Thursday, January 03, 2008

Crazy 8 s

Yay for 2008! What a year it will be! I'm optimistic about it (just to clarify). It began extremely well for me, and I intend to keep the pluses up and the minuses down. To help remind me to remember this intention, I plan to get
+↑ -↓
tattooed on my forehead, so I'll think of it every time I look in a mirror1.
During 2007, I fell behind a bit (with bills, keeping up with friends and family, and personal promises and goals), so to catch up, I brought in the new year running hard–literally. Two friends and I ran in the 6th Annual Midnight Express 8k, a road race from 11:30 PM until after midnight on New Year's Eve (no one finished faster than 35 minutes). I don't put much stock in New Year resolutions, but I decided that because I was running 8k (about 5 miles) to bring in '08 (read: "ought eight"), I should set the goal to run 8k-a-day in '08, mostly because it sounds cool: "eight kay-uh-day in ought eight."

I started the race with Mark and Grace, the two friends mentioned above, but quickly realized that the lack of popularity of a road race at midnight on New Year's Eve and the subsequent low attendance rate provided me with a very small field of competition (about 25 people)–I actually stood a chance to place. I abandoned my friends in pursuit of a potential prize and soon trailed only a handful of contenders. At the end of the first mile, six people remained ahead–the first two led by more than thirty seconds, offering little chance to catch them, but the other four were clustered together merely one hundred feet ahead, a distance I might be able to close. A woman from the group of four dropped back a bit, and I leaped forward, passing her and breaking away to take firm hold of sixth place. I ran hard and kept my place, but the three ahead (two guys and one girl) kept their distance despite my efforts.

About halfway through the race, a man in black tights and a red shirt glided passed me smoothly and (seemingly) easily; then he caught and passed the group of three. e was fast, and I knew he would finish before me–fourth place was now the best I could hope for. I still couldn't gain ground on the three just ahead of me, however, and seventh place seemed my destiny. With about 1.5 miles remaining, the woman who dropped back earlier passed me, and I spent the remaining distance trying vainly to catch her. When I crossed the line, seven people had done so before me–I was number eight.

Additionally, my goal was to finish in under forty minutes to achieve a per-mile time of less than 8 minutes. I finished in 39:43, and using the conversion 1 kilometer = 0.621 miles (8km = 4.968 mi), my pace was almost exactly 8 minutes per mile (7:59.67, to be more exact).

To sum up:
I ran an 8k road race to start my 8k-a-day in '08 resolution and came in 8th place with a pace of exactly2 8 minutes per mile. It would seem that fate (or my subconscious?) either agrees with my resolution or really likes the number eight–either way, it was a good tone to start the year.
'08 \m/

Oh, for the record: 2 down, 364 to go.

1 I'll need to keep my eyes closed when I'm upside-down to keep confusion to a minimum.
2 Within 0.33 s is close enough to say "exactly" in my book

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

FāvRun: National Forest Road 23 Washout

Name: NF23 Washout/Closure
Type: Out-and-back
Distance: 2/4/6 miles
Start: Mile 35.8
Washout: Mile 34.8
6-Mile Turnaround: Mile 32.8

This out-and-back route has (nearly) unlimited distance options, but I recommend 2, 4, or 6 miles to make use of the 3-mile section closed to motor vehicles. (Caution! Even though the road is closed, someone moved the barricades on the north end of the closed section, so be alert for the rare vehicle.) Most of the road is shaded in the morning and later afternoon, but you'll want a hat and shades during midday runs on sunny days.

Start at the intersection of NF23 and NF90, about 0.2 miles past mile marker 36 from Trout Lake, and head up the hill past the concrete barricades. The road is paved for about the first 500 yards and climbs for the first ¼ mile. After descending for ½ mile, the road slopes up the remaining distance to the washout (another ¼ mile). Here is this route's main attraction: a 30-feet-wide canyon where the road used to be--the small culvert was no match for last winter's rainstorms.

Turn around at the washout for the 2-mile option, or cross the makeshift path on the right and continue up the (increasingly steep) hill for a longer distance. From the washout, the road climbs for about 1 ¼ miles, passing mile marker 34 (turn around at the top of this hill for the 4-mile route), before descending for about ½ mile, crossing a bridge, and climbing past the (moved) concrete barricades and mile marker 33. Keep going all the way to the 'T' intersection for the 6-mile course.

This run is very pleasant with great views of densely forested ravines and valleys, and c'mon, how often do you get to see a riverbed where the road used to be? For those concerned with such matters, the dirt road continues past the 6-mile turnaround for a few miles to the left and about 10 miles to the right, so longer distances can be accommodated.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Switch to Win?

This was an actual game show back in the day, and Monty Hall was the host and became the namesake of the logical problem. The setup is this (from Wikipedia):
A thoroughly honest game-show host has placed a car behind one of three doors. There is a goat behind each of the other doors. You have no prior knowledge that allows you to distinguish among the doors. "First you point toward a door," he says. "Then I'll open one of the other doors to reveal a goat. After I've shown you the goat, you make your final choice whether to stick with your initial choice of doors, or to switch to the remaining door. You win whatever is behind the door." You begin by pointing to door number 1. The host shows you that door number 3 has a goat.
The question is this: do you have a better chance of driving home instead of taking the bus if you switch to door 2? Most people reason that there is a 50/50 chance–one door contains the goat, and one contains the car–but this isn't the case. Plenty of sources offer the correct answer ("Yes") and a full explanation, but even after hearing or reading several of them, many people (and some very smart ones) still attest that the odds are even. The solution is confusing to some and infuriating to others (the legendary Paul Erdős fought it adamantly, to no avail).
Earlier today, I was talking to my brother about this (he's the one who told me about ol' Paul's hatred of the thing), and as he explained the problem to me (He had asked if I knew the Monty Hall problem, and I didn't know the name.), I struggled to remember a discussion about it from high school computer class. When he finished, there was still a bit of confusion lingering in the air, so I proposed this version of the explanation (which is pretty much as simple as it can be said1):

Whichever door you first pick has a 2/3 chance of being a goat. When the host opens a goat door, your door still has a 2/3 chance of hiding a goat, which equates to a 1/3 chance of finding the car behind it.
Then we chatted a bit more about it and decided that this is just one of several ways to explain it (keep track of the chance the first door is hiding the car, for example), and he brought up the idea of considering the problem with more doors (not Mordors, one of those is scary enough). Imagine there are 100 doors, all lined up, and one door hides the car; a herd of sheep (cheaper than goats) was borrowed from a local farmer to put one behind each of the other 99 doors. Pick a door. The chance that you pick the one door with the car is 1 in 100. This means that there is a 99% chance that the car is behind one of the other doors. If the host then opens up all but one of the other doors, that one door has a 99% chance of being the door with the car because 1) there is still a 99% chance that one of the 99 doors you didn't pick is the winning door and 2) you can see that 98 of them are not winning doors. Thus, the one you can't see behind has a 99% chance of being a winner, and your door keeps the 1% probability and its status as a loser.
Increasing the scale simply helps to visualize the problem; it doesn't change the logic (If you have trouble seeing this, get out a piece of paper and try it with 99 doors, then 98, 97, and so on, until you get down to 3.). Of course, newer game shows are more creative and use multiple cases (instead of doors) with various sums of money (instead of goats and cars) with several opportunities to switch, accompanied by the same number of multi-case openings, and they have a lot more show (girls) and hype to attract viewers. I wonder what percentage of people who watch that show understand the math behind it? Maybe I should ask what the probability is that a randomly selected viewer is actually interested in the game and not just the show (girls).

1Some might contend that tracking the chance you picked the car is simpler, but I'd argue that it's exactly the same thing viewed from a different perspective. I stated it as written to maintain historical integrity.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Random Reasonless Ranting

Note: Please be sure to read the disclaimer in the comments.

Crawling around the 'tubes today, I found some videos of speakers from TED, called TED talks, and one of the presenters was Anthony Mahavorick, a.k.a. Tony Robbins, his pen name. Who uses pen names these days? Pseudonyms and that. Pfft. Get with the 21st century; we have handles now, like tmarl42 or Acid Burn. There are no more Mark Twains; there aren't even any more Drs. Seuss. George Stark was a bit more recent1, but he was also fictional. Pen names are a thing of the past; we're in a new era, the time of technology, and we use handles.
Furthermore, pen names are meant for writers of fiction. People like to know from whom the information comes if it isn't fiction, so non-fiction authors shouldn't use pen names. Simple as that.
I must admit, however, that pen names2 are useful to certain notable authors to maintain credibility or anonymity while writing in more than one genre (plus, it helps to keep us readers unconfused), but that's not what this is about. My point is, or rather, my questions are: Why? Does Robbins sound more appealing? Does it simply fit on the cover better? Easier to say/spell/type/not mispronounce on a talk show introduction?

With that, I'll stop ranting before the bulging vein in my right temple bursts.

1Although, Teddy was alive, he wasn't writing anymore.
2A.N. Roquelaure, for example.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Sometimes I just don't care.

I tried to explain it to an Army counselor once. He was interviewing me because I had just been referred to the Army Substance Abuse Program (ASAP). Apparently, the Army believes that all underage drinkers are alcoholics. Why else would anyone risk the oh-so-terrible punishment that follows getting caught? Surely such an offense requires quite a strong addiction to cause these kids to jeapordize everything. Nevermind that young soldiers are "housed" (I use that term very loosely--actually, "kept" is more accurate) in barracks with hundreds of other soldiers, many of whom are above the legal age to consume alcohol and willingly purchase alcohol for the underagers, some of whom actually promote underage drinking, and very few who ever question anyone's age. Add the fact that these yunguns (that's how it's spelled back home) are told every day that they're not allowed to drink and what will happen if they do. That makes sense--remind them constantly that it's illegal, and they'll never wonder why and conduct a bit of research. Be sure to tell them at every opportunity, though, because you need to keep that picture of a tall, golden, icy-cold, frothy pint in their easily-influenced minds. I mean, if I were a young recruit just out of high school and very impressionable, I'd probably start drinking, too. But I digress; permit me to return to the story:
One of the questions in the interview was, "What do you think will happen?" He was asking about my punishment--what I thought it was going to be.
I shrugged, "I'unno," I grunted, then, "I don't really care."
"You don't care what they do to you?"
"Not really. Sometimes I just don't care." A pause. My eyebrows glanced up, and my shoulders lifted as my palms turned outward. "About much of anything, really."
"It almost sounds like you've been smoking the wacky tabacky," he challenged with a squint.
"Oh no," I assured him, "I've been feeling like this since way before I started that."
(OK, so that's not really what I said, but it sounded funnier.)

Anyway, the point I'm driving at (while talking on the phone and swerving randomly), is that sometimes I just don't care, and the origin of the feeling completely eludes me. I'm sure that some people take it as rudeness, shyness, or stupidity, but it isn't (it's not? it'sn't?).

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Lacey Athletic Club

Since I've been living in Olympia, I've been running more and more, but the weather for cycling is just never any good. Rain I can deal with; a bit of wind is fine. However, riding in a torrential downpour with 50mph gusts is just not feasible. Luckily for me, the Lacey Athletic Club has Spinning, a great alternative to outdoor riding and the closest thing to to the real thing. The weather indoors is always clear and bright! (And the staff at Lacey Athletic Club is always cheerful.)

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome

I'm fairly certain (99.9%) that I am affected by EDS (Classical Type). I once spoke to a dermatologist about it, and after a few questions1 he informed me that it's "nothing to worry about" because my symptoms were not terribly great. Further research on my part, however, revealed that he was only partly correct, which did not surprise me as he was an Army doctor and had previously, concerning another condition with which I am mildly afflicted, instructed me to "Google it" if I wanted more information2. The correct part of his prognosis is that the symptoms I display are not life-threatening (which, to the Army, meant unimportant), but it is certainly not "nothing to worry about." A sufficient or persistent force (lifting a heavy object or running long distances, for example) will subluxate my left shoulder or left hip, respectively, so I must be careful to not overexert these joints. Many of my joints are double-jointed and/or susceptible to subluxation, including wrists, elbows, hips, shoulders, thumbs, pinkies, and ankles. Also, I have moderate skin hyperextensibility, muscle hypotonia, and joint hypermobility, and I have at least one spheroid on my left forearm (feels like a BB under the skin).
Why should you care? Well, if you're related to me on my mother's side, there is a chance that you, too, are affected by Classical Type EDS because I'm fairly certain (again about 99.9%) that I inherited it from my maternal grandfather (it's autosomal dominant). Because the symptoms vary greatly in severity, you may have it and not notice, but double-jointed thumbs may be a good indicator. If you're interested in learning more, check out the links provided throughout this post or, in the words of perhaps the worlds greatest doctor, Google it. (Hey, at least I gave a link.)

1Doc: Can you touch the tip of your tounge to the tip of your nose?
Me: No.
Doc: Are you very flexible?
Me: Yes. *places foot behind head*
2Additionally, when I asked how to spell keratosis pilaris (I actually said, "How do you spell that?" because I could barely discern what he'd said), he seemed very agitated that I was so stupid. To that colonel who worked in dermatology at Madigan Army Medical Center in the fall of 2003 (who shall herein remain unnamed), I point out this web comic. Essentially, I mean that that doctor is a jackass.