Thursday, December 23, 2010

Le Roi Est Mort, Vive Le Roi!

To me, chess is sometimes a sad thing. There are a million strategy books out there that discuss different moves you can make in different situations. There are debates about whether a move is good or bad. They say Mikhail Tal and Paul Morphy were "swashbucklers". Mikhail Botvinnik was an "analytical" player.

But it's all made up. Chess is a game of perfect information. In any situation there is exactly one move for either side that is better than any other. Assuming perfect play by one's opponent, there is always exactly one move that assures the best possible outcome. The only exception to this is a situation where there are two moves that each assure the same result- for instance, if Qf4 and Qf5 both checkmate your opponent, they are equally good moves.

There are too many variables for a human mind to keep track of and too many lines for us to follow. The best chess players are the best in part because they can keep track of more lines in their heads. When you make a bad move, they know why it's bad because they know more of the ramifications than you do. But no human can follow it all. Already the computers are better than we are, though; someday, in the not too distant future, they will map out all the correct chess moves in any situation. On that day, in a sense, the game will be over.

The whole nature of the game is predicated on the shortcomings of the human brain.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Live And Let Die

Is there any chance that James Bond isn't hunting down Julian Assange?

1) He's releasing classified documents and threatening to release more which pose threats to national security.
2) He is hiding in a super secret place in England.
3) He is named "Julian Assange".
4) He looks like this:

Seriously, free speech activist or cyber-terrorist, Daniel Craig has to be like ten seconds away from tackling this guy.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Best Song In The World

A New Top 10 Album List (still not in order, although Dookie would indeed get the top spot):

1) Green Day- Dookie
2) Red Hot Chili Peppers- Stadium Arcadium
3) The High Kings- Memory Lane
4) Flogging Molly- Drunken Lullabies
5) Josh Ritter- The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter
6) The High Kings- The High Kings
7) The Beatles- Beatles For Sale
8) Red Hot Chili Peppers- Californication
9) The Beatles- A Hard Day's Night
10) Blink 182- Enema of the State

Honorable mentions this time around: Taylor Swift with Fearless and Speak Now, Josh with Hello, Starling and So Runs The World Away. Also Flogging Molly for Within a Mile of Home and Weezer's Blue Album.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Too Sexy

"One of these most famous characters is Achilles from the epic the Iliad. He became famous in American culture after the stunning actor Brad Pitt, and his perfectly chiseled abs, portrayed Achilles in the 2004 box office hit Troy."

- Student essay on Achilles' similarities to Antigone. How do you grade things like this?

Edit: And the rest of it was an A paper. Sigh...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Like A Mighty Wave

Run light. Keep your heart rate down. Take it easy for 22 and then turn off your mind. If you're going through hell, keep going. Don't bounce. Walk the water stations. Run your race. Drink before you need to. Fight in the shade. Relax. Keep your cadence up. Don't talk. Step small. You can redline all you want, but never go past the breaking point until the final sprint. Use your arms. Don't panic. Your shirt says "Oberlin" on it, so live up to it.

Edit: If at first you don't succeed...

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Poring Over Sanskrit Under Ivy League Moons

It's not a Saturday night if you aren't up til 3:30AM studying Proto-Indo-European word roots. Sometimes I almost feel like a real grad student.

And yeah, he pronounces this line wrong in the song. It's Sanskrit, not Sanscript (which sounds like a weird font name, if you ask me). I always wince inwardly and then feel like a pretentious snob. But hell, I'm not the one trying to name-drop ancient languages without doing my homework on them. And my current moon isn't even Ivy League (but I like it better here).

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Born to Run

Dream Races:

Badwater Ultramarathon
Antarctic Ice Marathon
Any Ironman
Race Across America

Hm. I am going to need to be a lot stronger and richer if I want to do any of those.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Riders of the Storm

A thunderstorm caught me on my bike about a third of the way to Annapolis today. But I kept going, and a few hours later a torrent of water, a ton of gravel and I all arrived safely at my parents' house. There was a dicey bit where I was on this flat, elevated stretch of Race Track Road in the pouring rain. I could actually see lightning flashing and striking around me, but sometimes there's nothing to do but keep going.

Dear Tom,
Weather forecasts are your friend.

Apparently Sarah Palin ran a 3:59 marathon in 2005. New marathon goal: beat Sarah Palin. I wish she wasn't so fast, though.

I found this picture of me and Emily today from freshman year. It's even got the date on it, which is cool: October 11, 2004.

Radio Shack filmed a whole bunch of commercials with Lance Armstrong. I think it's gonna be awesome if they get a podium finish out of someone else after all that. I think I prefer to cheer for Leipheimer anyway.

And today I sent in my entry for the JFK 50 miler. I hope I get in, I think.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

On My Own, Here We Go

I made the top 4 of a PTQ today, for the second time in my life. I am definitely not the magician I once was, and I've never been as awesome as Nate and Kurty are these days, but it was still fun to do well again.

Me: Who are you texting?
Nate: Sam. She wanted to know how I was doing.
Me: You never answer my texts to find out how you're doing!
Nate: That's cause I'm not marrying you.
Me: And this is how you tell me?

Kurty also made top 8. Kurty is a monster.

Props to the Stars and Stripes for rallying to a draw against a twelve-man Slovenian squad. I guess the ref wore a different color to preserve the illusion of parity.

Maurice Edu: Goal!
Koman Coulibaly: Nuh-uh! You missed, you missed!

Monday, June 14, 2010

I Can't Remember Who I Was Back Then

High Fidelity is on Hulu. I watched it with a girlfriend at some point but I can't remember which. This is kind of ironic given the nature and subject matter of the movie.

It was either Laura or Emily (I'm leaning towards Emily). Both of them would probably be annoyed that I mixed them up, but as far as I know neither of them knows about this blog.

Tim Howard is awesome! I bought a soccer ball, but I'm not as awesome, and if I don't stop playing with it inside I think my possessions may suffer. But it's not my fault it's dark out.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Grey Unyielding Concrete Makes a City of my Town

Oberlin has high-rises now. Well, not too high, but higher than anything else. They say they are sustainable, so I suppose they are still Oberlin-ish and I dig that. But it makes me sad. And also a little glad, because I'm looking forward to being 60ish in that town and sitting around sipping whiskey and yelling at students about how different things were when I was a kid. They won't care, but some of them will be awkwardly polite, so they'll have to listen anyway.

The newest thing that my hair is doing is that it is all growing back, but it is white now. Not blond, white. So that's interesting. I was shaving it regularly, but I think I am gonna let it grow now that it is summer. I figure by the time I start teaching again, I will look like this:

Monday, May 17, 2010

Way Back in History

"And finally, a more dangerous factor than mere prejudice or any wilful violence of statement: the author of the Annales presents characters and arranges events in undue coherence. That is the manner of historians of every age."

Sir Ronald Syme

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Pop Song 'Misleading' on Benefits of Tennessee Whiskey

Chicago— The American Dental Association released a statement today cautioning against the use of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey to promote oral hygiene.

The association’s concern has mounted in response to pop singer Kesha’s hit song “Tik Tok” wherein the artist discloses that she brushes her teeth “with a bottle of Jack.”

“One of the problems we’re constantly faced with is conveying the importance of oral hygiene to young people,” said ADA president Ronald Tankersley. “They seldom make time for good brushing habits as it is, and now Kesha’s infectious rhythm and inspired lyrics are compounding the problem by spreading misinformation about what constitutes those habits.”

Tankersley and the ADA recently sponsored a study in conjunction with Procter & Gamble, the makers of Crest toothpaste, on the relative benefits of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey and conventional toothpaste. “The results were really striking,” said P&G CEO Robert McDonald. “Not only did the test group’s dental health suffer, their behavior seemed affected as well.” McDonald cited reports of decreased productivity, traffic violations, violence, depression and sexual promiscuity among members of the test group.

Also noticeable was an increased attraction to Kesha’s music. “It seems to be a downward spiral,” McDonald explained. “You listen to Kesha, she tells you to brush your teeth with the stuff, and then when you do it you want to listen to her even more.” Asked what factors were likely to initiate this cycle, McDonald answered that his data was inconclusive, but he did note Kesha’s “pumpin’ beat, sick style and poetic genius”.

Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey does not contain a significant quantity of sodium fluoride or an effective abrasive. “It also doesn’t really taste very good,” Tankersley added.

Both Tankersley and McDonald expressed interest in comparing their data with Kesha, who was unavailable for comment. Nevertheless, sources close to the pop star thought collaboration would likely be forthcoming. “She kicks ‘em to the curb unless they look like Mick Jagger,” said one source, speaking on condition of anonymity. Both men are old, wealthy, white and heavily wrinkled.

“I’d also like to find out how that dollar sign in her name is pronounced,” said Tankersley, who admitted to occasionally spelling his own name “Tanker$ley.”

Friday, May 7, 2010

Watching You

Creepasaurus Rex:

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Faster Than A Cannonball

A conversation during the Broad Street Run, circa mile 8:

Runner: So why did you decide to run barefoot?
Jesse: Well, I had read about it, and I thought it was interesting, so I did some training, and...
Me: He is lying to you. He forgot his shoes in Maryland.
Jesse: ...that's actually true.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Be A Man

Today I told my students that "I'll Make a Man out of You" from Disney's Mulan is an excellent song to listen to while you work out. I think education is sometimes simply a process of telling each other ridiculous things. A few weeks ago they told me that the Trojans conquered Sparta using a wooden horse.

For maybe five minutes the other night, it was obvious to me that the Christians and the Muslims are either making stuff up or crazy. Maybe the Jews have it right. But the Jews are clearly crazy. So is the universe, I guess.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Live Without Warning

South Park aired the first half of a two-part episode last week which dealt with, among other subjects, censorship of the image of Muhammad. Ironically, and perhaps predictably, they received a threat from a New York-based Muslim group. The second half of their episode was heavily censored, and Parker and Stone claimed today that Comedy Central was responsible for some of this. I don't know if I believe them, though...

Jon Stewart quoted Catullus 16 the other day. Everyone should go look at that.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Plotting The Course

On Saturday, Margaret and Jesse and I ran a 5K at Bates Middle School. It started with one lap around the track, and I went out hard. I was towards the front as we headed onto the streets, and I passed a few more runners in the first mile. Eventually a group of about six pulled off ahead, paced by the bike that was leading the race, and a second group of three coalesced behind the leaders. I dropped Jesse and a guy who looked like Carrot Top and caught up with the second group. Around the end of the first mile, I settled in behind them and we cruised along at about a 7:30 mile pace.

The leaders had gotten away from us quite thoroughly, but we four were making good time: me, an older guy, a ten-year-old with incredible stamina, and his dad. No one was close behind us as we came in on the halfway point. We were just over eleven minutes, so we were moving fast, but I was feeling good, and I was pretty sure I could run away from them on mile three. That would set me up to finish in the top ten, and probably under 23:00. We cruised through the water station at the halfway point with no trouble- I swigged some water without missing a stride- and moved on up West Street. Now no one was visible behind us.

As we approached the traffic circle, I glanced back again. We were really moving. I couldn't see anyone behind us at all...

Almost twenty minutes later, as I ran down onto the track towards the finish line, Jesse jogged up. "Did you get lost?" he asked.

"NO. I just really wanted to tour downtown Annapolis before I finished the race..."

Jesse finished in 24:30, Margaret hit her 36:00 goal with a 35:55 and one of the most badass bits of racing I've ever seen,* and I (and my new friends) jogged around for almost an extra mile before we found the course again (the water lady was supposed to tell us to turn) and finished in just under thirty minutes. Always download the course map, I guess. Fortunately this should not be a problem at Broad Street.

*She didn't stop running til the finish line, where she promptly hit the ground and puked. And she took almost six minutes off her previous time, and it doesn't get more badass than that.

Monday, April 5, 2010

I Want To Ride My Bicycle

When I was in middle school, I had Pokemon: Blue (and later I got Yellow, too). One of the annoying features of this game- and of many RPGs- was that it took a really obnoxiously long time to walk anywhere. First of all, you progress at this painfully slow pace. And when you have to go back and forth to various places in order to heal pokemon, get items, save your game, etc, you start to develop a recurring desire to hurl your Game Boy through a wall.

In Pokemon, though, you eventually get a bicycle, which speeds everything up considerably. The game gets fun again, because you don't have to waste so much damn time.

Now, having lived in Oberlin and in College Park where everything is built sprawled out and far apart, I think I'm starting to realize how true-to-life that game was. I don't really want to live in a city again, but I don't want to live outside one without a bike, either.

The other good thing about biking is that you get to wear spandex and buy expensive equipment and go really fast. And this is seen as legitimate eco-friendly form of exercise, so society even commends you for spending large amounts of money to play superhero and act like a little kid.

Another Victory Song

Good memories from last night:

-Joshua Sacco performs the "Miracle" pregame speech, tailored to the Red Sox.
-Pedro throws out the first pitch.
-I yell "See-see ya later!" as we finally chase C.C. Sabathia out of the game in the sixth inning, which draws a laugh (at least from me).
-Steven Tyler performs "God Bless America" and Neil Diamond comes out to do "Sweet Caroline" live (he stumbles through it a little, but Red Sox Nation helps him).
-Pedroia hits a long high fly ball to left. I have a bad angle, but (stay fair, stay fair...) it's over the monster! Tie game. Didn't he hit a homer on opening day last year? Isn't he roughly hobbit-sized? How does he DO that?
-Youkilis goes 3-for-4 and is basically as tremendous as ever.

This morning on the plane, I felt sick as hell- maybe related to my lack of sleep, but I have done worse before- so I am taking the day off. But now it is afternoon and warm and sunny and so, in light of this Ditty Bops cautionary tale, I am pretty much obliged to take my bike out.

I sat Miguel Cabrera today in favor of Michael Cuddyer. This might be foolish, but I am scared of Greinke.

In titling this post, I accidentally typed "Another Victory Dong," which is a pretty sweet typo.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

High Up In The Hills

Pennsylvania roads have a pretty distinct character. It's as though you took the laid-back, sweeping openness of Ohio and then put on your 3D glasses. It's got the same kind of wonderful unlit, two-lane highways, but in Pennsylvania they go winding through hills and mountains. You get fantastic panoramic views of the Appalachians and then they plunge you into these great, wooded valleys, sometimes so steeply that you have to downshift. It's a cool feeling and it sort of smacks of America. Last year, whenever I got too tired of Philly, I'd take a Zipcar out past the suburbs just to drive around on those roads.

I had to drive to Pottstown last night for my Latin Pedagogy mentorship project. I did it late at night, after the sun was down and the traffic had cleared, and I listened to all my Josh Ritter songs. It was awesome. I could live in Pennsylvania.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Ain't Heavy

In line at the supermarket checkout, I saw a magazine ad which encouraged me to "Lose weight with the pros!"

At first, this sounds like a sensible idea. After I thought about it for a moment, though, I realized it implied the existence of weight-loss professionals. This doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. A professional weight-loser should be better than a normal person at losing weight. So are they skinny people? Skinny people, arguably, are terrible at losing weight; they aren't usually losing any at all. They don't need to. But if fat people are good at it, they become skinny people.

So then I thought, maybe a professional weight-loser goes in cycles; they lose weight, and then regain it in order to lose it again. Otherwise, you couldn't really sustain a career once some amount of weight was lost. But that doesn't really work either. If you measured their weight at the wrong intervals, you could show weight stasis or even net gain, and for me that hardly qualifies as professional weight loss. Weight loss would have to be continuous, albeit allowing for small short-term gains or losses (when food is consumed, when one gets a haircut, etc). The trouble, it seems, is that it's impossible to lose weight indefinitely.

Or is it? What if one's weight loss followed an asymptotic curve? Net weight loss could increase indefinitely but never beyond a certain point. But then you have someone who, while losing weight continuously, gets progressively worse at it. That doesn't seem to fit the bill for a professional, either.

The other possibility is that they lose weight more and more rapidly until they vanish. This means they'd have to start very very slowly, or else that they'd be in for very short careers. I don't really think that's a very likely scenario, but I do sometimes wonder what would happen if we stopped feeding Shalini for a day or so.

Anyway, that's as far as I got before it was my turn to pay.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Fixing A Hole

The other day, Michael and Alex and I were standing outside Marie Mount Hall and watching a squirrel. The squirrel had picked up a student newspaper- no mean feat, as it was larger than him- and carried it laboriously up to a hole in a tree. Once there, he tried to push it into the hole, only to have it torn from his grasp by a gust of wind. Undaunted, the squirrel traipsed back down the tree and after some searching found the paper again. This time, he tore it in half, carried half of it back up the tree, successfully inserted it and himself into the hole, and then sat looking out at us with a very smug, satisfied demeanor.

"Holy shit," said Michael, "I think we just saw a live-action parable. If Jesus saw that, he would talk about it to his disciples or something."

Then we went inside to learn about Tacitus.