"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"

Thursday, July 27, 2006

18 weeks!!

Been kickin' around the idea of doing the California International Marathon, even said out loud that I was gonna do it. So if I'm gonna, I need to get going on the training schedule. Jeff Galloway's program for running a 3:45 marathon has me starting at week 9...I'm not sure my running legs are really at week 9, but 3:45 is probably an utterly unrealistic time for me anyway so why not just pretend that the past 8 weeks have prepared me to jump in right where I am. Save all the disillusionment for the race itself, I always say. It's more dramatic that way.

Monday, July 24, 2006

ladies and gentlemen of the supposed jury

I have returned from the trial skills sweatlodge experience, where my skills were either forged or fired in a kiln. Can't decide on the right metaphor except that the building where we were all supposed to sleep and work felt like a big clay oven. The climate in that place is usually milder in the summer. But we need not discuss climate change at the moment.

The daily routine started at 8:00 am with breakfast in the Presentation Center cafeteria, located in a brand new and much cooler building. Some people didn't find the food to their liking but I thought it was A-OK in comparison to any quasi-institutional food I've ever consumed. Generally very fresh, if a little too obviously recycled and/or experimental at times but I've been known to cook that way too, so I felt at home. Breakfast was pretty standard though. Always some kind of hot mush, fruit salad, yogurt, muffins, and either pancakes or eggs, bacon, etc. Then at 9:00 we would start practicing the skill that had been demo'd by the trainers the night before until lunch at noon, then more practice from 1-4, then a break from 4:00 - 6:00, then dinner, then demonstrations of next day's skill, then at 9:30 pm or so we were free to start our homework.

The trainers were experienced attorneys both from within and without the "legal aid" world who completely volunteered their time during the 8 days and 7 nights we were all there. I include nights because no one got much sleep and the trainers made themselves available at practically all hours. I did pretty well the first two nights getting to bed by midnight, but it was downhill after that as the assignments and sense of pressure to perform got more intense. On Friday night before our big mock jury trial, the culminating event, I was up until 3:00 am with my "co-counsel" trying to get prepared. The previous night I had stayed up until 3:00 a.m. writing an opening statement. All this for a pretend client. Our trials were held at the San Jose courthouse. Our judge happened to be a real judge (or court commissioner) from another county. After the trial the judge, the "jury," our "clients," and our "witnesses" gave us feedback. We were videotaped as well. Apparently I got away with all kinds of objectionable leading questions in my direct exam of our client. Cross-exam was a lot easier; I guess it's easier to poke holes in something than to build it right in the first place. The other side was not so lucky because my co-counsel was definitely the bad cop. I like objecting when I'm sure there is something to which I should object but I don't think I've got the killer instinct.

A couple days before the big trial we were practicing our closing arguments. Mine was praised for its content but word on the street is that the words are only about 20% of the communication. Apparently a Buddha-like stillness is not the affect the trainers thought most effective with a jury. It happens to be more or less my default position, especially when I'm nervous. One of the trainers asked me to try a few lines from my argument again, "this time, go completely over the top!" I said, "that WAS over the top!" However, I think with some practice I could learn to change my affect at will, as needed to persuade, entertain, or just communicate, and I think it might be fun to expand the repertoire. I remember as a teenager being afraid of yelling in a crowd of other people yelling, and I remember being afraid of singing if anyone else was in the room with me. For someone who secretly (or not) craves attention the way I do, being so reserved and internal can be frustrating. I still fear any real or perceived threats to my dignity, so whatever spontaneous act I perform will have to be carefully thought out first.

I almost didn't go to this training. I was feeling deeply resistant to it and I would have let it slip by if the director of the Benchmark Institute hadn't personally called our office and asked me if I was going to sign up. In my mind this was a very scary thing to do, sort of like going to a training to prepare you to jump out of airplanes. However, when I was interviewed for my job I answered the question "do you see yourself doing a lot of litigation?" with "no, but I would like it (litigation) to be tool I can use when it's needed" so I went down to the trial skills slowcooker to follow through on that idea.

Glad it's done and I'm home again. I missed Ce terribly, along with highspeed internet access, my cats and my bicycle, roughly in that order. It's bloody hot in Chico right now but at least there is such a thing as air conditioning in these parts.

Speaking of parts, I need to find a makeshift bearing cup press to install my headset. The guy at the bikeshop said he would loan me one he used before he became a bike shop owner, made from a long threaded bolt, some big washers, and nuts to tighten the whole thing down and push the bearing cups into the head tube. I told him I had used a PVC pipe to seat the crown race onto the steer tube and he was impressed by the amount of banging this obviously had required. I guess plastic is not the way it's usually done. I had wondered that myself while I banged away at the top of the plastic pipe with the flat side of the hammer.

Friday, July 14, 2006

wheel in the sky keeps on turnin'

A big box arrived today containing wheels and tires I ordered for the new bike. 34-spoke Rhyno Lite / Deore, dubbed the "Brutal Beast" by the folks at Harris Cyclery and reportedly resilliant against small arms fire (I probably won't try to test that claim, hopefully no one else will either). Perfect. The rubber is Conti TravelContact. Should be just the thing for when I suddenly run out of pavement. The inventory of parts to date is the frame & fork, wheelset, tires, rear cassette (9 spd 11-34), and silver Cane Creek S3 headset. Tubes, a headlight and a couple rolls of handlebar tape I've had on hand awhile. Coming soon are the Sugino crank & triple chainrings (24/36/48, or something like that), a Soma threadless stem, and an IRD bottom bracket.

Still need: chain, derailleurs (front & back), bar-end shifters, handlebars (drops), brakes & brake levers, pedals--I'm thinking of a nice big flat touring pedal with Power Grips instead of SPDs or other clipless...I find my feet get really uncomfortable on the roadbike after 2 or three hours of being trapped in the same position, in bike shoes. This bike aims to be an equal shoe opportunity bike. Waterbottle cages. A low-end bike computer to tell me how far I've gone, maybe an inclinometer to tell me the % grade of the climb or descent. Fenders--the fat SKS ones. A Yosemite Sam "BackOff" mudflap (if you see one of these, please tell me, otherwise I'll have to make it myself). Long pump because I have a peg for it on my frame. A seatpost, a saddle. Debating on whether to try a Brooks or just stick with the saddle I know and love on my roadbike. A handlebar bag with a mapcase. Eventually a rear rack that is more touring-sturdy, though the current Topeak rack I've had on my road bike hath borne heavy loads upon its slender shoulders. I brought all my Barbri Bar Exam review books home on it one day in the Spring of '04...a good 40 lbs at least.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

sisters of the presentation

On Sunday morning I'm off to the Presentation Center in the Santa Cruz mountains for an intensive week of trial skills training. Since starting work at Legal Services I've been to a couple trainings / retreats there. I'm feeling way behind at work and anxious about being gone for eight days, like the mass on my desk might go critical while I'm gone.

On the other hand, I think the Sisters might have fixed the swimming pool since the last time I was there, and the end result of this training will likely be that I'm freshly pumped up about the whole idea of being a lawyer. We will have a mock jury trial at the end of the week. I didn't do moot court or trial advocacy in law school so this will be really good for me and some of my feelings of fear and reluctance about doing some of the things lawyers traditionally do.

Monday, July 10, 2006

new civilizations

This sign was indeed a welcome sight on Saturday when I rode up to the little community of Cohasset, an elevation gain of about 1800 feet over a 10 mile stretch northeast of Chico. I felt welcome at the "Cohasset Country Store," gas station / grocery store / video rental shop where they offered for sale my favorite sports drink "Recharge," sweetened with fruit juice and made by local beverage company Knudsen (note that the K is not silent). They had a nice bench in front of the store on which to sit and drink my Recharge as well.

Friday, July 07, 2006

penny a point, ain't no one keeping score

I recently played cards with an old man in the Amtrak club (aka lounge) car, and in lieu of passing the paper bag that holds the bottle we split a can of Mountain Dew. He taught me how to play Gin Rummy somewhere on the stretch between Winnemucca and Elko. I seemed to take to the game pretty well because I kept beating him, though when I made dumb mistakes he insisted that I take my cards back and do it right, so I can't take a lot of credit for my victories. He was more interested in teaching than winning. Crazy old guy.

I feel that I received a valuable skill in exchange for willingness to hear his stories of fortunes and loves found and lost. He said he deeply regretted letting other people talk him out of a great idea he had for a human cloning business. I decided not to probe into how he had worked out the legal and bioethical issues. When I grew too tired to play cards or converse, I loaned him my iPod for awhile and he enjoyed some tunes until the battery died. I could tell that he was listening to "Only the Good Die Young" at one point because he sang along with the earphones.

He said he didn't know why he chose his current appearance, long wild white hair and beard, biker-style skullcap...he said this wasn't really him, and he knew it invited others' judgment, but it also allowed him to pass through the rougher parts of towns unmolested. He said he thought it was part of his mission to help other people practice their religion, or in my case, their card-playing skills. To every thing there is a season. Maybe he was one of the Three Nephites.