Showing posts from February, 2015

Europe 2014: Munich

Last year, as I have mentioned, I rewarded myself with a trip to Europe after passing my exams for work. I never really got around to posting anything, as that time in my life was quite busy! The trip was very last minute, but all I knew was that I wanted to do something active. I narrowed it down to Argentina, Peru and the Alps, but didn't make my final decision until about three weeks before I left, which is totally not like me. I finally decided on an Alpine vacation, since September was the perfect time of year for hiking in the Alps.

I started off my trip with a pit stop in New York for Labor Day to visit with my parents. After having a great time wandering, running and eating with them, I headed East once again, this time to Frankfurt, Germany. Why Frankfurt, you ask? Well, it's a long story, but basically it was much cheaper to fly to Frankfurt and take the train to wherever I wanted than to fly to where I wanted. So, Frankfurt it was! I took the red eye, which put me i…

Monday, Fun Day

Dear Monday -- Please go away. You are not as fun to play with as Saturday.

Dear Sleep -- Why have you abandoned me? We had such a great time on Friday night, but last night, you were gone.

Dear August -- You are so far away but you are already full. Why does it seem like everything happens all in the same month? I am looking forward to you but dreading you at the same time.

Dear Hair -- Today we will part ways. I am not sure how it will turn out, but I am sure that most of you will be gone.

Dear Running -- I miss you.

Dear California -- Your weather has been great and I love it. However, we really, REALLY need some rain. I would gladly sacrifice a few nice days now for good fruit prices later on!

Dear Toilet -- Why are you running?

Dear Closet full of work shirts -- Why don't any of you fit any more? Did I get taller or did you get shorter? I think it's time for you to be replaced.

Dear Readers -- who do you want to write a letter to today?

Lazy List Day

I am taking the lazy way out today and copying one of my favorite bloggers by doing a quick recap of the week, TGIF style.

The highlight of my week was my extra day off on Monday. I went for a leisurely run and it was a beautiful day and the sun was shining and I couldn't have asked for a much better day. Except if the day included a breakfast with thick cut bacon, an avocado bubble tea and a few really good craft beers, which Monday did include!

The low point of my week was a sickness that has taken hold of me. It started with an overall achy feeling and a minor sore throat and blossomed into a can-barely-swallow or concentrate kind of thing with a side of headache and exhaustion. It's really put a crimp in my running style, which was not really doing very well in the first place. 

The best book I read was probably Orange is the New Black. I am currently also reading Wonder and Behind the Beautiful Forevers, which are both really good so far.

This week's workouts were not…

Jed Smith 50k

Last year, after running the Jedediah Smith 50k, I said to myself that I probably would not run this race again and that I would rather, "sit in the sun and drink beer and watch everyone else run by me 6 times." Unfortunately, this year it was supposed to rain, so I signed up for the race again.

It is a 4.9 mile loop on the American River Bike Path that you do 6 times, plus a little out and back at the beginning to bring the total up to 31 miles. However, as I mentioned in this post, it is the first Pacific USA Track and Field (PAUSATF, otherwise known as "PA") race of the year, and after having some down time in December, it's fun to get the season started, to see some of your racing buddies, and to get the legs moving.

The course is set up so that the start/finish line is in the parking lot of the park, so you can park your car and open up the back and have a personal "aid station" right there in the parking lot. That is what we did.

Although it was s…

The best laid plans....

I normally yield to no-one in my defence of MPs and their workload; the sense of public spirit that has led them into parliament; the fact that they are significantly under appreciated etc.  But tonight, such warm, positive feelings evaporated. They are a bunch of workshy charlatans who wouldn't know a hard day's work if it came and danced in the aisles of their under used committee rooms.

The reason for my onset of annoyed angst has nothing to do, of course, with a misplaced attempt to bring my students to the heart of the mother of parliaments to watch a twilight session of the Houses in operation.  Having checked the daily schedule s of both Houses it looked as if there might be enough to keep them going until the noted adjournment times of 10.30 pm.  Admittedly the last Commons debate, on the vexed topic of nut allergies on flights could, it might be argued, have yielded fewer lengthy considerations than some other important elements of the body politic, but with counter-te…

Lesson Resources

The first of the powerpoints (from the lessons) for AS students are now up and published here (Link also opposite for easy access).  I will keep adding to the resources on the "SGS Politics Extra" blog, including relevant resources to complement AS Unit 2 and A2 resources for Global Politics (3D) and the US (4C).

Electoral Domesday - could the next government be the second and fourth placed parties?

It was conventional wisdom that the AV referendum in 2011 had effectively 'parked' the issue of electoral reform for a generation or so.  Just, of course, as it was conventional wisdom that the Scottish referendum would also 'park' the issue of Scottish independence.  Neither of these wisdoms look very secure now.  In the case of Scotland, the problem was that the referendum was never allowed to run its proper course as with a week to go David Cameron and his fellow English party leaders changed the issue to something that wasn't on the ballot paper - gerrymandering of a high order.  In the case of electoral reform, Professor John Curtice's interesting figures look as if they too could bring the issue of reform firmly back into the main stream - and, since they were published by the Electoral Reform society that's probably what they were intended to do.

Professor Curtice notes that the key factor for success in the First Past the Post system is the geographi…

Looking Back: January

Although January is a symbol of a new year, and you can essentially wipe clean the slate and start over, it is still one of  my least favorite months. Luckily I live in a place without snow or extreme cold, which means I am still able to go outside each day to run or hike, but for some reason, I am always a little bit glad when the month is over.

Running: The month started off great, with a New Year's day run with friends, a marathon Fat Ass on the first weekend, and many other great days out on the trails. Since I am training for a few upcoming races, I am supposed to be running roughly 50 - 60 mile weeks, and I was on track for that. Unfortunately, mid month I sprained my ankle and was unable to run for the last couple of weeks of the month. I ended up with about 189 miles for the month (out of approximately 275 total planned miles).

Reading: Due to not running as much, it allowed me to step up my reading game a bit. In January I read 5 books. Actually, all of them were pretty g…

So could Clegg be PM after the election?

Well yes, for a few days, is the broad theme of a Huffington Post "exclusive" today.  The piece is an interview with former Lib Dem Defence minister Nick Harvey, who speculates that if David Cameron decided to resign as Conservative leader following a poor showing in the election, a hung parliament could result in coalition negotiations taking place with Nick Clegg holding the fort as interim Prime Minister.  Far-fetched?  Absolutely.  And we still have three months or so of wild speculation making headlines as news 'fact'.

The problem for Clegg, anyway, seems to lie closer to home.  I've always maintained that if disillusioned Lib Dem voters voted Labour, as a protest against the Lib Dems' willingness to be in coalition with the Conservatives, then many of their seats would actually fall not to Labour but to the Conservatives, from whom the incumbent MPs took the setas in the first place.  Clegg's Sheffield Hallam seat is one example - once a Tory strong…

Could Italian politics be moving in a new direction?

Short post this, really to highlight an interesting piece by Catherine Gegout on the Nottingham Uni politics blog about the new Italian president Sergio Mattarella.

For all those who thought Italian politics had no chance of ever not being mired in corruption - Gegout notes that Italy is the most corrupt state in the EU - the choice of Mattarella seems to mark a turning point.  His election as president by parliament also represents another piece of anti-Berlusconi manouevring by current prime minister, Matteo Renzi.  Well worth heading over to the article and getting a bit of quick immersement in Italian politics.

Commons comedy, courtesy of the Speccie's sketchwriter

There is a long history - dating all the way back to the 1970s in its modern form - of Commons sketch writing, which is to say reporting the proceedings of the House of Commons and our noble representatives as they sit debating our best interests within it, and doing so in a humorous fashion.  Andrew Alexander possibly started it in the modern newspapers, Frank Johnson and Edward Pearce have been masters of the art, and Quentin Letts keeps the satirical bile flowing today, amongst others.  It's almost as if these collected writers believe that either the Commons isn't funny enough on its own merits, or that the ludicrous pomposity of the inhabitants we have sent there needs exposing on a regular basis.

There is no better forum for such scathing wit than the weekly Prime Minister's Questions.  I'm not sure whether this regular bun fight has ever provided much illumination, but it has certainly been operating several stages below the average playground brawl in the hands …

The Tories remain in their laager, despite not shifting in the polls

Business leaders like Stuart Rose of Marks and Spencer have been leaping in to the political arena to attack Labour's policy proposals, but it doesn't look as if this is doing much to shift the Tory position.  It has been flat-lining at around 32% for a year now.  Admittedly, Labour too has failed to shift things, remaining a mere 1% ahead of the Conservatives in the first month of this year, despite the high-energy campaigning.

It is more than probable that despite the attention being focused on the election - still over three months away - in the Westminster village, few ordinary voters are taking much notice. The biggest electoral trend has been the increase of the SNP's position in Scotland, which is likely to act to the detriment of Labour, but could cause a significant problem for all of the English parties when it comes to getting English legislation through parliament (a difficulty highlighted today by William Hague's inability to unite the parliamentary party b…

Miliband not a weirdo shock, and a replacement for Merlin

My earlier post suggested that the Labour party had had a pretty dire week last week, so by way of balance here's some good news for the would-be Labour supporter.

First off is the report on Labourlist that the party has increased its membership.  Once you acknowledge Labourlist as a cheerleader for the party, it is nonetheless the case that they have produced figures that would give some cheer to Ed Miliband as he looks at a membership rise that appears to be beating the Tories (at 194,000 Labour members to just under 150,000 for the Tories).  Mind you, the Tories' Grant Shapps also claims a number of 224,000 if you include non-paying 'supporters', which seems like a very dubious calculation.  None of those figures, by the way, is particularly cheering for the parties, representing as they do somewhere around 1% of the electorate.

If that isn't enough to cheer the Labour leader, he might also want to gloat a little at the results of a Lord Ashcroft focus group poll,…

The Kick Off

This weekend kicks off a new season of racing that I thought I was ready for but now I am not so sure. (You thought I was going to be talking about football, didn't you?) Last year, I started off the season with the same race as I will this year, the Jed Smith 50k. I remember last year thinking after I had finished that I was, "never going to run this race again." It is roughly a 5 mile loop on pavement that you run 6 times in order to get to 50k (31 miles). However, it's amazing what 9 or 10 months will do, because I signed up again this year. However, I have been nursing an ankle injury, so I may just go sit on the sidelines and cheer.

In addition to Jed Smith, there are a few key races I will be doing this year that I am really looking forward to.

- Gorge Waterfall 100k: This race is close to Portland, in the Columbia Gorge area near Cascade Locks. I have been hiking in the area before and so I know that it is beautiful. The course has a ton of waterfalls on it as …