Sunday, June 29, 2008

Speaking of crazy people, I would like to turn my attention to the Old Country, where militants armed to the teeth have surrounded the northwestern city of Peshawar. In response, one of the strongest, largest armies in the world has sent paramilitaries, mindful of the militants' threat to open up unrest elsewhere in the country. These militants, of course, are the same ones who fight Canadian, American and other NATO soldiers in Afghanistan, so more than Peshawar is at stake.

Peshawar itself is a city of supposedly 3 million people which may well have as many Afghans as Afghanistan itself. It's no coincidence that the population has tripled in the last 30 years, a period coinciding with the chronic instability (to put it nicely) plaguing Afghanistan. Peshawar is nestled against Pakistan's shadowy Tribal Areas, a lawless region that no one has ever been able to control. What's likely is that Peshawar will eventually return to some state of normalcy and the fighters will return to their turf. Still, it's troubling to watch Pakistan struggle to assert control over one of its major cities and a provincial capital.

Friday, June 27, 2008

For the longest time, about 7-8 years, and for reasons I can't quite explain, I've read white supremacist sites. It started with the Vanguard News Network, where I really enjoyed reading the now dried-up torrent of semi-literate hate mail dripping with semi-legal threats of murder and genocide. When Vanguard News Network switched over to a very boring forum, I started reading Stormfront, which is probably the best-known white supremacist site on the Internet, and American Renaissance, which, despite its claim to the contrary, confirms the stereotype of white supremacists as being illiterate hicks from the sticks. The one thing I've learned from these sites is the ease with which white supremacists make bizarre, convoluted arguments.

They subscribe, like many people on the fringe of meaningful political debate, to the idea that whoever ultimately benefits from an event in the end was behind it in the first place. For example, if your car being stolen leads to an insurance payment with which you buy many lottery tickets and win $50 million dollars, you had your own car stolen. Or, if America benefited (this is dubious to begin with) from the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 by launching into two wars, America was behind it in the first place. Some of the most amusing conspiracy theories I read on Vanguard argued that both Adolf Hitler and Abraham Lincoln were both Jewish agents who sought to undo the white race by empowering Jews and blacks respectively. Fierce debates raged about whether Hitler is to be admired for his attempts to create a lebensraum or whether his aggressive tactics were so dumb as to surely be the work of a spy.

A great paradox is that the news media, controlled wholly by a secret cabal of Jews and white race traitors, lies and fabricates to promote its own agenda. Therefore, nothing in the newspaper or on television can be considered reliable. At the same time, there is nothing wrong with using mainstream media sources as evidence. For example, you might constantly deride the local newspaper as being a heavily biased source that is worthless. However, when the local newspaper publishes an article about a black man who killed a white woman, you better use that as evidence of the wickedness of all blacks.

What vexes me most of all is a mentality among many of these people, not unlike what you see in a cult, that change in the form of a cataclysmic event is right around the corner. Vanguard used to use the slogan "itz (sic) coming" to refer, vaguely, to some sort of racial bloodletting or mass awakening of white racial consciousness. Every day, thousands of people felt that the tide had finally turned in their favour and that the day when blacks and Hispanics would be slaughtered en masse was on the horizon. It was, of course, nowhere near, and if anything, America as a whole has become still more accepting of other races.

Over at American Renaissance, discussion consists of racially relevant stories where angry white men grouse constantly about how it would be different if the shoe was on the other foot. For example, if a minority group expresses anger for being treated unfairly or acts in solidarity, someone will grumble that whites wouldn't be allowed to do the same thing. American Renaissance describes itself as "America's premiere publication of racial-realist thought". In its current print issue, there is a long (alarmingly long) article about race bias amongst Wikipedia editors (really). One of the stories its editors deemed important is that there are too many coloured women representing white countries at beauty pageants, which further drew the fiery rage of angry white men towards political correctness, a term that is so overused as to be bereft of any meaning.

My favourite story ever on American Renaissance was one about American whites emigrating to Europe to escape the non-white hordes in America, which made me laugh and laugh and laugh. Writes one racist: "I can’t keep count anymore of the number of my friends and acquaintances, from the USA, Canada and Australia alike, who’ve emigrated to raise their kids in more salvageable Western nations— Alpine lands like Austria, Germany and northern Italy, Nordic countries like Finland and Denmark." I've never heard of a white person who moved to Norway to get away from black people, but I don't hang out at the right bonfires, I guess. Adds a fellow half-wit: "Where else can you find such cogent and calm thought on the talkback boards of a website? How I love Amren, one of the last bulwarks of sanity in an increasingly insane world."

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I ran a personal best for 5 miles last week in the Night Crawler with a 29:48, but I've split faster in a 10k, and I ran a dumb race as the splits show below. I just don't have the strength I did January-April, so I'll start training hard now to race well August through November. Still, I'm sharp enough that I stiffened my spine at the end of the race to ward off some vultures who had come to prey on my carcass. This, however, came at the cost of mixing two separate metaphors a la Montgomery Burns' "the butterfly has emerged from its cocoon as a shark with a gun for a mouth."

At any rate, I'm going to run as much as possible between Saturday and Friday and rest up for my 10k next Tuesday with the hope of running 36 minutes and getting close to my PB of 36:38. Before that, however, I have a 1500 on the track tomorrow, my first since 2005. I ran my best of 4:39 on a brutally hot day (33-35 degrees) after a 5k the day before, but it's still my best performance ever according to Jack Daniels' VDOT. I'd be thrilled to beat 4:39 tomorrow, though no matter what happens, I'll either finish dead last or beat up on some 14-year-olds.

Monday – 9k
Tuesday – off
Wednesday – Night Crawler 5-miler in 29:48, 5:43, 5:58, 5:56, 6:06, 6:05, faded badly in the last 2 miles but had a good kick, team finished 2nd
Thursday – 12k
Friday – off
Saturday – 30-minute tempo in the rain, 2k easy, 4 x 400 in 75 (79, 75, 73, 74) with 400 jog, 16k total
Sunday – 19k

72 km

Sunday, June 22, 2008

I was going to write something about eating an entire stuffed crust pizza from Pizza Hut and drinking a litre of Pepsi while watching America's Most Wanted (still no facetime for myself or Riyaad), but then I found this video and nothing I could've said can compare.

2-Year-Old Donkey Called Up To Pro Donkey Basketball League

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Toronto's population is probably the most diverse of any city in the world, for whatever that's worth. Miami has more foreigners, but Toronto has more people from different parts of the world. In high school, I had friends born in Europe, Africa, South America, the Caribbean, South Asia, the Middle East and, yes, even Canada. I've met people from Albania, Yemen, Azerbaijan, Laos, Eritrea, Botswana and Nicaragua. Every time there is a tournament such as the FIFA World Cup, the World Cup of Cricket, or even the current Euro 2008, you find out where everyone in the city is from.

Today, in the Battle of the Balkans, Turkey defeated Croatia in the quarterfinal on penalties. The other quarterfinals are the Battle of the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Italy), the Battle of Countries with Red, White and Blue in Their Flags (Russia and the Netherlands) and the Battle of Germany and Portugal (Germany and Portugal). Not long after, Yonge Street was filled with Turks waving flags and honking horns, and this was still the case three hours later. What perplexed me is that I had actually never met anyone from Turkey, and since I didn't really talk to any of those people, I still hadn't.

There's no Little Istanbul in Toronto, no Turkeytown or anything of the sort. For all I know, these were Croatian bandwagon-jumpers cashing in on the rise in Turkish stock by picking up Turkish flags at one of the countless souvenir stands all around the city that sell a variety of flags large and small, for waving and installing on your car. The same questionable entrepreneurs who sell fireworks from street corners before Victoria Day, Canada Day, Simcoe Day and Labour Day also sell national merchandise and Che Guevara merchandise when business is slow.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I graduated from university today. I shook hands with David Peterson in the cavernous but stately Convocation Hall (I've never called it by its proper name), which looked a lot better than the dimly lit grotto from my first day of class four years ago. Peterson is a former premier of Ontario and now chancellor of the University of Toronto, or something like that.

Peterson: Congratulations, you did very well. What're you going to do now?
Adeel: Uh, ah, journalist?
Peterson: Journalist? [gesturing to the honorary degree recipient] Did you hear what he said about journalists?
Adeel: Uh, yeah, but I don't really--
Peterson: You don't want to be an academic like him?
Adeel: No, I actually, uh, didn't get into grad school.
Peterson: Oh, well, just don't become a politician.
Adeel: Don't worry, I won't.

Anyway, I thought I would try and put together ten things I learned, ten actual things, not meaningless aphorisms like "it's not what you know, but who you know" or "life is like a box of chocolates". I have one each in honour of my nine semesters, plus two for the first semester of third-year, which I found particularly rigorous.

1. There is a difference between what you can do and what you ought to do.

2. Ideas are more real than physical objects because of the imperfections in the real world. The idea of a circle, a shape consisting of points equidistant from a centre, is more real than the circle you might draw, where the points will not be equidistant from the centre. Or so says Plato.

3. The best things are the ones you desire for themselves, not what they bring you. The best thing, therefore, is happiness, because no one ever wants to be happy for something else, but you'll do everything else to be happy.

4. Happiness is not a subjective feeling from minute to minute, but a state of being best described as flourishing. Flourishing comes about from doing the sort of things that you're meant to do, such as doing horsely things if you happen to be a horse.

5. The single most important question in the world is how we ought to live, which is the subject matter of ethics, which is the same thing as morality. My favourite professor once joked that, in popular usage, ethics has to do with money and morality has to do with sex.

6. There are things which exist independent of you and your beliefs about their existence, such as the continent of Australia, and there are ideas which are not things or objects and lack this independent existence.

7. The capital of Mozambique is Maputo.

8. There is nothing about our world that is so different from that of Socrates, Plato or Aristotle that what they say is irrelevant.

9. The only mammals that are not vivaporous and don't bear live young are platypus and porcupines. This was an example drilled into my head over and over when defining science as "the commensurately universal properties of species and their genera".

10. Plato coined the word 'quality' in Theaetetus. Seriously. Before Theaetetus, no one had ever thought of using that word.

Monday, June 16, 2008

This week of running was as unpredictable as the Los Angeles Lakers (yes, this is a basketball reference on AWYHIGTC), who gave the first appearance of yet another act in the long-running tragedy that is Boston's tradition of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. We saw it with the Babe Ruth deal, the Enos Slaughter game-winning run in the 1946 World Series, Bucky Dent's home run, Bill Buckner's error, Grady Little's intransigence, John Kerry's aloofness, Bill Belichick's arrogance and now with the stellar Boston Celtics, hitherto untouched by this streak. The Lakers blew a 24-point lead in game 4 and nearly blew a 19-point lead tonight. With a win on Tuesday, the series will be tied and the slate wiped clean for a game 7 in Los Angeles on Thursday. Normally I would never root for the insufferable Lakers, but the start of NFL training camps has re-ignited my fierce hatred of all things Boston.

Lastly, the remaining lovable losers in baseball, the Chicago Cubs visited Toronto and took two of three from the local ennead, thus maintaining the best record in baseball. The Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908, but perhaps more frightening is the fact that they also haven't made it to June with the best record in baseball since 1908.

At any rate, that's a long enough diversion from my week of training, which began with my achieving the holy grail of hot weather running: the noon-hour tempo. Over the years, I have always wound up running in the mid-day heat, but have never been able to finish a workout. I finally managed to do so on Monday in 32-degree temperatures with a Humidex reading of 41 (about 90F with a heat index of 105F) and brilliant sunshine, without a cloud in the sky. This was a situation that merits either "extreme caution" or "danger" depending on how you look at it.

I carefully ran 6k on a rolling loop in 26:16, about 3 minutes slower than normal time for the course, which I still take as an accomplishment. The rest of the week was up and down, and I don't know what to expect at all for my upcoming races.

Monday – 6k tempo at noon in 26:16, 32 degrees and 41 humidex AND 40 km/h wind, 12k total
Tuesday – 12k
Wednesday – 6 x 800 in 2:52 with 2:00 jog, 6 x 200 with 200 jog, 18k total, wanted to do 8 x 800 but cramps shut me down
Thursday – 12k
Friday – 8k
Saturday – 4k
Sunday – 6.3k tempo in 25:52, no warm-up, slow start, very hard finish, 8k total

72 km

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Continuing with our theme of people being fat, it emerges here that the average US American male has a waist size of 39 inches, or more than double the width of a standard home plate (17 inches), no pun intended. I have the waist size of an average Japanese female. A new law in Japan requires that 80% of people between 40 and 75 have their waists measured regularly. A man whose waist is over 33.5 inches or a woman whose waist is 35.4, thresholds indicating significant health risks, will be encouraged to lose weight by their employer or local government. Employers and local governments who do not reduce the number of overweight, or metabo, by 25 percent over the next seven years will be fined.

Whatever the health care costs of its aging population, it appears that Japan could have gone about this differently. This seems to go past the threshold of indecency and indignity. It would have been much more practical to target unhealthy behaviours such as Japan's very high rate of smoking. This is a news week where much-maligned America comes out looking better than Japan, after its Supreme Court ruled that its constitution still applies.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

MSN offers so-called diet secrets from skinny countries such as France (where 40% of adults are overweight), Italy (45%) and Greece, where more than two-thirds of adults are overweight. In its stead, I would like to offer real secrets from the really thin countries in the world: Ethiopia, Vietnam, Burundi and Somalia. You see, the real secret is to not eat too much in the first place. Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world, Somalia has no government, Burundi has a GDP per capita of $90 (yes, ninety dollars) and Vietnam, well, their secret is their special Asian diet. That's why I suggest eating at Ginger on Yonge just south of Bloor.

The Burundi Beef Council did run an ad campaign a number of years back under the slogan "Beef: If only it could be for dinner".
Latest Cheney Tape May Contain Evidence Of His Whereabouts

WASHINGTON—Reports surfaced Tuesday that the New York–based Fox News Channel has obtained a tape which purportedly features another cryptic video message from U.S. vice president and known extremist Dick Cheney, widely regarded as the most feared man in America.

"We have analyzed the tape, and the voice on it matches up with earlier recordings of the vice president," said CIA spokesman George Little, who claimed the tape may contain valuable clues regarding the location of the elusive Cheney, who was last sighted in late 2005 along the border of Maryland and Virginia.

"Though more specific details on his whereabouts have yet to emerge, we do know two things," Little added. "Dick Cheney is still alive, and he is out there somewhere."

The tape, which is 18 minutes in length, contains grainy footage of what appears to be the vice president standing in front of a featureless brown background. Despite a history of heart problems, Cheney seems to be in good health, though he does appear agitated. Analysts said his hair is grayer than in previous tapes, and his hairline has receded by a half inch. He appears to be wearing the exact same suit he wore in his most recent video in 2004.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Another read about the poor in yesterday's New York Times was this one about the impact of high gas prices on rural poor in America. Rarely does anyone position the price of gas relative to people's ability to pay for it, but this article does. People in Holmes County, Mississippi spend about 13% of their after-tax income on gas, which is a lot considering the median income is about $1500. What was somewhat underhanded of the Times is that they chose one of the absolute poorest places in the United States: mostly black Holmes County has a median household income of about $18,000, making it the 41st poorest county in the country, and that includes many native reservations.

Still, the point is evident, though not made, that America is built so bizarrely that people travel upwards of 100 km one way to a menial job. That's like coming from Waterloo to Toronto to work at a Starbucks. Granted, the need to travel for work is more acute in rural areas because of low population densities and a lack of jobs (41% of Holmes County lives in poverty), but I can't quite understand why people from one poor place travel 50-100 km to a job in another poor place instead of just moving there. The decision to live in one place and work far away is really a luxury, one that the poorest in America apparently can't afford, and more of us won't be able to afford in the future.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Somini Sengupta takes a look at the lives of India's wealthy apartment dwellers and their shanty-dwelling servants across the street:

Inside its gates, the Chands have everything they might need: the coveted Sri Ram School, a private health clinic and clubhouse next door, security guards to keep out unwanted strangers and well-groomed lawns and paths for power walks and cricket games.

“Women and children are not encouraged to go outside,” said Madan Mohan Bhalla, president of the Hamilton Court Resident Welfare Association. “If they want to have a walk, they can walk inside. It’s a different world outside the gate.”

The pictures are almost better than the article, however. India runs the gamut from the very light-skinned to the very dark-skinned, from the Himalayas in to the north to the tropics in the south, from those who stole Kashmir from Pakistan to those who merely borrowed it, and from the extremely rich to the extremely poor. India has about a quarter billion people living in complete poverty, an underclass the size of the United States. The problems and contradictions in offering a billion people the chance to live like Americans are immense, but let's leave that aside for now. India is at least somewhat responsive to the poor, if only because they overwhelmingly outnumber the rich when it comes to votes, a novelty in much of the world.

Speaking of sweaty brown people, I think I should append my week of running to the end of this entry:

Monday – 9k
Tuesday – 6 x 800 in 2:51 with 400 jog, slow first lap and fast finish (90/82ish), back pain slowed me down, good fitness
Wednesday – 13k
Thursday – 6k tempo, 12k total
Friday – 13k
Saturday – 4k
Sunday – off

63 km

It was a weird week. I ran well on Tuesday, at least well enough to show sub-18 fitness and probably more given how easily I ran 82-second laps. I didn't end up racing yesterday because of how tired I was, and took the day off altogether, which didn't matter too much since the course was about 100-150 metres short. Still, this laziness can't continue over the next couple of weeks. My next race is the Night Crawler 5-miler on June 18, which offers a bucket of said worms to the winner. I was 9th last year.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

I think there is too much bad news, not enough good news, too much about what happened and not enough about what ought to be done. In light of that, an article that acknowledges the spectacular thud of the Rust Belt but also offers a solution for renewal, is a good read. Windsor, across from the Detroit River, has a better idea than its twin sister, which seems content to build a few casinos and otherwise act as a giant, living mausoleum. The well-paying automobile manufacturing jobs of the past are gone, in large part because no one wants to buy cars anymore, no matter how much unions protest. Creating new well-paying jobs for unskilled workers, of course, is the $64,000-a-year (roughly what workers at a GM assembly plant make) question.

It remains to be seen whether anything will come of this idea for a new energy industry in the Great Lakes region, but at least they're not going to "get bitter, [or] cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment."

Thursday, June 05, 2008

CNN here does a story on Barack Obama giving props to his wife Michelle, and then delves into the history of the collegial fist bump with all the aloofness of Bob Dole. I have long been an exponent of prop-giving, so it's nice to see this gesture receive some mainstream attention.

Speaking of Obama, the even better news is that Hillary Clinton will suspend her deranged stand-off with reality on Saturday, hopefully never to be seen or heard from again. Here's to a Muslim in the White House in January.

Monday, June 02, 2008

This was quite a weekend for running.

Usain ("In the membrane") Bolt ran a 9.72 100-metre world record in New York, leaving world champion Tyson Gay in his dust. Here's a video. Note the size of Bolt, a fellow product of 1986, who is about 6'5".

Pamela Jelimo of Kenya, in just her fifth 800 ever, ran a 1:54.99, the second-fastest clean time ever (the other seven better than her are run by East European women 20-30 years ago). Jelimo is having quite a start with what is arguably the toughest distance to run.

Fellow 18-year old German Fernandez ran a 4:00.29 1600 and an 8:34 3200 less than three hours later at the California high school state meet

Last but not least, our very own Chelle had her doors blown off by World Championship marathon bronze medalist Reiko Tosa of Japan in a 4-mile race. Tosa, whose best marathon is 2:22, offered by way of consolation a big screen television to Chelle, who accepted.

As for me, I ran five days this week and ran my first two workouts coming back, both of which were good. I'm running a 5k next Sunday, but I'm willing to sacrifice it to the greater good of the 10k exactly one month from today. Anything under 18 minutes will be fine.

Monday - 9k
Tuesday – off
Wednesday – 13k, last 5k in 18:47, a little too hard but fairly smooth
Thursday – 13k
Friday – off
Saturday – 6 x 3:00 hard with 2:00 easy, surprisingly fast
Sunday – 19k

67 km