Saturday, May 31, 2008

Friday, May 30, 2008

Today is the second-last day of May and the Tampa Bay Rays are in first place. Sweeter than the Jays' hot streak of late is that the Yankees are on track to finish in dead last for the first time since 1990. I'm sure that mentioning this inexorably changed the outcome of the AL East, but I couldn't resist.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I saw a woman today who struggled to get on a bus. She lifted herself up in the same way I lifted my bad leg up stairs when injured a few weeks ago. It was a bit like watching someone on the parallel bars, though the display was the completely opposite of gymnastics. I think she was maybe 5'4" and at least 300 lbs, probably closer to 400 lbs based on how many seats she took up and how they gave out a thud when she sat down. Granted, she was probably around 40 and Vince Wilfork already looks like her at the age of 26.

What worries me is that so many of us might look and live like her in the future. My concern isn't merely limited to my ability to continue purchasing pants, though it seems a 48-inch waist is more common than my 28-inch waist these days. Given that children tend to grow and that those who are overweight at a young age tend to become still more overweight as they age, I have misgivings about whether the 26% of Canadian children who are overweight will be able to board and unboard buses as adults.

The New York Times will report tomorrow with a hint of relief that the growth of childhood obesity in the United States has stabilized, but this still leaves one-third of American children as overweight. Yes, the studies use BMI and, yes, this means LaDainian Tomlinson is obese, but you're not a professional athlete and the 30 lbs you've added lately aren't muscle. If one-third of US American children are overweight, they must surely be set to surpass their parents, about two-thirds of whom are overweight. I should either start stockpiling pants right now or do my best to gain the forty pounds or so I lack in being overweight.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Here is the first of several weekly running updates. The good news is that I'm healthy, which I proved by running a 10k race today. The bad news is that I'm not really in shape, which I proved by running a 10k race today. I ran the race because it was organized by my mosque, expecting a fun run without any competition, but the first three runners ran 32, 34 and 36 minutes, and I wasn't in shape to come anywhere near third place, though I tried. I had hoped to cruise to victory initially, and I decided after sucking wind for 3k (10:54) that I was going to finish 4th no matter what, so I decided to just do enough to not be passed by anyone. Adding injury to insult was the fact that when I looked back at 9k to make sure I wasn't in an old-fashioned foot race, I tripped over the road median and cut up both hands and a leg.

I plan to run about 3-4 minutes faster in 37 days, which isn't so hard considering that I ran a minute faster than today for the first and second 10k of my last half marathon.

May 19 – 25

Monday – 6k
Tuesday – 6k
Wednesday – off
Thursday – 9k
Friday – 12k
Saturday – 9k
Sunday – Run for Vaughan 10k in 39:17 4th place, splits of 19:45/19:32, cruised the last few kilometres, no warm-up and very rusty

52 km

Saturday, May 24, 2008

If there were any doubts that Hillary Clinton is a borderline psychopath, she erased them today when defending her childish, petty obsession with protracting the Democratic presidential nomination process. Clinton said today in South Dakota: "My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. I don’t understand it." Apparently, Mike Huckabee made a selfish, unpatriotic decision in abandoning his candidacy to the capricious whims of would-be John McCain assassins.

Clinton has recently ratcheted up her grousing that her defeat is the product of sexism. This is the candidate who enjoys her strongest support among the uneducated, a candidate who trounced her opponent in the Kentucky primary on Tuesday because up to 20% of them considered race important to how they cast their vote. Clinton's husband dismissed Obama's early victories as the victory of a black candidate supported by other blacks. She said that Obama was not a Muslim "as far as I know", not that there's anything wrong with that. A John McCain rally in Cincinnati began with numerous references to Barack Obama's middle name, which happens to be same as a former Iraqi dictator, not to mention an uncle of mine. If anyone is a victim of anything, it's Obama who has suffered from racism, but still overcome Clinton's long-standing arrogance and immoral tactics.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Wherever you see a Coffee Time, you see a bad neighbourhood, given that the good people at Coffee Time set up shop exclusively at the questionable intersections of Toronto. Tim Hortons is everywhere and Starbucks and Second Cup cater to the richer parts of town, but someone needs to cater to the people who can pay Tim Hortons prices but would rather sit somewhere dingier and rat-infested. Wherever there is a Coffee Time, there is a crack den or homeless shelter not too far away, and the insides of the establishment will be populated with the tired and huddled masses yearning to breathe free if not for the smoke inside and their various ailments, warts and so on. I'm sure I'm not the first to come up with a Correlative Theory of Coffee Time Creepiness, which I first postulated with eyes agape at the now-vanished Coffee Time at College and Spadina.

Someday, future generations will have no idea that the high-end Tim Hortons in that spot was once a large coffee shop with two tables but space for thirty, along with a smoking room populated by centenarian amputees, who looked old enough to have taken part in the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837, along with the indigent and the crack-addicted, who used that shop as their own personal crack den. What I found most surreal about the place was that people, decent, honest people, worked behind the counter there, including the overnight shift since Coffee Times are open 24 hours.

Name a less-than-desirable intersection in Toronto, and there is a Coffee Time there, and that is only where you find Coffee Times. You can find one at Parliament and Wellesley, Dundas and Jarvis, Queen and Parliament (for those unfamiliar with the area, neither Queen nor Parliament retain much sway at this intersection) and, of course, once at the granddaddy of them all, College and Spadina.

Today I walked roughly 6 km from Bloor and Dundas to Queen and Bathurst, leisurely taking in the skeeze of Bloor and Dundas and the urban blight and artistic absurdity and vanity of Parkdale. Parkdale is an area that has seen worse days, if you consider hipsters wearing ridiculous clothing hanging outside pathetic art galleries to be a form of progress over crack-addicted prostitutes. I saw no less than five Coffee Times on this walk, passing close by another two, and passing about 3-4 shops that were former Coffee Time franchises. A former acquaintance discusses the propensity of Coffee Time franchises to cut ties with the mother ship with the flimsiest of rebranding efforts here.

When Coffee Times past and present began to give way to Starbucks, most prominently at Dovercourt, where I saw a Starbucks, an obnoxious twit with a pink mohawk and a gigantic hummer, I knew that urban blight had given way to urban vanity and that the adventure was over. Yes, the art galleries and the Starbucks and the cheap lofts replacing the by-the-hour motel at Queen and Ossington are good for the economy or something or other, but it's actually more interesting over by Queen and Lansdowne, where a fragile-looking pimp runs his business half in a streetcar shelter and half inside a convenience store. Unsurprisingly, there are seven Coffee Times within a mile of his operation.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I ran for twenty consecutive minutes today, meaning that I can relax after spending two weeks wondering whether I was going to go and become a never-been thanks to my achilles injury. I was running with a group of sedentary runners I coach last week, where even alternating walking and running made me grimace. Returning to the world of consecutive minutes of running was therefore an accomplishment, though I strung together about 160 of these not too long ago. Some of you may be aware that I used to run regularly once and even entered races from time to time.

I have six races planned over the next two months. My main goals are to run under 36 minutes for 10k (personal best 36:38) and, maybe, under 17 minutes for 5k (best of 17:44). There is a 322-kilometre relay somewhere out there at the end of the month, followed by a 5k on June 8, a 5-miler on June 18, a 1500 on June 24, a big 10k on July 1 and, then, what's left of me and my left achilles tendon will run an even bigger 10-miler on July 13. I think the 5k is too soon to get under 17 minutes, since I won't do any hard running this week. That might have to wait until the late summer or early fall.

I'll post my training in this space at the end of each week, in lieu of a post that's just a video from Youtube or an article from the Toronto Star copied and put into italics. As an advance, I've already told you about tonight's run.

Monday, May 19, 2008

It took a New Yorker to notice that most of Toronto's homeless are white, even though the city is only about fifty percent white, and (my assumption) non-whites are more likely to be poor. The Globe and Mail explored this question yesterday. When I thought about it, it surprised me. In New York and Chicago, I saw legions of homeless black men, but in Toronto, you tend to see mostly old white men, along with white adolescents and the odd native. Two or three natives have held a winter spot over the heating grate at King and Jordan, where I have seen them for over three years now. It's always been a mystery to me what happens to the homeless between the ages of 20 and 40.

The reason for our indigent monochromy (I prefer the term glass heating grate) is much the same as why you never really see a dumb Somali in Toronto, even though their country is in shambles, and that's being generous. Immigration has a funny way of screening out the crazy and the poor. Our immigrants come here with one or two or more university degrees to deliver one or two or more pizzas and consequently might be poor, but they're not susceptible to the same pressures as Toronto's homeless. As anyone who has ever talked to the homeless (in first-year, we talked about creating a large map indicating the habitat, territory and grazing corridor of prominent local transients) will know, there is a strong relationship between homelessness and mental illness. According to the article, about two-thirds of our homeless have problems with their mental health.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Unusual methods of surface-based locomotion are a favourite topic of mine and also for many of you, who enjoy such locomotion in its rapid, bipedal variety. Enter Harlan Schwartz, who is currently in the process of crossing Ontario from Algonquin Park to Lake Winnipeg by canoe. Schwartz is using only minor waterways, abstaining from using the Great Lakes. He began in late April and hopes to finish this arduous journey by November. Schwartz's unique canoeing and portaging labours are apparently a first, which makes sense given that we have four Great Lakes in the province. Crossing Ontario by road from east to west at its broadest is equivalent to driving from New York to Miami. Doing so by canoe and walking-with-a-canoe-over-your-head is almost double that distance at 3500 km, equivalent to dying a slow death while watching C-PAC.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I wrote the poem below last night in a contest. It had to mention dragonboating, paddling and water. I spent about 5 minutes writing out of an allotted 10, and I think it turned out quite well. I actually won the contest as judged on the basis of laughs.



I performed a stand-up comedy set afterwards, but I think this was the funniest thing I came up with all night. Making it all funnier still was the fact that I won a bottle of wine.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The words "very tragic situation" appeared on the front page of Tuesday's Toronto Star next to a picture of a woman crawling out of rubble in Dujiangyan, China, where at least 12,000 people died yesterday. The words, however, actually referred to the loss of 1,400 high-paying, low-skill jobs from Windsor two years from now when a General Motors plant there closes. The Star actually devoted equal amounts of ink to the distant loss of a thousand jobs, jobs belonging to people who will likely continue to live lives of luxury by global standards and to the horrific deaths of thousands of people, many of them children crushed to deaths inside their schools. It's unclear what the non-English-speaking poor of the world have to do to get some face time if dying by the tens of thousands in an earthquake won't do it.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Sometimes I think I just have too many excuses when it comes to running. Check out Augustine Choge of Kenya win a race (3k in 7:32) on Friday with just one shoe. I'd embed this video, but they won't let me.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

It would be interesting to inhabit the same alternate reality as Hillary Clinton. Tonight, having narrowly won a state and resoundingly lost another in the Democratic primaries, she gave a speech that sounded something like a victory speech: "tonight, we've come from behind, we've broken the tie and thanks to you, it's full speed on to the White House." If nothing else, Clinton, who is about as slimy and repulsive a human being as there is, is optimistic. Indeed, she has all the optimism of a terminally ill patient who, upon being told that death won't arrive that day, believes that it means she is cured. Of course, one man's optimism is another man's spin, and Clinton is the best spinner I have seen since Sri Lanka's Muttiah Muralitharan.

Of course, one man's spin is another man's bald-faced lie, and that's probably the more accurate way of describing Clinton. The world does not need her ambition in the White House. Plato wrote over 2,000 years ago that those who ought to rule will not want to rule and by corollary, those who want to rule ought not to rule. Clinton is clear evidence that those who want to rule with the same sense of entitlement as a 5-year-old wants ice cream really ought not to rule.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Mindi from Madison, Wisconsin writes:

1) Write your own six word memoir

That's easy.

I am waiting for the bus.

That sums up my life quite easily. I took a school bus twice a day for the last eight years of school. I took a Brampton Transit bus to get around in high school, TTC and GO buses to get around in university and Greyhound and Ontario Northland buses to get around Canada. I now urge up to five of you to respond with six-word memoirs of your own.

Monday, May 05, 2008

I made it to 30k (3:04 pace) feeling very confident and made it to 35k feeling I was in a race, but then the previous two and a half hours of work came apart like a snapping achilles tendon, which meant meant by 37k that I had to walk almost all of the way to the finish (3:33). The course was fairly hilly and very windy, especially from 10k-20k and 30k-40k, and I clearly wasn't as fit as I had been, so I was fine with running a strong race all the way to the finish. I almost made it, but as the results show, almost means nothing. The injury is actually pretty bad, and I hope I'll be healthy after a couple of weeks off.

I'm just glad it's over.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

When I went out and ran 10k on a sunny November afternoon to start training for Boston, I certainly couldn't have predicted that it would have all come to a head two weeks later in The Big Soap Bubble aka The Big Sud aka The City That Buddy Built aka Sudbury, Ontario. I've always had a revulsion for Sudbury, which is the largest, southernmost city in northern Ontario. Northern Ontario is a vast, beautiful area more than twice the size of Germany that makes up the upper nine-tenths of the province but has less than a million people. Anyway, Sudbury is a mining town that was once so barren and so hideous that, according to urban legend, moon-bound astronauts went there to acclimate themselves to terra luna.

Of course, those of you who know me well know that my first-year roommate was a 23-year-old recovering heroin addict (known as Buddy in this space since that was the only pronoun he knew) and snuff porn connoisseur from Sudbury. Needless to say, we didn't get along very well, given his penchant for watching horror movies in our shared hotel rooms and his fondness for playing loud drum and bass music at about 140 dB. You will also know that I slept in a car in Sudbury once, braced the entire time for marauding gangs of white supremacists to come and set the car on fire (interesting fact: that car, not mine, was later stolen in a ghetto of Toronto).

So, my fears of Sudbury are somewhat unfounded, though I think i have something to fear from running 42 km and change anywhere in the world. I don't think I have any idea how I'll do. My real goal is to capture the $100 prize for a tenth-place finish in this handicap race, where participants start at different times based on age and gender (I start last). That's do-able considering that I was the 57th participant when I signed up last night, and that 10th-place last year ran a 3:13.

Friday, May 02, 2008

One litre of gasoline in Toronto costs $1.18, making gas in Toronto cheaper than in any other Canadian city. A litre of gasoline in Canada averages $1.26, an increase of roughly 50% since the fall of 2006. If you're reading this and you're an American, you have absolutely nothing to complain about. I was watching CNN in the US with one Matt Boles last week when a very grave report intoned that the price of gas nationally was about $3.50 per gallon. "How much is that per litre?" he asked me. "It's about 95 cents per litre, I think," I told him. "Seriously? What a joke."

At any rate, there are lots of uneducated buffoons who will cry foul at the fact that the price of a product in extremely high demand keeps increasing in response to that demand. What I find mind-boggling is that the price of water, that stuff that comes out of your tap for about 0.1 cents per litre, is higher than the price of gas at a gas station. A one-litre bottle of water will probably cost around $2 in the snack bar. Since gas stations are owned by evil companies who should not be allowed any profits so that we can have whatever we want for next to nothing, it seems there ought to be a National Boycott Bottled Water Day to show Dasani and Evian that we need those prices to come down.