Saturday, December 31, 2011

A New Steed In The Stable

I bit the bullet and ordered a bike from Glen. I picked it up last Monday and today was my first opportunity to take it out. I have to say, Glen makes a helluva bike.

An Elephant in it's natural habitat.

I'm not a gear head so you're not going to hear me talk about frame geometry, gear ratios, components or the like. It's better to leave that to people in the know. But I can tell you that I took this out on trail and asphalt and it was the most comfortable riding bike I've ever been on. It handled great on the trails and I was struck by the improvement in maneuverability over my road bike. Cyclocross racing is going to be even more fun next fall.

Approaching my exit.

Bucket O' Elephant.

The Boogeyman Is Out To Kill You In Your Car

In today's Spokesman Review we have an article by Steve Johnson about hi-tech vehicles being vulnerable to hacking. The article was originally published in the San Jose Mercury news three days ago.

Fear is a strong attention getter so what better way to get the reader's attention than this:

Imagine this nightmarish possibility: al-Qaida terrorists remotely disabling the brakes on thousands of cars racing down a Bay Area freeway during the morning commute, leading to massive chaos, death and destruction. Implausible? Maybe not, some experts warn.

Let me rephrase that.

Imagine a group of low-tech religious fanatics notorious for once using box cutters to take over four planes and killing themselves and their passengers by flying them into buildings now disabling the brakes on thousands of cars by remote control, leading to massive chaos, death and destruction. Does that seem reasonable or probable? Some experts say maybe so.

Really? It's interesting that we tend to think something is more likely to happen just because we can imagine it happening. After imagining this "nightmarish possibility" it now seems more likely, doesn't it? Well, please, think again.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Don't Do The Crime If You Can't Do The Time

Shawn Vestal tells a sympathetic story in today's Review. In a truly generous and worthy cause, a gentleman dressed as Santa and accompanied by family members dressed as elves delivered presents to St Margaret's Shelter. The problem is that he got a $450 ticket for parking in a spot reserved for the disabled.

At first, Finn pulled up in front of the shelter on Hartson, but was told it would be better to leave that spot – the closest to the front door – open. He pulled into the empty parking lot – and into one of three open handicapped spots.

Understandably, a lot of people are upset at the perceived unfairness of this situation. Surely someone who is doing something so kind and wonderful--and it is--should not be punished for parking in a disabled-reserved parking spot.

Does the law apply equally to us or do we make exceptions for certain people? (I'm leaving out the law as it applies to the 1%.) Maybe I should rephrase. Should the law apply equally to us or should we make exceptions for certain people? Who will decide what those exceptions are? Would that be fair?

It's not like Finn had no place to park. He could have returned to the slot out front and told the people inside that it was the only one available. Regardless, he chose to park where he did.

Sitting through several sessions of a commissioner presiding over parking tickets--and suffering through a painful experience of my own--I learned that the only way you can have the ticket thrown out is if you can prove you did not violate the law. Ignorance of the law is no excuse and motivations and excuses have no part in it. The commissioner is permitted to reduce the fine for mitigating reasons so maybe Finn can have the fine reduced. But the most it can be reduced is by one-third unless the rules have changed within the last year. I'm pretty sure Finn is looking at at least a $300 fine.

While this all makes for good press and garners sympathy for Finn, I think he should pay the fine. It would be nice if other generous people chipped in to help him out. I'm willing to throw in a ten spot.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Wearing Thin

I've been feeling restless because I haven't run since last Thursday so I headed out today for an easy 4-1/2 miles. It felt great to get out. The Vibrams have held up pretty well after 16 months of use. I don't keep track of my miles so I have no idea how many they've done. If I was to use the Texas Official Scale of Measurements then I'd say it was a shitload.

Overall the wear patterns are pretty symmetrical except for my right heal. It has more wear than my left heel. Curious, I checked my soles. The skin on my right heel is thicker than the skin on my left heel. Whatever I'm doing wrong, I'm being consistent about it.

A Mellow Christmas

Christmas was a lot fun for us this year. We kept it quiet and laid back, interrupted only with intense games of RoboRally.

Their excitement was almost too much to bear.

Geoff getting into the spirit.

Josh knows just what to use this for.

Shades of A Christmas Story
You'll shoot your eye out, kid.

No sign of 31+ years of marriage taking a toll on Kathy.
She's as beautiful as ever.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Don't Feed Into It

Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers has posted another survey on her site.

A new session of Congress will start in January, and we have a full plate of issues to work on. Please fill out this survey to let me know your views and opinions.

Yep, a full plate. As if they cleared anything off their plate during this last year. Well, they did stop the EPA from regulating farm dust even though the EPA had no intentions of doing so. Anyway, check out the wording of the questions and answers. I'm going to touch on some of them.

If you can only choose one, then how about using radio buttons instead of check boxes? Although the input text box for Other is very small, you do get a maximum of 2048 characters to add comments about working WITH the opposition, being LESS ideological, to STOP ignoring science, etc.

Simple and false either-or answers that do not resolve a complex problem. By the way, Social Security does not contribute to the deficit.

Yes, we know you voted to repeal health care reform. The Congressional Budget Office said repealing the law would increase the deficit. Repealing health care reform would allow insurance companies to deny coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and leave 32 million people without health care.

The Keystone XL pipeline is designed to bypass oil refineries in the Midwest where it must be sold in the US and take it straight to a Foreign Trade Zone on the Gulf Coast where it can be exported tax free. And that is the stated intent by Canada, the seller, and Valero, one of the largest potential buyers.

You can check both answers to this question. But notice the question is about gun ownership, not gun control. Gun control comes up is when we talk about adding checks or restrictions to buying guns after some nutcase goes on a shooting spree. In response, some legislators want to allow college students to carry guns on campus and the like. As well armed as this country is, carrying more guns around will make us safer.


Our fair congresswoman co-sponsored the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011--passing the House last month--which would override state laws (whatever happened to state's autonomy and reducing federal regulations?) and requires states to honor concealed weapon permits from other states. If the Senate passes this, look for a huge uptick in applications in state(s) where it's really easy to get a concealed carry permit.

None of the answers directly answer the question of placing more restrictions on abortion. Unfortunately, there is no Other box to comment on defunding Planned Parenthood so they can't use federal funds for providing abortions which they already do since they can't use federal funds for providing abortions. But let's not let be bothered with pesky facts.

Overall, this survey is feedback to feed the talking points. Write a letter instead.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Another Email Scam

I received this interesting email purporting to be from an agent from the Federal Bureau of Investigations. The attachment contained a note telling me a Visa cash card loaded with money and addressed to me had been intercepted by customs and I needed to email the agent to make the necessary arrangements to get my millions. I was curious as to what the scam was because there was no mention of payment for anything so I emailed the so-called agent--at his New Zealand email address.

No reply. Bummer.

Then I received another one of a similar nature.

Ah, so that's the deal. I would have to pay a mandatory fee to have the card sent to me. Like that's gonna happen.

A Falsehood About A False Vote

On her Facebook page, Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers is trying to blame stubborn Senate Democrats for failing to extend the payroll tax holiday. I guess she has no quarrel with the thirty-seven stubborn Republican senators who followed suit.

But here is what she's not sharing with her constituents.

The bill that was brought to a vote was simply a procedural ploy by Speaker Boehner that allowed members to record a yes or no vote and kill the bill regardless. A "yes" vote called on a conference committee to be established while rejecting the Senate bill. A "no" vote rejected both establishing the conference committee and the Senate bill. The Republican House leadership did not give the Senate bill a fair vote because no matter how the representatives of this extremely tarnished institution voted, the bill would be rejected. So...yeah...that's moving the process a backwards sort of way.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Downtown Today

A suspicious package left in front of the Post Office.

Sheriff's helicopter looking for bodies in the river.

Pigeons watching from a safe roost.

An unperturbed, well-trained canine waits patiently
outside Riverfront Park Square.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Tebow Time

I'm not a huge football fan but you have to be living off the grid to not hear about Tim Tebow, the Denver Broncos quarterback who makes sure everyone is aware of his religious faith. I've only watched one Broncos game this year and that's because I was visiting friends who are longtime Broncos fans. I am impressed that Tebow is willing to take so much punishment while running the ball, but I have to wonder how long that will last. Football is a brutal sport and professional players have their lifetimes considerably shortened for the privilege of submitting their bodies to weekly beatings.

Much has been said about Tebow's constant talk about his faith. Again, that's why you nearly have to be off the grid to now know about this. The first thing out of his mouth during the interview after every game is to thank his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Far be it from me to determine that a supreme being has taken an interest in the 2011 Denver Broncos making almost every game a tale of an underdog struggling against all odds and then prevailing in a near-miraculous victory. I'll leave that to the experts.

America loves a good story and Tebow--a misfit when it comes to the traditional NFL quarterback mold--and his team's success has been a great story. The team has obviously come together in a supportive congregation behind their quarterback. He's more than willing to put himself out there and lead the team, an unconventional quarterback running unconventional plays and getting results.

But people are starting complain about all the press Tebow is getting. That is not his fault nor is it a sign that people dislike or hate the man. It's a function of our media to entertain us. Tebow and his come-from-behind wins are the story for now. If not him, then perhaps we'd be hearing more about Aaron Rodgers and the Packers as they get closer to completing a just-as-miraculous undefeated season.

When you stop and think about it, what does it matter? It's football. It's entertainment. It's supposed to get you emotional. It's supposed to distract you from the important things in life. And it's working all too well.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Coolest Aunts Ever

Janet and Judith, sisters of my mother, got together and put an assortment of items to help me with my run this morning. You'll notice a "55" theme in there. That's because I turn 55 tomorrow.

Hmmm, maybe the foot cream will reduce that collection of skin cells at the foot of my bed. Ew, gross, right? Yeah, that's why I threw that in there. The butt paste is hilarious. The weekly pill dispenser begs the question, "I have to take viagra every day?"

A huge thanks to my aunts for having a great sense of humor and thinking of me. (And for not telling stories about how they used to change my diaper.)

Pullman 50k

The sun slowly ascended and finally peeked over the horizon when I arrived in Pullman this morning. I had signed up to run the Pullman 50k hosted by Scott McMurtry and Sadie the ultra dog. The cold wind had me shaking as I signed in. I quickly put on my running pants, jacket, hat and gloves to help stay warm as we waited for the start. The run follows a 7.75-mile loop which passed by the parking lot we started at so our vehicles could be our food/drink stops. Eric, a friend and longtime cycling commuter, was also there. He and I ran together for the first lap. While the pace felt comfortable enough, I suspected I was going faster than I intended. Since there were no mile markers we had no idea what our pace was until we finished the lap. 67 minutes. I was planning on 80 so I needed to back off a bit.

The route followed a bike path that was frosted for almost the entire way. The frost kept pace with the shade, receding to the edge of the asphalt path as the warming sun rose. I shed my running pants, hat and gloves after the first lap and traded my jacket for another shirt. I wore the second shirt during the parts of the course where the headwind was the worst. When I didn't need it I tucked it through my belt.

I let Eric go on ahead during the second lap and yet I still finished it in 73 minutes. For a change of pace and scenery, I ran the course in the opposite direction for the third lap. I got to say hi to all the 25k runners who started at 10:00 as well as see how all the other 50k runners were doing. A little over half way I developed a cramp in my left arch so I slowed down and tried to relax. It eased off after a couple of miles but then I started having sharp pains in my lower abdomen. It was strange because although it was in the area where I had a hernia repaired a year ago, I don't have a hernia. I finished the third lap in 80 minutes which was right on the pace I wanted.

Then I headed out for lap number four. I wasn't feeling well so I took it real easy and slow, waiting to see if the pain would go away. It didn't so after a mile I decided I would not enjoy another six-plus miles of that and turned back around. My total for the day was a little over 25 miles, well shy of the planned 31 but I'm happy with the decision I made.

I signed out and wrote down my time for three laps and headed over to the Palouse Falls Brewing Company for pizza and beer with the other runners. While there I got to meet Scott and several others, some of whom are with the running club sponsored by the brewery--the Beer Chasers. A very friendly and welcoming group. And the beer was great which made me feel even better about my decision to stop. I might do this one again. It's worth it alone for the beer and company.

50k runners just before their hours of suffering begin.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Taking The Pledge

Newt Gingrich, apparently in an attempt to be the most poisonous Republican party presidential candidate, wrote a letter to The Family Leader expressing his support for the group's marriage vow. Read the marriage vow first. It covers a helluva lot more than just marriage.

Here's my favorite part:

Fierce defense of the First Amendment‟s rights of Religious Liberty and Freedom of Speech, especially against the intolerance of any who would undermine law-abiding American citizens and institutions of faith and conscience for their adherence to, and defense of, faithful heterosexual monogamy.

Yeah, this country is being ripped apart by those allegedly intolerant people who complain about extremely intolerant folks like this imposing their will on everyone else. But I digress.

Newt pledges to remain faithful to his third wife, Callista. Callista happens to be the woman he had an affair with while he was still married to his second wife. He was having an affair with her while he was investigating Bill Clinton for obstruction of justice and perjury during the Monica Lewinski scandal. But after two failed attempts, he has decided to stick with the beautiful blonde wife who is twenty years his junior. Nice.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

TASER Guidelines

I was reading the online copy of the Spokane Police Policy Manual (PDF) and the part covering the use of the TASER caught my attention.

Here's the stated purpose.

When properly applied in accordance with this policy, the TASER™ device (ECDElectronic Control Device) is considered a nondeadly control device that is intended to temporarily control a violent or potentially violent individual, while minimizing the risk of serious injury. It is anticipated that the appropriate use of such a device will result in fewer serious injuries to officers and suspects.

Although not absolutely prohibited, officers should give additional consideration to the unique circumstances involved prior to applying the TASER™ to any of the following individuals:

Here is one of the individuals where use of the TASER is not absolutely prohibited.

Passively resisting subjects.

Remember, the intended purpose of the TASER is "to temporarily control a violent or potentially violent individual, while minimizing the risk of serious injury."

Later on the policy states this:

The TASER™ shall not be used to torture, psychologically torment, elicit statements, or inflict undue pain on any individual.

That contradiction bothers me. Worse, after a careful read of the language in the entire policy on TASER usage, in my mind the police here can use the TASER just about any time they wish. Anybody could be described as potentially violent.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Information Just Wants To Be Free

Last month the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Communications and Technology held hearings on proposed legislation creatively entitled The Mobile Informational Call Act of 2011.

Essentially, a lot has changed since the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) was passed back in 1991. Many people have switched from land line telephones to mobile phones and the Act placed restrictions on calling mobile phones.

Rep Greg Walden, the subcommittee chairman, has this to say:

The thrust of the TCPA was to help protect consumers from unwanted telemarketing calls. The question now, however, is whether the TCPA is inadvertently preventing consumers from the convenience of getting other information they do want while they’re on the go with their mobile phones.

From the background memo:

The aim of the Mobile Informational Call Act of 2011 is to permit informational calls to mobile devices.

I still have a land line and I can tell you that I have yet to receive an informational phone call that I have wanted let alone found useful. Such useless calls would just waste minutes on my cell phone. And with every election season my answering machine fills up with information calls from non-profit political organizations who have been given free rein to pester me with such information whether it's misleading or not.

Anyone see the incongruity in this statement from the background memo?

Congress passed the Telephone Consumer Protection Act to protect telephone customers from intrusive telephone marketing while balancing those protections against the needs of businesses and non-profits to communicate and inform consumers. At the time, most states had rules restricting telemarketing practices, but Congress found that telemarketers used the interstate telephone system to evade those state-by-state restrictions.

Normally Republicans complain about the size and power of the federal government and claim they want to reduce it and give the states the power to decide for themselves. Years ago Congress found that telemarketers could evade state-by-state restrictions. But with health care the Republicans would like to allow health insurance companies to do that very same practice.

More from Weldon:

But it’s been twenty years since Congress passed the TCPA, and the world of telecommunications has changed. Back then, the only person with a cell phone was Gordon Gecko. Today, many American households have given up the landline and rely exclusively on wireless service. Back then, wireless customers paid higher per-minute rates to receive calls; now, most consumers have buckets of minutes so that receiving an additional call costs them nothing. Given these changes to the market, now seems like a good time to revisit some of the rules the TCPA put in place.

He's right that the issue should be revisited and I hope Congress is smart about this. (Wishful thinking on my part, eh?) It will be difficult to allow for the many type of cell phone plans. Not everyone has "buckets of minutes". Government agencies often have restrictions on how their cell phones may be used. People with prepaid phones would probably take exception having their minutes used up by information calls.

Weldon is not done yet.

Does the TCPA prevent consumers from receiving informational calls from their banks like fraud or low-balance alerts? Do the strictures of the TCPA and the FCC’s implementation of it make it too difficult for businesses to engage their customers and provide them valuable services? What is the proper role for states in protecting the privacy of telephone subscribers?

You'll notice he doesn't talk about non-profit political organizations being the primary source of informational calls. Like I indicated above, that's been my experience.

You know what else is missing? He doesn't mention job creators.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Dangers Of Driving

Not that it's official that allowing women to drive results in increased premarital sex maybe Kathy and I should have that "talk" with Stephanie.

You mean a seat belt and air bags aren't enough protection?

Ebenezer Newt

Are there no prisons? And the union workhouses - are they still in operation? I help to support the establishments I have named; those who are badly off must go there.

Last month, Newt Gingrich had this to say about replacing unionized janitors at school with children who attend the school. He claims that children in the poorest neighborhoods are trapped in child laws that prevent them from earning money.

Most of these schools ought to get rid of the unionized janitors, have one master janitor and pay local students to take care of the school. The kids would actually do work, they would have cash, they’d have pride in the schools, they’d begin the process of rising. Get any job that teaches you to show up on Monday. Get any job that teaches you to stay all day, even if you’re having a fight with your girlfriend.

Apparently he only wants to lift up poor children who are lesbian or hetero male? Rather than a plan to help poor children, this sounds more like a bizarre attack on unionized school janitors. Regardless, the ridiculous nature of his proposal is yet another disconcerting highlight of the embarrassments known as the candidates seeking the Republican presidential nomination. And we're talking serious candidates who will say anything--absolutely anything--in order to increase their appeal.

A couple days ago, Gingrich clarified those remarks by saying:

Really poor children, in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works so they have no habit of showing up on Monday. They have no habit of staying all day, they have no habit of "I do this and you give me cash" unless it is illegal.

So now he's creating a link between really poor children and crime. The FBI statistics show that crime has consistently been decreasing. I'm not sure what standard he uses to define really poor, let alone poor, but let's see what we get when we use the poverty level. Here's a chart from the Census Bureau (PDF) brief on child poverty in 2009 and 2010 in the richest country in the world. We have less crime but more poor children.

The number of children living in poverty has increased these last couple of years making one out of every five children a possible janitor in Newt's world. That's quite a work force he could mobilize and use to erase the powerful school janitor unions that disgust him so much.

Imagine how clean our schools would be if he put all those kids to work--as long as they weren't fighting with their girlfriends. Or cheating on their wives. Or getting married for the third time. Or admitting to violating House rules and paying $300,000 in sanctions in response to eighty-four ethics charges. It's important that these young people have good role models in their lives and develop that habit of "I do this and you give me cash" unless it is illegal.