Friday, December 14, 2012

That's It

As my office-mate Jim says (well OK, I say it more now), "that's it." As in, that's all folks. J'ai fini. I'm in Salt Lake now, and once I grade an enormous virtual pile of papers, I'm on sabbatical and counting down to Germany. Sure, I'm looking forward to starting a new main research project, and dusting off a couple of little ones, and I have the usual sabbatical goals like finally cleaning up my computer's files, learning how to work the streaming Netflix, getting my German beyond its present "beer please," and watching every episode of The Inbetweeners. But mostly, I just plan to become this guy. I have no idea who he is, but he's definitely an inspiration.

And speaking of gratuitous pictures of skiers, our friend Sean always gives me grief for reading Men's Journal. So I felt wonderfully vindicated when I saw that Kris Freeman, who might be in the best shape of any male in America,

has finished 4th in World Championship races (despite having diabetes), and has modeled on the cover of Outside to boot,

Still brushes up on his manliness by reading MJ.

Brian: do not let Katie read this entry.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Important Updates

1) My college roommate Jason suggests that Alexander von Humboldt looks more like Bill O'Reilly than George C. Scott. (I don't see it. Any thoughts?) 2) Forget about three podiums in two weekends -- how about five podiums in three weekends!? Kikkan Randall and Jessie Diggins won the two-person sprint Friday outside of the Parliament in Quebec (a historic first for the US), and Randall won the individual sprint Saturday. This is getting serious. We're talking societal tipping point here. She's got to make Sportscenter's Top Ten Plays of the weekend ... Finally, 3) bad news on the roundabout statue front (see two entries below). Despite my fervent lobbying, your Arts and Humanities Advisory Board is not going through with a recommendation to the city commission of the knife-through-the-bread design. In the spirit of excessive deliberative democracy, and apparently fearing some sort of backlash if we spent $170,000 on a copper loaf of bread, the committee decided to re-open the bidding process for another 90 days so that we can have more designs to chose from. But I fear the mob if the people have to wait that much longer for their art.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Das Ist Gut

Holy ^&%$# where did November go? All has been a blur since the election. But Jeanine and I did get some fantastic news: because Jeanine is such a kick-ass researcher, she won a prestigious Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship from a (state-sponsored) German foundation. So we'll be headed to Tübingen -- the Charlottesville of southern Germany -- where Jeanine will be based at the Max Plank Institute (where she already has some collaborators). Thank you rational nations that still support research! We're aiming to be there from sometime in February all the way through the summer (I'll be on sabbatical, by the way). Of course, I had already started reading a great book about Humboldt, my new hero, before we heard the news.

Um, doesn't he sort of look like the actor George C. Scott?

Turns out Humboldt was an incredibly important late-seventeenth and eighteenth-century explorer and scientist who pretty much invented ecology (he coined the term "cosmos"), influenced Thoreau and Muir, and, if you want to exaggerate it, created modern environmentalism.

This entry henceforth has absolutely no consistent theme. Unless you'll allow that Germany brings us to beer and meat, and we had a beer-y and meat-y Thanksgiving break (which was the best part of the week, given Jeanine was sick, I was grading relentlessly, I arrived too late to enjoy the fantastic-but-sadly-it-seems-not-season-pattern-setting early snowstorm, and K-State saw its national championship chances end brutally in Waco). With Chris, a friend visiting from Australia, and Cindy, one of Jeanine's college roommates who happens to be living in Park City for the year (yeah), and, of course, John, we had this meal, which was truly spectacular. There is no doubt that the current meat craze uses the localvore movement as a front for old-fashioned gluttony, but whatever: 

Sorry for the small print. Google seems to think that the JPEG of the original is too large. Anyway, we liked Finca so much (how can you not like lamb belly twice in one meal?), that we returned a few days later with our new friends Brian and Katie, at which point we learned that they want $45 for the bottle of Moab Scotch Ale. Another great meal, even if their shrimp tapa(s?) can't touch the legendary grilled giant shrimp dish at Mas in Charlottesville.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving, I flew to KC, drove to Topeka, and then immediately ran a 5K with Sam and Gretchen. I just missed the "invitational" race (for those with sub-23 minute 5Ks), so I ended up "winning" the non-invitational race. I felt like a fraud running behind the motorcycle cop, but hey, I drove as fast as I could from the airport and just missed the earlier one. I was feeling great and headed for the low 18s (it's a fast, flat course through downtown Topeka), but about 2 miles in I got a bad cramp down the side of my stomach. True, I stupidly went out too fast, running the first mile sub-6, but I'm chalking this one up to excessive hydration -- I was so worried about racing two hours after getting off a plane that I drank way too much, even paying for a bottle of water in the airport! I can truthfully say that the last mile was one of the most miserable I've ever had in a race, but I limped in at 19:16, which would have been about 18:45 had the course not been a tenth too long -- good enough for an age group 2nd. Sam, who leads a charmed life, continued his habit of setting PRs with little training. From Topeka we proceeded to the Rieger Grill in Kansas City, which I thoroughly recommend for anyone enjoying the said meat craze. The pork cheek pie and the rabbit were excellent. The next day (after a meat-y brunch), we met Brent at the Chiefs/Broncos game. The Chiefs are truly horrible, and yet somehow Peyton Manning could not cover the spread, thereby ensuring that Sam, who leads a charmed life, won yet another bet against me.

This past weekend was the Winter Runderland, the traditional last race of the year on Manhattan's circuit. (Thankfully we all passed on the Donut Run, which required eating 3 donuts at mile 1 and then 3 more at mile 2.5. Now if it had been ribs ...). This day I avenged my August loss to the new-to-town minister. He went out too fast, and so I caught him about mile 2, after the hills, and then pretty much shadowed until about 100 yards remaining, when I finally had the dramatic sprint pass at the end I've been seeking ... er, too bad it earned me only 7th. Rob also won his age group, and Brent podiumed too. A very solid outing capped (in the spirit of this entry) by fried chicken at Ramblers. Lydia, be sure to show Owen my finish by clicking here, then clicking results, my name, and video.

Wir sehen uns bei der Nordischen Skiweltmeisterschaft in VdF! Considering that the U.S. women already have three podiums in only two World Cup weekends, including a historical first medal in a relay, it's going to be an epic world championships.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Dictators and Public Art

Between Sandy and the election, does anyone need a laugh, as Ricky Gervais would say?

I've been much too humble here (of course) to mention my dedicated and extensive public service to the City of Manhattan. But a couple years ago, my friend the mayor Jim nominated me for the city's newly created Arts and Humanities Board. A ha! A chance to determine where Manhattan's massive arts budget goes, and perhaps the chance to help create new artistic programs for the public good (visions of Charlottesville's Art in Place program danced in my head). The reality, of course, is that this body was created almost solely to break a procedural deadlock over what statue should go up in the middle of the city's new and heavily trafficked roundabout -- that is, go on top of the existing base that has sat uncompleted since the money ran out.


Our advisory commitee has no budget, and the Tea Party-controlled city commission is unlikely to do anything except chip in a very small amount if we can privately raise lots of money to pay for something. Somehow I'm pretty sure they aren't open to pushing the artistic envelope, either.

But fear not. After 18 months spent drafting bylaws and setting up rules for a competition (imagine how much simpler it must be for a dictator to get a statue of himself up on a public square ...), the entries have rolled in. And to my mind the winner is clear! Clichéd statues of heroic pioneers? Hah, we are much too sophisticated for that around here. I give you, in the spirit of Claes Oldenburg (the Minneapolis Cherry anyone?), the brilliant proposal that will most assuredly get my vote:

Only two problems. We don't actually have a real bakery in town, and we don't grow wheat in the Flint Hills. Stay tuned for results. Excessively procedural democracy to the rescue!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Breaking the Silence

"How can you be so political and never mention the election on your blog?," many of you have asked (ok not many, but actually a couple). A lot of my friends -- and especially Mom -- know that I'm so disillusioned and disgusted with American politics that I watch no "news" shows and mostly only read/click on sports. (And anyway, I read histories of politics all day for work.) I certainly wouldn't subject myself to the debates, which border on the surreal (as if exactly what phrase Obama used to describe a disgusting attack that every American obviously abhors is meaningful compared to climate change and women's rights and the macroeconomics of record levels of inequality. Could we at least agree to disagree about real issues?) But to satisfy my loyal readers ... and as I wait for Jeanine and Sheila and Kristin and Rob and Brent and Sarah to all finish half marathons ... I've decided to break the silence -- in the form of a Top Ten list: The Top 10 Things I Wish Obama Would Ask/Say to Romney at the Next Debate but Sadly Probably Won't.

1) Ok, I'm confused governor. I understand and respect (though disagree with) the argument that many honest conservatives made after the financial crisis erupted that we should do nothing -- no stimulus, no mortgage-relief polices, just let the market clear. But now the Right's talking point is that I "didn't do enough for the economy" -- and this after not a single Republican voted for the stimulus and every one of my jobs bills thereafter was severely watered down or killed. So which is it -- should we have done nothing, as the economic theory dominating your party claims? Or, if I should have done more, what in particular, and why did your side fight me every step of the way? The last time I checked, conservatives believed that the markets create jobs, not presidents.

2) Your side accuses liberals of being weak-kneed, dependency-inducing hippies when we even hint that inequality (at its highest level in 80 years) harms our social fabric and puts more people into poverty and, oh yeah, unnecessarily kills people who can't afford health insurance. I agree, of course, that we need some inequality so people have incentives to work and risks and innovation are rewarded. So don't call me a leveler. But what if I told you (to quote ESPN films' 30 for 30 series), that too much inequality stunts economic growth. Based on you tax proposals and comments about the 47% of moochers you don't care about, it's fair to assume that you're not especially concerned with inequality. But please explain specifically why, given that our economy is 75% personal consumption, inequality is not checking top-line growth (and reducing corporate profits)? And I mean specifically, governor. If you don't agree with Keynes's consumption function, do you agree with Modigliani's critique of it or Freidman's and why?

(Look ... a historian can always dream. As I've complained about for years, the Left has been totally clueless on this one. The NY Times's recent article on inequality and the economy was breath-taking, as a friend put it, writing that a "growing body" of research suggests that rising inequality harms economic growth. Yeah, growing body of research since Keynes wrote about it in 1936!]

3) Funding Planned Parenthood is the sideshow. You have stated repeatedly that you will appoint justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade. Is this correct? In the words of Al Gore debating Dan Quayle, do you support a woman's right to choose?

4) The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints believes that the US Constitution -- the original one -- was divinely inspired. But the original Constitution defined enslaved African Americans as each equal to three-fifths of a white person. As historian Gary Wills put it, "Does the fact that the Fourteenth Amendment was an addition to the originally inspired document mean that God first limited black rights in a directly inspired document, and only restored them in a non-inspired amendment"?

5) Your church only allowed African Americans to become priests in 1978 (and only then after the feds threatened the loss of tax-exempt status). You turned 21 in 1968. During the next decade, what were your attitudes on this question? What specific steps did you take to bring the Latter-Day Saints into the twentieth century?

6) You said on Meet the Press, "I'm not in this race to slow the rise of the oceans or to heal the planet. I'm in this race to help the American people." Interesting, as I was under the impression that Americans live on the planet. Please provide specific examples of how Americans lives will be helped by climate change.

7) My advisers keep dropping the ball on the recovery debate, somehow forgetting to remind the media that reduced tax revenues from the Great Recession (to say nothing of the Bush tax cuts and two extended wars) caused the vast majority of the increase in the debt during my administration. So let's go over the basics here. Maybe if we dropped the overheated rhetoric for a moment, we could agree that the deficit was already spiraling before I took over (Um, remember that the budget for a president's first year is passed before the new administration takes office). While it is very true that I did increase spending significantly in 2009 on top of what was already appropriated -- to save the auto industry and reduce unemployment -- this spending was temporary -- a lot more temporary than the Bush tax cuts and those two little wars. And while the question of whether I should have cut spending more is a legitimate one (even if most economists across the political spectrum agree that such cuts would have hurt a fragile recovery), spending over the budgets I controlled went up an (annualized) .4% a year. Even the Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch webpage (yeah, those radicals) concluded that “federal spending is rising at the slowest pace since Dwight Eisenhower." So I guess my question is, do you think politics have anything to do with the savage exaggeration of my spending, or do you think these exaggerations would have been the same if I were a Republican?

8) Considering that your grandfather immigrated to the United States from Mexico (where he had gone after the Church outlawed polygamy), why are you so opposed to immigration? Also, your grandfather took federal funds under a program set up to help political refugees. Why did your grandfather take a handout from the federal government?

9) Do you think Petter Northug can regain his dominant form of a couple of years ago?

10) Look, I almost feel sorry for you -- it's pathetic that you score less than me, a Black Muslim, when Americans are polled on the who's-more-of-a-regular-guy? and who-would-you-rather-have-beers-with? questions. I realize you're not allowed to drink beer, and that's cool -- though I really wish you'd do something about the stupid beer laws in Utah, so I can drink my favorite Epic Hop Syndrome on tap when I'm visiting the Ex-Wife's bar in Salt Lake. But sometimes, deep down, don't you wish you were cool like me and could introduce Wilco onto the stage? Do you even know who Wilco is? I mean, how cool am I here, despite using the term "gold records"? And by the way, notice the song's a prayer. Read some Neibuhr you dumb %$#@.

[Warning: This clip may induce severe nostalgia for vintage Obama. But that's the point. Forward to a centrist in Ohio or Virginia.]

Saturday, October 13, 2012


Marathon weekend was fantastic, even if Jeanine couldn't be there. All the money and time and early morning beat-the-heat runs were worth it. Before Minneapolis, I stopped over for a night in Northfield, MN, to give a talk at Carleton (and sell 5 books!). And unlike returning to my high school over the summer, which disappointed, Carleton and Northfield remain just about the perfect place to go to college. If anything I de-reromantized the place during school, and it's even better now that it has some real restaurants, an amazing new arts center, a real rec center, etc. I also got to have lunch with my fellow Nordic-dork friend, Christopher.

I had time for a few miscellaneous stops around the cities like the Groveland Tap, which remains resolutely resistant to the food revolution. And I got to see Murph's Bluegrass band in action at Patisserie 46.


They are too small to read, but the yard signs are for Keith Ellison, the only Muslim member of the US House, and against the anti-gay marriage amendment to the Minnesota constitution. After all my time in Utah and Kansas, it was fun to be in a place with a true range of politics.

Flash forward to about 7:52 on Sunday morning, when, after meeting up with Murph outside the Metrodome, I made a wrong turn on my way to corral 1 and somehow ended up at the back of corral 3. A couple minutes of pushing my way through the throngs didn't accomplish much, so let's just say there was a bit of frantic barricade jumping involved.

The first few miles of a marathon, I now realize, are pretty much bliss for a runner. The pace is easy, and you can enjoy the surroundings -- which in this case meant a continuous street party (though I missed the MN Supreme Court justice and former Viking playing his tuba, which is apparently quite the tradition) and the Minneapolis lakes. I went out too fast, of course, and a few miles in someone said we were running at about a 3:05 pace (3:15 was the Boston-qualifying goal). This was surprising news, because I hadn't seen the 3:05 pace group (the guy carrying balloons leading people to exactly a 3:05) -- turns out there was no 3:05 pace group. What really helped was that my GPS watch went screwy at about mile 8, I think after scratching my back. This was my first watch malfunction during a race in 4 years, which I took as a sign to relax already. So for a few miles, completely out of character, I turned off the watch and just enjoyed the running and the thousands of spectators. And seeing Annie (Murph's wife) at mile 11 was great, too (apparently I told her, "Hey, this is fun"). Spectators' signs provided a great diversion. My favorites were "Paul Ryan would have finished by now," "Stop here for a beer -- you know you're only running from your problems," and "This parade sucks."

I went out in 1:33:33 (7:08 miles). My logic was that if I could run the second half at my originally planned pace of 7:19s (I did reset my watch halfway), I'd come in just under 3 hours 10 minutes. I'd say it started feeling hard around mile 18, and 18 to 21 were probably the most boring and also the mentally toughest because the hills of miles 21 to 23 still lay ahead. But then the hills were a non-event (thanks, Utah), and turning onto Summit Avenue was a fantastic moment. At this point I could tell that my quads and calves were shot (but, thankfully, I had no back issues), and the last mile was truly hard because I didn't have much room for error, especially because the clocks were gun time and thus I wasn't sure how much cushion I had between gun time and chip time (the latter being the official time based on when I actually crossed the start line). I kept imagining the 3:10 pace group creeping up behind me like something out of a horror film, but thankfully I never saw it, crossing the line with a chip time of 3:09:27 and a gun time still under 3:10. I finished 433rd out of 8782 runners, 385th among males, and 69th in my age group. The party at Murph's and the elk burger at the Happy Gnome, one of my favorite gastropubs, capped off the day perfectly.

Wish I'd remembered to get a haircut.

How does my time compare, you might wonder? Here are some marathon times of note:

2:03:38 male world record
2:15:25 female world record (disputed due to use of pacers)
2:20:59 winning M 40-44 time Sunday
2:32:37 winning F overall time Sunday
2:36:57 winning F 40-44 time Sunday
"Two hour and fifty-something" Paul Ryan's purported time
2:59:36 Lance Armstrong's debut NYC time (proudest of this comparison, especially with doping!)
3:07:27 women's world record from 1967 until 1970
3:09:27 my actual time
3:15:16 winning M 65-69 time Sunday (hold steady for a mere quarter century and I win this group!)
4:01:25 Paul Ryan's actual time
4:16:41 average time Sunday (all ages and sexes)
4:17:36 median time for males in U.S. marathons in 2011

In any event, the best part was that I beat my Boston-qualifying time by more than 5 minutes, which means I'm all but assured of getting into the race (I place to run it in 2014) because I'll be in the second-to-last but not last registration group.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Boston or Bust (via Minneapolis)

I'm off in a few hours to Minneapolis/St. Paul to run the Twin Cities Marathon (with a pit stop in Northfield to give a paper at the alma mater). My goal is to qualify for the Boston Marathon -- so I'll need to run it in less than 3 hours and 15 minutes. I'm not sure what to think ... I'm finally practically injury free, and I've done the training, but I'm also pretty sure I picked a plan with too few miles at race pace. And I have no idea what the first one will feel like. We'll see. It can't go any worse than this:

Thursday, September 27, 2012

What I've Really Been Doing The Past Decade

Although it may seem from this blog that all I do is run, hike, drink beer, and fly back and forth between KS and Salt Lake (to say nothing of gchatting and reading fasterskier), I do work on occasion. And every once in a great while I even have something to show for it.

Both of my books* are now officially out (though publication dates are becoming increasingly meaningless in an era when books are available on Amazon weeks before the official release date). I can't stand it when authors spam their friends ... but luckily I've decided that promoting one's books on a blog is entirely different and completely acceptable. And just for the record, I may fancy myself an intellectual, but I unabashedly hope to sell hundreds of thousands of books so I can buy Jeanine a beach house and then a ski house to boot. [Hey, the boss still celebrates when his albums go to #1, and the Beatles apparently often said things like "Ok let's write ourselves a new pool" when they sat down to compose.] You can buy my books here:

* Although I write "both of my books," please note that officially I am the author of only one and half books, the phrase testily used by a colleague in a faculty meeting to protest my comment that I was too busy to read job application files carefully because "I have two books to finish." But more seriously, John Fliter is the co-author of Fighting Foreclosure.  

The reality is that most academic books sell in the mid-hundreds of copies. So heck, consider this entry a plea to support any author writing a carefully made book designed to produce knowledge rather than turn a profit, not a plea to buy mine. (And this has nothing to do with my ongoing defense of paper -- go ahead and buy the Kindle edition!) I could give you a long speech about the incredible cost of putting out a serious academic book -- from the ceaseless work of the editor (thank you, Robert and Michael) to the lengthy peer review process to the remarkable character-by-character copy-editing (thank you, Richard and Carol) to the indexing (thank you, Bonny) to the design to the publicity (thank you, Jeff and Susan) to sending out a bunch of free copies to journals, etc. -- in an era when even many research university libraries are no longer buying most of the major presses' lists -- and I could ask you to ask yourself, "How much content have I pilfered off the internet the past few years?" -- but I will spare you.

Thanks to my great publicist Kathlene Carney I've been making the radio rounds a bit. You can listen to a podcast of one of my interviews here by clicking on 905/, and I'll be on the airwaves in Portland and Park City soon. If anyone knows Diane Rehm, please send her this blog!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Meaningful Baseball in September — Finally

The Orioles are on right now (on as in streaming thanks to's $10 end-of-season offer), and I can hardly watch . . . not because they're lousy, as they were from 1998 (their last winning season came in 1997) until last year . . . but because they're right in the middle of the pennant race and one game behind the the Yankees. During the past decade and a half (!) I've forgotten how fun pennant races are . . . how wonderful a part of the nightly rhythms of summer baseball should be. Just as excessive inequality is bad for society, and bad for the economy as well, so too is excessive inequality in baseball (read: the AL East) harmful. Why should little Johnny in Kansas City or Baltimore be deprived of a pennant race because he happens to live in a small market? (And please don't tell me about the supposed free market working . . . baseball is anything but a free market. And please don't tell me about MoneyBall . . . after a while small market teams revert to the mean.) Hence I support radical realignment: let's turn baseball into the system used by English soccer (and my sister's youth swim teams, for that matter): teams move up and down from the premier league according to their record and aren't in fixed divisions.

It's actually an embarrassment of riches right now if you're a DC-area baseball fan. Although I don't feel the Washington Nationals in my bones like the Orioles, I'm excited about their dominance this year. And a couple weeks ago I went with mom to Nationals Park for the first time. As luck would have it, Nationals phenom (and now shut-down) Stephen Strasburg was on the hill, striking out 9 in 6 innings. He was on first base too after he got a hit.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Competition!

Aha! So THIS explains the weak traffic to my blog (not the sporadic posting or lack of a consistent theme). Everybody looking for my No Place Like Homes is actually being driven here:

I like the entry for September 4, "Pope's Intentions for September." It begins, "Following are the Intentions of our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI for the month of September, courtesy of the Apostleship of Prayer:  
  • Politicians.  That politicians may always act with honesty, integrity, and love for the truth."

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Last Straw

Ok obviously I can't resist this post given I'm in the hardest block of training for the Oct. 7 Twin Cities marathon ... but that's it. That's the final straw. I can chalk up Ryan blaming Obama for a GM plant closure that occurred before Obama became president to poor research and fact-checking. I can almost accept as politics as usual the anti-Medicare and anti-welfare state Romney-Ryan camp's surreal argument that it is they who will save Medicare. But claiming to have run a sub-3-hour marathon? And then, when the lie is discovered, to claim that he forgot his exact time and was simply trying to think of an average time? That's it -- Ryan's a straight-up liar. To repeat what's been noted about marathon-gate by literally everyone who's ever laced up a running shoe, marathon finishers simply do not forget their times -- usually not by one minute and certainly not by an hour and especially if they finish just one. We obsess over our goal marathon time (and pace per mile) like they're magical numbers. I'm pretty sure my masseuse and chiropractor know mine by now. And, nobody, I mean nobody who has ever trained for a marathon, no matter how many years have passed, could possibly confuse running 9 minute 12 second miles (Ryan's actual pace in his 4 hour plus marathon) and running 6 minute 29 second miles (Ryan's claimed pace for a 2 hour and 50 minute marathon). That difference is probably even more massive than a non-runner might guess ... it's the difference between a fantastically good ("sub-elite") recreational runner and a, well, not very fast young guy. Actually, all of this made me curious about the data on marathon times. (Why is there no running equivalent of the statistical skier?). According to this study of a large sample of U.S. marathons, albeit only covering one year (2011), 2.7% of men finished between 2:30 and 3:00. Another .2% finished under 2:30, so overall a minuscule 2.9% of males beat 3 hours. Meanwhile, 58.7% of men of all ages finished under 4:30 (sorry, no breakdown by age; safe to say it's much higher for 20-somethings). Hey Aaron, can you dig up the equivalent numbers for MLB averages (what 2.7% of players hit and what 58% of players hit?).

Luckily, now you too can convert your true running times into Paul Ryan times. It's a snap. Just go here to the Paul Ryan Time Calculator and enter your times. I'm shooting for a 3 hour 12 minute marathon in MSP, and if I pull it off, my Paul Ryan-adjusted time would be 2:19:12, only about 15 minutes off the world record marathon time of 2:03:38!

Since this has turned into a running post, I'll just quickly say that the fall's first 5K was déjà vu inducing. Last year I lost this Parkinson's race by 12 seconds, and this year ... by 10 seconds ... of course to a new guy who moved to town just this summer. 10 seconds is an excruciating gap ... close enough to see the winner pretty much the whole way and feel like you have a shot (and I'm pretty sure I gained on him during the final mile) but not close enough to make it interesting and far enough to feel exasperated. But there's an upside here. My Paul Ryan-adjusted time (assuming that the race was the correct distance ... don't get me started on races that can't even get their routes within a third of a mile ...) was 13:50 — less than a minute slower than the winning 5K time in London!

Since this has turned into a running post, II, congrats to Jason for crushing it in the Wasatch 100 and nearly breaking 24 hours.

In a rational world, I'd be happy to have a real debate based on facts and honest disagreement. The Washington Post Reports:

Ryan’s budget would raise $2 trillion less in tax revenue over the next decade than President Obama’s budget. Ryan’s plan would also spend $5.3 trillion less over that time. A big chunk of this is health care: Ryan would cut federal spending on Medicare and Medicaid for a portion of his savings. But he’d also spend $2.2 trillion less on everything else. So what, specifically, is Ryan planning to cut? (Or, alternatively, what is Obama planning to spend more on?) . . .

Over the next decade, Ryan plans to spend about 16 percent less than the White House on “income security” programs for the poor — that’s everything from food stamps to housing assistance to the earned-income tax credit. (Ryan’s budget would authorize $4.8 trillion between 2013 and 2022; the White House’s would spend $5.7 trillion.) Compared with Obama, Ryan would spend 25 percent less on transportation. He’d spend 6 percent less on “General science, space, and basic technology.” And, compared with the White House’s proposal, he’d shell out 33 percent less for “Education, training, employment, and social services.”

But until Americans wake up suddenly obsessed with facts and data, Runner's World's crackpot investigative team will suffice.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Stepping, Running, and Marching

Our friend Roma has been raising money through her Girl Scout troupe for Stepping Stones International, a charity in Botswana for kids and teens  -- very often AIDS orphans -- so we helped her put together a little unofficial invite-only 5K in Sugar House Park last weekend. [Thanks for anyone reading this who came out to run in the heat, and thanks a ton to Roma and Tom and Maria for all their work and for the brilliant prizes.] The best prize -- won by Margaret (friend and psych grad student) -- was a signed picture of Valerie Bertenelli, in the category of oldest t-shirt worn. Jason won the overall race, which was impressive, given he runs mainly trail ultramarathons and those were probably his first three 5K-pace miles on the pavement in years. If I were not so high-minded, I would list excuses for why Jason beat me (e.g., it's all John's fault for that hike the day before; I had beers the night before, watching the opening ceremonies,** which I never do the night before a race; my racing flats are in KS; I left my sunglasses at John and Sarah's house and the sun was brutal; I'm training for a marathon and thus not doing a lot of speed work and unable to rest properly), but I'm simply not going to because a) this day was all about helping a great charity and getting to do a race with Jeanine and friends and b) no one would know I'm kidding. Actually, I'm pretty stoked to lose by only 23 seconds to a kickass ultra runner who's finished top-30 in the Wasatch 100, and I'm also happy to note that my time was only 4 seconds slower than the 5K run the same day by rising US cross-country skiing star Jessie Diggins at a race at Hildene, the beautiful estate and gardens built by Abe Lincoln's son in Manchester, Vermont, which we visited on our recent trip ...

But obviously I digress. Seriously, if you've been looking for a new charity to support, Stepping Stones is fully vetted and entirely worthwhile. Please check it out:

** Speaking of the Opening Ceremonies, what did you think? Jeanine and I were pretty much panning it from the start -- look, I'm an historian, but that doesn't mean I think depicting the Industrial Revolution through interpretive dance makes for good TV -- so we were surprised that the reviews were even mixed (though NPR called it "cluttered" and "disorganized"). There was one part I loved, however -- when the actors/dancers/real nurses? spelled out the initials "NHS" for Britain's National Health Service. Celebrating a state agency in a large stadium? Was that added at the last minute by the "unprepared" organizers just to rub it in Romney's nose? I mean, can you imagine anything more preposterous than Americans doing such a thing? Or ... wait a second ...

Answer: The LSU marching band -- the South! -- celebrating the New Deal's Works Progress Administration (a good picture to consider the next time you want to blame Obama for not being FDR). BTW, you can find this image in my friend Chris Loss's excellent history of higher education in modern America:

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Hoff Theorem

I repeat what I call the Hoff Theorem over and over to my students (it's my one contribution to western thought): "Everything takes longer than you think, unless it fun."

In other words, humans are terrible at estimating things, whether it's how long it takes to write a history paper (or book), or, as Jeanine's lab researches, the height of and distance to physical objects. My friend John has trouble estimating the difficulty of hikes (see two entries below). Today he promised us an "easy" hike, which we wanted because we're running a race tomorrow, which of course means that we ended up on a near scramble to a very steep 11,000 ft. peak above this lake. By the way, I write all of this not to complain about hiking on a Friday, which was great, but to officially make excuses in advance of the race. If Jason beats me, it's because of my thrashed legs. Surely his 100-mile race last weekend does not equal hiking the day before. Great view of Mt. Timpanagos from the top, though.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

An Extended Touristical Interlude

The summer's main trip is over. It began in the wonderful German college city of Freiburg, where I was invited to give a paper at a symposium organized by a research center that American academics (especially in the humanities) can only dream about. I don't have any pictures from this leg of the journey because a) my phone went inexplicably dead [yes, I had the correct power converter]; and b) my computer's wireless went haywire. I was hopeful and excited that the wireless at the hotel simply sucked, so I could blog about how Americans exaggerate the technological prowess of the Germans, but as I learned stateside, the wireless card in my machine was blown. I will say this much by way of comparison, however: German pillows are atrocious. I was staying at a nice hotel (with spa) and was offered one outrageously large, square, and lumpy monstrosity, and another shaped like a giant tootsie roll. Honestly I had no idea through what combination/configuration of the two I was supposed to sleep. Any American in a Motel 6 would have cried foul. And really, why do Germans oppose sheets and mattress pads? I'm not sure I would have slept if not for the nightly ration of German pils (what's the plural of pils?). But on the plus side, whereas the KSU History Department has no lounge and just added the new amenity of a can of Folgers and a coffee pot in the main office, Freiburg's Institute for Advanced Study has the above amazing machine in their sleek, German chair- and modern art-filled lounge with push-button, on-demand espressos and cappuccinos (and good ones, too). And to top it off, they have an unlimited supply of high-quality beer in the fridge. If we did that, the Tea Party would shut us down. Suffice it to say that the Institute's beer came in handy when we watched (near said lounge, because the main town square was too packed) the Germans play the Italians in a Eurocup 2012 semifinal -- and especially handy when Germany fell behind 2-0 early on.

Oh yeah, the conference was great (if you like papers on demographic change and policy). Sure, Freiburg it's a bit touristical -- the brilliant adjective used by our generous German hosts (who, needless to say, speak otherwise impeccable English) -- but I highly recommend a visit. The running trails in the hills just above downtown offer great views of not only the ancient cathedral and guide-book-photo-worthy, twisty cobblestone streets, etc., but also the city's two most important sites:

From Germany I met Jeanine in Albany, spent the night at the Steves' house, had lunch at Fifty South, the outstanding Saratoga Springs restaurant owned by our wedding caterer, and then proceeded to Manchester, Vermont, where Bill, Uncle Paul, Aunt Robie, and I successfully surprised Jeanine's Mom for her 60th birthday at the bar of the Equinox Hotel. Notice the surprise has still not worn off.

After a few relaxing and properly cool days (the resort has both the wooded running trails we dream about in Utah and a classic golf course -- and Manchester's outlets don't seem overly touristical because they're in small buildings), we sliced across Vermont diagonally so I could finally show Jeanine my high school in very northern Massachusetts. Here I was reminded that memory is reconstructive. NMH remains remarkably pleasant (see chapel below, and yes, I know I was lucky to go to high school in a country club), and Michael Pollan should write a column about its student-driven farm, which existed a hundred years before the locavore movement. But somehow the campus seemed smaller than I remembered it, the surrounding mountains lower, and the distance to my heroically "out of the way" dorm not as far. Even my legendarily large senior-year room seemed smaller (amazing view of the Connecticut River Valley not shown):

But those qualifications aside, NMH is and always will be a special place.

The next stop was the annual July 4 gathering in the Adirondacks of family descended from my grandfather Wood and his brother (annual at least for those living on the east coast).

Here Milo pauses from pontificating the meaning of life with Liam at the Wood camp.

Here Milo is knocked over by the weight of the enormous fish on his pole:

Here Owen's napping den is discovered:

No comment here:

Gratuitous shot of geese:

The final stops were White Plains and then NYC, where we stayed with our old friends Katie and Ren (their Poppy is pictured; Rollie was elusive). Because, dear readers, you've come to expect a plethora of cute kids here, I've also thrown in (low-res) pictures of Chris and Lauren's Blaise, Luke, and Leyna.

No need to write much on familiar touristical spots in New York, especially in such a long entry, so it will suffice to say that if you're headed to New York soon, we recommend the Cloisters and the Broadway musical Once, and eating at the Red Rooster, Chez Josephine (founded by Josephine Baker's son), the Mermaid Inn, the Green Table, and Bette Midler's New Leaf. We sat at a table next to Michael Kors at Chez Josephine. I'm proud to say that I had no idea who he was, and did not even recognize his from television, but I guess he's a pretty big deal. Has anyone been to the Natural History Museum lately? The exhibits are hilariously frozen in 1961. And really, couldn't they at least put up a post-it note correcting the line about how we're descended from Neanderthals? (In fairness, the current exhibit on evolution is good.) [Blogger's much later note: ha -- in the remarkable tie-in department, we learned a year later -- in Germany, at the Humboldt Conference! -- that we humans are in fact partially descended from Neanderthals! You can read about it here, or in a recent New York Review of Books article about the Finnish researcher we heard talk who has mapped our genetic Neanderthal heritage.] Still, we were happy to learn about other, exotic cultures, at least as imagined by ex-eugenicists at mid century. And now we know how Japan looked a long long time ago and how Asian peoples carried whales after the hunt:

Of course, the most important thing we did in NYC was visit this exhibit at the Historical Society.