"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"

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


I was not brought up to preach in sports metaphors but I have to say that now and then my derailleur needs adjusting; from time to time I feel that I am stuck between gears or not quite centered. Climbing up a hill on Hwy 1 this week I thought I would be very clever and try to shift my front and back derailleurs simultaneously. Maybe if a bike is adjusted right, this should work. No harm done, just a brief pause to verify whether the chain had fallen off.

In the spirit of welcoming shifting attitudes, paradigms, North American and other assorted plates, fortunes, and whatever else tends to move with or without our wanting it to, whether the shifting be smooth or not so, I have selected a new template for this blog. I'm not used to it yet but in a few weeks we'll all scarcely remember how it was different.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Who put the ham in hamartia, part I

I have been asked before about the meaning of the title of my blog. It arose in the context of that group bike ride I went on last summer in which I was immediately "dropped," or in other words, left to enjoy the solitude of the open road, with time to contemplate how physical / athletic endeavors have periodically served as a fine antidote for my hubris. And as every literary geek knows, "hubris" is one of the classic types of "hamartia." Of course nowadays you don't have to be a literary geek at all to know this; you can read it in 30 seconds on Wikipedia. However you still can't read *Oedipus Rex,* *Antigone,* *King Lear,* Tony Morrison's *Beloved,* or even watch the film version of Edith Wharton's *The House of Mirth* in 30 seconds to get a more complete idea of how a tragic flaw can really ruin your whole day. When they talk about a "tragic flaw" in the literary canon it is usually writ quite large, something that results in the hero eventually getting vaporized in his / her own personal mushroom cloud.

I don't view my sometime delusions of Olympic grandeur on quite so dramatic a scale. But I can't resist a pun, especially one with some bite to it.

However, I've also been interested in the broader interpretation of hamartia as suggested in the Wikipedia reference: missing the mark, error, or sin. Seems less grandiose than some overriding tragic flaw. A tragic flaw can also be the underbelly of a redeeming virtue. It is such a miracle to be human, and such a mess. So many opportunities for juicy paradox.

In the Bible, Jesus' discussion of motes and beams seems basically an illustration of hamartia / hubris though I haven't done any research to verify if this is linguistically supported by the Greek text. Maybe it isn't. But it makes sense that the "beam" is a big ol' dollop of "overweening pride" that warps one's vision of self and others. Jesus says cast the beam out of your own eye first, then you can see clearly to remove the mote in your brother's eye; but this is one of those easier said than done things. Seems that the phenomenon of seeing the motes could itself be symptomatic of having a beam in your eye. Maybe there is a secret in the analogy, that once you can actually see "clearly" the only "motes" worth worrying about are your own.

With this in mind, I can't claim to view or judge so-called "Christian" Dominionist politicians with any particular clarity or enlightenment. However I sure as hell don't trust them to extend me the same courtesy, because they are a bunch of flaming hypocritical nazi wannabes. And then there are the "Christian Reconstructionists." Not to point fingers but these people are straight out of Margaret Atwood's "A Handmaid's Tale." They are the Taliban. It's true, I heard it on NPR!

A tragic flaw of liberals is their desire to be fair-minded even when they are enraged to the point of irrationality. One of those paradoxes I was talking about.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


The watermarks on these photos indicate that they were not exactly purchased. Having spent $50 to enter the race I don't feel like spending another $60 for two JPG files. However the company offers a dazzling assortment of products you can purchase yourself if you simply must have that mug, keyring or mousepad featuring me and my lycra.

One of the things I just realized I really like about triathlon is that each stage has its own hat.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

just keep swimming

Overall results from last Saturday's event. I have been telling anyone who asks that it was all fine except the swim. I'm already getting tired of hearing myself tell the story about how once the swim started, I felt that nothing worked, I couldn't get my breath, and I thought about bagging the whole thing. But part of the story that I haven't told is that, while having a small panic attack 50 yards from the shore, I also thought, Well, you're giving yourself a good scare here, aren't ya. I thought about the trial my co-worker had a couple weeks ago, an eviction case featuring this bloated bully lawyer on the other side who objected to every question she asked and yelled at her witnesses on cross-ex, all the sort of thing that was NOT one of the reasons I wanted to be a lawyer but which I will likely get to experience now that I am; I thought about a hearing I have coming up with the Housing Authority; I thought about a presentation I had to put together for this week; I thought about all the opportunities for a good scare that were coming up, and none of them seemed all that scary compared to what was happening right then.

After a couple minutes I had enough composure to start feeling self-conscious about looking like I apparently had never learned to swim, or had never practiced until that day. After several more minutes, after rounding the second buoy (the swim course was triangle-shaped), things were a lot smoother but I just never felt like my position was right. I wore the wetsuit after all, so in a way it was true that I had never practiced until that day. My swim training was like practicing for a walk on the moon by walking back and forth to the mailbox over and over again. Did not translate well. I was toasty warm though.

The bike and run quenched my hill-climbing appetite. I had to walk my bike a few steps on one of the last hills. The start of the run course--all on a singletrack dirt trail, my ideal running environment--was uphill for about half a mile. A 48-year-old woman (all participants have their ages written in magic marker on the back of their leg) was walking up the hill ahead of me and although I was trying to jog, I was unable to catch her until we got to the top. The advantage of getting so far behind in the swim is that I was able to spend the bike and run catching people.

If I had been in the age 60-99 division, my finishing time would have put me in second place. Well. No sense getting ahead of myself.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Bits & pieces

I stopped by Lake Oroville to check out the race site on Wednesday. I didn't take this picture but I think it is of the boat launch we will take off from (except the boats won't be there tomorrow).

I wanted to take a picture of all my gear laid out for the big event in the morning, to post here, and have spent the last hour or so wandering room to room, rummaging through every tote bag and suitcase I've used in the past couple weeks, looking for my digital camera, and found it not.

My keys were missing for four days this week. On Tuesday I thought I had put them in the bag I take to work every day, but at the end of the day I couldn't find them. Twice, I completely emptied the bag (so I thought) looking for them. I called the coffee shop and the Co-op, searched under the seats in the truck, lifted up every stack of papers on my desk at work and at home, and no keys. Today while running down the sidewalk in the town of Red Bluff trying to get to the clerk's desk to file some papers before the courthouse closed, my keys suddenly FLEW out of my bag (or else dropped from the sky, I'm not sure) and landed with a melodious jingle on the pavement. I am grateful to have them back.

So the things that would be in the picture, if I could find my camera, are:

1. Wetsuit (doubtful that I'm going to wear it, the weather's been hot and Lake Oroville is warmer than expected)
2. Swimcap
3. Goggles
4. Tri-suit (basically biking shorts with less padding so you can swim and run in them, a special overpriced sports bra, and a sleeveless top with a zipper and back pocket that I'll wear for the bike and run)
5. "Bodyglide" anti-blister / chafing stuff for feet, armpits, etc. Supposed to be good for wetsuit removing too.
6. Bike shoes
7. Socks
8. Helmet
9. Sunglasses
10. 2 towels--one for sitting & laying stuff out in the transition area, one for drying
11. Sunscreen
12. Running shoes
13. Running hat
14. 2 water bottles
15. 2-3 pkgs of carbo goo (I prefer Clif Shot but I'm trying another brand as well)
16. Bike gloves
17. Flipflops for afterwards + something comfortable and not sweat encrusted to change into.
18. 2 Clif Bars
19. Bike (added it even though it wasn't going to be in the picture, just so no one would worry that I was forgetting it)

Forgot to acquire: banana and bagel, my preferred breakfast for race mornings. Maybe can get them on the way out tomorrow.

Last minute repair: I overhauled the front wheel hub with new grease, now it feels a lot less like a pepper mill when I rotate the axle.

Main creative visualization of the past couple days (other than trying to visualize where my keys were): Walking calmly down the boat launch, swimming calmly for half a mile in soothing, not too cold green water, goggles fitting perfectly, the swim only lasts a little over twenty minutes no matter how far away the course buoys look...

Wave departure from the boat launch: 8:10 AM

Next trick: falling asleep tonight

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Spicy extruded snacks banned in Pasadena!

Well, not the whole town of Pasadena, just one elementary school. You've got to listen to this clip from yesterday's NPR archive to believe it.

Even stranger was my discovery, in googling "flamin hot cheetos," that someone in Arkansas is selling them on eBay, two bags at a time--BuyItNow for only $7.00! The seller describes them as follows: UP FOR AUCTION IS 2 9 1/2 OZ BAGS OF FLAMIN HOT CRUNCHY CHEETOS WITH 0 GRAMS OF TRANS FAT A VERY HOT CHEESE FLAVORED SNACK BRAND NEW NEVER HAS BEEN OPENED AND VERY RARE 7.00 PLUS 6.50 FOR SHIPPING.

Ergo, it is possible, if one is willing to pay and wait for the shipping from AR, to have cheetos delivered to your door.

Friday, May 05, 2006

An obit to aspire to

This isn't quite "new" news, due to the unfortunate 2-3 month lagtime in my reading of the San Francisco Daily Journal (a newspaper for Northern California legal folk). But my effort to reduce the stack of papers paid off today. I found this awesome tribute to Tanya Neiman, who I think I met (or at least saw) at a public interest job fair in SF at some point, without knowing that she was a superstar of legal aid. The message to me is that either I need to hope for a much, much longer life than she had, or I need to make more of the time at hand (meaning NOW--so back to work!).