Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I'm All For Killing Powerpoint

The story behind A Modest Proposal For Preventing the Artists of the United States of America From Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and For Making Them Beneficial to The Public can be found here.

Looking Out For Our Troops

The House overwhelmingly passed HR 1801 (PDF) which allows for expedited screening of our military personnel and their families traveling with them when they are traveling in uniform and on orders. This would apply when the military member is flying to their new assignment as long as they were in uniform during travel. It would not apply when they were at their base of assignment and decided to fly home to visit their parents since they would not be traveling on orders even if they were in uniform. This feel-good legislation doesn't do much for our military, but it makes our legislators feel good.

A more pressing problem than military members having to go through airport security is the number of military members committing suicide. And if a measure added to the National Defense Authorization Act by Senator Inhofe (R-OK) remains in place. Commanders will not be permitted to ask troops who live off the base and in the civilian community if they own a firearm. The NRA, crazier than ever in an over zealous pursuit of gun rights, is still a potent lobbying force. Heaven forbid a soldier in counseling should be asked to secure their firearms on base and away from home.

Military caskets flying home aren't unnecessarily delayed by security procedures so I guess it's a wash.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Language Matters

There is some concern about Section 1031 and 1032 (PDF) of Senate bill 1867, National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012. The concern is that Americans suspected of terrorism could be detained indefinitely. Here are the key parts from Section 1032.

(1) IN GENERAL- Except as provided in paragraph (4), the Armed Forces of the United States shall hold a person described in paragraph (2) who is captured in the course of hostilities authorized by the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40) in military custody pending disposition under the law of war.

(2) COVERED PERSONS- The requirement in paragraph (1) shall apply to any person whose detention is authorized under section 1031 who is determined--

    (A) to be a member of, or part of, al-Qaeda or an associated force that acts in coordination with or pursuant to the direction of al-Qaeda; and

    (B) to have participated in the course of planning or carrying out an attack or attempted attack against the United States or its coalition partners.


(1) UNITED STATES CITIZENS- The requirement to detain a person in military custody under this section does not extend to citizens of the United States.

(2) LAWFUL RESIDENT ALIENS- The requirement to detain a person in military custody under this section does not extend to a lawful resident alien of the United States on the basis of conduct taking place within the United States, except to the extent permitted by the Constitution of the United States.

Sounds pretty straightforward that this will require the military to detain any person except for US citizens and possibly resident aliens. However, it seems possible that they could be detained by civil authorities instead.

Here's an interesting part in Section 1031.

(a) In General- Congress affirms that the authority of the President to use all necessary and appropriate force pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40) includes the authority for the Armed Forces of the United States to detain covered persons (as defined in subsection (b)) pending disposition under the law of war.

(b) Covered Persons- A covered person under this section is any person as follows:

    (1) A person who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored those responsible for those attacks.

    (2) A person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces.

This language doesn't mention any exceptions and could possibly include US citizens. Regardless, indefinite detention is an abomination. It's something that would red line our anger meter if another country decided to do the same for our citizens.

I can't wait to see how the never ending war turns out.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Practice Makes Perfect

What better way for Steph to learn how to change a flat than have her rotate the tires, eh? I helped here with the left side and she did the right side all by herself.

I don't think that's what they meant when they called for 80 ft-lbs of torque.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Gingerbread Houses

The Saturday after Thanksgiving has been the gingerbread house making party at our house for ten or twelve years now. When the kids were young they loved it because they could eat so much candy while they were decorating their houses. Now that they're older they love it because they can eat so much candy while they're decorating their houses. The creativity our family and friends displayed is really something. I wish I could show all of the houses.

Josh is giving me the don't-be-stealing-my-ideas look.

Serious business at the grown up table.

Lots of focus at the mostly kids table.

Geoff conveys the Christmas spirit with an angry house eating a gingerbread man. "Oh, nooooooo!"

Another gingerbread man casualty--possibly a muggle--from Steph.

Patty and Mike's more traditional house.

Can you believe that in all these years, this is the first house that Kathy has decorated? It looks like the work of an experienced pro.

This was Emma's first time as well.

Jenny and Lee's cabin at the lake complete with a covered deck and a hot tub. Danged overachievers.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Police Oversight

A number of events have had me pondering our police forces and their respective use of force policies in contrast to their use of force actions. One aspect of that contrast that strikes me is the number of officers who quickly escalate to the use of pepper spray, the club, or the TASER instead of using what has long been taught as the minimum force necessary.

I understand the hazard of writing this post in that it could be construed as generalizing all police officers' actions or second guessing their actions in situations that required quick decisions. Neither is true. My point is that I think we as a society don't consider the ramifications of the use of what is classified as nonlethal force in situations where it need not be used since it is considered nonlethal. I don't think we examine whether the amount of force used was appropriate for the situation.

If you've ever watched the TV show Cops, you may have laughed at the stupidity and ignorance or felt gratified when the bad guy was caught. But every once in a while you'll see a situation where a suspect is under control and it wouldn't take much more effort to cuff them and yet one officer employs a TASER. I noticed this and wondered if the officer was ever chastised or disciplined for using what I considered unnecessary or excessive force. A good example of what I'm referring to is Andrew Meyer, a University of Florida student made famous for the line "Don't tase me, bro." With something like six officers holding him down he was clearly under control and it wouldn't have take much more effort to cuff him and lead him away. Instead an officer applied an electrical shock. There was no need to.

Of course, in our infamous case here in Spokane, the entire Otto Zehm tragedy could have been avoided had Officer Thompson simply taken his time and questioned Otto instead of immediately clubbing him into submission.

More recently, an officer in North Carolina used his TASER on Roger Anthony, an elderly man riding his bicycle home. Roger ended up brain dead. Granted, not all the facts are in, but I really struggle to come up with a situation where a TASER would be necessary to use on an old man riding a bicycle.

I'd like to point out that the only reason we know about this is probably because the man died. But how many cases do we not hear about where unnecessary or excessive force is applied? And how often do we look at those and make a determination that the level of force was justified or not?

If ever there was an argument for a separate oversight or investigatory body of a police force it would be the use of force implemented by the police. The claim that policing is a dangerous job or that snap decisions must be made is not enough to excuse excessive force in situations where it's clearly unwarranted. It does not erase the fact that police officers can be wrong or that they may need more training.

If you read Karl Thompson's statement you may have noticed his description of Otto's jacket as a type of body armor, the possibility that cans and jars on the shelves could be weapons, and the unknown demeanor of the other people in the store. He said he was prepared to defend himself and his intent was to "control this person and physically detain them in handcuffs so we could continue our investigation as to whether there was evidence of a crime and if he was armed." He went on to say there were other situations where he had confronted suspects by himself and they had not always been non confrontational. It's as if Officer Thompson was thinking and expecting the worse to happen.

Is it appropriate or reasonable for police officers to think like that all the time? If so, then you or I could be the next Otto Zehm or Roger Anthony simply because a police officer thinks the worst could happen. And for Karl Thompson the worst did happen, but not in the respect he was considering at the time.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Imagine If All Politicians Were Thin-Skinned

A young lady on a high school field trip in Kansas got to hear Governor Sam Brownback speak. She didn't care for what he said and tweeted this:
Someone from the governor's staff saw the tweet and notified the girl's school principal. The principal wants her to write a letter of apology to the sensitive governor of the great State of Kansas.

She should send a letter. The envelope should include a tissue and a short note that says, "My gift for someone who cries over nothing."

A Fun Cause

Geoff, Josh and I headed down for the Turkey Trot at Manito Park. My sister, Barb, went too. Hosted by the Bloomsday Road Runners Club in support of Second Harvest, the event collects a lot of donations for the food bank. It was a great morning for a run. The sun even shone for a little bit.

This is where you are if you're in the bathroom during the start.

Josh, Barb, me, and Geoff.

Geoff made an interesting observation. He noticed that this event seemed to be an annual reunion for distance running classmates. Sure enough, Josh (Mead '10) was hanging around his former teammates and Geoff (Mead '03) got to catch up with a couple of his.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Doomed To Fail Super Committee Is Failing

Today we learn that the Joint Deficit Reduction Committee is not going to meet the deadline to come up with a plan to meet its goal as outlined in the Budget Control Act of 2011.

GOAL — The goal of the joint committee shall be to reduce the deficit by at least $1,500,000,000,000 over the period of fiscal years 2012 to 2021.

Who could have seen that coming? It was as predictable as the sun rising in the east.

The finger pointing has already been going on for a while. No doubt there will be more, especially once the deadline officially passes. Look for minority reports from each side. Grover Norquist should be proud that the Republican members of the committee stuck to their...values?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Snow, Ice, Slush And Wipeouts

The last race of the series was brutal for me. There were parts of the course where the snow was packed by the earlier races, but much of that was breaking up as the day wore on. The temperature slowly climbed nearer to 32 and the packed snow started breaking up. Much of the twist 'n' turn part was a mixture of loose snow and dirt with just a touch of slightly liquid mud.

I think I fell six or seven times. And for each time I fell I think I made two saves. It was amazing how often my front tire would suddenly dart off to one side or the other threatening me with impending disaster. Slowing down was a challenge since the brakes were iced up most of the time. I understand you're not supposed to use your brakes anyway so I got to try that out. It worked out well--except for those occasions when I couldn't make the turn and headed through the tape marking the course boundary.

Racing on the Coeur d'Alene tundra.

The run up was pretty cool.

Followed by a ride down.
I lost control and crashed here on my practice ride.

I had to use my car's ice scraper to remove these chunks. I cranked up the heat on the ride home to melt off the rest.

And so ends this year's cyclocross season. It was a blast. Next year I'll be back but on a bike better suited for the task. Glen is building one for me. It'll be awesome.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Them Danged Furriners

Alabama, home to the most restrictive immigration laws in the US, scared off quite a few illegal immigrants as well a legal immigrants and citizens who would suffer as well because they look or sound foreign. Mercedes-Benz has a manufacturing plant about 20 miles east of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Mercedes-Benz is a German-owned company. A visiting manager from Germany was arrested for violating the immigration law.

Kudos to the Tuscaloosa cop for bustin' a white man for not having ID even if he's not Amurkin.

That's My Boy

Rackspace, the company Geoff works at now, made the San Francisco paper. He's front and center in the photo. We are treated to a perfect view of the back of his head.

I love this one comment posted on the article:

"The office is filled with games and toys, such as a giant cardboard Lego set and speed chess boards, along with the classic startup fare: pingpong and foosball tables."

You've got to be kidding. When is naptime?

Too funny.

Eat Your Pizza Vegetables

Remember the Reagan years when the Secretary of Agriculture wanted to classify ketchup and pickle relish as servings of vegetables? Remember the uproar and backtracking that followed? Thirty years later and it's déjà vu all over again.

At some point in the past the food industry managed to get a quarter-cup of tomato paste on pizza to be considered a serving of a vegetable. The US Department of Agriculture wants to change that and a number of other rules in order to promote more nutritional meals in schools and reduce childhood obesity.

The food industry agrees that eating more fruits and vegetables and reducing salt is a good thing. It says it has developed healthier foods over time to make school lunches more nutritious. But they say the government’s proposals go too far too quickly.

One third of America's children are overweight. There's your problem right there--we're not looking at the bright side. Two-thirds of our kids aren't.

See, it's okay. Industry will fix it all on their own. No need to change anything--unless Congress has the cojones to. And you know how difficult that would be with so many lobbyists squeezing them so tightly.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

In case you haven't heard of the Stop Online Piracy Act and how it would work, here's a pretty good explanation of how this legislation could change the Internet for us all.

PROTECT IP Act Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future.

Perhaps we think we're competing with China.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Half To Work Where I Have To Work

I'm getting ready for a longer run next month so I mapped out a 13.5 mile route to work and ran it this morning. Part of it follows the Children of the Sun Trail which turned out to be closed between Farwell and Fairview. I wasn't about to let a Road Closed sign stop me so I plodded on. It looks like it's closed because they're driving construction vehicles on it. The run went smoothly. I even got to say howdy to Don Kardong running in the opposite direction on the Centennial Trail.

View 13.5-mile route to work in a larger map

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Cyclocross Racing At Walter's Fruit Ranch

I finally got what I wished for. Yesterday's snow helped create a soggy bottom course for us up on Greenbluff. I scouted out the course. The run up was pretty devious, an off-camber climb up a hill with a steep sharp left turn followed by more uphill climbing. Several long stretches with muddy 180-degree turns. Lots of slippery track and then there was this one corner that was particularly treacherous.

I got off to a good start. Well as good as it gets sprinting uphill in mud, but I thought I was doing better than I did in other races. After the run up I tried to jump back on the bike while everyone else kept running. I missed and several riders passed me by while I floundered. Several long stretches with the 180 turns followed the hill and I picked one rider off at each turn. Proud of myself for gaining some ground I came into the treacherous turn from the right side intending to cut across in the turn and go up the left side. It worked too well. I was going too fast and my back tire lost traction, spinning me completely around and tossing me into the mud. All those guys I just picked off, and maybe a couple more, rode on by. That was the only time I crashed.

After the field stretched out I ended up battling with a couple other guys for three laps. They would pass me and then I'd get by them when they'd wipe out at corners. Keeping my cool and a steady hand, I worked the corners well. The bike and I got very dirty. I think my bike had just as much fun as I did.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Surprise Visitor

Look who stopped by to wish Steph a happy birthday.

I Could Be Rich

I received this email from an unknown friend who claims to be sending me $5,000 a day. I hate to turn down the possibility of getting $1.5 million just because it sounds too good to be true, but that's how I roll. Besides, making 300 out-of-my-way trips to Western Union is just too much hassle. No thanks.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Another Boorish American

In his latest column in the Inlander, George Nethercutt expresses how great America is and how the rest of the world is either ignorant or unappreciative of that greatness.

Having returned recently from delivering a lecture series to students and faculty at a university in Great Britain, I found a disturbing culture of ignorance abroad about longstanding principles underlying America’s place in a dangerous world and a regrettable tendency to forget times when the United States has been a reliable source of support for people everywhere.

He goes on to talk about America's contributions in World War I, World War II, and the Cold War and implies that the world owes us. As for the post-9/11 era, he says foreign students are wrong to think America was unjustified in invading Iraq and deposing Saddam Hussein.

Their views threaten the likelihood that American standards for global freedom in this new century will be long upheld and embraced as good for humanity. Seeing America for the help it provides to other freedom-seeking people is de-emphasized in today’s university culture. To do so mistakenly overlooks the world’s need for a strong nation like the United States to act as a bulwark against nations whose motivations are to suppress freedom.

While it’s encouraging that foreign students show interest in the U.S. model, some American Studies students held a generally bitter attitude about American foreign policy that bordered on a deep cynicism uncharacteristic for their age and stage in life. Their negativity about America warns us about how the American story is presented to the greater world; that story should engender gratitude, not enmity.

Thanks to Mr Nethercutt's eyes we now see clearly. They should be thankful for US military bases all over the world, drone attacks, bombings, invading a country that posed no threat, and an expensive and extensive military response to a non-state threat as a reliable source of support for freedom-seeking people in this dangerous world.

Despite the left-wing nature of university thought, history proves that the U.S. emphasizing freedom abroad — not just foreign aid — is a source of salvation for all who seek liberty.

I'm guessing that "left-wing nature of university thought" means that thought which disagrees with George Nethercutt.

The United States, particularly President Obama, should more often unashamedly remind the world of America’s many virtues, so that future generations will embrace American ideals.

In this respect, Mr Nethercutt is consistent. I heard him speak three years ago at Whitworth University where he extolled American exceptionalism and how we should "export that" to the rest of the world.

The worst moments, for me, of living in other countries were when American tourists, carrying that American exceptionalism chip on their shoulder, expecting everyone to speak English, and thinking the rules don't apply to them made their boorish presence known for all to see.

I couldn't help but think, "What an asshole."

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Birthday Girl

Sixteen years ago, Stephanie came into this world and she's been my favorite daughter ever since. It's easy to see why.

Goofing around.

More goofing around.

Learning to ride.

A second grade big smile.

Posing in Rome.

The day she earned her black belt in Taekwondo.

First day of fourth grade.

But It's Cold Out

Yesterday, two other runners in Riverfront Park thought it was funny that I was wearing gloves while running barefoot. I have to admit I didn't really need the gloves once I warmed up after the first mile or so but I had no place to put them so I kept them on.

I've been working on the exercise and technique Christopher McDougall wrote about in the New York Times last week. It's anecdotal evidence on my part so far but I've certainly noticed an improved level of comfort while running, especially on the soles of my feet. Time will tell if it helps me with speed. I'll put it to the test on Bloomsday and see if or how much I improve my finish time.

The Story Of Broke

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Ft Steilacoom Cyclocross

We drove over to see Josh at UW on Saturday and were treated to the sight of a squirrel scurrying by with a donut in its mouth. (Didn't have my camera with me to catch that.) Later on we headed down to Lakewood at stay at my brother John's house. He and I entered the first two races put on by Seattle Cyclocross at Ft Steilacoom this morning. We entered the men's Cat 4 and the men's masters 45+ (John in black and white jersey below) and masters 55+ (me in yellow jersey).

The course was heavily frosted and stayed that way in the shaded areas so there were a number of slick spots. During the first race I had to go around crashes twice in a grassy twist-and-turn section. On the third lap of the first race I picked up some road rash on a downhill that ended on a muddy trail and then made a very hard right turn onto a bark covered trail. My right shifter was acting funny after that. When the race was over I removed a chunk of bark from inside and I was set for the second race. On the last lap of the second race one of the Cat 1 women passed me just before this downhill. I figured that since she probably knew what she was doing I would just follow her track. I guess I was off just a bit because my front wheel caught something and next thing I know I trimming branches off a tree. Removing them from my bike cost me a bunch of time. The run up on this course was especially entertaining and challenging. It was about 100 feet long and led off with three obstacles spaced 25-30 feet apart.

The races were fun and it was great to hang out with Josh, John, Susan, Jasmine, and Bekah.

All photos by my sister-in-law, Susan.

Friday, November 4, 2011

So Many Questions

Officer Karl Thompson was found guilty of both charges pressed by federal authorities and now we have a new twist.

In today's Spokesman Review we have a report that Thompson's attorney, Carl Oreskovich, claims he witnessed jurors watching TV reports of the trial while it was under way and now wants a new trial because of the juror misconduct.

Thompson, defense attorneys and even [Judge] Van Sickle all stayed in the Oxford Suites hotel in Yakima, along with five of the 12 jurors selected from the south-central portion of the state. At certain times, members of all those groups mingled for morning breakfast in a common area that had at least two televisions showing various news updates on Northwest Cable News.

“We believe, based on our own observations, that jurors were exposed to inflammatory information” from television coverage of the trial, Oreskovich said. Trial coverage was “frequently piped in, including information from the trial of Officer Thompson and the beating death of a mentally-ill janitor.”

I find it troubling that an attorney who saw jurors watching news reports of the trial they were on would fail to report until after the verdict was rendered. I wonder if this could affect that attorney's professional standing.

The American Bar Association Rule 8.4 concerning attorney misconduct and maintaining the integrity of the profession states:

It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to:


(d) engage in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice;

Is not reporting observed juror misbehavior at the time it took place prejudicial to the administration of justice? If such misconduct violated the judge's instructions or could possibly taint the jury, shouldn't it have been reported immediately so the judge could make a determination during the trial? One of the reasons for having alternate jurors is to allow the trial to continue in case jurors have an emergency or are dismissed. There were three alternate jurors at this trial. Is reporting the misconduct after an adverse verdict is delivered prejudicial to the administration of justice?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Guinea Pig

Some students at Gonzaga are doing a study to determine what lower leg muscles are activating while running in Vibrams. Of course, when I got wind of that I had to volunteer to be a test subject. They shaved spots on my right lower leg, attached leads and electrodes, and then I ran on a treadmill with Vibrams, barefoot, and shoes. They showed me the results and it turned out I was consistently using the same muscles in all three cases. They were surprised by that but I found it encouraging. For me it meant that all this effort to relearn how to run has worked. They showed me the results of a couple of other subjects who landed on their heels in shoes and on their forefoot in Vibrams. The patterns were strikingly different.

Wired up and ready to run--blech!--in shoes.

I always look best from a distance. Or going away.

Funny moment of the day. They made me clean my feet before I could get on the treadmill barefoot.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Police State Will Protect Us

An excellent read about airport scanners over at ProPublica:

On Sept. 23, 1998, a panel of radiation safety experts gathered at a Hilton hotel in Maryland to evaluate a new device that could detect hidden weapons and contraband. The machine, known as the Secure 1000, beamed X-rays at people to see underneath their clothing.

One after another, the experts convened by the Food and Drug Administration raised questions about the machine because it violated a longstanding principle in radiation safety — that humans shouldn’t be X-rayed unless there is a medical benefit.

“I think this is really a slippery slope,” said Jill Lipoti, who was the director of New Jersey’s radiation protection program. The device was already deployed in prisons; what was next, she and others asked — courthouses, schools, airports? “I am concerned … with expanding this type of product for the traveling public,” said another panelist, Stanley Savic, the vice president for safety at a large electronics company. “I think that would take this thing to an entirely different level of public health risk.”

The machine’s inventor, Steven W. Smith, assured the panelists that it was highly unlikely that the device would see widespread use in the near future. At the time, only 20 machines were in operation in the entire country.

Wow, look at how far we've come since 1998. My mother-in-law won't fly to Spokane any more because she doesn't want to get scanned or touched. Well into her 70's she's hardly the security threat, but you know we just can't take any chances these days. She said she would rather take the bus or train instead. We've counseled against that because it's at least three days travel time and she wouldn't be comfortable at all. Maybe a sleeper car would do but it would still be a long trip for her.

But if you think taking the train or bus will keep you from being scanned or searched, you've got another think coming. A Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response team could be coming to a train station, bus station, or even along an interstate near you.

The apparent logic here is that terrorists are everywhere simply because that's where we're looking.