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Saturday, July 28, 2007

How did I fail to find this earlier?

Poor Jon, they mocked him and spelled his name wrong. Even more unfortunately, there was another Jon Hersh whose name was spelled that way.

Also, I find myself nearly weeping for poor doubly surnamed Hamilton Morris. "His fellow students 'had to spend their entire high school experience studying for the SATs or something and didn't really get a chance to live life or experience things.'" What an injustice for him that everyone's parents can't be documentary filmmakers and send their children to arts schools where they "do whatever they want," which is evidently what "experiencing things" and "living life" consists in. The author leaves us to wonder though if it's his fellow students that Mr. Morris is disappointed in, or the fact that the U of C curriculum frequently requires him to do things he may not want, thereby preventing him from further experiencing his lived life.

As to whether college is more like the world outside of college, I'm not yet in a position to tell. (However, in my post-college "real life," I do attend highly U of C-saturated events like this, which are not too different from college, including even the baiting with free food.) My hum professor once told me that he thought college was becoming more like high school in some of the respects that Perlstein emphasizes--its careerism and "tracking" that begins in high school and goes uninterrupted straight through the university, the way that high school expectations about grades and awards and other bureaucratic pats on the head carry over more and more into college, and so on. Maybe that's true to some extent. I don't feel compelled anymore to defend Chicago against accusations that it's a killjoy kind of place.

But I think Perlstein is exaggerating the unrestrained joys of the college experience of yore, and assuming a little too much by suggesting that a period of experimentation with radicalism of some kind is, you know, an integral developmental phase in every well-lived life. Isn't it a little absurd to instruct people to become Maoists in order to eventually reject Maoism, and call the charade "growing up"? Also, it's not that college students today lack the courage or curiosity to invite Ralph Ellison to speak in their dorm lounges--it's that the Ralph Ellisons of the world tend not to be easily reachable by phone, and they charge $30,000 honoraria when you do get to them, so unless Mr. Perlstein would like to personally subsidize the courage and curiosity of present-day college students, it's looking like a no-go.

Update: Phoebe has more thoughts on this.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

A refresher course in free market economics

I am still a little shocked at how competitive something as seemingly mundane as the housing search turned out to be. I thought I was going to sniff around for a while, and then select an apartment that pleased me, but I guess I forgot the most basic principle of economics and failed to realize that housing would actually be choosing me. (And what really is the point of two quarters of intro econ if you can't even apply it to these basic life situations? That was my one practical college class.) Apparently there are far more people demanding Metro-accessible, wireless internet-capable, gas-stove equipped, roommate-included housing in a decent neighborhood with a supermarket and CVS in walking distance for less than $1000/mo (and pet-friendly would just be the cherry on top!) than, um, people who are supplying that. I thought I was "seeing apartments" when, in reality, apartments were seeing, interviewing, and scrutinizing me. And rejecting me! What did I do?

Ok, maybe I expressed some hesitation when asked, "I am kind of a neat-freak. Are you willing to clean the house every single day?" or "I need total silence and darkness in order to sleep well. Can you promise to be in bed by 9 pm every night?" Maybe I thought those were pretty extreme demands. Maybe, upon hearing them, I questioned my desire to live with the people who made them. But after several of these people failed to respond to me thereafter and August 1 began inching closer, I learned to acquiesce to all demands, no matter how unreasonable, and express my gushing desire to move in to every place I saw, on the off chance that they would give me a room. Do you have mandatory weekly house barbecues? I have no idea how to light a grill, but sure! Do you gather together every Thursday to watch Grey's Anatomy and weep communally? That might be pathetic, but sure! Do you watch college sports all day long and demand that I pitch in to cover the cost of your obscene television package that includes satellite TV that can pick up frequencies on Mars, every premium channel ever broadcast on this planet, TiVo, Netflix, and a small hamster trained to operate the whole system by voice command? Done!

Anyway, I finally found a good place in Virginia that wants me back, I think. It does not accommodate the Nigel, but at this point, I don't think I can afford to keep looking for the one-in-a-million place that wants to house my cat along with me. The next hurdle will be getting furniture. I am almost tempted to buy it new instead of going through the pain of getting it off Craigslist and saving tons of money and dooming myself to vast unhappiness and severe migraines. But what kind of person would I be if I passed up the opportunity to save tons of money?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

I just want to be/part of your bourgeosie

The train wreck has been averted as my plan to clutch my plane ticket and pout worked and my jury duty was deferred this morning after I watched a very inspirational video telling me what to expect in the courtroom, which is set up to cater to ME, and assuring me that although the lawyers may try to convince me of their side, the facts are up to ME to determine, and the decision about who is telling the truth is up to ME, and jury duty is all about ME ME ME. Really? Also, 26th and California is in Little Village, not Austin. Substantial difference. I stand corrected. Nonetheless, driving down Cicero through Austin, dodging trucks on a street whose lane lines occasionally vanish (how I miss the South Side)--still not pleasant. So, barring delays and cancellations due to the thunderstorms, moving plans are on and I will be in Washington tomorrow. So exciting!

And just in time too. Because I have this problem. It's not the problem below from the post entitled "I have this problem too!", although I do have that problem, too. The problem is that I have discovered that I am entrenched in the ethos of vegan muffin America. Left to my own devices, I gravitate towards places (which in vegan muffin lingo are referred to as "neighborhoods") which are urban, built up with century-old walk-ups (because fuck gentrification), populated by people who ride their bicycles in the middle of car lanes (because fuck the polluters), feature pet stores that sell organic catnip (because fuck the...inorganic catnip growers), bars with outdoor seating, and a coffee shop with free wifi and vegan muffins on every corner. I have come to believe that Starbucks is TEH EVIL, but I am still happy when I see a Starbucks because it's a sign that I am in a neighborhood that shares my sensibilities by serving soy milk. My problem is that this is a totally irrational inclination, and a contradictory one, and I am turning into a pile of insipid yuppie mush whose idea of an evening well-spent is an evening in a coffee shop eating a vegan muffin and applauding my own cleverness as I read books about the untenable contradictions of vegan muffin America.

You think I am exaggerating, but I actually spend nearly every afternoon exploring the exciting and short-lived independent coffee shops of Chicago (some are so short-lived that they no exist by the time I get there), making my way slowly through the Origins of Totalitarianism and Emile, and feeling like a super duper tool. But a self-satisfied tool. Sometimes I come away with the urge to dye my hair purple.

Why is this a problem then? Because to be seriously into vegan muffins is to be seriously unserious. It means that I am doing nothing, thinking only sporadically and in abstractions, and spending a lot of money on coffee that is not being used to fuel anything substantially productive. I am also blogging about absurd things like high school as a state of exception, and devoting considerable thought to my shoe purchases. None of these things are what I want to be doing. I have even started scouting for volunteer tutoring opportunities in Washington to ensure my greater effectiveness as a human being in the near future.

Hopefully, all this will subside when I move to Washington and possibly regain a sense of purpose in my life such that I can go to coffee shops to actually get work done because there will be work to do. But I think I will continue to eat vegan muffins and assume that country music lyrics are about another country, one in which people actually drive pick-up trucks and indulge their (apparently rampant) alcoholism at "roadside bars." Maybe.

So, tomorrow, bye-bye kitteh (sob!), hello Washington.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

High school is a state of exception, part 2: What rule of law?

In high school, I learned that the best way to avoid being punished for bad behavior was to behave badly a lot. This may seem counterintuitive, but it worked by creating and frequently reinforcing a personal relationship between you, the perennial delinquent, and the dean, your ready executioner. Your many visits to his office gave you a chance to get to know one another and arrange a certain agreement--you of course would continue to ditch your afternoon classes and start hallway fights, but the dean would know this about you and expect it, and in exchange for this peace of mind, he would become lax with you. Maybe three Saturday detentions were technically supposed to lead to an in-school suspension, but just between you and him, you could have a few more Saturdays.

Moreover, I was told (though this was never officially confirmed), there was a bureaucratic limit on how many days of suspension any student was allowed to log before he was automatically expelled and forced to enroll in the district's alternative school, where his education would cost the district twice as much and be perhaps ten times less effective. Given that eventuality, it was in the school's best interest to identify chronic offenders early and be lenient with them in order to avoid reaching the suspension limit.

In contrast to all this, if you were the kind of student who generally avoided run-ins with the dean (that is, ahem, if you were me), the slightest transgression was enough to get you suspended. For one thing, if you were generally a good citizen, it was unlikely that you would reach the dreaded suspension limit and cost the school thousands of extra dollars to educate. One suspension would probably prevent a goody two-shoes like you from chewing gum or stepping foot in a public place without a hall pass for the rest of your natural life. Moreover, lacking a personal relationship with you, the dean was more likely to behave as a bureaucratic functionary and ignore your arguments about your previous good behavior ("What part of top 2% of my class do you fail to grasp?"), your current remorse ("After the third time getting caught for the same thing, I think I may finally stop doing it.), the unique circumstances of your behavior ("But it's not libel to call my gym teacher stupid if she evidently is stupid.") in favor of punishing you according to whatever prescription seemed applicable to your situation. In the case that your situation did not fall into one of the narrowly defined categories of offense--drugs, violence, academic dishonesty, or tardiness and unexcused absence--it could be chalked up to something called "gross misconduct"--an amorphous catch-all term for anything you did that made someone in charge angry--and your punishment would correspond to how pissed off the athletic director was that day.

The system of appeal for such discipline, if you lacked personal charm and failed to manipulate the deans, was to have parents who were in the PTA, or on the Board, or otherwise in positions of influence, or to have parents who were willing to come to school and berate people, and then threaten to hire a lawyer. Litigation costs the school money, even if it eventually wins, and your petty offense is probably not worth the expenditure. But if your parents were foreign, clueless, and apathetic, all hope was lost.

But the arbitrary nature of high school justice does not end there. This story about reporting high school disciplinary infractions to colleges is old, but I just recently discovered it, and it illustrates my point well. Now that the Common Application requires reporting an applicant's disciplinary infractions, there is some question as to how to, well, avoid complying. Now, Miss Self-Important is no stranger to this game, having chosen the Common Application over several schools' individual applications precisely so she would not have to explain the various incidents of "gross misconduct" that colored her record to colleges. Although now she believes in the value of good character somewhat more than she did at the age of 16, she remains skeptical that this change will effect positive changes. Why? Because:
In conversations with advisers at other Manhattan private schools, Ms. Mitchell says, one widely discussed approach has been adjusting what schools call a suspension, a reportable offense on the new Common Application. "Where we might suspend them this year, next year we might call it in-house something," she says. "We have to be more concerned about the language."
In short, the change will favor the wealthy, the well-connected, and in general, the students at non-state of exception schools. Private schools have a real disincentive to report their students' disciplinary histories to colleges and diminish their chances of acceptance, since the desirability of the school rests in large part on the college application success of its graduates. Whereas the fate of a public school does not hinge on the prestige of the universities to which its graduates matriculate, college placements are a major asset for private schools. Although dismal college placement performance might discourage wealthy or middle-class families from moving to a public school district, they won't close the school. But I wouldn't pay the tuition difference for a private school unless I had some assurance that it would give my child something more than what was on offer at the local Guantanomo.

The other thing about reporting your high school disciplinary infractions is that no one will ever check. Ok, maybe that's too absolute. More accurately: it's unlikely that anyone will ever check, and if they do, you just need to make sure that whomever they're contacting is as eager to get you into college as you are. I once talked to someone (who, admittedly, is probably the least trustworthy source of factual information about his own life) in college who'd gone to some private school in Florida and reported that his school encouraged students to gloss over their disciplinary histories on college application. A public school has no similar incentive to lie for you. Moreover, at least at my high school, academic dishonesty was not cause for suspension, and so cheating--clearly an issue for universities--was below the threshold for reportable offenses whereas making fun of your gym teacher on your website apparently required explanation. Like I said: state of exception.

Ultimately, in case you are curious, I ended up attending the one school on whose application I was required to report and explain my suspension. I followed the advice in this article about turning my suspension into a "learning experience" and wrote that I had enjoyed my days of in-school suspension because they exposed me to new and exciting people at my school whom I would've otherwise never met. Which is to say, the small-time drug dealers, seventh-year seniors, and the self-proclaimed members of a supposed Assyrian gang whose existence has never been verified for me, aside from a common rumor that their "official color" is baby blue.

And that concludes my case for high school as a Schmittian/Agambenesque state of exception from a larger legal framework, one governed by the arbitrary rule of a nefarious bureaucracy which sees its job as primarily one of herding and processing, and which is only held accountable for its actions when its exercise of power in the exception is brought to the public attention of the larger legal state. Further analysis could be done to show that high school is also a totalitarian state in the Arendtian definition, and a Foucaultian panopticon. In short: I intend to send my children to private school.

Update: Today, Will almost convincingly argued that states of exception cannot be the permanent institutions within society. The whole state must be included within a state of exception. But he also said that "we are all homo sacer," so that still applies to high school students, right? There is still hope for this line of argument, I maintain.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

I have this problem too!

For perhaps the first time in history, the Styles section has printed an article bemoaning the sad state of the world which actually applies to me. Unlike the oh-so-sad complaints of elite New Yorkers who are annoyed that the hoi polloi come to Manhattan on Friday nights and try to breath the same air as them, or the I-can-totally-relate concerns of other elite New Yorkers that the public schools in Westchester are failing to teach their offspring calculus in kindergarten and so must be abandoned for the private schools in Manhattan, this article hits on a First World Problem that even frumpy, middle-brow Midwesterners like me experience. Stuff changes too fast! What can I do? The Nike Prestos I bought five years ago don't exist anymore, and they were the only comfortable running shoes I ever wore. (Even worse, they didn't even exist anymore when I bought them because I got them on clearance at Nike Outlet.) I upgraded to Windows Vista, but now I can't play Age of Empires: Rise of Rome anymore because the Vista operating system is too advanced. My new mp3 player can play 100 times more songs than my old discman, but I can't get good radio reception on it anymore.

Seriously guys, my life is so hard.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

High school is a Schmittian state of exception: some things about education, Arendt, and everything else I have been reading recently

While we were reading Schmitt's Political Theology and Agamben's State of Exception this spring, Roommate Julia and I tried to figure out what actually constitutes a state of exception. Is it just when someone in power fails to act according to the law or established precedent and gets away with it, or is it more narrowly when codified emergency powers are invoked? Is any use of police power a state of exception because police operate largely on discretion? I jokingly suggested to Julia that high school is a state of exception because, although you are a citizen, you lose most of your constitutional rights in public school, and the school's administration exercises an almost entirely discretionary authority over you, adjudicating by decree.

Now, in response to the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" ruling, Stanley Fish argues that, basically, I am right:
Not only do students not have first amendment rights, they do not have any rights: they don’t have the right to express themselves, or have their opinions considered, or have a voice in the evaluation of their teachers, or have their views of what should happen in the classroom taken into account. (And I intend this as a statement about college students as well as high-school students.)

One reason that students (and many others) have come to believe that they have these rights is a confusion between education and democracy. It is in democratic contexts that people have claims to the rights enumerated in the constitution and other documents at the heart of our political system – the right to free speech, the right to free assembly, the right to determine, by vote, the shape of their futures.

Educational institutions, however, are not democratic contexts (even when the principles of democracy are being taught in them). They are pedagogical contexts and the imperatives that rule them are the imperatives of pedagogy – the mastery of materials and the acquiring of analytical skills. Those imperatives do not recognize the right of free expression or any other right, except the right to competent instruction, that is, the right to be instructed by well-trained, responsible teachers who know their subjects and stick to them and don’t believe that it is their right to pronounce on anything and everything.

What this means is that teachers don’t have First Amendment rights either, at least while they are performing as teachers. Away from school, they have the same rights as anyone else. In school, they are just like their students, bound to the protocols of the enterprise they have joined. That enterprise is not named democracy and what goes on within it – unless it is abuse or harassment or assault – should not rise to the level of constitutional notice or any other notice except the notice of the professional authorities whose job it is to keep the educational machine running smoothly.
Unfortunately, although I have tried to re-read this post several times, I have no idea what Fish actually means by "democratic contexts," and I seem to be joined in my confusion by the 400+ commenters on this post. What he might be trying to say is that education takes place in an apolitical private sphere, and so is not subject to the legal constraints of the political public sphere. This suggestion is pretty problematic, but if that's what Fish intends to say, he should have just cribbed Arendt's essays on education, because she does a much better job failing to demonstrate this distinction than he does. And she never finds herself suggesting that no one is allowed to do anything in school except obey the "professionals."

The historical argument that education was authoritarian at the American founding and so should remain so seems not to make much sense. The circumstances of early American education are complicated, controversial, and chaotic, and by our current standards, its outcomes were pretty disappointing (think: a nation of fourth-grade drop-outs). Moreover, most education wasn't public education, so it's not clear that the constitutional question is the same.

What is more interesting is the suggestion that something about the nature of a good education necessitates an authoritarian education, even if that education is public, even if that education is for a democracy. Arendt wrote that it is "exactly for the sake of what is new and revolutionary in every child, [that] education must be conservative; it must preserve this newness and introduce it as a new thing into an old world." Education is supposed to protect the child from the world until he is prepared to act responsibly in it, whereas for adults to throw him into the world as a political actor is to abdicate responsibility for the world. (Arendt's complaint is specifically against what she thought was the exploitation of children in Little Rock to further the agenda of the civil rights movement. To locate the debate in the schools was, according to her, "to burden children, black and white, with the working out of a problem which adults for generations have confessed themselves unable to solve.")

That education in a democracy cannot itself be democratic seems to be borne out by the fact that we do not conceive of children as capable of exercising reason to the degree necessary for full citizenship. They cannot vote for their representatives, and neither can they vote on their curricula. The relationship between student and teacher is defined by inequality and turns on authority, and one of the first signs of an ineffective teacher is the "I just want to be your friend" game. The argument that school should be some sort of laboratory for the practice of democratic principles seems to me pretty unsustainable (which is not to say that its pedagogical incarnations have not been attempted), but the problem remains that somehow education in a democracy has to train democrats. How do we resolve this?

Well, conveniently, I don't know. It's probably not helpful to think of education as a private undertaking (an "undemocratic context"), since it is a public institution by circumstance, and a political concern by nature. But it might be worth remembering that the exercise of authority is not always tyrannical, nor is it destined to breed either a desire to dominate or be dominated in its wake, nor does it necessarily result in a rigidly hierarchical society. I am tempted here to point to this essay on eros in education, whose first part has the blogosphere's panties all in a twist over whether humanities professors are all lecherous, conceited windbags, but whose second part has been less discussed. I suspect that this is because no one wants to own up to their teacher-crushes publicly, but as we know, Miss Self-Important has never been so circumspect.

The kind of lover/beloved relationship that Deresiewicz mirrors in his ideal teacher/student relationship is radically unequal too, but it is this inequality which leads the student into a love of wisdom. "The professor becomes the student's muse, the figure to whom the labors of the semester--the studying, the speaking in class, the writing--are consecrated." What begins as a kind of love for a person, and the desire to win his approval concludes, if the teacher does his job responsibly, in a love for what was taught.

Perhaps this sounds absurdly idealistic or vaguely creepy, but I think it describes education better than the suggestion that good students are motivated by the things that good grades can bring (money, success, whatever), or that good students are motivated entirely from within by a ferocious passion--born in the asocial depths of their souls--for some specific kind of knowledge. I was motivated to please the teachers I admired (male and female), and I was apathetic at best in courses taught by people who sucked, even if the subject was interesting in any other context (as exemplified by things like my having slept through AP English). And if the cults that form around professors in college prove anything, they at least prove that my experience also applies to a broad swath of students.

And all of this points to some possibility for an education characterized by authority, hierarchy, obedience, and whatever other anti-democratic bogeyman you can think of, to create good republican citizens who, more than just an abstract understanding of political principles, also have some experience of the responsibility and obligation that make political communities possible. But, maybe not.

Stay tuned for part 2 of high school as a Schmittian state of exception, in which I consider the problem of arbitrary discipline in school, and recount my personal grievances against the tyranny of the public school system.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Craigslist moments, part 2

Seb has insisted for a while now that he has been socially discriminated against because he is a Republican. I have replied that he is totally paranoid and that no one really cares about his political opinions outside the context of political debates. This is liberalism; all anyone really cares about by definition (a phrase which clearly means "in theory," which means "what I say cannot be disproved by reality") is his dog, his bank account, and his favorite baseball team.

So imagine my surprise when I receive the following email exchange in my inbox today:
Seb: I'm writing in response to your ad on Craigslist for an available room. If the room is still available, I'd love to see it. Would you by any chance have time to show it this week or over the weekend? You can reach me by email or on my cell phone. Look forward to meeting you.

Craigslist guy: due to your support of Mitt Romney, I don't think we would work as roomies :)
good luck in your future endeavors!
Take back the White House 08!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I am personally outraged by this response because, really now, who does this? Is this person five years old? If you list your apartment on Craigslist and someone sends you a polite inquiry, which is the ostensible purpose of your listing, you can't send them a response that basically says, "YOU ARE A MORON HAHAHA!!!!" Can you?

So while I expressed my outrage at this this absurd response and encouraged Seb to reply in some less-than-high-minded way, and suggested that I could even reply for him if he was feeling faint of heart, he told me to calm down, and that this guy had every right to write that, given that it was also important for him to find roommates with whom he could get along. So now Seb endorses the discrimination which I originally claimed didn't exist at all, and we are both confused about the course this argument has taken.

I will blog about something more substantial soon, I promise. Right now, I am busy having pangs of grad school regret.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Three things

1. Back in high school, due to a space shortage, we were assigned two people to a locker. You could change your locker mate every year, but my perennial locker mate was Cathy. Cathy was Polish, and both of us used to bring salami sandwiches and pickles for lunch. One salami sandwich was probably bad enough, but during the day, the pungent aromas of our sandwiches would intermingle in the locker so that by mid-day, when we took them out for lunch, simply opening the locker door was enough to knock over an unsuspecting passerby with fermented salami-and-pickle odor. After a while, the locker took on the smell of salami permanently, regardless of the daily contents of Cathy's or my lunch.

2. I recently realized that Washington is very close to West Virginia, a place I have wanted to visit ever since my very first geography course. Now, what used to be a road trip has become a day trip. Unfortunately, I have many trip plans for the month of August, including also weekends in Miami and New York. I am not sure how exactly all these ambitious travel plans will work out.

3. Nigel is very afraid of the fireworks. But, in reality, the fireworks should be afraid of Nigel:

Monday, July 02, 2007

The housing search continues

An excerpt of the most recent response to my Craigslist ad for cat-friendly housing in Washington:
I am a 20yr professional fishmonger and I work at Blacksalt restaurant, and part time at a Potomac Video, so I can get you free movies whenever you want...I basically only need a place to sleep and store my stuff. I love watching movies, video games, having an occasional drink and smoke.
And it's not like the responses are pouring in either.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

In which I plateau

Long-time readers will know that I am opposed on principle to marathons, but also that I run short distances very slowly on a pretty regular basis in order to ward off the obesity and slugdom that are constantly encroaching (equally slowly) on my life. Previously, I did this at the gym, sometimes accompanied by equally unzealous people like Seb or Alex or Julia. But now that I no longer have Ratner or my athletically ambivalent friends, I have sought outdoor running companionship in my high school friends.

It is important to note here that my high school friends were, for the most part, absolutely nothing like me when it came to athletic talent or effort. While I spearheaded a one-man campaign against gym class by hiding behind the gymnasium door in dodgeball and clocking 20-minute miles, they ran at state track tournaments. While I was throwing tennis matches if they went into three sets so that I could get home in time to finish my homework, they were doing hill workouts for cross-country.

Running with my high school friends is very different from going to the gym with my roommates. With my roommates, I ran my 3.5 miles in 30 minutes, scrutinized the other people in the gym for five minutes, then promptly went home. I did not try to run more than 3.5 miles or longer than 30 minutes. Why would I? That would require a lot of sweating and panting and whatever other discomforts are associated with athletic effort, and what did I stand to gain? It took me about a year to go from death at one mile to totally comfortable 45-minute outdoor runs, and I thought this was a pretty respectable point--from an obesity- and slugdom-combating perspective--at which to settle permanently. But Anus, my new running partner, disagrees.

Anus tells me that, unless I do speed workouts, and distance workouts, and hills, and change my diet, and work out my abs, and probably meditate and hang in awkward positions from a tree, I will "plateau" and never improve. To plateau seems to be akin to a complete moral failure on my apart. But I don't want to improve, I insist; I am very happy atop my little plateau. For look, I am not obese! Mission accomplished! Marathons are pointless; what I want is to write a book.

No, Anus responds, you must run a 5k. Then, you must run a half-marathon. Then, you must run a marathon. And only then will you have achieved running Zen and fulfilled all your physical, intellectual, and spiritual needs. Let's sign up for a 5k right now!

Three days ago, Anus made me run 5.1 miles, which is precisely .1 miles out of my comfort range. Then yesterday, she decided we should run to the high school, which is 3.5 miles away from our homes, in order to use its track. So we ran there only to find that, in the intervening years since our graduation, the school had built a fence around the fence around the track. We scouted the perimeter, but found no opening. So we jumped the fence around the fence around the track. We chased some rabbits on the track, lamented the Pentagon-level security which our high school had adopted, and then we set out for home. But, home was now 3.5 miles away--at least an hour's walk. It was already nearly 11, so we had no choice but to run back if we hoped to be home before midnight. And that is how I ended up running seven miles last night, which is a full three miles above my plateau, and which caused significant discomfort to my person.

I don't think I like this improvement business very much. Improvement causes blisters. Tomorrow, I am quitting at 3.5 miles.