05 November 2010

Maybe he was being ironic?

A friend of mine posted this on Facebook on Tuesday after the election: "Remember the Nazi's were the extreme liberal (lefts)." (See Godwin's law)

Really? Health care reform merits comparison to genocide?

Here are some characteristics of the Nazis:
  • Xenophobic
  • Homophobic
  • Militaristic
  • Intolerant
  • Practiced unilateral foreign policy
  • Blamed economic problems on immigrants
  • Abandoned liberty for security
  • Invaded countries with unfortunate results
  • Sanctioned torture
  • Endorsed capital punishment
  • Accused opponents of being unpatriotic
Sound like a current American political party?

25 October 2010

NFL Priorities

Jerramy Stevens was released by Tampa after he was arrested on drug charges.
Given his history and the fact that he was a marginal player on a bad team, it's not surprising everyone was willing to wash their hands of him. It's not the first time he's been in serious trouble. I don't know all of the facts, but as I've said before, all indications are that he's garbage. I'd argue that this offense (marijuana) is the least of his offenses. I blame Stevens, but I especially blame the coaches, boosters, fans and agents who for the past ten years have enabled this reprobate to earn a lucrative living instead of going to prison.

23 October 2010

Running Nerd

Moved my long run to this morning from Sunday. 10.2 in 1:34 (9:12 pace). Weather was about perfect (50 degrees), felt great afterward. I love getting in a good run like that. It's like hitting a good drive in golf - keeps you coming back.

I've registered for the ATC Thanksgiving day race (half). If I can shave about three seconds off that pace (I can) and can sustain it up and down the hills (less certain) I'd finish in under two hours, which seemed inconceivable not long ago.

Ten months ago, my 2010 stretch goal was to finish a 10k not in last place. I'm still slower than just about every runner I know, but I'm very pleased with the progress I've made. I know I'm racing the calendar. It is likely that my lifetime PRs will happen before long. But I'm really enjoying the improvement while it lasts.

16 October 2010

Hicks and Gillette

In May of 2007, I sat in a pub in Birmingham with three American colleagues enjoying Liverpool v Chelsea in a Champions League semi-final. The BBC was there with cameras; they had already interviewed a Liverpool fan and were looking for a Chelsea supporter when someone pointed out that I was an American Liverpool fan and they felt it was worth a couple of minutes of videotape. I'm pretty sure they didn't use my footage. I was asked whether the then new American owners appreciated the passion and tradition of Liverpool. I answered honestly that I did not. I said that unfortunately, I believed they believed they had bought a "franchise".

Sadly, I was spot on.

Hicks has shown himself to view clubs as an asset to be exploited. He intentionally put the Texas Rangers (baseball ) into administration in an attempt to block what he considered to be an unfavorable sale. In what appears to be a pattern, a higher authority (the commissioner of baseball in this case) had to step in to force the sale. One can assume that when he divests the Dallas Stars (hockey) there will be litigation.

In the end, I think H&G can be judged to be strangely both cynical and naive. I believe they were masterfully manipulated by Benitez, who knew that he was immensely more popular that the Americans. Benitez whined about funds while spending pretty freely. He had one great buy under the Americans, but Torres must be weighed against Lucas, Babel, Aquilani, Riera, Keane, and Dossena.

H&G believed they would have no trouble getting financing for a new stadium (something that it does make sense to borrow to fund). As it turned out, the global economy went off the rails, and banks became reluctant to make the highly leveraged loans that Hicks used to made his fortune. A bigger stadium, with luxury boxes, high ticket prices, and a capacity to rival Old Trafford or the Emirates might have boosted the clubs value and revenue to make their tenure viable. Instead, their relationship with supporters deteriorated to the point that physical violence seemed inevitable.

In the end, the same banking crisis that thwarted their stadium plans spelled the end to their tenure. RBS, mostly owned by the government, must have winced every time their name was mentioned in association with the loans. The uncertainty meant no other banks wanted to replace RBS, and finally RBS forced the Americans' hands. Plenty has been written about Broughton's work; I won't repeat those events here.

Good riddance to Gillette and Hicks. I doubt the new owners will be as good as I think Liverpool supporters deserve, but they certainly won't be as awful as their predecessors. Now here's hoping that success in the boardroom and courthouse translates to success at Goodison tomorrow.

12 October 2010

The Trial of Miles; Miles of Trials

I finished 1281/2864 overall, 761/1252 among men, and 94/147 in my age group. My time was 2:06:39 and my 10k split was 57:55. Had I maintained that pace, I'd have finished in 2:02:06, but the hills between 9 and 11 were brutal.

Once again, I did better against men in general than I did against my fellow geezers. To get to the 50th percentile among men would have taken 2:00:41 but in my age group it only would have taken 2:01:57. It's do-able, but it'll take hard work.

For the next 18 weeks my focus is on one race. I'll run a couple of others in the interim, but I don't plan to do any speed work; it's all about the miles.

02 October 2010

Painful

As I write this in October, Liverpool is in the relegation zone. Inconceivable.

They're not going down (even if Hicks's last gift to the club is a nine point deduction), but sheesh.

I Think I'm Ready


Left to right (more or less): gear bag, car key, driver's license, gels, recovery drink mix, bottle, dry shirt, gear belt, phone, water proof phone case, shoes, shirt, shorts, towel for car seat, face towel, bib, socks, cap.

A lot of this stuff will stay at the gear check; the only extra items coming with me will be the belt and phone and maybe the cap. The only reason for the belt is to carry the phone; the only reason for the phone is for an app that will track my run. If you're awake (race starts at 7AM EDT), you should be able to see my progress live at RunKeeper. Since I'll have the phone and I plan to run/walk, I may take some pictures on the course. I have mixed feelings about the cap, which I think looks dorky but would help keep sweat out of my eyes.

A few things about the bib: In all of the other timed races I've run, the chip was on a mylar covered strip that you'd loop through your shoelaces, but for this race the chip is actually meant to remain attached to the bib. Trevor observed that my bib number missed being 1337 by only two. The bib designates my starting corral (presumably by color, which is a little more maroon than appears in the photo), but I don't know which one. I'd have given my only other time at this distance of 2:19, which means I will be toward the rear, if not in the "open" group with the walkers.

My goal is 2:11. I've been training since the Peachtree and have run a little over 190 miles in that time, plus about 110 "miles" on a stationary bike.

26 September 2010

Ulysses

For little more reason than that it was free, I downloaded an eBook of Ulysses to my iPad. Not for the first time, I am finding accessible a book which had been impenetrable when it had previously been a school assignment. I understand why it was considered controversial, in its time it must have been quite subversive. To be honest, many, if they could be bothered to interrupt their vacuous lives long enough to read it, would find it offensive today.

Anyway, good stuff, though sometimes difficult.

20 September 2010

Sir Alex

I can't help but respect his accomplishments, but for Ferguson to accuse Torres of cheating beggars the imagination. O'Shea easily could have been sent off, and Nani spent the entire match flailing theatrically to the ground.

Manchester United deserved the win; Liverpool didn't even show up until half time, and showed precious little creativity even then. Berbatov's first and third goal were aided by poor marking, but the second was spectacular.

Still, Ferguson's ability to ignore facts when it suits him is unbecoming.

PS - Carragher seems to be lining up another three year contract; it is hard for me to imagine that sentimentality aside he will be good enough to deserve even a spot on the bench in three years. Never fast, he is slowing. He shouldn't be an automatic selection any more.

16 September 2010

Heisman

The NCAA, especially when it comes to men's football, is a bunch of sanctimonious hypocrites. Old, rich, white men out of touch with reality.

Reggie Bush was the best college player in 2005. If the NCAA rule he broke had given him some unfair advantage, I could see removing the award, but no one is claiming that. These young men deserve to be paid as the entertainers they are (spare me the "student athlete" rhetoric). They generate billions of dollars and can't accept pocket money.

O.J. Simpson and Billy Cannon both have retained their Heisman Trophy. Human cesspools like Jerramy Stevens slime their way through college and the NFL.

The truth is that the Heisman Trophy is a joke in my mind. Like the Pro Bowl, it's mostly a popularity contest. Gino Toretta? Charlie Ward? Danny Wuerffel? Chris Weinke?

Give me a break.

31 August 2010

Why We're Screwed

The Republicans plan to campaign this fall against the economy. Even if they agreed with Democratic proposals to help the economy, it is in their best interest to delay, dilute, or prevent any palliative action. Disclaimer: if the party positions were reversed the results would be identical.

Even among economists, there is not unanimity about the right course, but it wouldn't matter if there were because partisanship would doom it.

Examining their actions, I have come to the conclusion that members of congress use the following prioritization: self, party, personal ideology, constituency, nation. Pretty much backwards.

The truth is that the bank bailouts were almost certainly necessary (if you think the economy is bad now, imagine it on top of a banking system collapse). The stimulus spending was about half of what most economists thought appropriate, but further stimulus spending is effectively impossible.

Regardless of political policy, the economy was going to suck for years. And it will for several more. The health care was, I believe, well intended, but I don't think it solved the systemic problem.

Oh, and I've read a headline that says one out of five Americans, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, believe that Obama is a Muslim. What are the chances that they're only irrational about that one question?

30 August 2010

26 August 2010

Europa League in Turkey

Hodgson is clearly not prioritizing this match ahead of the League.
Liverpool (from): Reina, Johnson, Kelly, Skrtel, Carragher, Kyrgiakos, Aurelio, Cole, Spearing, Poulsen, Lucas, Pacheco, Shelvey, Babel, Kuyt, Ngog, Eccleston, Gulacsi, Hansen.

My prediction:
Reina
Johnson Carragher Skrtel Aurelio
Lucas Poulsen
Kuyt Cole Babel
Ngog

1-1, Liverpool advance.

24 August 2010

Death Panels

This is what was excoriated as "death panels". How did my father's party become so hateful and cynical?

MCFC 3-0 LFC

Given the recent history between the two clubs, I should look at this really at no more than one point lost. Still, all of the concerns that my hope had tried to plaster over were there to be seen. Hodgson chose a 4-4-2 formation and while it is considered by many a classic, it is also out of favor. With Cole missing to suspension and Mascherano to petulance, Hodgson had no choice but to field a squad that was not the best XI. Torres, when fit, has been Liverpool's best player. Unfortunately, he did not look match fit yesterday. There was no understanding between him and Ngog. Agger is a poor substitute for a proper left back. As out of sync as Manchester City had looked against Tottenham last week, they had no trouble finding space in Liverpool's defense. City controlled the midfield as well. There are still thirty-six matches to be played, but it is difficult to be encouraged at the moment.

This doesn't make me feel any better, either.

23 August 2010

Skype thoughts

We just had a Skype video call with our son after his first day at college. Skype is really cool, but there's a little window that shows the image that's being sent to the other person. In that image I look older, skinnier, and balder than I prefer to think that I am. Also, my nose is huge and my glasses are tilted funny.

Manufacturing Jobs

Lately there has been a lot of rhetoric flying around about how we need to "get tough" with China to prevent more manufacturing jobs moving there. The graph in this article suggests that the decline of American manufacturing jobs has been going on consistently since the end of WWII. Worth a read if you have any interest in Econ (it's short).

14 August 2010

THFC 0-0 MCFC

The visitors were second best and fortunate to come away with a point. Tevez, Hart, and Johnson played well, but for all the money spent, the team didn't look like title contenders.

I am going to try to watch more neutral matches this year.

13 August 2010

User Interfaces

I managed to lose my American Express card last week in Orlando. The card has been replaced with a new card number. Unfortunately, I used the old card for automated billing. I've had to log in to about 15 different web sites to change the card number.

About halfway through, I noticed that this would have been an interesting opportunity to survey the different policies on collecting my credit card information. Some wanted my full address, some just wanted my zip code, and some didn't ask for any of that. Several collected the CVV which according to PCI DSS they're not supposed to store. Ever.

The last one I did was XM radio. As you'd expect, the navigation to the form for changing the card differed by site, some better designed than others. For the XM site, the link is labeled "Change your Contact and Billing Information". From there, you can change the contact information directly, and there's also an edit link in the middle of the page (between the contact info and the billing info). At the bottom there's a button that says "update". I clicked on it, and it said something like "You havent' changed anything, do you want to update anyway?". I clicked on OK and it took me back to the main screen. Having failed at my assignment, I tried again and clicked on the billing information link, and got a pop-up that said "We are in the process of updating your account. Certain features will be inaccessible for the next 10 minutes. We apologize for any inconvenience that this may cause."

Ten minutes between updates? How are they connecting to the database, carrier pigeon? punch card? smoke signals? Hey XM, the internet from 1994 called, they want their screen scraping technology back. And it's called "usability"; you should look into it.

Poseurs.



I am such a geek.

27 July 2010

On Death

Dad spent his last month hoping for the success of treatments that were, in retrospect, nearly certain to fail. He died early one Tuesday morning in a hospital room with my mother at his side. I don't believe that any of the treatments from the time his cancer was diagnosed lengthened his life at all, and I am certain they lowered the quality of life in those those weeks. I regret the decisions we made because we were not prepared to make them. What some excoriate as "death panels" are actually frank conversations about choices. Choices we are all likely to face, whether we are ready or not.

This New Yorker article is particularly good, covering some of the issues we struggled with as my father died of cancer as well as in the years since. I read it with tears in my eyes. It's fairly long and parts are not easy reading, but it's important. You and everyone you love is going to die, ready or not. Don't squander those last moments.

Facebook

If you are reading this, it is nearly certain that you already know I'm on Facebook now. I'm still figuring out what goes where, but for the most part, I think I'll put thoughtful/lengthy stuff here and mundane/frivolous stuff there.

19 July 2010

Hope Springs Eternal


I am looking forward to this season. Liverpool won't compete for the title, but they still have the quality to enter every match with a legitimate chance at three points, and I would honestly be quite happy with 38 entertaining league matches (and a Champions League spot)

Summers are usually intolerable, but not this year thanks to the World Cup. Still, the doldrums have set in and I have little more than outrageous transfer rumors to entertain me.

Losing Benayoun was a blow; I like having creative players in the side. That said, I think Joe Cole is an upgrade (and English). Jovanovic will not make anyone forget Rush or Dalglish, but he is nonetheless clearly our second best striker. Now we need a left back. And some cover at fullback. And maybe another good winger. And...

I also think Carragher is soon to be (if not already) a problem. The Anfield faithful are loyal to a fault; their love for players like Carra is unconditional. Carragher is still serviceable, but no longer at the top of the game. At the World Cup his lack of pace was exposed, and at 32 he is likely in inexorable decline. Though Rafa was rightly called to task for his dedication to a rotation policy a few years back, I think Carragher should no longer be an automatic selection for every match. Of course on the other hand, I thought Hyypia was done a year ago, and he managed to start all but two matches last year for Bayer Leverkusen.

16 July 2010

Last One, I Promise


I've been accused of overdoing it, but indulge me one last time as this image is better than the cell phone photo originally posted.

13 July 2010

Welcome

This because we had a petty theft in the office. The video equipment cost several times the theft loss.

12 July 2010

Finals

Dutch accusations of favoritism by Webb ring hollow given that de Jong should have been shown a straight red for his karate kick to Alonso's chest. The Dutch tactics in the middle of the first half were effective, but ugly and cynical; whatever sympathy I might have had for the Oranje evaporated from that point.

By every measure, Spain deserved the win.

There is ongoing discussion of introducing technology to officiating, but I think simply stationing two more assistants (as was done in the Europa League) could avoid the most egregious errors. In American football, video replays take about three minutes to resolve, so I'd rather not see it in soccer.

11 July 2010

30 = XLIV

One of the guys in my high school class is director of communications for the New Orleans Saints. He brought the Lombardi trophy to our reunion, which is how I came to have this photo taken.

08 July 2010

Next Up

I'm registered for a half marathon that will run on October 3rd; training starts next week.

I'm giving serious thought to running the New Orleans Mardi Gras Marathon (part of the Rock and Roll marathon series) on February 13; the 18 week training schedule I've picked out would start the week after the half and calls for running 434 miles. At a 10 minute pace, that's 72 hours of running. Strangely, 72 hours doesn't sound as scary to me as 434 miles.

26 miles in one race is still hard to comprehend. On the other hand, six months ago my goal for the whole year was just to run a 10k, and now I've run three of them plus a half marathon to boot and the year is just half over.

Race Pictures

Both came out reasonably well. I might actually buy one for a change.

Philosophy

I earned a fair number of philosophy credits in college, but I wasn't necessarily happy about it.

I enjoyed this article more than any of those assigned readings (none of which, I am confident, used the expression "hard-ass").

06 July 2010

Why is that?

(I started this entry a week ago; Sunday's euphoria hasn't worn off so there has been respite for the last couple of days)

Left unchecked, my inner monologue consists of pretty harsh self assessment. Sometimes, I give these thoughts voice; afterward, I usually see that I was (subconsciously) fishing for affirmation from others.

But there's nobody else inside my head to object to the litany of self-abuse. So why do I keep cataloging my inadequacies (real and imagined)?

04 July 2010

A Great Race

First of all, the logistics of organizing a race with 55,000 entrants is pretty daunting. The Peachtree Road Race has been running for over forty years, so obviously they've had lots of opportunities to learn from past mistakes. As a friend said before the race, this is the best run race he's seen, and I'd say the same. Each starting wave has around 2,500 runners, so it's not so much one race with 55,000 runners as 23 races starting 3-4 minutes apart. Placement in the early waves requires a verified time, so I didn't have to dodge walkers for the first mile (which was not the case in May's 5k).

The weather was as good as you could reasonably hope for a race held in Atlanta in early July. A bank sign along the way said the temperature was 21/70; probably about right. Most of the time we were running in shade. Just as importantly we have had some recent relief from the humidity. Between the third and fourth mile marker the course is uphill, but another friend pointed out that, having just run three miles on a gentle downhill, you actually feel pretty fresh. When I finished that hill I was pretty confident about the remainder.

I had my phone keeping time in a belt pack so I didn't wear a watch. As a result, I didn't know what my pace was until after the race. I felt really good through the whole race (the entire course is lined with cheering spectators, with lots of live bands along the way as well). Unlike the Possum Trot a couple of weeks ago, I had no trouble breathing. At the end of the race, I honestly felt like I could run another six miles. Before the race I didn't expect a PR, but I posted one; I took over five minutes off my best 10k time, which now stands at fifty six minutes and change. Needless to say, I'm very pleased.

One hour before

Sent from my iPhone

28 June 2010

On Championships

Thirty two teams qualified to compete in South Africa. Half of those, including Italy and France, were sent home after three matches. Of the sixteen survivors, all but one will go home with something to regret.

A championship is the product of talent and hard work and not a little luck.

27 June 2010

Tournaments Part 2

I entered the FIFA "Power Index" for the 16 teams advancing out of the group stages and used those to run the simulation. The differences in the power index clearly don't accurately represent the relative differences between teams; it is absurd to think that the US would win the World cup 5.9% of the time. It's chances are (er, were) non-zero, but closer to 0.59% than to 5.9%.

Obviously, we know some of the results, but that doesn't necessarily mean if you could re-contest the matches that the results would be the same. Unfortunately, I failed to grab the betting lines before the start of the matches; that would have been instructive. Rather than fiddle with the FIFA ratings, I'll probably just make up values until the tournament results seem reasonable to me. But not right away; after watching the two teams I know best go out in succession, I want to take a break from football.

Uruguay7047
SKorea5728
USA5914
Ghana5172
Holland7484
Slovakia4127
Brazil7392
Chile6335
Argentina7043
Mexico5905
Germany6404
England6737
Paraguay5870
Japan4821
Spain7300
Portugal6721


For what it's worth, here are the values I had used:
Uruguay,840
SKorea,777
USA,771
Ghana,729
Holland,859
Slovakia,674
Brazil,877
Chile,823
Argentina,866
Mexico,807
Germany,831
England,849
Paraguay,776
Japan,720
Spain,870
Portugal,844

Tournaments (Very Wonkish)

I wrote a simulation of a tournament consisting of sixteen participants.

In the first simulation, each team was assigned a probability of winning 50% of its matches against any of the other teams. I ran 100,000 tournaments; you'd expect each team to win the tournament about 6,250 times, and that's what happened:
[6180, 6179, 6101, 6361, 6163, 6289, 6270, 6259, 6248, 6170, 6278, 6274, 6372, 6282, 6331, 6243]

In the second simulation, the first team was assigned a probability of winning 67% of its matches against any of the other teams. I was too lazy to do the math, but it turns out that the favorite wins the tournament about three times as often as if it were on even footing, with those extra wins taken from the other teams according to how early in the tournament their paths cross.
[19611, 4193, 4883, 4920, 5144, 5345, 5408, 5195, 5641, 5755, 5637, 5578, 5707, 5521, 5718, 5744]

Even though there was one team twice as good as any other team in the tournament, it still won the tournament less than 20% of the time. Even the unlucky team to meet the favorite in the first round (and thus eliminated immediately two-thirds of the time) still manages to win the tournament 4% of the time (compared to 6.25% when all are even).

I increased the favorite to being 75% to win, and it still wins the tournament less than one-third of the time.
[31696, 3135, 3869, 3884, 4560, 4511, 4435, 4442, 5002, 4847, 4953, 4878, 5013, 4907, 4914, 4954]

These models would be fairly simple to calculate instead of using a simulation, but I'm planning a follow up. My point here is that while elimination tournaments excel at producing a champion, they're not completely reliable at identifying the "best" team (if there even is such a thing; though certainly there is often a team that is best on the day).

As an aside, this is one of the reasons that I don't care that there is not a Division I NCAA Football Playoff.

25 June 2010

Three Lions

England strangely expects at once the best and worst from their team.

Equally strangely, they often get both.

I am happy that both teams advanced; I will cheer on both teams as long as they remain alive.

20 June 2010

Bra 2-0 Civ

Early in the second half from the crown room. Univision (commentary in Spanish). I can't tell what they're saying but that was a flagrant
handball.

Group C Table (revised)

But for three blunders, the table might instead look like this:
--- G W D L S A GD P
Eng 2 1 1 0 1 0 +1 4
USA 2 1 0 1 3 3 +0 3
Alg 2 0 2 0 0 0 +0 2
Svn 2 0 1 1 2 3 -1 1
By the way, has any team ever imploded the way France appears to be?

Ready for camp

Sent from my iPhone

19 June 2010

Goofy Grin

Self portrait after today's race. The bad news is that my stamina is woeful. I walked a lot after mile four. The good news is that I posted a PR by about a minute in spite of that (1:02:26 by my watch).

I am flying to England tomorrow, so training may not happen for a few days. I'll bring shoes and hope for the best.

18 June 2010

SLV 2-2 USA

I won't talk about the disallowed goal. Great spirit to fight back from down two goals, and if we can win on Wednesday we advance. Given that our country outnumbers Slovenia by a ratio of something like 155 to 1, our per capita football quality is shameful. Anyway, a loss would've been a little harsh on Slovenia after their first half. Which brings me to...

I have generally defended Bob Bradley. Most of the criticism I have heard doesn't ring true. For the most part, I think he has selected the best of the available squads, and the charges of nepotism are preposterous. His son is unequivocally the best American central midfielder; it's not even close.

But too often we concede an early goal. I'm glad that the team has often shown the confidence to fight back, but at some point, I think Bradley should have to answer the question. What is it about our nerves or tactics that leads to us looking up at 0-1 at the thirty minute mark of so many matches? Maybe we're starting too aggressively. Or too tentatively. Or maybe it's just bad luck, but that last explanation seems less and less likely as the evidence mounts. Or as my confirmation bias cherry-picks the results to convince me that I'm right.

17 June 2010

Global Warming

It is astonishing how many people still deny that the planet is getting warmer. Then there are some who claim that while, sure, if you go by "facts" it is warmer, but there's no proof that humans are responsible.

Fiddling while Rome burns.

16 June 2010

Foolishness

I hadn't been paying attention to the calendar and recently noticed that there is a 10k in Roswell this weekend. I haven't been training very hard, but it's supposed to be a flat race (and the hills in my neighborhood kicked my butt this weekend). It'll probably be a pretty small event, and it's a much shorter drive than the other races I've entered.

I don't think I'll improve on my time from April, but it's not much longer than the training run I was planning for this weekend. Hopefully I won't hurt myself.

14 June 2010

Blame (again)

Mark Mykleby, whose letter is reproduced in this Thomas Friedman article (and also below) hit the nail on the head.

I’d like to join in on the blame game that has come to define our national approach to the ongoing environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. This isn’t BP’s or Transocean’s fault. It’s not the government’s fault. It’s my fault. I’m the one to blame and I’m sorry. It’s my fault because I haven’t digested the world’s in-your-face hints that maybe I ought to think about the future and change the unsustainable way I live my life. If the geopolitical, economic, and technological shifts of the 1990s didn’t do it; if the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 didn’t do it; if the current economic crisis didn’t do it; perhaps this oil spill will be the catalyst for me, as a citizen, to wean myself off of my petroleum-based lifestyle. ‘Citizen’ is the key word. It’s what we do as individuals that count. For those on the left, government regulation will not solve this problem. Government’s role should be to create an environment of opportunity that taps into the innovation and entrepreneurialism that define us as Americans. For those on the right, if you want less government and taxes, then decide what you’ll give up and what you’ll contribute. Here’s the bottom line: If we want to end our oil addiction, we, as citizens, need to pony up: bike to work, plant a garden, do something. So again, the oil spill is my fault. I’m sorry. I haven’t done my part. Now I have to convince my wife to give up her S.U.V.
--Mark Mykleby

13 June 2010

Cheap Gas

Good article on why gas is too cheap. I like paying as little as possible as much as the next guy, but while it's politically impossible, significantly raising gas prices is the right thing to do. This is where democracy fails.

12 June 2010

Glen Beck Hates Soccer

(link)
Not surprising, really. His job is to provoke, so he takes extreme stances regularly. He seems threatened by the success of anything that didn't originate on these shores. His position is absurd, and factually incorrect, but he should be used to that by now.

He is not alone. He never is; he is a populist after all. Regularly I find comments in soccer articles where the commenter feels obliged to share with the world their disdain for the beautiful game. The article will be about something specific, but the comment will be something along the lines of "Soccer is stupid and so is anyone who watches it." Why do they bother to comment about it? I think because of this same xenophobic distaste for other cultures (except, of course, when they copy us).

Anyway, I'm delighted to add soccer to the list of things that Mr. Beck and I disagree about. He is a fool.

11 June 2010

World Cup

I started following footie four years ago. With the World Cup in Germany, the US matches could coincide with a late (and long) lunch. With all of two goals scored in three matches, it was a poor result from a difficult group: Italy, Ghana, Czech Republic, and USA. Still, the excitement was infectious, and watching the matches with knowledgeable friends helped. Since then, I chose a club to follow and have watched most of the televised US matches.

There are a handful of sporting events which combine spectacle with compelling entertainment. March Madness is probably the best domestic event. The Super Bowl always delivers spectacle, but often a poor game. Not this year, of course. The NBA, NHL, and MLB championships are all decided in a best of seven series; any individual result is not that important. College football has a bizarre bowl format about which the less said the better.

Cricket, rugby, and ice hockey, have devout followers, but only in some countries. Basketball has grown in stature, but the NBA overshadows, eclipses really, all other domestic leagues, which diminishes the sport. Tennis has the Grand Slam, Golf has the "Majors", but these are individual sports (and there are four championships per year). The Olympics are infrequent, spectacular, and offer compelling competitions, but there are many sports competing for attention.

None of these, I think, compares to the World Cup. Most of the best players are usually represented. Unfortunately, circumstances and disposition have excluded some brilliant players (Giggs, Rush, Schuster, Best, Di Stéfano, Cantona). The finals can disappoint, but for the next 30 days there will be plenty of spectacle and as much football as a person can handle.

07 June 2010

Facebook

For a couple of reasons, i've never set up a Facebook account. Lately, though I've been getting invitations from complete strangers. At first, I assumed that these were phishing scams, but I opened one this morning, and I'm pretty sure that they're really from Facebook. Strange.

04 June 2010

Running, June edition


The Peachtree is just four weeks away and I'm not ready. I've made the conscious decision not to try to post a PR in this race. Between the crowd, the course and the weather, I would probably struggle to post a good time even if I trained hard. So I'm not going to try. I'm in wave F, which starts 25 minutes after the seeded racers: the invited runners will be finishing around the time I cross the starting line. I've started to increase my runs so that at least I'll be able to finish, hopefully around the same time the last wave (X) starts.

Since I've found training motivation easier when I'm worried about a race, I've registered for the Atlanta 13.1. From the descriptions it appears to be a heavily produced event, which I'm not sure I'm crazy about. Also, it's a few weeks earlier than I'd like, so I'll have to start serious training before the weather cools off, but I like having a scary challenge (and halfs still qualify as scary to me) in the not too distant future.

03 June 2010

Crimes Against Cocktails

Last week in Prague we found our way to the James Joyce Pub, formerly Molly Malone's. While it pretty much looked like a regular sort of pub, there were a few troubling notes.

One, the music was pop music from YouTube videos streamed through a laptop. The sound quality was poor, and the selections seemed to be being made by a patron well in his cups.

Two, there was a somewhat disturbing painting on the wall, which I failed to record. Just take my word for it. Not "keep you up at night" disturbing, but a little creepy nonetheless.

Three, as part of some inexplicable Louisiana celebration, there were drink specials. Full marks for listing the Hurricane, which is the signature abomination drink at Pat O'Brien's. There's no vodka in a properly prepared Hurricane, but I guess you could put some in if the normal recipe were somehow not alcoholic enough for you. As I've written previously about the Sazerac, you might have noticed that this cocktail contains neither whiskey nor Campari. Absinthe abounds in Prague and yet they couldn't spare any for their Sazeracs? Finally, the French 75 is not a particularly New Orleans or Louisiana drink, though it is a pretty good one and it does have "French" in the name.

As for the pub: Three of us had Guinness; Elmar ordered a glass of red wine that he found so unpleasant that he left it on the bar essentially untouched. For the second (and final) round of almost-pints (0.4l), Elmar had a Guinness, too. The room in the back is non-smoking; it might not be a bad place for fish and chips.

Another Departure

Adios Rafa. I have mixed feelings. His man management was awful, and many of his buys were poor. On the other hand, he had Liverpool punching above their weight in Europe in four of his six seasons. He was loved for Istanbul, but the truth is that Liverpool were ten minutes from not even advancing out of the group stage that year. They got past Chelsea on a disputed goal. His other silverware came a year later in the FA cup, again from a penalty shootout and only after Gerrard put in a stoppage time goal to take the game into extra time. Some of his buys were good but too many were rubbish.

If it weren't for some luck, Steven Gerrard, and hated American owners, Merseyside would have lost patience with him a long time ago. In spite of all of that and even though he's left the team in a mess most of which was his own doing, I still don't dislike him. I only hope that Dalglish and Purslow can find a replacement who is an improvement.

Retiring

In a fantasy baseball league a long time ago, I traded Yankee first baseman and recent MVP Don Mattingly for a rookie and a draft pick. In '85 and '86, Mattingly was one of the best hitters in the game, and though '87 wasn't as good a year, it was still solid: he hit .327 (5th in the AL) and was 7th in the league in both On Base Average and Slugging Percentage. Working in my favor was the fact that he was also known for things that aren't so important in fantasy baseball: winning an MVP, defense and avoiding strikeouts; his reputation was better than his value. In any event, he was a good player, certainly worthy of a early round fantasy pick, and I traded him for a guy who (and I am not certain of the timing) may not have actually played a major league game yet. Even on the day, though, I knew I got the better of the trade.

Yesterday, that rookie retired (though to be honest, it was probably five years after he stopped being an above average player). Plenty is being written and said about Griffey, who was an outstanding player, but for twenty years, whenever his name has come up I've thought about the best trade I ever made.

02 June 2010

World Cup

Giuseppe Rossi was left off the Italian World Cup squad. Born in New Jersey to Italian immigrant parents, Rossi qualified to play for either the US or Italy. He chose the Azzurri, and he featured in last year's Confederation Cup squad (scoring twice against the US). Had he chosen differently, Rossi would be an automatic starter for the US; instead he missed making the 23 man squad for Italy. Italy, while defending champions, are not considered favorites to win the tournament (personally, I have $20 in Vegas on England).

The US is ranked 14th by FIFA, and that might be about right, but we are a long, long way from being a top team: Beyond Howard and Donovan, I'm not sure any other member of the American squad would merit consideration for the English team.

01 June 2010

Blame

There is a widely held belief that BP is to blame for the Gulf oil spill. To be sure, it happened on their watch, but this spill will cost BP far, far more than they could have ever hoped to earn in profit from the platform. All of the oil companies hire the same kinds of managers and engineers and marketers. They have the same kinds of standards and practices. They use the same techniques and suppliers. It happened to BP, but it could have just as easily been Shell or Exxon.

Nine years ago, it was Bin Laden's fault. Five years ago, it was the Army Corp of Engineers.

Our culture is desperate to blame somebody, because the alternative is much harder to swallow. That we are all responsible. That we can mortgage our countries future to pay for Medicare and Social Security (rather than spending on bridges and levees). That we can postpone indefinitely the inconvenience of weaning ourselves off big cars and relatively cheap foreign oil. That a price of success might be resentment. That a policy of extending sovereignty might alienate allies and embolden enemies.

We want someone (else) to blame, so we can resume our blithe ignorance.

I am reminded of Cassius: "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, / But in ourselves..."

Even though I'm American, I do know that in context the quote means something else; consider it blogger's license.

30 May 2010

Some Reviews

"The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" (Cinema) - Stieg Larsson named his first novel "Men Who Hate Women". Apparently, the publishers felt that was a little too unfriendly. We saw the Swedish adaptation today, and even at two and a half hours, plenty was removed. Still, it was a pretty faithful adaptation. The book, of course, is better. If you haven't read the Millenium trilogy yet, by all means do. An American film is being made, I predict it will make poor Mr Larsson spin in his grave. I doubt I'll see it.

"The Damned United" (iPad Kindle reader) The first is a fictional account of Brian Clough's brief tenure at Leeds United, and if you don't follow English football you are unlikely to enjoy it. I do and did. The Kindle iPad reader is not bad, but Apple's iReader is better

"City of Thieves" (paperback). Outstanding story of the siege of Leningrad. At once funny and tragic, it is captivating reading. Highly recommended.

"Sherlock Holmes" (blu-ray). Guy Ritchie made a new and worthwhile depiction of one of the most portrayed characters in movies. Two characters stand out especially: Robert Downey Jr's Holmes and Victorian London. Jude Law is good as Watson; to be honest everyone else is overshadowed. Entertaining and recommended.

26 May 2010

Moores Speaks Out

I have been following Liverpool football for only four years, so my knowledge of David Moores's stewardship of the club is second hand.

After reading his open letter, though, it is obvious he still cares deeply about the club. Gillett and Hicks will cash out (at a profit, no doubt), and it is unimaginable to think three years later they'll be writing open letters about the club. If they cared at all about the club, they'd be trying to find the best new owners, not the ones willing to pay most over the price.

I haven't read the details of UEFA's new policies, but they will hopefully be a step in the right direction.

16 May 2010

Hacked

One of my online accounts was hacked this weekend. It is almost certainly my fault. The account in question was for a game that I've put a great deal of time into, so while it's a big inconvenience, it could have been a lot worse. I have literally dozens of online accounts, each of which requires a user id and a password. Keeping them straight is a chore, and I fell into the bad habit of using the same user id and password for many accounts. The password in question was a six letter word, so it was vulnerable to dictionary attacks. Or possibly one of the many other sites where I used that user/password combination was compromised. None of them were financial accounts, but it has still turned out to be a major pain, because once a user id and password combination is compromised, all of the accounts that share those values are also compromised.

Since the compromise might have happened at one of those sites, it means I'm using a distinct password for each account. I've spent much of the weekend changing passwords. For many accounts, I'm changing to generated passwords that are nearly impossible to remember. Stuff like 7nRHLhd8#. Since I won't be able to remember them, I'm storing them in an encrypted file (actually, I'm using a password management application that stores them in an encrypted file).

The whole thing is a major pain in the neck.

09 May 2010

Misery's End

Liverpool's miserable football season has finally ended: bad luck and bad decisions, bad play and bad players, distractions and precious little of the beautiful game.

Bad luck - Injuries seemed especially problematic this season. Torres's battle with fitness is well documented, and Gerrard and Johnson missed games as well. But injuries to Aurelio and Insua, Skrtel and Agger took their toll as well. Last week, Liverpool was in the absurd position of playing Chelsea with three central defenders, four central midfielders, three wingers, no fullbacks, and no center forwards on the pitch. A volcano eruption just before an important match meant the team followed a bizarre itinerary to Madrid. A deflection off of a beach ball, for Pete's sake.

Bad decisions - So many, it hurts to catalog them. Player signings, giving Benitez a long term contract last season, Gillett and Hicks buying the club in the first place, negative tactics (poorly executed).

Bad Play - Gerrard has been mediocre this season. Not by his standards; judged that way he has been awful. There has been ample speculation of the cause which I leave to others, but whatever the reason, he has been no better than an average Premier League midfielder. Johnson has had numerous defensive lapses. Carragher had an extended run of mediocrity. Only Torres (when healthy) and Reina have been consistent throughout. Too many last minute lapses in concentration in cup competitions: Lyon (twice), Fiorentina, Reading, Atletico Madrid.

Bad Players - Dossena. Degen. Riera. Lucas. To be honest, these aren't necessarily bad players so much as simply not good enough. None would spend one single minute on the pitch for Manchester United. Babel and N'Gog might yet develop, but aren't now good enough to justify their time on the pitch.

Distractions - See bad decisions.

Benitez complains incessantly about his transfer budget, but regularly over pays. The jury might still be out on Johnson and Aquilani (though at around 20M each, both were over priced based on contribution this season). But there can be no argument about Dossena (7M), Babel (11.5), Keane(19) (and I won't go further back).

Last season, Liverpool finished with 86 points, four points behind the Mancs, and scored 77 goals while losing only two matches (one, ahem, to Boro). The losses of Arbeloa and Alonso were to be offset by Johnson and Aquilani. In retrospect, last year's results flattered the club.

Conversely, I believe that this year's disastrous results are causing an overestimation of Liverpool's fall. Liverpool will not challenge for the title next year, but there is still some quality in the squad; enough to challenge for a Champion's League spot. I assume that Benitez will be back, and that he'll field weakened squads for the Europa League and League Cup and face early elimination. Rafa will focus on the FA cup and the league.

Today's match was not broadcast here; I was spared a nil-nil draw against relegated Hull. A fitting end to a sorry season.

06 May 2010

Quite a relief

Dear Blaise,

Congratulations! We have a place for you in our incoming freshman class this fall...

05 May 2010

5 May

Today is Cinco de Mayo, which is when people outside Mexico celebrate Mexican heritage. Or beer and tequila. The holiday commemorates the Battle of Puebla, in which Mexico defeated Napoleon III's invading army. It is not Mexican Independence Day, which is 16 September.

Today is also Raegan's final exam for her last course in the spring semester. She has requested Margaritas to celebrate, and I am happy to comply.

I have been using this recipe but today I ran across this one, which seems much easier to make, though it may be a little more sour (both recipes can be found at my Drink Recipe page). Lemons are relatively expensive this time of year, so the latter recipe has a cost advantage as well. I plan to try a taste test of the two recipes tonight. I'll try to remember to post the results.

Speaking of stupid, redneck, homophobes

I think this guy might be the single most awful person in America.

03 May 2010

PR

Trevor and I ran a 5k Saturday. The good news is that I managed a personal record of 27:25. The bad news is that I did walk part of the last hill. The course was mostly downhill for the first two miles. I passed the mile markers at 8:10 and 16:30. Then the last mile is all uphill. I knew that I'd set a PR, and that made it hard to push as hard as i could on that hill. Trevor finished and was really excited. He really didn't train at all, but he's 16.

30 April 2010

Arrested Development

We didn't have a DVR when Arrested Development was aired, so I only saw it occasionally. But I've been streaming episodes from Netflix on my iPad and it every episode has a laugh out loud moment. Brilliant television.

27 April 2010

Long Lost Cocktail

Or maybe a long lost cocktail post. I've been off cocktails somewhat lately, but yesterday ran across an article at The Cocktail Chronicles that promises something of a holy grail of cocktail recipes: a drinkable Singapore Sling. I just need to pick up a little bottle of Cherry Heering.

Paul makes a good point: a lot of original/authentic cocktail recipes make for fairly nasty tasting drinks.

Oh, I made a Hurricane last weekend. I found it here, but the original is from New Orleanian Chuck Taggart. It might need a little tinkering, but it is a lot better than the stuff they serve at Pat O's.

25 April 2010

24 April 2010

iPad

After two false starts, I finally succeeded in buying an iPad yesterday. It'll be better when all the better iPhone apps are rewritten to take advantage of the bigger screen. It's good as a portable web browser. Also, I think it's going to be an excellent platform for watching videos; the streaming Netflix app is pretty cool and Hulu is allegedly working on one as well.

20 April 2010

Shoelace Knots

I learned how to tie my shoes during the Johnson administration, but it might be time to expand that horizon. Occasionally when I run, one of my shoelaces comes undone (typically the left).

Proof that you can find anything on the internet: http://www.fieggen.com/shoelace/knots.htm

16 April 2010

Auburn

Nice campus.

Sent from my iPhone

15 April 2010

Numbers

Yesterday I suggested to a colleague that one of her staff might not be, you know, doing his job, even though I have never met him or seen him work. I came to this conclusion based on an analysis of how many of his cases end up resolved in comparison with his peers. It is possible, of course, that the differences in their rates has another explanation. Even though I am armed with only two semesters of statistics (and that was "baby stats" according to one of my math professor friends), I should have been able to do better than "this number is a lot smaller than the other two".

09 April 2010

On Football Debt

Several clubs in the top English league have significant debt (Liverpool among them). Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness has said "If you build all of your success on debt, I think it is not OK.", and I think he's got that right. But Manchester United and Liverpool haven't built their success on debt. Quite to the contrary, they are taxing their success with debt (Real Madrid on the other hand...)

The Glazers and Gillett and Hicks bought their club with the expectation that the value of the club would appreciate and that they would sell it off at a profit at some time later. That's the general modus operandi in American team owners. Their decision was obviously strictly a business one: none those Americans had any history with soccer in general or the particular club, both storied clubs with deeply passionate followers.

In the context of financing an investment, borrowing is a common practice. But both saddled the club with the debt, and have used the operating proceeds of the club to service the debt. Again, if you don't actually care about football but are buying a club as an investment, that is a reasonable approach.

There is not an open market for sports clubs as there is in, say stocks or real estate, so we can't know what the fair market value would be for the clubs. I suspect that both owners have been caught in a (please pardon the expression) franchise bubble. I suspect both overpaid with the expectation that club values would keep going up at a ridiculous rate. The thing about asset pricing bubbles is that they can't grow forever.

They might have brought some marketing knowledge and even improved the clubs revenues somewhat, but of football knowledge or passion they brought exactly none. Neither club has seen a dramatic improvement on the pitch since their current owners took over, but that was never their intent.

I only follow Liverpool closely, and the contempt the Liverpudlians have for G&H is deep. Some of the claims are silly: Benitez may not have a bottomless reserve of cash for purchasing players, nor even one as deep as Chelsea or the Manchester clubs, but neither has he been bereft of funds. Every time he whines about spending, David Moyes must resist the urge to call Rafa and offer to swap budgets.

But here's where the American haters have got it right. They promised Liverpool a new stadium (one which, like the Emirates, would have brought a lot of debt) and couldn't deliver. They didn't have the cash (or didn't want to tie it up) to buy the club outright and so instead borrowed for it. They don't have the cash (or don't want to tie it up) to build the stadium, and now are unable to convince bankers to even lend them the money for it. They are unwilling to give up control except at an unconscionable profit.

Gillett and Hicks are bad for Liverpool and bad for football, but so are Abramovich and the Abu Dhabi United Group. Football clubs shouldn't be strictly investments, nor should they be expensive hobbies.

So here's what I'd do if I were in charge. Debt would be allowed to finance capital projects (like new stadiums), but otherwise not allowed. Player purchases and wage bills would be financed only through team operations. If anyone want to buy clubs as an investment, they need to take on the debt personally, rather than forcing it on the club. Dividends to owners would need to be managed (perhaps capped at some modest fixed percentage of turnover), as that could still be a mechanism for having the club finance the debt service. At the other end of the table, I'd want to prevent clubs from following Portsmouth's example, but one thing at a time...

08 April 2010

Pollen

We've just had a little welcome rain. Atlanta has a lot of trees and
this is the time of year when everything is covered in pollen.
Hopefully it will rain some more this afternoon and wash this stuff
away.

27 March 2010

Why I'm No Longer A Republican

First, they denied we needed health care reform at all. Now, they tell us we need to repeal the not-even-yet-enacted legislation and replace it with a Republican version. If health care is really not broken, why not simply repeal? And if it is broken, why did they refuse to participate in a bipartisan dialogue? I honestly don't believe the Democrats are any better, but to be honest, the Republicans are just embarrassing at this point.

Barry Goldwater is spinning like a lathe.

And don't even get me started on the tea party nonsense.

25 March 2010

More Tempering (but not temperance)

Runner's World has a training calculator that projects your time in a race based on a previous result. My December 5k finish projected a 10k time of 1:09:07; after two months of training I beat that by five and a half minutes. My actual 10k time of 1:03:23 projected to a half marathon time of 2:19:50, which was surprisingly accurate, but I only had three weeks of additional training. My actual time of 2:19:05 projects to a 5k time of 30:16. So maybe I shouldn't be too cocky about finishing under 30 minutes.

Also, I have registered for next year's ING Half. I could have registered for the full for only $7 more (you can still decide to run the half up until the split around mile seven), but if I ever do a full marathon (and I'm thinking late 2011), I think it will be somewhere flatter than Atlanta.

24 March 2010

More Running

But not just yet. Today will be the first time this year that I've gone three days in a row without running. I'm still a little sore, but have mostly recovered. I plan to run this 5k in May and to use an adapted version of this training schedule. I'm confident I can significantly improve on my PR (33:04), since I've subsequently run longer races at a faster pace than that. I will be disappointed if I don't finish in less than thirty minutes though my enthusiasm is tempered by the knowledge that I've never run a race in the heat.

Then nine weeks to get ready for the Peachtree (where I'll be in wave "F"; surprisingly near the front).

21 March 2010

ING Georgia Half Marathon

I ended up finishing the ING in 2:19, which is better than I honestly thought I could do (it's actually a slightly faster pace than my best 5k, though I've been training a lot harder since then). The last mile was murder; I don't know whether it was because I didn't train well enough or started too fast or some other reason, but it hurt. A lot.

I'm thinking of running a 5k in early May, which will mean I don't have to run as many miles for training and can do some speed work to improve my pace a little.

This afternoon I successfully registered for the Peachtree Circus Road Race I'm not sure how fast the 45,000 slots filled, but as I write this, the race is full and registration opened less than six hours ago. There are 10,000 more slots to be awarded by lots. The ING had about 15,000 entrants; I have a hard time imagining almost four times that many runners.

But I'm going to take a few days off first.

20 March 2010

6th

Sent from my iPhone

17 March 2010

Route


Bib # 17128

16 March 2010

A big week

Yesterday, we learned that Blaise was wait-listed by Ga Tech. It's not what we were hoping for, obviously, but it's not a disaster. As I understand it, the majority applicants are rejected outright, so at least he made the cut. We know people who were wait-listed and later made it in, and Blaise compares favorably to them (in terms of AP classes, GPA, and SAT scores). It means we'll have to proceed with matriculating at a different school (Auburn, most likely) and hope we hear better news in May.

Poker game tomorrow night, but that's no big deal.

Saturday is the Georgia high school championship fencing tournament. Blaise will be seeded somewhere around 5th before the pools. He could fence better than last year and still get a worse result. I worry that he expects to improve on the bronze medal he won last year. While he's capable of that, there are probably about ten other fencers with a legitimate chance for a medal; if the brackets break badly for him he could have to beat as many as three of them, which would be very difficult. You might not think so, but luck plays a significant role in who wins a head-to-head tournament. Trevor will be seeded, too, though probably somewhere in the 25-30 range.

Sunday is the ING Georgia Marathon, of which I will be running the "half" version. Well, mostly running; there will be some walking in there. The weather forecast doesn't look too bad; maybe not quite as cool as I'd like, but cloudy and 48 is better than sunny and 70.

13 March 2010

Census

We received a letter from the Census Bureau informing us that the Census form would be arriving in the next week. What struck me is that the Bureau's web address was not printed anywhere on the page. I know the government doesn't attract top marketing talent, but on a "get the word out" communication somebody should have thought to include the web.

The other thing that struck me is that in conversation, a couple of people have expressed mistrust of the Census process. But the Census questionnaire is unlikely to uncover anything about you that Citibank and Google and Amazon don't already know. Those companies (and others like them) stay awake at night trying to use that information to separate you from as much of your money as they possibly can. Our government is mostly inefficient and inept, but (with a handful of important exceptions) well-intended.

10 March 2010

Cheeky


I'm convinced that Norton's Anti-Virus has done more to slow computer performance than adware, spyware, etc. combined.

04 March 2010

03 March 2010

28 February 2010

Come On You Villa

Three hours of football today: Blackburn at Anfield, and Villa at Wembley against MUFC. Yea for DVRs.

Correction

The official results are in, my chip time was 1:03:23.37 (it took me 45 seconds after the gun to get to the starting line), which is a 10:13 pace. Interestingly, a greater proportion of 45-49 men finished ahead of me than men overall. I guess by the time you're my age, more of the casual runners have dropped out. I finished 101st out of 116 in my age group and 608th out of 705 men.

In any case, my main goal was to be fit enough to run the full race (check), and my optimistic goal was to finish in less than 1:06:00, which I beat by more than two minutes, so it was a huge success. I'm actually less sore today than I was after last week's training.

Next up: deciding whether I'm up to the ING Half in three weeks. It's a harder course and more than twice as long, so there's no chance I can run the whole thing. But I have several friends doing it; one is doing the whole enchilada. My 10k training is pretty well aligned with this schedule, so right now, I'm leaning to trying.

27 February 2010

Charles Harris 2010

This was my first 10k, so I wasn't certain what to expect. My unspoken goal was 1:06 (which is actually faster than the pace of my best 5k). Unfortunately, I forgot to start my stopwatch as I crossed the starting line, so I don't know my exact time, but it was under 1:04, so I'm really pleased. I was pretty discouraged by Sunday's training run, but I guess I just had a bad day.

Today's course is built for speed: the hills are mild and net downhill. The weather was cold, but not too windy. All in all, a good day.

[Edit: corrected time.]

25 February 2010

24 February 2010

Something New

Between the interwebz and globalization, I've found that retail products are depressingly homogeneous. Whether you go shopping online, or at the mall, or in Prague, it feels like pretty much the same stuff.

I'm not the biggest geek I know, but I'm probably several standard deviations from the mean (see what I did there?). My geek cred is shot, though, because I didn't know about this place. They have a "Zombies and Bacon" category. A wooden iPhone case. Something called an EvilTron. My wife complains that she never knows what to get me for presents.

Problem. Solved.

We Pretend We Are Zoroastrians

The Freakonomics blog recently posted an article which discussed a letter from a reader in which the reader stated that to avoid cultural pressures, they pretended to be Christians. This prompted a commenter posted the following:
I am so tired of the anti-Christian bigotry in the mainstream media, especially the liberal media like the NYT.

How do I know it’s bigotry? Because I know for a fact that the NYT would NEVER do a story entitled “We Pretend We Are Jews/Muslims/InsertAnotherReligionHere”.

What struck me is that this Christian actually feels persecuted. I can't imagine anyone in America *pretending* to be Muslim (unless it was a very curious form of masochism). Two of the (Christian) churches I pass on the way to work regularly proselytize on their matinee signs. Can you imagine if a mosque or temple did the same? Even in sleepy Norcross, it would certainly be vandalized.

I know Christians who share this misguided sense of persecution. I doubt they have really considered how difficult it can be to be Hindu or Jewish or Muslim or atheist in America.

Faith is a universal right, but a private one. I will defend your right to believe what you will, but please don't tell me about it or expect me to share it.

23 February 2010

Mini-Wine Tasting

We had a small group together last night. For the second time in a row, I brought a wine I'd had for a while (3-4 years) and it was corked. Now I'm worried that there's a problem with the way I'm storing the wine (in a dark part of the basement in wine racks, for the most part).

21 February 2010

MP3 Purchases

I just bought Louis Armstrong's Basin Street Blues and Flogging Molly's Swagger from Amazon. I doubt that those two often appear on the same receipt.

Sunday

MCFC 0-0 LFC - A great game if you like tackles, poor passes, and few threats on goal. The only consolation was that Benayoun and Torres were deemed fit enough to make late appearances.

10K Traning - My aunt in Houston asked, now that I'm a runner, will I run the Crescent City Classic? With the Saints having won the Super Bowl I'm sure there will be many men running in Buddy Diliberto-inspired dresses and the normally festive race will be even more so. I had planned to run six miles in the neighborhood today, but I had to stop and walk twice after five miles. In spite of eight weeks of training, I am worried that I will not be able to run the full course and could even finish last in my age group next week. That's not the sort of result likely to inspire me to travel to a race. I'm afraid I have a way to go before I'll consider myself a runner (and I'm sloooow to boot).

20 February 2010

Results

Trevor finished 7th and Blaise 3rd. Blaise's bout in the round of 8 was closely contested and left him exhausted; he had nothing left for the quarters.

Sent from my iPhone

Fencing

Today is the final regular season high school fencing tournament. We are at Roswell High and the experience has little to commend it.

Even though their faculty advisor is president of the league, they could only secure the auxiliary gym. This space is too small for the normal eight strips which means the tournament will take longer.

The snack bar (this is an all day undertaking and that's really the only option for lunch) is far removed and there is no seating area provided.

There is no space for the equipment, which means fencing bags clog the hallways. Most of the lights are out in the boys locker room, so answering the call happens in a dark and malodorous place.

Roswell's team also includes one of the least likable teenagers I've run across.

Our boys did OK in pools and enter the elimination rounds seeded 4th and 10th out of 31. I hope they do well, but I will be happy to get out of this place.

Sent from my iPhone

13 February 2010

Mardi Gras 2010

Lots of snow on the drive down, there were accumulations as far as 30 miles north of Mobile.

Game night was a little light - Walt is in Atlanta, Cyril is AWoL. Still Michael and Shanna, Elizabeth, Rick and Milli, and (new) Peter were there. It was great fun.

Ran a little over six miles in a little over an hour this morning. It was near ideal conditions: chilly and flat but it's still very encouraging. I'd be happy if I can run the race at that pace. The 10K is two weeks from today.

Raegan took the boys to see Tucks, and then off to buy (more) Saints stuff.

We are going to the French Quarter tonight with my sister and her husband. Endymion rolls tonight; Thoth and Bacchus are tomorrow. Drew Brees will reign as Bacchus; they expect the biggest crowd in this history of Mardi Gras. We'll be in that number.

09 February 2010

Project Euler Level 4

One of my 2010 goals was to achieve the next level in Project Euler. Today I solved my 150th problem, which qualifies me for Level 4 (Intermediate). I've mostly been cherry-picking easier problems, but that's getting harder and harder to do.

Saints Memories

The first team I remember supporting is the New Orleans Saints. I don't remember of course, but the Saints scored a touchdown on their very first play. They went on to lose the game, establishing a pattern of brief periods of new hope followed by years of relentless disappointment.

I was five in the Saints' inaugural season, and my father had season tickets. Since his father also had tickets, we spent those Sunday afternoons at my Mom's parents' house, with the game on the radio.

The week after original Saints coach Tom Fears was fired, Tom Dempsey won coach J.D. Roberts's first game. The team went 6-25-3 under Roberts after that.

Excitement about new quarterback Archie Manning, who won his first game against the Rams. The Saints went 34-101-3 with Manning after that.

Going to games with my Dad, parking in the uptown neighborhood around Claiborne and walking to Tulane stadium, with popcorn and cigarette stubs and peanut shells and empty beer cups littering the concrete stands.

The novelty of the just-opened Superdome, with brightly carpeted ramps and air conditioning and, until smoking was banned, the haze that filled the arena so that by the end of the game you couldn't see across the stadium in the upper deck.

Hank Stram, the first time the Saints hired a coach with previous head coaching experience (and success). Stram couldn't repeat his success and retired 7-21. After Stram: Nolan and Phillips generally raised the team from disastrous to mediocre. Mediocre might not sound like an upgrade, but it was a distinct improvement.

The Raiders game in 1979 when we raced to a big lead, only for Ken Stabler to stage a crushing comeback.

I was at the Dome for the last game in 1983, when we played the Rams and the winner would advance to the playoffs. When we took the lead late in the fourth quarter we danced in the stands, hugging strangers, only to watch in horror as the Rams drove down the field and won on a last second field goal.

The next year, racing to a big lead against the Cowboys, only for Stabler, by now washed-up and on the Saints, to have as many interceptions as completions and fumbled to boot. My friend Brian remains convinced that Stabler intentionally threw the game.

Jim Mora, coming over from the defunct USFL. Following the team from Connecticut without the benefit of the internet: the strike, "coulda, woulda, shoulda", Hebert's confidence, leaving New York early enough to see the first playoff game, only for the Vikings to embarrass the Saints in the Dome in the playoffs. Missing the playoffs at 10-6 the following season.

Under Mora, the Saints were pretty consistently competitive: four playoff appearances in ten seasons. But the team plateaued, especially after GM Jim Finks died of cancer. Fans and announcers (*cough* Diliberto *cough*) who had suffered through the lousy teams of the 70's and the mediocre teams of the early 80's were now indignant over the lack of playoff success.

Exit Mora and enter Ditka, but without Buddy Ryan. Ditka took over a team that had just gone 3-13. After two consecutive 6-11 seasons he was fired as his third season was on its way to 3-13.

With Haslett, the team not only made the playoffs, but notched its first playoff win (we were there for that one). After that, he managed to get us back to competitive, but that came to an end on August 29th 2005. Between disasters, the coach was also rumored to have been indiscreet with a Saintsation. Whatever the truth, his tenure ended.

07 February 2010

SB44

In the background, Bourbon st going nuts. In the foreground, one of my Dad's socks. I wore them tonight so that he could be with me for our Super Bowl experience. He was an original season ticket holder; one of the first games he took me to was a 62-7 loss to Atlanta. He would be so happy tonight.

Laissez les bon temps roulez!

Sent from my iPhone

06 February 2010

LFC 1-O EFC

The Merseyside derby went old school with lots of hard challenges. Kyrgiakos was sent off for a play in which his own injury required stitches. Mascherano, Pienaar, and Fellaini were all fortunate to avoid red cards (though Pienaar eventually was sent off for a dubious yellow in stoppage time at the end of the game). Strangely, Everton looked more threatening playing against eleven than they did against ten. Neville and Howard were both pathetic in defense for a Liverpool corner, and Kuyt made them pay. Liverpool deserved the win, though they'll need to be decidedly better if they hope to take any points away from the Emirates on Wednesday.

05 February 2010

John Terry

For the most part, I think that the salacious details of celebrities' lives are neither interesting nor any of anyone's business. Tiger Woods slept around? I don't care. But when you sleep with the partner of a teammate, you're putting your libido ahead of the team.

Whispers of indiscretion by a teammate appeared to lead to one of the Saints' best players ever, Willie Roaf, to request a trade. I'm inclined to agree with Capello that Terry's alleged behavior doesn't show the kind of concern for the team that you'd want from someone wearing the armband.

As a Liverpool fan, I'd love to see Stevie get it, but I think you could make a pretty good case for once-almost-red Gareth Barry.

30 January 2010

Not dead yet

Sorry for the sparsity of posts.

Tuesday: Liverpool at Molineux 0-0: The scoreline flatters the match.

34(f) outside yesterday morning, so 5 miles on the treadmill. If I can start out slowly enough, I think I can run the whole 10k, but there's a real risk of starting too fast and running out of gas. 4 weeks to go.

Saturday: Bolton (until I started following English football, I only associated Bolton with parrots) at Anfield 2-0. Dreary first half; much better second period.

Last night: Canterbury Tales at Shakespeare Tavern (homework assignment for Raegan). Good fun.

Project Euler: 141 down; 9 more to intermediate.

23 January 2010

Training Update

The weather was fair enough that I was able to run outside this morning; the first time this year. I was a little worried because running on the treadmill is easier, but I ran almost four miles at a pace faster than my best 5k time. And with a slight hangover (some fantastic wines last night). The 10k is in six weeks.

20 January 2010

Haiku

Haikus are easy
But sometimes they don't make sense
Refrigerator

(from one of the shirts worn by Molly Lewis in her Lady Gaga Poker Face cover video, which is decidedly more fun than the original)

Haiti again

I can't imagine that the three of you come here to read about Haiti. Still, Cecil Adams, or in this case a staff member, provides the straight dope here on Haiti's deal with the devil raised by Pat Robertson. It gives a little more insight into the question of the Dominican Republic's relative affluence over their next door neighbors.

15 January 2010

Football

One of the things I enjoy about football (as it is known everywhere in the world but here) is that the time investment is ratable. I know that I can watch a game from beginning to end in less than two hours. What's more, except for injury stoppages the game is always potentially within seconds of a score. To be sure, the scores themselves are rare (and probably too much so), but that does increase the drama. In American football, the time investment is nearly three hours, and the ball is only in play for about eleven minutes. Meanwhile, the broadcast features close to 60 minutes of commercials. I don't know how the study accounts for moments when the picture is from the stadium but the announcer is shilling some other show for the network. Anyway, with over an hour of each game broadcast devoted to shots of players standing around, it is no wonder that the quality of announcers is so poor.

Haiti

What's happened this week in Haiti is obviously mortifying, but arguably less so than what was happening there before the earthquake. Gifts of aid, while a moral imperative in the short term, offer no hope of solving this country's long term problems. Restoring Haiti to the condition of one week ago would leave 80% of the population living in poverty. The country has limited natural resources, an uneducated and unskilled population, and a high level of corruption. A measure like "unemployment rate" becomes moot when the per capita GDP is between $65 and $110 per month. The legacy of the Duvalier regime has only added to the misery. The Dominican Republic, with effectively the same natural resources, has a per capita GDP over six times that of Haiti.

More and more, I believe that the problem of endemic corruption in countries like Haiti (and Zimbabwe) make real economic progress impossible. Entrepreneurship can only flourish if the entrepreneur has a reasonable expectation of being rewarded if successful. Without jobs, Haiti has no prospects of ever getting any better. Oh, and the population there has doubled in the past 50 years, in spite of the emigration of millions of Haitians (and these were likely the ones Haiti would most need to lift itself from its condition).

14 January 2010

Whither Rafa

Never mind Torres and Gerrard, the remaining players ought to be good enough to beat Reading. A draw and a loss is just not good enough, especially against the backdrop of this season's other results.

I suspect that if the Scousers weren't so preoccupied by hating the yanks, they'd be hurling invectives (or worse) at Benitez at Anfield. At times in the past I've been cast in the uncomfortable position of defending Benitez even though my support of him was growing tepid. At this point, a top four finish seems suddenly almost unrealistic. While I think many of the players he has brought in may turn out well, I find it harder and harder to argue that he shouldn't go.

After the World Cup, there will be a lot of managerial turnover, and some big names could be available. In the mean time, maybe Dalglish can be persuaded to accept a caretaker role.

What a mess.