Print Story A little out of date. What can I say? Some weeks, I'm slow.
By lm (Sat Jun 19, 2010 at 12:52:38 PM EST) (all tags)
Adventures in barefoot running, haircuts, and out of date MLPs.

Last week, my weight went been back down to the 175-177 range rather than the 177-180 range. That's an improvement. But then came my wife's company picnic and an afternoon of free beer and free food and a heat so oppressive that all I could bring myself to do was to sit in the shade while closely analyzing Federalist No. 8. Consequently, my trousers were getting tight in the waist. Fortunately by Friday, I was back down to 175.

Running's been, ah, interesting. I started the week out with the intention of doing a barefoot mile three times per week (M-W-F).  On Wednesday, my shoes were stolen in the eight minutes that it took me to run that barefooted mile. So on Thursday, I did my normal four miles sans shoes and it went remarkably well. My single mile on Friday went smoothly. Then came the five miles I usually run on Saturday. At the end of the first two miles, my feet were hurting on par with what they hurt like at the end of a single mile at the beginning of the week. Towards the end of the third mile, the pain got bad enough that I was thinking I should stop. I pushed through four miles without much difficulty and I really ought to have stopped after four miles, but like the fool that I am, I went for the full five. That fifth mile hurt like a banshee on a pogo stick.

I can only imagine how Samwise and Frodo felt after walking barefoot over the volcanic rock strewn ground in Mordor.

Come the new week, I was still walking with a limp. I forwent running for the first part of the week. For my warm up before hitting the weight machines, I tried out an elliptical trainer for the first time. I'm not certain that there can be a more boring and tedious exercise device. By Thursday, I wasn't limping anymore. On Friday, I tried running again for the first time since the 5 mile gaffe. I went one mile. It went smooth and easy. Then I hit the weight room and afterwards, went for one more mile. Saturday, I went three miles in my old New Balance running shoes and two miles barefoot. Now I've got new blisters, but they're pretty mild ones. They don't hurt and even before I was out of the post-run shower, the loose skin from the blisters had started to re-attach to the lower layer.

Life on the weight machines is mostly unremarkable. I did take gzt's advice and start doing wrist curls. My wrists don't seem any larger but after two weeks I did notice two things. Other exercises that I had been finding difficult are now easier to do with far better form (e.g., lateral pulldowns) and my arms get tired out much more quickly with the wrist curls in the circuit.

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The olde eurovan (that's a T4 Transporter for all of you over on the other side of the pond)  started acting a bit wonky. Some days it just doesn't wouldn't start. I turn the key and nothing. It was an intermittent problem, more likely to happen on hot and humid days. The last time this happened, it was a bad distributor. This time, the diagnosis is the starter switch.

The van also needs new tires. With the price of the starter switch, I may have to put that off a bit.

I found irony in the waiting room at the dealer. The wall was covered with reproductions of vintage posters with the original VW and the "station wagon" edition that bragged about their low cost to purchase, low cost of replacement parts, and the ease of maintenance. VWs these days about pretty much the opposite of those three attributes. Yet they still want that idea implanted in our minds.

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I started reading Susan Neiman's Evil in Modern Thought which has a very provocative thesis, that the so-called "problem of evil" has been the chief driver of philosophy in the modern era. Neiman's prose is very readable. She puts things very plainly in a style that is easy to grasp without overusing technical jargon. She presents some very nice insights that are quite provocative. Even where I think she's weak in making an argument, I think she frames the questions she's trying to answer in a way that helps make more sense out of what is being asked.

One of these insights is that the problem of evil is usually recast by we moderns as the problem of order or of comprehensibility of the universe. That is to say, the problem of evil is expressed as disjunction of the human tendency to find some order within the universe (and are, therefore, comprehensible) but to also find things that don't make sense. If the universe looked completely chaotic (or entirely ordered), there would be no problem.

The connection between the question of order and the question of evil wasn't entirely clear to me until I got to her discussion of Rousseau. She paints Rousseau in broad strokes with his Second Discourse presenting the diagnosis of the problem (civilization) and the Emile as the prescription for a cure (proper education). The problem of evil cast in Rousseauian terms is that society artificially hides the connection between man-made evils and natural-evils and that proper education can remedy this. For example, the Lisbon earthquake was so utterly devastating only because humanity hubristically decided to build dense cities of large structures which magnified the painful effects of what would have otherwise been a mostly unremarkable natural event. The rectification of this state of affairs is a proper education in which every day people learn to see the natural consequences of their actions, e.g. breaking a window and having to sleep in a cold room rather than arbitrary punishments, e.g. having to go to bed without any dinner for having broken a window. Seeing the natural connection between human action and human suffering, for Rousseau anyway, allows the human person to make sense out of the universe.

Another powerful insight is her estimation of the role of the poet vs. the role of the philosopher. Most of this, due to her focus on the philosophical history of modernity, takes part in a discussion of Pope. The role of the poet, Neiman argues, is to uncover the world as it is, especially inasmuch as it is comprised of intellectual tension and paradox. She contrasts with how she views the role of the philosopher which is to resolve those very tensions and paradoxes. But it is not clear that all such can be resolved.

I'm presently on her treatment of Kant. It's interesting even if it takes Kant's writing in an almost entirely different direction than my professor at CUA (who, incidentally, just published his update to the entry on Kant in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).

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What do you you do if you're bored? How about
sneaking into the house of your ex-boyfriend's daughter-in-law to tase and beat her senseless? I find that insanely weird.

Pickle juice, it's not just for pregnant women, it's also for athletes. Somehow drinking pickle juice instantly relieves muscle cramping. I'm going to have keep that in mind. (Although I rarely get muscle cramping.) If only it were to also work on a different kind of cramps. Someone could make a mint.

The WJS has a nice piece on the psychoanalysis of fictional characters as a pedagogical device. "Stipulating that vampires and werewolves were real was necessary, says Nioaka Campbell, director of the psychiatry resident program at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine. `Otherwise, we would have had to conclude that Bella was just psychotic.'" But watch out for what they say about the denizens of the 100 acre wood. It's not pretty.

I've long wondered why no one put out a music tutorial for modern game systems. It seems to me that plugging in a guitar and learning to play along would be a natural fit for a PS/3 or Xbox. So it's about time that Rock Band gets real instruments. And Crazy Train!

It amuses me that some guy on one's radar won the Democratic primary in South Carolina.

A primer on Keyenes. Well, less a primer than a review of multiple new books on Keyenes. They make a few good points concerning frequently understated aspects of  Keyenesian economics such as when governments are running a fiscal surplus that is the time for them to be austere. If governments engage in deficit spending in the proverbial 7 years of plenty, then when the years of famine hit, there is no surplus to spend on economic stimulus.

Speaking of economics, I also like this Marxian analysis of the world wide credit crisis. It really hinges on two ideas, Marx's idea that the free market inevitably forces profits downward and David Harvey's extension of Marx's view on mortgages to apply to the price of land itself. The present price of land rests on the value of future labor. Combine these two ideas and a tidy explanation of the real estate bubble. Future labor will inevitably cost less because the money available to pay laborers is contingent on future profits which, given a free market, will be lower in the future then they are now. Consequently, in real estate, "A bubble occurs not when people pay for real estate with money they don’t yet have—as always happens, given the availabilty of credit—but when they pay with money they will never have, out of wages they will never receive—out of wages no one will ever receive."

Afghanistan is literally sitting on a gold mine. They're also sitting on top of copper, lithium, iron and cobalt. If played well, this could lead to rapid industrialization. But with a corrupt government, I suspect that the results will not be good. A government that can fund itself from mining royalties has no need to be accountable to the people.

David Brooks argues that the modern world needs labor protections but that sometimes these protections go too far. Brooks is a brave man. Trying to split the difference is the surest way to get attacked by both sides. I'm also intrigued by an argument that seems to parallel the classical idea of virtue as the mean between two extreme vices.

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A cow-orker of mine brought in a new style of coffee maker that he'd stumbled upon. It sprang forth from the mind of Alan Adler (the inventor of the Aerobie flying disc). It's basically a modified french press with a gasket so that when the plunger is pushed high pressure is created with the results being more like espresso than what normally comes out of a french press.

The results are pretty amazing for such an inexpensive gadget. The only reason my cow-orker keeps his espresso machine around is so he can steam milk. One thing that would be quite nice with this is an electric kettle that heated water to precisely the correct temperature.

My french press is about due for replacing. It still works but after being dropped multiple times, it's got a couple sharp edges that can give one a nasty wound if one is not careful about picking it up. It's lasted years longer than my last french press, which was supposedly made out of unbreakable plastic, and it still functions. So it's not quite yet time for my inner tightwad to be willing to shell out for this puppy.

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So I bought a new pair of spectacles. They're made in the quasi-retro style that approximates nineteen-fifties era horn rimmed glasses. It's my first new pair in seven years. I'm a bit impressed by that. I used to go through a pair of specs every four or five months. (Once I had a pair that lasted less than twenty-four hours.) One thing that I've found helps are the spring loaded temples that are fairly standard these days. This makes the stems far less likely to break off. I suspect that less time going to clubs and slam-dancing also positively affects the longevity of my glasses.

The first day I wore them to work, I also shaved off the beard I've been sporting for the past six months and got a hair cut on my way into the office. My boss came walking by to talk to the guy in the cube next to me. She stopped short and gasped. ``Oh. My. God.'' She turned to talk to my cow-orker and then turned back to me, "lm," she said, "you're scaring me."

About an hour later her boss, the owner of the company, came up to our floor. In the distant background, I hear, "Who is that sitting in lm's cube?" Then I turn to face the commotion and once more I hear, "Oh. My. God."

Notice that you can tell from the sheen how the barber put in about a gallon of product. Why did he do that?

Most of the other comments were more along the lines "Oh, you got your hair cut. Looks nice." That response seems quite a bit more reasonable.


My in-laws are town to celebrate my wife's fortieth birthday party. It's fun but demanding. I've long since made my peace with my mother-in-law and father-in-law and can enjoy their company. Their good folks at heart even if they and I don't see eye-to-eye on quite a bit. The demanding part is not getting my quality alone time in over the weekend. With the apartment full of house guests, I long for some time of quiet when I can do nothing except just be alone.

In the end, that's a small price to pay. It's good to see my wife's two brothers and the elder one's wife and child. We don't get out to Ohio much and family is family. And my wife's parents are getting on in years. Every moment we spend with them deserves to be savored because they're at the age where the inevitable decline in health begins and we all know where it will eventually end. It's time to celebrate them while they can still be celebrated.

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A little out of date. What can I say? Some weeks, I'm slow. | 6 comments (6 topical, 0 hidden)
this is an abomination by gzt (2.00 / 0) #1 Sat Jun 19, 2010 at 06:36:39 PM EST
not only are you doing circuit training, which earns an anathema in itself, you are doing wrist curls. i fear for your soul.

You should fear for my soul by lm (2.00 / 0) #4 Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 10:44:58 AM EST
I am a very bad man.

Kindness is an act of rebellion.
[ Parent ]
Local spectacles? by georgeha (2.00 / 0) #2 Sat Jun 19, 2010 at 06:45:12 PM EST
Or are you ordering online? Thirteen year old got a pair of prescription sunglasses online for $40, she's happy with them.

I did the local thing by lm (2.00 / 0) #3 Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 10:44:26 AM EST
But I've got a hard copy of my prescription. If there is an unfortunate accident, I'll probably mail order a replacement.

Kindness is an act of rebellion.
[ Parent ]
I do the local thing for my prescription by georgeha (2.00 / 0) #5 Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 12:41:11 PM EST
and spend the $300 on glasses that they get from China.

For a second pair, I'll just cut out the middleman. It's hard to find prescription sunglasses that work for my prescription.

[ Parent ]
3 by duxup (2.00 / 0) #6 Mon Jun 21, 2010 at 11:16:25 AM EST
real instruments

Using REAL instruments might raise the question as to why they keep charging for garbage game controllers and making a truck load off of it. 


I suspect the curse of many resource rich, but good governance poor nations awaits Afghanistan, and that is even IF they can bother to exploit those resources to any extent.  In the long run it will pretty much guarantee the outside world's hands in the pot supporting whatever terrible government gives them the resources they want.

Labor Laws

I think there has to be a happy medium too... but has that dude never waited in line or experienced horrendous customer service in the US where the same poorly empowered / understaffed situations occur for other reasons? 

A little out of date. What can I say? Some weeks, I'm slow. | 6 comments (6 topical, 0 hidden)