Sunday, January 31, 2010

Running Essentials: Garmin Forerunner 305

Every weekend I go on a "long run". Expert trainers recommend that you do one run every week that accounts for approximately 30% of your weekly miles and since I am incapable of creating my own training plan, I listen to the expert trainers.

When I'm in training for a race, the long run can be up to 14 miles. Right now, however, I am just attempting to fend off winter weight gain and stay in relatively good shape so I've scaled back to between 7-9 miles. This is the perfect run length in my opinion. Anything less than 3-4 miles and I'm annoyed that I'm going to all the trouble of putting on my shoes. Anything longer than 10 and my body starts to reject the run and I end up miserable and dying on the side of the road. But 7-9 miles? Perfect. I could run that distance every day and be completely content.

How do I know when I've run between 7-9 miles, you ask? Ah because I have my Garmin Forerunner 305 - the greatest invention of all time and my most favorite running purchase ever. Seriously, if you have ever even considered going for a run, you should buy this thing. It's that freakin' amazing.

The Garmin Forerunner includes a heart rate monitor strap and computer software that tracks all your runs (you can even enter your indoor runs manually). I got my Garmin in June 2008. I've logged approximately 1300 miles since then (I'd say close to 1000 of those runs were outdoors with the Garmin) and the heart rate monitor battery is just now starting to die. I know that it is starting to die because as I ventured out into the cold last week, it suggested to me that my heart rate was 39 degrees. Now, I'm definitely a hypochondriac, but I know for a fact that my heart rate was not 39 because if it was, I would have been at the hospital and not preparing to run 7 miles. I gave the monitor a tug and it appeared to straighten itself out, but I'm pretty impressed that it lasted as long as it did.

The Garmin works just like its automobile unit does - the device connects to satellites and tracks distance and speed. Pretty cool - the display allows you to choose heart rate, pace, total time, time remaining, total distance, and time. You pick how many you want displayed, which ones, and where you want them displayed (which sounds kind of unnecessary, but believe me once you get used to heart rate being in one spot, you don't want distance to be in that spot all of a sudden. "What? My heart rate is 5.39?")

You can also program in different workouts. The Garmin will beep for you to speed up or slow down depending on the workout you entered. It will show you when you are ahead of pace or falling behind. And if you get lost, it will direct you back to your starting point!

I've got the Forerunner 305 and there have been some newer models released since I got mine. I'm perfectly content with mine though (and now it is cheaper because of the newer models and that's always a good thing!) The unit is a decent size (bigger than a typical sport watch), but it fits my wrist fine. It comes with a larger wrist strap along with the computer software and charging cradle. On a few occasions I've needed to update the software, but customer service has always been really helpful and the issue is typically resolved right away. The display is large enough to steal a quick glance at which is important as the alternative is squinting down at your wrist and risking getting hit by a car.

So there you go - a running essential.

Happy Running!

Friday, January 29, 2010

A Very Special Queen Song of the Week: The Unblinking Eye (Everything is Broken)

To say that I was not pleased with RT and Dr. May yesterday is certainly an understatement. Because Dr. May is currently obsessed with his stereoscope project and banning fox hunting (WTF?), I'm afraid that in my mind most of the blame for the "Jedward Fiasco" fell on RT (whether or not that is necessarily true). So today it seems really appropriate that I'm featuring RT in my Queen Song of the Week because this is exactly the type of project that I wish the boys would focus their attention on as opposed to karaoke contestant alliances (*ahem* You boys know who I'm talking about and I don't just mean Jedward.)

Okay so I will admit that this is not a Queen song, but it is a Roger Taylor song and, even more exciting, it is new. RT has released four solo albums during his career, the most recent being in 1998. Sometime soon after that album came out (Electric Fire - which is amazing and everyone should own!), he said in an interview that his solo career was likely over. This was sad news because RT's songwriting has been steadily improving over the years and his recent stuff is his best. But then last November, he announced that he was working on a single. The single was released for digital download (which I purchased) and then he released a special limited edition hard copy CD of the single. I initially didn't understand the need for the hard copy, but then found out that RT was actually paying for and manufacturing the CD on his own (i.e. no record company involved). My overactive imagination took this one step further as I imagined him sitting at his desk in London, burning CDs, and handwriting address labels. When my sister mentioned that he might even have licked the envelope, I frantically checked the Queen Online Store, saw that copies were still available, and ordered one of my very own.

The package arrived on Saturday and I swear the unsophisticatedness (that's a word, right?) of the whole thing has me even more convinced that RT might have actually actively had something to do with the creation of my little ole' CD. The envelope the CD came in is the type you can buy in bulk at Staples. This is a link to the actual company that made the envelope. Now do not tell me that RT did not go to the store and buy these himself because he did. Case closed.

Now, onto the customs declaration. That signature at the bottom definitely could start with an R, right?

On to the CD itself. The first thing I noticed is that it isn't shrink wrapped. I opened the envelope (very carefuly, of course) and there was the CD.  It' a slimline jewel case (not a typical commercial CD case). It is the exact kind of burnable CD that we have here in our home office.

The liner notes are also printed on regular shiny paper. They come out of the case and are solid white on the interior as it they were just run through a copier (RT's copier perhaps?)

I'm glad I purchased the hard copy of the CD. Obviously RT is not doing this for the money. It is a limited edition (the rumor is 1000 CDs have been pressed) and probably cost a few thousand dollars (or pounds, tee hee) to manufacture. I paid about $12 including shipping for mine because I live in the U.S. so best case scenario he stands to make $12K minus however much it cost to make. That's basically a drop in the bucket when you're RT. So I'm pleased he decided to release the hard copy, thrilled he decided to release the song in the first place, and downright giddy at the rumors that he is working a full album to release later this year.

Ah, yes, the song: The Unblinking Eye (Everything is Broken), written and performed by Roger Taylor, was released as a digital download in November 2009.  A limited edition hard copy of the CD was released in December 2009.

I like it a lot. Yes, it is very political. That's a trademark of RT's solo music (Nazis 1994, anyone?). I don't find these lyrics too over the top myself - I actually find it interesting that while he is singing specifically about life in the U.K., many of the lyrics parallel exactly what is going on here in the U.S. ("This kingdom's not united. Just a complicated mess." - hmm substitute states for kingdom and I think our boy is onto something).

Another trademark of his music is that he really doesn't hide the ball with his lyrics. If he has something to say, he says it outright; no need to decipher any of his lyrics. That means that often he finds himself in a situation where he needs to rhyme something with Afghanistan, as he does in this song. I just chalk this up to him not taking himself too seriously as an artist. He says what he wants to say and if that means using the word concubine or talking about "the way you boil your eggs", then so be it (yeah I'm not making those two examples up hence the links).

What I find extremely impressive is that RT plays all the instruments on the song. The video showcases him on guitar, drums (of course), piano, and stylaphone (which gets its own solo!). I've heard some folks complain about the synthesized violins but I like them. I think they add to the haunting element of the song. (I remember years ago Scott Weiland from Stone Temple Pilots using the same effect on his solo album and I really liked it then too so maybe I'm a little biased.)

The chorus in particular is really catchy. The verses took a few listens for me to warm to, but I like them just fine now. When he originally announced the release, he had a minute and a half snippet available as a preview. I listened to it and immediately thought, "That sounds like the end of the song," so I was pretty pleased with myself when I turned out to be right.

The CD contains three tracks: the original single The Unblinking Eye (Everything is Broken), the instrumental version of the song titled The Unblinking Eye (Everything is Broken) - Almost Completely Nude, and the music video. RT encourages fans to write their own protest song with the instrumental version. Early reviews were that the instrumental version was great and I agree. It's nice to listen to all the different instruments and elements RT used in the creation of this song and there are some great moments where he utilizes feedback to suggest portions of his own lyrics (Does that make sense? What I mean is that you can hear him singing the words, but in a echoing/feedback way.) It's not typical the RT style singing down the telephone element though (or maybe it is the exact same thing, but I like it here because it adds to the instrumental version of the song rather than taking away from the full version). That's also not to say that I don't occasionally enjoy some of RT's soundboard antics, but use them sparingly, dear. Sparingly.

Overall, it's a good song. It is really too bad that his solo stuff has never caught on because it really is very good (with some dodgy moments, I'll admit). There's talk that he might do a tour with Taylor Hawkins of the Foo Fighters later in the year which would definitely open him up to a larger audience which is never a bad thing. In the end, I'm just glad that he's making new music for fans to enjoy because I can only play Man on Fire so many times in my car before I get a little sick of it. Sorry, RT!

See, RT, you don't need Jedward or other pseudo-c-lebrities (to use your own phrase!). Release an album and go on tour - us fans will be there to support you! Now if we could only convince the good Doctor to put down those silly OWLS...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Queen Rant

Dr. May. RT. Sit down, boys, we need to talk.

So this morning as I was perusing the QueenOnline website for news of RT's rumored solo album and tour, I came across this headline: Jedward Release Under Pressure

What is Jedward, you ask? Jedward are two brothers recently featured on the British reality show "The X Factor". This is the show that Simon Cowell is leaving American Idol at the end of the season to bring to the U.S.

This past season The X Factor featured a Queen week. Now inherently I have no problem with that. The boys had a new compilation album coming out (Absolute Greatest) and wanted to promote it. Fine, promote your album on a really popular TV show, meet the contestants, grin through your teeth as they struggle through your greatest hits, and then get a chance to play live in front of a rather large audience. I get it.

I might even understand allowing Jedward to release their completely ridiculous version of Under Pressure (which was actually more of a cover of Ice Ice Baby - see here) as a single. I mean, after all, you let them perform *ahem butcher* the song on the show so at this point the cat's out of the bag.

But, why in the name of all that is holy, are you promoting this single on your official website? Do you really think that your fans - the same ones who questioned whether it was wise for you to tour with Paul Rodgers, a respected frontman in his own right - are going to buy this crap? Do you really think that this is going to lead to anything other than more comments that you are only in it for the money and you are dragging the Queen legacy through the mud and that Freddie Mercury would be appalled if he were alive right now? It's bad enough that a few weeks ago you released the Muppet version of Bohemian Rhapsody as a single. Yeah, it was cute to watch online, but as a single? Who the heck is going to buy that? Especially after it was available for free for three weeks before you released the stupid thing?

What exactly do you expect to get out of this? It is making you look desperate and I can't believe that is the case.

Please, Dr. May, RT, if you want to do something Queen related: go on a tour, just the two of you, take turns singing the songs that you're each comfortable singing. Sure, it will be a smaller affair then you are used to, but it would at least maintain some small shred of dignity. Or release another Blu Ray - Queen Rock Montreal is amazing and there are tons of shows from the 1970s that fans would love to see polished up. Or release some of the back catalog, unreleased stuff that we've never heard before. OR GO INTO THE STUDIO AND WRITE SOME MUSIC!

There are so many options for you, why are you resorting to this?

Rant over.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Mally Make-up Review

I used my new Mally make-up kit yesterday morning and figured I'd write out a quick review.

The sampler kit I got is no longer available on the website. I'm not surprised it sold out. They were pushing it really heavily all weekend and seriously for $25, how could I not order it? "Very easily," my husband would say. Be quiet, you!

The kit contains: a mini-mascara, a mini-lipgloss, a mini-eyepencil, and a full sized dual eye compact.

First impressions? The eye compact is nice. It has a nice wide mirror that I can actually see a good portion of my face in. The mini sizes are relatively big. It all came packaged in a pretty pink box (which I'm a sucker for). I'm definitely pleased with the amount of make-up I got for under $30 (remember I did pay like $5 shipping - bah!)

So here I am without any make-up on:

Here I am with my Mally make-up on - please ignore the hair towel. My hair insists that I follow a really specific series of steps when I'm styling it each morning and even photos being posted online cannot deviate from that process:

The eyeliner was really nice. It literally melted onto my eyelid. No tugging or pulling at all. The shade is midnight which is a really dark blue. Normally I stick to traditional browns and blacks with eyeliners, but this isn't totally outrageous so I can deal with it. There was a minor moment of panic initially when I couldn't get the top off, but I finally gave it a little bit of a twist and it slide right off. Crisis averted.

The eye primer and eye shadow seem nice. They are nice big sizes and I really like the compact they come in. I didn't have to use much of either product so I can see this lasting a long time. I can't remember the last time I only used one eye shadow though so I couldn't stop myself from doing a little bit of highlighter (this in Sugar Sugar) along my brow bone and in my tear ducts. Mally sells a product that does similiar highlighting so I'm sure she would approve.

The mascara is really nice. Mally claims that she used to spend hours recreating this look before she invented this mascara. Now, I don't know if I buy that, but I will say that the mascara made my lashes (which are already relatively dark and thick) look pretty darn good. I also didn't have any issues with the mascara clumping off during the day and rendering me blind (which frequently happens when I wear mascara and is one of the reasons why I rarely wear it).

The lipstick is a nice muted pink shade and smells really tasty (I can't put my finger on exactly what it is though). The applicator is a pointed brush so you can use it to line your lips and then fill in the color. I liked the color on but it does tend to come off relatively quickly. By lunch I had already reapplied three times. I guess with a larger size, I wouldn't mind so much but with this mini, I was afraid that the lipstick would be gone at the end of one day! It's still a cute size and a nice color so I'll keep it in my make-up bag for mid-afternoon touch-ups.

So writing the last section about the lipstick coming off made me wonder - what about the rest of the make-up? Mally famously puts eyeliner on her hand and then rubs it furiously, claiming that it won't come off until you take it off. We'll see about that.

This picture was taken at the end of the day. The mascara held up really well (and didn't get in my eye once all day!). The shadow is still there but is covered up by the enormous smear across my eyelid that was my eyeliner. Now, I will admit that I am traditionally very heavy handed with eyeliner and this happens to me pretty much every day. I note, however, that more actual liner appears to have stayed where I put it than usual so that's a good thing. On my next attempt, I'm going to have to use a lighter touch to apply this stuff lest it end up all over my face by the end of the day.

Overall impression? It's a cute kit which I'll definitely keep. If I was a regular mascara user, I'd definitely pick up a full size (and I might become a regular mascara user after today's experience!) I'll probably pass on Mally lipsticks unless she comes up with a longer lasting formula. Eyeliner and shadow are something I could really see myself interested in. I'll give it a few more days of use will determine if I'm ready to make a bigger investment when my current Clinique shades run out.

I intend to spend the morning playing with my new Anthro purchases. If I can't make them into three outfits, they are going back. Last night I had a dream that I returned the cardigan and I wasn't too torn up about that so we'll see how this all plays out.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Queen Song of the Week: It's Late

I've decided to do a weekly feature. Well, it is going to start out as a weekly feature, i.e. I'll do it today, probably remember to do it again next Friday and after that all bets are off. When I tell people I like Queen, the response is usually, "Oh yeah, they're pretty good." This is code for: "I've heard Bohemian Rhapsody too many times to count and maybe also one other song (usually Under Pressure or Another One Bites the Dust, you get the idea)."

This KILLS me because the Queen catalog is so much more amazing than these few songs. To give you an idea, I have burned several CDs of my favorite Queen songs to keep in my car. Each CD has 18-20 songs and neither Bohemian Rhapsody or Another One Bites the Dust have ever been on one of these CDs). Now, not to say these aren't great songs - BoRhap especially (oh to be a fly on the wall in the room when Freddie Mercury pitched it to the rest of the band, "And here's where the opera bit comes in.") - but my point is do not be afraid to dig deeper into their catalog. You will not be disappointed!

So my weekly feature: the Queen song of the week. It's easy - I link to the song and you check it out.

This week, I've picked what is possibly my favorite Queen song: It's Late from News of the World, written by Dr. Brian May. It's Late was released as a single in the U.S. in 1978 and peaked at #72 on the Billboard Charts.

I think it rivals BoRhap as a showcase of the band members' individual talents as well as the strengths of the group: amazing singing by Freddie Mercury (complete with a high note at the end that doesn't even sound human), strong and layered harmonies, great guitar solo by Dr. May, thunderous drums by Roger Taylor (and a truly spectacular transition back to the main beat following the guitar solo), and John Deacon on bass (granted, I'm not much of a John Deacon fan personally, but he certainly did contribute to the group dynamic in his own way). At more than 6 minutes long, it is truly epic, but I always feel like it ends too soon (and usually back the CD up to play it again). If you saw "Observe and Report" (and if you haven't do not run out to see it - it was a truly horrendous movie), you'll recognize this song from a scene near the end of the movie. When I saw the movie I'd not yet heard this song, but I knew immediately that it was Queen. It's that distinctive of their sound.

The video is a compilation of photos by David R. Fuller and you'll probably see me using his stuff a lot. He does an amazing job of setting a song to photos when no music video per se is available.

Happy Listening!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

First post - and Away We Go

I might as well start this off with an introduction. Who am I? Why would anybody be interested in reading my blog? Well, I can't answer the second question, but I can certainly attempt to answer the first.

Who am I?

I'm 28 years old. Female. Married. That's the easy stuff.

I'm originally from the South. Not the "deep" South, but well below the Mason Dixon line. If you heard me talk, you'd never guess that I was from the South - I work very hard to not have any trace of an accent. However, if I go back home, it takes about twenty minutes before I lapse into a "y'all" coma. Now I live in New England after a four year stint in NYC.

I'm a lawyer. I work for the government. Here's the thing about my job: coming out of college, if you had asked me to describe my dream job, I would have described my current job. It's great - the perfect balance of court, client contact and writing and research. I am also really passionate about the area of law in which I practice - it's the reason I went to law school in the first place. But as great as all this is, that's also the downside: I'm 28 years old and I have my dream job. Can I do this for the next 40 years? There's no real room for advancement at my current job so where do I go from here? When do I need to start thinking about where do I go from here? I'm 3.5 years into "real life" post-grad school and I'm not quite sure what I should be doing next.

My husband is also a lawyer. He does boring law. He bores me with stories about depositions and summary judgment motions and discovery. *snore* I won't bore you with any of that.

We have two dogs who I will likely discuss here often. A Boston Terrier and mutt. Individually, they are great dogs. Together, they are absolutely and completely insane.

Now to the fun stuff - the purpose of this blog...

I have what some (i.e. DSM-IV) would call an obsessive personality. It has in my life been a source of great amusement to both myself and others. It also hampers fun to a certain extent because there are some things that I could never ever even try for fear of my good ole' obsessive personality taking over. That being the case, it tends to surface with respect to random weird things.

My three current obsessions: running, shopping, and Queen hence: the Princess of Taylor.

I'm particularly pleased with myself for thinking of a rather clever title for my blog. It may seem simple but it is actually very complex.


I'm a princess. I'll admit it. I'm very spoiled and have been my whole life. As a child, my dad made me a sandwich every day for lunch. Now my husband does. There's nothing wrong with that.

However, I'm also a running princess. Last March, several friends and I ran the First Annual Disney Princess Half Marathon. We ran it wearing homemade tutus and tiaras. Along the way we stopped and took pictures with every Disney character we passed and at the finish line were presented with Tiara Finisher's Medals.

Finally, Queen, one of the greatest bands of all time. It would be rather presumptuous to call myself Queen after their awesomeness so Princess is an appropriate step down.


Of all the stores at which I shop, I love Ann Taylor the most. I will admit that it is definitely a love-hate relationship. I feud with them incessantly about shipping costs and price adjustments and they make me absolutely crazy sometimes, but I cannot deny that they make absolutely beautiful clothing that occasionally fits me really well.

Anyone who knows anything about Queen (or about me) will know that their drummer is named Roger Taylor and he's my favorite member of the band. I understand that 99% of people reading this will say, "Wait - how is Freddie Mercury not your favorite member of Queen." To you all, I say, "Freddie Mercury was amazing. Possibly the greatest frontman of all time, but watch the Queen Rock Montreal Blu Ray. Watch the performance of "Under Pressure". That's not a backing track singing David Bowie's part - that's Roger Taylor. Oh and he's also playing like a 17 piece drum kit at the same time." Case closed.

So there's my clever little title. I briefly flirted with the idea of being Princess Taylor, but decided that would be confusing and make it sound like either 1) my name is Taylor (which it is not, first or last) or 2) I want my last name to be Taylor (by either marrying Ann or Roger). As the second option would be weird, even for me, I added the "of" and presto, perfection.

I'm sure at some point I'll ramble on about other things on here, but this is a good jumping off point. Sooo away we go...