Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Just One Thing Before I Go

I know, I know. I wasn't going to be posting anything. I actually leave tomorrow but since I created yet another opportunity to laugh at myself I thought I'd share it.

I didn't plan to ride my bike in this morning because it was supposed to snow. Since it was only raining--at least at my house--I decided to ride in. (Only raining. How cool it would be if everybody thought like that.) I get to work and what did I forget to bring? A towel. So I was doing the Dance of the Paper Towels, a rather nonexotic dance akin to a puppy chasing his tail when I'm trying to dry my back. For your sake I'm not creating a realistic, yet more disturbing, visual of said dance.

Perhaps I should watch more South Park to help with my remembery.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Temporarily Off The Grid

The family and I are taking off for spring break. I may or may not post anything during that time. Most likely not. Catch ya later.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Living Life

The woman on the right is Sue, a great friend of ours for many years. She's sitting with her fellow violin students as they wait take their turn to play in their first recital.

Among the many trials she has survived, the worst was probably breast cancer. For many years Sue has wanted to learn to play the violin. Last August she started taking lessons. This was the first time she ever played in front of others and she did great. She also received the loudest applause of any of the students from the many parents in the audience who probably couldn't imagine putting themselves in the same position as this woman in her mid-fifties.

At the end of the recital, all of the students got on stage and played Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star together. Your eyes are not deceiving you if you think you see nothing but children playing violins on the stage. Some people refuse to reach that age where you can't do something. Sue rocks!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Importance Of Education

No need to go to all the trouble of buying a mail order diploma if a Texas legislator has his way. State Representative Leo Berman has proposed a bill that would allow private, non-profit educational institutions to be exempt from the authority of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

From the Fox News link:

HB 2800 does not specifically name ICR (The Institute for Creation Research); it would allow any institution that meets its criteria to be exempt from the board's authority. But Berman says ICR was the inspiration for the bill because he feels creationism is as scientific as evolution and should be granted equal weight in the educational community.

“I don’t believe I came from a salamander that crawled out of a swamp millions of years ago,” Berman told FOXNews.com. "I do believe in creationism. I do believe there are gaps in evolution.

"But when you ask someone who believes in evolution, if you ask one of the elitists who believes in evolution about the gaps, they’ll tell you that the debate is over, that there is no debate, evolution is the thing, it’s the only way to go.”

So it really is all about education. But not everyone is on board with this.

“This would open the door to other fly-by-night organizations that come in and want to award degrees in our state, because the bill is highly generalized,” said Steven Schafersman, president of Texas Citizens for Science.

“Right now, we don’t have this problem in Texas. Texas is not a center for degree mills, because our laws allow only the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to approve the granting of graduate degrees.”

There's already one hilarious proposal.


Image shamelessly stolen from Plognark. Looks like it makes a nice T-shirt.

Are We All Nuts?

While perusing the enormous amounts of material in the series of tubes, I came across this report put together by the Missouri Information Analysis Center about the militia movement. A report a few people take issue with. Regardless, even if you're a Ron Paul supporter it's interesting reading.

Some areas of concern for the militias are a possible Constitutional Convention and a North American Union. It's quite evident our government--well, pretty much any government--can't be trusted. Even sustainability and diplomacy are not above suspicion.

It's easy to categorize this line of thinking. A few years ago a friend of mine told me he was afraid the United Nations army would eventually take over America. When I politely pressed him, he was unable to tell me where this army would come from. In spite of the logic staring him in the face, his belief was undiminished. Every once in a while someone I know surprises me with a strange belief. I wonder if I ever do the same to others.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Grill, Baby, Grill

One of the best things about the switch to Daylight Savings Time is that I can see what I'm grilling a lot better.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Far Out, Man

Good Times

Second day of riding. First flat. Swapped the tube out and hit the road.

Okay, that was the Reader's Digest large print condensed version of the story. I found my front tire was flat when it was time to go home. Rather than follow this guy's advice--who would've guessed he and I are two different people--the red-blooded American with the can do attitude inside of me inflated itself to 110 psi and a thunderous voice boomed, "I can fix this." Out came the tools. Off came the wheel. Then I fiddlefarted around for 10 minutes before finding that the hole was at the base of the valve stem. So Mr Fixit deflated, swapped the tube out like he should have in the first place, hit the road and got home 30 minutes late.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Memory And Memories

Today was my first bike commute for the year. (Hmm, the lycra shorts feel a little tighter than I remember.) It felt so good to be back on the bike, but as with any change in routine there were some issues. Just before closing the garage door I had this nagging feeling. (You're forgetting something.) Since that feeling has always proven to be correct I stopped for a second. In my mind I quickly went though the list of everything I put in the panniers and decided I had everything on the list. (That method indicates a problem right there.) I closed the garage and pedaled off.

The Trek responded well and my mental picture of myself switched to Lance Armstrong mode. (And if I change the speedometer display to kilometers it seems like I'm going even faster.) There's a small incline a quarter-mile from my house. As I charged the hill my body reminded that I hadn't done this type of riding since October and my Lance self-image started to fade a little. Then I looked in my rear view mirror to see if any traffic was coming up behind me. The mirror wasn't there. The mirror is attached to my helmet. The helmet that was sitting in the garage back home. Doofus Armstrong returned home, knocked on the door, suffered his daughter's mocking laughter and got his brain bucket--though it seems there's increasingly less for it to protect these days.

With, if nothing else, the rear view mirror now providing me a visual of gaining traffic I got onto Highway 2--and hit a headwind. It spite of the slight incline I normally do 15mph. "Normally" means what I remember doing when I'm pumped and in shape. (Not like last March either.) But since I'm a wimp in a headwind I used that as an excuse for slogging along at 10-12mph. That and my panniers are pretty loaded...um...yeah...just like they always are. I tried to ignore the burning in my lungs (Hank and the Phlegmatics sing "Cough, Hack and Spit") and the complaints from my legs (Hey, winter ain't over yet! What happened to riding the bus?) thinking that once I got warmed up everything would smooth out.

The roadway leveled off and instead of the "normal" 18 I was flailing along at 13mph. (Should I switch to kilometers to make myself feel better?) With hard-nosed reality pressing upon me I figured it was time to I ease the effort meter down a bit. (Like I had a choice. Don't drop me, Lance!) The ride through town was mostly pleasant and uneventful except for one car attempting to cross the road in front of me--more precisely right next to me. I hit the brakes. (It's a good thing one of us was paying attention.) Then he saw me and stopped, blocking the northbound lane, and let me continue in the southbound lane. The driver had one of those "Where'd you come from" looks on his face. Despite the bright flashing white light, the highly reflective screaming yellow zonker jacket (LOOK AT ME!) and a cloudy but bright enough morning I was still a surprise to him. He was probably looking for cars, not bikes, which is why we need more bikes on the roads. But it's early in the season so hopefully that situation will improve later on in the year.

I pulled up to a stop at Foothills and a school bus coming down the road stopped and waved me out into the four lanes of traffic. (Is he nuts or something?) There's an unsafe situation waiting to hurt someone. I refused to go, waved him on and got into traffic when I had an opening. Going along Buckeye the bike lane was absolutely full of crap so I right-wheel tracked in the vehicle lane. A street cleaning crew (My favorite people. Give them a wave.) was sweeping up the other side so it'll be clear sailing on that stretch going home.

Riding on Howard a group of kids were having a smoke (Hey, I used to be one of you.) and hanging out across the street from North Central (Class of '74). The NC running team (Go Mead!) was coming out of Riverfront Park. Looking at the clock on my speedometer I saw my "normal" 40-minute commute was going to be more like 50. The Lance Armstrong image was long gone and a belt patiently waited in the pannier to remind me that I might need to loosen it up a notch. I arrived at work with just enough time to shower and shave. The Powerbar I brought was only three weeks after the "Best By" date. (I should check those.) It wasn't bad--as far as Powerbars go.

For the next couple of weeks I should probably leave a little earlier--with my helmet on. And I should probably get my work badge out of the coat I usually wear to work. Hey, at least this time I didn't have to dry myself with paper towels. (Can't...reach...between...shoulder blades.) All in all, a great day for a bike ride. I look forward to more. And getting back to "normal".

Sunday, March 15, 2009

You're So Vain

For several months now I've been taking photos of Washington state vanity license plates. I ignored special design plates and only looked for personalized ones. For an additional $50 you can get up to seven characters but there are some limitations. Now there's a challenge. See what you can sneak by the censors.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Mead Blue-Gold Meet

Leading off the track season as they do every year with an in-house meet, the Mead Panthers divided into two teams and braved the cold and rain today. Josh ran the 1600m.

Can you tell my sports photography is getting much better? Here's Josh just before he crossed the finish line. Perfect!

Who's Got Your Back?

Officer Jay Olsen was found not guilty of first-degree assault and reckless endangerment. Olsen--breaking department policy by getting drunk while carrying a concealed weapon, driving drunk, and not calling 911 while chasing or after shooting Shonto Pete--was apparently saved by police dispatch supervisor Marvin Tucker who testified that he spoke with a shooting victim who said he had stolen a truck. Unfortunately, the 911 tape had been erased. Pete had been tried and found innocent of those charges about 18 months ago. Tucker did not testify at that trial. The jury in this trial was not allowed to know that Pete had been found innocent so Tucker's innuendo was allowed to stand. Remember, administration of the law is not necessarily the administration of justice.

Otto Zehm was a placid soul unknown by most people in Spokane. Had he not died at the hands of the Spokane Police Department three years ago he would not have warranted an entry in Wikipedia nor would Doug Clark have made "Otto" buttons for us to wear and remind each other of the injustice done almost three years ago for which no one has been held answerable.

The only recourse for Pete and Zehm's mother are the federal courts. The Center for Justice filed yesterday on Zehm's behalf. It could easily take a year before there's a trial. Shonto Pete, thankfully alive, can look forward to the same lengthy, arduous process.

Along with these major incidents, members of the Spokane Police Department also gained notoriety for attacking a peaceful but boisterous group of so-called anarchists in Riverfront Park, telling a fireman to delete the photos of a young girl from his camera which could have been used as evidence, and taking photos of bare breasts with a department cell phone as well as having sex in and driving drunk in a police car.

If the Spokane Police have shown anything it's that they are adept at looking out for themselves. I find it a sad state of affairs when I have to tell my children not to trust the police, do whatever they tell you to do, and no matter what they say or what you did, do not answer a single question without a parent or attorney present.

An air of menace and suspicion has enveloped the Spokane Police Department. It taints the cops who do their job ethically and legally and makes it more difficult for them because the public trust is essential.

How long before justice is served and trust is earned?

Friday, March 13, 2009


There's been enough said about it so we'll just pretend it never happened.

What The Deuce Is It To Me?

Back in December the California Academy of Sciences commissioned Harris Interactive to conduct a science literacy poll. The results are a little disconcerting.

* Only 53% of adults know how long it takes for the Earth to revolve around the Sun.
* Only 59% of adults know that the earliest humans and dinosaurs did not live at the same time.
* Only 47% of adults can roughly approximate the percent of the Earth's surface that is covered with water.
* Only 21% of adults answered all three questions correctly.

Knowledge about some key scientific issues is also low. Despite the fact that access to fresh water is likely to be one of the most pressing environmental issues over the coming years, less than 1% of U.S. adults know what percent of the planet's water is fresh (the correct answer is 3%). Nearly half didn't even hazard a guess. Additionally, 40% of U.S. adults say they are "not at all knowledgeable" about sustainability.

I mean, come on--how long it takes for the Earth to go around the Sun? Let's see...I used to know that. And what would make 4 out of 10 adults think humans and dinosaurs coexisted? Okay, maybe that would account for a few of them.

Homegrown Terrorism

Apparently a man in Maine had the intention and the means to build a dirty bomb. The last time we had an alleged dirty bomber the news couldn't stop talking about him. Jose Padilla was designated an enemy combatant and held in isolation for three and one-half years before he was tried on other charges, supporting terrorism overseas, and sentenced to 17 years. So why haven't we heard about this case in Maine? James Cummings was white, rich and not a Muslim. So he had that going for him.

...four 1-gallon containers of 35 percent hydrogen peroxide, uranium, thorium, lithium metal, thermite, aluminum powder, beryllium, boron, black iron oxide and magnesium ribbon were found in the home.

Also found was literature on how to build “dirty bombs” and information about cesium-137, strontium-90 and cobalt-60, radioactive materials. The FBI report also stated there was evidence linking James Cummings to white supremacist groups. This would seem to confirm observations by local tradesmen who worked at the Cummings home that he was an ardent admirer of Adolf Hitler and had a collection of Nazi memorabilia around the house, including a prominently displayed flag with swastika. Cummings claimed to have pieces of Hitler’s personal silverware and place settings, painter Mike Robbins said a few days after the shooting.

An application for membership in the National Socialist Movement filled out by Cummings also was found in the residence, according to the report. Cummings’ wife, Amber B. Cummings, 31, told investigators that her husband spoke of “dirty bombs,” according to the report, and mixed chemicals in her kitchen sink. She allegedly told police that Cummings subjected her to years of mental, physical and sexual abuse. She also said that Cummings was “very upset” when Barack Obama was elected president.

Oh, and his wife killed him.

State police have identified Amber Cummings as the person who shot James Cummings. The couple’s 9-year-old daughter was present the morning of the shooting in what police have described as a domestic violence homicide.

I wonder what the neighbors thought of Mr Cummings.

Something You'll Never See On The News

Jon Stewart absolutely nails Jim Cramer and CNBC and their failure to honestly report on the financial markets.

Update: Glenn Greenwald has a great take on how Jim Cramer is not unique in the news media's failure to investigate what they report.

Celebrating Pi Day

Stephanie's math class is celebrating Pi Day today since it falls on a Saturday this year. I helped her make Rice Krispie spheres last night. The formula for finding the volume of each sphere is 4/3 times pi times the radius cubed. The surface area of each Rice Krispie sphere is 4 times pi times the radius squared.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Language Of The Law

A few years ago Justice Scalia published "A Matter of Interpretation" in which he emphasized interpreting the law based on what the text of the law says. He railed against judges who considered the legislative intent and history. I wonder what he would say about this opinion by Judge [Diarmuid] O'Scannlain of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

If you don't care for the technicalities of the English language, then pass this by. I find it interesting even though I don't grok it all.

The question concerned the interpretation of this:

Whoever knowingly forges, counterfeits, alters, or falsely makes any immigrant or nonimmigrantvisa, permit, border crossing card, alien registration receipt card, or other document . . . or . . . possesses. . . any such visa, permit, border crossing card, alien registration receipt card, or other document . . .knowing it to be forged, counterfeited, altered, or falsely made, or to have been procured by means of any false claim or statement . . . [shall be punished].

The defendant, a Serbian immigrant, is alleged to have made false statements in obtaining his immigration papers and green card by not revealing his military service while in Serbia. The opinion leads off with:

[1] At first glance, the statute appears to prohibit two independent acts. The first part criminalizes “knowingly forg[ing], counterfeit[ing], alter[ing], or falsely mak[ing]” an immigration document. The second part seems to punish “possess[ing]” an immigration document “knowing it to be forged, counterfeited, altered, or falsely made, or to have been procured by means of any false claim or statement.” The government urges us to interpret the statute in this bifurcated way.

[2] The words “any such,” however, which appear between the paragraph’s two halves, complicate our task. Krstic contends that “any such” refers back to the phrase “knowingly forges, counterfeits, alters, or falsely makes any immigrant or nonimmigrant visa.” In Krstic’s view, the statute contemplates an immigration document that has been forged, counterfeited, altered, or falsely made, not an authentic document. The government, on the other hand, maintains that “any such” is shorthand for the phrase “immigrant or nonimmigrant.” According to the government, “[t]here is simply no reason why the verbs from the first clause should be converted into adjectives applicable to the second.”

In our view, neither side has the better of this argument.

Then this:

[4] Because we cannot decide this case on textual grounds alone, we turn to the history of the statute. Section 1546(a)’s first paragraph originated as section 22 of the Immigration Act of 1924.

The judges begin with the original statute and then look at the amendments made over the years to determine what Congress intended. I think that would really tick Scalia off.

I am not a lawyer, but if Congress amended the law and in doing so allows for more than one interpretation then it seems it would be more appropriate for the rule of lenity to be applied.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Random Thoughts

Should "wu" be called triple-U?

I force myself to not walk to the beat of the music playing outside on the Main Street side of the Riverfront Park Square mall.

But What If...

John Yoo is notorious for helping write several legal justifications for unconstitutional executive behavior while in the Office of Legal Counsel. His legal scholarship, along with that of Jay Bybee and Steven Bradbury who also contributed, was investigated to see if it was "consistent with the professional standards that apply to Department of Justice attorneys." That report from the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility, held back by former Attorney General Mukasey so Yoo and the others could respond to it, is supposed to be released soon. Yoo is even being sued by Jose Padilla, heavily hyped as the dirty bomber and then charged with lesser crimes.

In yesterday's Wall Street Journal, John Yoo tries to justify himself.

Suppose al Qaeda branched out from crashing airliners into American cities. Using small arms, explosives, or biological, chemical or nuclear weapons they could seize control of apartment buildings, stadiums, ships, trains or buses. As in the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, texting and mobile email would make it easy to coordinate simultaneous assaults in a single city.

In the weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, strikes on New York City and Washington, D.C., these were hypotheticals no more.

Imagine if we had done this back in the 1970's and we decided that every hypothetical was now a possibility and the president had authority to do whatever he wanted in the name of fighting a war.

In my mind, Yoo does not present a convincing case. If his legal counsel was so valid, where is the support from the legal community? It looks like the "What if" he didn't take into account is "What if we destroy the rule of law?"

Monday, March 9, 2009

Financial Advice For Whom?

If you thought Jon Stewart's evisceration of CNBC was eye catching, wait until you read about how a CEO named Patrick Byrne of Overstock.com figured out how various financiers, journalists, hedge fund managers, and more were gutting companies left and right. A very long, but very interesting story.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Hard To Draw A Line

There was a guest editorial in today's Spokesman Review about the implementation of Initiative 1000 which legalized physician-assisted suicide in Washington state. I realize this is an emotional issue for many and you can tell it is so for the author. There is one part I have to question.

Now, instead of trusting God to determine the natural course of one’s life, and turning to focusing on better compassionate care for those who have to deal with the challenges of end-of-life issues, Washingtonians can now play God and ask the state to assist them to die earlier than their natural course of life. It is a Faustian bargain I believe voters will come to regret, as folks soon realize the state and insurance companies can and will more and more determine who lives and who dies, with economic issues overriding ethical concerns.

Why is it that when we extend the course of a person's life through research, medication and treatment the argument that we're not trusting God never comes up? Why can we not trust God and allow someone to die without treating them for cancer? When there's a Do Not Resuscitate order on a person are we not not trusting God as well?

Indeed, if we're supposed to trust God, why treat people for any medical need at all? Hmm, that's criminal negligence or worse.

So, yeah, these are things I wonder about.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Kids, Watch Out For Your Grandparent's Reading Material

Back when I turned fifty, Kathy thought it would be great fun to make me a member of the AARP. I get the monthly AARP Bulletin but I rarely read it. The March issue came today and I was bored enough to look through it. Much to my surprise there was some pretty racy stuff in there. One advertisement, which is also online, would probably lead to a heart attack if I were in my later years. The ad in the bulletin exclaims:

See for yourself on discreet home video. Real people demonstrating real sexual techniques! Nothing is left to the imagination!

Ahhh! The Wrinkles! They Hurt My Eyes!

Fifteen--I Mean Five Minutes And Six Seconds Of Fame

My Aunt Judith entered a contest held by Seattle's KING 5 television station to find the ultimate Barry Manilow fan--and won! Her daughter, Laura, has a great write up of the Barry Manilow music history in her family. Judith is the Ultimate Fanilow. She won a trip to Las Vegas to see Barry in concert as well as meet him afterwards. A crew from the TV station went along to make a story to tell. It was on last night and it's online. Way to go, Judith!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Expired Jam, That's The Ticket!

The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword

Well, at least in close quarters.

The Red Pill Or The Blue Pill?

An article in this morning's Spokesman Review says a man was found "not quilty". No doubt the prosecution thought they had the case all sewed up. Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.

Aside from the easy laugh at the typo there is a point to me bringing this case up. There are two defendants charged. One took a plea deal and one went to trial. Regardless, the decision to go either way requires a lot of careful thought. The one that went to trial was found not guilty so now the one who pled guilty wants a do over. Now had the one who went to trial been found guilty and received a harsher sentence, the one who took the plea deal would have considered himself better off.

Such are the ways of our legal system. It's not necessarily a justice system, but that's been a given since the start.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Keeping The Distance

Our personal zone is that space surrounding us that makes us feel uncomfortable and on guard when intruded upon by someone we don't trust, usually a stranger. For many of us that zone is dynamic depending on the situation. It's funny how we'll crowd close enough into an elevator car so that we're actually touching and we're okay with that because everyone's personal space is compressed. Then five people get off on one floor. Now everyone else in the car spreads out and they're essentially equidistant from each other. A couple more people get out and the process repeats itself.

So there's a couple things you can do if you want to kind of freak someone out. If the elevator is full try to stand so that you trap someone in a corner. As the car empties, don't move. If the elevator is sparsely occupied when you get on then stand right next to one of the people already there. They'll either squirm out from behind you or just be very uncomfortable.

But be careful not to make them too uncomfortable...um...you know...not that I'm speaking from experience. I'm just sayin'.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Show Me The Money!

Or who's getting the money. Our money.

Bending and Twisting The Rule Of Law

For a great rundown of the secret Bush-era memos recently released by the Department of Justice, check out Glenn Greenwald's comments on salon.com.

One of the central facts that we, collectively, have not yet come to terms with is how extremist and radical were the people running the country for the last eight years.

In regards to a document entitled "Authority for Use of Military Force to Combat Terrorist Activities Within the U.S."

The essence of this document was to declare that George Bush had the authority (a) to deploy the U.S. military inside the U.S., (b) directed at foreign nationals and U.S. citizens alike; (c) unconstrained by any Constitutional limits, including those of the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments. It was nothing less than an explicit decree that, when it comes to Presidential power, the Bill of Rights was suspended, even on U.S. soil and as applied to U.S. citizens. And it wasn't only a decree that existed in theory; this secret proclamation that the Fourth Amendment was inapplicable to what the document calls "domestic military operations" was, among other things, the basis on which Bush ordered the NSA, an arm of the U.S. military, to turn inwards and begin spying -- in secret and with no oversight -- on the electronic communications (telephone calls and emails) of U.S. citizens on U.S. soil.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

When Do You Speak Out?

It is a mistake for anyone in the Republican party to criticize the voice that represents conservatism. Even if you're the chairman of the Republican National Committee.

I think that is exactly what this country needs. As the hijacked Republican party wrestles with eating their own, laughingly consider the upside of an attack, and suggest that some things aren't as they seem we become more and more aware of just how unhinged this vocal minority is. I say minority because my faith in my fellow man prevents me from thinking that many people actually agree with them. But I do think many people are drawn to them through fear mongering and propaganda.

Free speech permits this. Isn't it about time we used it as well? All members of the House of Representatives and the Senate provide several methods for communicating with them.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The One-Minute Writer

The One-Minute Writer is a fun site based on a neat idea. Take one minute out of your day to write something. C. Beth provides a topic and you respond.

The Part We Didn't Hear

Recently, Itronix was in the news. They announced that 300 people were being laid off. Depending on how you look at the numbers, it could actually be 360-380 and anywhere from 60-80 people have the option to move to Florida.

But there was something missing from all those news reports. Where will the rugged laptops and handheld computers be manufactured now? What happened to the approximately 300 jobs that disappeared? Don't reporters ask these questions?

What we weren't told was that the manufacturing jobs are going to Taiwan.

During one meeting a 73-year-old employee asked if it would be unethical for him to accept job training because he might displace a younger person and prevent them from taking that training. How heart wrenching to see a 73-year-old employee put in that position and heart warming to see how much he cares about others.

Not to worry. There is a job available for younger people.