Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Monday, May 30, 2011

Fish Lake Trail Ride

My brother John and his wife, Susan, were at the house over the weekend and they brought their bikes. Yesterday morning, Kathy and my sister, Barb, and I took them to Mission Park and from there rode to the Fish Lake Trail. And what a great day for a ride.

John brought along his new GoPro camera and captured some video. So I took a little of that and mixed in a few photos to make a short of our ride. Good times.

Fish Lake Trail Bike Ride from hank greer.

Free As In Beer, Not Tibet

In today's Spokesman Review we have an interview with Larry Krauter, Director of Spokane International Airport and Felts Field. Here's an excerpt:

Q. What changes might passengers see in the near future?

A. I want to humanize the airport. We’re working on free Wi-Fi and baggage carts. And we want to make the airport experience more fun. It’s a little too quiet. Maybe we will bring in school choirs to sing carols during the Christmas season.

Q. What can be done to ease passenger frustration with the screening process?

A. The government is finding better ways to assess risk. And the technology is improving. This will sort itself out to be a friendlier experience for the travelers.

Security is governed by federal regulations so I don't know that we can ever "humanize" an airport. When a TSA explosives trace detection machine alerts on a baby stroller and results in an eight-month-old being patted down we've proven to ourselves and the world that we have strayed way off course. The way we treat everybody as suspect you'd think we were suffering attacks as frequently as they did in Brazil (the movie). We are more concerned with threats we can imagine instead of those likely to happen. Consequently, airports are hardly the friendliest places to be, I don't care how friendly the agent tries to be during the pat down.

As Mr Krauter mentions, the government is coming up with ways to assess risk. As to whether they are better or not remains to be seen. TSA is testing a system called Future Attribute Screening Technology (FAST) (PDF file) designed to detect an intention to cause harm.

As for where precisely FAST is being tested, that for now remains a closely guarded secret. The DHS says that although the first round was completed at the end of March, more testing is in the works, and the agency is concerned that letting people know where the tests are taking place could affect the outcome. "I can tell you that it is not an airport, but it is a large venue that is a suitable substitute for an operational setting," says [DHS spokesman John] Verrico.

Hmmm, a suitable substitute for an operational setting. That could be...um...anywhere, huh?

It will be so worth it to get free Wi-Fi and baggage carts.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Bringing On The HEAT

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers has been working towards expanding oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico in what she claims is an effort to increase supplies and lower gas prices. She voted for H.R. 1231, the Reversing President Obama's Offshore Moratorium Act, which places a new requirement that at least 50% of available unleased be leased.

(5)(A) In each oil and gas leasing program under this section, the Secretary shall make available for leasing and conduct lease sales including--

(i) at least 50 percent of the available unleased acreage within each outer Continental Shelf planning area considered to have the largest undiscovered, technically recoverable oil and gas resources (on a total btu basis) based upon the most recent national geologic assessment of the outer Continental Shelf, with an emphasis on offering the most geologically prospective parts of the planning area; and

(ii) any State subdivision of an outer Continental Shelf planning area that the Governor of the State that represents that subdivision requests be made available for leasing.

Back in March a number of Republican representatives formed the House Energy Action Team (HEAT). They've been working hard to get more drilling done. Tired of high gas prices? Drill!!! Among their many social networking efforts, they put together a video that Cathy McMorris Rodgers was nice enough to tout.

In the meantime, the Consumer Futures Trading Commission, a monitoring and enforcement agency that the House Republicans just voted to reduce their budget by 15%, is charging a couple of oil speculators with manipulating the market, driving up prices and cashing in on the deal. You do remember those high gas prices back in 2008, right?

Speculators are also responsible for the most recent spike in prices. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and her brethren are blind to that but she says she's looking out for her constituents.

I had no idea we had so many oil companies and oil speculators in Eastern Washington.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

My Kid's Got Talent

I was playing with taking some low-light pictures of an IR controlled helicopter--more on that in a later post--when Steph decided to play. She spelled her name with a small flashlight. Cool beans!

Bike Lane Blocker Threefer

As I left work today I was thinking that it's been great that I hadn't seen anyone in the bike lane on the way home for quite some time now. And then I got three of them on Addison.

Duly reported to carparkedinbikelane(at)spokanepolice.org.

That's right. You three are gonna get a letter!

Monday, May 23, 2011

An Imposed Break From Running

In Richland last Thursday, the sun was just peeking over the horizon when I went run a run on the paved trail that goes alongside the Columbia River. The combination of the cool air, singing birds, and other cyclists and runners made for a very enjoyable outing. When I reached my turnaround point, I felt a jab in my foot as if a small rock was stuck to the skin pointy side up. This happens everyone once in a while and usually the rock comes off after a step or two. This one didn't so I reached down to brush it off. Nothing there.

Another couple steps told me there was still something jabbing my foot. Now I looked at it and noticed an incision about 1/8 of an inch in size. And it was bleeding. I didn't see any glass but there was no doubt I hit at least one piece. I squeezed the wound hoping to push out the foreign object. Not happening. So I ran back to my hotel room, cleaned the wound and dug around with a safety pin. Nothing.

Long story short, I finally went to the ER on Sunday morning where they numbed the wound, made the hole bigger and removed the glass. Interestingly, when they learned how the glass got there, nobody lectured me. (I did get some good-natured ribbing from my sister who happened to be on duty at the time, but that's her privilege as a sibling.) One nurse did recommend I get a pair of Vibrams. Truth be told, I should have been wearing them or my aqua sox since I was running in a place I hadn't scouted out before.

So I'm taking a short break from running but as I learned yesterday, that doesn't mean I can't do yard work. Lot's of yard work.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Feckin' Good Laugh

It's Just Entertainment

After spending three days down in Richland I came home last night with plenty of time to prepare for the rapture see the culmination of what happens when somebody with an idea and plenty of money acts upon that idea. Cable, TV, blogs, and radio programs have covered this non-event to no end. Even today's Spokesman Review set aside a good chunk of print space for Harold Camping's biblically guaranteed prediction of the end of the world. The entertainment media has provided Harold Camp plenty of exposure for this, his fourth prediction.

Photo of a billboard in San Francisco - by Hank Greer

As I write this, the Family Radio web site is unavailable, probably overloaded by people asking why the earthquakes haven't started. After all, it is May 22 in New Zealand where the earthquakes were supposed to begin on May 21 so I'm guessing some of the faithful are asking, "What now?" And some of the mockers, "Ha! What now?"

What remains to be seen is how much more coverage (it has begun) the media will give this. Because when you get right down to it, it's nothing but an entertaining distraction in between episodes of American Idol's Got Talent Pole Dancing With The Stars.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Scam Attempt

I received an email stating my order from the Apple Store had been canceled.

Order. What order?

I hovered the mouse over the link the "Apple Store" helpfully provided and checked it out. It didn't take long to find that the IP address in the link was a system in Thailand.


The rest of the URL looks out of sorts as well. Watch out for this kind of stuff. Clicking on the link could result in some malware being downloaded to your computer or lead to something else bad.

Monday, May 16, 2011

San Francisco Sights

The Pi Bar. Great pizza. Great beer. The special costs $6.28 of course. They have pomegranate cider on tap. Kathy said it was delicious.

"I'm crushing the bell tower."

Obligatory bike-related photo. A bike hauler loaded with Kinder Feets. How cool are those?

We had one of the best meals ever at this restaurant. If you take the time and trouble to go here you will not be disappointed. And I'm not just saying that because of the two bottles of wine we consumed with our meal.

"How do you know this is the ultimate in--"

"Stop! You don't question that! Can't you read? It's unquestionable."

By entering this hotel the user agrees not to copy, reproduce, transmit, translate, store, reduce, or by any other forms or means without the consent of....

No, it's a bug bite. Really. It's a bug bite.

Nope, no cookbook for sale on this street.

Adventure. Intrigue. Romance. Or a club upside your head.

Self portrait with son.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

100th Bay To Breakers

Kathy and I spent the last three days in San Francisco with our oldest son, Geoff. What a joy to hang out with him and see the city. We also ran the Bay to Breakers 12k run. This was the 100th anniversary of the event and the organizers decided to clean it up a bit so the party atmosphere was muted as compared to other years. Kathy and I didn't run for time because it was just too crowded and we wanted to check out all the people. And there were a lot to take in. (You should thank me for not including shots of the naked folks. Believe me.)

Oompa Loompas.

Yes, those are bubbles.

A pretty easy course overall. I didn't think this hill was as bad a our own Doomsday hill.

Some people will go to great lengths just to get a 100th year finisher medal.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Lost And Found

Over these many years of bike commuting I have found a number of items alongside or on the road. A cell phone that didn't deal well wipas impacting the road. A number of shots and hammers--yes, as in track and field. A metal coffee cup full of still warm coffee. Even a sprinkler system. Yesterday I found a driver's license. I can see how you might set something on the hood, bumper, or trunk and forget it. Or maybe leave the tailgate down. But how do you lose a driver's license?

If you're reading this, JBR of Mead, your license is returning via the Postal Service. And thanks for being an organ donor.

Blogger Broke

Google had some problems. Anything posted after Tuesday, May 10, was sent into the stratoblogosphere and burned upon reentry.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Time For A One-Eighty

House Speaker John Boehner is scheduled to give the commencement speech at the Catholic University of America. While they're not asking to him to not give the address, a large number of academic staff at the university and other institutions have signed a letter expressing how they feel about someone whose actions don't mirror their claim to be a strong believer in the Catholic faith.

An excerpt:

Mr. Speaker, your voting record is at variance from one of the Church’s most ancient moral teachings. From the apostles to the present, the Magisterium of the Church has insisted that those in power are morally obliged to preference the needs of the poor. Your record in support of legislation to address the desperate needs of the poor is among the worst in Congress. This fundamental concern should have great urgency for Catholic policy makers. Yet, even now, you work in opposition to it.

The letter, to be delivered to Boehner's office this morning, includes specific examples of the legislation he supports that harms the poor.

I'm sure he pays careful attention to the leaders of his faith. So...yeah...after being called out for his hypocrisy expect big changes from him starting today.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Think Of The Children

I've been seeing a lot lately about the dangers of sitting most of the day (along with a helpful infographic). I personally like the idea of a stand up desk and like to give it a try, but I got to wondering.

We got our start as children sitting for much of the day in school.

Rook To Front Yard - Check!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

How About The Eyebrow Empress?

It's Okay When We Do It

An article on St Louis Today discusses how unmanned Predator drone aircraft are controlled from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.

The part of the article that really got my attention was this:

Some religious leaders and human rights groups question the morality and legality of the weapon. They cite the deaths of innocent civilians and say the use of Predators for targeted killings of "high-value" targets may violate international law.

[Military analyst Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute] called the morality debate "a bogus issue."

Manned aircraft would be far more destructive, cause more collateral damage and be more likely to lead to civilian casualties, he said.

Granted, Thompson is a military analyst and not a member of the military or the administration, but what he said essentially reflects our policy. Difficult to detect, unmanned drones firing Hellfire missiles at suspected Al Qaeda or Taliban--remember there is a difference--leaders have killed many innocent people and somehow the morality of that has become acceptable. Because we are at war. And we have no way of knowing when that war will end. Don't look for the end since killing innocent people tends to make more enemies.

Put the shoe on the other foot and imagine what would happen if another country used the same type of weapon to kill someone they determined was dangerous enough to warrant such an attack and they lived in the United States. I think we would do more than file a protest.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Was I Dropped On My Head?

Sometimes I walk to another part of the house or office and forget what I was going there for. I'll pause and replay what I was thinking and doing just a couple minutes before and my reason for moving usually returns to me. But every once in a while I'm left to wait for my, "Oh, yeah!" moment to show up.

A recent study took at look at the brain and distractions.

To investigate distractibility, the team compared the brains of easy and difficult-to-distract individuals.

They assessed each person's distractibility by quizzing them about how often they fail to notice road signs, or go into a supermarket and become sidetracked to the point that they forget what they came in to buy. The most distractible individuals received the highest score.

One possible result of their study.

Those who are easily distracted from the task in hand may have "too much brain".


But wait.

[Dr Ryota Kanai, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience] suggests that a greater volume of grey matter may indicate a less mature brain, perhaps reflecting a mild developmental malfunction.

Oh, crap.

Easiest Cartoon Drawing Of A Joke

(An example of things I think of while running long distances.)Thank you, I'll be here all week.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Just The Place To Go To...

...um...when you want to...uh...kick that special someone in the face?

As A Nation We Have Come So Far

There's a recent news report about a pastor and a priest who were removed from a plane because the other passengers were uncomfortable with having them on the flight. They were both wearing what would be considered traditional garb associated with their religion or culture. Both had passed through security--even secondary security, whatever that is--and were allowed to board.

After the plane pulled away from the gate the pilot announced they were going back. Both men were removed from the aircraft and returned to the boarding area where they were informed of the pilot's decision. The pilot could not be convinced to allow the two men back on the plane and departed without them. They ended up catching different flights to their destination.

What would make passengers so uncomfortable with two of their fellow travelers dressed in a manner that identifies who they are that the pilot would have them removed from the plane? Should people be removed simply because they're dressed in such a manner? Was the pilot right to do this? How many complaining passengers does it take to trigger such an action? Can you imagine being removed from a plane under such circumstances? How would you feel? Can you think of an explanation would satisfy you that the pilot's action was the right thing to do?

If you check out the real story you'll find it was not a pastor and a priest but two Muslim religious leaders who live in Memphis.

Your sense of outrage didn't just fade, did it?

*** Update

Since we're on the subject of clothing being associated with terrorism, may I ask if you would fear this man?

He certainly looks like someone who would be involved in a suicide attack, doesn't he? I see people dressed like him at airports all the time.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Just So Ya Know...

...it wasn't me, okay?

A Frequent But Necessary Annoyance

About the only place I've ever seen numbers of reports of suspicious items are from New York City. In a recent piece on NBC New York we learn that in 2010 there were 10,556 reports of suspicious objects.

That's 29 per day.

The reports sometimes result in the discovery of explosives that have nothing to do with terror, like when a volunteer doing gardening at a Manhattan cemetery last year dug up a discarded bag containing plastic explosives. But the vast majority of suspicious packages turn out to be nothing more than briefcases, backpacks or shopping bags innocently left unattended or discarded in transportation hubs or other high-traffic locations.

You'll notice there's not a single mention of the discovery of explosives (or anything else) that did have something to do with terror. Back in 2008, the New York Times published an article about how ineffective the "If you see something, say something" program is.

Returning to the NBC New York article, I'm blown away by this:

The NYPD says such false alarms have become a frequent but necessary annoyance for authorities laboring to protect a nervous city in the post-9/11 world.

How incredibly wasteful. It's as if we have an innumerable multitude of boys watching the sheep and each one takes a turn at calling, "Wolf!"

The Nationwide SAR Initiative (PDF) (SAR stands for suspicious activity reporting) is a federal program started in December 2009 to gather up all the reports of suspicious activity.

What might not seem significant (for instance, taking a picture of a ferry during loading), when combined with other actions and activity, may become a composite indicating the possibility of criminal—even terrorist— activity. Traditionally, street officers have had little to do with counterterrorism. But after the terrorist attacks of September 11, it became obvious that al Qaeda members had prepared not only in far-off Afghan training camps but also in Minnesota and flight schools in Florida. Therefore, in today’s policing, “connecting the dots” of suspicious activity before an incident occurs has become an integral and imperative job for America’s law enforcement, from the officer on the street to supporting analysts. The NSI is designed to do just that, connect the dots.

Keep in mind that taking photos of a ferry during unloading may be less suspicious. I have to wonder how difficult it is to connect the dots when many of the dots don't belong so I'm curious how the NSI program filters their reports. After all, nobody wants to be the the person who saw something, didn't up channel it, and then have "something happen". We desperately want to be on the safe side--no matter what the cost.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Riverfront Park Water Fountain

The sun was shining brightly during my ride to work this morning.

Repealing Health Care Reform...

...a little at a time.

Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers announced a job creation health care repeal bill yesterday. Entitled the State Flexibility Act, it basically allows states to lower the Medicaid requirements to reduce the number of people on Medicaid. Read the text of the bill and you'll find it does this by repealing the maintenance of effort states are supposed to maintain until the Affordable Care Act takes effect in 2014.

“When it comes to Medicaid (and most issues) ‘the government closest to the people is the best form of government,’” said Rep. McMorris Rodgers at a press conference unveiling the bill. “Our bill follows that principle to make America’s 50 states ‘laboratories of democracy’ in which new ideas for health care spending will have a chance to take effect and the best ideas will win.”

Her best idea is to kick poor people to the curb and make hospitals absorb the cost of the uninsured. Sounds like a win-win proposition.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Marijuana Dispensary Raids Protest

Chants of "DEA. Go away!" and others of similar vein rang out outside the Federal courthouse for much of the day today as a small but boisterous group protested the recent raids on the medical marijuana dispensaries. A couple of SPD patrol cars stopped by for a few minutes. Lots of passing cars honked horns in support. Heck, even Harpman Hatter showed up and played.

No need to rehash everything on this because even if state law was explicitly clear, it is trumped by federal law which lists marijuana as a Schedule I drug. And drugs are bad. M'kay?

Here, according to the Controlled Substances Act, are the characteristics of a Schedule I drug:

* The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.
* The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
* There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.

State law on medical marijuana dispensaries continues to remain ambiguous, in part thanks to Governor Gregoire's partial veto of S.B. 5073 (PDF). One would think that it wouldn't matter anyway, but I beg to differ. If enough states legally establish medical marijuana and there's enough evidence for its medical use, then it would make it easier for it to be moved to Schedule II where morphine resides and where alcohol should be. (I'm not against drinking alcohol, but I've seen what abuse can do. It has a high potential for abuse and can lead to severe physical dependence.) I think Schedule III would be a better fit for marijuana, but I also think that if we can be trusted to purchase, consume and even make (to some extent) alcohol, then we should do the same for marijuana. While it's true anyone can abuse any drug, marijuana is not nearly the demon alcohol is.

And if you're concerned that marijuana is a gateway drug leading to abuse of more dangerous and addictive drugs, take a moment to consider that even milk can be a gateway drug.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Success At Last

With the announcement that Osama Bin Laden is dead, I stopped to think how he effected change in our country. I remember when we could go to the gate and see our friends and relatives off or meet them when they exited the plane. Now we're all suspect and even children can get patted down before they board an airplane. As a nation of primarily Christians we were mostly tolerant yet ignorant or incurious about other religions. Now Islam is feared as a surreptitious, infiltrating religion intent on taking over our country while the vast majority of Muslims are horrified that their religion has been used to justify terrorism. We have used torture against enemies, friends, and our own citizens. We invaded a country that posed no threat to us and we're pouring money and lives into a money pit called Afghanistan. We are in a never ending state of war where the greatest burden is placed on those dispatched overseas while the rest of us are told to go to the mall. Meanwhile we spend more in our military and defense budget than the next eighteen or twenty countries combined and refuse to raise taxes to pay for it. Guantanamo became our collectively ignored shame. The terrorism label was spread so widely, Congress had to pass a bill stating Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa and a member of the African National Congress--a designated terrorist organization--was not in fact a terrorist so he could travel to the U.S. Warrantless wiretapping was swept under the government secrets rug. National security letters, non-court-authorized search warrants that also prevented the recipient from divulging their existence, allowed the FBI to secretly gather information about American citizens. Jingoism prevailed and patriotism was measured by the wearing of a flag pin.

Included in Bin Laden's goals were bankrupting us by making us militarily active in the Middle East, using U.S. military actions to generate anti-American sentiment and recruit new followers, and making us react so strongly to an attack that we would deny our own freedoms in order to save them.

Before we celebrate the death of Osama Bin Laden, we should examine just how we much we have contributed to his success.

Another Great Bloomsday

Crummy camera photo

The weather totally cooperated with our friend Sue, me, Kathy, and my sister Barb. Kathy, accompanied by Barb, thought she did well for someone who hadn't trained. Sue did better than she expected and then had to go play a double header in softball. I didn't wear a watch, watch the time, or pay attention to the mile markers so it was nice to run free without pressuring myself.

And after following his blog for so long, our paths crossed after today's run and I had the pleasure of meeting Al.