"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"

Monday, March 31, 2008

mama needs a new pair o' shoes

Really quite hilly 54-mile training ride yesterday (if you click that link to look at the route, please go to the 'Show' menu and select 'Elevation Profile' to see what I mean by 'quite hilly.' Coming down one of the longer hills, where the road was nice and smooth and free of traffic, I got up to 41 mph. A new speed record. (Maybe my next road bike will be the Mach 5).

My feet topped the list of parts that became especially sore during the ride (though it was a close contest). I've been riding with SPD clipless pedals with a fairly small platform, (just like these) and stylish but somewhat too flexible 'touring' style bike shoes. As a result, my toes tend to go numb after 20 miles. Having consulted the experts it looks like I need to upgrade to road pedals with a bigger platform and much stiffer road shoes (like the Pearl Izumis shown here). This will help the 'hot spot' problem that makes my feet sore and numb and also use my pedaling energy more efficiently, especially on all those climbs.

Got some good deals on both. Shoes will take a few days to get here and then I can set 'em up.

Six weeks to go until the NorCal AIDS Challenge and two century rides in April.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I was only laughing a little bit on the inside

In the process of completing a form recently, a client told me that she decided to keep her married name after getting divorced so that it would be the same as her son's last name, because she didn't want him to have astigmatism.

Kitteh is my BFF: The Historical / Social Context of Abbreviated Speech and Intentional Misspelling

Humorous Pictures

I became suddenly curious today about the origin of the word "okay" and, in reading the Wikipedia entry on the subject, discovered that there have been previous fads not only involving "comic misspellings" but fads of rampant abbreviation, even abbreviation of the comic misspellings.

According to the late etymologist Allen Walker Read:
"The abbreviation fad began in Boston in the summer of 1838 ... OFM, "our first men," and used expressions like NG, "no go," GT, "gone to Texas," and SP, "small potatoes." Many of the abbreviated expressions were exaggerated misspellings, a stock in trade of the humorists of the day. One predecessor of OK was OW, "oll wright," and there was also KY, "know yuse," KG, "know go," and NS, "nuff said."

No doubt that some folks circa 1838 were more amused by the fad than others. It also seems to serve different purposes now in the era of the txt msg. In between 1838 and the event of instant messaging, we've had candy conversation hearts, vanity license plates, and the song titles of the artist previously and currently known as Prince (i.e., Nothing Compares 2 U).

So, icanhascheezburger.com is a resurfacing of an old trend. In 1838 I bet it was a lot harder to come by winsome photos of marine mammals holding plastic buckets, though.

In memory of Minazo the seal, 1994 - 2005.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Venture philanthropy

I confess to sometimes agreeing with David Brooks, "conservative" op-ed columnist for the New York Times. He actually seems to use reasoning and logic rather than just gobbling down the whole Republican enchilada without asking what's in it. Several years ago he wrote a piece on why same-sex marriage should be promoted rather than opposed by conservatives, as he felt that supporting people--any people--in their desire to make serious commitments to one another would actually be good for, rather than detrimental to, the fabric of society.

So this piece on the social entrepreneur movement got my attention. Having just come back from New Orleans where it is obvious that the government didn't just screw up at every stage of the disaster, but willfully, criminally, disregarded what was happening (if you didn't believe that before, you oughta try to see this movie), it is the private foundations and the non-profits who are getting the work done. The public school system hasn't even been able to get going again in most of the city. Charters are the only ones who were able to open their doors.

While we have a government absorbed by corporate interests (which tend to be inherently antisocial, since a corporation is legally a 'person' who is compelled to act in its own self-interest at all times), and we have a big swath the electorate who have been easily manipulated by fear, we simply can't expect the government to be all that helpful unless we're white or at least wealthy. The best possible outcome of the next election might help but it won't help overnight. But the social entrepreneurs Brooks talks about--and so many others--are harnessing the awesome power of capitalism for good. I take exception to his disparaging remarks about ponytails and crunchiness (maybe he's not spent much time in Northern CA) but otherwise he's really on to something.

I would still like the government to be really helpful for something besides putting people in prison at home and creating new terrorists abroad. But I'm interested in anything that works. It seems that attempts to overthrow capitalist systems have been largely self-defeating and created years and years of suffering. Much more effective to find ways to bend capitalism to the good of the People. To make it a tool for social progress--which has to include everybody, or it doesn't count.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Minor misquoting of Faulker, otherwise great speech.

I thought the Faulkner reference Obama made in his speech was from Absalom, Absalom. Certainly could have been: "The past isn't dead and buried. In fact, it isn't even past." I was sure I'd read that line before which meant it had to be from Absalom, or As I Lay Dying (one might naturally think it could have been in there, too), the first half of Light in August, or one of several short stories. If Yahoo's Answers.com is credible, however, it's none of the above, and Obama changed it slightly for better rhetorical effect, perhaps, or maybe he just remembered it incorrectly and nobody cite checked it for him.

Please understand that I do not want to detract from the extremely important, timely, serious messages of Obama's speech. I think this is probably the best speech given in a political campaign in my lifetime. But since we've so long languished under the dangerous rule of a man who most likely doesn't even know who Faulkner is and definitely doesn't care, I think Obama may have successfully tapped into the little-documented but no doubt influential "English major vote." Despite having taken some liberties with Faulkner. As long as he doesn't take too many liberties. Just because all our sensibilities have been offended for eight years doesn't mean we have to throw our standards out the window at the first sign of literate leadership.

I also wonder what might happen to Clinton if she tried to address gender inequality in a similarly direct way. Huh. Guess that's why she hasn't.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Powered by pretzels

Yogurt pretzels, that is. By Sunday afternoon the remaining handful had melted and re-congealed together in a big crunchy ball (imagine this picture without the empty spaces), having been both in the truck for awhile in the sunshine, and in the back pocket of my bike jersey. I think they were trying to evolve into a new snack.

I found this yogurt pretzel image online and I'm a little disturbed by it, actually. The pretzels look unhappy. They remind me of the Edvard Munch painting, or that silly horror flick of the same name (only ever saw the first one), or of the Stay-Puff'd Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters. My pretzels had a less haunted look (at least before they melted).

I am sore in various places, but it's appropriate since I rode a total of 110 miles on Saturday and Sunday, climbing many a hill on the way. Both rides, Winters on Saturday and Sonoma County on Sunday, were graced with beautiful weather and scenery. My friend Lisa mapped out the Sonoma ride for me, having toured most of the back roads on her motorcycle, and she tried to pick a route that wasn't too hilly. The Winters ride was supposed to be the hilly one. However, I don't think it's possible to ride 67 flat miles in Sonoma unless you're dragging up and down the freeway, and even then I'm not sure you can do it. In fact that is one of the appealing features of riding in Sonoma County. Anyway, Lisa tried, and some might say she did not entirely succeed. But it was an awesome route that I would love to ride again (but not again tomorrow), up through the Alexander Valley from Santa Rosa to Cloverdale, and down through the Dry Creek Valley west of Highway 101, to River Road where my sag support (i.e. Lisa in her truck) came to get me since continuing to ride would have made the ride about 77 miles and most definitely quite hilly. Maybe sometime I'll try the whole loop when I have no interest in trying to find a not-too-hilly route.

I took my second rest stop around mile 50-something to eat a bagel (also in the back pocket of my jersey...I just love how you can put so many things in those pockets). I parked my bike in some landscaping outside the big gate to some or other winery, and happened to notice these among the woodchips. You might be saying to yourself, 'what's the big deal, those aren't even an edible variety of morels.' To which I would answer, 'I don't know what kind of morels they are, but I know they are the first morels of any kind that I have ever found in the wild (or at least in the landscaping) so, to me, it's a big deal.'

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The not-so-fast 50

It's that time again when daylight lasts just long enough to get a 25-mile ride in after work. A small group of us started about 15 minutes earlier than the rest of the pack so we'd have time to finish before dark. A little over an hour into our ride, the sound of many wheels, like the west wind, rushed up behind us and flew away again in their lycra of many colors. Up until then I thought I was going along at a good clip, averaging about 18-19 miles an hour and taking gallantly long turns at the front of my little péloton. The riders that passed us gave me a feeling of standing still. But they were glorious to behold, filling up the entire lane on the River Road, like a semi truck made of bicycles.

We ran out of steam in the last 20 minutes and slowed down to about 15 mph while the other group was probably already home, showered, dined, and moving on to dessert. Some day I'll have a speedy speedy bike that weighs less than my cat, and speedier legs to go with it. For now, I'm doing fine.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Maybe I like this one better. Can't decide.

I guess being one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th century doesn't mean that you always make good decisions about facial hair. Well it's alright, it's alright.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

American Tune

The brilliance of this song is that it captures the spirit of America at her best while acknowledging somehow we got on the wrong road, that there are times of great despair and loneliness, life batters our souls, we're uncomfortable, weary to our bones, good times come and go...but it's alright, it's alright, it's alright. And it gives us a charge: we come in the age's most uncertain hour, and sing an American tune. What's your tune?

This is the only song about America that honors the myth, the ideals, the symbols, without glossing over the pain of living in the America we've made. 35 years after it was written it seems to fit better than ever.

Still tomorrow's gonna be another working day and I'm trying to get some rest. That's all I'm tryin' to get, is some rest.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

blowin' in the wind

I was invited on a spontaneous roadtrip to the central coast this weekend so naturally I wanted to bring my bike (my old KHS road bike, not Karla) Unfortunately, when I loaded it in the truck on Friday after work to meet up with my friends Lisa and Anita and Syd the dog, I left the front wheel in the parking lot. Didn't realize that's where it was until three hours later when I arrived in Santa Rosa. A friend of Lisa's had a spare wheel I could borrow though. A much nicer wheel than the one I left at home, in fact. So it all worked out.

We stayed in Watsonville in a somewhat funky motel chosen for its alleged pet-friendliness. Yesterday around 4:00 I set out riding south to Monterey. Didn't figure on how strong the wind would be blowing off the bay. As you can see in the picture, I got there, and my friends met up with me for dinner just a little bit before hypothermia set in.

Today I rode north to Santa Cruz in the late morning sunshine and not nearly so much wind. Made it all worthwhile. Rode out to Lighthouse State Beach and watched the surfers paddle out, ride in, paddle out, ride in.

I've been having some sinus issues...without wanting to go into an unnecessary level of detail, I just really wanted to spit at one point on my ride today. While this behavior is not culturally inappropriate for distance runners and bikers, it's not something I tend to do. But sometimes even a young lady of good breeding (and not such good breathing) can't take it any more. So I spit, as daintily as possible when pedaling at a good clip, over my left shoulder. Only seconds later two guys passed me on the left. Either I didn't hit 'em or they didn't pay it no mind.

Total bike mileage for the weekend: about 50 miles. With several good refueling opportunities. Hoping to finish it off with a spinning class tomorrow night before I get on the plane for New Orleans on Tuesday.