Remembering why East is west and West is East

Right off the bat in my Middle East studies class in the United Kingdom (Aberystwyth, Wales, to be precise), we talked about the origin of “Near East” and “Far East.” I don’t recall the same discussion in similar classes in the U.S. For an informative discussion on the subject, check out the latest post at Strangemaps:

If you’re American, geographically inclined and a bit of a stickler, this cartographic incongruity is a bit of an annoyance. From the US, the shortest route to what’s conventionally called ‘the East’ is in fact via the west. Going in that direction, you’ll hit the ‘Far East’ before you’re in the ‘Middle East’. And Europe, or at least that part usually included in ‘the West’, lies due east. So East is west, and West is east, in blatant contradiction of what’s probably Rudyard Kipling’s most famous line of verse: Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet

Armistice Day, known in America since 1954 as Veterans Day


The above is from one my favorite blogs: The Daily Mirror: Larry Harnisch Reflects on Los Angeles History (yes, Los Angeles has history).

Besides remembering the end of the Great War, the War to End All Wars, take a moment to remember America’s veterans who served in defense our country so that we and others may live in peace.

However horrible the incidents of war may be, the soldier who is called upon to offer and to give his life for his country is the noblest development of mankind.

–General Douglas MacArthur – 14 July 1935


Two hundred and thirty years ago, insurgents and propagandists rebelled against the local forces of a distant political and economic master. A war was waged among the people through engravings and pamphlets, often distorting the truth to stoke insurgent flames. They took the fight – kinetic, ideological, and economic – to the shores of the enemy and actively sought support from other countries, notably the enemy of our enemy.

Victory was slow and expensive but born out of it was a federal republic where people voted for their own leaders and set their own destiny. A century later, These United States became The United States as suffrage was expanded. The next century it was expanded again.

Today, it is your obligation, as an American citizen, by birth or not, to vote for a President of the United States of America, local representatives, judges, and of local laws. Regardless of who wins, this vote will prove as historic as any other as the two candidates hold and represent very different beliefs.

Both campaigns waged a war of perception over the “swing-voters” in the middle and against the base of the opponents. Both campaigns will serve as case-studies on how wars of perception are waged. One was focused heavily on discounting and distorting the adversary by creating fear of the Other. The other focused on self-promotion and illustrating differences. One focused on grassroots involvement, a domestic public diplomacy, while the other emphasized insularity, circling the wagons against outsiders.

We’ll see which one wins. Either way, it is your responsibility to vote lest those who tread before, those in uniform and even bureaucrats, toiled and gave their lives in vain. Vote!

Off Topic: Congratulations, Jimmy, on your sub-24hr 100miler

I have this friend. He’s a really good guy who, like me, thought it was fun to run marathons. Back when we were both marathon coaches for a fund raising organization, and before we were really friends, he heard I was a trail runner and wanted to join me and my dog. So, we set out on a trail. Target distance: about 12 miles across varied terrain with some moderately severe climbing and descending. Jimmy’s jack-rabbit start raises the question of whether he’s really run trail as he claimed. The truth is he’s never run technical terrain with the elevation and ground condition changes (skull size rocks to pebbles to hard pack) that we’re on. Short story: we cut several miles from the course and eliminate the best (and most challenging) single track sections from the return. When we finish, we had eased back and truncated the run so much my dog isn’t even panting. Jimmy noticed that we (my dog and I) didn’t invite him back out for a long time. He shares the story frequently and tells me he uses it as inspiration.

Fast forward to this past weekend. The now married Jimmy completed his second 100-mile running race, the Rio del Lago. Not only did he finish, but he did it in under 24-hours. Finishing time: 19:49. That’s nineteen hours and forty-nine minutes to cover 100 miles in temps that peaked near 100 degrees. Jimmy finished 1st in his age group and 3rd overall. His last 38 miles averaged 9:09 / mile.

Congratulations, Jimmy! Absolutely awesome.

Check out Jimmy’s race recap here.

Off Topic: Victory over Darkness premiere

In what seems like another lifetime (but was only four years ago), I was a guide for, briefly coached, sponsored, and had a room available for indefinite periods – for training and racing – for some special triathletes. These aren’t your normal triathletes (not that triathletes in general are normal). These guys and girls are legally blind. Some are completely blind and have been since birth, and others are legally blind. Some were victims of tragedy (add’l details) and others have degenerative conditions.

Finally, tomorrow night, Tuesday September 16th, a movie about these amazing athletes will premier in Los Angeles. There’s no trailer as of yet to link to, but I’ll post one when it’s available Click here for a trailer (.mov). Check out C-Different to learn more about the organization that helps these athletes race everything from spring to Ironman.

I’ll let you know how the movie is and how you can see it. If you ever questioned yourself on a run, a swim, a ride, or simply said something was too hard. Imagine closing your eyes and being guided through waves of other swimmers (you’re in the regular race without any special assistance other than the guide) in a beach-start triathlon where you have to get through the Pacific’s waves entering and exiting. Imagine trusting the driver on the tandem that he’ll give you the audibles for starting, stopping, and slowing and won’t crash for an hour or eight. Then imagine going for a run over unfamiliar terrain, that may include a sand ladder, trail, or simply curbs.

Next time you’re going out for a run, think about wearing those headphones and what sounds you’re missing (not to mention the safety hazard of running outdoors sans a critical sense). Personally, it made my trail runs that much more special.

By the way, the kid I guided raced an Olympic triathlon two weeks ago. Time: 2:14. This past Saturday he raced another Oly distance (1.5k swim, 40k bike, 10k run): 2:04.

That’s all. Now back to the regularly scheduled programming.

Posting will resume… next week

Off topic: William Saletan at Slate argues for social promotion

In a complete waste of digital “ink,” Slate runs an incomprehensible article by William Saletan on Michael Phelps’ 100m fly medal. Saletan, who obviously never swam competitively, argues that Milorad Cavic may have beat Phelps because, well to paraphrase Saletan, “it seems so awfully close.”

… In the pictures, Cavic appears to have arrived by the second frame, if not the first—at a minimum, tying Phelps. (See for yourself.) And Phelps is moving so much faster and more forcefully that you have to wonder: Given the delay between contact and pressure, if the touch pad recorded Phelps’ pressure only one-hundredth of a second before Cavic’s, how likely is it that Cavic made initial contact before Phelps did?

Give me a break. Sure, they are called touch pads, but as any experienced swimmer will tell you, you have to do more than faintly caress the pad lest the force of the water taps you in. As is clear in the underwater imagery, Cavic not only glided into the wall, he, fatally, lifted his head. Lucky for Phelps, Cavic incredibly lost the race by inexperience. Mike’s half-stroke and don’t finish until it’s finish effort wouldn’t have been enough if Cavic finished at the wall, and the pad, and not before.

There is no gray area. Phelps touched out Cavic in the way it matters: pressure on the pad. Next time, Cavic won’t pull up short. 

Update: Saletan finally sees the photos I linked to ten days ago but still can’t accept the finality of the subject.

(h/t AS)

Off topic: Olympic swimming is over, finally

4 x 100 free relay and IM, 4 x 200 free, 50m free… finally it’s all done. Mike Phelps has his “Phelpsian” moment with 8 medals capped off with an awesome Medley Relay. Unlike Spitz, Phelps can hang out and enjoy his time in the Olympic village and at the other events (the terrorist attack on Munich happened right after Mike Spitz earned his medals… he never had time to “bask in the glory”).

Now, among the many sports, it’s time to watch men’s water polo. We took down the Croats. Next, it’s the Germans.

Thinking about 2014

Take a look at this map courtesy a Galhran / Information Dissemination reader:

Look at the coast on the left side between the 43rd and 44th latitudes. There you’ll find Sochi, the site of the 2014 winter Olympics.

Will the Russian invasion bring peace to the Pankisi or Kodori Gorges? Maybe the Russian move was simply to enhance their security perimeter (not). Think all will be forgotten and everyone will have kissed and made up by 2014?

Back in Beijing, as of now, the Georgians have one Olympic medal: a bronze in 10m pistol. Think she was imaging anything on the target? Too bad Georgia doesn’t have a water polo team in the competition. The 1956 Hungary v USSR game was one of the best.

Who’s talking now? USA Men’s 4×100 Free Relay!!


“The Americans? We’re going to smash them. That’s what we came here for.” — smack-talking French swimmer Alain Bernard

Lezak touching out Bernard

Only, Lezak ate up Bernard, outtouching him as the USA demolished the World Record (which was set by the American’s in the qualifying heat) with an amazing 3:08.24. The French would have set the WR themselves, but they didn’t.

Michael Phelps lead off: 47.51 (new American record)
Garrett Weber-Gale: 47.02
Cullen Jones: 47.65
Jason Lezak: 46.06 (fastest relay split, ever)

Lezak on what was going through his mind: “I was really tired of losing.” 

What do the French have to say about it?

See also:

“In Olympic competition, a race is won in the mind.”

The New York Times looks at the psychological warfare that takes place before the swimmers take to the blocks. 

Before the 200 butterfly final at the 1976 Olympics, the Americans Steve Gregg and Mike Bruner were in the ready room opposite Roger Pyttel of East Germany, who had broken Mark Spitz‘s four-year-old world record in the event that summer.

“We had a lot of fun with Roger,” Bruner said, recalling the act that he and Gregg put on.

Bruner said: “The conversation generally went: ‘Do you think he speaks English? Well, maybe not. I didn’t see any reaction in his face; maybe he doesn’t understand.’ There was a pause, and then one of us said, ‘So you know, if the Americans go 1-2-3, he’s going to be sent back to Siberia.’ ”

Pyttel’s face went ashen, Bruner said. He and Gregg looked at each other, and Bruner remembered one of them saying, “I guess he understands English.” As they walked out to the blocks, Bruner said, “It was clear to us, ‘We’ve got him.’ ”

Bruner won the gold and broke Pyttel’s world record. Gregg took the silver, and another American, Billy Forrester, the bronze. Pyttel was fourth.

In 1972, Spitz also had a partner in playing his mind games. He remembered taking his club coach, Sherm Chavoor, with him into the ready area.

“I would tell Sherm: ‘I’m so tight. I’m so messed up,’ and he would rub my shoulders while my competitors stared at us with their mouths open,” Spitz said. “In actuality, there was nothing wrong with me. I just wanted my opponents to think I was hurting.”

He won seven gold medals at those Games, all of them with world records attached, to set the bar for immortality that Phelps will try to raise in Beijing.

Swimmers, like all athletes, deal with the mental preparation in different ways. Some, like Phelps, aids shut out the world to prevent negative thoughts (some say it takes two positive thoughts to counteract one negative). Others are tripped over the edge, losing the confidence in what they knew to be fact beforehand and become vulnerable to the pressures of the surroundings more than the event itself.

Side note: I used to swim with Mark Spitz (about 10 years ago, not in the ’70s when I was still swimming for pennies) and he is a character, and still a strong swimmer.

Off Topic: It’s Time for Le Tour de France

image image Totally off topic, but if you missed it, this year’s Tour started today.  I haven’t been seen much in the way of U.S. advertising, but then I haven’t been looking. 

Did you know there are two U.S. teams this year?  Team Highroad / Columbia and Garmin Chipotle.  Old names like Team Discovery (formerly Postal) and T-Mobile (remade into Columbia) are gone.  And Team Astana is out. 

Some names might be familiar like Hincapie (on Team Highroad), Evans, Moreau, Voeckler, Valverde, Hushovd, Zubeldia, Boonen, Menchov, Millar, Zabel, Zabriskie (who’s on Garmin Chipotle if you’re wondering like my wife was), as well as others that I don’t feel like typing.  Haven’t looked to see where all the Discovery riders landed, besides the one or two who jumped to Astana.   lot others probably won’t be. 

Hopefully I’ll catch some of the race on TiVO, including today’s start, which wasn’t a prologue. 

Want more?  Check out Google’s Street View of the race and other links.

That’s it, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Now also posting at CTLab…

I am now, with all the spare time I have, posting at the CTLab collaborative as well as here.  My recent Rant on “Tube”, er, Internet capacity was cross-posted there yesterday. 

In related news, see Mark Safranski’s post (original post, not some lazy cross-post like mine) titled Visualcy and the Human Terrain

As a result of public education, the rise of mass-media and commercial advertising, Western nations and Japan, some earlier but all by mid-20th century, became relatively homogenized in the processing of information as well as having a dominant vital “consensus” on cultural and political values with postwar Japan probably being the most extreme example.

Besides Mike Innes, also at CTLab are Mike Tanji and Tim Stevens

In other news, the Swedish Meatball awakes (barely).  In unrelated news, I expect Kent to strike an Imperative note soon. 

Meme of Seven

With some (ok a lot) hesitation, here is my response to the Meme of 7, which I answer only because I caused an earlier meme…

I have been tagged (twice) and will open the kimono a little here. 

Here are the rules:

1. Link to your tagger (see above) and post these rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
4. Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

5. Present an image of martial discord from whatever period or situation you’d like.

imageThe image of martial discord is from the Cold War, "a war of ideology and a fight unto the death."

Here are the facts (the selection of which may be influenced by a recent post):

1. I learned to type when I was 8 (maybe 6) on a game called Adventure, a text-based game in the age of green screens and modems with acoustic couplers.  I could type “get axe” and “throw axe” really, really fast, even though the game was anything but real-time.  “Plugh”.

2. I watched a Charles Bronson movie “in” an outdoor theater on Mali Losinj, an island off of what was then Yugoslavia. 

3. I met my wife because of 9/11 and triathlon.  I filled in for her Team in Training triathlon coaches when they were forced to drive instead of fly to a race because all the planes were grounded. 

4. I have a modeling injury: a permanent scar resulting from an all day Maxim photo shoot. 

5. I sat on the curb twice before struggling to finish my first 5k.  

6. My typical training weekend for the years I raced Ironman triathlons included 90 – 105 mile bike on Saturday, usually with lots of hills, followed the next day by a 3 mile ocean swim and a 10-18 mile run.  No family (or blog) back then.  I was also 40 lbs lighter than when I ran my first 5k. 

7. I sang for beer in a Karoke bar in Fujishiro when I was high school freshman on student exchange.  My co-singer, a red-headed exchange student, and I were the only geigen in the place, and needless to say, we were a hit (doubtful it was because of our dulcet tones) and were rewarded with more beer.

No tagging… my last meme got out of control. 

David Axe is off to Chad…

Not exactly on a vacation, MountainRunner friend David Axe is heading to eastern Chad to report on the Darfur crisis first hand in a couple of days. 

In two days I depart for a month of reporting on the Darfur crisis from eastern Chad. Guerrilla News Network is helping me raise cash to cover the roughly $5,000 in expenses. Check out our campaign

What’s with the Danger Room people?  David’s going to Chad and Sharon and hubbie Nate go to Iran (and NORK next year?)…

Last week I talked to David about his adventure.  Hmm, thinking Baghdad a few years ago might be safer… 

Check out the GNN campaign to support his trip, but do it soon, he leaves in a couple of days (but I’m sure donations will still be appreciated after Monday).  David’s not a rich man


From Abu Muqawama: Thank You, and Goodbye

Friend Andrew Exum, who can down pitchers of Yuengling just fine, removes the mask and exits stage left.  But while Ex’s superb near-daily analysis will be gone, we’ll still have his serious authorship to read, learn, and comment even if it will be without the snarkiness.  Abu Muqawama will continue to be a fine blog and valuable resource under the leadership of the most-able Erin, who outs herself as well

Ex, see you at the workshops… first two pitchers are on me.