Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Snow Shots

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.

I know, I know. I just couldn't resist.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

How Will You Remember Him?

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

Oh, and don't forget his theme song.

Monday, December 29, 2008

What Do You Do When Nobody's Watching?

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?

Cleaning Up Their Act

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.

Then I got this email from her today.

So I took a closer look. Aside from McMorris Rodgers, here are the other committee members:
Judy Biggert
Kevin Brady
Jeff Flake
Randy Forbes
Doc Hastings
Jeb Hensarling
John Mica
Mike Simpson
Zach Wamp

All Republican members of the House. The party of values is beckoning me.

Earmarks are out of control and they are a huge problem. But they are a recent problem. We can live without them if we choose to.

From the Review article I mentioned earlier:

And will she continue her "no earmarks" policy in 2009?

"I'm going to wait and see how this process goes."

Well, for me that answer screams that it's a rock-solid values-based responsible, moral and ethical stand the Republican Party is dead serious about.

While I'm On The Subject Of Bloodsucking Companies

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.

Marcia Angell is a former Editor in Chief of The New England Journal of Medicine. She has an article on the New York Review of Books discussing the trustworthiness of pharmaceutical companies. A noteworthy excerpt:

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.

As for reading the article, you have a four hour time limit starting now.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Paying For Something That's Already Paid For

Image shamelessly stolen from Geekologie

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.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Across The Snow And Through The Lense

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 Answer Depends On How You Ask The Question

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?

I wonder what they asked to get this answer.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

More News From The Land Of Lincoln

Outside of another governor possibly going to prison, the news from Kathy's old home state is about a mix of religious and nonreligious displays at the capitol including, as of yesterday, a Festivus pole. I can't wait for Bill O'Reilly to rile up people about that like he did for the displays at our capitol.

Has Bill O'Reilly saved Christmas? If so, with all the Airing of Grievances he did, it had to be a Festivus miracle!

The Fun And Folly Of Youth

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.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Everybody Can Play

After last week's snowstorm television coverage in which Skype's performance didn't even come close to its hype, I think we have a new game.

Skype: The Pictionary of television news.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Speaking From Experience

I think wives make up for not being able to foretell the future by remembering the past--in great detail.

The Law And Justice Are Not The Same

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.

Monday, December 22, 2008

I Should Be Someplace Else

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.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

I Wonder If It Works For Photo Red

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?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Santa Already Has Them On His Naughty List

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?

Will we restore our reputation?

Wii Knee!

You know you're in bad shape when you injure yourself by playing too much Wii golf or Wii bowling. Hmm, but the article is from Great Britain. Maybe things are different here in the colonies.

Friday, December 19, 2008

What's It All About?

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?

More Than A Bird Cage Liner

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.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Doo Doo Doo, Lookin' Out My Back Door

Just in case the 24-hour-breaking-news-snowstorm-coverage hasn't conveyed just how much snow we've had in the last 24 hours.

If You're Stuck At Home Like Me

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.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Doing Time In The Land Of The Free

There's a great piece on imprisonment in American over on boingboing.

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.

Check it out. It's an eye opener.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Rule Of Law

Illinois Governor Blagojevich was quickly skewered after being arrested for his efforts to benefit from selecting the person to fill Barack Obama's now empty Senate seat.

Compare and contrast that with this from Glenn Greenwald:

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.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Going The Distance And Then Some

Josh took my camera out to the USATF Cross Country National Club Championships held at Plantes Ferry Park this morning. Looking at what the runners had to endure reminded me of something. I mean, how many crazy people will endure poor conditions to do something they enjoy?

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?

DFL? Maybe. But he still won.

Mad Dogs & Englishmen Go Out In The Midday Sun

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...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Nasty Haters! We Hates 'em!

If you're not familiar with Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, well, you're not missing much. He got all heifered up about the religious vs. nonreligious display circus in Olympia once the Westboro Baptist Church joined in with a request to put up a sign that says, "Santa Claus Will Take You To Hell."

Bill released a statement which begins thusly:

"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-".

American. Hmm, American is good.

Catholic. All things Catholic are sacred to Bill.

Gay. Gay is--um...well, gay is...uh, tell us about gay, Bill.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


The Kids Are Right

He's scary.

Everybody Loves A Winner

In a noncontroversial and rather cut and dry article Sherry Colb picks apart the argument that ghost writing is a form of protected speech.

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.

Especially if you want to be a real winner.

It's It's Explained

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.

It's it's usage made clear.

Looking For That High Note

With his days numbered, President Bush has been trying to make his presidency look better 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.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Ode To An Old Bag

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.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Technological Awareness Ebb And Flow

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.

A Tyrant Screams, "Tyranny!"

The Olympian published more than the Spokesman-Review (ya gotta log in) on the tempest in a teapot surrounding the religious and nonreligious displays at the state capitol.

The best parts:

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.

Food for thought or controversy?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Why Didn't I Think Of That?

Bicycle licenses. What a great idea.

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.

Word Of The Day

Restraint: A parental characteristic employed by the least angry parent against the most angry parent thus allowing a child to survive and eventually reach adulthood., there's no particular reason why I bring this up at this particular time.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Look On My Works, Ye Mighty, And Despair!

Kudos to The Spovangelist and the work she put into creating the Spokane Blog Bible. The finished product looks great and the medieval drawings really add character.

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 are the bloggers who participated:

Down To Earth
The Spovangelist
Cycling Spokane
Shallow Cogitations
Out There Monthly
Spokane Skeptic
Blush Response
The Inland Echo
Get Out North Idaho
Skywalk Sensations

Along the lines of the religious metaphor for this humble publication I attempt to create a new word from another.

Henoblogism: the worship of a particular blog, as by a family or tribe, without disbelieving in the existence of others.

It Needs A Better Sales Pitch?

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.

What's up with that?

Too Late For Couch Time

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.

Friday, December 5, 2008

This Chocolate Ice Cream Tastes Like Blueberries, Man

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.

Diamond Anniversary

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.

It's going to be a Festivus miracle!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

70's Flashback

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'm not that fucking crazy."


Just In Case... missed the gorgeous sunset we had this evening.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Topless Down Under

From a Western Australian news site.

More than 130,000 inflatable breasts have been lost at sea en route to Australia.

Men's magazine Ralph was planning to include the boobs as a free gift with its January issue.

The cargo is worth about $200,000, which is another blow for publisher ACP's parent company PBL, which is already in $4.3 billion of debt.

A spokeswoman for Ralph said the container left docks in Beijing two weeks ago but turned up empty in Sydney this week.

Um...nobody noticed the odd-looking hats worn by the ship's crew members?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

99 Bottles Of Beer On The Wall

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 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.


Monday, December 1, 2008

We Can Dream, Can't We?

Joanne Mariner has an interesting piece about accounting for abuses that took place as a result of the attacks of Sep 11. In part:

A Commission of Inquiry

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.

Can't See The Lint For the Fuzz

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.