Sunday, July 29, 2012

Thursday, July 26, 2012

To Be Found Only On The Black Market

As of yesterday, Buckyballs magnetic toys are banned from being sold in the U.S. If you've ever seen these, you know they're highly magnetic and they can be frustrating to work with. Here are some of the objects my creative kids put together with Buckyballs. Josh should get a trophy for the trophy he made in the last photo.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Monday, July 23, 2012

God And Guns Will Save Us

Bill Moyers on the NRA and guns in America.

If you don't want to watch the video, you can read the transcript here.

We are a bizarre nation to a point. Rapt with horror and caught up in the cycle of breaking news, we are easily led to the next media-focused attention-getting event, whether natural or man made, quickly ending any discussion and fading the memory of the subject we were on before. The intense coverage of a mass shooting every couple of years or so gives us the illusion this is a rare occurrence and yet it happens all the time (PDF).


Even more bizarre is the pandering by some. Rep Louis Gohmert of Texas claimed the attack at the theater in Aurora was the result of the lower value our country has placed on God. He also wondered why nobody else in the theater was armed and could have stopped the attacker more quickly. In Rep Gohmert's world, taking a gun to the theater is a good thing, possibly Godly.


On the other hand, evangelical spokesman Jerry Newcombe said on the Christian American Family Association radio show that the Aurora shooting was caused by our loss of fear of God and hell. And he makes this bizarre statement:


If a Christian dies early, if a Christian dies young, it seems tragic, but really it is not tragic because they are going to a wonderful place.. on the other hand, if a person doesn’t know Jesus Christ.. if they knowingly rejected Jesus Christ, then, basically, they are going to a terrible place.


So there's your answer, America. We don't need gun control. If we all become good Christians and armed ourselves, then when someone opens fire and sends a few Christians to a wonderful place, we can return fire and send them to a terrible place.


In a sense, Rep Gohmert is right. If God is in all of us then surely our prolific shooting of each other indicates a devaluation of life. And Mr Newcombe is close to the truth as well. This isn't tragic. This is deplorable. It's heartbreaking. And it's pathetic.

Well, it's almost time for the media to focus our attention on something else. "This just in...."



Saturday, July 21, 2012

Friday, July 20, 2012

Salt Lake City Visit

My job took me to Salt Lake City for a couple of nights. I did most of my sight seeing Wednesday evening. Thursday was a full work day and I flew home Friday morning. The city center is great for running barefoot with lots of smooth cement, granite, and marble to cruise on.


I was impressed with the design of the City-County Building. The architecture style is known as Richardsonian-Romanesque. It's a cool looking building completely surrounded by lawn and trees and it has an entire 10 acre block to itself.

SLC has light rail as well as plenty of traffic downtown. The LOOK signs painted at most intersections serve to remind you to look for trains as well as cars. Pedestrians are not necessarily a protected species. I saw lots of vehicle drivers cutting them off and shooting the gap in crosswalks.

 Thanks, but I think I'll look both ways anyway.

 An appreciable expression of cynicism.

Sightseeing wouldn't be complete without stopping by the Temple. It's walled off and I'm guessing you have to be a credentialed LDS member to get in. I didn't hear the call. 

The City Creek Center mall has a couple of water fountains that you can play in. Did you ever have this much fun when you went shopping with mom?



Wednesday, July 18, 2012

In Denial


A couple days ago the Spokesman Review published a Q&A on 15 topics presented to Cathy McMorris Rodgers. Topic number 12 was global warming.
12. Do you believe the human activity is significant factor that causes global warming? Should the federal government regulate carbon emissions to slow or reduce the impact of global warming?
Her response: 
Scientific reports are inconclusive at best on human culpability for global warming. Regardless of which theory proves correct, the goal is the same – to reduce carbon emissions, we need innovation in the private sector; not excessive government regulation to stifle some industries while rewarding others. I oppose “cap and trade” and other Big Government schemes because they will destroy jobs while likely having minimal impact on the climate. Further we have little influence over excessive and unregulated emissions from foreign countries like China that opens one coal fired electric plant every week.
I would ask our congresswoman to have a look at the information NASA and the Washington State Department of Ecology present on global warming and climate change. The science is not inconclusive.
In its recently released Fourth Assessment Report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of 1,300 independent scientific experts from countries all over the world under the auspices of the United Nations, concluded there's a more than 90 percent probability that human activities over the past 250 years have warmed our planet.

The industrial activities that our modern civilization depends upon have raised atmospheric carbon dioxide levels from 280 parts per million to 379 parts per million in the last 150 years. The panel also concluded there's a better than 90 percent probability that human-produced greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide have caused much of the observed increase in Earth's temperatures over the past 50 years.

They said the rate of increase in global warming due to these gases is very likely to be unprecedented within the past 10,000 years or more.

Our congresswoman would have us wait until it's too late. Meanwhile, the poles melt, the glaciers recede, the crops wither, and the storms kick our butts.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Went For A Ride This Afternoon

I drove over to Riverside State Park to ride some trails today. I'm very unfamiliar with the trails there and got lost but I didn't know how lost I was until I stumbled across Seven Mile Road. I had no clue I was anywhere near it or that I had already crossed it at one point. I thought I had crossed Riverside State Park Drive. All those using-the-sun-to-keep-track-of-myself skills I learned in Boy Scouts are apparently gone now. I was over a mile from where I thought I was. And on the other side of the road.
Obligatory look-at-the-pretty-bike photo.

Nobody Has Noticed?

In my home district, Washington's 5th congressional district, we have Cathy McMorris Rodgers hoping to get elected to another term and Rich Cowan as her latest contender. A little over a week ago I thought I'd check out their campaign web sites (the links are on their names). Of course, the issues are what's important to voters--well at least to me.

Rich Cowan's issues are: Jobs and the Economy, Training a World-class Workforce, Military Families and Veterans, Infrastructure and Conservation, Agriculture, Tax Fairness, and Medicare and Seniors. Most of the supporting text is general in nature with the occasional jab at our fair congresswoman who is not referred to by name. There's not much detail, which is a shame. If you're going to address issues, you should provide the opportunity for people to learn more about your ideas and positions.

The issues Cathy McMorris Rodgers lists are: Economy & Domestic Issues, Government Spending, Energy, National Security, and Values. Generic statements support each one. Under National Security she states, "As the wife of a career Navy man, I understand the nature of their family commitments and the drawbacks that come of it." That's interesting because her husband, Brian, was retired from the Navy when they got married. He must have told her lots of stories because she certainly didn't live through any of "the drawbacks that come of it."

More interesting about her Issues page is that all of the links are broken. Presumably the links are there so you can find out more, but if you click on any of them you get this depending on the browser you use:
Well, it's not like she's been that concerned with the issues anyway. And apparently she's been too busy trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act--again--to double check the links on her site.



Saturday, July 14, 2012

They See Obama. They Be Hatin'

My letter to the Inlander in response to George Nethercutt's latest commentary.

I'm writing about Mr Nethercutt's latest contribution to the Inlander (In the End, It's a Tax). His use of words like "exposed", "deception", and "deceit" referring to the government's position that the penalty for not purchasing health insurance is not a tax are carefully chosen. He makes it sound like the Obama administration purposely created 2,000 pages of legislation in order to confuse everyone. He neglects to mention that Republicans played a major in crafting this 2,000 page legislation as 400 of their amendments were adopted.

He claims President Obama would have labeled the Supreme Court "political" had they voted against him. Let's be clear that the Supreme Court was evaluating the arguments placed before them and deciding the outcome based on the U.S. Constitution, not voting for or against President Obama. To say otherwise is to assume the court is political.

Then Mr Nethercutt goes on to claim other presidential deceptions. He has somehow determined that this nation is even more divided than 2009, but he makes no mention of the Republican congressional members who met and decided they were not going to give President Obama anything. Anything. They've admitted their number one goal is to make Obama a one-term president. As a result, in Mr Nethercutt's world, the president is responsible for not uniting with the people who want nothing to do with him.

He continues with a general statement that Obama "directing federal government actions designed to intimidate Arizona and Texas on immigration recently is hardly unifying". The specific actions he refers to are left to the reader to decide so I'm going with my best guess. The Justice Department sued Arizona two years ago stating the Arizona immigration law conflicted with federal law. Last month the Supreme Court agreed and struck down three of the four provisions of the law. Regarding Texas, I can only assume Mr Nethercutt is referring to the Justice Department challenging the voter ID law claiming it would disproportionately affect Hispanics. How all that is "designed to intimidate" and "hardly unifying" may be intuitively obvious to Mr Nethercutt, but is lost to anyone not suffering from confirmation bias.

Mr Nethercutt claims President Obama promised to keep unemployment under 8 percent and failed to keep that promise. The only record of President Obama making such a promise are the many online articles of Republican party members saying he made that promise. Those are based on a report, The Job Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, published on Jan 9, 2009, and written by Christina Romer, the incoming chairwoman of the white House Council of Economic Advisers at the time, and Jared Bernstein, chief economic adviser for then incoming Vice President Joe Biden.
The report includes a graph showing the effect of the plan on unemployment based on the what was then the estimated future unemployment rate. Their estimate of the future unemployment rate were wrong but that doesn't mean the stimulus plan had no effect on unemployment. And now, in hindsight, we can see how many more people were working as a result of the stimulus plan and that the unemployment rate would have been worse had it not been implemented.

Mr Nethercutt claims that President Obama promised openness and transparency and instead "secretively and regularly collaborates with Washington's lobbying community" and yet provides no examples of this secretive behavior. You'd think that as a member of that lobbying community, Mr Nethercutt would be in a position to provide some specifics.

Next, he highlights President Obama's broken promise--"to the left" as if that's important--to close Guantanamo as another example of deceptive behavior. He neglects to add that most of Congress was against closing Guantanamo. Consequently, this mockery of justice continues to stain America's international reputation.

Mr Nethercutt offers these along with many more unsubstantiated accusations of deceptive behavior and deceit on the part of President Obama within his commentary.

I look at the bright side as to why the Inlander continues to host Mr Nethercutt's so-called commentary. If the reason is to offer a balance of "both sides" then if nothing else, Mr Nethercutt provides a sterling example of how unbalanced one "side" is--even more so if he's the best commentator the Inlander can get. There are no reasoned arguments supporting a position, no point/counterpoint, or food for thought for that matter. This commentary is, in the end, just an anti-Obama diatribe. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

I Just Pretend I Didn't Hear

I stepped into an establishment this morning to grab a bagel. A woman I work with was in there talking to an employee and when I came around the corner I just caught part of a conversation which came to a sudden halt for obvious reasons.

She said, "Yeah, even when I was thin I had very large breasts."

I gave everyone a pleasant, "Good morning," grabbed a bagel and gave no outward recognition of the awkward moment. It was definitely one of those times where a comment of any sort would have been embarrassing or inappropriate. Whew!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Getting My Barefoot Mojo Back

I hurt my right hamstring when I did the River Run last April so I've been taking it easy for a while hoping it would get better. It hasn't. A week ago Tuesday I went for a 3-mile barefoot run. You see those dark spots on the pads of my feet, especially the one on my right foot? Those were the blisters I got on that run. That hamstring was throwing my stride off bad enough for me to get blisters on a short run. That hasn't happened since I started running barefoot three years ago.

I decided to take a different tack with my hamstring and implemented an aggressive stretching regimen. I ran during lunch on Monday and today. The good thing about running in heat like that is I definitely run slow. (I wore my Vibrams. The pavement is just too frickin' hot.) During my slow pace I focused on my form. I noticed my right calf was tightening up and it was because I was anticipating the foot strike. I relaxed my lower leg and everything smoothed out. Going up and down the inclines allowed me to focus on lifting my feet. My hamstring is feeling so much better. So I'm continuing the stretching and slow pace for now. Hopefully I'm back to 100% in the fall.

Jump!

On my way home after work I saw these two and asked if it was okay to take their picture when they jumped. They were cool with it.




Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Damn Thieves

I stumbled across this while on a lunch time walk today and I hate to see this. One of my brothers recently had his front and rear wheel stolen. Pedals2People turned out to be a great resource for parts and assistance. I got everything I needed for a complete wheel set for just over $50. You can't beat that with a stick, unlike someone you catch trying to steal your bike. Beat them until the stick breaks and then kick them for good measure. I took everything home and in very little time my brother's bike was on the road again. I hope the owner of this bike does too.

Our Representative Is Misrepresenting Again

Cathy McMorris Rodgers posted this on her Facebook page today:
Fact of the day indeed. I had a look at the survey (PDF), which isn't hard to do by the way. The article on the Daily Caller had a link to follow so anyone with a sense of curiosity or an interest in the source could find out for themselves.


The survey was conducted from Apr 18-May 22 of this year. Here's the question being made into a fact of the day.


So what's wrong with this question? What "current changes" in the medical system does it refer to? Nobody knows so it's left up to the survey responder to determine that. Someone decided that "Obamacare" was the current change and it magically caused 83% of doctors to consider quitting. 


This question is just as bad as it is clever, if it was intended to be. It appears that requiring people to purchase insurance is bad. But what they're asking is if it will improve access to actual medical care. I have insurance but I can only go to doctors who accept my insurance. Consequently my access is limited. However, I can still go to any emergency room just like any uninsured person.


Another question that violates one of the rules of good survey question making which says to write questions so everyone understand them the same way. Ask ten medical professionals what the "current problems" in medicine are and I bet you get ten different answers.


Yet another ambiguous and consequently invalid question. For Doctor A the wrong track of the current path could mean no universal health care. For Doctor B it could be too much government regulation. For Doctor C it could mean the high prices of drugs.


Whoa, not much wiggle room on that question, eh?


Cathy McMorris Rodgers and her fellow Republican House members will vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act--again. Because it's a far more pressing matter than climate change, Wall Street thievery, war, the gradual creation of a police state, cell phone tracking, etc.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Tires And Teachable Moments

This morning I remembered to have a look at my rear tire to check the wear. I didn't want it to get as bad as that one time. Well it wasn't as bad as that time but it didn't have much to go. 
So I took this morning's commute nice and easy. No tight turns, hard braking, or speeding. I know I shouldn't have, but after seeing how bad the tire could get that one time I figured it could take at least 18 more miles of mild abuse. I went for a short run at lunch and stopped by my LBS where I bought a replacement tire and some tubes. I tied the tire to the top of my rack and the heat made sure I took a slow ride home.


After arriving home I checked my receipts and noticed I was not charged the correct amount. The cash register receipt said 79 bucks and change but the charge on my debit card was only 40 bucks. I brought this up at dinner time and said I was returning to the store tomorrow to pay the difference.


Steph pipes up. "It's okay, Dad. We had the teachable moment with the iTouch so now you can just say, 'Score!'"


Before you think the lesson was lost on her, I can honestly tell you she was joking.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Wandering And Exploring

I took the Elephant out for a long ride this morning before the scorching heat arrived. I didn't have a set route but looked at the map to get a general idea and then made it up as I went along. I ended up including pavement, gravel roads, and trails. The idea was to get at least three hours of saddle time over a mixed route in preparation for the Midnight Century and explore parts of Spokane unfamiliar to me. I wasn't concerned with how much distance I covered, just being in the saddle for a while. Here's the route:

View Wandering and Exploring in a larger map
My southbound trip to Minnehaha Park was easy enough. From there I followed dirt roads and trails, essentially following the path of least resistance because the cross bike is the wrong bike for parts of the trails. I walked a bit here and there where it was too steep or gnarly. I had no idea where I was going and found myself coming out onto Wellesley.
*  *  *  *  *
Sorry for the crappy smartphone pictures. Since I don't have a rack on the bike yet I carried everything in a small backpack and I didn't want to have that and my DSLR hanging off me.  
Ha! Nice try but the government will never catch me.
It wouldn't be an adventure without a flat. The shade was so nice at this spot I decided to patch the tube. Not so for the second flat. I swapped the tube out for that one.
Mount Saint Michael off in the distance, home to some renegade Latin-speaking Catholics.
*  *  *  *  *
I followed Valley Springs to Bigelow Gulch. A short bit on Bigelow Gulch and I headed north on Orchard Prairie which turned out to be a deceptively long climb. But I live for that, right? A little more wandering around and I turned south onto Palmer Road. Too lazy to check the map on my smartphone to see where Palmer went, I followed it to Bigelow Gulch, turned around, and returned to Orchard. I did a loop around Mount Saint Michael's, got back to Orchard and followed Gerlach to the Children of the Sun Trail. Up over Fairview, through the Peone, through Mead, back on the Children of the Sun, and home again.