Friday, May 29, 2009

Why I Run

May 29, 2009

Last Friday I got my new running shoes after running nearly 700 miles with my last pair. I p
assed the 700th mile this week in a little over a year. I have really turned things on the last few months. In April I ran 90 miles, and this month I will end up finishing over 100.

Why do I do it? I know some people think running 14 miles all at once is a symptom of mental insanity. But I do it for a number of reasons, and I don't plan on stopping anytime soon.

Last year I was wondering exactly what to do with my life. I went to counseling and was on medication for a little while. One suggestion my counselor gave me to help with my mood was to find a way to be more physically active. I have tried to run consistently for years, but I have a bad knee and back, I told her. She recommended I do something else.

Nonetheless, I decided to invest in Nike+. I got some new shoes, and determined I would not train too hard right out of the gate like I had been prone to do in the past. I ran for a few months, then tapered off last fall/winter when I was riding my bike 100 miles a week. Over time I lost 20 pounds.

When I got back to Laramie, I knew I had to stay active so I could stay in the shape I had achieved in Arizona. Last month I ran over 13 miles in one run for the first time. This month I got 7th place in a 5K here in Laramie, finishing the race in 20:02.

There are several reasons why I love to run. The first obviously stems from the fact that I have already accomplished so much, and I want to keep building on those successes.

I run for peace of mind. My depression has literally disappeared as I've kept active. I can also pop on the headphones, and forget about life for a few minutes. I love the way I feel when I've finished a run, especially a tough, lengthy one. Even though it doesn't usually endure, I feel a sort a mental clarity while I run.

I can enjoy fresh air and the beauty of nature.

I run to wear cool headbands and tank tops (even with my skinny chicken-arms).

I run because I can, but also because not everyone that wants to can, and not everyone that can, does. A close friend once opined that he didn't think human beings were meant to run long distances, especially not he nor I. I then saw an ESPN video of a young man born with cerebral palsy who was not even expected to walk in his life. He learned to walk, albeit awkwardly, and he learned he loved golf, and learned to play despite his handicap. He ended up walking miles and miles of golf course over the course of a full PGA season - he walked every hole of every tournament.

If a guy who wasn't meant to even walk could do that, I can at least run a marathon or two if I work hard enough. So I will keep running, because I want to.

One final admission: I really do not think I have the appearance of a person you might stereotypically think of as a runner - boney thin, with no fat tissue whatsoever. However, I felt proud today when I was about to get a huge needle stuck into my vein to give plasma. The phlebotomist commented on my giant veins and queried, "Are you a runner or something?"

To which I unhesitatingly responded, "Yes I am."

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Why Torture?

May 6, 2009

I have hesitated to enter into the fray on the issue of "enhanced interrogations" because it seems to me to be a very difficult, complicated issue. However, even though I think I understand the rationales behind the use of such harsh methods, I have a very hard time deciphering why any person who considers him or herself moral, would have a problem with someone who opposed such mistreatment of other human beings.

I think too many people have been watching 24, and other dramatic television series, and they think those things happen in real life. While there are those who say information gleaned from enhanced methods may have saved lives, I would question with all of my intuitive resourcefulness that there has
ever been a time when a terrorist had his hand on the button of a detonator, and has made demands and threats to the United States; otherwise, he would blow up a city.

I thought it was pretty obvious that the plot was far-fetched since Jack Bauer still somehow hasn't died in seven seasons. But I honestly think people believe there are bad guys who are out to get us, and the only way to stop them is by torturing people.

If they want to believe that, fine. If they want to believe that President Obama is putting our nation at risk by eliminating such treatment of prisoners, that's their choice.

I am saying, if we are strictly speaking on moral grounds, I don't really understand how someone who thinks he is moral can have a problem with the position Obama has taken on this issue. Aren't principles and morals supposed to be held more sacred than life itself? Is it acceptable for a supposedly moral person to betray those morals, supposedly to save lives? Hence, even if it's true that lives were saved, we had saved them at the cost of coming down to the level of our reprehensible enemies.

Yet we have voices like Bill O'Reilly out there saying if you diagree with those who choose to torture enemy combatants, and you disagree with God's self-appointed "mouthpiece," that you somehow are unpatriotic, and hate america. People who feel very strongly that we should treat everyone with dignity, enemy or otherwise, are treated like weak and spineless individuals.

I am not declaring definitively that I know the answer. But there is a case to be made for harsh interrogations, in that they possibly keep us safer from threats about which we are unaware. And there is a case to be made that being the great nation we are, we ought to somehow rise above the behavior of animals, and act like civil human beings, brutal enemy notwithstanding.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Favorite Radiohead Track

May 5, 2009

No No No No No No No No
no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no
i don't know why you bother
nothing's ever good enough for you
i was there and it wasn't like that
you came here just to start a fight

you had to piss on our parade
you had to shred our big day
you had to ruin it for all concerned
in a drunken punchup at a wedding.

hypocrite opportunist
don't infect me with your poison
a bully in a china shop
when i turn round stay frozen to the spot.

the pointless snide remarks
of hammerheaded sharks
the pot will call the kettle black

in a drunken punchup at a wedding.
no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no

Capitalism v. Socialism

May 5, 2009

Ever since President Obama's fated exchange with the ever-omniscient Joe the Plumber last year during election season, the terms socialist, marxist, fascist, among others, have been thrown around liberally.

I don't believe Obama is a closet socialist, questionable past personal ties aside. He may be more liberal than the average american, but more than likely, he is going to end up being more of a centrist than even he, or would like him to be, economically speaking. Meanwhile, in regards to the war on terror, even though his rhetoric is more conciliatory than that of his predecessor, it is hard to see a clear-cut difference between the two foreign policies. The main idea that the U.S. is the world's sole superpower, and must so remain, is still intact.

But the discussion has led me to question the oft-accepted-as-fact logic that free-market capitalism is the absolute best system under which to govern a people, while at the same time wondering seriously whether socialism is the great Satan that conservatives would have us believe.

Certainly, capitalism has it's faults, as evidenced by the current economic situation throughout the world. Some experts would argue that it is our failure to adhere to true free-market principles that have gotten us into the whole mess.

Whether we follow the principles correctly or not, those who are making arguments relating to Obama's 'socialist' policies have to be making a couple of assumptions - that the United States as a general rule operates within a free-market, and that socialism as an alternative has already proved to be a spectacular failure.

The fallacy in this simple-minded discussion is that somehow there are only two choices - capitalism, or socialism. It also assumes that socialism as an evil form of rule, refers to the failures of the Soviet Union and other european and asian countries. It assumes that those failed systems are the only possible implementations of socialism.

While most people who argue for an increase in socialism are branded as radical left-wing nutjobs, there are a few in the political arena who argue for a sort of pragmatic, mixed-economy solution. Capitalism has proved to be weak in some areas, and could stand to be improved. Meanwhile, all aspects of socialism do not spring out of evil imaginations of men.

In the future months, I am going to study this dilemma further. I would contend that the idea that media, business, and government, are not conducted on a free-market scale nearly the way we would be made to believe by most of the powerful voices speaking in the world today. I would argue that most people who contend for the free market are really just proponents of the status-quo, which often isn't pro-free-market at all. And I will probably argue that although Obama's proposals tend to sound lofty, he probably is a president of the status-quo more often than not.

It's time to examine the currently held belief of many in neoliberalism, defined by Robert McChesney in "The Political Economy of Media:" - Neoliberalism refers to the doctrine that profits should rule as much of social life as possible, and anything that gets in the way of profit making is suspect, if not condemned. Business good. Governments bad. Big business very good. Big government very bad. Taxes on the right, bad. Social spending aimed at the poor and working class, even worse. Take care of number one, and everyone fend for yourself. There is no such things as 'society,' only individuals in fierce competition with one antoher, and their immediate families, the only permissible freeloaders. (In fact, family freeloading is the occupation of choice for those of great wealth. No ruthless market for those who can affort to opt out. Nice work, if you can get it.)

So there you have it. Is capitalism really the best we can do? Are our only choices capitalism or socialism and no other options are possibilities? Are we only responsible to ourselves and our families, or should we be more responsible for the society of which we are a part, as a whole?

Of course, to have the discussion, one must first be brave enough to throw away the assumptions that capitalism is perfectly good, and socialism is completely evil. Which is what I (trying to be the non-conformist that I for some reason sometimes think that I am) intend to at least attempt to do.

P.S. Happy Cinco de Mayo!