Sunday, November 25, 2012

Gingerbread House Party

I narrowly avoided a disaster this year. When I started baking the pieces for the houses a couple weeks ago, I read the recipe incorrectly and did not add enough sugar to the dough. I knew something was wrong, but I just couldn't figure it out. The dough was elastic. When I rolled it out it would shrink back. Consequently, the pieces were smaller than normal in the first batch, but they were perfect houses for the little kids. I compensated by cutting the pieces larger. That helped but they would still shrink inconsistently and make it difficult get the pieces to match up. It was so much easier once I realized my mistake with the sugar. In spite of my best efforts to mess it up, yesterday's gingerbread house party was another success.

All the houses assembled and ready to be made pretty. Notice the difference between the front center house and the one right behind it? Dat wus me.

 The kid's table...

...and the overrated adult table.

The first time we've had a deer hang. 
Excellent detail work on the window cut outs.

From flamboyant to humble - front view.

Back view. Putting your name on guarantees nobody 
gets confused and takes the wrong house.

My sister, Barb, had an idea and we merged our creative energies on this one. It has a garbage pit, blue tarps, slapped on siding, a successfully hunted animal mounted on the back of the house, duct tape on the windows, an overstuffed chair on the porch, an RV parked in the back with a stone patio and plastic grass walkway, and a free stained couch for the taking.

It's a gingerbread shotgun shack.
Please wipe your feet before coming inside.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Back In Operational Status

I did not intend to go shopping on Black Friday, but a crashed hard drive forced me to go to the store. After returning home from the Black Friday Bike Ride, I headed out and picked up a 2TB replacement drive. While having a hard drive crash is a bad thing, it was fortunate for me that Geoff was home. He replaced my hard drive three years ago and is far more familiar with the innards of my iMac than I am. He swapped out the drive and Time Machine took over after booting up. I don't care that it took almost seven hours to restore my system. It's such a relief that when the restore is complete, I am right back to where I left off when the other drive crashed. No loss of data or applications.

Here is what it looked like when Geoff swapped out the hard drive three years ago. Same as yesterday. Thank you, Geoff!

Way Better Than Shopping

The third annual Black Friday Bike Ride was graced with cool temps and no rain. Ten riders showed up to climb, jounce, slog, and rip down about 19 miles of trails. At one point they threw their bikes across the water and then leaped across. Pat has shots in his post.

John's pre-ride pep talk. "I'm going to take you places you may wish to never see again. Some of you may think you're going to die." Well, that's what he should have told us.

Warming up on the trails below High Drive.

I pulled my camera out of my backpack and thought my viewfinder was fogged, but it was the lens. That's Sean from Fairchild AFB being all shy for the paparazzi. Sean is new to the area and stumbled upon John's ride announcement on Thursday night. Not being familiar with Spokane's cycling scene he decided to show up and see what the BFBR was all about. He did not regret his decision.

Scott and his bloody leg. He took a spill early on, but Scott is unaffected by blood loss, pain, or open wounds exposed to the frigid air. Nor did his injury affect his leaping skills.

One of the several painful climbs John took us on. Not long after this particular climb, we were offered an alternate route to the "slippery cliffs". Well, you don't get this far into it and miss out on that, now do you? For those of use without suspension, the slippery cliffs consisted of wet basalt that shook our bones loose. There were branches to duck under and a pair of trees that are just wide enough for handlebars to pass through. As one rider discovered, you really should hit that at dead center. Nobody died on the climbs or the murderous terrain, but the thought may have occurred to a rider or two.

Three hours and 23 miles after leaving The Scoop, we stopped by David Blaine's Central Food restaurant where he graciously welcomed us hungry, sweaty cyclists. The food was delicious and from my observation of those who were partaking, the beer was too.

With the mileage and terrain we got in, this was an excellent Black Friday Bike Ride. Where did we go? I have a general idea. We started at The Scoop. From there we headed over to High Drive where we bombed down some exciting downhill. Then we followed High Drive trails south to Hatch Road. We swerved into a dead end road and through someone's driveway, and followed more trails that took us near the bottom of Hatch Road where we crossed Hwy 195. Traveling south for just a bit, we turned right on White Road where we immediately headed off into the wilderness. At some point we turned northward because we ended up back at Hwy 195 at Thorp Road. Crossing at Thorp, we cut through the neighborhood to High Bridge Park. From there we followed the "river trail", which I had no idea existed, and dodged huge rocks, ducked under fallen trees, and rode off-camber along the west side of the Spokane River to Meenach Bridge. From there it was up Pettit Drive and through the West Central neighborhood to refuel at Central Food.

Thanks again, John, for leading us on this fun and challenging ride.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Lacking A Scandal

In today's Spokesman Review, we have an op-ed by Dana Milbank in which we learn that the affair between General Petraeus and Paula Broadwell was just an affair between two consenting adults and the entirety of their behavior lacks scandal.

How comforting for Mrs Petraeus and Mr Broadwell to have one more thing to be thankful for on this Thanksgiving holiday.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

No Posting For A Bit

The hard drive on my computer went bad tonight. Looks like I'm going shopping on Friday after the Black Friday Bike Ride.

Well That Was Worth Staying Home For

I got a phone call from the Conservative Majority Fund telling me that President Obama is going to close Guantanamo, give amnesty to all illegal aliens, and allow the United Nations to tax American citizens. Not only that, nobody has ever seen an authentic birth certificate so Obama isn't really an American citizen. On top of that, they believe he has committed impeachable offenses.

"Press 1 now to donate $5.00 to impeach Obama."

As a further enticement, if I donated they would send me a Don't Tread on Me flag.

"Press 1 now to donate $5.00 to impeach Obama."

I pulled up their web site while their nonsensical vitriol ran its course on the phone. It didn't take long to realize that a venom-spitting snake is an appropriate symbol for this group.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Old School Cyclocross

It's hard to tell if this is from 1950 or 1960 but it doesn't really matter. This is total bad ass cross racing. Can you imagine chucking your bike as far across the water as you can and then jumping in?

The fellow talking about the riders sounds like he's from Scotland. He says that one racer used to be the head of the cheese counter at the co-op in Wallsend. Wallsend got its name from being at the end of Hadrian's Wall. Scotland is about 30 miles to the north of it so I'm guessing they're riding through some northern English countryside.

Monday, November 19, 2012

There Will Be Mud

Two days of rain prepped the course for the last race of the Inland Northwest Cyclocross Series 2012 held in Coeur d'Alene. Cloudy skies let the sun in every once in a while, a cold breeze blew, noses ran freely, standing water patiently waited to be abused, and those who thrive on suffering turned out in force. 

 Don't be fooled. He's suffering.

 Beer handup on her 21st birthday.

 Mud here.

 No mud here.

Diluted mud here. 

I've always heard that not only beer handups, but bacon handups were also associated with cyclocross racing. I have never witnessed a bacon handup so I decided to do something about it. I whipped up a batch of my maple syrup bacon and wrapped them up in foil packets, 6-7 slices to a packet. I made a sign advertising their presence and use and left them on the registration table. It was a hit.
 Bacon! I got bacon!

 Feed me.

 I'll take one.

 Making a big splash.

This is how you get cold feet. 

 The sun came out for the final race.

 The faster you go, the cooler you look.

I had a good race. I stayed upright, only stabbing my leg into the ground once to save myself from getting dirty. Well, dirtier. Just as two weeks before, we had a headwind on the long straightaway again. But this time I put it on the big chain ring, hunkered down and sucked it up. The return trip was faster and more fun thanks to a nice stretch of thick mud. While the course got chewed up pretty badly, the mud was no match for the riders' skills today. Not many crashes, but you did have to spit out the grit that flew up in your face. 

I can't believe the season is over already. I finished 12th in the standings for Men's Master 50+ and that's for competing in six out of ten races. I missed the two in Walla Walla, one in Moses Lake, and one in Moscow. It was a fun season and I have no complaints. Plus my podium dreams were answered with a third place finish at the Sprinker race near Tacoma--although it's three weeks later and I'm still not healed up from my asphalt slide. But who needs skin when you can have beer and bacon?

* * * * * * * * * * * * 

A note about photos. One rider asked me if there was another way for me to share my photos so anyone can access them because they don't use Facebook. Good question. While I explore the possibilities, I found it is possible to access the photos even though you don't have a Facebook account. Here are the links to the pictures I took.

Oct 13 - Riverside State Park Races 1&2, and Races 3&4 (None of the 5th because my camera battery was drained)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Get Over It Already

As did freethinkers
Bishop Cupich of the Spokane Catholic Diocese, posted a short letter regarding the passing of Referendum 74. Within the letter, he says this:  

There is one major unresolved issue. The State has a responsibility to protect and support parents who marry and take on the risks and responsibilities of bringing children into the world. Does the State now intend to walk away from its historic role of upholding the unique contribution which a man and woman make to society when they marry and generate new life, as only they can, thereby continuing the human race? If not, what does it intend to do in this regard?  

Anyone have a clue as to what he is talking about? He mentioned something like this in a prior letter.
If the referendum is approved, the most immediate consequence is that the state would no longer grant special support and recognition of the irreplaceable contribution and sacrifice that wives and husbands make to society today as mothers and fathers who bring to life, rear and educate the next generation.  

But I'm still not getting it. What is the state taking away from wives and husbands who have children? What exactly is the "historic role of upholding the unique contribution which a man and woman make to society when they marry and generate new life"?   

Do the half of the couples that stay married get something more from the state than the half who divorce? Is the state withholding something from the couples who don't have children and therefore are not continuing the human race? If a childless couple adopts one or more children, does the state have the same historic role as if the couple had their own natural born children? Isn't it cool that in the questions I just asked, the respective genders of the married couple don't matter?

Get Some Of The Fourth Amendment Back

Last September, Zoe Lofgren, (D-CA 16), submitted a bill that modifies the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) to strengthen the privacy of Internet and wireless users from outdated government surveillance laws. Her intent is to expand the protections of the Fourth Amendment to digital communications.

The bill modifies US Code 18 Section 2703. Here is the law in its current form.

(a) Contents of Wire or Electronic Communications in Electronic Storage.  
A governmental entity may require the disclosure by a provider of electronic communication service of the contents of a wire or electronic communication, that is in electronic storage in an electronic communications system for one hundred and eighty days or less, only pursuant to a warrant issued using the procedures described in the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure (or, in the case of a State court, issued using State warrant procedures) by a court of competent jurisdiction. A governmental entity may require the disclosure by a provider of electronic communications services of the contents of a wire or electronic communication that has been in electronic storage in an electronic communications system for more than one hundred and eighty days by the means available under subsection (b) of this section. 

Here is how the law would read if this bill is passed. Deleted parts are struck through and added parts are bolded italics.

(a) Contents of Wire or Electronic Communications in Electronic Storage.   
A governmental entity may require the disclosure by a provider of electronic communication service or remote computing service of the contents of a wire or electronic communication, that is in electronic storage in an electronic communications system for one hundred and eighty days or less that is stored, held, or maintained by that service, only pursuant to a warrant issued using the procedures described in the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure (or, in the case of a State court, issued using State warrant procedures) by a court of competent jurisdiction. A governmental entity may require the disclosure by a provider of electronic communications services of the contents of a wire or electronic communication that has been in electronic storage in an electronic communications system for more than one hundred and eighty days by the means available under subsection (b) of this section. Within three days after a governmental entity received such contents from a service provider pursuant to this subsection, the governmental entity shall service upon, or deliver by registered or first-class mail, or other means reasonably calculated to be effective as specified by the court issuing the warrant to the subscriber, customer, or user a copy of the warrant and a notice that includes the information referenced in section 2705(a)4(A) and (B)(i), except that delayed notice may be provided pursuant to section 2705 of this title. 

If government agencies needed a search warrant to get information from companies like Google, then we may not see such an increase of information being handed over simply because it's requested. In the meantime, enjoy the irony of the head of America's super secret spy agency being taken down because the FBI simply asked Google for information.

Strange Weather Report

I did a double take when I checked the weather this morning. I did not know the National Weather Service will post a Child Abduction Emergency on the weather map. In this case the notice was that the child had been found.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Danger! Danger! Oh, Wait....

Comcast sent me an email today warning me that one or more of my computers may be infected with a bot and they strongly recommend I take action to remove malicious software from my computers. You can bet that got my attention. But as I closely read the email....

The first question that came to mind was, "Well what are the specifics of this bot infection that led to this notice?" Did my computer start connecting to a server in Bulgaria or what? If I have some sort of malware and you (Comcast) can tell that, then give me something to work with here so I can fix the problem. But the email doesn't include a single hint of what the problem might be. The only thing notable about the email is the scary language describing how bad a bot can be. Bot infect. Bot steal. Bot bad.

Thunderbolt and lightning very very frightening me! 


Continuing on in this notice of possible bot imperilment, the email contains a plug for Constant Guard. Apparently one feature of Constant Guard is to frighten their customers with emails like this.

It's the last part of the email that certifies this is a phony warning. "This is a service related email," and Comcast will occasionally send me service-related emails to inform me of service upgrades or new benefits. How considerate of them.

Mark that as spam.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Apple Cross

The thermometer read 27 degrees when I left the house to drive up to Green Bluff for the penultimate race of the Inland Northwest Cyclocross Series 2012. When I arrived at Walter's Fruit Ranch, the van's thermometer said it was 30 degrees. A veritable heat wave was on the way. But the sun disagreed and hid behind the clouds, never taking even a small peek at the people bursting their lungs in the frigid air. The cold called for ski gloves and snow suits for the spectators and riders layered up.

I cruised around the course and found it was, as to be expected, absolutely frozen. Pumpkins lined many parts of the course. Some of them would become victims of sliding tires during the day.

The twist 'n' turns between the start and the run up.

 A pumpkin-lined Apple Cross.

 The start was a short uphill straightaway.

 The temp reached 36 by the third race and the course got greasy.

The loose straw combined with the thawing mud made this a treacherous turn.

 It only takes a split second.

 A number of racers bought it on this turn as well.

I got off to a good start and was in third until we reached the run up. The warming temperature transformed the frozen dirt into mud everywhere on the course. For some reason my shoes seemed to be the only ones that couldn't get any traction on the run up. It was very frustrating as a number of riders in my group got by me. The 180-degree turns at the end of each back-and-forth in the orchard slicked up, too, especially one with a lot of straw thrown on it. I had a soft fall there but stayed upright for the remainder of the race. After that it was just a matter of cranking out the laps until it was over. 
Me chasing Joe.

I had a rider in front of me, Joe, who I chased, caught, and ended up chasing again. (Danged slippery run up!) Another racer, Steve, who rides a single speed started catching up to me on the fourth lap. This was his second race of the day. Steve is a machine. He got by me on the fifth lap only to crash on the turn with all the straw and mud. He fought to reel me back in and I took a chance on a turn that caused my back wheel to slide out. I stayed upright but I also stopped. Now he was back in front and we both scrambled to catch Joe. The finish was next to the start which meant we had to sprint uphill. Although we had closed in on Joe, there was still a gap of about thirty feet when he crossed the finish line. I finished with my front wheel next to Steve's pedals. All three of us shook hands and congratulated each other for our efforts. Fun times.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Not Coming To A Town Near You - Weed Warehouse

The Washington State Liquor Control Board, given the responsibility of implementing Initiative 502, has posted a fact sheet on some of the law's requirements. Here's an excerpt concerning retail outlets.

Photo from THCFinder
Retail Outlets 
Specific number of retail outlets and licenses will be determined by the WSLCB in consultation  with the Office of Financial Management taking into account population, security and safety  issues, and discouraging illegal markets. The initiative also caps retail licenses by county. 
  - Retail outlets may not employ anyone under the age of 21, nor allow anyone under the  age of 21 to enter the premises. 
  - Retail outlets are only authorized to sell marijuana/marijuana products or paraphernalia. 
  - Retailers are allowed one sign identifying the outlet’s business or trade name, not to exceed 1600 square inches. 
  - They are not allowed to display marijuana or marijuana related products in a manner that  is visible to the general public.

Will employees have to pass a drug screening before they're hired? Will employees be fired if they fail a drug test? What will the job interviews be like?

Tell you about my experience? Well, back in high school....

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Keeping An Eye On The Aggressor

Glen Greenwald makes some good points about the CNN report on Iran allegedly shooting at a US drone. CNN basically repeated what they were given by the Obama administration and didn't bother asking Iran what their side of the story was.

I'm reminded of Stephen Colbert's blistering of the press corps at the White House Correspondents Dinner back in 2006.   

But, listen, let's review the rules. Here's how it works. The President makes decisions. He's the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put 'em through a spell check and go home.

But I digress.

From the CNN article:

Two Iranian Su-25 fighter jets fired on an unarmed U.S. Air Force Predator drone in the Persian Gulf last week, CNN has learned.  The incident raises fresh concerns within the Obama administration about Iranian military aggression in crucial Gulf oil shipping lanes.  

Let's put the Obama administration concerns about Iranian military aggression in the right perspective.

What country invaded neighboring Iraq over unwarranted fears of weapons of mass destruction?

What country has launched missile attacks from unmanned aircraft in neighboring Pakistan, and even as far away as Somalia and Yemen, going so far as killing Americans?

Given that, one can easily understand why the Obama administration has fresh concerns about Iranian military aggression.

God Is Useful When He Suits Your Purpose

From Karl Rove:   

The president was also lucky. This time, the October surprise was not a dirty trick but an act of God. Hurricane Sandy interrupted Mr. Romney’s momentum and allowed Mr. Obama to look presidential and bipartisan.  

From Pastor Luke J. Robinson of Quinn Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Frederick, MD. 

God inflicted his wrath in the form of Superstorm Sandy on New York City, in part, because Mayor Michael Bloomberg contributed $250,000 to the same-sex marriage campaign in Maryland, Robinson said Sunday at a rally in Baker Park in opposition to Maryland's same-sex marriage law.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Source Of My Madness

This year I've been paying attention to different aspects of my behavior, focusing on something I think is important, and then changing it. I'm just as imperfect as everyone else, more so in many cases, so I'm constantly looking at how I treat others, how I react, and how I interact and evaluating myself afterwards. It's not driving me crazy--yet. But I think I've improved, especially at work.

On a trivial note, I relearned how to tie my shoes--when I wear shoes--so the knot never comes untied. Yeah, I thought that was important enough to do.

On another trivial note, I find that when I turn the stove top burner on, I spin the knob counterclockwise from the OFF position, past LO, and on around to the number I want. I reverse the process when I turn the burner off. Now this makes sense if I'm choosing 5 or less, and it makes sense to turn the knob clockwise to 5 and higher. Why twist your wrist unnecessarily and spin the knob almost in a complete circle, right? I don't consider this important enough to force a change in my behavior, but I'm OCD just enough to notice I do this every damn time I do this.
Now you might think this wouldn't keep me awake at night if I used a microwave oven instead of cooking on the stove top. But think ahead and you'll see that raises an entirely different question. When would I use the number 9?