Saturday, November 30, 2013

Gingerbread House Party

I think we're going on 14 years now of hosting a gingerbread house party on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. It's a calmer event now since all the kids and cousins are grown. But the creativity is still going strong.
One of these things is not like the other. Steph "had a vision" and went with a Medieval village theme. She formed, cut and baked her own pieces...

...and in keeping with the festive season, included a witch being burned at the stake. She also had Rapunzel letting down her hair from the tallest tower.

 The kids table.

 Young cousin Olivia on the path towards a sugar high.

 Cousin Leslie and son Ethan admiring Steph's towers.

 Amanda and Josh in a friendly competition.

 The grown up table.

 The spit personality house in the foreground by Paul and Christy. Mike, thinking ahead as a grandpa, attached only wrapped candies so his grandkids can help themselves when they come to visit at Christmas.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Black Friday Bike Ride

Nine of us showed up for John's ride this morning. It was a balmy 26 degrees and the sun peeked out from behind the clouds a couple of times to cheer us on. Four of the nine bikes were Elephants, a good representation of "buy local". We followed the same path as last year with one exception. It's called Patrick's hill. There's a climb that starts near the TJ Meenach Bridge that goes up the side of the hill instead of up Pettet Drive (Doomsday Hill). It's steep and unrideable. Patrick can have his hill. A little over three hours into it we reached our destination, River City Red brew pub on Cedar just south of First. Gage Stromberg opened up early for us and we tried out several very tasty beers. Gotta love the Child's Portion.

** Update: Here's the route we took, Garmined by Scott.
 Joe and Justin.

 Fearless Leader John.

 Eric on a fat bike outfitted with a thermos carrier on the fork.

 Austin rocked the ride a single speed.

 Dylan climbing while the rest of us walked.

 Scott was injury free this year.

 Tony on his first BFBR.

 This is cool -- a four ounce taster.

 First customers of the day!

My Names Are Hank

Should I respond? Or will my heart be crushed like last time?

Hello Dear, 

It is nice and joyful to found your email address on the Internet search during my quest for friendship to keep busy the lonely and lovely world. Hope you fill the vacuum? I thought is beautiful to make you a friend in this regard. My names are Lucy Williams, a Canadian nationality, female. My friends tell me that I am a quiet person with a good sense of humor. 

I am always fair, straightforward, honest and easy going lady and I seek trust worthy friendship. I believe in giving and taking on both sides and I value faithfulness. I like people for what they are and not for what they are not. I want to be your friend, and let share whatever we have in friendship. 

I will be detailed in my consequential mails and expecting same from you if both considered: 

AGE: 33 languages spoken: Fluent English & little Spanish. 

It will be nice to know you in this regard. 

Yours truly, 


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Be Part Of The Solution

John Speare is hosting his fourth Black Friday Bike Ride on...wait for it...Friday. Meet at The Scoop (25th and Monroe) at 8:30 am. Bring a bike suitable for less-than-gnarly trails--I rode a cross bike last year--and expect to be oot 'n' aboot for about three hours. The destination is River City Red (beer!) at 1st and Cedar.

What better way to avoid rage shopping, which is a load of bull anyway.
Last year's ride starting out on High Drive trails.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Tea Party Tiime

In today's Spokesman Review we have a letter to the editor that's much different from any other that has been critical of Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers has begun her fundraising campaign for re-election. Looking at her record, I am deeply troubled by her response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on what is now termed Obamacare. In her response to the court’s decision, she says, “I respect it and encourage others to do the same.”  

The court unconstitutionally redefined the law so as to justify its decision in declaring the law constitutional. When the government unconstitutionally manipulates the law in order to impose the government’s will against the will of the citizens, this is tyranny. The congresswoman willingly accepted this act of tyranny and, worse, wants her constituents to do the same.  

Now that it’s re-election time, one way the congresswoman attempts to connect with her constituents is to boast of her distinction as the first member of Congress to give birth to three children while in office. “While I extol the blessings of having children, I don’t accept the premise that having children while in office makes one worthy of re-election.”  

I am but one vote. Yet I will not support anyone who so easily surrenders their freedoms and liberties and who encourages their constituents to do the same.

Doug Belcher

Friday, November 22, 2013


A few days ago Shawn Vestal wrote about Brandon Pier and the most recent of his many scams. I also get my hair cut at Leland's and I paid close attend to the photo of Pier included in the article. I figured that I would run into Pier some time since I work downtown. 
I left work this evening and headed towards Madeline's to meet Kathy. After crossing Lincoln I heard a voice say, "Excuse me, sir, could I ask you a favor?"

I turned to see who was talking to me and recognized him from his picture. He was saying, "I have to get back home...." and I cut him off.

"Brandon," I exclaimed like we were old friends. "How're you doing?"

He immediately turned and walked away.

I should have waited to hear what he had to say so I'd have more to write about.

The Annual Shining Star Exam

Here's an interesting article over at The Atlantic. Computer games have the potential to help determine if you're the right person for the job, assess your potential for promotion, or if you're truly a shining star.

Consider Knack, a tiny start-up based in Silicon Valley. Knack makes app-based video games, among them Dungeon Scrawl, a quest game requiring the player to navigate a maze and solve puzzles, and Wasabi Waiter, which involves delivering the right sushi to the right customer at an increasingly crowded happy hour. These games aren’t just for play: they’ve been designed by a team of neuroscientists, psychologists, and data scientists to suss out human potential. Play one of them for just 20 minutes, says Guy Halfteck, Knack’s founder, and you’ll generate several megabytes of data, exponentially more than what’s collected by the SAT or a personality test. How long you hesitate before taking every action, the sequence of actions you take, how you solve problems—all of these factors and many more are logged as you play, and then are used to analyze your creativity, your persistence, your capacity to learn quickly from mistakes, your ability to prioritize, and even your social intelligence and personality. The end result, Halfteck says, is a high-resolution portrait of your psyche and intellect, and an assessment of your potential as a leader or an innovator. 

It's not necessarily all bad in that it can remove biases from the equation. But still, I wonder if someone who didn't score very well could learn to do better and improve their score over time. And would it be easier to determine when an employee is just one step away from their level of incompetence?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Bit Brisk This Morning

The question you may be asking is, "Is that ice or frozen snot on that mustache?"

The answer is, "Yes."

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Privileged Tier

We have two recent cases showing how our two-tiered justice system works. First of all, JP Morgan admits to fraud in the mortgage backed securities market, which also helped bring on the financial crisis in 2008. It will cost the company $13 billion. The fraud was actually committed by Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual, both of which were purchased by JP Morgan knowing full well the baggage that went with them. What's important to note is that nobody is going to jail. The feds prosecuted two Bear Stearns managers but botched it. They were found not guilty. Nobody from Washington Mutual was charged.

Secondly, we have a member of the House of Representatives, Trey Radel (R-FL), who pled guilty to possession of cocaine in Washington, DC. He's getting one year of probation. (Interestingly, Speaker Boehner thinks the issue of resigning his office for committing a crime is between Radel and his constituents. And yet he thought Anthony Weiner should have resigned for sexting, which is embarrassing but not a crime.) Radel admits he has a drug and alcohol problem--now that he's been caught. On a side note, Radel has cosponsored legislation to change mandatory minimum sentences. Now that's planning ahead.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Final INWCXS Race Video

INWCXS Final 2013 from hank greer on Vimeo.

Final INWCXS Race At Sandpoint

The snow in Sandpoint had melted slightly and then froze overnight. People who rode the course on Saturday left all kinds of ruts in the snow. I went out on the single speed to see what the course was like. It was incredibly tough. The ruts kept sending me every which way and the untouched frozen snow was a pain to get through. So I wussed out and bagged the single speed race since it would not be fun.

I figured the races would loosen things up and they did. It also warmed up and when it was time for me to race in the men's masters 50+, the course was churned to a creamy butter consistency in some spot and outright sloppy mud in others. I had the Michelin Mud 2 tired on Top Greer and they were awesome. I only fell down once but that was because I went the wrong way to pass someone on a turn. He took it further to the inside than I expected, which was where I was headed, and my front wheel got caught on his rear wheel. I couldn't go any more to the inside than I already was, but that was of no concern to my front wheel so over I went. I got right back up and passed the guy a little later on.

Slogging through the mud was both hard and fun. I was really smooth going through the tight turns and just had to slog my way through the straightaways. The run up got slicker and slicker with each lap. Instead of shouldering the bike, I rolled it and squeezed a brake for support to move my feet.

The bike and I got ridiculously filthy and I had my best masters race of the season, finishing in 10th.
While handing out the series awards, Michael Emde call me up and handed me a camera-shaped trophy thanking me for taking and sharing photos and videos of the races. That was very nice of him.

Conditions during the first race...
...and during the last race.
Who wants a hug?
What color is my bike?
Funnest race ever.
Looking forward to next year.

Friday, November 15, 2013

To The Core

From an article about eating apples over on The Atlantic. I've been eating apples this way for a few months now. Steph thinks I'm crazy.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I Guess It's Funny

There's an absolutely bogus article on Runner's World about a fourteen-month-old finishing a marathon. There were three diaper changes, a nap, and she finished in 9 hours and 24 minutes. Barefoot. And she wants to start her own line of gluten-free energy bars.
Truly believable photoshop effort.
There is a mention of actual young runners so apparently it's intended to be an over-the-top look at young distance runners. (Insert forced laughter here.)

Influenced By What We Learn After The Fact

Spokane has had a couple of gun-related incidents that have me wondering if our reaction to them relies on viewing them through the prism of the outcome. For example, last March Gail Gerlach left his SUV unoccupied with the engine running in his driveway. When he came outside he saw his vehicle being driven away. He thought he saw the thief, Brendan Kaluza-Graham, point a weapon at him. He fired one shot through the dark, tinted rear window and killed Kaluza-Graham. Kaluza-Graham had a lengthy criminal record, which included car theft. He was not armed.

Between the book ends of "He got what he deserved" and "You can't kill someone who poses no danger to yourself", there is, written in a footnote in the back of your mind, a strangely comforting annotation, "Well, he was bad guy." It's there even if you believe Gerlach was wrong.

Let's change the situation a little. Let's say a neighbor had chided Gerlach several times about leaving his vehicle running unattended in the driveway and warned him it would be easy for someone to steal. And let's say that on this particular morning the neighbor decided to play a joke on Gerlach and teach him a lesson and drive off in the car, go around the block, and bring it back with a, "See, I told you someone could take this." As he drives away he sees Gerlach coming out of the house and he waves at him. And Gerlach, thinking the thief was pointing a weapon at him, shoots his neighbor through the dark, tinted rear window and kills him.

Under that set of facts would you have the same opinion? The facts are the same. Someone stole the vehicle. They were driving away. Gerlach thought the person pointed a weapon at him and shot him. Whether you think he was right or wrong, what would that footnote be replaced with? How do you reconcile this within your mind?

Why does it matter that we later learn that the thief had a criminal record or was a neighbor pulling a prank? Gerlach had no way of knowing either way and yet it has such a strong influence of what we think of his actions.

I have the same question for a recent incident that took place at the Gonzaga University-owned apartments that are off campus. Erik Fagan answered the door to find an apparently homeless man demanding money. Erik offered a can of food and a blanket instead of cash. The man allegedly became agitated and combative and showed what appeared to be an ankle bracelet saying, "You don't want to do this." The man advances into the doorway and Fagan calls for his roommate, Dan McIntosh. Dan comes downstairs with his handgun and points it at the man who then runs away. (Disclosure: I know Dan. He was a class mate of my son, Josh.) They report the incident to the police who arrest John Taylor, a six-time felon, not far away. The university police return later in the night to confiscate the weapons in the apartment--Fagan owns a shotgun that was not involved in the incident--because the two students are in violation of the Student Policy, which states that weapons are not allowed in university-owned buildings. They find themselves in danger of being expelled.

There's a huge public outcry against the university and the students are found guilty of violating the student policy but are placed on probation instead of expelled.

Whether Fagan and McIntosh were aware of it or not, the policy is quite clear and they were definitely guilty of violating that policy. But since you know they defended themselves against an intruder in what they perceive to be a bad part of town, it seems more acceptable, doesn't it?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Apple Cross 2013 Video

Apple Cross 2013 from hank greer on Vimeo.

Black Friday Bike Ride

Last month, John Speare gave a head's up on the fourth annual Black Friday Bike Ride. Getting into the true spirit of the holidays, the big box stores are not opening in the wee hours of the morning on Black Friday. No, they want to change Thanksgiving into Black Thursday for their workers. Next year, instead of doing a Black Friday Bike Ride, which is infinitely more enjoyable than rage shopping, John may have to host a Black Festival S24o. Show up that Friday morning. You won't regret it.
Pat's photo of the epic first BFBR.

Current Events

Between work at work and work at home I've been slammed lately so I haven't been bringing up much besides cyclocross. Now that I've had a breather, there are a couple of subjects I've been wondering about.

60 Minutes used to be well respected for its reporting on CBS. Heck, it was so good I watched it when I was a kid. I loved watching Mike Wallace figuratively rip into people. But I don't watch it much any more. Most television news leans more towards entertainment. The so-called news today consists of lots of teasers, sensationalism, and over-dramatization. It's something I blame on the consolidation of the media that taken place over the last couple of decades. Anyway, 60 Minutes recently exposed just how far off the journalism track their train has gone with their report on the attack in Benghazi that resulted in the deaths of four Americans, one of whom was the ambassador to Libya. The story was based on a book written by a security contractor, Dylan Davies, whose official statements about the attack contradict everything he wrote in the book. Laura Logan has since sort-of-apologized for the program's "mistake." In the meantime, the book, which was published by a CBS subsidiary, Threshold Editions, is yanking the book back. Maybe if they listed it as fiction.

What's with this special session Governor Inslee called to pass a $10 billion transportation package that had no chance of being passed but was really all about more tax breaks for Boeing so they'd build the 777X in Washington? In 2003, Washington State gave Boeing a $3.2 billion, 20-year tax break for building the 787 here. Six years later, Boeing built another 787 manufacturing plant in South Carolina thanks to an incentive package offered by that state. So when does the tax break war end and how will that benefit the state that wins when Boeing pays little or nothing in taxes, less in salaries, and profits even more immensely than it is already? Our state legislators fell all over themselves to pass this enticement using the justification of keeping the jobs here. In the meantime, the machinists union, the people who hold those jobs, are being asked to approve an eight-year contract that replaces the traditional pension with a defined-contribution retirement plan, increases health care premiums and co-pays, and restructures the wage scale so it takes 16 years instead of 6 to reach the top. Boeing will give everyone a $10,000 signing bonus if the union accepts and says they will move the jobs elsewhere if they don't. So what we have is the government looking out for the corporation and the workers looking out for themselves. In the long run the state and the workers get screwed and Boeing gets bank.

Eight days ago, Christian historian David Barton, who now is no longer considering running against Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) next year, explained that weather disasters were man-made. But it's not because of climate change. It's because we voted in politicians who supported abortion rights. According to Barton we're all suffering because we've lost God's protection over our environment. That certainly explains why the Philippines, a predominantly Catholic country where abortion is illegal, just got slammed by the strongest typhoon ever recorded.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Apple Cross 2013

The penultimate race of the season was held at Walter's Fruit Ranch up on Greenbluff. The course was soggy, muddy and bumpy with lots of climbing. At registration, Jessica, the lady I was battling with during the single speed race last week, got all up in my face.

"Oh, it's on," she says. And she's wearing a superhero cape during the race. Too funny.

The start, and the finish, was all up hill. Next came some really bumpy serpentine stuff which I handled really well. The run up was rideable by stronger riders, a group I am not a part of. To add insult to injury the course kept going up hill after the run up. During the races I found it was best for me to keep on running. Then we zipped through a fast down hill lane, a 180-degree turn, and slogged back up hill. Three times.

A fourth time down again with a zig zag in the middle of it, another 180, and then about a third of a mile gradual climb that took you by the sheep pen and to the barriers. There was no way I was going to have too much speed going to the barriers. After that it was clear sailing back and forth through the apple orchard. Just to make it more fun, they put a really tight, momentum stealing turn at the bottom of the down hill just before going up to the finish.

The course was tough on a single speed. With each lap I was standing on the pedals more and more. But it was fun. My friend, Brian, normally races the single speed. I saw him standing around without his kit on and without his bike. He had locked his key in his car. His wife was coming so he could at least race Cat 3 later on, but he wasn't racing now. I asked and he agreed to take pictures of everyone and I thank him for that.
 No beer was offered during the first race.
Since when is it too early to drink?

 Cornering like the semi-amateur I am.

Sprint finish. Not!

I was so happy to have gears during the men's masters race. The course was getting slicker but the Michelin Mud tires held like a champ even in the greasiest spots. I was at the back of the pack at the start but passed about eight guys in the bumpy twisty area that followed. While that may have looked impressive at the moment, it was all for naught as most of them passed me by and left me behind on the down and up hill straightaways after the run up. On the bright side, this time around there was beer at the run up. When you're racing just for the fun of it, the hand ups are icing on the cake. I also scored a beer after the barriers but it turned out to be the only one offered. Maybe they were getting low?

I had a blast. Both bikes got really dirty. And there's only one race left. Back to Sandpoint next weekend. Tons of pictures posted on the INWCXS Facebook page.

I require sustenance!

At last!
(Two photos above taken by Jason Oestreicher)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

All Grown Up

Wait, Steph is 18 now? How did that happen so quickly? With mixed feelings I see the last of our children reaching adulthood. Next year she'll be off to college and the house will be empty except Kathy and me. Where did the time go?

A couple of my sisters came to town to help celebrate Steph's birthday. Judy came over from Issaquah. Jan and her husband, Chip, came up from Boise. My sister, Barb, and her husband, Jim, were here along with my brother, Robert. Rounding out the list were my my mom and her very close friend, Richard. Chip and I prepared the best chicken cacciatore dinner ever while the ladies spent the day shopping. To help us prepare to get prepared for cooking, Chip and I spent some time riding the trails over at Riverside State Park. So it's no wonder the meal was so awesome. The family time was short lived but high quality. It was great to visit with everyone.

And happy birthday to my little girl.
Seems like this happened just yesterday.
And now today.
With mom...
...and grandma.
Friends stopped by to tortilla the yard.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Riverside Cyclocross Race

This was our second time at Riverside State Park. Saturday's heavy rains made sure the course was in excellent condition for getting dirty while racing fast. The mud was firm but flying off the knobby tires. The standing water made for some good photos. I went with regular knobby tires instead of the mud tires since I knew the ground is almost always firm out there.

I signed up for the single speed and the men's masters 50+ races again. My sister, Barb, came out for the first race and agreed to take pictures of everyone so that was cool of her. At the start I noticed how everyone was pulling away from me even though I was spinning like crazy. About halfway along the straightaway I heard a CRACK! Something happened to Andrew Ackerman while he was going through a large puddle. He and his bike slid into a tree. Fully baptized in mud and only slightly wounded, he got up and worked his way up. Even though I had intended to take it easy I found myself working harder than I planned. There's something about having someone just ahead of you and you think, "I can catch them." I reeled in one guy and battled with him for a lap or two before leaving him behind.
Then I caught up with Jessica Sterner. She and I went back and forth for three laps. I'd get ahead of her in the technical areas and she's catch and pass me on the straightaways. On the last lap I cranked on the straightaways and kept her behind me. My plan was to increase my lead twisting and turning through the woods and hopefully I'd have enough room to beat her on the last straightaway to the finish. The first turn that takes you back into the woods is off camber going to the right. I pedaled through it and caught my pedal on the ground. That lifted my front wheel for a moment. When it came back down my weight had shifted to my left and I rolled it and slammed my left knee into the ground. Jessica wasn't that far behind me. As she went by she told me to get back up and catch her. I collected my wits, found my inventory was complete and I wasn't injured badly, and set off in pursuit. I could not catch her. But we had a good battle going there for three of our six laps.

After the finish I noticed blood oozing out from the dirt packed into my knee so I had it checked out. It looked worse than it felt. Lucy bandaged me up and I was set to race again after 3-1/2 hours of rest--if you call walking the course and taking pictures for the next three races rest.
I was happy to have gears to choose from in the men's masters race. I wasn't feeling low on energy from the single speed race so I pushed it when I could. For three laps I repeated going back and forth with another guy. I'd pass him on the technical stuff and he'd pass me on the straightaways. I passed him on the run up, spotted a dollar bill, and whacked my helmet on my handlebars reaching down to grab it. Then I was focused on trying to put the money in my jersey pocket when that guy passed me again. Finally he took off. Or I slowed down. I caught up with a couple other riders during laps 4 and 5. (And I scored another dollar hand up on the run up!) One guy I caught was from the 40+ group that started before us. He was on a fat bike. He was cornering like he had no worries. And he didn't because he was on a fat bike. Anyway, you should plan ahead when you want pass a fat bike. Get behind one at the wrong time and those fat tires are flinging all manner of sand and mud in your face.

I had two more laps to go after leaving the fat bike behind. Then I noticed he was gaining on me. Like a rat abandoning a sinking ship he was tearing up the course trying to avoid getting passed by the race leaders. Well, he caught up to me about the same time as the leaders so we both wrapped it up at six laps. I was okay with that since I was beginning to flag anyway.

Next week's races are up on Greenbluff. Maybe we'll get some snow like last year.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Being Young Again

Over on the New York Times Wellness blog, some researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim have developed a low-tech means of assessing aerobic fitness and estimating your “fitness age.” I made my selections on their rather simple online calculator and got this.
Must be time for me to visit the cosmetic surgeon because I look closer to my VO2MAX rating than I do my fitness age.