Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The 100th Post!

I wish it were otherwise, but the 100th post here will be an apology for radio silence: I just had two wisdom teeth pulled and this week we're hosting a conference on the state of ADHD research in Japan (this Friday in Onna) so I'm just not really able to write much right now.

Actually, it is Thanksgiving week so I will thank you for reading, and for the feedback I've received. I am wishing you all a happy holiday and I hope the best will come to you and yours.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Reading About Terrorists

So here are some good-reading articles in the popular press about life as a terrorist.

I think that Nir Rosen's recent article in Rolling Stone is a good read, albeit not particularly informative of why people are terrorists, per se. What his article does do well, and I think this should perhaps be more broadly the approach used, is to point out that "terrorist" is a poor description of who we are fighting around the world.

Probably the best reading I've done on the matter recently, and a read that ties the above article with my next article, is Salman Rushdie's Shalimar the Clown. While many will say that above all Rushdie's is a novel, I must point out that the power of the novel is it's truth-telling. Shalimar the Clown, even if read as only an exploration of how people would live in response to their times, did a great deal for me to begin to understand the nature of the lives of those that call the Silk Road region their home.

The novel does a great service because it illustrates very well an uncomfortable truth about te future of America: Americans have watches, but we have no sense of time (which I am lifting directly from the Rolling Stone article). This is a conflict that simply knows no bounds, Shalimar the Clown is also without boundaries. The book doesn't even resolve one of its central tensions: the resolution of a blood feud. I think that there is a profundity in this that Americans are not going to want to hear but it's a truth that we will have to become more intimate with: peace is not the absence of violence. Wars cannot be won.

Dan Murphy's three-part series (in the Christian Science Monitor) on the bombing of a Balinese night club and the rise of violent Islamist extremists in Indonesia is another excellent resource in trying to uncover the not-so uncanny humanity of "terrorists." We learn in part one about the role of marriage to bring social cohesion and as a vector for the transmission of violent extremism in areas of the world where the authority of a state looks pretty much like the stability of war lords. Marriages in many parts of the world are primarily social buffers, a marriage can ameliorate tensions between competing groups by bringing the two groups together.

Marriages also, of course, improve the social security of those involved: marriages facilitate the production of children that can increase the group's overall productivity (by working the land, or manning the family's shop, say), it also means that two people (husband and wife) can put their hands to managing the needs of the house; of course, there are numerous other significant benefits of marriages.

Marriages can also amplify the meaning of the social context of those involved. A marriage is a social construct, how one performs one's role in a marriage very much matters: in the U.S. beating a spouse is not tolerated, both genders are free to (theoretically) do any kind of work. The roles of those involved in marriages matter. In societies where subsistence farming is the primary means of life support, children are necessary to ensure survival because they introduce more hands to gather food. Children, especially boys, can be used as soldiers, as Amnesty International has been telling us (I bring up Congo here because of the on-going deterioration and overall catastrophe there). The young boys are either press ganged (as in the Sudan, read What Is the What) or see no other option available to them.

When you're married to a man that dies in the conflict and your sons have been sacrificed to the struggle, what do you do next? In Iraq the demographics of the suicide bombers are starting to spell it out: women are becoming the next wave of suicide bombers. This seems to reinforce the earlier research suggesting that what primarily drives people to become involved in terrorist networks is not so much political motivations as such, rather the lack of meaning outside of these affinity groups. When the State no longer can provide the order, when the social fabric has become of too little value to those sown into it - why not take an active role in a grand narrative of adventure and righteousness, of purpose-"fullness."

We are seeing this same pattern in the Horn of Africa today. In the wake of a disintegrated Somalia and constant warfare between Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Sudan, and what was Zaire (now Congo), what happened? Nations bordering the Indian Ocean began sending their fishing boats into the fertile areas around the Horn and plundered the Somali's livelihood. In response, during the 90's Somali fishermen began to patrol their coast acting as vigilantes, extracting "taxes" on these foreigners. It was a small step for them to then steal, say, super tankers and 30,000 tons of wheat. Africa and Central Asia are going to continue to be living hells for millions, I predict that Africa will become a key site for exporting instability across the globe, thanks to growing contact between Central Asia and China.

The European Community should be primarily concerned were this to happen, particularly France, because of that nation's tacit involvement in the "African World War" including the genocide in Rwanda, and the destabilizing effect their late-involvement (or mismanagement of affairs) in the region has produced.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Phil Gramm Says He Didn't Do It

"It won't me," as we sometimes say in the South.

We Can't Win in Iraq - Here's Why

Armstrong's If They Don't Know You Won, Did You? was the one that made me see it: why public diplomacy matters, because this may be the only way to understand peace.

And here's where I had my "aha!" moment, reading AngryBear's Iraq Is Won?

In the latter link I read that the war in Iraq is pretty much over now, and we won!

But, why doesn't this feel like we won?

It doesn't feel like the U.S. won anything not only because there's been no "reliable source" to announce the victory - even when Bush donned his jumpsuit and got the big ol' billboard to saying we'd completed our mission: this war pointed out something that America has been avoiding for at least 40 years, wars are unwinnable.

"You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake," it was stated years before me by a fellow Georgian (well, she had property in Watkinsville), the first woman to serve in Congress, Jeannette Rankin. The situation in Iraq only amplifies this message.

At best what can be done now is to promote a revisionist history of the war in Iraq: state that there were two wars, we won the first one (and so Bush didn't lie about victory) and in the immediate aftermath of American victory a civil war broke out in Iraq. This civil war is what has been claiming the lives of our soldiers and thousands and thousands and thousands of innocent Iraqis.

With the massive promotion of this new history, a stage can be set where America can claim a victory. But it will likely require some other massively traumatic event to occur first. Why? Because wars are won in the popular imagination when their is agreement between belligerents. Petraeus walks into an office, the leader of the oppositional forces shakes his hand, they sign a treaty announcing that the war is over and everyone starts popping corks.

But that's not what we're fighting is it? Victory implies in the popular imagination that bullets stop flying, that families are reunited, that stability returns in the form of picking up where the belligerents left off.

But the war America is fighting isn't a war for territory, it's not even for oil (apparently). America's been fighting a war against the global poor and has been losing since at least the fall of the former colonial powers in the 1940s. America's "War on Terror" could be successful if it were to inject capital into these battle sites through infrastructure and bread trucks instead of injecting capital through ballistics. The areas where terrorism flourish are those where the least amount of justice have been present.

The more I think about it, the more and more I wish I wasn't making these things publicly viewable - but I will keep publishing because I'm hoping someone helps me think this stuff through.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Public Diplomacy Video from Japan

I got this from Matt Armstrong's excellent Public Diplomacy blog, MountainRunner. This video is excellent for making intuitive complex phenomena.

Small World

I'm trolling the internet trying to find demographic information for Okinawa's prison population for an upcoming United Nations University presentation and I came across this article:

Former Marine who sparked Okinawa furor is dead in suspected murder-suicide (Stars and Stripes)

If you read the article you learn that:
  1. The United States had to agree to give back the land of Okinawa to Japan at an accelerated rate in order to reduce the diplomatic strains caused by the gang rape of a 12 year-old girl committed by several U.S. Marines stationed here - and,
  2. That one of the guys who committed this heinous crime (and played no small role in shaping the international security policy of the worlds largest military power) killed himself after he raped and murdered a woman who went my university and lived right down the street from me.
How about that?

Yet another reason for me to really commit to doing my best while living here in Okinawa; of course I can in no way reduce the heaviness of these events, I can actively seek to reduce the burdens of those around me.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Video Games... 2 of 2

I will refer the reader/player to Rohrer's statement about Passage.

So there's a debate, now about the meaning of video games. Ian Bogost draws heavily from Marshall McLuhan and (months before Ledonne) states:
When we acknowledge videogames as a medium, the notion of a monolithic games industry, which creates a few kinds of games for a few kinds of players, stops making any sense. As does the idea of a demographic category called “gamers” who are the ones who play these games. The point is not whether games qualify as art or not. Nor whether games are useful tools or not. Rather, the point is that there are lots of other things people can and do accomplish with videogames.
Rohrer responds a bit more passionately (and unfortunately to the detriment of his argument I would say) in his mock conversation between Roger Ebert, himself, and Clive Barker. Overall the argument is a little plodding, but it's going in the right direction.
But if the player of the game is rightfully the co-artist, and a given gameplay experience... is the work, then couldn't that particular gameplay instance be a work of high art in itself? If we continue down this track, we might conclude that the games themselves are not art, but instead tools that have the potential of producing art experiences for their users.
Rohrer is pointing out that there is a process inherant to the creation of art, and that the "artist" is distinguished from other agents by her participation in the events unfoling. Here's where the conversation becomes more interesting, to my mind, and shows what Bogost has failed to discuss in his "End of Gamers" argument. And unfortunatley for Bogost the connection is right there in his argument.

In his argument he calls for abandoning the idea of the "gamer" as a class of people for whom video games are made because games are used for entertainment. He points out a game that is a recreation of historical events in Australia and then I had my "a ha," moment: what's so enjoyable about recreation?

Is there a common thread that ties Doom 3 players, Katamari Damacy players, Braid players, and Civil War reenactors?

What does it mean to re-create in the context of video game play? If Nietzsche is right about the will to return, do we evaluate a video game that has limited replay ability in the same way that we evaluate a game that is infinitely different with each play?

I'd like to read more phenomenology of video games....

But Rohrer spends too much time trying to make an argument that sounds like, "movies have come to be seen as art and video games are like movies, so it must be art." Maybe it's because he's "speaking" with Roger Ebert; but even if he were able to make the argument stick he does a disservice to his medium by trying to make the medium look like another medium. No one who is half serious would try to argue that paintings are like photographs and so they should be judged with the same criteria. Video games are not like cinema, at least not "good" video games and "good" movies. They are constitutionally similar butI would argue that they are not tethered to the same problems.

The problem of cinema, as Peter Greenway has pointed out, is that it continues to be tethered to the written word. Movies must make sense in the same way that written narratives or they are simply no good. People just assume that first the movie has a script and then the movie is made. But are video games similarly limited?

Rohrer just misses the boat on this point when he says:
...[Y]ou must acknowledge that some form of audience collaboration is necessary for an art experience.... Some films ... demand quite a bit of participation, leaving the audience hanging at the end with unanswered questions....Couldn't we say that the very best art films are the ones that rely on the most heavy lifting from the audience? .... However, if we push too far in that direction, can't we cross the line? I mean, if we start pulling audience members up on stage with the actors, we end up with a real mess.
Rohrer is of course forgetting that Pirandello did exactly that with his Six Characters in Search of an Author. Granted, it was not well-received at first, but 70 years later people continue to reproduce (rip-off) this work and it's still considered fresh.

The assumption that living itself is not an aesthetic act is what makes this debate about video games so difficult to listen to and why it always sounds so tinny. From Ames and Hall's Zhongyong:
Creativity involves both the realization of the focal self and of the field of events, the realization of both particular and context. Self-actualization is a focal process that draws upon an aggregate field of human experience....Human realization is achieved not by whole-hearted participation in communal life forms but by life in community that forms one whole-heartedly. (32-33)
If we think about a community of video game players we begin to see something more telling about the very conservative nature of video games because video game players are so conservative. I think that Rohrer is right, people don't want to be given total freedom in a video game, that's why Mario Paint never sold well; perhaps also why Nintendo's new Wii Music game is doing to poorly. Video game players mostly want their recreation time to be mostly masturbatory recreations of the ordered lives they live when not playing video games.

The perfect image of this masturbatory nature of most video games comes from, surpise to none I'm sure, The Sims. I had someone very close to me create a game where the house was set up exactly like their own house with the same number of parents and children in the house with the same personality types. Surprise! In their game their sim sat in the house and played video games while the rest of the people went about their lives. Recreational recreation.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Video Games.... 1 of 2

"The larger question for each of us to answer when we ask ourselves how to evaluate art--whether in games or cinema or literature--is what we expect it to accomplish." Danny Ledonne

I'm pulling this quote from Henry Jenkins' three-part interview of Ledonne, the creator of Super Columbine Massacre RPG! I started thinking about video games this morning because of this little history of the Sega Genesis video game platform at Ars Technica.

I was staring at the pixelated goodness and was caught in a little nostalgia-hole. This sense of nostalgia, perhaps, that Phil Fish is referring to in his interview at Arthouse Games.

The question that Ledonne puts forward was answered for me several years ago when I simply stopped playing videogames. In part this cessation was the result of playing Star Wars Pod Racer against a child (all of 10 years) in a Blockbuster and feeling like the technology had simply lapped me. At the time I believed in the infallibility of video games to distinguish generations: I held, very dearly, the moment that I beat my father at video games.

It was, for me as a child, a moment for me to begin to assert that I was someone more than just the child that must do as he is told. This sense of rebelliousness (so totally useless in all fact) was perhaps also fuelled by the marketing that has come to dominate American life. As a child we learn, through the television, what is expected of us, we learn broadly what the range of responses to social cues can be - some are funny, some are sad; all can be amplified with a Sony Walkman and a 2-liter of Coca-Cola. But I've digressed... or is this the uncanny mechanism of nostalgia?

I believed in video games. The logic of the side-scrolling world was a given. In fact, I'd argue that much of my worldview was shaped by the video games I played. In a side-scrolling action game like Goonies you don't even need the instruction book: you are supposed to go from here to there and while doing that you must learn patterns of how events unfold. If you pick up an object on the way it's likely to be of use later in the game. This was a profound lesson for me because it emphasized that seemingly mundane items, like a slingshot, or a red passkey, are equally as likely to effect the outcome of my life as anything else I'd learned to that point. And, really, that logic has yet to fail me; it's what draws me most closely to the Confucian classic Zhongyong, whose message is so similar, "When making an axe handle, the model is never very far away." Take that, Heidegger!

But, what do we expect from video games? When I was about 22 I failed most of my classes in college for two reasons, I've joked: Sid Meier's Civilization II and Tenchu 2. I simply couldn't stop playing these games; they were far more interesting and rewarding than my Music Appreciation class, say. I found them fascinating because in them I saw so many assumptions about how people are, how events unfold in time, the rewards of making some decisions and not others. At the time my head was swirling around exotic ideas metaphysical ideas: a steady diet of Marx, Qabbalism, Sufism, Alan Watts, Robert Anton Wilson, Tim Leary, Carl Jung, and Josephy Campbell - they all seemed to be conspiring and each moment seemed so rich with significance and synchronicity that playing video games suddenly stopped being fascinating and became depressing.

I'd come to expect more from video games. That this was just at the dawn of the explosion of the internet perhaps explain why I didn't continue buying video games - I'm far too social. I loved CivII and Tenchu 2, but they were games that could only be played alone. My gaming experiences were thus taking turns playing Tony Hawk at my friend's apartment while hanging out or playing Final Fantasy X alone. In no way could video games compete with what was happening to me at school, though. Suddenly finding patterns and persevering made a difference in unexpected ways: I might not have to work in retail and food service for another 6 years, say. No amount of saving princesses or gold coins could buy me that. True, I started to hear rumors about some friends that were able to make real money doing things in Everquest - but I also saw plenty of real relationships lost to Evercrack.

I'd come to expect more from my life than what video games could offer, so I quit playing video games. Besides, to be a game enthusiast meant having to save lots of money (which I was terrible at) because the platforms and games were so damn expensive; I could barely keep me and the dog fed, let alone drop $500 on a game system, much less a game. Video games couldn't give me anymore insight into how to live my life; nor would playing video games help me know what to do after college. Video games had this terrible tendency of showing the player that things weren't as they seemed, but then cynically expecting the player to get a dumb job that paid them enough to continue to buy and play video games. Too much of a rat's treadmill for me.

But then, I played Katamari Damacy at a friend's house and I knew that someone else had been having much more interesting and productive conversations about just this problem.

Then today I played Passage. The game is free and lasts only 5 minutes, so please, play this game right now, then come back and read more here.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

How To Save America? National Service

On the morning of September 13, 2001 I read several newspapers and was struck by two things:
  1. the world was saying that they were with us ("Nous sommes toutes Americains," as the usually very critical Le Monde stated)
  2. I had spent most of the night before with my friends identifying caravans heading to New York City and discussing how we were going to organize with our fellow students a civic response.
Of course America largely squandered both of these responses and did so rapidly and repeatedly.

I voted for the Obama campaign because I agreed with their policy proposals on national service.
Not because I think that America will now become a Deep Blue paradise.

As an Americorps*VISTA alum I have seen first hand the transformative potential of service of this kind in the U.S. and I would suggest that there is a significant pool of talented, well-trained, and civically-minded people between 18 and 35 that are available and anxious to be engaged in their communities. America is ready for more civic engagement, I think this is true for the college-aged as well as for those of retirement age (just look at the RSVP program also under the Americorps umbrella).

Actually, when I reported to my orientation for my year of service I was most surprised by the median age of those hundreds of fellow volutneers. I went in expecting 19 year olds and I was surprised to see so many people in their 50's and older. I was also struck by the similarities of economic status at my orientation. Where I would have expected primarily trustafarians and rich kids I was hearing stories of mothers being recruited by the nonprofit organizations that provided the community low-income housing or subsidized childcare in their poor neighborhoods.

Their stories were not so different from mine: I had been working full-time and going to school for 13 years, off and on, and had next-to-no savings and no health insurance when I broke my arm and couldn't wait tables anymore. I was finally going to graduate from college in two months and I was tired of working food service and retail jobs that could care less about my social science education. That's when I saw an ad that paid little, but was involved in the community and offered a health benefit and very much wanted someone with my skill set. It turned out I'd be working in the Americorps*VISTA program.

I do think that there is a large number of people that will be willing to serve in the next five years, voluntarily. I predict that historians will view this volunteerism as simply an economic response to the deterioration of the American economy - like the WPA during the New Deal. But I think that these will be unduly cynical historians. It's true that public works are going to be necessary to shore up the American economy over the next six or eight years, but that's a coincidence.

Americans are looking for a way to reconnect to one another after decades of civic decay at the hands of people that say from one side of their mouth that: they are promoting freedom while they torture, stand for the rule of law and strip prisoners of basic rights, dispensed with the transparency and regulation essential to modern capital markets and claim to still be the beacon of free enterprise. That course has left us all feeling more alone.

Look here for the opportunity to serve, at the Office of the President-Elect; and here at the home page for Americorps.

Other Big Events

These are historical times, to be sure. What is not getting much talk, I'm fairly certain, among many in the U.S. are the following court cases:

Google settled with publishers (like McGraw-Hill and Pearson Scientific, text book makers, and we know THAT'S a racket) that claimed their copyrights were being violated by Google for scanning and making available sections of their books. As part of the agreement Google must help to establish a program that would seek-out copyright holders and ask them if they would be willing to have their "orphaned" works available online. I suspect this organization won't have teeth and pretty impotent, actually.

The Internet can rejoice because the FCC has unanimously ruled in favor of allowing the white spaces in the tv spectrum be used for high speed internet activity. Ars Technica and Computer World both have great discussions of why this is a landmark case for America. In short: this is on the same level as breaking "Ma Bell."

And, of course, those goons at the Motion Picture Association of America have begun lobbying our new President. The U.S. is going to have a new "Copryright Czar" I guess because all the other czars we've had were so great at what they did. We're still fighting that War on Drugs, right?

More On China's Economic Downshift

I posted last night some links to articles discussing how the Even-Greater-Depression that seems imminent is effecting China, here's a link to Naked Capitalism where an article by Nouriel Roubini is discussed.

From the discussion comes a link to an article discussing the Hukuo System (a system used to restrict the movement of the population, hopefully to avoid massive amounts of rural poor relocating to the cities where they will become the urban destitute).

Now That Obama's President, What Next?

Here are some responses in the media to Obama's first day in office.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Obama will likely be appointing Congressman Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff, they state Emanuel would be the "bad cop" to Obama's "good cop." The WSJ article makes it sound as though Obama's cabinet will be filled by a crowd of mutual fund overseers and associates from Harvard Law School.

The New York Times today offers more options that Obama might persue. Some interesting speculation about who might take the leadership of the State Department, and also stresses, at the end of the article, that Obama is not trying to undermine Bush. Hmm...

More expansively, the overseas press discusses what the Obama presidency might mean for the world community. The Guardian, towards the end, points out the need to reform the WTO and IMF and asks an interesting question:
"...the IMF has an image problem as a creature of the US. The voting structure gives the US, which has a 17% share, a veto over decisions that require an 85% super-majority. Meanwhile, even large emerging economies such as China and India have small shares of 3.5% and 2% respectively."
I'm very much interested to know where this presidency is going to go with China.

The Mainichi Daily News reports some of the concerns of those running Japan now that Obama is President-elect, again, stressing the concerns about how the region is going to respond to North Korea and China. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced that they will proactively state to the U.S. "what they want and what it can do."

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I'm So Relieved Obama Is Our President

My office window faces East, toward the U.S. and is near the ocean. This afternoon I sat in my office and watched the BBC's live feed of Obama's speech. There was one of those crazy-huge helicopters flying by on the horizon and enormous clouds, indicating there would be a change of weather soon.

I teared up, I admit it. I was so nervous the whole time he spoke on that big stage, I kept thinking, "Oh my God, please, someone get on that stage and protect him," and he kept on talking without fear and only in the affirmative. He kept putting out the message that he's not the change, we, the people of this world, are the agents of change.

And I teared-up because I knew he was right, and that enough people in America had finally decided to shake-off their apathy and participate. Then he spoke about what Americans today would think in a hundred years and I teared-up a little because I haven't heard an elected official talk about the future in a positive sense for so long.

The Obama-Biden campaign has pledged to increase voluntary national service and to beef-up both the Americorps and the PeaceCorps as well as begin to develop other public diplomacy organs - I feel like these are really necessary and if coupled with large-scale infrastructure projects and a reduction of military occupations will spell the beginning of a good period for America.

Please support programs like Americorps and the Peace Corps, these programs have amazing transformative potential for both those that volunteer as well as their communities they serve. Some of the best research that needs to be conducted in the U.S. is in the nonprofit sector and these two programs are shining examples of how it goes right.

Here's a great article from last year in the Atlantic that I think pretty-well nails why Obama's candidacy is important and I suspect ushers in the Post-Boomer politics. It's a great read.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Readings for November 4, 2008

Anti-intellectualism in the U.S. - ahh, like coffee in the morning - it's familiar and it's feels like it's never going to go away. I didn't really go to college until I was about 23, between 18 and 23 I worked at Starbucks (and kept working through college), and I remember one of my regular customers looking at me cock-eyed when I told him I was going to college soon. He said, "Why? Those who can't, teach." Well, hopefully this report shows what I learned when I went to college: that any ol' schmoe can get a degree and not learn a single thing, let alone be indoctrinated.
The Air Force has put out a call for solutions to their internet problems.
The People's Bank of China has announced that there will be a sharp decline in housing prices not unlike what has been experienced in the U.S. They have also announced that there will likely be liquidity strains and that their economy is going to slow in a much more significant way than they've let on so far.
China has passed new labor laws and regulations that seem to have resulted in raising the cost of manufacturing in China, up about 30%. Yeah, how do you like them apples, Wal-Mart?
I'm not sure what happened to bring this change about. I know that about a week ago some folks from one of the bases crashed their plane in a field near the biggest city in the northern part of the island, but I don't know if it's related to the Marines not being allowed to talk to children without written permission from the principals of the local schools. They're not even allowed to go to the local playgrounds. The last time there was a major incident, soldiers and family weren't allowed off base, which meant that my wife and I got mean looks from a lot of folks because if you're white and in Okinawa, you're probably in the military. Hopefully it doesn't come to this.
Here's a nice Q&A explaining a little bit about the role that teacher unions have played in stirring the stew in Japanese politics.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Radio Silence Explained

There have been few postings lately because of a hectic running schedule as well as the OIST Junior Researcher Retreat.

The weekend before last we ran the 10k at Kumejima, which has to be one of the most beautiful places I've seen in Okinawa.

This weekend (Sunday) we ran the shou ha shi half marathon (尚巴志ハフマラソン) in Nanjo, and I cannot recommend that run enough!

The course is gorgeous and just difficult enough. The first 5 kilometers are pretty flat, but then there is about a kilometer that is simply straight up into the air! Seriously, it's gotta be a 40 degree incline - just nuts! But, when you get up there it's gorgeous: amazing tropical ocean and sugarcane and the hills of Okinawa, breathtaking, really. There was a monstrous rain storm that unleashed on us once we got up to the top of the hill and thank goodness it did, otherwise I might have been too overheated to finish the race (which was how I felt in Kumejima where the race began at 30 degrees celsius (about 86 F) and got hotter with no clouds and bright sun).

After running through the top of that monstrous hill the next couple of kilometers are gorgeous and downhill in Chinen 知念(where I want to retire). My finishing time was nothing to write home about, but I am very proud that Karen and I finished a run that both of us were thinking we couldn't.