"Beauty confronts us with the requirement that we place ourselves among...the redeemers, the leaders in the protection of life. Once you have seen the bush on fire, you are not going to get out of the assignment unless you close your eyes to the beauty.... [You] either have to close your eyes or go back to Egypt and set the people free." - Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker, "Rising to the Challenge of Our Times"

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

"She was fed up"

Good NY Times piece on Rosa Parks. Didn't find out until just now, having been at a 3-day Legal Services staff conference that was held at a place a bit off the beaten path. The timing is personally significant, however. On Monday, our keynote speaker was Eva Paterson from the Equal Justice Society, who talked about the need to speak openly about race in our country, get it back on the table, and not let the far right continue to advance its bullshit agenda that we're living in a "colorblind society" now and discrimination is a thing of the past. (Those are my words, not exactly Ms. Paterson's.) Sorry, if anyone from the Federalist Society or the Heritage Foundation happens to be reading this, but the data just doesn't bear out the colorblind theory. Probably because you made it up.

I have a little story about Rosa Parks. When I was at BYU in 1992 or thereabouts, she came to campus to address the students. Whoever was in charge of the event apparently really misjudged the kind of reception Ms. Parks would receive. They booked her into some little lecture hall. The building has faded from my memory but I think it was one of the newer buildings at the time. Students filled the lecture hall to its standing capacity, filled the halls and rooms surrounding the lecture hall, and overflowed to the outside of the building itself. The powers-that-were had to scramble around to set up TV screens so that more of the multitude eager to see Ms. Parks and hear her words could do so. I couldn't even get into one of the overflow classrooms.

Still can't help but wonder (as did many at the time), what the hell were the planners thinking? Am I wrong to wonder if somebody in some BYU admin office thought that some old black woman who rode a bus home from work 40+ years previously couldn't be much of a draw? That a group of predominantly white Mormon college students wouldn't care about or want to connect with the civil rights movement? What did it do for them? Do they even ride buses?

The glass half full version of the story is, of course, that despite any reason or lack thereof for poor choice of venue, so many of us showed up that the building wouldn't hold us. That means that it wasn't just the liberal BYU fringes coming out of the woodwork. Some Young Republicans must have been there too.

The parallel universe fantasy version of the story, as I would like to have seen it happen, is that Rosa Parks was booked for a devotional address in the Marriott Center during the special Tuesday time when no classes were held, and everyone was instructed to go and witness a living example of that great-things-accomplished-by-small-&-simple-means concept they may have read about in a book. The whole town of Provo and perhaps even bits of Springville, Orem and American Fork showed up as well, if only for the novelty of it, and re-runs of the devotional were played on KBYU Channel 11 so people all over Utah saw Rosa Parks at the pulpit for years afterwards.

It's been awhile since I thought about Rosa Parks. She was tired and fed up and did something unexpected, and the effects traveled in time and space all the way to Provo which is definitely in a galaxy far, far away.

Anyone else out there feeling a little tired and fed up? How's this for a statistic: for every $1 of direct spending in the federal budget, our government shells out $642 (yes, that's six HUNDRED forty two) in tax benefits. Now that's a healthy welfare program. I'm not saying all those tax breaks should go away; some of them are available to poorer people in the form of the Earned Income Tax Credit, some of them promote homeownership, etc. which is great and I hope to cash in on that eventually, but mostly our government operates as a mutual aid society for rich people. Speaking of whom, here's another statistic: the wealthiest 1% of US families hold about 33% of the nation's wealth. The next 9% owns another third, and the rest of us (90%) own a third. Of course when you think about how things are going up there on Walton Mountain these days, it's shocking that the top 1% has only a paltry third of all the wealth. Surely they can do better than that. Please, the Waltons need you to help them own the whole world! Call the IRS and your state franchise tax board and ask them if you can just pay your taxes to Wal-Mart this year: cut out the middlemen, have smaller government just like folks want. Whether you shop there or not, you basically owe your soul to the company store, so why not get real about it?

Friday, October 21, 2005

the "ammond" bowl

There is a local / regional pronunciation of the particular tree nut commonly referred to as the "All-mond" in which the "A" sounds like the "A" in Amtrak and the L is completely silent. Ammonds.

There is also a local footrace event on November 6. Haven't decided whether to go for the 6-mile gusto or stick with 3. Running has started feeling pretty good again. Ran in the park Tuesday and Thursday this week, and had quick visits to the gym on Monday and Wednesday. I have rediscovered the long lost "Joy of the Stairmaster, or How to Make 15 Minutes Seem Like an Hour". Actually, with some good tunes it's not too bad. I ran on a treadmill on Monday but that takes more concentration as to where ones feet happen to land (no, I didn't fall off, but I almost tripped when I kicked the plastic housing toward the front of the machine).

We're going to a wedding in the Bay Area tomorrow, and then Monday I'm off for an all-staff retreat (held in a convent in the Santa Cruz Mountains) for 3 days. Bringing guitar for the full Julie Andrews effect. On the day I get back, Celia is flying out to NYC for 6 days with her friend (and benefactor) Mary Patterson. She's making a list of all the places she'd like to visit and starting to pack her bag. I think maybe she's a little bit excited about the trip.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

energy shortage

Ok, I finished Claire's bike yesterday (at least I got to a place where all the parts appeared to be working, and I had to give it back to her). She may or may not be glad that she fell into the hands of up-and-coming bike nerds. Lesser friends might not have helped convince her that she needed a new(er) saddle and a rack for the back of her car. However, she now has a pretty cool bike and appears from this photo to be happy with it.

There was something magical about taking it down from the stand when everything was put back together; it had been a collection of parts for the past week and suddenly it turned into a bike with attitude. (I found the tassels on a bargain table at the UCD Bike Barn on Thursday, couldn't resist them.) I told Claire I had become a little attached to her bike but she says I can come visit it.

The next bike project is assisting Celia in changing out her flat handlebars to dropbars on her Bianchi touring / roadbike. This will involve installing new brakes and bar-end shifters and wrapping the handlebars with cork tape. Ce bought all the stuff from Rivendell (link forthcoming). The dropbars are more convenient for attaching handlebar bags and assorted touring doodads, and they give you more possible hand positions to avoid fatigue.

And speaking of fatigue, I am tired. I didn't exercise much at all last week, felt kind of overwhelmed at work (let's say 7.5 on a 1 - 10 overwhelm scale), and didn't sleep well for a few days. I think I need a new goal. I'd like to do more long bike rides and practice hill climbing, and I'd like to keep up the swimming. Being a bike mechanic is good for my mind but doesn't raise the heart rate much.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

sweet skills

One of my friends from law school recently bought a bike at the annual UC Davis Bike Barn auction. They gather up all the bikes left out in the rain, much like the cake of which Donna Summer sang, on the campus over the previous year, and then sell 'em cheap. My friend mentioned that she thought she'd need a new chain, and one of the shifters didn't work. I eagerly volunteered to work on it so we brought it home with us on Sunday. I began to realize that this particular bike might, also like the cake in the song that "took so long to bake," be a bigger project than I thought. However, I'm totally fixated with the project and enjoying it immensely, and I'm gaining valuable skills in case I need to get an extra part time job or the lawyer thing doesn't work out.

I noticed I have a work style that sometimes is problematic for both bike repair and lawyering. I have a hard time choosing what to do first and staying on it until it's done and I can move to the next thing. I get distracted by new tasks, especially if one or two of them reach a place where they're stuck, and end up with a lot of parts (or papers) spread everywhere. However, it makes the effort of eventually imposing order on the chaos feel very impressive and rewarding. I think it may also impede my forward progress a bit. Some of this is the result of people calling me with worse, more urgent problems than the one I was previously working on. I can't use that excuse with the bike though. I'm happy to report that at least I finished putting the headset back together with fresh grease yesterday and it's now smooth as the sweet green icing that flowed down on that cake left out in the rain. Everything else (and I mean everything) is a work in progress.

Maybe I'll try to go to work early and tidy up my desk in the morning if I can step away from the bike. I wish it wasn't so dark at night; I've had some trouble sleeping this week and it would be nice to be out there tinkering away. I need to go to the bike shop again tomorrow and purchase some extra ball bearings that seem to have snuck away in the process of working on the hubs.

[editorial note: at first I debated whether I should leave the Napoleon Dynamite reference in the title of this post when all of the other references are to Donna Summer but then I realized that since the movie, like the song, deals briefly with the subject of cake, it all made sense after all.]

Friday, October 07, 2005

winning friends & being popular

I agreed to make a comment at the planning commission meeting last night. I get nervous about doing things like that but I know it's supposed to be good for me; also I was the only one from our office who could go. When I observe the citizenry who stand up to give their $0.02 about whatever it is I feel silly for being scared; some people are innately more able to vocalize their ranting and not worried about being completely one-sided. Sometimes I wonder if I would be a better judge than lawyer. (Hey, why not shoot for the top...I hear the Supreme Court is having open auditions. Maybe I could get nominated on the basis of my singing voice. I guess you have to know the right people though, who thankfully I don't.) Maybe I'm a little averse to taking sides in a really vocal way, right from the start of an argument, because I don't like to be wrong.

So part of why this public comment was a good exercise for me is because it gave me the opportunity to say things that potentially angered a complete stranger and convinced him that Legal Services is out to make life difficult for innocent, taxpaying businessmen. I didn't engage in a personal attack, I just said Mr. So&So ought not be able to benefit from failing to comply with state mobilehome park closure / change of use laws. Having heard his rant for the hour previous (WHY they let him carry on that long, I don't know) I gathered he had a different take on the issue. Poor guy was planning eventually to get rid of the trailers and build apartments there, but before he could obey the laws, everybody just up and moved out of his park! Imagine that.

The story is a little more complicated, of course. I sat there thinking, ok, what if he really acted in good faith and was just in a tough spot, what with the state coming in and finding that most of the residents' trailers were out of compliance, and threatening to pull his operating permit? Then I thought, well, it's up to the commission to decide what to do with his story, and maybe there are other versions of the story they should hear, even if we don't know which version(s) are the Real story.
My story was that he wanted to change uses all along and that he paid people small varying sums of cash to leave the park (which is true) when he could just as easily have paid them small sums to bring more of their trailers into compliance. Since he said how he thought they were mostly good folks (who mostly spoke Spanish). He was SUPPOSED to give them a year's advanced notice and invite them to a public meeting where the city council would decide what kind of relocation benefits he was supposed to provided them. Instead, he just told them that the park was closing and they would need to look for a new place to live. Then he wonders why they all moved away?

The best and worst part of the meeting was that the Planning Commission was not very sympathetic with this guy, and stuck him dead-last on the agenda. He got up to the podium around 8:30 or so. At 10:00 they finally told him he'd said all he could say, several times over. Then I got to stand up. I was a little past my prime by that point in terms of being tired, starved, and annoyed, and I don't know if I was coherent. But at least I got on the record. I couldn't stick around long after my speech so I don't know what they finally decided (if anything). Didn't really want an opportunity to chat with the park owner either so I picked up my chicken legs and left. If I find out what happened, I'll let you know.

NOTE ON TRIATHLON RESULTS: the split times are out. I'll put in a new link to them ASAP, meanwhile if you follow the link in the last post you might be able to find them.

Monday, October 03, 2005

How it Went

The split times for the individual segments haven't been posted yet, but I achieved my goal of finishing in less than 2 hours and finished in the top half of the pack, around 133rd out of about 300.

Unfortunately the hoped-for photo documentation of my participation didn't happen. I should have left my camera with Celia and our friends Liza and Jen who came to watch rather than leaving it my truck. I have a photo I took of the Rancho Seco cooling towers on the way to the event, but that's not really an action shot. So I'll try to describe it:

Arrived about 45 minutes before the start and had to get signed in, get bib numbers and safety pins and so forth, find a spot to set up in the transition area (rows of bike racks and towels on the ground with bike and running shoes laid out). Was given a color-coded latex swimcap for my wave (swimmers took off in age groups 5 minutes apart). Donned my tri suit and had myself marked with my bib number and age (a guy with a black magic marker wrote the number on both shoulders, above both knees, and on the back of both hands, and wrote my age on the back of my left calf. On the right calf he drew a little smiley face just for symmetry and to spread cheer, I guess). Then I really felt like a triathlete.

About ten minutes before the start, I headed to the water to get adjusted. Some people had wetsuits and I think they must have been steam cooked by the time they finished the swim, because the water felt like it was at least 72 degrees. Buoys were set out in the lake to mark the swim course. They appeared to be far, far away both from the shore and from each other.

My wave was the second to take off. Turns out that it wasn't horribly crowded and no one kicked me in the head, but it was really hard to relax and swim freestyle. My goggles leaked continuously. The water was solid green when I looked down so I felt like I was making no progress. After about ten minutes the wave after mine caught up with and mostly passed me. The safety crew in their kayaks seemed to be following me and occasionally shouted words of encouragement. I don't think I looked like I was drowing or anything; they probably just tried to encourage anyone who appeared to be doing breaststroke for 3/4 of the swim and stopping to adjust her goggles every two minutes.

Much to my surprise, when I reached shallow water and began to run for the shore, only 22 minutes had passed. About the same amount of time it takes me to swim freestyle for half a mile, calmly, in a pool.

I guess it's no big surprise, but the swim is definitely my weak link and (other than the goggle problem) it's a mental training issue as much or more than a physical one.

Once I got on my bike I felt great and started catching up. I passed other riders throughout the bike leg and was only passed a couple times by some women who looked like they had a few of these events under their proverbial belts (and they were both 40-something, so they've had more time to train). The bike course was a series of rolling hills, just enough to be interesting but not too hard. I lost a bolt on my rear touring rack (should have taken it off before the race, but didn't) and the strut rattled like crazy against my chainstay the whole time but fortunately caused no problems other than self-consciousness. When I finished the bike leg, Celia, Liza and Jen were there cheering! As I told them yesterday, having the cheering section is better than a packet of caffeinated Gu for giving one's spirits a boost. Though having both is probably ideal.

The run felt pretty good too. My legs were tired but they've been through worse. Running course was out and back on a dirt road with a few more little rolling hills and some treacherous star thistle, but three miles didn't seem very far. I had enough juice to pick up the pace and finish in a sprint for the last 200 yards or so.

Then I was done, in an hour and fifty minutes! Except for the swim, I felt like it was more fun than it was difficult. I won't be ready to graduate to olympic distance triathlons until I'm more secure with the swimming thing.

One of the best parts of this event was the physical diversity of the women participating. All shapes and sizes. Seeing them hit home how completely wrong is society's / the media's concept of what a strong, healthy woman looks like. When you look in the mirror, it is so hard to get that kind of BS out of your head once it's in there, even if you are (as I fancy myself) an otherwise mostly rational person.

Anyway, the event inspired me to want to make feeling good the sole motivating factor for my exercise and nutrition. It's the only goal that seems really attainable. That is not to say that it wouldn't "feel good" to improve my time a bit in the next triathlon, or navigate the overland bike route. I foresee some occasions when "feeling good" might be less than pleasant. OK, maybe there will always be multiple motivating factors. I just don't want worrying about how I look to be one of them.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow

Starting to get a little nervous. I began assembling all the bits & pieces of gear last night. We're spending the night in Vacaville with our friends there. Need to find out how long it should take to drive from Vacaville to Galt...mapquest here we come.

In two weeks there is an organized bike ride from Oroville to Quincy. Quincy is a cute little town in the mountains. I am stupidly tempted by it. Stupidly, I say, because the first 35 miles or so are uphill, and then there are about 30 more. My uphill riding achievements to date are somewhat modest in comparison. I wonder how far I could actually get. Maybe to mile 15? 10? Do I hear 5?

Bringing camera to the Tri so stay tuned.