Tuesday, October 28, 2014


All told, I walked 22,462 steps tonight. This was my first double-summiting of Namsan in about a week, and it felt good. Tiring, but good. I actually ran about 145 steps (by "step," in this case, I mean counting every time my left foot hit the ground, so by my pedometer's reckoning, I actually ran 290 steps), which had me quickly out of breath, especially since I was heaving my large self uphill when I did it. (Running downhill is possible for me, but it's murder on my knees.) Tuesday, I'll double-summit again, and on Wednesday night, I might try a triple-summit—sort of a compromise, since I doubt I'll be able to do a six-hour megawalk. Thursday and Friday nights will be my final opportunities to bring my October average back up to 14K. As of tonight, I'm in the low 13Ks thanks to spending several days in a row in the office, barely racking up 5K to 7K steps. It's gonna be close, and there's a chance my October average will be lower than September's. I've got my fingers crossed that this final burst of effort will carry me over the 14K hurdle.



Charles said...

Hi! Your friendly neighborhood pedant here.

"Step" is generally used to refer to the movement of one foot, not both feet, so your pedometer is correct. I've always been annoyed that there is no universally accepted, unambiguous unit of measure for what you're talking about. Apparently "pace" was used in Ancient Rome to mean a double step, but now it is synonymous with "step." "Stride" is the technical term used these days, but even there, in common usage, people often use it as a synonym for "step."

(I posted that partly because I suspect you have a defense of your word choice already chambered, and I'm keen to hear it. Fire away!)

Pedantry aside, why did you run? If the reason was anything other than, "I was being chased by a pack of rabid corgies," I am going to be severely disappointed.

Kevin Kim said...


I haven't thought Talmudically about the definition of a step, but your pedantry prompts me to do a search in defense of my usage. As is often the case when the pedants pay me a visit, I find myself defending the possibility of my using a term a certain way so as to disprove that using the term in that way is impossible, or at least illegitimate.

To demonstrate possibility, when it comes to language, is a sticky business: just how many cases in my favor do I need to cite? Is one example of my chosen usage enough? Or do I need a hundred? Is a hundred enough if Googlefight shows that the "received" usage produces a few hundred thousand hits in opposition to my usage?

Strictly speaking, if possibility is all I'm defending, it may be enough just to find, say, one "common" source and one authoritative source. That won't convince the determined pedant, but it's enough to show that I'm not completely crazy in my choice of words.

So a "common" source says (please excuse the plethora of typos):

"Pace has two real world meanings. [It's] a relative speed [measurement],
"We began our journey at a pace of four miles per hour"

[It's] also a mapping tool where we have students walk over a line of approximately 100 ft and [every time,] say, their left foot strikes the ground, that is a full step. Starting off with the right foot, then the [follow] on step is the [left,] that [counts] as 1."

And an authoritative source has, as one possible definition of "step":

"(2) : a combination of foot or foot and body movements constituting a unit or a repeated pattern"

I doubt I've convinced the truly acharné, but I've at least reassured myself that my usage isn't off.

As a matter of research, I'm interested in finding out where the "common" source got this notion from. It's far easier to dig up what you found re: the old Roman notion of the "pace." Will keep on digging.

Kevin Kim said...

Oh, yes: I ran probably for the same reason I used "step" in a special way: to make up for lost time. Had I said that I'd run "290 steps," that would somehow have felt like cheating, as if I'd made more effort than I really had. By the same token, I ran, instead of walked, partly to push myself to greater aerobic exertion after nearly a week of comparative restfulness. It was both miserable and glorious to be that out of breath, and to realize that I was still walking uphill, with no respite possible so long as I kept moving. Which I did.

The big benefit of all these months of effort hasn't been so much weight loss, which has plateaued, as reduction in resting heart rate. Before I began walking in earnest in Hayang, my resting heart rate was, frankly, beginning to worry me: it was in the 90s. For a big guy like me, that's bad news. As someone once wrote, imagine gently curling a two-pound dumbbell. At first it's easy, but do it several hundred thousand times a day, and it's nearly impossible. The heart muscle routinely accomplishes a similar feat, but it does so 24/7, with no true rest ever in sight. It's an amazing organ, when you stop to think about it—a true sine qua non. And my heart rate is now down in the 70s. I'm hoping that I may have added a few extra years to my debt-ridden existence.

Charles said...

Had I said that I'd run "290 steps," that would somehow have felt like cheating, as if I'd made more effort than I really had.

Ah, and here we come to the crux of the matter--your use of the word step was not necessarily a linguistic or semantic choice, but a strategy to downplay the effort exerted. That context actually makes a lot more sense to me.

If I can keep the pendanty ball rolling a little longer, though, let me make a quick comment on your authoritative source. I followed the link and noted that the primary definition is the one that I referred to--that is, "an advance or movement made by raising the foot and bringing it down elsewhere." The second definition, which you quoted, does not actually refer to a method of locomotion, as we can see by the lack of the term "advance" and, more tellingly, the example appended to the end: "a dance step." I would argue that "step" here is being used in an entirely different sense.

Although my original comment did not question the possibility of your usage (note the use of "generally" and other such hemming and hawing), I now find myself wondering about its "legitimacy." That is, I've never heard anyone use "step" in that sense, but anecdotal evidence is not definitive. People often use language differently in different areas. If you turn up anything, I will be interested to hear about it.

And on to what is really important here: I have to say I have been very impressed by your regime lately. It is inspiring, seeing the efforts you have been making. Making me feel a little guilty about my measly walks to and from school, to be honest.

Kevin Kim said...


You're already in so much better shape than I am that you've got nothing to feel guilty about. I don't know how you can cook the things you do and not get fat. You're obviously leading a pretty active lifestyle. Either that, or you're blessed with a metabolism that burns calories at a ferocious rate.

As for your rejection of my dictionary source: your interpretation is plausible, although I'd disagree that there's no locomotion implied even in something like a dance step. How else does one get from one place to another on the dance floor if not via dance steps? (Although the Irish seem to have invented a style of dancing that involves going nowhere fast while keeping one's upper body cadaverously rigid.)

"That is, I've never heard anyone use 'step' in that sense, but anecdotal evidence is not definitive. People often use language differently in different areas. If you turn up anything, I will be interested to hear about it."

I'll likely follow up the lead given by my "common" source. If one person uses it the way that I do, then it's likely that others do as well. Are we all crazy?

In the meantime, I just have to shake my head and wonder why people keep questioning my ability to use English correctly. As a language Nazi, I find this frustrating, like being an artist who's perpetually misunderstood.

Charles said...

Don't take it too seriously. We're all language Nazis, and when we see something that doesn't jive with our understanding, we open up a dialogue. At least, that is the way I'm approaching it. I have no horse in this race, so to speak; it doesn't really matter to me one way or the other, that's just what I've always read and heard. But if you came up with convincing evidence that showed "step" is indeed used that way, my reaction would be: "Huh, whaddya know? Learn something new every day." Because, to be honest, the whole step/pace/stride thing has always kind of confused me.

But this discussion has gotten me thinking about the bigger issue, namely prescriptivism versus descriptivism. I think it's safe to say that you are relying on descriptivist evidence with your "common" source, yes? I'm just wondering if, in this day and age, when every inane utterance of every emotionally-stunted teenager is recorded for all posterity on this great beast we call the internet, how viable descriptivism is as a long-term strategy.

I think it all boils down to what sort of coverage we need to see before we can say that something is in common usage. You alluded to this in your previous comment when you mentioned Google fights, etc. This was something I wrestled with when I taught translation, and my students would come to me with something that was clearly wrong and tell me they found it on the internet. There are common grammatical mistakes for which you can find a metric buttload of examples--does this make the usage "valid"? It may make it common, but it's nothing more than a common error. This is my basic problem with descriptivism: at a certain point, it all descends into chaos.

As for the food that I cook, I assume you're talking about the stuff I put up on Liminality, or the stuff we've cooked together in the past. That actually makes up a very small part of our diet. We eat a lot of vegetables, a lot of whole grains, etc. Also, we don't actually eat that much. So while I do have a relatively high metabolism, it is slowing down as I get older, and I cannot eat nearly as much as I used to.

Anyway, that's not the point. Being skinny isn't necessarily an indicator of good health, just as being heavy is not necessarily an indicator of poor health. I have been exercising, but I probably need to do more. Sitting back and saying, "Yeah, I'm in pretty good shape" is the worst thing I could do right now. So I will continue to be inspired--and hopefully motivated.