Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Patient Bill Nye Explains

Now if the people that really needed to understand climate change would just listen.

I Can't Believe It's Not

Josh took this picture at the Safeway in Kennewick on the way to Boise yesterday.

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Michelle Bachmann is running for president and she doesn't want anyone asking her questions about her husband or his "pray away the gay" therapy. She says her husband is off limits.

But just let Michelle Obama encourage mothers to breast feed their children and recommend a tax break for mothers who buy a breast pump and "leave my spouse alone" is quickly tossed aside for making political points.

We Fell For It A Long Time Ago

Admiral Eric Olson is in charge of the US military special forces. He had some interesting things to say at the Aspen Institute.

But the four-star admiral warned of the fight to come against what he called al-Qaida 2.0, with new leaders like American-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen, who Olson said understands America better than Americans understand him.

"It will morph, it will disperse," he said of the movement. "It will become in some ways more westernized, (with) dual passport holders" and "fewer cave dwellers," he said.

There's an issue I'd like to address here. Part of bin Laden's reason for the 9/11 attacks was to bankrupt us. He guessed we would spend all kinds of money on defense. He hoped we would invade a Muslim country--any Muslim country. And he guessed we would destroy our own civil liberties in our fervent desire to feel safe and protected.

We came through in spades. We're looking that the effect of borrowing money to fund two wars, invading two countries in the process, and Congress has continually extended the Patriot Act without debate. All airline passengers are considered possible terrorists. Our safety now relies on suspecting everyone. We're supposed to report anything that appears suspicious. Islam is vilified as the greatest threat to world peace.

We may not understand Anwar al-Awlaki very well, but to imply that he understands Americans better than bin Laden did belies the fact that bin Laden had us pegged. We now have political leaders so far to the right and spout such vitriol that it's impossible to compare their positions to historical ones without proving Godwin's law.

Olson said the fight against all versions of al-Qaida could keep U.S. special operations troops deploying at the same pace for another decade, even as U.S. conventional forces draw down from places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

Here's to ten more years of drone attacks, surgical strikes, and military incursions. But what a relief to know we have God on our side.

In Boise And Awake At Three In The Morning

For the last 17 years the women in my family have held a quilt weekend during which they assemble a quilt while spending quality time together. The "weekend" is usually five days long. It's been a great tradition for the family and they enjoy it very much. The lake place they rented for this year fell through after some tenants damaged the place the repairs we not going to be completed on time. As a result, quilt weekend is being held at my house. Since it's a women-only event, Josh and I were informed we were to be somewhere that was not my house. We came to Boise yesterday to spend these days with my brother-in-law, Chip, and nephew, Zak.

Chip was just going for a run when we pulled up to the house. He lives near Camel's Back Hills Park which has all kinds of trails for walking, running, and cycling. Chip asked if we wanted to go for a run.

Well, of course I did. We threw our bags in the house. I changed clothes and got a drink of water. Then we headed out. He was planning on doing six miles and that sounded good to me.

"There's a little bit of climbing but it's not too bad," he said. The warning bells failed to go off. See, Chip is a cycling animal. I've been trail riding with him a couple of times and he's the guy who's waiting for you at the top of the climb. He's the guy moving away from you during the climb. And he's the guy disappearing in the distance the rest of the time. He took up barefoot/minimalist running a few months ago and he says that has done wonders for his running. His hips don't hurt any more and he feels great when he runs.

So why should there be warning bells? Because what Chip calls "a little bit of climbing" really means the first four of the six miles are uphill. Combine that with the Boise heat at three in the afternoon and I had two strikes against me. I started lagging. Or maybe Chip was getting faster. Regardless, much like our rides, he was headin' off into the distance and then stopping to wait for me. But he's cool with that. It's not a race. He's just running at a comfortable pace. And Chip's a great person. He even came back and shooed away the vultures before they could start picking at me.

So what does is have to do with being awake at three in the morning? Nothing much really. I just thought that since whoever was singing at the top of their lungs somewhere nearby in the neighborhood woke me up I might as well use this time to post something.

And now back to our regularly scheduled REM sleep.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Summer Parkways Vol II

Compared to the first Summer Parkways last month, there was a light turnout this time. There didn't seem to be much in the way of neighborhood participation but you have to try these things to find out, right? According to Bill Bender, one of those people who gets things done, the Manito/Comstock neighborhood asked that the event return next year. Nice.

Still, there were happy people hanging out, chalk drawings to draw, and faces to paint. How fortunate that Kathy came with me. Barb Chamberlain's Bikestyles booth was at Franklin Park and Kathy found some great looking and practical active wear.

The next Summer Parkways is on Sunday, Aug 14, from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm in northwest Spokane.

Spokane's Mayoral Race

While I'm not a city resident, I do work and play in the city so I do some interest in the city government. I was reading through the questions posed to the candidates by the Spokesman Review and found the answers by Mary Verner and David Condon interesting and enlightening. (I'm sorry but I don't consider Barbara Lampert, Michael Noder, or the silent Robert Kroboth to have a serious chance of being elected.)

Verner's answers are refreshingly factual, pertinent and contain much needed context. Condon's answers reveal a anti-tax and anti-union undertones and seem to reflect his former boss's positions.

Ought to be an interesting race.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Teen Employment

State Senator Michael Baumgartner posted this on his Facebook page today.

Have the teens you know been able to find summer jobs? I've heard from several employers in Spokane who won't hire teens for summer work at $10+ an hour, but who would for $7 an hour.

Imagine that. Employers are willing to pay less in order to hire a teen. Along with that statement he posted a link to a National Review Online article, "A Starter Wage For Teenagers".

In that article, the authors state:

While the overall weak economy is certainly at fault, another major factor was the decision by Congress and President Bush to raise the minimum wage over 40 percent in the face of a weak economy, without exempting teenagers — thus pricing teens out of the labor market and denying them crucial work experience.

Their only support for saying this was a "major factor" is by referring to the increase of the wage by percentage points. But what is in real dollars? Before it was raised to $5.85 (Jul 07), $6.55 (Jul 08), and the current level of $7.25 (Jul 07), the minimum wage was $5.15 and had been for almost 10 years. (Washington State's minimum wage is currently $8.67 but employers can pay 14 and 15-year-olds at 85% which is $7.37.)

The authors reference a report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in April 2010 and say it suggests:

...that teen unemployment could be reduced by exempting teens from the minimum wage and instead instituting a "sub-minimum training wage."

It took me a while to find the report (PDF) but what it actually stated is:

One option would be to introduce a youth sub-minimum wage in those countries with a relatively high and universal statutory minimum wage where such a sub-minimum wage does not exist.

Even at $8.67 the minimum wage hardly qualifies as a "relatively high".

The authors end with this suggestion for Congress to help teens find work.

Exempt teenagers from the 2007 legislation increasing the minimum wage. Let them work for $5.15 an hour — if they want to and that’s what an employer wants to pay. Let them gain work experience and move up the wage ladder from there.

Interesting. If they want to and if that's what the employer wants to pay. If?

I bet Senator Baumgartner could also hear from some employers who won't hire teens for summer work at $7 an hour, but who would for $5.15. Or even less.

Friday, July 22, 2011

I Shot Two Deer

Steph was all excited, telling me there were two deer in the field directly behind our house.

"What do we do?" she asked.

"Shoot 'em." So I did.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Nature In The Back Yard

Kathy and I got to watch a Cooper's Hawk scope out our lilac bush, jump into it, nab a bird, and then fly away with its meal securely held in its talons. I guess it's a circle of life kind of thing. Meanwhile in the garden, the first of the sweet peas were ready. Steph and I added them to our salads at dinner. They were delicious.

Atheist Ads On STA Buses

KHQ has the...yawwwwwwwwnnnnnnnnnn...story.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Contrite And Remorseful

My apologies to everyone who saw me running in Riverfront Park and on the Centennial Trail today. I didn't pay close attention when I grabbed a pair of running shorts last night. They belonged to my son. Yes, they were a little small on me but not in a visually disturbing way. Okay, not in a hugely visual disturbing way. They fit okay but they are shorter than my shorts and thus exposed a couple inches of bright white upper thighs. Purely unintentional on my part, I swear.

How bright? Had the command been, "Don't fire until you see the whites of his thighs," I would've been so out of range as they released the first volley.

As Seen From A Bike

Says you.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Summer Parkways

Last month we had a great turnout for the first Summer Parkways event which connected Manito and Comstock Parks. Many of the residents got in the spirit with music, lemonade stands, jump rope stations and more. The second event is scheduled for this Sunday, July 24, from 10:00 am-2:00 pm in north Spokane connecting Clark Field, Franklin Park, and Ruth Park. Here's the map. And here are some photos of last month's event so you can see the kind of fun you're missing if you don't go.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Warrior Dash Revisited

My brother John brought his GoPro camera and allowed me to carry it when I ran with Josh and Steph. Josh originally planned to run with us but the urge to race was too much for him and he blasted off once we left the starting line. Consequently, most of the footage is of Steph. The lens has a fish-eye appearance to it so objects dead center appear larger than they really are.

Warrior Dash 2011 from hank greer on Vimeo.

Warrior Dash

Yesterday we drove over to North bend to run the Warrior Dash. What a fun time. My brother, John, also did the run and was in an earlier wave. The run itself is a pretty mellow flat course of 3.5 miles going through fields and woods. We had obstacles every so often to climb over and some deep, thick mud that would pull your footwear off if you weren't careful. The last three obstacles were right after each other at the end. A cargo net climb over, jumping two fires, and then getting through the mud pit. The mud pit was particularly devious because they dug deep holes in random spots. You'd be moving along really good, suddenly the bottom would drop out and down you'd go.

John: "Oh, yeah, I forgot to tell you about that part."

Thanks, John. I owe you one.
Our "before" picture.

John's "after" picture.

Josh jumping the fire.

Me following Steph across one of the fires.

Our "after" picture.

How cool is a timing chip that's a token for a free beer?

All these dirty pictures were taken by Susan and Kathy Greer--supportive wives who can only shake their heads at their crazy husbands. Thank you, ladies!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Moral Exclusion Of A Nonexclusion

Toledo Catholic Bishop Leonard Blair (PDF) wrote a letter to the diocese in which he bans Catholic parishes and schools from raising money for the Susan G. Komen Foundation. You may have heard of the Komen Foundation and it's work to fight breast cancer. The reason for the ban?

As best we can determine, at present the Komen Foundation does not fund cancer research that employs embryonic stem cells. However, their policy does not exclude that possibility. They are open to embryonic stem cell research, and may very well fund such research in the future. They are also contributors to Planned Parenthood, which, though it may claim to provide needed medical services to poor women, is also the largest provider of abortions in our country.

So since the Komen Foundation's research may not be "bound by moral norms rooted in faith and reason" the bishop has decided that churches and schools in his diocese cannot raise money for them.

The bishop closed his letter with this:

Together let us pray for all cancer sufferers, especially those in the greatest physical, spiritual and emotional need.

Especially cancer sufferers in Ohio because the church is taking the moral high road.

Oh, and according to Mary Westphal, executive director of the Northwest Ohio Affiliate Susan G. Komen for the Cure, "the local Komen affiliate has never given a dollar to Planned Parenthood."

Friday, July 15, 2011

The News

In my last post I mentioned my friend getting married tomorrow. He has relatives here from Iowa whose houses have been flooded since June 8. They hope they can get back in by late August but nobody seems to know for sure. I remember hearing about flooding a month or so ago but not much more than that. I had no idea of the full extent of it.

You know, I bet you'd be hard pressed to find someone in America who doesn't know about the woman who drugged her husband, tied him to a bed, cut off his penis and threw it into the garbage disposal. Because that's something we need to know and can do something about.

Kids Play

A very good friend of ours is getting married tomorrow. We hosted the rehearsal dinner party at our house. The adults had a good time but the kids had a blast.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

You're Gonna Get A Letter

Their Master's Voice

Cathy McMorris Rodgers gave the weekly Republican address over the weekend in which she blames President Obama and the Democratic members of Congress for our country's continued unemployment numbers.

She insists "...there can be no increase in the national debt limit unless it is accompanied by serious spending cuts and reforms. To be truly serious, these cuts should exceed the amount by which President Obama wants the debt limit increased. And there can be no job-crushing tax hikes on families and small businesses."

Got that? "To be truly serious." Seriously?

When Congress allows our country to go to war in Afghanistan and Iraq and does not fund it, our country goes into debt. Wear as many flag pins as you want, the debt does not go away.

She mentions that in a statement signed by 150 economists (PDF) agree with Republicans. The statement doesn't include a single economic argument--it's a rehash of political talking points. (One wonders that if the Republican party is so enamored with 150 economists, how can they so easily dismiss the overwhelming majority of scientists warning us about climate change. Science is so hard.)

McMorris Rodgers tells her audience to go to and see the Republican plan for creating jobs. So I did. It's an easy read. Eight pages of large print (PDF).

They say the first problem is burdensome regulations. They specifically mention actions they've taken in this area: the EPA's regulation of greenhouse gases, the FCC's net neutrality proposal, and pesticide regulations. Despite overwhelming evidence supporting mankind's contribution to climate change, the importance of impartial and free access to information on the Internet, and that pesticides are poisonous to people and animals, Republicans feel this is unnecessarily burdensome.

Next is tax reform. The plan addresses how unfair it is that American corporations who make a profit overseas and then are taxed when they bring those profits into the country. There's no mention of the fact that many American corporations place their corporate headquarters outside the country for the purpose of avoiding taxes in the first place.

The next problem is the unsigned trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea. Seriously? What are we going to export to those countries besides military arms? We don't make much else.

Patent backlogs are next, specifically that the current system of filing, challenging, and litigating patents can also lead to costly delays. That's true regardless of a backlog.

The visa system for highly skilled workers. How about educating our own instead of relying on cheaper imports. Oh, wait, that's cars isn't it?

The FDA product approval process is next on the list. Somehow renewing the prescription drug user fee program and the medical device user fee program is all it takes. This is something I'm not familiar with so I'm going to do some homework on it. But I don't see much of a tie in to job creation.

Next we have rising energy costs. Drill, baby, drill!

And last of all, pay down our national debt. But the trick behind doing this is to only cut spending and not raise taxes.

There's very little in the way of job creation here. It's more for supporting unfettered corporations.

Here's the deal. Even though taxes are at an all time low since 1952 and there's a greater concentration of wealth at the top than a hundred years ago, those wealthy people and corporations are entitled to keep all of their money. History has shown that concentrated wealth benefits those with wealth. And concentrated power benefits those with power. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and her fellow Republicans can't argue with that.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Well Said

Is this young man awesome or what?

Let's Climb A Mountain Report

What a great day for a run. Cool and sunny with a slight breeze. The weather couldn't have been better. Kathy, my wife of 31 years, my sister, Barb, and our friend, Sue, all signed up to be my support crew. Believe me, I am so thankful. To show my appreciation I had shirts made for them.

Barb, Kathy, and Sue.

To make sure everything runs smoothly, one of the first things you have to do with a crew is put someone in charge.

With that out of the way we headed out to Riverfront Park. The solo runners start time was 6:00 am. We showed up about fifteen minutes before and Curt Klinghorn of Runner's Soul briefed us on the course. We had some construction on Mission to look out for. Since the top of the mountain was still snowed in we had a turnaround point at the highest point we could reach followed by almost 2 miles of downhill to the finish at the snowmobile parking lot.

Group shot of the solo runners at the start.

Number 27 is the guy who won the race last year in 4:31:14. I called him Rocket Man because of the way he took off. After 10 seconds I never saw him again. A different part of that song applied to me.

And I think it's gonna be a long long time.

My concern about finishing was that I would start too fast and crash on the mountain. Essentially I was running a marathon and then following that with eight miles of steep climbing. So I asked my crew to keep tabs on my time and make sure I didn't go faster than a 10-minute mile pace.

They had no access to me for the first 3 miles. Twenty-four minutes.

"Slow down!"

Did I listen? I tried. I really tried. But I felt so good. On the bright side slowing down was much easier to do as the day progressed.

Feeling good at mile six.

After eight miles, I was only 5 minutes faster than I should've been so I was doing better. Kathy pulled back on the reins and made me walk with her for five minutes. Good for her. About that time the first of the team runners blew by me. They started at 6:30. Young and speedy high school and college runners barely had enough time to say, "Good job," as they zipped by me with seemingly little effort. Many more team runners passed me between the 10-mile mark in Mead and the transfer point at the 14-mile mark on Peone. When I reached that transfer point there was a very long line of people waiting to use the port-a-potty. They were all kind enough to let this solo runner cut in front of them.

Once I got to Mt Spokane Parkway, Kathy joined me in a run/walk until we got to Forker Road. Once there I washed my feet, applied a new coat of anti-chafing stick, and took a meal break.

Chillin' for fifteen minutes.

Leaving the rest stop at Forker Road, I began the climb. One observation I kept making the rest of the way was that I didn't remember parts of the road being steeper than they were on last Saturday's run up the mountain. It just shows you what difference it makes when you already have 19 miles under your belt.

Here's where the crew made such a difference. Barb and Kathy took turns walking and running with me. Barb ran six miles and Kathy put in nine of mixed running/walking. It makes a huge difference when you're with someone instead of on your own. They were both awesome.

With about twelve miles to go I noticed a truck about 300 feet behind me. At first I didn't give it much thought but then as we were going up the mountain I realized I hadn't seen any other runners for a long time. And then it occurred to me.

Am I the last runner?

I had to know so I waved the truck up and asked the driver.

Yes, you are the last runner.

You know what that means. DFL is all mine! Yessssssssss.

Kathy walked/ran with me when we left the snowmobile parking lot. She was looking forward to hitting the turnaround point and running downhill to the finish with me. Sadly, it was not to be. We noticed we weren't seeing any of the other runners coming back down. And then we noticed they were coming down in cars. When we got to the turnaround point we found the gate to the summit was open. I asked the guy following me in the truck what was going on.

"Good news," he says with a happy smile. "There's a change of plans. We learned the rangers opened the road this morning. You get to run to the very top."

Well, it wouldn't count unless I did, right?

The last mile.

With a mile left to go, I switched from my Vibrams to some lightweight hiking shoes I brought just in case my feet got too sore. My feet were sore from walking. Running felt fine, but running wasn't happening because of a persistent cramp in my right calf. But once I switched to the shoes I could run. Go figure. Poor Kathy was struggling up that last mile. There's something about running uphill with less oxygen in the air than you're used to that adds to the difficulty.

Curt captures my time as Kathy and I cross the finish together. I set a new PR of 7:15:15.

Enjoying a well-deserved beer.

I owe a great debt of gratitude to Kathy, Barb, and Sue for crewing for me. I couldn't have done it without them.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

You're Gonna Get A Letter

Parked in the bike lane on North Addison on my way home from work today.

Don't See This Every Day

Somebody driving the wrong way on the one-way that goes down Lidgerwood to MayFair. It's two way for bikes only.

Why The Recent Emphasis?

In today's Spokesman Review we have an Associated Press article about the airlines being warned that terrorists are using surgically implanting bombs in people to bring down an aircraft.

This isn't new news. Talk about this has been going on for some time now. I used the custom date range on Google and searched for "terrorists surgically implanted bombs" back to the first of the year.

Jan 2011 had 195,000 results. Feb had 68,000. For March, Google shows 171,000 results. In April there are 156,000. For the month of May 2011 there are 105,000. For June there are 97,400 results. For the first week of July we 279,000 results so far.

I'm waiting for TSA to roll out something new. In the meantime, don't order Man on Fire on Netflix, On Demand, or whatever you use to view movies. It's probably considered a terrorist training film. Did you see the scene where the guy had the bomb in his rectum? He could be sitting in 27C right now.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

As Seen From A Bike

A slalom course or a dare weave?

Short-Sighted At Seeing Short-Sightedness

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers joined Senator Tom Harkin in writing an op-ed piece about getting the most of out Medicaid dollars when treating the mentally disabled by placing more in the community which they say is less expensive than placing them in institutions.

For example, the average national Medicaid cost to serve a person with an intellectual disability in an institution in 2009 was approximately $137,000, compared to an average of $44,000 to serve the same person in the community.

In this day and age, anyone quoting numbers, dollar's, etc., should provide links to their sources. How hard can that be any more? Consequently, it's difficult to verify these numbers or find out what they really mean. And you'll find this next part seems a little ambiguous.

In 2009, 17.4 percent of all national Medicaid expenditures went to serve people in institutions. Our continued heavy reliance on outdated and expensive institutions to serve people with disabilities reflects inertia and politics rather than the needs of people with disabilities.

Notice it states "to serve people in institutions" without defining people or institutions. Many elderly are in nursing homes and could be included in this definition. And I am unable to find any support for the figure of 17.4 percent. I'd like to know where that came from.

One interesting aspect of this op-ed is that they highlight the high cost of care and fault the states for not reducing costs and instead cutting services as if this was the only reason states are unable to meet the needs and requirements of Medicaid patients.

These cuts have typically been short-sighted. Rather than taking steps to reduce wasteful spending on institutional settings, many states have cut the services that keep people with disabilities in their own homes and communities.

McMorris Rodgers and Harkin make a case that appears valid but I would feel much more comfortable knowing where the numbers came from.

But since we're on the subject of being short-sighted, here's what a report by the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured has to say about the House budget that McMorris Rodgers voted for:

The House Budget Plan includes two major provisions relevant to Medicaid. First, it would repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which includes a major expansion of Medicaid with mostly federal funding to nearly all non-elderly individuals, including adults without dependent children, up to 138 percent of poverty. The repeal of ACA would result in substantial reductions in currently-projected Medicaid enrollment and federal spending. Second, the House Budget Plan would convert existing Medicaid financing from open-ended, matched federal spending for eligible individuals to a block grant under which federal spending is capped annually by state and is distributed based on a formula rather than actual costs.

And that's how you reduce the amount the federal government pays for Medicaid. You don't raise taxes and you pay less for Medicaid which increases the burden on states, charitable institutions and hospitals and leaves many of the poor with a single remedy--the ER. It reminds me of a quote from the president to whom she said, "You make me proud to be an American" after his 2008 State of the Union speech.

"I mean, people have access to health care in America. They can just go to the emergency room." - George W. Bush

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Free Barefoot Running Class

Kathy spotted a notice in the Spokesman Review about a barefoot running class being held at REI on July 28th. You sign up online. The class is being taught by Michael Sandler and Jessica Lee (An unfortunate Wordpress site that needs some help clearing up all those errors). Check out the video below and you'll find that Michael has been through some serious adversity. And now he's running barefoot through snow, icy water, hot trails and asphalt.

That is some serious bad ass stuff. There's room for 60 in the class. I thought I'd check it out and see what I can come away with so now there are only 43 slots available. And since the class starts at 7:00 pm, there's plenty of time to get to class after the Flying Irish run that day.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Family And Friends on The Fourth

My very cute cousin Olivia.

Josh and Geoff. Josh is home for the summer.
Geoff came up for the long weekend.

Kids make up the best games.

Tim putting the heat on Ethan.
Leslie and Olivia stay out of the line of fire..

Hit me, Josh. I'm open.

Steph and her friend Emma flexing their water wings.

Ethan getting adventuresome.

Hey, who turned this up to 107?