Monday, January 28, 2008

Rock Star

If i were to write "My son was in LA recording with his band yesterday" it would literally be true, though probably misleading and pretentious. He and his buddies served as the example band in a course on how to produce recordings. They drove up with one of his friends' dads and spent the day at a studio in Santa Monica doing takes of their own song "Don't Know What to Do". I haven't heard the finished product yet, but all accounts are that it went well.

Friday, January 18, 2008

My Facebook Experience

A few months ago i started a profile on Facebook just to experiment with it. I wanted to try ILike in particular, but i was intrigued by the whole concept of plug-in applications within the context of a social network.

Visually, it's certainly a step up from MySpace, but that's faint praise. It seems to work basically as advertised, and there are a couple of Facebook applications that i genuinely like (the MusicBlogs app that came out Yahoo! is really cool). The privacy implications of Facebook are a major concern, but with 15 million users i don't feel spied-on so much as trivialized into some bland demographic. On the other hand, i really fail to understand the point of the whole bloody thing. Seriously, what the hell is this thing for?

The crux of the problem for me is the social part of social networking. As an introverted sort, i do not, in the physical world, have a large social network. Beyond my immediate family and a handful of friends, there aren't a lot of people that i communicate with. None of my Facebook friends are friends in that sense-- they are people i have worked with or casual acquaintances. All good people to be sure, but generally not my close friends.

I have very little insight into the extrovert personality. I know intellectually that somebody with 70 or 80 Facebook friends is not really treating all of those people as friends in any meaningful way. But i'm not quite sure what it is that they're trying to impress upon them. Having similar tastes in movies or music or whatever might be amusing, but is it really enough to forge a relationship? I can imagine that it might be useful to pass on news and photos if your family and close friends were on the network also, but i've been using e-mail for that quite successfully for a while now.

My older son's generation seems to use MySpace as an entirely separate communications medium. It's both asynchronous and many to many so they can use it as a community bulletin board, but they also often use certain profiles to communicate with one or two individuals. They seem to have bridged the gap between an actual social environment and a virtual one without really stopping to think about it.

There are so many intelligent people out there who are convinced that the wisdom of crowds represents a major new mode of information discovery that i'm sure they must be right. But i'll believe it when i see it.

Monday, January 14, 2008


If anybody actually read this blog they might notice that in my list of recent workouts it says that i did 4800 m today. The m is for "meters", not "miles", which as Kenny Mayne might say would be a record or something. Actually i ran around 5 miles total this morning, but 4800 meters of that was 6 half-mile repeats. In other words, intervals.

Intervals are just what they sound like- fixed length segments of relatively fast running, usually done on a track. The purpose of intervals is to get faster- to run in the anaerobic zone so that you improve your VO2Max and train your muscles to run faster. In the running community, the word is also a sort of code word for suffering. I do not look forward to running intervals, although I almost always feel really good afterward. Although i like the sensation of running fast, a good half mile will start to hurt near the end. I really don't run too fast, around 2:50 for an 800, but at 6:30 on a Monday morning that seems fairly fast.

My aim is to get faster for the Carlsbad 5000 in April. I set my 5k pr at Carlsbad a few years ago, but that was over 19 minutes. I'm shooting for 17:30 this year, but that'll be pretty tough. That's around a 5:40 mile pace (hence the 2:50 intervals), which at the moment seems unlikely. The sad thing is that even if i managed it, Carlsbad is so competitive that i'd barely crack the top 40 even in the masters division.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Don't Just Believe

During the course of the latest presidential campaign, there have been articles on various web sites announcing that candidate X (invariably republican) does not believe in evolution. I know that this is common usage, but it aggravates the heck out of me. It implicitly supports the nonsensical notion espoused by creationists that evolution is simply an alternative belief. I don't really expect people to say "candidate X does not support the neo-Darwinian mechanism of species variation", or something of that nature, but using the word "believe" is just confusing.

The analogy that i would use is this: I believe that the sun will rise tomorrow because in the 16000 or so days that i've been alive, it has always risen. My senses tell me that it's a reliable phenomenon, so even if i had no idea why it happens, i'd have faith that it will continue to happen indefinitely. The consistent rising-of-the-sun phenomenon constitutes good evidence, and makes my belief that the sun will rise tomorrow to be perfectly reasonable. However, thanks to some really smart people i don't have to just believe it. I can say with a high degree of certainty that the sun will rise tomorrow, because there are a couple of pretty good theories (both the Newtonian and Einsteinian approaches) that explain the motion of objects like planets and stars. The theories (they're just theories, mind you) are so good in fact that i can tell you, with a high degree of precision, when the sun will rise.

Similarly with the evolution of species, the fossil record, the general information about the age of the planet, the abundance of species, the variation of species that are geographically isolated, the similarity of genetic material between similar species, etc., constitute good evidence and make a belief in evolution perfectly reasonable. But when you add to that more than a century of development on explanations for how genetic variation leads to speciation, it's not only possible to believe that evolution occurs, but to understand how it occurs.

So, in the future, instead of saying that a candidate does not believe in evolution, i propose that we rather say the candidate does not understand evolution.