February 28, 2006

Middle school research on my dissertation topic

Don't ask how I came across this bizarre site. Here is a wacked out seventh grader's conclusions about women and paid work:

Jonathan Goode (grade 7) applied findings from many fields of science to support his conclusion that God designed women for homemaking: physics shows that women have a lower center of gravity than men, making them more suited to carrying groceries and laundry baskets; biology shows that women were designed to carry un-born babies in their wombs and to feed born babies milk, making them the natural choice for child rearing; social sciences show that the wages for women workers are lower than for normal workers, meaning that they are unable to work as well and thus earn equal pay; and exegetics shows that God created Eve as a companion for Adam, not as a co-worker.

I have a few follow-up questions for Jonathan, but I couldn't find his email address anywhere on the objective ministries website.

Posted by robe0419 at 11:21 AM

February 27, 2006

Why does the National Weather Service ...

... always update their Twin Cities forecasts at 53 minutes past the hour?

Posted by robe0419 at 4:18 PM


Funny article in the Star Tribune about roundabouts, which as they helpfully explain are "circular traffic intersections commonplace in Europe." like this ...

If you [procrastinate] follow the link to the Washington County website, they even have a handy guide on how to navigate roundabouts. This is more necessary than it seems. While idling away an evening at the Dairy Queen near the Minnehaha Parkway roundabout, I was amused at the number of people who failed to yield to traffic on the roundabout, went round it the wrong way, or less seriously didn't know how to signal their exit from the circle. I run past the Minnehaha roundabout quite regularly, and have witnessed several other instances of people going the wrong way round it to make their left turn a little quicker.

Having great experience in roundabouts—though any other European or Australasian drivers would do just as well—I would like to offer my instructional services to Minnesotan drivers confused about navigating these new intersections. Since I can't accept off-campus employment, gifts in kind, or checks made out to the Conservative Association for Southampton Hospital (you may use the acronym) will be accepted.

Roundabouts are useful ways of designing some intersections, but the quintessenitally North American four-way stop is better in some situations. Some roundabouts are nearly impossible to enter at certain times of the day if the traffic immediately to your right—which you have to yield to—is very heavy.

When I was back in New Zealand I noticed they had put in a bunch of new roundabouts that amounted to little more than a raised bit of concrete only slightly larger than a manhole cover. I nearly drove right over one without realizing it was a roundabout (there were no other cars around). Larger landscaped roundabouts are both more scenic, and more effective at announcing their presence.

Posted by robe0419 at 10:47 AM

February 24, 2006

Don't weigh yourself in public

In the unlikely event you should want to weigh yourself while at Melbourne Airport, you can't use these scales.

Posted by robe0419 at 10:46 AM

February 22, 2006

Listen to your body, it might be trying to tell you something (even if you don't quite understand it)

The body is a good computer. Sometimes it needs a little help with its display.

Chad asked the other day what good heart rate monitors and other new-fangled tools like GPS units are for running. I'm with him on both the need for numbers to show the effect of such tools and his general skepticism about the magnitude of their impact on actual race times. But these things are notoriously difficult to measure. To really do that you'd have to randomize people to wearing or not wearing a device, and even then you'd have the issue of how do you interpret the effect of the device versus the effect of training itself, and determining which training changes would only have been made with the assistance of the heart rate monitor.

I think Jack Daniels' skepticism in the latest edition of his Running Formula book is well put; the human body is an amazing computer and you can learn a lot by thinking about how you're feeling when you're running, how effort corresponds with pace and the like. When I first got a heart rate monitor one of the things it helped me to do was slow down at the end of recovery runs. As I warmed up I would slowly increase the pace and the effort. It was all very unconscious. This slowly increasing effort showed up on the heart rate monitor, and I learned to identify the other signals that I was doing this. In other words, the monitor alerted me to signs the body was already sending the brain.

Here's an anecdote that reveals the sometime utility of the heart rate monitor, and how sometimes it tells you to push on, rather than hold back.

The joy of all those tracks/trails in Wellington took me to 102 miles on singles a couple of weeks ago (5-11 February). Probably a weekly record on singles. And by the end of the week I was really done, really tired, and due for a recovery week. Really, I was due my recovery week a couple of weeks ago, I could feel that, but I stretched out the effort, felt a little tired on the trails, and did another big week so I could have a recovery week coincide with a week I didn't have much time for running. But it did confirm something I'd thought last summer, that in the base phase I can string together 5 big weeks before feeling like I need a rest. That's one thing I've learnt from listening to my body—that I can get in 5 weeks of base training before needing a cut-back.

How do I know that? Well, in the sixth week I just felt more tired. I didn't need to look at the watch or my heart-rate to know that. I no longer felt the need to charge up the hills, there was no late-run unconscious surge for several runs. One easy day was not enough to recharge me for another hard effort. But I pressed on, I over-rode what my body was telling me ("take a rest").

And then I had my recovery week. I ran 41 miles (actually, I still log mileage in kilometres, and put down 66km for the week). By Wednesday three days jogging on flat grass and dirt trails beside vineyards and sheep paddocks had me feeling fit and fickle, and I did strides and felt good. I took an unplanned, but not regretted, day off and spent time with my grandmother. The next day I felt great on the 40 minutes I was able to get in, running strongly when I came to hills.

Recovery week all going to plan, right? Well, the next day I started off feeling great but late in my 14km (8.75 miles) my legs felt really crappy. Sunday's 20km run felt no better on the legs though I timed myself through a 2km stretch on a Melbourne bikepath in 8:20 (6:40/mile) not really feeling it in the lungs. Back in Minneapolis, after a day off (spent largely at Los Angeles airport, not eating enough) I did my 22 miler and felt weak and sore some of the time. Picking it up for 5km late in the run I split 20:35, again without it feeling too hard in the lungs. But oh my, the legs still felt not there. Not what you expect after a recovery week, right? Even after two easy 5 milers on Monday, this morning's 11 miles was not great. My quads were sore, and we [should] all know that sore quads and a slow pace are one of the first signs of overtraining.

I was a little worried, but given that I'd begun to feel a lot better after the first 6 days of my recovery week, and other indicators of being fatigued were not there, I wondered. As I mentioned, the running felt OK in the lungs, my breathing felt right for the pace but the legs were sore.

So for this evening's run it was out with the trusty heart rate monitor. And I clipped through 13km in 59.30 (after 2km warm-up the last 11km were at 7.15/mile pace) keeping my heartrate in the 140s, on the low end of my steady training efforts. The legs also continued to feel better though I was getting to 31km for the day.

What the heart rate monitor helped me confirm was the intuition that if my breathing felt right for the pace, that my legs felt better going uphill, and I was feeling better each day after Saturday this was probably not overtraining. Probably it was legs getting bruised at going back onto concrete and asphalt after two weeks nearly exclusively on trails and grass. But the legs adapt in a few days. When it thawed after Christmas and there was no snow to run on, 85 miles on asphalt felt bruising too.

Telling people to "listen to the body" can be a coded way of saying "slow down, take a day off, stay well inside the envelope" but it doesn't have to be. Sometimes the body is saying "keep going, persist, I will adapt" and it does. This was one of those times.

Posted by robe0419 at 9:12 PM

February 21, 2006

The New Zealanders with Disabilities Act

The scene: Auckland airport on a busy Friday night.

What we heard: "We're sorry for the delay in boarding flight 559 to Christchurch, but as you can see out the window we have to load a passenger in a wheelchair onto the aircraft with a forklift"

No, really, that's what they announced to the terminal.

What we saw: Some puzzled looks from waiting passengers. Some other people coming over to the window to see if they really heard that. And what do you know? They really are wheeling a guy in a wheelchair onto a forklift, and his wife (or other female traveling companion) is getting on too. My wife who had not heard all the announcement asked me what was going on. Well, I said, it's the New Zealanders with Disabilities Act in action.

You see, it is actually true that there is no equivalent of the Americans with Disabilities Act in New Zealand, so you do see a lot of public buildings in New Zealand that don't have elevators (lifts) or ramps. My anecdotal epidemiology is inclined to the view that there a smaller proportion of the population is in wheelchairs in New Zealand than America, but I could be wrong. Anyway, this was an airport, you would think they'd have an elevator/lift in the building. We found out later that they do, but it goes up to the first class lounge, so maybe it was broken that day, or maybe Air New Zealand doesn't want people in the first class lounge seeing people in wheelchairs. Your guess is as good as mine.

Anyway, they get this guy into the forklift, and we're not the only people at the window laughing at the absurdity of the situation. I mean, if the lift is broken, that's OK and nice they could work out a way to get him on board, but announcing his loading onto the aircraft as something for viewing ... words fail me

So they hoist the forklift up in the air, and at first attempt it's not lined up properly with the door of the 737. So they reverse the forklift--with the lift and its passengers up in the air--and the two guys on the ground are gesticulating to indicate which way to go to the driver of the forklift. They get him onboard without any more drama, and then the announcer starts up again: "Once again, I'm sorry for the delay in boarding flight 559 to Christchurch ..."

I was waiting for him to blame the guy in the wheelchair again, but he didn't. He just invited rows 14-23 to board.

And that is the New Zealanders with Disabilities Act in action.

Posted by robe0419 at 12:58 PM

February 20, 2006

The great southern lands still exist

Internet access on my trip to the Antipodes was even poorer than I might have imagined. I mean, my parents have a phone that only works on Tuesdays. Just kidding, but you can never be too certain what some credulous Americans will believe about the technological progress of foreign countries.

Actually, what is interesting is how some areas of technology are conveniently better in New Zealand and Australia: heated towel rails, electronic banking, washing machines and dryers; but there is no effective competition in broadband internet. It's a long story, but the upshot is that broadband costs a lot. So does wireless. Ever heard of charging for access by the megabyte? Welcome to New Zealand. The excuse/story they use is that they're at the end of a long thin pipe to the rest of the internet so there is a capacity constraint.

Anyway, that explains the lack of posting here lately. So does being on vacation. Other aspects of the Antipodes were just as I remembered if not better. I had this vague, naive, fantasy I'd get the 15 minutes a day done to keep me up on that dissertation I'm meant to be writing. But frankly, the motivation I have to finish up and get back here is worth more than 17 days of 15 minutes of bad writing ...

One thing that was better than I remembered it was the coffee. Nothing like a long black or a flat white well made at a little cafe with al fresco dining, and Bic Runga on the stereo. And that oh so Wellington habit of offering you yogurt with your cake. To make it a healthy treat, of course.

Another thing that objectively improved in my absence was the trail running ('tracks' in New Zealand or Australian English). I've run in a bunch of cities around the world, and the only cities that equal Wellington for citywide access to trails are Canberra (Australia), and Portland (OR). Anyway, in Wellington I am lucky enough to stay with my parents from where I used to be able to amble 300m, and then run at least 16km without hitting the road or retracing my steps for longer than 200m. That was before I moved away. Now it's more like 32km, if not more.

Now one of the great treats of Wellington running, the trail along the ridge from Mt Kaukau to Johnston Hill, is legally open. You could always run it, by getting up early, and keeping to the top of the ridge so if you saw the farmer you could dip down one side. And then there was the problem of coming across a paddock with a bull in it. But now it's open, signposted, and there are only sheep in the paddocks. Mostly the sheep move as you approach them, but I did meet one the other day who just stood there. I got a great day for doing this run, crisp and cool as I set out (10°C), but ideal as I finished (15°C). Great views of the western and northern suburbs, and the harbour.

I also made it up the [in]famous Tip Track. They say it's 3km. The unofficial record last I heard was held by a guy who has run 30:01 for 10km, and he was able to break 18 minutes. For 3km. Perhaps multiple world mountain running champion and Wellington area native, Jonathan Wyatt, has done quicker but you get the idea about how steep it is. Despite that, it's actually not as hard as it sounds. You just keep plugging away, and are rewarded with amazing views of the Wellington region and the South Island.

We did another wine tour by bike, like we'd done on our previous New Zealand holiday in 2004. After doing Hawkes Bay then, this time we went to Marlborough--Renwick to be precise. Biking is the ideal way to do vineyard tours. You get that extra time between tastings to let the alcohol wear off. The other trick to a good day wine tasting is to drink lots of water along the way.

Other things I learned are that straight 12 hours with 87 year old grandmothers can be surprisingly exhausting. We had 36 hours in Hobart, and had to use every one of them!

Demographic history also makes for excellent art. I kid you not. The Exiles and Emigrants exhibit at the National Gallery of Victoria was excellent. It was about migration to Australia from Britain and Ireland. I too am curious (anticipating my readers' curiosity, or should that be reader's after 20+ days without an entry) why the state of Victoria has a national gallery. My guess is that it is because it was started (1861) before Federation (1901). But I'm too lazy to look that up right now.

All in all, an excellent time.

Posted by robe0419 at 7:41 PM