30 September 2004

Christmas in Parkfield

"For me, this is like Christmas," said geophysical technician Chris Dietel, who jumped into his truck to check his far-flung U.S. Geological Survey data recorders. "I've been coming down here for the last 17 years, waiting for all the seismic data I can get."

28 September 2004

It Looks Like They Caught One

The Parkfield trap has been sprung. They've been waiting since 1966 to catch a big earthquake. A couple hours ago they got a 6.0 right on the bullseye. Read more about it here. Hope they left the equipment turned on when they went home last night...

See the current state of things here.

Thought Provoking

Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. [C.S. Lewis]

Most of all, perhaps, we need intimate knowledge of the past. Not that the past has any magic about it, but because we cannot study the future, and yet need something to set against the present, to remind us that the basic assumptions have been quite different in different periods, and that much which seems certain to the uneducated is merely temporary fashion. [C.S. Lewis "Learning in War-Time"]

27 September 2004

The Visitation, Described

We were sitting quietly on our patio last night, enjoying the evening, reading our books. It was around 11:30 which, in our neighborhood, is the time of night when only the crickets are making noise. The lights in the neighbor's windows gradually begin to go out. An occasional car goes by on the road below the house. We had been reading for about 15 minutes when Jen gave a little yelp...

A little backstory would be helpful here. We live in the foothills at the edge of the Los Angeles basin. This places us in a sort of no-man's-land between the wilderness of the mountains and the wilderness of the city. There is a bit of overlap between the two and we are in it. In our case, for example, we have found ourselves overlapped by a whole tribe of raccoons. We sometimes think of them as intruders, especially at 3am when we are trying to sleep and they are going about their business playing, fighting, engaging in reproductive activities, and doing community theater on the roof of the house. Of course, they probably feel the same about us when we get home from work at 5:30pm and start banging the pots and pans while they're trying to sleep off their hangovers from the afterparty the night before.

Last weekend the little scratching sound I heard in the tree as I was walking into the house turned out to be 6 pairs of eyes sitting in a row a few feet above my head.

Now, the relationship between the Raccoon Bandit Tribe and Jen has been tenuous at best. Part of it comes from their habit of springing out from around the corner of the house when you least expect it. Doesn't make for peace between the clans. She is gradually getting used to the surprises, but the peace is still a little shaky.

So, last night, when we were sitting outside reading our books and she gave out a strange yelping sound, I didn't spring into action immediately, vaguely assuming that the Bandit Tribe had made another appearance. Besides, I was in a really good part of my story.

But it was something different this time and, although in reality it took only a second or two, the next few moments seemed to last a long, long time.

First, she yelped.

Second, I remembered the Bandit Tribe and, weighing it against the sentence I was currently absorbed in, decided to stay with the sentence.

Next, my mind replayed the moments immediately preceding, like backing up the CD to hear a cool part a second time. As the soundtrack played again, I heard above the sound of the crickets a strange snapping, rustling sound.

This rustling sound was immediately associated with the pile of leaves just around the corner. Which was immediately associated with something significantly larger than the neighborhood coon. Which caused me finally to look up from my book.

At this point, I crossed into that abstract state of mind which is more common when you are woken up in the middle of night by a strange dream. Or when you've stayed up the whole night and you can't remember how to unscrew the toothpaste or take a shower. What I was seeing with my eyes was not making sense to my mind.

On the step, within spitting distance from our chairs, head down, all four feet on the ground, was a black bear.

He was big, taller at the shoulder than the hood of my car. Jen's noise and our simultaneous leaping to our feet caused him to stop. His head came up and he looked at us in that blurry bear fashion for a moment. Jen dove for the door just as he dove backward and by the time she was inside, he was heading back up the street in the direction he had come. A minute later we heard him in the brush on the other side of the house. We turned off the lights and watched him as he dropped down the hill, walked along the back porch of the neighbor's house, around the corner, and into the night.

Then we felt each other's pulses and relived the experience. I started looking around for a big stick to keep on the front porch.

Jen, on the other hand, went back outside and resumed reading her story. I love that woman.

And that's the story of last night.


More on this later...

26 September 2004

Picture Of The Day: In Praise Of A Particular Sunday Morning Routine

This is what I recommend for any Sunday morning anytime:

Get yourself out of bed early. Get yourself to church. Even if you think you're too far gone for church, or too apathetic, or too tired. Even if you feel like church isn't working out for you all the time. Even if you think you've seen it all. Even if you don't feel you can fit it into your stupidly busy schedule. Not every athlete loves the training. Not every student loves the lesson. Sit there on that bench and turn on your ears. Think of it like a hunt. What bit of meaning can you capture? What piece of your particular puzzle can you wring out of those words? Don't think about how this applies really well to the person sitting next to you. Don't think about the afternoon ahead.

After church, say hello to a few people. It's good for you and it might help them.

After that, get breakfast with someone and talk about the weather, about the weekend, about what you learned while you were sitting there early in the morning on that church bench. It's a pretty good way to wake up, especially in a world where people sleep most of the time.

23 September 2004

Picture Of The Day: Moon Over 76

This wasn't what you'd call one of my "careful" pictures. Rather I'd describe this as a photograph in the hallowed tradition of the One-Handed-Digital-Snapshot-Out-The-Sunroof-While-Waiting-At-A-Light school of photography. It's a very popular look these days.

22 September 2004

Picture Of The Day: The Trap

While driving down a desert highway, I was ambushed. Hopelessly entangled, there was nothing I could do to save myself. I was irresistibly drawn, pulled in like a small, motherless space ship caught in the tractor beam of the alien mother ship.

Like staple to a magnet.

Like a moth to a flame.

Like my lovely wife to things made of chocolate.

Like George W. to defenseless, troubled countries THAT MATTER ECONOMICALLY (strangely, we're not in any big hurry to "promote democracy" in boring, useless Sudan, despite the fact that the Sudan government is killing thousands of its own people.)

Oops. Sorry. Got a little carried away...

[now reading: Dying in Darfur by Samantha Power]

21 September 2004

I'll Cry

...the first time I see one of these monsters taking up stupid space on the L.A. freeway.

But I'll chortle derisively and with great glee the first time I see one parked at a filling station.

18 September 2004

Michael Moore Plays in Baghdad

I'm not a big fan of Moore myself. Overheated rhetoric and junior high video pranks only go so far. But here's a perspective on it that I hadn't yet heard...good reading although it makes me sad. She comments on the movie in her 15 September entry. The 7 August entry is powerful too.

What must it be like to live in a place like that?

17 September 2004

My Own Presidential Debate

Commenting on a post from a few days ago, Matt V asked:

"You mentioned the issues that really matter in this campaign. I have my list...what ones have you thought about?"

The question has been rolling around in my head ever since. If I could set up my own Presidential Debate, with my own list of questions, what would I want them to talk about...

This is what I've come up with so far:

- What should the role of the US be in the world? Do we really want to become the global police patrol? Will it make things any better for the rest of the world? Will it make things any safer for us?

- If we're so sure we're right, how come so many people outside our borders think we're wrong? This is the kind of arrangement that puts us in company with skinheads, freaky religious cults, and the Taliban.

- The US is the greatest polluter of the environment of all. How can we be more responsible with the incredible resources that we have? Remember, "to the one to whom much is given, much will be required..."

- Should we be aborting our children? Is "personal choice" really the most important value?

- With so much money in our economy, why are our schools closing down?

- With so much money in our economy, why is it so difficult to make sure everyone gets good health care?

- With so much money in our economy, and so little for the important stuff, you have to start wondering where it's all going. Extreme economic stratification can't be a good thing.

And if we've got extra time on the clock...

- Why are we talking so much about homosexuality? Just speaking personally here, I think the idea of gay marriage is just about as ridiculous as an amendment to the Constitution banning gay marriage. But, really, it's a serious question: why are we spending so much time on this subject?


13 September 2004

On The Bright Side

On the bright side of things, to answer the question most often asked of me over the past 6 weeks...married life rawks.

Getting Ridiculous

Wouldn't it be great if we could get all the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth together with all the Texans For Truth in a small room, bolt the door, and drop the key off in a swamp somewhere? Or better yet, box them all up and Fed Ex the whole lot off to an early retirement in the Azores or somewhere else that is remote and without access to any video equipment.

We are facing an election that really does matter, where really important things are at stake, and we're spending our time watching a blind and deaf, but unfortunately not mute, feeding frenzy on the evening news. What's the next big scandal? Bush's grade school report cards to prove that he skipped out on 5th grade gym class? Band-aids from Kerry's 10 year old knees to show that he cried one time even when he wasn't really hurt that bad?

And the candidates aren't helping things any. All we're getting from them is the same chewed up and spit out code words that our political system has been batting around for years. It's ugly, it's brainless, and like Bush said today, "It's the most tired, pathetic way to campaign for the presidency." For the first time in this entire campaign, I completely agree with him.

10 September 2004

Sam Phillips on Hope, part II

Lies have kept me down
I've been growing underground
Now I'm coming up

And when time opens the earth
We'll see love has been moving all around us
Making way

- Sam Phillips, "One Day Late"

from the album "A Boot and a Shoe". Go buy it now. Go on. Just do it. Go. Now.

09 September 2004

Empty Space Close At Hand

Over the weekend, I took to the road. My car was stuffed full of cameras and film. I covered a few miles short of 400 in the hours between 11:30am and 8pm, which means that I didn't have that much time to get down to actually taking the pictures. But I like the driving almost as much as I like the picture-taking and southeastern California has some magnificent roads to drive. So, all in all, it was a good day and I came home quiet and happy.

You can see the rest of the pictures in the Desert gallery.

Sam Phillips on Hope

You try to understand
You try to fix your broken hands
But remember

That there always has been good
Like stars you don’t see in the day sky
Wait till night

- Sam Phillips "One Day Late"

08 September 2004

Sometimes They Don't Land Like You Planned

The news is just in...the capsule came down with its bits of the Sun, but it didn't come down soft. "Impact...ground level" is what the tracking announcer said. They flew it in over Hawaii, curving down over the Pacific Northwest, and right on target over the Utah desert, but no parachute appeared, and in those last seconds, you could see little pill-shaped capsule tumbling crazily end over end before slamming into the ground. Just like high school chem class, sometimes the experiment doesn't go right the first time, even in the big leagues.

03 September 2004

Working at a Cool Place

I'm not sure why I like this particular mission so much, but it's got me totally intrigued. Maybe it's the made-for-the-movies recovery process. Maybe it's the idea of bringing back pieces of the sun. Seems a little bit like one of the great Greek myths in action. Whatever it is, it makes me proud to work here. Find out more here.