Our new home?

Will this be the new Casa de Brozek?

On Sunday afternoon, after two weeks of phone tag, our landlord finally called us when we were home. The place we live now is being sold as a condo, and since we aren't ready to buy a place yet, we want to move - preferably before our lease runs out in August. We weren't sure whether Bill was going to be on board with this moving-out-early plan - but we assumed he'd get on board if he thought he could sell our place to someone before the end of July. It turns out that Bill sold our apartment buildings to invest in a new property on Madison's lovely west side - Sauk Creek Apartments. There are about seven floorplans in the complex, but we like the one bedroom + loft, two of which are available right now.

We'd be giving up a bedroom, a basement, and our own front door, but we'd be gaining a skylight, a kitchen island, a couple hundred dollars in rent every month, a shorter commute for Missy, and the constant fear that our cats will fall of the ledge of the loft. They're soulless apartments with a pretentious name, but I think we could make them home.

Well, then, problem solved!

Hey, everyone, no need to worry about Darfur - it's not genocide! Members of the Janjaweed militia may have killed 50,000+, forced another 1.4 million from their homes (75,000 of which have died of disease and starvation), but since it's based on complex racial-religious tension and not straightforward ethnic fighting, it doesn't fall under the UN's definition of genocide.
A United Nations investigation into killings in Sudan's Darfur region has ruled that Khartoum did not pursue a policy of “genocide”, but had committed “serious violations” of international law, which should be referred to the International Criminal Court.

The long-awaited report, which follows a conclusion by the US that the killings did amount to genocide, said two elements of genocide may arguably have existed that of widespread killing, and the targeting of a particular group. But it said that “the crucial element of genocidal intent appears to missing, at least as far as the central government authorities are concerned”.

Instead, the commission of inquiry said the government and the Janjaweed militia were responsible for “serious violations of international . . . law”, on a widespread and systematic basis, which could amount to “crimes against humanity”.

I generally don't recommend speaking to, listening to, or generally having any contact with M.Bar but his work on the UN's definition of genocide during the Rwandan genocide is fantastic. Check out this for a book-length treatment

Secret Machines

I found out, by way of a flier on library mall, that The Secret Machines are playing a free show at Union South a week from tonight. If you're in Madison, you should plan on going. You'll be disapointed in yourself when, in four or five years, you're paying $30 to see them at the Orpheum or the Eagles Club.

From Pitchfork:
But The Secret Machines are no nostalgia act: "Pharaoh's Daughter" counters the Floyd references with a drumbeat practically quoted from Isaac Hayes' cover of Bacharach's "Walk on By". Plus, they deploy a strategy similar to that of The Flaming Lips and Grandaddy: Not only is Garza more Steve Drozd than John Bonham (which could be a compliment), but The Secret Machines create songs that are just as spacey and concept-heavy, if not quite as quirky, as those on Yoshimi and The Sophtware Slump. "Leaves Are Gone" lolls along on the delicate ebb and flow of Brandon Curtis' keyboard cascades, forming a quiet counter to more aggressive songs like "Sad and Lonely". "Light's ON" boasts a better new wave hook than just about anything else to come out of NYC this year, crackling with a palpable paranoia as Curtis decries the intrusiveness of a Big Brother-like observer: "Somewhere there's a record of your whereabouts/ Everywhere you go you leave a trace.../ The light's ON/ We don't know just who our friends are." But there are forces allied against these threats, people who thrive in the underground: "The light's ON/ And we're waiting for the signal."

Million Dollar Baby

Missy orchestrated an 11th hour coup on her friends (the ones with bad taste in movies), and we went to Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby on Saturday night instead of Racing Stripes. I thought it was very good, if a little straightforward, but without giving too much away, the ending hit a little too close to home for Missy. Go see it, though, because like all the reviewers, I'm not telling you what happens.

Now we only need to see Ray, Finding Neverland, and The Aviator before the Oscars.

Body Power < Boot Camp

Missy and I went to another free class at the Monkey Bar Gym this morning (her first, my second) - Body Power, which is a strength class, instead of Boot Camp, which is a cardio class. I was less impressed. Don't get me wrong - my muscles are certainly sore, but the class wasn't as fun and the instructor wasn't as good. There was no clapping, laughing or encouragement between the attendees (except for the crazy woman that wanted to watch me do the pike), and the instructor was the kind of mumbly undergrad-ey guy that I dislike having in section. Missy wants to go to a Boot Camp class to see what I was raving about though, so she and Spice may have to coordinate a visit.

I learned that slow squats with 30-lb weights and a five-second pause are a fantastic exercise, and one that I'll be doing at my regular gym now that I'm out of free passes to the MBG.

renegade blogging

There's nothing like blogging via your neighbors' wireless connection. I can only connect in a small area of my living room, but I'm not paying for it!

OH MY GOD, WE'RE HAVING A FIRE!!.......sale.

"Is there anyone in the house with you, sir?" is what the police officer asked me in an anxious-sounding voice. "I..uh...my wife is upstairs," I replied, hoping it was her they were arresting and not me. It turned out that they hadn't caught either of us - there was a fire in the building immediately across the communal yard from us, with reports of explosives in the basement, and they needed us to evacuate immediately. Our cats were put in the car (grumpily) which we were told to move away from the building, and we stood outside with our neighbors while fire truck after ambulance after police cruiser filled our driveway.

After about an hour outside, we got cold and decided to sit in the car - even if it meant not being able to see the action. We also got to watch our crazy, chimney-smoking neighbors argue with the police about why they should get to go back into their apartment. "Oh, you AIN'T gonna tell me I cain't go inna my own house!" is what I pictured her saying.

We heard on the news that the occupant of the apartment and a firefighter were injured, so I'm sure we'll be the lead story on the 9:00 news. "Whispering Woods - of near-death!"

Here's a photo I took about 15 minutes after the police gave us the all-clear to go back inside -

Kathleen Falk must be a hippie

As Spice noted on her blog, I went to a class at her hippie gym last night. I was interested by her description of it - no mirrors, lots of laughing, very encouraging - so I took them up on their free class offer. I was going to my gym later that evening anyway, so I'd be able to get a real workout in after play-time.

I couldn't have been more wrong. Although there was, in fact, no mirrors, lots of laughing, and lots of encouragement (as well as a game of freeze-tag as a warm-up) I got one helluva workout. Only my abs are sore today, but I really expected to be hurting more based on how I felt when I got done. The leg-throwing exercise in particular (which you'd have to see to understand), was a killer - at around 25 seconds on the second time through was the only point in the hour class where I was hurting too bad to keep going.

I can see why people have such good things to say about the Monkey Bar. The Princeton Club, which is the traditional gym that I typically attend, is a giant room of self-punishment - grimaces, grunting, pained-expressions, but no inter-exerciser interaction. Our class leader at MB was also excellent - mid-40's, not athletic-looking, not intimidating, and she knew the names of about 75% of the class.

One of the people's names she knew was Dane County Executive and former gubenatorial candidate, Kathleen Falk. Kathy, as I'm going to start referring to her, was in Group #2 with me, and told me that I was good at burpees. I'm going to be her Secretary of Defense when she becomes mayor of Madison.


Missy and I found out tonight that her brother, a Marine stationed in Hawaii, was supposed to be on the helicopter that crashed near the Jordanian border yesterday, killing all 30 people inside. She just talked to him about it - he mostly feels guilty for getting out of it when so many of his friends didn't. My grandfather served in Korea decades ago, but this is the closest personal connection I've had with anyone in live combat. I wouldn't say that Matt and I are really close, but it's still harder than I thought it would be.

He's been calling a lot lately - because he's planning to propose to his girlfriend and is really nervous about it. I can't imagine how she feels - it makes me wonder if they'll be able to stay together, especially if he feels like he should have been in Iraq and she was part of the reason he wasn't.


The professor I'm TAing for got this e-mail after this morning's lecture. What do you think - serious or a prank? If it's the former, they're a loon. If it's the latter, and they get Colucci to say "stop hitting each other after class," then kudos on a prank well done.
I wanted to make you aware of a situation from lecture today and see if you could make some type of announcement about proper behavior. During lecture a girl sitting infront of me kept turning around and yelling at me and then hit me, saying that I'd hit her. I never touched the girl or anything near her. After class she proceeded to hit me a second time, get in my face and harass me, tried ripping the arm of my jacket and pinching me, and tried stealing items from my backpack.

I very much enjoy your class and have had to wait three and a half years to be able to fit it into my schedule, and I don't want to have to drop the class because of behavior like this girl demonstrated today. No student should have to put up with that type of behavior or disruptions during lecture. Is there anything you can do to try and prevent further behavior like this from students?


Career poll

Maybe I'm going through a grad school identity crisis - indulge me.

The questions:
1) What would you be doing now if you weren't doing what you're doing now? (Note: this is a different question than, "What did you do before you do what you do now and why did you stop doing it?")

2) Why aren't you doing it?

My answers:
1) Architecture - specifically, high-density urban living places. I've been interested in the field for a while, but I've recently begun reading magazines about the functionality of small-space urban dwelling - finding the necessities, doing away with the excess, living simply - appealing and fascinating.

2) Good question, J.Bro! I think it's a combination of (1) not realizing that it was an interest sooner in my life and (2) the sunk costs (both time and financial) of going to grad school for something else.

Barbara or Jenna?

An exercise in decision-making under duress, born out of a highly-inappropriate-to-a-public-area conversation I had at work once.

The task is easy, but oh-so-difficult.

Lisa Simpson is always right

This is frustrating - I wonder why I'm not losing any weight, despite averaging 75-90 minutes a day at the gym? Over the last six weeks I've done low-intensity base-building, high-intensity intervals, weight training with light weighs and high reps, 2 hour treadmill runs, super-spinny spinning classes, swimming, rowing machines, x-country skiing, pushups, crunches - and my weight? Exactly what it was in early December. It's not like this is a sudden lifestyle change, either - I've been training seriously for triathlons since the winter of 2001. My weight when I started that? About 190.

"Are you eating crap, Jason?" That's a good question, and the answer is no - usually a yogurt with granola for breakfast, lean cuisine frozen meal or turkey sandwitch for lunch, handful of nuts for an afternoon snack, some sort of pasta, salad, or lean meat for dinner, and lots of water throughout the day.

To paraphrase Lisa Simpson, I know this obsession with being thin is unhealthy, but...that's what a fat kid would say! At 6'2" and 185, I don't think I'm overweight - but I'm at the high end of the "normal" BMI range (which I realize is a poor indicator of proper body weight) - an extra 10 lbs would put me in the overweight category.

I'd describe myself as a thin human, but an overweight triathlete. To race well at Ironman-Wisconsin in September, I'd like to drag 20 fewer pounds over the course - I don't know how to do it though. I'm going to a class at Spice's hippie gym on Thursday, based on her good recommendation and testimonials like this one:
Before beginning the 60 Day Challenge I considered myself to be a healthy, fit 44 year old man. I cross country ski, play baseball, hockey, bike often and workout on a daily basis. I felt I had reached my plateau and thought the challenge would help me lose the 10 lbs I hadn’t been able to drop and prepare me for the upcoming cross country ski season. I thought the hardest part of the challenge would be changing my diet. I have always eaten what I wanted when I wanted. I was worried about eliminating starchy carbs as I thought my energy level would drop. However to my surprise, I was able to maintain my high level of energy. I also found that my cravings for sweets and starches diminished. The workouts at the Monkey Bar Gymnasium are fun, diverse and challenging as opposed to the monotony of a regular gym. The personal attention was important and a real plus. I had never experienced this before. When I was only 3 weeks into the challenge my friends were noticing the changes in my body. I also noticed that I was improving my strength and stamina. I now have leaner, longer muscles, quicker reflexes and where I had hoped to lose 5 to 10 pounds, I was delighted to have lost a total of 23 lbs of fat!

Edited to add: Based on J.Po's comment, I did a little more research into BMI for athletes. As I had suspected and she wrote, BMI is virtually useless for anyone with a modicum of fitness, since far more of your body weight is composed of lean muscle mass (and working out doesn't increase your height accordingly). Here's an interesting page with a number of ideal body weight calculators, the problems with each, and how you can use them to triangulate an appropriate weight target.

American Idol?!? Eeeeeeeeee!

I'm so excited that there's a new season of American Idol on TV - not because I enjoy watching the bad auditions, or because I enjoy the singing of the not-quite-as-bad finalists, or because I would ever buy an album by the winner, but because it means the return of Television Without Pity's AI recaps! Eeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Honestly, I only watch the show so that I can read the recaps without feeling lost.

Here's a little taste of this week's _27 page_ recap to whet your appetite -
Seacrest asks the awful, soul-killing question: Which of these contestants is the next William Hung? Jesus. What you mean is, how do we raise the bar from retarded Asian dude? Using actual crazy people. But that's not coming up for a while. It's so goddamned funny that we're going to tease you with the actually mentally ill throughout the rest of the episode and that's how we'll keep you watching for the whole two hours. Because we are kind of like Satan in that we hate you and your soul.

Meet Marlea Stroman, 21, an absolutely gorgeous proud single mom, who gained the courage to audition from Fantasia Barrino, who's proudly from Syracuse. She looks and prouds around kind of like Yaya, but is not disgusting. She sings some kind of Bonnie Raitt song about her daughter running away and I like her voice. They cut her off early because it's not funny, it's just awesome, and Randy makes a lot of approving noises that aren't so much talking like you and I do in our daily lives. Mark points out that her high register is strong and "lithenable." I don't know why he says it like this but it's my job to tell you that he does. The judges are unanimous, and even offer helpful notes for the next round, Simon saying that voice notwithstanding, her performing could stand to be livened up (true), and Ryan saying that she could do with some more contemporary song choices (also true). Then she goes outside without repeating the word "proud" and is met by the entire gay population of Syracuse, NY, who scream their little asses off like a whole Matrix of Rickie Vasquez.

Eagles vs. Patriots

Could the Superbowl be any more patriotic this year?

Book recommendations?

I'm looking for book recommendations for an 18 year-old girl who is in the hospital for a long-term stay. She doesn't read much, but has professed an interest in Stephen King and J.K. Rowling. I'd like to expose her to something a little more hip, but, having never been an 18 year-old girl, I don't know of anything. Some of you, however, have a different gender and, I hope, a better idea of what she might like.

e-mail addresses it would be annoying to give out over the phone, a fable, and more e-mail addresses it would be annoying to give out over the phone.




A fox wants to get some grapes. But the grapes are very high up on the side of the Empire State Building and he cannot reach them. So, he decides that maybe he doesn't want any grapes after all. Maybe he'd rather have a burger or something. He is kidding himself, of course. He would spit on his mother for those grapes. Too bad that foxes don't know how to use elevators.




More on Summers

Once again, the mainstream media aren't telling us the whole story. Here are some of Summers' recent comments that have gone largely unreported so far -
“The male frontal lobe, like the plumage of many male birds, is colorful and attractive,” said Summers. “The frontal lobe of females, by comparison, is a dull, dishwater gray. This difference clearly explains why few girls score above the 90th percentile in science and math tests during high school. It also explains why women would sooner be home nursing their babies than putting in eighty-hour weeks.”

Summers further believes that the difference in frontal lobe coloration explains why his attempts to provide his daughters with a “gender-neutral upbringing” failed. According to Summers, he gave his daughters trucks rather than dolls to play with, but the children named the trucks "mommy truck” and “baby truck” and made dresses for them instead of using them to solve equations.

In other unreported news, clean-shaven Satan was overheard mocking goatee wearers. thespoof.com - the (very) poor man's Onion.


I don't own a mac (or even an ipod), but I'm not averse to it. This is still funny though.

In the same vein, and also funny, is McSweeney's iReel article:
Congratulations on the purchase of your new iReel! You're about to experience the latest in Reel-to-Reel technology, conveniently packaged into one 70 lb. console and powered by state-of-the-art metal-wire auditory recording. Your new 4B model comes equipped with our patented "take-up reel," first implemented in motion-picture technology, harnessing the awesome power of friction to play back your favorite tunes. If you've also purchased the iReel-a-Go-Go accessories, you can take this auditory wonderland anywhere within a designated radius depending on your county's zoning laws! Just follow these few simple guidelines.

Getting Started
Attaching your iReel is a snap! That is, it's easy and straightforward. If you hear an actual "snap" when mounting the iReel, please check the control casing and consult a chiropractor. Otherwise, simply lace the vinyl straps over your shoulders—lift with your legs!—and balance the iReel at the center of your back.

Oh, but wait! Don't stand up quite yet. If you have any previous recording devices, you'll be happy to know that the iReel is backwards-compatible with most wax cylinders and Magnetophons, attached via the optional iFortyFootCable and iGroundLineInterferenceIsolator[....]

As explained in iReel FAQ number 27, you may eventually find yourself struggling with the "Turtle Syndrome." Perhaps you've already found yourself stranded on your back, arms and legs flailing in the urban air. First of all, relax. Like many features in the iReel's design, this gesture is a call for attention. Since you're an iReel user, you must also be rich and have many lords and ladies attending you, ready to flip you over and massage your tender shoulders at a moment's notice.

Not the first time

I don't really have anything to say about Harvard president Larry Summers' comments concerning men and women in the "hard" and "soft" sciences that's any better than what Spice and Sophist have already written, but I found this snippet on the Boston Globe and I wanted to share it. The paragraph below was preceded in the article by one about how Summers was simply serving his role as university president by stirring up research and spurring academics to new ideas. That's bullshit - (1) it's an old stereotype masked as a new idea, and (2) given the amount of knowledge accumulated about gender issues between the 1889 comment below and Summers' comment, it's ignoring generations of research not spawning new research.

A Harvard alumna who specializes in women's history in higher education wrote in to point out that a previous Harvard president created a flap with his remarks on women -- in 1889. According to a 1999 Harvard Magazine piece, Charles W. Eliot chose the inauguration of a new president at Wellesley College to point out that society "has not made up its mind in what intellectual fields women may be safely and profitably employed." Eliot said women's college should be schools of manners, because of women's "delicate qualities." He added there was no need for grades, frequent exams, and prizes, since women would work hard without such incentives. "It would be a wonder, indeed, if the intellecutal capacities of women were not at least as unlike those of men as their bodily capacities are," he said. While this was probably not quite as controversial in his day, it did spark a response from the Bryn Mawr president, M. Carey Thomas, who said "Eliot disgraced himself." Patricia Palmieri, a Harvard alum who teaches at the College of Staten Island and Columbia University's Teachers College, saw parallels. Summers's talk "sounds new, but in reality it is just a rehash of the old biological inferiority theories that were trotted out during the Gilded Age and Progressive Era," she wrote in an e-mail.

huckabees we could take or leave

You could try to convince your friends, coworkers and neighbors that the Brozek children don't heart snow, but you'd be lying to them.

Witness the soaring majesty! ...of selective interpretation.

This is from the Washington Post, by way of Daily Kos. Bush talks a purty game of fighting for liberty, facing down tyranny behind the swingset at 3:30, but when that end-of-the-day bell rings, he's backpedaling.
White House officials said yesterday that President Bush's soaring inaugural address, in which he declared the goal of ending tyranny around the world, represents no significant shift in U.S. foreign policy but instead was meant as a crystallization and clarification of policies he is pursuing in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Middle East and elsewhere.

Nor, they say, will it lead to any quick shift in strategy for dealing with countries such as Russia, China, Egypt and Pakistan, allies in the fight against terrorism whose records on human rights and democracy fall well short of the values Bush said would become the basis of relations with all countries.

Bush advisers said the speech was the rhetorical institutionalization of the Bush doctrine and reflected the president's deepest convictions about the purposes behind his foreign policies. But they said it was carefully written not to tie him to an inflexible or unrealistic application of his goal of ending tyranny.

...communists, known to be heathens, are...

I've been coding stories from 1952 for the last two days, which is 25 years earlier than any other stories I've worked on. I'm really fascinated by the differences in the New York Times' style, tone, and language from then to now. Journalists used to use very flowery prose, and they didn't shy away from thinly-veiled opinion, assumptions, stereotypes or ethnocentricities. Take a look at these selections -

July 29, 1952
Accordingly, the advent of Mr. Ghavam and the four bloody days of his Premiership were attributed to the Americans. At best, this was pure exaggeration.

Resentment has grown because of the numerous United States officers, officials, and experts in Teheran, whose mode of living is ostentatious. The average Iranian thinks these Americans live and act like princes.

Another problem is that Iran is a Moslem land and alcohol, according to the Moslem faith, is evil and associated with the infidel. Americans are almost never seen outside working hours without something to drink. American women appear in public in what must seem to the Moslem as indecent clothing.

September 9, 1952
The new cabinet’s meeting was also the first time an Army general had occupied the Premier’s chair. There was a short break at midnight for sandwiches.

November 10, 1952
Several thousand Vietminh troops were hurled last night into assaults on five French and Vietnamese posts.

November 28, 1952
Communism, using its peace partisans’ neutralist tactic, has made long strides here in consolidating its strange but effective alliance with extreme nationalism, it is indicated in evidence gathered on the details of the sanguinary riots of the last week-end and the events leading up to them.

Playoff futures market

YooNew, a finalist in MIT's new business idea competition and one of Inc. Magazine's 5 Ideas to Watch, lets you buy tickets for playoff berths yet to be determined. Can't you do that now, you ask? Well, sure, you can buy tickets to the Final Four, but (1) they're going to be expensive and (2) your team may not even make it. YooNew solves the problem like many, many other problems should be solved - with a futures market.

You can buy Final Four tickets for, say, University of Nebraska-Lincoln for $16.45. If they make the Final Four, then you've just scored a screamin' deal. If they don't - well, that's the risk you take in a market. Teams more likely to make the tournament, UNC for example, have more expensive tickets - $106.86 right now. As the season progresses and teams do better/worse, their ticket prices will increase/decrease accordingly. Think Wisconsin has what it takes this year? Plunk down your $47.01 and take a ride on the futures market train. Want to play on the cheap? Tickets for St. Louis will only run you $10.06.

Friday bike blogging

Today - the story of Renn Multisport. Disc wheels are fast, but good ones are outrageously expensive - to the tune of $1500 for a wheel that you only ride in races. Frank Rehnalt, founder of Renn Multisport, decided that he could make a disc wheel for less if he handled the production, distribution, and customer service on his own. Frank built the business by taking wheels to races in the back of his van - riders borrowed them for the race, and lots ended up buying them aftewards. I've heard fantastic stories about Renn's customer service - going well beyond expectations to build a reputation among riders.

Here are a few photos from the process (which looks like it goes on in Frank's basement) -

Things I'd probably say if the Bush administration were just a weekly TV show and I were a regular viewer

A McSweeney's list
By Eric Maierson

"Now, see, you can't just go and do something like that. That would be illegal."

"Boy, someone's gonna get fired for that."

"Wasn't that the one who made all the mistakes? Why is she getting promoted?"

"Come on, in real life you'd never get away with something like that."

"They really expect us to believe that?"

"Am I the only one confused here?"

"Does this make any sense to you?"

"Why is this still on?"

Indie 103

Want to stick it to the corporate rock jerks that spawned Nickelback and their ilk? Listen to LA's Indie 103. What other radio station is playing Arcade Fire?


Have I said how glad I am that Television Without Pity is recapping Lost? Well, I still am.

Hurley makes the observation that Mercutio doesn't seem too into the whole fatherhood thing. Which of course means that his backstory is going to show that it was Walt's mother who took Walt away and married some guy named Bryan, who adopted Walt. Mercutio's all het up to go and get Walt back, but then he gets hit by a car, and winds up in a wheelchair. And we miss a large chunk of his life, so let's all assume this is the time he spent in Oswald maximum security prison, all right?

You see how that didn't make any sense if you didn't watch Lost last night? Start watching Lost, hoser. It's second only to Arrested Development on the list of network TV shows that don't make me roll my eyes.

Nickelback fans?

No Nickelback fans should be reading my blog anyway, but if there are, you should be ashamed of yourself - ASHAMED! Listen to this - How You Remind Me from 2001 and Someday from 2003 are the same song, save the vocals. Same drums, same melody, same chords, same structure - same everything. When you click the link, you'll hear the former through the left speaker channel and the latter through the right - it's an odd experience, but you'll settle in after a few seconds.

Can anybody find their home?

If you have itunes or some less legal music downloading service, I strongly recommend "Sunshine" by Keane. Gorgeous. If you're in Madison, you should think about getting tickets to their show (with the Zutons - see post below) on 2/20 in Milwaukee. If you download the track, you can sing along when they play it.

Also, coup d'etat

Do you know what words you don't read often enough in modern newspapers? "Junta" and "parley", that's what. And "Red China".

A walk down State Street, in two conversations

Conversation 1 - eastbound, near Walgreens, light snow, two undergraddy girls, speaking to one another.
"I just want to BE her. She's nice, and smart, AND she has cool hair."

Conversation 2 - still eastbound, Peace Park, heavier snow, one homeless man, speaking to me.
"Man, you gotta get you a hat. Your head's white!"

NPR Puzzle

Take a five-letter word that means red, change its first letter to another letter and you'll get another word meaning red. Drop the first letter and you'll get a four-letter word meaning green. What words are these?

Victoria has many secrets

Missy had an interesting shopping experience at Victoria's Secret this afternoon. If you're someone other than my Mom or Grandpa, you should ask her about it next time you see her.

Schwinn spinning bike - thanks, gym!

Princeton Club had a sign on the counter tonight saying that they're selling all of their spinning bikes to make room for the new fleet. They're black Schwinn machines that are probably 3-4 years old. They've seen a lot of use, but I've wanted my own spinning bike for a while and $100 is too good a deal to turn down!

Anyone want a Minoura Mag trainer - cheap?


A $15 subscription to Rockpile will not only get you 12 issues of a really good indie rock magazine, but also four free CDs. The list is here and you can call 877-708-7625 with your visa or mastercard to subscribe. They're going to send me Devendra Banhart, Pilot to Gunner, These Arms Are Snakes, and the Buddyhead Suicide compilation. Rockin'.

Scrapbook of Revelations

Oh my god - this is what you think of when I tell you that my wife manages a scrapbook store, isn't it? Why would you stereotype like that, jerk?

Scrapbook of Revelations
by Steve Lange

Scrapbookers are not like you and I.

Unless you and I feel the perverse desire to catalog every single photograph we've ever taken by sticking it in a photo album with a border of baby bears sporting word bubbles asking "Are we bear yet?" [...]

After a store tour, fifteen of us — myself and fourteen women mostly in appliqué sweatshirts and sweaters — take our seats in the back room for a discussion entitled "How to Organize Your Scrapbooking Workplace," in which the presenter has chosen to read from a book entitled How to Organize Your Scrapbooking Workplace.

A high percentage of the appliqué sweatshirts and sweaters sport phrases or sayings. If their facts are correct, and these statistics hold true across the scrapbooking crowd, then an estimated seven percent of scrapbookers, if they want the best seat in the house, have to move the cat. Another seven percent are considered crafty mamas. And a whopping 14 percent of all scrapbookers work for a company called Mom's Taxi Service.

Not just crushing the insurgency

This story from the BBC was really troubling, particularly after the stories of museum-looting immediately after the invasion that were traced back to U.S. troops being too slow to respond. A few highlights:
Coalition forces in Iraq have caused irreparable damage to the ancient city of Babylon, the British Museum says. Sandbags have been filled with precious archaeological fragments and 2,600 year old paving stones have been crushed by tanks, a museum report claims.

"About 300,000 square metres of the surface of the site has been flattened and covered with compacted gravel and sometimes chemically treated," he said.

"This will contaminate the archaeological record of the site."

He added: "I noted about 12 trenches, one of them 170m long, which had been dug through the archaeological deposits."

Mr Curtis, who is curator of the museum's Near East department, also found evidence of fuel leaks.

The U.S. response (which would have been better had it included contact information for the consulting archaelogist so that the BBC reporter could follow up) -
But US military spokesman Lt Col Steven Boylan said the base, which has around 6,000 troops under Police command, is needed to "further defeat terrorists and insurgents".

He told BBC Newshour: "Any of the excavations or earth work that we have done in order to do our operations... was done in consultation with the Babylon museum director and an archaeologist."


Don't get me wrong - I'm proud of my Ironman finish, even if it was slow, and I'm excited to do the race again in September, but I hate being introduced as "Jason - the guy who did the Ironman". Here's a fun article from x-tri about the same sort of thing. The rest of the article is about a fourth type of person - the know-it-all - which I've never actually run into. Funny stuff, but the first few paragraphs are really the only ones relevant for the point I want to make.
It usually starts off innocently enough; a co-worker or friend introduces you to someone as, "This is the guy that does Ironman." While the thought of something like that sounds somewhat ancient Greek (not that there's anything wrong with that), you smile and wait to see where things will go next.

There are several options:
1. They'll nod, smile, and actually recognize the event. This is something along the lines of, "Oh, wow! Like the one in Hawaii, right?" These people are usually well-versed enough by knowing someone who has done one, or have themselves seen the NBC coverage and actually watched the entire thing.

2. They'll nod, smile, and nearly get it right. "Oh, wow! That's like where you swim 10 miles, ride 150, and run 50, right?" This person usually has seen the NBC coverage once and thought it was great, but have lost touch with the memories somewhat.

3. They'll nod, smile, and then say, "Really? I'm an athlete too. I just ran my first 5K. So how far is this Ironman?" This last one is always trouble.

Throughout my career I have always tried to be somewhat benevolent when the conversation of triathlon and racing comes up. I'm well aware that anyone near me pretty much knows my obsession (and how much time it takes up), so I try and move the conversation along or somehow get myself out of the spotlight. Even after all these years (and how many columns?), when talking about my racing in a small group, I always feel awkward - like there's no way to explain what I do without sounding like, "WORSHIP ME, FOR I AM BOB - IRONMAN BOB!"

There's a nice little lesson at the end of the article too -
For every know-it-all I've met, there are 9 other people who have stopped what they were talking about to hear how I made the transformation from 250-pound band-geek to where I am now. They almost believe it when I tell them that anyone can do it if I could do it.

When they say, "I'd love to do a triathlon, but I can't swim…" I tell them about the first time I tried to flip turn, flipped 360 degrees, and head-butted the gutter (with quite a satisfying "WHANG!").

When they say, "I could never run a marathon…" I tell them how I swore to all of my friends that I'd NEVER run that far without being chased by a bear/tsunamteppanyaki chef, but now I've run 20 marathons. I try to teach that it's all mental, and that you just have to DO, without thinking.


After a little research this morning, I think I've discovered why my road bike shimmies on long, fast descents - apparently I have a 40-degree rake fork on a frame designed for a 43-degree fork. This artificially shortens the wheelbase, making the front end unstable at high speeds. I'll have to get a new fork before the Horribly Hilly Hundreds ride in June, because I was losing a lot of time last year by slowing down on the backsides of the climbs.

Dictator or Sitcom Character?

I couldn't stump this game - can you?


If you think you're alone in the woods, be relieved when you hear a twig snap, because that means you're not being stalked by the silent terror of a ninja.

I didn't realize TWoP was recapping Lost - fantastic.

Theory, not a Fact

Those activist judges are at it again, with their radical "science" agenda -
ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- A federal judge in Atlanta, Georgia, has ruled that a suburban county school district's textbook stickers referring to evolution as "a theory not a fact" are unconstitutional.

In ruling that the stickers violate the constitutionally mandated separation between church and state, U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper ruled that labeling evolution a "theory" played on the popular definition of the word as a "hunch" and could confuse students.

Bug Me Not

If you don't have Bug Me Not bookmarked, you should do it now. Enter a registration-only url and it will give you a username and password to get to the content.

BMN also has a link to an interesting article about why many online newspapers are registration-required. Basically, (1) they want your e-mail address to spam and/or sell to spammers and (2)reading for free takes away ad value from print advertisers, so they want you to feel invested in the site.

Weapons? Oh, yeah - ummm, nope.

I'm torn about this story (twest2/9411459 to log in) - on one hand, it's nice to see the administration admit error. Maybe Bush is maturing. On the other hand, I think this was pretty obvious to anyone with a pulse for about 18 months.
The White House confirmed today that the search in Iraq for the banned weapons it had cited as justifying the war that ousted Saddam Hussein has been quietly ended after nearly two years, with no evidence of their existence.

That means that the conclusions of an interim report last fall by the leader of the weapons hunt, Charles A. Duelfer, will stand. That report undercut prewar administration contentions that Iraq possessed biological and chemical weapons, was building a nuclear capability and might share weapons with Al Qaeda. A White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, insisted today that the war was justified. He rejected the suggestion that the administration's credibility had been gravely wounded in ways that could weaken its future response to perceived threats.

The administration appeared to be dropping today even the suggestion that banned weapons might be deeply buried or well hidden in Iraq. Mr. McClellan said that President Bush had already concluded, after the October release of an interim report from Mr. Duelfer, "that the weapons that we all believed were there, based on the intelligence, were not there."

Ironman Collegiate Championship

Now that my Ultramax plan is out the window, I think this is how I'm going to get into IM-Wisconsin in September. 3 credits is a full-time load for a dissertator, so I meet the requirements.-
The competition is reserved to the first 150 full-time collegiate athletes who sign up. Competition is reserved to full-time college students only. Students must be full-time students during the fall semester of 2005 to be eligible. No professional triathletes are eligible to compete in the Collegiate Championship. That does include full-time Undergraduate, graduate, law and doctorate students. All students MUST provide a photo copy of their CURRENT Student ID with their application to have it accepted for the Ironman Collegiate Championship!

There were 115 collegiate entrants in 2002, 92 in 2003, and 85 in 2004, so I think there's a good chance I can get in before the 150-person limit fills.

And studying for prelims won't interfere with training this year - I'm stoked.

Ipod Shuffle

This is pretty cool, and certainly big enough for my digital music needs.

More brain teasers

Don't post the answers, hoser. And don't google them.

1. Most six year olds will get this one pretty quickly. Most adults have more trouble with it: What is the next letter in the series?

O T T F F S S E N __

2. This abbreviation is on a plaque in a 200-year old bar in New York City. What's the phrase it stands for?


Petals around the Rose

This will seem frustrating for about 10 minutes, then you'll figure it out and be ashamed that it took you so long.

The game: Petals around the Rose

The rules:
1. Press the "Roll" button to get started.
2. Enter how many petals you think are around the rose.
3. Press the "Check" button to check your answer.
4. Repeat steps 1-3 until you can get it right every time!

Once you have figured it out, don't spoil the fun for others...let them figure it out for themselves!

Winter wonderland

Cross-posted from my training blog:

Oh, cross country skiing, how can you look so easy, yet be so hard? Why do you taunt me with your graceful swooshing, and then make me feel like I was hit by a truck? Why must you give me sips of elegance, only to trip me in front of an eight year-old girl?

I've put about 3 1/2 hours on my new skis in the last two days, and I'm better now than I was yesterday afternoon, but still nowhere near competent. After feeling out my equipment for about an hour and a half at the small golf course near our house yesterday afternoon, I spent two hours on the big golf course this morning. I saw three people yesterday - an elderly couple snowshoing and a fast-looking man getting on the trail as I got off (I told him that "some" of the trail was groomed for skating, much to the amusement of M.Bro, S.Pe, and E.Fo when I told the story later), but there must have been a hundred people at the Odana course today. I'm not going back to the Monona trails - Odana was better maintained, more challenging, and far more fun.

Even with relatively crowded trails today, I've decided that one of the things I really love about cross country skiing is the solitude. It's such a quiet, alone sport - road biking is quiet too, but I have to worry about traffice - skiing reminds me of trail running and mountain biking, both of which I adore. Today I stood for about 10 minutes on a golf cart bridge just past a grove of trees and watched the frozen water, the skiers in the distance, the pure white expanse of snow - I'd bring a camera, but I'm not sure the photos could capture the solitude of it. It reminds me of mountain biking in that way too - if you haven't been there or experienced it yourself, then whatever I write won't do it justice.

My nature-appreciation side, however, often gives way to my competitive side, and I want to get faster. Specifically, I want to learn to snow skate, which involves a v-shaped skiing motion like ice skating, rather than the classic parallel, awkward, arm-swinging motion. I think my skis are too long, which has contributed to a number of falls when I try to skate. Either my tips cross and I fall forward, or my poles catch on the tail of my skis and I fall sideways. In either case - much less graceful than I'd like.

That's not to say, though, that the way I'm doing it now isn't one hell of a workout - today I sweat through everything I had on, and at one point I was skiing without a hat or gloves because I was too hot. My legs are sore - muscles that have never been sore before, which I hope will translate to improvements in other sports.

I would have never said this a week ago, but the weather reports say this snow will probably melt over the next two weeks, and I couldn't be more disappointed. It's kind of nice to have a sport for all the seasons - now none of them have to fly by in a blink or drag on interminably.

As I noted in the last post, my job over break sits me just across the highway from the Odana trails. There's a bike path from our parking lot, over the highway, and along the edge of the golf course, so it's very accessible. My schedule there is really flexible, soI think I'm going to start taking extended lunches to ski during the day.

Update: Thanks to some helpful folks at TNO, I learned that I don't have the right kind of skis to snow skate.
"Your tips can get tied up in the loose snow (and underbrush) alongside the trail if your skis are too long. Your poles will be longer, the sidecut on the skis will be different, and the binding/boot combination should be stiffer (your foot flexes less in the skate stride)."

Skin Literature

The New York Times Magazine Year in Ideas issue came out just before the new year, and thanks to Z.Ob's (that's really the worst one of those I've come across so far - even worse that "S.Pe") alert eye, I'm a little piece of it. You should read the whole thing, though, which has great articles on grading in purple, virtual underwear, no-frills body storage for busy travelers, football coaches doing game theory, and dozens of other ideas from the year that was.

The cover is also fantastic (note the chalk on the back of the pants - it happens to me almost every time I teach)

This ought to make the snow disappear

Update from earlier post -

After spending a couple days regretting not buying x-country skis on closeout last spring, I happen to drive by Play-it-Again Sports and see a large sign in their window that reads, "WINTER SPORTS CLEARANCE!" "Huh," I thought. After quite a bit of help from the guy working the ski and snowboard area, I walked out with a pair of skis, boots and poles - all used, all more than 10 years old, but all for well under a hundred bucks. I'm going out to the golf course trail later this afternoon - check my ultramax blog for an report.

Dying to be thin

What would you sacrifice to be svelte?
How desperate are overweight people to shed their extra pounds?

Desperate enough that they are willing to risk death. And so desperate that they value losing weight as much as severely depressed patients value relief from their illness, a Harvard Medical School survey has found.

A third of the 366 participants were overweight and 27 per cent were obese.

The researchers asked people to imagine a treatment that would guarantee them an effortless weight loss of varying amounts. For each amount, they were asked, would they be willing to accept a risk of death to achieve it? If so, how much of a risk of death?

The fatter the person, the more he or she would risk death to lose weight. And the more weight the patient imagined he could lose, the greater the risk he would take to achieve it. Nineteen per cent of overweight and 33 per cent of obese people would risk death for even a modest 10 per cent weight loss.

In contrast, 4 per cent of normal weight people would risk death to lose 10 per cent of their weight. Many of the overweight and obese participants also said they would give up some of their remaining years of life if they could live those years weighing slightly less. Thirty-one per cent of obese patients and 8.3 per cent of overweight patients said they would trade up to 5 per cent of their remaining lives to be 10 percent thinner.

The survey was published in a recent issue of The Journal of General Internal Medicine.

I wish this article had defined "...would risk death" more explicitly, because I'm sure the researchers did. A 50% chance of dying? A 1% chance? I think it's important for interpreting the results.

Assuming some moderate risk of death, this article troubles me. I don't think diet and exercise alone can turn everyone into a swimsuit model, but if 1/3 of obese people are willing to risk death to lose 10% of their body weight, then it seems to me that they should also be willing to diet and exercise for a year or two (if even that long). It also strikes me as odd that many obese people are shortening their lives by not reducing their weight, yet they're willing to give up years of their life in order to become thinner. Why not gain years and become thinner?

Friday bike blogging

Instead of bike-only blogging today, please enjoy these photos from Max-O-Mania 2004. Max-O-Mania is the team triathlon that Missy and I are doing this July. We'll be competing in the married-combined-age-under-80 division, which had two entrants in 2004. It's five races over three days, only two of which are traditional swim/bike/run triathlons. The other three races are a bike/swim/run race, a run/bike/run/bike duathlon, and a swim/run aquathon. The last two photos are of the Innsbrook Resort, where the race is hosted and most of the teams stay.

We have to raise quite a bit of money for the race, so we'll be hitting you up for donations in the near future - watch out!

X-country skiing

I should have bought a pair of cross-country skis when they were on end-of-season closeout last Spring. My desk at Pacific overlooks a cross-country trail on the golf course, and like every winter, I'm jonesin' to go. Unfortunately, I'm stupid, and I never remember that I want my own equipment when summer (and the 75% off sale) rolls around.

Who Killed....The Zutons?

If you don't have a copy of Who Killed....The Zutons? by The Zutons, then you're missing out on some excellent music. The Zutons sound like a cross between the hooky pop of Franz Ferdinand and the trumpet-backed swing of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. You've probably heard "Pressure Point" on the Levi's commercial where the dog chases the woman, viciously rips her jeans off, and returns them to their rightful (male) owner - presurepressurepressurepressurepressure...doop, doop, duhwoop...doop, doop, duhwoop. I see your head nodding in recognition - you know the song I'm talking about. You can watch the Pressure Point video (but not the Levi's commercial) courtesy of Filter.

If you're near a Target, it was only $7.98 when I bought my copy last week. You won't spend a better $7.98 on music this month.

A pleasant conversation with an old friend, in one act

Jason: Hey blog!
Blog: Hello.
J: Why are you looking at me like that? It's kinda freaking me out.
B: Is this how it's going to be?
J: Wha-what do you mean, honey?
B: You know damn well what I mean. Don't play your little games with me.
J: Seriously, I don't. Is this about that waitress I gave the 25% tip to? It was _just_ because she was a good waitress - that's it!
B: When was the last time you posted on me? Wednesday? Thursday? Do you know have any idea how that makes me feel? Sometimes I wonder if....maybe...I, I'm...
J: Shhhh, baby - don't even think that way. ((Sweeps blog into arms tenderly))