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Monthly Archives: July 2008

Grassroots Superlatives

Donna the Buffalo

Donna the Buffalo

I had an awesome time at the 2008 Grassroots Music Festival this weekend, and it would be sort of confusing to describe everything I saw and did in a post, so instead I’ll just ez-out and throw up a list of superlatives:

  • Coolest Dance: “G” doing the robot during the Hackensaw Boys show in the Dance Tent
  • Best False Advertising: “Gator” burritos at the booth from New Orleans
  • Most Oblivious Participant: Me, when some guy scouted me out by feeling up my back and I didn’t notice
  • Most Out of Place but Still Really Cool Act: MC Lars
  • Most Unlikely Underdog Victory: Sniperbunny, when she lost, and then recovered, her cell phone in a crowd of 10K+ hippies
  • Best Frozen Treat (18+ only): Chocolate-Dipped Frozen Bananas
  • Most Intriguing Band Name: IY (pronounced “eye-why”)
  • Most Appropriate Cover: “Psycho Killer”, covered by IY, and as made famous by The Talking Hands
  • Worst Urinal Aim: The Guy using the urinal next to mine
  • Best Moment: All 4 days. So glad I got to go.
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Posted by on July 21, 2008 in Entertainment

 

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Boilermaker 2008

The porta-potty line is not where you want to be when the they announce that there are 4 minutes left until the start of a race with 11,000 registered runners.  It’s like one of those scenes in superhero movies where the hero needs to choose between saving their sidekick and their love interest, except also their bladder is also overflowing and it’s really hard to think about anything except Niagara Falls.  Sure, there’s like 75 stalls, but when at least 15 people are ahead of you in your line, some mental math will quickly tell you that the situation is hopeless, that the porta-potty just wasn’t in your horoscope today, and that you might soon be forced to make an executive decision about just how important going to the bathroom before a race is (FYI – it’s pretty frigging important). 

So this morning before running my second Boilermaker race in Utica, NY, I made a mad dash into the woods (where I saw at least two-dozen other men and women), used the spacious facilities of Nature, sprinted to the start (vaulting over one of those ugly plastic mesh fences en route), and had just enough time to re-tie my shoes before the gun went off.

Races with thousands of runners tend to start slowly.  So slowly that it can take several minutes to cross the actual starting line after the gun goes off.  You do a lot of work initially darting into spaces as they open up in the crowd, and you get a lot of mean looks as you frantically cut people off in an effort to actually start racing.  Given the initial crawl, I wasn’t too surprised when I passed the first mile-marker and the humongous digital clock read near 9-minutes.  But after that, the speed picked up pretty fast.

I don’t like wearing watches in road races because I try to just focus on pushing the pace rather than thinking about splits.  I’ve been known to dislike wearing watches so much that if I’m accidentally wearing one at the start, I’ll immediately hand it off to an arbitary person in the crowd (with my fingers crossed that I’ll be able to find them later).  Today, however, every mile of the race had a huge digital clock burning my splits into the back of my brain, and I couldn’t help but calculate how fast each mile was.  I won’t break down the splits here, but I will say that the fourth and fifth miles were both around 6 minutes/mile, which actually frightened me a bit during the race, especially given the course elevation profile.

Boilermaker Elevation

Boilermaker Elevation

I ran these quick miles after a pretty decent starting 5K (22:48).  Yeah, mile five is way downhill, but mile four is the steepest of the race.  After I hit the 10K (42:44), my body started giving up and I struggled through to the finish.  It is totally ridiculous and unbelievable to me that after running 90% of a race like this, thoughts of stopping will creep into the edges of my consciousness.  Why then, when the finish is practically in view?!  But I didn’t stop, and finished in a happy 62:58 (gun time), at least four minutes faster than the last time I ran this race.  The post-race party was awesome (fortuitous, considering it took me over 2 hours to find the people I drove up to Utica with).  I feel sort of tight and tired now, and I’m looking forward to an easy recovery run tomorrow!

(By the way, I’m super glad I got to write a longish blog post on Embrace Your Geekiness Day).

 
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Posted by on July 13, 2008 in No Easy Days

 

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Young Guns

Where I work, I have two options for local group running:

  • The old (my age and older), but really fast, group that meets daily at noon, or,
  • The young (6-10 years younger than me), but really fast, group that meets daily at 6PM.

Both of these options present problems for me. The old group is great, but stuff (usually important stuff involving food) happens at noon, and it’s just not convenient to escape from work for 1-2 hours in the middle of the day, especially when that escape involves a sweaty-nasty return. The young group is also great, but they’re… well, young, and sometimes it feels awkward.

So for the past several seasons I’ve just been going it alone or with the random office mate who is willing to run with me. But I’m sick of it. I’ve been training for a long race, and that means I’ve been doing many long-lonely runs. Pounding the pavement alone is actually cathartic sometimes, but it’s really hard to get myself motivated to do that 5-6 times a week.

So today, I went out with the young group, and it was sweet. They ran fast (within my range, but faster than I would run on my own), they were fun and welcoming, and the run went by *really* quickly. So, I’m going to join them for a few more of their summer runs and see what happens. Worst case scenario, I can imagine that I’m giving them sage running advice that can only come from someone with “experience”.

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2008 in No Easy Days

 

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Chat Transcript Control

You know when you’re chatting with someone on IM, and you are in the middle of typing a message, and the other person types something that somehow makes what you are in the process of typing invalid or irrelevant? For example, they say what you were going to say before you say it?

When this happens, do you ever send your message anyways, in effect pretending that you didn’t see their message before you sent yours?

Does anyone know if there is a name for this behavior?  Maybe something like selective conversaton reorganization?

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2008 in Entertainment

 

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Activism Energy

Last month I attended a computational science conference in Washington D.C. The organizers of this particular conference are big into helping the students who attend make connections in town. To this end, they try to set up meetings between the students and congressional staffers from our home or school districts. In some cases we’re ever able to meet the congress members themselves.

Somehow they manged to cram me into three meetings into a single afternoon, and I found myself getting blisters on top of blisters hiking circles around the Capitol complex to meet with staffers in the offices of Rep. Barney Frank (MA), Senator John Kerry (MA), and Rep. Maurice Hinchey (NY). Meeting staffers can feel awkward and frustrating, particularly if you don’t have an agenda. Even if you do have an agenda, you might not get more than “The representative is a strong supporter of all the issues you mentioned.” I might write more about my strategy for these meetings later. For now, I want to talk about a particular comment that came up in Senator Kerry’s office.

A group of four graduate students had been scheduled to meet with one of Senator Kerry’s Legislative Correspondents, Lindsay Ross. Ms. Ross was actually the most engaged staffer I’ve met on Capitol Hill. She showed genuine interest in meeting us and learning what issues were important to us. At one point, the Energy Bill and energy technology came up, and one of my peers offered this challenge to the staffer:

There was a time when communication was what limited progress in this country. Back then, we invested in information technology, and now communication is free. It’s totally revolutionized the way the world works. What if we invested in energy in the same way? Can you take a moment, and just imagine a world where energy was free? <dramatic pause>

-Some Guy, Washington D.C.

I can imagine such a world, and it frightens the CO2 out of me. A world with infinite energy would have infinite consumption. For the first time in decades, Americans are (ever so slightly) curtailing their consumption of petroleum products. Even those who aren’t cutting back seem to at least be paying attention. And how can you not pay attention with daily messages like these? But if energy were suddenly “free”, there’d be a huge rebound effect, with disastorous consequences for waste, pollution, and climate change.

What frustrated me the most was that Ms. Ross had stars in her eyes after this guy’s diatribe. In D.C., everything about solving the energy crisis seems to center around sustaining an unsustainable system. I know that the person who said this has his heart in the right place. His goal was to push for funding into new and more renewable sources of energy, which could have a good effect. I just wish that he’d said “Can you imagine a world where energy was clean and renewable” instead of bringing it back to energy cost, and therefore consumption, so quickly.

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2008 in Alchemy

 

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Bathroom Pet Peeves

  1. People who talk to you while you’re going.
  2. Lack of ventilation.
  3. No paper towels.
  4. People who “forget” to flush.
  5. The automatic toilets that flush while you’re still using them.
  6. People who don’t wash their hands.
  7. Stalls without doors.
  8. Urinals where the urine splashes on you no matter how careful you are.
  9. People who pee on the toilet paper.
  10. People who talk on their cell phones in the stall.
  11. People who rub one out in the stall.
  12. Being 9 years old and having women ask me if I was a boy or a girl because my mother insisted that I come into public restrooms with her for my safety.

Any others?

Thanks to Paul for help with this list during a boring seminar.

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2008 in Entertainment

 

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Refugee Crisis and Xenophobic Violence in South Africa

Robbie Silverman is doing a summer internship at the South Africa Human Rights Commission. Just over two weeks ago he sent an email back to the states describing the shocking conditions that Zimbabwean immigrants are meeting in South African refugee camps. This email got passed onto an editor at the Boston Globe, and it was eventually published in the Boston.com Passport section. It’s a somewhat surreal and depressing read, and I find it difficult to wrap my head around the whole situation, but knowing that I went to high school with the author kind of helps me internalize it.

There are a few notable editorial changes in the published version (e.g., a jab at the Bush administration was removed, as well as mentions of Obama and the Celtics). Overall it’s very close to the original email.

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2008 in Current Events

 

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