careful with that bon mot, Eugene

My local public library was kind enough to lend me its only copy of Michael Lewis's Trail Fever, which is sort of his drug-free Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 1996. Lewis's writing got better after 1997 or so. I'm guessing he finally got an editor who would slap his hand every time he turned to the reader and winked. Or maybe he just chose subjects for which he had greater natural affection than he does for various Presidential candidates.

I haven't gotten very far: Morry Taylor is still in the race. For those of you, like me, who don't remember Taylor, he's a businessman of the Ross Perot variety who funded his own campaign and seems to have mistaken the Federal Government for a larger, less functional version of his tire company back home. I hate to say it, but I can't wait to see the rug pulled out from under him, and I desperately hope he doesn't get to "leave on his own terms."
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    Pavement -- Type Slowly
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I'll get the torches. You get the angry mob.

A couple of weeks ago, against my better judgment, I picked up a copy of our local free paper's annual Love & Sex issue and discovered that Jack Handey has moved back to town. I have no idea why he rated inclusion in that particular issue. Turns out he lived here in the early Seventies, when he shared a house with someone named Steve Martin.

sixteen miles on a dead man's legs

I've clearly been fooling myself thinking that Alpine skiing is in any meaningful sense cross-training for running. This morning's long run (sixteen miles well off race pace) was fourteen miles of slack followed by two miles of pain.

These are the infamous LSD (long slow distance) miles: two minutes or more off race pace at moderate heart rate. I finished with something like a ten-minute pace overall and 155 bpm; the former is mediocre, the latter suggests that either my cardiovascular fitness is good or I'm getting old fast.

I came back from New York weighing more than 171 pounds. A good racing weight would be 160 pounds; 155 would be better. Part of me wants to run a twenty-minute 5K; part of me wants to become somebody's fat jolly uncle.
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    Magnetic Fields -- Born On A Train
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telemark novice

This was supposed to have been a dry winter in northern New Mexico, but conditions at Taos have been quite good regardless. We've been meaning to spend consecutive days there all season, and things finally fell into place this weekend.

We stayed at Salsa del Salto despite various late-Friday crises. I took the work laptop with me, but it never got out of its miserable little bag. Bunches of books made the trip, too, and they didn't fare much better. Strictly speaking books do not need much sunlight; they have rather slow metabolism.

My skiing has sort of improved a little: I can navigate hills with "baby bumps" but wouldn't call myself a mogul skier by any stretch of the imagination. I'm still getting used to my Telemark boots anyway: if I put their ski/walk switch on Walk my ankles flex reasonably well and I get good control and occasionally somewhat nice tight turns, but if I put them where they belong my boots are so stiff I can't get much control and end up with my weight mostly back on my heels, making for lousy control and flat slippery turns.

Conditions were sunny and warm, so runs got faster as the day went on each day; I took several spills in some intermediate tree runs but didn't actually slam headlong into any trees. I'm saving that for a special occasion. I came back with blisters on both ankles and one ankle swollen and a little discolored. I'm not entirely sure how that happened.

We both got raccoon tans this weekend; I look a little like a non-flying version of one Rudolph R. And we both came back with the sort of sick headaches that suggest mild to moderate dehydration. All this in the name of fun. Well, fun and new skills.

In school people I knew would leave town for Chapel Hill, Austin, Bennington, Amherst, Boulder, Seattle, or Eugene, and then a few years later they'd be back in town. Or we'd hear from acquaintances in common that they'd headed off to one of the other places on the same circuit. The circuit roughly corresponded to places favored by Deadheads (and after mid-1995 fans of other jam bands of a certain stripe), for some reason excluding destinations in California. People who went to California were usually chasing money, and they rarely came back.

At breakfast yesterday we met a guy who is currently research faculty at the last school I attended who also did time in Navajo Country. Evidently the dentist and I are on a faintly-sketched circuit neither of us suspected way back when. There's really nothing about Kayenta to suggest it's on the way to anywhere.

The Blind Side (the electrifying conclusion)

Turns out Michael Lewis went to the same private school as Sean Touhy. (If only Bob Woodward had a similar excuse.) And Lewis thanks Rob Neyer for tightening up his prose. Small world.

This was a quick read; it's three hundred pages, and I just about read it in a single sitting, a total of about three hours. So I'd recommend borrowing it rather than buying it. But I'd definitely recommend it.
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    Joy Division -- Passover (Live)
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var. sund.

We got the ring back, sized, on Saturday. In the interest of gender equality we picked out a ring for me, too: a heavy, black, super-hard steel thing that looks for all the world like it should be thrown in a volcano somewhere in New Zealand. Because she spends so much time with the public her ring is causing a stir. Fortunately she's off to Phoenix after only a couple of workdays this week, and we're hoping it will be old hat when she gets back. All the attention and advice can be a little draining for a hardcore introvert.

I'm off to New York on Saturday for our company's annual sales meeting. I will be participating in an "elevator pitch" competition, among other things. All I can say about this is that I can't have sold my soul because I don't have a receipt anywhere. Yeah.

I won't be in the Bay Area any time soon; the project that was going to put me there for a week got broken into two pieces (a cheap part and a less cheap part), and the partner decided to pay for the cheap one and postpone the other.

I'm back running more or less in earnest again, doing a seven-plus mile run twice a week, a long run of fourteen or so miles once a week, three days of cross-training (skiing, snowshoeing, and cycling) and a rest day. I've pretty much given up on doing the Mount Taylor Quad this year; I just don't have enough time after I get back from New York to put together gear and skills for skiing two miles uphill, much less all the transitions. I'm thinking of doing one of the Collegiate Peaks trail runs and maybe the Santa Fe Century in May. We'll see.

Finally, I read more than half of Michael Lewis's The Blind Side last night. I've read several of Lewis's books: Liar's Poker, The New New Thing, and listened to the audio version of Moneyball. This is more of the same: a little bit of technical detail and some compelling personality profiles; a story that moves.

If you haven't heard about the book, it's not really what the cover says it is: it isn't about football, but rather about the changes in a young man's life because of changes in the NFL. In short summary, changes in the NFL back in the Eighties (namely, the short passing game and the arrival of specialty pass rusher) created a need for a special kind of player: someone huge (350 pounds (159kg) or so) but with quick hands and feet who can protect the quarterback (now made even more valuable by the short passing game) from the specialty pass rusher, especially on his offhand side. These unusual people (Lewis uses the term "freak of nature" but I'd rather not) suddenly became roughly as valuable as the quarterbacks they protect, partly because without protection a quarterback is more likely to be injured, and partly because the short passing game made the quarterback less valuable for reasons I won't go into here.

The book is really about Michael Oher, a Memphis street kid who turns out to be one of these special people and about the Touhy family who take him in, adopt him, and coach him in every aspect of his life, including directing him toward Mr Touhy's alma mater, the University of Mississippi. Actually the book is as much about the Touhys and the other people surrounding Oher as it is about Oher, because Oher is kind of a puzzle. Early in the book he's presented as a Kaspar Hauser figure, completely out of place in his overwhelmingly white Christian high school, uncommunicative, all but illiterate, mostly lacking for a personality. Lewis documents his emergence as a person and the way he acculturates in the peculiar environment of modern high-profile high school football.

I've never really known anyone like Oher, but I'm passingly familiar with people like the Touhys, and I have to admit that as a Christian I'm appalled. I think it's great that they took Oher in and made him a member of their family, but I can't help but be appalled that they've made their money (which Lewis estimates at fifty million dollars) by owning a string of fast food joints and choose to own a (small) private plane. Frankly they and their entire social circle come off as freakish as Oher, and I have to wonder if they shouldn't know better.

This book would probably go on my list of books to read if you want to understand contemporary American Evangelical Christianity. And I've still got half of it to go.