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August 31, 2007

I'm so tired the bags under my eyes have bags

More Osaka bits:

  • Having had my say about Pat Butcher’s book a few years ago, now he’s sitting in the row in front of me.

  • Simon Turnbull of the Independent, sitting next to me, claims the British press named me “The Inspector” after my 100m pool win. I haven’t had independent (ouch) confirmation, and Simon seems to like pulling my leg, but I thought it was a pretty good joke.

  • Japan’s famously crowded subways had an infamous problem with gropers—men who would take indecent advantage of being wedged in to subway cars close to women. I’ve not noticed such a level of crowding, but in the Osaka subways (and probably others) almost every train has a car near the middle of the train which is clearly marked, “Women only,” in Japanese and English. The entries for the car are marked in the stations. On some trains, I’ve seen men in the women-only car, but at other times I’ve seen men who boarded it (presumably by accident, or in a hurry) moving to the neighboring cars as the train pulls out of the station. Of course, this works best when trains are frequent and run on time, so I doubt the T will be picking it up soon.

  • The Japanese even have better dried cup noodles than we do. Grad school here would be better fed.

  • In Den Den Town, I spotted USB drives that look like sushi. Another one looked like a finger: a thumb drive. Den Den Town is awesome.

USB Sushi

As previously noted, I’ve been working a lot. I get some sleep every night, but the cumulative effect of two to four missed hours every night is significant. The feedback I’ve had on my work has been generally positive, though I’m not really sure what the scale of readership is: dozens? Hundreds? Supposedly visitors to the IAAF website number in the hundreds of thousands, but how many are reading what my colleagues and I are writing? Not that it matters that much, I suppose.

I’ve had tentative signals that this may be considered a sort of audition for future work, much as Fukuoka turned out to be an audition for this. If I say more than that, I think I’d be counting chickens, because nothing is at all concrete, this far in advance.

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Posted by pjm at 10:51 PM | Comments (0)

Dangly thingy

Not enough sleep, not sure if this is coherent.

If you’re Japanese and have a cell phone, which is almost a redundant statement, you have a dangly thingy. I’ve only rarely seen them in America, but everyone has them here (and I’m sure there’s a cute name for them, as well, but I don’t know it.) Look at your cell phone; at one of the corners, there’s a pair of notches which allow for a thin loop of thread to be passed through. That’s where the dangly thingy hangs. You need the dangly thingy to help you fish your tiny and/or light cell phone out of your pocket/purse/backpack; it gives your fingers something to snag. If you’re older, your dangly thingy may just be a short string of beads, or a tasteful medallion or charm. If you’re younger, it could be a stuffed mascot the size of a fist.

My rented Japanese cell phone has been adorned with a stuffed DoCoMoDake, the mascot of NTT DoCoMo, one of Japan’s largest telcos and a sponsor of the championships. It’s supposed to be a mushroom, I guess; it came in a bagful of stuff when I picked up my media credential. (Also included were more useful tools, like the statistics guide.) The phone itself is apparently not on NTT DoCoMo. I’m tempted to leave DoCoMoDake on when I return the phone.

I also caved in and picked up a higher-quality strap for my US phone. It has a red strap that says “Osaka - Kansai” and a small medallion bearing a sponsor logo from Glico, a grocery conglomerate which is apparently another Championships supplier. I can’t find the image on the internet, but it’s all around Osaka; I have a shirt with it as well.

Update: Found the image. The one on my dangly thingy is the same as the billboard; the one on my Mizuno shirt is wearing a Team Japan uniform.

Posted by pjm at 10:07 PM | Comments (1)

August 29, 2007

Missing my nap time

If I’m not posting here very much, what am I doing?

I paused for a moment this afternoon to add up what I’ve done since arriving last Thursday, not quite a week ago. As near as I can tell, it adds up to 23,327 words (give or take 50 or so,) and that’s only the paying work. I’m averaging about 4,000 words per day (actually, more than that since competition started,) which means I can expect to top 40,000 by the time all is said and done, probably not more than 45,000.

A little web research suggests that this is about half the length of a short novel, and I’m writing it in less than two weeks. Pity it would be utterly unreadable (or at least incoherent) if it was all collected in one place.

Posted by pjm at 3:29 AM | Comments (0)

August 26, 2007

Jackpot!

Honestly, if you’d asked me three hours ago I would’ve told you I’m never the winner—that sometimes when I buy Cracker Jacks, there’s no prize inside. Particularly prediction contests. (Remember this contest? Yeah, strikeout.)

So I was somewhat surprised when Tyson Gay crossed the line first in 9.85, thereby winning me 36,000 yen.

I need a new self-image, no? Come to think of it, this being an international contest, maybe USATF needs to add me to their medal table.

Update: Check the comments; here’s the link.

Posted by pjm at 10:02 AM | Comments (1)

And more food

I talk about track in too many other places; all I have left to talk about here is food and sleep. And I’d rather not complain about sleep just yet.

Food, then: before returning to the stadium for the evening session, I joined two other reporters staying in my hotel at a ramen joint near the stadium. This is not ramen from a block or a styrofoam cup as we know it in the U.S.; this is the Japanese version of Chinese food, you’re supposed to make slurping noises, and it came with a plate of pork-fried rice which was as stellar as the soup itself. As long as I have time to find places to eat, I will not go hungry here.

The comic part was ordering. One of the guys I was with thought he could keep talking to the house mama-san as though she understood his English; she clearly understood not a word, but he kept trying. The menu had no pictures (unless you count the Japanese ideograms as pictures) so eventually we all trooped out to the front to point at the display case of plastic dishes in the front. Yes, that, and some of that.

Also, no chairs here. We sat at a low table placed on a raised platform; we shucked our shoes before climbing on to cushions on the platform and stuck our feet under the table, or sat cross-legged.

I’m sure Mama-san found us hugely amusing even though we were mutually unintelligible (gestures sometimes worked) and she spoke as enthusiastically to us in Japanese as we tried to speak to her in English. She brought us glasses of iced coffee after our dinner, and I drank two, because one of our threesome is not a coffee-drinker.

Of course, I’m not a coffee-drinker either, but I only had four hours of sleep last night, and I missed my nap this afternoon. So maybe I’m finally becoming one.

Posted by pjm at 5:43 AM | Comments (1)

August 25, 2007

Food now

I’ve done better for eating local food in two meals here than I did in three days in Fukuoka.

Last night I walked out from my hotel back to Festival Gate and found a restaurant doing (I think) sukiyaki. I didn’t know what it was called when I walked in; I went back to my guidebook to sort it out. Sukiyaki might be translated as “breaded, fried stuff on a stick.” I had assumed it was all fish, looking at the pictures, but as I went along I discovered onions, chicken, beef, and a hard-boiled egg. The dinner also included a small salad, soup, and a bowl of rice, plus iced green tea. Fortunately for me, the menu had pictures, so I could point and nod. It was pretty good, but the breading kept the sukiyaki themselves quite hot and I burned the roof of my mouth on the onion.

This afternoon, leaving the morning session, I stopped at a place near the stadium. I believe it was called “Yoshinori” or something like that. I still don’t know what I ate; I sat at the counter and followed my M.O. of pointing at the menu and nodding. I gather it involved pork; there were onions and perhaps some noodles, and rice underneath. Cold green tea in a cup which was regularly refilled. It was very good, and I’ll probably go back, but I have no idea what it is.

If you aren’t handy with chopsticks here, you’re starving. That’s all you get for dinnerware; there’s no more to work with. I won’t be starving here, contrary to my earlier fears, or at least if I do, it will be lack of time rather than lack of food.

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Posted by pjm at 11:27 AM | Comments (4)

August 24, 2007

Two machines in one

The IAAF’s system for publishing their site is built using ASP and turns out to require Internet Explorer on a Windows machine. The media office shrugged its shoulders and set about finding Windows laptops for me and the other reporter working on their team who uses a Mac, but then I stopped them. “Wait,” I said, “I have Windows here too.”

So I fired up Parallels Desktop, opened Internet Exploder Explorer, and opened up their CMA. They were quite impressed. But then… “Hey, can you do that for Matthew, too?”

Also, yesterday, when I was trying to get online here in the hotel room, I heard the Japanese word pasacon for the first time. I’ve seen it before; it’s a contraction of “Personal Computer.” The clerk was asking if I had the computer in my room. I should’ve said, “Of course, I’m a pasacon otaku.

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Posted by pjm at 7:07 AM | Comments (0)

Overrated

There is a “media race” to be held on Thursday afternoon. 800m, on the competition track. I wouldn’t admit this if the race wasn’t actually happening, but I packed my spikes with just such a thing in mind.

The sign-up form asked for our 800m PR, which I dutifully supplied, but I really doubt I’ll be within fifteen seconds of it. I hope they don’t seed the races that way; the same is probably true of most media people.

Posted by pjm at 1:07 AM | Comments (1)

August 23, 2007

An urban run in Osaka

(Oops—I meant to post this over here.)

Posted by pjm at 9:21 PM | Comments (0)

In Osaka

I made it. I haven’t slept for a long time, though, and it’s time I did. Wake me in the morning.

Posted by pjm at 10:23 AM | Comments (1)

August 20, 2007

The culinary adventures of...

Eating is always chancy right before a move. Supplies in the kitchen get sparse as I try to eat down the grocery stock rather than buying supplies I’d just need to move. Menus, therefore, get a little constrained.

So for lunch today, I fried* a pizza. I put a tortilla on the skillet, then added a layer of tomato sauce, some toppings and all the remaining mozzarella cheese. I kept the heat on, shuffling the pizza a bit now and then to keep it from sticking, until the tortilla was crisp and the cheese was melted. It wasn’t bad; I probably should’ve used a bit less sauce (or thicker sauce) but I was pleased with how well it went. Baking is overkill for a quick lunch like that, and also, I figure whatever Roman legionary first cooked crushed tomatoes and cheese on flatbread wasn’t working with a good hot oven.

* Audrey and Noah tell me that since oil wasn’t involved—I just plunked the assembled “pizza” down on a non-stick skillet—I can’t call it “frying.” But since my personal lexicon includes “frying pan” as a synonym for “skillet,” I figure any cooking done on a “frying pan” must be frying, right? Anyway, that sounds like more fun.

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Posted by pjm at 8:01 PM | Comments (1)

August 19, 2007

Brake for moose

It’s getting so driving on 202 is always an adventure. Tonight, there were lots of flashing lights north of New Salem. As I crept by, I was looking to see which of the various cars pulled on to the shoulder was damaged, and almost didn’t see the large animal lying in the southbound lane. Next up was a Jeep with heavily starred windshield in the northbound lane; I didn’t see what other damage it had (there must have been some.)

The animal… too skinny to be a cow or even a horse, far too big for a deer. I’m guessing moose; I’ve heard some hang out in the Quabbin reservation, though I’d never seen one there myself.

Growing up in Maine, of course I’ve seen moose before. (If you reach a certain span of residence in the state without seeing one, natives start taking you on long drives in boggy areas in hopes of spotting one to show you.) Most often, though, I’d seen the “Brake for Moose! It could save your life!” signs common on the way out of the massive suburban sprawl zone around Boston. This was the first time I’ve seen a moose (if that was what it was) lying on the road.

The signs, at once comic and deadly serious, don’t point out the primary problem with hitting moose: they’re tall. Hit a deer or a cow, and both the animal and your car hood are going to take some damage points. Hit a moose, and you’re going to sweep its legs out from under it and probably catch the body across your windshield, which looks like what happened to this jeep. (My car would probably wind up with the moose on the roof, which would be equally distressing.)

Now Playing: Blackout from Human Cannonball by School Of Fish

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Posted by pjm at 10:49 PM | Comments (0)

August 18, 2007

Racing, the good and the bad

Two weeks ago, I ran the Beach to Beacon 10K, up in my home state. This was my fourth time running B2B; I’m relatively familiar with the course now, and I think I can run it pretty well. However, the day turned up humid, and despite my doing more-or-less everything correctly, I suffered for it. My plan was to start conservatively to avoid getting “zapped” early on, then ramp up the pace. I started conservatively enough, maybe too much so, but despite passing people throughout the race, I never really picked up the pace. I was disappointed with the time, almost a minute slower than I’d run on a tougher course on the 4th of July, and with my inability to pick up the pace. My coach agreed that that sounded like a “hot conditions” problem.

Rather than mope about it too much, though, I opted to spend the afternoon swimming off my parents’ boat at their favorite swimming spot in Harpswell, where there’s a rope swing and the water was 74°F.

Two weeks later and with some encouraging training on that nice grass loop behind me, I decided I’d sneak in one more race before disrupting my training completely with travel. The Mug Race is a non-standard distance (5.5 miles) and a pretty challenging course, but the day was perfect today: a bit chilly for warming up in short sleeves, but perfect for the race.

I ran this race in my spectacular 2002 year, the year where I won seven races, and while I challenged for the win that year, I wound up out-kicked for second. I decided to be aggressive this year but didn’t expect to contend for the win. But for some reason, the pace for the front-runners never got away from me today. Throughout the race, there were two to six of us in a rotating cast in the front; I never led, but sometimes I was breathing down the leader’s neck, depending on who it was. Sometimes I was about to get dropped, and I’d look back and see people ready to pounce, and push on; sometimes I would struggle up a hill, then decide at the top that the pace was too slow and it was time for me to surge and see if I could drop anyone. (It seldom worked for long.) We weren’t running together, really; it was just that none of us had the legs to make a move that would drop all the others. One guy held a lead of about ten meters for about four miles, but couldn’t get any more and wound up fourth.

There were five of us in contention with a half mile to go, which is just absurd for this race. (In 2002, the leader ran alone until I caught him at 5 miles.) I think I was the one who had dipped into my reserves the most to stay in contention, because I finished fifth, but by less than half a minute. My average pace per mile was about 6:07, which is my fastest race since the track 5,000m I ran in June, and by placing third in my age group (19-39, a tough bracket) I won my second Mug Race Mug. A has four or five of them.

It was a minute and a half slower than my second-place run in 2002, but it was a whale of a lot of fun. I’d do that again.

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Posted by pjm at 9:19 PM | Comments (1)

August 17, 2007

Wireless security note

In general, using the name of the network as the network password is not terribly secure.

Posted by pjm at 3:42 PM | Comments (0)

What I'm doing in Osaka

For the first time in my career, a significant amount of my work at a major event is going to appear on line more or less unfiltered, as soon as I write it. As far as the internet is concerned, this may be the most thoroughly documented—and observable—“vacation” I’ve ever had.

So here’s how to follow it all:

  • Obviously, subscribe to the feed for this blog. This is where I’ll carp about my lack of sleep, getting locked out of the hotel, and how hard it is to run in the middle of a major metropolitan area.
  • Get the feed for my Flickr photo stream as well. Hopefully my camera will hold up better than it did in Fukuoka and if I get anything good, I’ll upload it to Flickr.
  • My primary job, the IAAF competition blog, doesn’t have a feed, unfortunately. However, my next responsibility, the Runner’s World Osaka 2007 blog, does. The IAAF blog will read like a marathon mile-by-mile; it’s going to be something like the meet announcer, where I describe the races, the progress of the field events, the intricacies of decathlon scoring. I’m given some latitude for commentary and opinion, but this is the IAAF and this is their meet, so I’m on a pretty short leash there. Anything that’s outside that short leash goes into the RW blog, from long jumpers getting struck by stray javelins (I hope not) to my (hypothetical) fascination with Japanese mass transit and any encounters with local flavor. (Den-Den Town is on my list.) That’s my place to be an out-and-out track geek. Subscribe to the RW blog’s feed; check the IAAF daily.
  • I’ll have five to eight reports in the Running USA Wire. Those will be straight run-downs of the distance events with a heavy emphasis on American performances, particularly those of Running USA athletes (e.g. Jen Rhines, Deena Kastor, and Katie McGregor, I think.) No feed for that, I guess.

Anyone talented enough with Yahoo! Pipes to put together a pjm in Osaka feed?

Now Playing: Plea From A Cat Named Virtue from Reconstruction Site by The Weakerthans

Posted by pjm at 10:43 AM | Comments (0)

August 16, 2007

Ghost town

It’s odd enough to be living in a more-or-less empty apartment. However, adding to the mood, the removal of furniture exposed a fair amount of cat hair which had accumulated behind and underneath the pieces. Despite aggressive vacuuming, breezes in the open windows mean the apartment sometimes appears to have tumbleweeds.

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Posted by pjm at 1:52 PM | Comments (0)

Weekend's work

My work from last Sunday is now online. I’m pleased that so many were usable, but in flipping through I did see a few places where A obviously picked a not-so-great shot because it was the best available in the series. (The others might have been out of focus, or badly framed, or just a bad point in the runner’s stride.) A few runners we know are only represented as slightly out-of-focus backgrounds to other shots. I will not be replacing Victah any time soon.

Now Playing: Forgetting Evelyn by Retrospect

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Posted by pjm at 8:41 AM | Comments (0)

Grass

Football has already begun to take over the track we sometimes use for workouts in Wakefield. Fortunately, our workout group recently discovered that the baseball field is generally unused at the time we meet, and a lap of this particular field is close enough to a quarter mile for workout use. It’s pretty smooth, most of the way around, easy to run on but not as machined-flat as a track. The grass doesn’t give much back, the way a track would, so we have to work a bit harder, but it’s also softer to land on.

The other day, willing myself to stay on the shoulder of my much-faster training partner, I recalled quite vividly the half-mile loop around the lower playing fields at the College where we did most of our cross-country workouts. I don’t often look back on that loop fondly, but I realized that my view was colored by my current circumstances. Then, we did a lot of running on back roads with generous shoulders, or in the woods and hills around town. Now, I’m constrained to pavement and concrete (and, in some quarters of Cambridge, brick), or trails so rocky they may as well be concrete.

Wednesday morning as I ran along the Charles, and thought about what a great frame that river makes for a picture of the city, I also thought: too many people. Too much concrete. This isn’t really my place. I need softer ground.

Now Playing: I’m Running from Big Generator by Yes

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Posted by pjm at 8:08 AM | Comments (0)

August 12, 2007

Public service announcement for spike-wearers

I forgot to mention this, in all the moving rush.

If you race in spikes (or would like to: cross-country season is coming!) and aren’t tied to one brand of shoes, the Saucony outlet near Inman Square has a slew of spikes on the clearance racks, which means ~$20/pair.

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Posted by pjm at 5:12 PM | Comments (0)

That would be me

On the IAAF Osaka page, there’s a little box in the lower right marked, “Today’s Focus.”

In the box is the following text:

Welcome to our Osaka 2007 blog!
Here during the championships you will be able to read our blogger’s daily personal picks of what action to look out for. Then just click on the banner below to read his LIVE competition blog…

I do believe that’s my assignment. No feed, alas…

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Posted by pjm at 2:46 PM | Comments (0)

August 11, 2007

It's an ill wind...

…that blows nobody any good.

A pointed out an interesting bit of news this morning: Adil Kaouch, the Moroccan miler I wrote about in the spring of ‘06 when he medaled at World Cross, has been “provisionally suspended” for doping. (“Provisionally suspended” is a new and interesting term to me. It appears to mean that the IAAF or WADA has probable cause to suspect the athlete of doping, but hasn’t confirmed the test yet.)

As far as Morocco goes, Kaouch was the heir to El Guerrouj, and indeed was his rabbit in two World Championships finals. More to the point, he’s the second-fastest 1,500m runner this year, and unless Kenya’s Daniel Kipchirchir Komen gets his act together in the next two weeks, would be considered the next favorite to Alan Webb (still the fastest in the world this year) at the World Championships in Osaka.

This “provisional” suspension could still be overturned, but if it stands, it removes someone who would be considered a threat to Webb winning a medal in Osaka. I hate to see anyone busted for doping, let alone the polite and reserved Kaouch, but it’s undeniable that if he’s not in Osaka, that helps Webb.

Now Playing: Columbus from Heyday by The Church

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Posted by pjm at 11:17 AM | Comments (0)

August 10, 2007

Logistics

I hinted, yesterday, that there has been some relocation going on. I tend not to spend a lot of time here on the comings and goings of my life, but since these things will provide the background for whatever stories I am telling here over the next few months, I might as well set the scene, so to speak. (My parents have requested a detailed itinerary, but that has become one of those tasks which requires too much energy to seriously attempt.)

  • General uncertainty back in May and June led us to decide not to renew the lease on this apartment. (In hindsight, the right choice, but it generated some anguish at the time.) The lease is up at the end of August, at which time I will be in Japan.

  • A has a job as an assistant coach back in Amherst, at The College. We found a tiny house for rent a short walk from downtown, and earlier this week moved 95% of the contents of this apartment into it. (Radio silence for the past week was largely due to packing and moving. At some point, I wistfully recalled driving to Pennsylvania with nothing but what I could fit in a Volkswagen, but of course I had no furniture whatsoever at the time.)

  • I’m rattling around a dreadfully empty apartment (echoes) until August 22, working on Common Kitchen and sleeping in an sleeping bag, on an air mattress. On the 22nd, I get on a plane for Japan.

  • Upon returning from Japan shortly after Labor Day, I will commence house-sitting (actually, a sort of informal sub-letting) in the Somerville condo of one of my Tufts classmates, who is doing an internship at Google in Pittsburgh this fall. (Everyone who hears this says the same thing: “Google has an office in Pittsburgh?” And I say, “Yeah, that’s what I said, too.”)

That should carry us well into the fall…

Now Playing: Dead Man from Tarantula by Ride

Posted by pjm at 9:57 PM | Comments (1)

August 9, 2007

Giving in to anticipation

Over the past few months, I have been attempting to avoid thinking too much about Osaka, largely because I feared that it might grow in importance to blot out all else if I was not careful.

Last week I started sending email to editors I had pitched to, to firm up details. Then Tuesday, while packing up the apartment (more on that later,) I scooped up a small handful of yen left over from last year’s trip and dumped them in my change pocket to keep them from getting lost in the move. Now, whenever I pay for something in cash, I wind up picking through the change I’ll use in a few weeks to find the stuff I can legally use in this country. Yen clink differently than American coins; the entire ensemble of jingles has changed now.

Today I visited the official site and saw the countdown clock, and that really smacked me. Less than two weeks and I’ll be there. Less than fifteen days until the men’s marathon starts.

I guess I’m a little excited.

Now Playing: So it Goes by Anders Parker

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Posted by pjm at 10:06 PM | Comments (0)

August 2, 2007

How good is your German?

I’m trying to figure out how to register for this run. There seems to be online registration, but I can’t tell what to fill in where. Maybe I should just wait until I get there?

Now Playing: Protection from Speed Graphic (EP) by Ben Folds

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Posted by pjm at 11:02 AM | Comments (1)

The bowfisher

I’m used to seeing anglers along the Mystic when I run on the river-bank path to Arlington, even though the river is placid enough to be a bit unappetizing. However, today I spotted a young guy standing on a rock at the water’s edge with what seemed to be a home-made bow and a long, unfletched wooden arrow. He had it nocked, but didn’t pull it back while I was in sight; maybe he just didn’t spot anything to shoot at.

Modern bowfishing gear usually involves a barbed head and a line attached to the arrow, so the archer is essentially shooting a large hook into the fish and then reeling it in. This angler didn’t appear to be using any such hardware, so I wonder how he was retrieving any fish he managed to shoot.

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Posted by pjm at 9:30 AM | Comments (0)

August 1, 2007

Profession spin

Every so often, I enjoy mentally putting the best possible spin on bits of work history. For example, since I’ve received cash for playing music in the past, I add the label “professional musician” to the list. There are limits; I can’t bring myself to stretch the single savings bond I once won in a road race into “professional athlete.” (And none of this stuff goes on a résumé, since it’s irrelevant anyway.)

It’s the little details of a job that tickle this kind of work satisfaction. For example, my work for the IAAF leads to occasional packages prominently return-addressed “MONACO” in my mail. And today, I’m rather looking forward to depositing a paycheck written in French.

(Yes, this sort of thing crosses my mind often.)

Now Playing: Walking With a Ghost by Tegan & Sara

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