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Monday, May 11, 2009

Facebook, si.

Sorry Faithful blog-readers but I just can't seem to do both Facebook and the blog. I may post stuff here occasionally, but mostly on FB. I like it because I get a lot more feedback, it's more of a conversation than I'd get from the blog. Hope you'll join me there!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Marin Headlands!

On top of Mt Tam, SF over my left ear.

Hiking above Sausalito.

Our accomodations.

I spent three days at the Marin Headlands Hostel (great place and cheap!) just north of the Golden Gate Bridge with Mrs Runalong. One day was really windy but we still had great hikes and drives around Muir Woods, Mt Tam, Muir Beach, Stinson Beach, Rodeo Beach, etc, etc.

We fixed breakfast and dinner at the Hostel and ate lunch in Sausalito. On Wednesday I ate a little kid for lunch.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Superhumanly fit and slightly deranged. Moi?

Seed Magazine:
Ann Trason, Scott Jurek, Matt Carpenter. These are the megastars of ultra-distance running... If their names are unfamiliar, it’s probably because this type of extreme running is almost universally seen as a fringe sport, the habit of the superhumanly fit, the masochistic, the slightly deranged.

Every Run is a New Adventure



Steve and I did a 3 hour run north of church that included a lot of off-trail running/hiking/probable trespassing. But we had some great views and didn't get shot! We heard shooting, and got chased off an isolated site with a shed and well by two guys in pick-up trucks full of high-quality planting soil. Ran through an abandoned vineyard/winery (Redding is probably not the best climate for that). The wildflowers were amazing, the grass was green, the snow-capped mountains glistened in the deep blue sky on a perfect - sunny but cool - spring day.



Friday, April 10, 2009

Help me identify this mysterious blonde!





I put out my camcorder and caught a little bit of her- some sort of ground squirrel? not native to Redding, CA! about 18" long, 600' elevation, diurnal, lives in a burrow. Note coloring, ears, tail. Thanks!


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

I'm a Runner and I Don't Get It!

My last couple runs I was surrounded by wildflowers and trees blossoming. I saw wild turkeys, two bald eagles, a great blue heron, a golden marten, deer... I enjoyed the greenery all around me and the snow-capped mountains on the horizon. I exulted in the changing seasons and in the feeling of being able to run up and down hills with pleasure.

Within a linear mile of me, thousands of people sat in front of their TV's or computers in their hermetically-sealed dwellings. They have to watch their diets (I eat as much as I want, which is a lot); and still gain weight (not me). They complain of being tired all the time and of the various aches and symptoms and conditions associated with growing older. I have lots of energy and am in the best shape of my life (going on 55). Running isn't work, it's a joy.

If I meet one of those people, and they learn that I like to run long distances almost daily, they will often look at me with something like pity and say something condescending like, "Good for you, I just don't get why anyone would choose to run like that." I think they actually feel sorry for me!

Yeah, well, I used to be a non-runner and I remember symptoms and chronic tiredness and staying cooped up because getting out was just too darned demanding and having to watch everything I ate and still adding inches to my waist and worrying about my heart and all that other stuff that was happening to my peers.

I can understand friends who say, "I wish I could run but I can't because (legit reason)" or "I prefer biking/swimming/pogo-sticking" or "I really should but it's hard to get started" (that was me for 20 years). But the ones who think that vigorous exercise would detract from their well-being and enjoyment of life?

Maybe I'm dense, but I just don't get it.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Run, Grandpa, Run!

So last Wed we got a call from our daughter in Sacramento- the baby they were seeking to adopt, which they were told would be hospitalized for three more weeks, was suddenly released to go home and surprise, I'm a grandpa. My wife headed down immediately, I planned to follow Friday. Naturally I was thinking about where and when to run while there and thought of AR50- not to enter (too late, too much time commitment), but to pace- but alas, none of my local friends were going down this year and I couldn't find an entrants' list.

Then Robert posted, at that very moment!, a request from a girl who had lost her pacer last minute and wanted a reasonable facsimile to get her through her first 50M, which she had been training very very hard for. I called her, did the interview, and got the job as the best qualified applicant out of a pool of one.

Lainie's parents, sons, husband and various others were crewing her and a friend wanted to pace her but wasn't very fast. Lainie is fast.

My sole pacing experience was for Klas Eklof at Hardrock in '06 and I didn't mess up his run but since I don't generally use pacers I wasn't totally clear on the concept. But I made some guesses and basically figured out what was expected of me- keep her on pace, eating, drinking, peeing, electrolyting, etc. Distract her if she was in pain, help her focus if she wasn't. Encourage, prod if necessary, shut up when uncertain.

She was aiming for a finish between 8 &9 hours, I did an 8:35 last time, so that seemed a good match. She told me she was really aiming for 8:20 (10mpm avg); and based on her prior results that looked like a good goal. I found her parents about 5 seconds before she reached Beal's point (I didn't know what she looked like except 32, 5'0" tall and 97#) and they pointed her out. It was about 9:50 AM, 3:50 into the race. Right smack dab on schedule.

She had been planning to run the first half at a 9:30 mpm pace (which would have got her to BP at about 10:10) and the second half at 10:30 pace but I told her that wasn't realistic at AR. (AR is 27 miles of flat pavement to BP, followed by 23M of rolling trails). With her speed she should be looking at about 3:55 to Beal's and 4:25 from Beal's to finish. So far so good.

We took off from BP and started to get acquainted. When I felt she was a little slow I told her we should stop talking and she should focus on her pace. She got back in the groove and eventually we were able to converse without her slowing down. Eventually she asked me what I do for a living and I told her and she didn't freak out.

I almost committed the unforgiveable sin when she stopped suddenly for a log across the trail- we were moving fast and I was close behind her while we chatted and when she stopped I crashed into her- she managed to get over the log OK, I smashed my shin and fell over the log and onto her foot. I feared I had twisted her ankle or caused some other dream-ending injury. It was a horrible moment. But she was OK. As soon as she got her shoe back on.

The trails were dry, the weather was perfect and it was so fun to run that section of trail faster than usual and feeling better than usual (I've run AR 4 or 5 times). Despite over 700 people in the race, it wasn't at all crowded up here with the speedy people.

Worried about her other pacer's abilities (she was going to take over at Rattlesnake- mile 42) I agreed to come down the big hill from the finish and meet her (the RD assured me it would be OK for her to have an extra pacer after Last Gasp). When I met her, about 2 miles from the finish, she was all alone, having left her pacer at the bottom of the hill.

It is amazing how easy that hill is when you haven't run 48 miles to get there. I spurred her on and she made good time to the top, passing several more runners on the way up. Lainie finished in 8:05, 10th woman overall, and she moved up from 6th to 3rd in her age group after Beal's Point and from 94th to 68th overall.

I'd like to think that this is due to the excellent pacer she had, but it probably has a lot more to do with her 100-mile training weeks. She was consistently strong and steady and really didn't need much from me. Maybe just a little on the hill. Maybe.

Still, I'm 2 for 2 as a pacer at not-screwing-things-up, and once again I had a blast. If there was a place that had ultras every week, and if I lived there, I'd be volunteering for pacing duty every time I wasn't racing. It's about as much fun as you can have for free!

I may be a grandpa, but I've still got my wheels!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Welcome Joshua!

My oldest daughter and her hub have been trying to adopt one or more special needs children. Last week they were told of a baby that would be available and Lori began visiting him in the hospital. He was born in December, three months premature. We have reason to believe his birth mother was a drug user.

He's had several operations, but appears to be doing very well. We were told he might be ready to go home in three weeks or so. Then yesterday when Lori went to visit she was told she could take him home that day! And it wasn't an April Fool's Day joke.

Surprise!

Mrs Runalong is already down there and I'm heading down to Sac tomorrow. Naturally, as long as I'm in town the day of the American River 50 I offered to pace someone during the second half of the race. And I'll be taking my sermon and taxes to work on. But that's all trivia. I can't wait to meet our boy!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sonoma 50M report

I was treating this as a training run for my summer exploits (Three 100 milers in three months). I knew recovery time would be crucial so I've been trying to toughen myself up. Thus, two weeks after going all out at Cool, and after about 40 miles of running this week (no tapering), I wanted to go out, have a good time, finish in a reasonable time (not back of the pack) and yet hold back enough that I would be able to recover rapidly and get right back to running and training.

It appears my goals were met. I finished in the middle of the pack, took about 24 pictures, the race felt easy (most of the time, there are always some "bad" stretches), and I'm feeling pretty good Sunday evening (which is when I usually feel the worst).

I saw a bunch of friends at the start- besides race director John Medinger (publisher of UltraRunning magazine) and his assistant Stan Jensen (run100s.com) I saw Luanne Park, Suzanna Bon and Kelly Ridgway, who, among them, too, three of the top four places in the women's division. Also talked to David Wright, Chuck Wilson, Jim Winne and Tina Ure among others.

We were off at first light (before sunrise) and I hung out near the back of the pack, feeling stiff and tight as it took about four miles to warm up. Taking pics along the way, at one point I jumped up on an old log to take one from a higher angle, the log started rolling, and I rode it aways before falling off- safely and with camera intact. Lots of ooh's and ahh's from the peanut gallery (which included assistant-race-director Lisa Henson).

The course was mainly in the shade during this section with lots of rolls- up and down, up and down, never very far up or down though. The first big downhill came just before the mile 12.2 aid station. We finally got a brief flat stretch after the third aid station before our first big climb, fully exposed to the sun, a steep 600' ascent. At the top the nice views included a view of our next aid station, the turn around point, 4.8 miles away (but only about a mile as the crow flies).

To get there we had to drop about 700', then climb another steep exposed 750' hill (it was now approaching noon). In this section we saw the leaders heading back the other way. At the top of the hill we still had about a mile of steep rollers- up and down and up and down and...

I got to the turn-around at 5:23 (12:03pm) and headed back, not wanting to push too hard, but wanting to get even splits. I saw Mark Vegh midway back to the next aid station, unfortunately he just missed the cut-off at the turn-around and had to drop.

I felt really good on the return, except for the two too-steep descents. Otherwise the constant up and down felt good, run downhill a little ways, then walk up a little ways and repeat over and over and over. I thought I was making good time and I was passing lots of folks but at about 14 miles out I caught up to a woman in blue and I could not pass her. For the next three hours I followed her, chased her, always between 10 and 200 feet behind. Usually I pass people on the downhills and lose ground going up, but she pulled away from me on the downhills and I caught back up going up. Then we would crest and off she would go.

The running felt easy and the two of us passed a lot of folks and, when I saw that I wouldn't quite make even splits, helped each other make sure we at least broke 11 hours. (Her name was Monica Moore, age 35). With about 1.5M to go I started to get bonky, I hadn't been eating enough in the heat and I slowed down a little, finishing in 11:56 (5:33 return), about two minutes behind Monica. I'll blame the heat (80ยบ in the afternoon and a lot less shade) for the slowdown. Granted, I wasn't really pushing too hard, but neither was I taking as many pictures as I had outbound. I know a lot of other runners were two or more hours slower on the return than they were going out.

I usually don't feel like eating for awhile, but I headed straight to the tamales (excellent!) and had a couple of those with rice and four seven-ups while visiting with Mark and Luanne and Monica and Suzanna (women's winner) and others as we watched some of the runners I had passed coming in. ;-)

I picked up my very cool finisher's jacket and we took off for home, stopping at Foster's Freeze for a SuperBigGulp size Caramel Malt (4 trillion calories). We got back to Redding by 11 and after preaching at two services this morning I was ready for a nap. I feel much better now though than I did after Way Too Cool. And I didn't fall!

Sonoma 50M pics

Mark Vegh is just a blur in the early morning light.


David Wright splashes along.


Ooh! Ooh! A flat section!


Run? In this heat? With these views?

I finished in 10:55, details shortly.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Sonoma 50M


I'm heading off to the Sonoma 50 miler. I'm taking it nice and easy and will be back with pics by Monday. I haven't been posting much on the blog as I've been spending more time on Facebook instead. But I'll still have race reports, etc. And totally superfluous pics of my cat.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Way Too Cool 50K

My goals were to get a 50K PR (previous PR - 5:11 at McKenzie River) or at least to get a WTC personal best (previous best at WTC- 5:18 in 2001- my first ever ultra; each of my subsequent three visits were significantly slower). My quest was made more challenging when the WTC powers decided that the course had been too short and added 1.2 or so miles to it this year to make it officially (?) 31.0.

I got my WTC record by four minutes and missed my 50K PR by four minutes. I'll be running the much easier Tehama Wildflowers 50K next month and so have a good chance of getting my PR there.

The trails were in perfect condition today, the weather was perfect and I ran a good race but the four or five big steep climbs were a little too much for me. Most of the rest of the course I was running between 9:00 and 9:30 per mile. I finished 7/36 in my age group. My friend Ron Adams from Vancouver also finished 7th in his age group.

24 year old Leor Pantilat won with a blistering 7:05 pace (3:40 total), which is absolutely astonishing to anyone who has been on this course.

As usual I struggled on the big climbs and flew down the descents. Many of them were technical, but I am pretty fearless and pass a lot of people on these downhills, folks who are much more timid (or intelligent) than I.

I remember the steep technical descent in a rutted, technical rocky section between miles 8 & 9. I was passing so many others, and going so fast that at one point I literally flew down the course.

Yes, I know what "literally" means.

I always wondered what would happen to my attitude about downhills if I ever took a big fall on a steep, rocky downhill section (my occasional falls have generally been gently with soft landings). I caught my toe on a rock while speeding down, and went airborne in full, arms-outstretched Superman mode. Unfortunately I was unable to fly all the way down past the rocks and came down in a bad place.

Fortunately, God sent an angel to protect my face, head and bony parts. My water bottle protected my left hand. My right hand doesn't look bad, but the bleeding didn't stop for about a half hour afterwards. (Unfortunately, I had just taken my gloves off). If there had been sharks, I would have been in trouble.

My lower left leg got pretty messed up. I couldn't see how much because (fortunately) I was wearing tights. I could tell that the tights were torn, the shin was scraped up and the leg was basically sound.

Fortunately no one saw me (the people I passed were still a ways behind). So I stood up, surveyed the damage, said "ouch" or something like that and did what our dads and coaches always told us (us boys, that is) to do in such a case: "shake it off". The whole thing took less than a minute and didn't bother me (though I could feel it, and the blood dripping off my hand in two places was a nuisance). I continued down the downhills fearlessly. Of course, one might argue, it really wasn't all THAT bad of a fall.

When I finished and took my tights off, it looked like you'd expect- road rash and some funny and impressive swelling.

Way Too Cool results are posted here.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Are you motivated by sex?

If so, get exercising!

I was tempted to link an article a couple days ago showing that overweight people found less pleasure in sex than folks with a more ideal Body Mass Index.

But I wasn't sure if it would come across as motivational or as, well, something else.

But today's surfing uncovered a new study showing that statins (the drugs nearly everyone over 50 seems to take to lower their cholesterol) also lead to a decrease in sexual pleasure.

Exercising helps control weight and improves your cholesterol.

Motivated yet?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Life! Affirmation! Diversity! ... oh, never mind.

I'll just copy and paste this one in full. Via James Taranto:

"Some students at Alveda King's speech Tuesday night did not expect a strictly literal interpretation of the advertised 'life affirming choices' speech," reports Central Michigan Life, student newspaper of Mount Pleasant's Central Michigan University:
The niece of Dr. Martin Luther King spoke out strongly against abortion at her "Can the Dream Survive?" presentation in Warriner Hall's Plachta Auditorium. Some students were surprised to learn that was the topic of her lecture. Several of the about 650-person audience walked out.
"I felt a little misled personally," said Flint senior Detrone Turner, who said he thought the speech was going to be about increasing diversity.

And of course the best way to increase "diversity" is by refusing to listen to anyone you disagree with.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Lassie the cat

A Bremerton Fire Department official says an elderly woman has her cat to thank for saving her life in a smoky house fire.

The woman's smoke alarm was going off as smoke billowed through the vents from her home heater but she slept through it. Her cat jumped up on the bed and pawed at her face until she woke up.

Says Fire Lt. Charlie Rinard, "If the cat hadn't woken her up, I'm pretty sure she wouldn't have made it."

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

We're Out of McNuggets! Call 911! (seriously)

Key Excerpts from Today's Police Log:
Told McDonald's was out of Chicken McNuggets after paying for a 10-piece, a local woman called 911.

Three times.


"I called 911 because I couldn't get a refund, and I wanted my McNuggets," Goodman told police.


"Goodman maintained the attitude 'this is an emergency, my McNuggets are an emergency,'" the report states.


Goodman's 10-piece selection has 460 calories and 29 grams of fat.

Monday, March 2, 2009

When I was a boy...

So you don't believe that when I was a boy I had to walk 5 miles through the snow and broken glass uphill both ways to a one-room unheated schoolhouse?

Here's proof:

Today kids want Wiis and Gameboys and stuff for their birthdays.

When I was a boy, this was cutting edge toy-dom:

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Physical Fitness + Nature Time = Smart & Steady

I'll bet this also applies to middle-age adults and senior citizens:

Last month, Harvard researchers reported in The Journal of School Health that the more physical fitness tests children passed, the better they did on academic tests. The study, of 1,800 middle school students, suggests that children can benefit academically from physical activity during gym class and recess.

A small study of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder last year found that walks outdoors appeared to improve scores on tests of attention and concentration. Notably, children who took walks in natural settings did better than those who walked in urban areas, according to the report, published online in August in The Journal of Attention Disorders. The researchers found that a dose of nature worked as well as a dose of medication to improve concentration, or even better.

20,000 miles! Woo-hoo!

That's like running to the moon and back 0.04 times!

(see my running stats in the right hand column).

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Touchy-Feely Running Story

So, Saturday morning Ted, Steve, Mark and I took off for a little 23 mile run (that was my sales pitch anyway). Steve said he could only go part way, claiming that he had a life or something. We ran over the river (on an ancient dilapidated footbridge) and through the woods, down to the Sundial Bridge (where Steve turned back), up to the Fisherman's trail by Keswick Dam and headed back home by (mostly) another way.

On the return to Sundial we left Mark where Steve had left us as Ted and I planned to run up the Water Tower Hill and Mark was, after 20 miles, pretty much out of gas. Mark believes that running should be painful and involve lots of suffering and that therefore, training is cheating. He just takes off on long runs and races with minimum preparation and somehow remains cheerful as he slows down more and more with each passing mile. By the time we left him he was in the gear that Ted accurately named, "Glacial".

No one has seen Mark since.

Ted stuck with me up the hill and up a few more hills until, at mile 23 (about 2 miles short of the finish) he dug way down deep and found... nothing. Bonk! I left him behind as well, ignoring the little naggy internal voice of conscience humming "He ain't heavy, he's your brother...", and pressed on.

As I past Mark's house, with Ted's car out front, I thought of good buddy Ted, crawling back on all fours through the mud and broken glass and I reached into my pockets to see if I had some memento I could leave on his car as a token of affection and penance. But alas, I had no Hallmark card, no money, no trinkets or fancy gifts in my pockets for Ted. But I took everything I found there, EVERYTHING I had, and I left it all for him, on his windshield. I held nothing back.

Isn't that the truth, Ted?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

For all you moms!



Trillions of dollars!

The federal government is spending money so fast, trillions and trillions of new spending and bailouts, that a billion dollars is beginning to sound like pocket change. Granted, a dollar isn't a lot of money, but then a minute isn't a lot of time either... yet the New Testament is barely a billion minutes old.

In Me I Trust

God is opposed to the proud and gives grace to the humble. So it isn't surprising that the world's top expert on Top Experts says that the most trustworthy experts are the most humble. Hubris and arrogance goeth before the fall. Sometimes it takes awhile, but an inability to be self-critical is always a ticking time bomb. This interview is about financial experts, but applies to all of us:

How can we nonexperts test our own hunches?

Listen to yourself talk to yourself. If you're being swept away with enthusiasm for some particular course of action, take a deep breath and ask: Can I see anything wrong with this? And if you can't, start worrying; you are about to go over a cliff.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Busted!

Why do men run ultras?

Two words: Childbirth Envy

Here's proof!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

National Pastors Convention- 1

So far, so good. The first worship band, Ashton Hill, was OK, but seemed pretty generic to me. The current band, Sons of Korah (pic), have set the psalms to music and are absolutely phenomenal.



Highlights: This morning's message by Rob Bell on the need for pastors to forgive. To really, really forgive. If we want to survive. It was good to know that the various criticisms and such I get are pretty much par for the course; yeah, I partly deserve them but at least I'm not getting it any worse than anyone else. The downside is, that means it will never go away! And that's why practicing real forgiveness is so important. I'm pretty good at that, but I can slip into feeling sorry for myself or getting too down on myself. Thanks, Rob!

Yesterday's seminar by Larry Osborne on "Sticky Church" was about retaining the people you already have. Well, that was the topic, and it was about that, but mostly it was about strategic ministry through small groups and I got lots and lots of good insights and ideas.

I stopped at the Apple Store next door and it was the slowest I've ever seen it there. The Apple guy, when he found out I was a pastor, hung around and talked with me about faith and church for about 15 minutes.

Apple might be feeling the recession but, to my surprise, the Conference attendance is quite a bit up from last year's.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Competition is better than Monopoly

I'm heading to the National Pastors Convention (I won a free registration). Meanwhile, here's wisdom from Thomas Sowell:
Human beings are going to make mistakes, whether in the market or in the government. The difference is that survival in the market requires recognizing mistakes and changing course before you go bankrupt. But survival in politics requires denying mistakes and sticking with the policies you advocated, while blaming others for the bad results.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Rainbow Run

Today in San Diego County. More pics on my facebook page.


Monday, February 2, 2009

Today's Amazing Athlete

This one's a little different, but just as awesome:

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Great run, record month!


Ted and Steve and Mark and I ran the big 31 mile Shasta Dam- Ribbon Bridge loop today (Steve and Mark cut out at Mark's car at mile 23). I only went off course once, and I had to ignore Ted's insistent protests to do that. Otherwise it was a fine run on a very warm January day. I finished the month with 322 miles, breaking my old one month record of 311; only my third time above 300 (only my 6th time above 250 for that matter). I'm feeling pretty strong as I continue to prepare for the Cool 50K on March 14. The next couple weeks my running will be a lot lighter as I'll be on the road with much of my schedule dictated by others. Ted took these pics: the first in the rail trail tunnel; the second on Shasta Dam. Since I had just run up the 800' climb to the dam my air time was a little subpar.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Insanely Good: Part 2

Them NFL dudes got nothing on this dancer: strongest man on the planet?

The Legacy of the Boomers?

If anyone wished to know what the baby-boomer generation would do when, in its full maturity, it hit its first self-created, big-time recession, I think we are seeing the hysterical results. After two decades of unprecedented economic growth, rampant consumer spending, and unimaginable borrowing to satisfy our insatiable appetites, we are suddenly going into even larger debt and printing trillions of dollars in paper money to ensure that someone else after we are gone pays the debt.
Speaking as a bona fide baby boomer, I guess I should feel defensive about Victor Hansen's remarks, but I figure the next generation is going to figure out how badly we (forgive the verb, but I can't think of another that fits) screwed them within the next decade or so and by then it will be undeniable anyway.

The current "stimulus" package going through Congress with Obama's blessing will either:
1. Greatly improve the economy.
2. Have no significant effect.
3. Make things worse.

Unless #1 comes true, it's hard to see how spending nearly $3000 for every every man, woman and child in America is justified when future generations will have to pay it back with interest.

Personally, I don't think the bill, with its billions for TV converter boxes and the like, will do any good but will make it harder to fix things (like Medicare) in the future. I hope I'm wrong. I'll even be tempted to vote Dem next time if I am. But it sure looks to me like more of the same kind of thinking that got California into the mess we're in already.

At best I suspect it may turn out be an OK deal for those of us 50 and over and a rotten deal for everyone else. Of course, it will get spun as: "It did work! Granted the economy still stinks, but it would have been even worse without it."

Whatever. Just don't blame this baby boomer if I'm right.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Japanese T-Shirts

Everybody loves worm puppy sometime...


I just hope #124815 sees this before it's too late!


And we'll keep loving myself until we get it right!


I'm glad to see you too. Now back away, verrry slowly...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Gospel according to America

American quasi-christian folk religion is best summed up in that great Christmas "carol" that we all know so well...
You better watch out, you better not cry,
You better not pout, I'm telling you why,
Santa Claus is coming to town.

He's making a list and checking it twice,
He's going to find out who's naughty and nice...

He sees you when you're sleeping,
He knows when you're awake,
He knows if you've been bad or good,
So be good for goodness sake!
The interpretation isn't difficult. It's a Christmas song and Jesus ("Santa Claus") came the first time on Christmas Day and He's coming back for Judgment Day. In the meantime He is watching you and keeping score and every good and bad little boy and girl will get what they have coming to them so YOU BETTER BE GOOD!

So we all (well, most of us) sort of try to be good (as we each define "good"), but we're worried because actually we haven't always been all THAT good (even by our own lax standards!) and lo and behold, Christmas comes- an annual dress rehearsal for the Great White Throne, and YAY!!!- we got lots of goodies.

And so did the brat next door and the bully on the playground and the delinquent down the street and... pretty much everyone we know, regardless of how good or bad they seemed to actually behave.

It seems Santa is pretty much just bluffing, trying to squeeze a few random acts of kindness out of any gullible boys and girls, but he's really just a big old pushover who loves giving out toys and in the end, he just throws out all his lists and scorecards and EVERYONE GETS THE GOODIES!

Yay! Yay! and Double Yay!

And that's how God works and that's how salvation works and that's how the final judgment will work and so go ahead and try to be good if you want, but it really doesn't matter much to the Grand Ol' Teddy Bear in the Sky.

Friday, January 23, 2009

This morning


By the time I found the camera the mist had risen. Too bad.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Meet the New Boss...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I am not making this up...

Actual headline, from a real newspaper (not the Onion):

Former French President Chirac hospitalised after mauling by his clinically depressed poodle

Maybe next time he'll just surrender?

The Democrats are in Power. You're a Republican. Now What?

Here's some excellent advice. Direct from Hollywood! Example:
And finally, DON’T use the fact that many on the left behaved abominably for the past eight years as an excuse to behave the same way. America needs adults. And if it bothered you when they did it, it’s a good sign that you shouldn’t do it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My Strange Body

1. I STILL have laryngitis. The doctor says not to worry, but I may need a few weeks of complete silence to get better. We'll make that decision next month. I can talk fine when I'm running, but as soon as I stop I go all hoarse and crackly. I may need to preach from a treadmill!

2. I also asked the doc about my shoulder, which has been bugging me since it mysteriously began hurting last May. It's a mild pain, not noticeable most of the time, but still, I'm too young to be old. I had it X-rayed and was told there was some calcification and I'd need to see a physical therapist. That night it hurt much worse than it's ever hurt before- woke me up and kept me awake several times. The next day it stopped hurting altogether. Hasn't bothered me since- first time since May. Go figure. My atheist and agnostic friends will be happy to know that no special praying (that I know of) was involved.

3. If I make it thru the next 2 weeks, this will only be the third time I've run more than 300 miles in a month (twice my norm). The other times it was really tough, then just near the end of the month I'd start feeling better and end up feeling like superman (running wise). Early last week, less than halfway through the month, I was really struggling. Legs of lead. Slower than a speeding snail. Then (about the same time as my shoulder got better) it passed and I got the superman feeling back. Sometimes, if you push your body too hard, it breaks. Sometimes it says, "hey, if we're going to have to work this hard we better get stronger... fast!". You wouldn't want to race me up a mountain right now!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Friday, January 16, 2009

On Making Good Decisions

Though he was commenting on the economy, David Brooks said something that I'll be thinking about for awhile in the context of "life in general":
As Jonah Lehrer writes in his forthcoming book, “How We Decide,” there are certain circumstances (often when there are many options) in which gut instincts lead to the best decisions, while there are other circumstances (sometimes when there are a few options) when calm deliberation is best.
Brooks also noted that the old view of consumers and investors as "rational" is now seen as too simplistic, and that other psychological factors need to be given greater consideration than in the past. I believe the Bible has been making the same point. Repeatedly. Emphatically.

Unfortunately Brooks doesn't explicitly mention sin per se, but obviously baser motives such as greed and fear have long been known to affect consumption and investing decisions. Today we are experiencing the consequences.

Nevertheless, back to the money quote by Lehrer on "How We Decide". Verrrrry Interesting. In the context of Proverbs 3:5-6, of course.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Relativism = Nothing-ism

from The Dictatorship of Relativism:

It is often said that relativism is the conviction that, when it comes to morals, there are no such things as absolute values and, when it comes to knowledge, there is no such thing as absolute truth. It is worth meditating on the use of the word “absolute” here. If there were a law against abusing innocent words, we would be justified in contacting OSHA about this unfair exploitation of “absolute.”

What a relativist really believes (or believes he believes) is that 1) there is no such thing as value and 2) there is no such thing as truth. The word “absolute” is merely an emollient, a verbal sedative intended to forestall unhappiness. What after all is the difference between saying “There is no such thing as absolute truth” and saying “There is no such thing as truth”? Take your time.

My one disagreement would be that I really don't believe that relativists really believe what they say the believe. They may SAY they don't believe in Value or Truth, but they act, over and over and over again, as if they do. Which is to say, Values and Truth are inescapable. Absolutely.


The Mystery of Prayer

When you pray for someone, say for a friend who needs to lose weight, you are dealing with at least three volitions: There is your friend's own choosing/acting/free will, which obviously does not disappear when you pray for them to make certain choices. There is God's perfect plan and sovereign will for the situation as He looks down and in His wisdom steers people according to His plan; obviously He will not move in a way that thwarts His perfect will just because you pray otherwise. And there is your prayer (and mine), which, according to the Bible, has power to move God and people, but obviously (thank God) is not sovereign.

So what exactly does intercessory prayer do? It doesn't over-ride your friend's will; it doesn't make God act differently than He knows is best. Yet Jesus said repeatedly that it does make a difference with God and man and history.

Will someone not be saved because I didn't pray for them? Because I didn't pray for them enough? (Jesus taught the importance of persisting in prayer). Because enough people didn't pray for them enough? Surely no one will be denied heaven because someone else was slack in praying! So does intercession do anything? Jesus says, emphatically, YES!!!

So what does it do?

I don't exactly know (and neither do you!).

But I believe that part of it must be to show us the interconnectedness of all lives. My life, God's Life, your life, (and everyone else's lives) are all interconnected in mysterious and unfathomable ways. God ultimately controls the circle of connectedness but you and I have the God-given ability to add fresh input into the circle and so affect all the connected parties.

Sometimes God over-rides your acts and my prayers, sometimes He honors our choices, even if they aren't what He would have chosen. When I'm tight with God, my prayers tend to more closely reflect His will and are more consistently effectual ("If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it shall be done for you.").

Many years ago I was deeply moved to pray fervently and consistently for my younger sister for a year. I had little contact with her that year (2000 miles away) but she met a Christian guy (to whom she is now married) and became a Christian that year. She chose to respond to God's grace, God intended to save her before He prompted me to pray, but my prayers brought me into God's plan and were part of the circuit.

The absolute literal truth: No man is an island. But how prayer works is still a mystery to me. But then so is advanced physics. And people are more complex than particles!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Scotte Hodel


I just learned that Scotte passed away last night. As I wrote to his wife, I don't think I've ever felt so sad at the passing of someone who I'd never met.


The following is a poem his daughter wrote for him at Christmas. It has a lot of "insider" references to stories that Scotte told her/ read to her when she was young, but no matter...

Daddy
By Kayla Hodel
12/26/2008

I dreamt last night that I was young
Little enough to crawl between you knees

I was so excited to find you smiling down at me.

Just to know that you thought I was
Ta Petite, Your Little Girl

[prechorus]
It's 1 am and I don't know
How much longer before I'll sleep

But Daddy, oh Daddy please


[chorus]
Tell me again 'bout how a donkey
Taught a man to honor God

Or sing to me again about
The steps it takes to follow

All my days.

And is that Roscoe in the sky
Sniffing treasures up in space?
And if you reach the end of your song,

Is there a monster there to make me laugh?


I slept too late, I grew so fast
But my Daddy, he held on tight
I loved it all - the laughs, the cries,
The "momma" look I'd practice with my eyes

When you'd tell a joke that gotten so old

No considerate person would let it be told.

But Daddy, oh Daddy please-


[chorus]

But Daddy, I love you, I love all your crazy smiles

I love you for your nose's appreciation of food
I love you for your teaching and your playful fiddlings

You've taught me more than you'll ever know.

What can I give in return?


[bridge]
Do I get my Gonzo at the end of the book?
The one who can do voices and crazy looks?

Do I get to keep you, my daddy?

A child is a gift, but I think God regifted-
Because when you got older he gave you to me.



Pray for Scotte's wife Viva and for Kayla and Adam. Their faith is strong, but how can you not miss a guy like Scotte?

Supreme Lack of Utility

"... Perhaps the genius of ultrarunning is its supreme lack of utility. It makes no sense in a world of spaceships and supercomputers to run vast distances on foot. There is no money in it and no fame, frequently not even the approval of peers. But as poets, apostles and philosophers have insisted from the dawn of time, there is more to life than logic and common sense. The ultra runners know this instinctively.

And they know something else that is lost on the sedentary. They understand, perhaps better than anyone, that the doors to the spirit will swing open with physical effort. In running such long and taxing distances they answer a call from the deepest realms of their being -- a call that asks who they are ..."

- David Blaikie

(Hat tip: Paige @ A Serious Case of the Runs)

Spelunking

I used to do a fair amount of spelunking in southern Illinois and Indiana when I was in high school. We'd hike out through some farmer's field in the hills to a hidden cave entrance only hard-core spelunkers knew about and go down, maybe crawling on our bellies for awhile before coming into a huge cavern or perhaps hauling in an inflatable raft to an underground river with blind albino fish. But we never did anything like THESE. Click on either pic to see some really amazing cave pictures...


Friday, January 9, 2009

The View from the Deck

This morning at sunrise and last month in the snow:
My cat's name is Nehi. Can you figure out why? (Two reasons).

True Love Waits

Yes, please, read the whole thing!

"Virginity Pledges Don't Stop Teen Sex," screams CBS News. "Virginity pledges don't mean much," adds CNN. "Study questions virginity pledges," says the Chicago Tribune. "Premarital Abstinence Pledges Ineffective, Study Finds," heralds the Washington Post. "Virginity Pledges Fail to Trump Teen Lust in Look at Older Data," reports Bloomberg. And on it goes.

In other words, teens will be teens, and moms or dads who believe that concepts such as restraint or morality have any application today are living in a dream world. Typical was the lead for the CBS News story: "Teenagers who take virginity pledges are no less sexually active than other teens, according to a new study."

Here's the rub: It just isn't true.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Physical - Spiritual (Matthew 8)

I read Matthew 8 this morning, in which the physical and spiritual worlds collide with the advent of Jesus' ministry on earth. He heals with a word, calms a storm the same way; casts demons into pigs and, rather than give thanks that the demons are gone, the people complain about the loss of pigs.

Human beings, alone among physical creatures, have spirits. The physical and spiritual worlds collide in every human being. Everything else that is physical is only physical. Everything else that is spiritual (angels, demons, Our Heavenly Father, cherubim, etc) is only spiritual. Only humans (including Jesus) are both.

The physical and spiritual worlds meet in the human mind. Our mind is physical- without your brain-meat your mind doesn't function! Our mind is spiritual and non-physical. We can think immaterial thoughts and contact God and control our physical bodies with our mental powers.

The spiritual immaterial part of a Christian's mind- his spirit or soul, has been regenerated and seeks God. The physical, the human brain, is still "flesh"- unredeemed until we die and our raised with new bodies, new brains - and still has lots of bad habits and inclinations.

In Matthew 8, at the onset of his revelation of how to be fully human, Jesus demonstrated that a person who is walking with God has authority over the physical world, authority over the spiritual world, and can live in the spirit of Romans 8:28 (Jesus' calm in the storm) because God's peace and love control his spirit and he knows that when this body is lost it will be replaced by one that isn't defective.

He has this authority because God has this authority and he lives only for God's glory and will.

The people in Matthew 8 didn't get it. Do we?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Thinkin' 'bout my sugar...

The average American consumes about 150# of sugar per year (I've seen estimates ranging from 135 to 185). Hunger is a God-given desire. God built hunger into our bodies so we would eat the food we need to get the nutrition we need to be active and healthy.

Say we need about 2100 calories a day. In the Garden of Eden we could wander around and our hunger would lead us to eat about 2100 calories of the goodies there (carefully avoiding the apples or whatever that forbidden fruit really was) and in so doing we would get all of our nutritional needs met: fat, protein, vitamins, fiber, minerals, etc.

Now say that each day we eat 1400 calories of that good nutritional food and 700 calories of sugar. What's the problem? Obviously we are only getting about 2/3 of our actual nutritional needs met now.

If we consume 700 calories of sugar a day we either need to eat 2100 calories of real food (for our nutritional needs) and the additional 700 calories of sugar will make us gain one pound every five days or, if we limit ourselves to 2100 calories total we rob our bodies of much of the nutrition they need to function at their ideal capacities.

And yes, 150# of sugar works out to approximately 700 calories a day.

My problem is I'm training hard this month, which means I need an extra 1000 calories a day, and I can't figure out how to do that without eating a lot of sugar and fat (I'm not feeling much sympathy here!). Well, I know how to do it in theory, but I get tired of fruit and whole grains after awhile.

In fact, if there were any donuts in the house right now...

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Today's "Message" (Mt 6)

Here's what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won't be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.

The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They're full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don't fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Use the phrase "Running Fast" in a sentence...

How shall I fast? Let me count the ways. There's:
  1. The partial food fast (fast from one or more types of foods, generally the smaller the breadth of the fast, the longer the time frame: e.g., fast from beef for a month, from meat for a week, from fat for a day).
  2. The complete food fast: one meal, one day or longer.
  3. The solid food fast (certain types of liquids only)- one day or longer.
  4. The non-food fast: abstain from some regularly used, non-sinful, enjoyable item or activity for a day or longer; e.g., from the internet or other media; from a hobby (running?), etc.
Why fast? In the Bible fasting was often associated with mourning and repentance and prayer and was undertaken in response to a crisis or great need. A regular (non-crisis) fast helps us learn that we do not have to obey the flesh's every craving; helps us step outside of our habitual activities and better understand the place and power they hold in our lives; help us better understand hungering and thirsting for God; serves as a constant reminder to pray; etc.

Facebook?

I'm on Facebook and after ignoring it for a long time a bunch of people asked me to be their "friends" so I'm trying to figure out how to best make use of it. It seems like a good idea in theory, but sort of clunky to use in practice.

It enables me to touch base quickly with some folk I couldn't otherwise have found, but I'm not really into the whole "Right now I'm thinking of trimming my eyebrows but I can't find the hedge clippers..." genre.

OTOH, I did put a whole bunch of cool pics up there- an easy way to share photos. And I think it has capabilities I haven't yet discovered (and maybe never will).

At least now I can keep an eye on the teens in our church (and vice versa?).

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Shasta Dam to Sundial Bridge

Steve, Ted and Shasta Dam

Mark V leaving Shasta Lake far behind

Runalong, high above the Sacramento River

1/3 of the way to Sundial

Ted and Steve running the power line hills

The glass-bottomed finish line

The four of us are now averaging 20 miles per day for 2009. At this rate we'll each run over 7000 miles this year!