No, it's not a new New Year's drink. Or maybe it is and I just don't know. Taking advantage of the sunshine, I was out taking photos when I heard a loud crackling noise behind me. I turned around and caught the tail end of a roof collapse. There's rarely anyone at this building but I went over anyway to check. No recent tracks of any type so I don't think anyone was inside. I called the Sheriff's Office anyway to let them know.
The roof went down in a second.
It's okay. We're gonna put the chains on.
Abandoned and collapsing. Much like the rule of law for the last eight years.
In twenty days a new president will be sworn in and hopefully our country's path will change towards a more positive route. In the meantime, President Bush has been trying to put the positive spin on his two terms in his exit interviews. That got me to thinking and here are my suggestions for the Bush Legacy Project.
* Ignored the memo about an impending bin Laden attack * The attack takes place * The Iraq war * Hurricane Katrina * No Child Left Behind * Tax cuts for the rich for 1.3 trillion dollars * Massacred the English language in public too many times to count * Authorized illegal electronic surveillance of Americans * Spent nearly one-third of his presidency at Crawford ranch, Camp David, or family compound in Kennebunkport * Increased Americans living in poverty by 4.4 million * Housing and financial market collapses * Denied climate change * Authorized the use of torture * Hundreds of signing statements stating he would determine the law * Politicized the Department of Justice
Back in November, Kathy and I purchased an iPod Nano at Costco as a Christmas gift for Stephanie. We paid the $139.99 plus tax and someone got the item from the secure area and gave it to us. I got it out just before Christmas and wrapped it. Neither at the time of purchase nor when I was wrapping it did I take a close look at what was in the box. When Stephanie opened her gift she had the biggest smile and Kathy and I had the most puzzled looks.
"Why does that have a picture of an iPod Touch screen on an iPod Nano," Kathy wondered out loud. "That's not very nice of them to do that."
Then I saw the iPod Touch label on the side of the box. "Did we buy a Touch by mistake?" I asked Kathy. For a minute we thought our memories were fuzzy and maybe we did spend $289.99. We got the receipt out and it listed $139.99 for a Nano.
What to do? We couldn't take it away from Steph. We didn't feel right about benefiting from the store's mistake. What does that teach the kids, right? So we took it and the receipt back and paid the difference. Ouch!
Just about anyone I've told that to said they wouldn't have done that. So I wondered, if it had been just me and nobody else knew about it, what would I have done?
Earlier this month there was an article in the Spokesman-Review about our Congresswoman, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, being named the chair of the Select Committee on Earmark Reform. I didn't pay much attention to it since McMorris Rodgers' moratorium on earmarks was something I considered to be more of a political stunt than a sincere responsibility, moral or ethical stand.
Pharmaceuticals irk me. Easy fixes for erectile dysfunction, toenail fungus, bladder control, restless legs, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, allergies, hair restoration, depression, arthritis, gastroesophageal reflux disease, premenstrual disphoric disorder, osteoporosis and more are spewed from our television sets in a plethora of ads that try to show us just how happy and better we can be if we ignore the side effects they talk about at the end.
The problems I've discussed are not limited to psychiatry, although they reach their most florid form there. Similar conflicts of interest and biases exist in virtually every field of medicine, particularly those that rely heavily on drugs or devices. It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor of The New England Journal of Medicine.
Not too long ago I mentioned how I felt about cell phones. About three months ago we shook off the paid plan yoke and switched to pay as you go. I always thought the paid plans were expensive and unnecessary for us since we didn't make that many calls--especially me. The crotchety old dinosaur Pat accused me of being has been suspicious of cell carriers and now I find my suspicions are confirmed. You have to hand it to the carriers. They really know how to generate revenue.
I got the old Specialized out and went for a ride today. Parked on a hill and trudged through mid-thigh deep snow trying to get some decent photos while the sun was out. I'm not very happy with the results, but I'm a rank amateur so I set my sights low. ;-) At least I got a good workout. Snowshoes would've been so nice, but I'm waiting to go through a class or two with Kathy. Now to see some awesome nature photos check this out.
The Spokane City Parks and Recreation Department paid $7,000 to commission a poll(have to log in to the Spokesman) to determine Spokane County voter support for using Conservation Futures for buying the YMCA building located in Riverfront Park. The results were 57% for using the Conservation Futures, 20% against, and 22% undecided.
Given the results, I have to question what was asked. Did this poll consist of a single question with three answers to choose from? If so, then it's questionable. Given a choice of one form of payment it's an "either or" situation. Either use this or you don't get that. Were other methods of payment presented? If not, how would voters react to the poll if they could choose from them?
Distance runners train year round. Yesterday Josh said he and some of the other runners were going for their run on Christmas Day at 3:00 am and then go to Shari's for breakfast afterwards. This morning I got up at 7:00 and found Josh lying on the couch watching television. I asked him how the run went. The run was as good as it can be considering how difficult it is to run through deep snow. On the way to Shari's one of the guys thought he'd be cool and drift around the corner into the parking lot. Unfortunately his tires held and he drove straight into a snow berm, burying the front end. They spent about a half hour digging him out and decided to call it a day after that.
Speaking of digging out, I spent about an hour shoveling 6-8 inches of snow from the driveway. Again. I'm shooting for neatness points.
An article in today's Spokesman provides an example of how difficult it is to balance the rights granted to us by the U.S. Constitution with enforcing the law.
In the home invasion robbery, police tracked the suspects to a home using a police dog and following footprints in the snow. Authorities were looking for two people, but there were five in the home. Rather than take the suspects outside in the cold and snow to question them, detectives took them to the police station, Peterson said. “We fed them. We brought them sodas,” he said.
“If you have two suspects, it might be okay to bring them both in and make them sweat it out,” said Jeffry Finer, a Center for Justice attorney and former professor of criminal procedure. “If you have a stadium with one guilty person, you can’t take the whole stadium in.”
When the questioning at the police department was over, only two people, Hansen and Dane J. Bowers, were booked into Spokane County Jail for first-degree robbery and two counts of kidnapping. Robinson said Hansen was a former employee of his.
Detectives figured the robbery case was solid, Peterson said. Bowers pleaded guilty to the charges in court. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Bowers and Hansen have since been married.
Hansen’s case was dismissed without prejudice in September, which means police continue to investigate the original charges.
“What they should have done was determine probable cause to arrest them or come back when and if they had that,” said Al Rossi, Hansen’s attorney and a county public defender.
So what appears to be a good faith effort by the police resulted in an illegal detention. I can sympathize with the victim. Where's the justice? It's not fair to the victim that one of the perpetrators is set free. It's also not fair to the perpetrator to have her rights violated. The protections provided by the Bill of Rights apply to everyone, even the guilty. It's a tough call.
Back when I was in high school, Tom T. Hall got stuck on Spokane and wrote this song.
I don't know what I'm doing here, I could be someplace else Like in Atlanta drinkin' wine, wine, wine. I don't know what I'm doing here, I should be someplace else Like in Kentucky drinkin' shine, shine, shine.
The dogs are running down in Memphis And them nags are running in L.A. I'm stuck in Spokane in a motel room And there ain't no way to get away.
Willie Nelson's picking out in Austin And Waylon's hanging out in Mexico. I'm stuck in Spokane in a motel room And Kris is making movin' picture shows.
Hey, I don't know what I'm doing here, I could be someplace else Like in Atlanta drinkin' wine, wine, wine. I don't know what Im doing here, I should be someplace else Like in Kentucky drinkin' shine, shine, shine.
Well I know they're dancing in New Orleans And old Chicago's bright as day. I'm stuck in Spokane in a motel room Lord, I wish I had a Dolly Parton tape.
Well Hill and Bear and Billy Joe they're gambling And ol' TP's fryin' crappie all night long. They're down at Tootsies eating chili. I'm stuck in Spokane writin' a song.
Hey, I don't know what I'm doing here, I could be someplace else Like in Atlanta drinkin' wine, wine, wine. I don't know what I'm doing here, I should be someplace else Like in Kentucky drinkin' clear moonshine.
The family and I can relate. We got to the airport and found our flight was still scheduled. After checking in we learned that the Portland airport was considered marginal. We hung around the waiting area for an hour and they announced our flight was skipping Portland and going straight to it's next destination--Sacramento. There were no flights to Hawaii available for us from there so they told us to pick up our luggage, which was already waiting for us in the baggage claim area, and go home. So home we are.
You know it was only a matter of time before someone thought of doing this.
Originating from Wootton High School, the parent said, students duplicate the license plates by printing plate numbers on glossy photo paper, using fonts from certain websites that "mimic" those on Maryland license plates. They tape the duplicate plate over the existing plate on the back of their car and purposefully speed through a speed camera, the parent said. The victim then receives a citation in the mail days later.
Students are even obtaining vehicles from their friends that are similar or identical to the make and model of the car owned by the targeted victim, according to the parent.
It sounds like a lot of trouble to go through for something that should be easy to beat but still create a lot of hassle for the targeted person. Yet how many times have we been told that the camera (or other technical device) doesn't lie?
This letter to the editor in the NY Times written in response to an editorial about report on torture release by the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Re “The Torture Report” (editorial, Dec. 18):
If we are to comply with the Geneva Conventions, political considerations will not relieve the president of his obligation to undertake prosecutions of top officials for the authorization of torture. The conventions themselves require adherents to hold such prosecutions.
This is a question of law, not politics; and those who try to politicize it are rightly dismissed as outlaws.
If defendants have legal defenses, they can raise them. Our legal system will address them, as it does all defenses raised by the accused. The country and the world can then judge the validity of those defenses and our judiciary’s decisions on them.
This is the only way to restore our reputation as law-abiding citizens of the world. It has the added virtue of being the right way.
Vincent J. Canzoneri Newton, Mass., Dec. 18, 2008
With our own Vice President admitting his role in the implementation of waterboarding, do we have a hope that he and any others who took part in this will be brought to justice?
The Bush administration granted sweeping new protections to health workers who refuse to provide care that violates their personal beliefs. You can read about it here and here. The best quote:
"This is a huge victory for religious freedom and the First Amendment," said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.
Nope, it's not about medical care.
Imagine an attorney telling you she cannot represent you because of her religious beliefs. Imagine a waiter telling you he cannot serve you because of his religious beliefs. Imagine a bus driver telling you she cannot let you on the bus because of her religious beliefs. Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? And yet nurses, doctors, pharmacists, and just about any other medical professional can refuse to provide certain types of care and medication because of their religious beliefs.
I'm all for freedom of religion. By all means choose whatever religion you want or none at all. But why should that freedom allowing a person to worship as they please also permit them to deny legal treatment, services, or medication for someone else regardless of their religion?
These last two mornings my routine has been severely sidetracked because the paper didn't make it here what with the snow and all. Reading the paper online is less than satisfying. I have to click the mouse, log in to my premium account so I can read everything, and click the mouse forever more being careful to keep biscotti crumbs and tea off the keyboard. And it's not organized the same as the printed form. I miss turning the page with my left hand taking the opportunity to slurp my tea from the cup in my right, all the while biscotti bits scattering all over the place. Even in it's shrunken state I hope the Review sticks around in printed form.
Yesterday they cut us loose early since the roads were so bad. This was a rare day where I drove to work since I had some things to take care of beforehand. I'm walking to the van and I see a cyclist ride by. Rock on, Derek! I clear tons of snow off my vehicle and join everyone else who were cut loose early since the roads were so bad so we could make them worse together. Working my way north on Division I turned onto Foothills thinking I could take Addison and Standard the rest of the way north and get home quicker. Ah ha! I am so smart. Traveling unimpeded through a neighborhood I'm following a truck north on Standard when a car comes from my left. We're at an unmarked intersection so I have the right of way since I'm on the right. Wrong! Since he's an uninsured motorist, he has the right of way.
Meet Ernest Ray Smith, risk taker, man about town and dare devil extraordinaire
My left front hits his right front. I have lots of plastic damage and the hood is bent a little, but the van is driveable. His right front wheel is definitely off kilter and he can't drive away. We exchange info, I take pictures, and I complete the trip home where I finish packing for our trip to Hawaii. The snow continues and I clear my driveway twice before 10:00 pm.
Second clearing of driveway last night
This morning I got up at 3:15 and cleared the driveway again. The road outside our driveway has about two feet of snow so I got the chains out. But Kathy tells me our flight is canceled so we decided to go back to bed. Got up at 8:00 and there's another 6-8 inches in the driveway waiting for my shovel.
My driveway beckons me--again
Kathy called Alaska Air all morning only to get a recording that they're too busy to take our call. Considering the circumstances, that's to be expected. And since today is my LII birthday, Stephanie is making me my favorite--Rice Krispie treats. Awesome.
So why is this post labeled "bicycling"? Because we have to look at the bright side. Here's a great article about cycling subcultures.
It’s important to understand just how extreme the situation is. We now incarcerate a larger proportion of our citizens, and a larger absolute number of them, than any other nation in the world. The United States has less than 5 percent of the global population yet has almost one-quarter of all the world’s prisoners. (Source: New York Times, April 23, 2008.) The Land of the Free has become the land of the confined.
Now here’s the interesting part. From 1925 through 1975, the American incarceration rate remained around 110 prisoners per 100,000 population, not far from the current world median of approximately 125. (Source: New York Times, as above.) What happened since then? How could the rate increase by a factor of 7 during just three decades?
I can suggest an answer in three words: Money, fear, and politics.
We have a law in place that says it is a felony offense punishable by five years in prison or a $10,000 fine to eavesdrop on American citizens without warrants. We have laws in place that say that it is a felony punishable by decades in prison to subject detainees in our custody to treatment that violates the Geneva Conventions or that is inhumane or coercive.
We know that the president and his top aides have violated these laws. The facts are indisputable that they’ve done so. And yet as a country, as a political class, we’re deciding basically in unison that the president and our highest political officials are free to break the most serious laws that we have, that our citizens have enacted, with complete impunity, without consequences, without being held accountable under the law.
And when you juxtapose that with the fact that we are a country that has probably the most merciless criminal justice system on the planet when it comes to ordinary Americans. We imprison more of our population than any country in the world. We have less than five percent of the world’s population. And yet 25 percent almost of prisoners worldwide are inside the United States.
What you have is a two-tiered system of justice where ordinary Americans are subjected to the most merciless criminal justice system in the world. The full weight of the criminal justice system comes crashing down upon them. But our political class, the same elites who have imposed that incredibly harsh framework on ordinary Americans, have essentially exempted themselves and the leaders of that political class from the law.
No doubt you are concerned, just as I am, that it is yet to be determined if Governor Blagojevich is an ordinary American.
Anyway. Back in the fall of 2002 I traveled to Stanford University to watch my oldest son race at the Stanford Invitational. He ran cross country for Mead High School and this was his senior year. (I always enjoyed watching the Mead High School cross country team. It was impressive to see two buses pull up and disgorge a sea of blue as over 40 young men poured out dressed in their sweats. It was an imposing sight when contrasted with competitors' teams of 15 or even as few 7. While the varsity race is limited to seven runners, the junior varsity races always had in inordinately large number of Mead jerseys. It was great.) While hanging around the Mead team's area on the golf course where all the racing was to take place I happened to meet an alumnus of the Mead running program. He was living in San Francisco and decided to come and watch the runners from his old school. He had an enlightening perspective of distance racing--from the point of view of someone who almost always finished DFL.
"People don't realize that distance racing is a painful sport," he told me. Aside from your training and conditioning, a myriad of things can affect the outcome of your race. A crowded start with people sprinting to get out front, elbows knocking you aside, a competitor's spikes cutting your calf or ripping your shoe off, the varying terrain, the wind, rain, snow, and oppressive heat to name a few. "I was not a fast runner. I was actually pretty bad at it. But the reason I ran cross country was that the program gave me the discipline to try my best and do better than before. It boosted my self confidence. But I hated the pity clap," he said. "You know, the leaders had crossed the finish line fifteen minutes after the start but I was coming in at twenty or twenty-one minutes. Most of the finish line crowd had thinned and the few that remained would half-heartedly clap their hands and say, 'Good job, Mead'. I called that the pity clap--an acknowledgment that at least you tried even though you had no chance of winning the race. They had no idea what I had just gone through to take six seconds off my best time and set a new PR."
I realize he sounded bitter, but he wasn't. He was trying to convey the importance of how you view yourself and examining your motivation. Compare, "I compete to win" with "Why compete if I can't win?" with "I compete to better myself". Which is the healthiest attitude? And how do you instill that in yourself and others?
In a winter parallel of the Noel Coward song, almost 50 Lifetime Members For Life braved the cold and threatening weather to celebrate the Festivus ride. The riders rocked from The Swamp to The Northern Lights Brewery as Jon, who won Best Use of Regalia, towing a booming sound system in the trailer treated the riders to holiday favorites sung by Clarence Carter and James Brown. Festivities at North Lights included a ring toss and a frame toss with first, second, and third place prizes. The lifetime members for life also voted on Best Lights (me) and Best Use of Regalia (Jon).
Kudos to The Fucking Guy and everyone who helped him put this together, run the events, and donated the prizes.
More photos can be found here. I just opened the Flickr account and I'm frustrated that the photos are displayed in reverse order. Newb! And I see I need to remove some evil red eye. Well, maybe when I have some time...
"Gov. Gregoire is responsible for this mess. Having first acceded to the requests of atheists to attack Christmas, she is now confronted with the likes of the Westboro Baptist Church, a viciously anti-American, anti-Catholic and anti-gay group. There is a way to deal with this situation in a manner that is legally acceptable and morally defensible, but neither the Washington governor, nor her lawyers, have figured it out."
Bill is upset about "vicious" group. How could we tolerate such hateful people? Let's have another look at what Westboro Baptist Church is "anti-".
I can't imagine paying up to $100 a page to have someone write a term paper for me. And with college education costs as high as they are, I wonder what students can actually afford ghost writers. But ghost writers prosper, so there must be quite a few who can afford their services.
I think sports and games are useful for determining a person's propensity for cheating. I don't remember where I read it, but years ago I came across this: "People who cheat in life don't necessarily cheat at golf. But people who cheat at golf can be counted on to cheat in life." I may not have quoted it exactly, but I think you get the point. I've had my fair share of experiences of playing with people who had no problem with cheating. Why did they cheat? They won. No matter what the cost or who is robbed of what's rightfully theirs, they didn't want to be a loser. Losing is, well, for losers. Winning is superior. Winning is everything. Winning is the only thing.
I think there's an important lesson to be learned here.
I received an email with a sig that contained this:
It's is not its, it isn't ain't, and it's it's, not its, if you mean it is. If you don't, it's its. Then too, it's hers. It isn't her's. It isn't our's either. It's ours, and likewise yours and theirs.
With his days numbered, President Bush has been trying to make his presidency lookbetter than it was and is. Have a look at the poor soldiers he met yesterday. It's as if "I am a PR tool" is written on their faces. Now if one of them had kicked Bush in the groin he would have found his high note.
Pat recently wrote a poem called Ode De Basquette. (If you haven't read it, please do so before continuing.) It praises the basket and claims it is superior to all others, specifically mentioning and disparaging "bags".
Ode To An Old Bag
Any time I need an errand run I can count on the old bag. Whether beer or bread or even milk She's strong though now she sags.
I knew that when I first laid eyes I'd never settle for less. I pursued, pleaded, bargained, and now For many years possess.
She may be getting worn with time And straining when she works, But on her I know I can rely. The old bag never shirks.
And just to make it clear to all, (On this I stake my life), In French my bag is called "pannier". It's not what I call my wife.
The capabilities of cell phones do not interest me. Most likely because all I want is dial tone. I'm not interested in being able to tell who is calling me by the ring tone I've assigned, playing music, taking pictures, or making videos with a cell phone. I don't want anyone to call me unless it's necessary. I abhor talking on a cell phone in public. I hear enough unnecessary conversations on the bus, in restaurants, on the sidewalks, in the park, etc. Even in the bathroom. I absolutely detest it in the bathroom. I used to have a cell phone but I only turned it on when I needed to make a call. Then they got me one at work so I got rid of mine. (No sense carrying two turned off phones.) Once, early on, I made the mistake of thinking the call was important enough that I should answer my work phone while in that reverberation chamber known as the men's room. Never again.
But that's not what I wanted to post about. About three or four months ago I switched from Bloglines to Google Reader. The export of subscriptions out of Bloglines and import into Reader went without a hitch and I've been happily fine-tuning my subscription list since. Every once in a while I noticed Reader would tell me I had an unread item but that item was not on any of the sites I subscribed to. If I clicked on the All Items link and scrolled down I would find that someone had shared an item. Hmm. With me. I wondered how they did that, but not enough to actually go look for an answer. So after all this time I finally clicked on the "Start Sharing Now..." button in Reader and lo and behold, not only can I share with my Google friends but three of them are already sharing with me. So that's how they did it.
I'm not sure if or how or when I want to use this feature. But for those of you who are sharing with me, thank you.
And if you call me to say, "You're welcome," or call to congratulate me for figuring it out all by myself and I don't answer, leave a message. I might get back to you but I'll need to wash my hands first.
Using a loudspeaker, pastors prayed, sang Christmas carols and criticized Gov. Chris Gregoire for allowing the atheist sign in the building.
"The No. 1 thing is, we want the state of Washington and the governor to represent everyone in the state," said the Rev. Kenneth Hutcherson, the pastor of Antioch Bible Church in Redmond. "But just because you must represent everyone in the state doesn't mean that you put up with intolerance from the people that you represent."
Did your irony alarm just deafen you?
State Rep. Jim Dunn, a Vancouver Republican, called for the crowd to continue their energy and prayers. "It is time to chase out of the house of God all the unbelievers and evildoers," Dunn said.
I had no idea the capitol was the house of God. I'm surprised he didn't cap that statement off by singing, "And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love. Yes, they'll know we are Christians by our love." After all, if you're going to pander, go full out.
Imagine a display that said:
There is no tooth fairy. There is no Easter bunny. There is no Santa Claus. It doesn't stop there. Think about it.
Bicyclers across the region are known as accommodating and uncomplaining — as long as they get their way. Now is the time for them to show it by contributing to the public trough.
Will any of this happen? No, because from my perch, I don't know of a single, elected public official with the guts to propose a bike tax.
Guts? More like stupidity. But the man does have a point. I never could understand why cyclists have always been given a free ride. It's not enough that they pay every tax just like everyone else except a gas tax--unless they also own a vehicle. In that case maybe Kent could be considered an absolute freeloader since he doesn't own a vehicle and consequently doesn't chip in his fair share by buying gas at the pump. Imagine how much money could be collected, especially from real cyclists who have a mountain bike, a commuter bike, a road bike, a beater bike, etc.
If you think you can stand the aggravation, go ahead and read the op-ed. It's full of poorly thought out bad ideas. But don't say I didn't warn you.
Quite a few people showed up, many more than I expected but what do I know? It was great to meet and chat with some of the other featured bloggers--a very interesting mix of people, topics, and experiences.
Here's an interesting look at the evolution-creationism "debate" from a marketing perspective. It leads off...
Newton gets all kinds of credit. They call it the Law of Gravity. They put his picture on pages that profile geniuses. They say he discovered gravity. Nonsense. He just named it.
Everyone 'believes' in gravity. And yet, we know virtually nothing about it. We don't know how gravity waves (if there are any) are transmitted. We can't block them (anti gravity boots!) and we can't amplify them and we have no idea how fast they travel. There are very few people doing serious gravity research and development, either. But it's apparently a law.
Evolution (and one's confidence or lack of belief thereof), on the other hand, is enough to sway a school board election or get you nominated for federal office. I've never met an informed person who doubted the general facts about evolution unless they had an alternative view of the origin of species that they felt emotionally connected to. There are evolution skeptics who would prefer a different story, but no gravity skeptics, even though there's a lot less science there.
I finally got around to reading A Man Without A Country by the late Kurt Vonnegut and what a fun read it is. He makes a compelling observation about Bush, the people in his administration, and the people who have led corporations to their doom while enriching themselves.
He refers to them as psychopathic personalities, i.e., smart, personable people who have no consciences. They know the suffering their actions cause, but they do not care--because they're nuts.
From the Journal of Experimental Botany. The Yanghai Tombs near Turpan, Xinjiang-Uighur Autonomous Region, China have recently been excavated to reveal the 2700-year-old grave of a Caucasoid shaman whose accoutrements included a large cache of cannabis, superbly preserved by climatic and burial conditions.
Researchers also discovered lots of empty potato chip bags, the burnt remains of incense sticks, and a copy of the Grateful Dead's Aoxomoxoa album.
Today marks 75 years since the passage of the 21st Amendment. To mark the occasion the House of Representatives passed Resolution 415, but the historically incorrect author listed December 3rd as the anniversary date. Probably had to much to drink. Regardless, what better way to celebrate the repeal of Prohibition than by imbibing--all things in moderation--and bike riding with others on a Full Moon Fiasco next Friday.
Many years ago, in a prior life as an United States Air Force Law Enforcement Specialist, I was stationed at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. We worked three day shifts, three swing shifts, three midnight shifts and then got three days off. (We were actually shortchanged because our first day off started the morning we got off the last midnight shift.) Both Security and Law Enforcement were assigned to the same flights and worked together, but there was a separation of duties. Security guarded the aircraft and the nukes. Law Enforcement manned the entrance gates to the base and provided general law enforcement and animal control. (Although we considered catching stray dogs and cats demeaning, it did have its entertainment value. Like that one time a guy maced a cat in the rafters and the cat came down like a dive bomber and tore him a new one.) As was the case at nearly every base, the midnight shift was boring and we spent most of our time finding ways to stave off the boredom and the sleep (which we called the Z monster) that lurked behind it.
One quiet night around oh-dark-thirty a radio transmission broke the silence.
"I'm going fucking craaazy."
And that was it. Nobody replied and neither the security nor law enforcement flight chief said anything. But everyone pretty much knew that one of the guys was providing an unauthorized moment of levity. There was another transmission about fifteen minutes later.
"I'm going fucking craaazy."
It was the same voice. Still, there was no response from anyone in charge which was surprising since radio discipline, along with weapon safety, was always harped on. Another fifteen minutes passed.
"I'm going fucking craaazy."
Third time's a charm. This time the security flight chief got on the radio.
"Minot Security to the person transmitting, identify yourself!"
A short pause before the reply we all knew was coming.
I have an account with the Social Science Research Network where I find lots of interesting papers to peruse. While browsing at random, I came across this title.
"Estimating the Impact of Beer Prices on the Incidence of Sexually Transmitted Diseases: Cross-Province and Time Series Evidence from Canada"
Abstract: We attempt to contribute to the literature by evaluating the effects of higher beer prices on gonorrhea and chlamydia rates through pooling data across Canadian provinces and over time. Ordinary least squares as well as instrumental variables estimates suggest that higher real beer prices are correlated with a reduction in both gonorrhea and chlamydia rates, with corresponding implied elasticities within a tightly defined interval of (roughly) 0.7 to 0.9. However, the increase in real beer prices over the sample period is only responsible for less than a tenth of the decline in gonorrhea rates.
For the life of me, I can't imagine anyone outside of a writer for The Daily Show asking the question, "What effect does the price of beer have on the rate of sexually transmitted diseases...ummmm...in Canada?"
I wear slippers and scuff along the sidewalk. I ask for money, cigarettes, booze or food. My baggy, grey sweat pants are stained. I'm that young person sitting on the sidewalk asking for change. I pull a wagon or push a shopping cart containing all that I own. Oftentimes I smell. I talk out loud to nobody in particular without the luxury of a Bluetooth. The backpack and sleeping bag I carry are my home. I haven't shaved in days or sometimes months. I lost my house and then my car. A belt holds my ill-fitting jacket closed because the zipper is broken. I don't know when I last saw a doctor. Don't make contact with my rheumy eyes.
With the new administration entering office, it is time for a full, public, and objective accounting of the scale of post-9/11 abuses, why and how they occurred, and who was responsible for authorizing and facilitating them. Although several congressional inquiries, military reports, and Department of Justice investigations have looked into particular aspects of these questions, there has never been a comprehensive public inquiry into post-9/11 abuses.
Investigations to date have been incomplete and imperfect. Most crucially, they have either lacked independence from the executive branch or have not been granted access to necessary documentary and testimonial evidence.
During the first six months of his term, President Obama should work with Congress to set up a commission of inquiry to investigate, document, and publicly report on post-9/11 counterterrorism-related abuses. The commission should specifically address the question of who should be held accountable for these abuses and how accountability can be achieved.
Recently, the Spovangelist came up with an idea to create a small publication, The Spokane Blog Bible, containing descriptions of local blogs. My "duh!" moment in this was asking why "Blog Bible"? Because the Spovangelist is an evangelist for Spokane. Duh! At first I declined to participate. After letting it stew for a bit, my curiosity got the better of me and in order to see what would happen I decided to join in and submitted an entry for Shallow Cogitations. Participating bloggers had to begin their entry with "Thou shalt..." As an aside I wonder how many used the imperatively denying "Thou shalt not..." (guilty) as opposed to the imperative "Thou shalt..."
The Spokane Blog Bible's release party is at 5:30-8:00 pm, Dec 6, at the Magic Lantern Theatre and everybody in the free world, along with those who can escape from the non-free parts, is invited. They're even showing the movie "Hackers" (PG-13). So come on out if you're interested in meeting some Spokane bloggers or, better yet, people with interests similar to your own.
It's neat that in the last 18 months I've made some new friends and met some really great people whom I probably never would've crossed paths with otherwise. It reminds me of the interconnectedness expressed in The Five People You Meet In Heaven but on a far more humbler scale.
Now my participation in this got me wondering. Why do I write this blog? I'm not out to change the world. I don't fancy myself as being particularly erudite or clever and I'm not looking for people to say so one way or the other. I'm certainly not better than anybody else. I never advertised my blog but people have managed to find it. While I don't care if anyone reads it or comments on it, I admit I experience a small amount of excitement when a subject line in my email begins with "[Shallow Cogitations] New comment on..." I reckon the relative anonymity acts as a safe harbor. For me you could say it's almost a sort of opt-in performance art where certain distractors are missing.
I understand Google Analytics could give me all kinds of information about page hits, etc., but I'm really not interested. Once I noticed I had a "follower", the naming of which--and this is no reflection on the person who likes my blog enough to want to be notified of new postings--I found disturbing. I would prefer "reader". But that's just me.
After mulling it over for far too long, I think the heading in my profile section pretty much says it all: "Me! Me! It's all about me!" in that I write this for mostly selfish reasons. Hardly anything fails to catch my interest. I like to write and I want to improve my writing skills. I like to think about things and I work at being more balanced at it. I like humor and fun. I like to challenge the status quo. The arcane, the obscure, the enigmatic and the road less traveled are curious to me. I like to wonder why. I appreciate new perspectives.
But I also like to share. And while you are welcome to everything on this site, I trust it won't bother you to know that I didn't do it for you.
Okay, I'm done navel gazing.
And just look at the mess I made. Too much for the lint remover. Better get the broom and dustpan.
There's a notice in today's Spokesman-Review that says the Supernanny television program plans to hold auditions on Dec 13 at the NorthTown Mall. Apparently there's a shortage of humiliation on television. I wonder how many Inland Northwest families are willing to submit themselves to a voyeuristic adventure such as this, a somewhat more civilized, but no less degrading, version of Jerry Springer. Are you required to be missing any teeth? How about an inability to explain literature to your children?
It would be fun to show up with some angry Ritalin addicts who are obviously not mine (Why yes, they are adopted--on their mother's side) and take every opportunity to kick me in the groin. I could explain to the producers how I got tired of telling them to stop and since they don't listen to me I found it easier to wear a cup instead. And they get very upset when I get them regular hamburgers instead of cheeseburgers, Diet Mountain Dew instead of Jolt, and low-fat, sugar-free marshmallow creme instead of the real stuff. But they're great kids and I love 'em to death! Help me, Supernanny, pleeeeeease!!!
Somehow I think I'll have something better to do on that day.
Just last spring the Supreme Court of the United States found that the procedures followed by the state of Kentucky for execution by lethal injection were constitutional. The issue was not whether lethal injection is constitutional, but concerned the details of the injection’s administration: the chemicals used, the training of the personnel, the adequacy of medical supervision, and the consequences and risk of error.
You may be aware that convicted murderer Darold Stenson is scheduled to be executed by the State of Washington on Dec 3, 2008. His execution has been stayed by two judges, one state and one federal, for two different reasons.
While there's a lot in the story that interests me, one part I keyed on was the Department of Corrections policy (PDF file) and procedures for capital punishment. These were revised just last month, the manner of which resulting in the appeal to the federal court. Killing someone, even in the name of justice, is a gruesome task and the policy rightfully, and yet in some respects unfortunately, leaves a lot to the imagination.
Dr Michael J. Souter, Associate Professor, Anesthesiology & Neurosurgery at UW and the Medical Co-Director, Neurocritical Care Service at Harborview Medical Center, submitted testimony in Stenson's federal case where he describes how easily lethal injection can and has been botched.
Can the death penalty be administered so the person dies in dignified manner? If we as a society are so concerned about cruel and unusual punishment, why are we not so concerned about taking a life? If we truly believe the state, on our behalf, is justified in taking a life as punishment, why should we concern ourselves with the means?
Today's Spokesman-Review contains an opinion piece by Leonard Pitts Jr. in which he uses an imaginary conversation with God(The link takes you to a free read elsewhere) to express his disbelief about disbelievers, namely atheists. I've always found that curious. The religious are generally tolerant of other religions--even with the Islamofascist hate-baiting of the last several years--but when it comes to people who don't believe in a god they are agog with disbelief. A Jew or a Muslim or a Christian alone in a room with several members of the other faiths has no worries about being challenged or pressured to convert. Upon learning of their singular faith the others remain generally civil. But an atheist is regarded differently. All manner of questions fill the air. "How can you not believe in God?" "Well, then what do you believe?" "Then how did we get here?"
It seems to me that if they (by 'they' I mean members of any religion) are that worried about people's souls, shouldn't they be asking those questions of everyone who has different beliefs? Do we consider some religions to be partially wrong and atheists as all wrong? Are other religions tolerable because they at least have a belief system? Are atheists intolerable because they don't have a belief system? Do atheists not have a belief system?
Interesting and puzzling questions. One thing is evident. They do provide an easy target.
I could have gotten hit by one of those STA commuter vans this morning, but I decided to not let that happen. While walking to the Park 'n' Ride I came to an intersection just as someone driving the van pulled up to the stop sign. The driver was looking at the traffic coming from the left in anticipation of making a right turn. With three cars about to pass by the opportunity to turn was about to present itself. I was sure the driver had no idea I was nearby since I hadn't seen her look to the right. I stood at the curb. As soon as the last car went by she gunned it, looked right, saw me, slammed on the brakes, gunned it again and took off. Had I legally crossed the street she would've struck me when she first gunned it, but I chose not to let that happen. There's a maxim I follow when cycling that applies to pedestrians as well:
"Even if you're in the right, you still lose if you get hit by a car."
I wonder if she's going to start looking to the right more often.
Today I stumbled across an interesting article in the UCLA Law Review concerning the notion held by a number of evangelists and others that America was founded as a Christian nation. (Click on the PDF symbol in the top right corner.)
Kathy asked me to buy and install a programmable thermostat yesterday, something we were long overdue for. I managed to install it successfully, very carefully going over the instructions more than once to make sure I was doing everything right. I have a somewhat disconcerting ability to assemble and install things and still have parts left over. In this case, I had no extra parts and everything was working properly.
But there's just one thing.
Due to the length of the available wiring and the method of attaching the wiring to the thermostat, the new thermostat sits lower on the wall than the one it replaced. And since we have painted that wall with a different color than the original white, I now have a highly visible white spot showing on the wall.
And since I no longer have that can of paint any longer, I have two options. Dig a small chunk out and try to get the color matched or paint that entire wall.
But since that wall is the same color as the other walls in the room, I may have to paint the entire room. So from replacing a thermostat I've gone to painting a room.
I call this the Theory of Compound Work. Compound work is the concept of adding accumulated work back to the original work, so that work is earned on work from that moment on. The effect of compounding depends on the frequency with which work is compounded and the periodic work rate which is applied. Therefore, in order to define accurately the amount of work to be done, the frequency of compounding (yearly, half-yearly, quarterly, monthly, daily, etc.) and the work rate must be specified.
This explains why the "honey do" list never grows short. Knock two items off and get four more added on because work you completed created new work to be completed.
I choose a half-yearly frequency of compounding so I reckon I'll be painting in May.
Is any single agency within our government in better shape now that it was 7.8 years ago because of...anyone? Anyone? Conservatism? Which...anyone? Which placed ideology and personal loyalty over...anyone? Over what? Anyone? Over common sense, reason and rational thought. Does anyone know what that is?
About a month ago, Kathy noticed there was one paper towel left on the roll and had been like that for two days. She pulled the last towel off and asked one of the kids to get a new roll. She was politely reminded that the rule is, whoever uses the last paper towel gets a new roll. This is a rule we as a family implemented many years ago at Kathy's behest. It applies to toilet paper and tissues as well. She accused us of purposely not using the last paper towel to which we responded, "The rule is..." She grudgingly got a new role.
Last Sunday the scenario played out again. Kathy again accused us of purposely not using the last paper towel. She pulled the last one off and said she wasn't getting a new roll since we were doing this on purpose. And, of course, we reminded her what the rule is. She held out most of the day before finally abiding by the rule and renewing the paper towel spindle's purpose in life.
This morning I was making some toast and when I reached for a paper towel I noticed there was only one left.
During the summer, Kathy saw a notice in the Inlander concerning submissions for the design of the Bloomsday Finisher T-shirt. She thought drawing something and sending it in was a great idea and she convinced Stephanie to join her in the endeavor. Amidst a pile of paper, crayons and colored markers they got to work. Both of them came up with two designs they liked. They wrote their names and addresses on the back of each and I, the fully trained husband and father, dutifully dropped their entries off. A couple of weeks after the deadline they each received a polite letter saying thank you for your entry but it wasn't selected. Although there was a small sense of disappointment, they knew, based on past designs, they were up against some really good artists. But as a consolation they get to enter the 2009 run for free so it's not like it was a wasted effort.
Yesterday, Stephanie received a letter from the Bloomsday Association. What could it be? She opens it and the next thing you know she's screaming and jumping around as if she'd just poured alcohol onto a freshly scraped knee. Calm down, calm down. What is it?
One of her designs was chosen for the volunteer shirt. How cool is that? Unlike the winning main t-shirt designer, she doesn't have to keep it a secret. Whoo-hoo! And she wins $500. Even cooler!
After she calmed down she asked, "Do I have to pay taxes on that?"
I think sure-headedness is a sign of a closed mind. Think about it. When someone says they're absolutely positive about something, they are often so because they don't want to take the time to listen or see another person's perspective. Their mind is made up and that's all there is to it. I see this all the time and it's a huge problem.
All of this underscores why widespread drug addiction is ultimately everybody's problem. Obviously, getting street addicts to clean up takes more than free needles. It takes affordable housing, mental health services, counseling and treatment, all of which are in short supply, even in Vancouver. For some addicts, it might also take the threat of jail.
But it doesn't have to be an either/or choice. As the American Medical Association states in its official position on the issue, "Harm reduction can coexist, and is not incompatible, with a goal of abstinence for a drug-dependent person, or a policy of 'zero-tolerance' for society."
Advocating anything that sounds "soft on drugs" is generally considered political suicide for elected officials in most parts of the U.S. But as Vancouver has proved, a coalition of health care officials, activists and courageous politicians armed with solid data can change that equation. "No one in the U.S. wants to touch this stuff because they're afraid they won't get elected if they do," says Philip Owen, Vancouver's former mayor. "Well, I was re-elected three times."
With cycling season winding down for me I've been getting back into running so I can still enjoy that occasional bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream topped with a shot of Kahlua. This morning I woke a little early and cut up a gala apple to mix in with my oatmeal. Combined with a cup of Earl Grey containing a generous dollop of honey and I had a breakfast that makes me go. I read the paper to give my breakfast time to settle before donning my hat, gloves, and highly reflective jacket for the run to work.
Since running is rather monotonous I tend to let my mind work on things that exercise it but probably also contribute to my social retardedness. For example, I haven't developed black and white photos in years but just for fun I'll start from a baseline, e.g., a 4-second exposure with the light 13 inches above the paper, pretend I'm cropping the photo and compute the exposure time with the light at 19 inches. And then I'll zoom in to make a smaller print with the light at 8 inches distance. If you haven't recognized it, I'm using the inverse square law, which is pretty geeky but it's actually an extremely important law to remember when you're using the flash on your camera. Many people have taken pictures in arenas and stadiums at night without realizing the inverse square law would inform them they were wasting their time--and film in the old days. Is it any wonder that people are drawn to me, the conversational magnet that I am? Ha!
So I'm running and squaring and dividing, when the STA 124 Express bus passes by on Wall St. That bus leaves the Hastings Park 'n' Ride every 15 minutes from 5:15 to 8:45 am. The bus that leaves at 5:15 arrives at the STA Plaza at 5:40 and then departs at 5:45. There's a constant flow of buses going back and forth. After a few minutes I got to wondering how many buses are required for that effort. I'm pondering my approach to that problem when, with four miles left to go, my attention was urgently diverted. Before I tell you about my change of focus you need to know that, for the last four miles, instead of computing the number of buses I thought about how I would write about the rest of this post.
Scene: The bridge of the Starship Distensible
Intercom Speaker: "Engineering to bridge."
Captain Staccato-Pause: "Bridge here. What is it, MacStrain?"
MacStrain: "It's the dilithium crystals, Captain. They're drowning. That wee cup of tea wasn't so wee and we need to wee."
Captain Staccato-Pause: "How much...time...do we have?"
MacStrain: "Aye, we're holdin' her as tight as we can, Captain, but we don't have long. It's backing up on us."
Captain Staccato-Pause: "MacStrain...we've got...four astronomical units...before we reach...our final destination. Can you...hold it that long?"
MacStrain: "Do you realize how far an astronomical unit is? The ship will never hold that amount of pressure, Captain."
Captain Staccato-Pause: "We've got...no choice. YOU'VE GOT TO HOLD IT, MAN!"
MacStrain: "We can let a wee amount go, just to ease the load."
Captain Staccato-Pause: "Absolutely not! Do you...know...what's at stake here? We...can't wee...can we? Mr Jacque...do we...have time?"
Jacque: "My computational parameters apply to beer ingestion, but they may be applicable to tea if I null the carbon dioxide input."
Captain Staccato-Pause: "What...does the computer...predict?"
Jacque: (raises one eyebrow) "Odd. A divide by zero error. It would appear the nought is for naught."
Captain Staccato-Pause: "In plain English, man! Do we...have time...before we wee?"
Jacque: "My calculations show the Distensible can withstand the pressure for another four point zero zero eight five astronomical units with a margin of error of plus or minus point zero zero zero five. Regardless, it will be somewhat unpleasant."
MacStrain: "Aye, unpleasant for you on the bridge, but we're drowning down here!"
Captain Staccato-Pause: "Get a hold of yourself, MacStrain. For the sake of the ship...you must...not...wee."
MacStrain: "(gurgling sounds)...put a cork in it, Captain, and stick it up...(bubbling sounds)"
Captain Staccato-Pause: "Thank you, MacStrain. We're all...counting on you."
Needless to say, the relief I felt when I was done running was indescribable. I was please to see I handled myself well under pressure. (Man, I love the English language.)
BTW, any resemblance between a real person and the fictional characters portrayed here is purely coincidental.
Here's a snippet from the latest newsletter from the good people at Fresh Abundance.
Buy LOCAL - The best way to support the crisis is to support your community. The best way to keep our money local is to buy local.
Cook more - We have all become accustomed to eating on the go. Fast eating costs more money and generally is not as healthy as the fabulous stuff you can brew up in your own kitchen.
There's a site called the Eat Well Guide to assist you. If you know of a business or person who should be added, please use the Suggest Listing link. If you're on a road trip you can map your route and find out what's available along the way. How cool it that?
An interesting article on illiteracy in our country. I can't speak to the statistics the author presents, but one point did jump out at me.
Political leaders in our post-literate society no longer need to be competent, sincere or honest. They only need to appear to have these qualities. Most of all they need a story, a narrative. The reality of the narrative is irrelevant. It can be completely at odds with the facts. The consistency and emotional appeal of the story are paramount. The most essential skill in political theater and the consumer culture is artifice. Those who are best at artifice succeed. Those who have not mastered the art of artifice fail. In an age of images and entertainment, in an age of instant emotional gratification, we do not seek or want honesty. We ask to be indulged and entertained by clichés, stereotypes and mythic narratives that tell us we can be whomever we want to be, that we live in the greatest country on Earth, that we are endowed with superior moral and physical qualities and that our glorious future is preordained, either because of our attributes as Americans or because we are blessed by God or both.
The ability to magnify these simple and childish lies, to repeat them and have surrogates repeat them in endless loops of news cycles, gives these lies the aura of an uncontested truth. We are repeatedly fed words or phrases like yes we can, maverick, change, pro-life, hope or war on terror. It feels good not to think. All we have to do is visualize what we want, believe in ourselves and summon those hidden inner resources, whether divine or national, that make the world conform to our desires. Reality is never an impediment to our advancement.
As to that excerpt, read this book and then try watching television.