Thursday, December 28, 2006


Christmas Eve, 10.5 miles, around the lake twice. 10 @ 1:08:00 (6:48 average pace); splits - 6:22, 6:33, 6:46, 6:54, 6:51, 6:47, 7:01, 6:56, 7:25 (hill), 6:26.

Christmas Day, 4.1 miles, to the lake a back, 6:18 average pace, no Garmin, no splits.

Today, 7.7 miles, around the lake. 7 @ 45:12 (6:27 average pace); splits - 6:08, 6:16, 6:17, 6:35, 6:31, 7:01 (hill), 6:20. New record, by 18 seconds, for this route, yeah baby.

Friday, December 22, 2006


Last day of work before a week off, which I'm really looking forward to. Work has not been a great source of satisfaction lately, just uninspired, in a slump, need to recharge.

Wednesday I ran 7.1 miles, first time since being sick, and it felt like it, pushing through though. Longfellow, Charles, Smoots double loop+. 7 miles @ 47:12 (6:45), splits: 6:30, 6:43, 6:37, 6:52, 7:17, 6:33, 6:39. Cold! Some tightness or tiredness in left hip, that's new. Right extensor tendonitis seems to be abating.

Meandered the local mall blankly at lunchtime today, vaguely trying to finish some Xmas shopping, feeling numb-ish, melancholy-ish, but not so very unpleasantly so really — mostly just the usual existential stupor through which I wander much of the time.

Existence just never seems to cease to amaze me, you'd think I'd just get used to it and take it for granted like everyone around me apparently does, but it just seems weirder all the time — the nuclear fireball we're falling around, the gas covered planet we're stuck to, humans — unimaginable gobs of protein and whatnot, constantly sucking in oxygen and nitrogen, swallowing carbon based gunk, and excreting all manner of waste. It's just not obvious, and I still can't entirely get my head around it.

And what's with every female of the species shopping at Victoria's Secret? I see all varieties of women, girls, ladies, old, young, fat, thin, pretty, ugly, carrying Victoria's Secret bags. I mean the thought of most of them wearing the garment's displayed so ubiquitously and brazenly by the famous models is, well ... nevermind, enjoy.

Oh, I came across a very funny and interesting interview with Stephen Colbert at Harvard University; as I inferred from his bit, he is actually a very intelligent, perceptive and thoughtful guy.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


It is the tenth anniversary of the death of Carl Sagan. Humanist Joel is hosting a Carl Sagan Memorial Blog-a-Thon. I was introduced to Carl, along with millions (or BILLIONS and BILLIONS maybe I should say) in 1980 with his Cosmos television series.

I was 19 and just beginning college. I'd taken two years off after high school to work and travel — not because I was idealistic or adventurous, but because I had nothing better to do. A notorious "underachiever" as my father generously called me, I had no college ambitions, no ambitions at all, save just to be out of high school. A year working as a stockboy at Lechmere, following six months of travel in Europe and Israel, led me to consider the virtues of schooling.

After a lifetime of mediocrity in education, I began to excel in college, community college admittedly at first, but I put my whole heart and mind into it, and discovered perhaps for the first time since early elementary school, that I loved learning. In grade school I'd loved learning, on my own anyway. I've fond memories of perusing the many books in my home. I loved looking through the Golden Book Encyclopedia (Bertha Morris Parker) — I remember once being blown away reading that Neanderthal Man lived for some hundreds of thousands or even millions of year - I thought literally that individual Neanderthals human beings lived that long :-) Whoa!!! I was curious but was also occasionally an idiot! :-)

Anyway, I was so into college, 4.0 GPA easy. And I loved all of it, literature, philosophy, math, science. But two events, I think, turned me toward science above other endeavors. First, my father, rather randomly and curiously, gave me Douglas Hofstadter's Gödel, Escher, Bach for my 19th birthday which I totally clicked with — it turned me on to math, logic, computer science, and classical music — Bach's Musical Offering is still one of my favorite pieces.

Second, Cosmos, the television series which began in 1980, every Sunday, for some number of weeks. I so looked forward to it. The whole thing, Carl and his enthusiasm, the ideas, the images, and the music, which can still almost bring tears to my eyes. How corny, I know, but there it is. That opening music, to me, embodied Carl's pantheistic view of the Cosmos, that we, our existence, I, am the Universe's way of getting to know itself, we all are part of creation   all that every was or will be, star stuff, profound stuff! It touched me. I didn't know it then, but science was becoming my religion. I'd previously and hence held on precariously to an ancient and feeble Christian faith, which finally gave way to a relatively confident agnosticism, which finally crumbled under an acceptance of non-theism (someday I will say "atheism").

Anyway, I love and thank Carl for his enthusiasm and his ability to express his sense of wonder for the Cosmos, the Earth, Existence, and to pass this sense of appreciation on to me and many others.

My father and some of my other loved ones, watching Carl with me on those family Sunday's in the early 1980's did not share my appreciation. He was a simple "reductionist", a technocrat, an atheist, almost a joke ("billions and billions" they would ape in Carl's endearing Brooklyn accent) — how could I be so shallow as to be blinded by science, and not see the mystery of life explained by religion (not just any religion of course — Christianity). Science was just another religion they'd say (a curious criticism, obliquing insulting their own belief in religion).

That turned out to be for me, so much gobbledygook — muddled and wishful thinking. I've come to feel almost sorry for my less scientifically minded loved ones, with little appreciation of or interest in the wonders of existence around them, preferring the more abstract, elusive, and parochial wonder of God's unbounded love. I'm just not that deep.

I own Cosmos on DVD and still watch it occasionally, and have introduced it to my kids (9 and 11), and they actually seem to enjoy it. It has held up very very well over the years. My 8 year old boy especially likes the line animation of 3.5 billion years of evolution in 45 seconds, as well as the whole piece on The Elements, and of course the discussion of Googol and very large numbers.

Btw, one of my favorite albums is Murmurs of Earth, a recording of the music sent out on the Voyager spacecraft in 1977. It is the most distant human-made object in the Universe — nearly 10 billion miles from home now, and continuing on its journey at 38,000 mph. The sounds and music (and images) included on the recording, intended to a give an alien intelligence a glimpse of life on Earth, was compiled, I believe, mostly under the direction of Carl Sagan. Much of the music is also featured in Cosmos.

I highly recommend it, though unfortunately, it no longer seems to be available and is difficult to find (the recording that is; the book is available). I see one on eBay at the moment — 14 bids, $100! Wow, maybe I should sell mine (no way). If anyone is interested I'll considering zipping up the bits of my recording and, risking copyright violation, making it available for free.

A couple other links — Celebrating Sagan and Nick Sagan's Memories Of My Dad.

In order to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.

   — Carl Sagan , 1934-1996

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Sick as a dog for about 48 hours last weekend, stomach violence, spread like, well, a virus, through the family. Over and done. What a relief. That kind of sickness reminds you that one day you will be ready to die, gladly; I'm sure I'll never run again. That was me anyway, don't think the kids felt that, too resilient, or naive, thankfully. Had planned a 10 miler on Sunday, no dice, comatose most of the day. Finally pretty much back to normal today, but drained-ish. Will attempt a decent lunchtime 7 miler at work tomorrow, we shall see if we can do it.

TED (Technology Entertainment Design) Luminaries decided for 2007 (March 7-10), including - Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Nathan Myhrvold, E.O.Wilson, Bill Clinton, Paul Simon, Steven Pinker, They Might Be Giants, Vilaynur Ramachandran, Carolyn Porco, and Thomas Dolby!

Thursday, December 14, 2006


Last Saturday, 7.2 miles, usual lake route, 7 @ 46:28 (6:35); splits: 6:25, 6:34, 6:28, 6:46, 6:41, 7:13 (hill), 6:19.

Today, with a splitting headache, 7.5 miles, usual lake route, 7 @ 45:40 (6:31); splits: 6:13, 6:24, 6:20, 6:24, 6:48, 7:10 (hill), 6:18. Record time for training run on the route, knocked the headache right out.

Four days off due to continued extensor tendonitis on top of right foot. On top of that, stupid accident, spilled scalding hot water on my bare right foot, so blisters on top of the tendonitis.

Anything that happens happens. Anything that in happening causes something else to happen, causes something else to happen. And anything that in happening causes itself to happen again, happens again.

  — Douglas Adams

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Sprained ankle from a week ago Sunday turned out to not have been so bad. Just three days off and did a decent 6.4 on dreadmill, splits: 7:16, 6:59, 6:47, 6:40, 6:32, 6:34. Then 7.7 on Sunday around the lake, 7 @ 46:05 (6:35); splits: 6:17, 6:27, 6:24, 6:35, 6:44, 7:09 (hill), 6:28. And today, for some reason, a very tiring 5.2 on dread, splits: 7:05, 6:50, 6:48, 6:47, 6:32. I've a nasty little case of extensor tendonitis on my right foot, on the top, so lots of days off.

Carolyn Porco gave a very nice talk at Beyond Belief 2006 on If Not God, Then What, and presented some wonderful photos, like the one of Saturn, above. Ann Druyan, co-producer of Cosmos and wife of the late Carl Sagan, also gave a charming talk. Have a listen.

Also, Mahzarin Banaji, gave a really interesting presentation of the implicit bias of the human mind (session 7). Try taking a couple of these Implicit Association Tests. I of course, like most civilized/educated people abhor racism. My test results showed however that I have a pretty strong implicit unconscious bias toward light-skinned people over dark-skinned people, as well as a slight bias toward males over females in regard to career, and no bias at all for or against Jews. It's a strange sensation taking the time based tests — even though you know the point and methods of the test, and try to conciously overcome any possible bias, you can't. Give it a try, you might learn something about yourself.

I'm not too surprised about my implicit skin tone bias — I don't think I saw a non-white person in person until I was a teenager (I grew up in Hamilton, Massachusetts — a town which made the The Official Preppy Handbook as one of the preppiest towns in America). But what was really interesting was when Banaji pointed that blacks also have a bias against darker skin tones, though not in general as great as that of most whites.

The aim of science is not to open the door to infinite wisdom but to set some limit on infinite error.

  — Bertolt Brecht's Life of Galileo

Great doubt: great awakening.
Little doubt: little awakening.
No doubt: no awakening.

  — Zen Maxim