There's a story that disturbs me and I don't quite know why. On one hand the case is clearly defined : someone did something that horrified many people, including me. On the other hand, a little voice in the back of my head keeps saying, "Yes, but . . " Here is the story.

I live in a beach side community in Florida. Like many Florida towns where the tourist industry is a heavy hitter, the number of beds occupied on any given night fluctates wildly according to the season.

Tourists and retirees aside, we have a core of permanent residents who are just like the folks in "Anywhere USA". The WFL that goes on along our strip of ocean-washed sand is not our life style, although we do have our moments. Basically, we have a sense of community and our communal outrage can be awesome.

We have a professional baseball team we call "The Cubbies". Our stadium is across the street from the marina, which has a profusion of bird life. Several years ago a pair of ospreys built a nest atop a 40-foot light pole over left field. The team players began calling them Ozzy the Osprey and Harriet. The pair returned every year.

Last April they were raising a clutch of chicks when one afternoon, during pre-game practice, a pitcher knocked the male bird from the nest with a baseball. The bird subsequently died.

The pitcher had been previously warned against trying to hit the birds with a baseball. He was Jae-Kuk, a 19-year-old South Korean signed to his first baseball contract, and he spoke no English.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife people and the city animal control officers were immediately called out, the newspapers had a field day, there was a huge outcry from the public, and Jae-Kuk was demoted to a low-level team in the minors, the Lansing Lugnuts.

The case was heard in August. By that time Jae-Kuk had been promoted to a baseball club in Tennessee that has a higher-level team than our Cubbies. Again, the local newspapers devoted reams of coverage to the story. Bird lovers interviewed suggested that Jae-Kuk serve a lengthy jail sentence, spend time cleaning bird cages, or be deported.

Conditions of the plea and waiver finally agreed upon included six months of supervised probation and 100 hours of community service. The defendant offered to apologize and to pay a $500 fine. Before leaving the courthouse Jae-Kuk signed checks totaling $1295 to cover investigation and court costs.

Prosecutors said standard procedure for misdemeanor offenses, especially for out-of-state defendants, was the plea and waiver before the judge. But the State insisted the community service be completed in Florida. This, said the Assistant State Attorney, was not only to insure that the hours would be served but that "the individual suffer a punishment" that would make him think of what he had done and to "instill in the defendant a desire to protect the environment".

The Circuit Judge accepted the plea and conditions. However, baseball season finished, Jae-Kuk's visa expired, and he returned to Korea. He is now attempting to get a return visa but the process is delayed because of the court case against him.

His lawyer filed papers last week, asking the court to accept a $2000 donation to bird and animal organizations in lieu of the hours of community service -- which must be performed before the end of next month. The Assistant State Attorney did not like the defendant's offer. He arrived at the hearing with 300 letters and e-mails from around the country demanding justice. If Jae-Kuk does not complete his community service he could face a violation of probation. That's the story to date.

Let me say that yes, I was outraged that the bird was killed. I volunteer with a shoreline bird rescue squad and have seen birds that have been tangled in nets, hit with blunt objects, and run over by beach buggies. It always sickens me.

I have also lived in various underdeveloped countries where it is hard enough to substain human life without the added burden of protecting bird and animal life, in places where my pet poodle would wind up in a stew pot if he strayed away from home, places where the native people routinely ate road kill. In all of these places I have seen people amuse themselves by trying to knock birds out of trees with rocks. I don't know how long they would have to live in my country before they developed a desire to protect the environment.

Chicago Marathon, October, 2004

My only previous marathon had been in Chicago, 1999. I was a not-quite lithe 205 lb. I ran-walked it in 5 hours and 33 minutes, atrociously slow by marathon standards and by some peculiar internal standard, that internal metronome that no one else hears but me. The medal still hangs in my study here, right by family pictures and the bookshelves groaning under the weight of too many physics texts. I have looked at it occasionally over the years, hefted its weight in my hand. It is a medal not for placing, but for finishing. I can honestly say I am proud to have run a marathon and finished it.

It was pretty easy, really, once the training was out of the way. Enjoyable hours on the bike trail close to home, impossibly early morning runs begun at 4:30 a.m., sometimes at 4:00 a.m, just to beat the summertime heat, and to see the sun come up halfway through the run. The sounds of silent running, when all I could hear was my breathing, three quarters of an hour before the first bird began chirping. The vigor of early morning life. The smell of deer nesting in the tall grass alongside the bike trail.

It was all good. Every shower was exhiliarating. Every day my pants grew a little looser, while my thighs and calves became tough like iron. I enjoyed sprinting up stairs at work, two at a time, six floors at a time, without being out of breath at the top of the staircase. I felt so good. I tore through lunch. I had to keep eating just to be ready for tomorrow's run.

The race? The race was fantastic. That will be the subject for another time. When we runners hit the pavement it was 29 windy degrees. Only someone who's lived in the Windy City and worn runner's shorts in late fall can appreciate this. We started with an arch of multicolored balloons over our heads. It was one big moving party. The end was as good as the beginning. We FINISHED FINISHED FINISHED. An hour later I was stiff and sore, chapped raw between my thighs, but we still got over to the Union Club to eat dinner with medals around our necks, and it was incredibly satisfying.

My nieces and nephews are now taking up the challenge. They are asking themselves the same question I asked five years ago: is it in me to do this? They will answer the same way I did. The answer comes one step at a time, one minute at a time, until all the minutes add up to hours and all the steps add up to miles and tens of miles and all the training runs done in solitude climax in the cheering of friends at the end of a very public, very noisy run. The answer comes crossing that finish line, the pain behind, the medal ahead.

They have asked some of their older uncles and aunts to join them. They're now old enough to feel a sense of kinship with their family members. They saw how we did it back then. Three of us trained in three separate cities, calling each other up: how many miles did you do this week? How are you feeling? It was a game of chicken, and no one wanted to be the first to back down. We flew in and ran together, cheering each other on, talking throughout the race, bearing each others' burdens. We wanted to finish together. We all made it. The younger kids want that now too, that feeling of unity and togetherness. So, sure, I'd join them. I did it back then, but I honestly don't know if I can do it again.

My training challenges will be different than theirs. The bodies of twenty year olds are not the same as their uncle's. My left knee is developing arthritis. The lower back is susceptible to sudden moments of piercing pain, brought on by a too-heavy upper torso. My back muscles, injured in a high school wrestling match, will randomly flare up and remind me of that season of discomfort when the latissimus dorsi were torn and I cried in pain such as I've never felt since. Even kidney stones weren't that bad. I'm overweight by at least 20 pounds. I have almost no deep breathing abilities any more, due to laziness and lack of consistent cardiovascular workout. I lift weights but this only succeeds in making my upper body heavier.

Training will be an act of redemption and purification. I look forward to the spartan lifestyle that a marathon demands. Early mornings, early evenings, uncomplicated training. Time to think. Perhaps this latter is the single biggest reason to get back into distance running again. Running affords me the time to clear the clutter away and to plan the day ahead. I like when the noise level goes down. Life is reduced to its absolute starkest simplicity: running, breathing, running, breathing. It's pure zen. It's pure joy.

I don't know if I can do this, frankly. This and the next few daylogs will be a running journal of sorts. Can I overcome the knee pain and keep running? What thoughts will be thought on that trail? Can I keep everything in equilibrium -- all of life's competing stresses -- and keep the goal of finishing the marathon uppermost in mind?

I don't know. But I'll find out.

If you've ever thought about doing something big, consider doing it and beginning today. Perhaps one of us will succeed.

The future ahead is like this marathon run: it's long and daunting, but if I don't begin to take small steps, I'll never ever finish it. The road of ten thousand miles begins with the first step.


I read your poem and said aloud, "That's nice, man." But not to you or the empty house in which I stewed. Nor was I cajoling some great judge of poetry, the one we sometimes think hovers above us, his black robe's shadow more fearsome than all but the laser-beams that are his eyes.

Your last lines surprised me, and surprised I heard suddenly and strange my own words in my ears. "That's nice, man." Or: you got me, and, what's more, if that's my voice, then who the hell have I been all day, and all yesterday, and all far too long?

What time is it!?
or Why There is a Picture of a Clock on my Shoulder

"One more of us, once less of them."

Barbour made it sound as if I'd just joined the Masons. That's not how I felt at all.

I didn't feel empowered, like the Internet people had said. I didn't feel that I had come to realise myself in a new light, like Goth Girl told me I would. I didn't feel tough, mysterious, attractive or crazy. I felt like myself - but with a sore shoulder.

I say sore, but it was actually more of a stiffness. Even when the needle had been buzzing away, it had felt more like a mild, sustained electric shock from a Van Der Graaff generator than actual pain. Compared to getting choked out or caught in an armlock at judo, it was nothing. The only thing that really hurt was my neck, and that was from trying to look over my shoulder to see what the guy was doing.

"One more of us, one less of them."

I didn't feel alienated from mainstream society. I didn't feel like I'd suddenly become a member of the Justice League. I felt like me.

I couldn't tell you when or why I decided to get a tattoo. I had seen some nice ink on guys in mosh pits or at martial arts classes, but I don't recall there ever being one enlightened moment when I realised that I wanted something eternally etched onto me.

I had thought about the design over the course of a few months. At first I thought about getting some kanji written by Jigoro Kano, the founder of Kodokan judo, but as much as I love the art and respect Kano Sensei's achievements, I didn't feel comfortable with the idea of putting someone else's words on my body. If I was going to get any text tattooed then I was pretty sure it would be my own words.

Maybe that's arrogance, but it's how I feel.

I also considered getting a red star on my left arm, but although this would have some personal significance to me, too many people are walking around with stars in the latest tattoo trend. Stars are the new Tribal, and while both can look really cool, I didn't want to look as if I was following a fashion.

In the end I decided on a clock. The design was based on a photograph of a pocket watch in a museum. It belonged to a victim of the Hiroshima atomic bomb and was stopped at the precise moment of the blast. The combination of such an enduring image, Alan Moore's masterpiece "Watchmen" and One Minute Silence's song "Roof of the World" sparked off something in my mind, and it just seemed like the right thing to do.

I had the piece done at Bodyline Tattoos in Glasgow. The guy who did it was called Derrick, and I'd reccomend him to anyone. He talked me through the whole process, giving me detailed aftercare instructions, advised me on placement, opened new needles in front of me, changed his gloves whenever he touched anything and did an excellent job with the tattoo itself. It's a tricky design which required perfect circles, evenly sized and spaced Roman numerals and just a light touch of shading.

It looks great.

He event took a photo for his portfolio, so if you happen to be located in or around Glasgow, Scotland and you're thinking about getting some ink, you could drop in and check it out.

I now have plans for the future. I'm looking at ways to personalise my red star. I'm thinking of getting a black handprint over the top of my shoulder. At the minute my body is like a giant canvas with a tiny bit of detail on it. I'm looking for pieces I could incorporate into sleeves or half sleeves.

I'm very, very excited.

For the past few years, my mind has weighed the fate of humanity. No, I am not your saviour. What I mean to say is that I've been struggling to find a suitable ideology with which to tackle the world. Am I some sort of libertarian rationalist, fully knowing that people are self-interested and independent actors who seek to maximize their own happiness above all? Am I a socialist, hoping against hope that people are basically good and decent, and that, as a community, humanity can overcome its most dire problems? Or, am I some sort of nihilist, who doesn't care to complete this thought?

I think I've come up with a system of thought I can live with. It all comes down to a matter of choice. I have no control over what other people choose to do, while I do control my every action. The focus is on the I. The best way to go about life is to maximize my happiness while minimizing the bad I do and maximizing the good. A simplistic way to work with the world, but it is the best alternative. Life is a series of choices; you have no control over other people's choices; therefore, make your choices work for you.

Why even do good? Why not selfishly pursue happiness at every turn? I don't think I'd be very happy for very long by doing very bad things. That's just how I'm wired. Maybe you're wired differently. What if you pursue your interests ruthlessly at the expense of people like me? Eh. I hope you're happy.

Last night I went to my mother's ex-coworker's superbowl party. She keeps trying to hook me up with her son, and everytime she does that I have to tell her that I have a boyfriend. Now, her son is a very nice boy and all, but I happen like my boyfriend very much. Why can't she just leave me alone?

Last night I she said, "There are a lot of nice looking boys in there." Then I said, "I have a boyfriend."

"Well, he isn't here is he?" she asked. That was very wrong of her to do that. She's a preacher too. Why does it seem that people want to start hooking you up with other people when you finally find someone?

Hi everybody! I hope you’re all doing good!

We have this thing at school called an interest fair. You get to pick whatever topic you want and to write about it. I picked Rock and Roll. My mom took me to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame so I could get some ideas on what to write about. I really like The Beatles. My dad said it was ok to ask you if you had any ideas that might help. You can either send them to him or to me. Here’s another short poem I wrote. I hope you like it!

What I’m here for
I don’t know
Life is a challenge
to see how crazy
you can get
after awhile
it turns to a race
to see when you drop down

Hi, I work in the ghetto. Ghetto meaning that government housing is directly across the street and there are several prostitutes patroling the neighborhood.

Working in the ghetto has it's high and low points.

The low points being the obvious, car break-ins, stolen cars, and small children with no shoes on asking to use our restroom.

The high points, there is never a dull moment.

We have seen it all in the ghetto:

One day, a down on his luck husband/boyfriend/baby daddy was driving his car with the passenger's side door wide open. He was driving about 5mph trying to talk his wife/girlfriend/baby momma back into the car. She was strutting down the street. You could tell she was pissed. She was trying to ignore him and keep on walking. I wonder what he did? I hope everything worked out for those crazy kids.

We have seen numerous police cars at the apartment complex across the street. We always stare out the window hoping to see someone with no shirt on being dragged into the car in hand cuffs. It has yet to happen.

A long time ago, there used to be an old bag lady that stood on the side of the road and preached to everyone that drove by. She would throw her hands up and scream and jump and everything. We have yet to find out where she has gone or if she converted anyone.

And then there is elephant boy. Ahh, yes. Elephant Boy. It is a teenage boy that has elephantitis of the face. It is the most disgusting thing I have ever seen but I can't stop looking at it. One of his eyes is where his chin should be. It literally looks like ball sacs hanging from his face. Gross. Sad, but gross.

And today, there was a small fire set by some children in the Library across the street. Don't ask me why. We just stood and stared out our windows at the children just standing there in ignorance. No, there is no such thing as arson, keep on keepin' on.

Who needs the circus when we have the ghetto. And the ghetto is free.

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