Saturday, February 27, 2010

Way...Too...Cool

The Ride Home Last Night

I believe I described my ride in to work as pleasant, invigorating and uneventful. The ride home was...more eventful. I had my first bike lane blocker.

Atrocious Blackberry photo

The woman driving the car got irate and drove up next to me a couple of blocks later. "Hey, why'd you take my picture?"

"You were parked in the bike lane."

"I was just picking someone up."

I politely said, "Okay."

"So why'd you take my picture?"

"You were parked in the bike lane." (Do you ever get that feeling of deja vu?)

"But I was just picking someone up."

"Okay," I politely repeated and down the road she went. There was no sense getting into an argument and pointing out the driveway that was right there. Don't worry, lady. As you can see from the photo, it's not like everyone on the Interwebs knows who you are.

Next up was a young man of about 12 years old riding a motorcycle. He had no lights, no helmet, and we were about five minutes from total darkness. He and I were riding in the same direction but he was going slower and he was to the far right side of the road. While he did pay attention to oncoming traffic, he didn't look behind and turned left in front of me. I was expecting him to do something like that and as I easily passed on his right I heard his dad yell, "How many times have I told you...."

I don't think the boy is the only one who could use a good talking to.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Interesting Scam On Craigslist

A friend passed on a couple of emails and asked if this seemed legitimate. Their child had applied for a job after seeing an employment notice on Craigslist entitled "FRONT DESK OFFICE CLERK POSITION - FULL & PART TIME AVAILABLE".

Hello (name removed),

My name is John. I am the office manager here at Home Giants, Inc. I will be handling your job application.

I've skimmed through your resume and everything looks good. I will review your resume in detail and contact you with further information in regards to your application. There were a few applications submitted before yours, so expect a reply in a day or two.

In the mean time, if you have any questions or concerns please feel free to contact me.


Thank You,

John Williams
Office Manager
Home Giants, Inc.
JWilliams@homegiants.com
1-800-987-3400 ex. 78


And the second email read like this:

Hello (name removed),

I have reviewed your resume and I am very interested in hiring you for the available position. Before I can setup an in person interview, our company requires your recent credit score. Your credit score is required because the position you applied for includes handling company cash and using our company credit card (for the ordering of office supplies and other miscellaneous purchases). If your credit score is low for a legitimate reason, you will have an opportunity to explain why. Please remember to bring a printout of your score when coming in to our office for your interview.

You can find a list of sites where you can get your credit score for no charge here: http://top3review.org/finance/1-free-credit-reports.html

When you get your credit score do not email it directly to me. It will only delay your application process. Please submit your credit score here:

http://homegiants.com/submit-your-credit-score?(name and email removed)


First, they ask for their credit score. You have to pay to get your credit score. You can get a free credit report from each of the three bureaus free once each year, but that is different from a credit score. If they need to, employers typically order a credit report for the prospective employee.

The site they refer them to, top3review.org/finance/1-free-credit-report.html lists three possible sites to get a free report from. The first is the "Editors Pick Award" winner. The second once has a negative of "spammy emails and affiliate ads" and the third one is "not an actual credit bureau", but none of them are actually credit bureaus.

If you go to the first, Free Credit Report 360, you are offered free credit scores as long as you get the "Free Credit Diagnosis Trial". The trial lasts seven days and you have to pay $1 processing fee with a credit or debit card. After the seven days you are charged/debited $29.95 a month for Credit Diagnosis.

If you go to homegiants.com and click on the Contact Us link, you'll find they don't have an address. If you call their toll free number, nobody answers. Well, at least not for me. Their site is remarkably short on detail of any kind. The image on the Buy/Sell page looks like the Home Giants part was photoshopped in. The lighting on it is all wrong.

If you go to http://homegiants.com/submit-your-credit-score you'll find a form to enter a name, email address and a credit score. I entered John Smith, my "trash" email at hotmail.com and a bogus number and got an error page with this in the address box: http://homegiants.cohttp//homegiants.com/submit-your-credit-score-success

So I "fixed" the address and entered http://homegiants.com/submit-your-credit-score-success and darned if I didn't get a page that said my credit score was successfully submitted.

I did a lookup of homegiants.com and the domain name is a private registration by an outfit in Arizona called Domains by Proxy, Inc., who provide a service of registering domain names so the real owner's name can remain secret.

This looks like a scam to drive people towards getting suckered into signing up for a "free" credit service that results in their bank account or credit card getting shanked for a couple of $29.95 hits.

*** Update 1 ***

Not long after posting this I received an email from a person who replied to the same job ad.

I recently applied for a “Front Desk Clerk” position at a real estate office on Craigslist. After the second email back requesting that I find out my credit score, I immediately became suspect. I decided to Google the company, Home Giants, for any complaints, negative reports, etc. That is how I found you and your blog post. I just thought I would inform you that the two emails I received read the exact same as those sent to your friend’s child.

I have not clicked on the link in the second email yet, that according to you, will direct me to the list of credit score companies. I think the only thing I will be clicking on is the delete tab in my inbox.


So that was cool.

*** Update 2 ***

My hotmail account received this reply:

Hello John Smith,

Just to keep you updated, I received your credit score submission. I will further review your resume and contact you shortly about the available position.



Thank You,

John Williams
Office Manager
Home Giants, Inc.
JWilliams@homegiants.com
1-800-987-3400 ex. 78


I'll post more if this goes any further.

*** Update 3 ***

Received this in my hotmail account on Mar 1.

Hello John Smith,

After reviewing the qualifications of all of the applicants for the office clerk position, we have selected another candidate whose skills and experience better match our needs at this time. We would like to thank you for your interest in Home Giants, Inc. and we will keep your application on file for 90 days.


Thank You,

John Williams
Office Manager
Home Giants, Inc.
JWilliams@homegiants.com
1-800-987-3400 ex. 78


Damn! Just my luck. Someone else got the bogus job. And I didn't even send in an application that they could keep on file for 90 days.

I'm Too Sexy For My Shoes

After having much of my drive train replaced, my bike was ready for the commuting season. And today was a good day to start that season off with. Since I have a tendency to occasionally forget things, especially when I'm doing something I haven't done for a while, I double checked to make sure I had all my clothes for work. A spare tube and toolkit were in the panniers and the lights were in working order. While I have a good tolerance for the cold, I needed my balaclava and gloves to handle the wind chill generated by "flying" at speeds in excess of 15 mph. Yeah, sometimes I dare to go that fast. I'm crazy that way.

I have some lightweight black gloves but I couldn't find them which was odd because I usually have them handy and I use them for running. I grabbed a pair of ski gloves which were overkill but better than freezing my fingers. The ride to work was pleasant, invigorating and uneventful. It felt great after being out of the saddle for four months and I broke out in a sweat as I cranked out the miles. As I prepared for my shower at work I discovered I did not have any socks. But on the bright side, I did find my gloves. They were all rolled up, bearing a remarkable resemblance to a pair socks. Sigh.

Resigned to looking like this the entire day, I was surprised to get a call from Kathy telling me that she and my sister and her son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter were meeting me for lunch.

I asked, "Can you bring me a pair of socks?" Of course, that meant I had to explain, but the second half of the day was much more comfortable.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Just When You Think They Can't Get Any Crazier

Frank Gaffney, a master at delusional paranoia, thinks the decrease in funding for the Missile Defense Agency and the new logo for the agency indicate Obama's plan to submit us to Shariah.

Now, thanks to an astute observation by Christopher Logan of the Logans Warning blog, we have another possible explanation for behavior that — in the face of rapidly growing threats posed by North Korean, Iranian, Russian, Chinese and others’ ballistic missiles — can only be described as treacherous and malfeasant: Team Obama’s anti-anti-missile initiatives are not simply acts of unilateral disarmament of the sort to be expected from an Alinsky acolyte. They seem to fit an increasingly obvious and worrying pattern of official U.S. submission to Islam and the theo-political-legal program the latter’s authorities call Shariah.

What could be code-breaking evidence of the latter explanation is to be found in the newly-disclosed redesign of the Missile Defense Agency logo (above). As Logan helpfully shows, the new MDA shield appears ominously to reflect a morphing of the Islamic crescent and star with the Obama campaign logo.


And he points to the proof.

Yeah, I'm pretty much convinced by all the overwhelming evidence, too.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

You Go First

Trek Rocks

Two weeks ago I took my Trek 1800C into Two Wheel Transit to get it ready for the upcoming commuting year. The next day I get a phone call and I'm being told I have some serious drive train issues. The rear cassette and the middle chain ring up front need to be replaced. I guess that's not so bad when you consider I have over 10,000 miles on the bike. But on top of that I learn my rear wheel has cracks in it. Apparently there were some quality issues with this "batch" of wheels and Trek had to replace a lot of them. I bought the bike nearly six years ago and asked why they thought Trek would replace a wheel that old.

"Good question. But the worst that could happen is they say, 'No'."

Good point and was it ever worth the try. Trek did not say, 'No'. They came through with a new wheel saving me a very tidy sum. Nice. I brought my ride home after work and it looks like I'm good to go.

And just in time for snow tonight. Dang it!

Can We Go To Grandma's House Every Sunday?

Did Kathy sign me as a member of AARP so I could learn to relax?

In her 88 years, Florence Siegel has learned how to relax: A glass of red wine. A crisp copy of the New York Times, if she can wrest it from her husband. Some classical music, preferably Bach. And every night like clockwork, she lifts a pipe to her lips and smokes marijuana.

Long a fixture among young people, use of the country’s most popular illicit drug is now growing among the AARP set, as the massive generation of baby boomers who came of age in the 1960s and ’70s grows older.


"Hey, kids, we're going to grandma's house."

"Yeahhhhhhh!"

How About BloomHoopSpokeFiascoFest?

What a cool idea. You form up a coed team to run Bloomsday and play in Hoopfest and become Bloomfest Champions.

But wait. What is this bit of underhandedness from the Bloomsday organizers?

Organizers also are introducing a new tracking tag that fits through shoelaces instead of around the ankle.

What if you wear nothing--on your feet--or something other than shoes?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Town Hall Meeting

Senator Chris Marr and Representative John Driscoll held a town hall meeting at Northwood Middle School this morning.

Mariah was there talking to attendees about "Protect Our Future - Yes On Revenue" and handing out talking points and buttons in support of doing more than using cuts to balance the budget. Coincidentally, this morning I read a Think Progress article contrasting the steps some conservative and progressive states are taking.

There are over 85,000 registered voters in the 6th legislative district. Barely one hundred people showed up to this meeting. Another meeting was scheduled at 2:00 pm at Hamblen Elementary on the south side of Spokane. I have no idea how many people showed up for that one.

For some reason a noticeable police presence was necessary. During his opening remarks, Representative Driscoll noted that the police were at the building and highlighted the sacrifice the police make as a part of their job but he didn't explain the need for them to be there.

I have never met either of these gentlemen. I was very impressed with Chris Marr. He seemed to have a great depth of knowledge on every issue that came up. He spoke in realistic terms and rarely came across as saying something someone wanted to hear.

After the Q&A period, both men stuck around so people could ask questions or bring up issues one on one. After the crowd thinned I got to spend a few informative minutes with Chris Marr learning a little about the legislative process. Overall, the meeting was very worthwhile. Everyone was civil. There was a lot of concern expressed about jobs and education.

Barefoot Running - Lookin' Good

Barefoot miles this week: Monday - 2.5, Wednesday - 3.5, Friday - 4.5.

Tuesday and Thursday I did 4.5 miles with shoes on. So 10.5 of 19.5 miles were barefoot.

During yesterday's out-and-back run I did the first half at a leisurely 8:50 mile pace. Coming back I picked it up to just under an eight minute mile pace. That was a bit of a mistake because I lost focus on my form. I'm setting my feet down properly, but when I run too fast I tend to let each foot stay on the ground longer. Instead of picking them straight off, I'm letting the foot bend while it's still in contact with the ground. When the heel lifts the front pad behind the toes slides just a bit on the pavement as the foot bends. The friction makes the foot tender and can cause blisters if I keep it up for too long. No blisters yesterday but it felt "tenderized". So I need to curb my enthusiasm and keep it slow while I try to set good habits in my running form.

Since Kathy hates to see photos of my feet, I thought I'd post before and after shots of them.

After my first week of barefoot running last May

Today

By the way, Kathy doesn't post comments here since she can go directly to me. This ought to keep her busy.

The Real News

Tiger Woods, a symbol of everything we hold so dear in America, is in the news yet again. It's all he can do to allay the feelings of rage and betrayal we feel. How could he have set morality aside so casually? His unfaithfulness is almost unforgivable. His circumventions and dodges, deplorable. Was he thinking he could do whatever he wanted whenever he wanted to and that he could get away with it? My goodness, will our country ever recover from this travesty?

On the other hand, maybe it was just poor judgment.

Who Says The American Education System Is Second Rate?

The Texas Tribune asked 800 registered voters their views regarding evolution.

Nearly a third of Texans believe humans and dinosaurs roamed the earth at the same time, and more than half disagree with the theory that humans developed from earlier species of animals....

You can read the entire survey here (PDF). And there's a crosstab showing which candidate for governor the survey respondents support here (PDF).

Apparently the purpose of the survey was to help determine the effect of religion on politics and politics on religion and show which respondents support which candidates running for governor.

However, I think it's more notable that these are presumably educated adults. 98% of the respondents have at least a high school education and only 41% disagree with the statement that humans lived with dinosaurs.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Will The Soldiers And People That Died Notice?

We are renaming the war in Iraq. As of September 1, 2010--why the wait?--it will change from Operation IRAQI FREEDOM to Operation NEW DAWN.

Wolverines!!!

I know, that was Red Dawn, but in a way it makes just as much sense.

Plain View Abuse

An interesting search and seizure case. A man is arrested before he enters his house. Two officers sweep the house to make sure there's no danger and find it's clear. Then a detective enters the house and spots a gun in "plain view" but lifts a couch cushion to make sure.

The defendant, Juan Lemus, motioned that the evidence be suppressed. Chief Judge Alex Kozinski writes a spirited dissent (PDF) in which he points out that the police did not arrest Lemus inside his house and so other than making sure there were no other people that may present a danger, the police had no legitimate right or need to be in Lemus' house.

While the officers were finishing their room-to-room sweep of Lemus’s apartment, apparently finding no one and nothing suspicious, the detectives entered as well. Yet Buie permits only a sweep for people who might be dangerous. Once the officers found no one in the living room, what authorized entry by the detectives? There was absolutely no reason for the detectives to enter except to try to find contraband in “plain view.” So, the detectives went in and, while there, Diaz thought he saw “something sticking out from the couch” that “looked like the butt of a weapon.” Lemus, 582 F.3d at 960. Longoria then lifted the couch cushion “to make sure” and found a gun. Id. at 961. Under what theory of “plain view” may police lift cushions off a couch to make sure something is contraband? Why weren’t the officers required to get a warrant—if they could—based on what they saw, before rummaging through the couch?
...
Plain view encourages the police to find every possible loophole to get themselves into a place where they can take a good look around, discover some evidence and then get a warrant to seize what they already know is there. This tiresome two-step is the new dropsy evidence. As often as not, the chance of hitting the plain-view jackpot is what drives the police into a man’s house, his doctor’s office or his ISP. Carefully drawn limitations in a warrant and narrow justifications for exceptions to the warrant requirement are becoming afterthoughts. “Police officer safety,” the narrow justification in Buie, had nothing to do with this search. Gathering evidence did. We should not abet such skirting of the Fourth Amendment by the police; it only encourages them to do worse.


For more detail about the arrest, read the original appellate opinion (PDF) that affirms the district court's denial of Lemus' motion to suppress incriminating evidence discovered during a warrantless search.

It's a close call, but for what it's worth I agree with Kozinski on this. The later testimony that Lemus "broke the threshold"--never mentioned in the original police report--even though he never entered his house leads me to believe the cops pushed the envelope on this one--and won.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Odds Are Against You

You might get the impression from reading the weekly notices in the paper that buying lottery tickets will lead you to riches.

You might even think that knowing where the jackpot tickets were sold will give you an edge and make you a winner.

Just make sure you understand what the odds of winning (and losing) really are.

What's really interesting is where all the money goes. Remember when the big selling point of the lottery was money for education? Although that isn't true I seem to recall hearing more about that than any other reason.

Of course, the odds are my remembery isn't all that clear or accurate.

A Penny Saved...

The U.S. Mint has redesigned the penny, a coin destined to go away if someone would just make a decision. It costs more to mint pennies and nickels than they're worth. While we're not talking about a lot of money compared to the rest of government spending, it seems like it's time for the penny to retire.

Back in the 80's I was stationed in England. Rather than bother with pennies, they were taken out of circulation and all prices on the bases were rounded to the nearest nickel. I thought it worked very well.

A Different Perspective

This happened to one of the security officers at work.

An older woman entering the building angrily asked, "Are you going to make me take off my shoes to come in here?"

"No," the security officer replied.

"Well, I just saw a man come out the door and he wasn't wearing any shoes."

"Oh, he just runs."

It's funny how people can interpret what they see. But...you know...if it's good enough to get on an airplane....

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

It's Just Politics

Cathy McMorris Rodgers railed against federal salaries yesterday and is she ever upset.

Even though federal tax revenues are down 20 percent and the national debt has ballooned to $12 trillion, President Barack Obama and his allies on Capitol Hill continue to believe that we can borrow and spend our way to prosperity. As part of that plan, they’re using our hard-earned tax dollars to increase the size of government and the salary of bureaucrats.

While the private sector has lost a total of 7.7 million jobs during the past two years, the ranks of the federal bureaucracy have swelled by nearly 10 percent. Furthermore, while the average salary in the private sector is $40,331, a typical federal worker earns $71,206.
...
When the economy turned south two years ago, the Department of Defense had 1,868 employees earning $150,000 or more. Today, there are 10,100 employees at the Pentagon taking home that salary. At the start of the economic slump, the Department of Transportation had only a single career employee earning more than $170,000. Today, there are more than 1,600 career federal workers at the DOT making that amount. Obama has recommended an additional 2 percent pay raise for 2010. That’s unconscionable.


She refers to "President Obama and his allies". Who are these people that have helped our president over these many...um...year? Comparing the average private sector salary with the federal is misleading. Private sector salaries include a lot of jobs, especially those paying minimum wage and/or require little skill, that you don't find in the federal sector. It would be more appropriate to compare like jobs instead. But our congresswoman has a possible solution.

That’s why I am calling for a salary freeze on all federal salaries above $120,000 until unemployment is under 7 percent, which should be in the next two or three years. Those who are earning three times as much as their peers in the private sector can make do until we reach that benchmark.

Perhaps she feels the same about CEOs who make millions more--even when they fail--than the average worker whose pay has decreased in worth over the past 30 years. Look for that in another op-ed piece but don't hold your breath.

Now is it possible our fair Congresswoman is being a bit deceptive? Could she not be telling the whole story? Is she just trying to score political points? She wouldn't do any of that, would she?

Let's have a look. In her complaint she references an investigative report done by USA Today but she doesn't give you the link nor does she invite you to go read it for yourself. She must be slow to anger as the report came out on December 10, 2009. If you scroll down to the end you'll find what Paul Harvey referred to as the rest of the story.

Key reasons for the boom in six-figure salaries:

• Pay hikes. Then-president Bush recommended — and Congress approved — across-the-board raises of 3% in January 2008 and 3.9% in January 2009. President Obama has recommended 2% pay raises in January 2010, the smallest since 1975. Most federal workers also get longevity pay hikes — called steps — that average 1.5% per year.

• New pay system. Congress created a new National Security Pay Scale for the Defense Department to reward merit, in addition to the across-the-board increases. The merit raises, which started in January 2008, were larger than expected and rewarded high-ranking employees. In October, Congress voted to end the new pay scale by 2012.

• Paycaps eased. Many top civil servants are prohibited from making more than an agency's leader. But if Congress lifts the boss' salary, others get raises, too. When the Federal Aviation Administration chief's salary rose, nearly 1,700 employees' had their salaries lifted above $170,000, too.


As Cathy McMorris Rodgers sees it, President Obama believes we can "borrow and spend our way to prosperity" by proposing the lowest pay raise in 35 years. President Bush's two generous pay raises before that were not problem, probably because only two short years ago he made her so proud to be an American.

video
Yes, "Great job, Mr President."

Congress is to blame for the Department of Defense pay schedule balloon--before Obama became president.

The Federal Aviation Administration, which was specifically addressed in the report, is a subordinate agency within the Department of Transportation which our fair congresswoman portrayed as a bunch of gold diggers. The FAA has an interesting history, most notably President Reagan's firing of the air traffic controllers back in 1981. But a distinction the organization has is its ability to negotiate salaries and compensation separately from the remainder of federal agencies and employees. This was proposed by President Clinton and passed into law by a Republican-controlled Congress back in 1996. You can read more about that in this Heritage Foundation article from almost four years ago. Although the article actually supports privatizing the air traffic control system, it provides a lot of the back story necessary to understand why the FAA is treated differently. But I found this snippet interesting.

Yet with Congress under growing pressure to control spending better and hold the line on taxes, Members may not be inclined to aid a privileged class of government [air traffic control] workers whose base salaries are already more than four times the average annual salary of their constituents employed in the private sector.

To thwart this outcome, several Members of Congress have introduced legislation to overturn the congressional role provided by the federal laws governing FAA–controller contract negotiations. Senator Barack Obama (D–IL) introduced S. 2201 in the Senate, and Representative Sue Kelly (R–NY) has introduced its companion bill (H. R. 4755) in the House of Representatives to limit the government’s ability to curb the excessive growth in controller wages.


It appears Obama was hell bent on borrowing and spending our way towards prosperity back then, too.

To be fair, Cathy McMorris Rodgers wants the pay freeze to apply to members of Congress as well. Since 1989, Congress gets an automatic pay raise unless they specifically vote not to receive it which they have done several times over the years. As it happens, there is a House bill that was submitted just last December to forgo the pay raise in fiscal year 2011. There are 120 cosponsors and guess whose name is not on the list. None other than our indignant Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

It must be a Democratic bill. Oh, snap!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Jury Mutiny

It looks like the tough economic times is affecting jury selection, especially in Los Angeles. Some people don't want to lose work because of jury duty.

Spurned in his effort to get out of jury duty, salesman Tony Prados turned his attention to the case that could cost him three weeks' pay: A Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy was suing his former sergeant, alleging severe emotional distress inflicted by lewd and false innuendo that he was gay.

Prados, an ex-Marine, leaned forward in the jury box and asked in a let-me-get-this-straight tone of voice: "He's brave enough to go out and get shot at by anyone but he couldn't handle this?" he said of the locker-room taunting.

Fellow jury candidate Robert Avanesian, who had also unsuccessfully sought dismissal on financial hardship grounds, chimed in: "I think severe emotional distress is what is happening in Haiti. I don't think you could have such severe emotional distress from that," he said of the allegations in the deputy's case.

The spontaneous outbursts of the reluctant jurors just as Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James R. Dunn was about to swear them in emboldened others in the jury pool to express disdain for the case and concerns about their ability to be fair, and to ratchet up the pathos in their claims of facing economic ruin if forced to sit for the three-week trial.


I wonder how something like this would be handled in federal court. If you don't want to read the story, the attorneys decided to go with a bench trial and let the judge decide.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Don't Forget To Vote

Security guru Bruce Schneier is holding a contest for the best redesign of the Transportation Security Administration logo. The many great submissions have been whittled down to five finalists. Unfortunately, one of my favorites did not make the cut.

You have until next Sunday to vote.

Movie Making in Spokane

Sorry for the lousy Blackberry photo

During lunch last Friday I was walking by the old Otis Hotel at First and Madison and saw that North by Northwest was shooting there. The entrance now displays a neon sign announcing a XXX club.

Makin' Bacon On Valentine's Day

Boy, what I won't say to get your attention, eh? Sorry, this is about cooking bacon. This morning's treat is a two pound package of thick-sliced bacon. I slow cook it on the griddle until it's done but not crispy. I take it off and squeeze all the grease out. I wipe the grease off the griddle and put the bacon back on. Then I drizzle the bacon with real maple syrup. None of that chemically flavored high fructose stuff here. We're trying to eat healthy nowadays, right? I stir the bacon around so all it gets coated in the carmelized syrup.

Every piece disappears and the one question you won't hear is, "Are you going to eat your fat?" It is so sticky, sickly sweet and good that even Kathy, who's not much of a meat eater, eats a couple of pieces, fat and all.

Barefoot Running - Slow Down To Get Better

For the last three weeks I've been getting stinging pain in my soles about 30 minutes after I run. The pain would last the rest of the day. It was kind of like the pain I'd feel last year just before getting a blister. It was worse if I ran on wet pavement. After bouncing the idea off the minimalist running group, I figured the best advice was to slow down.

Last week, 9.5 of my 17.5 running miles were barefoot. I restrained myself and focused on my form, making sure I landed on my forefoot and lifted my foot straight off. I kept the pace comfortable and boy was I surprised. I was still running eight-minute miles and my soles felt fine afterwards. That's very encouraging.

Plenty of time to prepare for Bloomsday.

Move Along, Folks, Nothing To See Here

Last week Nick commented on a web site brought to his attention by a Facebook post from The Spovangelist. The site, entitled "East Washington; the 51st State of the Union", promotes the idea of Eastern Washington separating itself from the state and creating a 51st state.

As evidenced by the other postings this is an easily mocked idea. But I was curious. The site claims to have a plan supported "by our District Reps, and Senator" but doesn't name any names. It claims to speak for all rural residents, but names no names. It makes all kinds of statements in support of the idea.

Whereas the west side has become so liberal and so extreme in the past couple years that they are completely out of touch with eastern WA rural residents. The eastern WA residents feel happy to be alienated from such foreign values, as seen on the west side. However, while we are happy that many of those issues are far from us, we also don’t want to have those issues forced upon our more conservative way of life in the rural areas, especially through our education system for younger children and teens, with emphasis of disapproval added to the liberal agenda of educating children/teens about homosexual issues/values.

Whereas Governor Gregoire has gone off the deep end into extremism with circumventing our own legislature on the issues of Cap and Trade, and rubbing elbows with the top tiers involved with the Copenhagen Climate Change Treaty, we eastern WA residents would like to have nothing else to do with her or her “over the edge” and some State Reps are saying “dictatorship” actions.

...

Because the west side is primarily Democrat, and the east side is primarily Republican, the two sides cannot fairly assume to represent the minority of the east side and their republican related conservative ag/mining/logging views.

...

Because eastern WA residents have tired of the west side’s extremist policies and circumventing of the Legislature on the issue of Cap and Trade, we are going to bring the plan of splitting the state into motion.

Because the advantages for eastern WA residents greatly increase by splitting the state, we are going to bring the plan of splitting the state into motion.

...

IN SUMMARY:

Splitting the state of WA into 2 separate states of the east side and west side will ultimately benefit the east side residents and their pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness. Through closer, more personalized representation and government, our area, rich in natural resources and agriculture, will once again thrive without the west’s illogical, liberal urban policies dominating and prohibiting our means of income.

We would like to see the split occur at the east side of the Cascade mountain range, where the mountains hit the valleys, and follow that line both north and south to the respective borders. We also are not necessarily asking if we can do this, we are actually planning to do this.


So I was curious as to who "we" are. Who is in what appears to be a group of nameless people wanting to create a 51st state for political, ideological and economic reasons. I looked up the domain registration for the site:

Domain Name: eastwa51ststate.com
Created On: 25-Jan-2010 00:00:00
Registrant Name: Rene Holaday
Registrant Organization: Private Registration US
Registrant Street1: PO Box 61359
Registrant City: Sunnyvale
Registrant State/Province: CA
Registrant Postal Code: 94088
Registrant Country: US
Registrant Phone: +1.5105952002


I thought it odd that someone with a California address would register this web site name so I did a search for the phone number. That turned out to be associated with a lot of web sites, many of which had complaints of being associated with scams and ripoff products. This site doesn't have the characteristics of a scam site so I figured that Rene Holaday, if that was a real person, did not enter any more than a name during the registration process and the remainder was filled in automatically just to meet the requirements.

Then I searched for Rene Holaday and found there is a Rene' Holaday in the Chewelah area and she's involved in politics. She also breeds and sells horses. I tried calling and emailing her, asking if I could talk to her about this idea and hear more about how the plan would be implemented. I received an email response. Here's the complete reply:

I had to put this site in my name, but it is not my idea, nor am I the only person involved/ or the leader of any group. Actually I am not really even that involved with it, other than facilitating the website portion of it. I am politically active, as I am running for public office this year. This idea is actually a pretty old idea that Senator Bob Morton participated in many years ago. The subject came up as an alternate route to Gregoire's circumventing of the WA State Legislature, as described in the article printed on the articles page.

Will it ever come to fruition- who knows? It didn't get too far last time Morton pushed for it. Basically, it will have to come from a major input of effort from the people of this side of the state. As it stands right now, the people are interested in the idea, as it provides hope. Whether it will actually ever come to fruition certainly depends upon the people. I am all for an idea that moves the people in a positive direction, which is why I was willing to help the effort with the website help. Right now, I'd have to say that it isn't going to go anywhere with the limited amount of support we are looking at right now. Petition efforts would have to have gung-ho county leaders, and so far there is only one person willing to do that, out of the 18 counties needed, so the grass roots part is looking fairly unimpressive when it comes to people actually being willing to participate. If it goes nowhere, then so be it. It was tossed out as a possibility to a bad situation in Eastern WA, and left as something available if the people really decided they would want to make an effort in the future. The problem is that unless ALOT of people really get involved, it won't get going since it will have to go all the way through Congress before it can be approved. Are the people capable of that much time investment- hard to say, other than I've not seen that type of energy toward any idea to date.

I am not interested in any interviews- my part in this is rather insignificant, but thanks for the inquirey [sic] into a positive option for the people of Eastern Washington.


On to something else....

Friday, February 12, 2010

Runner's Symposium

Last night legendary coach Pat Tyson interviewed and bantered with famed distance runner Dathan Ritzenhein at Lewis and Clark High School. He's here for the USATF Cross Country Championship races on Saturday. Josh is a volunteer worker that day. High school runners from North Central, Shadle, University, and even Colville and Deer Park were in attendance. Josh did not meet me at the school. He said the team ran hard--confirmed by Coach Kiesel who was there--during the afternoon training session and he was pretty tired. I also recognized faces of parents and coaches I had passed by many times during cross country meets as we crisscrossed the course to watch our respective runners.

Tyson had "Ritz" talking about what makes him competitive, his training regimen, how he got started running, etc. His thoughts:

He emphasized making it fun like his dad did when he started as a child. If you're injured you tell your coach and you listen to what the coach says to do. An injury is not vacation time. You work hard cross training so you can get back into form quicker when you can run. Go into a race thinking you have worked harder than anyone else there and you're going to win.

Ritz was generous with his time and signed pictures for everyone that wanted one. I picked one up for Josh. He wrote, "Josh, wish you were here." Ouch. Hmmm, I wonder where he got the idea to write that.

During the Q&A, a man asked Ritz what he thought about barefoot running. Ritz explained that there were several drills that are done barefoot on grass, but he thinks that if he ran barefoot on hard surfaces he would probably end up with compound stress fractures. So he's going to wait until he's older before he tries it. Dude, that's like putting off sex until you're older and then looking back on all you missed out on during your younger years. Okay, may be not. But it's close.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Buzz Off

Google unveiled Google Buzz a couple days ago which perplexed me to no end every time I looked at my Gmail account. Suddenly I was following a bunch of other people and a bunch of other people were following me. The Buzz folder in Gmail kept indicating unread items. I'd click on it and what looked like Facebook posts combined with blog posts were listed.

It's a social networking coagulator with far more social networking than I need. Short-sighted I may be but since I don't see a need being met I went to my Gmail Settings, and then Labels, and clicked "hide" for the Buzz folder. Problem solved.

David Broder Hearts Sarah Palin

Working my way from page 1 of the Spokesman Review onwards, I eventually came to an op-ed piece by David Broder entitled "Palin's Performance Sound".

Her lengthy Saturday night keynote address to the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville and her debut on the Sunday morning talk show circuit with Fox News’ Chris Wallace showed off a public figure at the top of her game – a politician who knows who she is and how to sell herself.

Really?

I could go on but Glenn Greenwald does a good job of it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Maybe If We Sent Sympathy Cards

In today's Spokesman Review we are brought the "good" news of a Taliban leader being killed.

The Pakistani Taliban confirmed Tuesday that their leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, died from injuries suffered in a U.S. drone missile strike last month, an attack that forces the insurgency to find a new leader for the second time in six months.

Those who say Obama is soft on terrorism may not be aware that he has increased the use of missile-bearing drones to attack Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders. The part that's always murky is the number of civilian deaths. From the Christian Science Monitor:

To be sure, there are frequently conflicting public claims about the number of civilians or militants killed in such attacks. On a number of a occasions, senior Taliban or Al Qaeda-linked figures have been reported killed, only to emerge on videotape later to say reports of their demise were exaggerated. Hakimullah Mehsud, the current leader of the Pakistani Taliban, was once reported dead – and then made a public appearance in good health. US officials now say they're confident that he was killed by a December drone strike. His predecessor, Baitullah Mehsud, was killed by a US drone strike in August, 2009.

Hmmm, the CSM didn't pursue the civilian deaths. And from Al Jazeera:

Washington's refusal to comment on its alleged attacks has been criticised, with even supporters of the raids as a tool in Washington's fight against the Taliban saying that the US needs to be more open to counter the fighters' allegations that only innocent civilians are dying.

"The US government doesn't even suggest what the proportion of innocent people to legitimate targets is," Michael Walzer, an American scholar on the ethics of warfare, said.

"It's a moral mistake, but it's a PR mistake as well."

According to the statistics compiled by Pakistani authorities, drones killed 708 people in 44 attacks targeting the tribal areas in 2009. Authorities said more than 90 per cent of those killed in the raids were civilians.


I'm sure that regardless of the number of innocent civilians killed by our missiles, the people there would be understanding because we're in a just fight against terrorism. So if you had family members living in the same place for many years and they happened to be next door to an Al Qaeda leader and a missile killed them along with that leader, you would understand, right? They shouldn't have been there, right? Who in their right mind lives near an Al Qaeda leader?

After all, the last thing we want is for this to go too far.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sometimes The Jokes Write Themselves

From a rally at which Sarah Palin was a guest speaker in support of Rick Perry and his bid for reelection as governor of Texas.

Photo by Bryan Fotographer at the Houston Press


Don't forget that Texas is a major influence in the skool texbook markit.

*********

Imaginary conversation I imagine took place.

Perry: "Time sure flies. My first term went by so fast."

Palin: "I know what you mean. It seems like I just got elected myself. Oh...wait."

Good Thing I Didn't Hold My Breath

In December of 2008, Cathy McMorris Rodgers was named the chair of a the Select Earmark Reform Committee.

McMorris Rodgers will lead the committee as it relies on input from House Members and the public to develop an earmark reform proposal by February.

That was February of 2009. A year later and still nothing. The committee's website hasn't changed a bit, but it still announces that "Washington is Broken". Very insightful. Click on our congresswoman's link and you get this:
So it looks like the earmark reform proposal isn't the only thing you won't find. And there's more broken in Washington than meets the eye.

It's just politics, folks. You didn't really expect something to happen, did you?

That Satirical Steven Colbert

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Barefoot Running - Walking Wounded

A little over a week ago I felt something poking in my foot after a barefoot run. It was in the most awkward place to get to, just forward of the outside edge of my heel. I also found a splinter in another part of my foot so I figured I got two of them while running across one of the wooden bridges at the park. The one I could get to wasn't bothering me at all so I left it. And I could feel the one by my heel every once in a while but it wasn't painful. I left it alone because I couldn't get to it anyway.

Normally splinters work themselves out as the skin wears away. One of them did. The one by my heel didn't; although it wasn't worse, it wasn't getting any better. I asked Kathy to dig it out.

When you ask Kathy to get out a splinter, she doesn't use just a pin and pair of tweezers. She also brings scissors, anti-bacterial ointment, bandages, and another ointment that numbs the wound. All the bases were covered.

She began poking around with a pin and pinching and pulling with the tweezers while Steph watched and grimaced. After a lot of digging with the pin, it was getting uncomfortable so she numbed it up. Kathy said there wasn't a splinter there and she wasn't seeing anything. The pin wasn't working so Steph encouraged her to use the scissors.

"Cut him."

Cut me?

As Kathy carefully snipped at my callous, Steph stopped grimacing and got all goggle-eyed. "Oh, I am so going to be a surgeon."

And then Kathy found and removed a small piece of glass. Being the loving wife she is, she informed me this wouldn't happen if I was wearing shoes. True, but my daughter might end up with one less possibility of she wants to be when she grows up.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Today's Stuff

During my barefoot run today another runner commented that I was running like the Kenyans-but not nearly as fast.

I microwaved some leftover turkey for lunch today for a little too long. It was still popping and crackling when I set it on the table. I put a large dollop of homemade cranberry sauce on what turned out to be the that last pocket of steam. It exploded and my shirt had so many dark red spots that I looked like I just took two rounds of bird shot in the chest. As what luck I had left would have it, I had a change of clothes at work--they're for when I run to work--so I did not have to spend the afternoon enduring the pointing and laughing and then explaining over and over.

Have we ever had a month when none of the magazines at the checkout stand advertise a new way to flatten your belly?

Did They Run That Name By A Focus Group?

Chase Bank has a new service called blink. If swiping your card through the reader, entering your PIN, answering "no" to cash back, and answering "yes" to the correct amount takes too long--I mean, who has that kind of time these days?--now you can simply wave your card near the...um...blink thingy and your transaction is instantly completed.

In other words, your money is gone in the blink of an eye.

From the FAQ:

How do I use blink?
It's easy — just follow these steps:

* When your purchases are totaled, hold your card up to the reader.
* If you're prompted to select credit or debit, you must select credit to use blink (even for a debit card). You aren't required to enter your PIN. (If you are using your debit card, the money will still come directly out of your checking account.)
* Lights flash and/or a tone sounds to indicate your card has been read.
* Your transaction is approved and you're on your way.


Selecting "credit" also ensures the merchant pays the highest fee, too. Are you still not convinced they thought of everything?

Is blink secure?
Absolutely! blink transactions are safe because they are protected by an additional level of encryption. Merchants' card readers can read a blink card only when it is held within 2 inches of the reader, and the highest level of encryption protects all of your information. Plus, just as when your card is swiped, you are protected against unauthorized purchases.1

The small print: 1 U.S.-issued credit cards only. Zero Liability policy for credit cards does not apply to ATM transactions or to PIN transactions not processed by Visa/MasterCard, as applicable. For debit cards, Chase will reimburse you for any unauthorized card transactions made at stores, ATMs, online or on the phone when reported promptly.

But the highest level of encryption combined with the flashing lights and/or sounding tone puts my mind at ease.

Get Tough On Crime By Making More Crimes

South Carolina has a recently passed law on the books called the Subversive Activities Registration Act.

Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to authorize, require or establish censorship or to limit in any way or infringe upon freedom of the press or of speech as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States and no regulation shall be promulgated hereunder having that effect.

The terms of this chapter do not apply to any labor union or religious, fraternal or patriotic organization, society or association, or their members, whose objectives and aims do not contemplate the overthrow of the government of the United States, of this State or of any political subdivision thereof by force or violence or other unlawful means.

Every subversive organization and organization subject to foreign control shall register with the Secretary of State on forms prescribed by him within thirty days after coming into existence in this State. Every member of a subversive organization, or an organization subject to foreign control, every foreign agent and every person who advocates, teaches, advises or practices the duty, necessity or propriety of controlling, conducting, seizing or overthrowing the government of the United States, of this State or of any political subdivision thereof by force or violence or other unlawful means, who resides, transacts any business or attempts to influence political action in this State, shall register with the Secretary of State on the forms and at the times prescribed by him.

...

Any organization or person who violates any of the provisions of this chapter shall, upon conviction thereof, be punished by a fine of not more than twenty-five thousand dollars or imprisonment for not more than ten years, or by both fine and imprisonment.


Essentially the law defines a subversive as a person intent on "controlling, conducting, seizing or overthrowing the government of the United States, of this State or of any political subdivision thereof by force or violence or other unlawful means".

This law reminds me of the marijuana tax stamp laws passed by many states, one of which is South Carolina. If you're selling marijuana in South Carolina, not only is it illegal but you must purchase tax stamps for that marijuana. The tax is $3.50 per gram. Failure to purchase and affix said tax stamps to the marijuana you're selling can get you a $10,000 fine, mandatory payment of 100% of the tax that's due, and five years in prison.

And if you're part of a group of two or more people who want to overthrow the government, which is illegal, you must register your group or face a $25,000 fine and ten years imprisonment.

I'm sure that makes sense to somebody.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

100 Years Of Boy Scouts - 2

And here's a story of one of my adventures at summer camp.

While living at Dyess AFB, Texas, near Abilene, I was in Boy Scout Troop 96 from 1968 through 1972. Every summer we attended a week-long camp at Camp Tonkawa. Camp Tonkawa is about 15 miles southwest of Abilene just past Buffalo Gap. Our troop always managed to get Camp Ute which was the most distant camp from the main offices. During our week long stay we were involved in many productive activities, the least of which was known as "burning off the latrine."

The latrines at Camp Tonkawa were solidly constructed. And they needed to be to tolerate the abuse of hundreds of Boy Scouts. Ours consisted of a cement pedestal over a deep pit. A wooden seat with a lid was fastened to the pedestal with several large bolts. This was surrounded by a wooden privacy fence. Every day we would "burn off the latrine." The purpose of this was to rid the pit of insects and reduce the odor. In reality it was just an excuse to play with fire, but the idea of getting rid of the insects was a good rationalization. Everyone agreed there was something discomfiting about a grasshopper jumping onto your exposed underside.

But I digress. The process was this--we splashed a little bit of Coleman fuel into the pit, lit a wad of toilet paper, dropped it in and let the fuel burn. Nothing very exciting, but like I said, it was an excuse to play with fire.

On this particular day a fellow scout and I took it upon ourselves to perform this important daily ritual which was our right since we were the first to think about it and grabbed the Coleman fuel before anyone else. We entered the latrine and closed the gate behind us all the while engaged in an involved conversation about something (probably really important) that took our minds off what we were doing. I opened the lid and started pouring the Coleman fuel while we talked. After all the fuel was gone we realized that all the fuel was gone.

I remarked, "Hey, I've never poured that much before." We both shrugged our shoulders and he lit the wad of toilet paper. Down it dropped. Suddenly a huge fireball was quickly rising towards us. If you've ever seen the movie Backdraft, the scene where the fire swiftly rolls out and consumes everything matches the memory I have of this. Never having seen fire racing up to my face before, I panicked and slammed the lid down. I would shortly learn what a big mistake that was. We both turned towards the gate, took one step and--BAWHOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMM!!!!

A hot blast slammed us from behind. Contained within that hot blast was a sizable amount of toilet paper and stuff did not care to guess which peppered our backsides and silhouetted our bodies against the gate and fence. The seat blew free of the bolts that, until this moment, had successfully held it to the cement base for so many years. As the seat rose on the fireball it deflected the blast, along with the vaporized filth, outwards. The seat rose on the column of flame for about 10 or 12 feet on, as witnessed by our astonished fellow scouts outside the fence, and fell back down. My buddy and I walked out stiff-legged, our arms outstretched to the sides, with all kinds of nasty stuff stuck to our backsides.

Fortunately, we were right next to the showers so we turned on the water and cleaned up before anyone could take our picture. Everyone had a great laugh and my buddy and I were not awarded with the notoriety that went along with destroying property in such a cool manner.

I don't know why we didn't in trouble, but our scoutmasters did ban the practice of "burning off the latrine" after that.

100 Years Of Boy Scouts - 1

It's a big anniversary for the Boy Scouts organization. I had a blast when I was in the Scouts forty some years ago. Here's the story of when I joined.

I was about three months away from turning 12 years old and I was joining the Boy Scout troop on Dyess Air Force Base near Abilene, Texas. I had my brand new Boy Scout manual and I was memorizing everything in preparation for my induction. Taking a break from my studies, I thumbed through the book to preview all the really neat stuff I anticipated I'd be doing. And then I stumbled across a list of everything I needed to go camping. I'm reading through it imagining all the fun I was going to have with all this stuff: knife, hatchet, axe, text, sleeping bag, mess kit, poncho, rubbers--Rubbers! Rubbers?

My mind raced. What could I possibly--? What do I--? Is there something I haven't heard--? The thoughts flowed like water through a busted dam. Hmmmm. I needed to ask my Dad for some clarification, but I had to be careful. As a no-nonsense disciplinarian, he was likely to react angrily to this if he thought I had the wrong idea.

So I walked up with the book open and asked, "Dad, do I need everything on this list to go camping in the Boy Scouts?"

He looked the list over and answered, "Yes," and returned to his crossword puzzle.

I walked back to my room confused and excited. Was there something about the Girl Scouts I hadn't heard? Was this a big secret that I'd learn more about once I was officially in the scouts? How come I hadn't heard anything about this before? They must keep their secrets really well.

My adolescent brain was churning. But I had to make sure. So I went back to my dad and asked, "Dad, are you sure I need everything on this list?"

"Yes," he answered with hardly a glance.

Still excited but not completely convinced I returned to my room and pondered this some more. Maybe--. But, no--. They couldn't--. I still had my doubts, but being 11 I had to find out for sure. I went back to my dad and asked, "Dad, what are the rubbers for?"

"To keep your feet dry," he said offhandedly.

Feet? Now I was confused. The picture in my mind made no sense. Rubbers on your feet? So I bravely ventured forth. "What do you mean to keep my feet dry?"

"In case it rains," he says. But this time he looks at me. I stand there with a confused look on my face when suddenly his face transforms. It was a look that combined fear, shock, amazement and alarm. The realization of what I was thinking caught him way off guard.

"They're galoshes, you dummy!" he bellowed. And he returned to his crossword which was now less of a puzzle to him than I was. To my great relief he didn't pursue the matter in the manner I had initially feared. But I knew he knew. And he knew I knew.

Very disappointed and a lot less confused, I returned to my room and memorized some more.

Disappearing Peone

For twelve years now I've been riding my bike out on the Peone Prairie and I've always enjoyed the solitude and beauty of the fields. Sadly, those fields are gradually disappearing. The latest to fall have been cut up into 10-acre lots. The virtual tour looks nice and the music is soothing, but I think they look better with wheat waving in the breeze than with McMansions overlooking each other. The price of progress, eh?

How ironic that the animals pictured as attractions are more or less being intruded upon.

Targeting The Consumer

I went to Cabela's over in Post Falls to return at item today. I've only been to this store three times, all in the last eight days and never on a weekend. There were no less than six vehicles parked along the road to the store and all were selling AKC Black Labrador dogs.

So It's Okay If You Mean Well?

In today's Spokesman Review, we have a piece from Steve Massey (login required to read in it's entirety) in which he presents a weak argument for freeing the Americans who are charged with kidnapping for removing children from Haiti without permission.

I pray the 10 Baptist missionaries jailed in Haiti on child abduction charges are cleared soon. They deserve it.

While he says they deserve being cleared, his reasoning for doing so is uncertain especially since he emphasizes they broke the law.

They lacked government approval to take the children, some of whose parents survived the earthquake.

These missionaries broke rules that are in place to protect poor and vulnerable families.

They didn’t have to break the law in the name of helping people.

We don’t break the law just because we really feel we ought to do so.

It’s possible to help Haitian children – legally.


And why do they deserve to be cleared?

My point is this: These missionaries now sitting in a humid Haitian jail no doubt gathered up these needy kids with heartfelt compassion, believing they were providing a bit of heaven to a hellish situation.

Because they had good intentions. I would be skeptical of the "no doubt" part of that statement until the investigation is complete. As each day passes we are learning more about the group's leader, Laura Silsby, which may shed some light on her intentions. No doubt the rest of the group would not suffer unreasonably from similar scrutiny.

So while we could conjecture all day long, it remains for the facts to determine what the government of Haiti should do with these people.

Macro Photography On A Budget

Years ago photography was a favorite hobby of mine and I used to have all kinds of gear, including a macro lens. Macro photography is fun. You can take some pretty cool close up pictures of bugs, flowers, etc. Unfortunately, all my gear was stolen and my insurance at the time--I tend to learn these things the hard way--only covered the depreciated value of the stolen items. That sucked.

For me, lenses today can be pricey, especially since this is a hobby and not how I make my living. But you can use your normal lens as a macro lens through the use of a reversing ring. The ring screws onto the end of your lens and mounts that end onto the camera body so you're shooting through the opposite direction.

There are drawbacks. You control the aperture by hand. The thingamajig--forgive my technical language--that is normally inserted into the camera body isn't. I found I could use a rubber band to hold it open which results in a shorter depth of field as in the picture of my watch above. Or I could leave it as is with the smallest aperture as in the picture below which required more light and/or a longer exposure. Another drawback is the motion caused by holding the camera. I set mine up on a mini-tripod. I also used the timer to to take the picture so the movement caused by pushing the shutter release wouldn't blur the shot.

You'll also notice that it would be wise for me to clean my lens and camera each time I do this. This is not an optimum method for shooting macro, but it works as long as you have patience. Just the same, I think I'll start saving up.

Now if you want to see an awesome macro setup check this out.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Take "Our" Country Back

From ABC news we have some coverage of the Tea Party convention taking place in Nashville.

The opening-night speaker at first ever National Tea Party Convention ripped into President Obama, Sen. John McCain and "the cult of multiculturalism," asserting that Obama was elected because "we do not have a civics, literacy test before people can vote in this country." The political activist group holds its first party convention in Nashville.

The speaker, former Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., told about 600 delegates in a Nashville, Tenn., ballroom that in the 2008 election, America "put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House ... Barack Hussein Obama."

...

Tancredo served 10 years in the House of Representatives and made a name for himself with his ardent opposition to immigration. He believes the 2008 election served to galvanize the right.

"This is our country," he told the crowd. "Let's take it back."


Hey, wait a minute. Tancredo. Hmmm, is that an American name?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Can't You Smell That Smell?

I mentioned something similar last June. I got on the elevator at work and was greeted with a horrible stench of someone's flatus. A young lady was in the elevator...standing there...not making eye contact...not saying a word...just staring straight ahead.

I held my breath for four floors.

It's All For Science

Personality characteristics have been extensively studied in great tits. Individual great tits differ in the way they explore a novel environment and, at the extremes of the variation, may be assessed as ‘slow’ or ‘fast’ explorers.

Now that I have your attention, let me just say that this is an excerpt from an article in The Royal Society's Proceedings B which publishes research articles within the realm of the biological sciences.

This article, entitled "Personality matters: individual variation in reactions of naive bird predators to aposematic prey," studies the affect of the bird's personality on its predatory behavior when exposed to a brightly colored firebug for the first time.

It's a quick read and not all that riveting, but if you like reading about great tits then this article is safe for work.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I Know You Are But What Am I?

ARS Technica has an article about a recent report from the Pew Internet and American Life project.

Blogging is falling out of favor among the young'uns these days as they move to quicker-moving social networking sites. At the same time, older adults are getting into blogging and teens still aren't hot on Twitter, at least according to the latest report from the Pew Internet and American Life project.

...

Additionally, despite teens getting turned off from the medium, Pew found that older Internet users are actually moving towards blogs—11 percent of users over 30 now regularly maintain a blog compared to 7 percent in 2007, and overall "adult" blogging rates have remained steady.

This may be reflective of older users' interest in reading and writing more in-depth content than 12 one-sentence one-offs in a day, but Pew seems to agree that blogging is quickly becoming the thing that un-hip old people do. "Microblogging and status updating on social networks have replaced old-style ‘macro-blogging’ for many teens and adults," Pew researcher Amanda Lenhart said in a statement. "The fad stage [of blogging] is over."


Emphasis mine. Un-hip? The image of a leg being detached comes to mind. In today's vernacular I believe the appropriate word would be "lame."

I would like to point out that whenever I blog about Josh or Steph, the remaining young'uns infesting--I mean, the two wonderful offspring still living with me and Kathy in out house, they race to the computer to read about themselves.

They are so lame.

Barefoot Running - The Nature Video


A very good video explaining the mechanics of barefoot running. I'd like to point out that you don't have to run barefoot to run like you're running barefoot. You can land on the forefoot with shoes on but I find it's not as comfortable as being barefoot or wearing my running sandals. My calves tend to tighten up when I run with shoes and I'm guessing it's because they're not stretching as much because the padding between my heel and the pavement is in the way.

Last week I was actually thinking about buying some shoes because mine are pretty worn. The soles are fine, but the material on the sides and covering the toes is wearing thin. Fortunately, I came to my senses. I really don't like having a padded heel so I'm going to try aqua socks next.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Photo Red In L.A.

Los Angeles is looking at expanding their red light automated traffic enforcement system.

Los Angeles' red light traffic camera program, which officials report netted more than $6 million last year after expenses, could be significantly expanded under a new contract to be negotiated over the next 14 months, records and interviews show.

While adding more cameras could offer a welcome boost to city revenue in the midst of a fiscal crisis, officials say any expansion will be based on safety considerations.

...

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has called for traffic cameras to be modified to also catch speeders, part of an effort to raise $300 million in fines to help close the state's budget shortfall.


All the more reason to ride a bicycle.

Beyond payments of about $2 million to the city's camera vendor and $1.2 million for Police Department costs, the city's 32 camera-equipped intersections generated $6.4 million in net revenue in 2009, said LAPD Sgt. Matthew MacWillie, who oversees the program. The LAPD issues about 3,600 photo enforcement tickets a month, records show.

The program's financial turnaround can be partially attributed to a decision 18 months ago to more than double fines for rolling right-turn violations, which MacWillie has acknowledged account for most violations caught by the cameras.


Spokane has some catching up to do.

What A Relief

From Newsweek last Friday we have an article indicating that Berkeley School of Law professor John Yoo, formerly of the Office of Legal Counsel and Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jay Bybee, also formerly with the Office of Legal Counsel, may not be held responsible for professional misconduct but for poor judgment for their legal opinions used to justify torture--I mean, enhanced interrogation.

Previously, the [Justice Department Office of Professional Responsibility] report concluded that two key authors—Jay Bybee, now a federal appellate court judge, and John Yoo, now a law professor—violated their professional obligations as lawyers when they crafted a crucial 2002 memo approving the use of harsh tactics, say two Justice sources who asked for anonymity discussing an internal matter. But the reviewer, career veteran David Margolis, downgraded that assessment to say they showed “poor judgment,” say the sources. (Under department rules, poor judgment does not constitute professional misconduct.) The shift is significant: the original finding would have triggered a referral to state bar associations for potential disciplinary action—which, in Bybee’s case, could have led to an impeachment inquiry.

Thank goodness we don't have to rehash all that nasty business again. After all, look how successful we were after waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 183 times in March 2003 and Abu Zubaydah 83 times in August 2002.

Yes, it violated international law, but let's not dwell on that. And we're not holding anyone responsible, but let's not dwell on that either. Someone once said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

That won't happen. Look how we're making sure.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Barefoot Running - Is Bad!

There's a new web site called Barefoot Running is Bad that's giving a few BF/minimalist runners some heartburn.

A number of studies have compared the prevalence of foot problems in shoe wearing and non-shoe wearing populations. They quite clearly showed that there are more foot problems in the shoe wearing population. Why is it that the barefoot running community promote these types of study as supporting barefoot running? I just do not understand what they have to do with barefoot running.

But, is this another case of intellectual dishonesty by the barefoot running nutters.


Hmmm, so I'm a nutter barefoot runner. Okay. I think this person is just trying to yank some chains and irritate some people.