Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Kobayashi Maru: Life After Losing the No-Win Scenario

Nearly two years after the fact, I realized this blog was badly named. A better name would have been Kobayashi Maru: Life after Losing the No-Win Scenario. Only some of you get the reference. If you’ve never seen Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan, here’s the clip.

My iteration of the Kobayashi Maru started in 1998. It’s now 2008. It’s taken me a decade, but I’m up on my feet again. I’m (sort of) paying my bills on-time again. I’m not forgetting appointments (as much), I’ve designed two lower-division and two upper-division poly sci courses. I’m happily married. And I really, really want to graduate.

I think this blog has served its purpose. I wrote about brain lesions. I wrote about the Packers. I wrote about the Red Wings. I’ve written to cope with life or to indulge in the escapism of being a sports fan. I need less indulgence in escapism and I need to shift to focus to a different problem now. I’m not as lost as I have been. I need to focus on solving the problems that Susan Whiting once optimistically called “my research agenda.” I need to learn how to research again.

I’ve cleaned most of this blog up and I’ll still occasionally rant about football and hockey here. But I’d like to see if blogging about the problems in my research might help me figure out how to get my dissertation written. Anyway, if you want to check out the research blog, which probably will be even more stunningly dull than even this incoherent mess, the link is here. If not, well hey, it’s been a fun ride, tune in here occasionally if you can remember, but I need to write here less often.

It’s been fun—thanks for reading!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Back from the Gym

I just got back from the gym. Strangely, I still don’t look like Brian Urlacher. I did chest, upper and lower back and abs today and did 30 minutes of cardio on the ellipsis machine burning roughly 530 calories. I feel great, even if I’m not yet urlacheresque.

I’m learning a lot about pacing. First, working out generates fatigue, which I have to manage fairly carefully. I have to have my off days and even if I feel like I can take on the whole world on my off day (a very nice side effect of working out), if I try working out on my off day, the next day sucks irredeemably badly. I can do legs and a very pathetic cardio (150-200 calories max) on Mondays, because that’s my post-Avonex day. I may need an afternoon nap that day.

The sleep is really important because I’m finding that for the first time ever working out, I’m actually seeing results. I never pushed hard enough before, ironically because I took all those injury warnings so seriously. Kevin the Trainer pushed me for the first two weeks and I noticed that just as I was beginning to lose the strength to keep the form, where I would have stopped, he would always push for five more reps. I always thought that where you were beginning to lose the ability to keep the form was where you were supposed to stop. Apparently, you are supposed to stop at the point you think you’re about to drop the damned weights on top of yourself. Who knew?

So, every week now, I’m noticeably sore. So, every week now, I need to get proper sleep and I may need to add naps in here and there to rest. Sadly, I don’t think regular working out gives me more productive time the way it does for some people who say, “I’m so busy I have to work out just to handle it.” On the contrary, I feel the time loss sharply. I think it does improve the quality of the time that I don’t spend working out. I feel a lot better. But since I have so little productive time, I don’t know how well I’m going to be able to keep this up next term. I have to TA again, which means another five-day week at the U with 75-minute commute each way. That’s an increase from five hours commuting to twelve and half hours. The fatigue gets to be unreal.

Wednesday Morning Irritation

I can’t use my clever little logo this morning, at least not without being wistful. This irritates me. The bitch simply won’t expire. The analysis in this piece expresses my worry. The only thing the piece doesn't really mention is if the negative campaigning combined with the economic message is what is doing it. I have to imagine that's what's brought about the change. I wasn't shocked that she took Ohio. But I thought that Obama could take Texas. The fact that he didn't get an edge among whites there is quite disturbing.

I have a feeling that Obama’s tendency to play clean is costing him. He wants to arrive at the national campaign looking noble. Indeed, I don't blame him. It fits better with his whole narrative to soar above the fray. His youth and a message of hope will play quite well against McCain’s decrepit image and warmongering. But to get there, Obama needs to flush Clinton. That requires some sort of strategic innovation on Obama’s part. But Hillary will do and say anything to get to the next level, even if the cost is phyrric. I think Clinton’s viciousness over the past week will cost her in the national race, if she makes it that far. This is especially likely as she will need more nastiness to keep her campaign going. Clearly she can't beat Obama with her smile.

As I’ve said before, I don’t think she can win the presidency. I think her campaign proves this. So far, Clinton’s adaptations have looked fairly crude and have had the essential “flip-flop” characteristic of just saying what people need to hear, searching for a winning message. I think she’s stumbled into a formula that’s working against Obama, but not without incurring a significant cost for the future of her campaign in terms of both negativity and inconsistency. Bottom line: she’ll clearly say anything to win, which is detrimental to her position. Moreover, her essential arrogance is already emerging, with her painting Obama as a possible vice-presidential candidate despite her being behind him by nearly a hundred delegates.

Despite my belief that Obama’s suave, graceful (if admittedly airy) style is stronger against McCain than Clinton’s “do and say anything to win” approach, Obama’s smooth campaign style faces a serious political task in dispatching Clinton. Bottom line: he needs to find a way to kill the bitch off quickly. The question is, “Can he find a way of flushing her and still stay smooth?” This is going to be a critical interval for Obama that will tell us something about his adaptability, as his personality doesn’t lend itself neatly to flushing a tenacious opponent with a pyrrhic sense of tactics. He needs to be rid of her quite desperately. Whether or not he manages it, we will learn something substantial about his acumen as a politician. God willing he does, because if he can’t, Senator McCain is likely to be the next president of the United States.

Well, I gotta go hit the gym. It's end of term and I have a shitload of work to do. Plus, Dinur will be here on Friday! Lots going on.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Favre Retired

Wow. I’m blown away. It finally happened. Brett Favre retired. It’s the end of an era. First Yzerman and now Favre. My life as a sports fan will never be the same.