September 30, 2008

Back in my day, a gallon meant something

Well the fourth and fifth coats of paint are on the house. The red is starting to look good. With five coats on, the pink primer isn't showing through anymore. Depending on the weather, we may be done painting for the year. We only have primer on the trim so far, so if we have a few clear days in a row I'll attack that.

After going through almost 11 gallons of paint, I noticed the other day that they aren't really gallons after all. The cans are actually 116 oz instead of 128 oz. I don't know if a gallon of paint has always been less than a gallon (like a 2 x 4 is actually 1.5" x 3.5") or if it has slowly shrunk over time so the company can charge the same amount for less product.

Apparently lots of products have been shrinking lately.

September 29, 2008

Dumb guy moments

Do you ever get out of your car, head to the front door, then try to open it with the keyless entry fob for your car. I have. Multiple times.

One of my favorite dumb guy moments happened several years ago. Back when I worked at the restaurant, people called out "corner" when rounding a corner to avoid collisions. As I was driving out of the parking lot to head home I called out "corner" as I was making a turn.

I don't get enough sleep.

More parody

Saturday Night Live might be crossing their fingers that McCain/Palin wins the election so Tina Fey can keep doing her thing.

New records

The chip results are in from Bellingham:

Sean - 1:55:36 (5:46 PR improvement)

Tami - 2:03:26 (4:09 PR improvement)

A new world record for the marathon was also set by Haile Gebrselassie in Berlin on Sunday. He improved his own world record by 27 seconds to 2:03:59.

As I mentioned last year, my current marathon and half marathon goals are to run them in twice the world record time. I have now met my half marathon goal by beating the time of 1:57:06. Now I need to cut 11:14 off my marathon time. Next shot is early next year.

September 28, 2008

Bellingham Bay Half Marathon

This one was a little impulsive. Cherie had put this one on her calendar, and did a little arm-twisting - very little really. I had planned a half marathon in November, and I wasn't really going to be ready for this one in September. Looking back, I did almost no training, running only four times in the last two months. There has been a little bike riding, but that doesn't always translate. Our running group has had a semi-serious goal of reaching a fitness level where we could roll out of bed and run a half marathon. Today would sort of be a test of that.

This was the second year for this event, and though the weather was terrible last year, overall it was a great debut event. The route looked better than the one we ran last year, and the weather forecast was also looking good, so even though Cherie had to bow out due to illness and schedule conflicts, Tami and I headed up to run.

The race started in downtown Bellingham at the farmers market. Traffic was light, we found parking easily a block away from the start, and the good weather arrived as predicted. Things were looking good. Though I could have no real expectations, I still had a goal in mind if I had one of those "touched by the running gods" days. I had run a PR 2:01:22 in Bellingham last year, so I set my sights on breaking two hours.

There were going to be drink stations every 2 miles, and they were handing out gels every four miles or so. This meant I didn't need to carry anything which was a first. We headed north out of town, twisting and turning through some neighborhoods as we climbed out of the morning fog. After heading through a park at the top of the hill, there was a great tree-lined road back down to the waterfront.

At about mile 7, we passed by the start area so we saw our support crew Scott and Emily. The route did some more climbing before doubling back. We then joined a trail that ran along the waterfront and back into town.

I had a great day. The weather was perfect, the course beautiful, the support plentiful, my IT bands didn't act up, and there was even pizza at the finish line. As an added bonus both Tami and I set new PRs. We don't have the chip time yet, but our gun times were 2:04:54 for Tami and 1:57:10 for me. I am guessing our actual times will be about a minute and a half better.

Great day. I just can't take this as a license not to train.

September 25, 2008

He's back

So Lance Armstrong has unretired. After winning seven Tours de France, Lance retired from professional cycling. Now he wants back in. He said he wants to get back on the bike to raise awareness for his cancer fight. He also plans to publish all his test results to try to eliminate the doping cloud that has followed him during his career.

He will ride with the Astana team which is run by his old team director Johan Bruyneel. This has already created tension as the current leader of the team, Alberto Contedor, has won all three major tours in the past two years and is the hottest cyclist on the tour. He originally said he would leave the team if Lance came back, but Armstrong thinks there is room on the team for both of them.

Other star athletes have "unretired" with mixed results.

After a phenomenal basketball career, Michael Jordan tried baseball, but couldn't get out of the minor leagues. He went back to basketball, then became a basketball team owner, then back to a basketball player.

Brett Favre jerked the Green Bay Packers around for the last few years, "considering" retiring after each season. He actually retired after the 2007 season, then reconsidered and wanted back in. This set off a bitter dispute (which I didn't follow so I don't know the details) and ultimately had Favre going to the Jets. After a 16 year run where he was worshiped as a hero by Packer fans, he seemingly pisses it away to start over elsewhere.

I'm not sure what brings them back. Do they miss the limelight and the adoring fans? Most are still young and in the prime of their lives. After spending years in pursuit of single goal maybe there is just a gaping hole in their lives without sport. Maybe they can't find a different way to challenge themselves.

So many people fantasize about retiring early while they can still enjoy it. Add to that tons of money in the bank to do whatever you want. You'd think it would be easier to make retirement stick.

I'd like a shot at finding another way to spend my time. Like riding my bike. Oh, wait, that's what Lance is going back to. Maybe he's not so dumb after all.

September 24, 2008

Quote of the day

"It's very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants to quit."

George Sheehan


Of course it has never been about beating anyone else. It is about the voices.

Turns out I'm Gandhi-like

Well, at least on paper.

A couple of friends took The Political Compass test and posted their results here and here this morning. The quadrants we occupy are not surprising. I am a little surprised how far off the center I am though.

September 23, 2008

Weekend adventures

Well another weekend, another bike ride. And another one where I was a bit in over my head.

I rode the Tour des Lacs this past weekend. On Saturday I rode by myself on a 100 mile route that was pretty hilly. It shouldn't have been all that punishing, but my body was a little beat up heading into it.

On Friday I worked at my cousins doing some deck repair, digging holes, mixing concrete, then moving about 6,000 pounds of materials uphill to the backyard. I was beat by the end of the day. Then a five hour drive to the start line, and about four hours of sleep before the ride. Not surprisingly, I struggled. The rest of our 7 riders were on a shorter course, so there was some time pressure to finish early so they weren't waiting around. I actually finished in the time I hoped, but it was ugly.

I rode with the group on Sunday, and we had two riders this year doing their first organized ride. Both had a great experience, even though we rode in a cold rain the second day. One of the newbies also offered up her home for us to stay in both nights, and treated us to a great BBQ on Saturday night. More wonderful people added to the biking circle.

September 17, 2008

$3.50 cup of coffee

So on a lunch break from painting, I went out to grab some lunch and a cup of coffee. I stopped by a Starbucks in Edmonds for a tall Americano. The barista asked if I wanted to try a cup of coffee brewed with the new Clover machine instead. I had heard about this high tech machine that brews a single cup of coffee much like a french press only better. What the heck, why not.

You choose from five different types of exotic sounding beans from a little menu describing their flavor notes. I think I picked an Ecuadorian coffee which was supposed to have hints of chocolate. When she rang me up, I found out it was $3.45 (I managed to pick the most expensive beans). She asked if I had seen the machine in action. No, let's check it out.

Here is the machine:She had a different barista make the cup of coffee (a specialist no doubt). He measured out the beans on a digital scale, adding or subtracting a bean before he got it just right. After freshly grinding the beans, he dropped them into the circular opening on top of the machine.

As hot water poured out from the spigot, the circular opening dropped like a piston. He stirred the grounds and water mixture for a bit, and it steeped for about 30 seconds. Then the piston pushed back up as a vacuum sucked the coffee down through the mesh opening in the piston. The grounds were pushed up to the top of the machine in the shape of a hockey puck which he swept off with a squeegee.

After all this, how was the cup of coffee? Quite good actually. Probably not $3.50 good, but what cup of coffee is? Watching the machine in action was probably worth the price of admission though. I can totally appreciate Starbuck's goal of producing a truly high quality cup of coffee, and I might even splurge for one once in a while. But like a nice bottle of wine is a treat, I'm more likely to turn to 3 buck Chuck most of the time.

September 16, 2008

A new coat of paint

The wife and I have been in our home for a little over four years. We haven't made many improvements yet. Time, money, laziness, bla, bla, bla... About all we have done so far is paint the inside, put in a back lawn and sprinkler system, and various small maintenance tasks. Of course there is a long list in our minds of things we could do to spiff up the place - new flooring and carpet, kitchen remodel, new driveway and walkways, tile the patio, etc.

So we decided to tackle one of those items this weekend/week. The wife has always disliked the color of our house. Beyond the look, the paint was not in very good shape. Running your hand down the wall you would come away covered in chalky yellow paint. And the weather forecast called for a week of dry weather, so now was the time.

There is some decorative brick on the front of the house. I had originally planned on painting it to expand our color options and to create a little more modern look. At some point, I decided I wanted to leave the brick alone and different house colors started coming to mind. When we finally decided on a color, it turns out it is one of the more difficult to work with. The friendly paint person at Home Depot told me that she has had people put up to 8 coats on before it turned out right. You also need to use a special color primer to prep the house.

So anyway, we have primer and two coats of paint on the home, and two coats of primer on the trim areas. We are doing it all by hand. A sprayer seemed more trouble that it was worth, plus the added expense. Now I'm not so sure. One thing for sure - I don't want to be a house painter.

Though it will be a while before we are done, we wanted to pass along our progress. We also wanted to show our friends what we gave up camping for this past weekend.



We had a few neighbors say they liked the primer color. Not sure how serious they were, but it was definitely a conversation starter.

September 14, 2008

September 10, 2008

Time capsule

We did some spring cleaning a few months back and cleared out some of the debris in our garage. I went through a few boxes that hadn't been opened in a move or two and found this:

It is a newspaper from our wedding day seven years ago. It obviously had never been read, but I had stashed it away in a box as a keepsake. I thought it might be interesting to see what was going on in the world the day our new lives started. It was also a couple of days before 9/11 so it would be interesting to see what was in the news before America's world changed forever. Would there be that one article that summed up our innocence?

As you can see from the front page, 2001 was a long time ago. The Huskies had stunned the Wolverines for an opening day victory fresh off their last Rose Bowl appearance. The Mariners were 102 - 40 on their way to their record breaking season. Both programs have fallen far from these heights.

The cover stories were about the metamorphosis of Lake Union over the last 100 years, and about rural counties in Washington struggling with meth addicts. On page A9 is a story about the Bush administration looking at cutting the capital gains tax rate to stimulate the flagging economy.

In the business section, an economist and a reporter are discussing the economy over some coffee. The reporter had an interesting comment regarding the slumping economy "I've always thought we just have too much stuff. At some point, the economy has to catch its collective breath. Maybe that's another definition of recession." In the coming years, many Americans continued their pursuit of more stuff, and burned through their home equity to do it.

In the editorial section, there was an opinion piece titled "U.S. sees black and white, not gray. The first three paragraphs read:
The United States has no peer in world affairs in understanding and responding to an urgent challenge painted in black and white. German invaders, Soviet cosmonauts and Japanese exporters learned this lesson the hard way in the past century.

Grays, however, disorient American presidents and legislators as well as the public. Complex situations like the Balkans seem to confirm the Churchilian theory that Americans will always do the right thing after trying all other alternatives. Add the words "yes, but" to a description of good guy and bad guys in a foreign showdown and our minds wander.

This partly - but only partly - explains the difficulties successive U.S. governments have had in crafting coherent and effective policies to deal with the Persian Gulf countries, which simultaneously constitute an economic lifeline and a moral quagmire for Americans.
In the local news section there was a story from a columnist entitled "Fragile Line Between Life, Death". In it she describes how she was climbing Mount Baker, but her group was turned back before summiting because of rainy conditions. When she arrived home, she received a call from a friend asking if she was OK. It turns out that someone had died on the mountain that same day when three climbers fell into a crevasse. The "could've been me" feeling makes her reflect on the fragility of life like many of us will do a couple days later.

And the most bizarre entry was in the Parade section (click to enlarge).

It is a story about the FBI printing Osama bin Laden's picture and the promise of a $5,000,000 reward for his capture on the cover of matchbooks. These matchbooks were distributed in Pakistan where 22 million tobacco users live in proximity with bin Laden's assumed hideout. Two days before the 9/11 attacks, and there his face is in the Parade section of all places.

September 9, 2008

Lucky number seven

It was our wedding anniversary today. Seven years. When I think of our wedding day it seem so long ago, but still it is hard to believe it has been seven years.

It was a quiet celebration this year. We went out to dinner then headed back to the house for a quiet evening. We watched our wedding video for the first time in almost those seven years. A few people were skinnier back then, and there were toddlers running around that are now well into school years. I resisted having a videographer at the wedding, mostly because I hate those interviews that they always con the guests into doing. But seven years later I am glad to see the ceremony and the time leading up to it. It was a brilliant week.

We also watched the DVD I put together for our anniversary last year. What a time it has been for the wife and I. We are blessed with some wonderful friends and family, and we have had some great days both in exotic locales and also at random get together in someone's backyard.

I wonder what it will be like to watch these DVDs 40 years from now. My memory may need a little jogging by then, but I doubt I will have forgotten much about that special day.

"For My Wedding" by Don Henley

For my wedding, I will dress in black
And never again will I look back
Ah, my dark angels we must part
For I've made a sanctuary of my heart

To want what I have
To take what I'm given with grace
For this I pray
On my wedding day

For my wedding, I don't want violins
Or sentimental songs about thick and thin
I want a moment of silence and a moment of prayer
For the love we'll need to make it in the world out there

To want what I have
To take what I'm given with grace
For this I pray
On my wedding day
On my wedding day

I dream, and my dreams are all glory and light
That's what I've wanted for my life
And if it hasn't always been that way
Well, I can dream and I can pray
On my wedding day

So what makes us any different from all the others
Who have tried and failed before us
Maybe nothing, maybe nothing at all
But I pray we're the lucky ones; I pray we never fall

To want what we have
To take what we're given with grace
For these things I pray
On my wedding day
On my wedding day

September 8, 2008

marathon

The wife and I watched a House marathon yesterday while we cleaned up after a party and did some laptop work. House is a great show, and since the new season hasn't started yet, the marathon gave us a big dose to tide us over.

It is funny how often the word marathon is used. The dictionary definition not only lists the foot race of 26 miles 385 yards, but also "any contest, event, or the like, of great, or greater than normal, length or duration or requiring exceptional endurance. Even the ending "-athon" has become ubiquitous. Read-a-thons, Walk-a-thons, dance-a-thons, sale-a-thons, etc.

All this from a runner named Pheidippides who ran from the town of Marathon to Athens to report a battle victory. If the Persians had landed in Piraeus instead of Marathon, we wouldn't have as many catchy words. And Pheidippides might not have died after delivering the news. And we wouldn't be running so many miles.

September 7, 2008

Irongirls

I headed out to Greenlake this morning to watch some of my friends run the Irongirl 5k. It is a women's only event, and any funds raised go to benefit The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults. This is the second year the women in our running group have run this event, and I imagine the two cancer survivors found a little extra meaning this time around. Participants are nicely pampered at this event, and my friends were treated to another white linen post-race feast.

From the website, "Iron Girl's mission is to empower women toward a healthy lifestyle." There were mother and daughter teams, and even three generation teams running this morning. The announcer told the crowd that the youngest runner was 4 years old and there were several 60+ old runners in the crowd as well.

This running & biking community I have fallen into has turned out to be a positive experience in so many ways. Beyond the health benefits I have enjoyed, there is a great community aspect to it all. Everyone is out there for their own reasons - health, challenge, personal demons, fund-raising, etc. Whatever the reason, you will find lots of support out there, especially in the middle of the pack where we hang out.

These women-only events seem to be even more supportive than the typical event. Not that the runners aren't out there to kick a little ass. Congrats on the four PR's ladies!

Great start

This mornings weather report says "Abundant sunshine. High around 75F."

I'm not sure I've ever heard the phrase "Abundant sunshine" in a weather report. It is going to be a good day.

September 3, 2008

Annabelle's Shower

The wife and I were fortunate enough to travel to San Diego this past weekend to see the miracle baby girl in person. The baby shower for Annabelle was postponed until this past Sunday and became a celebration of her journey and successful fight. 50 or so friends, family and children gathered at the Linden home to meet and celebrate little Annabelle.

Holly's parents have been in town for a couple of weeks to be with Annabelle and help out the new family. About half way through the celebration, Holly's father performed a dedication for little Annabelle with family and friends gathered in the backyard. It was a very personal and moving ceremony. It was followed by a great reading from "Oh the Places you Will Go" by Dr. Seuss by Sean.

We met even more people in Annabelle's growing circle. Matt and Holly are surrounded by some really wonderful people who have come to their aid in many different ways. They are probably overwhelmed by the response they have received, but it is the way they have lived their lives that has brought this community together.

Of course there were many more who couldn't be there that day but continue to follow the story. Below is a video that gives you a brief peek at the celebration.



If you would like to see a slightly clearer version, go here and click the "watch in high quality" link below the video.