Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Darwin's face appears miraculously on frying pan

The wonderful Panda's Thumb announces:

From London comes the astonishing news that the unmistakable image of Charles Darwin has appeared in the bottom of a postdoc’s frying pan. Scientists around the world1 are puzzled about the possible mechanism that might have resulted in the 19th century naturalist’s portrait being deposited on the suface of a cooking utensil.

In one attempted application of the Explanatory FilterTM it was found that the probability of this occurance is less than that of fairy circles appearing to form a mole on the face on Mars2. (This is, coincidentally, precisely equal to the probability that Nicholas Caputo would have hit David Berlinski if he had fired an arrow at Albert Einstein’s door during a total solar eclipse.)

Full article here.

I run Seattle does Vegas, baby.

Well ... if Riona can't go to Vegas, Vegas will just have to come here.

I'm gonna be blogcasting the Vegas marathon over at Scott's place, tracking the process of Scott, a.maria, and anyone else who cares to send me their chip #.

jeff is even gonna send me text updates and photos from along the course. Go Jeff.

It still breaks my heart that I won't be there to run it, but it's going to be awesome tracking the progress of those who do.

Any ideas for making blogcasting work better? Shoot me a mail.

Question for ya

Last week I almost fell on my ass on a patch of ice. It's been pretty mild here so far, but I'm sure we'll be facing ice before long, and they're predicting snow.

Anybody used YakTraks or similar? Any recommendations / disrecommends?

Thank you!

Friday, November 25, 2005

Twenty questions meme

From the even-cooler-than-I-thought Trish:
1. What's for breakfast?
Sometimes I miss the days when breakfast was a Diet Coke and a Marlboro Lite behind the wheel of the car. I'm ashamed to say that these days it's often just a Diet Coke, but I do have porridge sometimes. Mmm with dried cranberries.
2. Do you read a newspaper daily? More shame! I subscribe to the Irish Times online. I read MSNBC, but not always the newsy bits. I read pretty much everything in Slate. But no, I don't read a proper newspaper daily. Most of the rest of my news I get from NPR.
3. What do you do when you can't sleep?
Fret. Twitch. See #1.
4. Say a word that sums up your mood.

Currently a bit stressed. Almost always happy.
5. Do you remember your dreams?
I've been having bizarrely detailed dreams recently. I'm discussing Iraq with Gloria Steinem (I come out of the discussion badly - see #2).
6. Name something from your dream last night.
But no dreams last night. We're in Cupertino, visiting P's dad.
7. Name a food that describes you.

Irish stew: a bit different each time, unpredictable (or predictable in certain ways); a random mix of various things.
8. Today you are wearing:
Right now: sweaty orange running shorts, shirt, Asics Gel Nimbus.
9. What's in your pockets?
10. Did you sing in the shower today?
Haven't showered yet - I'm blogging while I wait for it to be free. But I usually do sing in the shower, and lately it's usually John Spillane's The Dunnes Stores Girl. That won't mean much to anybody who isn't Irish or who doesn't live in our house.
11. What's the last song you heard? See #10, sung by P in the shower. Round here we're all about the Dunnes Stores Girl.
12. Looking forward to the holidays? Yes!
13. Where do you want to be this instant?
In the shower. I came back from my run a little while ago, and I suspect that I'm beginning to smell.
14. What's for lunch? I hope dim sum! We're going into San Francisco, one of my very favorite cities, just as soon as I have sluiced off the worst of the dirt and gotten dressed. Later on, we're going to Teatro Zinzanni. It's P's birthday!
15. What's something you would like to do soon? Start knitting Alice Starmore's Inishmore design. I'm waiting for the yarn to arrive.
16. Reading anything now? What is it? Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature.
17. What's for dinner? That's up to Teatro Zinzanni.
18. A favorite part of the day is: Hanging out at home with our ritual huge pot of rooibos tea, a cat on each lap. Cooking dinner.
19. Are you happy? Yes. I'm a bit stressed out at work these days, but really I am the luckiest woman in the world. I have some great friends who mean the world to me, I love my wonderful man (who is celebrating his birthday today), we're planning our wedding, and we're lucky enough to have good jobs and a tiny mortgage, and therefore not too many worries. I love my life, and I am confident that it will only get better.
20. Will your friends do this meme? Very few of my real-life friends read my blog, so probably not - though Therese, I'm looking at you. Blogfriends: I hope so.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

It's never too late to learn "the ropes".

You know that full-page ad, the one that appears towards the back of every edition of Runner's World?
In the European sexual underground, the term ropes refers to the number of physical ejaculatory contractions a man has during a climax.

Now read that again, in your best Law & Order voice.

Much better.

Monday, November 21, 2005

"Everything in the world is plenty for me."

If you didn't hear Penn Jillette's This I Believe essay on NPR's Morning Edition, go listen to it now. It made my day. It might make yours.

Oh, Penn Jillette! The uncovering of charlatans (the magic shows)! The challenging of received wisdom (the cable show Bullshit!)! The sublime The Aristocrats! And now this.

Penn Jillette is my new hero.

If you can't listen right now, here's the full text of his broadcast. I'd love to know what you think.

I believe that there is no God. I'm beyond Atheism. Atheism is not believing in God. Not believing in God is easy -- you can't prove a negative, so there's no work to do. You can't prove that there isn't an elephant inside the trunk of my car. You sure? How about now? Maybe he was just hiding before. Check again. Did I mention that my personal heartfelt definition of the word "elephant" includes mystery, order, goodness, love and a spare tire?

So, anyone with a love for truth outside of herself has to start with no belief in God and then look for evidence of God. She needs to search for some objective evidence of a supernatural power. All the people I write e-mails to often are still stuck at this searching stage. The Atheism part is easy.

But, this "This I Believe" thing seems to demand something more personal, some leap of faith that helps one see life's big picture, some rules to live by. So, I'm saying, "This I believe: I believe there is no God."

Having taken that step, it informs every moment of my life. I'm not greedy. I have love, blue skies, rainbows and Hallmark cards, and that has to be enough. It has to be enough, but it's everything in the world and everything in the world is plenty for me. It seems just rude to beg the invisible for more. Just the love of my family that raised me and the family I'm raising now is enough that I don't need heaven. I won the huge genetic lottery and I get joy every day.

Believing there's no God means I can't really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories. That's good; it makes me want to be more thoughtful. I have to try to treat people right the first time around.

Believing there's no God stops me from being solipsistic. I can read ideas from all different people from all different cultures. Without God, we can agree on reality, and I can keep learning where I'm wrong. We can all keep adjusting, so we can really communicate. I don't travel in circles where people say, "I have faith, I believe this in my heart and nothing you can say or do can shake my faith." That's just a long-winded religious way to say, "shut up," or another two words that the FCC likes less. But all obscenity is less insulting than, "How I was brought up and my imaginary friend means more to me than anything you can ever say or do." So, believing there is no God lets me be proven wrong and that's always fun. It means I'm learning something.

Believing there is no God means the suffering I've seen in my family, and indeed all the suffering in the world, isn't caused by an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent force that isn't bothered to help or is just testing us, but rather something we all may be able to help others with in the future. No God means the possibility of less suffering in the future.

Believing there is no God gives me more room for belief in family, people, love, truth, beauty, sex, Jell-o and all the other things I can prove and that make this life the best life I will ever have.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Budhia Singh may be "at risk of exploitation". Ya think?

A while ago I posted about Budhia Singh, the three-year-old sold as a child to a man who is training him to run marathons.

Government officials are looking into the case, but his "coach" claims that:

Budhia’s health is being monitored by doctors at regular intervals and that he is following a regimen prescribed by the doctors.


Full article here.

The Flawed Philosophy of Intelligent Design

The time has come to be blunt. The problem with Intelligent Design is not that it is false; not that the arguments in its favor reduce to smoke and mirrors; and not that it's defenders are disingenuous or even duplicitous. The problem with Intelligent Design is that it is dumb. I would contend that ID is dumb biology; even if it is on to something, what it is on to has no connection and does no meaningful work in biology (or physics). However, and more significantly, ID is dumb philosophy.

Full article here.

Monday, November 14, 2005

New York Marathon Notes, Fort Greene

A few years ago, I stumbled across Dervala's blog and was fascinated by her writing about her travels in SE Asia. Then I read something that made me think, cool, she's Irish. Then it became clear she was from Limerick, my home town. Then she mentioned her school, and that's when I sent her mail. Her father was a former teacher of mine, one of the very few I remember with any fondness. Later, we met up in a Limerick pub. Since then I've been following Dervala's stories as she moves from Mexico to Canada to Brooklyn and on to San Francisco. She's a wonderful writer, and I urge you to bookmark her now.

I love her observations of this year's NYC Marathon:

I have whippety friends who finish the New York Marathon in under three hours, but the born-to-run amateurs bore me as they piston past, looking comfortable and determined. It’s the mid-pack runners I go out to see every year, with their strange gaits and unsuitable bodies, and all the fear, doubt, and bewildered joy that comes from their audacious try.

Check her out; you won't be sorry.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Official, a matter of scientific record: the best chat-up line in the world

A little quiz for you. Imagine you're a single woman and a man approaches you with these words: "It's hot today, isn't it? It's the best weather when you are training for a marathon." Should you, a) Smile kindly and assume that he is involved in some kind of care-in-the-community situation; b) Ignore the loser because he is making a rubbish pass at you; c) Be impressed and flattered. He has repeated the exact wording of the official best chat-up line of the modern age.

The answer, apparently, is C.

Full article here.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Running-related content will return shortly, probably

Many things are no longer valid in Kansas, thanks to the November 8, 2005 mandate by the Kansas State Board of Education. As a public service, the boffins at the Annals of Improbable Research have created warning stickers that say:

as per order of the Board of Education, November 8, 2005
Use of this device or substance may require, imply, and/or endorse the existence of one or more of the following:
chemistry; evolution; electromagnetism; gravity; mathematics; thermodynamics; education.

Printable PDF file available here.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Things are looking up!

Voters threw out the Pennsylvania school board that approved "intelligent design." Eight of the nine board members were up for election; all eight lost to candidates who opposed the ID policy. This happened in a district that voted 65 percent for President Bush in 2004.
From the Human Nature column in Slate. Full, encouraging (until you reach the part about the lunatics in Kansas) article here.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Nicest birthday dinner ever

Saturday was my birthday. P met me at the train station and surprised me by taking me to the Oyster New Year at Elliot's Oyster house. Imagine it: maybe 30 wineries, and a 90-foot open oyster bar. Every possible variety of oysters there for the taking.

If I die tomorrow, before I go I'll look back on that day and think: Once there was a day when I had my fill of oysters.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Off to Portland for a night with the lasses.

I've just packed a picnic for the train.
  • Three delicious baguette sandwiches from Le Fournil: one pate, one Camembert, and one ham and swiss.
  • Three delicious little tarts, also from Le Fournil.
  • Little bottles of wine.
  • Big bottle of Pellegrino.
(and, of course, plenty of Diet Coke.)

Trains are the best. It's going to be a fun overnighter: we're staying at the Jupiter Hotel, and the plan consists of foofy girlie drinks, dinner, and some tax-free shopping tomorrow.


Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

I don't think Seattle is rainy at all. But then I grew up in the west of Ireland.

So since I started running back in April, I've had to run in the rain exactly three times. Three. Maybe four, max. And not because I was avoiding the rain, or because I cancelled or postponed runs when it was bucketing down. It was just never raining whenever I wanted to run.

How unlike my homeland, with its eight months of winter followed by four months of early spring.

But oh, this morning in Seattle at 6AM it was cold and wet and dark, and heading out took the willpower of an Omarosa hunting down a TV crew. But you know? It was only about three minutes before I heated up, and for the rest of my run it was like I was inside this glowing Riona-shaped heat capsule, pounding its way down Eastlake Avenue.

I love running in the rain.