Friday, April 27, 2012

Electronic Book Covers

Book designer Carin Goldberg "declare[s] that the Kindle experience is like 'reading through a tub full of dirty dishwater.'" In a great blog post about the state of book covers, Betsy Morais notes that:
"Pressure comes from the shrunken images on Amazon, a need for covers to be more multifunctional, and, on the other hand, a renewed desire to reclaim the tactile qualities of textured, gorgeous print. The idea of a book cover as a singular form has vanished some time ago, and [Eric Himmel, the editor in chief of Abrams publishing] says, "I don't have a clear view of the future."
Then he saw how Goldberg's students incorporated the vocabulary of bookmaking into multimedia cover layouts. Rather than borrow techniques from documentary film, they used typography in more sophisticated ways that seemed to be digitally-native expressions of book design. Her students also used moving images, video, and audio."
The discussion of the business behind the selling of books and of designing book covers is fascinating. There's a lot of fun new ideas being bandied about, but Paul Buckley, the VP, Executive Creative Director at Penguin, is concerned about cost:
"Benefits have not yet caught up to the costs of this extra content. Because the viewer's not going to pay for it." Publishers' art departments haven't traditionally come equipped with highly tech-savvy illustrators and typographers. And even as more digitally-capable designers arrive, so too will their demand for new tools to support their talents.
The whole thing is worth a read.

Related Posts:
IQ84: Paperback
Kindle Covers
Judging a Book by it's Cover

Tazawa for the Save!

I've been saying for a while that Valentine that if wants to fix Boston's bullpen woes, he should start by giving Junichi Tazawa a more prominent role.

Before last night, Valentine had called on Tazawa only twice -- first on April 20, when the Sox were down 6-2 against the Yankees, and then the following night, when the Sox were down 15-9.  Traditionally, these would be the times to send in your worst reliever -- why waste a good arm when the game is going to be a loss?  But while the Yankees were taking batting practice of the rest of Boston's staff, Tazawa held them to 1-2/3 scoreless innings on April 20, following by 1-1/3 scoreless innings on April 21.

Last night, Tazawa got his first taste of pitching while in the lead -- he came in while Boston was beating the White Sox 9-3.  The end result?  3 scoreless innings, with 4 strikeouts.  Oh, and he got the save.

(Wait a second - how do you come in with the score 9-3, and still get the save?  Doesn't the lead have to be three runs or less?  Nope.  One can earn save by pitching at least three innings at the end of a game, regardless of the score.  Though I can't remember the last time I saw this happen.)

I have no idea what Valentine is up to.*  Having a relief pitcher throw three innings when there is absolutely no need?  Maybe he wanted to see what Tazawa has in him.  Maybe he thinks Tazawa could be the second coming of Alfredo Aceves.  In any case -- Tazawa put on a good show.  Now let's see if he'll get the ball when a game is actually close.

20110928-0441 Junichi Tazawa

*Update:  In Tazawa's own words:  "I found out afterward [about qualifying for a save]. It was probably better that I didn't know. I was relieved after shutting them down for two innings, and Bobby (Valentine) says to me in Japanese, 'Can you go another inning?', so I was a little surprised."

Thursday, April 26, 2012

1Q84: Paperback

It's hard to believe, but the paperback publication of 1Q84 is already just around the corner.  As with Murakami's other books, 1Q84's paperback publisher will be published by Vintage.  Vintage's art director has posted up the design on his website.  Here is a look:

While the set doesn't have the typical Vintage look, I rather like it.  I appreciate that they have broken it up into three volumes,just the way it was published in Japan.  Readers will get the reading experience that Murakami intended -- and it will be much more portable.

Unfortunately, according to the New York Times, readers will also get a $29.95 price tag.   Ouch. 

Related posts: 1Q84: Hardcover

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

DRM-free SciFi

Boing Boing reports that:
"Today, Tor Books, the largest science fiction publisher in the world, announced that henceforth all of its ebooks would be completely DRM-free. This comes six weeks after an antitrust action against Tor's parent company, Macmillan USA, for price-fixing in relation to its arrangements with Apple and Amazon."
The author things that this might be the start of the demand for DRM-free books, noting that
"Now that there is a major publisher that has gone completely DRM-free (with more to follow, I'm sure; I've had contact with very highly placed execs at two more of the big six publishers), there is suddenly a market for tools that automate the conversion and loading of ebooks from multiple formats and vendors. For example, I'd expect someone to make a browser plugin that draws a "Buy this book at" button on Amazon pages (and vice-versa), which then facilitates auto-conversion between the formats. I'd also expect to produce a "switch" toolkit for Kindle owners who want to go Nook (and vice-versa)."
While it sounds hyperbolistic, it would be really nice if one really had freedom of devices. Hell, i'd be happy with the ability to loan out your books from one device to another, even on a limited time basis. Here's hoping that this news will take us one step closer to that world!

Related Posts:
Kindles, Collusion, and Copy Protection

Saturday, April 21, 2012

This Curse is Worse

Because before, we had a curse, a reason. This just plain is what it is... Our reality.

(apologies for the over-emotional post, but that is what it is too).

Sox to Acquire Marlon Byrd?

According to Yahoo!, the Red Sox are nearing a deal with Theo Epstein and the Chicago Cubs to acquire 34-year-old outfielder Marlon Byrd.

Byrd has been at bat 43 times this year, and has hit the ball precisely 3 times, for a .070 batting average.  So why are the Red Sox interested in him?

Perhaps to make Saltalamacchia look better.

Tell Me About Gu

I think I've pretty much established that I don't eat (drink?) Gu when I run.  And no, its not because I rely on the competing Cliff Shot gels or Honey Stinger energy gels. 

Rather, to be completely honest, its becausae I've never even tried any of these products.  Just the idea of a mouthful of goo seems rather distasteful.  And I rather enjoy chewing on the various candy-like products that are made for runners.

But, I've decided to expand and try new things to see if they work for me.  So, tell me about your use of energy gels.  Unlike with other sources of calories, energy gels hit your system with about 100 calories all at once.  How soon into your run do you take one, and how often thereafter?  Do you have a favorite flavor - or a flavor you'd avoid?   

Friday, April 20, 2012

A Deep Thought From Big Papi

"We can't keep looking at things like, 'It's the beginning of the season,' or 'we'll make adjustments.' We need to start winning."

Source: WEEI

Broken Kindle

 The fire has gone out of my Kindle.  Its death was announced by random horizontal and vertical lines across the screen, with sections of the screen that would not refresh. 

The same thing happened to my wife nearly a year ago.  At the time, her Kindle was still under warranty, so Amazon promptly sent her a new one.  I have no such luck.

Since it is no longer under warranty, I figured I'd open up the back and see what it had going on inside.  That big white brick is the battery.  No wonder it got such nice battery life.  It looks like it is upside down, but in fact I am holding the device right side up.  The positioning is odd.  If they were to move it toward the bottom, the Kindle would be less top heavy, and would "feel" lighter to the reader.  Perhaps this is different in the new models.

I've enjoyed my Kindle plenty, and the new models are even nicer.  So, I am happily buying another. But when you consider the cost of replacing the hardware every few years, Kindles do not make book reading less expensive.  They just make it more convenient. 

Cosmopolis Trailer

While I liked Don Delillo's Cosmopolis, it really did require a suspension of disbelief. I thought certain episodes worked very well, while others most definitely did not. Overall, I enjoyed certain scenes and his observations on society and people, but didn't think the book held together as a whole. Of course, this didn't stop me from reading it twice!

Come to find out that David Cronenberg has made a movie out of the book and it looks quite compelling! Check out the trailer. I try to catch all of Cronenberg's flicks, and now i'm excited to see what he does with the book. Plus, I don't think any of Delillo's books have been made into movies yet, so i'm intrigued to see how his voice and tone translates to the big screen.

The Tension Between the Scientist and the Artist

"When I look back at a race I look at it first through the lens of a scientist and then through the eyes of an artist. What factors contribute to my performance? What things can I tweak or try out next time out? What good things were reinforced? What felt tired? What workouts do I need to do to be better prepared? How were my thoughts out there? Did I enjoy the race? These are all questions of the scientist.

The artist in me looks back at the race and asks how does this race fit into the larger picture being painted? What things about my performance do I not understand? Did I do a good job of fully expressing me with whatever energy I had to give on the day? What new strokes can I try out next time?

There is always in tension in running between the scientist who wants to have an explanation for everything and the artist who is ok with not understanding all the mysteries of running, knowing that perhaps the next great performance may come from thinking outside the box. I have found that both the scientist and the artist are necessary in becoming a complete runner and processing the good, the bad, and everything in between on race day."

- Ryan Hall

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Searching for Caballo Blanco

Christopher McDougall writes about the search for Caballo Blanco.

It's moving to hear about the devotion that the man inspired in his fellow runners. And McDougall is a very entertaining writer.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

No Pulitzer This Year

On Monday, it was announced that the Pulitzer Prize board had withheld its fiction award for 2012. Speculation ran rampant as to why this occured for the first time in 35 years. For more, we go to the WSJ, who clarifies:
"In an interview with the Daily Beast, Maureen Corrigan, one of the three judges for the Pulitzer prize in fiction, clarifies that it wasn’t the judges, but the larger Pulitzer board that decided not to award a prize this year:
“I can safely say that anger and surprise/shock, and just sort of feeling this is an inexplicable decision on the part of the board—that really characterizes, I think, the way all three of us feel,” Corrigan said. “The obvious answer is to let the [jury] pick. We’re the people who have gone through the 300 novels. All the board is asked to do is to read three top novels that we’ve given to them…In fact, what’s happened today is a lot of the articles and blog posts have gotten it wrong—they’ve been blaming the three of us!”
“Honestly, I feel angry on behalf of three great American novels,” added Corrigan, a critic for NPR who also teaches at Georgetown University. According to the Pulitzer’s ground rules, the choice of the judges (or an alternative selection) must be approved by a majority of the board. Evidently that didn’t happen this year."
I am surprised that the larger board didn't feel that any of the three novels - Denis Johnson's Train Dreams, Karen Russell's Swamplandia! and David Foster Wallace's unfinished The Pale Kingwere worth promoting. I think one needs to consider the make up of the board: only one novelist - Junot Diaz - is on the board, and the rest are made up of journalists, reviewers, and academics. Are they really the best judge of the best literature in the land? Personally, I haven't put a lot of faith in the fiction Pulitzer Prize since I learned that in 1974 the board rejected Gravity's Rainbow, the unanimous consensus of the jury. They refused to give an award that year. From the 5/8/74 NYT:

"...members of the 14-member board, which makes recommendations on the 18 Pulitzer Prize categories ... had described the Pynchon novel during their private debate as "unreadable," "turgid," "overwritten," and in parts "obscene." One member editor said he had tried hard but had only gotten a third of the way through the 760-page book."

If the board reacts this way to one of the best books of the 20th century, god knows what their reaction is to the best of contemporary literature. If they don't like the three finalists, that means I should pick up my copies today!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Shoe Review: Brooks PureCadence, 400+ miles later

Back in November, I wrote a review of the Brooks PureCadence running shoes.  At that point in time, I was very happily surprised with my whimsical purchase of these shoes.  So now that I've logged over 400 miles, how have they held up?

I must say, absolutely great!  I've included a picture of them to the right.  To reiterate some of my initial concerns, I was worried these shoes wouldn't last much more than a couple hundred miles.  My initial review was at about 30-40 miles and I had noticed some significant wear in the shoes at that point in time.  But as you can see, I've gone over 10X that far in this pair and they have held up quite nicely.  That has included everything from 20 mile slogs on the Charles River, 10 mile trail runs over roots, rocks and what have you and up and down 9+% graded hills, both paved and otherwise.

My biggest concern with these shoes was whether they would hold up, and they certainly did.  I do have an important comment I'm hoping the folks over at Brooks will listen to however.  These shoes served me well in most running conditions.  One situation, however, they failed to perform well, and that was rainy, slick runs on urban streets.  When i say urban streets, i mean any street/sidewalk/running surface that has man hole covers, iron grates, or any metal of any kind.  To take it even further, and for the sake of clarity, let me say that the PureCadence version 1 shoes do not grip all that well in wet conditions on any hard surface.

Beyond that, however, I really don't have any negative comments whatsoever.  I wear the PureCadence on all of my long runs and all of my "key runs", meaning, any tempo work or other essential workouts.  I spent two months prior to strapping them on injured and unable to run.  I'm not going to claim that the PureCadence fixed my ails...  I'm pretty sure it was the countless repetitions of daily exercises geared and strengthening my lower legs...  but I can say, I wear the PureCadence when I fear injury the most, because they are the most trustworthy shoe I own and I have never had an issue with them unrelated to traction.

After a run in my other regular running shoes it is a pleasure to put my feet back in the PureCadence.  To reiterate, my favorite features are the following:

  • The last of this shoe fits my foot like no other shoe I've ever put on.  It literally feels like an extension of my foot.
  • Having had an extensive background in shoe-less exercise, the 4mm heel-to-toe differential allows me to harness my leg's strengths in a much more natural feeling way.
  • The biomogo provides very comfortable cushioning while still allowing for you to gain some sense of proprioception, allowing for a more natural engagement on each footstrike, regardless of what part of your foot hits the ground.
  • The support in these shoes is not overwhelming.  I've got some crazy movement when my foot hits the ground...  like it or not.  I do like a bit of support, and I think the PureCadence provide that but leave it up to me to ensure I'm running with good form.  I don't want to be controlled, but I also don't mind a helpful reminder at mile 20 that it's a good idea to keep my form in check.
  • I've never run in a shoe that is so light.  Once you try a shoe as light as this one, you'll never, ever go back to those big 'ol clunkers we all used to train in.  It really makes a difference.
  • Seems simple enough, but the laces are standard up through the eyelets to allow for ease of tightening and loosening, but are fashioned in a wave-like "stay-tied" manner in the upper section, translated into, well, laces that stay tied on your run.  Laces that stay tied are good.
  • The shoe just plain fits my foot.  Heel to toe.  I don't know if it's a stroke of luck, that the designers and testers had feet like my own, or not, but it cannot be denied.  It feels like these shoes were made for me.

On their website, Brooks indicates the PureCadence should last you about 250 miles.  Clever marketing for such a popular shoe...  and as previously stated, my initial worry was that Brooks was right.  I was hooked on these shoes, and I was afraid I'd be paying the hefty price for them every couple of months.  But the truth is in the testing, and after 413 miles, I'm happy to say I've purchased my second pair of these running shoes. When it comes time for me to run the Burlington Marathon in May, I'll have them on my feet.  And in October, when I run Annette Bednosky's amazing New River Trail 50K, i'll have them on as well.

Related Links:
Shoe Review: Brooks PureCadence

Blind Ultramarathoning

The Guardian profile of Simon Wheatcroft, a legally-blind runner, is quite inspiring. Just imagine the concentration and dedication it would take to do this:
Over weeks of gradual exploration and slow experimentation walking a route alone, he was able to memorise a set three-mile course along little-used pavements and grass verges – albeit with some sections alongside a dual carriageway – near his home in Rossington, Doncaster. He also recruited technology to help him form his mental map of the area, using a smartphone app, RunKeeper, to provide aural feedback through headphones about his pace and distance. This information could then be cross-referenced with his knowledge of the route and any obstacles, giving him extra confidence regarding his surroundings.
Wheatcroft explains: "From where I start, the first turning is at about 0.75 of a mile and I knew it would take me seven minutes to run that. So when the app told me I'd been running for six minutes and my distance, I knew in the next 60 seconds there would be a turning and the pavement drops."
Now, having clocked up hundreds of miles alone on the route, Wheatcroft has been able, gradually, to phase out the app. "When I first started I had to really concentrate to a unbelievable level to know where my feet were falling. Now it has become quite automated." This is not to say the learning curve hasn't been without incident. "I did make a few mistakes early on – like running into posts. But you only run into a post once before you think, 'Right, I'm going to remember where that is next time," he laughs.
For more, check out his blog. He's currently training for the South Downs Way 100-mile race in June and is going to carry the Olympic torch for a bit before the London Games. Good luck Simon!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Review: Injinji Toesocks (outdoor, original weight, crew)

About a month ago, Joel received a few pairs of socks from the kind folks at Injinji for us to try out and share our thoughts on.  The pair that arrived in my mailbox were from the Outdoor Series, original weight, crew length.

Right from the start I can describe my experience with these socks as weird.  The concept of these socks (pictured on my foot at right) is one I just hadn't considered before.  It seemed novel and I wasn't exactly sure I could take the concept seriously at first.  Putting the socks on added to the comical nature of the experience.  Being inexperienced with toesocks, I found them a bit more difficult than expected to get on my feet, even more so than, say, putting on a glove.  My toes just aren't used to fitting into sleeves.

Once the socks were on my feet felt very, very different from anytime I can recall.  My initial reaction was that i didn't like the feeling, as if I had thong flip-flops on with a thing between each toe. But for the sake of being open to the idea, I asked, is it uncomfortable?  The answer was certainly no.  Strange, yes, uncomfortable no.

As I wear compression sleeves on most runs, I realize the crew length isn't ideal for me, as I don't really want any overlap between my socks and my compression sleeves.  I realize that Injinji makes both mini-crew (shorter) versions of these socks and also a version that has compression built in.

Injinji recommends on it's packaging that you "be patient with your first wear and allow your feet to adjust".  This is good advice, because when I put on my shoes, the strange feeling didn't go away, rather, was more pronounced.  Firstly, I think because the socks were new, they felt very slippery in my shoe.  Secondly, I felt like there was just plain more room in my shoe.  This is exactly the opposite of what I had imagined I would have felt.  I would have guess that, with the extra material, the fabric would have felt bunched and uncomfortable in my shoes; definitely not the case.

We had a 10-miler planned for the run, and 2 miles into it, I wasn't thinking about the socks at all.  This was a good thing... as my original feelings had me imagining feeling that strange feeling the whole run.  For the most part, in the early part of my run, I really didn't feel any major differences between these socks and the normal sock selections I run with.  This was surprising.

In the later miles of the run, as fatigue started to set in, I did actually notice a difference, and it was a really nice difference.  I don't tend to have any major issues with my feet.  I don't get blisters, I don't get hot spots, so I cannot speak to these socks ability to ward of those blights.  I can say, however, that the feeling of being able to freely splay my toes is much more pronounced in these socks, leading to a heightened sense of proprioception.  To be clear, the experience is a subtle one, but one that is certainly welcome in the latter miles of a run when you're keen to keep your form in check.

I also tend to sweat quite a bit when I run, so a sock that can handle moisture is an important thing to me.  Injinji claim "Superior Moisture Management" and on that point I certainly agree.   My initial run with the Injinji toe socks yielded no definitive data one way or another with respect to the moisture management.  There was no issue, but also no situation to gauge the superior nature of this moisture management.  A second run with these socks presented a good test situation, however.  Firstly, it has been raining leading up to the run, so there was moisture on the ground and in the air.  Secondly, there was a chill to the air.  Generally speaking, I don't wear anything but lightweight socks, and typically stay away from any wool or synthetic wool unless it is winter.  This is important because, thirdly, I was working very hard on this run and sweating a lot, so the wet with the chill in the air gave me the opportunity to see how dry and how warm my feet would be.  Well, my feet were quite warm (too warm for my tastes, I would definitely go with the lightweight socks in the future) and surprisingly dry.  The sock itself showed no sign of heaviness and did not feel as wet as it should have given the situation.  I was quite impressed.

In summary, while I felt very strange about these socks at first, they shined in all the areas they claim to shine.  I don't think purchasing these socks is going to be the decided factor in you achieving your PR, but if you're looking for socks that are going to help you do that, you've got some other things you'll need to deal with.  The benefits of these socks are subtle, but they are real.  They do take some getting used to, and after two runs with them, I am not quite sure I am there yet...  but I no longer dismiss the idea as novel and can definitely see myself wearing Injinji socks on future runs.

Related Posts:
Review: Injinji Toesocks
Review: Feetures! Elite Socks
Review: Injinji Toesocks (outdoor series)

Kindles, Collusion, and Copy Protection

NPR gives us a good history of the recent governmental ruling against Apple and several book publishers for price collusion, and makes this prediction:
“No matter what the outcome of this mountain of federal and state litigation, the agency model [an agreement that allowed publishers to set the same price for digital books across all online marketplaces.], in its present form, is dead. Within the next month, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple and other e-book retailers will undoubtedly mount a fierce price war for control of this new market. Publishers will bemoan the loss of the tool for preventing predatory pricing, brick-and-mortar booksellers will struggle to compete in the digital marketplace, and cash-strapped book buyers will cheer the competitive prices.”
The article also claims that: “The model may be moribund, but [successful in that] customers no longer think of $9.99 as the only possible price for an e-book. We regularly pay everything from 99 cents to $14.99 for a best-selling e-book.”

This is interesting and all, and I’m looking forward to being able to pick up some ebooks at rock bottom prices. However, I was surprised to not to see anything in the lawsuit about the ability of ebook manufacturers to look their customers into devices. It turns out that I’m not alone: Cory Doctrow at Boing Boing points out that “Every dollar that is spent on a locked, proprietary platform is a dollar of opportunity cost that society will have to spend to get out from under the would-be monopolists of ebooks when (not if) they abuse their power (see my latest PW column on this)."

Frustrating! I guess this came about because the publishing industry, the device came before the format. Thus, if you buy a book on your Kindle, you can’t read it on an iPad or Nook and vice versa. This is opposed to the consumer win in the music industry, where the format for sharing music (mp3s) came before the portable devices that you would use to listen to the devices. Thus, any device that wanted to be successful needed to be able to play mp3s that you could pick up anywhere.

I love my kindle, but amazon's market power and being frozen into one device does makes me nervous. Interesting to see how this will play itself out.

Running as Practice

I’m running more than I ever have before in my life, and I’ve been running (relatively) regularly for 26 years. Ostensibly this increase in my amount of running is to get me prepared  for the Burlington Marathon, but the more I’ve run the more I’ve come to learn that it’s more than that - but before that, my training went through three distinct phases:
  1. Running longer distances at my normal pace. When I first started training, I continued to build up my speed along with distance. This trend maxed out where most of my runs were run at 7:30-8:00 pace. This continued until a major calf injury slowed me down for a few weeks and then...
  2. Running to a training plan. I downloaded a “beginners marathon” training plan, one that told me that I should be running 4-5 days a week, cross-training one day, and resting 1-2 days. I did this for a few weeks before getting discouraged in its robotic nature; it wasn't in tune with what my body or my mind required. So I entered my current phase, which is...
  3. Slower running a few days a week. I now start off as slow as I can and slowly pick up the speed over the course of the run. This has enabled me to relatively quickly achieve distances that I have never done before (my first 20 miler, for example). I've cut back on the number of times I hit the pavement, which keeps me focused when I do run.
While all of this running, has me in good shape for the marathon (7 weeks away!), I no longer subscribe to the current thinking that “every run has to have a purpose.” It's just not how I roll. Planning when and the speed at which I needed to run was taking all of the fun out of it! Now that i'm going out with the only goal being distance or time (to run 20 miles, or to be jogging for 2.5 hours, for example) has been incredibly relaxing. To get all zen on you, this has taught me that the journey is it’s own satisfaction. In other words, while I’ll be excited to finish the marathon (hopefully beating Eric and Joel and drinking their scotch), it’s no longer what I’m running these long distances for. Rather, I’ve fallen in love with the story of the long run, of the sheer ego-destroying time it takes to run 16+ miles (there’s a reason that running makes us stupid).

I was inspired to write this after reading Weapon-Grade Ennui's posting on George Leonard’s Mastery, and his musings on how practice is neither glamorous nor interesting and thus the process can be its own payoff.  Money quote:
“…[Leonard] enjoys Zen parables. … [like] how you have to empty your cup before you can fill it, or how you have to let go of that cup of expertise to grab the quart on the table.

Someone aiming for excellence might roll their eyes at these Zen paradoxes. I am convinced by them. Maybe to get good at something, you have to not care if you ever do. The road is too long to be motivated by a destination you can only imagine and never see. The journey has to be its own satisfaction. I don’t fantasize about seeing my name on a bookstore’s shelves, anymore. I am more interested in learning how to pay attention to all the steps leading to it.”
This sounds about right. All of the writing and pondering and soul-searching that has lead up to my ability to not only run but like running 20 miles has been enjoyable in and of itself. I know this because I am looking forward to continuing my long runs even after May 27th has come and gone, something that was inconceivable just a half-year ago. I’ve liked learning more about my body, my capabilities and my limits, and it’s made me a better person for it.

Cross Posted on Thought Ambience

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Reading Young Adult Fiction, Part Deux

A great quote from C.S. Lewis about labeling fiction as "adult" or "young adult":
"Critics who treat 'adult' as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development.

When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up."
H/t The Dish

Related Posts:
Reading Young Adult Fiction

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Assessing Running Economy

I’ve often read articles about improving your running that speak quite importantly about improving your running economy.  More often than not, this tip comes without offering much solid advice for how to do so.  Great, so while I’m at it, I’ll just increase my speed and endurance too, right?  It makes sense though, as running economy is linked quite heavily to running form, and running form, as we all know, is the ultimate experiment of one in the running game.

I’ve been trying lately to assess just how I can improve running economy in my own form.  When I used to focus on shorter distances, I didn’t think much about economy; I would just get out there and get it done as quickly as I could.  But training for a marathon and then a 50K later this year has me very seriously considering whatever I need to do to make my form more economical.

The other day I set out for a hillier run than I normally do.  After a long steep climb, I found myself on a long steep downhill, and to be quite honest, I felt incredibly uncomfortable.  I felt like by trying to keep my form “normal” I was essentially putting on the brakes and as a side effect, causing more impact to my legs.  Neither of these was desirable.  So for a bit, I just let gravity take over.  As my pace started to increase, my stride lengthened out.  I still felt like I was braking and the impact on the legs were increased to a higher degree.  I was cruising pretty fast, but felt like I could easily take a tumble or roll an ankle. 

In the hopes of finding a comfortable way of keeping this pace (had to make up for a very slow climb) I started tweaking my form a bit.  One thing I did really make a difference:  kicking my legs up after a foot strike.  Suddenly, my pace increased even more and I started to feel much more comfortable. I think that, with the aid of the steep decline, my garmin was reading a sub 6-minute per mile pace (*very* fast for me). 

The takeaway from this experience for me was two-fold:  1. I learned a new trick that will help my running economy (bigger leg-kick aids my running economy, in contrast to the “marathon shuffle” I’ve been working with lately).  And, 2. I learned that a good way to “feel” running economy in an exaggerated way that makes things much more clear to me is to run down a steep hill while maintaining (if not slightly tweaking) and observing my running form.

Who knows if it will work for you, but the next time you’re heading down a steep hill, open it up a bit and see if you can feel what about your running form is holding you back from going faster.  Tweak that a bit and chances are you’ll see improvements on more level ground as well.

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Monday, April 9, 2012

A Lost Sox Weekend

As usual, Joy of Sox puts things in perspective for us:
"Losing three games - two of them by only one run - to the powerhouse-hitting team many people think will steamroll to the World Series? This is making Red Sox fans panic? ...
It was a bad three games, I agree. Sunday's game was particularly horrific. ...
This has many fans demanding that Daniel Bard be yanked from the rotation before he has made even one start and plugged back into the bullpen. But that would be a mistake and a clear sign that the front office has abandoned the philosophy that brought them two World Series championships after an 86-year drought. It would show that the team is taking the short view and looking at only the recent games when making important decisions. You don't base team decisions on two games worth of data."
And also: "My advice to you: stay away from all Boston media until further notice."

Joel made some similar points here. I only caught a little of G3 (the odds of me catching any weekend or day games are slim to none) and my only comment is that Aceves didn't look like the same pitcher he was last year. Of course, I suspect the Tigers will make many pitchers look bad. My bigger concern is Josh Beckett: we have enough concerns with our starting rotation to have Beckett not pitch up to his capabilities.

Regardless, let's see what happens in the next few series before declaring all is lost. Time to kick some Blue Jay ass! (But please, please, stay away from Bautista.)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Getting off the DL

ESPN notes that the Red Sox are opening with nine players on the disabled, and the total value of their 2012 contracts is $59.27 million.  Ouch.  That's more than the total team salaries of either the Oakland A's or the San Diego Padres.

Most of that, of course, is attributable to the salaries of Carl Crawford ($20.36 million), John Lackey ($15.95 million) and Daisuke Matsuzaka ($10.33 million).  Crawford is taking his time in rehab, but should still get plenty of opportunities in the lineup to try and justify his paycheck.  But what about Lackey and Matsuzaka?

Matuszaka underwent Tommy John surgery on June 2, 2011.  As of this writing, he's down in Fort Myers, getting his pitch count up.  Some have suggested that he could be ready to return to the active roster in early June, or possibly even May.  That's a pretty quick return from Tommy John surgery, and only time will tell if he will succeed.  But at least he has a good attitude:
[Staying in Boston after 2011] would be the ideal situation, but before I can talk about staying long term I have to prove that I belong to stay here. I have to pitch to the level that’s expected in Boston . . .With it being my last season on my contract, I’d like to do everything I can to get myself into a situation to contribute with the limited time that I have.
Lackey underwent Tommy John surgery on November 1, 2011.  So, he's five months behind Matsuzaka.  Here are his plans for the year:
My doctor doesn’t want me to pitch this year. He says it was pretty messed up and doesn’t think it would be good for me. . . I’m just going to kind of hang out, work hard, and support the team a little bit. I still want to be around the team. Still want to be around my buddies and support these guys and help them have a good year.
Nice work if you can get it!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Red Sox-Tigers

Damn, I have not looked forward to the start of a season this much in a long time. 

Red Sox - Tigers is going to be some exciting ball.  In addition to the marquee pitching duels, the Red Sox are going to have to deal with Prince Fielder - and if Boston does get ahead, well, only Bobby Valentine knows for sure who is going to be on the mound in the ninth inning.

The Tigers' defense looks suspect but everything else about them looks great.  Given that the Red Sox will be playing on the Tigers' turf, I'll be satisfied if they come away from the three-game series with one win, and ecstatic if they come away with two wins. 

Play ball!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Race Plan

Tomorrow, the race starts.  Here are the things I need to keep in mind:

  • Start off slowly.  You don’t want to overboard in the beginning, because it’s a long race. 
  • Don’t drink too much too early on, that extra weight won’t be helpful down the home stretch.
  • Instead of turning it on and off, just try and stay steady.
  • There really is no reason to shout, no one is listening.
  • This is going to make you tired and achy, accept that now.
Yep, tomorrow is opening day and so starts the pennant race.  Everyone in shape and ready to go?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Curt Schilling: Are you a Red Sox fan?

we all love curt schilling for everything he's done for the red sox.  as a baseball player, i have the utmost respect for him.  as a commentator on the red sox, he has had some very insightful and opinionated things to say over the years as well.  we've all heard the story of curt ripping bobby valentine, saying:
"when you talk to these guys -- and I'm still talking to some of these guys -- I don't think this is going well. And I think it's going bad quicker than I expected it to"
i'm not a big fan of schilling coming out with this.  sure, he was close with francona and i can empathize with any frustration he may have about how that situation was dealt with.  but a pitch hasn't even been thrown in the regular season and he's already seeing things go south?  

what i think i like most about this situation is that the almost completely silent Josh Beckett* appears to the be one standing up to schillings remarks:
"I haven't seen him around," Beckett continued. "I'd think if someone knew that much they'd probably be a little closer to it. Game's a lot easier from over there [as a media person], I think. As far as him speaking about how things are being run, I haven't seen him around here to where he would know that much."
granted, he's stopped short of defending bobby valentine, or disputing schilling's claims...  but i've never seen beckett painted as the "team player" and i like that he voiced a response.

i think we can agree that no matter what you think of bobby v, he is here for the year (at least) and, like him or not, he is running the show.  we love the red sox and we cannot change this, so how about we accept what it is and get back to supporting the team (at least until we've posted something in the W-L column to base our commentary on)?

*btw, hope reports of Beckett being injured don't prevent him from making his first start

Reading Young Adult Fiction

This arrogant article about how normal adults shouldn't read fiction marketed to Young Adults won't do anything combat the impression that the New York Times is elitist:
Books are one of our few chances to learn. There’s a reason my teachers didn’t assign me to go home and play three hours of Donkey Kong. I have no idea what “The Hunger Games” is like. Maybe there are complicated shades of good and evil in each character. Maybe there are Pynchonesque turns of phrase. Maybe it delves into issues of identity, self-justification and anomie that would make David Foster Wallace proud. I don’t know because it’s a book for kids. I’ll read “The Hunger Games” when I finish the previous 3,000 years of fiction written for adults.
This is the worst kind of lazy thinking. Note how he admits that he doesn't know what he's bashing, only that because it's labeled as "Young Adult" it's not worthwhile to him. This really raises my hackle. First of all, it's the worst kind of literary snobbery. Has Mr. Stein even asked himself who labels a book as YA or not? I certainly don't want anyone making these decisions for me. For example, knowing the kinds of excellent fiction that are disparaged as "science fiction" when one could make a very strong argument that they should be marketed as "regular" fiction (Stephenson and Gibson, to name just two), makes me wary of trusting any booksellers to label what i'm reading. Secondly, it's a bit stunning to think of the excellent books that he'll miss under this line of thinking: off the top of my head, he's miss out on The Chocolate War and The Catcher in the Rye along with countless others.

Personally, I enjoy ripping through a YA novel now and again. I recently ripped through L'Engle's Wrinkle in Time in a few days and found it highly enjoyable, both as a good story and also as a fun nostalgia trip back to the kid I was when I first read it. I also continually get meaning out of Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth when I pick it up every few years or so. It's good to look through the eyes of a kid now and again!

For a better argument against Mr. Stein's writing, see Alyssa's good breakdown. What are your thoughts? Do you avoid YA books, find them a "guilty pleasure," or actively seek them out?