"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"

Friday, January 25, 2008


I'll try not to mention American Gladiators again for awhile after this (maybe), but I found out today that Ms. Jennifer Blum of the New York Sharks football team and recent Gladiators victory fame is a lawyer. And after hearing her pre-competition comments detailing the injuries she's sustained playing football, I hope she is the sort of lawyer who has really good health insurance coverage. That might be one way that we differ (apart from my never having carried the ball in a game vs. her being the scoring leader for her team, and her being on Gladiators vs. my watching her on Gladiators).

If you want to see her in action but would rather not suffer through the ads and first couple minutes of the show, her bit first comes up at about 08:11 on the counter for this video. Unfortunately the show is just a little too silly to be very interesting for more than two minutes or so. But I liked the fight with the giant Nerf gun.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

How I Spent My Long Weekend

Tough gig.

A month or so after I started my job here in Chico, I was sent to a week-long residential training for new legal services attorneys, advocates, paralegals and support staff. The organization that runs these trainings and recruits the all-volunteer faculty of trainers is the Benchmark Institute, founded in 1989 by Rosemary French and Marie Contreras. Benchmark provides a number of other trainings including a week-long Trial & Hearing Skills program culminating in a mock jury trial, and trainings on substantive areas of legal services practice.

So Rosemary and Marie invited me to attend Benchmark's annual planning retreat again this year, which traditionally occurs over MLK weekend. It occurs in rather a lovely place on the coast between Santa Cruz and Monterey. We get to do good AND feel good at the same time. What a novel idea.

We had a few hours' break from meeting and planning on Saturday afternoon, so I went for a bike ride here (started and ended at a different point than is shown on this map, however). We'd been talking about ideas for mobile learning (podcasts, webinars, all that) and I got re-inspired to do some audioposts from the bike route. This 49-cent per pound squash was for sale at the Gizdich Ranch. Unfortunately I didn't have a way to transport it conveniently on my bike. I settled for a small apple-ollalieberry juice that I chugged before riding the second (much harder, it turned out) half of my ride.

Strawberry fields forever.

They must be something to see (and smell) when all the plants are big and the berries are ripe. Not just strawberries though. Maybe these are the Ollalieberries that got mixed up with my apple juice.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Tour de squash

From the site reluctantgourmet.com:
Squash was introduced to the colonists by our native Indians when they first arrived in America. In fact, there is evidence that squash was eaten in South America more than 2,000 years ago. The English name for squash comes from the Narragansett Indian word askutasquash, which means green-raw-unripe, which was the way the Naragansetts ate it.

I don't know if it's a little-documented side effect of medication I've been taking, or if it's just what my body needs and I'm listening a bit better, but I have been craving squash. Since Christmas Eve or thereabouts when there was a big bowl of buttery peppery bright orange mashed-up butternut squash with the buffet-style family dinner. I looked at it that night, and I thought, "I want that. I want a lot of that."

Then on New Year's Eve I had baked acorn squash. It was just the thing. And I thought, you know, there are so many kinds of winter / hard squash, and I encountered so many in a previous career but didn't eat them very often, I want to sample every available kind. I want to have squash for dinner and lunch a few times a week.

So here are the squash(es) (see, I'm not even sure whether the plural of squash is squashes, or just squash--and I don't know anyone who speaks Naragansett) I have consumed in 2008:

Acorn (technically not 2008, though I had a bite of some on January 4)


Red Kuri

So, you may ask, what's the favorite? They're all tasty, and the spaghetti squash is unique, but maybe the good ol' butternut is my favorite. The traditional mashed-up-with-butter (or olive oil), salt and pepper way is good, but baked, chopped into cubes and fried to garnish lentil soup was really good too.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Age-appropriate activities

I had a checkup with my knee surgeon today. He has a good reputation for his work, and is not unpleasant, though his affect is...warmly robotic. However, today he greeted me with a hearty handshake and asked what I'd been doing (with my knee, I reckoned he meant). I described my activities thus: "Well, I went for a 30-mile bike ride yesterday...I've been doing some weights at the gym...I've started jogging a little (described the jog 3 minutes / walk 2 minutes routine that I might kick up to a total of 15 minutes this week)..." and he seemed fairly impressed. Got a little raise of the eyebrows even.

He said, "let's see, you're 4 months out? If you were on an accelerated program you could go back to full activity now, but I'd rather you waited two more months...are you going to play football?" I said no, I wasn't. Then he said "it is probably best if you stick with the age-appropriate activities if you want to extend the lifespan of your joints and your ability to participate in athletics as long as possible. Women are much more prone to this type of injury." Okay, I know all that, but age appropriate? What exactly does that mean? He hasn't met the elder half of my football team, I guess. But I realize that in NFL years I would probably be about 62.5. Maybe that's one of the reasons I love Brett Favre. He's older than I am.

Then he did his usual knee bending and pushing to see how much sideways movement there was in my knee, and seemed nearly...dare I say...delighted? with whatever he found. "Oh! That's Super!" he said. "I'm going to cut you loose, unless you have any trouble," he said. He shook my hand again and headed for the door. So I don't need to go back. I'm glad we ended on a such a happy note.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Gladiator Redux

I got some email news from the IWFL (Independant Women's Football League) today announcing that a player for the New York Sharks is going to compete on Gladiators.


I guess I'll have to watch it again.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


I think every time I've seen my nephews in the last...oh, two or three years? at least one of them (if old enough to talk) has repeated this phrase, sometimes repeating it a great many times (because it's just that kind of a phrase). They seem so taken with it.

I was originally going to title this post "Need more reps," and I was thinking about the body as machine, and that naturally brought me just now to the robot mantra. I was thinking of machines because I worked on some leg extensions at the gym tonight and tried to figure out the approximate difference between the amount of weight my right quadriceps (as my sister would say, my "withered leg") and my left quadriceps can move. Seems to be about 20 lbs difference. Or perhaps more, because I'm not supposed to be doing full extensions with the right (only for purposes of that exercise), and in fact it's kind of painful to extend too far with weight. Ten pounds with the right leg, in a shorter extension, let's say from 60 degrees to 135 degrees, felt about the same as 30 pounds with the left from 60 to 170. (I'm fishing for someone to impress me with his or her math and physics skills here.)

It was a good reality check, to see that even though stairs are feeling better and better, and I'm riding my bike, and I can jog 2-3 minutes at a time without any pain, there is still a big difference. I need more reps. I need to do a lot more of those exercises the physical therapist said to do. That's all I can say.

Monday, January 07, 2008

The Arena

I have to confess that I watched the first, oh, 20 minutes of the new American Gladiators show last night. And a little bit more tonight while I was at the gym. It's even possible that there is some correlation between having watched American Gladiators and being at the gym tonight. The show has some flaws and doesn't seem to have been all that well thought out in places (you're saying to yourself, 'Oh really? Not that well thought out? Hm).

But one part that was personally quite interesting and / or distressing to watch was the female competitor who appeared to have blown out her ACL and maybe a few other knee ligaments in the first event. "Powerball" is quite similar to football in that you're trying to run around with a ball and some big scary Gladiator chick is trying (quite successfully, in the case of poor Jessie Adams of Donahue, IA) to flatten you. The article doesn't say exactly what injury she sustained, but it was classic: she got knocked down with her foot sort of out sideways, got up limping and tried to keep running on it, then it just buckled under her and she fell the next time she planted her foot to stop and turn around. Something like that. A few minutes later they showed her on crutches with a knee immobilizer. I couldn't find a Youtube video of it yet. Maybe later.

Football seems like a much simpler way to...gladiate. I don't understand why I find the idea of these combative games so appealing, and the reality of them (to the degree I've experienced it) so scary. Maybe when it comes to appetite for warrioring, my eyes are a bit bigger than my stomach. However, if not for my knee and the expenses arising therefrom I would definitely have gone back for another season of football, scared or not. I was less scared at the end than I was when I started. That's something.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

How I Spent My New Year's Day Vacation

On the American River Parkway bike path. Found out, to both my delight and muscle fatigue, that I can manage a flat 20-mile ride at a pace averaging maybe 13 mph. It felt so good to be hungry enough from riding that I was willing to eat someone's partly eaten Clif Bar at the halfway point. Someone we were riding with, though...I have in the past been in other distance events (SF and Avenue of the Giants marathons) when I was hungry enough almost to consider eating one that was smashed on the ground. A sign of inadequate aid stations. I trust that the organizers of those events have since corrected that inadequacy.

Anyway, it was a beautiful, sunny day, though cold enough that I was glad for long tights and a jacket. Nothing like the weather we've had here just lately. Funny how fast everything can change.