Wednesday, January 18, 2006

What an Accomplishment!!!



'We can do anything together'
Finishing the marathon was a Miller family goal.

By DAVID WHITING
The Orange County Register

Aurora Nunez-Miller, and her husband, Robert, tried their hardest to keep up a jog along Irvine Boulevard, a building-sized portrait of somber Marines in dress blues reflecting the couple's own determination at Mile20 during Sunday's OC Marathon.

Five hours, 4minutes of running and walking. More than six miles to go. Only a few lonely figures on the horizon.

The husband, 37, and wife, 28, figured they must be the very last runners out of the 1,394 who registered for the race. Volunteers were even starting to close the water stations.

Then the couple, who celebrated the birth of their first child, Louis, last year, did what they had done at every mile marker before. They agreed to press on.

"At Mile16 we decided we would finish this bad boy together," Nunez-Miller tells me, still feeling the miles of pavement in her calves and ankles a few days after the race.

It started as their first marathon. But in the end, like many things difficult and seemingly beyond our reach, it became much, much more.

A few months after Louis was born, the couple decided to get off the couch and attend a Cal Coast running club meeting. Right away, they decided to commit to the OC Marathon. As Halloween slipped into Thanksgiving, the new parents juggled the baby, Miller's law practice and running.

Some mornings saw the couple running with the stroller. Other mornings were tougher, just they are for everyone who gets up early to exercise.

"There were mornings when I just wanted to sit in bed," recalls Nunez-Miller, explaining that she was never very athletic. "Because we were together, we helped motivate each other. It was definitely a team effort."

Like other mortals, the couple missed some training runs because of demands at work or pressing family issues. But they managed to make most sessions, including the all-important "long run," an 18-miler that helped set them up for the big day.

A perfect race day - clear and cool - saw the Millers line up with more than 12,000 marathoners and half-marathoners. With the last note of "The Star Spangled Banner" and the blast of an air horn, the race was on.

Twenty-four thousand rubber soles hit the asphalt. Whoops broke the air from the middle of the pack. Cheers from family members and friends came from the sidelines.

The Millers let the energy flow over them, knowing they were there just to finish.

They started cautiously, saving their energy for the long road ahead. Around Mile5 they clocked a 17-minute pace. It paid off. By Mile20 they were averaging 2mph faster.

Scattered spectators and helpful volunteers cheered them on. But by Mile9 the full marathon route split apart from the half-marathon and the field was comparatively empty.

Then came the toughest part of the race for the Millers: Mile15. Hour four.

"We passed our house in Irvine," Nunez-Miller says. "It was tempting to turn around and go into our community. My baby was there."

Husband and wife talked, as they did at every mile marker. Both voted to go on, knowing Louis was in good hands with grandma.

"We said, 'How are you doing? I think I'm OK. Let's keep going,'" she said.

The hours passed, and with them the miles.

"The last two miles were the loneliest and the hardest," Nunez-Miller says.

But the Millers persevered and the finish line came. The couple even managed to break into a trot, crossing at exactly the same time: 7:05:20 - 30 minutes ahead of the final runner.

"I felt like crying out of a sense of accomplishment. It was overwhelming, surreal," she tells me. "People were congratulating me. It seemed like it was happening in slow motion.

"There was such a sense of satisfaction for myself and for this person that I'm married to and that I love," Nunez-Miller says. "I feel like we can do anything together."

Bad Day at the Airport

Airplane Mechanic Sucked Into Jet Engine

POSTED: 4:35 pm EST January 16, 2006
UPDATED: 11:39 pm EST January 16, 2006

EL PASO, Texas -- A mechanic was sucked into a jet engine and killed Monday while passengers were boarding the plane, officials said.

Elvis Song Puts Wife over the Edge

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Elvis Song Puts Lover in Heartbreak Hotel
-
Tuesday, January 10, 2006


(01-10) 19:26 PST PERTH, Australia (AP) --


A woman stabbed her boyfriend with a pair of scissors because he repeatedly played the Elvis Presley hit "Burning Love" on the King's birthday, police said Tuesday.


The 35-year-old man was treated for six stab wounds to his head, back and legs at the hospital in the farming town of Northam in Western Australia state late Monday night but was allowed to go home, state police spokeswoman Ros Weatherall said.


His girlfriend was charged with unlawful wounding and was to appear in a Northam court Tuesday.


"Police will allege ... the 30-year-old woman stabbed the man with a pair of scissors during an argument over him playing the same Elvis Presley song again and again," a police media statement said.


Police said the man was stabbed late on the 71st anniversary of Elvis's birth.


URL: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/n/a/2006/01/10/international/i192626S54.DTL

Elvis Song Puts Wife over the Edge

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Elvis Song Puts Lover in Heartbreak Hotel
-
Tuesday, January 10, 2006


(01-10) 19:26 PST PERTH, Australia (AP) --


A woman stabbed her boyfriend with a pair of scissors because he repeatedly played the Elvis Presley hit "Burning Love" on the King's birthday, police said Tuesday.


The 35-year-old man was treated for six stab wounds to his head, back and legs at the hospital in the farming town of Northam in Western Australia state late Monday night but was allowed to go home, state police spokeswoman Ros Weatherall said.


His girlfriend was charged with unlawful wounding and was to appear in a Northam court Tuesday.


"Police will allege ... the 30-year-old woman stabbed the man with a pair of scissors during an argument over him playing the same Elvis Presley song again and again," a police media statement said.


Police said the man was stabbed late on the 71st anniversary of Elvis's birth.


URL: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/n/a/2006/01/10/international/i192626S54.DTL

Friday, January 06, 2006

Carl Sagan's Cosmos

Just a few weeks ago, the Science Channel re-aired the full "Cosmos" series, by Carl Sagan. It was the 25th anniversary of the original airing on PBS, and Cosmos was the show that educated and changed the lives of many, including myself.

It was Cosmos that began a deep interest in the nature of the universe, of life, in science, in the search for truth, in astronomy, and in history. Watching it inspires almost religious feelings, and challenges you to think deeply about almost everything.

Carl Sagan died December 20, 1996, so this holiday season past was also the 9th anniversary of his death.

Here are one of many great quotes from Sagan:

"As the ancient myth makers knew, we are children equally of the earth and sky. In our tenure of this planet, we have accumulated dangerous, evolutionary baggage -- propensities for aggression and ritual, submission to leaders, hostility to outsiders, all of which puts our survival in some doubt. We have also acquired compassion for others, love for our children, a desire to learn from history and experience, and a great, soaring passionate intelligence -- the clear tools for our continued survival and prosperity.

National boundaries are not evidenced when we view the earth from space. Fanatic ethnic or religious or national identifications are a little difficult to support when we see our planet as a fragile, blue crescent fading to become an inconspicuous point of light against the bastion and citadel of the stars.

The discovery that there is order in the universe, that there are laws of nature, is the foundation on which science is built on today. Our conception of the cosmos -- all of modern science and technology --is traced back to questions raised by the stars. Yet, even 400 years ago we had still no idea of our place in the universe. The long journey to that understanding required both an unflinching respect for the facts and a delight in the natural world.

Johannes Kepler wrote: "We do not ask for what useful purpose the birds do sing, for song is their pleasure since they were created for singing. Similarly, we ought not to ask why the human mind troubles to fathom the secrets of the heavens. The diversity of the phenomena of nature is so great and the treasures hidden in the heavens so rich precisely in order that the human mind shall never be lacking in fresh enrichment."

It is the birthright of every child to encounter the cosmos anew in every culture in every age. When this happens to us, we experience a deep sense of wonder. The most fortunate among us are guided by teachers who channel this exhilaration. We are born to delight in the world; we are taught to distinguish our preconceptions from the truth. Then, new worlds are discovered as we decipher the mysteries of the cosmos.

Science is a collective enterprise which embraces many cultures and spans the generations in every age and sometimes in the most unlikely places there are those who wish with a great deal of passion to understand the world. There is no way of knowing where the next discovery will come from, or what dream of the mind's eye will remake the world. These dreams begin as impossibilities. Once, even to see a planet through a telescope was an astonishment; but we studied these worlds, figured out how they moved in their orbits, and soon we were planning voyages of discovery beyond the earth and sending robot explorers to the planets and the stars.

We humans long to be connected with our origins so we create rituals. Science is another way to experience this longing. It also connects us with our origins, and it too has its rituals and its commandments. Its only sacred truth is that there are no sacred truths. All assumptions must be critically examined. Arguments from authority are worthless. Whatever is inconsistent with the facts -- no matter how fond of it we are -- must be discarded or revised. Science is not perfect. It is often misused. It is only a tool, but it is the best tool we have -- self-correcting, ever changing, applicable to absolutely everything.

With this tool we vanquish the impossible; with the methods of science we have begun to explore the cosmos. For the first time scientific discoveries are widely accessible. Our machines -- the products of our science -- are now beyond the orbit of Saturn. A preliminary spacecraft reconnaissance has been made of 20 new worlds. We have learned to value careful observation, to respect the facts even when they are disquieting, when they seem to contradict "conventional wisdom".

We depend upon free inquiry and free access to knowledge. We humans have seen the atoms which constitute all of nature and the forces that sculpted this~ work and others. We have found that the molecules of life are easily formed under conditions throughout the cosmos. We have mapped the molecular machines of the heart of life. We have discovered a microcosm in a drop of water; we have peered into the bloodstream and down on the stormy planet to see the earth as a single organism. We have found volcanoes on other worlds and explosions on the sun, studied comets from the depths of space and traced their origins and destinies; listened to pulsars and searched for other civilizations.

We humans have set foot on another world in a place called the Sea of Tranquility, an astonishing achievement for creatures such as we, whose earliest footsteps three and one-half million years old are preserved in the volcanic ash of east Africa. We have walked far.

These are some of the things that hydrogen atoms do given fifteen billion years of cosmic evolution It has the sound of epic myth, but it is simply a description of the evolution of the cosmos as revealed by science in our time. And we, we who embody the local eyes and ears and thoughts and feelings of the cosmos, we have begun at least to wonder about our origins -- star stuff contemplating the stars, organized collections of ten billion billion billion atoms, contemplating the evolution of nature, tracing that long path by which it arrived at consciousness here on the planet earth, and perhaps throughout the cosmos.

Our loyalties are to the species and to the planet. We speak for earth. Our obligation to survive and flourish is owed not just to ourselves but
also to that cosmos ancient and vast from which we spring."

Amen.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Dangerous Ideas

I have to mention, and link to, a wonderful site, www.edge.org.

John Brockman, the New York-based literary agent and publisher of The Edge website, every year poses one big question, and has the world's top scientists, thinkers, and even nobel prize winners.

The 2005 question was "What do you believe that you can't prove"? The responses were amazing.

The 2006 question is, What is your dangerous idea?

The Edge has already received 116 responses to his challenge, which he's posted on his website. Check it out.

On a totally separate note, try this quiz. Who said:

1. "Would that the Roman people had but one neck."

2. "England is a nation of shopkeepers."

3. "It is a fortunate thing for rulers that people do not think."

4. "How many battalions does the Pope have?"

5. "The guerrilla should swim like a fish in water."

6. "No sensible person would compromise his property, his security or his family just to please the liar in the White House."

Chances are the literate quizee will spot the first five (Caligula, Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, Mao) and make an informed guess at the last - the current No 1 on civilisation's most-wanted list, Osama bin Laden.