Saturday, October 31, 2009  

I ran the Healdsburg Wine Country Half Marathon this morning, which was a slightly reckless thing to do, considering how little I had done to prepare myself for it. For a full marathon, I do at least three months of special training. For this half-marathon, I didn't do any training at all, apart from the ordinary running I do as part of my general exercise program. In a more normal month, that wouldn't be so bad, because in a more normal month I run 4 to 5 miles each weekday, and I also do at least one trail-run of 7 to 9 miles each weekend. If you're doing that much running, it's not that big a stretch to run a half-marathon (13.1 miles).

But this month I haven't been doing that much running. I was in Scotland for 2 weeks, and during the second of those weeks I only ran once (I mainly relied on long walks to meet my exercise needs). And even this past week, when I was back in California, I didn't do any runs longer than 5 miles. So, all in all, I had good reason to worry this morning that I might be biting off more than I could chew.

One the whole, I would say that it worked out very well. I enjoyed the run, it didn't seem too long, and my pace was good (for me, at any rate). My finish time was 2:03:23, which is a pace of 9:25/mile. I was faster than that for most of the distance, and it looked as if I was going to finish in under 2 hours, but in the last few miles I couldn't help slowing down. The problem wasn't fatigue, though (my stamina was good today); I was just getting a bit stiff and sore, and once that starts to happen it's pretty hard to command your body to run any faster than it wants to.

I finished 632nd, out of 1438 runners -- which means that 44% of runners finished ahead of me. That's a actually a breakthrough for me -- to finish with the first half of the field. Typically more than 60% of the field beats me.

I guess the soreness I suffered today was the one price I payed for running a half-marathon without training for it. My quadriceps muscles in particular were traumatized more than I would expect for a run of this distance; I was feeling them just walking around after the race (and I'm still feeling them now!). Oddly enough, my arms are sore also.

The thing is, the soreness doesn't really bother me. It's there, but it doesn't dominate my attention. It won't prevent me from sleeping tonight. It's an almost pleasant sensation -- there's a warm glow that comes with it, I guess from the endorphins that get released in response to this kind of thing.

Between big races, I tend to forget how exciting these events can be. Getting up well before dawn, gathering outdoors in the dark, shivering as you wait for the race to start, marvelling at how many other runners are there, getting caught up in the spirit of the crowd -- it's all very dramatic stuff. This morning there was a dense fog, and I wondered if we were going to spend the whole race running through the Valley of the Inivisible Scenery. But the air started clearing quite early, and after the race started (at sunrise), the evaporating fog only added to beauty of the vineyards and hills of Dry Creek Valley. Soon the fog was gone and the weather was perfect -- beautifully clear and sunny, and slightly cool. Ideal for running.

And at the race finish: wine-tasting booths! It was a good day.

Friday, October 30, 2009  

This would have been a nice day for running (sunny, clear, and slightly cool), but I decided to go to the gym in the evening instead. I didn't want to run today because I'm doing a long run in the morning. I signed up for a half-marathon race tomorrow.

It's called the Wine Country Half Marathon, and as it's happening on October 31st, the event has adopted a Halloween theme: 

I can promise you I'm not going to be running in costume. I can't imagine any kind of Halloween costume which I would want to wear while running 13 miles. I will hang around for the wine-tasting afterwards, however.

The race starts at Francis Ford Coppola's winery, just north of Healdsburg, heads west to Dry Creek Valley, turns north, and finishes at Lake Sonoma. Some of my favorite wineries are in that neighborhood, and I hope they will be represented at the tasting. Even if they aren't, it probably won't matter much. In 2006 I ran in a similar half-marathon which was followed by a wine-tasting, and I learned that after running 13 miles just about every wine tastes great.

I don't know that I'm especially well-prepared to run this race. I was out of the country for two weeks, and I did less running than usual during that time. But I'll do my best.

Thursday, October 29, 2009  

Probably I've already said more than necessary about my trip to Scotland, and anyway I got home late and I'm sleepy. I think I'll just post a few more Scotland photos (ones which require no explanatory captions), and call it a day.





Wednesday, October 28, 2009  

Continuing the tale of my Scotland visit...

Saturday the 17th was the start of the vacation phase of the trip (I had been working through the 16th). Luckily, Saturday was sunny and clear. This picture (taken from the window of my hotel room in Edinburgh) shows the cliffs of Hollyrood Park, where I was planning to go for a walk.

A telephoto shot reveals what appear to be ants crawling on the cliffs; actually they are people who agreed with me that this was a good day to go for a hike up there. (It's not typical for Edinburgh to have this kind of weather in October, and nobody was going to waste the opportunity to get outside for some fresh air and sunshine.)

It was a fairly short walk from my hotel to the park, and it wasn't hard to get up on the cliffs. From there you get great views of the city in all directions. People couldn't resist getting very close to the edge in order to obtain the best possible view. Even nervous people like me did it.

The body of water in the distance is known as the Firth of Forth. How that choice of name ever got out of committee, I cannot imagine. I mean, try saying "the Firth of Forth" with a straight face some time.

If you get tired of looking at the city, the interior of the park is nice, too.

On Sunday I rented a car and began my journey north. I knew that driving was going to be difficult for me (the Scots are comfortable with driving very fast on very narrow roads -- and I'm not). But, if I was going to see all the things I wanted to see, I would need the freedom that comes with having your own vehicle.

Exercise was a potential problem for me during my tour. In Edinburgh I'd had access to a hotel gym, and opportunities to go running with coworkers at lunchtime. During my tour of the highlands, schedule pressure and other practical matters were going to make it difficult for me to work out. I decided that, since I was going to be doing a lot of walking anyway, I would consider that to be adequate to meet my exercise needs, so long as my fasting tests stayed at 90 or lower. If I got a fasting test result above 90, that would mean I needed to go running that day, however inconvenient it would be to arrange it. As it turned out, I only needed to go running once the whole week. Apparently all that tramping around in the hills worked pretty well for me.

My first destination was Dunkeld, a small town on the banks of the Tay. 

A lot of my picture-taking in Dunkeld consisted of attempts at capturing subtle, elusive colors. Most of these attempts were unsuccessful, but a few came close.

I walked to a nearby park called the Hermitage, where I wish I could have spent more time than I did. The four pictures below are all from that park.

That was my Sunday. At the time I thought of it as an unusually scenic day, because I had little notion of what was to come during the rest of the week...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009  

I'm having a very hard time getting caught up on things after my trip to Scotland, but I will try to continue my report on it, in installments throughout the week.

My first week was spent in Edinburgh, and although I was there to work, I did my best to see the city and enjoy what it has to offer. And Edinburgh has a lot to offer.

Edinburgh is a good walking-around city, which was a good thing because I didn't have a rental car while I was there, and I kept my use of taxis to a minimum. I walked all over the place. 

The building on the right is the hotel I stayed at. It's on High Street, which is also known as the Royal Mile because it extends from Edinburgh Castle on one end to the official Scottish residence of the Queen on the other. In between: churches and pubs. 

This pub was just a block from my hotel; I played at a couple of music sessions there.

Traditional music jam-sessions are quite easy to find in Edinburgh (the musicians you meet at a session on Monday will tell you where to find one on Tuesday, and so on -- you can play every night if you want to). They're very welcoming. Even the really expert players will give you a chance to participate.

Lots of beautiful old architecture in Edinburgh -- but it's not easy to photograph, partly because everything is so vertical there.

Fortunately my hotel was a short walk from the Waverly train station; I was able to use the train to get to work.

Edinburgh castle is perched dramatically on a cliff that was left behind after a glacier scraped through the area, so the castle dominates the skyline from almost every direction.

In addition to all the walking around I was doing, I was able to exercise regularly -- either using the gym at the hotel or running with co-workers at lunchtime. The work site was outside Edinburgh, in the nearby community of South Queensferry, and there are some excellent jogging paths in the neighborhood which the local employees showed me.

It's good that I was able to stay active while I was there, because I was eating a much richer diet than I normally would at home.

Monday, October 26, 2009  

Okay, I'm back from my tour of the Scottish highlands. (That's what I was doing last week, anyway -- the week before that I was working, in Edinburgh.) It was a great trip, and I can't cover it very thoroughly tonight before I fall asleep at my computer, but I'll try to sketch it in.

There are four different aspects of Scotland that interest me -- the landscape, the music, the history, and the people. I tried to make sure I was covering all these bases while I was there, but the one that I probably devoted the most time to was the landscape. I spent the past week hiking around various locations, taking hundreds of pictures. In terms of scenery, Scotland is most rewarding to those who are willing to get their shoes muddy. It's a great country for hiking.

Of course, most people who want to go for a walk in the highlands do it in July, not October, but October was the month in which I happened to find myself in Scotland, so I made the best of the opportunity. The weather cooperated, most of the time, and I got to see what the summer tourists usually miss -- Scotland's fall colors. (The example below is from the gorge at Killiecrankie, which features an excellent hiking trail.)

Although the mountains in the west are comparatively bare, they have subtle colors of their own. These were along the road out to the Isle of Skye.

My favorite place of all was Ben Nevis. On the morning I was there, clouds were blowing through the glen, and the gaps in the clouds sometimes produced a dramatic spotlight effect. The changing light kept me riveted there, photographing the same landscape over and over because it kept transforming itself.

I also visited some historical sites, including the battlefield at Culloden and the ruins of this castle along the shores of Loch Ness.

Speaking of Loch Ness, I was able to solve the mystery of the very famous, and very elusive, monster. The reason nobody can seem to find it is that they're looking in the wrong place. It's not in the water, folks -- look in the clouds above the lake, and you'll spot it!

Travel to distant locations is not especially helpful in terms of staying healthy. For two weeks I was "eating out" constantly, for every meal of the day, and that is not a program likely to help anyone out either with weight control or with glycemic control. I didn't do too badly, though -- I gained a few pounds, but not the ten pounds I was half expecting, and my fasting average for the two weeks I spent in Scotland was 88 (higher than my usual average, but not bad considering how much I was eating). What saved me, I think, is that I was moving around a lot every day. Just packing, unpacking, and carrying my luggage everywhere was a major chore, and on most days I was walking several miles.

I think that's about as much as I can write tonight -- more later!

 October 9th through October 25th, 2009...

I'm going to be in Scotland for a while (it will be a business trip for the first week, and then it will turn into a vacation). My next blog post will probably be on October 26.

Until then -- I'll behave myself if you will!

Thursday, October 8, 2009  

A medical website called reported in July that 'a new review has found that lowering blood pressure below the "standard" target of 140/90 mm/Hg is not beneficial in terms of reducing mortality or morbidity'.

Over the past 5 years, lower and lower targets have been recommended by the hypertension experts who establish treatment guidelines, on the assumption that bringing blood pressure well below 140/90 will reduce the incidence of heart attack and stroke. Dr Jose Agustin Arguedas (at the University of Costa Rica) and colleagues looked for evidence that this assumption is correct. They didn't find it.

They reviewed a number of studies of blood pressure reduction, involving more than 22,000 patients. They found evidence that reducing very high blood pressure down to 140/90 produces benefits; they were unable to find evidence that reducing it further does so.

There's a subtle point here which needs to be mentioned. If you study people who aren't being treated for high blood pressure, those whose "usual" blood pressure is around 115/70 are healthier (and have fewer heart attacks and strokes) than people who are at 130/80. It might seem logical to expect that treating the people who are at 130/80 with blood pressure medications, to bring them down to 115/70, would make them healthier. Apparently it doesn't. It seems to confer no benefits at all. It doesn't reduce the rate of heart attack, stroke, congestive heart failure, kidney disease, or death.

Because the drugs carry some risk of adverse side effects on the patient (and on the patient's bank account), these finding raise questions about the propriety of setting aggressive treatment goals for hypertension patients.

This report gives me a strong feeling of deja vu. Didn't we also see the same thing in studies of the effectiveness of intensive drug therapy to reduce the amount of glucose and cholesterol in the blood? It's easy to show that people who have less glucose and cholesterol in the blood are healthier, but hard to show that people with more glucose and cholesterol become any healthier after you bring their numbers down through aggressive chemical intervention. As it is with glucose and cholesterol, so it apparently is with arterial pressure.

The way I see it is that drug therapy sometimes amounts to a kind of cheating. It may be true that people who naturally have low blood pressure, low blood glucose, and low blood cholesterol tend to be healthy -- but it doesn't necessarily follow that people who aren't like that will become healthy if you manipulate their blood chemistry in order to make their numbers look better. Maybe a healthy man's numbers are merely the outward sign, not the cause, of what is making him healthy?

Noticing that people with lower blood pressure have fewer heart attacks, and concluding that you can prevent heart attacks by giving the patient drugs which make his numbers read lower, sounds reasonable if you don't think hard about it. But maybe it isn't any more reasonable than noticing that A students tend to be smarter and more diligent than D students, and concluding that you can make a D-student smart and diligent by breaking into the school's record office in the middle of the night and altering his grades.

It's a good idea, of course, to be aware of what sort of numbers healthy people have, and to aim to have those kind of numbers yourself. But apparently you have to achieve those numbers the same way healthy people achieve them -- and healthy people don't achieve them by taking drugs.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009  

All right -- what medical authority was it who decided that juvenile diabetes and adult-onset diabetes would henceforth be called Type 1 and Type 2?  Was it Dr. Seuss, by any chance?

The old terms might have been a little misleading in some ways, but at least they meant something.

Maybe that was the point -- someone thought it would be better to use terms which clearly meant nothing at all, so that nobody would ever jump to false conclusions about what meaning was intended.

I picture this great decision being made by a committee at a medical convention. Once everyone agreed that meaningless names would be preferable, how did they decide which meaningless names were best? Did the committe consider, and reject, a proposal to call them Fleem and Wooba? Inquiring minds want to know.

My theory continues to be that one of the doctors involved, a person of some influence on the committee, had young children and had been reading to them lately from The Cat In The Hat. And there the solution was -- it leaped off the page! Thing 1 and Thing 2!  What could be more perfectly meaningless than that?

Now, of course, people are becoming dissatisifed with these labels, but so far nobody seems to be thinking of replacing the meaningless names with meaningful ones. It seems as if people are starting to pretend that "Type 1" and "Type 2" are not meaningless -- that there is a kind of numerical continuity between them. Thus, a form of Type 1 sometims called LADA, which begins later in life than Type 1 generally does, is starting to be referred to as "Type 1.5", as if the two basic forms of diabetes were points on a number line, and one transitioned into the other by tiny steps.

Oh, you've got Type 1.74? I used to have that. Lately I'm up to 1.83, and I've got my sights set on 1.90 -- but my brother's going the other way, I'm afraid. Man, he's 1.62 on a good day...

It's sort of like what happened with the Southern Blot test (a genetic test used to match DNA samples), the Northern Blot test (for RNA), and the Western Blot test (for proteins). What do cardinal points of the compass have to do with identifying complex organic molecules? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. The Northern and Western tests were named so as to distinguish them from the Southern test, which came first. And why was the Southern Blot test named that? Because the biologist who invented it was named M. E. Southern.

A similar process was used by physicists in naming the quarks (the even-more-elementary particles of which elementary particles are made): terms such as Up, Down, Strange, and Charm are entirely arbitrary, and almost provocatively devoid of actual meaning. And yet, newcomers to these terms cannot help assuming that they mean something -- that you wouldn't call one particle Up, and another Down, if you didn't mean to imply something about position or movement. But no such implication was meant.

People simply cannot help reading a symbolic meaning into words, and even into personal names. Dickens knew that. In David Copperfield, when young David's widowed mother accepts a marriage proposal from a man called Murdstone, the reader knows instantly that she is making a terrible mistake. Before we've even met the character, his name has told us he's a villain. It might be objected that people should not expect scientific or medical terms to have the same kind of suggestive significance as "Murdstone" or "Scrooge", but people can't stop themselves from reading things that way. Some years back, when my company was changing its name, and a rumor got out that the new name was going to be Tessent, a woman down the hall from me said, "Eeew, Tessent... It sounds like an ointment that would be sold only to men". And she was right, it did sound like that, which is why we were relieved that this name wasn't the real one.

I suspect that eventually Thing 1 and Thing 2 -- pardon me, I meant to say Type 1 and Type 2 -- are going to be replaced with names that actually mean something. I just hope that the new names, whatever they are, won't mean one thing, and sound as if they mean another.

Despite a pretty high-carb dinner last night, my fasting test was still under 80 this morning. Well, the experiment continues. I had an even higher-carb dinner tonight. Another cup of the Rooibos tea before bed, and we'll see what tomorrow brings. I'm not really trying to drive my blood sugar high, I'm just challenging my system enough to be sure that the Rooibos tea is being given a serious test of its glucose-reducing properties. It will take an awful lot of testing to convince me that the tea is really the reason for the low results I've been getting for the last few days, but I will be easier to convince if I know I'm taking in enough carbs to make it a challenging test.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009  

Continuing my experiment with Rooibos tea (which is rumored to drive blood sugar downward somehow), I had a cup of it before bed last night (there's no caffeine in it), and this morning my fasting test result was 69. I repeat, 69. My fasting tests have been low lately anyway, but that's exceptionally low.

However, it occurred to me that this low result could have another obvious explanation unrelated to the tea: my dinner last night was rather light, and I ate it early, and I didn't have any snacks later in the evening.

So, I thought I should raise the ante tonight with a larger, later, higher-carb meal (which included both bread and pasta), to see if tomorrow's fasting result is low as well. But then I thought, if I'm going to have a high-carb dinner, I might as well do a post-prandial test and see how well I'm handling those carbs in the short term. The result after an hour was 118 -- a normal, non-diabetic reading.

Whether that result has anything to do with the tea I had last night, I do not know. The last time I did a post-prandial test I also measured 118 after an hour, and no Rooibos tea was harmed in the making of that result. I ate more carbohydrate this time, though, so you would expect my result to be higher, all other things being equal, and it wasn't.

I have only vague anecdotal information about the effect of Rooibos tea on glycemic control. I don't think it has been studied. If it works, nobody knows how it works, or how long the effect lasts. Since I've bought a box of it, I might as well get in the habit of drinking a bedtime cup of the stuff until the box is gone, and then see whether my average results were lower during the time I was drinking it than they had been before. That still wouldn't settle the matter (it's never easy to prove anything about Type 2, as the variables affecting it are too numerous), but at least it would leave open the possibility that the tea does something useful.

Monday, October 5, 2009  

It all worked out! That is, my plan for running in the 10K footrace yesterday, without hurting my knee, worked out. On Friday I had been worried about some twinges I was feeling in my left knee, so I took Friday as a rest day, and did a kinder, gentler workout on Saturday, at the gym. I did weight training, used an elliptical trainer for an aerobic workout, did a little bit of swimming (just to enough to remind myself of how feeble I am at it), and then sat in the hot tub doing leg-stretches.

On Sunday morning, my knee didn't bother me a bit, either during the run or after it. And today I did a fairly difficult, hilly run at a brisk pace, and my knee still feels fine.

The race went well; my time was 57:01, which is a minute faster than last year, and works out to a pace of 9:10/mile. Nothing to brag about, from the viewpoint of a serious runner, but at least it's better than I've been able to do before. Most runners my age are losing ground (even if they're still a good deal faster than I am), so it's nice that I'm at least making progress.

Out of the 297 runners who participated, I finished 167th. So, 56% of the participating runners finished ahead of me. But the typical situation, in years past, has been that about 63% of the runners in any race finished ahead of me. So, that's progress too. Who knows: maybe I can work that down, and some day finish a race among the first 50% of the field.

I had a rather high-carb dinner yesterday, so the fasting result of 81 this morning was lower than I expected it to be. A possible reason for the low reading is that I bought some Rooibos Tea (an herbal tea from South Africa, which somebody on the dLife forum said brought his fasting tests way down), and I had a cup of it last night before I went to bed.

"Rooibos" apparently means red bush, or something like that. It's not really tea; there's no caffeine in it. It's just a leaf which people in South Africa like to use to make caffeine-free tea. Rooibos tea has lately been discovered to be rich in anti-oxidants, and to offer all sorts of potential (and probably imaginary) health benefits. I don't know if the reported glucose-lowering effect of the stuff has any validity, but on the basis of one nearly-meaningless experiment which I conducted yesterday, it might offer some degree of benefit. I'll keep drinking it for a while and see if I can find any clear pattern in how it affects me. (It should be noted that my fasting tests have mostly been quite low recently -- a trend which started before I started drinking the Rooibos tea -- so I shouldn't make two much of one fasting test which was lower than I thought it might be.)

At work I've been assigned to a project which is being transferred from Scotland to California, and I need to get some in-person training time with the people in Scotland who are handing the project off to us. I'm likely to go there soon, for a week or two. 

The location in Scotland is South Queensferry (near Edinburgh), which is where the old Forth Bridge (on the right in the picture below) crosses the Firth of Forth. That phrase might not be the silliest geographic expression in the atlas, but it's not the most dignified, either.

Business travel to distant locations is one of the greatest challenges to diabetes management that most of us will ever encounter, but I think I've become fairly good at it by now. Getting to Scotland and getting back from it will be the hardest part. Air travel is just not a healthy thing. From the time I arrive at the airport in San Francicso to the time I escape from the airport in Edinburgh, I can expect to enjoy about as much comfort, freedom, and healthful cuisine as is offered to the average hostage. I will have to make a point of getting up and stretching periodically during the flight, because I failed to do that during a flight back from Germany a few years ago, and boy was I sorry! I will, of course, be flying Economy Class -- also known as "Hemorrhoid Helper".

When you visit a distant location as part of your job, your time is less your own than it would be if you lived and worked there. Meals will probably not happen at times of my choosing. For the sake of getting acquainted with people that I will have to work with from a distance later, I'm sure I will be going to a lot of restaurants and pubs in the evening. Not that I am exactly averse to the pleasures of dining and drinking on the company's dime, but doing that several times in one week (which may be what's in store for me) is not usually considered the key to weight control, glycemic control, or of any other kind of control.

Exercise should be less of a problem. The hotel I stay at will probably have a gym, and even if it doesn't, I'm told that the company facility I'll be visiting has showers, and that the more active employees go running at lunchtime, just as they do here. From what I hear, the employees who run there are probably too fast for me to keep up with, but at least they can show me suitable routes, and I can run them on my own if I have to.

My company only needs me to spend a week there, but as long as I'm over there, I might as well make a vacation of it, too. So, I'm planning to delay my flight back by a week, and spend a little time relaxing in Scotland. I've been playing Scottish music for darned close to 20 years without ever having visited the place; it's time I repaired that oversight. I don't know exactly where I'll go or what I'll do, but I'm getting suggestions from a lot of people. I'll improvise something: that's what musicians are supposed to be good at. I'll find a way to keep exercising, whatever else I'm doing.

I don't know if I'll blog from there or not. I might just take a vacation from blogging. But if I don't blog about the trip while I'm on it, I'll at least give a full confession -- pardon me, a full report -- on what happened, after I get back.  

Friday, October 2, 2009  

I decided to take my rest day for the week today instead of tomorrow. I was feeling just a twinge in my left knee (which was hurting last week), and I didn't want to run too many days in a row right now. 

I'm planning to do a 10K race on Sunday morning, and in the meantime I want to go easy on it, and not run for a few days. So, I'll rest today, and do a relatively light gym workout tomorrow. Maybe swimming; that's got to be the least traumatic kind of exercise there is. I'm lousy at it, but apart from that it's a good idea.

Here's a nice optical illusion:

No, this is not an animated graphic. It's not moving. The apparent rotation of the "wheels" in the image is triggered by movements of the eye itself. If you can manage to stare at a given point on the image and hold your eyes absolutely still, the rotation stops. But it's hard to do, because our eyes normally dart around, scanning everything that's in front of us, and it's not easy to break that habit.

Very often, learning to do anything right is mainly about learning to stop yourself from doing the instinctive thing. "Doing what comes naturally" is seldom a reliable guide to action. Diabetes management, to a very great extent, consists of identifying the things that we do instinctively, and then not doing them.

Thursday, October 1, 2009  

It was a little warmer than expected today, about 85 degrees in the afternoon. Even so, it's been getting very cool in the mornings and evenings lately. It's fall, all right!

Now I'm getting over the sad feeling that summer is over, and starting to look forward to the things I like about fall.

One thing I like about fall is the seasonal change in eating habits. Now that it's no longer too warm in the evening for me to want to fire up the oven, I've started roasting vegetables again. Tonight's combination was asparagus, red bell pepper, and shitake mushrooms -- sprayed with a little olive oil and sprinkled with spices. I especially like shitake mushrooms (too bad about the name, though).

Another nice thing about fall: footraces that you can sign up for without having to worry that you'll end up having to run in 100-degree weather. If all goes according to plan, I'm going to run the Harvest Fair 10K race on Sunday morning. Next month, I'll probably do the Turkey Trot race in San Francisco on Thanksgiving morning. (These Thanksgiving races are popular all over the country. If there's one near you, I recommend participating in it, even if it's only a way to feel better about overeating later that day.)

This is a big day for scientists: the presentation of the Ig Nobel Prizes in Boston. These prizes are awarded annually, mostly to scientists whose research is so weird that any report of it sound like a joke. For example, the 2002 Medicine prize went to Chris McManus of University College London, "for his excruciatingly balanced report, Scrotal Asymmetry in Man and in Ancient Sculpture".

This year, the Ig Nobel Prize for Medicine goes to Donald L. Unger, "for investigating a possible cause of arthritis of the fingers, by diligently cracking the knuckles of his left hand -- but never cracking the knuckles of his right hand -- every day for more than sixty years". (Whatever conclusions he reached as a result of this work were not mentioned in accounts of the prize ceremony.)

More amusing to me was the Literature Prize, which was awarded this year to An Garda Siochana (the Irish police force), for issuing numerous traffic tickets to "the most frequent driving offender in the country -- Prawo Jazdy". It turns out that "Prawo Jazdy" is a Polish phrase which means "Driver's License".

In a broadly similar vein, here is another cartoon by Zach Weiner:

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