Archive for the ‘Self-Promotion’ Category


My first Commencement, 20 years later

November 10, 2011

As I continue to sort through old books and files, I just came across the speech I gave at my high school graduation in 1991. It’s neither great nor terrible — just an interesting snapshot of how I thought and expressed myself at the age of 18.

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Honored guests, parents, friends, and classmates:

To begin with, I want to thank my parents, my teachers, my coaches, and the Rutland High students themselves for everything you have done for me over the years. Without your guidance and support, I wouldn’t be standing up here.

I have agonized for many hours about what I should say tonight, and I was thinking that, to begin with, I could wish my classmates “Good luck.” I assumed that no one would protest such a simple and uncontroversial message. But then why is it that in last year’s Rutland High School yearbook, senior class president Zach Kron wrote, “I wish you all success, profit, and above all happiness… but not luck. Luck is for rabbits.” And Ralph Waldo Emerson — an even greater philosophical authority — once said, “Shallow men believe in luck.” Apparently, luck has a somewhat tarnished reputation. But I believe it’s a reputation it doesn’t deserve.

To understand why we should dare to utter the words “Good luck,” it is important to first consider what luck is. A standard dictionary definition would say this: “Good fortune coming by chance.” This definition seems pretty reasonable on the surface. Still, it does not quite correspond with many people’s understanding of the word.

Students usually talk about luck in situations like these: someone takes many guesses on an English test, gets a good grade, and says, “Oh, I must have just gotten lucky.” Or a basketball team wins a game when one of its players sinks a desperation shot at the buzzer. But is luck entirely responsible for these people’s successes? Most likely, the studying done by the student helped him or her to guess correctly, and the basketball player’s hours of shooting practice were partly responsible for him or her making the shot.

These examples suggest that what we call luck does not occur totally at random, even though a strict dictionary definition might not agree. Instead, luck often benefits those who have worked hard and have earned it. In general, we create our own good luck by putting ourselves in a position to take advantage of unexpected circumstances. The major league catcher Tim McCarver said of Hall of Famer Bob Gibson, “Gibson’s the luckiest pitcher I’ve ever seen. Because he always picks the night to pitch when the other team doesn’t score any runs.” McCarver was kidding, of course, but his point definitely applies here. What we attribute to fate or chance may actually be a direct or indirect result of our own talent, determination, or other favorable qualities.

Therefore, it is necessary that, as a class, we don’t go into adulthood passively, hoping that luck will make us a success. In school, we have motivated ourselves to accomplish much academically, athletically, and artistically. Our test scores, victories, and musical performances have all, at times, been made possible by luck, but if we hadn’t put time and energy into these pursuits, all the luck in the world wouldn’t have done us any good. In the future, we must continue to be self-reliant and ready to prosper on our own. Then, most likely, we will get a few lucky breaks that will help us to achieve our goals.

Thus, against the advice of Kron and Emerson, I will say to you, my classmates, I hope that you will profit from good luck — because if you do, you most likely will have done something to deserve it.


Other recommended blogs

June 26, 2011

As a small counterweight to the egotism and self-promotion that creep into my blogging, I’m giving the Crowther stamp of approval to some blogs other than this one.

Runner’s World Daily. This blog is written mostly by Mark Remy, who is the funniest running writer I’ve encountered on the web. Here’s a recent example of his work: When Racehorses Read ‘Born to Run.’

Oikos. This is an ecology journal with a new blog to which my friend Jeremy Fox is a primary contributor. Many of his posts are fairly ecology-specific, but some are remarks applicable to science in general.

Sing About Science & Math. Oops, here’s that self-promotion creeping in again; the SAS&M blog is written by me. After a year of doing it, though, I think it’s starting to get pretty good. Check out my series of interviews with science songsters, for example.


Yet another non-entry

February 16, 2011

Since I’ve been injured for several months, the request for a running-related interview came as a surprise. But it was for real, and I was happy to oblige:

Runner’s Story: My Track Record

Thanks to Heart Rate Monitors USA for taking an interest in this broken old man.


Someday I’ll have time to write a real blog entry…

February 9, 2011

… but in the meantime you’re stuck with this.


My new rap video: "Money 4 Drugz"

January 31, 2011

This was my entry into this year’s UW Pocketmedia Film Festival. You can vote for it (or any other entry) at the People’s Choice Gallery page.


My beautiful cyberchild

December 13, 2010

Among my various achievements and creations over the years, MASSIVE is among those of which I am proudest. My Sing About Science blog and MASSIVE’s What’s New? page note recent improvements, with additional upgrades planned for the coming months.


Shameless self-promotion

September 23, 2010

Here are a couple of things I recently posted at other sites:
Why do people run ultramarathons?
Saving Kids With Science

To follow the first link, you’ll have to create login at “Big Games” website. I recommend this site, which is run by Williams College philosophy professor Will Dudley, but if you don’t want to register there, you can instead read my essay below.

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This post is sort of an add-on to Chris Kirwan’s post about participating in a 24-mile swimming relay, or, to be even more specific, to Will Dudley’s comment on that post, in which he asked, “What is the appeal of events that push the limits of endurance to such extremes?”

Maybe I can help answer that question. I’ve been hanging out with ultramarathoners for about a decade, and I’ve been an ultrarunner myself for the last six years. (Ultramarathons, or “ultras,” are generally defined as races longer than the marathon distance of 26 miles, 385 yards.)

In figuring out how to frame my ideas, I thought back to something Will said at a gathering of Williams College alumni several years ago. One possible benefit of sports, he argued, is that they provide a fun, frivolous escape from the many serious issues confronting us in everyday life. In other words, “they’re important because they’re not important.”

In that playful and paradoxical spirit, I offer the following reasons why people choose to run ultramarathons. (The ones that apply best to me are 1A, 2A, 5A, and 5B.)

1A: Ultras are hard. Some people just want a challenge beyond that of marathons. That may sound ridiculous to nonrunners, but it’s true.
1B: Ultras are not hard. This viewpoint is more difficult to justify, but in the United States, most ultramarathons are held on trails, and trail running is considered easier on the body than pounding the pavement.

2A: Ultras offer unique competitive opportunities. Virtually nobody makes a living as a professional ultrarunner — the winner of a prestigious race may be awarded a few hundred dollars, or perhaps a free pair of shoes or a shiny trophy — so the playing field is relatively level in that sense. It’s also level in the sense that older runners can compete successfully against young ones, since endurance fades more slowly with age than raw speed does.
2B: Competing against others is downplayed in ultras. Reason 2A notwithstanding, the competition at ultras is arguably less cutthroat than at shorter races. When you share the roads or trails with fellow athletes for several hours or more, you tend to develop a sense of common purpose and mutual respect. Ultrarunners generally want each other to succeed.

3A: Ultras provide a strong social network. Marathons often include thousands of runners, whereas most ultras have fewer than 100. This, along with factors mentioned in Reason 2B, results in the ultra community being relatively small and tight-knit. This is appealing to many of its members.
3B: Ultras provide a retreat from society into nature. There’s something about spending an entire day moving through the natural world under your own power that makes you feel extra-connected to it.

4A: Ultras don’t attract mainstream attention. As hinted at in Reason 2A, ultramarathoning is not a huge industry dominated by corporate sponsors and race management companies. This has both plusses and minuses, but the “grassroots” values of the sport have plenty of advocates.
4B: Ultras are a good way of attracting attention. If you want to raise money for and awareness of a particular cause, simply running a marathon may not draw much interest. If you run all the way across the United States, media coverage is more likely.

5A: Ultras offer more variety than other races. You may encounter rugged single-track trails full of rocks and roots, mountainous climbs above elevations of 10,000 feet, night running, snow, river crossings, desert heat, an absence of clear directional markings…. The sheer variety of these challenges not only makes ultras hard (Reason 1A) but also makes them interesting!
5B: Ultras reward consistency and single-minded perseverance. Running an ultra can be much more complicated than running a marathon, as Reason 5A suggests. Because of this, many people require several attempts to get the hang of it. While this is undoubtedly discouraging to some, it keeps others coming back for more, determined to nail their next ultra, or perhaps the one after that.

I like this list, and yet its usefulness seems limited. Will it convince outsiders that ultras are good use of time and energy? Probably not. Does it explain how the enticing aspects of ultras are distinct from those of other sports? Only somewhat. Does it represent a genuine consensus among ultramarathoners? Not necessarily….

I guess we have yet to arrive at a unified theory of ultras.


Another blog

May 31, 2010

As some of you know, I’ve been interested in educational science songs for many years. When Wendy Silk asked me to participate in her new pilot project on Undergraduate Biology Education — Songs for Teaching (UBEST), I was happy to say yes.

A major goal of the project is to build a network of teachers, students, musicians, and others who believe that music can be used to engage people who might otherwise be intimidated or bored by scientific content. In her quiet way, Wendy is a natural networker and has already talked to many people about this project. I have been slow to follow suit thus far, but I’d like to mention that we have a new blog devoted to science songs: If you share my interest in this topic, or if you just can’t get enough of my blogosphere blather, please check it out.


GJC and JFK: the interview

December 9, 2009

Sarah Gist writes an online column on running and fitness in Seattle. Her latest piece is: Greg Crowther wins JFK 50 Mile race.

Thanks to Sarah for the coverage . . . and to Glenn Tachiyama for the use of yet another one of his marvelous photos.

Also, in other news, fellow Seattlite Uli Steidl was quick to upstage my JFK win with an even bigger win at The North Face’s Endurance Challenge 50. Congrats, Uli!


UW Pocketmedia Film Festival

May 13, 2009

The University of Washington is soliciting entries for a “short film festival limited to the new media of pocket video cameras, cell phones, and mobile appliances.”

The festival’s theme is, “What do U do at the UW?” Since my job mostly entails malaria-related research, I made a 55-second film about that — sort of.

Thanks to my friend Do Peterson and his friend Alex Stemm-Wolf for lending me their music, and thanks to several colleagues for lending me their children.