Just back from Bishop, where a friend of mine—a former journalist—is working for a company that imports and distributes the little toys that kids get at the dentist’s office. We went backpacking, and I’d forgotten the difference between the subtle-and-dry beauty of our local mountains and the Switzerlandian spectacularnessnicity of the eastern Sierra. The highest peaks are still necklaced with snow, and the runoff really runs—in breathtaking rapids that empty into frigid lakes and vivid meadows. At night, the stars. We had to wait through a bright full moon, but they eventually appeared. Awesome, sometimes to the point of frightening. I mean … where are we?
WEDNESDAY, JULY 8
An international team of researchers led by UC Riverside astronomer Gillian Wilson has just completed the largest-ever survey designed to find very distant clusters of galaxies. They found about 200 of these rare regions of the universe consisting of hundreds of galaxies containing trillions of stars, plus hot gas and mysterious dark matter, using an assortment of telescopes and infrared techniques that actually snapped pictures from billions of years ago. One image, for example, comes from when the universe was 4.8 billion years old—a mere child, compared to its estimated current age of 13.7 billion years. “We are looking at massive structures very early in the universe’s history,” says Wilson, the UC Riverside prof. “It is very exciting to have discovered such a large sample of these rare objects. Although we are catching these clusters at early times, we can tell by their red colors that many of the galaxies we are seeing are already quite old.” Awesome . . . and suddenly, I don’t feel so bad about my upcoming birthday.
THURSDAY, JULY 9
From clusters of galaxies to a Galaxy clusterfuck. Landon Donovan, the Ontario-born and Redlands-raised superstar of the United States national soccer team that just made the final of the huge international tournament in South Africa, comes back to the Los Angeles Galaxy team—and runs into the consequences of his character assassination of even-superer-star David Beckham, the Brit who also plays for the Galaxy. Admirably, Donovan does not run away from those consequences. He acknowledges that he said the unflattering things about Beckham that are attributed to him in an about-to-be-published book, The Beckham Experiment. Basically, Donovan accuses Beckham of selfishness that translates into a lack of commitment to the Galaxy, which is paying him massively to attract fans and win a championship. “He’s not shown that he’s a good teammate,” Donovan says, among many other things. “I can’t think of another guy where I’d say he wasn’t a good teammate, [that] he didn’t give everything through all this, [that] he didn’t still care. But with him, I’d say no, he wasn’t committed.” Awesome.
FRIDAY, JULY 10
The California Supreme Court unanimously rules that Breathalyzer results aren’t always accurate—that the breath-to-blood ratios they presume to measure actually vary widely among different people . . . and even in the same person, depending on such factors as health, menstrual cycle and even the weather—and that suspected drunken drivers can argue about the accuracy of roadside breath test results. But the justices ask that people don’t do the arguing on the side of the road, and also not get all up in their faces, or at least mix in a Tic-Tac.
SATURDAY, JULY 11
Numerically, this date is 7-11, and the marketing whizbangs at the world’s most-prolific franchise chain—yes, there are more 7-11 convenience stores than there are McDonald’s—continue calling this their birthday. It’s not, but who among us standing in line for a free Slurpee (of exactly 7.11 ounces) is going to argue? Personally, I’ve got a problem with the fact that this “birthday” is celebrated on November 7th down in Australia (where they put the day before the month when they write the dates numerically), but then again I have lots of problems with Australia—which I believe answers the question: What would happen if Texas were a continent? Meanwhile, brain freeze. On free Slurpee day, these brief-but-crushing headaches become an epidemic. They’re caused by the slurried ice coming into contact with the roof of the mouth, triggering nerves that make the brain think the weather has suddenly become very cold. In reaction, blood vessels in the brain start to swell, causing excruciating pain for approximately 30 seconds. The antidote? Putting the tongue to the roof of the mouth, which will heat it up. Awesome.
SUNDAY, JULY 12
Angels kick Yankee ass yet again. Awesome!
MONDAY, JULY 13
Although passing a budget that satisfactorily balances tax rates with service cuts remains beyond the abilities of California legislators and the governor, a group continues with its attempted recall of Assemblyman Anthony Adams (R-Hesperia) because he voted for a February budget plan that temporarily raised sales, vehicle and income taxes to help close a then-$40 billion budget shortfall through June 2010. Critics contend that Adams violated a pledge to oppose tax hikes. They are idiots. But awesome.