Monday, November 28, 2005

Youth Culture Killed My Blog

Well, not exactly. But it's been a hectic month. Both of my boys are playing on their respective soccer All-Star teams in addition to the regular schedule, so they've been playing and practicing almost daily. Unfortunately, they didn't fare well in their first tournament, but there's another in a couple of weeks. Win or lose, it's a joy to watch them play- they move with such grace and they've both evolved into pretty good players.

Although i've been reasonably busy at work, i feel as if i'm spending most of my time (when i'm not at a soccer practice) running. I did my first 30-mile weekend this past Sat/Sun (10 miles on Saturday, 20 on Sunday). This last week was the peak of my mileage for this training cycle. In a span of 8 days i ran over 80 miles. I've still got two more 20-milers to do in the coming weeks, but my weekly mileage never exceeds 60 miles again.

The Thanksgiving holiday was nice. Thanksgiving is now my favorite holiday, probably because it revolves around eating. When i was a kid the heavy marketing of Christmas didn't start until after Thanksgiving, but now it starts around Labor Day so Thanksgiving seems neglected. I like that. You get a couple of days off work, you get to feast with impunity, and you don't feel like you're being barraged with media messages about how you must celebrate the holiday in order to be happy. Seriously. I've seen commercials for magazines and television shows that instruct a person how to celebrate Christmas. People need help with this? I think this kind of crap was probably a much better reason to send Martha Stewart to prison than whatever it was she went to prison for.

Saw the new Harry Potter movie. It's a bit scary, but it should be given the subject matter. My only minor complaint (which applies to the last movie also) is that i don't like the new Dumbledore as much (i read somewhere that "dumbledore" is an old english word for "bumblebee"). Richard Harris had the perfect temperament and physicality to play somebody who is both old/wise and a serious badass. The new guy is a little too Yoda-esque for my taste.

We've been doing work on the house. I had the family room painted, and the pool replastered and i'm putting new sod in the back yard. It's amazing how much effort goes into simply arranging to have other people come do work for you. I get the feeling though that the construction boom is abating, because contractors will actually return my phone calls now.

Can you believe it's almost December? Damn, where does all the time go?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Star Trek Syndrome

On Star Trek, especially the original show, any new culture that the Enterprise encountered would be suprisingly monolithic. In some episodes, the new planet would have two conflicting cultures as part of the dramatic tension for that particular plot. This was a necessary expedient for an hour-long show that was trying to make fairly broad points. But it always amused me that even though our own planet has billions of people with hundreds of languages and radically different cultural behaviors, every other planet in the galaxy is monocultural.

This seems to be the way that most news media treat other countries too. Even fairly sophisticated news outlets, like NPR or The Economist, treat foreign cultures (think Iraq, Iran, China) as if the entire population has a single, collective set of opinions. For places that get extra attention these days (Iraq) you might get to hear the collective opinions of the major factions within the country (Kurdish Iraq, Sunni Iraq, Shiite Iraq). In contrast, we know that political opinions can differ widely within a given family; and within a neighborhood opinions can vary so radically that were we the subject of news analysis a civil war would be considered imminent.

I know that even with the best intentions the news media can't really provide a realistic picture of political and cultural variation; and i can know intellectually that they are applying a sort of statistical simplification much like the red state/blue state nonsense applied to our own country. But i wonder if in the end this sort of coverage is just neutral or if it's harmful. For example, it's possible for both right and left to use this sort of coverage to support their own viewpoint (think of the times you've heard a sentence start with "The Iraqi people"). More generally, i think it's just dehumanizing. It completely collapses the scope and breadth of ancient, complex, and varied cultures, which i think makes it easier for Western cultures (or at least the US) to dismiss the other cultures as small and insignificant; as if we were dealing with some isolated, anachronistic tribe.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Training Blues

I've been following a more rigorous training schedule for the marathon i plan to run in January. I run 6 days a week, and it's also more mileage and has weekly speed sessions. I think it's going to help my time considerably once the race comes around, but it's also harder to follow consistently. At the moment i run in the morning, getting up at 5:30 to stretch and trying to hit the road by 6. The time change this past weekend helped-- at least i won't have to run in the dark for a while.

I've been pretty surprised that my legs have held up so far. I used to swear by the idea that i shouldn't run on consecutive days. In the last 4 days i've done runs of 8,17,4,and 8.5 miles. My legs are tired for sure, but not damaged as far as i can tell. I don't think i could have started out at this rate several years ago, but now that i have enough mileage behind me i think i can endure it. I'm still concerned about the coming weeks. There are a couple of weekends where i have to do a 10 mile pace run on Saturday followed by a 20-miler on Sunday. That's gonna hurt.

I've been paying more attention to recovery during this program too, and that seems to help considerably. I make an effort to stretch after running, and i've been adding more protein to my post-hard-day diet. A bit of naproxen sodium on bad days doesn't hurt either. The recovery runs on Monday and Wednesday also work, which really surprises me. I never thought that running on Monday after a long run on Sunday could be a good idea, but it has worked wonders for me.

I have to admit though that this is the first time when i've been looking forward to the end of training. Although i still love the running itself, i am not temperamentally either a morning person or a willing follower of schedules. I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like for a professional runner doing 100+ miles/week and two-a-day training sessions.