’Roller Coaster served.

You make me proud every day, Kels.

(And hey, movie trivia buffs: Kelsey shares a birthday with her stunt double (5:32 – 5:48) in The Meat Locker.)

March 26, 2012 Posted by | 1990s, Family history, Ohio | Leave a comment

Eighteen Saturdays: Canton Marathon 2012, Week Five

This week turned out to be really about one surprisingly enjoyable and good run, so let’s get the short ones out of the way:

Tuesday I ran after work, taking advantage of my new hour of daylight. It was gorgeous and warm, so I pushed things a bit the first two miles. Unfortunately, the big climb in mile three plus a bit of a headwind slowed my overall pace. Wednesday morning’s six mile wasn’t a race-pace run, which was good, because I had some stomach issues and had to make a detour home about 3.5 miles into the run. I went back out and covered the rest of my distance after my stop, but my overall pace suffered because I was slowed by gut pain for about a mile and a half during that first stretch. Thursday I went out in the morning and did three out-and-back stretches, since a) 5:30 a.m. is once again back to full darkness and b) given Wednesday’s events, I thought I’d better stick close to home. It was a decent enough run, marked by some really spectacular pre-storm lightning that spread like fingers across the clouds and reminded me of the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where they’re prying open the Well of Souls.

So: Saturday. Twelve miles. And I was going solo because I needed to get my run in early.

When my alarm went off at 5:30, I really didn’t want to get up. Didn’t feel like going out in the dark alone, didn’t feel like hitting the pavement myself for that long a stretch, didn’t feel like dealing with the mental hurdle that I seem to hit around mile three of every long run.

In addition to still being completely dark when I went outside just past six, there was a dense fog settled at ground level. (Oddly enough, you could look up and still see the stars clearly.) Fortunately, the air was 50 degrees, so it was warm enough for shorts and a light long-sleeved shirt. But the fog gave everything a really isolated, quiet feel, and the unlit stretches of road beside the woods and fields were velvet darkness.

Around the middle of the second mile, I turned onto a road and felt like I was looking at the end of the world: The fog was incredibly dense, and the only light was from a building at the intersection behind me. The street just … vanished into the mist. When, a few minutes later, a car passed me from behind (Yes, I was wearing a yellow reflective safety vest.), the headlights had the odd effect of creating a halo on the fog in front of me which contracted like an iris until the car passed.

I felt like I was making decent time – not pushing things, of course: Saturdays are all about the miles – but trying to maintain a decent pace while I still had my early-run energy. I figured I’d be happy if I could equal the pace (8:57/mi.)I’d managed during the prior week’s 11-miler. I also thought maybe I’d approach hydration a little differently, taking smaller drinks regularly – every mile to mile-and-a-half or so – instead of waiting until I felt like I really needed one.

So when I had three miles behind me, I was actually feeling surprisingly good. I started mentally looking ahead, thinking thinks like, “OK – so, in 2.5 miles, I’ll eat my gel; and right after that, I’ll be halfway through the run.”

I had started out with an 8:29 first mile, but through five, I had watched my overall pace creep closer and closer to the 9-minute mark. (Skewed, ever so slightly, by a 15-20 second stop to tie my shoe during the fifth mile.) This wasn’t unexpected, really, although I was a little confused because, I was, surprisingly, feeling really good. I mean, yes, the hills in mile seven kind of hit me, but I never really reached that dragging point where every step just feels like a battle. I found myself thinking, “Hey, as long as I’m feeling OK, I should make sure I’m not just coasting,” and I pushed my pace a little more.

Most of our eight-plus mile routes finish with the same three-mile stretch, the first mile of which my brother and I pretty much think of as the worst part of our run. There’s no sidewalk, and it’s a fairly busy road, and a good bit of it is an uphill grind.

When I reached this part of the run, I was right around a 9-minute-per-mile pace. I had hoped for a better average at this point, because this tends to be one of my slower miles, but the sun was up over the horizon now, and the fog had burned away, but it was still cool and comfortable, and I just felt like I was In the Zone. With two miles to go, I had pulled my average back down below nine minutes; with a mile to go, I had pulled it even with my previous week’s pace, and I thought, “Heck, all I have to do is just keep this nice pace, and I’ll beat that!”

I pushed hard the last mile and made it my fastest mile of the morning by almost a half-minute, making my overall pace two seconds per mile faster than last week.

And I hadn’t wanted to do this run at all.

By the numbers:

  • Tuesday,  March 13 – Schedule: 3 miles. Actual: 3 miles. Time: 25:10. Pace: 8:23/mi.
  • Wednesday, March 14 – Schedule: 6 miles. Actual: 6.05 miles. Time: 56:25. Pace: 9:20/mi.
  • Thursday,  March 15 – Schedule: 3 miles. Actual: 3.04 miles. Time: 24:53. Pace: 8:12/mi.
  • Saturday, March 17 – Schedule: 11 miles. Actual: 12.01 miles. Time: 1:47:06. Pace: 8:55/mi.

March 19, 2012 Posted by | Ohio, running, Sports | , , , , | 1 Comment

Dungeons and Dragons: Wednesday Withdrawal

Sword and dice

Mid-February. Massillon, Ohio: One of the players, Tom, had brought a celebratory cache of cheap foam weapons – short swords, axes, hammers and even flails – along with his usual giant bag of fresh popcorn. The resulting silliness helped offset a little undertone of sadness to this particular Dungeons and Dragons night, because it was going to be this group’s last session, at least for awhile.

I came to this group at Backlist Books as the new guy back on Sept. 7, 2011, and I was a little nervous. The only person I knew at the table was Fred, the store owner and Dungeon Master, and I hadn’t played D&D since summer 2010. It was already week three of the Lost Crown of Neverwinter adventure, so in the interest of saving time, Fred offered me a pre-generated character in the interest of saving time, so I took up the bow of Belgos, a drow ranger.

Belgos was an enjoyable enough character to play, although I feel like I approached him a little coldly – leveling up was all about how he could get better in combat, and I was always more focused on doing well in battle than in actually role-playing Belgos. I’m sure that partly this was because I was the new guy in the group, and I was still getting to know everyone else, and partly because I really had no connection to my character.

Over the course of Lost Crown, though, spending Wednesday nights with this group of people I’d just met became a fantastic, energizing, bizarrely comforting ritual. I’d get home from work, have dinner with Jenn & Kelsey, gather up my dice, pencils and books, and take the back roads over to Massillon. Most times, I’d listen to mixes of 1980s music, because it put me in what felt like an appropriate frame of mind.

The early session was usually still wrapping up when I’d arrive at Backlist, so I’d sit down and pick something off the shelves to read, or sit on the couch in the front of the store, or, if one of our group was already there, say hi and catch up a little on everyday stuff from the past week.

Our sessions were supposed to start at 8 p.m. We were all there on time, most weeks, and yet most weeks, by the time we all caught up with each other, had purchased books or new D&D minis, and stocked up on our snacks and drinks for the evening, it was still closer to – or well past – nine o’clock by the time we actually started playing. If I got home at midnight, I didn’t care: Wednesdays were fine, fine nights in my book, no matter how the dice had fallen.

The group stuck together for the next 14-week adventure, Beyond the Crystal Cave.

This time, though, I wanted to create a character all my own. Thus was born my tiefling hexblade, Azathoth (the first Cthulhu Mythos name I found upon picking up a Lovecraft book). The core of his origin tale came to me almost immediately, and fleshed out a bit more over time as I played the character. I may even write it out sometime in a short story format, just for fun.

During the very first Crystal Cave session, as our characters got to know each other, I made a decision regarding Azathoth’s feelings and motivations, but I opted to keep it to myself and play it pretty close to the vest until about halfway through the adventure. When I finally did make the revelation, several weeks later – and I admit, despite the fact that by now I was really comfortable role-playing with this group, I wondered how it would be perceived – I was ecstatic that the reaction was amusement and support and a recognition that this would be fun to play out.

Our final session was, fittingly, the perfect mix of combat and role-playing and ideal dungeon-mastering that tested our characters’ mettle, allowed for some dramatic heroics, and felt very much like the final moments of a good cinematic story than the end of a game.

Example: My terrible dice rolls were a longstanding joke within our group, ever since Belgos once went for what seemed like weeks without managing to hit the broad side of a tavern with a single arrow. So when Azathoth unleashed an Eldritch Bolt (think “Force Lightning,” but, you know, from hell) that turned out to be the final boss death blow, it was a fun moment. Fred the DM let me keep the figure representing the villain – and though I don’t collect D&D minis, that thing still sits here on my desk like a victory trophy.

Even the post-battle story wrap-up presented opportunities for a few more truly enjoyable moments with our characters.

It’s only been a month since then, but I have missed my Wednesday night Dungeons & Dragons sessions. I miss showing up, seeing my friends, stacking character sheets and dice on the table, popping open a Coke, and passing around Twizzlers and popcorn. I miss sitting down and creating, from the same elements in use by players and DMs all over the country, a story that is totally ours.

I’d like to imagine that in the not-too-distant future, there’s a time when Azathoth finds himself sitting in a tavern reminiscing about that tale, only to have his thoughts interrupted by a familiar voice calling from the doorway…

March 19, 2012 Posted by | Games, geek, Ohio | , , | 2 Comments

Eighteen Saturdays: Canton Marathon 2012, Week Four

This was a pretty good week: I did both of my three-mile runs outside on a new out-and-back route (as opposed to a loop), which means I wasn’t on the treadmill at all, and I did my first double-digit-mileage run since last September (and only my second since August of 2010!).

Tuesday morning, I just couldn’t bear the thought of the treadmill, so I went out in the pre-dawn darkness and put in three miles carrying my flashlight and wearing a blinking green shamrock medallion (part of this year’s In Like A Lion race packet) on my back.

Wednesday morning’s six-miler was kind of a bear – the weather was much better than last week’s rain-drenched five mile pace run, but trying to find and maintain race goal pace was much more difficult. First mile was an 8:15, but I felt like I had hit the wall through most of miles two and three, and they took 8:23 and 8:55. Mile four had a couple nice downhill stretches, but it still took me 8:36, and the fifth mile just sucked: 9:09. I recovered enough to push back with an 8:42 final mile, but afterward, I really found myself questioning whether an 8:23 is doable for 26.2 miles. I’m still going to keep shooting for it, though.

Thursday I just couldn’t drag myself out of bed in time to run, which turned out to be a blessing: It was warm that morning, but extremely windy, and though it was cold and dark by the time I ran after work that night, the wind had moved through. Still feeling the sting of the previous day’s letdown, I pushed myself a little and did my three miles at an 8:12 pace.

I’ll admit that I really wasn’t looking forward to Saturday’s 11-mile run, even though the long runs are about mileage and not speed. I plotted a new course for Adam and me to run (Higdon’s Novice 1 training, which I used in 2009, doesn’t include an 11-miler.), and bought a PowerBar and PowerGel for the morning, too.

It was only 20 degrees when we set out, but it was sunny and calm, so we warmed up pretty quickly and got out to a good start. Still, the third and fourth miles (particularly) felt like a lot of work, and though my lungs felt OK, my legs were saying, “Hey – seriously? We’re doing how many more?”

A nice second wind came out of nowhere, though, and the fifth mile felt pretty good. I consumed my gel just past the five-mile mark, and drank some extra water to wash it down.

After the big climb that finished the sixth mile, the rest of the way was decent. Some slow miles in there, but we did the last two in 8:56 and 8:30 respectively, which was enough to pull our overall pace back to just below the nine-minute mark. Best Saturday pace so far, and one second per mile faster, in fact, than the previous Saturday’s six mile run. And I felt really good afterward.

By the numbers:

  • Tuesday,  March 6 – Schedule: 3 miles. Actual: 3.01 miles. Time: 25:09. Pace: 8:21/mi.
  • Wednesday, March 7 – Schedule: 6 miles, race pace (8:23). Actual: 6 miles. Time: 52:03. Pace: 8:40/mi.
  • Thursday,  March 8 – Schedule: 3 miles. Actual: 3 miles. Time: 24:35. Pace: 8:12/mi.
  • Saturday, March 10 – Schedule: 11 miles. Actual: 11.18 miles. Time: 1:40:08. Pace: 8:57/mi.

March 11, 2012 Posted by | Ohio, running, Sports | , , , , | 1 Comment

Geekbrainchainreaction: Graham Norton, Tom Lehrer, Danica McKellar and The Electric Company

Jenn & Kels & I are fans of The Graham Norton Show, and one of the recent re-runs included Daniel Radcliffe singing Tom Lehrer’s song about the elements. (Entertaining and impressive as that is, Lehrer’s original is still not to be missed.)

I recognized the song, of course, but didn’t think any further on it until a couple days later, when I listened to The Nerdist podcast with Danica McKellar – which happened to include a long tangent on Tom Lehrer’s music and revealed to me that Lehrer was actually responsible for two songs from The Electric Company  that, over the years, have occasionally popped up in fragmented form in the back of my mind.

Of course I had to look them up on YouTube, and the music and animation are as loaded with 1970s childhood goodness as Garanimals and Fisher-Price schoolbuses:

March 10, 2012 Posted by | 1970s, geek, Television | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Two nice reviews of Collect All 21!

A couple weeks back, Goblin Quest and Princess Series author and nice guy Jim C. Hines posted a brief review of Collect All 21! on his blog, which included this bit:

I suspect Booth and I are roughly the same age, and his stories stirred some nostalgic memories as I read. I found myself thinking back to the original Star Wars Luke Skywalker figure I owned, with the yellow lightsaber that promptly lost its skinny tip. Then when Empire came out, Luke came with a detachable lightsaber and a gun instead of the lightsaber that slid up into his arm, and that was THE MOST AWESOME THING IN THE WORLD!

As I’ve said before, knowing that I’ve helped someone dredge up a few memories of the glory days of Kenner That Was is a very cool feeling, as is, you know, getting a kind word from an author whose work you really enjoy. It’s right up there with Bespin Luke’s yellow lightsaber, and less likely to get lost under the basement stairs.

I also just found this YouTube book review video from user micahc6v8 – he starts talking about Collect All 21! around the 5:02 mark –

I’m guessing that he read the expanded electronic edition, since he doesn’t show a physical copy of the book, and he notes the $2.99 price. At any rate, he also says some positive things about my little Star Wars nostalgia trip, noting in particular that he identified with the book despite being of a different generation, which, again, is nice to hear.

March 8, 2012 Posted by | 1970s, 1980s, Books, eighties, Film, geek, Ohio, science fiction | , , , | 1 Comment

Jim Carchidi’s George Trifecta

I just realized I never posted the totally-necessary (unlike, say, Godfather III) completion to our Paintings of George by Jim series.

In the tradition of the portraits of George Harrison and George Lucas which he painted for Jenn and me, our friend Jim Carchidi created this piece for Kelsey, who’s a huge Harry Potter fan:

George Weasley by Jim Carchidi

March 5, 2012 Posted by | Books, Film, geek | , , , | 4 Comments

Eighteen Saturdays: Canton Marathon 2012, Week Three

Week Three was marked by two significant runs: A return to the middle-distance pacing run on Wednesday, and the 13th annual running of In Like A Lion at midnight, on Thursday, March 1.

The week’s first run (Treadmill Tuesday – blech) was a 29-minute struggle, during which I had some drifting problems. We will speak no more of it.

Wednesday morning called for five miles at my race pace goal, which is roughly 8:23. During week one, I had a tough time coming in at 9:02 for five miles, so my hope was to roughly split the difference and improve this week to an 8:45 or so. I’m also really aiming to improve my ability to maintain a pace, and not vary too much mile to mile. It was about 40 degrees outside. Adam and I ran our first mile in 8:29, and I felt OK with that, but in mile two, the light mist we’d been running in turned into a steady rain, and my legs started to get sore, and we slowed to an 8:49. The rain continued to come down harder, but somehow we pushed through the rest of the run with mile times of 7:58, 8:14 and 8:28 – and when we crossed the 5-mile mark, we were at 42 minutes – which averages out to an 8:24. Awfully close to race pace, and an improvement I felt good about. (Next Wednesday, we’re scheduled to do a 6-mile loop at pace. Urgh.)

So: That run was at 5 a.m. I went to work, then drove home and almost immediately headed out with Kelsey to a mandatory school meeting about orchestra. Afterward, we grabbed some dinner, and once we were back at home, I packed up and headed up to my friend Keith’s for In Like A Lion.

A storm front moved through that evening, but by midnight, the thunder, lightning and rain had stopped, and though it had cooled significantly from the afternoon’s stunning high near 70 degrees, it was still close to 50 degrees at midnight, so I wore shorts for the run. It was windy in the Cuyahoga Valley, but the temperature was comfortable, and we had a dozen people out there, and the 3-mile run fit perfectly into my training schedule, since it was technically Thursday. I didn’t push things at all, since we were in groups and talking most of the way. And yes, we finished once again with the traditional round of Shamrock Shakes.

I stayed at Keith’s, got to bed about 2 a.m., then got up and went to work from there at about 7 a.m. Crazy good times.

Saturday’s long run with Adam was only a 6-miler, but the first mile-and-a-half was into the most brutal headwind we’ve encountered in awhile, so it took a longer time than usual to settle into the run, even though we managed a decent time, finishing up with an 8:58 average.

By the numbers:

  • Tuesday,  Feb. 28 – Schedule: 3 miles. Actual: 29 minutes (approx.) on the treadmill.
  • Wednesday, Feb 29 – Schedule: 5 miles. Actual: 5.01 miles. Time: 42:00. Pace: 8:24/mi.
  • Thursday,  Mar. 1 – Schedule: 3 miles. Actual: 3.12 miles. Time: 28:30. Pace: 9:14/mi.
  • Saturday, Mar. 3 – Schedule: 6 miles. Actual: 6.05 miles. Time: 54:17. Pace: 8:58/mi.

March 4, 2012 Posted by | Ohio, running, Sports | , , , , | 2 Comments

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