"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, December 27, 2006

Putting the Pro back in Procrastination

This is going to be short 'cause I have to dash off to work--BRIEFLY, I pray--to finish up the paperwork backlog I allowed to accumulate over the past, well, year.

Yesterday the office was officially closed which made the 10 hrs I put in extremely productive. I'm trying to leave on vacation, you see, but everything is supposed to be done before the ball drops over the weekend. And when the office is open I find it incredibly difficult to get anything done, people keep calling me, dropping in with new problems, and there's the email OCD thing where I feel compelled to check it about every 5 minutes, etc. I'm not sure what grand message it is that I think I might be receiving any minute that makes me want to check so often but it must be something good. (That's framing the problem optimistically at least.)

There is now some space on my desk that hasn't seen the light of day for months, so deep in my heart, I do believe that we shall be leaving for the coast this morning. Maybe not early this morning, but prior to 12:00 pm. Okay, gotta go.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

graduated from Nerf

I pried Ce away during halftime on Sunday and we took our Nerf out in the parking lot. I guess for purposes of throwing a ball amidst parked cars it was a good idea but it was clear that this wouldn't do for real practice, plus we were probably bringing shame to our ancestors by tossing this bit of pointed prolate spheroid-shaped styrofoam around.

Today at lunchtime I went to Play it Again Sports and acquired a nice sticky Wilson Supreme official NCAA-size composite ball for $14.99. I tucked it under my arm and discretely ran back to the car. I think it's bigger than the one the women's league plays with but it has a good feel and Ce noted that no pigs or other animals donated their hides for it.

So now our household is more properly equipped. It's almost, but not quite, as exciting as the hanging cookware rack we bought from Collier's last weekend with our housewarming gift certificate. (Thanks again, you know who you are!!)

Sunday, December 17, 2006

"was it destiny? I don't know yet"

The next Papale?

We stopped in for lunch at the Burger Hut off of Forest Ave. yesterday, needing to refuel for continued shopping, and also dining there was a whole table full of sturdy looking ladies in maroon football jerseys. I studied them for a bit, then noticed one of the women had a T-shirt that said "Rage On!" This was clearly the "Redding Rage" professional women's football team (or part of it, at least). So then I had to talk to them. We sat down at the adjoining table and I turned to the nearest player and said "Are YOU the Redding Rage?" which seemed to please the woman enormously. She said "Yes! Do you guys want to play?"

How to answer that question. Heck yes I want to play. Ce is very clear about her desire to remain a spectator, not a participant, but I am not clear at all and I can't figure out why. Normally I am quite averse to physical risks. They play full contact in this league. Maybe I don't really want to play, I just want to try on the costume. No, I want to try on the persona too. I could be meaner than a junkyard dog on the football field (within the rules of play) and my behavior would be completely appropriate.

On the other hand, I looked at their roster and it looks like they need another kicker. Not exactly the junkyard dog position but probably would make a lot more sense for someone who's a bit scrawny and risk averse. I think I was probably about 8 or 9 years old when I last attempted to kick a football but I'm sure it would come back with a little practice.

Anyway, it's only $25 to try out and you get a t-shirt (compared to the $75 fee to try out for the Sacramento Sirens team) so maybe...just for fun...just to say I tried...I'll head to Redding on January 6.

P.S. Someone I went to school with who is a staff attorney for legal services in Sacramento plays for the Sirens. She's smaller than I am but she's a lot meaner.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

lean your ear this way

I spent the morning at a senior center in their storage room (officially called "the library" because among the stored items are some bookshelves full of very old paperbacks and ReadersDigestCondensed volumes). I have appointments here once a month. Today a client asked me, "Are you an attorney, or are you from Legal Aid?" I explained, why, as it happens, I am an attorney AND I am from Legal Aid! To cut the old lady a little slack, though, a lot of free legal aid happens through the efforts of non-attorneys and attorneys who volunteer their time. I don't really wear the uniform that people associate with attorneys either so I can't blame her for not being sure.

Since I had a couple no-shows today there was more opportunity to reflect on the senior center environs. A gentleman started playing Christmas songs on the piano in the main room. He played a bit hesitantly, as if sight reading and a little rusty, though less rusty than I would have been. He played "Jolly Old St. Nicholas" in a halting, reverent way that made it sound exactly like like a hymn, which was pretty much how he played all the songs, but for some reason that one stuck. I'm a sucker for paradox, I guess. But the main thing was that the music warmed the air a bit, sent out some good vibrations, and that he was both able and willing to play for us. Bless him.

Friday, December 08, 2006


"If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there'd be peace."

I don't know if a mass rejection of additional TVs would be sufficient to halt the war industry or repair the damage it has done, but I will challenge myself, and you, to think of something else you can do today or the coming week or month to bring forth your own vision of the world you would like you, your kids, and / or your friends to live in, on however small a scale.

Thanks. Visions may vary a bit, but I think it's probably safe to assume that nobody dreams of raising their kids in a cardboard box by the river or in bombed-out ruins, and probably everyone would like to be able to get medical care without destroying their credit, and probably nobody really enjoys being stuck in traffic twice a day, so I trust you.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

my own private Kansas

I applied for and was appointed to a Citizens Advisory Committee to help with our county's General Plan update process. I missed the first meeting due to a conflict but attended one tonight in which the group showed photos of things they liked or disliked about our county, and we reviewed a set of "guiding principles" that will be used to chart the rest of the GP update.

There were many, many photos of the open spaces, ag land, forest, recreation opportunities etc. (Like), and some photos of illegal dumping and aesthetically displeasing industrial uses (Dislike). Unfortunately since I missed the first meeting I didn't find out about the photo homework in time. We were put into groups as part of this discussion. One of the people in my group had a profound concern that the commercial developments along our highways were being painted in colors that did not encourage people to shop / eat there. She expressed this at some length. Another person explained that we need to develop more recreation options because now everybody wants to live where they play since they can do all their work remotely with the internet (uh, except for the people who mow the golf course lawn, run the concession stand, teach math to the children of the liberated recreating home-office workers, and respond to 911 calls; but sure, everybody else is just here to play).

OK, trying to respect the inherent worth & dignity of the people in my group. Maybe they are really deep in ways that were not apparent. I would love to wallow in progressive-minded self-righteousness here but listening to everyone in the room made me realize that going to work every day, where I work, has given me a very distorted view of what public priorities are. It's not just that the concerns of the poor are overlooked, it's more like there's an active hatred or aversion.

All the group introductions happened in the first meeting so I haven't been outed as a legal aid lawyer yet, though people probably became suspicious when I tried to suggest that we establish a guiding principle that the General Plan will address the needs of housing for all income levels. It is kind of scary to realize that somewhere between 15 - 30% of the population of the county may have no voice at all in this process if I don't pipe up now and then with my wildly popular ideas.

On the other hand, my background and affiliations were fully disclosed in my application to serve on this committee, so it seems likely that somebody in the planning department really wants to hear from me. Time to step up.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


Specifically, cured (at least for now) of my curiosity about ultramarathon running. Just the garden-variety 26.2 distance is fine. I was about to refer to this as the distance that killed Phidippides but apparently that story may be a total myth, and/or before he ran 21-something miles from Marathon to Athens, he had spent the two days before running 150 miles to Sparta and back. Nor was he on paved roads and rolling hills. So I don't fault him for dropping dead at some point. The only reason Dean Karnazes can get away with it is that he stops at 7-11 for donuts and microwave pizza while he's running, and his family brings him peanut butter sandwiches.

Technically I guess I did an 'ultra' since we walked about 4 blocks back to C's mom's place after I finished, and after I had spent a few minutes trying to decide if I was going to have to ingloriously decorate the lawn of our State Capitol. (Note: hot tomato soup is a bad chaser for marathon finish--took only three sips to figure that out.) On the drive back to Chico I was thinking about how much I will enjoy riding my bike, especially once the all-weather Surly is ready to roll, and it's getting close.

Nothing like actually running a marathon to take all the romance out of the idea of marathon running. But since I seem to keep doing it (this is where Dr. Phil yells "What's your payoff??") I must have a reason. I just keep forgetting how hard it is. It's good for me because even with the progress I've made with my running, this event never goes just as I expect and I always have a huge struggle with it. I can feel good about the fact that I got a significant PR (about 4:03, down from the previous 4:20), but humbled by how hard it was to do that, and I was really hoping to crack the 4-hour barrier. Then again, I feel like I gave it everything I could. Yet again, whether I run a marathon in 4:03 or 3:59 is probably one of the least significant details in the universe.

We'll see, maybe with some time I'll be up for another try. I know I'm faster but I can see that my distance training wasn't quite where it needed to be.

C has been very sweet and helpful this afternoon as I pretty much wiped myself out. I'm starting to perk up a little though. I took a shower at C's mom's place and was very grateful for the grab bars.

One highlight from the road this morning--a small group of somewhat portly unshaven fellows staged what appeared to be a protest of the marathon along Fair Oaks Blvd. They had handwritten cardboard signs reading "STOP THE RUN! DON'T BLOCK FAIR OAKS BLVD!" They also had built a fire in a little barbecue container, but nothing was cooking on it and they weren't gathered around it for warmth so I thought maybe they were just trying to replace the air pollution that would have been generated had the road been open for those few hours on a Sunday morning. Other than that it was very heartwarming to be cheered almost continuously for the length of the course. In some places the crowd was dense and noisy, ringing bells and yelling and clapping. Music played in various locations along the course, of course with the obligatory Queen "We Will Rock You" near the finish. I have to admit that the guitar solo in that song probably quickened my finish time by at least a minute. I wish they could have played Queen the whole way, I might have run a 3:40 and qualified for Boston.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Damn the torpedoes!

This phrase came to mind and I did a little checking to find out its origin as my knowledge of the history of warfare is somewhat incomplete. (Speaking of knowledge, thank heavens all I had to do was take the California Bar Exam and not the new test for U.S. citizenship. What kind of messed up questions are those anyway? "What is the rule of law?" "What is self-government?" Huh? These are the kind of questions that require an answer that is either a precise one-liner from page 128 of your high school civics text book, or a dissertation examining the Federalist Papers and 200 years of Supreme Court jurisprudence. Or maybe I've got it all wrong, the Bush Administration is just asking prospective citizens these questions in sincere hope of actually finding out what the answers are.)

ANYWAY, Damn the torpedoes--Full speed ahead is attributed to (then) rear admiral David Glasgow Farragut in the Battle of Mobile Bay. In the Civil War era, what we would call mines were called torpedoes. After the U.S.S. Tecumseh was destroyed by a mine, Farragut decided to charge through the minefield anyway to Union victory. We've been watching the Ken Burns "Civil War" series, but we're not quite that far along. Stonewall Jackson just died and Pres. Lincoln is (still) trying to find competent leadership for the Union army. Now there was a man with a hard job.

I thought of Damn the Torpedoes! because I was feeling low yesterday with this head cold and the marathon on Sunday, and a trial on Monday while we're at it, feeling like I had no energy or motivation, and totally annoyed with myself because it's just a stupid cold, why not suck it up like (almost) everybody else does and pretend I don't have it and go about sharing my germs with the world? I really just wanted to stay in bed. I had to go to work for part of the day and felt very whiny the whole time, and annoyed, and like my head was not attached to my body but not in a good floaty-detached-head way. One of my friends in Sacramento emailed about our plans for the eve of the marathon and I emailed back with some of my whining. Then she emailed and said "You have 4 days to kick it!" and I thought, hey, she's right. From then on my spirits have been better even if my head is stuffy. I'm sure it'll clear out after a few miles anyway. DAMN THE TORPEDOES! RAAAAHHHHHH!!!! Thanks for the pep talk, H. See you at 5.5.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

allergique pt II

I came home from work a bit early today hoping to get a jump on this cold. I went to the co-op to get some supplies and felt a craving for some kind of soup with roots in it so I bought a turnip and a burdock and a piece of ginger. I have eaten turnips before but I can't remember when I last purchased one, if ever. I am glad they exist, and that there is enough demand for them to create supply, because I guess you never know when you'll want one.

(There were other things in my stew as well...though it turned out to be very thick, more like a risotto. The brown rice was very absorbent.)

Monday, November 27, 2006


Funny, I felt fine all the long weekend and within an hour of arriving back at the office I started having the sneezy sniffly thing. My boss was sick over the holiday and I felt like maybe I was trying to fight something off early last week / week before but whatever it is I think it lives at work. I should have stayed on holiday. It was a day when I just felt like I shouldn't answer the phone and the intuition was good, nearly all the messages I got were from clients who don't have an open or current case with me but who left very long, repetitive, semi-coherent and alternately teary and enraged-sounding messages that would have been even longer, more rambling and energy-sucking conversations. If there were some way I could play you a sample without violating all the codes of professional ethics, I would. It is amazing what people will pour out to a stranger or near-stranger. Folks have many troubles, sometimes of a legal variety, sometimes not.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Happy birthday to Marilynne Robinson

Garrison Keilor already mentioned her in today's Writer's Almanac on NPR (which is how I found out it was her birthday), but I feel that she can't be mentioned enough. Plus she is originally from Idaho so it's tempting to try to claim her has a relative.

I read C's copy of Gilead back in April and since then I've been sort of evangelical about it, even to the point of lending out C's copy a few times (with her permission). I should get my own, and two or three to give away. I made my mom buy one though I don't know if she's had a chance to read it yet. I hope she will very soon. Then I hope my dad will read it too. And all of my siblings. And my grandparents, and my aunts and uncles and cousins, and so on. And my bibliophilic friends who haven't read it yet. You know who you are. It is a very quiet book, our hero is not a hardboiled investigator of crime or a secret agent, but rather an elderly minister living in a small town in Iowa writing his thoughts and recollections to the son of his old age as he anticipates that he won't live long enough for his son to know him well.

As another reviewer put it: "[N]early every sentence demands to be savored....There has been much talk lately about a religious divide in this country. Gilead, then, may be the perfect book at the perfect time: a deeply empathetic and complex picture of a religious person that is also gorgeously written, and fascinating."

After I read it, I thought, if I could only read one more novel before I die, I would read this one over again.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

...new york in June, how about....?

We got a save-the-date card in the mail today for the wedding of a childhood friend / former SF roommate of C's who lives in Brooklyn with his girlfriend and they've decided to wed June 9. At first I thought, well, C should go by all means. But she seems to want me to go with her, and now she can't pry me away from my search for the ultimate sweet NYC B&B deal. Or perhaps something affordable yet culturally significant; i.e. the hotel referred to in Joan Baez's "Diamonds and Rust" as "that crummy hotel over Washington Square." Or something in Chelsea for the "morning" with the first thing one sees being the sun outside the window, etc. etc. If I keep this up C may change her mind about wanting my company on the trip...it was already suggested once or twice today that maybe I didn't need to sing a song for every other word she said. I have sort of a musical Tourettes sometimes, the songs in my head create pressure and they have to come out. Probably the last thing we need is to choose lodgings based on a musical reference. That pretty much rules out all of Harlem on account of the ermines and pearls that I won't wear.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

ran for food

Map of the course in Bidwell Park
Participated in the inaugural "Run for Food" this morning, benefiting the Jesus Center. You can read about it but essentially, the center provides meals to anyone who is hungry, and shelter for women and children in an adjoining facility, "Sabbath House." So combine a great cause with the chance to start Thanksgiving off with a little calorie debt and I think we have a very successful new Chico fundraising tradition before us.

I tend to take running and my effort in timed events somewhat seriously (right down to the intestines that always freak out before a race)...but after I finished I watched other people come in for awhile, all ages of people, and almost everyone broke into a crazy all-out sprint near the finish line, and I realized this is a kind of playing after all. I felt so warmed to see all these people outside on a crisp sunny Thanksgiving morning, running like we're all going for an Olympic medal! Sometimes people are so sweet and funny you don't know whether to fall down laughing or crying over them.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

learning about age-appropriate toys

We had a small visitor today, S., who came along with her parents to watch football and have good snacks, and I was very eager to see that she enjoyed herself. It didn't really occur to me that pulling the detachable limbs off of the Monty Python "Black Knight" doll we have in the living room and exclaiming "Ow!" was anything less than a delightful way to entertain a child. I would have found it pretty amusing, I'm sure, but maybe age 2 is a little bit early to develop a sense of black humor. I was pleased when she took the doll and pulled off one leg, but she seemed hesitant to dismember it any further, despite encouragement from her parents. About that time we all decided maybe the Black Knight wasn't her cup of tea and let her return to playing with the nice dolly whose arms and legs don't come off (yet).

When I was little (though older than S.) I used to remove the head of my dolly but usually only when it was medically necessary to do so, and I always put it back.

finding the inner urchin

I was moved to do a little research after watching an episode of "Lost" last night in which Dr. Jack uses a sea urchin spine as a needle to give Boone a blood transfusion, and feeling a bit skeptical about the whole concept because I thought sea urchin spines were barbed--not exactly something you'd want to puncture a vein with even if you are as manly and able to endure pain as Dr. Jack. Of course, simultaneously with the blood transfusion, Claire was having her baby in the middle of the jungle with apparently no medical equipment of any kind, I'd like to see Dr. Jack do THAT. At least the birth was more plausible than the sea urchin needle. And I can't find anything that suggests sea urchin spines are hollow as portrayed in the episode. I can suspend a lot of disbelief as long as a TV show or movie doesn't blatantly lie about known facts of the natural world. For example, if there are mutant sea urchins on the island who evolved razor-sharp, hollow, barbless spines due to their exposure to mysterious radio transmissions, that's FINE. But don't just go harvesting any old Pacific urchin and telling boldfaced lies about it.

Meanwhile I discovered that we (humans) have a lot more in common with sea urchins, genetically speaking, than we have with fruit flies. This article says that 70% of urchin DNA has a human equivalent but I'm not sure where they get that figure, elsewhere in the article it said 7,000 or so bits out of 23,000 that they identified from the urchin genome matched human DNA. Maybe I should suspend my disbelief about the math in this article as well.

Friday, November 17, 2006

here's to free & untrammeled

The Susan B. Anthony quote came via Adventure Cycling's (link at left) Bike Bits today. Just reading it sort of makes you feel like the wind is in your face.

We had a live band at the LSNC party last night playing danceable "oldies" from the 60's - '80's. I found out that the Pretenders' "Back on the Chain Gang" was on their set list and I asked them before they went on if they would maybe let me sing it. A perk of being one of the organizers of a private party, I suppose. They were very friendly and indulgent about the idea. So I got to be Chrissie Hynde only without the fender telecaster and vegan activism for 3 minutes or so. (Don't get me wrong, as they say, absolutely nothing wrong with vegans as long as they don't too forcefully obstruct my path to the food dish.) I couldn't really hear much in the monitors, so I just hoped that I was mostly in tune, but Ce and others said it sounded good and she was pleased that I even put some movement into my performance (rather than the deer-in-the-headlights style I tend to exhibit).
Just in case you get us mixed up, I've labeled the photos. The distinctions are quite subtle, I realize.
For example, Chrissie Hynde's birthday is September 7, 1951 and

mine is September 6, 1972. Also she's originally from Akron and I'm from Centerville but our states are both 4 letters.

The slideshow was successful too; a number of the old-timers who featured prominently in the photos were at the party and so far no one has threatened to sue us or demanded that I destroy all the copies. Truth is an absolute defense to slander, after all.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Of plant / human hybrids

After some long nights I have finished the slideshow project for the big office fundraising event, which is tomorrow night. One of the quaint things about living and working up here is that I have somehow achieved techie quasi-guru status in the office. These people haven't met my family. A coworker attending the conference in Sacramento with me remarked "You really like your electronic devices." Yes, yes I do. though I pushed the learning curve with this movie thing. I didn't want just a bunch of still images at 5 seconds a pop...I wanted a soundtrack and titles and the "Ken Burns" effect and cross-fade transitions. I had immense faith in the ease and intuitiveness of working with Mac software I hadn't really ever used before. I am older and wiser now but I think I came up with something pretty cool considering I didn't know what I was doing. Now I'm looking around for something else to make a movie about. My camera can take several seconds of .avi footage at a time. As much as I love Ken Burns I would like to branch out from the slideshow experience. I wonder if you could fit enough slides into the slideshow and have them change quickly enough to do 30-second or so animation pieces.

Great, I really had this expansive void of time that needed to be filled with another hobby.

Don't let the fact that I'm typing this fool you, I'm approaching semi-vegetative. Better rest up since I'll need to be one of the charming hostesses for the party tomorrow night. Among my duties is the calling of the winning raffle numbers (and pushing the button on the DVD player to show my "movie" a couple times during the evening). Tomorrow, Chico; the day after tomorrow, Sundance.

plot thickens

This is an issue that's hard to feel until it kicks you or someone you know in the teeth, but since more and more people are being kicked in the teeth, maybe it's not so hard. I'm talking 'bout the health insurance industry, having recently spent 7 - 8 hours in a conference on medical debt. I have a goodly number of elderly clients who are or have been dragged through collections because they couldn't pay their medical bills. Having some kind of insurance is not necessarily always helpful either. I learned about something that hospitals have called a Chargemaster. This is the list of the highest most detached-from-any-reality prices that they have made up for any given procedure. It is different from the actual "Cost" which is the amount the hospital has negotiated with various insurance companies and government safety net programs, the amount the hospital will actually be paid for the procedure. The "charges" have skyrocketed since the 90's with no relationship to anything other than that hospitals figured out they could gouge the government for procedures that are reimbursed at a percentage of the "charge"--for example, wouldn't you rather have 80% of $100,000.00 than 80% of $10,000.00?

California recently passed (takes effect in January) some better protection for consumers including self-paying consumers...the hospital can't charge lower income uninsured people an amount greater than the Medicare, Medi-Cal, or workers' comp rate, along with some brakes on the collections process.

So that's good. But health insurance as a for-profit industry is hurting and / or killing people and small businesses and nonprofits. My nonprofit org has been scrambling to figure out how to deal with yet another 30 - 40% hike in premiums this year. Last year they dealt with it by giving us a $2,500 deductible. One proposal this year is to have us start paying full price for office visits (currently we have a $30 co-pay). Seems like that would really discourage anyone from going in for preventive care. Thanks, I'll just wait until I'm pretty sure that I'm dying. We pay for this?

It is all about profiting at the expense of public health and security, cutting benefits (maternity care is often one of those items on the insurance companies' chopping block) and increasing the revenues. This can't go on. I think Phillip Morris and Wal-Mart have more integrity at this point than the health insurance industry. At least I can make choices about smoking and shopping but I'm just not empowered enough to perform most surgeries at home. Maybe creative solutions are out there and we're not as helpless as it feels like we are. I don't know where the breaking point will be, maybe campaign financing reforms will have to happen first, but I tell you this is the next big revolution that has to happen.

Also, I think that there is a scene in my novel in which some people appear to set themselves on fire in front of the brand X insurance corporate headquarters. Not really a solution (other than they no longer have to pay premiums and it takes care of any preexisting conditions they may have had), but sort of cathartic to think about. Especially since not a whole lot has been happening in the novel in terms of a storyline.

Monday, November 13, 2006

good morning america, howareya

Since I'm here working on the slideshow (going better, but waiting for some slides to finish rendering yet again), and since the novel writing isn't exactly flowing, I thought I'd mention that we so enjoyed our jaunt up to Westport with the folks (or rather, we enjoyed being there, perhaps more than the process of getting there) that we started saying things out loud such as, "What if we lived in Ukiah?" C asked "What's in Ukiah?" with a tone of genuine curiosity as opposed to a tone of "that is not a funny joke."

Well, the list of things in Ukiah wasn't the longest list, exactly, but at the top was the 1.5 - 2 hr drive to the house in Westport. Also in Ukiah they have a Co-op, an organic brewery, a Buddhist temple, and a bookstore. They have a Legal Services outpost, though another component of the out-loud daydreaming involved what kind of private practice I might like to have and who would be my fabulous, efficient office manager. We still have some equity to build and work to do where we are. But maybe it'll happen some day. On Hwy 20 a few miles west of Willits there is a spot (one of many such spots up there) where we looked out and saw nothing but tree-covered mountains. Based on that view you'd hardly believe the world had any other people in it. Always brings to mind the statement of St. Exupery's Little Prince, looking out over an arid mountain expanse and declaring that the world was altogether dry and pointed.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Of tiny outbursts and their benefit

Perhaps since I'm still not very fast at some things, whenever we change the sheets on the bed and flip the mattress and replace the mattress pad (you don't really want to know how infrequently I would perform any or all of these activities if not for the domesticating effects of my partner) I always, ALWAYS get stuck with the intractable last corner of the mattress pad that is obviously too small for the mattress at that point. Usually I can coax it on before reaching my frustration threshhold.

However today I think I was pushed over the edge by the hours I spent trying to put a slideshow together in iMovie; when I added transitions between the slides so one would smoothly fade into the next, it started making the slides themselves shorter and shorter until they were fractions of seconds in duration. Then going back trying to make the slides longer again resulted in others getting shortened. OK, so I probably don't know what the hell I'm doing, and my poor little PowerBook is stuffed to the gills with music, and this slideshow is supposed to make its public debut at a very fundraising event for Legal Services
(side note: my dad and I discussed the possibility of splicing Cher's "Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves" into the slideshow soundtrack as it somewhat reflects the attitude of the establishment toward legal aid lawyers, and has a clear fundraising message, i.e. feeling that one must dance, etc for 'the money they'd throw.'

and, thus we see that the mattress pad was obviously the last straw. After at least 4 - 5 attempts to attach my corner, I roared and clenched my teeth and clenched my fists and stomped my feet in a circle. It felt very satisfying to do this. Then C came over and fixed the mattress pad. There is a trick, which she demonstrated, of bending the mattress to your will, and then it is much easier. On the multimedia front, iMovie may have bent me to its will as I'm thinking now that I don't really need transitions between every single slide. No foolishly consistent hobgoblins here.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

training hangover

We arrived last night at the house in Westport where my folks had grilled up some Alaskan salmon and sautéed chanterelle mushrooms in garlic butter, and baked potatoes with sour cream, and a couple trays of sushi from the high-end grocery store in Fort Bragg, and some sparkling juice, and it was all good. They said it was part of the ongoing celebration of the old bums getting swept out of of office and the new ones having a crack at it. Unfortunately, though not too surprisingly, the ancient senator Hatch of UT was not dethroned. I think he's been in office since shortly after I was born. Maybe that's why he keeps getting reelected, too many people in UT can't imagine the universe configured in any other way. In Dantés Inferno one of the lower rings of hell was filled with people who had no imagination either. But that is a discussion for another day.

Anyway, ate very well and slept well but woke up feeling like maybe a light-duty truck had run over me while I slept. This is a good sign, clearly it could have been a much larger truck so I'm doing pretty well. The run yesterday was intended to be the last long one before the marathon so I should have ample time to recover. Meanwhile I'm working hard at replenishing those calories I used up yesterday. We stopped at a gas station in Willits last night and I got back in the truck with a Dr. Pepper and a small bag of mini Nutter Butters and a yogurt smoothie, and C suggested maybe I should focus a bit more on nutrition over just stuffing myself with carbs. What did she think the yogurt smoothie was for anyway? I just needed a little something to tide me over until we got to the house and had dinner about an hour later. I said, in my defense, But Dean Karnazes Eats Junk When He's Running and she pointed out that I'm not Dean Karnazes. I knew it wasn't a good argument anyway since he literally eats the junk food WHILE he's actually running all night, since 7-11 is the only place open. He says that at all other times he has a very healthy diet. So the bottom line is that I'll have to come up with a different rationalization. Pass the jalapeno potato chips and the ibuprofen please.

Friday, November 10, 2006

miles 17 & 21

What I can anticipate based on the 21 miler this morning. You've all no doubt heard or experienced "the wall" in its sundry forms; I talked myself through it at mile 17 by thinking of a suitable metaphor this morning. Happens to be a Star Trek metaphor, apologies to folks who are strictly old-school Trek and aren't familiar with this phenomenon. Mile 17 feels like my body is the Starship Enterprise and the top half is the saucer section, which is trying to detach from the bottom half in order to save all the innocent civvies and families with children on board, because the bottom half, though typically the chief propulsion area, either must create a distraction or has already been partly blown up, or both.

I didn't have time to think of a good 21-mile wall metaphor because that was the end, the engines canna take na more cap'n. But I'm sure I'll think of one during the actual marathon and I'll let you know.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

dansez, dansez, dansez-vous

Now here's a band
I could happily follow from town to town. We loved the CD we have, "Hang on Little Tomato" and realize that we've been grossly negligent in not having their first CD "Sympathique." C posted about them, and maybe only didn't mention they are divine to behold because she posted before we went to the show. Almost torture to see them in a venue where I couldn't stand up to dance though. Fortunately we were traveling on foot so I was able to relieve the pressure somewhat by dancing home to the music still in my head. NPR clip from a couple years ago has some good music selections if you need to be introduced.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Lapses in judgment

perhaps caused by recent shifts in power, or the loud whooshing sound of defense secretaries resigning, dunno...but one thing I do know is that one minute I pulled up to the gas pump, turned off the engine, thinking I'd just keep listening to the song on my iPod playing through the stereo while I pumped the gas, and the next minute I was standing outside my locked truck.

Not just any gas pump, but the Texaco Food Mart on Grand Ave & 3rd in Oroville. Where I was treated kindly and granted use of the store phone after one of the last remaining payphones in the western U.S. ate my $0.50 (cellphone in the truck), where I was on hold with Better World roadside assistance for 10 minutes while the lady tried to figure out whether Oroville, CA was actually a town with paved roads as well as tow trucks, where about 20 minutes later the tow truck guy came and I confessed my sordid history in the sentence "Last time this happened the guy had to use one of those inflatable things to pry the door open." He replied, "Really? Didn't he have a magic such-and-such?" (or maybe it was a "wonder tool") holding up a benign looking variation on a slim jim, and I said, "well, I guess not," though it looked identical to whatever the guy had tried to use 6 months ago when we were at Donner Memorial State Park. I guess in Oroville they really know how to handle a slim jim or whatever this particular tool was called. I only wish that when you call, say every 6 months or so, for roadside assistance to get you back into your vehicle, they could drive something slightly more discrete than a bright yellow flatbed tow truck with flashing orange lights to help you.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

"good samaritan" from the Upper East Side

A pro Kenyan runner dropped out of the race with stomach problems, got lost and was freezing in his skimpy running outfit until someone felt brave enough to actually help him. Having spent a little time in the City and having been inspired by the NYC Marathon even though I've never participated in it, and feeling a little biased against the entire Upper East Side the dwellingplace of people who have way too much money for their own good, this NY Times story (note: an ad may pop up when you click, just click "skip this ad" in the upper right corner--if you click on the ad, you might get lost and have to be rescued by the nice lady in the picture) is the kind of news I wish we got a little more often. I think it is helpful, even transformative, to be reminded of our capacity for kindness.

Monday, November 06, 2006

all fun and games until age 35

When I got to work this morning the secretary paged me and said Congratulations! I left the race yesterday before the times were sorted out and apparently I placed first in my age group (the 30 - 34 year old women). Slight discrepancy between what I saw on the clock as I passed it and the official posted time, but I'm not going to quibble about those 3 seconds (maybe I hesitated right at the finish without realizing it?). The results were in the Chico Enterprise-Record. However it looks like starting next year and possibly for the next 15 or so, the glory will be a lot harder to come by unless I can knock a couple more minutes off my time. Meanwhile I am basking, in case you hadn't already sensed that I'm somewhat pleased with myself, in the new and strange idea that I'm kind of FAST.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

10K PR, 0:47:37

A fast, familiar course through the park at the annual Almond Bowl 10K this morning. Just checked last year's post on the race and I improved by almost 3 1/2 minutes from last year's 0:51:00. Some women from the Sports Club women's triathlon / running group were there; I haven't been training with the group because participation is not free, and you still have to pay entry fees for any & all events on top of that, and they work out at times when I'm not so inclined to be working out. But, there are some awesome 40 & 50 (and even 60)-something athletes in the group; if I were more motivated and weren't spending any last bits of disposable income at the hardware store, then no doubt I would really learn to fly if I stuck with their group.

Anyway, I finished ahead of them today (at least the women I recognized) so I don't feel like I'm too disadvantaged in the running department. No way would I be able to keep up with those 40 & 50-year-olds on a bike though. One of the times (er, the only time) I did that Wednesday night bike ride last summer I caught them because somebody had a flat and everybody had stopped to show support. Seeing that matters were well in hand as I rode by, I started pedalling as fast as I could to make the most of the opportunity but most of them still passed me a few minutes later.

I did some research on marathon time predictions based on 10K results and it looks like I'm in range to finish in 4 hours or less. One month from today I'll be recovering from that effort, gobbling special marathon recovery foods such as "E.R.T." which stands for Enchilada, Relleno and Taco with a side of rice and beans. Or maybe a mushroom cheeseburger with garlic fries and a chocolate shake would work. Or maybe all the above. Recovery is a multi-day process, after all.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

50,000 words by November 30?

I found out today that it is National Novel Writing Month Why not? Maybe I could bring a tape recorder on my training runs for the marathon and dictate my draft (ok, not very likely). Starting today I would have to write almost 2,000 words a day to reach 50,000 by the deadline. Huh. Well, sounds a heck of a lot easier than running 100 miles through Death Valley in July. What Would Dean Karnazes Do?

I really like the "NaNoWriMo" logo though...a runner with a big javelin-like pencil. It sort of all fits together. I learned of this indirectly from our friend 'Stine of Seattle who sent a link to a perhaps more realistic option, National Blog Posting Month, wherein one makes daily blog postings. I don't know, the speed and volume of the novel thing would force me to throw perceived quality to the wind which is probably the only way such a project would ever get started. A very bad, messy 50000-word attempt at a novel would be not so different from some of the marathons I have participated in. As my violin teacher told me once when I had bumped into the wall of mediocrity and was trying to decide whether I wanted to commit to climbing over it, "Just think about all the people in the world who can't play the violin at all." Soon after that I took up the guitar instead. But I digress.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

the holiday spirit gum

Just trying to change the dress-down legal services culture, at least for one day out of the year. Due to the glue used to attach the facial hair I was not able to smile but a clenched jaw seemed right for the character, and I could still talk on the phone without any problem, so I was able to tolerate it until we went out to dinner that evening and I was trying to eat a Reuben sandwich. At that point the very small dainty bites I had to take definitely didn't seem right for either the character or my actual personality so I gave up on the glued-on 'stache and drew it on with the eyebrow pencil for the rest of the night. Maybe not as lifelike but far more comfortable.

Friday, October 27, 2006


I dreamed last night that one of the cats (Amonke) had apparently learned a couple words in English. At first I was just impressed at how smart she was, that she was picking up some vocabulary, and that she kept repeating the two words in her very strange furry (but not necessarily catty) voice, and I didn't really think about what she was saying. She was walking around in circles as a cat might likely do, repeating the words "working," and "tired." Tired, tired. Working. tired.

Huh. Silly dream, talking animals! Whatever! If the cat ever hopes to be taken seriously she'll need to learn some pronouns, some verb conjugations...maybe a preposition or two would be helpful.

Coincidentally my boss expressed some concern today that I seem to "have a lot on my desk." I'm not sure if she meant it literally (she could have, though). I didn't feel that it was a criticism so much as a tentative extension of one of those long aluminum poles used for fishing people out of the swimming pool who don't appear to be treading water with complete success. Nevertheless, this week I filed my first civil harassment restraining order & request for ex parte orders, (which were partly granted pending a hearing in a week), attended a corporate fundraiser for LSNC in Sacramento, completed an IRS Form 1023 Application for Tax Exemption on behalf of a local Hmong organization, made it through a co-op board meeting (I would have considered skipping it in favor of staying a few more hours in Utah except that right now I'm the board VP and the Secretary so I was worried that my absence would be felt a little too keenly). Among other things.

Maybe the dream kitty was just trying to save her breath by not using more parts of speech than required to make the point. Which is actually fairly true to character for the real Amonke; she doesn't really vocalize unless she wants to draw your immediate attention to her current need.

Friday, October 20, 2006

middle english for the middle o' nowhere

I learnt this in high school. Pronunciation may be a little off and I think over the years I've dislocated a word or two, sort of like a one-person game of telephone. Mrs. Townsend had an LP recording of it that she played to help us get the sound more or less right and had us memorize it. I always think of her when I repeat it. I remember her disclaimer about the bawdy parts of the Tales which she officially did not assign us to read and which I dutifully avoided until the medieval literature class at SF State. I think it was during this class that the detail came up that Geoff survived two outbreaks of the black death. No wonder folks were looking for a little holp whan that they were seeke. Also he had some really dull sounding day job, like tax collecting or medieval bureaucracy or something. Maybe my problem (in terms of attaining literary immortality) is that my day job isn't dull enough. On the other hand it would seem by definition impossible to attain this status during ones natural lifespan anyway so it can't be correctly identified as a "problem" right now.

this is an audio post - click to play

Speaking of obstacles to creativity, though, a homeless woman came into the office this morning with the citation she'd received for "camping" in the park. This issue reappeared on my radar earlier in the week when the City Council decided to pass an ordinance closing most all the city parks at night and giving the cops more authority to shake out troublesome behavior...but also to ticket people for sleeping. Here's the rub: Chico has a homeless shelter that is hardly ever filled up because you have to be 1) really together (i.e. not under-medicated, over-medicated, or intoxicated, and not a parolee if they have reached their quota of parolees for the night, and not too late for the curfew) and 2) willing to surrender most of your rights as a free adult citizen, in order to stay there. Ms. Camper this morning said her beef with the shelter was that if you don't show up by 6:00 pm they won't let you in, and then you can't leave, so that means no participation in downtown life that the comfortably housed take for granted such as the Thursday Night Market, or cafés, or poetry readings. There is in fact a poetry night in a cafe that a number of local underhoused but adequately caffeinated folks regularly attend. I have never been in a position of having to choose between art and comraderie or shelter. I wonder what I would choose.

shyness is nice, but shyness can stop you

this is an audio post - click to play

I lit out from Reno

this is an audio post - click to play

Monday, October 16, 2006

mile repeat redux

Ran mile repeats at the track again yesterday and I feel like I'm making some progress, though I packed it in after 5 miles with a recovery lap and some stretching between each repeat. I am pleased to report in at 7:36, 7:42, 7:57, 10:00 (a much needed rest mile), and 7:49. Based on these results it seems that I couldn't possibly have run 7-minute miles last week though. The course I ran last Monday must have been a little shorter than 3 miles.

My goal for the workout was to do 7 x 1 mile repeats but I'm just not there yet. Maybe I should try alternating hard and easier miles.

I was also pleased that the ol' I.T. band didn't seem too aggravated by this workout. On Saturday I ran 8 miles in the park and had to ice the side of my knee afterwards; when the IT band flares up the outside of my knee develops this temporary bulge at the connecting point of the tendon to the knee (that can't be right!). Yesterday there was no bulging.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

suspension of outdoor privileges

Kato got into a rumble of some kind on Saturday night; I couldn't see him but I'm sure the whole condo complex could hear the screaming. In addition to worrying that he was either killing or being killed, or perhaps both, I was thinking about how our phone number conveniently appears on his collar tag so that the family of whatever cat he was shredding would know who to call about their vet bill. So I went out calling and looking for him. By the time I came back of course he'd come back on his own, mostly intact but he'd broken off a claw past the quick on his back foot and the foot was all bloody. Tried to clean it up with warm water and peroxide and tried to apply some styptic powder to the broken claw but he was sort of resistant to the doctoring. Today his foot looked cleaner (more his doing than ours) but I couldn't tell whether the claw looked like it was getting infected or not. I scrutinized his gait all day to see if he was limping (only very slightly, I think); felt his foot periodically to see if it felt unusually hot (it wasn't)...I guess tomorrow will be time to decide if he has to go to the vet and get antibiotics or a cast or one of those embarrassing E-collars. Meanwhile we're relieving him of the stress of trying to figure out where his turf boundaries are. He is so grounded. So far he hasn't really campaigned to go outside again though.

Monday, October 09, 2006

fast times in bidwell park

It is hard to replicate the pressure of a real race in a solo training workout, but I tried to move as fast as I could convince myself to go this morning for my solo 5K. (Guess what, I came in 1st place and had my pick of any t-shirt I wanted from my closet.)
Either my estimation of the distance is a little off, i.e. somewhat shorter than 3 miles, or I ran 3 straight 7-minute miles. I'm afraid that the former may be true, but STILL, it can't be that far off. I guess the proof would be in going back to the track to see if I can get a similar result in 12 laps.

Today was a legal holiday and after my run I had the luxury of walking Celia to work downtown, stopping at the hardware store for more supplies, and lingering at the Peet's where I did a whole crossword puzzle (not a big one, maybe 50 across x 50 down) and the "Celebrity Cryptogram" below it. I was disappointed that the latter was too easy to guess after a few of the words started to become obvious--though it's a memorable saying that has appropriately graced many a poster on many a wall of many a high school English classroom. Though I can't remember for sure where I first saw it: "The real voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes."--Marcel Proust.

Anyway, great quote, but it made the puzzle too easy.

Then I came home and set about more housekeeping. It was a day of learning about wall anchors and what sizes and types seem to work with what kinds of screws. I have a stud finder that doesn't seem to work very well...maybe it's intended for finding some other kind of studs. I could try some experiments: running it over the Personals section of the newspaper and see if it beeps at anything, or maybe take it with me next time I go to the gym. I could scan people as they walk in, I'm sure they would hardly notice.

Despite the unreliable stud finder I succeeded in moving the towel rack to a higher point on the wall, installing our 2nd smoke detector (bedroom ceiling), hanging Ce's old spice rack which, though inadequate for our quantity of spices, matches our 1970s-brown cabinets as if they had been separated at birth and together they are kind of a beautiful thing. I also mounted a new stainless steel paper towel holder under the cabinet since the jaundicey-yellow plastic one that came with the house was promptly rejected by C.

Then rounding off the day was a special board meeting for Chico Natural Foods to ratify the results of the membership vote on whether or not the store should carry meat. My feeling at this point is that all the to-do over this was fantastic publicity for the store and probably accounts in part for a rockin' month of sales in September, but the image of tempest-in-teacup comes to mind as well. The store will have some meat that will probably be all frozen or canned; for a big bloody slab of dead animal folks will still have to go elsewhere; so ultimately the difference between buying a big frozen cheesecake and a frozen chicken is what? I am but mad north-north-west: when the wind is southerly I know a cheesecake from a chicken.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The oldest light in the universe

With the disclaimer that I'm writing about a topic I can barely comprehend beyond the brief report on NPR yesterday (and parts of that lost me too), something about the recent Nobel Prize announcement was deeply stirring. A scientist was quoted as saying that the discoveries about cosmic background radiation which apparently confirm the reality of the Big Bang theory were akin to seeing God as a religious person. I think he said quite a lot in that statement--for the religious (and inquisitive) person, this discovery seems to represent quite a breakthrough in the reverse engineering of the universe.

Also this notion that we go about our lives awash in energy left over from the early millenia of the universe (about 380,000 years after the "bang") is beautiful, even if it shows up as static on TV. I will have to think about that for awhile. I know that some people are far more aware of things happening on an energetic level than I am, but golly, we're oblivious. Probably for our own protection most of the time. People who are even slightly more sensitive than average often have a tough time managing the noise and smell of this planet.

Finally I think I was moved by the Nobel Prize report for the reason that I had, without knowing it, just about given up on the idea that humans were pursuing anything worthwhile. Cosmology seems such a pure and godly field. It seems unlikely to produce anything that will be used to oppress people in developing countries or to bloat American consumerism into a bigger and bigger monster. For once, a bit of news that wasn't even a tiny bit depressing or fear-mongering.

Maybe the human (primarily male) fascination with blowing stuff up is rooted in a misplaced urge to create. It's easy to visualize the Big Bang as a Big Explosion but from what little I'm beginning to understand, maybe this is not an accurate way to describe the events that took place on the morning of 13.7 billion years ago. When something explodes usually that's the end of it, but this was the beginning. Perhaps the Big Birth is more apt. Not all that rapidly expands is an explosion.

Don't really know what I'm looking at, but it was either this image of the cosmic background radiation, or a picture of TV static.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

calling all abuelas...

...and those who are de-facto grandmothers to march on the
School of the Americas in Ft. Benning, GA in November and shut the place down for good!

If we want to look at the reasons why people risk life and limb and the long arm of the law to get into the U.S., it seems safe to say that the U.S. has had a role in fostering some of the desperate conditions people have been trying to flee from. The School of the Americas (renamed in 2001 as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) has
"trained over 60,000 Latin American soldiers in counterinsurgency techniques, sniper training, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. These graduates have consistently used their skills to wage a war against their own people. Among those targeted by SOA graduates are educators, union organizers, religious workers, student leaders, and others who work for the rights of the poor. Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have been tortured, raped, assassinated, “disappeared,” massacred, and forced into refugee by those trained at the School...."
From the School of the Americas Watch.

After the Grandmothers shut down the SOA / WHISC, perhaps they can march on the White House and / or Capitol Hill and give those places a good scrubbing too. No doubt there are already a few grandmothers in Congress but I don't think there are enough to tip the balance of power in their favor which is what we want, essentially a silent coup of grandmothers, or a controlling interest in the shares of government stock.

Which brings up a great idea I have for the Republicans, maybe somebody already thought of it, and that is to get the government completely out of this expensive governing business and let private companies take care of it. One parent company could win the bid on the federal governing and perhaps the states could be wholly owned subsidiaries, or else state governments would be run by other, smaller companies. This could actually require some corporations to hire on a few more U.S. workers to administer the programs...or not. Imagine, you could call EDD for your unemployment benefits and someone in India could take the call. Trying to draw the line between corporate influence peddling and our elected representatives is too hard, why not just stop trying. The government corp. could provide stock options to youth to help them get a start, maybe even pay for college. Folks who want to vote for something can do that as long as their stock has voting rights.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

more from the tea party

I wore my special folksinger shirt for the occasion but I realize that the multisport sunglasses sort of clash with it...like a cross between Joan Baez and Joan Benoit Samuelson.

The owner of a local cafe / coffeehouse was at the party and she invited me to come 'n sing there some time. I have been in there a couple times and both times the same ol' countryish singer was singing the same song, a pleasant tune about hearts never mending and memories never ending and teardrops never drying etc etc, and both times I left the place humming a harmony part that was glaringly absent from his solo presentation. Turns out the country singer is the partner of the woman at the tea party and she says he would appreciate the help. Similarly I would appreciate the chance to pretend I'm Emmylou Harris though I don't have anything even vaguely resembling the right clothes. I don't sound a bit like Emmylou either. Maybe the fact that I can't begin to imitate her causes me greater fascination with her voice. (By the way, why does iTunes not have "Wrecking Ball" fer hellsakes? During the last 10 years I have purchased that CD twice and it managed to walk away both times. If you happen to own Emmylou's "Wrecking Ball" album and want to make me very happy without spending hardly any money, copy it and send it to me.)

Sunday, September 24, 2006

N.Y. Times today

In addition to the SHOCKING revelation from U.S. intelligence agencies that the war in Iraq is helping to create new terrorists faster than we can kill them, there was a piece on women soldiers in Iraq serving in combat support units. The article tells the story of 23-year-old West Point graduate Lt. Emily J.T. Perez who died two weeks ago when a bomb detonated near the Humvee she was driving south of Bagdad. From the N.Y. Times:

Despite longstanding predictions that America would shudder to see its women coming home in coffins, Lieutenant Perez’s death, and those of the other women, the majority of whom died from hostile fire (the 65th died in a Baghdad car bombing a day later), have stirred no less — and no more — reaction at home than the nearly 2,900 male dead. The same can be said of the hundreds of wounded women.

There is no shortage of guesses as to why: Americans are no longer especially shocked by the idea of a woman’s violent death. Most don’t know how many women have fallen, or under what circumstances. Photographs of body bags and coffins are rarely seen. And nobody wants to kick up a fuss and risk insulting grieving families. (H&C Sandwich Blog author's note: Nobody, that is, except for Fred Phelps & gang, who have been so busy insulting families of the fallen that Congress responded with a law just for them, but it's generally accepted that the cheese has slid off Phelps' cracker.--E.)

“The public doesn’t seem concerned they are dying,” said Charles Moskos, a military sociologist at Northwestern University who has closely studied national service. “They would rather have someone’s else daughter die than their son.”

What’s more, no one in the strained military is eager to engage in a debate about women and the risks they are taking in Iraq because, quite simply, the women are sorely needed in this modern-day insurgent conflict. As has happened many times in war, circumstances have outpaced arguments. They are sure to be taken up again at some point, only this time, the military will have real-life data on the performance of women in the field to supplant the hypotheticals.

Like most soldiers on the job, Lieutenant Perez, who will be buried at West Point on Tuesday, was focused on her mission, not on her groundbreaking role in a war that seems to have dispelled a litany of notions about women warriors.

For the first time, women by the thousands are on the ground and engaging the enemy in a war that has no front line, and little in the way of safe havens. In this 360-degree war, they are in the thick of it, hauling heavy equipment and expected to shoot and defend themselves and others from an enemy that is all around them. They are driving huge rigs down treacherous roads, frisking Iraqi women at dangerous checkpoints, handling gun turrets personnel carriers and providing cover for other soldiers.

Along with the article are links to profiles of the 65 U.S. military women who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2002. (This link may require a NY Times Online account...it's free though if you don't have one.)

I also found this website with profiles of all the U.S. military personnel who have died in Afghanistan and Iraq. To date, 3009 names are listed here.

Then there are those civilians. Problem is that they are much harder to count and less interest in counting. Total is estimated somewhere between 43,000 and 48,000 according to the website "Iraq Body Count."

While I don't see anything inherently more tragic in the death of one gender over another, perhaps the American people aren't being given much of an opportunity to decide whether they are especially upset about women vs men casualties since dead soldiers aren't getting much TV time. If I'm wrong about this (since I rarely watch TV news), please correct me. I've been seeing just enough TV to catch a few of the Army recruiting ads. I think at least there should be a quick disclaimer at the end of the ads, like pharmaceutical ads are required to do: "May cause premature death, or injuries requiring lifetime medical care that may or may not be covered by the V.A."

One thing that occurs to me looking at the names and faces of so many of these soldiers is that a lot of kids are paying for college with life and limb, and ya know, college was helpful but not necessarily literally worth a life or an arm and a leg as far as I can tell. I'll never whine about my student loans again.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Determined Ladies

I was invited to sing at a tea party today supporting four women who are running for local offices. The party was titled "the Determined Ladies' Tea" after a quote by Abigail Adams who wrote in 1776 to her husband John,
“If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”

A small but 'determined' PAC has formed with the goal of sending a mailing to every registered female voter in the greater Chico area encouraging them to vote and support these candidates. Two of them are running for the school board and, unlike the other current members of the school board, these two women are educators. The other two candidates are running for the City Council and county Board of Supervisors.

In preparation for my gig I thought it might be appropriate to research some suffrage rallying songs (songs other than that song from Mary Poppins which is one of the two songs many people tend to immediately associate with the word 'suffragette.' The other, of course, is not a suffragette rally song at all despite its status as a glam-rock classic.) During this research I thought about what it took for half of the citizens of America to attain the franchise, how the women at the forefront of the suffrage movement were no doubt seen as extremists, radicals, disturbers of the peace and the 'natural order' of things. Could they have succeeded if they were trying TODAY to do what they did 86 years ago? How would our government and society respond to militancy and organization and protest such as they demonstrated? As it was, a number of women during the suffrage movement were jailed, beaten and sent to workhouses for their picketing activities.

The search for suffragist music turned up a few little gems including a version of "Oh Dear, What Can the Matter Be?" humorously addressing the various arguments against women's suffrage. Also found this piece written by Julia Ward Howe set to the tune of "America" (a.k.a. My country, 'tis of thee").

Sunday, September 17, 2006

speedwork is relative

I set out to the track today intending to do 7 x 1 - mile repeats, thinking seven miles, no big deal, right?


I realize that the kind of running I have mostly done, long slow distance or "LSD" as it is popularly known, is a completely different beast from trying to run around a track as fast as you can. I'll go for a long run in the park and periodically speed up for awhile, even sprint now and then, and fancy that I'm moving right along. I've done 5k and 10k races before where I run at a pace considerably faster than my normal training pace but I've never done much speed training. However I am supposed to be doing it as part of the Galloway 3:45 marathon program.

Recovering from the first 1-mile effort, at 7'30" the fastest of the 5 repeats I managed to do, I thought maybe I was coming down with the flu because in less than 50 yards my heart rate had soared over the training zone into the "High" zone between 170 and 187. My legs felt as light and bouncy as mud. It was a long recovery but I finally gathered myself up for repeat #2, trying a strategy of starting slow and increasing the pace for each of the 4 laps, and finished in 8'32". Another recovery walk around the track and much stretching of the touchy left illiotibial band which was already saying "what the hell do we think we're doing?" in response to the "speed" training. During the 3rd repeat, watching a few other people jog around the track, I wondered if there was anything I could change about my running to make it more efficient and naturally quicker...why am I so slow? how is it that I can run for 3 hours straight but it nearly kills me to run a mile in under 8 minutes?

A young guy trotted past and I noticed that his foot turnover was much quicker. I tried shortening my stride a little bit and taking quicker steps and it seemed to help. I tried to relax the rest of my body proportionately to how fast I was trying to run; that seemed to help too. Repeat #3 finished in 8'12" and I no longer felt like I had cinder blocks for feet. Tired though.

I decided that 5 repeats would be a more realistic start of my speed training. It took me 9 minutes to finish mile #4 but I bounced back for #5 and finished in 7'46".

Clearly it takes different muscles, or uses the same muscles in a different way, to run "fast"--whatever "fast" means. So just practicing running faster will no doubt help over time. But I think there's some gear shifting I need to figure out how to do as well. I need more spin and less torque.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

I done seen the fyewcha

Drove into the hills beyond Oroville yesterday to visit an elderly client, we'll call her 'Liza. She couldn't come to the regular outreach location for want of a ride down from them hills. I was worried myself if my truck would make it up the road to her place...a two-lane highway turning into a smaller paved road turning into a gravel road turning into a strip of rutted red dirt as the forest closed in around the hillside. Ms 'Liza was a bit hard to pin down over the phone and I thought maybe if I went up there, she'd have some paperwork I could look at. Because I am always thrilled to have paperwork in contrast to somebody's disrememberings of what they wished had happened, but didn't. I asked 'Liza if she had any papers related to this issue she had at one time remembered well enough to call for advice about. That time had apparently passed. She thought she had a paper somewhere, though, so she started unloading the contents of her purse onto the table.

Now when I arrived there, 'Liza was following behind in a neighbor's car. He was giving her a ride back up to her house after she'd hiked down the mountain to get her mail. 'Liza walks slowly and with one of those canes that have a platform and four legs on the bottom. So she had packed her purse for a voyage of uncertain length. She pulled out two waterbottles (at least), two cans of Ensure, a package of soda crackers, several small apples or pears from her tree, and a series of small seemingly nondescript rocks. And then she got to the normal purse stuff, like three or four different wallets with different cards and scraps of paper in them (but no money I could see).

I asked her what the rocks were for because I saw she had many more rocks in a plastic bag on the table. She instructed me to turn on the lamp and look at them in the light. I saw that some of them were sparkly with bits of pyrite or silica. She sees them sparkling in the sun along the road and can't resist putting them in her purse.

I have a hard time going places without my current bag of life's necessities but I allow a lot of crap to pile up in the bag that I haul around for weeks or months until I realize how dumb it is to be carrying this particular pile of papers or that old magazine or last week's lunch dregs, and I purge them. I might as well pick up sparkly rocks and cover my minimal food and hydration needs if I'm going to pack the bag around anyway. You never know where you might end up needing a light meal and something pretty to look at.

How is Ensure? Anybody out there tried it? Dean Karnazes says that Pedialyte is the ideal sports beverage. I'm thinking similarly that Ensure may be the ideal warrior's liquid meal replacement. I may have to test it on the road.

Anyway I see where I'm headed and it's not all bad. I know that confusion and memory loss can be very distressing to the individual experiencing them, but on the other hand I was able to give the same piece of good news about 3 - 4 times to another client last week, and she was delighted every time.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

new topic

While I learned in law school that almost any subject is at least kind of interesting when examined closely, I'm thinking that this line of discussion about my heart rate monitor watch has perhaps been adequately explored and I'm starting to sound like I fixate on very mundane details. Well, I do. A three-hour or longer jog gives you plenty of time to fixate. Maybe that's one of the reasons why I do it.

Also--one more thing about the watch--a side effect of fixating on whatever is that I space out. When I space out, I slow down. The HRM watch fulfills the role of that skinny bleached-blond woman in the restaurant in Strasbourg who was always saying "Depeche-toi, Emilie, hein? Tu reves?" which roughly translates as, "There are many cigarette butts on this patio and you must sweep them more rapidly." And she said all of this while sucking on a Gaulois--or was it a Gitane?--either way one of the foulest smelling tobacco products known to the western world.

So you can see why I have this compelling, complex and ambivalent relationship with my watch. Thanks for your indulgence.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

technological advances

I figured out that my watch will count down two intervals with beeps at the transition. So I was able to do the run 4 min 30 sec / walk 30 sec routine today without looking at my watch all the time. It will run up to 50 cycles of the two intervals which was more than enough to cover my 20-mile run. One 8-mile lap of the park and two 6-mile laps. About a quarter of the way into my second loop I was considering whether I really was up for all 20 miles today, thinking about cutting it shorter, and some old guy on a bike rode up alongside me and said, "How far you going today?" and I said, "20 miles." I explained that I'd already been up to Horseshoe Lake and back (the 8 mile loop). He told me about his run up to Salmon Hole yesterday, etc etc and how I was looking "really fresh" considering I'd already been running for over an hour. Well then I HAD to do all 20 miles. The last 6-mile loop was not so fresh. The whole thing took 3 hrs 15 minutes and my watch told me that I burned 1400 or so calories in the process. Fortunately C made her special Cafe Beaujolais black bean chili today and there was a hearty dollop of sour cream atop my bowl.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

over the top

Still sore from my Branscomb Road challenge on Sunday. I wanted to see how far up the road I could get in an hour. Started near the 1.28 mile marker and climbed to the 6.00 marker on the hour, but decided to keep going to make it an even 5 miles out. However some of the mileage markers were missing or I didn't see them, so I ended up running another 10 minutes to the 6.82 marker. By that time I had crested the summit and started down the other side. It's a good thing there were people waiting for me back at the ranch; I had to make myself turn around and by the time I got home my brakes were starting to smoke. Things were smoother with the heart rate monitor this time. Running down the 10% grades it was hard to exert enough effort to keep my heart rate in the training zone. It dropped to the low 130's and I couldn't run any faster because of the grade. I developed sort of a funny long, low stride that reminded me of a telemark skier. Seemed to decrease the pounding and increase the aerobic effort without sacrificing too much speed.

Next time I'm going to run to the town of Branscomb (about 12 - 13 miles) and have somebody follow along later and pick me up, so I won't have to run back. Eventually I'd like to do the whole road from Laytonville to the coast. We're not quite there yet though. Just before the 6.00 marker I came across an older gentleman picking up trash along the roadside. He asked "How're ya doin?" and I said "Great!" and he said "I don't think so!"

I meant to thank him for his work, whether it's a paid or a volunteer position, he's making the world a better place. Hopefully I'll run by him again.

Friday, September 01, 2006

oh yeah, we got it

If you haven't happened to be following C's blog where the updates have been a bit more prompt, we're on the short road to real property ownership. A few details to work out and perhaps a nail or two to bite and we'll be moving across the parking lot at the end of the month. I brought home some boxes from work today to start a-packin.'

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

needles, pins, and paperclips(?)

Just trying to hold it together while we wait for a response to our condo offer. I'm hoping the fact that my cellphone has been strangely quiet all day means that the sellers are at least CONSIDERING our offer, which is more than has happened heretofore. If they want to keep us waiting another 24 hrs and 40-some minutes to see if they can do better, I guess they are allowed to do that.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

recent siting at Loch Snag

Non-indigenous(?) life form viewed from western shore. C snapped this on the Lassen trip. Snag Lake was a beautiful swimming spot. Nice volcanic cinder beach, not too marshy, and the north end of the lake is bordered dramatically by the Fantastic Lava Beds. Temperature probably mid-60's.

Monday, August 28, 2006

prevention of heart rate monitor chafing begins at home

I'm almost on schedule with the Jeff Galloway 3:45 marathon program--I was supposed to be running 17 - 18 miles this week and I did 15 yesterday. 18 on the calendar for next weekend. 15 was a little bit of a leap but it felt pretty good except for the nasty welt at the base of my sternum caused by the HR monitor transmitter. Maybe the strategy is that if this weird device is making a hole in your skin, you are distracted from other issues like foot or knee pain. It was interesting though to be able to look at my watch and see whether I was tired or not. HR stayed in the 150's for most of the 2 hr, 27 minute run unless I was spacing out (causing it to drop), climbing a hill or trying to speed up a little. I also tried the Galloway run / walk method. It varies depending on the pace you are trying to achieve but for a time of 3:45 in the marathon Galloway suggests running 4'30" and walking 30". So, thirty seconds out of every 5 minutes. This is supposed to help you maintain a faster pace. 30 seconds goes by in a flash but during my run yesterday these tiny intervals probably added up to about 15 minutes of walking. My only complaint (other than the chafing) was that between timing the run / walk segments and checking to make sure I still had a pulse, I was constantly looking at my watch.

HR monitor training is highly recommended. Why, Dean Karnazes trained with one so long that he eventually could tell exactly what his heart rate was at any time without using the device. Probably because it wore a hole all the way through his ribcage and he could just look down and count. For the record I have owned my HR monitor for well over a year, just haven't used the transmitter strap much. I would never have gone out and purchased a monitor just because Dean Karnazes mentioned it in his book. Well, I guess we'll never know for sure whether I would have done that, but anyway it's irrelevant since I already have one and I have just chosen to start using it at this time.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Use only as directed

Kids, stay away from yogurt covered pretzels. Just don't even start. It's too late for me; I bought a bag yesterday at the co-op kidding myself that I would be able to eat a couple here and there as a treat; they are made from unbleached enriched flour and evaporated cane juice so they practically radiate healthiness (the picture of a quaint farmhouse on the package helps too). After munching the first one, though, I realized they might as well have been dipped in heroin. Something about the sweet outside and salty inside. They are evil; stay away. One 8 oz bag contains 1140 calories; 42 grams of saturated fat, 162 grams of carbs (108 grams of sugar), and 18 grams of protein. 24 hours later I'm only halfway through the bag though; maybe there is some hope.

On the other hand, the Greek word for "remedy" and "poison" is the same: pharmakon. It is all a question of dosage. These yogurt covered pretzels may be a fine remedy for something; I'll just have to experiment with the right dosage.

They are made by Woodstock Farms and retail for between $4 - $5 a bag, just so you know what you're being warned from.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

there, and there, and back again

Wednesday, August 9: Left Chico at 7:00 pm, starting to feel like we'd never get away. Good thing I got off work early. Arrived at the house in Westport about 5 hours later at midnight. It shouldn't take that long but there was a layover for construction on Hwy 20, and I think my driving slows down considerably at night. I'm tired and I feel like I can't see that well. Ok, it's dark, no wonder. I always take Hwy 20 all the way to Fort Bragg rather than heading up to Laytonville when traveling after dark; I need a road that has shiny lines down the middle under those circumstances.

Our Sponsor and his fine catch, best we could do with the cellphone camThursday, August 10: Rose at 5:00 am, with just a little prompting from Mom, to get down to the harbor for the fishing expedition. The boat with its crewmembers and cargo of sport fishing enthusiasts, including me, Ce, Dad, Uncle G, cousins, and several strangers took off over into choppy waters and roller coaster swells, heading northwest for about an hour until we arrived in the happy fishing grounds near Westport. Ce & I held up fine during the ride out but some of the other passengers fared not so well. They brought new meaning to the word "wretched," with their tormented moans and no apparent relief until we pulled back into Noyo harbor four or five hours later. I was hugely proud of Ce; though she would surreptitiously dash to the other side of the boat now and then, she continued to fish with gusto and reported feeling pretty good between episodes. Even I, who have never before been seasick, barfed once. Otherwise the trip was very successful; our freezer will be restocked with rockfish fillets.

I have debated in the last few minutes whether the barfing scenes in this story are TMI or not. However, Dean Karnazes discusses barfing in considerably greater detail in his book. Yep, we endurance fisherpeople / athletes, we barf now and then. It's just the right involuntary thing to do.

By Thursday night our appetites had recovered sufficiently to devour some of the catch. Big family chow-down at the campground. Uncle G at the grill did justice to those fillets.

Friday, August 11: The Team Fisher photo shoot. Followed by a bike ride from the house down to Ft. Bragg, just over 19 miles of riding bliss down Hwy 1. I understand now why so many people will play chicken with the logging trucks to bike that road. For the most part all the passing vehicles, big trucks included, were cautious and respectful. But it's not something you'd want to bet on. Being on the road without a steel and glass cage around you is as close to flying as you can get without leaving the ground. Motorcycles must feel the same way traveling the clifftops of the 1. I have found motor - bikers to be very friendly even if they are secretly (or not) shaking their heads and laughing at me as I toil up a long grade. It's us vs. the cagers, except that my bike runs on fish fillets, spaghetti, peanut butter sandwiches and homemade granola (in addition to numerous other renewable fuels).

Meanwhile...Ce discovered that she was quite interested in my Dean Karnazes book so she picked up reading it aloud where I had left off. In the book, "Karno" was running the entire Providian Relay (Calistoga to Santa Cruz, 200 miles) by himself as we ourselves drove down to Santa Cruz on Friday night to attend the wedding of our friends Darcy & Aimen. I think the point Karnazes tries to make finally sank in; it really isn't that he has superman powers or anything. Maybe some good running genes and biomechanics, yes, but mostly it's sheer will that keeps him going. We decided that his story has made us think about whether the limits we set for ourselves aren't a bit, well, too limited.

NEXT: Visiting the "Land of Medicine Buddha" in Soquel, and a debate on the efficacy of prayer-sending technologies.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

me and Karnazes, Karnazes and I

I'm reading his book, Ultramarathon Man, for some inspiration with the marathon training. He describes almost mile-by-mile his experience doing the Western States Endurance Run for the first time, how his toenails fell out, he went temporarily blind, and he crawled part of the last few miles on his hands and knees.

I was curious about whether / how many women participate in the WS100. Turns out that this year, a woman named Beverley Anderson-Abbs from Red Bluff, a town 30 miles north of here, finished in 9th place overall. 9th out of 210 finishers, in 20 hours 10 minutes 36 seconds. She is 42. In 2005 she finished the WS100 just an hour behind ol' Ultramarathon Man himself. A week ago she finished 26 minutes behind him in the Vermont 100 to take second place overall. Reportedly, horses compete in the Vermont race as well, and she beat all of the horses too. Not bad.

I was thinking about the ultra subject this morning on my fine little 6 mile jog, thinking that if I ever reached the end of a marathon and thought to myself, 'hey, I'd like to just keep on running another 24 miles,' then maybe I would consider the American River 50 miler. I think I'm safe for the time being. But on the other hand, I'm awake in the middle of the night writing about ultramarathon runners so maybe I share more of their pathology than I realize. It just seems like everything starts to seize up and / or fall apart around miles 17 - 20. Hard to imagine that stage being the beginning or even middle of a race rather than the final third. Seems a lot more sensible to cross the continent on a bicycle instead. You can sleep at night, and eat in restaurants along the way, and maybe keep all your toenails intact. The sheer luxury of it.

Dean Karnazes quotes Lily Tomlin in his book--her statement merits a stint as the official Hamartia & Cheese Sandwiches subtitle.