29 November 2008

john bingham and jenny hadfield - running for mortals

running for mortals || john bingham & jenny hadfield || 3.5/5.0 stars

i've decided to try my luck with a second marathon, and picked this book up while looking for a training schedule book at the library. i was hoping for an overview to training, nutrition, etc - all the things that i probably should have a solid grasp on by now, but don't.

the book is definitely catered to the first-time athlete. most of the focus is put on motivation and confidence-building. i found the details i was looking for a bit skimpy, and generally felt that i wasn't the person for whom they were writing.

the writing is super-easy to read (maybe a bit too simple, but perhaps that adds to the confidence boost they're attempting). i read it really quickly, in just a few settings. i'd certainly recommend it to anyone just starting to run (or maybe just considering taking the first step). if you already jog or run, though, skip this one and try something else.

27 November 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

20 November 2008

noro striped scarf

at the risk of actually finishing a project (see: 1 charade sock, keyhole top), i've started a new project. i love knitting largely for the chance to work tactically with color, and so noro yarns definitely are my favorites.

this striped scarf idea is all over the place, but i tried to mix it up a bit by randomly defining the length of the stripe. i'm not really pleased with how the edging is working out (pulling the alternate yarn up is a bit messy), but i'm liking the product so far.

still a ways to go, but i'm looking forward to bundling up with some new colors this winter.

15 November 2008

12 November 2008

orhan pamuk - snow

snow || orhan pamuk || 4.0/5.0 stars

i have a thing for nobel laureates of literature. kipling, sinclair lewis, steinbeck, jose saramago, hemingway, neruda, garcia marquez... you really can't go wrong. i love them all. so i was excited to try out mr. pamuk, the 2006 laureate "who in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures".

i liked the book, but i was expecting more. its always hard to read a novel in translation, and i'm hoping that may be the cause of my discontent here. i'm very much a reader for language, and i didn't love the verbiage in snow. certainly a good story, and a very timely one. the novel hinges around the 'headscarf girls' - supporters of the political islamist party in kars, turkey. the plot unfolds over a three day period, in which the town is cut off by snow, and during which a short coup is made by a visiting theatre personality.

i've put my name is red, one of pamuk's earlier novels on my list & will give him another shot sometime - hoping to enjoy that one a bit more.

11 November 2008

the girl effect

one of the most difficult things to grasp about the UN's millennium goals is the focus on women and girls. its an important point, however, and the focus of the targets is supported by the realities of data and of ground experience. you owe it to yourself to learn more about the issue if you're not convinced. check out the resources made available through the girl effect's website and peruse the UN site as well. or visit the center for global development. there's lots and lots of work to do - billions of reasons why.

google and flu trends

just when i thought i couldn't be anymore impressed with google, i learn about google's new flutrends. a part of the philanthropic branch of google, google.org, flutrends compiles data on where people are searching for information online about flu symptoms and flu relief. the data gathered provides a very timely snapshot of where the flu is striking. i first learned of this service through a new york times article:

"Tests of the new Web tool from Google.org, the company’s philanthropic unit, suggest that it may be able to detect regional outbreaks of the flu a week to 10 days before they are reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."

checking out the flutrends page i'm even more impressed. the page is really user-friendly, offers lots of answers about the process, links viewers to the CDC site for flu information, and PROVIDES THE RAW DATA. i wish i'd had this available to use for my master's thesis. thank you google, you are amazing and apparently can do no wrong.

when disease transmission is quick, its very easy to arrive a day late and miss the surge of cases. information on where influenza is striking right now - the data provided by this service - gives responders an earlier start off the block. additionally, this means of data collection doesn't rely on hospital or physician reporting, which in traditional data collection adds delay and relies on participation by rather busy (and often uninterested) individuals.

thankfully the map doesn't have much activity yet this season, but i'll be watching this flu season. i'm looking forward to reading more in-depth about this in their upcoming article in nature.

08 November 2008

for smoke-free virginians

i have to admit to being pretty jealous of people living in cities with smoking bans for bars and restaurants. as virginia is pretty in the pocket of big tobacco, it'll likely be a while before we see any substantial change on the issue. i do appreciate the efforts of the state to help people limit their exposure to second-hand smoke.

for virginians looking for smoke-free places to chow down, the virginia department of health website offers a nice service. here you can find a listing of restaurants that are smoke-free, by county - just click on the "non-smoking restaurant statistics link" and look for your county.

percentage of restaurants that are non-smoking:
fairfax county: 89%
charlottesville: 57%
richmond city: 56%
arlington: 72%

sure, it requires a bit of effort and forward planning, but i appreciate the gesture. its a good step forward in the campaign against cigarette smoke & its many, many ill effects.

05 November 2008

president-elect obama

those three words still give me chills every time i hear them. i can't describe my emotions except to say that i've never felt this way before and i cannot wait to see what will unfold over the next four years. i was really touched by mccain's concession speech, and was happy to see a return of the mccain i liked so much in the spring. i'm hopeful that the reaction of his crowd was only a gut response, and doesn't represent what a reconciliation between the parties will have to overcome. i think obama's speech gave a great view into what we can expect. my favorite lines:

"This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It can’t happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice. So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other."

hopefully we will all remember that the election itself hasn't changed anything & that we will all have to commit to the chance we want to see. i'm looking for obama to re-channel the passion for this election into a passion for a stronger, more gracious united states of america.

04 November 2008


election day is like christmas for me, except i feel incredibly nauseous.

please please please please please please please go vote. right now.

01 November 2008

just a little rant

...about this article in the guardian friday.

"Boys born to mothers who drank lightly during pregnancy are better behaved and score more highly in tests at the age of three than the sons of women who abstained, according to a study published today."

first of all, wtf? this article flies in the face of almost everything we know about drinking alcohol during pregnancy. it's a shocking claim - i was intrigued enough to click on the headline. when a claim is this controversial, there's a higher standard applied - the research should be solid and peer-reviewed.

is it? i don't know, because the article fails to identify where this finding was published - leading me to believe that it hasn't been published in a peer-reviewed journal. for a newspaper to print findings that are so contradictory to public health advice when the findings are not yet reviewed is terribly irresponsible. FURTHER, the authors acknowledge that their findings are not solid:

"Although allowances had been made for social circumstances, Dr Yvonne Kelly, the lead researcher, said they could not be completely certain that the children's better performance was not linked to their family background."

what?! family background is arguably the most important factor in child development - if it can't be ruled out as a factor in their study, then the results are completely void. the fact that their findings are only presented in boys suggests to me that they only found a very limited significance in a subgroup and are stretching for a finding.

if the research is crummy, major newspapers have no business printing it. how many expectant mothers will read this headline and decide to start drinking a wine with dinner every night? please can newspapers leave health advice to the experts?