Sunday, July 27, 2008

Running With My Son

I've got just over 4 weeks until the Trans-Rockies run, and i really need to be doing more mileage. I had planned to do about 15 today, but after doing 10 hilly miles on the trails near Black Mountain Ranch on Saturday, i just wasn't feeling it. So i decided to go run the 5-mile loop at Lake Miramar, and i asked my older son Nathan if he wanted to come along. He's training to run cross country when he starts high school this fall, so five miles is about right for him.

This is the first time that we've ever really run together. I know that he can run a relatively fast mile, but i didn't know what to expect for a longer run. I let him set the pace at the outset and he hit a pretty comfortable stride right away. We did the first mile in an easy 7:30 or so, and more or less stuck to that pace. He's got a nice, long stride and seems to be pretty fit (it doesn't hurt that he's skinny as a rail) . We did the full five miles in about 37 minutes-- not super fast but i was still pretty impressed. He was clearly not pressing to keep that pace and probably could have done under 7 minute pace in race circumstances. Maybe not fast enough for cross country yet, but much better than most adults can run.

Eventually he's going to be kicking my ass, but i intend to delay that for as long as i can.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Danny Perez Defeats Danny Z

Went to see pro boxing at 4th & B in downtown San Diego last night. One of my wife's friends and former instructors, Danny Perez, started his middle weight comeback with a pretty decisive 6-round unanimous decision over Serbian Daniel Stanisavljevic.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Most Interesting Person In The World

Dos Equis has been running an ad campaign based around "the most interesting man in the world". I think it's a really cool idea, but they spoiled it for me by making the attributes of the most interesting man more supernatural than interesting. Still, it got me thinking. Most people know somebody who seems to live larger than everybody else. So, who really is the most interesting person in the world?

I know lots of people who've done interesting things, or have interesting qualities. I know people who travel to exotic places as casually as others go out to dinner. I have a friend who's Bulgarian by birth, Canadian by citizenship, speaks five languages and is an avid windsurfer; most of that also applies to his Russian wife who defected when she was a member of a traveling Soviet soccer team. I have a friend who has climbed all the 14000 foot peaks in the US, in between scuba diving and rock climbing. I have several friends who have started successful, interesting businesses; or have established lives in unusual out-of-the-way places. I used to have a Romanian friend whose father was a well-known opera singer. He had lived in Paris, and one time when we were in Cambridge our waitress at a French restaurant practically sat down to have dinner with us because she was so impressed by his French accent. So if i, with my relatively mundane existence, know such interesting people there must be someone out there who intrigues even other interesting people.

The characteristics of an interesting person are subjective i'm sure, but this is my take: an interesting person has several well-developed abilities; they are probably multi-lingual, probably athletic, individualistic, and a little bit eccentric. He or she would not be a major celebrity, but might be prominent within his or her field. An interesting person would be well traveled, but not like a tourist. Travel would either be an aspect of this person's profession, or just an outgrowth of wanderlust or some sort of personal journey of discovery. This person would have an easy familiarity in numerous cultures, but would still seem somewhat mysterious in any of them. He or she would have a history that couldn't be entirely revealed, like a brush with the law or a stint in some secretive branch of the military. It would be a person who's not fabulously wealthy, but who never seems to lack for means. An interesting person will have some scars.

I don't have many candidates, who aren't either fictional or dead (Indiana Jones, Sir Richard Francis Burton, Gertrude Bell, Rick Blaine). I suppose many journalists could be considered, like Christiane Amanpour or Robert Fisk. Certain authors could also-- i'd include Peter Matthiessen-- and i'm sure a list of MacArthur grant recipients would yield numerous candidates. Valerie Plame, especially before her cover was blown. Any of hundreds of explorers, inventors, athletes, entrepreneurs and performers could likely be identified. Still, i'm convinced that there's a person out there who is the most fascinating of the fascinating, though i suspect that he or she does not in fact prefer Dos Equis.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Spiders Are Such Assholes

Yeah, spiders look cool and they're useful and all, but they're real assholes too. If you don't find yourself outside early in the morning you might not know this, but they leave their webs strung around all over the place and there's nothing more irritating than having to get a spider web off of your face.

Actually, i really dig spiders. This is a Black Widow that i photographed behind my house last week. What an amazing creature.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Amy Smith

This is an amazing human being:

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


I took the Implicit Association Test at Harvard's Project Implicit to see if i have any automatic preference for thin people over fat people. It concluded that i don't. What led me to try this was an article on the "fattist" overtones of the Pixar movie Wall-E. If you haven't seen the movie, the humans on the spaceship that left earth 700 years earlier are all obese, supposedly because they do nothing but eat and float around playing video games. Probably a dozen generations of exposure to micro-gravity have not helped, but that's never mentioned. What has upset some people is the implication that these fat humans are literally responsible for the destruction of Earth's environment due to their out of control overconsumption.

Or something like that. I'm a bit conflicted over the issue of "fat pride", because my family history would suggest that weight and appetite control have a significant genetic component. I also deeply understand the use of food as an emotional balm. I don't think there's any simple equation that says attractiveness is directly proportional to thinness -- certainly those coat-hanger fashion models are about as scary as humans get. In my profession there is no correlation between size and professional success. But, yeah, i'd rather be thin than fat.

I don't mean skeletal, more like athletic. It's not so much about appearance as about quality of life. If, like me, you take pleasure in running, jumping, moving in general then fat is an impediment. There are some great athletes who are heavy and there are many people who look good despite having no athletic inclinations. But, jeesh, people of my generation have become so sedentary that they might as well be a brain in a bell jar. So maybe i'm not fattist, but i do have a prejudice against people who have decided, prematurely in my opinion, that being fat is not only inevitable but preferable to getting off the goddamn couch.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Of Fleecy Marmots and Other Fun Toys

I spent my afternoon at REI buying gear for the TransRockies run. I wanted to get a lighter-weight fleece, even though i have a pretty good one already. Got a pretty good deal on this Marmot model:

On the positive side it's really fun to say "fleecy marmot". Not sure why. On the down side, the older i get the more i look like Max Schreck from Nosferatu, so i should probably avoid black garments with high collars.

I also got a Camelbak hydration pack:

I think this might be a bit heavy though, so i might trade it in for something lighter.

And, some new North Face trail shoes:

I'm not a big fan of trail shoes-- they're bulky and hot-- but i figure the Rockies will be, well, rocky. The major benefits of trail shoes are the tread and the sturdier soles, which isolate you from sharp edges.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Michael Johnson 400m WR

This is amazing- Michael Johnson's 400 world record from 1999. Off the final turn Johnson looks like he's running a different race than his competitors.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Dark Leopards of the Moon

I've been reading a lot of poetry recently, which one of my college lit professors claimed was a symptom of clinical depression. Whatever. Personally i think it's because of that video game commercial that uses the We Happy Few speech from Henry V-- such a great pep talk.

My tastes do run toward the melancholy (William Cullen Bryant's Thanatopsis is probably my favorite poem), but i mostly like interesting language and cryptic imagery. At the moment, i'm mildly obsessed with William Butler Yeats. I think certain poets make more sense at certain times of one's life. In my college years, it was Leaves of Grass because Whitman seemed like he was always spurring you on to some journey. Yeats seems to be the poet of aging men. It might not be apparent in The Second Coming, probably his best known poem; but Sailing to Byzantium or Men Improve with the Years are poems that probably only make sense to someone who has reached a certain age. I love the second half of the third stanza of Byzantium:
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity
The phrase "fastened to a dying animal" is one of those amazing poetic tropes that could not be revised.

My introduction to Yeats (beyond The Second Coming -- everybody has heard the "What rough beast...slouches toward Bethlehem..." line) was from the Waterboys' song "The Stolen Child", which is basically Yeats' poem set to music. Much of Yeats' poetry based on Irish folk legend doesn't resonate with me like his other works, but this version is surprisingly effective because each stanza of the poem ends with the same lines, which the Waterboys sang as a chorus.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand
My favorite thing about Yeats is the degree to which he sometimes takes his symbolism, which results in lots of strangely satisfying WTF? moments when reading his poems. My favorite image is from Lines Written in Dejection:
WHEN have I last looked on
The round green eyes and the long wavering bodies
Of the dark leopards of the moon?
All the wild witches, those most noble ladies,
For all their broom-sticks and their tears,
Their angry tears, are gone.

The holy centaurs of the hills are vanished;
I have nothing but the embittered sun;
Banished heroic mother moon and vanished,
And now that I have come to fifty years
I must endure the timid sun.
Dark leopards of the moon? The hell you say? When i start my geriatric death metal band, that will be our name.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Western States 100 Canceled

Wow. This is such a bummer. The very first marathon i was supposed to run was canceled due to wildfires, but i was able to find another marathon the same weekend (albeit in Boise, Idaho). I can't imagine the disappointment these folks must feel.