Sunday, October 30, 2011

Running 2011

Tom Taylor Trail Ten-Miler (4T, cute), Oct. 30, 2011 (me in my clown hair again--I'll wait and see if anyone got a photo)

29th place (out of how many? 150? 68% of registrants were female)
Graded time:
Males under 60: 7 of 17
Males 19 of 67

I don't even know what graded time means, but I like it.

So my running year of 2011 comes to a close. Several personal bests.

5K: 22:09 (Terry Fox 2010)
10K: 47:53 (Persechini Easter Seals 2011); 46 minutes or so (not officially timed) (Terry Fox 2011)
10mi: 1:19:31 (Georgina Mini-Marathon 2011); 1:19:30.4 (Tom Taylor 2011)
Half: 1:47:06.6 (Southlake 2011); 1:47:07 (Blue Mountain 2011)
Marathon: 4:00:05 (Waterloo 2010)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Various U.S. interventions

It's beginning to look like: (Democratic) interventions in ex-Yugoslavia and now Libya were well thought out, targetted and focussed, limited, and successful. (Republican) interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq were the opposite in each case, and unsuccessful. Even if an Iraqi democracy survives, it is apparently pro-Iran, pro-Assad in Syria, tied to Islamic fundamentalism (and potentially more supportive of the kind of international terrorism the U.S. is concerned about that Saddam was); it has come about by means of ethnic cleansing and the rise of sectarianism. Baghdad is a less cosmopolitan place, with a worse university, and fewer choices open to women, than was the case before.

Of course there is a huge contribution of chance in all these events. NATO had not claimed to be saving the whole world in ex-Yugoslavia, and the scrutiny of the world did not demand miracles. Ex-Yugoslavs who were given a chance to build democracy, without being pushed, did so; it must always be partly a matter of luck whether such people are available or not. But the Bush administration was extreme in its hubris: trying to create a popular uprising, instead of carefully supporting one that is underway; trusting Ahmed Chalabi, instead of ensuring there is some kind of cross-section of leadership actually available.

I'm inspired by an old article by Nathan Tarcov. How to intervene for democracy in a foreign country (or, more subtly, to help "a people" take control of the country)? Wait until a popular uprising, at least plausibly speaking for the people, is well underway; intervene strategically, only as much as necessary, preferably as part of a coalition of some kind (the role of the Arab League was crucial in Libya).

Half Marathon: Almost PB

Four-tenths of a second off.

AB Courier Southlake Half, Aurora ON, May 1:

31 (out of 108)
Bib 702 Lloyd Robertson Newmarket 1:47:12.0
14 (rank for age) Men 40 - 59
29 (rank for gender)
pace 5:05
chip time 1:47:06.6

Blue Mountain Half, Oct. 16:

43 (out of 184)
1:47:07 5:05 ROBERTSON Lloyd Newmarket
18/34 M40-99
Bib #201
First half 47 53:44 Pace 5:06
Second half 34 53:23 5:04

I'm very pleased. Negative split, and the second half was probably tougher--more uphill to get back from Collingwoon to Blue Mountain.

Oct. 30 will be the Tom Taylor, then I'll update all distances again.

UPDATE: For runners.

By my (Polar) watch, I did the first k in 5:15, and at 6k I was at 32:00, 5:20 pace. At 10k I was at 52:00, for 5:12 pace. So I thought I was slower than they are showing for the first half. On the other hand, I thought I banged off several k's at 5 minute pace: 37 at 7k, 42 at 8k, 52 at 10k, then somehow 1 hour at I guess 12 (not likely), then back to 5 min k's, so I kept thinking if I keep doing 5 min k's I can make 1:45 for 20k. Obviously I struggle to do math while I'm running. I'm supposed to be getting a Garmin in a few days.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Steve Jobs Memorial

I know this is getting old hat, but:

I didn't even know there was an Apple store in our mall until I went there this morning. Photos show the big windows on either side of the main entrance. Lots of sticky notes, some flowers, a real apple with a bit out of it ....

A bit like the roadside memorials you see around--which I think are a kind of unofficial religious observance. There was a murder just outside a local Tim Horton's--a verbal altercation started inside, and turned into a stabbing just outside the restaurant. A memorial, presumably entirely spontaneous, grew up right at the bottom of the Tim Horton's sign, which was also at a point where people in the drive through are forced to turn. Likely to be seen by a lot of people.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Xerox, Steve Jobs, etc.

The story has been told to the point where it is a legend: Xerox could have been Apple before Apple, and maybe could have beaten HP to the laser printer, but Steve Jobs and others took advantage of their ideas.

According to Malcolm Gladwell in The New Yorker, the story isn't as cut and dried as some people tell it. Xerox was running a research facility (Xerox parc), not a facility to develop consumer products. They had a prototype of a mouse, but it was too big an clunky for an ordinary consumer, and it probably cost something like $16,000. Having seen it, Jobs hired someone to develop a small, lightweight unit that would cost a couple of hundred. Similarly with the windows interface.

The story that I did not know at all before was the one about laser printing. An optical engineer named Gary Starkweather, actually employed by Xerox, was convinced that it would be possible to adapt a photocopy machine to do laser printing. Xerox had little interest in the idea, although they did pay him to move to parc and explore his ideas. A wonderful, supportive employer, but not a market or consumer-oriented innovator in products that we now know were worth a fortune. Xerox took some big steps toward being a high-tech company, but now they seem to have missed out on the biggest developments--including those that came from their own labs and offices. Gladwell defends Xerox--they pursued the business that they had, not some speculative other business.

My son (who is studying to be an engineer) says Gladwell takes his contrarianism (the kind of thing for which Slate is famous) too far. Starkweather was an engineer--he did his job. Somewhere at senior levels in Xerox it should have been possible to apply marketing and business development skills, or hire people with those skills, and develop a laser printer, rather than leaving the business to HP and others.

Cancer screening

One of my interests: screening for cancer among a healthy population may do more harm than good: needless anxiety and additional tests, all too often radical treatments applied as a preventive measure.

The PSA test may be a particularly good example, since prostate cancer is often slow growing, but I believe there is a similar controversy about breast cancer screening. I remember reading or seeing that some time ago diagnostic screening got far ahead of medical knowledge about cancer: doctors were seeing cancers on the screen that they just didn't recognize. Was it malignant or not? Fast-growing or not? A threat of any kind, even to a woman's quality of life, or not? If they don't have these answers, how has the screening done more good than harm?

Even in the case of searching for a gene mutation that makes breast cancer likely, there are trade-offs in doing the test, including false positives and (ironically) increased risk of cancer from the radiation.

Friday, October 7, 2011

First Nations in Newfoundland and elsewhere

Today in the National Post (which my wife took on some kind of free subscription): the federal government has acknowledged there should be an official band of Mi'kmaq first nations folks in Nfld. The Mi'kmaq are more associated with New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, but there are some in Nfld who have an oral tradition that they were there before the Europeans--like the Beothuk. So Harper made the announcement: some folks will have "Indian band" status--the feds predicted about 7,600 people. A federation representing the first nations predicted 12,000. The number so far is 26,000--free tuition for their kids, and what not.

This reminds me of the Métis issue. At what point do people become Métis as opposed to status Indian? How many Métis are there?

In response to an e-mail, my younger brother reminded me that non-French speaking so-called half-breeds used to be called "Country Born" (off-spring of English / Scottish / Irish Hudson Bay Company employees and aboriginal). I believe Métis has more or less become the standard term now.

Dinosaur remains: feathers

Grassy Lake, Alberta--where fossils of feathered creatures, possibly dinosaurs, have been found.

I think my late father, who was born in Grassy Lake, would have enjoyed several aspects of that story.

Saskatoon berries: super?

The Globe has a nice piece on the attempt to make Saskatoon berries into big business. They could qualify as "super-berries" (such as blueberries, pomegranates and the Amazonian açai) some of which are making a lot of money. But: super-berries may only have magic anti-oxidant qualities in their raw form--not juiced or processed, which is how you usually get them. So the wholesome, prairie entrepeneurs of the Saskatoon berry have to consider whether they are being honest in their sales pitch.

A lot of risks in the business. Still, the Saskatoon is one of my favourite berries, and something I miss about the West.

Alberta Tory-leader/Premier

Surprisingly to many, a woman named Alison Redford won the leadership of the party that was recently Ralph Klein's. She worked for some time for Joe Clark, and she is considered to the left among conservatives.

The PC Party in Alberta has devised a system for leadership selection that allows the selling of new memberships between the first ballot and the second. Any non-activists, or people who have not been Tory before, can buy a membership and shape events if they do not like the way they are going. This is not a foolproof way of cutting party hacks out of the process, but it is a major step in that direction. Combined with alternative voting--Redford won on second choices, not first--and you have outcomes that are truly hard to predict.

Colby Cosh here.

[Gary] Mar, who served the Klein government and has more of a family-values persona, had the cabinet, the caucus, and the organizational old guard of the party in his pocket two weeks ago. As in 2006, their votes, in the open-primary system, turned out to be worth exactly the same as those of any other schmuck. But this time, instead of being humbled by an agrarian challenger from the North, the machine lost by a whisker to an accomplished lawyer from Calgary—one who has been careful to keep the oil industry on her good side, as Stelmach wasn’t.

Tom Flanagan on the unique Alberta Tory system here.