Leading headline in the Star Tribune right now ... I imagine there are a few other bodies in the cemetery too ...
Somehow, despite the Star Tribune's self-touted makeover, they still manage to regularly come up with headlines which make you wonder "Are they trying to live up to The Onion's image of real newspapers?"
... what are they doing to the pitches in South Africa? 430 plus runs each in a one day match. And now New Zealand gets 593 for 8 in the second test match. New Zealand may have lost the first test, but it looked like a good match, with some contest between batter and bowler.
Various thoughts on U.S. politics ...
there's been some discussion about Joe Klein's latest book that bemoans the consultant driven political culture of modern America. Candidates hire consultants who advise them on what to say, with the result that our political language is predictable, recycled and inauthentic. According to Klein. Most of Klein's discussion is about the Presidency, and perhaps not enough about the Senate and Congress. We (well, you, I can't vote here) ask too much of the Presidency. One person is meant to understand, represent and act on behalf of three hundred million people. How, exactly, is that meant to work? How is any man (I'll correct this post in thirty years when there's a woman president, that's a prediction, not an affirmation) to do that? It would be difficult to be President without relying on a lot of information analyzed and processed by thousands of other people. The growth of the political consulting profession is entirely unsurprising when you ask a small number of people to represent a large number and have opinions about many, many things.
Of course you also see consultants shaping campaigns for Senate, Congress and the Governor's office. Same problem. Hundreds of thousands of people to consider, not enough time to do it in. You can find authenticity in American politics ... in your state legislative races, in your city council chambers, in political arenas where the voters are not entirely unlikely to randomly see their representatives in everyday life. (I see our local city council person frequently. I saw him putting out the trash in his alley a couple of months back).
If you want to restore authenticity to politics, and reduce the influence of money in politics there is a relatively simple solution: dramatically increase the size of the House and the Senate. In a country of 300 million people a Congress of 435 people is far too small. Britain has 646 MPs for 60 million people, and they siphon off their executive branch from the legislature. A similar ratio here would imply about 3000 members. This might seem absurdly large but really, it's not.
Moving right along, I'm not sure how authentic George Allen is, but you really should read the lengthy article in The New Republic about him. Ryan Lizza does a great job of letting the man, well, I would say, hang himself with his own words, but if you read the article you'll see that's perhaps not the best metaphor. Or perhaps it is.
As this good Boston Globe article notes great espresso can be hard to come by in America. Things have improved since I've been here. Or maybe in a Minnesotan way I've just lowered my expectations.
Anyway, a recent improvement in the coffee scene here is the Clicquot Club Cafe in Seward. The food is not as imaginative as their competitors and near-neighbors at the Birchwood, but the coffee is noticably better. The Birchwood is great for food, but the coffee has never been great, and probably never will be. They cater to a market they know, which is largely for thinner, weaker coffee. After a couple of visits I'm impressed with the Clicquot's coffee. Strong, full bodied, with all the signs of being roasted recently. Life is good ... Now to see if they will make a long black.
Like Memorial Day but without much of the glory or early summer weather.
Noticed in New Zealand while wine touring, the vintner's apostrophe. Closely related to the grocer's apostrophe.
(click on image for larger view)
I always find the "Nigerian" spam email funny, as it comes in so many variations these days. This one was interesting;
Do accept my sincere apologies if my mail does not meet your personal
ethics although, I wish to use this medium to get in touch with you first
because it's fastest means. I am John Bernard an external auditor of a
well known bank here in the United Kingdom.
I have secretly discussed this matter with a top senior minister official
of the federal ministry of finance here
I liked how the speed of email correspondence and the ethics of the financial transaction were traded off against each other. Not normally what I'd call morally equivalent actions, but perhaps that's just me ...
And shouldn't an external auditor at a well known bank in the United Kingdom know that there is no ministry of finance, let alone a federal ministry in the United Kingdom? But 35% of 15 million pounds ... that's worth thinking 'bout.
3:04:04. First mile was the slowest (7:30), followed by the two quickest miles (6:40 each) and then they all settled between 6:55 and 7:05, except for over the hills from 16-17 and 20-21 which were around 7:15 a mile.
As has been widely reported, that's some marathon course ... If one was to race the course it would indeed be tough since the large net decline in the first 16 miles exacerbates all the normal temptations to go out too quickly. Yet I think that since the first 16 miles are net downhill, and the last 10 are up and over, for little net elevation change, your best time on the Boston course would actually come from running positive splits, with the second half perhaps a minute or two slower. I wasn't racing, and was in fact holding back on the last downhills, and my legs are still a little beat up two days later.
It's also not an original observation to note that while you don't want to lose too much ground going up and over the hills, you also need to save yourself some for the last 5 miles as it undulates down. If you were going for a good time you could not just rely on gravity from the top of Heartbreak Hill. So, yeah, the Boston marathon is a more challenging course to run well on than say, Chicago or Christchurch, but you still drop 500 feet and [maybe] get a nice tailwind. A personal record is a personal record, but I wouldn't want to claim a Boston time as my best unless it was at least a couple of minutes quicker than an officially record quality course.
It's also fair to say that the course is historic, not scenic. The first 10 miles are not that pretty, and must have been even uglier back in the day when people lived in black and white if you can believe the photos. It gets pretty after Wellesley. And I am not talking about the screaming Wellesley girls. That's all they do, scream. Even though you read about how you can hear the Wellesley girls from 1/2 a mile away, you are still surprised when 1/2 a mile away that's what you hear. Screaming college girls. As I was running past the Wellesley girls I did a little math ...
How long are they screaming for? How do they keep it up? Do they sub out at some point? Here's the math. Elite women go through pretty quickly, probably in the space of about 10 minutes. Then you have the elite men starting around 1pm (1 hour approximately from the noon start), and then it's a stream of runners for at least 40 minutes with the new wave start (end of wave 1 is about 3:30 qualifiers, so assume some are running slower than 8 minutes/mile and you have 1:40 to get to Wellesley). So, that's 40 minutes of screaming. Then they get a break and the wave 2 runners come through just after 2:00pm and they must be coming through for at least another 40 minutes. How do they keep up all that screaming?
Another aspect of Boston that bears note, at least this year, is this: they put Peeps, yes, Peeps, in the finishers' bags of food. As far as I could see, both yellow and pink ones. This has been much discussed on that democracy of the common runner, letsrun. I thought it was kind of cute, given that it was not just Patriots' Day, but Easter Monday as well.
Peeps. No better note to conclude on.
Boston. It's hard to be aware of the history of running in this country, nay, the world, and not know that Boston looms large. The Boston marathon is only a part of that. A large part to be sure, but running is just that little bit more important as a sport here than it is in most other places.
One example of that is that they print the results of local races in the Globe. There's a 4.13 mile race in Somerville every Thursday which I've never run because when I've done the math on getting from the library to the start line after a day in the archives (what has brought me to Boston a lot recently) it's never worked out. But anyway, this 4.13 mile race which was won the other day in about 25 minutes. Not shabby, but not a major competitive race. They printed that in the paper. That's a good paper, not a slow race.
They also print the results of the semi-famous Fresh Pond races which are held every Saturday at 10am at Fresh Pond. I was looking forward to these almost as much as the Boston marathon, because they [now] represent just about the other end of the spectrum of amateurism to commercialism than the marathon does. If you get in the top five at Fresh Pond you get your name in the Globe. Now, I sure as anything am not getting a top five place in any competitive category in the Boston marathon (even running slowly I may be in the top five New Zealanders ....) so my chance to get in the paper was to run at Fresh Pond. I achieved my aim. Third place. It was just like this Running Times article says the races are like. Except they ran the full 2.5 or 5 miles today. I jogged around, and then did another lap. 45 minutes at tempo pace was on the schedule for the day.
I'm also looking forward to the Boston marathon. When I was a kid I picked up a swag of late 1970s and early 1980s back issues of The Runner at a kindergarten fundraising sale. This was of course the era of American dominance at Boston. Rodgers, Salazar, Beardsley, Wells, Hoag ... It would be great to see an American win at Boston, but the 1970s and 1980s were an aberration. The history of the Boston marathon roll of champions is a history of the diverse enthusiasm for marathon running around the globe. Of course, there was a time when Boston was unquestionably the major international race to win, not quite the Olympics, but the next best thing to win excepting maybe Fukuoka. So you can't realistically hope that Boston live up to its reputation of being a major world marathon, and think that Americans should win regularly.
So I've wanted to run the Boston marathon for longer than you might think. At least since I was 13. Now, it quite obviously hasn't been a burning desire, since I've waited five years to do so since landing on these shores. But the desire has been there, and now I'm here to run it.
I'm hoping that this latent desire to enjoy the Boston marathon doesn't manifest itself in buying tons of merchandise with the logo on it tomorrow at the expo ...
Caleb is right when he says that
It may even be misleading to speak of "transnational history" because that phrase seems to denote a field that stands in contradistinction to "political history" or "social history." It's better to think of transnational history as a posture or a methodological intervention that urges us to do political history and social history (and cultural history and intellectual history and so on) in a certain way. [emphasis original]
If I may simplify drastically, all new modes or topics in history go through these phases
I offer this as an hypothesis, based largely on my reading of "quantitative history," labor history and women's history. Now, though a diversion here, quantitative history is interesting. There was a brief moment when you could unite an otherwise diverse group of historians with that title. Not so much anymore. Economic, demographic and social history has reclaimed those historians (and vice-versa). Quantitative history was reshaped into smaller components, absorbed into other parts of the discipline, in what I call the relational phase.
So, what of transnational history? It seems that transnational history is now firmly in the contributionist phase, but probably moving into the relational or theoretical phase. There is a stream of dissertations and books coming out which are transnational history.
It seems that overstatements of the power of transnational history are fading, as the humble applied results of diligent research demonstrate what you can learn. I suspect that a more explicit restatement of where transnational approaches fit into American history are coming along soon. As transnational historians become more confident of the reception of their work they will likely begin to qualify and measure the importance of transnational influences in American history.
Obviously (obviously) this will vary by topic. It is hard to conceive of how immigration history—previously (and I overstate to make the point) a black box process where immigrants arrived and were assimilated or formed X-American communities—could go back from the transnational approach. Diplomatic history, similarly. Yet some topics which have benefited tremendously from comparative history—nineteenth century race relations in Australasia and North America, in particular—may be due for a more insular approach. How much was "native policy" in the different countries really influenced by what went on elsewhere? At least for Australasia and Canada you can connect things through London, but I suspect that the intellectual payoffs right now might be to start out with the hypothesis of operational independence in native policy, but with a shared intellectual background that is necessarily difficult to connect from place to place.
This would still be transnational history, but by going back against it a little skeptically, the credibility of the approach would even be enhanced. I'm confident, too, that if someone was to set out and skeptically ask "How international was the Progressive movement, really?" (i.e; attack Daniel Rodgers' Atlantic Crossings head on) that Rodgers' thesis would largely be sustained. In other words, one way forward for transnational historians is to stop assuming that the transnational was really that important, but set out to "measure" its influence anyway.
What's more fun in the middle of April than the annual game of guessing what the fickle winds will blow into the Boston area at noon on Patriots' Day? (Answer: looking forward to actually running the race that might be run in tropical heat, snow or anything in between). Let's see how much the Boston forecast for 17 April changes in a week ...
Evening of Thursday, April 13: Who needs the science of metereology when you're actually in Boston and can feel that it's unseasonably warm for a mid-April evening? However ... it's meant to cool down just in time for the race! There is some kind of justice for the last three years when Patriots Day has apparently been the freak hot day in a two week stretch. Accuweather's forecast remains the same, though those strong winds are now just from the north at 20mph. Over on weather.com and the National Weather Service, the forecast highs remain in the mid 50s, with partly cloudy conditions. With consensus like that it's bound to be great weather on the day, right? Time to remind myself I'm not really racing this one all out ...
Morning of Wednesday, 12 April: Accuweather predicts the same 57°high, but with winds from the NE at 19mph. Not so good. Weather.com gets even better, overnight low of 41° and a high of just 50°, while NWS now predicts 56. Bottom line: the average predicted highs are getting lower ... and I'm still not taking them seriously.
Evening of Monday, 10 April: weather.com predicts an overnight low of 44° Partly Cloudy, 52° high 20% chance of preciptitation. If you could toss in a wind out of the west that would be perfect marathoning weather ... On the other hand the National Weather Service predicts "Mostly sunny, with a high near 63." And Accuweather gives "High: 57°F. Times of clouds and sun. Winds from the N at 9 mph."
[To be updated]
Home Depot. I needed to buy some glass. It's a maze in there. Helpful young man asks me if I need to check out. "No, but I do need some glarse" (short a, like how they say "car" in Boston")
"Glasss? What's that for?"
"Glarse. You know, like in windows" (even in America they have windows in their houses)
"What part of the window? Do you use it for gluing or something?"
... It's about this point I realized we were not communicating ... It must be the accent ...
"Glarse, you know, it's the see through stuff you put in the window. But don't worry, it's my accent, not you."
"Ohhh, glasss! Where you from man?"
And after one mid-week encounter on a run I just had been feeling so sanguine about my mid-Pacific accent understandable if not native to both the Antipodes and the Americas. I spied someone ahead with a t-shirt that looked familiar. It was the 2005 Philadelphia marathon shirt with the course map on the back. Not a lot of Minnesotans who ran that, so I pulled alongside and said hello, and how I'd run that marathon too. We reminisced about a beautiful day beside the Schuylkill. "Where's that accent from?" said the friend of the other Philadelphia finisher. "New Zealand, but I've been here a few years," I replied. "Yeah, " he said, "it sounds like it."
Interesting article in the Chronicle of Higher Education about how Microsoft Word's feature of saving the name of the people who edited a document can accidentally corrupt anonymous peer review. An astonishing number of people who should know about this (journal editors) admit to ignorance on the matter.
While I can't concisely summarize what I've learned from my [not yet completed. should I abandon this entry ... ] history PhD one thing I've noticed is that my appreciation of running history is more historical and less anecdotal, more appreciation of past runners on their own terms. Zeke's quote of the day from Monday
if you know why that happened and you put your training plan together properly to reproduce that peak performance again on the day of the first race you want to win this season, then I would say you know something about training. Until you can do that, you don't know a damn thing about it. You are just a good athlete who, one day, without realizing why it is happening, will run a good race.
But first, some reflections on running history as history and not just splits from yesteryear.
Take, for example, the [too?] often told and written story of the pursuit of the four minute mile. What with the fiftieth anniversary of Bannister's 3:59:4 being celebrated just a couple of years ago, there's some recent entries in this genre. Neal Bascomb's The Perfect Mile is a good read, and the device of switching between Landy, Santee and Bannister helps a little in making it not seem inevitable that Bannister will succeed. It's like the movie Titanic. The ending is no surprise. It's difficult to convey suspense when your audience knows what will happen. John Bryant's 3:59.4 does an even better job of conveying uncertainty about the outcome by showing how people were convinced the Swedes would break the barrier during World War II. Moreover, Bryant sets the chase for the sub four minute mile in historical context; both backwards into the 19th century and forwards into the new committed, semi-professional approach to athletics that was exemplified more by Landy than it was by Bannister.
Reading about Landy's training and Zatopek's in Bryant's book reminds you that Arthur Lydiard was not nearly as much of an innovator as some would make him out to be. Lydiard's genius was systematizing ideas about volume and periodization and speed endurance, and then showing just how much control you could have over when you achieved your best performance (peaking).
Yet for all Lydiard's genius in person with his own athletes—and the following is hardly an original interpretation—applying and adapting what was written down in his 1962 book, Run to the Top was not straightforward. In later editions of Lydiard's work he himself mentions recommending to [1960s 10000m WR holder] Ron Clarke that Clarke do more steady state running, which Clarke did with gusto, but then failed to convert his dominant times into major championship wins.
Clarke was not alone in that era—the late 1960s and early 1970s—of failing to convert great times into major championship wins. His compatriot Derek Clayton, and the two Englishmen Bedford and Hill are often accused of the same "failure."
Here is my historical "analysis." You can imagine the quote signs with finger schtick here because analysis flatters what I'm saying.
It's not at all coincidental that these runners are of the same era. They overlapped in that post-1965 era when Lydiard's own athletes were no longer so dominant, and when Lydiard's ideas were just starting to make their impact in other countries. Lydiard had published his ideas, yes, but there's little doubt that Lydiard's comparative advantage was in hands on coaching. It's not hard to imagine how Lydiard's ideas mutated into overtraining in the hands (or feet) of people who were not directly coached by him. If you saw what Halberg had achieved with 100 miles a week, why not see where 200 will get you?
The other common element with these four runners was long periods of largely self-directed running. A coach could have held them back and helped them peak. But to get a reputation for disappointing in the big meets, you have to set up expectations you'll do well in the first place. World records (all but Hill) and second fastest times ever (Hill) set some pretty high expectations. And all four athletes did win major international events. They 'just' didn't win Olympic gold, which is ultimately the standard world record holders are held to. Moreover, their world records were long-standing. Some of the longevity of their records reflects that athletics was not as deeply competitive and professional as it is now.
In short, these four men were products of their time; very talented, very dedicated, and coming at an historical moment when the world records were assaulted by people whose training far surpassed what had been common only fifteen years earlier, and when that new form of training (high volume and sharply periodized) was not widely understood. Until there is new paradigm shift in running training we are not likely to see so many world record holders fall short in major championships as these men did.
Clearly I've been away from New Zealand too long. I'd never heard, never ever, of Anand Satyanand who is now giving up his position as a High Court judge to be Governor General. On the other hand that seems to be the pattern with Governor Generals in New Zealand nowadays—they alternate between not-well-known High Court judges and better known folks from other spheres of life.
Satyanand seems to be an interesting choice, described as an "Indo-Fijian Catholic," a descendent of Indian (sub-continent) laborers in Fiji who migrated to New Zealand.
But as always. Up the Republic!!
Supporters of the Bush administration's war in Iraq sometimes like to compare the process of forming a democratic government there to the American revolution, making Iyad Allawi out to be some latter-day George Washington on the Tigris. OK. Let's take that analogy seriously.
Hostilities in the American war of independence ended in 1781, and the Treaty of Paris recognizing American independence wasn't signed until 1783. The initial Articles of Confederation proved inadequate and it wasn't until 1787 that the Constitution was adopted by the Constitutional Convention, and not until 1790 that all thirteen states had ratified it. Are you counting? That's nine years. The process in Iraq started three years ago.
Nine years doesn't sound so long, when you're talking about the eighteenth century, 230 years later. It's a lot longer when you're actually living it going forward.
And that's being generous about the American constitution which—inspiring document as it was—kicked for touch (punted) on the major issue of the time: what to do about slavery. It took another seventy five years and a Civil War to settle that question. And people in the South still rankle over their defeat.
This would be like if the Iraqi people drew up a constitution in the next couple of years which didn't address the question of how to divide oil revenues. It's true that some of the delays in writing and ratifying the American constitution were due to the poorer communications and transport of the day. But let's not exaggerate the impact of horses and pens compared to planes and email. It took days to get from South Carolina to Philadelphia in 1787. It took years before Carolinian and Philadelphian attitudes to the politics of slavery and race could be reconciled. It took nearly two centuries before African Americans came close to achieving full citizenship in the American South.
In other words, the Iraqi people will be doing very well compared to American democracy if they can draw up a constitution that is inclusive of the rights of all groups and widely accepted within a decade. Even two decades would be good progress compared to the progress of democratic formation in other countries.
The implication for American politics—and this is a non-partisan implication—is that policies which assume the process in Iraq will be quick are hoping against most of the evidence of American history.
This race commemorates 1968 Olympic marathoner Ron Daws. Daws, a '60's/'70's Minnesota running icon, trained over this same course. The race was renamed as a memorial to Daws the year after his death, in 1992.
The course runs over hilly terrain to the south and west of Hopkins. The race, begun in 1979, and now in its fourth decade, has proved to be a stiff challenge at a middle distance for those training for Boston or other spring marathons or who are otherwise looking for a testing workout.
The course is now measured in kilometers.
For $3.50 you get an old school race. Now, for $3.50 you don't get a certified course, but you do get one that is fairly accurate. I say "fairly" because some of the miles were quite odd, and the half marathon mark was about 50 metres past the 13 mile mark, which is about one quarter of the distance you'd expect. The course was not measured in kilometres. Or kilometers.
Except for the total distance. I'm still waiting for an adequate explanation of the half-way metriciz(s)ation of American road running where the total distance is denominanted metrically but the intermediate measurements are in miles. See, I'm putting this in bold so any non-running readers who would otherwise bypass this paean to dead runners learn something [truly trivial, yet still interesting]. Adequate? Any explanation would do. It would be like if you weighed your produce in pounds and then got to the checkout and they charged you by the kilogram. It would all work out (probably) but my oh my, why not just pick one measurement system and stick to it. The traditional chocolate fish for the best answer is on offer.
Old school also means that the base for the race was a church basement. In my experience this is what churches are for: hosting Saturday running events. I've heard they may have other uses other days of the week? I saw a lot of church hall running events in my day in the Antipodes. So the Cross of Glory Baptist Church in Hopkins brought back memories of Island Bay Presbyterian, Saint Lukes Anglican and Saint Mary's Anglican in Wellington. Here's my contribution to comparative religious studies: church halls look pretty much the same in two western countries. They don't have enough bathrooms for 150 runners about to start a run, the art of the Sunday School children is touching in its creative interpretations of scripture, and changing your pants in a church has the same minor sense of actions inappropriate to your surroundings in both hemispheres.
I was more excited about the sense of running history in doing a race that celebrated Ron Daws' life. I grew up as a runner with the advice of Lydiard handed down in the "oral tradition" (fancy historian speak for a game of Chinese whispers/telephone over several generations). Daws, more than anyone, was responsible for bringing Lydiard's influence to Minnesota. It's an influence you can still hear today. People still run repeats up Daws' Hill in South Minneapolis.
Even before I came to Minnesota I'd heard of Daws. Or, more accurately, read about him. He was married to Lorraine Moller briefly. And his advice and writing about running transcends borders. I don't think there's many better guides to how to interpret, adapt and apply Lydiard's principles than Daws' books, Running Your Best and The Self-Made Olympian. But beyond that there's a sense in both books, though especially The Self-Made Olympian of the possibilities that everyone has to succeed in running. Both books manage to convey also the way in which running can transform lives, or merely be such a wonderful part of it.
That connection of two country's running history was a bargain for $3.50. The Great Harvest cookies and nuggets available afterward made it even better!
"Praying for other people to recover from an illness is ineffective, according to the largest, best-designed study to examine the power of prayer to heal strangers at a distance." (from the Washington Post).
They then have this choice disclaimer: "The researchers cautioned that the study was not designed to test the existence of God or the benefit of other types of prayer, such as praying for oneself or praying at the bedside of friends or relatives. They also did not rule out that other types of distant prayer may be effective for other types of patients."
So, if you're agnostic you can happily remain so. And if you're a believer you can continue to believe that God works in mysterious ways, ways not amenable to discovery in a clinical trial.
What was more interesting—the study was not double-blinded—more of the patients who knew they were being prayed for experienced complications. In fact, prayer had a negative effect, in the sense that there were more complications!