Friday, April 30, 2010

Ready To Run

It's that time of year again. I walked over to the convention center and picked up race bibs for family and friends. Once you hit age 49, you are essentially classified as "all others" because they don't break down the age groups beyond that.

Getting the bibs for two 14-year-old girls and my just-turned-48 wife went quick. Walk up, give the name, check the bib, put it in the bag and go. I was moving right along until I reached my station. Is it any surprise that the longest line I had to wait in was for men ages 49++ (what's with the double plus?) whose last names start with F through H? We rock!

Airport Security Theater

After reading this article in the Vancouver Sun, I have to wonder why we don't study the model used in Israel and see if it works for us.

A leading Israeli airport security expert says the Canadian government has wasted millions of dollars to install "useless" imaging machines at airports across the country.

"I don't know why everybody is running to buy these expensive and useless machines. I can overcome the body scanners with enough explosives to bring down a Boeing 747," Rafi Sela told parliamentarians probing the state of aviation safety in Canada.

"That's why we haven't put them in our airport," Sela said, referring to Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion International Airport, which has some of the toughest security in the world.

Next week, I get to play my part in the security theater again as I travel to Providence, Rhode Island for the first time.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

After Pondering Recent Events

A political ad, an excellent essay, and a new law passed in Arizona(PDF) brought some thoughts to mind.

White Like Me

No need to prove your place of birth
Or that you're not here illegally.
Don't worry about the profile fit.
After all, you're white like me.

Feel free to shoulder a rifle
And decry lost liberty.
Don't forget to pack a pistol, too,
As long as you're white like me.

Protest and fan patriotic flames.
Teach us rewritten history.
Hold up signs telling us to fear
Everyone who isn't white like me.

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
As long as they're white like me.

One Down, One To Go



Someone else marked the issue on SeeClickFix as fixed. Since I was on the site I went ahead and reopened the issue about the tree branches. Going by the state of the yard, I think I'll get better results if I stop by with some pruning shears and ask if I can trim the branches.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

New Twist Of An Attack SPAM

I received an email purporting to be from the Twitter Team informing me I have a delayed message. But I know better since I have never used my Twitter account. (My 10 followers, all consummate optimists, are still hanging in there.) Anyway, I mouse over the link to see what it really points to.

The link points to which Google informs me tries to download 10 different scripting exploits.

Some people who do use Twitter may be very tempted to click on the link and suffer some unfortunate consequences. Skepticism is a necessary component in life.

Some Things Are Always Taken Seriously

Most of us have probably heard or read about the young man who caused a plane coming from Paris to be diverted to Bangor, Maine, after claiming to have a fake passport and to have explosives in his luggage. The article in the Spokesman Review is somewhat brief. You can find more on the Bangor Daily News.

What's not mentioned is how this claim came to be known. I have my suspicions he was talking to a fellow passenger--a young woman?--and thought he'd come up with a good joke or some ill-conceived method of making an impression. That's yet to come out. But one or more air marshals were on the plane.

After air marshals detained the man, flight attendants asked passengers in the back of the plane to move to empty seats in the front. They also collected passengers’ pillows and blankets, piling the cushions in the back of the plane.

No word as to why the the remaining passengers' comfort had to be sacrificed.

Back in 1982, while I was at McChord AFB near Tacoma--I was in law enforcement at the time--we had a young man on a military flight from Korea who mentioned having a grenade in his luggage. It was something you didn't joke about back then either. We called the Army Explosives Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team. They dragged his bag safely away from the aircraft, set a charge next to it, and blasted his clothing all over the tarmac. There was no grenade. We called his commander in Korea who canceled the young man's leave and ordered him on the next flight back to his unit.

In the late 70's I was stationed in Athens, Greece. Our small base had a terminal connecting to the Athens airport. Having EOD come out to blow up luggage or a briefcase that didn't contain explosives was a frequent occurrence. Sometimes it was someone making a joke and sometimes it was an unattended bag. Either way, I'm confident that nobody made that mistake twice. But enough of them made it at least once which we found entertaining for the most part. Back then you had to pick up your mess and then answer to your commander. Nowadays they haul you off to face charges.

*** Update

Nope, not trying to impress anyone. Apparently he's slightly unbalanced.

A former Air Force intelligence specialist showed signs of paranoia aboard a trans-Atlantic flight and told federal air marshals that he had dynamite in his boots and laptop computer, forcing the plane to be diverted to Maine, according to court documents filed Wednesday.

Derek Stansberry told the FBI that fellow passengers were talking about him, ridiculing him and using interrogation techniques on him, and suggested that he concocted the dynamite story to divert attention from the fact he held "classified information," according to an affidavit.

Passengers reported that seat cushions, pillows and blankets were taken to the back of the plane, where federal air marshals erected a bunker of sorts around the boots and laptop "to dampen the effects of any potential explosion," FBI Special Agent James McCarty wrote in the affidavit.

A bunker of sorts? Really?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Don't Blink Or You'll Miss 'Em

Steph thought glow-in-the-dark nail polish would be a great idea. But when the dimly glowing nails catch her drowsy attention at night they snap her to an awake state and she wonders, "What's that light? Oh."

Monday, April 26, 2010

How Did You Celebrate? - Part II

Today was Boobquake. Did it rock your world?

How Did You Celebrate Today? - Part 1

Today was Confederate Memorial Day in a number of southern states. Just to set the record straight about the American Civil War not being about slavery, let's have a look at some of the secession declarations passed by some of the former Confederate states.

Texas - "Texas abandoned her separate national existence and consented to become one of the Confederated Union to promote her welfare, insure domestic tranquility and secure more substantially the blessings of peace and liberty to her people. She was received into the confederacy with her own constitution, under the guarantee of the federal constitution and the compact of annexation, that she should enjoy these blessings. She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery-- the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits-- a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time."

Virginia - "The people of Virginia in their ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America, adopted by them in convention on the twenty-fifth day of June, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-eight, having declared that the powers granted under said Constitition were derived from the people of the United States and might be resumed whensoever the same should be perverted to their injury and oppression, and the Federal Government having perverted said powers not only to the injury of the people of Virginia, but to the oppression of the Southern slave-holding States..."

Mississippi - "Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization."

South Carolina -"A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that "Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free," and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.

This sectional combination for the submersion of the Constitution, has been aided in some of the States by elevating to citizenship, persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs and safety."

The Demise Of A Great Running Event

Since moving back home to Spokane in late 1995, I have run every Bloomsday from 1996 to present just to get the shirt. Bloomsday is a uniquely Spokane event open to everyone. It's something special that sets Spokane apart. And I want the shirt so people will see that I've been there and done that.

As Josh and Steph grew older they ran in Junior Bloomsday. What was cool--and important!--was that they wanted to. Junior Bloomsday was something that set them apart but still shared with friends and classmates. Held the week before the Lilac Bloomsday Run, it was a motivational stepping stone for when they would be old enough to run in the "real" Bloomsday. Every year they proudly added another Junior Bloomsday bib to their collections, displayed in their rooms for all to see. And they got a t-shirt. Then it all changed.

For reasons I'm not clear on, the name was changed from Junior Bloomsday to America's Kids Run. (I've seen where the Lilac Bloomsday organization asked that it be changed and that the Department of Defense asked the Junior Bloomsday to set up runs at military bases. I don't know which, if either, is true.) The use of the Bloomsday name for 15 years certainly contributed to the huge numbers of children who came out to run. The first Junior Bloomsday had something like 3,000 kids and instantly became the largest organized kids run in the country. After that it exploded, enhancing Spokane's place as a mecca of running even more. It was something special that set Spokane apart. When Josh and Steph attended there were easily 10,000 kids participating each year. It was great. Then it all changed.

The Junior Bloomsday organization became America's Kids Run before the 2002 event. Once the name change took effect the event has been referred to as "America's Kids Run (formerly known as Junior Bloomsday)". Sometimes you'd see it called "Junior Bloomsday, now known as America's Kids Run". Either way, the new name could not stand alone as a Spokane-specific event. The change made no sense to me. Races were organized at military bases all around the world--and one in Spokane. With the removal of the Bloomsday name and the imprimatur it conveyed, gone also was the feeling that this was something special and unique to Spokane. Gone was the feeling that the run was tied to the Bloomsday race held eight days later. Steph went a couple more times but it just wasn't the same. The generic looking America's Kids Run bibs looked out of place next to the colored Junior Bloomsday bibs of old.

According to the Spokesman Review, only 1200 kids participated in the America's Kids Run held last Saturday. The run is moving out to Fairchild next year.

The death knell rang for Junior Bloomsday eight years ago. Its demise is now complete. What a shame for Spokane.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Back From Vegas

Kathy and I went to Las Vegas with Judy and Charlie, my sister and her husband, for a fun four-day getaway. And just like everywhere else, there's plenty of things to see that are off the beaten track. On the way to the hotel we saw an unusually shaped building. It wasn't very far from the hotel so we walked over to check it out.

It was the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, an outpatient treatment and research center for Alzheimer's patients. The misshapen building reflects the perspective many Alzheimer's patients have of the world around them. I can't imagine.

This bike sign caught my attention. The arrow serves a dual purpose. It points out the lane and the spelling error.

While walking past this pyramid-shaped structure, Charlie said something about me running to the top. (Now why didn't I think of that?) The adults supervising me said they would bail me out if I got caught so I scampered to the peak. I managed to get down before any of the authorities came by.

Don't even think about carrying a Sharpie on the bus in Las Vegas. Or a can of Rustoleum. Or maybe even crayons.

The Pinball Hall of Fame took me back in time. Remember when pinball machines were considered a type of gambling and you had to be 16 years old to play them in Washington? This place is not a museum where you just look at the machines on display. You can play almost every one of them. That POP! indicating you won a game is an unforgettable sound. The tilt mechanisms were set a little more sensitive than I liked so I had to be careful. Many of my old skills were rusty but they came back pretty quickly.

Me with my trophy wife of nearly 30 years. There's a reason why Kathy looks way too nice to be seen with the likes of me. She was all dressed up to go see Cher with Judy. On the way to our meeting point, Kathy and I along with two other ladies, got stuck in the elevator. It lurched to a stop and the doors didn't open. I was not about to let Kathy miss the show. I could see light between the doors so I worked my fingertips in between and pulled them open. It wasn't that hard to do but it looked pretty cool and it got me about ten seconds of basking in the hero worship. I look buff enough to pull elevator doors open, don't I?

Charlie and I played craps while the girls were seeing Cher. Being a heavy gambler that I am I only play on the $3 tables because you can play for a long time even when you're losing. After we'd had enough, meaning I had lost my limit, we walked over to the east end of Fremont Street and found the 420 Freedom Fest was just finishing up. Just for grins I asked the two cops here what "420" meant. They knew it meant something but all they could come up with was that 4/20 was Hitler's birthday. You can read up on the meaning of 420 as it relates to marijuana here.

A fun time was had by all and now it's back to work. Hmmm, maybe I could put a pinball machine or two in the basement....

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Hitler Parody About A Hitler Parody

Constantin Film, which owns the rights to Downfall, has been serving takedown notices on YouTube for copyright violations. Countless parodies have been created using the scene where Hitler explodes with anger in a bunker. In reaction to the takedown notices, a new parody was created. It's the best yet.

Didn't Quite Fix The Problem

Two weeks ago I called the Spokane Street Department about the "Road Closed" sign intruding on the bike lane on Mayfair and the tree branches on North Addison poking into the bike lane. I called yesterday to find out what the status was since there had been nothing done yet.

I was told that a letter was probably sent to the property owner telling them to trim the tree. The man I spoke with had no way of knowing if that had in fact been done. Regardless, I was surprised because I thought the city could do something with the tree if the tree is in the parking strip which it is. So I'll be patient. He also had no way of knowing if or when anything would be done with the "Road Closed" sign.

On the way home today I saw the sign had been moved.

It was moved up the road a bit but it's still intruding on the bike lane. Compare it to where it was before.

The bike lane is still restricted. There's a difference between having room and having just enough room. Not all bike riders are confident enough to shoot the gap and I see them go around the left side of the sign all the time. The lowest board on the sign is right at handlebar height and the cement base essentially cuts the space in half. Would you feel comfortable pulling a child trailer through that?

I went through a similar discussion with the Street Department last year. And it wasn't a problem until last year. If you look at the Google street view of the sign you'll see how it used to be. The cement base on the right side was on the white line instead of inside the white line.

So I'll be calling them back again, but not until Monday when I get back in town. In the meantime, their number is 232-8800 if any other cyclists don't want to wait for me to get back.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Congressional Facebook Pages

For a couple of months now I've been wondering how useful Web 2.0 is to politicians. I tried to get some feedback from some of them (thank you Jon Snyder for answering), but with little luck. I'm guessing that asking specific questions as to their use of Facebook, blogs, Twitter, YouTube channels, etc., falls outside the realm of normal constituent inquiries. So I'm settling for something different. I'm comparing the Facebook pages of Washington state's congressional delegation. And just in time for the House Republican Caucus' "New Media Challenge" led by our own Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

The contest's goal is to encourage members to engage their constituents, while demonstrating that the GOP is "ahead of the majority" on the Internet, McMorris Rodgers' office told Hillicon Valley on Tuesday.

Being "ahead of the majority" on the Internet, whatever that means, hardly sounds like the best reason for using Web 2.0 technologies to communicate with constituents. I'd be interested in other questions. How do they use the feedback they get? How do they gauge the feedback? How much weight do they give it since the ease of creating an account and the ease of avoiding attribution can affect support for or against an issue? Do they check log files to see where the IP addresses come from or if the same addresses are used by multiple accounts? How many times is a video viewed? Those kind of things. Just because someone pumps out blurbs on Twitter, a blog, Facebook, MySpace, a video channel, etc., doesn't mean they're actually connecting with people.

Senator Patty Murray does not have a link to her Facebook page on her home page. Plus her Facebook info page lists her re-election site as her web site. Only she can post on her Facebook page but you can comment on her posts. In that manner, she initiates the conversation and you respond. It's not unusual to find 100+ comments and even more "likes" on her posts.

Senator Maria Cantwell does not have a link to her Facebook page on her home page. And her Facebook info page points to what seems to be more of a re-election web site. Senator Cantwell does things different from Senator Murray. She doesn't post anything on her Facebook page. Only her fans post. Consequently, you have lots of individual entries and not very many comments or "likes". In her case we have one way communication initiated by the constituents.

Congressman Jay Inslee, representing District 1, does not have a link to his Facebook page on his home page. His Facebook info page points to his congressional site. Just as Senator Cantwell does, Mr Inslee does not post on his page. His fans do.

Congressman Rick Larsen, representing District 2, does not have a link to his Facebook page on his home page. He does not list a web site on his Facebook info page. And just like Cantwell and Inslee, he does not post anything but allows his fans to post as they please.

Congressman Brian Baird, representing District 3, does not have a link to his Facebook page on his home page. He also does not list a web site on his info page. He does not post but allows his fans to.

Congressman Doc Hastings, representing District 4, does not have a link to his Facebook page on his home page. His info page lists his congressional site, his YouTube channel, and his LinkedIn page. And with him we find something different. Both he and his fans post on his Facebook page. There are rare comments on the posts initiated by fans. More so for those by Mr Hastings.

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, representing District 5, has a link to and a feed from (bonus point!) her Facebook page on her home page. Her info page lists her congressional site, her Twitter page, and her YouTube channel. Both she and her fans post. Her posts generate quite a few comments. Those from her fans sometimes generate a number of comments but they consist mostly of "back and forth" between two or three people. Another bonus for Mrs McMorris Rodgers, I have seen her respond to a couple of comments. That indicates that someone is paying attention.

Congressman Norm Dicks, representing District 6, has a link to his Facebook page on his home page. His info page lists his congressional site as his web page. The Congressman posts on his page along with his fans. His posts don't generate many comments. He may have locked up his page recently. Nobody else has posted anything since Jan 4, 2010. Plus, I can't figure out a way to comment on anything he has posted. I'm no facebook guru so I'm wondering if he cuts off comments for each post after a certain amount of time.

Congressman James McDermott, represents District 7 and does not have a link to his Facebook page on his home page. The home page he lists on his Facebook page is the one he uses for re-election. Mr McDermott does not post on his Facebook site. His fans do, but not since Feb 17 of this year. I am unable to post anything so it may be locked down.

Congressman Dave Reichert, representing District 8, does have a link to his Facebook page on his home page. His info page lists his congressional site, his YouTube channel, his Twitter page, and his Flickr account. Both the congressman and his fans post on the site. Comments are few.

Last of all we have Congressman Adam Smith of District 9. He does not have a link to his Facebook page on his home page. His Facebook page lists itself (adamsmithforcongress) as his public profile. You have to be a confirmed friend to see or do anything. He has 886 friends. I'm still waiting for confirmation.

There you have it for what it's worth. Clearly, Hastings, McMorris Rodgers, and Reichert seem to make the most of their Facebook sites. Regardless, my questions for each of our delegates would be along these lines:

In this age where anyone can create multiple accounts, how do you know the feedback your getting is actually representative of your respective district? The same question could be posed about people calling by phone and sending emails, right? So how much weight do you give these forms of communication as opposed to a letter sent through the postal service?

So that's just something else I've been wondering about.

It's Early In The Morning And I Got Nothing

I am encouraged by the increasing number of cyclists I'm seeing on the road. And more so by, at least from my perspective, the many wearing helmets and high visibility jackets and vests.

On a related note, I'm also seeing more runners. Presumably people are preparing for Bloomsday. Do they all do the dreadmill thing when the weather is bad?

After residing in the same cubicle for 12 years I moved to a different one yesterday. I was surprised to discover I had a headset connected to my phone.

Can Spokane support a second 3-on-3 basketball tournament?

When blind people die do they go to the sound?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Importance Of Labels

On her Facebook page, Cathy McMorris Rodgers had this to say about Judge Barbara Crabb's opinion and order (PDF) in the case of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, et al, v. President Barack Obama. (By the way, NPR has a good, short article about the judge's decision.)

Interestingly enough, the Fox News blog post link she provided is a fairly objective report of the judge's decision. There's no labeling of the judge as an activist so our congresswoman came up with that herself. Well, it is an election year.

This is only the latest example of judicial activism in America which goes against the spirit and values of the American people.

If only she had listed other examples of judicial activism that go against our spirit and values.

I support judges who apply the law, not invent the law.

Had she read the judge's lengthy opinion, our congresswoman would be hard pressed to pick out any invented parts.

Congress has a right to carefully review all of the President’s judicial appointments to ensure they understand their proper role in the constitutional system.

No, the President appoints the judges "by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate". It's in the Constitution.

Rather than read the opinion and address any legal issues, Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers decided to label the judge and possibly score some points with the electorate. I look forward to the day when she addresses a topic with objectively and rationally. But this is an election year.

Representing The Rich

Back on Thursday, Cathy McMorris Rodgers released a statement in recognition of Tax Day.

On April 15th, better known as ‘Tax Day,’ the American people reflect on the size of their tax burden and whether or not they’re receiving good value for their tax dollars. This year, with the federal budget at $3.8 trillion, the budget deficit at $1.3 trillion, and with a host of new taxes taking effect on account of the health care bill, we have more reason than ever to be concerned about the impact that tax and spending policies are having on our economy and our freedom.

Are we receiving good value for our tax dollars? A question that cannot be answered in a general sense but can surely be asked in that manner. Throwing out big numbers, she hints of gloom and doom. The new taxes as a result of the health care reform primarily affect the wealthy and the biggest ones won't take affect until 2013 and 2018. So if things don't change by then, the wealthiest among us will be paying more.

Regardless, the impact on our freedom will no doubt be significant. Apparently nothing impacts our freedom more than taxing the wealthy. She continues:

This year, the American people will pay more in taxes than they will spend on food, clothing and shelter combined. According to the Tax Foundation, the average American has to work for 137 days (or from January 1 to May 17) in order to pay their personal share of all federal government spending – either through taxes or borrowing.

At best our congresswoman is being disingenuous. To hear her talk, you'd think this was only the result of the "tax and spending policies" of President Obama and the Majority in Congress. The Tax Foundation, from which our congresswoman got her data, includes federal, state and local taxes. Also, the May 17 date is a date to show the significance of the federal deficit. But when you consider all taxes, then it's easy to see that April 15 is the tax day for the people of Washington state. And even though we hear a certain percentage of people don't pay any taxes, that's false. Everybody pays.

Furthermore, there is no relief in sight. Starting January 1, 2011 – and over the objection of House Republicans – American taxpayers will be hit with the largest tax increase in U.S. history when the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts are set to expire.

She's referring to the Bush tax cuts, benefiting the wealthy for the most part, which are scheduled to expire as per the laws President Bush signed. These tax cuts, by the way, affected the deficit in a negative manner far more than spending increases did, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Last Friday I received a mailer from our congresswoman in which she decries the Health Care Reform bill that was passed. There's a laughable article on about this. It basically repeats talking points. The best part if the picture that was lifted from McMorris Rodgers' web site.

So is the man standing slightly behind her one of the founding fathers along with George Washington? Anyway, here's the flier mailed out to everyone in the 5th district.

You'll notice that statement, "This mailing was prepared, published and mailed at taxpayer expense."

That, too, is part of the good value for our tax dollars.

They Grow Up So Fast

It's always a pleasure to watch my children do what they love to do. Josh competed in the 1600 meter race at the Mead-North Central track meet last Thursday. North Central has one of the strongest distance running programs in the country.
The NC runners boxed everyone in during the first lap forcing a snail's pace of 72 seconds. Josh didn't like that and ran around the group trying to force a faster race. As you can see from the looks on the NC runners, they were not concerned. Their top two won the race with Josh's teammate, Andrew Gardner, (barely visible behind the first two NC guys) and Josh coming in third and fourth.

Stephanie was in a choir competition in Pasco on Friday. Unfortunately, we were not able to get there in time to hear her and the other kids sing. But we did get there in time to hear a mob of girls playing in the pool at the hotel. Being an indoor pool, it was very loud.

Yesterday the Mead boys competed at the Pasco Invitational where they won the team title.

This is Josh's long time friend from elementary school days, Casey Monahan, squeaking out a victory in his heat of the 110 meter hurdles. Casey ended up fifth overall.

Both Josh and Steph have been going to elementary, middle, and high school with the same friends respectively. That may sound normal to you, but I grew up in a military environment where I moved every couple of years, so I can't relate to it. Seeing how much their friends have grown over the years really emphasizes how much Josh and Steph have grown. Kathy and I can remember young Casey's face lighting up with a big smile when asked, "Would you like a popsicle?" Yesterday, when Kathy told Casey, "Good job," a deep voice replied, "Thanks."

Next fall, Josh starts college and Steph starts high school. Where did the time go? These four years until we become empty-nesters will probably pass by in a blink of an eye.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Maybe It's The Insanity Defense

Most people in Spokane are familiar with the case of Otto Zehm who died unnecessarily at the hands of the Spokane Police Department a little over four years ago. Officer Karl Thompson is charged in federal court with violating Otto Zehm's rights through an excessive use of force and of making a false statement.

In today's Spokesman Review, there's an article about the case concerning a possible cover-up by Spokane Police officers. The Review also includes a link to the document filed by the government (PDF). This is a very interesting read. I also found something very curious in it that wasn't mentioned in the Review article, quite possibly because there's no lack of issues to cover.

Go to page 49 and then answer these questions for me. What man who has been married for 38 years relinquishes his house, vehicle, other personal property, and half his retirement income, and agrees to take on all of the debt in an uncontested divorce? Who gets a divorce in a matter of three weeks? What man continues to live in the house he no longer owns with his now ex wife 1-1/2 years after the divorce was granted?

As a result of his now pauper status, Officer Karl Thompson has little to lose in the $2.9 million civil suit file by the estate of Otto Zehm. Plus he qualifies to be defended at public expense. Smart? Too obvious? Or just crazy?

We Have A New Leader

This truck now has four bike lane violations, three of them since March.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tomorrow Is April 15

This is for those who believe they have a complaint about their federal taxes--which went down last year. You can find out more at the Citizens For Tax Justice web site.

Getting What You Pay For

There's a news report about Sarah Palin's contract for speaking at the upcoming 50th Anniversary celebration of California State University in June. It seems the university's Stanislaus Foundation has been refusing to provide a copy of the contract in a possible violation of public disclosure laws. But some students somehow heard that the contract was to be shredded and went digging through the trash and managed to find six pages of the alleged contract. I'm going to leave the contract contents aside and focus on something I think is more important.

The contract has the "Washington Speakers Bureau" and a contract number printed at the top of each page. Palin is exclusively represented by the Washington Speakers Bureau, a company whose web site makes the claim of "Connecting with the World's Greatest Minds." Let that sink in for a moment.

Sarah Palin's entry on the Washington Speaker's Bureau reads like this:

Known for the meteoric rise that captured the hearts and minds of a global audience, Sarah Palin is a groundbreaker who speaks on her vision for energy independence, national security, fiscal responsibility, health care and small government.

Sarah Palin is a trailblazer who understands the challenge of overcoming adversity on both a personal and professional level. Rising from small-town origins to become a dominant figure on the national scene, she served as the first female governor of Alaska and was the first woman nominated for vice president from the Republican Party. Palin is a fearless, resilient and independent voice who stands firm by the principles and values for which she holds dear. Whether working to protect taxpayers from wasteful
spending or advancing the cause of special-needs children, Palin speaks passionately on her experiences confronting the issues of our time. She encourages audiences to look to the future and challenges leaders to do more to support our troops, responsibly develop domestic resources, rein in spending and shrink government while calling for a fiscally responsible health care model that benefits all Americans. A powerful, no-nonsense voice for principles and reform who currently serves as a contributor for Fox News, her memoir Going Rogue: An American Life was published in November, 2009 and was an immediate best seller.

Now the telling part is what's listed under her Speech Topic. But let's check out some of the other speakers. I looked at over forty other speakers and found that each one of them gives you a very good idea of what you're paying for. Even Christopher B. Duncan makes it clear he is a Barack Obama impersonator. (No doubt he should do well for the next three to eight years.) Pat Riley talks about "The Winner Within". Mary Lou Retton talks about "The Competitive Edge". Both William S. Bennett and Geena Davis each list a variety of topics they can expound upon. Former boxer Sugar Ray Leonard has "The Power to Win". The Capitol Steps will give you "The Lighter Side of Politics". And former fighter pilot Scott O'Grady, at a very reasonable fee code of 2, will talk about how to "Return With Honor". Astronaut Sally Ride will "Reach For The Stars".

The point I want to emphasize is that with the 40+ speakers I looked at, some famous and some I've never heard of, you know exactly what you're getting. With Sarah Palin, you're getting "Remarks by Sarah Palin". Can you compare the substance of "remarks" with any of the other speakers' topics? You betcha! But Sarah Palin is not alone in that regard. There is one other mind you can connect with and also get "remarks" from. And that person is none other than former President George W. Bush.

Connecting with the world's greatest minds indeed!

Back In The Day...

Found this at work. It was once state of the art. It was probably expensive, especially compared to today. Now it's only good for blog posts like this.

Monday, April 12, 2010


There's an article on O'Reilly about how SeeClickFix got its start two years ago.

We say a problem is fixed when it's actually fixed, not when someone says, "We're going to fix it." The way you know is because either the person who posted the issue closes the ticket and the status changes to closed, or the person who sees it fixed or actually fixes it closes the ticket.

Anyone can close it. The citizens all get emails. The initial reporters get emails when an issue is closed, and if they want to reopen it, they click the link. We did have someone in Winnipeg, Canada closing unfixed tickets. It's the only time it's happened. My impression is that it was the city employee that was doing it, and they were being pretty hostile about it. But citizens instantly said that the ticket's not closed. We helped to reopen some, and the citizens reopened some themselves.

I may have an answer as to why my problems were reported as fixed. It appears anyone can do that. So it looks like someone created an account under the name "Harry Greer" and reported them as fixed. I actually had to drive in today because I had to stay downtown late and needed a vehicle. I won't know for sure until tomorrow when I ride in to work.

See Yer ID, Please?

The Washington State Liquor Board is proposing a rule change (PDF) for the identification requirements for purchasing liquor. Specifically this: (the change is bolded)

(1) Per RCW 66.16.040, following are the forms of identification that are acceptable to verify a person's age for the purpose of selling, serving, or allowing a person to possess or consume alcohol:
(a) Driver's license, instruction permit, or identification card of any state or province of Canada, or "identicard" issued by the Washington state department of licensing per RCW 46.20.117; For the purpose of purchasing liquor, a horizontal driver's license or identicard is required.

Here is the reason for the rule change according to the board's announcement:

To further limit minor access to alcohol, the board intends to revise the rule regarding driver’s licenses and identification cards.

When you think about it, this rule does nothing of the sort. All it does is force the clerk into behaving like an irrational, unthinking person. First let's look at the other acceptable forms of ID.

(b) United States armed forces identification card issued to active duty, reserve, and retired personnel and the personnel's dependents, which may include an embedded, digital signature in lieu of a visible signature;
(c) Passport;
(d) Merchant Marine identification card issued by the United States Coast Guard; and
(e) Enrollment card issued by the governing authority of a federally recognized Indian tribe located in Washington, if the enrollment card incorporates security features comparable to those implemented by the department of licensing for Washington driver's licenses.

It's worth noting that a person under the age of 21 can be issued any one of these forms of identification. And if they tried to use it to purchase liquor then the clerk would have to look at the picture to see if it matches the person, and look at the birth date and then at the "If you were born after this date" calendar to see if the customer could legally make that purchase. This rule change does nothing more that treat the form of the driver's license/state ID as the determining factor for purchasing liquor. A vertical license/state ID is an automatic rejection even if the person is 21 or over. However, if they put their vertical format license away and show their passport or military ID instead, the clerk now has a change of mind and is asking, "Plastic or paper?" What sense does that make?

Since a Washington license expires on the individual's birthday five years after it was issued, practically every driver's license issued to a minor expires after their 21st birthday. This rule change would require the license holder to pay for a replacement license even though it is not required for the purpose of lawfully driving a vehicle. And here's a twist for those in the military. Their license is valid until 90 days after being honorably discharged from the military. That means an 18-year-old can join the military and keep the vertical format driver's license throughout their 20+ year career. Do they all do that? I don't know, but I kept the same Washington state driver's license for over 18 years. Why bother updating it if you don't have to?

So essentially what we have is a rule that has no effect on someone with a vertical format license provided they have one of the other permissible forms of ID in which case the clerk would have to look at the picture and the birth date and the calendar. So I don't understand how this limits minor access to alcohol. Regardless of the permissible form of ID, the clerk should be able to make a determination if they check the picture and the birth date.

The Liquor Control Board is also responsible for conducting compliance checks. These are published on their site. Have a look at the latest ones for Spokane, Tacoma, Spokane, and Pasco. Each one has this disclaimer:

Liquor enforcement officers conduct compliance checks assisted by investigative aides. These individuals are from 18 to 20 years old. They must present their true identification if asked by a clerk. However, they may attempt to be evasive if asked their age but not asked for identification.

The businesses that did and did not sell alcohol to a minor are listed. Question: What difference will it make if a 21-year-old has a vertical format license as long as the clerk checks it? What would be important for us to know are the reasons the clerk allowed the sale. RCW 66.1.040 states:

Where there may be a question of a person's right to purchase liquor by reason of age, such person shall be required to present any one of the following officially issued cards of identification which shows his/her correct age and bears his/her signature and photograph:

Checking ID is not mandatory unless the clerk demands it because she has a reason to question the customer's age. That makes those compliance checks open to judgment calls. I could easily see a cashier saying, "Well, she looked 21 to me." Some stores make it policy to ID everyone, however, I'm not sure what they do for people who obviously look like they're over the required age. But it seems like mandatory ID checks for anyone who looks like they're under 40--yes, more judgment call, but this one is more on the safe side--is a solution worth trying out.

One other thing. According to the Liquor Control Board's 2009 Annual Report (big honkin' PDF):

The WSLCB tracks illegal sales to minors and intoxicated customers at liquor stores to determine compliance rates. Washington liquor stores have among the highest rates in the nation at 94 percent. The private sector’s compliance rate is 78-83 percent. So what difference is the automatic disqualification of a vertical license/ID going to make as long as the ID is being checked?

More from the announcement:

You may attend the public hearing listed below, or forward your comments to the Board by mail, e-mail, or fax by April 28, 2010.

By mail:
Rules Coordinator
Liquor Control Board
P.O. Box 43080
Olympia, WA 98504-3080

By e-mail:

By fax:

Let them know what you think of the new rule.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Those Damned European Ideas

In her most recent blog entry entitled "Another European Idea Coming To Hurt Our Economy", Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers expresses her disapproval with the idea of Value Added Tax (VAT) and tax increases in general.

Most European countries levy all of the dozens of taxes the US imposes on our workers and job creators; they do have one tax that the U.S. has successfully avoided so far. The Value Added Tax (VAT) is a stealth tax that while it often goes unnoticed by the consumer, it drives up the cost of every good and service that they buy.

I am neither for nor against VAT but I'm willing to discuss it as an option, especially in terms of balancing it with the current tax structures. Having lived in Europe a number of years, I can tell you that VAT is not a stealth tax that goes unnoticed by the consumer. Everybody knows why the prices are jacked up.

Economists caution that this tax could be making the trip across the Atlantic very soon. With our nation facing annual deficits of over $1 trillion for the foreseeable future, a massive new health care bill that we cannot afford, lower confidence in our Treasury Bond ratings, and a President and Congress completely unwilling to rein in spending, prospects of a massive tax hike are growing. One of the President’s main economic advisors, Paul Volcker, said as much in a recent speech.

What Volcker reflected is a realistic point of view. Sometimes you have to raise taxes. I remember a debate between Walter Mondale and Ronald Reagan--yeah, that was many years ago--in which Mondale said, “Mr. Reagan will raise taxes; and so will I. He won't tell you. I just did.” It was political suicide, but true. Reagan signed the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act (TEFRA) of 1982 as part of a deal with Congress to reduce spending by $3 for every $1 increase in taxes. Remarkably, the original bill that passed the House reduced taxes and the Republican-controlled Senate amended it to raise taxes. And the world did not end.

I think that tax hikes are a bad idea; and raising taxes at a time when 15 million Americans are out of work and there is continuing uncertainty about the economy’s future is an even worse idea. If President Obama and the Democrats in Congress want to take this next step towards becoming a high-tax, low-growth economy, they will do it over my tireless and vocal opposition.

As the effects of TEFRA showed, higher taxes don't automatically mean low growth. Just as the Bush-era lower taxes did not automatically result in high growth.

Recently, Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers announced her plans for re-election.

She said she wants to return for a fourth term to fight “reckless federal spending.” As a member of House Republican leadership, she has opposed the bailouts of banks and automakers, last year’s economic stimulus package and all versions of health care reform proposed by President Barack Obama or congressional Democrats.

It's important to recognize that what she characterizes as "reckless federal spending" includes more than what she lists. Her two moratoriums on accepting earmarks are more symbolic that substantive. Earmarks are a drop in the budget bucket compared to the entire budget. Our congresswoman would better serve us my considering the whole budgeting process instead of just the politically expedient.

As I mentioned at the beginning, her blog entry warning about VAT was entitled "Another European Idea Coming To Hurt Our Economy". (emphasis mine)

So what were the other European ideas that hurt our economy?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Bustin' His Ass

Today was the Mooberry Relays at Gonzaga Prep High School. The top five in each event get a medal.

This is the start of the Lindgren Mile. Josh, wearing the yellow Mead jersey on the right, finished in 4:33 to get fifth place in a field of about thirty.

This is how you look when you're edging out the other guy to get the remaining place on the podium.

And this is how you look on the podium. Sweet!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Got My Hopes Up And...

Back on March 24 I used SeeClickFix to report the Road Closed sign at the bottom of Mayfair blocking part of the bike lane. Two days later I reported tree branches blocking the lane on Addison.

Since there was no feedback by last Tuesday, I decided to call the Spokane Street Dept. The polite young lady remembered my call about the sign last year and noted both of my complaints.

I received an email from Paul Dillon yesterday telling me he was following up on the SeeClickFix and I told him how I had called the Street Department.

Today I received two emails from SeeClickFix stating each problem I reported had been fixed. I thought, "Cool!" And I'll take pictures on the way home. Well, here are the pictures.

I'm guessing this really means that two work orders have been assigned and someone interpreted that to mean the problems have been fixed. So I'll see on Monday. Or Tuesday.

Each of my complaints on the SeeClickFix site have comments showing other people wanted these things fixed.

I hope people stop moving "it" and "this" for Harry.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Condoms And Minors And Booze, Oh My!

A Juneau county prosecutor in Wisconsin has created a disturbance in the force. The new law concerning sex education requires a far more comprehensive approach than the former abstinence-only method. This includes condoms and contraceptives as well as abstinence. From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Starting in the fall, the new law requires schools that have sex education programs to tell students how to use condoms and other contraceptives. Juneau County District Attorney Scott Southworth said such education encourages sex among children, which is illegal, and could lead to charges against teachers.

The new law "promotes the sexualization - and sexual assault - of our children," Southworth wrote in a March 24 letter to officials in five school districts. He urged the districts to suspend their sex education programs and transfer their curriculum on anatomy to a science course.

"Forcing our schools to instruct children on how to utilize contraceptives encourages our children to engage in sexual behavior, whether as a victim or an offender," he wrote. "It is akin to teaching children about alcohol use, then instructing them on how to make mixed alcoholic drinks."


"If a teacher instructs any student aged 16 or younger how to utilize contraceptives under circumstances where the teacher knows the child is engaging in sexual activity with another child - or even where the 'natural and probable consequences' of the teacher's instruction is to cause that child to engage in sexual intercourse with a child - that teacher can be charged under this statute" of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, he wrote.

Have a look at the legislation (PDF). You'll find that school boards are not required to teach sex education. If they do then it spells out the requirements.

The purpose of this section is to encourage all school boards to ensure that pupils in their districts are provided age?appropriate instruction in human growth and development. The instruction should support and enhance communication between pupils and their parents and provide pupils with the knowledge, skills, and support necessary to make healthy decisions now and throughout their lifetimes and to make responsible decisions about sexual behavior.

A school board may provide an instructional program in human growth and development in grades kindergarten to 12. If provided, the instructional program shall do all of the following:

(a) Present medically accurate information to pupils and, when age appropriate, shall address the following topics:
1. The importance of communication about sexuality and decision making about sexual behavior between the pupil and the pupil’s parents, guardians, or other family members.
2. Reproductive and sexual anatomy and physiology, including biological, psychosocial, and emotional changes that accompany maturation.
3. Puberty, pregnancy, parenting, body image, and gender stereotypes.
4. The skills needed to make responsible decisions about sexuality and sexual behavior throughout the pupil’s life, including how to refrain from making inappropriate verbal, physical, and sexual advances and how to recognize, rebuff, and report any unwanted or inappropriate verbal, physical, and sexual behaviors.
5. The benefits of and reasons for abstaining from sexual activity. Instruction under this subdivision shall stress the value of abstinence as the most reliable way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
6. The health benefits, side effects, and proper use of contraceptives and barrier methods approved by the federal food and drug administration to prevent pregnancy and barrier methods approved by the federal food and drug administration to prevent sexually transmitted infections.
7. Methods for developing healthy life skills, including setting goals, making responsible decisions, communicating, and managing stress.
8. How alcohol and drug use affect responsible decision making.
9. The impact of media and one’s peers on thoughts, feelings, and behaviors related to sexuality.
(b) Use instructional methods and materials that do not promote bias against pupils of any race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or ethnic or cultural background or against sexually active pupils or children with disabilities.
(c) Promote self?esteem and positive interpersonal skills, with an emphasis on healthy relationships, including friendships, marriage, and romantic and familial relationships.
(d) Identify counseling, medical, and legal resources for survivors of sexual abuse and assault, including resources for escaping violent relationships.

There's more on this over on the Volohk Conspiracy.

I wonder if Mr Southworth has the same concerns about contributing to the delinquency of children by informing them about spray paint (graffiti), language (swearing in public), tobacco use (smoking and dipping), glue (huffing) and all those other things we dare not talk to children about because they might go out and do it.

A Hard Row To Hoe

Over the years the Catholic Church has been having increasingly severe credibility issues, so much so it could be easy to consider it an international pedophile ring. Years of secrecy, cover up, denial, and shuffling "problem priests" elsewhere is catching up to the church.

In light of the many abuses that took place for over 60 years within the Church of Ireland, Pope Benedict released a pastoral letter. It's almost a sort-of-apology and sort-of-it's-partly-your-fault combination.

In recent decades, however, the Church in your country has had to confront new and serious challenges to the faith arising from the rapid transformation and secularization of Irish society. Fast-paced social change has occurred, often adversely affecting people’s traditional adherence to Catholic teaching and values. All too often, the sacramental and devotional practices that sustain faith and enable it to grow, such as frequent confession, daily prayer and annual retreats, were neglected. Significant too was the tendency during this period, also on the part of priests and religious, to adopt ways of thinking and assessing secular realities without sufficient reference to the Gospel. The programme of renewal proposed by the Second Vatican Council was sometimes misinterpreted and indeed, in the light of the profound social changes that were taking place, it was far from easy to know how best to implement it. In particular, there was a well-intentioned but misguided tendency to avoid penal approaches to canonically irregular situations. It is in this overall context that we must try to understand the disturbing problem of child sexual abuse, which has contributed in no small measure to the weakening of faith and the loss of respect for the Church and her teachings.

In Ireland? Where the influence of the Catholic Church was total?

The defenders of Pope Benedict are varied in their approach. William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, makes the bizarre argument that most of the young men whom the priests preyed upon where actually post-pubescent so it's really a problem with homosexuals and not pedophiles. I'm not aware of a legal distinction. A minor child is a minor child, post-pubescent or not.

And there's there's this statement from the Bishop of Tenerife:

His comments were that there are youngsters who want to be abused, and he compared that abuse to homosexuality, describing them both as prejudicial to society. He said that on occasions the abuse happened because the there are children who consent to it. ‘There are 13 year old adolescents who are under age and who are perfectly in agreement with, and what’s more wanting it, and if you are careless they will even provoke you’, he said.

I would hardly call that helpful. There is a more measured and rational defense by John Allen at the National Catholic Reporter. (Note: There was a much lengthier piece that I can no longer find on the NCR site. A condensed version of that is on the New York Times site.) He makes a case for then-Cardinal Ratzinger's and now Pope Benedict's work in dealing with priests preying on children and describes a time line as to when and who was responsible. While it is a defense of the Pope, the church's credibility still suffers in a huge way. From the Times op-ed:

After being elected pope, Benedict made the abuse cases a priority. One of his first acts was to discipline two high-profile clerics against whom sex abuse allegations had been hanging around for decades, but had previously been protected at the highest levels.

When you have to become Pope to remove two high-profile priests who had been protected at the highest levels, that doesn't reflect well on the prior Pope who, by the way, is on the fast track towards sainthood.

Pope Benedict has his work cut out for him.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Led Zeppelin In Spokane - 1968

Found this over on BoingBoing. A recording of Led Zeppelin playing at Gonzaga University on December 30, 1968. It's supposed to be the earliest recording of the group made and it preceded the release of their first album.

Interesting Terminology

Check out the brief news reports at the Spokesman Review, KXLY, etc., concerning an explosive device found outside the Thomas S. Foley Courthouse.

From the Review:

Federal authorities are investigating the discovery 10 days ago of an improvised explosive device found next to the Thomas S. Foley U.S. Courthouse in downtown Spokane but had not alerted the public until today based upon a direct inquiry by The Spokesman-Review.

I'm curious about the use of the phrase "improvised explosive device" in this report. The context of IEDs has always been in terms of explosive devices used in Iraq and Afghanistan. They were artillery shells wired to cell phones and buried in a roadway or something along those lines. Until reading the Wikipedia article, I've never heard that term used for home made bombs.

In the past, explosive devices were referred to as homemade bombs or pipe bombs. Of course, I have no idea if this was the terminology used by the authorities or by the media. The authorities are being tight-lipped about it, but if they used "IED", I wonder if anyone in the media asked
why. So many questions....

*** Update ***

The article in today's Spokesman Review uses "bomb" instead of "improvised explosive device", but that term is a tag for the article.

Barefoot Running - Bloomsday Test

I originally planned to this on Friday, but the weather today was nice and the forecast for Friday is not promising. I took some comp time and ran the Bloomsday course during lunch. My intent was to run as much of the course barefoot as possible. I focused on landing softly and lifting my feet quickly and got through five miles before my feet started complaining about the rough and uneven surfaces. I brought my aqua sox along just in case so I put them on at the top of Doomsday Hill and finished the last 2.5 miles. I didn't push myself, but ran at a comfortable pace and still finished in about 1:03, about what I did in last year's run. I'm pretty pleased with that. My fastest time, 1:01:45, is two years ago when I was training for a marathon. I think getting in under an hour is quite likely.

I have some soft tissue soreness under the front pads of my feet. That's where all the complaints were coming from at the five-mile mark. Hopefully those areas will toughen up some more. I'll keep working on the light landing.

As long as it's dry and not too cold or too hot, I'm pretty sure I can do the race barefoot. But I'll be carrying my aqua sox hand weights just in case.