Monday, February 28, 2005


Today it was misting and I had the track to myself--the ROTCers were inside the football practice facility. My knee stiffens up a bit, but twinges only the first few steps going down stairs.

Yesterday I swam 800 yards in just under 30 minutes, which will be fine for the triathlon. I went right when the pool opened at 1 and there was only one other person there. Saturday I had a lovely bike ride of something over 30 miles following a route called "Almost every hill in two counties." It wasn't--I could think of another hill I could easily have added. And a key road was closed so I had to ride 3 miles on a four lane road. But it still felt good.

Friday, February 25, 2005


We must remember that God uses people we'd just as soon he didn't use -- that's not our call -- and that God specializes in bringing life out of death, can bring good out of evil situations. God's ability to do that doesn't make bad things good. But it does make history move forward.
Barbara Crafton

Thursday, February 24, 2005

early mornings

My son has to be at school half an hour away tomorrow morning at 6 am. At least it isn't on Saturday like my daughter last week. I prefer having early mornings to myself. I wasn't too happy Wednesday to get to the track at about 5:45 am and find 50 or more ROTC students doing pushups.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

knee worries

After two days of rain we have a beautiful warm day today. I went for a hard hour's bike ride this morning, and was very happy that my knee didn't hurt the way it did on Saturday. That knee isn't the strongest--I dislocated the kneecap while sailing in college and several times afterwards. Since I learned to stretch it it hasn't dislocated again. I was discouraged to have it hurt (now and then) while bike riding Saturday, and it was stiff the next day so something significant clearly was going on. The rain kept me off the bike a couple of days, though I swam Sunday and ran a mile and a half yesterday. Today the stiffness in my knee was better and I tried raising my bike saddle and I only had one tiny twinge while riding. So I hope I've headed off that potential problem.

I was on the sailing team in college. Usually the women's sailing team had its own regattas, but the men's season started earlier and women were allowed to sail in men's races. So I was crewing in a men's regatta at MIT, sailing on the Charles River in Boston in early March in a Tech Dingy. It was windy, and I was hiking (leaning way out of the boat) with my foot hooked under the seat to hold me in. My knee gave way and next thing I knew I was in the water. The water was so cold that I didn't feel any pain--I didn't learn how painful a dislocated kneecap is until the next time it happened, several years later. I went to an orthopedist for the problem once and he said he could cut the tendon on the other side of my kneecap so both sides would be equally weak. I said I would wait until they invented a better treatment.

Monday, February 21, 2005


Alwin wrote a response to my article on diabetes in which he talks about how publishing is power, made accessible by the web. Meanwhile I'm preparing for a class on Oral History in which my students and I will talk about the authority of history versus how people construct their own stories. In class I am going to use a two-dimensional spectrum. One dimension is the between the public and the private--from public commemorations of historical events to our private theories of history. The other dimension is between history--a theory about the past--and memory. I hope that will come clear when I try to work through it.

I'm suggesting there is a common issue, which to put it onto one dimension would be a spectrum from authoritative knowledge to personal narrative. Let me talk about the particular kind of authoritative knowledge that is scientific (or what doctors call evidence-based medicine) for a minute and then I will come back to history. Professionals tend to think in terms of a spectrum in which the scientific is valid and the personal is not, but actually both kinds of knowledge are useful in different ways. My thinking is that there are two kinds of authority--scientific authority, which is hopefully based on good experimental results, and the authority of experience, which isn't statistically significant but can be useful in several ways. My example is that scientific authority says X is the best treatment for ADD, because in a carefully done study 60% of ADD kids benefited more from X and 40% benefited more from Y. But what if my son is one of the kids who benefited more from Y? I find the experience of other people often more useful than what doctors say not only because the doctors may be wrong, but also because when I read other people's experience I have a better chance of finding the approach that will work for my unique situation (physically sometimes, but particularly psychologically), which often isn't the standard approach.

My oral history reading suggests that it isn't enough to talk about authoritative or scientific knowledge vs. individual experience, precisely because people use theories they get from the larger culture to think about their own individual experience. I told my diabetes story as a story of gaining a personal sense of control, an organizing principle that wouldn't come naturally to someone from a less elite background. Publishing may be power, but our voices are heard by particular audiences if we structure our stories in certain ways.

There is more there, but I can't quite get the pieces to come together. I hope that I do better when I have the energy of teaching.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

amazing what people do

There is a bicycling sport called cyclocross, on terrain so difficult that you have to run carrying your bicycle in sections. But looking at some pictures, the people who really impressed me were the ones doing the course on unicycles.

Listening for the Heartbeat of God

I'm reading this book by Phillip Newell for Sunday School. I had never before run across the image of John the beloved disciple leaning against Jesus at the Last Supper and listening to the heartbeat of God. See John 13:23--modern translations have changed the meaning but the King James is closer to a literal translation: "Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved." Newell stresses seeing God in the natural world, which isn't very useful to me because it is where I started. I like the image of listening for the heartbeat of God as an ideal for human closeness. Newell also writes of the idea that every baby is born in the image of God. I'm still thinking about that one.

Thursday, February 17, 2005


Yesterday was consumed by the Dean's visitation to the history department. Today was consumed by observing a class and writing a teaching evaluation for a colleague's post-tenure review. More worthy of note is that today I actually got to the point where I can breathe every three strokes when swimming freestyle.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

a rock

I was struck by some lines from a Wallace Stevens poem:
It is not enough to cover the rock with leaves.
We must be cured of it by a cure of the ground
Or a cure of ourselves, that is equal to a cure

Of the ground, a cure beyond forgetfulness.
And yet the leaves, if they broke into bud,
If they broke into bloom, if they bore fruit,

And if we ate the incipient colorings
Of their fresh culls might be a cure of the ground.
and later:
In this plenty, the poem makes meanings of the rock,
Of such mixed motion and such imagery
That its barrenness becomes a thousand things

And so exists no more. This is the cure
Of leaves and of the ground and of ourselves.
His words are both the icon and the man.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005


Today the main event at swim practice was 5 individual medleys--for each one I was doing one length of the pool butterfly, one backstroke, one breaststroke, and one freestyle--alternating with 5 100 yard freestyles (most of the others were doing 200 yards). I kept thinking of Samuel Johnson:
"Sir, a woman's preaching is like a dog's walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all."
I'm impressed I can do it at all.

personal philosophy

I was struggling to find a positive way of looking at something I was feeling badly about, and I came up with a statement of goal:
I want to be worthy of trust.
That is useful to me because I easily fall into feeling that I am bad if I make a mistake, but one can make mistakes and still be worthy of trust.

Monday, February 14, 2005

not feeling deprived

If I'm going to eat to control my diabetes for the rest of my life, I believe it is important to not build up feeling deprived. Yesterday my bicycling group had a "Ride for the Chocolate," only it rained so the ride part was cancelled. I did go to the pool and swim for 40 minutes as my workout for the day. I took my favorite chocolate dessert to the party--a flourless chocolate cake from the Cooks Illustrated The Best Recipe cookbook. The ingredients are bittersweet chocolate, butter and eggs, nothing else, so it is relatively low carb (particularly because I use 70% cocoa bittersweet chocolate).

There was a light supper before the desserts--I skipped the soup and ate meat and cheese rolled up together. For dessert I ate mostly my cake and fresh fruit dipped in chocolate sauce, which tasted very good. I looked at the other desserts and decided the one I most wanted a small piece of was a white cake with a strawberry filling--a smart person had made something without chocolate for variety.

After an hour my blood glucose was 137, after two hours 105. This morning my fasting bg was 95. I had my treat without my bg going over my goals. My glucose tolerance is better than it was 9 months ago--just losing weight didn't work but more intense exercise has made a difference.

An essay I wrote about my experiences is on The Health Care Blog.

Friday, February 11, 2005

bike rides

I haven't gone on a ride longer than 30 or 40 miles in a couple of months, and my weekday rides are under 15 miles. But I can get caught up looking at century rides I would like to do:

The weather is getting a little warmer--my last few rides have been in bike shorts and wool knee socks. Though it was 27 degrees when I went out running this morning.

Thursday, February 10, 2005


I didn't see another person with ashes yesterday. I did have someone ask me for an explanation of the ashes. I said Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the period of preparing for Easter. She said "I'm of a different faith." As she looked Anglo and was working in K Mart in Brevard NC, I suspected she was an evangelical christian who saw Catholics as a different faith. So I said I wasn't Catholic, I was an Episcopalian, and told her that some Protestant churches follow the same calendar.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Ash Wednesday

I got up around 5 this morning so I could run and still get to church at 7 am. I wish I had the same persistance for other tasks.

It was nice to have a homily that dealt with the contradiction of hearing a text about doing good deeds in secret (Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-21) and then going out into the world with ashes on our foreheads. The priest took the line that in this world public display isn't about bragging that we are more pious than someone else but being willing to be identified as a Christian in a world where that is laughed at. I'm not sure that fits here in South Carolina where most people do identify as Christians and go to church, they just don't go to churches with Ash Wednesday services with the imposition of ashes. If there is a social risk it is that ashes make us Episcopalians look like Catholics, against whom there is definitely prejudice.

I liked better what Ruth said, that it is interesting to walk around with a visible mark that says I am a sinner (or at least I am dust and to dust I shall return). It is one of the few situations in which it is socially acceptable to have the mark of our woundedness be visible.

Monday, February 07, 2005


From an obituary in The Economist of Dame Miriam Rothschild, a scientist who studied fleas and published more than 300 scientific papers:
A lifelong atheist, she admitted that she had been tempted to believe in a creator when she discovered that the flea had a penis.

Sunday, February 06, 2005


I'm settling into a routine with my training. For swimming, there are the masters practices. I'm in the pool 5:50-7 am Tuesday and Thursday. If I have a chance I swim once on the weekend. I run MWF morning around 6 am, currently a mile and a quarter with 15 minutes walking before and after. I will add another lap next week. I try to bicycle for an hour to an hour and a half Monday and Tuesday to work through the stress in my schedule those particular days. Other days depend on weather and my schedule but with any luck I can get a long ride in each weekend. Yesterday I rode about 2 1/2 hours. Today I have only a couple of hours before a church meeting and plan to swim instead.

Friday, February 04, 2005


I have spent a ridiculous amount of time this week organizing things related to the new Science and Technology in Society requirement. I realized the problem is that I am in effect chairing three committees: an ad hoc committee from last fall to organize faculty development activities, a subcommittee of the university curriculum committee to recommend to that committee whether courses meet the STS requirement, and a curriculum committee to approve courses that have STS numbers before they go to the university curriculum committee. I'm not officially the chair of that last one, but I've taken on the work of getting it organized and expect to be made the chair at the first meeting.

I have said to the provost and the dean of undergraduate studies that I can't continue to do so much to coordinate STS unless I get an offical title, release time, and hopefully a pay supplement. The dean of undergraduate studies said in a recent email that she thinks the provost is going to go for making me coordinator of STS.

Why am I doing this? Because it expresses the reason I got into this field in the first place: to improve democratic decisionmaking for science and technology. Because I believe the new requirement is a good thing and I wouldn't want to see it fail. Because I'm the only one on campus with broad expertise in this area. I had other plans for the next few years, but I believe in this. I felt good about it today when a civil engineering professor said he enjoyed the meetings last fall, particularly having faculty from different departments talking together about big issues. He said it was like being at a real university (and he's British).

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

emotional healing

I increasingly think that what it takes for me to do the emotional healing work is most of all to work with someone who I can count on to comfort me after bad stuff has come out. The balance I was lucky enough to find, which has guided my journey ever since, was ways to go into the old pain without just being retraumatized by it. I don't think that balance is easy to achieve. And it isn't easy either to find someone willing to give the needed support or to feel one deserves it.