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.