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.