Thursday, February 24, 2011

20B20W - 7th book

Why We Run by Bernd Heinrich (earlier released as Racing The Antelope) is a book which would have more aptly titled Why I Run/Ran.

Bernd Heinrich aka Ben is an ultra marathoner of repute and won the US 100K championships against much fancied competition in 1981 at the "young" age of 41!

He is a zoologist by training (was nicknamed "Animal" as a high schooler) and brings to bear his knowledge of various creatures large and small to understand and improve his running. The book goes off-topic more than once but continues to be a good read. While not as well written as say a Bill Bryson book, the author endears himself to the reader by sheer grit and achievement. Like all great scientists he makes himself the subject of amusing and at times, not so safe experiments incl. trying to use 3 six-packs of beer as fuel for a marathon (one definite reason to read his book!). The thing to note is that a lot of his stuff is now available to beginners in various forms, but when he did it, it was a lot of self-discovery. Worthy of praise. At time the book tends to get just a wee bit self-laudatory, but what is the point if you can't pat your own back in your book?! (Just wait till you see mine!) But the author comes across as humble and hard working, both qualitiies enough to endear him to me.

If Born to Run taught you about the Tarahumara, this will tell you about the Pronghorn antelope, dogs, rabbits, various migratory birds, etc. Amongst several interesting things I learnt from it, I learnt that a book called "Indian Running" about American Indians and their running was written in 1981 by Peter Nabokov. Must look for it.

Good read.  

Sunday, February 20, 2011

More Books - Los Altos Sale

Was late to the Los Altos Sale today. However still picked up a bag of the following books

  1. Royal Canadian Air Force Exercise Plans for Physical Fitness (1962 book)
  2. The Climb by Anatoli Boukreev and Weston DeWalt
  3. Open by Andre Agassi
  4. Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones
  5. The Northern Clemency by Philip Hensher
  6. Stretching by Bob Anderson
  7. Introduction to Yoga  by Richard Hittleman
  8. The Simple Solution to Rubik's Cube by James Nourse
  9. Galloway's book on Running by Jeff Galloway
  10. Who do I love these people by Po Bronson
  11. The Brethren by John Grisham
  12. Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux
  13. The Complete book of running by James Fixx
  14. Jim Fixx's Second book of running
  15. Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser
  16. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Adichie
  17. The Perry Mason Casebook (The Case of the Sulky Girl, The Case of the Careless Kitten, The Case of the Fiery Fingers)
  18. Middlesex by Jeffrey Euginedes (my 2nd copy)
  19. The Devil wears Prada by Lauren W
  20. Bringing down the house by Ben Mezrich
  21. Ancestral Vices by Tom Sharpe

Admittedly all of these won't travel to India and will perhaps just fall into the library's donations box. But while I am here I amight as well amuse myself :)

Besides, 21 books at $5 total is like the Godfather's offer. Of these atleast 3-4 are books that are more than $5 each! And these books are in amazing condition

 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

20B20W - 6th book

Racing Weight by Matt Fitzgerald is an excellent read for triathletes, runners and cyclists  (almost in that order). Even rowers should find parts of it very helpful.

Has significant amount of background on why we should eat what we eat, how to plan one's eating (nutrition timing), nutrition in off season and training etc. Has a chapter of recipes though I didn't like it as much as the rest of the book, since they use eggs or some form of meat. For the TV watching people who want to know what celeb athletes eat, there is one chapter on what they eat as well (Not that knowing what Scott Jurek eats will help you run like him!). 

Can personally vouch for 1 tip (HT to Anil here) - splitting one's 3 meals into 4, in my case splitting my 900 calorie breakfast into 2 chunks (consumed about 90 min apart) has resulted in my losing a pound in a week, not bad for someone who is desperately trying to lose 5 pounds.

Overall good read. Hope the author revises it with some focus on vegetarians as well although I plan to buy Vegetarian Sports Nutrition   soon

 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Hullabaloo in the Car Park

So for all the hysteria surrounding Toyota's problems, it doesn't seem like there was much wrong with the cars or electronics. Clearly the company didn't handle its PR well in the aftermath of some tragic accidents. But did they deserve a such hefty penalty? Would they have imposed such a high fine had it been an American manufacturer?

So will they refund the $48+ mn fine to Toyota?

http://www.nasa.gov/topics/nasalife/features/nesc-toyota-study.html

Also how come the media coverage is not so extensive this time round? Should Toyota mount lawsuits against almost everyone now?

Read John Shook's letter to the lean community here http://www.lean.org/common/display/?o=1754

Full Disclosure: I don't own or drive a Toyota. In fact I have a Hyundai small car which I drive only when I am in Bangalore. I am just an admirer of the Toyota Production System and try to pass off as a lean thinking adherent. And this post is made voluntarily although I wish I were able to afford a Lexus ;)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Getting my sense check - Boston Marathon Qualifying Norms revised

We had this professor for quantitative techniques whose course at the end of the first year was famous for the number of people who flunked. In several cases, that flunking meant that the student would have to leave the college since he would have had multiple poor grades and we had a limit on number of courses you could carry with a poor grade. When people approached him on this, he said that we don't want the college to send out weaklings into the universe!

The BAA seems to have taken a similar approach.

http://www.baa.org/news-and-press/news-listing/2011/february/boston-athletic-association-announces-new-registration-process.aspx

The irritating part is that they are right. Boston is an elite race and now you will want to kill yourself even more. But damn!

3:10 can register on day 8, by when they will pretty much say, "Sorry but we closed 3 days ago"

3:05 can try and register on day 5.

3:00 can register on day 3. I think this will prove to me the magic number.

I was hurting after a hard, speed training session of 400m repeats y'day. 3 hr pace means 6:52 min miles. That is pretty much sprint/time trial pace for me. I have barely held it for a 10K and am pretty much sure today I will die if I try it for a half marathon.

While I rave and rant here, the subtle change is that Boston has now lowered the effective gap between the norms for men and women to 10 min. While the age group norm for 18-34 for men was 3:10, for women it was 3:40. However for day 1 registration, women need 40 min plus on that while the men need 20 min. Royal Rumble is in the offing.

So many things hang in balance now. If I wasn't feeling anxious already, this has acted like one solid kick in the nuts.

The only saving grace amidst all this is my awesome coach, who just laughs it all off and is as encouraging as he was at the start of my program. Oh we will just run faster, eh!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Books from the Weekend Sale

Went to two sales organized by Palo Alto and Mountain View Public Libraries and picked up a load of books y'day and this morning

  1. We might as well win by Johan Bruyneel
  2. The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux
  3. Me talk pretty one day by David Sedaris
  4. Krakatoa by Simon Winchester
  5. Why we run by Bernd Heinrich
  6. New Exercises for runners by the editors of Runner's World
  7. Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs
  8. The Bone People by Keri Hulme
  9. How to solve it by George Polya
  10. Writing in restaurants by David Mamet
  11. Endurance by Alfred Lansing (about Shackleton)
  12. Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky

Also picked up one more book from another small, sweet bookshop named Book-Go-Round in Saratoga

13. Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck

Now to read at least half of them before I leave the US and more importantly figure out some way to fit all of this into my luggage :(

Thursday, February 10, 2011

20B20W - 5th book

Advanced Marathoning by Pete Pfitzinger & Scott Douglas

Highly recommended reading for people interested in setting PBs. Rides on the wealth of experience of Pete who ran just 18 marathons in his career but ran most of them like a stud, winning 8 of them including the US Olympic trials in 1984 ahead of the likes of Salazar, Bill Rodgers and Tony Sandoval. Start on the book when you have hit 50 miles a week atleast once in your life to make good use of it. Else you won't develop the sense of appreciation required to absorb the relatively short read at around 200 pages.

Reading Racing Weight & Lore of Running in parallel. Difficult to not get inspired, especially by the latter, with an entire chapter on legends ranging from Arthur Newton to Clarence De Mar to the modern rock stars - Haile, Paul Tergat and the rest  

 

The Aarushi Talwar episode and the India of today

Unlike most people my age, I don't watch much television. Till the football World Cup, I didn't even have cable. So I was largely immune to most of what happened in this context. I gave up on the "in your face, devoid of thought" journalism peddled by most channels and the newspapers these days, a while ago - mostly from not having time, rather than a moral stance. However since I do look at the ToI everyday (at least I did till I came over to the US on my break), I did know that this promising girl had been killed.


About a month ago, I attended the  book launch of Patrick French's book on India in Mumbai. I distinctly remember three things he said

1. This was the pleasant surprise. He said something to the effect of Dr. Manmohan Singh (MMS), our PM not being very highly respected as an economist. Apparently some leading economist said that MMS was not much good as an economist and was a great bureaucrat. He also mentioned that it is perhaps better to be so, rather than be like the mega-brain Mahalanobis, wherein he would be generating bright ideas but not implementing much.

2. There is this stomach-churning episode of a bonded labourer somewhere in a stone quarry near Mysore. Apparently the guy had been chained with the shackles on his feet being welded such that he could not wear underwear or trousers for a long time. In fact he was freed due to the action of some agricultural activists. What French found curious was that it was not like neighbouring farmers and shepherds, etc were unaware of this bonded guy's state. They were fully aware. It was puzzling that the rest of our country carried on, while this guy existed in this state. And the tragic part was that this location was not some back of beyond place - It was barely 100 miles from Bangalore, the IT capital of India. India's pride and humiliation co-existed in a 100 mile radius.

3. He mentioned the Aarushi Talwar episode and said that this was sad.

 

The 1st one above was amusing since I never thought someone like MMS could be disrespectfully spoken off by anyone, let alone an economist. The 2nd one above was extremely disorienting. The 3rd prompted a thought - Why was a "tourist" author talking of an Indian incident? While I did know that French was married to an Indian lady, I had no idea that the episode featured in his book. So I began to read articles on the episode more carefully. And then of course the piece appeared at the url below.

 

http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/nation/worse-than-a-daughter-s-death

 

Then a friend sent the url below, in another independent magazine.


http://www.tehelka.com/story_main48.asp?filename=hub190211THE_HOUSE.asp

 

I am as materialiastic and as selfish as the next Indian, but the general level of indifference I and most of my countrymen show is shocking and in several ways, depressing. Why does it take 18 months for even the above publications (I can say from personal experience that both of them write more fearlessly than most Indian magazines) to take the stance that they have taken now? Is investigative journalism so expensive? Or is the payoff from backgroundless sensationalism more remunerative than making an effort to check stories? And why are readers not more "activist" in their demand from the media in general? Why can't we blackball media which does not make an effort to probe and take an independent stance?

 

As I have said, I am as guilty as the next Indian, given that I have never written to any publication saying that I am appalled by their lack of objectivity and lack of bias. This episode is just one such instance. There is also another cause which has caught the media's fancy on occasion - the Binayak Sen one. Dr. Amartya Sen is now leading a bunch of 40 Nobel winners to petition the government. And you don't even need celebrities to stand up for a cause. There are several episodes which pass through our media which we barely question. And I shudder to think of the ones which don't even catch media attention, let alone be subject to biased reporting. The ordinary Indian needs to display a little more spine and be more outraged more often.

 

Sigh!

Friday, February 04, 2011

20B20W

I have set myself a target of 20 books in the 20 weeks that I am in the US. This post will become a repeat update with each passing book and week

So far, the books read are

  1. Dare to Run by Amit Sheth
  2. Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
  3. When Genius Fails by Roger Lowenstein
  4. Moneyball by Michael Lewis

And it is just a day over 2 weeks since I landed. As they say, good things come to those who wait.

Other books being read at this point are

The Great Movies by Roger Ebert

In Spite of the Gods by Edward Luce

 

Candidate books for the next 14 are

  1. Tales from the City by Maupin (it is not just 1 book but a series)
  2. Tibor Fischer's Under the Frog
  3. The Fate of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence by Martin Meredith
  4. Running with the Buffaloes
  5. Racing Weight
  6. Advanced Marathoning
  7. Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman
  8. An Anthropologist on Mars by Oliver Sacks
  9. Empire by Niall Ferguson
  10. The Age of Wonder
  11. Joe Sacco's graphic novels, especially 'Footnotes in Gaza', 'Safe Area Gorazde', 'Palestine', and the "Fixer'. 
  12. Csíkszentmihályi's Flow,
  13. Csíkszentmihályi's Creativity
  14. Jai Arjun Singh: Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro
  15. Neil Macgregor: A History Of The World In 100 Objects
  16. V.S.Ramachandran: Phantoms in the Brain
  17. Gulzar: Raavi Paar
  18. The Heath Brothers: Made to Stick
  19. The Emperor by Ryszard Kapuscinski
  20. The Alchemy of Desire by Tarun Tejpal