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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in ACW's LiveJournal:

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Saturday, September 24th, 2016
3:16 pm
Ninth run of 2016
This was a very good run, in contrast. It was quite cool out, and I felt pretty good through the whole run. I was keeping my heart rate considerably lower than usual -- I usually target to 160, and this time I aimed for 150. So I expected to be slower than usual, but instead it was my best run of the year, 28 laps in 89:59.
Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
9:25 pm
Venus sighted!
At last I spotted Venus in the evening sky, where in theory it has been lurking for about three months already. I was in Lafayette Square, Cambridge (which people think of as part of the Central Square area, but is really its own thing) and the skyline was low enough on the Western side of Mass Ave that I could see it glinting above the buildings. It was 7 pm, and Venus was about a hand and a half above the horizon.
9:21 pm
Eighth run of 2016
I ran last weekend, I think on Sunday. For some reason I had a really hard time finishing the run, and wound up with a time of 96:29 for seven miles. It was weird, because the first four miles or so were very smooth and nice.
Saturday, September 10th, 2016
8:20 pm
Seventh run of 2016
On Labor Day, last Monday, I went running again, just to celebrate having a new monitor and an extra day off. I only ran four miles, though, because I didn't want to hurt myself; having slacked off a lot lately I know better than to overdo it. So that run doesn't officially count as bloggable. But this morning I did my real Seventh Run, seven miles in 95:28, which is slower than last week by a couple of minutes. I think it was because it was hot. The Watertown track team came out and ran past me a few times.
Saturday, September 3rd, 2016
9:54 pm
Recent reading: Hume and Banks
I am still making slow but steady progress through Hume's late-18th-century History of England; now I am in volume 5, just after the death of James I (and VI), and reading a digression about What England Was Like during his reign. This is OK in small doses; it's what modern historians have given themselves over completely to, at the expense of the storytelling that I have always considered to be the soul and center of the historian's craft. Thankfully, Hume spends most of his time doing just what I want him to do: telling me what happened. That gives a motivating context to the little What England Was Like interludes, and the interludes become fascinating in their own right.

At some point in the last twenty or thirty years I have become pretty much completely comfortable with English prose back as far as about 1550. Before then I do have to squint, and to read Chaucer I have to squint hard, though it's worth it. I can't read true Old English (before about 1100) at all. I find Hume very lucid, and sometimes forget for many pages that he isn't a modern writer.

I'm still reading Consider Phlebas aloud with Dr. Wife; GK, yes, this is the one with the trains, and we are in that part now. It's still a rather grim slog, but it's not quite so episodic as it was before they got where they were going.
9:27 pm
Still waiting for Venus
I know that Venus has been visible, in principle, for half an hour or so after sunset. But I haven't seen it yet. At this time of year (I think this is right) the ecliptic lies rather flat to the horizon around sunset, so by the time it gets dark enough Venus is very low, and I don't have convenient places around here with a clear view to the West. It's too bad, because I missed a nice conjunction with Jupiter. Anyway I should make a more serious effort soon.
9:06 pm
Sixth run of 2016
Yeah, this is just not a very runny summer for me. I guess it's been three weeks since my last go. I decided that I really really needed a new heart rate monitor, and after fruitlessly banging around various stores (Best Buy, mostly) the nice overworked guy at Greater Boston Running Company sold me exactly the right thing, and I am happy. It's nice to see my actual heart rate again instead of my footfall cadence. But I am going to have to work into it a little gently -- maybe use a lower target my first few times.

Seven miles in 93:59, five seconds slower than three weeks ago. But all earlier runs this year are not good performance data, since I was trying to center my effort using a failing heart monitor.

I got home from the run, showered, and went out to dinner with Dr. Wife and a friend, but right around when we pulled up at the restaurant I had a wave of nausea and dizziness that I recognized right away as a vasovagal episode, and realized with chagrin that I had neglected to hydrate at all after running. So I lay on the back seat of the car and felt crummy while the ladies fetched liquid for me, which I sipped until I felt better, and then we all went and had dinner. I probably wasted half an hour of everybody's time that way. Idiot.
Saturday, August 13th, 2016
1:43 pm
Fifth run of 2016
I had a slow start, but it was an OK run; 7 miles in 93:54. I still haven't managed to get out regularly during the week, and I'm pretty convinced that my heart monitor is counting my footsteps, not my heartbeats. I think I need a new one.
Sunday, August 7th, 2016
9:01 am
Fourth run of 2016
Yesterday I finally managed to get out to the track for the first time in, I think, about three weeks. My performance had suffered from the furlough, and I did my seven miles in 97:36.

While I was there, the running track was invaded by a pre-teen playing Pokemon Go. On a bike. On the track. Not looking where he was going. Yes, I understand that biking is a tempting way to incubate your eggs, but actually just getting in the habit of walking a lot will serve you a lot better as you level up, and biking blindly through a bunch of people trying to walk and run is not a good idea. He didn't stay long, though -- maybe somebody yelled at him.
8:57 am
New computer
Just before we went to England, Microsoft's free upgrade to Windows 10 was about to expire, so I bit the bullet and started the upgrade. The effort cost my four-year-old Gateway its motherboard, so yesterday I went to Micro Center and got a new machine, an HP. I have mostly got it doing what I want it to do, but have yet to figure out how to import Chrome's bookmarks from the backup I took before trying the upgrade. So I have none of my old bookmarks, and in particular I am falling further and further behind on my webcomics. The new machine seems zippy and capable, and Windows 10 has not been too annoying yet. If anybody knows about importing bookmarks from a backup drive, let me know.
8:52 am
Trip to England
The last week of July, Dr. Wife and I took a trip to England, to do some sightseeing but mostly to visit our daughter and her fiancee. Our daughter has finished the requirements for a Master of Philosophy in linguistics at Cambridge (Newnham College). I have not yet really read her thesis, though I've skimmed parts of it. She submitted just slightly too late to get on the list to graduate in July, so our trip, which was intended to coincide with her graduation ceremony, became just sightseeing and visiting; we will have to go back in October to see her graduate.

I'm terribly proud of her and her scholar-brain. In just one short year, in addition to writing what looks to me like a very sound piece of research in how verbs "license" multiple objects, she made lots of friends, explored Cambridge and some other parts of southern England, did stand-up comedy, and drank a lot of different kinds of beer.

While we were there she and her girlfriend shared some of this with us. We peeped into many beautiful colleges, went punting on the Cam, had Pimm's at the Anchor, and drank beer at what seems like a dozen other pubs as well. We had several day trips to London to see the Tate Modern, the reconstructed Globe Theatre, and the British Museum, as well as strolling past the London Eye and Westminster. We also went a bit further, to Brighton Beach, where I acquired a souvenir rock from the beach, and to Bath, where we spent some hours in the Roman Baths museum, and then strolled around for a few more hours looking at various sights.

[This paragraph added later:] I forgot to mention that England is positively seething with Pokemon Go activity. My daughter and her girlfriend were playing constantly, taking full advantage of all our walking to nurture their eggs, and stopping off at every Pokestop and dojo. My daughter's girlfriend conquered the dojo at the Roman Baths, but it only lasted five minutes. And they introduced my wife to the game. My phone is too ancient to play, which is kind of a relief.

At the end of the trip there was some franticness, as we were ferrying some of our daughter's stuff home with us, as well as her cat. Then we went straight back to work on Monday, and this weekend we are having some delicious do-nothing time.
Friday, July 8th, 2016
8:57 am
Third run of 2016
Yesterday morning I did 28 laps in 93:17. That's a nice improvement, but more important than that, I actually managed to run on a weekday! Now if only I hadn't then gotten in to work after noon ... well, yeah, my schedule still needs work.
Monday, July 4th, 2016
12:52 pm
Second run of 2016
It's a long weekend, so I didn't have any scheduling problems, and at about 9:45 I walked down to the track and put in seven miles in 97:01. That's more than a minute and a half faster than Saturday, and it's under an average of 14-minute miles. It was subjectively way harder than my first run, maybe because it was hotter out.

My final lap was enlivened by a conversation between a mother and her small child. "Are you going to try to have a good time, or are you just going to wallow in self-pity?" The four-year-old answered, "Wallow in self-pity."
Saturday, July 2nd, 2016
1:49 pm
First (full) run of 2016
I have been a very bad runner this year. For one thing, the weather was depressing for a long time. But the more important factor is my sleep schedule. I want to wake up early enough to go for a run before I go to work, and I've been going to sleep too late and waking up too late to do that.

That means I've only been running on the weekends, and until today I've been doing runs that are shorter than my ideal seven-mile (28-lap) distance. Today I finally managed to get back up to seven miles. By historical standards my time was terrible, 98:41. But I felt good that I was back up to my historical distance.
Friday, July 1st, 2016
5:26 pm
Petition to pardon Edward Snowden
Please look at this Whitehouse.gov petition to pardon Edward Snowden, and if you agree, sign it, and let your friends know it exists. Thank you.
Saturday, June 18th, 2016
8:27 pm
Recent reading
I don't know if anybody is waiting for Project Project Gutenberg to resume; I've never gotten a good sense of how many people actually read this. But it'll be a few more weeks, anyway, because I'm still in the middle of Hume's History of England. Still enjoying it, but not moving very fast. I'm in the reign of Henry VIII, and the history goes up through the Restoration and the Glorious Revolution.
6:57 pm
Waiting for the Evening Star again
Over the last couple of weeks Venus re-entered the evening sky, passing behind the Sun on the far side of its orbit from us. I haven't seen it yet; it's setting just a few minutes after the Sun, and the sky is still very bright (and I have my usual trouble finding an unobstructed Western horizon). But I'm looking forward to its cheering presence.
Thursday, June 16th, 2016
9:41 pm
Reading aloud: Rushdie's Luka, Pohl's Crusade, Banks's Phlebas
Since I have been such a bad blogger, a considerable amount of reading aloud has gotten done chez nous since I last posted on the subject in February.

Because we so much enjoyed Salman Rushdie's Haroun and the Sea of Stories when the kids were little, I decided to try the sequel, Luka and the Fire of Life. I at least found it an unsurprising example of an author attempting to recapture the inspiration of a previous work, and falling a little flat. (Other examples are L'Engle's A Swiftly Tilting Planet and Niven's The Ringworld Engineers.) It wasn't bad; Rushdie on his worst day is still a writer. But it lacked the verve and spark of the earlier story, and the incorporation of videogame tropes was, I think, a bit lame.

Then, because I have always been curious about it, we read Frederik (no "c") Pohl's The High Crusade and found it a fairly delightful romp.

Most recently, after Iain Banks's death, we both got curious about his work, because the eulogizers spoke so highly of it, so we started reading the first novel of his "Culture" series, Consider Phlebas. We are about halfway through it, and all I can say is that he must have gotten better, because this one is fairly grim going. At least so far, it follows the school of narratology that could be called "One Damn Thing After Another"; the protagonist, who isn't very sympathetic, goes through an extensive series of travails that don't seem to contribute much to the story as a whole. This by itself would be OK; The Wizard of Oz and Anne of Green Gables are also ODTAA. But in Phlebas the episodes are each gruelling and unpleasant. At their best they have exciting, cinematic action scenes that would definitely be too much for me if they were actually on the screen, but at their worst they are just painful. We are hoping there is a good payoff in the second half; the "hero" is approaching a sort of goal and the novel could pivot and get better.

[Edited later to add:] I knew I had forgotten something! It didn't seem like there were enough books listed here, and sure enough, I forgot that we have also read Gene Stratton-Porter's novels Freckles and A Girl of the Limberlost some time in the last few months.
Monday, February 8th, 2016
4:20 pm
What happened to Project Project Gutenberg?
Almost a year and a half ago, after reporting on Service's The Spell of the Yukon, I briefly mentioned that my Nook's battery was failing, and that there would be a "brief pause" in Project Project Gutenberg, my silly-but-to-me-fun project for reading things in the order that they were digitized by Project Gutenberg.

I've explained what happened, in person, to at least one of my readers. Now I suppose I owe an explanation to the other one.

I bought a new Nook "Simple Glow", essentially just like the reader that failed, but with a back-lighting option for reading in the dark. I learned that I could not begin using the new reader until I had agreed to its terms and conditions (by tapping a virtual button labeled "I agree").

The license agreement was almost two hundred screens long. I didn't mind the legalese -- I can mostly understand it as a second-language reader. But the sheer volume was daunting, and as I got into it, I became angrier and angrier at the terms I was required to agree to. Basically, I was not allowed to rely on the reader performing its most basic function: apparently Barnes and Noble, not I, the purchaser, own the right to determine what lives in the reader's memory. They could, with no excuse, claw back any digital content on the machine. Now, remember that I will be using this reader to read public-domain epubs that I download for free from Project Gutenberg, a charitable nonprofit that uses volunteer labor for all its digitization. As far as I can tell, Barnes and Noble would be within their claimed rights to even claw back that content from my reader.

Furthermore, they would not guarantee that the license agreement's terms and conditions would remain constant. It would by my responsibility to keep myself current with the agreement, by checking back at a website periodically. If the terms changed, and I did not like a new condition, my options were limited to not using the reader any more. No mention of a refund.

I doggedly read about a third of the agreement. The reader had no function whatsoever except to be an agreement-viewer, until I agreed. I was quite bemused by that -- there was no feature of the object I had just bought that the manufacturers would let me use unless I agreed to all their conditions, most of which applied to use of their online service (which I wasn't planning to use much). Then, I noticed a hotlink in the text -- a thing that you could tap, presumably, to see a certain Barnes and Noble web page. Since the link appeared to be active, I couldn't resist tapping it, to see if this function had been disabled, even though that would compromise the device's utility as an expensive agreement-viewer.

It was worse than disabled. Tapping the link crashed the reader, hard. I had to power it off, leave it for an hour or so, and then power it on.

It had forgotten where I was in the agreement. I had to start from the beginning. There was no fast-forward option -- I had to tap through every screen. I caught up, and continued reading. About 2/3 of the way through, I hit the "I agree" button by mistake instead of the "next page" thing. Now I was in a weird situation. I did not agree. I had indicated my agreement with what claimed to be a binding agreement by mistake. But the machine was unlocked; it would now let me use all its functions.

Working up to buying a new reader, and laboring through the agreement, took months, most of which were spent procrastinating and fuming. Finally, after that last mishap, I talked to my son, who was then a second-year law student. (He will be graduating this summer!) He assured me that agreements of this kind were almost-universally considered to be bullshit. Their numerous divergences from classic contract law (conditions favoring only one side, without consideration for the other side, flawed evidence of "agreement", and much more) have simply never been tested in court. Apparently, it's 99% bluster and he informally recommended that that I simply continue using the darn thing. So finally I did.

It's been quite a few months since then, but mostly I've been using it to read things to Dr. Wife (most recently, Brust's Viscount of Adrilankha series, and Rushdie's Luka and the Fire of Life). In the meantime, my own reading has been quite random. I reread Doc Smith's ancient Lensman series, sort of the founding work of "space opera". I reread all of Harry Potter. Now, for some reason, I seem to have started to read David Hume's History of England, which he worked on up to the end of his life in 1776. I can't remember what got me started on this. Oh, I know. I also read the Penguin History of England series, and found it too heavy on the social analysis and too skimpy on the pure storytelling which is what I most love about history, so I resolved to read something in a more classic vein.

It'll be something of a long read, but I will get back to Project Project Gutenberg after that.
Friday, February 5th, 2016
5:25 pm
I am still alive.
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