Beggars can’t be choosers: perpetual takers are rarely respected

I should make it clear what I am talking about: yes, there are physically disabled people that are widely respected; perhaps Stephen Hawking is one of the best known examples of that. They require quite a bit of care from others, but have produced to much of value that they are widely admired. In the world of columnists, Charles Krauthammer (who I almost always disagree with) is similar.

And, of course, there are elderly people who have retired after long, fruitful careers. They have laurels to rest on and, in many cases, quite a bit of wisdom to offer the rest of us.

And the other thing I am talking about: I am NOT making some philosophical statement about “inherent value of a human being”; I am talking about how people are going to be received by others, on the whole.

It has been my observation that those who are always on the public dole or those who perpetually mooch off of friends and family members are not going to be respected. Their opinions are not going to be asked for and people will not seek out their companionship. When they offer their opinions, “I think…” will be met with versions of “no one cares what you think..”, perhaps couched in polite language.

It is a bit like this in action.

That is why I think that “bottom up” movements such as the drive to raise the minimum wage or more health care for the poor are doomed to fail unless others who do not need these programs can be convinced that it is in their best interests to get aboard such programs; perhaps that is why I am such a fan of Paul Krugman.


April 16, 2017 Posted by | economy, social/political | | Leave a comment

Knocking the cockiness out of me (NOT sports)

Workout notes: weights, then 4 mile run.

Weights: pull ups (3 sets of 10), rotator cuff
bench press: 10 x 135, 4 x 185, 7 x 170 (stronger)
incline press: 10 x 135
pull ups: 2 sets of 10
military press: 3 sets of 10 x 200 seated, machine (100 each arm)
rows: 3 sets of 10 x 110 machine.

Run: treadmill (rainy and chilly outside): 5.3-5.4 (4 minutes), then up every 2 minutes until 40 (39:40 at 4 miles; 21:35 at 2).
Felt ok; intensity is something I am not used to.

Football I had predicted that Penn State would win 28-17 (spread was 4). It is 32-0 Penn State in the 4’th; I tried to warn people.

Title of the post

It is part of my job to go to college graduations. I’ve noticed that parents appear to be very, very proud of their kids who graduate. I’ve always kind of shrugged…and wondered what the big deal was.

Yes, my undergraduate years did have some heartache, misery and some “dark ages”; January-March was usually sort of gloomy and dark. And yes, I was a “square peg in a round hole”; I am simply not very “military” (though I deeply respect those who are good at it). And yes, I had the two major knee operations; these got me down, at least emotionally and caused me some physical pain. I did recover enough to run a 3:33 marathon and a 5:30 mile though.

But I “knew” that I’d muddle through; it was just a matter of doing “the next right thing”. Hence the graduation was, for me, sort-of a “given”. Even then I wondered why some were jumping up and down and acting like it was a big deal.

I ESPECIALLY thought that way when I got my Ph. D. in mathematics, though I got my nose bloodied by the initial set of comprehensive exams.

But now: well, I understand that many people have “hidden stories” and all sorts of inner demons that they had to overcome, and these demons are not always visible.

My challenges: at least as an undergraduate, they were mostly orthopedic. That was very visible, and I knew what I had to do and I had a good idea that they would eventually go away.

Others have challenges that have more uncertainty.

October 31, 2015 Posted by | running, weight training | , | Leave a comment

Common memes/statements I have no patience with (why I don’t fit in)

First things first: I DO respect this lady’s attitude and accomplishments; both are impressive.

But I have little patience at how others present such things.

1. At times, there appears to be an attitude of “this septuagenarian can do it therefore SO CAN YOU” in some of these presentations. That, of course, is nonsense.
Think of it this way: when I was in my 20’s, there were guys my age and size who could bench press 500 pounds (days prior to bench shirts) and other guys who could run a marathon in 2:10 or faster. NO ONE said “if they can do it, so can you.” Reason: the people who could perform such feats are understood to be outliers (the Steven Hawkings of athletics).

Guess what? Outliers exist among the senior age groups as well, and this lady is one of them. Another example: I had a 70 year old friend who ran a 45 minute 10K; that is abnormally good for that age.

Now if you want to say “you can probably get stronger than you think that you can”, THAT would be honest.

2. While she is indeed strong for her age, sex and size, she cannot outlift me, nor should she be able to. So please stop saying such things; that is condescending. She is incredibly strong for a woman her age though and her age graded performance would blow mine away, easily.

3. And I’ve seen memes that talk about “feeling old”. Guess what: if you are habitually active, you WILL feel your age as time goes on and your performances will show your age, period.

In my case: I found that I had to reduce the volume of my training and I had to be a bit more specific about it. That is, if I trained for, say, the 5K run, my long distance stuff would suffer more than it did a decade ago. I have to be choosier if I want to “age group improve” in one event or another; moving up in the marathon hurts my 5K; getting better in the swim hurts my running, etc. I also need to be more deliberate about strength training (weights, hill work, faster swim intervals, etc.)

March 18, 2015 Posted by | running, sports, weight training | , , , | 1 Comment

The relative honesty of sports relative to education

Workout notes: 31 F (0 C) at the start; I walked my 10.5 mile course (included the Goose Loop) and it took me 2:37 instead of the 2:34 it used to take me in 2012 (with the same effort). Time marches on. But there is a long time between now and October 18, 2015, so I have a lot of time to build up to a marathon and time to work on my 5K/1 mile run first.

Main Post

First, I realize that there are doping scandals at the highest level of sports and sometimes eligibility fiascos at lower levels.
And I also understand that academia at the higher levels, at least in my field (mathematics), tends to be honest. Sure there is a fake journal here and a fight over “who got the results first” there. But when one writes a math paper, it isn’t as if one can crib other sources.

I am mainly talking about the lower levels.

I remember my English class during my senior year in high school; it was the usual “British Literature” that is taught for college preparation. I had great teachers.

One of the things we had to do was to write a book report and present it in class. And so I sat through them; I specifically remember the one on Wuthering Heights.

The guy who gave it had an easel complete with charts, a circle diagram (concentric circles) with the various characters and relationships in the concentric circles, with Heathcliff vs. Heathcliff in the middle.

I rolled my eyes; I knew that the guy giving the presentation wasn’t smart enough to come up with this on his own.

Afterward, the teacher said “very good; perhaps you should look to sell this to Cliffs Notes. ”


Well, eventually I went to a book store, looked at Cliffs notes…and what did I see? You guessed it….and no, he didn’t sell his work to them.

That was just the beginning of my eye opening process.

The bottom line: many see education as nothing more than a credentialing process; a way of getting credits, a GPA and all that. The idea that one’s mind is supposed to be challenged and grow along the way really isn’t a popular one. It is all about “that piece of paper” and, perhaps, learning something along the way.

Yes, students search for solutions to homework problems on the internet; that is why I try to give some in class exams. The exception is for a courses in which I expect them to be able to use software.

I still remember my undergraduate days. I really did my homework and I really did find joy in figuring out things for myself. Not everyone else took the same approach, including some who had a higher GPA than I did.

Even funnier: some (almost all?) who got undergraduate degrees are completely unaware that what they learned was..well…baby stuff.
I wonder how many of these would have survived Ph. D. comprehensive examinations which, at least at my school, had a pass rate of 30 percent?

Then after sweating these, which seemed so difficult to me at the work on your dissertation and find out that your qualifiers were really just…baby stuff. ๐Ÿ™‚

Now contrast that with sports. Say you want to finish a marathon within the course’s time limit (and yes, the time limits are getting longer year by year).

If you don’t put in the miles, well, you aren’t going to finish (true for most of us, anyway, especially those of us who are older than 50). And to finish the marathon, you have to cover every step of the course.

True, there is some cheating (even in trail ultras!) and some who claim to do what they haven’t done. But the vast majority who finish a marathon really do finish it; there is no “cut and paste” available; no one to crib off of.

Of course, even in running where the results are there for all to see, there are those who don’t understand that, well, a 2-2:30 plus half marathon is really nothing to boast about (at least for someone 45 or younger) and that a strong marathon runner would have gone twice as far in close to the same amount of time. But I suppose there is a social aspect to it; the vehicle “mileage” stickers and the attitude face selfies..and of course, the “bling” (Showing off a medal for a half marathon finish? Really? should you award yourself a medal for finishing a medium long workout? ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

Note: my current half marathon running time stinks; I ran a couple of 2:01 half marathons in 2013 but I have enough self awareness to know that those times stink. My “over 40” PR is 1:34 (1999) and, for a 40 year old male in good health, that is more or less a “meh, fit but not a runner” time.

But no matter how sorry the performance is and how many grossly overestimate their achievements, there is no getting around that most have covered every inch of the course under their own steam…sans wikipedia. ๐Ÿ™‚

March 15, 2015 Posted by | education, running, walking | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Runners differ in ability, commitment and achievement.



You would think that it would be very easy to distinguish these two runners on basis of natural ability, effort put into training, importance of running to them, etc.

But evidently, that isn’t true for everyone:

Hereโ€™s a secret about running. The feeling you get after a new PR, the satisfaction from a tough workout well done, and the disappointment from a bad performance all feel the same no matter how fast you are. Thatโ€™s the beauty of our sport.

There is no difference between the runner who breaks 30 minutes for the 5K for the first time and the one that breaks 16 minutes. Both worked hard, sacrificed to achieve their goal, and experienced the same challenges.

That means all runners can relate to each other, no matter their speed.

Uh, no. Yes, I appreciate this 29 minute 10K (that is 10K) runner saying this, but this is PC gibberish.

1. The very act of running is different for the runner who barely leaves the ground and to the one that has a quick stride.

2. Training is different for many reasons:

a) It MIGHT make sense for the faster runner to rearrange his/her life to squeeze in more training in order to make that college team or perhaps qualify for that national meet. Me: training to drop a few seconds means that I finish in 234’th place instead of 248’th.

b) The faster runner with high mileage might benefit from adding lung searing 200’s or 400’s whereas the 30 minute 5K person might be better served by simply doing more miles.

3. Racing is different also; just watch the stronger high school and college runners as the cross the finish line:

I roomed with someone who was recruited to run track for the Naval Academy. When he ran an important race, he literally ran himself sick; sometimes a hard 10K would trash him for the rest of the day.

I just can’t red line it that way; I just stop and start walking when I start to feel really bad.

How about this instead:

running can be enjoyed by people of different abilities, different commitment levels and different achievement levels.

I have no reason to pretend that my experience is just like that of someone near the front of the pack or someone who does this at a high athletic level. I can take joy in my accomplishments while acknowledging the obvious: I am not particularly good at this.

March 19, 2014 Posted by | running | , | Leave a comment