Monthly Archives: December 2007


I just got my scores for the ORELA. A passing score is 240. I got a 285 on Subtest I and a 295 on Subtest II. Nice! Now I just have to worry about the Praxis math exams. Yikes!



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Birds, training, and neuroscience

Songbirds Offer Clues To Highly Practiced Motor Skills In Humans

ScienceDaily (2007-12-27) — The melodious sound of a songbird may appear effortless, but his elocutions are actually the result of rigorous training undergone in youth and maintained throughout adulthood. His tune has virtually “crystallized” by maturity. The same control is seen in the motor performance of top athletes and musicians. Yet, subtle variations in highly practiced skills persist in both songbirds and humans. Now, scientists think they know why.

In support of the current findings, previous work by Brainard’s team and others has revealed that when male songbirds sing alone there is greater variability in their song than when they sing to females.

The theory, says Brainard, is that the birds can afford to experiment, and thus practice their tunes, when the pressure is off. This process, he suggests, is not occurring at a conscious level. Rather, it is likely driven by neurochemicals released under varying circumstances that are then acting on a region of the nervous system known as the basal ganglia, which is critical to song learning and maintenance.

“You could imagine,” says Tumer, who is also a member of the Keck Center for Integrative Neuroscience at UCSF, “that when wooing a female bird – or stepping onto the green for the Masters golf tournament — neuromodulatory systems would be more engaged than if the bird were on a lonely tree branch or the athlete on a sleepy Sunday afternoon round of golf with friends.”

This article reminds me that I need to finish reading Donald Kroodsma’s Singing Life of Birds.

Singing Life of Birds

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It snowed on Christmas morning here in Portland! It didn’t stick around for very long. But it was still nice to have a white Christmas after days of rain.

The song is Tsarsko Momche Kon Sedlae (Bulgaria) by Kitka from the album Wintersongs.

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Race calendar for 2008

Here’s what I’m lining up for 2008…

  • March 16: Shamrock Run 15K
  • April 13: Peterson Ridge Rumble 30K (practice race for trail ultras later in the year)
  • May 4: Eugene Marathon
  • May 10: McDonald Forest 50K
  • May 17: Capital City Marathon
  • July 26: Mt Hood PCT 50K
  • September 6: McKenzie River Trail Run 50K
  • October 5: Portland Marathon
  • October 12: Chicago Marathon
  • October 19: Columbus Marathon
  • October 26: Marine Corp Marathon — repeat of 2006’s 4 marathons in 22 days!
  • December 7: California International Marathon

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The dangers of distance running

The best thread on the Marathoners Runners World forums I’ve seen in a long time…

Original post

cahoots, December 15, 2007, 10:45 AM

Why I put socks down my shorts

I ran the Honolulu Marathon last week and it was a terrible experience!

I was soaking wet right from the start. The tropical rain was incredible.

I used plenty of GLIDE in all the right places before I started the race. By the 3rd mile I could feel myself starting to chafe against my soaking wet (nike running) shorts. The tip of my penis was in trouble. I stopped at an aid station to apply vaseline, that worked for about thirty seconds, as you can imagine I was starting to worry.

At mile 5 I stopped at an ABC store and in a time induced panic I bought my own mini tub of vaseline and a pair of socks. I decided I would use a strategically placed sock to act as a barrier to prevent chaffing and apply more vaseline as needed.

The problem got slightly better with the socks acting as a prop keeping my shorts away from my unit but I couldnt really run at any pace with out trouble. For the next 21 miles I dealt with this issue. At one point I managed to get a latex glove from an aid station and I attempted to use it as a virtual condom. That failed terribly.

I should have quit and looking back, I wish I did. I finished an hour an a half off my goal, my penis was raw for three days (it is much better now) and the rest of my trip to hawaii was uncomfortable to say the least.

Has any one else had this problem? Is there a solution? I tried alot of different things on race day and nothing worked.

Reply #5

Creepy21, December 15, 2007, 12:56 PM

May sound weird, but are you a boxer or brief guy? I usually wear boxers, but go whitey tighty’s when running. Squished one of the kids once on my leg, (dont ask, please dont ask)so now i try to keeps things contained down there.

Reply #7

agarose2000, December 15, 2007, 06:48 PM

The most amazing thing about this thread is that every single person here has nodded their head knowingly and understandingly.

Imagine if you told this to a random bunch of folks on the corner of Times Square?

Good to have like-minded people here. All good suggestions above – compression shorts, practice practice practice (wear the same stuff you will on race day), and bodyglide are the way to go.

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Gait analysis

I’ve always wanted to do a video gait analysis of myself but never really had access to a relatively private treadmill until recently (well, I’ve had access to this fitness room for about a year but have only recently taken advantage of it). I didn’t think bringing in a camera into my regular busy gym would have been cool so I’ve wanted until I’ve been able to secure a more private treadmill. Here’s some background…

A few years ago when I decided to get serious about running I went into a local running shop to buy a pair of shoes. I could have gone to a big box store and gotten any decent pair of shoes, but I wanted to know what an expert thought would be a good fit for me and my running style and the type and amount of running I wanted to do. Plus, I didn’t want to stop running because of ill-fitting shoes. In other words, I was willing to pay a few dollars more for better equipment. The guy at the running shop looked at how I walk and suggested a motion control shoe because of my overpronation, which didn’t surprise me because the natural state of my feet is to point outwards and not parallel to each other. So for the next couple of years I ran in motion control shoes. I ran my first marathon in a pair of Brooks Addictions.

Now, I could have continued running in motion control shoes, but these types of shoes have a reputation of being relatively clunky and heavy and, like any runner, wanted to get faster. And faster meant running in lighter shoes. So I started to wonder if I could do fine in other types of shoes, namely, support shoes or shoes for mild to moderate overpronation (as opposed to shoes for moderate to severe overpronation and I began buying pairs of support shoes cheaply (on sale online or at Nordstrom Rack) as an experiment. That was 2-3 years ago and I’d have to say that the experiment has worked and I feel like these shoes have been just fine for me, especially when looking at the outer sole wear patterns. I’d run in the ASICS 2000-series, Mizuno Inspire and Elixir, Fila Veloce and Asylum, Brooks Adrenaline, and some others I’ve forgotten.

Then I got injured… plantar fasciitis.

That lead me to wonder if I’d been too hasty in drawing my conclusions. Now that winter has come and my running volume has dramatically decreased, I’ve been thinking about shoes again, hence, the video gait analysis.

So, after viewing the gait analysis I’ve come to a few conclusions:

  1. This should really be done with a real video camera (I used my Canon Powershot A530)
  2. You can really see the misalignment of my feet
  3. I really don’t see a whole lot of overpronation
  4. This is possibly, in part, due to a pretty good cadence of ~180 foot strikes/minute (my foot doesn’t stay on the ground for very long)
  5. I think I could do just fine in any shoe (motion control, support, or neutral)

So how do I explain what I see in my gait analysis and what the guy at the running shop told me? I figure that over the years, I’ve trained myself to be more biomechanically efficient. And that my running gait is quite different from my walking gait, probably because the contact time of my foot to the ground is much shorter when I run relative to when I walk (I’m a leisurely walker). I can feel my overpronation when I walk, but I just don’t perceive it while I’m running. That said, I don’t feel too bad about buying those $40 Puma Complete Phasis IVs (a neutral shoe) at Marshalls last weekend.


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Vision of students

I’ve been sick with a cold for a couple of days. Since I don’t have a TV that means I’ve spent a lot of time wandering around various blogs and YouTube. I stumbled on this video, A Vision of Students Today, from Andrew Gelman’s statistical modeling blog.

The video was produced as a class project for a cultural anthropology class Kansas State University. The original post introducing the video is worth a read, as well as a follow-up post, both written by the professor of the class.

A lot of the comments, both on YouTube and on the place of origin for the video, the Digital Ethnography blog,, seem to spin the video into a students versus teachers/professors or technology versus anti-technology dichotomy. But I don’t think that’s what’s being portrayed here. I tend to take it for what it is and that’s an expression of a frustration the students see in the education they’re receiving, and in many instances, they themselves are paying for. I don’t see it as anything particularly new. Students have been complaining about the relevancy of their education for, I’m sure, a long time; at least as long as I’ve taken notice. Indeed, if I didn’t question what I was learning as an undergraduate I would have been the engineer I always wanted to be. Instead, I learned there are more answers and more interesting questions out there than what I was seeing in the classroom. And that’s a lesson I’m still learning 15 years out of college.

That’s not to say that their frustration is invalid. I think questioning what you’re getting out of life is healthy. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with not going to college right after high school. If there are too many questions, too many doubts, then maybe committing 4+ years of your life and tens of thousands of dollars just isn’t for you.

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