January 4th, 2005

i am not a stuffed tiger.

endorsement: running after antelope

O.K. So I know it's a lot to ask, but you really should set aside about an hour for a This American Life episode from several years ago. If you're in a big hurry you can probably skip the prologue and last act. The part that you need to hear is called "Running After Antelope" (5:49 - 48:50) and it is the best thing that I've heard in a really long time. As you might guess, it's a story about running, but it's also about biology, evolution, becoming human, history, family, and trying really hard to do something incredible and impossible.

I want to type part of it for you, but it's long and I'm not a good transcriptionist and and it's well past my bedtime -- I was listening to fall asleep, but couldn't because of how great the story is -- so you'll just have to take my word on it for now. Maybe you can download it to your iPod and listen on the way to school or work. [tal]
i am not a stuffed tiger.

resolutions, complications

Not to crush anyone's resolutions, but today's New York Times reveals the not completely surprising story that most commercial weight loss programs are not tested to prove that they actually work. Obviously, people can be called on for outrage:
"I don't understand how you can have a product you never evaluate for effectiveness," Ms. McAfee [of the Council on Size and Weight Discrimination] said. "It was a slap in the face to all people of size." [nyt]
The article is sprinkled with interesting comments from the academic "weight change community" including unaddressed questions about why people don't just go to their doctors to lose weight (my guess: it is probably way more expensive) and the suggestion by University of Toronto psychologists that "simply declaring you are going on a diet makes you feel better."
i am not a stuffed tiger.

new books, new year

When I saw a window filled with copies of the new Jared Diamond book, Collapse [$], at the downtown Barnes and Noble, I suspected that it was something to get excited about. Today on the way to class, I read Malcolm Gladwell's review, and the book sounds really good:
The lesson of "Collapse" is that societies, as often as not, aren't murdered. They commit suicide: they slit their wrists and then, in the course of many decades, stand by passively and watch themselves bleed to death.
[New Yorker, 03 January 2005, pp 70-73]
If I were the type to make new year's resolutions, one might be to try to get back into the habit of reading more.1 Books like this would certainly provide incentive, since it seemed like so many of the important nonfiction of 2004 was about how goddamn crappy and corrupt the government is. To some extent, maybe Collapse might be like that, but in a way that I'm willing to face.

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(1) I'm already trying! I'm about halfway through Cloud Atlas.
  • Current Music
    interpol - leif erikson
the only earth?

lessons

I decided that I might audit a class this quarter about computational biology. One of the early slides addressed the ages old question of "what is life?"

It turns out that life is "imperfect self-replicating machines."

A cheery thought for the new year.

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In other news, it is freezing here. I'm really pretty happy about my decision to buy a new winter hat. I think that it's kind of magic, since it doesn't leave my hair looking entirely "hah!" when I take it off.
  • Current Music
    camera obscura - knee deep at the npl
chair, apartment

not exactly an insomniac

It's been something like four days, maybe, since a what I've been doing post. I hope you haven't been overwhelmed with curiosity.

On Friday, I had to get up before sunrise to get ready to fly back to Seattle. This wasn't very complicated since my mom and dad's puppy started barking every hour or so during the night. When we got to the airport, I found that my flight had been cancelled and that I had to be transferred to a different airline. Aside from the delay in departure, this switch marked me as a suspicious passenger requiring hand searches of my person and baggage. This was especially convenient since I was traveling with a tightly packed and sealed box of xmas treasures to avoid shipping fees. This altered schedule did give my mom and I an extra hour to hang out at the nearby Greek restaurant for a greasy pre-dawn breakfast.

I made it back to Seattle without further incident and tried (mostly unsuccessfully) to sleep through the afternoon to catch up on my sleep bank deficit before meeting up with friends at Rachel and Jon's house. We sampled some cocktails in their fancy new glasses before the group fragmented to attend to various new year's eve plans. Planless, Rachel, Jon, and I ended up checking out the Hedwig thing at the Crocodile, running out to watch the exploding Space Needle, and adjourning to B & O. It turned out to be a pretty low-key event, which was completely fine.

Even though I didn't sleep late, Saturday was still lazy. I read and watched a bunch of episodes of Carnivále (hooray for OnDemand) and met up with Kate and Rachel to watch The Godfather, Part II. Before the movie, I tried to play Rachel's Dance Dance Revolution on the Xbox, but it was mostly beyond my comprehension. The movie was good, though I fell asleep for parts of it. After Kate dropped me off at home, I realized that my keys were still on Rachel's coffee table. Of course, my windows were still locked from being away for so long and I was unable to sneak inside. Luckily, I remembered my cell phone and was able to FlexCar my way back up to Greenwood to retrieve the keys. I really need to find a hiding place for my spare keys, since I'm such a flake about locking myself out.

Kate, Carole, Atri, and I met for crepes at Joe Bar onSunday afternoon before watching Bad Education, which I mentioned in my favorite things post. It was really good and you should try to see it.

Monday brought me back to the office, where my repaired iBook awaited. I started catching up on things that I'd been neglecting over the break, had a meeting, and then went to campus for techfee (now with late monday afternoon meetings!). Rachel, Jon, and I made an attempt at the pub quiz at the Irish Emigrant.


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I am fairly certain that I'm getting a cold. I'm just amazed that I was able to avoid it for this long, yet I am still doing my best to take preemptive action. That is, I am believing in the power of Zicam. Last night I drank a hot toddy, because I think that's what people do when they're not feeling well and because it's a super tasty drink for this godawful cold weather. At least it's sunny and cold.