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Not the Flu

[From March 10th]

Yes, the flu is pretty bad. 34 million Americans got sick, as it is established throughout society. 350,000 people needed to be hospitalized (roughly 1%). 20,000 people died (roughly 0.05%).
Many people like to point this out as a response to the worldwide hysteria associated with COVID-19. Because, “believe” in the threat or not, I have not been alive for something that has had such a profound effect on everyday life for so many people. Entire nations on lock down, hundreds of millions quarantined at one point or another, ten trillion dollars erased from the global economy, schools shuddered, and so on.

But the flu makes more people sick, you say!

That’s because the flu is everywhere and has been for millennia. COVID-19, at this early stage where there is no widespread immunity, hospitalizes something on the order of 15% of the people that get it. It kills something between 1-3% (including an astounding 15% over 80!). If COVID-19 were allowed to become as widespread as the flu is in the United States, one would expect to see several million people hospitalized, with perhaps a million deaths. And that’s not taking into account the fact that tens of millions of Americans didn’t get the flu because they were immunized to it, whereas zero people are immunized to this disease.

Perhaps this helps explain the hysteria? This is why governments across the world are taking whatever measures necessary to delay the spread. This is why a nonchalant, “meh, just a cold” attitude is inaccurate.

So, don’t be scared that you’re going to get it in the coming days and weeks – the odds are pretty small given its limited spread to this point. But don’t downplay the valiant efforts of those attempting to thwart its advance.

And do bake a virologist a pie and mow his lawn over the summer, because the sooner the better on that vaccine. This contagion spread from a single source in central China to 90 countries throughout the world in the span of 2 and a half months. Come October – after rattling around the southern hemisphere for a few months and lying dormant in pockets across the northern hemisphere – we can expect to see it return in many locations all at once, with a longer season ahead of it. That’s assuming that it’s seasonal, which sounds like a decent assumption at this point, to our benefit.

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According to Real Clear Politics, 55% of voters find Hilary Clinton to be an unfavorable candidate. 58% say the same about He Who Shall Not Be Named (HWSNBN). We’ve put ourselves in quite the predicament. The resistible object against the movable force. I do not like either choice, but I do not believe that they are on equal footing. One is a corrupt lifelong politician. The other is a swindling demagogue with authoritarian impulses and a propensity for rash behavior that could destroy life as we know it. Interestingly, none of the 5 living presidents supports HWSNBN. They understand that he lacks the knowledge, temperament, and self-reflection to hold an office with the gravity of president. I share their greatest fear – that the republic will not stand under his rule. Clinton may be business as usual, but in four years there will be an election and another chance to get things right. Are we sure that will be the case if HWSNBN is president?

So, what’s a boy to do? First, according to 538’s Election Forecast, Maryland is the safest state in the union – with greater than a 99.9% chance that Clinton will win. In that case, my presidential vote will not sway the general election. This is freeing to me. My strident opposition to HWSNBN need not force me into the camp of a corrupt oligarch. So, I’m going to vote for Jill Stein.

In the past three years, the myth of the “pause” in global warming has been debunked, as we march ever forward to the desolation of our planet. The topic was barely raised. Politicians stay away from the topic, or outright deny it. I’m voting two ways: 1) against the political parties that gave us two uniformly loathed candidates and 2) for an under appreciated issue of huge importance.

Down ballot is more informative. I am voting against HWSNBN’s right to rule. If I see your sign on the same yard as a sign for him, I am voting for your opponent. I will vote against any candidate who thinks that he is a good idea for this country. I will vote against any ballot measure supported by anyone who thinks he is a good idea for this country. He is a dangerous tyrant who must be opposed, either directly or in the form of a strong bulwark to his political standing. And you thought that Obama abused his executive privilege – be ready for the hypocrite train to pull into the station.

Or maybe he won’t be so bad. Maybe he gets into office, quickly bores of it, blowing off meeting with our allies and enemies, preferring to give speeches about programs he has no authority or money to implement. Maybe he becomes increasingly tired of attempts at his life and holes up in the White House, not even delivering the State of the Union. Maybe he’s elected and the markets tank, millions lose their jobs, and the demographic that brought him to power abandons him. Maybe he does three different things worthy of impeachment in the first year of his presidency, and maybe we end up with 2 and a half years of President Pence and a Republican party split between White Nationalists and Small Government Conservatives. Maybe 3/4ths of his supporters in the aristocracy back-peddle with a sort of revisionist history that’s hard to do in the age of social media. Maybe America is resilient against the strong hand of a dictator to be. It was built to be resilient against it.

Or, maybe it’s as a 55 year old, white, retired military man at my work says – if he loses, there will be a civil war. Maybe if he loses, the rural south is inflamed with racial violence. If he wins, the violence may shift to the cities.

Who knows. Protect your family, hope for the best. I’m apprehensive in any scenario. I would rather live in no country other than America. But we are not immune to the sort of fears and strife that threatens the world as a whole. Humans are capable of all forms of evil. God created government to restrain our sin. It does so imperfectly. We will, as always, reap what we have sown.

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In posting this year’s log, I noticed that I never typed up the one from 2009 for our canoeing trip in Algonquin PP, Ontario. After a brief search of my files, I found the log written on the back of the one from Glacier. I’m gonna lose this thing – it’s time to type it up before I do.

8/8/09 6:50 PM EST
After 7+ hours of driving, taken up mostly by computer games, we are in tiny Maynooth, Ontario. Maynooth sits on the junction between routes 62 and 127. It’s a solid hour and a half from anywhere, though there is a cell tower around here somewhere. We’re staying at the Arlington Hotel – a hostel. The room is sufficiently cozy, no complaints here. The goal is to be out on the water by 9:30 AM tomorrow. Long day in front of us – best to get away from people ASAP. Day punctuated by a 1.5 mile portage.

8/9/09 5:56 PM
Steve and I are currently at a beautiful site near the Timberwolf to Misty Lake portage, right on the water, 20 ft from Misty Lake.

We started from Canoe Lake this morning just before 10 AM. Literally 5 minutes later, it started to rain. 10 more minutes and it was pouring, During the next few hours, we paddled amonst ominous rumbles of not so distant thunder. By the time we got to an inconvenient beaver dam near Tom Thompson Lake, we were both cold and fairly miserable. Shortly thereafter, we arrived at the mile and a half long portage (pronounced port-age in Canadian). There was, by that point, a few gallons of water in the basin of the canoe, though our packs were helpful in absorbing most of it.

As an aside, I just watched a loon dive into the water and resurface 80 meters away. Impressive animals.

So far, canoeing wasn’t much fun. But it’s a blast compared to portaging. That was hard, hard work. There is a reason why people take two trips to do it – canoe+pack=miserable.

Still, by the time we emerged from the portage, the skies had cleared – completely. The remainder of the trip was a pleasure, as short portages are not terrible.

We’ve been drying out stuff out for the last two hours, and we’ve made good progress. However, as I write there are dark clouds gathering in the west. Distant thunder is rumbling, quietly still. The woman at the diner this morning said “So, I hear there’s hurricanes comin! Err, tornadoes.” The real answer is neither – I’m just hoping not rain, though I would not bet on that outcome.

Rain is fine, as long as stuff can dry in between. Still, we’ve on land now and we can control a lot more on land. The canoe, which earlier collected water, is now flipped over, ready to protect our packs instead of saturate them.

At least it’s warm. Probably 68 degrees right now. Water is a very comfortable 64, we swam earlier.

8/10/09 ~6 PM EST
After another cloud day – which was welcome given our long haul on the water, the sun as finally arrived, blazing brightly. I’m sitting on a rock on our island camp site on the east end of Big Trout Lake, wearing tiny running shorts and crocs. I just finished pumping water, before that swimming, bathing for the second time in as many hours. The tent is set up and once Steve gets back from his fishing trip, we’ll be all ready to cook. Rice tonight, probably with some BBQ salami.

Today featured somewhere in the vicinity of 14 miles of paddling. Most everything is sore by now, not the least our bruised butts. The canoe took a beating as we skipped two portages on the river, one accidentally, but we made it through unscathed. Then followed three intense hours of open water canoeing across White Trout, then Big Trout. We continued to alternate between strong side (me to my left, Steve to his right) and weak side (opposite) every so often, originally switching every 8 minutes though today switching, on timer of course, every 10 minutes.

We were greeted, upon arriving at the island, by two little brown squirrels. They came right up to us and cackled like velociraptors in Jurassic Park. They were keenly interested in our food.

We threw rocks at them and tried to whip them away with my belt. Some people think that squirrels are nature’s version of their cat – they feed them, thus making them semi-domesticated and fully annoying.

Steve and I hatched a plan to capture them and transport them to the mainland, where we needed to go to get firewood anyway. Unfortunately, we had no bag that we thought would hold them – we’d have to paddle them into the lake if they escaped on the voyage. We’ll see how cute and cuddly they are trapped on a boat!

Alas, 10 minutes later, I found Steve 30 feet up in a tree, pulling down dead branches. On an island, wood is hard to come by. When the squirrels saw Steve’s haul, they seemed to realize he was not one to trifle with. Though I won’t leave them alone with the food, they at least respect our space now.

After about 5 fitful hours of sleep last night, I had enough energy to make it through the day. There has been a veritable cacophony of rodent and duck/loon noise at dusk, though nary a large mammal (or trace of them) in sight.

I’ll need another respectable night’s sleep tonight as tomorrow features 3 portages, 2 of them over a mile. If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that portages are hard, miserable work. We have a 1.5 trip concept that is probably our best bet – still, any time one lugs one of those damn boats overhead for more than a few hundred meters, it’s downright crappy work. It won’t be fun. But look at that blue sky!

8/11/09 4:50 PM EST
It’s just a minor shower – we knew it was coming and I began readying camp for its arrival while Steve sat on a rock. Somewhere in there, he decided to take the canoe, the same canoe that shelters our stuff when it rains, out to the middle of the lake.

5:21 PM EST
Yes, that rustling in the birches and firs WAS rain. Having already closed up the tent, I hurriedly put the sacks in to the original plan – giant plastic bags. Despite my threat when Steve took the canoe, I covered his bag as well. My job, lacking the skills to actually do anything scout-like on camping trips is to do every little thing. Steve does the laissez-faire approach, though he won’t hesitate to complain about wet gear. Steve’s the adventurer, and yes, I’m the wet blanket, but with dry clothes.

5:40 PM EST
As for the rest of the day…last night was a good night for sleeping. After watching the distant lightning flash dimly in the northern sky, I drifted off fairly quickly. I only woke up because my arm was literally about to fall off – I was so tired I slept through depriving it of blood for God knows how long. I literally [literally for real this time] had to move it with my other arm. When I awoke, I noticed the moon was out. No more than 5 seconds later, I heard a wolf how. I did not hear another for the remainder of the night.

Today was a day of portages. While we figured it out somewhat, I am glad to be done with it – lugging that thing is miserable work.

We set camp on a south facing rockface in the North Arm of Lake Opeongo. With time to kill, Steve decided to swim to the small island 800 meters away. I followed in the canoe and gave him a ride back. With no gear in the canoe, we were alarmingly fast. We normally go 6 km an hour – this was easily 10. Tomorrow we’ll put our skills to good us – 13 km in open water, now with the added challenge of motor boat wakes.

For whatever it’s worth, it would be easy to take twice the food when you only need to lug it for a mile at a time. This sort of trip would be sustainable for a full week.

Though it looks like more rain on the horizon. Steve, of course, is back out on the lake.

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In days past, I’ve been prone to developing unrequited crushes. Eventually, you start thinking to yourself, “hmmm – see that look? I think she notices me too.” You have conversations in your head, you run simulations, you start planning for the next, blissful step – if only you can take the first step. And then one day, you run into this girl in the hallway. You introduce yourself, and she asks if you’re new – she hasn’t seen you around before. It was all in your head. Only your head.

Maybe that’s not the sort of thing that you think about in your head. Maybe you think you’re a hero – a protector of the people, someone who looks out for the little guy, someone who takes a stand. You join the neighborhood watch, a selfless thing to do, you think. You keep a vigilant eye on your friends and neighbors – a thin gray-ish line between your peaceful little community and the chaos constantly rapping at the gates.

One day, you see a kid, a black kid, head down and hidden in a hood, talking to himself, walking just a certain way. You know trouble when you see it. This is it, this is why they trusted you with this responsibility. You follow, calling the police so that they can get the right name in the paper when they haul this mope in on an outstanding warrant. He looks back – damnit, he sees you. He walks faster, he’s hiding something, what’s in his pocket? You keep following. He starts to run.

Are you a MAN or are you a coward, George? Are you a man? How many chances will you have to step it up, to put your foot down, to show the thugs and thieves that you’re watching, that the people won’t stand it. There comes a time in a man’s life when he has to decide.

You pursue, he scrambles. It’s a chase, it’s on. You’re gonna be a hero, you think, as you finger the pistol in your jacket pocket…but you ain’t no martyr.

Now let’s say you’re Trayvon Martin. You’re lost in a conversation with your girlfriend – you’ve been talking all day, about pointless things mostly. You get yourself some candy from the convenience store because you’re 17 years old and skittles never killed anybody. As you walk away, you gradually become aware of a man a few dozen paces back. Whenever you turn, he’s there. He’s staring straight at you, a wild look in his eyes. You tell your girlfriend he’s watching you, and her frenzied reaction doesn’t help. You make a left at the stop sign, so does he. You pick up the pace, so does he. You run. So does he. He’s catching you. Heart pounding, it’s fight or flight…and flight’s not working. You turn to face the wild-eyed man, terrified, and he lunges toward you. You fight. You die.

I don’t think George Zimmerman set out to shoot a black kid on February 26th. I’d guess he got lost in his own head, in the illusions of his own heroism. We’ve all be lost in a fantasy before. Maybe it’s about your crush, maybe you’re the boss at work now, and everyone listens to you. Maybe you’re thwarting terrorists, maybe you’re saving a lost soul. And maybe you kept your friends and neighbors safe, aww shucks, any real American would have done the same. And the accolades rain down.

A hero’s complex with a gun is a bad combination. Call me crazy, but I’d rather that those with hero complexes also had martyr complexes. You give your life to save others. There’s a cost, a dear one, and so your heroism and the resultant glory does not come lightly. Nature does it best in the honey bee. The stinger is only to be used for causes so noble that the bee must give up its life to use it.

If George Zimmerman didn’t have his ballistic bravery, he’d never have confronted Trayvon Martin. He would have been forced to snap out of his fantasy, consider the cost, and weigh the evidence. It was a case of the wrong kind of power in the hands of the wrong kind of man.

One man’s life is ruined for nothing, another’s was ended for nothing. Remember that when you get wound into a knot of pseudo-reality. Step back. Count the costs, and not just the cost to you.

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Pictures

I wish these could be better.  But, here’s a small collection from <a href=”http://furstie.smugmug.com/NewPictures/New-Pictures/2094521_MP4pDg#!i=1753033513&k=p6DgJsj”>DC this morning</a>.

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Apple A Day

Is it strange that I tend to finish my lunch before 9 AM (before 8 AM today)? I think it’s strange.

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East Coast Hype

The GFS weather model is hyping a east coast hurricane for ~10 days out. That is longer than those models are accurate, but the point remains – there’s plenty of energy out there for a tropical system, and it seems like some of that energy is headed west. I’ll keep an eye on it, we’ll know a lot more by Monday.

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I don’t know anything about style. But I do know that Michele Obama’s looks like a frilly white tarzan dress. What’s the story with those puffy little nodules? Are they daisies?

Mr President, meanwhile, looks about as dapper as someone could look. For the first time in a long time, we have a president that could stand toe to toe with Vladmir Putin and not look unimpressive. Putin has the look of someone who is planning on choking Europe out of natural gas while he builds new tank divisions. Bush looked like he should narrate a children’s book on PBS.

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Old At Heart

I’ve only listened to the Prairie Home Companion three or four times. If I had to be stuck in a car for 4 hours, it could keep me amused for at least two hours. In fact, one time it did, all the way from Baltimore to the Eastern Shore. I don’t think people my age appreciate the Prairie Home Companion. Old people have good taste. That’s why they like me so much.

While I had other possible plans for tonight, I jumped at the opportunity to babysit. The baby has been asleep for a couple hours already. If he stays that way, it will be a quiet night, wasting time on the internet, watching football, and reading Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, hopefully for the last time. It’s what I’d be doing at home if I had nothing better to do. Only at home it’d be depressing – here it has a purpose. My old mannishness is useful, for at least a few hours.

The baby just made noise. They have an infrared monitor. He’s moving. Nuts.

Addendum
The main perk of the new channel lineup post Sirius/XM merger is the inclusion of NPR in my XM lineup. This is where I get my Prairie Home Companion…and also Car Talk, which is consistently hilarious. By the way, I now have 4 XM radios on my account. If you have a south facing window (or a car), XM radio is worth every penny. I can’t live without it anymore, and don’t think you should have to either. Maybe Barack Obama will take it over and offer it to all Americans.

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Pictures

The hillsides are gilded this autumn – ablaze with brilliant yellows. They’re burning down to brown, slowly, setting as the sun before my eyes. I’ve missed most of this fall. I haven’t had the camera out nearly enough.

I went out a couple of weekends ago to a bridge in Patapsco, and am now mildly obsessed with this picture and it’s counterpart.

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Fifth

A few minutes after I got out to the lab at 7:15 this morning, a couple of the techs called me over. They were grinning like fools, and I knew someone was going to give me some crap about something – a common occurrence, certainly one that I have earned.

“Hey,” one of them directed in my direction, “I knew the second that Furst walked in he’d be the third to come forth.”

They busted into a sloppy guffaw while I stood there speechless.

“What?!” I stammered after a few seconds.

“You heard me.”

Normally I’d have a witty retort, or at least a bombastic announcement about some embarrassing story that I had heard about them. This time I looked around with a sappy smirk on my face, dropped my head, and walked away.

I have been getting jokes, mostly stupid or repetitive, about my name for years. Even though it only barely made sense, it was the best one that anyone had ever delivered to me.

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Hype

Apparently Steve gets hype now.

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Marco….Marco….

Tropical Storm Marco is a fascinating example of a midget cyclone. These things are so odd – Tropical Cyclone Tracy is the most notable, reaching 140 mph winds in a little itty bitty package. Unfortunately for Darwin, AU, that package scored a direct hit.

Addendum
Look at this thing! It’s so cute!

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No Comment

The federal government is planning some sort of $700 billion dollar bailout of financial institutions. People have asked me what I thought about it.

I have no opinion.

Why?

Because I don’t understand any of this stuff well enough to have an opinion.

I bet there are less than a million people in this country that have enough wherewithal to understand what the hell is going on here, even in general terms. Sure, we can all regurgitate “big companies are paying CEOs blah blah blah bad loans blah blah.” But we don’t know what any of that means.

And I bet there are something less than 10,000 people who have the requisite knowledge to be able to propose sensible solutions.

I am not one of them. You aren’t either. A couple of people in congress are, but not many. The federal bank probably has a few. Universities have most. The business world contains a bunch. The rest live in cabins in the woods with pet squirrels.

The point: we don’t know what we’re talking about, so I don’t understand why we have to keep talking about it.

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Home Lome

Despite a tactic understanding between the dentist and I that there was nothing really wrong, I allowed for him to jab me with a needle and drill into a molar.

Here I am, my first real opportunity to eat actual food in two weeks, and I can’t control my jaw. I decided that I needed to talk to someone, yes, that would help. So I called the Mortgage people to set up automatic withdrawal for my loan. Needless to say, I sounded like I licked the lead paint off my walls with my tongue. About halfway through, I became so amused with my inability to enunciate basic diphthongs that I began to chuckle in pauses in the conversation. I had so much fun, I’m trying to talk to other people too.

Meanwhile, I just got a google hit for “brown shoes style guide”. If you know me, you don’t want my fashion advice. They went to my uninformed dissertation on trends. They could have gone here to learn about physics boots, my brown shoes.

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What the Duck

So there’s the place. Now quit your whining!

While we’re at it, there are my men. Jake’s giving the jazz hands while Tommy is emulating his hero George W Bush – “Mission Accomplished.” Johny looks too cool for the room – thinks he’s big man on campus now that he can walk several steps in a row without tumbling straight onto his forehead.

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Yes We Can!

I’m going to do live coverage of the Obama speech. Here’s what I think:

9:54 PM: Fox News even has buxom blond sideline reporters! They’ve thought of everything!

9:56 PM: I like how Dick Durbin is adopting Abraham Lincoln for the liberals. Any thought about how Abraham Lincoln would have felt about abortion and so on?

9:57 PM: The democrats eat cold pizza. Why? Because they want change!

9:59 PM: Yes we can!

10:00 PM: Does anyone else think Michele Obama looks like our friend Emily? Only black, but otherwise, I think they’re separated at birth.

10:03 PM: You really can’t not like Obama. Which would be worse, Lance Armstrong being a drug cheat, or Barak Obama being a fraud? I think both would be devastating.

10:08 PM: The world is going to eat this guy alive.

10:10 PM: Look Obama’s wife actually likes him! In contrast with Bill Clinton’s wife, who clearly despised him.

10:11 PM: It’s also worth nothing how much longer people cheered for Clinton. He was half-assed in stifling the crowd last night.

10:13 PM: It’s actually kind of cute how much Michele Obama likes Barak – you can read it on her face.

10:15 PM: 8 years from now, Obama is going to be the father of the first attractive first daughter in the history of the US presidency. And that is going to be awkward for someone.

10:17 PM: “…credit cards you can’t afford to pay…” is George W. Bush’s fault.

10:19 PM: They’re chanting something other than “yes we can.” I think it’s “8 is enough.”

10:22 PM: We are a nation of whiners. In fact, I’m whining right now.

10:24 PM: Obama is a self made man, but he’s all about not pulling oneself up by their bootstraps.

10:27 PM: This guy is one of the best speakers in the English language that doesn’t have a British accent. But I wouldn’t get all teary eyed.

10:31 PM: I am within 95% of all working families! He’s going to cut my taxes! Really, he doesn’t need to – drop that down to 80%. I still thought it was silly when they gave me that tax break.

10:33 PM: Did you know that Brittney Spears’ stage setup people made Obama’s stage?

10:34 PM: Less taxes! More everything! Levitation! Obama for President!

10:36 PM: Obama’s daughters don’t look particularly thrilled about having the same opportunities as my sons.

10:38 PM: Michele Obama claps like an alligator.

10:40 PM: I think Obama just insinuated that we’d be invading Pakistan. That should go over well. Let’s go spelunking for Osama.

10:42 PM: Battle equipment – that’s me. All right, I still have a job when Obama wins.

10:44 PM: I like this high road thing that they’re going for. He’s been magnanimous toward McCain.

10:48 PM: Happy Talk – and a trojan horse for abandonment of values. Yikes, zap!

10:49 PM: Man, this guy is a talented speaker. His stage presence is flawless. Better, even, than Brittney Spears.

10:51 PM: Speaking of hurricanes, John McCain has some awful timing. Obama is a week before all hell breaks loose in the Gulf (and on the Florida coast – more on Hurricane Hanna eventually), McCain won’t get a moment’s press. Not like he would have anyway.

10:53 PM: I hope Obama gets elected – I’m interested to see what will happen.

10:55 PM: I can’t believe they’re chasing that speech with this horrendous song.

10:57 PM: I’m looking forward to the debates. I’m legitimately undecided. After Bush, I could potentially vote for someone just because he sounds smart.

11:00 PM: Even Fox News is gushing about him right now. He spoke for about 45 minutes and missed literally one word in the entire speech. That was really good.

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So Far So Good

So I passed two old people on bikes on the trail today while running.

And I have a ratified contract on a house.

Addendeum
Last of the Glacier pictures are up. These feature moose among other things.

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A rocket blasting through a vacuum feels two main forces. On occasion, a thruster burst makes sizable course corrections. Meanwhile, over time, the inexorable tug of gravity warps the path. The course of one’s life likewise feels two main forces – the sudden impetuses of bifurcation events, black swans if you like, and the effect of a constant dripping wearing away the stone.

I have often been obsessed by the concept of bifurcation points. In brief, minute differences in initial conditions can have enormous outcomes on the final solution. Perhaps it took me four extra seconds to work around a knot in my shoelace before leaving for work. 10 minutes later, that four seconds featured a yellow light, turning red. 4 seconds becomes 2 minutes. These events can range from absurd to trivial, but also momentous or cataclysmic. A choice word or two could, three years hence, have led to an entirely different life. Yesterday, if I were about a tenth of a second a mile faster, I could have bounced off a hood into traffic instead of skidding to a halt and missing entirely. Life follows trends, but it is the punctuations to that equilibrium that bring about major changes.

Occasionally, however, it seems as though a steady state, or at least a model-able scenario to life is possible. I use a q tip a day. I saved a bunch of money and I am trying to buy a house. I ran too many miles, and now I need surgery on my Achilles tendon. A steady decline to an inevitable flash point in my personal history.

The Achilles is like the Mongol Horde, rumored, evidenced, and then at the gates, the scourge of God, inevitable and invincible. For a Furst boy, you know the story about the old man, how he had to stop running around age 20. Nothing helped, the Achilles wiped out his running career. Having grown up hearing the stories, every pain is a barbarian scouting the village, every ache a horseman on the hill. There’s nothing you can do about it, you just keep hammering through life with a certain unease, as smoke billows from hinterland meadows, already ablaze.

Previously conquered, I threw off the yoke briefly, gaining a few more frantic races last summer as the enemy regrouped. In 9 days, I’ll be in a walking boot, having accepted its terms. The surgery may represent the Pope’s armies, perhaps also powerless to thwart the relentless advance of decay and age. But for now I’ll wait, bide my time in bondage, pray that the legions from Rome can break the siege, can repel the enemy.

I really just want 18 months, 18 months to once more rage, rage against the dying of the light, 18 months to get in shape, to race fast, the delay the inevitable just a little longer, God just two years more! A head of steam and 18 months.

Be it through sudden catastrophe or an inevitable demise, the only constant is how little of life I control. There are two options – go insane waging a losing battle and knowing it, or fight ferociously, girded by the hope of a sovereign God who has a hand in guiding the events toward a greater good, forging a new man from the ashes of the old. Either way, for now I must be patient, every day, just the best I can.

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Hey, I Know You!

Unaccustomed to grocery shopping off a list, I arrived at SuperFresh with a list of three items and arrived home with zero of them. I almost got some extra vacuum sealed fruit though.

As I was pulling into the last self checkout lane, the woman in the adjacent lane started piling her stuff on my conveyor. “Miss,” I asked, underestimating her age by 20 years, “are you using this lane?”

“No” she muttered, ignoring the fact that she had just piled groceries on it.

“Do you want me to, uhh, do something with these?” I inquired.

“Give them to her,” she spat, motioning toward the bagging lady two aisles down, who looked up with a snarl.

I didn’t let on that I recognized her. I wanted to say, “Wait a second, I know you! You’re the only person on the planet!” But I didn’t.

Addendum
The first batch of pictures from Stoney Indian campsite are up. This is the best site in the entire park.

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I will be posting somewhere in the vicinity of 170 pictures in the next few weeks. I’m starting at the worse and moving to the best. This is the miscellaneous pot and the pictures from between Glenns Lake and Stony Indian Pass. The thing about the “On the Trail” pictures is that they are taken during the day, when the sun is at its worse for pictures.

Anyway, pictures starting here.

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Alive

I’m in Waterton, Canada – everything went well. Saw some stuff, met a lot of nice people in the woods. All safe and healthy.

Will check in eventually.

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Shamful

A few nights ago, roommate Adam, (his) fiancee Bethany, and I were sitting in the living room, as is our tendency. They work on the wedding. I posit stupid suggestions and make myself a general annoyance. Nothing out of the ordinary there. But then a commercial for the ShamWow came on. Though not normally swayed by late night advertising, I found myself saying “I have been meaning to get something like that for my car…” Meanwhile, Bethany and Adam (who said it, I cannot recall) perked up at the same time, and began discussing how they needed them too. In the end, $24 dollars for 4 of them! But wait!

For 8 of them! Unfortunately, it was only if we called in the next 20 minutes. It was my bedtime, but we very seriously considered it. It has since come up another two or three times. I think we might do it. It will be our first purchase as a triplet.

The ShamWow is so incredible that we are not the only ones who are impressed.

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A series of unfortunate events hamstrung any efforts to hold a barbecue this 4th of July. Thinking it rather sad to do nothing at all, a few stragglers and I decided to go watch a movie instead.

There are several movies that I want to see this summer. You see, you might not know this about me, in fact, you might even believe the opposite…but I am very impressionable. If I see a movie preview, more times than not, they convince me that I want to go see that movie. I love the trailers before the movie, they make me want to jump up and down and clap in excitement.

And yet I have seen maybe two movies in the theater in the past calendar year (The Hulk in Des Moines, and today’s) -I may be impressionable, drifting to and fro with the wind, but it takes an awful lot to get me to act on something. I also tend to trust people. Many of my informed opinions come from Metacritic, a site that collects the opinions of important people and splices them together for easy digestion.

When it came down to Wall-E or Hancock, despite my decade plus commitment to Will Smith on the 4th of July, the critics had scared me away. I loved the preview, I loved the commercial – I wanted to see Hancock! But the critics panned it, and I figured they must be right. I would just put it in my ever growing pile of movies that I’ll see if I ever find an appropriately boring girlfriend.

Irrespective of my opinion, the recently married and altogether uninformed Steve Miller refused to go see a cartoon. Hancock it was. And you know what? I liked it.

I rarely don’t like movies; I normally like them just fine. They’re movies. They don’t change your life, they’re not supposed to. I feel whatever emotion they’re trying to get me to feel when they’re trying to get me to feel it, even in corny movies. I always leave thinking I want to be a super hero or mutant. I buy whatever it is they’re trying to sell me for the few hours that I’m there, then take no corresponding action. See, I think that’s internally consistent.

Anyway, Hancock is blasted for one of two reasons:
1) It departs from its promising roots, insisting instead on becoming formulaic in the second half.
2) It perpetuates stereotypes of black people.

I didn’t mind the shift in plot. It didn’t make a whole ton of sense, but it was a 92 minute movie – how much sense could it have possibly made? And it’s a damn movie, not the Bible, quit trying to extract absolute truth from it. Besides, it got close enough. It was unique as far as that genre goes, it was mildly amusing in both concept and anecdote, and it had Will Smith in it. And Charlize Theron is noteably attractive.

As for the second criticism, you know what I find insulting? When people make issues out of non-issues in a self-righteous froth. Go away. Race is dumb. For instance, last night in the 1500 trials, the announcer was trying to describe who Lopez Lomong was to the viewing audience. “There’s Lomong moving up on the outside in the sunglasses and blue shirt!” Everyone had blue shirts, it was one of the Nike staples for these games. And Lomong is a 6’4 black guy, running among 5’9 white guys. There is nothing intrinsically negative about describing him as such. Why do we have work around obvious things, all the while having our fiery self-justifying diatribe waiting on the tip of our tongue? Who is more obsessed with race, the guy that doesn’t give a crap, or the guy that watches everyone like a hawk, waiting for the opportunity to get enraged? Will Smith was playing a down on his luck bum. Guess what, I’ve seen homeless folk passed out on park benches with booze in brown paper bags, black and white. If Keenu Reeves is Hancock, nobody gets in a frenzy. But then we have to listen to everyone pile on what a bad actor he is.

Man, I’m sleepy. But I can’t go to bed until 1 AM, yet again. Damn you Olympics!

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FARC Off

These are our guys! Good work Colombia.

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On Track 2

You must watch the Men’s 800 final. Crazy stuff. And yes, we’re all amused that the only place this is on the internet is on an Idaho news station’s website.

Meanwhile, I found Khadevis Robinson to be more enjoyable to listen to than I thought I would. He wasn’t my favorite. Now he’s at least not my least favorite.

In other news, the M 5K was pretty dumb – now granted, I’m not olympic caliber, but I think if I were close, and I knew I had to run 13:21 to make the team, I would try to make sure the pace did that. Vaughn rabbited for a while, though he was more concerned about getting eaten alive by the kickers at the end of the race. Goucher, Curtis – where were they when it mattered? I’m a little upset that Solinksi didn’t get a spot after making a heroic solo 800 meter surge (running roughly 1:58 toward the end there), but all told I think we could get two guys into the semis, heck, maybe even into the finals.

I’d be amazed if one of our guys made the finals in the 800, though if Symmonds can stay fit, he’s got a shot. Who knows, maybe Wheating is sufficiently naive to pull it off.

The women’s 5K was fairly pointless, as only about 5 women didn’t make finals. One of them was my GI Jane friend, who seemed to have a rough go with a slow pace before taking an early exit. 2012 is plenty of time to fix whatever went wrong there.

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Grow It Back!

When I was roughly 8, we convinced my father to shave his mustache. It was about to be the 90s, for crying out loud; one decade behind the times is enough, thank you very much.

He shaved it, and we immediately forced him to grow it back. We probably locked that strange mustache-less man out of the house until he could prove that he was, in fact, my father.

Now, his team has always been competitive – always top-6 in the state, always having a bunch of qualifiers, always competing for county crowns; a generally well run program. In the last half decade or so, however, they have been a national juggernaut. This weekend they won the 4×800 and DMR at the high school national meet down in NC, breaking the outdoor national record in the DMR in the process.

Most of this comes from having an innate ability to juggle teenage girl’s emotions, which is no small task. While some prominent programs resort to emotional control, my father has always taken the tact of enthusiatic/goofy while still maintaining a healthy dose of much needed honesty and culpability. Unfortunately for him, that occasionally leaves him open for derision at the hands of my brother and I, who are always on the lookout for such things. When he had his first national champion a few years ago, he championed the phrase “growly tough” to explain to them that demeanor was important. While they realized it was ridiculous, they took their work seriously nonetheless, with impressive results. My brother and I, however, chose to ignore the big picture. To this day we’ll suggest that someone get growly tough for a particularly important hand of cards, or perhaps when there’s a little bit more pot roast that needs to be eaten. I doubt the phrase will ever expire.

He has a very well adjusted and professional group of girls this year. I’m not sure why he needed to resort to such measures, but, alas, now he has no mustache.

He should grow it back immediately.

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Thought Showers

You might notice that this website is subtitled “A Paradigm of Synergy”. This phrase, if I remember correctly, was coined by Matt several years ago. He made slogans for himself, including “Matt Jankowski: A Paradigm of Synergy”. I then made several dozen slogans for him. I think these were deleted when I purged my computer of most of my old stories last year, as few of them were even remotely appropriate. Regardless, I enjoyed his description and pirated it for my site 6 odd years ago. It doesn’t actually MEAN anything. I epitomize the fusing things together in an amplifying way. Hmmm.

In an act that may well put entire business schools out on the street, the British have attempted to stifle the use of meaningless words. If you’re a useless person, how are you supposed to convince people that they should give you a job? French people speak French. Chinese people speak some variant of Chinese. Useless people communicate in the terminology of uselessness. It’s almost discriminatory.

I particularly enjoyed “thought showers”, not to be confused with “golden showers”, as a replacement for the already nebulous “brainstorming”. Apparently brainstorming could be insulting to those whose brains really are stormy, at no fault of their own. IBM recently attempted to standardize “ideating” is a synonymous buzz word.

While on the topic of words, a superior wordsmith has linked to a discussion that we had a few years ago on the phrase “pop a squat”. You might recall that Matt L invited Tim’s then girlfriend (Jo, who has now intermingled her DNA with Tim to generate this) to take a dump on his couch. She sat down, but never consummated the act, presumably out of a heightened sense of decency – we didn’t know each other well enough to defecate on the other’s couch at that point. Now she has no problem putting on a smock and whipping out the spigot for her baby. And he’s plenty comfortable with pooping wherever.

Congratulations to Bess for being christened world expert on the phrase “pop/cop a squat”. Way to go!

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6/14/08 12 AM CST
First off, Steve ran a spectacular race. The meet was fast, very fast, and people came to that final ready to roll. Steve got right where he should have been, then spent 2 miles fighting off challenges and maintaining his position in the middle of the pack with dogged determination. As the pack began to splinter with 1200 meters to do, Steve held his line, fighting desperately to stay in contention. At 600 to go, he was sitting 8th, with a pack of 4 guys 10 meters up on him. He dropped a 31 to get within about 4 meters, just off contact. Two more meters and he would have been locked in for the final kick…but alas, it was not to be. He started to flag with 200 to go, and got edged out over the last hundred meters by two previous all-americans to finish 10th. He was despondent, thinking he had surrendered his all-american spot with 40 meters to go.

1 Robert Curtis SR Villanova 13:33.93 10
2 Stephen Pifer SR Colorado 13:39.34 8
3 Brent Vaughn SR Colorado 13:39.44 6
4 David McNeill SO Northern Arizona 13:42.17 5
5 Ryan Vail SR Oklahoma State 13:42.85 4
6 Hassan Mead FR Minnesota 13:44.30 3
7 Kenyon Neuman JR Colorado 13:45.54 2
8 Patrick Smyth JR Notre Dame 13:47.82 1
9 Ian Burrell SR Georgia 13:48.40
10 Stephen Furst SR NC State 13:49.87
11 Emmanuel Bor SO Alabama 13:53.39
12 Mark Steeds JR Georgia State 13:56.18
13 Felix Kiboiywo SO Auburn 14:02.65
14 Abraham Ng’etich SR Iona 14:05.73
15 Joseph Maina JR Eastern Kentucky 14:06.43
16 Patrick Sovacool JR Miami-Ohio 14:18.55

McNeil is from Austalia. Mead went to high school in Minnesota and is an American citizen — but we’re almost certain that he was born in Somalia. That makes Steve the 8th American afterall – last all american. Speaking of Americans…we took 1-2-3-5-7-8-9-10-16 in that race, clobbering the foreigners.

Whatever the case, it was an awesome, gritty, tough race, and I’m proud to have witnessed it.

6/12/08 6 PM CST
Perhaps because they have interviewed him before, and perhaps because my erstwhile cousin requested it, flotrack interviewed Steve in the bowels of the stadium after the race. Only it doesn’t seem to work.

6/11/08 11 PM CST
Steve made finals. We were pumped when the first heat went out in 4:50-9:40; that meant slow slow times. The 7th place (first at-large possibility) was 14:37 in the other heat – all they had to do was keep it honest and they were getting 10 people in. Steve stayed in the back of the lead pack the whole race, sliding into position each time as needed. He knew he only needed to be top 10 once they came through the 2-mile in 9:12. With 1000 to go, the lead pack was 11 guys with 10 to advance and Steve hanging at the back. As the pack shivered off some straggles, he stuck where he needed to be. With 600 to go, he was safely in, though he still looked pretty tired. 16 guys in the final, he’s officially the 15th seed, but now it’s a fresh start.

The moment they finished, they evacuated the stadium because of the impending storm – which will not be in Des Moines for another 1.5 hrs, making them 2.5 hrs premature in their frantic edict.

I like Des Moines, and I’ll be here until Saturday. Happy day.

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December Words

I’ve been building up a few words of the week for a while now. The first was something that I didn’t recognize in the heady, barely palatable book by David Wells, “Above All Earthly Pow’rs“. Dealing with the church’s place against the backdrop of post modern thought, he mentioned how post modern ideals were ensconcing themselves into the field of biblical interpretation. He used it better than I did. Because he’s smart and I’m an engineer. It basically means “to cozy up with,” though I think I like it in a more nefarious sense of parasitically burrowing into something. That interpretation is not supported by the definition, but if I can ever bring myself to use it, I’ll use it negatively. Why? Because language is my tool, not the other way around. So long as you don’t chop off your fingers, you can use a circular saw to slice an orange if need be. Think about it.

The word is actually not at all related to abscond, which means “to make a discrete exit.” I don’t make many discrete exits these days, but if I did, I would later tell people that I was caught absconding from the party. There’s a decent chance I’ll be able to use that one in the next 3 months – it’s a little bit closer to my current lexicon, I wouldn’t be too awkward tossing it in amongst my other words. Someone made me use a different word for “gird” today, so it’s entirely possible that it will fall on deaf ears.

Meanwhile, RudyGu used the term fiduciary in the recent debate. I like how that sounds. I have known the word in the past, but not when he used it. It’s been stuck in my craw for a few days now, so I might as well throw it up as a bonus. I think I’d mess it up if I used it with words other than capacity or obligation.

Now, while we’re here, we need to come up with some December Words for people. Maybe this can become a tradition.

Since I have started monitoring my site’s statistics again, I have received multiple hits for the current month plus the word “words”. I had hits for October Words (6), for November Words (9) and now for December Words. I’ve gotten three hits today alone for December words.

I’m not sure what they are looking for. What would possess you to search for such a thing? I’m trying to do at least one good deed a day, and since it seems like I’m -1 so far today, here’s a list of good December words:

1) Christmas
2) Poinsettia. I was on the fringe of an hour long debate about the pronunciation of this word once. I can’t remember what I thought it should be. But ee-uh and uh are acceptable, they tell me. At one point I thought strongly about this, it just goes to show you…never think strongly about anything that you’re likely to forget.
3) Mistletoe. Speaking of parasites…
4) White. Snow is white. Sometimes it snows in December. If not, there is always a fresh layer of powder in all Christmas villages.
5) Red. After communists, and the Decembrist Revolt which is, in fact, named thusly because of when it occurred.
6) I don’t associate green with December. You shouldn’t either. If you’re coming to me for December words, you’re not leaving here with green.
7) Advent, from the Latin for arrival, itself derivative from the verb to come, and the prefix ad, indicating what we’re coming to something. Like the birth of Christ, for instance. Or Kwanzaa, whatever.
8) Stars. I used to TA astronomy. It was mostly very clear in December, and we had brutally cold labs late at night while all the jocks who had procrastinated throughout the semester tried to squeeze in their last lab. We did the CCD (charge coupled device…aka photon counter…aka fancy black and white camera) lab this time of year. There’s also a star of Bethlehem.
9) Cold. It’s cold in December, especially a night like tonight when it’s 30 degrees with 25 mile per hour winds. Brrr.
10) Intermezzo. It’s right between Thanksgiving (where I just took 10 days off) and Christmas (where I will take about that many off again). It’s actually a great time to work, it feels like less people are around. They’re really just more lazy. I can decrease my focus at work and still maintain my “work 15% harder than most people” paradigm.
11) Matt Jankowski. Because his birthday is the 19th. My grandfather’s birthday was also in this month, I think.
12) Pearl Harbor. You might not associate Pearl Harbor with December, since you remember a bunch of guys running around on a tropical island dressed in summer clothes. That’s because it happened on Hawaii. It was probably cold as balls in the north east on that day that will live in infamy. Incidentally, apparently “cold as balls” is a term that has nothing to do with testicles. It’s related to cannon balls, they tell me.
13) All the characters of the Christmas story: Baby Jesus, Virgin Mary (but picture her enormously pregnant, like Erin Donovan. Just as grumpy), Wise Men, farm animals, manger, hay, inn (where there is no room), Joseph (since he was buzzing around), and maybe the phrase “lies make baby Jesus cry.” I would throw in the big three Jewish Christmas words too, but I can’t spell them, not even close enough for google to recognize them. They make their way into English in various forms anyway. I’m talking about the holiday commemorating the miraculous oil supply during the Maccabean revolt, the candle with all the prongs, and of course that devilish little spinner thing, I made you out of clay!

Feel free to add some more. I want to be the world’s foremost authority on December words. I better get thousands of hits by all those strange people. Maybe they’ll put it on their areligious Christmas cards.

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On Vacation

I think I’m going to take a couple day Sabbatical, maybe I’ll maintain this post for spare thoughts. Meanwhile, this guy is actually on vacation. I’ve posted his blog before. I know some people think he’s over-the-top, but I think he’s hilarious. And I don’t care what some people think. You shouldn’t either.

Addendum 1:
If I have a kid I’m naming him Theo. Maybe I’ll name a girl Theo too, but I guess I could deal with Cleo. Short for Theodore and Cleopatra. But I think only Cleopatra would make the birth certificate, Theo would just be plain Theo.

Addendum 2:
A few years ago, I noticed that I don’t sleep until my feet get warm. Growing up in an ice box with a circulatory problem to my extremities, this may explain the entirety of the insomnia from my youth. Once my feet warm up, it’s a rapid process. Thoughts fade from sensible to absurd in a matter of seconds. Eventually I think to myself, “uhhh, that doesn’t make any sense” and then I’m asleep. Last night I progressed from a merit based scoring criteria for some system I was modeling into sowing pockets into pants. This was a A->B->C sort of procedure. Not sure what sowing pockets into the sides of pants has to do with anything.

Addendum 3:
Often, the sun does rise. Piercing the gap between the horizon and a carpet of clouds, irradiating the textured contours with deep purples, malevolent reds, fiery oranges, brilliant yellows and finally a peaceful peach. A sunrise with no clouds is pretty banal, yes?

Addendum 4:
As a part of my “start doing stuff you don’t normally do” initiative, I’ve picked up a few new bands. I like the way Porcupine Tree sounds, but I have to say, the lyrics are absymal.

“Never stop the car on a drive in the dark
Never look for the truth in your mother’s eyes
Never trust the sound of rain upon a river rushing through your ears

Arriving somewhere but not here”
Uhhh…herrr-huh?

Addendum 5:
I want to see Hanes’ marketing contract with Michael Jordan. “Ok, we’ll give you 8 million dollars a year, but we will put you in ambiguously gay situations in every single commercial.” Do you think they he and Kevin Bacon broke up? I thought they had a lot of chemistry. Cuba Gooding Jr over Kevin Bacon? I don’t know, I’m torn.

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Look What I Found

I’m cleaning out my old stories, most of whose existence I can no longer tolerate, when I stumbled upon this:
The Best There Ever Was.

The Best There Is.

The Best There Will Ever Be.
Seamus Weir

The High School Heartthrob, recently voted ALL-AMERICAN by USA TODAY, will declare his intentions for the NBA Draft in Cafeteria Two after school on Thursday, April 28th 1999. Autographs will be signed, pictures will be taken, and the world will meet its next great superstar.
He Lays the Smack Down

We printed this out and plastered it on the walls in my high school.

It was accompanied by this one:

You’ve seen him on the ball court.
You’ve seen him dunk at 11 feet.
You’ve heard the legends of his 90 point games.
Now you can watch him put Goshen on the map.

Seamus Weir
The Gym Class Hero you’ve all grown to love will declare his NBA Draft intentions on Thursday, April 29th after school in Cafeteria Two. Be a part of the future, come support our aspiring young star.

He Lays the Smack Down

The dates are somehow disparate.

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Recently someone shared with me her annoyance with those pseudo-philosophers who, in their obnoxiously uninformed way, would dare waste everyone’s time arguing with a philosophy professor. Who are you, oh man, when compared to the boundless wealth of knowledge that is me, a philosophy professor?

But what is it that makes one an authority on thought? Do those who think about thought really have a hegemony over credible conclusions? Naked thought, thought without hooks in the tender meat of reality, is wasted. The perpetuation of the love of wisdom should come from those immersed in actual events, those who use thought to accomplish life, not by sophists who would spill their seed wastefully on the soil with no intention of bearing fruit.

The same goes for theologists. Did you know that there are theologists that don’t believe in God? Why should I listen to them? And sociologists – since we don’t like data these days – how is that a profession? Everyone who lives in society should be observing society. That’s how you learn how to live in society, after all. If not for medicine, psychology would be the same thing.

Remove someone from the reality of their field for long enough, and their opinion loses its weight. To go straight out of college and into philosophy (however one goes “into philosophy”) creates a useless closed loop of old thought. It’s one thing to regurgitate the musings of thinkers past, but how do you expect to break new ground without sowing your thought patterns in the world and watching what grows?

Professional philosophers. Bah! A pox on you.

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Less Than Six

So Adam’s girlfriend’s friend from home went to high school with Danny Wegman’s son. That’s pretty sweet.

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Shutes and Ladders

Hypothetical situation. You are training for something (meaning you can run, see, hypothetical). It’s 37 degrees and raining buckets. You’re slated for a long run, 12 to 14 miles. You don’t have a ton of time, so you’re going to run from home.

Now, I never ever skipped runs for any reason other than I planned to take a day off. I very rarely cut runs short because the conditions were crappy. But that doesn’t mean that it’s pleasant running long on days when it’s 37 and raining. The tendency is to see that you’re 3 miles away 8 miles in and say to yourself, “eh, 11 is close enough.” Or maybe you’re a block away at 12 miles – that’s far enough, maybe you think.

So on days like that, you go out in a straight line for 7 miles. You can focus for 48:00. Anyone can. And once you’re out there, you’re SOL. You’re going 14 miles, or you’re not getting home. That’s how you go on long runs when it sucks outside.

Similarly, I have a certain tolerance for driving. I’m no stranger to semi-long trips – I’ve been to Goshen twice this summer, among other places. But eventually I start saying to myself, “you know what, it cost like $70 more to fly, why not just do that?” And it’s compelling. The tactic, then, is to hammer yourself with as much driving as possible when you’re nearing that tipping point; it’ll get you an extra 800 miles in the car before you have time to realize that it’s no fun driving for hours upon hours at a time.

This is why I’m driving to Raleigh tomorrow, followed in short order by my foliage trip to visit home, to Beantown for Nancyboy McCoy, and to the Burg for my kids early in October. By the time I realize how much I value not being in the car for 10 hours in two days, I will have already made all the solo trips that I need to make this year. Except, I guess, for Thanksgiving and Christmas back home to Goshen again. Another 18 hours of driving right there. I just hope that no one dies any time soon. You know, because then I’d have to drive more.

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Barbarians at the Gates

MovableType, the back end of this site, has been brought to its knees by the recent onslaught of the next generation of ferocious comment spam. Fearless leader Matt, our bulwark against the bloodthirsty tide, has installed a few new plugins that should help combat the hordes of savage spam. One of these plugins will, by this time tomorrow, have locked out the ability to post comments on all entries greater than a month old. If you have the desire to comment on something older, post a comment to a newer function and include a link to the older one.

If you try to post something and your comment is denied for some reason, or if it simply doesn’t show up, shoot me an email. The second filter adaptively quantifies the spam-i-ness of a comment, and it’s possible that legitimate comments will be erroneously classified as junk and not published. I can correct that from the backend – your comment is there, just not posted.

Lastly, if you post the same comment twice (as spam bots tend to do), within an hour or two the duplicates should be gone.

It’s all very exciting. Locking out 1750 of my nearly 1800 entries should have the effect of reducing the spam comments that have to be handled by the server by about 95%. It should keep the site (and my interface to the back of it) from hosing up so often.

Just so you know, I’ve gotten 5330 legit comments on this site since it opened for business in Fall of 2002. In the last two days, I’ve gotten 3776 non-published spam comments. While those comments don’t show up to the site, every single one of them has to be accepted by the server, processed, classified, posted, and eventually deleted. That computing leads to the latency that we experience. Hopefully as the old comments are locked out, that will drop significantly.

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Pack

The NCSt Men’s Cross Country Team began the season ranked 10th in the pre-season poll. Here are some comments from their fearless leader Coach Geiger, and here’s the brief Cross Country bio of Young Stevie Furst, who now has more respectable hair.

Anybody up for traveling to Charlottesville for the ACC meet on October 27th? It’s going to be hot, let me tell you.

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Comments…

…are fixed. Thanks to Matt Jankowski, who took a break from swimming through his pool of gold doubloons to address the issue.

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Authorativity

Statement:
“Sports Illustrated Chine was launched in September 2006, and is now the single most authoritative general interest sports magazine in China.”
Questions:
1) Is there a central governing body in China that evaluates authoritivity? Can I dispute this claim?
2) Is there a corresponding authoritivity quotient that I can reference to see how Sports Illustrated’s authority has grown in the past year?
3) The quote was in all caps. Did they do that so that they didn’t feel ridiculous capitalizing the award title, “Single Most Authoritative General Interest Sports Magazine”?
4) Does “single” really add anything to the statement?
5) Did you really need to specify China? I guess it could have been the single most authoritative general interest sports magazine in Mongolia, despite its name.
6) Do you think there are more authoritative non-general interest sports magazines in China? Is “general interest sports” a coded reference to “American football, baseball and basketball”?
7) How did they decide when they passed the previous most authoritative general interest sports magazine? Was there a time when they were “tied for the most authoritative general interest sports magazine”?
8) Are general interest sports magazines in China focused on ping pong, gymnastics, Liu Xiang (hurdler), and Yao Ming?

What an intriguing statement. I bet the infiltration of Sports Illustrated China was exactly the sort of thing they were trying to avoid with the Boxer Rebellion.

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The parents are coming in tonight, later than I should stay up given my bout of under the weatherness. I’m not sick, as I am never sick and I refuse to break that trend. I do, however, have a head cold, and my head is, as a result, not entire here with me. Last night was the first night since the weekend that I got any meaningful sleep, until, at least, 4:30 when a cricket in the wall behind my bookcase woke me up with his piteous moaning. I couldn’t find him (seeing as how he was in the wall), though I was able to swat one of his friends. Or that might have been a different time. I don’t remember, I get so many of them now. The bedroom was a new venue though, I’ve been battling ferociously against their advance into my bedroom. I might have had one in my window sill a week ago, however.

So I took a nap this evening, and woke up confused. First, I had a surreal conversation about a unix based text editor, emacs. I have no idea why. Second, I put a frozen piece of pizza in the oven. It’s cooking now. I’m not particularly hungry, but somehow I decided to do it. The light doesn’t make sense outside. I’m not sure why I’m awake. Or even if I’m awake. To make matters worse, Movable Type, the back-end of my website, was updated yesterday, and so I’m not even sure of what’s going on here. All I know is that I can hear the rapping tap tapping of my keyboard, born in 1984. In the USA. When did Springsteen make that song? 1984 is my guess. The keyboard and Bruce Springsteen were both born in the USA in 1984.

When I was a kid my mother wrote me a children’s book about killing ants. The book was against it. She laminated it and everything. I’m not sure if I ever had a propensity to kill ants, but as long as I can remember, I have an extreme distaste for killing things. I don’t like spiders, but it’s a rare day that I kill one, I just grab it in a tissue and throw it outside. She wrote another book about a bird named Blue who died one day. Sad story.

Crickets are different, however. It used to be that I imagined myself rupturing my achilles climbing in or out of my loft on Columbia Rd. These days, I suppose that it will happen when I’m chasing a cricket around my hallway in the middle of the night. I admit, I have senselessly slaughtered roughly 100 crickets in the last 2 months. I typically capture them in a tissue, after a desperate pursuit throughout my basement, and then flush them down the toilet. I still cannot bring myself to extinguish their poor little lives with my bare hands.

After a few straight weeks of being woken up in the middle of the night, I started to relish in their elimination. Each one in the toilet was one less to wake me up in the middle of the night. I purchased a large bottle of cricket insecticide, as well as a two pack of fly swatters. One tires of lunging after those hoppity little monsters at 2 in the morning. The fly swatter is more efficient than the tissue. They still end up in the toilet.

They don’t belong in my house. They come from outside, so sending them back outside isn’t an appropriate solution. They must be destroyed. It is my responsibility to do this. I am upset that it has come to this. I wish I weren’t in this situation, but sometimes you have to do something that you don’t want to do. Or else gigantic crickets will wail their shameless mating song at me all night long. And I’m too insane to not sleep, thank you very much.

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