"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, 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.'