Saturday, March 31, 2012

Review: Men in Space, by Tom McCarthy

Tom McCarthy's second-published novel, Men in Space, came out in the U.K. in 2007.  However, it has only made its way to the United States this year.

I found Men in Space to be an astounding book, yet another example of how young British authors are finding new directions to take the novel.  So why are we only getting it now?  Perhaps, publishers perceived the setting -- Prague before and after January 1, 1993, when Czechoslovakia split apart -- as having been overdone.  But  McCarthy knows every sight, sound, and smell of the city; it has been a long time since I have read a novel with such a knowing sense of place.

And the place perfectly epitomizes the drift of the motley group of individuals, that McCarthy follows, including a leading modern artist; a Dutch gallery curator; an assortment of Bulgarian thugs, an Interpol agent, and various British and American expats.  The axis around which these characters revolve is a stolen religious icon and a forgery scheme gone awry.

The style of Men in Space has much in common with that of C, McCarthy's Booker-shortlisted third novel.  McCarthy is fascinated by systems of knowledge including, here, art, astronomy, and physics.  Symbols abound, linking together, for instance, the geometry of a Prague flat with that of a soccer stadium with that of the stolen icon.

But where C sometimes felt ponderous, Men in Space is a fast-paced page turner.  In particular, the scene of a jailhouse interrogation was the best scene of this sort I have ever read -- it had my heart beating faster and my hands unable to stop turning pages.   The story only falls short at the ending, as McCarthy struggles to wrap things up.

Unfortunately, other duties call, so I need to wrap this review up.  If you have any questions, or if you have read Men in Space and want to share your thoughts, please comment below!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Coming Soon: The Ashland Half Marathon

I'm starting to get excited: progess is being made on scheduling a half-marathon in my town. It's a bonus that iot will be run on my birthday weekend.
On Monday, Redevelopment Authority Chairman Steven Greenberg announced a race director was hired to oversee the first annual Ashland Half Marathon, which is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 28. The idea for a half marathon in Ashland was first brought up about five months ago.
... The race director is Squanto Productions, a Natick-based company that coordinates The Half of Quincy, another half marathon, and the Squantum 5.
... Now that a race director was selected, Greenberg said the next step is finalizing the course, and having it approved by the Ashland Police and Fire Departments. He said both departments gave initial approval to a 13.1-mile trek through town.
The race is tentatively planned to start at the original starting line of the Boston Marathon, across the street from the Ashland T station, and which I run by all of the time.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Review: Injinji Toesocks (outdoor series)

Last month, I blogged about my experience running in Injinji toesocks.  After describing my very positive experience with original weight socks from their Performance Series, I noted that I was interested in trying some of the other toesocks in their lineup.  In response, Injinji graciously sent me some other models to try.  I'm passing some of them along to my co-bloggers so they can try them out and share their own perspectives.  But I kept a pair of the Lightweight Outdoor Series socks for myself.

The Outdoor Series toesocks are made from 58% nuwool, 38% nylon, and 4% lycra.  Nuwool is Injinji's proprietary blend of merino wool and man-made fibers.  As such, its unclear exactly how much wool is in this sock.  I'd love to see that information on Injinji's website, if not on the packaging (which is otherwise very informative).

But the important thing is, how well the sock works.  Let's start by talking about fit.  The socks felt surprisingly "slick" for a wool blend and easy to put on.  The packaging promises an "ultra thin" interface, and that's what you get.  These lightweight socks offer virtually no padding, so you need to make sure your shoe offers everything you need.  For me, the thin fabric also meant that my foot felt a little bit looser inside my shoe, which took a few minutes to get used to, but after that, it felt great, giving my feet more room to expand and move.

The main reason I was interested in the outdoor series is because I have found that merino wool offers better breathability than virtually any man-made fiber.  To put the socks to the test, I took them on a 9-mile run in 75 degree weather, with a couple of afternoon downpours thrown in.  When I came home and stripped my socks off, my feet were virtually dry.  Mission accomplished.

Beyond that, these socks continue to offer everything that I loved about the Performance Series: a comfortable run that lets my toes spread out and do what they are supposed to do, and that lets me come home without any blisters.

I did notice a little bit of pilling along the bottom of the socks when I took them off.  This is entirely expected from a sock that is made partially of wool.  I suspect they will not last as long as an entirely synthetic sock.  But for me, they are more than worth the retail price!  I'm planning to stock up on several pairs of these as my regular summer running sock.

Related posts:
Review: Injinji Toesocks

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Kindle Nation: What We're Reading

Thumbing through the The New York Times Book Review this morning, I was surprised by how different the e-book best seller lists are from the print best seller lists.

In particular, the fiction list is dominated by titles such as this week's best seller, Fifty Shades of Grey, described on the list in this way:
An inexperienced college student falls in love with a tortured man who has particular sexual tastes.
Of course there are certain titles which are very inexpensive, or perhaps only available, in e-book format.  An example of the latter would be the #17  best seller, Western Ties:
When Leah Hollister flies to Los Angeles to take part in the bondage scene, she unexpectedly connects with her high school crush, Sawyer Compton.
But that doesn't explain books such as the #4 e-book best seller, Fair Game, which costs $12.99 on the Kindle, compared to $11.33 in paperback -- yet appears nowhere on the paperback best seller lists.  It is described in this way:
Two werewolves, an Alpha and an Omega, help the F.B.I. track a serial killer who is murdering preternatural beings.
Similarly, what to make of Taking a Shot (#20), which is $9.99 on Kindle and $8.52 in paperback, but again, only appears on the e-book list:
Will Jenna Riley, who's reluctantly running family's sports bar, decide to live for herself -- and does that include getting involved with a handsome pro hockey player?  
Some of the reasons may have to do with marketing.  But more significantly, I suspect that there are certain categories of books that people want to read but do not want to be seen with.  On a Kindle, nobody knows what you are reading.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

How to Improve the Length of your Muscles

The April 2012 issue of Running Times buried the lede, but in the "How to Improve" section of the "Dorsiflexion of Ankle" portion of the "Are you Ready to Go Minimal?" article, they say:
"Hold [the stretch] for three minutes on each side. (Yes, three minutes is how long research shows we need to hold stretches for tissues that are too short.)"
Now, I'm big into stretching, but that seems like a long time to have to hold a stretch, esp. for folks like myself who are pressed for time before and after running. However, if that's indeed what it takes to remold your muscles, i'll have to start devoting the extra time to stretching the muscles I want to lengthen/loosen post-run - mainly my calves.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Race Report: Quincy Half Marathon (Another Runner's Take)

todd has posted his race report, but i thought i'd share mine as well, to give another (albeit quite similar) perspective.

going into this race, i had done the half marathon distance only once before.  it was my very first race and i had a great experience.  my training for that half had wasn't much. a friend who was also running the race asked me, about 2 weeks before the race, what my longest run had been.  at that point, it was only 6 miles.  i ran every day but the day before the race and got one 12 miler in (with my friend's help).  i ran around a 1:42 at that race and was pretty happy with the result.

by contrast, my training leading into this race has been voluminous, with many miles logged and long runs topping out just over 19 miles.  still, i was treating this as a training run, and so i figured my time would be in the 1:50-1:55 range.  i have recently been finding a bunch more pace in shorter runs, but my runs of 13+ miles haven't been at a very high pace.  beyond ensuring that i was staying on track in my marathon training (2 months away now!!) by not getting injured, i just plain didn't think i could run much faster than that for this distance.

i ran the race with two friends, josh and todd.  todd and i run together quite regularly, and i've come to accept that the guy is just plain faster than me.  he too is training for the marathon so we both decided to take it slow at the start.  josh shot right out, and i wouldn't seem him again until the later miles of the race.  todd and i hung back, fighting the race day adrenaline and keeping a nice, easy pace.  todd broke off after the first mile to tie his shoe, and soon after that he went flying past me (i still think he was munching spinach or something instead of tying his shoe).  knowing he is faster than me, i didn't try to keep pace with him.  i wanted to run my own race and not push beyond my limits.  the last thing i needed was another lower leg injury.

to my surprise, i settled into a really nice rhythm.  miles 2, 3 and 4 were all sub 8 minute miles.  i was running much faster than i had planned, but i felt no ill effects for it.  the early stretch of the race was run along the ocean, with a nice breeze coming in on an almost unbelievably nice day for this time of year.  the sun beating down on my face, the great scenery and the droves of runners in bright colors had me mesmerized, and my body's natural rhythm was working very well.  when we left the road along the water and found ourselves in a more residential neighborhood, i realized i was running below 7:30 pace.  i took stock of how i felt, and i really didn't feel badly at all.  too, i had todd in my sights and was able to get right on his heels on a slight incline.

for the first time in a long time, i actually considered racing in a race.  i had strategy forming in my mind.  i thought i would stick on todd's heels as best as i could, and, stealing one of his moves, try and launch a surprise attack on him with a kick at the end.  we kept pace with one another for another few miles.  i think around mile 8 or 9 todd stopped off for a bio-break...  i was so close behind him that when he looked back to check the field, i had already passed him.  in terms of racing, this was not how i had planned it!!  not only was todd setting a nice pace for me to keep up with, something that kept me steady and within myself, now my strategy for "racing" was out of the window!!

the next stretch i ran alone.  shortly after the mile 9 marker, i spotted josh up ahead.  it was nice to see him, and keeping him in my sights helped me settle my pace down quite a bit.  i didn't want to make a push to catch completely up to him because i knew that the last two miles were probably going to hurt, given that i had been keeping a much faster pace than i normally keep in training runs.

shortly after the 10 mile marker, as i was toiling up a slight incline, todd came flying past me.  i shouted his name, but he didn't turn around or acknowledge me.  at the time, i thought, "man, he is serious about beating me!", but as it turns around, he was completely unaware that he had passed me (or that i had passed him).  having him pass me was a bit demoralizing, but only to the competitive part of me.  i was otherwise still feeling great.  passing through the 11th mile marker, i knew i was going to be able to maintain a similar pace through the end of the race.  seeing todd and josh not too far out of reach in front of me, and seeing both of their families rooting us on along the course provided a nice boost.

todd put in his kick around mile twelve, and as he pulled away, i didn't have it in me to try and match him.  i did put in my own kick, but i knew right away it wasn't going to get me closer to him.  i focused my efforts on maintaining my form, on keeping my breathing steady and ensuring i wasn't pushing myself anywhere near the fear of injury.  i crossed the line in the beautiful sun of the early afternoon at 1:38:39, my new half-marathon PR.

both todd and josh ran great races, both crossing the finish line in front of me.  we all finished within a minute of one another, which has never happened to me before when i've run with friends.  it was nice to have shared the experience of running that race with them on such a wonderful day and at such a wonderful event.  we talked through it over beers back and josh's and all agreed that there will be a marker on our calendars for this event next year.

i am really happy with the race and my performance.  it gives me the confidence that i can push the pace at longer distances (well beyond my training pace) and not blow up or bonk.  i'm glad i decided to run this race and happy with how well it has fit into my marathon plan.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Race Report: Quincy Half Marathon

Pacing for the Half of Quincy
I've read that for those of us new to marathon training that it’s a good idea to run a half-marathon about two months beforehand to get a feel for long-distance racing. Since the Burlington Marathon’s at the end of May, I signed up for the Half of Quincy – a new half-marathon / 5K race that was held this past Sunday. The race had the added benefit of being on the water (always nice) and being in Josh's hometown , my old college roommate and a longtime friend who also happens to be a speedy runner.

It hasn’t been much of a winter this year in New England, and this Sunday was no exception – it must have been 55 when we lined up to start and rose into the 70s as the day wore on. Still, it was March, with a chilly wind off the water, so Eric, Josh and I lined up in shorts and long-sleeve shirts. Eric and I started out slowly, quickly losing sight of Josh in the crowd, because we had both stated our intention of treating this race as a training run and because I was fearful of aggravating the strange right-calf pains I'd been experiencing the last few weeks. However, the great weather and competition meant that after the first mile I felt comfortable enough settling into a comfortable 7:30 pace. I was loving not carrying the hand-held - many thanks to the volunteers handing out water! - and the flat course. Training on Ashland’s hilly terrain really paid off here, with a max elevation gain of 100 feet - and all that within a mile - I was able to keep a faster pace for longer than I normally do. 

Most of the race, I was by myself, although afterwards Eric told me that he was on my tail for a long time before I had to stop for a quick bathroom break at 7.5 miles. The crazy thing was that when I started running again I passed him at some point without even noticing! At that point, I was locked in – I had changed my music from my typical ambient downtempo (The Orb, mostly) to straight rock and roll, and  suspect that I passed him when Zevon was pounding out "Boom Boom Mancini". That song energized the second half of the race for me – and between the toons and my stop, I felt very strong, and started slowly increasing my speed, becoming ever more confident in the health of my calf.

I finally saw Josh up ahead of me around 10 miles and worked steadily to catch up. I caught up with him after mile 11, with Eric (unbeknownst to me) right on our tails. I said Hi to Josh (and our families, who had come out to watch) and, not wanting to lose the great feeling in my legs, took off for the finish line. While I didn’t finish with a kick, I slowly sped up to a 7:00 minute mile pace as I crossed the finish line in 1:37:51. Josh was right behind me at 1:38:32, with Eric on his heels at 1:38:39. An excellent effort by all! We celebrated with bananas and coconut water, I gave my medal to Hunter, and enjoyed the incredible food provided by the Culinary arts program at Quincy High School - homemade cookies, chicken and minestrone soup, and wraps - before heading back to Josh's house for cold beers.

All in all I couldn’t be happier with my performance. My calf injury not only appears to have cleared up but I was also able to run much faster than I had hoped (I was anticipating finishing in 1:50; certainly no faster than 1:45). I’m feeling much more confident in my ability to tackle longer distances, which is good, because the next few weekends are going to be filled up with ever-longer distances (this Sunday I tackle 16 miles!) And, most importantly, it was an excellent time on an amazing day with some of my best friends. I look forward to running it again next year!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Book Review: Gods Without Men, by Hari Kunzru

If you have read any reviews of Hari Kunzru's fourth novel, Gods Without Men, then you already know that it consists of a number of overlapping stories, each of which takes place near a rock formation in the Mojave Desert known as "The Pinnacles."  Some of the stories are as old as Indian legend.  Others are more recent, including the central story, that of  a hedge fund quant who travels to the desert with his wife and his autistic son as the global financial markets begin to crash.

Significantly, the stories have more in common than simply the setting.  Characters from one story re-appear in other stories.  And so do various happenings, including killings, alien sightings, and disappearing children.  Good and bad occur, but the white hot desert is implacable.

Given the novel's structure, several reviewers have linked this novel to David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas, although I think the similarity is superficial at best.  While Kunzru moves between voices, he doesn't shift between genres, and the concerns that he highlights are more metaphysical than metaliterary.  (The better comparison would be to Mitchell's earlier novel, Ghostwritten.)

At first, it felt to me that Kunzru had something profound he wanted to share about human searching and interconnectedness -- something that perhaps he felt could not be said directly, but would only be revealed by piecing together the book's scattered coincidences.  But as the book progressed, I unfortunately concluded that Kunzru was playing the same trick as the X-Files television series -- simply laying down an ever expanding series of connections so that it feels like there is some central truth at the core (if only the audience is intelligent enough to understand) when in fact there is none. 

But nevertheless, oh boy Kunzru can write.  Even with all of the dovetailing, many of the stories feel historically perfect, such as that of Francisco Garces, a Franciscan friar who leads the mission at San Xavier del Bac.  In the other tales, however, Kunzru simply lets his imagination fly such as in the tale of the renegage Mormon vigilante, Nephi Parr.  Here, Kunzru veers into Cormac McCarthy territory as Parr begins to feel the effects of mercury poisoning :
As he rode he raised his hand to his face and saw the bones glowing inside it and a coyote howled and the sun shone through the palm of his hand like glass.  And by this he knew his body was shrugging off its animal nature it and it would soon come time to make the crossing. Oh God, he whispered, hear the words of my mouth; and the whole jumble of his life wheeled round him, bare running feet cut bloody by winter stubble, a cutlass and a fiery wheel and a camel and a steamboat bolted together on the floodplain of the Colorado.
The writing is equally strong as Kunzru describes UFO cults, Iraqi immigrants, and hedge fund software.  If nothing else, Gods Without Men is a page turner:  I finished the 370 pages in just a few sittings.  If you've read it, let us know what you think! 

Related posts:
Gods Without Men, by Hari Kunzru

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Book Review: Lost Memory of Skin, by Russell Banks

I was browsing through the Kindle store looking for a new book to read when I stumbled across “Lost Memory of Skin” by Russell Banks. I hadn’t read Banks before, but I had heard good things about some of his work. I took a look over the description of the book and I thought it sounded like an absolutely terrible book to read. It says quite clearly in the book’s description that this book features a castaway sex offender living within a community of castaway sex offenders. We’re not talking about an inviting read here… but you DO know what you’re getting yourself into, and I thought I’d like to see whether Banks could pull it off.

In the first part of this book, I was less than encouraged. In fact, I was utterly uncomfortable. Maybe my discomfort should have foretold this book's gripping nature? More on that later. For the first part of this novel, I really don’t think Banks knew what he wanted to do. You sort of have to ease a reader in gracefully to a book on this subject matter. Not many folks swan dive smilingly into an ice bath.  Banks attempted to get us used to the temperature of this novel by putting up Rorschach-like flash cards of “the Kid” our featured sex offender. The flash cards, written fragments, captured moments in a sex offenders ongoing life, in his past, in his mind. It’s not all that pretty, and we emerge feeling unsympathetic for “the Kid” and certainly uneasy with his story. Where was this book going?

Then comes our second screwball character, a hyper-intelligent (genius) Professor who has taken a keen interest in the boy, his blight, his daily life and future improvements to all of the above. Why? I don’t know!! I really don’t. But the parts that followed sure gave me enough to think about.

In my desire to not like this book, I found myself reading through squinted eyes, reading with the tv on, reading while doing anything else to allow myself to believe I didn’t like it. But I read nonetheless, and I couldn’t put it down once the story got rolling, if only to have some questions answered:

  • Who was this Professor fellow, and why, if he was so incredible intelligent, was he wasting his time on the sex offender kid?
  • Who was this sex offender kid? Did he do something really terrible? How terrible is what he did, even after I knew what it was? I mean, afterall, he WAS a convicted sex offender, right, doesn't that mean no matter what he did, it's still very, very terrible?
  • What made this kid do what he did? What makes any sex offender do what they do? Given what they’ve done, can there be any good in them at all?
  • What would YOU do with a community of sex offenders, unable to live within 2500 square feet of a place where children will be, basically leaving very few places for them to live at all?
Banks doesn’t try to answer these questions. He isn’t writing a message on morality. He leaves it to the reader to decide all of these things and I’m fairly certain each reader could easily fall on any part of the spectrum with their answers after reading this book. I do think Banks builds one character (“the Kid”) who is real enough to make us want to gaze into his life, sympathetic enough (eventually) that we ask the question about “whether any good can be salvaged from his life” despite what he did... and another character so surreal and out there that we almost have to watch, just to see what happens next, as anything is possible and we don’t know whether to believe the best or the worst.

The most important thing Banks does in this novel is get us asking the questions.

Banks definitely makes some mistakes in this book. There are times when his writing sweeps off on grand tangents that add nothing to the overall story, as if because he got us thinking he was entitled to our attention (Chapter ONE of Part V is a perfect example of this). Some details of the Professor are stretched so thin it’s hard to allow him a space in the ultra-real world created by the gravity of the subject matter of this book. At times, the story is so ambiguous it seems wishy-washy, almost demanding some moral comment and seeming somewhat thin for the lack of one.

But we easily forgive him, because we want to know what we’re watching. Is it the creation of a symphony or a snowball slowly descending into hell? More questions…

Towards the end of the novel, a nameless travel writer is introduced… I think he gives us what is supposed to be an “unbiased look” at the situation, or at least a fresh pair of eyes for a fresh read. About the writer, Banks writes:
“He doesn’t want to find himself trapped in dark self-designed delusions: he’s all too familiar with his affection for bad news and conspiracies. It’s had a negative effect on his career.”
In this part, the writer is trying to formulate an opinion about the enigmatic genius Professor when presented with some details that would allow him to view the Professor in a very negative light. But it is the reader's willingness to see good in people that has kept us reading this long, that keeps us holding onto the small bit of hope that we have that there really IS some good in these people. And, ultimately, the writer knows from his past experiences how easy it is to gravitate towards bad news and conspiracy theories and the conclusions they lead us to; how that has had "a negative effect on his career". So he rejects that thinking and allows himself to believe the good, to “freeze his disbelief”. He says to “the Kid”:
“What you believe matters, however. It’s all anyone has to act on. And since what you do is who you are, your actions define you. If you don’t believe anything is true simply because you can’t logically prove what’s true, you won’t do anything. You won’t be anything. You’ll end up spending your life in a rocking chair looking out at the horizon waiting for an answer that never comes. You might as well be dead.”
It’s about a close as you’re going to get to any truth or clarity in this one. As close as you’ll get to the answers to your questions… which are simply what you BELIEVE to be true, as influenced by the novel you’ve read and how you process it. Good enough for me, and I think good enough for you too.

Tips: Running with a Jogging Stroller

Being a runner who also has a son, I often find myself torn between getting my daily workout in and spending as much time with my son as I possibly can.  Now that the light of day is getting longer and the weather is getting warmer, however, I have the option of taking my son out for a run in his jogging stroller.  I'll be the first to admit, running with a jogging stroller takes some getting used to.  But hearing my little guy laugh like crazy as we go over bumps, and seeing him smile up at me during the run is an experience well worth the awkwardness of running with a stroller.  Here are some tips I've come to realize in the short time I've been running with my son in a stroller.  Any further tips would be much appreciated!

  • Make sure there is even tire pressure in all tires.  This will help ensure your stroller does not pull to one side or another.
  • You can choose to run with both hands pushing the stroller, or one hand pushing the stroller.  I've found that with one hand pushing the stroller, you have a much more natural running motion, but that it's much harder to control the stroller's direction.  For reasons of safety and control, I keep both hands on the stroller.  This tends to lead to less pull to one side or another as well.
  • Use the wrist strap.  Given the preciousness of the cargo we're pushing, using the safety strap to ensure your stroller doesn't get away from you in the event of a mishap is a good idea.  My wrist strap is quite short, meaning that if i were to fall, my stroller would most likely tip.  This is a trade-off I'm willing to accept.
  • Very securely strap your child into the stroller.  There is plenty of jostling going on during a run and it's best to ensure your child is as safe as possible.
  • If your front wheel has a lock, ensure it's locked.  While it's nice to have a front wheel that swivels during a walk, you'll want it to be locked during a run to ensure you can move forward smoothly.
  • If you need to change direction quickly, to avoid a telephone pole, wrap around a corner or for another reason, lift the front wheel slightly off the ground.  I've found this to be the easiest way to maneuver the stroller while moving quickly.
  • Shorten your stride.  Without a full arm swing, your balance will be slightly different from what you're used to.  Additionally, your immediate line of vision is obstructed by the stroller, and so you may not see a lip in the sidewalk (etc...).  Shorten your stride to help ensure you don't trip yourself up or get your feet tangled in the stroller itself.
  • Pace doesn't matter, SLOW DOWN!  This is important for so many reasons; the well being of your child, you and the people you are sharing your running route with being at the top of the list.  In my experience, the stroller will slow you down already, which is a good thing.  Don't plan to go out on your tempo run with the jogging stroller.  I've found the stroller is best used for recovery runs when I purposefully want to keep my pace down.  You can still move pretty quickly if you have your technique and stroller dialed in, but I definitely don't recommend trying to push it.
  • Plan your run for a time that will not be busy.  I think it's important to run during the daylight hours to ensure you have the best available vision on your run, but you don't want to do a stroller run while your running route is busy with people/cars.  This should come into play when picking where you do your run and what time you do your run.  You are quite a bit bigger than on a "normal" run, and if it's busy, you'll find yourself starting and stopping a lot more than you may like.
All-in-all, as awkward as it may seem to begin with, you'll soon get used to running with the stroller.  It might take a few runs to get it right, but soon enough you'll be able to enjoy something that your child will enjoy as well, all while getting a good workout in!  

Friday, March 9, 2012

Morning Runs

All this past winter, I did my weekday running in the evening.  I simply do not have the inner strength to get up before the crack of dawn, pull on cold running clothes, and get out the door in time for a run.  But now that the days are getting longer, I've been reacquainting myself with the joys of morning running.

For some people, morning runs are about the peace and quiet of hitting the road before everyone else.  Not in Washington, DC!  Here, where most people have an early-to-work, early-to-leave mentality, the streets are already busy at 6:30 in the morning.  If you want a peaceful run in DC, go out at 7:00 in the evening, when most of the city is dead.

However, running in the morning gives me time to think about the upcoming day.  It gets my blood moving far more effectively than a morning coffee, and it gives me a feeling of accomplishment that lasts throughout the day.  And, as a bonus, I run much faster in the morning!  For the same amount of effort, my pace is generally 15 to 20 seconds per mile faster, and I don't need the first mile to loosen up.

My only complaint is the lack of flexibility.  In the evening, if I'm feeling good, I'll often tack an extra mile or two to the end of my run.  That's not possible when work is calling. 

What do you enjoy about morning runs?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

OK, but when was the last time a Red Sox fan got tasered?

“The difference between Boston and Philadelphia, the Boston fans are a little bit more hysterical when it comes to the game of baseball . . . . The Philly fans tend to know the game a little better, being in the National League, you know, the way the game is played. I’ve had a guy take off his prosthetic leg and throw it in the bullpen in Boston.”
                                         --Jonathan Papelbon, in a radio interview in Philadelphia

Sayonara Okajima

As he heads back to Japan, HBT points out that Hideki Okajima is the 17th best reliever of all time by ERA+ to throw at least 200 innings. Quite an accomplishment!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Gods Without Men, by Hari Kunzru

Just released in hardover (and on Kindle) yesterday.  According to Michiko Kakutani:
Hari Kunzru’s latest novel, Gods Without Men, reads like an unlikely mash-up of David Mitchell’s willfully complex 2004 novel, Cloud Atlas and Steven Spielberg’s classic 1977 U.F.O. movie, Close Encounters of a Third Kind, seasoned with some borrowings from David Foster Wallace and Don DeLillo. The book is, at the same time, a wildly ambitious novel that spans centuries; a gripping thriller about a missing child; and a sort of sci-fi tale about pilgrims of various sorts being drawn to a mysterious rock formation in the desert in search of contact with aliens or some sort of higher meaning.
I look forward to getting me some!

UPDATE:  Writing for the New York Times, Douglas Coupland calls Gods Without Men "gorgeous and wise."  Unfortunately, his review is marred by a forced attempt to sketch out the countours of a new literary genre (to include Gods Without Men, Cloud Atlas and The Hours), which he calls "Translit." 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Russian Bookselling Bots

A funny if unsettling tale from Carlos Bueno who explains to us the shenanigans of  “...bots that infest the Amazon Marketplace, pretending to have used copies of books, fighting epic price wars no one ever sees.” The whole thing is worth reading, if only for the story about “...a delightful futuristic absurdity: a computer program, pretending to be human, hawking a book about computers pretending to be human, while other computer programs pretend to have used copies of it. A book that was never actually written, much less printed and read.”

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Linsanity comes to the Red Sox?

No, not Jeremy Lin.  Che-Hsuan Lin.

OK, it might be a little too early to start calling him Linsanity.  He hit only .235 for AAA Pawtucket last year.  However, he hit 2 for 3 in the Sox game against Northeastern on Saturday.  And, he scored a run today against the Minnesota Twins.

The fact that he is appearing repeatedly in spring training games suggest the Sox are giving him a serious look -- and already Valentine is calling him "a very interesting player."  That sounds about right to me.  It's no secret that he's an impressive outfielder with a cannon for an arm.  In 2010 he was named the Red Sox Minor League Defensive Player of the Year.  Now if he can show that he can hit as well, he may just get a chance to play the outfield in Fenway Park.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Review: Feetures! Elite Socks

At the same time that I bought some Injinji socks a few weeks ago, I also picked up a pair of Feetures! Elite socks to try out.  These are billed as both a running and a cycling sock, and the version I am reviewing is the low cut, ultra light model.

The sock brags of several features common to many high-end running socks, including a seamless toe and anatomical left and right socks.  But what is exclusive to Feetures! is the "Power Arch" which -- according to the packaging -- is "anatomically constructed to provide targeted support where it's needed most."  In addition, the technical fibers are different from those in other socks I've tried -- the socks are made primarily of iWick, which I understand to be a form of nylon that is proprietary to Feetures, together with a lesser amount of polyester and spandex.

All fine and well, but the proof comes in the wearing.  In this case, the socks felt like no other socks that I've worn -- they were like compression tights for the feet.  I wore them around the house for an hour to see if the feeling would disappear.  Nope, still there.

That meant that there was no slipping of my foot inside of the sock while I ran.  To some extent, the claim on the packaging was right -- it did feel as if my sock and my foot were one.  Except for that compressed feeling, and also the fact that my feet felt a little bit slick inside of my shoe, probably due to all that nylon.

I'd recommend this sock for those who are fans of compression gear, and it may also be worth a try for those who are experiencing arch problems.

Related posts:
Review: Injinji Toesocks