The JFK 50 is one of the big fall ultras on the US East Coast. It was my first ultra in 2011 and I ran around 10h50m after a long and tough second half. After an initial 2 miles on the roads the JFK famously runs along the Appalachian Trail (AT) for about 15 miles. The AT otherwise does not allow organized events, but an exception is typically made for the JFK due to its long history on the trail. After the AT the race continues on the C&O Canal for 25 miles before the final 8 miles to the finish along rolling country roads. The long stretch on the C&O canal and the final road section makes the JFK mostly flat and it was a great first ultra to run. The race didn't go very well for me. I struggled in the second half and was reduced to a walk for quite long stretches. When that happens it really hurts your finishing time. I knew I could do better. But I didn't think it would be another full 2 years until I got to try again. The other week however I finished the Stone Mill 50.
I love reading on my Kindle (3rd generation keyboard). I always thought the ability to create your own vocabulary collection to learn new words would be a good idea and I'm glad they've added it in their latest software release (not available on my old Kindle however). Here is the feedback email I sent on Monday, Jul 26, 2010 at 1:23 PM:
I don't know if it is true, but I guess one of Kindle's mission could be to promote reading. If we assume this is the case, then "expanding vocabularies" would be a sub-mission. That is, helping people learn new words.
The built-in dictionary is gold for doing exactly this! I would add a suggestion which I think is kind of nice:
Allow people to not only look up the definition of words, but to construct a list of words that they want to study and remember (learn).
It is easy to look up a word, understand its meaning, but then forget both the word and its meaning. While the dictionary is active, pressing a dedicated button on the keyboard could add the word to a collection of words stored in a simple text file on the Kindle (one word per line). This file could be downloaded while the Kindle is connected to the computer, or read directly on the Kindle.
I guess the same thing could be done already by highlighting a word, but this is clumsy and far from ideal. In addition, the "word list" would be mixed up with highlighted passages.
This functionality could be sold by Amazon as a way to help people expand their vocabulary!
I believe the implementation would be quite simple, but the added value would be great.
Jeff Bezos, the chairman and CEO of Amazon, seems to be a very interesting person. He founded Amazon as an online bookstore, but it has moved into a wide array of different businesses, including music, e-readers, consumer products, Web Services etc. Jeff Bezos also recently bought The Washingon Post and it will be interesting to see how that will change the newspaper.
Amazon just released the new Kindle Fire tablets and Josh Topolsky has an interesting account of meeting with Bezos where he demonstrated the new devices, and especially a take on what kind of company Amazon really is.
During the conversation — knocking around between moments of true hilarity and brass tacks business — I started to see Amazon as a kind of Venn diagram itself, sort of like the one Jeff drew for me. On one side is incredible optimism, a kind of shocking, exciting, scary-fun optimism that makes you feel a little bit like anything is possible. Like the future is now. Like it's only going to get better. On the other side is insight; a shrewd, cutting, almost preternatural sense of where it's all going, what consumers want, how businesses get built, and the knowledge to find or build a path to that destination. And there in the middle — where those two disparate sides meet — is Jeff Bezos, laughing.
There have recently been some big news on the topic of climate change and the question of whether or not mankind is responsible for some of the changes that are being measured in our environment and the atmosphere.
Human activities are changing Earth’s climate. At the global level, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases have increased sharply since the Industrial Revolution. Fossil fuel burning dominates this increase. Human-caused increases in greenhouse gases are responsible for most of the observed global average surface warming of roughly 0.8°C (1.5°F) over the past 140 years. Because natural processes cannot quickly remove some of these gases (notably carbon dioxide) from the atmosphere, our past, present, and future emissions will influence the climate system for millennia.
[We] were tasked to report on the most important aspects of climate change. This was incompletely done in the statement, where it inaccurately, in my view, presents a view of climate change that is dominated by the emission of carbon dioxide and a few other greenhouse gases.
His alternative position statement can be read here.
An international panel of scientists has found with near certainty that human activity is the cause of most of the temperature increases of recent decades, and warns that sea levels could conceivably rise by more than three feet by the end of the century if emissions continue at a runaway pace.
These are complex and important issues that should not be taken lightly. And these are strong positions from two large organizations, the AGU and the IPCC. But the question remains, how serious is this and what needs to be done?
One last post on Manning. After his sentence was announced yesterday, Manning delivered a statement via his attorney David Coombs:
The decisions that I made in 2010 were made out of a concern for my country and the world that we live in. Since the tragic events of 9/11, our country has been at war. We’ve been at war with an enemy that chooses not to meet us on any traditional battlefield, and due to this fact we’ve had to alter our methods of combating the risks posed to us and our way of life.
I initially agreed with these methods and chose to volunteer to help defend my country. It was not until I was in Iraq and reading secret military reports on a daily basis that I started to question the morality of what we were doing. It was at this time I realized in our efforts to meet this risk posed to us by the enemy, we have forgotten our humanity. We consciously elected to devalue human life both in Iraq and Afghanistan. When we engaged those that we perceived were the enemy, we sometimes killed innocent civilians. Whenever we killed innocent civilians, instead of accepting responsibility for our conduct, we elected to hide behind the veil of national security and classified information in order to avoid any public accountability.
In our zeal to kill the enemy, we internally debated the definition of torture. We held individuals at Guantanamo for years without due process. We inexplicably turned a blind eye to torture and executions by the Iraqi government. And we stomached countless other acts in the name of our war on terror.
Patriotism is often the cry extolled when morally questionable acts are advocated by those in power. When these cries of patriotism drown our any logically based intentions [unclear], it is usually an American soldier that is ordered to carry out some ill-conceived mission.
Our nation has had similar dark moments for the virtues of democracy—the Trail of Tears, the Dred Scott decision, McCarthyism, the Japanese-American internment camps—to name a few. I am confident that many of our actions since 9/11 will one day be viewed in a similar light.
As the late Howard Zinn once said, "There is not a flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people."
I understand that my actions violated the law, and I regret if my actions hurt anyone or harmed the United States. It was never my intention to hurt anyone. I only wanted to help people. When I chose to disclose classified information, I did so out of a love for my country and a sense of duty to others.
If you deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society. I will gladly pay that price if it means we could have country that is truly conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all women and men are created equal.