Friday, September 30, 2011

Inventing Time

I once mused about how we measure the passage of time. I may have done that here, I don't recall. Anyway, it intrigues me so I'm musing again. The divisions of time into manageable parcels is in some part a way of naming an observed phenomenon: a day for example contains both light and darkness in a cyclic pattern; a year, a pattern of seasonal changes; a lunar month, tracks the orbit of our favorite satellite. But we seem to need additional slices of time, slices that take steps away from that reality.

The gregorian, or western, calendar divides the year into twelve somewhat arbitrary segments that don't track the observable world. The division of the day into daylight and darkness apparently needed to be further divided, again somewhat arbitrarily, into twenty-four hours, an hour into sixty minutes, minutes into sixty seconds, and then the decimal system takes over to further divide time into infinitesimal pieces. Why did we need to do that?

However, the strangest of these arbitrary divisions is the week. The only rationale for the week being seven days long as far as I can determine, is the book of Genesis. If one needed to carve the year into chunks of days, why not five, which divides the year into seventy-three weeks rather than fifty-two with a day left over? Here's an interesting site to explore on the issue, if you're so inclined.

This is what happens when I wake up at 3:30.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Narcissus and Odd-sized Inseams

The two topics are unrelated but both have crossed my limited consciousness in the past couple days so here they are.

First - and I believe I've mentioned it before but it bears repeating - bodybuilders are the ultimate narcissists. The gym I use sporadically has, in addition to many aerobic and strength training machines, a free-weight section on a separate floor. Typical of that kind of room the non-windowed walls are mirrored floor to ceiling. Ostensibly this is to allow one to check one's form while working out to ensure correct technique. Sometimes though I see the male weightlifters flexing and posing with no weight in their hands. Not so the women who seem to be there for the conditioning, and perhaps to be ogled while exercising (probably not.) The narcissism becomes more pronounced in the men's locker room, where I've noticed that not one of the twenty/thirty-something bodybuilders seems to be able to pass a mirror without looking into it at his own reflection, and there are a lot of mirrors in there. Obviously I don't know how women react in their own facility, but I'm guessing they're more interested in how their clothes fit than how flexed biceps or triceps show up. There's definitely a reason Narcissus was male.

Second - Those of us who generally select our trousers and jeans from the Wrangler, Lee, Dockers, Levis sections of big box stores, have to wonder why there are not enough men on the planet with odd numbered inseams to warrant production of clothing in their size. I have a thirty-one inch inseam, not thirty, not thirty-two, so I am plagued with pants that are either too short, or fray at the cuffs from being dragged on the ground. I think this is a discriminatory practice that has to stop. Perhaps an "Odd Inseams Unite" movement is in order. Just Sayin'.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

On Being a non-Jock in Jockland

First of all, I am no couch potato. I work out regularly and am in excellent condition for a man of almost seventy. That said, I hang out with triathletes, who are in my opinion the most superbly conditioned humans on the planet. They train at distances in a day that I, in my youth would consider a week's work. Whenever they collect in a group, the conversation revolves around running, biking, or swimming; comparing times or sharing training strategies. These are, for the most part, people who have regular day jobs, some at very high professional levels, yet their day almost always includes a level of athletic activity that would incapacitate the average person for a week.

I am privileged to be a member of the race committee of one of the more intriguing and challenging events in the realm of triathlon, the Survival of the Shawangunks, more lovingly known as the SOS. This is a race unique among triathlons in that it involves eight stages, including three lake swims and four individual runs. there's no need to describe here, look in the SOS Triathlon website. The reason I'm chatting about it is we ran it this Sunday, September 11th. It was probably the most exciting iteration of this event since I've been part of it, mainly because we had to reconstruct an acceptable course with less than two weeks notice. Here's why.

Hurricane Irene devastated Minnewaska State Park, the source of two swims with intervening runs, and the park is closed until further notice. We adjusted the run and swim course, shortening it considerably, and then had another couple of days of heavy rain, which flooded and closed our road course. It wasn't until Saturday morning September 10th that we settled on a road course.
All that said, the race went off with a hundred-thirty plus racers supported by over two hundred volunteers. It was by all empirical measures, a rousing success.

I think what keeps me involved in an event I couldn't hope to enter is the dedication, intelligence and wonderful sense of humor of the people who arrange it, and the people who participate. I'm happy to be part of it.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Record's Forty Days

That's what my father used to say when we complained about too much rain. The past couple of weeks, with Hurricane Irene barreling through and now remnants of Tropical Storm Lee soaking our already soaked area, begins to look like we could approach that record. Roads west of the Wallkill River are once again inundated. I'm guessing that the village side of our road is also under water. We are the lucky ones. No need to detail the devastation upstate New York has suffered. Anyone who watches TV has seen it.

A couple of days ago I had a truckload of clothes and kitchenware, the leftover items from the Unison Arts barn sale, so I called around to local relief organizations to see where I could deposit the stuff. Every place I contacted was full to the rafters because they were unable to deliver the supplies, roads were gone or open to emergency vehicles only. I finally managed to get them to the Salvation Army warehouse in Poughkeepsie, which was also filling up very quickly.

It is still raining. The record's forty days.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

After Irene

By now any of you who don't live under a rock have seen the devastation wrought by this hurricane on upstate New York. Some things that may not have reached your TV or computer screen: Our local CSA farm down the street lost its entire fall crop.

Another, Wallkill View Farms, out on the flat west of the Wallkill River in New Paltz is accustomed to having its land flood in the spring, but not when a maturing crop was in the field. That farm sells their sweet corn and pumpkins to the many tourists who visit our area in the fall. Both the corn and the pumpkins are gone. This year there will be no hayrides to search for the best pumpkin, no corn maze to dazzle the kids, and no goodies to take home. In addition to the fields being inundated, the store itself was under several feet of water damaging the refrigerators and destroying the nursery plants.

While the damage here isn't as dramatic as that in Prattsville and Windham, it's seriousness cannot be minimized. Even the SUNY campus suffered water damage to a couple of its buildings.

We are lucky in that we had electricity restored less than two days after it went out. Our cable service is still not back so no regular phone, TV, or internet.

More rain is forecast over the next couple of days, hopefully not enough to bring the flooding back.