Friday, July 25, 2008



I wish someone had pelted me with Snickers bars during my race tonight. By my count, tonight's 18:35 5k, good for 22nd place, was the 8th 5k I've run between 18:29 and 18:56. I decided to run for as long as I could at PB pace (3:33/km), and I made it halfway (3:32, 3:36) before lugging a bear for the next two kilometres (3:49, 4:04) and recovering to close in 3:34. Actually, it would be better if someone pelted me with Snickers bars in the morning when it's time to run.

I'm (supposedly) allergic to peanuts.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I have a very peculiar habit of typing my Wikipedia queries directly into the address bar. For example, if I want to know the population of Portland, Oregon, I'll just type 'en' to bring up past Wikipedia pages I've visited, and then replace whatever comes up at the top (currently 24) with what I want to read about. I usually just assume that what I'm looking for has an article written about it, and guess with titles like 'human knee' and '2000 Summer Olympics'. I'm usually bang on, but the result is that I have a lot of typos in there (Kosov(o), Nagoy(a)).

Anyway, since I spend at least one hour a day and frequently more than 3-4 hours reading Wikipedia, I thought I'd try a new feature where I share what I've been reading, both for your edification and as an insight into my boring life. In somewhat alphabetical order:

George Wallace
Easter Island
Confusion Corner
Rwanda
Dirk Nowitzki
Gore Vidal
Kaye Lani Rae Rafko
Mango
World
Lake Havasu

Monday, July 21, 2008

This weekend, I had a 16-ounce burger on Friday night and then ran a Coke mile (drink a Coke, run a lap) on Saturday in 9:42, a one-minute personal best for any carbonated beverage-based mile. Coupled with my lack of motivation for running these days, it appears that I might now be a two-sport competitor. I heard a rumour about a restaurant in Windsor, the strip club capital of Canada, which gives $500 to anyone who can eat a 32-ounce burger with fries. Given the relative ease with which I dispatched of my 16-ounce opponent, I feel confident that I wouldn't have much problem with a 32-ounce burger either. There's also the girl who ate a 6-pound burger, which makes a 2-pound burger seem like small potatoes.

(Note: my editor has informed me that this is an 8-pound burger and that the prize is $1,000. Full contest rules are here. I know I have a couple of lawyers reading this: is there such a thing as a consensus by the courts on what defines 'hanky panky'?)

Seriously, though, what I really need to do is to start running more. I think this is the first time in 8 years that I've lacked the motivation to run. Well, it's not exactly true that I'm lacking motivation to run, I'm lacking motivation to train. I'm pretty sure I'm running a 5k on Thursday.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

If we'd won the Olympic bid . . .
If the world were coming to Toronto this summer, we wouldn't be closing swimming pools our residents use and need for lack of a few million dollars in the school board budget. We'd be building new ones, a legacy of the Olympics.

If the world were coming to Toronto, this week's city council debate on tearing down part of the Gardiner Expressway would have been over. Ditto the headaches from the construction.

If the world were coming, Union Station would have been retrofitted already, the ridiculously narrow TTC platforms replaced with a modern facility fit for the region's most important transit hub. The rapid transit link from Union Station to Pearson airport would have completed its test runs, not stalled on the planning board.

If . . . if . . . if only . . .

Big projects are not to be feared, they are to be tackled and managed. With huge risks come huge opportunities. Toronto can continue to be complacent and cautious. And we'll continue to be nice. But we'll never reach our full potential or achieve greatness.


Royson James envisions the Toronto that would be hosting the 2008 Olympics. I don't think the Olympics make a city that much better: I certainly don't think any more of Atlanta because it was where Donovan Bailey won gold and Michael Johnson ran his 19.32 200-metre world record. The Olympics might illuminate a country and a city that otherwise fly under the radar, as is the case with this year's hosts, but city-building happens just fine without large-scale athletic competitions.

At the same time, it is impossible to get anything done in Toronto. It will take eight years to demolish a kilometre-long portion of the Gardiner. It will take 8-9 years to extend the Spadina subway line about 9 kilometres from Downsview into Vaughan, which is roughly how long it took to build the original Yonge subway (1946-1954), though we don't have the excuse of a post-war shortage of materials that they did back then. By comparison, Madrid has built about 50 km of subway this decade alone. The gold standard for public works is probably China, where the power of the state knows no boundaries. Beijing has built two new subway lines in the last four years, is opening three this month in time for the Olympics, and has another six under construction, to be completed by 2015.

Beijing is also, somehow, going to make it rain before the Games to both scrub its filthy air and avoid the possibility of rain during the opening ceremonies. If we'd won the bid...we'd have some affordable housing.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The provincial park where I went camping this weekend had a sign in its office asking campers (largely those under the age of 5 or those with handwriting similar to a 5-year-old) to report any sightings of a certain sort of turtle. The park explained that there was an interest in tracking the numbers and, likely, the movements of these turtles. Discussing it later with my friends, I jokingly blasted the idea as a gross violation of the privacy and civil rights of turtles, consistent with the interpretation of section 8 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It would certainly not be acceptable for the park to ask visitors to report any sightings of blacks or Muslims, but turtles and various other animals do not enjoy this right. With the exception of rights exclusive to citizens of Canada or permanent citizens, there is nothing in the Charter which states explicitly that the Charter applies solely to human beings.

I then came home to find that Spain is on the verge of granting limited human rights to our fellow great apes. When the bill passes, "it would become illegal in Spain to kill apes except in self-defense. Torture, including in medical experiments, and arbitrary imprisonment, including for circuses or films, would be forbidden." The law would be the first victory for the Great Ape Project spearheaded by Princeton philosopher Peter Singer and an Italian philosopher named Paola Cavalieri, which advocates for the extension of human rights to great apes on the basis of our shared humanity. Though Singer and Cavalieri demand the release of any apes in captivity, Spain's 300 apes in zoos will remain there.

Friday, July 11, 2008

What's most impressive about watching Gebrselassie is that, ironically, I think he doesn't look that impressive. Watching him run, it looks like he isn't even working, and I let myself think that I could probably keep up with him. He is, of course, in his 41st kilometre of running at about 21 km/hour and has run a marathon faster than any human has ever run.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

It was just today that I discovered Monkey Matters, but if my mom had found this site 20 years ago, my life might have been different. You see, when I was 3, my oldest brother (then 9) caught chicken pox and passed it on to me and my older brother (parenthetically, this is actually my earliest memory). My mother, therefore, was home alone with three boys under the age of 9. As a solution to this problem, my dad's friend suggested keeping a monkey for a while. I'm not exactly sure who owned this monkey, whether it was a zoo or the friend, but the fact was that a monkey came to stay at the Ahmads (not our family name).

It was loads of fun, I'm sure, though I don't remember most of it. I remember that we'd feed him plums (I think) and that he was very loud and made a terrible mess of everything. Ironically, the same forces that brought him to our house took him away as well: if caring for three male primates of varying intellects was difficult, adding a fourth primate to the mix was clearly a bad idea. I think the experiment lasted two weeks, though to be honest, I don't think we were going to get a pet monkey no matter what any putative website said. Still, I'm all for being groomed by a monkey and seeing what my rank is in a human-monkey hierarchy, as described in this article.

Monday, July 07, 2008

The Union Carbide gas leak in India has a strange, peripheral meaning to my life, one that I explained here a few years ago. This New York Times article looks at life in Bhopal almost 25 years later. Change has been slow and the past lingers for far too long, much like my older brother who was born 12 days after the leak and is still in undergrad. For all the progress made in India in the last 20 years, Bhopal is a stain pointing to the Third World quality of most of India.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

I was going to jump for joy at the news that carmakers are reporting sharp declines in the sale of their vile products, but instead I'll jump for joy that no one is buying the gobbledygook about another terrorist attack being imminent in the United States. Still, one-third of Americans believe that a terrorist attack is likely in the next six weeks, which is perplexing since a terrorist attack isn't hard to do: given the constitutional right to own and operate automatic weapons, own and operate an automatic weapon in a public place on a weekly basis.

Much like Homer wanting to buy Lisa's rock that keeps tigers away ("do you see any tigers around?"), America has squandered an awful lot of time and energy keeping terrorists away. While America was (and is) preoccupied with averting high-profile, low-casualty events such as car bombings and airplane hijackings, roughly 100,000 Americans have been murdered by domestic terrorists operating in loose-knit cells (they used to be called murderers) since September 11, 2001. Already, more Americans have been killed supposedly defending America from bad people than have been killed by bad people.
If you'd told me in December that the two PBs I would set this year at standard distances would be at 1500 metres and the half marathon, I would have laughed and laughed and then maybe scratched my head. Still, that's how this year has gone. I ran a great race last Tuesday on the track, better than I could have imagined, and even more surprising since I only had one gear in the entire race. I started very slow, in dead last through 50 metres as this video nicely shows, but moved up from 11th to 6th over the course of the race. I ran laps of 72-73-75 seconds with a 54-second last 300 (another 72, basically) for a 4:34, a 5-second best.

Today I ran the HBC Run for Canada 10k, where I came out flat after a brutal last week, and ran 38:39 for 25th place. That was, ironically, only marginally faster than the 39:17 I ran six weeks ago while out of shape, which is what prompted this sharing of training. You win some and you lose some, I suppose, and even here, I won some by earning $50 as the second-fastest male in his 20s who wasn't good enough to finish in the top 3 overall.

Last week's training:

Monday – 9k
Tuesday – 1500m at Varsity Centre in 4:34, splits of 72, 2:25, 3:40, good strength, moved up well throughout, great race, 6th in slow heat of 10 finishers, 17th of 21 overall
Wednesday – 5 x ~1200 with 3:00 jog, felt very strong, hot
Thursday – 9k slow
Friday – 7.5k tempo in the heat, good toughness
Saturday – 6k
Sunday – 18k

81 km