"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, June 27, 2008

In with the bad air. Don't know if photo worked but can't capture how bad the smoke has been. Glad I'm escaping for awhile.

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18% of Americans...

...believe that the sun revolves around the earth, according to a poll cited in this NY Times op-ed on the brain science behind people's false beliefs (and particularly the implications for political campaigns, i.e. why people would continue to believe that Obama is Muslim despite all statements that have been made to the contrary). It has bigger implications though--actually it explains a lot of prejudice and irrational thought. For example, people keep writing letters to the editor of the local paper stating that (one of the reasons) same-sex marriage is an abomination is that gay couples can't produce children. When in reality, gays and lesbians obviously produce / acquire children by all sorts of means, sometimes even the old-fashioned accidental method, sometimes during a failed attempt at heterosexual marriage, sometimes with help from a donor, and of course by adoption in the states where they believe children should have as many chances for loving, devoted parent(s) as possible. And some people, gay or straight, choose not to have children of their own at all, but can make the world's most fabulous uncles and aunts, or can devote their energy to nurturing the world in many other ways that people with kids don't have time and resources for.

All of this information seems to have been sucked into a black hole for some people. I rode with a group of NorCal AIDS Challenge cyclists (most of whom were straight) in the Sacramento LGBT Pride parade last week, and protesters were out with signs about all the stuff God hates. We couldn't help but notice that these 'religious' people were completely fixated on one particular act as if it summed up the whole of gay male (and apparently their own) existence. And one of my favorite signs was "Hatred of Parents Causes Homosexuality." Sad, to think of all those little gay parent-hating babies.

One has to wonder sometimes what planet people are living on. But according to this article, we tend to remember information that fits our existing mental framework and forget what doesn't fit. So it probably wouldn't work to make somebody who watches FOX News all the time just listen to NPR for several hours (though I don't think that would hurt). False beliefs are difficult to undo. In order to correct them, the "truth" (i.e. Obama is a Christian, for example) has to be presented with some kind of affirmative little emotional attention-grabber, something that puts a new picture in the listener's mind. Merely contradicting the falsity can actually reinforce it.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Equal opportunity blog

I'd be remiss in not giving Kato some press. He's threatening to start his own blog if all I do is go on and on about the puppy. This is his current favorite toy. He leaps into the air and does...I'm sure there's some kind of skateboading or gymnastic term for it...but he twists and turns mid-air and lands facing the opposite way. All for the thrill of catching this blue feather. Then when he's got it, he walks off with it (and with me) to some undisclosed location, sometimes his food dish, where he lets go, and then it starts all over again.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

It's a dog!

Ripley at seven weeks.
Not a gerbil or a guinea pig at all. Though if she had wings she might be mistaken for a fruit bat.

I stopped by to visit her last night, prepared with some treats to buy her attention. That was a good strategy, since otherwise she'd have completely ignored me in favor of some spilled dog food near Charlene's porch. Priorities. Understanding that she doesn't know me yet and had no reason to respond when I tried to get her attention with noise, I also have a feeling she might be one of those puppies with selective hearing. We are somewhat alike in that respect.

Less than two weeks to go.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Possibly in poor taste, considering recent events, but it's true...

Smoke does get in your eyes. I've discovered online karaoke. This is more or less how the new lead singer for Boston was discovered, so I'm hoping Richard Carpenter or the Platters (do they need a singer?) will call me one of these days.
Rate this performance at The Sims On Stage

Thursday, June 12, 2008

I guess I won't ride my bike in the hills today...

And probably not this weekend, either. Not that I had plans to, but the whole place is closed down because of a 8000-acre fire burning just (barely) southeast of Chico and up into the town of Paradise. The article I just linked is updated frequently and the last update looks bad.

I first saw it on the way home from my appointments in Oroville yesterday, when it was still much smaller. Some friends of mine just recently moved out of their house on the outskirts of Paradise (yes, yes, the town lends itself to endless jokes...I can't drive there without having a litany of song lyrics play in my head, 'I've got two tickets to paradise;' 'I've been to paradise but I've never been to me;' 'awfully nice, it's paradise;' 'paradise by the dashboard light'...) to a house in Chico, and they have been preparing to put their old house on the market. The house is now in an evacuated area.

I took this photo by pointing my cellphone out the side window on the way home yesterday. I'm grateful to be upwind, not so much because the fire danger but all the smoke. Most of the burned area so far is open grassland but I read that four homes have burned (the linked map shows the location). And wind is known to change directions now and then.

If you're looking at the map, I live more or less in downtown Chico. However, one of the attorneys in our office has a lovely home in Butte Creek Canyon, which has also been evacuated, and the fire looks awfully close.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Oww charlie

My half-hour jog yesterday used some muscles that apparently haven't been used for awhile. I think I'd better go sit in the spa that my homeowner association dues are paying to keep warm.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Happy A-Knee-Versary to me

Last year on June 2, my brief and statistically unremarkable pro football career came to a sudden, expensive end. This evening, I went running in the park for a full half hour. The most running I've done in a year, and the only running I've done in months. I was happy to find that, while it kind of hurt, it was manageable, and the good feeling of running outweighed the joint discomfort.

Over the weekend I was talking to Renee, a Rage teammate who, at the age of 42, is essentially the Jerome "The Bus" Bettis of our team and scored our touchdown in the game against Portland last Saturday (after a great pass play set it up). She is doing all this with a knee brace and a torn ACL. Obviously she loves playing football way, way more than I did, and accordingly she's way, way better at it. But she made me think that my self-pitying avoidance of all running has gone on quite long enough. I don't need to start training for another marathon. But I've missed the feeling of my feet moving over the ground, of running on a path through the trees. That whole primal thing. Good to have it back.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

they be stealin'

This morning I had a small, so I thought, unopened container of raspberry yogurt I got from the hotel continental breakfast. I put it in my plastic ziploc bag full of the small bottles of shampoo, conditioner, mouthwash, etc. for airport security. But they really stuck to their guns (or whatever compliance-promoting / protective devices they have) about the 3.4 ounces rule. The lady said, "Oh...I'll have to take your yogurt. It's more than 3.4 ounces. Would you like to go back so you can eat it?" (I thought, I know you're doing the right thing by offering me that choice, and it's clever psychologically as well as less illegal to offer a silly choice that preserves someone's illusion of personal property rights, than to confiscate pocketknife keyrings and baby bottles and yogurt out of hand, but NO, I WOULD NOT rather take off my shoes and empty out my pockets and unpack my laptop and remember not to put it in the same bin as the case, after adequately stowing those items again so I can leave the security area, just so I can eat this 4 ounces of yogurt.) I said, "I can't eat it right now?" (in the presence of these witnesses and all here assembled) and she said "No, afraid not." I had a spoon and everything, I could have stood aside and gobbled it right up in probably less than thirty seconds.

I wonder what would have happened if I'd said, 'Okay, I'll go back,' but then, upon accepting the container of yogurt, I'd suddenly peeled back the top and started eating it right there by the x-ray conveyor belt. Would I have been detained, or cited, or forbidden to board a plane? Or perhaps I'd never have had that option because she would have walked the yogurt outside the security area before returning it to me, as there is protocol for this kind of thing, these scenarios with yogurt.