Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Running and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society

In three short weeks - October 19th - I'll be running in the Empire State Marathon. I've decided to do so as a member of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Team in Training program in order to help find cures and ensure access to treatments for blood cancer patients. So I've set up a little widget in the left corner of this blog - anything you can spare would be appreciated. (Mobile users might need to view the standard webpage.)

Some history: my wife was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Lymphoma last year. While she has since eradicated the disease (after undergoing an unpleasant chemotherapy program), the whole experience was extremely scary. The LLS website was one of the few calm, objective sources of information that helped us get our minds around what we were dealing with in the initial dark days after the diagnosis.

Since the recovery, I strive to continually be grateful for my family's health, and recognize how lucky I am to spend absurd amounts of time running outside. So it only seems right that I spend some of that time trying to help those that aren't as lucky. The LLS does excellent work funding treatments that save lives every day; like immnuotherapies that use a person’s own immune system to kill cancer. I was beyond impressed how the oncologist was able to customize a chemo "cocktail" to address my wife's specific form of lymphoma. LLS helps give doctors these tools.

So if you can, send along what you can to help us get closer to a world without blood cancers. Any money I raise will be matched by my company - so anything you give will be doubled! If you don't have any money to spare, no worries - I understand. Thanks for your attention, and i'll be sure to let you know how the run goes!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Happy Banned Books Week!

"We all know that books burn, yet we have the greater knowledge that books cannot be killed by fire. People die, but books never die. No man and no force can put thought in a concentration camp forever. No man and no force can take from the world the books that embody man's eternal fight against tyranny of every kind. In this war, we know, books are weapons. And it is a part of your dedication always to make them weapons for man's freedom."
Franklin D. Roosevelt
The American Library Association has named September 21-27th Banned Books Week as a way of celebrating the freedom to read. It's remarkable to think that it wasn't so long ago that books were regularly being censored - the famous ones I can think of are The Catcher in the RyeLady Chatterly's LoverNaked Lunch, and - one of the great formative novels of my youth - Robert Cormier's excellent The Chocolate War. Luckily, through vigilance and additional delivery platforms such as eBooks, censorship appears to be minimized these days, but it's worth remembering how grim the situation was.

In reading about this event, I came across this powerful afterward added to Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451:
"About two years ago, a letter arrived from a solemn young Vassar lady telling me how much she enjoyed reading my experiment in space mythology, The Martian Chronicles. But, she added, wouldn't it be a good idea, this late in time, to rewrite the book inserting more women's characters and roles? A few years before that I got a certain amount of mail concerning the same Martian book complaining that the blacks in the book were Uncle Toms and why didn't I "do them over"? Along about then came a note from a Southern white suggesting that I was prejudiced in favor of the blacks and the entire story should be dropped.  Two weeks ago my mount of mail delivered forth a pip-squeak mouse of a letter from a well-known publishing house that wanted to reprint my story "The Fog Horn" in a high school reader. In my story, I had described a lighthouse as having, late at night, an illumination coming from it that was a "God-Light." Looking up at it from the viewpoint of any sea-creature one would have felt that one was in "the Presence." The editors had deleted "God-Light" and "in the Presence." ... Do you begin to get the damned and incredible picture? How did I react to all of the above?
By "firing" the whole lot.
By sending rejection slips to each and every one.
By ticketing the assembly of idiots to the far reaches of hell.
The point is obvious. There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches."
h/t Daily Kos

Cross Posted in Reading, Running and Red Sox


Two news items from The Church:
  1. They have a new album coming out on October 17th! According to the press release, their 25th studio album is going to be called Further/Deeper. Being a big fan of the poppy space jazz of their last album Untitled #23, I’m intrigued to see if they can follow up on its success.
    Stream one of the songs here: https://soundcloud.com/muchobravado/the-church-pride-before-a-fall/s-72pol
  2. Marty Wilson-Piper has been replaced with Ian Haug from Powderfinger. (In Kilbey's inimitable fashion, he blogged about MWP's apparent retirement by stating "this is my fucking band after all.") I know nothing bout Haug, so I'm not sure what this will mean, other than i'll miss the interplay between MWP and Peter Koppes. Not being a musical expert, I can't tell you that I know anythning about which guitarist played what, but The Church's sound has been driven by the interplay of two lead guitarists with lots of cool ideas. Although both MWP and Koppes have left The Church at different points, leaving the other to take on all of guitar duties (see Koppes work on The Refo:mation LP), this didn't result in any major changes of direction. We'll find out soon!
    I'm also curious to see how MWP's absence affects their live show. You know i'm going to see them on tour, and will be looking to see if the experience misses  MWPs undeniable charisma.

Monday, September 22, 2014

First Lines of Murakami's "Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage"

"From July of his sophomore year in college until the following January, all Tsukuru Tazaki could think about was dying. He turned twenty during this time, but this special watershed—becoming an adult—meant nothing. Taking his own life seemed the most natural solution, and even now he couldn't say why he hadn't taken this final step. Crossing that threshold between life and death would have been easier than swallowing down a slick, raw egg."

- Haruki Murakami

Fell right into this one. Started Friday night and am already half-way through!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

First lines of George R.R. Martin's first three "Song of Fire and Ice" novels

I've been lax at posting these lately, but over the summer I plowed through the first three novels in George R.R. Martin's epic fantasy. Here are the first lines of each of them:

Game of Thrones
"The morning had dawned clear and cold, with a crispness that hinted at the end of summer. They set forth at daybreak to see a man beheaded, twenty in all, and Bran rode among them, nervous with excitement."
Clash of Kings
"The comet’s tail spread across the dawn, a red slash that blew above the crags of Dragonstone like a wound in the pink and purple sky."
Storm of Swords
"The day was grey and bitter cold, and the dogs would not take the scent."
Some quick reactions:

  • Well-written and amazingly entertaining. Despite their incredible size, these books kept me riveted.
  • Ambiguous. Martin doesn't shy away from the shades of grey in all of his characters. At times, you root for the "evil" characters and wish for the "good" ones to die. Fun!
  • Complex. Martin has constructed and incredible world filled with a wonderfully complete and nuanced history.
  • Genuinely unpredictable. Part of the fun of the ride of these books is that you never know what's going to happen next... unless of course you've seen the TV show.
I need a break from the Song of Fire and Ice epic for a bit - mainly because my bedside table is filled with books that are crying to be read (Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his years of Pilgrimage, The Bone Clocks, Gone Girl, etc.) but i'll be coming back before too long.

Monday, September 15, 2014

What is the Inferno?

Inspiring lines from Calvino's classic novel:

"The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here, the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space."

Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities

Friday, September 5, 2014

Where has all the Nature Gone?

A sobering statistic:
Invertebrate numbers–not species, but total numbers–have fallen 45% in the last 35 years.
Combine that with news like this and it's enough to drive you to drink (not that I need a reason):
A new study just published shows that—using more accurate measurements than ever before—Greenland and Antarctica are together losing ice at incredible rates: Together, over 500 (±107) cubic kilometers of ice are melting from them every year.
That means 450 billion tons of ice are lost every year, melted away into the oceans. 
It's hard to not let facts like this demoralize and overwhelm you, especially when confronted with the willful ignorance of some that it's even existing and the utter lack of ability to change things by most of us. The effects of all of my recycling and composting is put into harsh relief every time I travel to a state where recycling isn't mandatory, or even a conference where everyone tosses their plastic bottles and plates into the garbage.

But something is happening, and we do know what it is. It's time to be mindful about the damage that we're doing and take any steps - no matter how small! - to fix the situation.

“…have the courage to assume that you can solve tomorrow’s problems tomorrow” - Scott Ambler