Friday, December 22, 2006

A time to refrain

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven...a time to keep silence, and a time to speak."

Right now it is a time for silence here and speaking elsewhere. I do have plans for a revamped Web site at some point, so please check back occasionally.

As always, thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I'm back

I finally figured out what to change in my publishing settings so I could get my posts to show up here. I don't know why or when the requirements were changed, but hopefully I'm good for a while again.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Darfur Sunday

This Sunday, December 10, has been set aside as a day of prayer and action for Darfur, organized by Evangelicals for Darfur, a partnership between the
Save Darfur Coalition
and Sojourners.

A toolkit of resources (.pdf), including phone numbers and messages to send, is available online.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go...
T. S. Eliot

Friday, November 24, 2006

Peddler's Wagon

Generally, I would encourage people to buy nothing on this day after Thanksgiving. However, today is an exception: go on over to the Peddler's Wagon to check out (and buy!) carefully chosen products useful for the modern day homesteading way of life.

The store is a project of Path to Freedom, and the profits will be used to fund their outreach efforts, including paying the expenses of their extensive, ad-free Web site. Moreover, ten percent of the profits will be contributed directly to development and relief organizations.

If you live in the Los Angeles area, you can save on shipping costs by arranging to pick up your order.

So, enjoy browsing and buying in good conscience!
Cider pressing photos

I just uploaded photos of the annual cider pressing day at my parents' farm, where my mother's brothers and families, plus friends, spend a fun morning making cider followed by a soup lunch.

This October was the first time I've attended in many years. It was a beautiful Northwest autumn day.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Michael Pollan on food

Back in May, Michael Pollan spoke at the Los Angeles Public Library. I had a reservation to attend but needed to finish cleaning my house before a house guest arrived the next day.

The conversation can be heard online. In the far left ALOUD column, click The Omnivore's Dilemma.

Right now he's discussing the disappearance of farm land in the Central Valley of California to housing developments and the spectre of depending entirely on imported food.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Lutherans and the environment

Today in the Adult Forum at church, we began looking an impassioned article by Larry Rasmussen, "What's next for the Reformation?"
Perhaps [...] future historians revisiting the 20th century will say the 21st century saw the ecological reformation of the churches. Perhaps they will write that Earth-honoring religious practice found real traction and thousands of congregations became serious centers of creation care. Perhaps this is what is next for the Reformation, itself, as a living tradition.
One could hope. We discussed the city of Pasadena's intention to extend its contract with a coal-burning power plant in Utah, an issue brought to my attention at PTF. See also an article in a recent edition of the Star-News.
Pasadena's Municipal Services Committee will discuss the contract extension at 2 p.m. Wednesday, 150 S. Los Robles Ave., Room 200. The recommendation will likely go before the City Council on Nov. 20.
We looked at the power content label we recently received in our electricity bills. In 2006, the percent of coal-derived power in the regular, non-green power mix is projected to be 68%, up from 38% in 2005. I encouraged people to consider signing up for Pasadena's Green Power program and to call their district's city council representative. A small thing given the global situation, but at least something an individual can do.

I was particularly interested in Rasmussen's presentation of Bonhoeffer's writing on the earth and nature, with which I hadn't been familiar.

Update 11/24/06: Good news! Pasadena has decided not to renew its contract!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Now is the time to act

From the introduction to "November" in Cosmo Doogood's Urban Almanac, 2006, after describing typical November weather for the northern hemisphere (not Southern California so much right now):
Certainly, it's damp and raw. Rain is forecast. Now is the time to act, to begin. As Ishmael says in Moby Dick, "whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul...I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can." He means it's time for human deeds. Without our contributions, nothing will happen, life will have no meaning. [...] "Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible," said St. Francis of Assisi.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Holden journey

I've started entering my photos from Holden on Flickr.

However, I'm already frustrated at the restrictions on sorting the order of the pictures. It seems the most recently loaded pictures are displayed first. But if I'm loading a bunch of pictures I want in a specific order, I have to upload them from last to first, and then not add anything. Maybe I'll have to find another service.

[Update 11/6/06: I'm getting the hang of it now. Using sets is the way to go, but you are limited unless you upgrade to the paid Flickr account.]

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Down from the mountain

I'm making my way back home after having had a great time away, including no access to the Internet, e-mail, or telephone. I hope to post more extensive descriptions upon my return.

In the meantime, here is a summary of some of the readings and discussions I participated in: Living the Leap. (I highly recommend the novel Old School, by Tobias Wolff.)

While the Leap program was part of the reason I came to Holden, the entire experience compassed much more—beginning with spectacular hiking amidst the flaming yellow autumn trees.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

On break

Taking a break—be back in about one month. See you!

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Cycling day

Today I rode to a neighboring town and met up with a friend from boarding school and her family. We attended the oldest daughter's school fair.

Then I rendezvous'd with the PTF family, and four of us rode to a new park that has opened in Los Angeles to attend a Life Can Be So Car-free event. The goats came too, but they rode in the truck.

It was great to see so many bicycles of all different kinds in one place. It was interesting to see the different types of gears, rack and pannier setups, and creative personalization on the bicycles. It was also fun to ride into LA—something I hadn't ventured yet.

Of course, the goats were a big hit!

Afterwards, the bikes were all strapped onto the back of the truck, and we drove back to Pasadena.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Notes of the week

This past week has seemed pretty unproductive on the surface. My sorting project has slowed down, and I didn't do much studying. I'm also beginning to feel the pressure of what I'd like to get done before I leave for Holden Village. It's already been three weeks since I left my job.

On Monday, my friends and I took their goats on a bike ride and walk. The goats are just so cute and fun.

On Tuesday, I rented a car and drove out to see my former pastor who was visiting in Ventura County. We went for a hike in the Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa area of the Santa Monica Mountains. We walked to a waterfall (with only a tiny trickle of water). It was a beautiful day with spectacular views of Boney Mountain and marvelous oaks along the creek.

The rest of the week has been a lot of mulling, reading, and knitting. Here are few of the random paths my mind/reading has wandered.

Pondering friendship. Seasons Of Friendship: Naomi And Ruth As A Model For Relationship by Marjory Zoet Bankson. I found an older edition—much less "prettified"—in the used bookstore. "Ruth listened / heard call / but did not see the path."

Then, wanting to learn more about the author, I found a 1999 interview with Bankson on the Evangelical & Ecumenical Women's Caucus Web site.

This is a site I've read in the past, and, as I looked around again, I found an autobiographical article by David Scholer of Fuller Seminary. Prof. Scholer arrived at Fuller after I left [Edit: We were at Fuller at the same time, but I didn't take classes from him], but I got to know him through one of my friends and spent Christmas with his family and my friend a few years ago.

I also was shocked to learn via a book review that the author of Writing a Woman's Life, Carolyn Heilbrun, committed suicide a few years ago. When I first read Writing in the early nineties, I had bought the book and begun reading it in the town where my parents live and then started to drive back to my house, about an hour away. However, I was so drawn in by the book, I pulled over at a rest stop and kept reading.

Heilbrun on Dorothy Sayers:
[T]he failure to lead the conventional life, to find the conventional way early, may signify more than having been dealt a poor hand of cards. It may well be the forming of a life in the service of a talent felt, but unrecognized and unnamed. This condition is marked by a profound sense of vocation, with no idea of what that vocation is, and by a strong sense of inadequacy and deprivation. (pp. 52-53)
The EECW site and an earlier conversation got me thinking again about the issue of women in the church and home, an issue that has been stored on the high shelves of my mind's bookcases for quite a while. So I took it down from the shelf again and blew the dust off the top edge by reading through the relevant chapter in Willard Swartley's Slavery, Sabbath, War, and Women: Case Issues in Biblical Interpretation (another redone book cover).

Now, onto the weekend.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Flat No. 3

Yesterday afternoon the rear tire on my bicycle went flat for the third time (since I've been keeping track this year). I had just had the bike looked over and adjusted by Justin (scroll down to Bike Repairs) in exchange for doing some editing and was almost home, when I heard a strange sound. As I pulled into my garage, the sound clearly became a hissing noise, and soon the rear tire was deflated. I could see a round flap in tire from where the air was leaking.

It was Sunday afternoon, and I didn't have anywhere to go, so I just left the bike. Then this morning, in an effort to learn how to change my tires more efficiently, I searched the Web and found a couple helpful articles: "Levers? Levers? We Don't Need No Stinking Levers!" by Asa Salas and "How to Fix a Flat Tire on a Bicycle" by Ken Kifer.

First, I was able to hold up my bike, shift the gears, and pedal in place (thanks to my toe straps) so that the chain dropped onto the smallest cog in the rear.

While repairing my last two flats, I just propped the bike on its side, but both articles suggest flipping the bike upside-down onto the seat and handlebars to remove the rear tire. However, my handlebar rear-view mirror prevents me from resting the handlebars on a flat surface. At home, I can rest the bike on two plastic file boxes, which I did. On the road, I would have to dangle the mirror off the side of a curb.

Next, I unlocked the brakes, released the wheel, and removed it. Removing the tire and changing the tube is the easiest part of the process for me. The puncture was caused by a shard of glass still wedged in the tire, which I carefully pried out with the end of a screw driver. (Same type of culprit that caused the previous flat, which also happened just as I was arriving home.)

I haven't yet graduated to patching my tubes. I carry patch kits with me, in addition to a new tube, and should probably patch the punctured tubes I have saved, but that's a future step. Right now, I'm focusing on removing and replacing the wheel properly, so I just use a new tube.

After installing the new tube and pumping it up to an acceptable level (my new hand pump works so much better than the previous micro one), I followed the instructions to fit the wheel back onto the chain and drop it in place. That part is a little complicated, but by being unrushed and trusting the directions, I successfully held up the chain (the top side when the bike is upside-down) using a rag, fitted the smallest cog onto the chain, and let it roll into place.

Then I carefully tightened the quick release lever and made sure I closed it properly this time. (I had been riding around with an open release lever since my last flat.) I turned the bike right-side up and pumped the tire up to pressure using my floor pump.

There is certainly a sense of accomplishment in being able to fix my own flat tires, and I have more to learn. However, I may look into some of the suggestions for preventing flat tires.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


The past few days have been pretty low-key. Another couple piles of papers rough-sorted into boxes. (I have five boxes into which I'm collecting papers, which I shall then sort further and file later: Academic; General Interest; Church-related; Personal Business; Personal/Keepsakes/Pictures/Recipes.) Some knitting. Paperwork. Watering the church grounds.

Late this afternoon I took the bus and walked to the church, stopping off along the way going and coming back at different stores to pick up needed items. Last week, I bought a bus pass for this month. I live very close to a major bus route and am realizing that one of the reasons I can get by without a car is that I am not dependent only on my bicycle. When I don't feel like riding (or getting sweaty) and my destination is close to a bus route, I just hop on the bus. I wouldn't have that advantage in a more rural setting.

I have also been reading a book (again) that was given to me when I moved to California over twelve years ago, Transitions: Making Sense of Life's Changes, by William Bridges. Bridges discusses adult developmental theory, as well as cultural and mythic traditions associated with life stages and changes.

It was reassuring then to read that a pivotal time for many people is as they approach 30, as I was. Now, on the other side of 40, I am recognizing some of the shifts Bridges describes that can occur around mid-life ("a growing concern for meaning and a loss of interest in simple performance" [p. 46; see also p. 76]).

Bridges emphasizes the importance of endings, a "neutral zone," and then new beginnings, following a fundamental pattern of nature. An important aspect of navigating the neutral zone is to spend time alone.
We need not feel defensive about this apparently unproductive time-out at turning points in our lives, for the neutral zone is meant to be a moratorium from the conventional activity of our everyday existence. [...] In the apparently aimless activity of our time alone, we are doing important inner business. Walking, watching, making coffee, counting the birds on the phone wire, studying the cracks in the plaster ceiling over the bed, dreaming, [waiting for the bus to arrive, knitting, sorting papers into piles, moving books from one shelf to another, jbb] waiting for God knows what to happen, we carry on the basic industry of the neutral zone, which is attentive inactivity and ritualized routine. (p. 114)
Bridges states that in some traditional societies initiation rituals included a person spending time alone in the wilderness in order to cultivate different levels of awareness and knowing. These days, the neutral zone is often experienced as a feeling of emptiness.
It is the phase of the transition process that the modern world pays least attention to. Treating ourselves like appliances that can be unplugged and plugged in again at will or cars that stop and start at the twist of a key, we have forgotten the importance of fallow time and winter and rests in music. We have abandoned a whole system of dealing with the neutral zone through ritual. (p. 130)
So I am dipping into Bridges' book again as a guide during another time of change.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Organizing books

To see pictures of my most recent task, click the link and scroll down to the beginning of the September 9 posts.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

New groove

Yesterday I tried my new schedule to see how it would work. Chores and other tasks in the morning. Study in the afternoon. Pleasure reading or handwork in the evening. It worked pretty well. I got a lot of the obvious clutter picked up throughout the house. Wrote thank you notes. This morning I cleaned the refrigerator and vacuumed.

Yesterday afternoon I started working on Sunday's lesson. I also spent probably too much time online after I finished studying around 3:00.

In the evening I read a few chapters from John Seymour's book, The Fat of the Land, about the Seymours' first years on their small homestead in England.

Eleutheros at How Many Miles from Babylon just finished a series of posts about his "scheme and philosophy" of homesteading. (See the July 2006 archives, beginning with the July 25 posts; August 2006; ending with September 1, 2006.) I've been reading through his assignments and have now started the second group of books.

Part of my experiment in these next months is to figure out if there's a way I can earn a living while also learning about and working on my family "homestead," thus carrying on my grandparents' tradition. (See my April 2005 posts and early May 2005 [scroll down].)

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Second day

Today started early. I'm still on my biking schedule, which is good, because I can a lot done before it heats up too much.

Yesterday I took it pretty easy, as I was sore enough not to want to do too much physical labor. A half-hour massage at Wild Oats helped. I also picked up a few groceries while there. I took the bus there and back.

Riding the bus is a good way to keep in touch with the variety of people who live here. While I was waiting for the bus back home, a few clusters of students from a very exclusive private school walked by. Their youth, beauty, privilege, intellectual and material resources were a clear contrast with some of my fellow bus riders.

This morning I soaked in the tub for a while to further relax my muscles. Then I scrubbed the tub and cleaned the sink. Next, I cleared out the tomato plant and poles beans from the garden. Then I rode down to Skein to pick up the latest Interweave Knits magazine. I also bought The Best of Knitter's: Jackets for Work and Play.

In the afternoon I took a nice nap and then walked down to Archives to browse. I'm planning to discuss an article on Paul and Luther for the Adult Forum at church starting again in a week, and I need to do some intensive studying as it is an unfamiliar topic for me, particularly the controversy the author discusses. (Quibble: the article misspells the name of E. P. Sanders. [Update 9/7/06: The online version has been corrected. Also, the link has been updated to display the full article.])

I'm giving myself a few days to become "acclimated" to my new life. Then I need to get focused and disciplined about accomplishing what I hope to get done during the next weeks. I can too easily fritter away time with desultory reading or browsing. Plus, without an income, I'll need to watch the book buying....

Friday, September 01, 2006

First day

Well, I am sitting in front of my computer at home instead of at work. Now, home is work again.

My last day at work ended up being much more eventful than planned. There was the expected rush of last minute instructions, dispensing of files, and forwarding of e-mail messages to those taking over my responsibilities. There were the bittersweet goodbyes and touching notes from colleagues. There was the liberating dumping of files into the shredding bins. There was the ever-present sense just below the surface that I was leaving (again) a company I'd been associated with for eleven years.

But added to the emotional mix were the physical reminders of a body that had been in a bicycle crash that morning on the way to work, which added another surreal dimension to the day.

I was over half way to work. I had just crossed the railroad tracks when I saw an unleashed dog to my right on the sidewalk. The dog saw me and decided I was a good target for a chase. The dog was so close that there was no way I could outride it. I had slowed down to cross the tracks so tried to speed up, but I had no chance. The dog ran straight in to my bike and knocked me over. There were vehicles behind me, but they had also slowed down for the tracks. I know a motorcycle rode around me, but I don't remember anything else.

The dog was hit pretty hard, too, and ran back down the cross street into a nearby yard. I got up and pushed my bike to the sidewalk. My stainless steel water bottle was lying in the road so I picked up that, too. (It now has more dents.)

I didn't seem to be very injured. Some scrapes and bumps, but nothing major. My glasses were slightly bent, so I knew it would have been much worse if I hadn't been wearing a helmet.

The bike seemed to be in pretty good shape, except the handlebars were askew. I think having the pannier stuffed with my work clothes, shoes, and toiletries helped cushion the bike. The wheels weren't bent but the handlebars were in a right-hand turn position relative to the front wheel. I tried unscrewing a sunken bolt thinking that would allow me to straighten out the handlebars, but I couldn't loosen it.

Once I got the chain back on, the bike seemed to ride fine and the brakes worked. So I tried riding with the askew handlebars. If I didn't think about the position of my hands but concentrated on the feel and direction of the wheels, I could ride fine. So I rode the rest of the way to work with my handlebars in a perpetual right-hand turn position even though I was riding straight ahead. I was extra careful when making actual turns.

I got to work on time. Later in the morning, I asked one of my colleagues to help me with my bicycle. It was parked in the type of bike rack that has slots for the front wheel so that the bike is held upright by the front wheel. He merely torqued the handlebars into position—no loosening of bolts required.

So I learned yet something else about the mechanics of bicycles. There is enough give in the handlebar stem so that the handlebars can be adjusted relative to the frame by holding the frame straight and moving the handlebars.

In the afternoon, my colleagues gave me a delicious farewell cake. I logged off my computer, turned in my ID badge, changed into my riding clothes, and headed to some friends' house for a celebratory dinner.

They live in Sierra Madre, about 12.5 miles from work. It was nice route, with a very steep climb at the end. I took a bath and enjoyed a delicious dinner of fish, grilled vegetables, homemade bread, and fruit, along with good conversation.

By then the soreness from my crash earlier and from riding with the handlebars askew was beginning to manifest itself, so when my friends offered to drive me home, I accepted. It would have been a beautiful night ride home, but I thought I better not push it.

I slept pretty well. This morning I inventoried my scrapes, bumps, and bruises. I'm sore, but it will go away in a day or two. I'm grateful that I wasn't hurt worse and that the bicycle is fine. I hope the dog was frightened enough not to chase bicycles again.

So, now on to the rest of the day's agenda.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

All gone

Well, my car was towed away this afternoon. I decided to donate it to KCET rather than call around to wrecking yards for the best price. The car started up fine after sitting for almost two months, thanks to having had the battery drain fixed the day before I wrecked it....

The car, at 143,445 miles, provided mostly reliable service for thirteen years. Now on to the next adventure of seeing if I can go without owning a car. Almost two months so far.

After the tow truck left, I filled out the release of liability form, walked three blocks to the public library branch to photocopy the form, walked another block to the post office to mail it, back to the library to browse through the new books, and home again.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


I am writing this Saturday evening but will not be posting it until later. On Friday morning, I handed in my resignation from work. August 31 is my last day.

I do not have a new job to which I am transferring. I will be taking some time off to get organized around my house (books, papers, the garage). I will also reevaluate my set-aside degree program. I am considering moving back to Washington State, where my family live.

There have been a lot of factors leading to my decision, some of which I am not going to write about here and many others, I am sure, I have not yet identified. I want to write down some of my thoughts, but, once again, it will have to wait because I am so tired from bike riding—in a good way, though.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Oil from coal

Wednesday's WSJ front page had an interesting article on the conversion of coal to oil: "South Africa Has a Way to Get More Oil: Make It From Coal," by Patrick Barta (paid subscription required). The South African company Sasol developed its expertise during the apartheid era when sanctions against South Africa made it difficult to import oil. The company supplies 30 per cent of South Africa's fuel for transportation. Now other countries, specifically China and the U.S., are interested in developing similar facilities.

The article baldly states in years how much fuel energy the world has remaining:
Current estimates indicate the world has just 41 years of known oil reserves and 65 years of natural-gas supplies. It has enough coal reserves to last an estimated 155 years, with some of the largest reserves in the two biggest oil-consuming countries, the U.S. and China.
Two problems with converting coal to oil are cost and environmental impact, not only of mining the coal but of the carbon dioxide emitted by the processing plants.
The Natural Resources Defense Council, a U.S.-based environmental advocacy group, estimates that the production and use of gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel and other fuels from crude oil release about 27.5 pounds of carbon dioxide per gallon. The production and use of a gallon of liquid fuel originating in coal emit about 49.5 pounds of carbon dioxide, they estimate. Even some boosters of the coal-to-oil plants describe them as carbon-dioxide factories that produce energy on the side.
In the U.S., Montana, Illinois, and Kentucky, which have large deposits of coal, are very interested in building coal-to-oil facilities.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Catching up

So many things in my head—need to write them here before they disappear.

On Sunday night, Path to Freedom and my church showed the film The Great Warming. Anais has written a nice report of the event, including a picture of my bulletin board.

For my notes, here are some of the links I featured on the board.
What Congregations Can Do: Study resources—"The Cry of Creation: A Call for Climate Justice" (.pdf); and the ELCA social statement "Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope, and Justice" in English and Spanish.

Join California Interfaith Power & Light (or a similar organization in other states) and sign the covenant. Do one or more of the six covenant actions. Energy Star for congregations.

Advocate for just and sustainable public policies.

Emphasize creation throughout the liturgical year. Celebrate A Season of Creation in September - October. (The coordinator of A Season of Creation, Norm Habel, is a Hebrew Bible/Old Testament scholar in the form criticism "school," the same method I was being trained in.)

Declarations: Religious leaders' appeal to political leaders in California for mandating limits on greenhouse gases;
"National Council of Churches—Theological Statement on the Environment" (.pdf); and
"Joint Declaration on Articulating a Code of Environmental Ethics," by Pope John Paul II and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

Organizations: National Council of Churches of Christ, Eco-Justice Programs, Climate Change;
Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life;
Evangelical Environmental Network;
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops;
The National Religious Partnership for the Environment; and
Protecting Creation.
Recording all those links took too long. Now it's my bedtime, which I can't ignore or I'll not be able to get up in the morning for my ride to work. The weather has been perfect for riding these last days, especially today.

At the film, quite a few people showed up on bicycles, including those from the group C.I.C.L.E.. They were riding some Xtracycles, which I'd only seen pictures of previously. One guy hitched a trailer to his bike made from an up-side-down dog kennel/carrier, as Anais pointed out.

Well, my head is only a quarter emptied. But I must to bed.

Monday, August 07, 2006


The De-MOTORize Your Soul campaign, via The MinusCar Project.
Wean yourself.

It's time for the spiritual transition to a post-oil era.

The internal combustion engine is suffocating our souls as it suffocates the planet. So give your soul a break from the gas-powered frenzy. Relax a bit, and join the spirited slow-down.
The campaign is being put on by Geez Magazine, a new magazine to which I recently subscribed (again, thanks to The MinusCar Project). More-with-less for the 2000s.
Five years

Well, it has been five years since I began posting here. I have enjoyed writing, knowing who (some of) the people are who stop by occasionally, and receiving interesting comments.

I know I need to update the look and functionality of my site—it's so early 2000s—not to mention that it is almost at capacity. But I have appreciated the outlet for jotting things down so conveniently and exploring new ideas via links to other sites. The Web site has been a fun way to stay in touch with distant family and friends, reconnect with former acquaintances, and meet new friends, both online and in person.

As always, thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Back home

I'm back home again after spending over a week in Maui, Hawaii, with my family. It was good to be with family and catch up with my niece and nephew again. The island is beautiful and the beaches fantastic!

Thankfully, I was greeted by cooler weather today when I arrived at LAX. My garden is flourishing, thanks to the good care given it by my neighbor.

Now it's gearing up for a busy week after getting caught up with e-mail, Web sites, mail, etc. No e-mail or Internet, except to print my boarding pass yesterday, was a good break!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

It's hot

Like many other places in the country, and the northern hemisphere, it has been HOT here. From the Pasadena Star-News:
[Yesterday] Pasadena had a record high of 109 degrees, 11 degrees more than the previous high set in 1988, said Dave Bruno, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

"We've been well above normal since the middle of June," he said. "Persistently, every day is several degrees above normal."
And it's not cooling down much at night, which is not usual for this part of California. Fortunately, it's predicted to cool down a little this week.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Flat tire

Yesterday I got my first flat tire since I started commuting by bicycle. I was more than half-way to work in the morning when my rear tire picked up two-inch self-starting bolt. I heard a metal on metal sound and then hissing.

I pulled over onto the nice, wide sidewalk, complete with a low wall convenient for propping up the bike and sitting on. I removed the tire from the bike and then, reading the instructions on the spare tube package, removed the tire using tire levers and tube from the rim.

I was able to put the new tube in and snap the tire back onto the rim. But then my micro pump let me down. I could not get nearly enough air into the tube. So I put the tire back onto the bike and started walking it while also carrying my pannier.

A few blocks away, I found a working pay phone outside a liquor store and called a taxi. I didn't want to risk my rim and tire, plus taking more time, to walk quite a few more blocks to a gas station with an air compressor.

The taxi driver put my bike in the trunk and took me to work. By the time I arrived, including showering, I was only 45 minutes late and was at my desk at the time most people get to work anyway.

At lunch, I took the tire off the bike again and got a ride to a nearby gas station to pump it up. Then I had to get the tire back on the bike, in my work clothes. Now the inflated tire didn't fit between the two rear brake pads, so, not knowing (or having forgotten) the handy way to uncouple the brakes, I unscrewed one of the pads, fit the tire back on the hub with the help of one of the facilities men who happened to be nearby, and put the brake pad back on.

I rode pretty carefully going home later that afternoon (my tire was low and I wasn't 100% confident I had put everything back just right). I stopped by my bike store to buy another spare tub and a larger pump. The sales guy checked that I had put the tire on properly, tightened up the brake pad, and showed me how to uncouple the brakes to fit the tire on.

So my first experience with changing a flat by myself wasn't too traumatic. It wasn't raining or dark or too hot. I also tested the spare parts and tools I carry with me. Besides needing a larger pump, I learned I should carry latex gloves. My fingernails are still engrimed with grease from working with the chain.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Bike commuting all week

This was the first week I commuted to and from work for five days straight. Last week I had a break for 4th of July.

It is pretty tiring and doesn't leave me with a whole lot of energy at the end of the day to do much, especially anything that takes much thought (like writing here). Plus there have been higher than usual temperatures this week.

I have had to be more disciplined because if I'm late or don't have my riding stuff together, I can't just hop in the car anymore.

I have enjoyed the riding, though, and hope to get a bit more descriptive when I'm not so tired!

P.S. If you live in the Los Angeles area, you are invited to join Path to Freedom and my church for a screening of this summer's OTHER global warming film, The Great Warming, on Sunday, August 13, 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm, at Messiah Lutheran Church/Iglesia Luterana Mesías in Pasadena. A vegetarian, local food potluck will be served before the film. For more information and to make a reservation, go here.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Observing the Sabbath is saving my life now. For the first time in my life, I can rest without leaving home. With sundown on the Sabbath, I stop seeing the dust balls, the bills, and the laundry. They are still there, but they lose their power over me. One day each week I live as if all my work were done. I live as if the kingdom has come, and when I do the kingdom comes, for one day at least. Now, when I know the Sabbath is near, I can feel the anticipation bubbling up inside of me. Sabbath is no longer a good idea or even a spiritual discipline for me. It is my regular date with the Divine Presence that enlivens both body and soul.
From an excerpt of Barbara Brown Taylor's book Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith. Via an interview on Religion & Ethics Newsweekly.
Morning errands

This morning I rode down to my local bicycle shop to get pedals to which I could attach Power Grips as recommended by Kent Peterson. The shop didn't have any pedals without toe clips and straps, so I bought a set with them that I can remove if I get the Power Grips.

Already I think my pedaling feels more efficient, because my legs (knees) aren't having to work as hard to keep my feet on the pedals. I also picked up a cycling cap to wear under my helmet to try keep more sun off my face.

Then I rode over to the Farmers' Market and bought potatoes, a melon, peaches, and goats' milk soap.

On my way home I stopped by a couple garage sales. The first one had a large steel desk and chair. I was tempted because I appreciate how well made those old desks are, but my one bedroom duplex is too small. (The man was selling it because he had moved from Texas, "where the houses are bigger," to a smaller Pasadena house.)

At the second house, I found an old oak desk chair (no arms). I went ahead and purchased it because it is very comfortable and sturdy, and it will replace my cheapo, second-hand, plastic and synthetic fabric office chair.

I also figured I could transport it on my bicycle. I removed the bag from under the seat that holds my extra tube and tools and put it with the locks that I usually strap onto my rack and the rear light in my pannier with the vegetables and fruit.

Then I turned the chair upside down and rested the seat on the rack with the help of someone at the sale. I strapped it down with bungie cords. As I gingerly rode off, my foot hit the back of the chair. So I had to reposition and re-strap the chair. Then I was able to ride slowly, perched on the end of my bike seat between two of chair foot rests (fortunately I was wearing my padded shorts!), and holding one of the foot rests with my left hand to stabilize the chair. I rode on residential roads, used my low gears, and made it home (uphill most of the way, of course) with no problems. A great sense of accomplishment.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Map tool

Last October I was wishing online map/route sites allowed one to enter routes in order to calculate mileage.

Well, I've discovered one that does: Gmaps Pedometer (via Letter from Hen Waller). Once I figured out how to use it—I recommend reading the Usage Instructions—I plotted my bike routes to and from work. They come out at almost exactly 11 miles each. So that's 22 miles a day. If I'm able to ride to work five days a week, that will be over 100 miles per week, not counting weekends.

We'll see how it goes....

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Thoughts while sorting stuff

It's just after noon on U.S. Independence Day. I'm pleased with the earlier morning's accomplishments in the backyard. I also cleaned my two ceiling fans and started them up. I thought the one in the bedroom was broken, but the chain just gets stuck. So I have to climb on a step-stool and pull the chain right next to the post, trying not to de-knuckle myself when the fan is going.

Now I'm sitting at my desk continuing to go through papers. It's bearable in here because of the ceiling fan. The portable fan/heater just wasn't powerful enough for this heat.

So as I sit sorting stuff, I'm jotting down some of my random thoughts.

Fans are much superior to air conditioning. Anaïs linked to a two-part article about air-conditioning and its impact. I am happy to have grown up in Africa without the "benefit" of air-conditioning. Shade trees; buildings with grass roofs; windows that actually opened; taking it easy at the hottest part of the day (at school, we had rest hour at 1:00 pm; at the hospital, lunch "hour" was from 1:00 to 3:00); wearing simple, non-constricting clothes; going barefoot or wearing sandals; fans; going swimming; not being afraid of getting sweaty.

Our house was a metal pre-fabricated building, so it could get HOT. As the day heated up, the metal roof would expand and sound like something hit it.

The hottest I remember being was riding with my grandfather in the back of our non-air-conditioned pickup truck with the canopy on and the windows closed because of tsetse fly while driving Kafue Game Park. I was wearing one of those 1970s baby doll shirts and used the ample material to wipe the sweat pouring off my face.

Here in So. Cal., the older homes were often built with screened sleeping porches to take advantage of the cooler evenings. I have heard stories of people living in Sudan, where it did not cool down at night, soaking their sheets in water and wrapping themselves in the wet sheets to cool off enough to sleep.

I've just thought of a way to file all the church bulletins I keep because of the art work and photographs on the covers: I'll file them in order of the Bible verse that is printed on them.

As I sort out notes from the Adult Forum I lead at church, re-file class notes from seminary and Ph.D. studies, and put away commentaries and theology books, I wonder what to DO with all that. Are the reasons I didn't finish my Ph.D. program still "in effect"? Or I have changed inside and maybe could re-tackle such a project? Or is it just too intense, too all-involving? Do I want to do too many other things to concentrate my time and money on finishing?

I've enjoyed the Adult Forum—looking at different subjects; getting people to discuss and tell stories; receiving lots of positive feedback and appreciation; finding the connections amongst the texts, other Lutheran publications, and current issues and events—but it's certainly not Ph.D. studies.

Sunday afternoon I took an un-air-conditioned bus to downtown Pasadena to see Al Gore's movie, An Inconvenient Truth. I can't say I did not appreciate the air-conditioned movie theatre, however.

I also popped into air-conditioned Vroman's and bought some books, including Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times by Steve Solomon. I learned of the book via a link on Idleworm. I first read the author when I was on holiday in Washington state and checked out his book Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades from the city library. (By the way, Solomon only recommends the fourth and fifth editions of his Cascades book.)

Solomon takes issue with some of the intensive gardening practices promoted by, for example, Jeavons. In my most certainly inexpert, inexperienced opinion, probably much depends on the amount of land available and the circumstances under which one is attempting to grow vegetables.

I've enjoyed reading through the book, including while waiting at the bus stop after having had just missed the previous bus. Solomon has lived an interesting life. I also learned that Solomon established the online Soil and Health Library, which has many classic agricultural books in digital form.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

My mechanic

One of the reasons I believe my car has lasted as long as it has—it's a 1992 GM car with over 146,000 miles on it—is that I have taken it to the same mechanic for most of the time I've lived in California.

I have been very pleased with Hrant's service—he's never condescending and he's utterly honest. I'm not the only who appreciates having found a good mechanic (whose shop is in walking distance of where I live). Hrant is running out of wall space to post all the "thank you" notes he receives.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Restful day

Compared to last weekend, this weekend is much more relaxed. I didn't have to go anywhere today, so I didn't. I stayed at home and did chores: picking blueberries (all fifteen of them!) for breakfast; making French toast from cinnamon bread and a duck egg; laundry; vacuuming; washing dishes; burying very decomposed kitchen waste; sorting and recycling stacks of magazines, catalogues, and mail; making lunch; taking a nap; reading Web sites; eating ice cream, strawberries, and homemade chocolate sauce for a late afternoon snack; making a frittata for supper, including yellow wax beans and chard from my garden; preparing rice cakes (scroll down) to go with the Marmite my dad got me for my birthday a while back; and washing more dishes.

Now I need to put some clothes away, finish preparing for tomorrow's class at church, and maybe watch a movie.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Sunday afternoon walk

Today after church I rode over to Path to Freedom to pick up my weekly produce order. Anaïs and Jordanne invited me to join them on a walk with the goats down in the Arroyo.

What fun! The goats are so curious about everything and thoroughly enjoyed their outing—as did I! (More pictures here.)

Back row: Jordanne, JBB
Front row: Fairlight, Blackberry
Photo courtesy of Anaïs

Friday, June 09, 2006

Quick update

Life is very full right now with not much mulling time.

Biking—I want to take full advantage of the "June gloom" weather before the truly hot summer weather kicks in. This week I only rode to work two days, but one day I rode to the church directly from work, rather than going home first. So now I know how long that takes.

Church—Prepare women's Bible study for Saturday morning; prepare Adult Forum class for Sunday morning; write up two sets of minutes before Monday evening meeting.

Work—Get the instructions I need to take on the duties assigned to me now that two people in our department are leaving at the end of next week.

Knitting—Finish project started for colleague who's leaving next week.

Other fun—Prepare dish for and attend gathering Saturday evening; watch DVD; work in garden.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Abundant life

There has been a major change at work (from my perspective [edit: and that of a few other people]), and these past weeks have been occupied with preparing for and adjusting to the change.

Yesterday afternoon, shortly before leaving for home, I was "instant messaging" with a former colleague, and he invited me to his family's Sabbath dinner. I was on my bike, so I quickly plotted out a route to his house. It was a pleasant 45 minute ride.

I hadn't seen his family in some time, so it was great to catch up with everyone again. My colleague prepared most of the meal: tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar; mesclun salad with feta cheese, pistachios and vinaigrette dressing; another salad of garbanzo beans, yellow and green bell peppers, and fennel; broiled steelhead; pan-fried potatoes; asparagus; two flavours of Fosselman's ice cream; and two bottles of delicious white wine. A truly spectacular meal.

As always, the conversation was animated and often about the deeper things of life, including how much we have and yet how we are often so fearful and thus miss out on what life is offering us. We discussed the change at work and how we (I) can respond to it without giving in to a deep sadness.

It was after 11:00 when my colleague loaded my bike into the back of their van and took me home.

An evening that was one of life's abundant gifts.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Sisterly weekend

I had a great time while my sister was visiting this past weekend! She arrived Thursday evening, pretty tired from her travels, so we had a simple supper of duck egg frittata with chard and brown rice and a salad. (The frittata idea came from Liz's post on the Eat Local Challenge site.)

Friday morning, after sleeping in, we had French toast made from Trader Joe's thick-sliced cinnamon swirl bread and duck eggs. Then we took some measurements in the backyard and went off to San Gabriel Nursery, the results of which may be read on the garden site.

We were hoping to have tea at Rose Tree Cottage if a reservation cancelled, but when we called back, the power had gone out, so they were anticipating perhaps not being able to hold tea at all.

So, on we went to Aardvarks to browse through the racks of clothing. Then we had great success at a consignment and designer sample store.

We had a tasty dinner of burritos and taquitos at Burrito Express before going to hear David Korten present his new book, The Great Turning, at All Saints Church. It was quite challenging.

Saturday, after a hearty breakfast of hot cereal, we went to the Farmer's Market and enjoyed browsing and buying a few items. Then we came home and got ready to go hiking.

We made it all the way to Brown Canyon Dam (although we didn't go swimming). It was a warm but beautiful day to hike. The route is fairly shaded, and the breezes also kept it cool. We encountered two Forest Service employees patrolling on their horses.

I had never hiked to the dam as the guide, so I was pleased I was able to follow the route along creek quite easily. Where the trail isn't as clear, the creek determines where to cross.

About four hours later we were back at home with a little time to relax and clean up before heading out to meet the goats! (See the May 11 - 16 entries and pictures.) What fun!

Then on to meet friends for dinner at a Peruvian restaurant and for Shakespeare's The Tempest at A Noise Within in Glendale. We had to run from the restaurant to make it to the play in time. The play was well acted with some wonderful costumes.

Sunday was church. Happily, my sister had agreed to sing. She sang some Gregorian chants for the prelude (in both the English and Spanish services), and a beautiful offertory solo in the English service, "Mothering God, You Gave Me Birth," based on a text by Julian of Norwich (scroll down to view the words).

After coffee and greeting people, we came home to pack and leave for the airport after taking a self-portrait in the backyard.

Click to enlarge

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Chic cycling

One of the Editors' Picks in today's WSJ is "The Cycling Commute Gets Chic" by Kevin Helliker (paid subscription required). The article focuses on what cities are doing to encourage bicycle commuters.

I was interested in this analysis of the "trend":
In a trend reminiscent of previous public-health fashions, affluent professionals seem to be leading the charge of commuters on bikes, just as they were among the first groups to embrace organic food, to stop smoking and to return to feeding babies healthier breast milk rather than formula. "So far, it's a white-collar movement," says Dave Growacz, a Chicago biking official and author of the book "The Urban Bikers' Tricks & Tips."
On my commute, which is not to a major urban center, I see more "blue-collar" riders, for example, construction workers or food service employees. Also, I see quite a few older folk who ride bikes to get around town and do their shopping or other errands, perhaps because of the large Asian immigrant population in the area.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


There's nothing like the prospect of housework to drive one back to writing on one's Web site!

My sister is coming tomorrow, about which I'm very excited, and thus I am in the midst of trying to get my house presentable. This is a major task. But the vacuuming is done and the dishes were washed a few days ago. Now I need to get the bedroom somewhat cleared up. The piles will probably stay on the desk, but they have to be moved off the bed! I need to finish putting a few things away in the living room, too.

The other big news is that I got my hair cut, drastically. I had been thinking for a while about donating it to an organization that makes wigs for cancer patients, and finally just did it on Saturday.

The organization the Cancer Society recommended is called Wigs for Kids. They ask for a minimum of twelve inches in length, which is why I had to go so short.

Here's the new look.

The freckles are evidence of riding my bike in the late afternoon sun on the ride home from work.

Saturday, April 29, 2006


I dipped into The New York Review of Books again, this time to read "Talking It Up" by Russell Baker, a review of Conversation: A History of a Declining Art by Stephen Miller.

I am more interested in the topic than the review itself. Baker makes some statements that I find annoying. For example,
Miller is pessimistic about the future of the conversational art in America and finds few witnesses who are not. The common explanation at the moment is the "polarized" state of our politics, which is said to be so advanced that sensible folk scarcely dare speak on any subject more arresting than food and weather for fear of igniting some human powder keg in a conversation-ending spew of rage.
I think "food and weather" can be "arresting" subjects. Baker is also dismissive of "blogs."

Miller and Baker blame the multitude and variety of electronic devices as one of the causes leading to the decline of the art of conversation. Baker goes on to point out that it requires wealth to obtain electronic devices and that, perhaps, having less money can leave one richer in conversation. After describing his memory of listening to grown-ups talking into the night during the Depression years, Baker writes,
[t]he conversation of course was affordable. It was free. Nowadays we are so rich in expensive ways to pass an evening that it may take considerable ingenuity and resolution to find anyone in the house willing to turn off the elctronic [sic] gimcracks and talk about Woodrow Wilson, or the ablative absolute, or how to dispose ethically of a broken laserjet printer.
Another part of the review laments the
decline of the love for language and phrasemaking, which used to be as common among the plain people of America as among English majors. People incapable of taking pleasure in expressing themselves are not likely to be much good at conversation.
This brought to mind my former housemate, whose memorial service I attended last week. One of my memories of her, and something that was expressed in the eulogies, was Nancy's beautiful diction and love of a well-turned phrase. It was pointed out that Nancy never used her quick wit at another's expense. However, Baker does give some examples of "brilliant insults" from the days when politicians were more articulate than they are today.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Riding again

I rode my bike to work again today. I ventured onto busier streets both coming and going in order to save time, distance, and uphill stretches. It worked out quite well—I cut off at least 10 minutes on the way home.


The event that gave me the push to figure out how to ride my bike more was watching pictures of the mass exit of people in cars jammed on the freeway leaving Houston last fall as Hurricane Rita approached. All I could think was, "We are prisoners in our own cars, and we've locked ourselves in them."

I started riding places I needed to go on the weekends and then, finally, made the first commute to work.

One of the Web sites I had read some time ago that gave me the idea that I could commute by bike was Riin's Rants bike page. I re-read her page and the sites she linked to, especially about how to ride in traffic on a bicycle.

Now I also read Carfree Family by Paul Cooley and the sites to which he links.

Here are a few links to posts I particularly enjoyed this evening:

    "Bending the Rules" by Jim at Oil is for sissies. I tend to follow the road rules pretty closely, but I am seeing the advantage of not always coming to a complete stop when the road is clear. So far I've only gone through red lights when the signal doesn't register that I'm there, for example, when I need to make a left turn on a left arrow.

    "Commuter Bike Considerations" by Kent Peterson at Kent's Bike Blog. This is a transcript of a talk he gave. It reinforced for me that not all (real) bikers need to be flashy road racers or mountain bikers. I, too, am a fan of my handlebar-mounted rear view mirror. It makes riding in traffic much less stressful. I also read somewhere that drivers are more respectful of bicyclists who have a visible rear view mirror (an argument for having it on your handlebar).

    I was also very interested in the pictures at the end of a report Kent wrote of a recent ride. I need to mount my rear flasher and reflector differently so that they are more visible. I'm also curious about what riding in Washington might be like (all that rain...).

    "A Cycler's Day Off" by Joe of Cycler's Life. Joe writes about riding for two hours to get to a fishing spot.
    When I first started riding to streams, I had the same two thoughts that everyone else does: Wouldn't it take a long time? Wouldn't I be too tired to fish? As with most things living carfree, we tend to think of things in the wrong terms. We worry about loss and are completely oblivious to gain. Pedaling to a stream is not just a slower, more tiring way to get there anymore than bicycle commuting is a just a slower, more tiring way to get to work. It is an entirely different experience.

    What I notice on the bike is not that my speed is slow but that my time outside is long. The transitions from travel to stream become seamless in a way opening and shutting a car door can never be. Sitting on a padded seat in a sealed chamber, doing no work while moving 75 miles-per-hour, and then stepping out into quiet woods is jarring to say the least. It lacks something real, like watching television, and our minds only follow easily after acclimation.
    (A very different context, but here's a link to a quote I copied out about how long church services can work in the same way to help us transition from a state of "fuss, rush, and care" to a place of inner quietness.)

    I also enjoyed Joe's post about his wife, "Rachel," who now has her own bike blog.
There is plenty of inspiration and advice out there, and I'm grateful.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Earthquake country

In the Coachella Valley Preserve - Thousand Palms Oasis. Looking back at the Paul Wilhelm Grove shortly before arriving at the McCallen Grove and lake. Walking along the Mission Creek Fault, which is part of the San Andreas Fault system.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Goat day

Yesterday I had a fun afternoon goat shopping. (A detailed account may be read at Path to Freedom.) We visited a woman who raises Pygmy goats in her backyard. My friend put in her order for a goat for her urban homestead.

I thoroughly enjoyed making the acquaintance of the pregnant mama goats, and two cute five-day-old kids.

Photo courtesy of Anaïs

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Path to Freedom

My friends at Path to Freedom have launched their redesigned Web site. It looks great! In addition to their journal, which records the daily happenings on their urban homestead, read through the Insights entries, which passionately lay out the reasons and urgency behind the family's "revolution." And the Dervaes family have finally succumbed to requests for more information about them, not just their garden, in a Who We Are section.

Also, Path to Freedom is featured in the May/June issue of Natural Home & Garden in an article titled "Pasadena Paradise" (pages 56 - 61). You can purchase a copy directly from the Dervaeses to help with the operating costs of their Web site.

I enjoy my weekly visits after church to pick up salad mix from the Dervaeses. After a long morning (which today included teaching an adult education class and playing the piano for two services—one in English and one in Spanish), it is so refreshing to see their garden and chat about the events of the week.

Today, we stood in the back yard and watched the two ducks and two chickens, who had just been let out of their enclosure, dig amongst the vegetation and take a dust/dirt bath in the newly prepared raised bed. In their midst was the orange kitten-cat, who thinks he just might be a fowl of some sort, wanting to join the fun. Except when he would get too close, one of the hens would chase him away.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

New baby

Well, not so new by now. Susie's Alex is over two months old. What a sweet baby! It's been fun "watching" him grow.

As I've mentioned before, Susie's site is one of the first personal Web sites I found back in the summer of 2001. I've followed Susie's adventures ever since and am so happy for her and Marty that they now have a darling boy to care for.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Oil from sand

Today's front page article in the WSJ, "As Prices Surge, Oil Giants Turn Sludge Into Gold,"by Russell Gold, (paid subscription required) is sobering reading.

The article focuses on the oil sands in Canada and the oil company Total. It costs much more to extract "heavy-oil" than light crude. The environmental impact is also significantly higher. These two paragraphs are next to each other in the article:
In northern Alberta, the oil-sands boom is remaking the landscape. The mining operations have clear-cut thousands of acres of trees and dug 200-foot-deep pits. The region is dotted with large man-made lakes filled with leftover waste from the mining operations. To chase off migratory birds, propane cannons go off at random intervals and scarecrows stand guard on floating barrels.

Alberta's energy minister, Greg Melchin, says oil-sands development creates a minimal environmental disturbance that is outweighed by the opportunities and jobs created. "It's worth it. There is a cost to it, but the benefits are substantially greater," he said.
Another cost is the huge amount of carbon dioxide generated by extracting the heavy-oil.
Canada, which exports more oil to the U.S. than any other country, already is having trouble meeting its pledge to cut CO2 emissions largely because of its mushrooming heavy-oil production. By 2015, Canada's Fort McMurray region, population 61,000, is expected to emit more greenhouse gases than Denmark, a country of 5.4 million people.
The descriptions of the machines used in "mining" the oil are pretty amazing, too. Cranes with buckets that can dig up 100 tons in one scoop; dump trucks that are two stories high and loaded weigh the same as a 747; machines that wash out the oil from the sand leaving toxic waste water that fill lakes.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Pasadena Victorian homes

I was graciously given a ticket to a home tour of six Pasadena-area Victorian homes, presented by Pasadena Heritage. It was an enjoyable afternoon of driving around the city and seeing behind gates and inside homes, one of which I drive by everyday on my way home from work (Hillmont).

I was reminded of the importance and value of preserving and restoring the heritage of the past. And I thought of my grandfather's barn. I most likely will never own an historic Pasadena home, but my family has inherited a small farm. How can we preserve our heritage?

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Biking again

After not biking to work for some weeks, I started again on Thursday. Now, the sun has just come up when I leave the house at 6:00 a.m., and it's still somewhat light when I arrive home. The ride went pretty well, although I need to build up speed and endurance still (again). One improvement: my aunt suggested padded biking shorts, so I bought a padded pair of liners to wear under my warm-ups. The padding certainly makes a difference for my tailbone!

Friday night I rode to a meeting not far from my house but very uphill. I just checked Bike Metro, which appears to be working again. It gave a distance of 3.36 miles with an elevation gain of 410 feet. I think my route was longer and more of it uphill. Oh well, next time I'll have to check Bike Metro first and hope the site is functioning.

Today I rode from my house to the Farmer's Market and then over to my friends' house to go hiking with them, about 7 1/2 miles (downhill and then flat). The ride home was about 2 2/3 miles, with an elevation gain of 145 feet.

Now I am very sleepy from all the exercise and fresh air!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Silkie's comin' to town

How fun is this? A chicken owned by a family whose Sugar Creek Farm Web site I read regularly is one of two finalists for the publicity for the DVD release of the movie Chicken Little.

So the family and their chicken are flying to Los Angeles from Iowa next week. I hope Silkie Chicken is selected!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Rice cakes!

This Christmas I received a family newsletter from someone I attended boarding school with while growing up in Zambia. Linda was one of my "big sisters"; each of the "little" girls (Grades 1 and 2) was assigned an older girl (Grades 7 to 9) who took care of them for a term. In the absence of parents, the big sisters helped their little sisters do their hair in the morning and after swimming and were generally responsible for making sure their little sisters got to where they needed to be on time.

I met Linda again at the school reunion another friend and I helped plan a few summers ago and about which Linda wrote an excellent report.

In her Christmas letter, Linda included the address for her family's Web site. I've since enjoyed following their activities and having a glimpse into a very different life from mine.

I especially enjoy Linda's reminiscences of boarding school days. And yesterday she posted an illustrated recipe for rice cakes (scroll down). As she mentions, we had rice cakes EVERY DAY for breakfast, after the bowl of cracked corn porridge and before the toast was served.

Two rice cakes were served on square, plastic, yellow plates with a dab of Marmite, except on Wednesday and Sunday mornings, when the rice cakes were served with plain tomato sauce (also know as catsup or ketchup) or sardines/pilchards in sauce. If two rice cakes weren't enough, you could line up for "seconds"; generally, there were no rice cakes left over at the end of breakfast.

Rice cakes for breakfast is a fond memory shared by generations of our school's former pupils. If you ate rice cakes every day (except when home on holidays) for up to nine years, you, too, might gasp in delight when you came across the treasured recipe and immediately write a long post on your own Web site, as a tribute to the memory of rice cakes.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Hidden Art...and boots

Jeff made a comment some days ago that if his house were burning down, one of the books he would grab as he was running out would be Rainbows for a Fallen World. One of the reasons I purchased the book was that Mr. Borger's review compared it to a book that was on my parents' shelves when I was growing up, Hidden Art by Edith Schaeffer. Published in 1971, Hidden Art's chapters suggest simple ways to be creative in the ordinary things of life—music, gardening, recreation, food, etc.

I loved the pen and ink illustrations and was persuaded by Schaeffer's preference for natural materials versus synthetic fibers and plastic items.

A few years ago, I was happy to find, through Powells, the same edition of the book I had read growing up. (The book has been republished also, but with a new title that downplays the "art" to market to people looking for "homemaking" books.)

Looking through the book again, after Jeff's comment, I was enticed by Schaeffer's description of her and her husband's walking outfits in the "Creative Recreation" chapter.
Fran and I have old ski jackets, knee breeches with woolen knee socks and boots that lace up tightly and are big enough for an extra pair of socks. The boots have good, thick, mountain climbing soles. We do not need to be climbing to appreciate these soles. I have found that the boots [...] give one the sense of having seven league boots—that is, that the boots are carrying one along in the way the everyday shoes just cannot do. (p. 171)
So Saturday morning, which was rainy and cold, I put on my hiking boots to go to the women's study at church. Then I strode about the almost empty Farmer's Market, where I purchased a low chill Sunshine Blue dwarf blueberry bush, partially, I'm sure, because the boots made me feel more like a farmer somehow. Later, I walked to the library.

Now I want a pair of breeches and must knit a pair of woolen knee socks! However, I don't live in Switzerland, as the Schaeffers did, so will probably stick with my hiking sandals for most days here in So. Cal.!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Evening rain

As I walked to my car in the rain this evening, I thought of this sentence by Matthew Ketly in Reflections of a Trappist Hermit, as quoted in Space for God:
A walk in an evening rain in any setting is to walk in the midst of God's loving attention to [God's] earth, and, like baptism, is no simple washing. (p. 66)

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Nuns who blog

Via Mrs. Pilkington Knits, I eventually came across Grace-full Thoughts, the blog of Sister Catherine Grace. She belongs to an order of Anglican nuns whose primary vocation is eco-spiritual education. One of their communities lives on a farm, where they "are working to create a garden community which fosters a sustainable way of life."

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Just an ordinary (weekend) day

A break in the rain brought a beautiful, clear, sunny day in So. Cal. A bolt had sheered off that holds the weight-bearing side of my bike rack, so I rode over to Berg Hardware to buy replacements. Three sets of bolts, washers, and nuts for $1.14. Next I rode up to the Farmer's Market to buy fruit. Then I stopped by the Armenian grocery store near home for milk, bread, and marjoram. They even carry organic milk now, although only ultra-pasturized, whole milk. It struck me that I'm now quite familiar with that route, including on which streets to "stair-step" on the uphill ride home.

Then I finished removing the concrete in the back yard and dug out a big rock in my garden spot.

In the afternoon I went with the pastor of my church to see As You Like It at Cal Tech, in which a church member played a leading role. I was reluctant to be inside on a sunny afternoon (although it did cloud over a little), but it was probably for the best. There is only so much sledge hammering and digging an office worker should do at one time!

Now, I'm finishing reading and preparing for the book discussion tomorrow. I'm not quite sure how the discussion will go or how best to lead it. We'll see!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Listening and seeing

Notes for this Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten season.
    ~~From an article by Lisa Dahill in The Lutheran (Feb. 2006; paid subscription required) summarizing Bonhoeffer's book, The Cost of Discipleship:
    The center of discipleship is connection to Jesus, a life spent growing in the perceived clarity of Jesus' call, gaze and touch. Listening for his voice, keeping our eyes centered on him, staying in touch with him: This is a relationship of tremendous intimacy sustained by love. [...]

    [Jesus'] call comes as the in-breaking voice of God—announcing a new form of life in radical discontinuity with the old.

    The voice of Jesus creates a reality in which people are invited to live.
    ~~From Sunday's Gospel reading about the transfiguration of Jesus:
    [F]rom the cloud there came a voice, "This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!" Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus. (Mark 9:7-8)
    ~~From Monday's reading in Exodus 19, just before the giving of the commandments:
    Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God. They took their stand at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke, because the LORD had descended upon it in fire; the smoke went up like the smoke of a kiln, while the whole mountain shook violently. As the blast of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses would speak and God would answer him in thunder. (Exodus 19:17-19)
    ~~From the first chapter in Volf's book, Free of Charge, on our (false) images of God versus God's reality:
    We...need eyes and ears that can recognize the true knowledge of God when we come across it. [...] Our eyes and ears need a heart ready to receive the truth of God's reality rather than one that longs for the comforts of false gods. (p. 23)

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Gardening site

I've started another Web site, this time to record my gardening efforts. I'm somewhat hesitant because they might all come to naught! But maybe the incentive and accountability of writing online will keep me at it.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Lenten book

The Adult Forum at church have decided to read Miroslav Volf's new book, Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace, during Lent. We'll read and discuss one chapter (20 to 30 pages) for each of the six Sundays in Lent.

I first read about the book at Byron Borger's Hearts & Minds BookNotes blog, so I ordered the copies from his store. The book is the Archbishop of Canterbury's "official 2006 Lent book." Also, Volf was one of my professors in seminary.

The topics of giving and forgiving will be a fitting Lenten study and meditation, I hope. Each topic is covered in three chapters: God the Giver/Forgiver; How Should We Give/Forgive?; and How Can We Give/Forgive?.

Friday, February 17, 2006


Via M-mv, an interview with Jonathan Rauch in The Atlantic titled, “Introverts of the World, Unite!”

On why it can be so hard for (us) introverts to keep the small talk flowing:
Yeah, I marvel at Michael [an extrovert] who can always somehow turn the conversation right over effortlessly and keep it going even when what he says is not necessarily profound or interesting. What he comes up with is perfectly tuned to the sense and flow of the conversation. But it's not words that are particularly intended to convey ideas or mean things. It's words that socialize—that simply continue the conversation. It's chit-chat. I have no gift for that. I have to think about what to say next, and sometimes I can't think fast enough and end up saying something stupid. Or sometimes I just come up dry and the conversation kind of ends for while until I can think of another topic. This is why it's work for me. It takes positive cognition on my part. I think that's probably a core introvert characteristic that you and I have in common and which can probably be distinguished from shyness per se—that small talk takes conscious effort and is very hard work. There's nothing small about small talk if you're an introvert. But we're good at big talk.
On introverts and the Internet:
[Interviewer] Your article “Caring For Your Introvert” has also been one of the most popular pages on our Web site. We posted it three years ago, and it still gets more hits than practically anything else on the site.

[Rauch] Yes. The Internet is the perfect medium for introverts. You could almost call it the Intronet. You know the old New Yorker cartoon with a dog sitting at a computer saying to another dog, "On the Internet, no one knows you're a dog." Well, on the Internet, no one knows you're an introvert. So it's kind of a natural that when The Atlantic put this piece online, introverts beat a path to it; it's the ideal distribution mechanism by which introverts can reach other introverts and spread the word.
[Just in time for introverts: rainy weather (finally!) at the start of a holiday weekend.]

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Community calendar

The Pasadena Public Library now has a very informative, interactive community calendar. You can select the master calendar to see all the available events, or you can select a topic or type of event you're interested in.

Viewing the calendar already gave me some ideas of things I'd like to do.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

781 feet

Bike Metro is a service covering So. Cal. that plots out bike routes, giving an elevation gain or loss figure. The elevation difference between where I live and where I work is 781 feet.

I might try part of their suggested route, but part of it is on roads that are too busy or fast for my comfort.

Tonight, I made it home in an hour and twenty-three minutes, a marked improvement over Friday when I was very tired and hot. I didn't wear a jacket tonight (it's been warm here), and I tried the stair-stepping method for the final hill climb. If nothing else, zig-zagging up a hill gives a psychological boost of not staring straight up one street the whole way.

Along the way I was passed by an obviously much more seasoned rider. But, hey, I'm not in a race!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

It's a sign...

...of what, I'm not quite sure. But, ironically, the week I started commuting by bicycle to work, my car got tagged with graffiti. It happened Wednesday night, and a number of other surfaces in the neighborhood were tagged, too. As far as I know, mine was the only car.

I didn't notice it until I left work on Thursday evening. Thursday morning there was a heavy dew (as in the picture I took this morning), and I was in such a rush, I didn't see it. My neighbor, however, who was leaving at the same time I did, saw it. We waved, and he assumed I had noticed it.

I had the security people at work check it out, but it seemed unlikely to have happened there, as the parking lot is gated and patrolled. So I called the police when I got home and knocked on neighbors' doors to warn them of what had happened.

Because it wasn't an emergency, the police weren't able to arrive until after 11:00 p.m. I had already gone to bed. They wrote up a report and said that this definitely looked like the work of taggers, not gang graffiti.

Now my car is at the shop having the graffiti removed. I love my new-found independence because of my bicycle. Instead of having to wait around all morning at the shop while my the car was being fixed, I loaded my bike on the bike rack, drove the car to the shop, put the rack in the back seat, and rode to the farmer's market to get my produce for the week.

On the ride home, I had an interesting conversation with another bike rider who had made an ingenious trailer for his bike. He had taken a welding class and wanted a project to work on. The trailer carried a Rubbermaid bin, and he stopped along the route to pick up recyclable cans and plastic bottles.

He gave me a tip for riding up hills, called stair-stepping. Instead of riding straight up one street, zig-zag up and across a number of streets. So I will try that on my next ride home for the last, steepest miles.

Now, I'm writing here, and will ride back to the body shop to pick up my car around 1:00. I thought I would have to have the entire car repainted (which it could use), but they are able just to remove the spray paint and buff up the regular paint, for a cost of around $30. So I guess I didn't come out too badly.

(P.S. I commuted to work again on Friday. It went well, although the ride home is long, especially at the end. It's about half a mile longer than the commute to work, and, as I've mentioned, uphill.)

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

I commuted! bicycle to work today and back home again. I am very happy I finally just did it. I had been wanting to start in January, so I guess January 31 counts.

My car gave me an extra push, too. I didn't drive it on Sunday, and Monday morning it wouldn't start. So I had to call AAA to get it jump started. And so it had to go to the mechanic's today.

Last night I bought a local map of the San Gabriel Valley and plotted out the route I would take to work. I figured out what clothes I would need for riding and work, packed my bag, and went to bed after 1:00 a.m.

Up at 5:30 to get dressed and load the bike onto the car. I left the car at the mechanic's and headed off to work around 6:20 a.m. I rode into the parking lot at work at 7:15, unloaded the bike, showered, and was at my desk by 7:45.

I wasn't sure what route I'd take home with the increased traffic in the afternoon, and I wasn't sure if I would be too tired. But by late afternoon I felt OK, so I asked one of my colleagues who lives in the area for some recommendations. One of the barriers is getting across the 10 freeway. The few streets that cross under it are very busy. So the first half of the route home was different from the morning's ride.

There are a few stretches with moderately busy traffic, but much of the route is wide, residential streets. I was rewarded with a beautiful, pink-orangish sky at sunset.

I definitely need to build up speed. Tonight my knees are a little sore but otherwise I'm tired from not enough sleep. Now that I've made one trip, I have ideas for organizing myself better. I need to work on clothes. My headlight functioned well, and I have a flashing rear light. I need some more reflectors on the side of my bag. I wore a reflective vest and armband but would eventually like to replace my black windbreaker jacket with a lighter color.

I learned today not to drink while riding because it is awkward replacing the water bottle. I dropped my water bottle while trying to put it back in the holder, and a bus ran over it. So I had to stop by a grocery store for bottled water because I was at the beginning of the trip. I started pulling over when I needed a drink, and I also recorded my times at various intersections.

Tomorrow I plan to drive the route so I can check the distance.

I hope to write a more organized summary of the steps and inspiration that got me on my bike today.

Now, to bed.

[Update 2/1/06: I drove yesterday's morning bike route this morning to check the distance; it is 11.5 miles.]

Monday, January 30, 2006

For the record

In today's WSJ, the top article (paid subscription required) was about Exxon Mobile's fourth quarter 2005 profits. Net income: $10.71 billion. Revenue: $99.66 billion.
The Exxon result amounted to a profit of about $80,842 per minute during the quarter. It was one of the biggest quarterly profits of any company in history. Though a handful of other companies have posted higher quarterly profits, those were largely through accounting adjustments, while Exxon's result came mainly from operations.
The biggest driver of Exxon's surging profit was high energy prices amid the world's increasing thirst for oil and natural gas. [...] Exxon's profit soared even though the company produced less fossil fuel.