Friday, March 30, 2007

Every Tom, Dick and Harry seems to have taken it upon themselves to take on long-distance running with the thaw in Toronto. Harry, particularly enthused, has gone so far as to sponsor the upcoming Spring Run-Off in High Park, the first race of 2007 sufficient in size for the services of a carnival barker or two at the start line. As the barker bellows furiously about the sponsor, the pancakes, the weather or the number of on-course washrooms, participants may be forgiven for having forgotten that they are not, in fact, advancing to meet Braxton Bragg's troops at the Battle of Chickamauga.

At any rate, there is no sense by which the casual running which accompanies beautiful spring weather leads to running the Spring Run-Off. There is nothing at all conventionally enjoyable or lovely about that race, which plunges down, and therefore trudges back up, two of High Park's steepest hills. Unless Tom, Dick and Harry (and let's not forget Harpreet) run largely to induce vertigo and vomiting, the real joy of the Spring Run-Off may be lost upon them.

It's safe to say that neither Tom, nor Dick, nor Harry are aware that an 18-year old named Daniel Komen ran and won the race in 1994, touching the ground every now and then en route to running 22:35 for 8 km. That course record still stands, as does Komen's legend, his career being the most dazzling yet ephemeral in the history running. Komen is best known for being the only man in history to run two consecutive 4-minute miles, fittingly achieving the feat twice in two years. His 3,000-metre world record of 7:20, set in the aftermath of missing the Atlanta Olympics, not only stands to this day, but has withstood assaults by the greatest runners of this generation.

Just as quickly as he rose to greatness and almost as quickly as he ran, Komen disappeared. He is, after all, only 30 years old today. His achievements from 1996-1998 are striking, but so is his subsequent vanishing act, finished with the sport at the age of 23. So quickly and so astonishingly did Komen disappear that when 1500-metre runner Daniel Kipchirchir Komen recently entered the world stage, many were convinced that the legendary Komen had made a comeback. It was not, unfortunately the case. It may be for the best that Komen's vertigo-inducing feats remain the stuff of legend. His course record at the Spring Run-Off is an insignificant part of that legend, but one that 2,000 Torontonians will be able to appreciate next Saturday. The joy of the Spring Run-Off is the joy of lung-searing competition, of breaking the sound barrier going down the Spring Road hill, of gasping in vain while ascending the same hill and, most plainly, of a primal relief at the finish.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

TheStar.com - News - Man jailed for infecting girl, 5

TheStar.com - News - Man jailed for infecting girl, 5: "An HIV-infected dad who breached his “sacred trust” of parenthood and gave his 5-year-old daughter gonorrhea has been sentenced to three years in jail.

His little girl was “a helpless child who loved and trusted her father,” said Superior Court Justice Bonnie Croll.

There is a chance that his daughter will suffer from future infertility, the judge noted.

Last October, Croll found the 47-year-old man, who cannot be named, guilty of sexual assault causing bodily harm and the sexual touching of his daughter in July 2001
."

Three years in jail seems almost excessive, no? Maybe the judge should have taken away his driver's license and demand that he refrain from raping his own daughter in the future, under penalty of house arrest.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

TheStar.com - News - Iran seizes U.K. troops: "LONDON – Iranian naval vessels on Friday seized 15 British sailors who had boarded a merchant ship in Iraqi waters of the Persian Gulf as part of efforts to protect the Iraqi coastline and its oil terminals, U.S. and British officials said.

The British government summoned the Iranian ambassador in London and demanded 'the immediate and safe return of our people and equipment.' The U.S. Navy, which operates off the Iraqi coast along with British forces, said Iran's Revolutionary Guard naval forces were responsible.

The British Navy personnel were 'engaged in routine boarding operations of merchant shipping in Iraqi territorial waters,' and had completed a ship inspection when they were accosted by Iranian vessels, Britain's Defense Ministry said.
'We are urgently pursuing this matter with the Iranian authorities at the highest level,' the ministry said.

No one could be immediately reached for comment at either government offices in Iran or at the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad or at the U.N. mission. Iran is in the middle of its New Year holiday when almost all government offices close
."

Well, sir, applying Occam's Razor to the knotty beard of this low-level aggression, it's obvious what happened. The devious Iranians double-crossed the Americans into fabricating this event. The result is that America has a false pretext under which to attack Iran, which is precisely what Iran wants so that it can bloody America's gold-studded nose.

What Iran doesn't realize, however, is that they were, in fact duped by Americans into allowing America to fabricate the capture of British troops. Whatever happened here in the Persian Gulf, rest assured that none of it was real, and all of it was the product of some vast right-wing conspiracy or another. In fact, let's not entirely discount Canada's role in this sordid litle affair: how convenient that the Conservatives raise the spectre of another election and then this crisis serves to avert our attention.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Each and every day, I'm increasingly thankful to be a Canadian. Today provided another such instance as, in the sporting equivalent of a drunken brawl between a blind nonagenarian and a gassy infant, Pakistan fell to Ireland in the Cricket World Cup. After Pakistan scored a feeble 132 runs, Ireland staggered its way to a languid 108 for 4 after 34 overs, depressingly enough to be in full control of the game. Displaying the only flash of form against a fourth-rate Irish team, Pakistan took three wickets on the next six balls. From there, the match took on a funereal pace, Ireland scoring roughly two runs per over but nonetheless backing its way to a three-wicket victory.

As for my team, Canada lost by seven wickets to Kenya on Wednesday and now faces steep challenges in England and New Zealand tomorrow and on Thursday. I vow never again to follow a bat-and-ball sport that doesn't recognize the infield fly rule or the designated hitter. Opening Day is just sixteen days away.

Friday, March 16, 2007

My March Madness pool is already in disarray. Two of my picks for the Final Four are out. Marquette lost last night to Michigan State and Penn (I think this means Penn State?) lost to Tehran A&M. Elsewhere, in the Patrician 10 Conference, Old Dominion lost to fifth-ranked Butler. Second-ranked Wisconsin won, which was not a surprise, but that Wisconsin has enough black guys to field the second-best team in the country was.

On the surface, though, I was 12 of 16, which means that I'm roughly as good at arbitrarily choosing winners of college basketball games as I am at my full-time occupation, arbitrarily choosing winners of college games of whether nothingness is something.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Inter-lining Toronto's two main subway lines would have never worked out, I realized today. For a brief period in 1966, passengers boarding trains on the newly-minted Bloor-Danforth subway line, running from Keele to Woodbine, could travel downtown without changing trains. An eastbound train travelled south from St. George to Museum whereas westbound trains did the same via Bay station. Inter-lining, intended to be an experiment, was ended within a matter of months by combination of customer surveys and aggravation caused by the exacerbated delays on the single, entangled line. The result, of course, was that local historians and subway fans now have an Atlantis in the abandoned Lower Bay station.

Lower Bay has been accessible only for movie shoots, training and via a harrowing trek in the tunnel from Museum. Construction of a highrise building at Bloor and Bedford has necessitated construction on the tunnel between St. George and Bay stations, preventing that stretch of tunnel from being used on Saturdays and Sundays. Eastbound trains travel to Museum via Bay station, though they do not stop.

Inter-lining adds a touch of novelty and brings to the surface the hidden, messy innards of our subway system. The current experiment also brings to surface the history of Lower Bay in a way that I never thought I would experience. Time is not wasted by inter-lining because the wait of the interchange occurs at the station where a passenger boards the train. If anything, it is more convenient to not have to board trains. The TTC is aware of the inconvenience to passengers of transferring, whether on the surface or underneath.

Nonetheless, the very uncertainty that makes the current state of the subway system on weekends exciting also precludes interlining from being viable. Awareness of where a train is going adds an element of inconvenience for regulars, but an element of sheer bewilderment for infrequent riders and tourists. Moreover, if changing trains at St. George or Yonge-Bloor is considered undesirable, so too is a longer wait for a train at Ossington or Victoria Park. Sometimes I just want to sit and sit soon.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Are you on the No-Fly List?

Surprisingly enough, I am on this list, as is one Carlos Jackal. Andre, you're not.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Chasing Kimbia: "The voices were loud, but inaudible. It definitely wasn’t English and certainly wasn’t Swahili. They were chanting. The treble in the audio made it sound like it was coming over a loudspeaker. I sat up in bed and again switched on the light. It was 5:07AM. The early morning was silent except for the chanting that echoed through the highlands. After about 15 minutes, it stopped. Later that morning I learned that the noise had come from the local mosque - the only one in Iten. Morning prayer, or Fajr, would happen before dawn every day for the remainder of our trip."

It's rare to have familiar to me described as something so foreign, though the reverse is often the case. Running and Islam, I admit, don't occupy the forefront of the North American mind, or even its rear flank. Now that I know there is a mosque in Iten, I suppose I'll have to go someday.

As rare as it may be find a person who knows what an azaan is, it's rarer to find one who knows where and what Iten is. Iten is a small town in western Kenya at around 8000 feet elevation that has been, oddly enough, described as a Mecca for distance-running. Just about anyone with one or more legs in this town of 4,000 could break 30 minutes for 10k, it seems.

If all that isn't enough, the local preoccupation with tea and disregard for time is yet another attraction. After all, I was originally going to do some work tonight and then read the Atlantic Monthly. Instead, I ate two oranges and read the Toronto Star, all in a matter of two hours.