Monday, October 29, 2012

Sprinker Cyclocross

Since I was on the west side for the weekend, I raced at Sprinker yesterday. What a fun course. It was soaked from a couple of days of raining. The weather was perfect for racing. The tight turns got slicker and the off camber turns got greasier. Several racers rushed headstrong into the sand pit only to fly head first over their bars. (I decided running through the sand was best.) I entered the men's masters 55+.

 My brother, John, yelled at me to smile for the photo.

 I felt strong the whole race and had my best ever finish.

I must have repressed the horrible sight I saw because I don't remember what it was. Maybe a foreshadowing of what was to come.

My last lap was marred by a crash on the asphalt. We had a long section of trail followed by asphalt. I was drafting off a rider while on the trail. After we got on the asphalt I cranked it up and passed him on the right. Unfortunately for me, there was a small corner of grass section in my way and it was in the middle of a slight right turn. My front wheel hit the edge and slid out from under me. My skin slowed me down. I was still far enough ahead of the other 55+ riders that I didn't lose my place in the standings.

Afterwards I went to the medic tent and got my wounds cleaned and dressed. You should've heard the collective, "Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh," when this was revealed. I also have road rash on my right arm and my right knuckles look like there were held against a grinding wheel. I won't be sleeping on my right side for a bit. The rash I can live with. The most irritating thing is the chunk of fingernail that was torn off. I can't type, touch, or pick up anything without aggravation.

But looking at the bright side, I came in third place.

Taekwondo Saturday

Steph competed in a tournament at Shoreline Community College in Seattle last Saturday. Since she just got back into the sport, Master Kim wanted her to watch sparring before participating in it. At the black belt level, they use Olympic scoring: 1 point for a kick to the body and three points for a kick to the head. Consequently, there's a lot of attempted head kicking going on. Yikes! 

Steph competed in her poomse, consisting of a set of kicks, punches, and blocks. Her scores were 9.8, 9.9, and 9.8 and got first place in her category.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Nothing Deceptive Here

An advertisement in today's Spokesman Review in which the Amish get so much mail the man's thumb was postmarked.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Yesterday's Race

Sporting my "Is it over yet?" look.

An Ill-Advised And Ill-Informed Endorsement

Over the weekend, the editorial board at the Spokesman Review endorsed Mitt Romney for president. I was busy with cyclocross racing and taking photos of races so I put this on the back burner until today. I really tried to give the board the benefit of the doubt but it looks like they based their decision solely on Romney ads and skipped doing their homework.

"Neither side is up to telling important truths about the economy and the budget. That’s tragic, because all of the other issues won’t matter if we can’t right the fiscal ship." 

What are the important truths that both sides fail to tell? The editors aren't telling us yet.

"President Barack Obama’s slogan is “Forward,” but he hasn’t put forward a detailed plan for the next four years. Staying the course won’t cut it. He inherited a $1 trillion deficit, and the Great Recession. But as the nation’s chief executive, it’s been his job to chart a course toward a balanced budget. He hasn’t, and his dithering has discouraged businesses flush with cash but unwilling to invest until they know what changes he has in store in a second term."

Since when is it only the president's job to balance the budget? It's as if the board is totally unaware of the toxic partisanship that has paralyzed our Congress. Nearly all Republican members of Congress, including our own Cathy McMorris Rodgers, have signed a pledge to never raise taxes. Ever. There is no bargaining room, no area of discussion, and no possible compromise when the firmly entrenched refuse to budge. The unfunded wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined with the Bush tax cuts were the greatest contributors to the deficit. Top that off with the recession and the board expects the president to balance the budget some time soon? 

I particularly enjoy the irony of complaining that Obama hasn't put forward a detailed plan and yet they endorse Romney who says he has a plan but we have to wait until he's elected to see it. In the meantime, he claims he will do something nobody has ever done even in the best of times--create 12 million jobs in four years. Plus, he says six "studies" consisting of online articles, an op-ed, and blog entries lacking any formal quantitative research support his tax plan, which raises taxes on people who make less than $250,000 even though he says it doesn't.

"He seemed on the right path when he assembled the Simpson-Bowles Commission, which was a bipartisan effort to devise long-term budget solutions. The panel produced a well-thought-out analysis and action plan. Obama walked away. He didn’t use the bully pulpit to sell the plan, which made it easy for Congress to ignore it. That’s a significant failure in leadership."

The original idea for the fiscal commission that became Simpson-Bowles came from bipartisan legislation that would have required Congress to vote on the commission's recommendations without amending them. That legislation did not pass the Senate when six Republican members who co-sponsored the legislation voted against it. Obama then used an executive order to create the commission. In the end the commission's final vote was 11-7 in favor of adopting the recommendations but it needed 14 votes to formally endorse them. One of the members voting against the plan was Paul Ryan, ranking Republican member of the House Budget Committee who became chairman a month later when Republicans took control of the House. The recommendations included tax increases which--as the editorial board neglects to mention--Republican lawmakers have pledged never to do. Using the bully pulpit to sell the plan would have been as futile as a leaf blower in a wind storm.

"His time for solving this crisis – and it is a crisis – has come and gone. He has little leverage with Congress. He hasn’t changed the tone in Washington, and we cannot endure four more years of gridlock. This standoff is not entirely his fault, but he hasn’t figured out how to end it."

This is almost as comical as it is sad. The editorial board conveniently forgets the benefits reaped from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Dodd-Frank bill, the Affordable Care Act, ending the Iraq war, 31 months of private sector job growth, an all time high of domestic oil production, and more. As contentious and obstinate as many members of Congress are, Obama was fortunate to get this much done. As for changing the tone in Washington, he leads by example. You have yet to hear him tar anyone's patriotism, family lineage, or political leanings with innuendo or falsehoods. He is not the cause of gridlock, but he bears its burden. It's the voters who can end the gridlock. What a shame the Spokesman Review not only fails to educate voters, but highlights the fallacy that the problem is Obama failing to fix the problem.

"We believe Mitt Romney could bring a fresh approach unburdened by recriminations. He has extensive management and leadership experience, and worked with the opposite party as Massachusetts governor. The nation needs that Romney, not the one who pandered to the tea party wing of the Republican Party to secure the nomination. If elected, he needs to take on that faction with the same resolve he’s shown challenging Obama."

Recrimination - An accusation in response to one from someone else. 

Mitt Romney, who has a well-documented history of changing positions on issues depending on who he's talking to, is unburdened by recriminations? His work with the opposite party while governor of Massachusetts involved scores of vetoes and 844 line item budget vetoes, most of which were overridden by the legislature. What's really amazing is that the editors think they can choose which Romney should be president, as if the pandering Romney will suddenly discover he's an egalitarian at heart. Why does Romney need to take on the Tea Party? What problems do they cause? Is Obama not resolute enough in taking on that faction?

"By the same token, he’ll need to renounce his anti-tax pledge, and in so doing perhaps embolden others to do the same. Those pledges are killing deals before they can even be discussed."

Wait, wait, wait. Has the editorial board forgotten who signed a pledge to never raise taxes? And yet they endorse our own CongresswomanCathy McMorris Rodgers who plays a key role in the deal-killing position they're complaining about.

"In Massachusetts, Romney was able to work with Democrats to achieve important successes, including health care reform. Despite his threat to repeal Obamacare on Day One, we trust he won’t do so without coming up with an effective alternative that targets cost containment.

We will learn more about his foreign policy and defense positions in Monday’s debate. So far, he has been too ready to rattle his saber, and too willing to open the Treasury to the defense industry."

The editorial board doesn't believe Romney will do what he says he'll do. What better argument for endorsing him than that?

"The truth that neither candidate will tell is that we need a combination of large spending cuts and some tax increases, and not just the kind that punish the wealthy. Businesses do need a break on taxes to be competitive globally. The nation needs to tax carbon to lower greenhouse emissions and expand green industries. Direct capitalization, as evidenced by Solyndra, is the wrong approach."

The editorial board now releases the truth left untold by either candidate. We need to spend less and raise taxes (some?). The two wars and the Bush tax cuts were the largest contributors to the deficit. Defense spending is ridiculously high and our country's revenue is anemic. Any talk about reducing defense spending is quickly renounced by the hawks as a spineless act that threatens to weaken America. Raising taxes is anathema to Republicans who paint all tax increases as unnecessary. Raising taxes on just the weathy is punishment? Portraying it like that makes me wonder if the editorial board thinks that Washington state citizens, enduring the most regressive tax system of any state in the union, will avoid becoming wealthy so they won't be punished by taxes. The editorial board sees a need to tax carbon emissions and expand green industries and yet completely ignores the extremely powerful and vocal climate science deniers in Congress. The board is apparently too lazy to dig into the facts behind the Solyndra case. Only two of the 33 companies that received funding went bankrupt. There is no evidence of any wrongdoing on the part of the Obama administration. But if you repeat a lie often enough, even the Spokesman Review editorial board will believe it.

"We need immigration reform."

An ambiguous afterthought that appears to be there to reach the necessary word count. I feel I should answer the board using their own words. "That’s tragic, because all of the other issues won’t matter if we can’t right the fiscal ship."

"President Obama has failed to make sufficient progress on most of those issues. We think voters should give Mitt Romney a chance."

There's an old saying that you don't buy a pig in a poke without seeing it first. If the Review editorial board bothered to look inside, they would let the cat out of the bag. And their recommendation that we give Romney a chance will leave voters holding the bag.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Liberty Lake Cyclocross

I forgot how much elevation there is at the Liberty Lake course. The grassy inclines don't look nearly as steep as they are and they suck the life out of your legs. Well, my legs. The spiral deathtrap they usually have at the far end of the course was replaced with a chicane made of straw bales. The run-up is steep and long but there were a number of riders who were able to ride it. There was the obligatory path into the lake, which resulted in the best photos.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Sandpoint Cyclocross

Grey clouds scudded across the sky and drizzled a little water on the course but never followed through on the threat of more rain. The gusty autumn wind chilled the spectators and kept the racers from overheating. The course was exciting, fun, challenging and had something for everyone. We started with a straightaway that led to an off camber right turn. After a couple of tight turns in soft loam we came out of the trees and headed for a partially submerged log. You were free to go over the log in whatever mode you were most comfortable and confident in. This was a new experience for me.

 In my mind I looked like this...

...but this would be a more accurate depiction.

After a couple of back-and-forth straightaways connected by 180-degree turns, the course allowed the racers to put out some speed. Then it dipped through a dry creek, winded its way through leaf-covered trails, and then over some treacherous tree roots that led to a short but deceptively steep climb. If you remembered to gear down before getting to the roots you could stand on the pedals and climb out. After that there was a very tempting descent that begged you to let 'er rip. If you did...

...the mud in the turn at the bottom made you pay.
It was time to get off for the run-up anyway.

The lengthy run-up was festooned with roots and small tree 
trunks which performed double duty as footholds 
and tripping hazards.

More winding through woods to get to the barriers.

After the barriers, there were parallel paths providing a great opportunity to pass. I got to use  this twice during my race. The first guy I passed fought back hard. I got ahead of him but these paths lead to a 90-degree turn and I was coming in hot. I locked up the back wheel briefly enough to skid sideways so I was pointing in the right direction and hammered the pedals. Worked like a charm--this time.

Next up was a sand pit enclosed by with logs.
This fellow took the road less traveled.

Between the single log and the sand pit logs I did more bunny hopping than ever before in this race, which is saying a lot because I have never bunny hopped anything before. After the sand pit there were some particularly evil back-and-forths that went uphill, downhill, uphill, downhill, and back up again.

More back and forths through the trees just before the finish line.

I entered the Men's Masters 50+ again. Instead of the usual 12 to 15 suspects, we had 26. There were no call-ups so everyone crowded into two tightly packed rows. Except for me. I'm not that keen on rubbing shoulders and knees with other riders so I fell in behind. Once we got going I started picking people off and working my way up. I wasn't keeping track but after three laps I put a target on the next guy in front of me. He saw me coming and stepped it up a notch. I got closer on the fifth lap and as we approached the back-and-forth near the end of the lap, I smiled and pointed at him. He knew what I meant. He smiled, shook his head, and said "No". Danged if I didn't tail him for the entire last lap. After we finished he thanked me for pushing him so hard. Well, I would've felt better if...but what can you do. I ended up in 14th but I felt like a had a very good race.

This seven-year-old girl would put many adults to shame. There was a separate race for kids 8 and under that was held on a flat course that zig-zagged in the trees. She wanted no part of that. She wanted to do the real race.

Friday, October 19, 2012

This Is Journalism?

So there's a site I had never heard of until today, Western Center for Journalism, that broke a story about Amy Biviano, Democratic candidate for the 4th District State Representative position, posing for Playboy back when she was a student at Yale. The fact that photos of a partially nude Amy were published sure is an attention getter for some but I think it's more remarkable that she was a student at Yale. Besides, who among us doesn't have a youthful indiscretion they'd like to take back. 

The Western Center for Journalism is very interested in tracking hits and counting unique visitors. That's why word choice is so important. When you use "caught stripping for Playboy" instead of "posed nude for Playboy", it sounds much more lascivious and scandalous. You can't wait to go see, can you?

Anyway, I go to the Western Journalism site to see what they're about and quickly learn they are informing and equipping Americans who love freedom. I don't know who hates freedom so I imagine the size of the population they are not addressing is quite small. It turns out there is a small group of people who hate freedom. He's called Barack Obama. After reading several articles on the site, I believe their minds are quite small, too. Check out this example of the drivel they publish entitled President Obama Detailed.

Obama is an insolent, militant, incompetent, narcissistic, execrable, America-hating slug. He is a union slave who has never worked a day in his life; yet he blames the failures of those who chose their own path on the successes of those who earned their way through hard work and commitment to family, community, and country.

That's just the first paragraph. A union slave who has never worked a day in his life? Here is the lead-in to a poll asking which movement you think is best for America.

(clicken to embiggen)

Youthful lawlessness or truly abiding by the Constitution? You decide. The site also ponders whether it's a "black thing" for Obama.

Obama, that is, is black by choice, and like any convert, he is animated by zealotry to establish himself as a “True Believer.” If he labors under any self-delusions, they are no less the products of his choice than his “blackness” itself, for it is from Obama’s painful self-awareness that his guilt over his unfamiliarity with “the black experience” in America is begotten: the conspicuous absence in his blood line of American slaves; a black father who abandoned him when he was but a small child; the white grandparents who raised him; his upbringing, not in the “ghettos” or “hoods” of America’s “inner cities,” but the plush islands of Hawaii; the private educational institutions that he attended all throughout his life, from elementary school to law school; and the preponderance of friendships with mostly white kids growing up are among the circumstances that conspire to incessantly provoke Obama to prove his “authenticity” to black America.

He's black by choice? How does that happen? If only he had an American slave bloodline, and went to public schools, and grew up in the 'hood, and didn't have white friends when he was growing up, because that's what defines black people in America, right?

But the bizarreness doesn't stop there. They can also show how Hawaiian state officials helped cover up Obama's forged birth certificate.

I don't see a need to increase the number of page reads on that site.

Not As Clever As You May Think

Someone invented a license plate holder that defeats photo-taking red light and speed enforcement cameras. When it detects the flash from the traffic camera, it fires off two flashes of its own that overexpose the license plate area.

It costs $350 for one unit. That's means running three red lights in Spokane is your break-even point for the expense--as if running red lights is worth it. But before you go out and buy one of these, there is one thing the manufacturer doesn't mention. Outside of the brief momentary flash of enforcement and countermeasure lights, your license number is still visible on the video footage.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Random Observations

My kids have no idea what it means to adjust the vertical hold nor do they know the meaning of "Don't touch that dial!"

In cycling all colors are gender neutral.

Speaking of colors, I bet you can't remember the last time you heard the color-coded security advisory system. That's because it was replaced.
When using a phone these days, do children wonder why it's called "dialing"?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fifth District Congressional Endorsements

Compare and contrast the endorsements for the fifth congressional district.

From the Spokesman Review.

[Cathy McMorris Rodgers] also has the confidence of Mitt Romney, who appointed her his liaison with the House, in part as a reward for her early endorsement. What benefit that might have for McMorris Rodgers and the district will be unknown until the votes are counted next month.  

Her ascendance comes with its drawbacks. Too often she appears the ideologue in her solidarity with House leadership more intent on solidifying its conservative bona fides than solving problems in tandem with the Democrat-controlled Senate.  

McMorris Rodgers proudly notes her votes against Obamacare, the stimulus package, and the bank bailout – the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), which she argues was a failure – without acknowledging that it saved Spokane’s biggest home-grown financial institution.

The Democrat-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House are so entrenched in their partisan views that compromise is seen as evil.  

As a result, the two political parties have brought the country to the edge of fiscal disaster as they bicker over budget cuts and taxes.
Incumbent Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Republican, has done a solid job in her 10 years in office.  

But McMorris Rodgers is a rigid conservative and highly partisan. She has worked across the political aisle on district issues like keeping the VA Medical Center in Walla Walla, but she isn’t willing to compromise on major national issues.  

When the nation was on the brink of a financial disaster when the housing bubble burst and banks were at risk, McMorris Rodgers would not vote for the bank bailout or the economic stimulus package. Nor did she offer any alternative. Her lack of action made it clear she was willing to accept economic collapse.  

We have great respect for McMorris Rodgers and the hard work she has done. If America was not in such dire fiscal shape, we might think it reasonable for McMorris Rodgers to remain in Congress.

The Union-Bulletin had more kind words for Cathy McMorris Rodgers than the Spokesman Review did yet endorsed Rich Cowan. The Spokesman Review had kind words for Rich Cowan but said he should find another outlet for his values and talents. Even more interesting, the comments posted on each paper's endorsement disagree with the paper's choice.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Binders Full Of Women

to highlight the entertainment value of presidential debates.

Getting My Mind Right

I was reflecting on my last two cyclocross races. I did poorly--and I felt like I did poorly--in the first race. I finished in 9th place but a mechanical issue with my saddle prevented me from giving a good effort outside of standing on the pedals for most of the race. After half of the first lap when the saddle went askew I was all alone in the race. In the second race I felt I did well and finished in 8th place. However in this race I was battling back and forth with three other riders, the guys who finished in 5th, 6th and 7th place. I crashed in a turn on the second to the last lap and those three pulled away as I had to put my chain back on. 

One commonality these two races shared is that one of the racers in front of me had some sort of problem that caused them to fall behind. In each race that person climbed back up in the standings during the race, which included passing me. And this is the thought that struck me while going over both races in my mind. 

You often hear that you should choose your battles, the reason being is that you don't want to fight a battle that turns out to be an exercise in futility. There's a difference in bicycle racing--cyclocross racing in my example--in that sometimes the battle chooses you and you're left to determine if you're going to answer the challenge or not.

For example, in the second race where I was in a group in which we were going back and forth taking and retaking the lead from each other, I was answering the challenge. Every time they tried to pull away, I reeled them back in. When it looked like they were coasting I darted ahead to keep the pressure on. This continued for four and one-half laps until my front wheel slid out from under me. Getting back on my bike I was left alone again. I kept an eye on the three guys in front of me and during the last 1-1/2 laps they didn't pull away any farther. But I didn't get any closer to them either. That was the battle that chose me and I didn't respond.

When you're all by yourself in a race, it's easy to take it as hard as you want and that's exactly what I did. Those other three guys were just as tired, dirty, and worn out as I was. I only needed to step it up just a notch and that may have made a big difference in that 1-1/2 lap distance. Or it may not have. But I won't know unless I get my mind right first.

This Saturday brings another opportunity.

The Golden Boy

Paul Ryan,

Your example of living The Golden Rule shines brightly for the public to see and mimic. Your uncompromising desire to ensure the use of clean pots and pans at a charity kitchen speaks volumes about your compassion for the poor and vulnerable in our society. The fact that the kitchen where many homeless people must eat to survive may not be using pots and pans that are spic and span must weigh heavy on your mind. Had there been any homeless people present to witness your act of kindness I'm sure they would have applauded and expressed untold gratitude as you compassionately scrubbed and rinsed, leaving fewer spots than a multitude of Proctor and Gamble products.

(AP photo)

Remarkably and notably, your steadfast heart guided you and your wife so strongly that you entered the closed charity kitchen without permission and without prior notice and caught the kitchen red handed--the clean pots and pans were not up to your high standards, which you are not about to compromise. It must have been divine providence along with your uncompromising heart of gold that guided you to intervene.

In my heart I know, that if you and Governor Romney are elected, you will have that same level of compassion, care, benevolence, and humanity for the most vulnerable among us: the elderly, the disabled, the poor, the homeless, and the ill. Your uncompromising position will surely have the most profound effect on them.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Know A Good Cardio-Electrician?

Life sure can surprise you every once in a while. This morning I woke up and noticed I had an irregular heartbeat. I wasn't having any chest pains or pain of any kind, but just an occasional palpitation or flutter. So I fixed myself a cup of tea and had some toast while I perused the news on the interwebs and read the paper. When I felt my pulse, there wouldn't be one when my heart did that weird flutter.

The irregularity continued so I told Kathy about it after she got up. She, being the good nurse she is, checked my pulse and blood pressure and said it looked like I was throwing PVCs. That would be premature ventricular contractions. So off to the ER we went to get me checked out. As active and healthy as I am, I didn't think I was having a serious problem but Kathy told me that any time the heart is not working right you need to have it checked. I guess there's some sense in that.

The good thing about having a nurse for a spouse is that she hooked me up to the heart monitor before my assigned nurse could. The downside is that every once in a while she would make a frowny face while watching the monitor and I would have to ask, "What?"

Other than throwing a lot of PVCs, the heart monitor would also alarm when my pulse dropped down to 38. My normal resting heart rate is in the 40's and the low 50's. I did not know that until today. Kathy had to set the monitor alarm to a lower threshold, 35, so it would go off so often. However, the frequent PVCs made up for it and the alarm still sounded every minute or so. Nobody came running because my nurse knew Kathy and knew Kathy as watching me and knew Kathy would call if something was wrong.

All the test results said there was no infection or blockage or failure causing my symptoms. The doc said my fixtures and plumbing are fine and it's apparently an electrical problem so he cut me lose with a referral to a cardiologist. In the meantime, I can continue with my normal riding and running activities. He said that it's possible that my resting heart rate is too low and my heart is reacting to the slowness by creating extra, and useless, beats. Perhaps I should take up some slothful activities to balance out the physical exercise.

Cyclocross Race Photos

Casually dressed while casually riding over an obstacle.

Holding my breath and hoping this works.


One-armed bike lift tire crossing.

All we breath is dust in the wind.

Race to the top.

You run like a girl!

Flying through the course.

This is fun!

What was that noise behind me?

You could cut the tension with a spoon.

The little engines that could.

It's the altitude. Yeah, that's it.

Whoa, your bike got like three feet of air.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Cyclocross Race

Geoff is visiting for the weekend and he decided to give cross racing a try. I was in the Men's Masters 50+ in the third race and Geoff entered the Cat 4 Men in Race 4.

I felt a lot better today than I did at the race a couple weeks ago. I was holding my own and battling back and forth with three other guys until halfway through lap four. We got into the technical area and my front wheel slid out on a turn. I went down and the guy behind me ran over my calf. It happens. I got back on the bike but the chain had come off so I lost more time futzing with that. I spent the last 1-1/2 laps trying to catch up with them again, but it was for naught. Regardless, I felt I had a good race. It's much more fun when you have people with similar skills and strength to race against. 

Geoff had a good time in his first race. I went over dismounting and mounting the bike with his yesterday. I pretty much taught him everything I know. It took me about five minutes. The main thing to remember is that blood makes a good photo but protruding bone makes an awesome one.