Thursday, 30 August 2007

“Antisocial Industriousness”

I leave you this fine evening with a column by George Will. France is little more than a commune. No commune has survived for very long.

Global Warmism

Is there a scientific consensus about global warming? See here.

Twenty Years Ago

8-30-87 Sunday. We hit the century mark again: this time 103 degrees [Fahrenheit]. And I was out in it for six and a half hours. I rode from my apartment to Picacho Peak and back, a distance of 93.1 miles. The first twenty miles were a breeze, except that I hit almost every red light from here to Interstate 10. Once I got to the freeway, however, it was clear sailing. I turned off on Prince Road and continued on Frontage Road to the peak. But at the thirty-mile mark, I ran out of water. I should have stopped at the gas station at Ina Road. There was nothing to do but keep going, so I did. I made it to the peak about an hour later, so thirsty that I could think of nothing but water. That was the forty-six mile mark. As it turned out, I became dehydrated during this time and it affected my condition for the rest of the day. I gulped an entire quart of Gatorade at the peak, rested for about fifteen minutes, and filled my two bottles for the return trip.

Fortunately, the wind was with me on the way home. I stopped to rest under a tree for a few minutes, and later I bought a can of orange soda and filled up with water at the corner of Ina and Interstate 10. By then it was getting dark, so I hurried on. I cruised down the highway (illegally) for some eight miles (at twenty miles per hour, average), turning off at Speedway [Boulevard]. I arrived home at 7:38 P.M., six and a half hours after leaving. My gross-average speed for the day was 15.10 miles per hour (excluding the time spent at the peak). I averaged 16.37 miles per hour during the first forty miles, and 14.27 thereafter. When I got home, my hands were numb from the jolting that they took during the day. I have no idea how Michael Secrest and the others ride across this country in eight or nine days. I spent just six and a half hours on the bike and I am dog-tired. I’ll probably sleep at least ten hours tonight. All I can say is, I’m glad that Secrest won the Race Across America this year. He came close at least two other times.

I drank prodigious quantities of water today. In fact, I spent some time calculating the amount of liquid that I consumed between the time I left the apartment and the time I went to sleep tonight. I drank three quarts of Gatorade (two at the peak and one at home), four bottles of water (two on the way there and two on the way back), and two twelve-ounce cans of soda (one on the way home and one at home). Each bottle holds twenty-six ounces, so I consumed a total of 224 ounces of liquid today. That’s 1.75 gallons. (As I say, I drank several cups of coffee and some water before I left.) Obviously, I couldn’t have drank this much if I hadn’t perspired a lot during the day. The funny thing is, you don’t notice that you’re sweating. It evaporates so fast that you stay fairly dry. Also, I did not urinate during the ride, and only a small amount thereafter. So almost all of the liquid that I consumed stayed inside my body.

Here are some odds and ends. (1) This was my first Picacho Peak ride since 10 May 1987, some three and a half months ago. (2) It was my longest ride, mileage-wise, since 29 November 1986, when I rode 100.5 miles. (3) I’ve pedalled [sic; should be “pedaled”] 3016.5 miles in the past year. That makes me feel good, because I’m shooting for 3000 miles in 1987. All I need to do now is keep up with last [sic; should be “the previous”] year’s pace. (4) To reach 3000 for the year, I need to ride an average of 61.1 miles each week from now to the end of the year. I should be able to do it. [I finished with 3,016 miles.] (5) I’ve ridden 199.4 miles in the past eight days—from Sunday to Sunday, inclusive. (6) It occurs to me that I need a biking companion for a particular reason: to pace me and prevent me from doing rash things. I have a tendency, when I’m alone, to push myself beyond the breaking point. I do this when I’m hiking as well as when I’m biking. If I had another person to think about, I’d slow down and enjoy things a bit more. I especially need a companion on long trips, because I have a tendency to keep going when I should stop to rest and replenish my body.

I drafted the last of my July journal entries this morning. This means that, starting tomorrow, I can begin formatting and printing the succeeding month’s entries. I expect to be up to date by this time next week. In sports news, Canadian Ben Johnson set a world record in the 100-meter dash in Rome. His time was a spectacular 9.83 seconds, breaking Calvin Smith’s old mark of 9.93 seconds. Johnson beat American Carl Lewis in the race. [Johnson eventually ran a 9.79, but he was stripped of the world record for having used performance-enhancing drugs. The world record is now 9.77 seconds, held by Jamaican Asafa Powell and American Justin Gatlin.]


Are you an eco-sinner? If so, you need to make an eco-confession.

All Fred, All the Time

Fred Thompson, whose bad side you do not want to get on, has announced that he will announce his candidacy for president. Did I miss the announcement that he would announce his announcement?


Five days ago, a former student of mine (from about four years ago) wrote to request a letter of recommendation for a job with the City of Fort Worth. I’m always happy to help former students in this way, just as my own professors were happy (or at least willing) to help me. I wrote back immediately to tell him that I’d get to it in the next few days, since there was no hurry. About 15 minutes ago, I decided to write and print the letter. As soon as I printed it, I sent the student an e-mail message informing him that the letter would go out tomorrow. Not two seconds after I clicked “Send,” I received an e-mail message. You guessed it: It was the student, writing to me with more information. I swear: two seconds. How’s that for synchronicity? Has anything like this happened to you?


Could you pedal a bicycle for 24 straight hours? How about 12? Two months ago, Michael Secrest, who holds the transcontinental record, set two world records on the track. He averaged 23.6 miles per hour for 12 hours and 22.3 miles per hour for 24 hours. See here for details, photos, and videos. In case you’re wondering, no, I could not ride a bicycle for 12 hours, at any speed. The longest I’ve ever spent on a bike is about eight hours (counting stops).

Addendum: Here is Secrest’s next challenge, two months from now.

Alan R. White (1922-1992) on Using Concepts

One danger in characterizing philosophy as the examination of concepts is that of overlooking the difference between using a concept and stating its use. As a result, clarification of the latter is confused with clarification of the former and the propriety of correcting philosophical errors in the latter is confused with the impropriety of finding fault with the former. Certainly, people can be confused in their use of concepts as they can be unidiomatic or ungrammatical in their use of a language. But this is not a failing of many of us in our use of our everyday concepts or of experts in their use of technical concepts. Nor, if it were, would it be the job of philosophers to correct it. But philosophers do try to correct the views of other philosophers and nonphilosophers about what this use of theirs actually is.

(Alan R. White, “Conceptual Analysis,” chap. 5 in The Owl of Minerva: Philosophers on Philosophy, ed. Charles J. Bontempo and S. Jack Odell [New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1975], 103-17, at 112)

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Rahm Emanuel offers his earmark to rebuild a bridge in his district as an example of the benefits of this special-interest spending.

His example is a perfect illustration of why earmarks should be eliminated entirely.

I have no doubt that the bridge in Mr. Emanuel’s district is important and needed repair. But we don’t know how many bridges in other districts are more important and more endangered. Did suburban Chicago benefit at the expense of downtown Minneapolis?

Mr. Emanuel’s bridge received special consideration because he is a powerful congressman. Districts less fortunate in their choice of politicians weren’t so lucky.

Congress should consider national needs and appropriate funds to meet them. The administration should distribute those funds based on an objective assessment of each potential recipient. Earmarks, no matter how well intentioned, distort that process.

Josh Mittleman
Croton, N.Y., Aug. 24, 2007

Snakes on a Porch

Yesterday evening, when I rolled the trash container to the curb, my neighbor (directly across the street) asked whether I had seen the snake. “What snake?” I asked. She told me that, earlier in the day (while I was home), she saw a cat near my front door behaving strangely. She must have approached to see what the cat was doing, because she saw that the cat had pinned a large snake (“as big as my arm,” she said) against my front door. I was incredulous. It’s been years since I saw a snake on my property, and the ones I saw were tiny (perhaps babies). I’ve seen some large (four-foot) rat snakes in the nearby woods while walking my dogs, so I know they live in the area. I’m pretty sure my neighbor wouldn’t lie to me, and there’s no reason to kid me about such a thing. Here’s what I’ve been thinking. Suppose I had opened the front door when the cat had the snake pinned to it. The snake would have slithered (or fallen, if it was climbing the door) into the house. I would have had a heart attack, no doubt about it. I now open the door slowly and look all around before exiting the house. I almost wish the neighbor hadn’t told me.

Addendum: I can’t resist another snake tale, although it might embarrass my mother. I grew up in Michigan, where there are lots of garter snakes. One day, I was sitting on the carpeted floor of the living room, with my back against the sofa, watching television. I was probably 40 feet from the door in the family room. Someone must have left the door open, because, as I sat there watching television, I noticed a garter snake slithering toward me. I thought I was dreaming, but I wasn’t. It still freaks me out. I don’t hate snakes, and I certainly have no desire to harm them. I just want to stay away from the critters. What’s funny is that I hoped to see a live rattlesnake in the wild during my years in Tucson. I saw dead rattlesnakes (on the road) and I saw live rattlesnakes at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, but I never saw a live rattlesnake in the wild. I suppose I should be happy about this. Please regale me with stories about your close encounters with serpents.

Best of the Web Today



This is an unbelievable editorial opinion. The editorial board of the New York Times appears to be more concerned with hurting Iranian feelings than with preventing Iranians from creating a nuclear weapon. It’s really very simple: Will Iranians be allowed to create a nuclear weapon, or won’t they? You will not find an answer to that question in the editorial.

Yankee Watch

I feel sorry for Yankee fans—or would, if they were human. The Bronx Bombs are staying just close enough to the Boston Red Sox to keep hope alive. When they fall short, it will be crushing. The Yankees (75-59, .559) just swept the Red Sox (80-54, .597) in Yankee Stadium, which makes the gap five games. The magic number is still 24. But consider: If Boston wins just 50% of its remaining games (not likely!), New York will have to go 19-9 (.678) to tie. Not gonna happen, Yankee fans. As I said some time back, stop thinking about Boston and start thinking about Seattle.

Addendum: (1) Boston plays 18 of its remaining 28 games at home. New York plays 13 of its remaining 28 games at home. Advantage: Boston. (2) Both Boston and New York have 15 games remaining with teams that have losing records. Advantage: None.

A Year Ago