Me and Tyler in October, 2006.
A lot of people have been asking me what I think about Tyler Hamilton’s confession. In 2007, I wrote a Bicycling magazine feature about Tyler, his supporters and why I don’t believe. (You can read the story here.)
Some friends over at the Last Word on Nothing blog invited me to write about Tyler’s confession. Here’s what I wrote: Lies and the Lying Bicyclist Who Tells Them.
I believe in forgiveness, but it takes more than the wave of a hand. I hope that Tyler finds a way to atone for his betrayals and revive the person that he once was. He has a long road ahead.
It was a tremendous honor to be selected as a finalist for the National Magazine Award this year. The nomination was for a Runner’s World feature package, Pet Project.
Last week, I attended the awards ceremony in New York City with my assigning editor, the talented Peter Flax (now editor in chief for Bicycling magazine), Runner’s World’s editor in chief David Willey, fellow writer Marc Parent and a whole table full of other wonderful Runner’s World staffers.
We didn’t win the award, but I had a great time anyway. As a freelancer, I rarely get a chance to see so many of my colleagues in one room. One of the highlights of the evening was meeting up with some of my former editors from the old Health magazine in San Francisco. Barbara Paulsen and Bruce Kelley gave me my start and I’m still grateful.
I figured I should share a few photos, since it’s not often that I trade running shoes for heels.
Our neighborhood lost a great man this week. Up until a few months ago, Mack Gorrod was still rising early every morning to feed his cows. Whenever we had a big snow storm, he would drive his tractor over to plow our driveway. He insisted. He always brought a few treats for our cow dog, who greeted him with enthusiasm every time.
The first time I cried for Mack was the day last fall when they cut down his apple orchard. I knew that once his trees were gone, he would soon follow.
Since his death three days ago, I’ve tried numerous times to write about Ol’ Mack. Yet I find myself unable to articulate the depth of my sorrow. So I was interested to see Slate’s first installment of what looks to be a fascinating look at grief. It follows Meghan O’Rourke‘s outstanding series The Long Good-bye. (The basis of a book by the same title.) The series asked readers to describe their experiences with grief and offers a glimpse into one of our most personal emotions.
Mack had a stroke the same day that my 92-year-old grandma died, and when I saw the ambulance go by that morning–minutes after my mom had given me the news about grandma–I was beside myself. Losing Grandma Penner–my last remaining grandparent–was difficult enough. I couldn’t bear the thought of losing Ol’ Mack too.
We didn’t lose Mack that day; he held on for two more months. In retrospect I’m not sure that was what anyone wanted.
Some day when I gain my composure, I hope to write something more about Mack, but for now all I can say is, Mack was the bedrock of this place I call home.
Farewell Mack Gorrod. This place will not be the same without you.
I really like Kent Sepkowitz’s essay in this week’s Science Times. Sepkowitz, vice chairman of medicine at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, describes an interaction he had with his plumber. He tells the plumber what he thinks the problem is, and the plumber dismisses his explanation out of hand. Sepkowitz has a flash of insight,
I realized how similar these exchanges are to those I sometimes have with patients.
When we’re faced with evidence–medical, scientific, or plumbing-related–our human instinct is to create a story to explain it. Sepkowitz’s dishwasher was putting black flecks on his dishes. The human mind abhors uncertainty, so Sepkowitz invented a cause to explain the flecks. The same thing happens when a patient comes in to Sepkowitz’s office with a nonsensical explanation for a symptom.
The essay provides a vivid illustration of how stories help us process information. This line, in particular, shows why it’s so hard to replace a certain, yet wrong, story with a factual one that’s seeped in uncertainty. Sepkowitz is retelling how he’d shot down a patient’s theory of his illness.
After I finished, we stared at each other in awkward silence. I had broken his heart a little, and I too was demoralized. It is not enjoyable to trample hope.
Earlier this year, Siri Carpenter and Jeanne Erdmann started a terrific blog about science writing called The Open Notebook. The site features interviews with science writers talking about their work and revealing the “story behind the story” for well-regarded science features.
The site has featured interviews with outstanding writers, such as Roberta Kwok, Doug Fox, Hillary Rosner, David Dobbs and Robin Marantz Henig. Oh, and yours truly.
I recently had the privilege of interviewing Slate national correspondent Will Saletan for the site. We discussed his incredible eigh-part series, The Memory Doctor, on experimental psychologist Elizabeth Loftus and her work on false memories. I read the series when it came out and was really excited to see the innovative way that Saletan used the web to draw readers into the story.
In the first installment of the series, he invited readers to take part in an interactive online experiment designed to illustrate how easily memories can be manipulated. (Check it out here.) Readers were shown different images depicting recent political events and asked whether they remembered them. What readers didn’t know was that one of the photos was doctored to show an event that hadn’t happened—President Obama shaking hands with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for instance.
Yet about half of the 5,000 readers who took part in Saletan’s online experiment later “remembered” the fake political stories as if they were true. They didn’t walk away with the deception though, all was revealed at the tend.
The experiment served as a powerful introduction to the concept of false memories and to Loftus, who makes a fascinating profile subject.
Read my Q&A with Saletan here.
The sport of running has lost one of its greats. Grete Waitz died of cancer Tuesday, far too young. Along with Joan Benoit, Waitz was one of the role models I idolized as a high school cross-country runner. She was so graceful and humble, something to aspire to.
Runner’s World editor at large Amby Burfoot has a moving tribute on his blog.