February 28, 2007

Click, click

I am pleased to find out that there are other people who have the obsessive-compulsive habit of clicking on text as they read it online, and now hate the New York Times.

Posted by eroberts at 3:37 PM

February 22, 2007

Weirdest spam ever

I don't know what to say, yet there is so much to say! How many people outside Australia, New Zealand and Barack Obama's press office know who John Howard is anyway?

Nevertheless at 6.10am in the morning, espresso not yet made, my interest was piqued to investigate. Apparently the man is alive and well, and on track to go down in history as [yet another] Prime Minister who should have resigned while he was ahead. But we'll see ... Little Johnny Howard has pulled out an election win before from down in the polls.

What was making the news was not John Howard's heart attack, but something that—given the man's love and ardor for 13 sweaty, brawny men, I speak of the Australian cricket team—should have given John Howard a heart attack: Australia's 3-0 series loss to New Zealand in a one-day cricket series.

And what a series. After being bowled out for 148 in the first match and losing by 10 wickets, Australia then could not defend totals of 337 and 347. Wow. Major wow. Wish I'd been there. It's like the Twins sweeping the Yankees in a series, there's your upper Midwestern baseball analogy in the interests of cultural exchange.

The Sydney Morning Herald's headline was "blackwash," (New Zealand wear black uniforms), while the New Zealand Herald went with "whitewash." Great victory. But what I saw nowhere in any report on the 3rd match (a dead rubber that actually produced entertainment!) was that New Zealand conceded 5 extras, and Australia 27. It's lovely to say that batting won the day for New Zealand, but in the end extras won the day.

For the baseball fans (if any are still reading) an extra is like a walk. The most common "extra" is if the delivery (pitch) goes too wide for the batsman to reasonably hit, then the opposing team gets one run, and an extra delivery. So whereas you can and do walk an opposing batter in baseball as a matter of good tactics you can't do that in cricket. You're giving away a run for sure, plus the extra delivery, the expected value of which is typically about one run (but might be higher or lower).

Now the cricket purists might object that sometimes you might chance a wide delivery to soften a batter up, and surprise him by coming back in with the next ball, but that's "Advanced Cricket."

27 extras in a match should give John Howard a heart attack.

Posted by eroberts at 6:42 AM

February 21, 2007

But would you want your daughter to marry then?

Recently the New York Times ran a story about how "51% of women are now living without a spouse," and copped some criticism for including 15 year olds in that total of women. Some of the criticism revolved round the mathematical confusion between ≥ and >. Around such weighty matters does our public discourse revolve! Is the inequality strict or not?

But the better—more amusing—part of the debate was witnessing the outrage that 15 year olds were counted as women. It may shock modern morals to know that back in the late nineteenth century girls could marry as young as twelve, and sometimes earlier. The common law rule was that

If a child below the legal age should marry, the marriage is not necessarily invalid, provided he or she be above the age of seven years. If the parties continue to live together after both have attained legal age, the marriage is thus ratified, but either party may disaffirm it by ceasing to live with the other before that time arrives.
(From Leila Robinson, The Law of Husband and Wife, 1890 [PDF])

Above seven years old ... Good thing the New York Times didn't include eight year olds in its definition of women, or we would never have heard the end of it! The careful reader will note how apparently easy it was for nine year olds to escape their premature marriages, they "just" had to leave their spouse. Except that provisions in the common law for child marriage were not to allow play dates to turn into wedding ceremonies, but to unite families through marriage as a largely economic transaction. So, any children so united at an early age would likely have had little volition to leave their new spouse. It was this residual provision for the elite to marry their children young that survived into the nineteenth century. But with better means for families to combine their economic interests the rationale for child marriage was lost, yet the legal grounding for it survived. Few laws are passed with an expiration date. Provisions like this can hang around on the books for years without much use, only to be rediscovered as an "outrage" to modern sensibilities that must be corrected.

But the thing is, or was ... that by the late nineteenth century few early-to-mid-teenage "women" took advantage of their freedom to marry. In 1880 a scant 0.07% of 12 year old girls were married. Even at 15 just 1.4% were married, 4.2% at 16 and then 9.3% at 17, 14.5% at 18, and 25.6% at 19. 15 year olds were not rushing to the altar in the late nineteenth century, but 19 year olds were. In other words, the upward revision in the minimum age to legally marry has not been the cause of declining early-teenage marriage. For historical comparability it's completely appropriate to include 15 year olds with other women. But I wouldn't advise any girl to get married at that age. Unless he's really rich ...

Posted by eroberts at 9:14 AM

February 20, 2007

Competing marathons

As happens every few years, the Chicago and Twin Cities marathons will be on the same weekend this year. And again, some people make comments like this:

Twin Cities and Chicago marathons
are both scheduled for Oct 7 .... What's up with that? Is this a one time deal, or are
they planning on going head-to-head every year?

I just don't get why this is an issue. For sure, they're in the same region of the country, they're always around the same time of year, they certainly compete for the affections of runners from Wisconsin, and you have to enter insanely early for both. But even when they're three weeks apart (like in 2006) I can guarantee you the number of people who ran both (or even thought of running both) is trivially small.

Just by being held in the same month Twin Cities and Chicago are competing. After that it scarcely matters whether they're on the same weekend or not.

On the topic of Twin Cities I'll make a prediction. There will be few Americans up the front of the marathon. If you're on the verge of qualifying for the Olympic Trials (2:47 or 2:22) you don't choose the course with the 150 foot climb at mile 20, you go to Chicago and hope for a calm day. On the other side of the ledger, men who have already qualified for the Olympic trials won't be running a marathon one month out. My brave prediction is that a Kenyan or Russian will win.

Posted by eroberts at 9:34 AM

February 16, 2007

Concerned WoMen of America

As previously noted, what is it with the Concerned Women for America. Whenever I read about them, they have a man as their spokesperson. Now, I grant that these days most job advertisements can't specify sex, but ... are there not enough educated, articulate and biblically principled women that CWA couldn't find at least one to represent them?

Posted by eroberts at 3:14 PM

February 13, 2007

A week for every mile raced?

(From Dean Karnazes' Ultramarathon Man, p.209)

Not sure how this radical inflation of running lore slipped past the masses in their ongoing condemnation of Dean Karnazes! I've heard the adage, as have others, that an easy intensity day (1/7 of a week ...) for every mile raced is a decent place to start thinking about how to schedule your recovery. But never a week! I'm not sure if this was a copy-editing mistake or Dean Karnazes is just that far removed from competitive running's oral lore about how to do things.

A lengthy concluding by the way: One could discuss the worth of the original adage for a long time. Some people think it's too conservative. Everyone's experience varies. My view is why do a hard workout when you're still tired from the race? It also depends, I think, how hard you're racing. If you're really just rolling the race as a workout, then you don't have to recover as if it was a race (the race as workout, there's another long discussion). First of all, there's a distinction between easy days and recovery days. If I race less than 10 miles I'll almost always do an easy paced long (2+ hours) run the next day. That's not a recovery day. I very rarely do any anaerobic workouts within x days of an x mile race. Strides and moderate aerobic workouts (tempo and slower) are OK. Your mileage may vary. But don't take Dean's advice, or you'll hardly ever race.

Posted by eroberts at 8:26 AM

February 12, 2007



From the Appleton Post Crescent (Appleton, Wisconsin), Tuesday 21 June 1921, p.4.

Posted by eroberts at 4:20 PM

February 7, 2007

Limited [intelligence] government

There's a common perception, internationally and at home, that Americans are fond of limited government. Now, I think that's a little too simple, but you still have the fact that people believe in the myth anyway. It's in the face of that perception that I laugh at stories like these:

And this is just what I've noticed in the last two days ... The common element is that there's already pretty sharp incentives to do the right thing here: look both ways when crossing the street (you might die!), don't leave your car idling on a cold morning (it might get stolden!). If someone isn't motivated by their own personal safety or losing their car, a comparatively trivial fine isn't going to change their behavior.

I hasten to add that these kinds of silly laws may be just as prevalent abroad. Minor political office, minor intellect and major ego lead to these kinds of things everywhere, not just in America. But the multiple layers of government in America give, perhaps, a little more scope for laws like this.

Posted by eroberts at 5:51 PM

February 6, 2007

No bad weather, just ...

There's two different versions of this quote in running circles. One attributed to Bill Bowerman is

No bad weather, just soft people

The other version that has less specific attribution is
No bad weather, just bad clothes/gear

How to reconcile these aphorisms? Bowerman was probably talking about Eugene, which most of the time has near ideal weather for distance running, and when it precipitates, it rains.

There is no good clothing for rain. Get out there for long enough, and you're just wet. If you want to keep going you keep going. Bowerman was speaking some truth there. But in a colder or snowier climate that's not true. There is good clothing for really, really cold weather. You don't have to be particularly tough to put it on and get out there. You just have to know what to wear. Knowledge rather than character, depending on whether it snows or rains.

Posted by eroberts at 7:22 AM