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Fitness Update, and Upcoming Events

My first 10K race was a great success! I set a new personal best with my time in the Monument Avenue 10K of 52 minutes, 12 seconds. I now have these runs coming down the pipe:

My hope is that the latter three events, along with my continued running and resistance training, will prepare me for Tough Mudder in August. Wish me luck!

Photo Update

Here are some photos from January, featuring our new home and our visit from my dad:

Fitness Update

I finished the Couch-to-5K program a few weeks ago and have moved on to Hal Higdon’s Novice Supreme Marathon Training program, of which I start Week 3 tomorrow. I chose this program for its fortuitous timing in relation to the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10k run at the end of March (in which I’m now entered) and the Toronto Tough Mudder in August. I’ve been pleased with my running progress thus far, as well as my progress with the Tough Mudder Workout.

Also, I punched another new hole in my belt today. Here’s the current state of my belt, keeping in mind that I was wearing this belt on its last hole in the winter of 2009:


What a difference 3 years makes…  🙂

Tough Mudder

In pursuit of my physical fitness goals, as well as in what may be a outrageous lapse of judgment on my part, I’ve signed up for Tough Mudder’s Toronto event in August. Besides feeding my urge for self-destruction and having fun running around with friends in the mud, I’m using this as a milestone towards my ultimate goal of running a marathon the year I turn 40 (i.e. next year).

I encourage one and all to show support for my foolishness by following the link below and donating to Wounded, the charity supported by Tough Mudder Toronto:



Another month, another terse post to maintain the thin pretense of this blog. I hope that I’ll be able to devote more time and thought to this after the dust finally settles on the relocation. I guess we’ll see.

Christmas was fun. Sammy made out like a bandit, thanks to the many wonderful gifts sent by family and friends. We enjoyed having some of Martha’s family down here for the holidays, and are looking forward to having my father visit next week. Our stuff finally comes out of storage to be delivered to the house on Monday, and my dad arrives on Friday. Getting the house ready to receive him, and transitioning Sammy to the house, should occupy my attention fully next week.

I’ve started volunteering here in Richmond, thanks to Hands On Richmond‘s valuable service as a volunteer portal. More on this as I put in more hours.

Finally, throwing a bone to current events, I’m having grand fun watching the Republican Party destroy itself. Romney can have New Hampshire, for all the good it will do him. The South Carolina primary result will be much more decisive for the long-term health of the party.

Scenic Richmond Bike Ride

It’s been a long time since my last post here. The relocation and all its attendant business (getting Sammy situated into new daycare, getting Martha situated into the new job, getting us into a new home) has filled our attention for the last 6 weeks. Now that we’re settling into our new rhythms and the constant near-panic is subsiding, I can devote some time to being more social again.

I’ve started running since we arrived here, following the Couch-to-5K running plan (many thanks to my friend Stacy for the endorsement), as well as riding my long-awaited new bicycle. One of my regular running and biking locations is Belle Isle, and today I finally had the good sense to take our camera with me on my morning bike ride. Here are some pics I hope you enjoy: 

Photo Update

Here are some photos from the past few weeks, featuring the recent visit by Martha’s aunts from Slovenia. They are offered without commentary in the interest of getting them online in a somewhat timely fashion:

We’re revving up for our big departure on Friday, getting our administrative ducks in a row and fitting in as many final visits with Neuchâtel friends as possible in the time we have remaining. I hope to make one more post before we leave Switzerland, but circumstances and Sammy’s temperament will be the final arbiters of that (as with all things).

Glib Fragment

The single greatest statement to the Democratic Party’s current political and intellectual bankruptcy is that after three years of failures, half-measures, and reversals, there is no credible Democratic primary challenger to President Obama from the left. Meanwhile, the single greatest statement to the Republican Party’s current political and intellectual bankruptcy is that after three years of President Obama’s failures, half-measures, and reversals, the most credible candidate they can offer is Gov. Mitt Romney.

Even the most democratic of democracies need leaders; figures who personify ideological positions and enable a broad spectrum of people to coalesce around them into groups capable of political action. The American democracy is in woeful lack of such figures these days, with such potential leaders having found more rewarding work elsewhere than politics. This sad fact gives the current activist movements in the United States (on both the Left and the Right) the character of giants without heads; stumbling in the direction they hopefully want to go, causing some damage as they lurch, but mostly just creating a frightening spectacle.

Photo Update

Much belated, here are some photos from September:

Expect another batch of photos soon featuring Martha’s trip to Slovenia, though those will likely be up on Facebook.

An Expatriate’s Apology

Since telling people that we’re soon to be back on our native continent, I’ve had many people ask (on- and offline) whether I was going to change the title of this blog. A discussion of this blog’s title has been kicking around in my head since I first started it. My varied attempts to write and post it, however, have always been derailed and my attention was then drawn to other, more immediate and worthwhile-seeming endeavours. Constant moving does that to you. All told, from Sammy’s birth to when we’ll be in our next “permanent” home in Richmond and done with this madness again for a while, we’ll have changed residences 9 times in 30 months — with 2 of those moves being trans-Atlantic. And I wonder why my hair has gone all grey…

Anyway, after nearly 2 years overseas, I’ll not just be back in a nation-state where I hold citizenship but my birth country. I suppose if anything would compel me to no longer refer to myself as an expatriate, that would be it — being nestled back into the bosom of my mother country and receiving firm yet supportive guidance from my fatherland. There are a variety of reasons why this is not the case for me, however, and why my self-identification as an expatriate and the philosophical mandate of this blog (such as it is) might even be reinforced by returning to the United States. Indulge me while I discuss them in roughly descending order of practicality.

First, I’ve lived almost all of my adult life in a country other than the United States. I imagine that fact alone would make many Americans think of me as some sort of aberration, not to mention the fact that I proudly hold another country’s citizenship in addition to my American citizenship.

Next, even if I’d never left the United States, my opinions would mark me for many as an outsider in my own country. I strive to be as non-ideological as possible, which is problematic in and of itself in the current American political culture. Further, the ideological positions towards which I err on the side (as we all must from time to time) are not exactly on the ascendant in the United States these days. I am by no stretch of the imagination a traditionally religious person, but I also am not a Richard Dawkins-style activist atheist calling for all idols to be smashed, either. I maintain a deep skepticism about the ability of government to affect positive change. Nonetheless, by no means do I think that justifies exalting greed as a virtue, letting markets have free rein to exploit the weak, or forsaking justice and fairness as the only proper core principles of our political order. (I suspect that many of my Canadian friends might perceive these statements as pretty common sense. I would suggest that perception is a sign of how much we take a particular idea of Canadian-ness for granted, and point out that last year Toronto elected Rob Ford as its mayor.)

Lastly, my status as a conventional citizen is at least partially compromised by status as a student of political philosophy. Political philosophy (in its original classical sense) works to grant one a critical evaluative perspective on the political things, including and especially one’s own. From such a perspective, all political opinions are understood as flawed and arbitrary products of their particular environments, bulwarked by blind tradition and enforced by threats of violence. At the same time, the deep insight into the human situation conveyed by political philosophy makes one realized that those opinions, flawed as they must be, are all we have and are necessary to our wellbeing. This is one of the most important lessons I’ve drawn from Plato and Aristotle’s presentation of the nature of politics and the relationship of theory and practice. As animals of finite consciousness and permanent vulnerability to our environment, we need established laws and norms to protect ourselves and help ensure our communal continuation. Our rationality and our ability to appreciate the rational character of our environment grants us that miraculous perspective from which we can judge the merit of our laws, norms and practices and tweak them as needs be and our limited agency allows. Grand sweeping reforms with theory coming to rule practice are inadvisable at best and destructive at worse. Instead, the process of improving political practice with theoretical insight must be slow, gradual and persuasive rather than imposing a new order from the top down.

In this sense, my self-definition as a “permanent expatriate” stands. I will walk down American streets conversing with fellow citizens in our mother tongue, engage in commerce with American currency and certainly be involved in American political doings both local and national. However, to paraphrase George Grant, some part of me will always hold my arms outstretched towards that further shore, seeking to take refuge from the din and madness of the political in the calm light of theory and philosophy. If I’m successful, as I describe above, then that perspective will help me be a better citizen and make my country a better place for my son. For that to happen, however, then the best part of my soul must just not be in it, but instead rest beyond the political and beyond the folly surrounding me across the theologico-political spectrum. As free as possible from what Nietzsche characteristically derided as “dirt-worship”, that part of my soul must be floating and groundless — rooted in no country but striving to see all from above.