05 December 2012

Les Miserables: Book Review

In every place where man is ignorant and despairing, in every place where woman is sold for bread, wherever the child suffers for lack of the book which should instruct him and of the hearth which should warm him, the book of Les Miserable knocks at teh door and says: "Open to me, I come for you."
Les Miserables, the quintessential French story, isn't just for the French, as Victor Hugo himself said above. It's an epic story of a man chased by a past society remembers but God forgives. It tells of the evils of society, from prostitution to war to injustice to the city sewer. It argues for the right over the law, charity over chastisement, education over imprisonment, humility over pride, whole truth over little lie, the infinite over the finite, peace over war, private conscience over public reputation, and light over dark.

Divine love, motherly love, fatherly love, young love, brotherly love, old love, are all described on the pages of Les Mis. The living faith is compared with the stifled faith; that is, the convent. The letter of the law collides with the conscience and is found wanting.

There is so much wound through this story - it is a story which anyone, anywhere, has experienced at least in part. But Victor Hugo ties it all together magnificently.

In short, you should read it, but know that it's not short. You're running out of time to finish it before this comes out:

21 October 2012

Red Shirt

I wasn't there to win the race; I was just there for a good 13.1 mile run.

But when you put runners in front of me, I can't help but compete with them.

Yesterday, I ran the Blackwater Trail Series Half Marathon - which was indeed a good 13.1 mile run. Just under two miles in, we had to cross a stream. The race staff had put up a bridge, but the bridge was carried away with the rains this week. So we grabbed a rope strung across the water, and clambered in up to our chests. We did the same on the way back through.

I knew the stream was coming up by the shouts and screams of those in front of me. Turns out, it wasn't too bad; the water was warmer than the air. I couldn't help but think to myself "By God Woodrow, it ain't dyin' I'm talkin' 'bout. It's livin'."

Just across the stream, I asked someone with a GPS watch what his pace was. 9:17, but that was too fast, so he was gonna slow down. I took off ahead, thinking I'd shoot for 9 minute miles. My long solo runs had been in the 9:30-10 minute mile range.

After about 3.5 miles, we turned onto a big loop, and on the loop is where I saw Red Shirt in front of me. I don't know his name, but I called him Red Shirt. He stayed about 50-100 yards in front of me the whole time, sometimes closer, sometimes further, depending mostly on how long we stopped at aid stations.

My wife was waiting for me at the third aid station with a refill for my handheld (water bottle) and some more Clif Shot Blocks. Race staff had told me this aid station was at six miles, and I arrived in 45 minutes. That means I was doing 7:30 miles, or it wasn't six miles. I don't think it was six miles. I ran up to my wife, topped off my bottle and my snacks, gave her a sweaty, snotty kiss, and took off with renewed motivation. Something about my woman will do that to me. She got back in the car and drove along the road which paralleled the trail, honking on her way to the next station for another one of those lovely kisses and some shouted encouragement.

Did I mention she's wonderful?

At the end of the loop, we went up a little hill next to an aid station, and he started walking. I slipped past, finally. Colorado made hills a lot easier, and thanks to my support team of one, I didn't have to stop.

I came across the finish line at 1:50:51. My pace? 8:28. That's a definite personal record.

My shoes, New Balance Minimus Zero Trails, performed excellently. They feel like a moccasin, but they have excellent traction, even in mud. And the water didn't stay in them very long, and it didn't make them heavy. I wore lightweight Injinji socks underneath to prevent blisters.

On the trail, I ate Clif Shot Blocks, which are the best endurance food I've found. I just cut the tube-pack of six in half and shove it in the pocket of my handheld or my shorts. They're not sticky, won't cut your lip like a Gu, and they're easy to chew. Now I just have to find a place to buy them cheap.

Three more weeks of training until the Pensacola Marathon. After that, who knows?

12 October 2012

Legislating morality

This popped up in my Twitter feed this morning:

I disagree. Assuming the tweet is about the Vice Presidential debate last night, specifically the question concerning the candidates' religious views and abortion, let's talk about it.

Both candidates are Catholics. Both believe that life begins at conception. Congressman Ryan believes abortion should only be an option in cases where the life of the mother is endangered, or in rape or incest. Vice President Biden disagrees: "I accept my church's postion on abortion... life begins at conception, that's the church's judgement, I accept it in my personal life. But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians, Muslims, Jews... I just refuse to impose that on others."

So what the Vice President is saying is that he believes abortion is murder - he believes life begins at conception, so the killing of that defenseless life is murder. But if someone else believes it's not murder, they're free to do it.

Let's extend that line of reasoning a bit. Say someone else believes that life does not begin until age five. So it would be OK to "abort" - kill - that person until they're five?

What we're talking about is whether or not universal truth exists. The Vice President seems to believe it does not exist; what's true for him isn't necessarily true for everyone else. That position is untenable. To say that universal truth does not exist is a statement of universal truth. It's like trying to pull yourself up by your bootstraps.

Now, the tweet above is talking about legislating morality, and Vice President Biden is talking about legislating morality based on religion. Legislating religion is not OK. It's not legal, and it's not what God wants.

But Congressman Ryan believes life begins at conception not only because of his church, but also because of "science and reason." And if science and reason determine that life does begin at conception, this becomes not a religious question, but a moral one.

And legislating morality is essential to our nation. That's why we have laws against murder, theft, and perjury. Not only can we have these laws, but we must.

07 October 2012

Expectations

"The secret to happiness is low expectations," or so my economics professor liked to say.

I don't think he's right when it comes to life, but I certainly don't think he's right when it comes to marriage.

I need someone who has high expectations for me. I always have needed people like that. My parents expected me to get good grades. I worked for a framer who demanded my cuts be straight and my work be square. My academic advisor was disappointed when I got a B.

I thrive under people like that. And I want - need - my marriage to thrive. So I need someone who will push me to be a better husband, a better man, a better Christian.

I don't want to live a life of mediocrity. It wouldn't be worth living.

So thanks to my better half for making this half better.

06 October 2012

On the Road Again

Seven National Parks. A National Monument. Mackinac Island. Five weddings. Canoeing on a sand-bottom river and a stormy mountain lake. A move to Florida, setting up our first house, and Initial Flight Screening. 

It's been an exciting year for my beautiful bride and I. 

And, we found out yesterday, we'll be moving again in three months. After fifteen years, the Navy and Air Force are bringing their joint pilot training programs to an end. 73 Air Force flight students who have arrived at Naval Air Station Whiting Field in the past two years are being relocated to Vance, Laughlin, and Columbus Air Force Bases. 

My wife and I are headed to Laughlin at the end of January. Until then, we'll do what we've been doing all year: traveling. Exploring. Loving life, and loving each other.