Thursday, March 19, 2009

Germ, fish, mermaid, Man.

The title of this blog entry is of course, someone’s tongue in cheek take on evolution. Evolution has been an on-going process since the dawn of time, but the concept or theory was not widely known until Charles Darwin published ‘The Origin of Species’ in 1859. Darwin is in the news again because 2009 happens to be the 200th anniversary of his birth – which was on Feb 12th 1809. I just finished reading Darwin’s landmark work, having dragged it in and out of the bath (a favored reading spot), on two trips to Africa and all around the house for the last 8 months or so. Note to self: make more time for reading! The Origin of Species is definitely not an easy read, but it is fascinating and very well written. It has been described as one of the few revolutionary works of science that is engrossingly readable, and I have to agree with that. Darwin’s writing can be extremely dense at times, and I often found myself going back over the same paragraph a couple of times. But once you get it, you get it. In a gentle tone, but loaded with facts and excruciating detail, Darwin puts forth his elegant theory of evolution, and proceeds to convincingly demonstrate the fact of it.

When I first arrived in the USA in the early 1990’s, I did some birding in various spots in Texas and was amazed to see the uncanny resemblance of the Western Meadowlark to an equally common Southern African bird, the Yellowthroated Longclaw. In fact I initially misidentified the Meadowlark as being a Longclaw. It didn’t take me long to realize that this was natural selection on display right in front of my eyes. The two species have absolutely nothing in common from a familial background; the one is related to New World blackbirds and orioles and the other one is part of the pipit and wagtail family. Yet they look the same, they inhabit the same habitat and they even have a similar way of flying. It doesn’t take a Darwin to realize that both species had evolved – through the process of natural selection - to fill a particular niche in nature and that their coloration, habits etc. made them ideally adapted to their environment.

It has been a while since I reported any news on the running front. I’m happy to say that it is all good. After running 36 miles over the course of 3 days (20 last Saturday, 6 easy on Sunday and 10 on Monday), I was dubious whether I’d have anything in the tank for the usual mile repeats at Memorial High School track on Tuesday evening. No worries – reeled off 4 X 1600’s with 1 slow 400m recovery, at about 7:10 to 7:20 pace, the last one feeling not much harder than the first. On Wednesday I joined a group of Houston Striders on the trails at Memorial Park and managed a total of 7 miles, again feeling quite strong despite some rather warm & humid conditions.

Due to a doctor’s appointment this morning (cardiologist) and an after-work meeting with some visitors from South Africa, today will have to be an unscheduled rest day. Probably just as well. For what it is worth, the cardiologist (a multiple Houston Marathon finisher) says my heart is fine, but just to be safe and because of my age (56), he recommended a stress test and echo cardiogram after Boston. Is it any wonder that medical costs are so high in the USA?

8 comments:

Billy Burger said...

Great running lately Bert. Hope all turns out work with the ol' ticker.

Amy said...

I never thought about reading The Origin of Species, now you have me intrigued. Glad your running is going well - Boston is fast approaching!

Abby said...

Thanks for your suggestions on the bread debacle!

Good luck with Boston this year - sounds like the training's coming along well. I'm hoping to qualify this spring for the first time.

Fishmagic said...

Hey Bert, nice take on evolution. I never read Darwin, but I guess I should put it on my list.

Glad to hear the running is going well.

Denise said...

Good luck with Boston...only a few more weeks to go!!

Lisa said...

Germ, fish mermaid, man Karl Pilkington Give credit where credit is due.

Lisa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bert said...

Lisa, sure no problem to give credit to Karl Pilkington. I clearly did not try to take credit for this line, quoted in inverted commas and stated that it was someone else's take on evolution. Now I know that person is Karl Pilkington. I am enlightened. Thanks.