Elliott C. Back: Internet & Technology

Tough Mudder – Tri-State 2011

Posted in Health, Me, NYC by Elliott Back on November 12th, 2011.

My calves burned with a low throb, incomparable to the pain on the track, as I watched the muddy water–brown–spiral down the bathtub drain. Washing the mud off after Tough Mudder Tri-State 2011, 12 miles of mud, obstacles, and freezing water, was the real end of the race, the delineating point at which I could return to my regular home, body, and life.

The weather in Jersey when we ran was in the mid-50s, with a cold wind blowing hard. We kicked off around 11:30 and crossed the finish line at 3:15, after stopping for 30 minutes to drop of two injured teammates at the first-aid station at mile 6. Volunteers told us that at least four ankles had been broken already at the monkeybars obstacle, and we saw others who fell wrong mid course or fell to hypothermia being carted away by ambulances that were standing by. Signs along the way taunted our determination with “you signed your death waiver already” and “you just completed a Warrior Dash” (at mile 4).

The Course

The course map tells part of the story, but running the track is another experience entirely. After running and climbing through a rope obstacle (easy!) you are asked to take the Chernobyl Plunge a dive into a pool of icey water with food colouring added (you get a choice of green/red/purple), submersion under barbed wire, and them up the other side of the pool where you clamber out. The water is chest-deep, refrigerated, and has ice cubes literally floating in it:

See that ice? SEE IT?

This sets the stage for your upcoming hypothermia. After shimmying across ropes strung across a lake, then climbing over 9 foot walls–teamwork required–you hit another obstacle, a 20 drop into the cold lakewater, followed by a couple hundred foot swim to the other side. You get out cold, wet, with the sharp winding blowing through you. But what’s coming is why you joined Tough Mudder–THE MUD!!!

I haven’t ever jumped from this high before

They call it “the mile of mud”, where you slog through waist/chest high slippery mud. After that, there’s crawling under barbed wire through mud, crawling through muddy pipes, crawling under a heavy net in mud, slogging up and down a dirtbike track, then sliding down a mud mountain!

Some of my favourite obstacles were the hay piles you climbed over (reminds me of Alberta’s rural landscape), and the balance beam over frigid water. I was warm and dry from the sun by this time and was extremely motivated to avoid falling in. My teammate did, but I made it across without an unnecessary dousing! The fire obstacle was running between two sets of fires, and through the smoke, but not actually overtop of any fire, so I thought that was a bit lame. I also didn’t get electric shocked!

Tough Mudder Tips

  • Dress for the event. Running leggings (like these CW-Xs) help immensely with the cold and sliding through mud. Wear a long sleeved shirt that doesn’t soak up moisture–not cotton. Bare skin is a no-no.
  • It wouldn’t hurt to wear a swimming cap, but goggles are useless in mud
  • Take the obstacles slowly and carefully, as your shoes are heavy with mud and slippery. You don’t want a nasty fall or scrape.
  • Help others on course! They will help you too!


One thing that struck me was the team spirit present. While people are there to push themselves hard, it’s not an individual event, it’s more of a team sport. At every obstacle, other racers are there helping people up the high walls, pulling them up the halfpipe, or lending a hand at the end of the inclined submerged tunnels:

I enjoyed helping others through some of the harder obstacles as much as I enjoyed completing the race on my own. The feeling is completely different than running a competitive pure-running race, for time, where everyone is only out for themselves. Tough Mudder brings out humanity’s cooperative and compassionate nature. I heard nothing but encourgement shouted out to myself and others the whole track, tips and muscle freely given.

Tough Mudder and Beyond

Tough Mudder will mark you for life. Even after you’ve washed off the superficial mud, cleaned and healed your scrapes and bruises, warmed up and changed into new clothes, even running other races, you won’t be able to forget that you once ran 12 miles on a cold windy day fearing the worst and made it. Now that I’ve run Tough Mudder, I’m no longer afraid to take the next challenge. I can do anything!

Obama Murders Osama: The Illegal Assassination of America’s #1 Enemy

Posted in Homeland Security, Law, Politics, President by Elliott Back 1 week, 4 days ago.

What gave President Obama the right to order Navy Seals to invade the foreign sovereign nation of Pakistan, fly inland 50 kilometers from the Capital, and murder an unarmed foreign citizen? According to Reuters, “‘this was a kill operation,’ U.S. national security official [said], clarifying no desire to capture Osama bin Laden alive.” In the NY Times article New U.S. Account Says Bin Laden Was Unarmed During Raid, they clarify:

Bin Laden’s wife, who was with him in the room, “rushed the U.S. assaulter and was shot in the leg but not killed,” said the White House spokesman, Jay Carney, reading from the brief account, which was provided by the Defense Department. “Bin Laden was then shot and killed. He was not armed.”

Despite expecting Bin Laden to put up a fight, Mr. Brennan said the assault team had made contingency plans for capturing, rather than killing him. “If we had the opportunity to take Bin Laden alive, if he didn’t present any threat, the individuals involved were able and prepared to do that,” he said.

After the atrocities of World War II, there were held a series of military tribunals called the Nuremberg Trials, where German leadership was tried under doctrine drawn up by the occupying powers. By attempting to create and follow a criminal war-crimes procedure rooted in justice, the trials dispelled notions of “victor’s justice” and “murder by court.”

So why couldn’t we do the same with Osama? Here are two reasons why we should:

Executive Order 12333

In 1981, President Ronald Reagan signed into law this order which stated that “No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.” This restated Gerald Ford’s ban on political assassinations, and Jimmy Carter’s ban on indirect assassination. Of course, this does not apply to enemy combatants…

“Grave Breaches” of the Geneva Convention

We haven’t seen any evidence that Osama was actively engaged against the United States; when he was confronted by Navy Seals, he was unarmed. He should therefore have been accorded protection as a prisoner of war, fairly treated, and granted a fair trial. Instead he was assassinated.

I’d like to leave you with this quote from Reason’s Did the killing of Osama bin Laden violate U.S. law?:

“We’re violating our basic values and our basic principles, which is that we accord everybody due process and we don’t engage in summary executions,” argued libertarian Fox Business Channel host Judge Andrew Napolitano. “Justice is not a summary execution by a Navy SEAL in your bedroom.”

The Economist’s obituary of Osama bin Ladin is also worth reading.

Update: In the LA Times article “Osama bin Laden’s son says U.S. broke international law ‘if’ his father is dead”, Omar bin Ladin says “We are not convinced on the available evidence in the absence of dead body, photographs, and video evidence that our natural father is dead.” Omar also accuses the US of “breaking international law by killing the unarmed terrorist leader without a trial.”

Euro-Style Espresso Shot Cups

Posted in Food by Elliott Back on November 21st, 2010.

I hate to shill, but I just picked up a pair of Bodum Pavina 2.5-Ounce Double-Wall Thermo Glasses (Espresso/Shot) from Amazon and I’m loving them:

Do you like a rich shot of Espresso? Do you like not burning your hands on the hot cups? These euro-stylish double-walled espresso shot glasses are for you, then. They are absolutely gorgeous, and well-made. They handle hot/cold well, and show no signs of fragility. They’re dishwasher safe. I even dropped one onto a hardwood floor and it didn’t break, which is amazing.

Next Page »