This winter perhaps I’ll take a cue from the MFA’s Hippie Chic exhibit and go retro with my wardrobe.
Then again, maybe not.
This winter perhaps I’ll take a cue from the MFA’s Hippie Chic exhibit and go retro with my wardrobe.
Then again, maybe not.
M. F. N. Pl. Nominative: der die das die Accusative: den die das die Genitive: des der des der Dative: dem der dem den Nominative: ein eine ein -- Accusative: einen eine ein -- Genitive: eines einer eines -- Dative: einem einer einem --
It’s been years since I declined a noun. It was more than 16 years ago in Greek 102, in fact. (“ἡ γυνη σπευδει προς τῶν ἀγρῶν.”) But Berlin beckons, and I will be able speak a little German while I’m there next month, dammit! I know, I know. You can get by with English only, but . . Well, I’ll let this passage from “Before Sunrise” sum it up:
Jesse: Excuse me, excuse me uh, sprechen Sie English? (Do you speak English?)
Man with jacket: Ja, of course.
Man with tie: Couldn’t you speak German for a change?
Man with tie: No, it was a joke.
Jesse: Well, listen, we just got into Vienna today, and we’re looking for something fun to do.
Céline: Like museums, exhibitions, things…
Man with tie: But museums are not that funny any more these days, uh…
Man with jacket: Uh, (looking at watch) but they are closing right now. How long are you going to be here?
Jesse: Just for tonight.
Man with tie: Why did you come to Vienna? What, uh, what could you be expecting?
Jesse: (Perplexed.) Uh…
Céline: We’re on honeymoon.
Jesse: Yeah, she got pregnant, we had to get married, you know.
Man with tie: (Points at Jesse.) You know I don’t believe you, you’re a bad liar.
Anyway, now that I’m studying German, I’m back to conjugating verbs and declining nouns and adjectives. And I’ll just say this: I think Greek was easier.
It’s almost time for the inaugural Nashville JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes. In fact, a week from today, Lisa and I are flying down to Tennessee for the event. I’m very excited!
Last year, we raised over $12,000 for diabetes research. I’m hoping we can do even better this year. No amount is too small, because every bit helps. I am just as appreciative for the $5, $10, and $25 gifts I’ve seen as I am for the $100 and $500 ones.
If you’ve already contributed, you have my deepest thanks. If you would like to donate, it’s fast and easy: Just click here.
Thanks again! I know that with your help we can really improve the lives of millions of people with diabetes.
In a few days the beard will be all gone—it will just be too warm for racing—but today I can live my dream of going “Full Amish.”
What’s the best caption you can come up with for this photo? Here’s mine: “I went to Lancaster County, and all I got was this stupid beard.”
We’ve had an exciting spring: a couple of day trips to New York, a charity walk, hiking, and a trip to Iowa. Ducky came along to Grinnell and was quite the camera hog. But he was super-happy to swim in the new 50m, Olympic-sized swimming pool. I understand why; it was pretty amazing, and I wish I could swim there every day.
Here are some photos from the last month and a half. Click on any picture for a larger version, or start at the beginning and just click through.
Hey, little blog! Happy eighth birthday!
It’s hard to believe that you now have 970 posts and over 1400 comments. We sure have been a lot of places since you were born right before we went to India, eh? What will the next eight years bring?
I’m trying to help a coworker come up with a presentation title for a conference later in the year. We want a fun title which is also relevant to image processing. Part of me wants to work in the phrase “256 Shades of Grey.” We shall see.
I don’t want to inject myself into today’s events, but I can’t ignore them either.
Like every year, I had been looking forward to the Boston Marathon for quite a while. Patriots Day (a.k.a., Marathon Monday) is my favorite day of the year, and for good reason. It’s the day that I go to work and am largely allowed to shirk a good deal of it. Walking from my office to the center of town through idyllic suburban neighborhoods is refreshing and often full of cheery conversation with coworkers. The weather in mid-April is usually beautiful, and—at 10 miles into the race—Natick Common is early enough that the lead runners are still together, and most runners are looking strong and fresh. I try to arrive early so that, before the elite women and men run through, I can watch most of the push-rim wheelchair, handchair, and mobility impaired athletes. Each year, my appreciation for what they’re doing deepens a little bit more, even as I simultaneously become more certain that, for a true athlete, it’s far more unnatural not to do the thing you love no matter how great the challenge.
This year, like previous ones, I left the marathon feeling inspired and eager to do something. In 2010, even though I had been running for about a year, I knew I needed to start racing again. In the three years that followed, I’ve had events events to look forward to, and the marathon gets my competitive juices flowing. Over the last few years there’s been a growing feeling inside of me that I want to run this race—my race, the one I’ve been watching for fifteen years, the one that everyone loves whether they run or not. Sometime last year while running the course, I started to say “yes” to the thought of a marathon as long as I someday qualified for and ran Boston. Today, as I walked back to the office, I was really eager to put my lingering cold behind me and get outdoors, to have a good run, and to get back to training.
Like last year and most of the rest, I counted the number of buses on the Mass Pike between the I-495 and Natick exits on my way to work. There were 95, including the police-escorted VIP bus. I like seeing those flashing lights, because I love the idea that (for at least one day) elite athletes are treated like the extraordinarily talented, hard-working people that they are.
Like last year, I had some great conversations while waiting for the elite runners to arrive. This year, instead of being with complete strangers, I hung out with some of my coworkers. Five people from my group showed up, including Mr. 2:22 himself, who decided it would be nice to be with us this year instead of right downtown in the midst of the action. I learned that one of my coworkers got a Southern Baptist education from pre-K to 12th grade because there were a lot of bomb threats in her part of Florida at the public schools, and her parents (both Buddhists) felt better about the odds of giving her a culture shock instead of an actual jolt.
Like most years I watched the finish of the race online at my desk since the office cafeteria crowd was deep into the Red Sox baseball game, and I’ve fought the battle before to switch from the Sox game to the marathon and just barely made it out alive.
But this year, as we all know, was a little different.
Around 1:00 a coworker from another group called to ask if one of my peeps was running Boston this year. He had taken the day off to go down to the finish and hadn’t seen him come through yet. No, I said, he watched the race with us from Natick.
Later in the afternoon, a couple of coworkers stopped by, interrupting a code review, and nervously asked if I had heard about the “explosion at the marathon finish.” Surely it was just an electrical explosion in a manhole or something like that, I thought, and went back to my work. After finishing the code review, I checked a slow-loading news site, and couldn’t believe what I was seeing. When Lisa called a bit later and asked if all my coworkers were okay, I got choked up for the first time, thinking about what might have happened to them and to the other people I know who watched the marathon at different places on the route or were running it (including Pat, my swim peep).
On the commute home I watched all of the unmarked cars and special detail units with their flashing blue lights speed down the turnpike toward Boston in a bizarro inversion of my drive into the office nine hours earlier.
I really needed to go for a bike ride or a run when I got home. Even if it couldn’t help me make sense of what happened, it would at least clear my head or wear me out enough to not think about it for a while. But I knew that getting “worn out” was exactly what I didn’t need to do while recovering from this cold, which seems to be about 80% better, so I took it easy and got to work downloading and editing my photos from the race.
As I was looking at the photographs I realized something quite vividly. Regardless of who did this and why, it won’t change a thing about how deeply marathon fans love this race. Even though most of us will probably never run it, it’s our race. It’s my race.
Seeing the vans full of SWAT police in the past hasn’t ever made think twice about why they’re part of the event preparations and decide that I want to stay indoors on a glorious spring day (or even a miserably cold and drizzly one for that matter) to watch the race. And today, when I saw the SUV full of bomb squad officers drive by ahead of the elite runners, it didn’t change an iota about how much I loved the race or whether I want to be part of it some day. Just as I’m sure that, despite the actual bombings, there will be just as many people working their hardest to attain a coveted Boston qualifying time or raising as much money as they can to justify their charity entry.
This race—the oldest marathon in North America—has been run 117 times and will be run again. We love this race because of its history and because it tells us something about ourselves. New Englanders are flinty, contrarian, history-bound, and stubborn. This is probably the surest way to make sure that the marathon will be held long after humanity has given up on the idea of competitive road running. I mean, just think about it: The marathon happens on the Monday closest to the anniversary of the Battle of Lexington and Concord, an event steeped in the notion that a free people choose not to live under threat of coercion or fear and the belief that our nation is what we actively make it.
Someday, hopefully soon, we’ll know more about what happened today and why. As a result, we will grow and adapt. But our love for this race and this day will never be diminished.
(Image from Eknath Gomphotherium)
This post is for the hypochondriacs out there. You’re welcome.
Lisa says the high-pitched, continuous ringing in my ears that I mostly hear in quiet environments (or like right now when I listen for it) isn’t normal. She says it’s tinnitus.
I had always assumed everyone filled the usual background with some sound, but evidently that’s just something that I do. Well, me and 50 million other Americans. It’s not like it’s new—it’s just new to Lisa. As long as I can remember, that’s the way the world has been, and (thankfully) it doesn’t really bother me. I hear perfectly well—touch wood—although it is a really unfortunate pitch.
What causes tinnitus? WebMD gives a laundry list of causes that range from the obvious to the mundane: everything from having a loud profession, listening to loud music, aging, and head trauma to aspirin, ear infections or blockages, and something called “ostosclerosis,” which I can only assume is caused by putting fatty, cholesterol-rich foods in your ears.
Oh, and it’s associated with a whole host of other medical conditions, including a couple that I have: allergies, anemia, and (you guessed it) diabetes.
What a crazy thing is this human body.
p.s. — I promise I’ll tell you about the half-marathon I ran a week ago really, really soon. Promise.
We can close the books on January:
Plus, one shoulder injury that had me away from the pool for a week. (More about that later.)
This “48 Questions” thing is making the rounds. I saw it over at Scully’s place and thought I’d get in on the action. Because I just wanted to copy and paste and do this over my lunch hour, I left all of the cute Canadian spellings and KANYE-STYLE ALL CAPS in place.
Away we go!
1. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE?
Yes. I was named after one of the 12 apostles. (My brother was merely named after a saint, but his guy would have totally been an apostle if he hadn’t been martyred too soon. All that’s moot, though, since my evangelic father thought sainthood was heretical.) My mom liked my middle name better, so they officially changed my name when I was very young.
2. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED?
After the Sandyhook school shooting, I think.
3. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING?
When I try to write nicely I do, but not most of the time. My Greek is very pretty.
4. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE LUNCH MEAT?
5. DO YOU HAVE KIDS?
I have a cat…
6. IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON, WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU?
I dunno. That Jeff Mather fellow doesn’t make friends easily.
7. DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT?
Pfft. No. Never. Seriously.
8. DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS?
Yes . . . dammit.
9. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP?
Yes, but only from a bridge . . . in Africa . . . over Victoria Falls.
10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE CEREAL?
Kellogg’s Fiber+Antioxidants Berry Yogurt Crunch.
11. DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF?
Yes, almost always.
12. DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG?
Yes. Not super strong, but strong enough.
13. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE ICE CREAM?
J.P. Licks makes a fantastic cranberry white chocolate cheesecake ice cream flavor every December. I would
kill unintentionally wound for some right now.
14. WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE?
Whether they seem happy.
15. RED OR PINK?
16. WHAT IS THE LEAST FAVOURITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF?
17. WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST?
Lisa, when she’s not around, and my mom the rest of the time. Also my DBFF and my favorite coworker who moved to California a year ago.
18. WHAT IS THE TECHNIQUE THAT YOU NEED TO WORK ON THE MOST?
Getting shit done.
19. WHAT COLOUR SHOES ARE YOU WEARING?
20. WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE?
A pastrami sandwich, Greek yoghurt, and a Jazz apple. (75 carbs)
21. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW?
A (recorded) live set of three songs by Bomba Estéreo: “Feelin,’” “Huepajé,” and “Juana.”
22. IF YOU WERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOUR WOULD YOU BE?
23. FAVOURITE SMELLS?
The Ashland Reservoir.
24. HOW IMPORTANT ARE YOUR POLITICAL VIEWS TO YOU?
They’re an integral part of who I am. I don’t like imposing them on other people, but I hate it when people try to marginalize or dismiss them.
25. MOUNTAIN HIDEAWAY OR BEACH HOUSE?
Beach house, probably, but I like that Cairns in Australia had both.
26. FAVOURITE SPORTS TO WATCH?
Cycling, triathlon, track and field, road running, swimming, ice hockey, and . . . cycling. Did I mention cycling?
27. HAIR COLOUR?
Brown with red and grey highlights.
28. EYE COLOUR?
One is blue; the other is hazel.
29. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS?
Not since third grade.
30. FAVOURITE FOOD?
Cheesecake or Comte cheese.
31. SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS?
None of the above. Give me a non-scary movie with a complicated ending.
32. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED?
In the theatre: “Zero Dark Thirty,” which I think would make a really good book. At home: the original version of “Red Dawn,” which probably sucked in 1984, too.
33. WHAT COLOUR SHIRT ARE YOU WEARING?
Beige shirt, red argyle sweater.
34. SUMMER OR WINTER?
Summer, for sure. Long days, warm temperatures, snow-free roads, 6-hour bike rides . . . what’s not to love?
35. FAVOURITE DESSERT?
See #13 and #30 above.
36. STRENGTH TRAINING OR CARDIO?
I prefer cardio/endurance workouts, but I love the sense of accomplishment I get after strength-focused interval running or swimming.
37. COMPUTER OR TELEVISION?
Both! I like to maximize my time-wasting potential. See #18 above.
38. WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW?
Phil Southerland’s Not Dead Yet, which I have subtitled “Fuck you, Lance! This is what a truly inspiring cyclist looks like.” I’m also working my way through The Ultimate French Grammar Review and Practice.
39. WHAT IS ON YOUR MOUSE PAD?
40. FAVOURITE SOUND?
41. FAVOURITE GENRE OF MUSIC?
There’s too much music to pick one kind, so I pick ALL of them (except praise/contemporary Christian).
42. WHAT IS THE FARTHEST YOU HAVE BEEN FROM HOME?
Alice Springs, Australia. You can only get a couple thousand miles farther away from where I live and still be on this Earth.
43. DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT?
I’ll let people who are more objective about me answer that question.
44. WHERE WERE YOU BORN?
Des Moines, Iowa
45. WHERE ARE YOU LIVING NOW?
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
46. WHAT COLOUR IS YOUR HOUSE?
47. WHAT COLOUR IS YOUR CAR?
One car is black. The other is grey. The one I’m driving is the one that’s closer to the street in our driveway.
48. DO YOU LIKE ANSWERING 48 QUESTIONS?
Yes, but why not add a couple more and go for a nice round 50?
As you probably already know, I’m a big fan of francophone music. It’s my guilty indulgence. When I discovered that Victoria also is a fan, I knew I had to bring her a few CDs. I started making them after Lisa and my first trip to Paris to give myself something extra to listen to in the car.
Victoria has been waiting patiently since the JDRF ride for the track listings. Well, here they are! (BTW, I accidentally swapped the titles on two of them, and I think the listings here match them, but if something seems wrong, it probably is.)
Paris, Je t’aime
Je Me Souviens
La coupe de feu
Intoxiqué par chocolat
De Vegas à Reno
I originally wrote this post last Friday night and then, in a moment of doubt on Saturday morning, unpublished it. It wasn’t that I didn’t completely believe in the argument; I just wanted to make sure that it was the kind of thing I wanted to appear on this site. It is.
I try not to get political here very often.  But I cannot contain myself today. I am angry and heartbroken by the massacre of twenty schoolchildren and six adults in Connecticut. I think about the topic of gun violence every time there’s a gun-related mass-casualty incident, and it feels like I’ve been thinking about it a lot in recent years. Today, though . . . I just do not understand how it’s possible to perpetrate such a horrific act on such a scale. However, I do know that it would not have happened without a gun as part of the equation, and I think it’s about time we did something radical with guns.
Before you dismiss me as a knee-jerk, Eastern liberal, you should know that there were handguns in my house when I was a teenager. I shot one of them twice with my stepfather, as part of a “there are now guns in the house, and this is why you should leave them alone” campaign. After the first shot we realized that I had really good aim, despite only having one good eye. The second shot took me completely by surprise, and I dropped the gun out of fright. I can still see the damage done from the first shot, and I won’t ever forget the fear-turned-embarassment of the second. Of course, on one other occasion the same gun almost featured tragically in a situation I would rather forget.
Despite all that, in the past I was deeply opposed to gun control. In fact, on my college debate team, I twice argued passionately in favor of a right to keep guns and use them for hunting and self-defense and as a means of preventing tyranny. (Yes, I actually bought into that paranoid, militia-esque belief that a well-armed citizenry was all that kept us from a totalitarian hell state. That was a long time ago.) I believed that private gun ownership made sense in sparsely populated rural areas (like Wyoming) where everyone was a law unto himself as well as in crime-riddled urban areas (i.e., everywhere that wasn’t Wyoming).
Time has passed and now I can only see those beliefs as outdated and immature. Sure, guns can prevent some crime—and hunting, however you feel about it, is a different beast altogether—but firearms contribute to so many deaths and violent crimes. They are fundamentally different from other kinds of weapons in their ability to indiscriminately cause damage from a distance. I find it hard to justify handgun possession, since in my mind they are scaled down weapons of mass destruction. With the carnage they caused today, how can they not be thought of in the same class as WMDs?
I am tired of gun violence apologists—and let’s face it, that’s what they are—saying, “Oh, well, it’s just an isolated incident and the act of a deranged mind. We can’t prevent against this kind of event.” Not so. All of these tragedies may be uncoordinated, but there is a sine qua none that binds them together: the gun. How many repeats of the same tragedy must we have before we do something about guns? How many murders, attempted murders, and assaults do gun (ab)users have to commit before we say the consequences outweigh the supposed “benefits” of private gun ownership?
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not suggesting that most (or even a small percentage) of gun owners are just a hair’s breadth away from homicide. But I do think most guns have only two purposes: either to project the intimidating possibility of violence to all within the bullet’s range or to actually inflict harm on another person. It’s perfectly possible to own a gun responsibly and never use it, and it’s possible to use a gun in order to prevent harm to others, but this is not how most guns in this country (when used) are used. Moreover, the magnitude of gun ownership in this country has a corrosive effect on the overall safety and well-being of everyone in the US, as we saw from today’s events.
I’m not an originalist when it comes to Constitutional interpretation—nor am I a judge—but I understand the late 18th century point of view on this issue. Guns were in the culture in post-Revolutionary America and were used during Shay’s Rebellion out in western Massachusetts (1787) and the Whiskey Rebellion of 1791 by both the groups seeking to oppose tyranny/taxation and the militias that were used to put down the anti-state insurrections. Frontier violence was a fact of life, even though the presence of guns contributed to its worst abuses. (Well, guns and liquor together really.) Hunting was also a part of life for a large number of people. (And don’t forget the fear of slave revolts.)
Times are different now. The Civil War pretty much settled the issue of how dangerous state militias can be, and the idea of private gun ownership preventing a tyrannical government with a well-trained standing army from taking away our liberties—given some far-fetched dystopian scenario where it actually wanted to—is laughable. Furthermore, handguns and assault-style weapons create a much different gun environment than even 100 years ago.
The second amendment no longer protects American citizens by providing a framework for well-regulated gun ownership and/or militias. It provides a cudgel to prevent responsible regulation of firearms. The amendment has outlived its usefulness.
It’s time to repeal the second amendment. Remove the pretext of gun ownership and/or citizen militias as a Constitutional necessity for the preservation of individual liberties and happiness, and in its absence let the people decide how much and what kind of gun restrictions we really want. I will likely come down differently than you do, but in a democracy we should all have a voice in the decisions about the kind of society we live in. Different jurisdictions should be able to tailor gun laws to the needs of their populations.
The current Supreme Court has shown that there cannot be meaningful gun control in this country while the second amendment is in force and while Congress has a pathological inability to enact sensible regulation on its own. If, after a horrific tragedy like what occurred in Connecticut today, we can’t figure out a way to change the gun culture that exists in the United States so that it protects people, we never will. Something has to give on the second amendment; either we abandon our fetishistic attachment to it as an idea that prevents any meaningful gun regulation, or the entire amendment has to go. The blood of those killed in the next “isolated incident” will be on our hands.
1 — I occasionally write about healthcare economics here. It’s an issue that I don’t feel should be politicized, but sadly it is. Affordable healthcare is important to me, and I feel the problems about access to it are totally solvable, even if it’s going to be difficult to do. [back . . .]