December 31, 2007

We'll miss you Gerry

How quickly things change. The man I spoke about only this morning has passed away. Gerry had gone to the hospital with severe chest pain a couple of weeks ago. It turned out he had pneumonia and was put on a ventilator. When his blood work came back, he was diagnosed with leukemia. He left us yesterday on his 71st birthday.

Gerry was so full of life it is hard to believe he is gone. I was fortunate enough to meet him last July when I went on the Big Ride Pacific Coast. Gerry was a veteran of these fund-raising rides, and he welcomed us newbies with open arms. I very fortunate to ride with him for much of the second week and really get to know him. He had done the ride a couple years previously, and always knew where the next ice cream shop was. My wife got to meet him at the finish line in San Francisco, and latched on to him immediately.

I rode with Gerry again this year on the Big Ride Glacier trip. He helped to talk me into this ride, and I am so glad he did. It was another wonderful experience, and I got to meet more of his riding friends. Gerry did the Ride Across America a couple of times, so his circle of friends is large and spread throughout the country. I know he was an avid skier as well, so I know there are many more great friends of his I haven't met.

Gerry welcomed so many people into that special heart of his. He was full of positive energy and always had a child-like twinkle in his eyes. I am a much better man having known him and the world was a better place with him around. I am so glad you came into my life, and I will miss seeing you out on the road. I'll just plain miss you.

You can see the slide show full size here.

The Happy Totals

Well it is December 31st so it is also time to look back on how far I've gone (literally). I keep a log of all my running, biking and swimming both for historical record and to analyze for training and injuries.

It was a pretty full year. I completed my second marathon, my second and third half marathons, and took another week long bicycle ride to support the Lung Association. I shaved almost 15 minutes off my half marathon PR, and 35 minutes off my marathon time.

Being an overweight 40 year old and starting running later in life, I am still in that window of time where improvement is more dramatic. Knocking time off is going to become more difficult next year, and I think it is time to start taking better care of my body (better foods, losing weight, etc).

So here are the happy totals:

Running - 660 miles

Biking - 1346 miles

Swimming - 12.8 miles

I did more biking last year (thanks to a two-week trip), but added almost 300 miles of running to my total. The thing that really shocked me was that I ran 111 days this year. It didn't feel like I was running that regularly.

I've been slacking on the biking and swimming lately - I haven't done any since September. Unfortunately running is kicking my butt right now and I'm too sore to think about adding it back in.

Looking forward to another great year in 2008!

Turning the page

2007 is almost up. No big plans tonight to blow out the year, just going to a friends house for I am guessing a subdued celebration. Some livers are still recovering from the Year in Review party.

I'd say the year flew by, but that really isn't true. After compiling and watching the review DVDs, pieces of the year seem so far in the past. It still is a bit of a blur.

The wife is looking forward to the new year, as 2007 was a bit rough. Work has been frustrating, and it is hard to leave that behind when it is a third of your life and it follows you home on weekends. We lost a dear family member in September, another friend is recovering from breast cancer, and unfortunately another has been recently diagnosed with leukemia. We are lucky to have so many wonderful people in our lives, and it is hard to see them suffer in any way.

2008 will bring a couple of weddings, a trip to see friends, and a tropical vacation is on the horizon. 2008 is also the year when someone new will take on the challenge of leading this great country of ours. I wish them well and hope that the coming years bring wisdom, unity and peace no matter who is at the helm. We are hoping work improves for the both of us, and wish everyone good health in the coming year.

When you climb out of the rubble of day to day distractions and have a chance to look around, this life is pretty wonderful. Thank you for being a part of my life, and for joining me on this journey.

Happy New Year


If you ever wanted to give this guy a piece of your mind, he has enlisted his mac guide to get his comments turned on. Not only are macs easier to use, it looks like their operators are more PC savvy.

December 30, 2007

Year Reviewed

We had our Year in Review party last night. Another fun night with our running/biking crew. We showed up with all our hardware around our necks (3 - 5 medals). After a few cocktails, we watched Wendy's review DVD. She did a great job. Her version was definitely more creative with a touching introduction, and she did a great job of weaving videos and pictures together on the San Diego Marathon.

We took a break and filled our calendars for next year. We have plenty of new adventures planned for 2008. I have two marathons on my plate already, and we are trying to get some more runners together to do a 24 hour relay race. Everyone runs 3 legs of the race while sharing a van and trying to catch some zzz's when they can.

After a figuring out 2008, we plopped ourselves back in front of the big screen and watched my version of 2007. It wasn't quite as creative, but hopefully everyone enjoyed my take on the year.

We were up pretty late, and mildly hungover this morning. However three of us laced up our shoes and went for a run. My California friends say that during a run on the morning after, at some point in the run they feel the wine bottle fall out of their body with a thunk - hangover gone. After 12 miles I was still waiting for that feeling, but it ended up being a decent run anyway.

We are all looking forward to another great year in 2008!

December 29, 2007

What I don't know, what I believe, and what I'm reading

Unlike 90% of my known readers (I'm guessing), for me Christmas is not about the birth of Christ. For me it is about looking back on your year, expressing love to the people in your life, being a better person to everyone, being thankful for now and hopeful for the future. My understanding is that the celebration and the timing of the holiday are a union of both Christian and other traditions anyway. But this is beside the point. The point is I am a decided agnostic (not an oxymoron to me).
"If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice." ~ Freewill by Rush 
This will not come as a shock to most of you (I am still guessing). I don't subscribe to any one line of thought or belief. There are certain problems for me with most any organized religion. Yet I do not lack faith or grace, and I consider myself a spiritual person. I simply don't know what ties us all together or how it all began, and nothing I have read so far rings true. I am not holding out for ultimate proof, but what I believe needs to make sense to me.

I believe that evolution is a driving force in our world and species, but don't discount something divine involved in the beginning. When I think about the world as a whole, I'm not sure it can all be explained by chance.

I think there is something that ties us all together, but I think of it more in a horizontal plane rather than looking to the sky. I believe in the human spirit more than any other.

I am always interested in knowing, but I am comfortable that there will always be the unknown. I don't know what happens when this life ends, and at this point in my life, I am OK with that.

I have a (strong) moral compass and I have often wondered where it all came from. I am sure there is some hardwired nature involved, but a good portion of it came through the nurture of my parents, relatives and friends. I was taught to think about others and the world at large mostly by the example and practice of my parents.

I honestly don't know what people think of me with regard to my lack of defined religion. I don't know if they think me damned or not. No one has tried to save me yet, so I suppose not. I clipped this out of the paper 15 years ago:
"I never told my own religion nor scrutinized that of another. I never attempted to make a convert, nor wished to change another's creed. I am satisfied that yours must be an excellent religion to have produced a life of such exemplary virtue and correctness. For it is in our lives, and not from our words, that our religion must be judged."
~ Thomas Jefferson to Mrs. Harrison Smith 1816.
Religion has become a hot topic, at times so hot that people cannot discuss it. Along with politics, religion seems to be a taboo topic, at least outside party lines. Though this may go against the sentiment of Jefferson's quote, since I do not have a defined religion I feel it fair to share some of what I believe:
  • I don't think things "happen for a reason". Things happen, and people try to find reason.
  • Life is difficult. Once you accept this, you transcend it.
  • If there is a higher power, he/she is not involved in day to day minutiae of our lives.
  • I believe in doing what I feel is right because it is right. I am not waiting for my reward in heaven (or here for that matter).
  • The long-term benefit almost always outweighs the short-term gain.
  • The way you live your life is the best way to show what you believe.
  • I believe in this world and I am not looking forward to the end of days.
  • If there is a heaven, I don't believe there is just one. As most religions damn those that don't believe in their book/God, that damns us all.
I have intended to read the Bible for some years now. I purchased a NIV study Bible a year or so ago, along with the book "Don't Know Much About the Bible" by Kenneth C. Davis. I got started but didn't follow through. I will be joining The Weakly Sherpa from the Dawg Run in his structured reading of the Bible beginning January 1st. As the Bible is always at the top of "books to read in your lifetime", this is long overdue. I may or may not share this journey with my readers, but I'm sure it will be a worthwhile experience.

December 27, 2007

It all adds up

a little birdie forwarded me some stats from Starbucks:

17 million drinks were served in personal cups in Fiscal FY06 (Oct 2005-Sept 2006), resulting in 674,000 lbs of paper saved from our landfills.

Saving some trees, less stuff headed to the dump, all while saving $.10 on your cup of joe. Nice.

Year in Review

So the DVD is finally done. This is the first year-in-review DVD I have done. A tip of the hat to Wendy who did one last year to get the tradition started, and to Sean for demonstrating what could be done.

There are two versions of the DVD - one for the running and biking group, and one for the wife and I with a couple extra chapters of our own. The personal version opened to rave reviews (well from the one person who has seen it). We watched it Christmas morning - could be a new tradition.

The running/biking group is getting together this weekend to watch the review DVDs and to plan our next year of events. We'll show up with calendars in hand, and this year's medals around our neck. It should be a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to seeing how Wendy put our year together. We'll have a lot of the same pictures, but I'm sure the finished products will be quite different.

Of course some new promises (drunken or otherwise) will be made.

December 26, 2007

I saw this comic Christmas morning. I have heard this same comment when working holidays at a restaurant, and I know my cousins have heard it while working at their grocery store.

I always wanted to reply, "you know if you weren't here, I wouldn't need to be either".

New favorite

I have a new favorite non-traditional Christmas song. I heard it last year and kept waiting to hear it on the radio this year. I finally heard it Christmas Day while heading from my parents to my cousins. I finally had a name and an artist so I could look it up.

For those of us without an Ipod, purchasing Mp3s online can be difficult. has stepped into the market, and they have a pretty good selection and simple buying process. The thing I don't like about Apple (Itunes) and Microsoft (Zune) is that you need to download their organization software just to buy a file. I don't need anymore software filling up my hard drive.

Anyway, on to the song. This is a live version I found on YouTube.

Christmas Day

It was another great Christmas this year. We spent Christmas Eve at my brother and his family's house. The wife was pretty happy to be able to open some presents before Christmas day (I can be a bit of a Grinch).

The wife and I had our own little Christmas together in the morning before heading to my parents house for the traditional gathering (and coffee cake). While we were there, it started snowing! It wasn't going to last, but it did stick around long enough to give us a brief white Christmas.

We spent the evening at my cousins with the whole extended family. They had so many decorations lit that when they turned on the coffee maker they blew the main breaker in fuse panel.

It was great catching up with everyone. Our extended family is 30+ so it can be tough to get all of us in a room at one time. Growing up we saw each other almost every month, but I think we've surpassed critical mass now. Now it is mostly around the holidays and for a week in the summer, so yesterday was a treat.

So the season is about over. We'll be in denial for a bit, leaving our tree and lights up for at least another week or so. It is about prolonging the season, not laziness. No really.

December 23, 2007

Now that's a Christmas card!

I love receiving Christmas cards from people, and particularly photo cards. In carrying on a Linden tradition, our refrigerator is covered with photos of friends and family. We rotate in the new photos each year. There are photos of kids at varying ages, friends in front of a decorated cactus, other friends in front of Mount Fuji, still others in costume in front of the capitol building.

I also enjoy the letters that some send out. We don't get to see some of our friends and family as often as we wish, so it is nice to get a brief peek into what their year was like. It is actually kinda nice to look back over our own year when we write our letter. In some ways it is hard to believe that another year has gone by. Now that we are doing the year-in-review DVDs, the photos help flesh out some of the details.

Anyway(s), we received this Christmas card from some friends:

Yes, that is really our current and former presidents and not a photo-shopped Christmas card. I had forgotten all about this, so the card was a fun surprise. Our friends were back east in August with family, and they were having their son baptized. Turns out they were at the family church of the Bush's in Kennebunkport Maine. Here is another shot of the baptism - click on the photo to enlarge (Bush family in the front row):

That is going to be a tough one to top next year.

Merry Christmas Eve Eve

The big day is almost here, and I am almost done shopping. Actually this year has been easier than most. Fortunately the family is pretty good at exchanging lists these days, so there is less standing in front of something thinking "will he dig this as much as I would?". Actually, it is largely a gift certificate Christmas this year. As long as you pick the right store (and we had hints) they're guaranteed to get something they like. On the flip side, they need to go out and get it themselves. I read this week that $8 billion worth of G.C.s were not redeemed last year. $8,000,000,000! Pretty good financial cushion for businesses.

The wife and I set a low budget for each other this year, so that did make shopping a little more challenging. If I had any artistic talent I might have pulled out the Elmers, macaroni and gold paint.

One of my favorite Christmas memories was during another lean Christmas. My friend Mike and I had an apartment together, and we were both working for McDonald's. We were probably both making less than $4 an hour since we started at minimum wage of $3.35. Not sure how we made it, but I do remember lots of Top Ramen.

A day or so before Christmas we were both working an evening shift. When we came home there was a decorated Christmas tree in our apartment. Our girlfriends at the time had sweet-talked a guy at one of the tree lots into a free or very cheap tree. They brought it over and set it up with some ornaments borrowed from their family trees. It was a wonderful surprise and one of the best gifts I've ever received.

December 22, 2007

Skipping Christmas

I read Skipping Christmas by John Grisham a couple years ago. Judging by the previews (haven't seen it), the book was made into a poor slapstick version called Christmas with the Kranks. It is an interesting read.

The story is about a couple that decides to bypass the holiday for one year. Their one child is in college and is not coming home this year. The couple decides to get away and take a cruise over the holiday. Their neighbors and community feel betrayed and angry.

Their neighborhood is one where everyone decorates their home with a Frosty theme and everyone participates. When the Kranks don't decorate, the neighbors turn on them. When the boy scouts come by to sell them a Christmas tree, the Kranks say no, but promise to donate the amount they would have spent on the tree. The boy scouts simply don't understand.

In the end, the daughter decides to come home for Christmas after all, setting off a mad scramble to get a tree, decorate, and provide a Christmas dinner. Friends and neighbors come to the rescue, providing the warm/happy ending. It is interesting the backlash the Kranks experience until Christmas is "unskipped". There is a lot of emotion wrapped up in the holiday, not all of it festive.

I've thought a bit about skipping Christmas for a year. In reality I just want to leave some of the craziness behind. I would like a holiday of just spending time with friends and family. No gifts, no time at the mall.

Christmas plugged/unplugged

A video from a couple years ago. In your face celebration:

A much more traditional (and fun) celebration, courtesy of "The Dawg Run":

December 20, 2007

Mall Rat

Today was the first trip to the mall. I had an early start, so the worst part (parking) wasn't too bad. I really don't mind the whole crush at the mall during Christmas. I don't get stressed out and feel the rage that is ironically attached to the season.

To get in the mood, I listened to "A Very Special Christmas". It has been my favorite Christmas album since it came out in 1987. As a child of the 80's, I enjoy the lineup of artists on the CD. It also brings back plenty of fond memories. The first listen each year is always on my own. My little private Christmas moment.

Another flashback hit me in the toy store. One shelf had some "classic" (read old) toys that have come back. Tinkertoys probably never disappeared entirely, but finding a new audience are Rock-em, Sock-em Robots and Gnip Gnop. I don't remember either being all that fun 30 years ago, and I wonder how they compete against the Wii these days.

Of course no one can find a Wii to buy this season, so maybe there is hope.

December 19, 2007

Do you know the password and secret handshake?

On my way out the door the other night, I fed the loyal pooch. When I got there, the dog food container was pretty much bare. I had to pick some up before returning home or the pooch would be getting toast for breakfast (not that she'd mind).

Traffic was awful around the normal pet store, so I continued down Aurora on my way to Seattle. I found a PetSmart on the way, ran in, grabbed the bag and went to the check out. "Do you have our PetPerks card?" No. Well then the food costs $4 more.

I am so tired of all these flipping "club cards". I'd prefer not to belong to any clubs (not much of a joiner). It all started in the grocery stores. Either Safeway or QFC led the charge in our area. I assume the point was to create loyalty. Their justification was that with all our purchase data that they could better understand what items they should stock. I'm not sure how all this individual purchase data is more definitive than their normal inventory and ordering information.

I suppose reward cards like Subway, Office Depot, etc. create some loyalty, but as I'm not getting any reward (other than sale prices they used to give to everyone), these club cards are really just a hassle for customers and more work for the stores. Now it's pet stores. Why not fast food places, coffee shops, gas stations, etc.

I have no idea if these cards create any loyalty. They certainly don't for me. I'm sure most people choose their grocery stores for convenience of location, price, and/or quality of brand. I actually try to go to Top Foods when it is convenient as they are one of the few without a "club card".

I just want to walk in to what ever store is handy, and trust that the price listed on the shelf is what I will pay when I get to the checkout.

P.S. Saying my name as you hand me my receipt does not give me a warm fuzzy.

December 15, 2007

Rudolph Run 2007

I ran the Rudolph Run 5k for the third year in a row this morning. It is a nice little local run and it is a great way to finish off our running year.

It was a little different this time around. The group was larger this year (10 runners/walkers), but we were missing one of our own. Our friend Alyssa had been planning to run this with us, but found out only a week and a half ago that she had breast cancer. The cancer was aggressive enough that they needed to do surgery right away, and she had a double mastectomy this past Tuesday. It sounds like by all accounts the surgery went well, that the cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes, and she is recovering in good spirits. Rounds of chemo will begin around the first of the year.

We wanted to honor her somehow. We all donned some pink bandannas and we pinned her picture and a pink ribbon to our chests. After the run we had a chance to speak with another woman who was running for her daughter. We got to talking about the disease and how she was looking into starting a local benefit run. She gave us a way to contact her so we will look into helping her out in the new year.

We anxiously await your return!

December 13, 2007

Nice Rant

There is a nice rant on the "Starbucksation" of America on the Dawg Run.

I have always thought that Starbucks has enabled the anal-retentive to feel at home. This minority has now swelled in number, and what was once "would you mind" is now "this is how it must be". I have often fantasized about opening a coffee house where people are allowed one modifier. Try for more and they get drip coffee.

This fantasy in no way compares to be becoming a judge and throwing out (and punishing) people who bring about frivolous lawsuits.

December 12, 2007

Dog is my co-pilot

I am between books right now. I finally finished Tidewater Tales. Man was that a long read. I am waiting for our next book club books to arrive from Amazon or become available at the library. Though I have a stack of books to read, I didn't want to start one only to have to put it back down when the required reading showed up. So I picked up Dog is my Co-Pilot from our bookshelf last night. It is a collection of short stories from a variety of authors about their experiences with dogs.

Dog writing has become pretty popular lately. 10 Secrets my Dog Taught Me, The Other End of the Leash, The Hidden Life of Dogs, Marley & Me. The short stories in Co-Pilot have been enjoyable and I look forward to reading them all eventually.

We've had our wonderful dog for almost five years now. I grew up with dogs and had been waiting to have one back in my life again. Once we were out of apartments and had a yard, the wife and I adopted our pooch from the Humane Society. She was a five year old lab mix, ending up at the Humane Society as a product of a divorce (along with her mother). She had actually been adopted out once already. The first adopters only had her for 24 hours. They put her in a crate at night (she'd never been in one) and locked her in a room while they were away. She apparently ruined the carpet trying to get out. Their enormous loss for their impatience.

When we brought her home we spent the weekend getting her adjusted to her new home. One of us left for a half hour, then the other, then both. She had some anxiety issues initially, but by the end of the weekend she seemed at home.

She is very patient with kids and plays well with others. Perpetually happy, well behaved with enough small quirks to make her unique. I have a hard time imagining our lives with out her. Reading some of the stories in Dog is my Co-Pilot, and seeing this post earlier today, it is clear that dogs have a very special part in our hearts and our lives.

December 10, 2007

What is the deal with water lately?

After the issues last week, today I come home and find a puddle of water under the washing machine. I pull it out and watch the drip, drip, drip coming from one of the hoses. Turns out there is a small hole in the hot water line. Not sure how long it has been going on. May have to go down in the crawlspace again.

On the plus side the lights are up outside and I finally put the faucet covers over the water spigots. Just in time for the fourth or fifth freeze.

What's in your bucket?

The phrase I used in the last post comes from a poem/free verse someone introduced me to some years ago. I have it posted on my office wall.

Victory with Two Trumpets
by Mark Nepo

I am tired of those
who swill their head
in a bucket and claim
there is no God or Good
or Beauty to be had.

I come from a tribe
of survivors who love life
more than the hardships
they've been dealt. And
we have found each other
the way rivers find the sea.

We know pain and struggle
and fear like driftwood
and glass scraping at
our bottom. But have
grown love and faith
and will like barnacles,
razored and out of sight.

We come from every sort
of rock: drunken, raped
abandoned, cancered.

And though everyone
navigates their darker
moments, though everyone
trembles at the wheel,
each is strong, that is real,
working naked in the stream.

So I am fed up with those
who suck at the dark side
of things, complaining
they are bored, complaining
life's a chore, complaining
there is nothing but their
chaos to applaud.

To be broken is no reason
to see all things as broken.

To fear death
is not a calling.

I have outlived a tumor
pressing on my brain, have
had my 8th rib removed, and
though I wept in the tub
at the gash in my side,
at the fact that I can
be split open so easily
like a bull pumped up
for market, I only
want life more,
long to dance
till my heart
sweats, till
my mind stops
till I understand
the dead tree's part
in the design.

I long like a root
deeper in the earth
so I can reach
farther to the sky.

So don't tell me
there's nothing
in your bucket.

To brush my teeth
has significance
after three weeks
of lying flat. And
there's glory
in the water
from my mouth
as it swirls
down the sink
in rhythm with
the largest falls
I've ever seen.

And when the ribs
ache, I dream of
swimming naked
in life's waters
with those who
pulled me back
to this season
of mystery
so many

December 9, 2007

What's in your bucket?

Two of my good friends are in Hawaii and ran the Honolulu Marathon this morning. By most any evaluation, an incredible day. Another friend is two days away from surgery for cancer. An awful weekend none of us wishes to experience. Life's divergent paths. A wise friend had a lecture/talk about how we have no idea what everyone brings to the table each day. All we can do is be there to celebrate or support when asked. It is my honor to be there in either instance.

White Christmas?

Another day on the fence, another morning waking up to this:

The snow wasn't going to last. The snow was what was termed last week a 'novelty event'. Still, every second day I work on the fence it snows. Need a snow day, I'll build you a fence. I am in the home stretch now, just a couple boards short of finishing the last section.

After finishing up, the wife and I headed to the Depot to pick up our Christmas tree. We also stopped by Costco and picked up some new LED lights for the house (98% energy savings!). Three years ago when we moved to our new house, we waited until the last minute to get a tree. We went to Home Depot out of desperation, and there were four trees left. Didn't take us much time to pick out the tree. Now Home Depot is a tradition.

I think decorating the tree is one of the best parts of the holiday. There are some ornaments that have carried through from my childhood. Some have been created by my mother and grandmother. Still others we have picked up along the way and have some new sentimental value for us as a couple. It is an annual walk through 40 years of memories. Exquisite.

The new lights will hopefully decorate our eaves soon. We'll see, tomorrow (fortunately) is a busy day.

December 6, 2007

Water finds a way

I came home yesterday, and that funky smell that has been lingering the past couple days had become stronger. The wife had done some investigating and couldn't locate the source. Fridge is cleaned out, trash taken out, we've all bathed recently.

My sense of smell is terrible, I assume because my allergies have done their damage. The wife's sniffer is normally acute but is out of commission with a lingering cold. This funk however had penetrated both our dulled senses.

The wife determined it was actually coming from the furnace vents. I checked the furnace filters hoping not to find a small creature recently expired. All clear. Down to the crawlspace. It turns out that the recent deluge of rain had seeped past the foundation and had soaked some insulation right below the furnace intake. The insulation was pretty rank. Hopefully problem solved.

Just before rolling over to read last night I looked up at the bedroom ceiling. It looked wet. Stood up and felt around, and it was not an illusion. Didn't feel like crawling around in the attic at midnight, so I didn't check it out until this morning. Turns out the spare bedroom's ceiling was also damp the next morning.

Our house has a very low sloped roof so there isn't a whole lot of room to crawl around up there. There is no way to crawl out to the edge where the ceiling was damp. I could see the underside of the roof though, and it looked dry. We are hoping that the recent heavy rain and wind simply pushed the moisture in through the soffit vents.

Fingers crossed, knocking on wood - hoping it isn't rotten.

December 5, 2007

Yeah America, Drink Up!

The American dollar has edged up against the Canadian dollar and is now worth a penny more than the loonie. The Canadian dollar had reached parity with the $U.S. in September for the first time since 1976 and had remained strong over the past couple months.

Today is also the 75th anniversary of the repealing of prohibition.

After 13 long years, the shinny new 21st ammendment, repealing the 18th ammendment, had enough states behind it to be ratified on December 5th, 1933. The issue of alcohol would be taken out of the hands of the federal government and left to each state's counties to decide locally.

Toast the $ with a frosty one!

December 3, 2007

4" of rain and an indoor half marathon

The Seattle area has been hit with near record rainfall over the last 24 - 36 hours. Only one other day had more rainfall in Seattle. This is after the 4" of snow on Saturday. There is local flooding and several roads and even highways are closed. The peninsula was hit even harder with rainfall in the double digits. The winds have been high as well, topping out at 129mph on the coast.

Seattle has a reputation as a rainy city, but we don't get the torrential downpours very often. It more like seemingly endless drizzle. This "100 year" rainfall and wind meant that running outside didn't sound too appealing. Unfortunately I was scheduled to run 13 miles this weekend.

Off to the gym. The treadmills shut off after 60 minutes, so this meant a couple of restarts and some serious machine hogging. Fortunately the gym was pretty quiet until the very end. The power flickered about 2 miles into my run, so the treadmill came to a stop. Luckily it wasn't so jarring that I went flying forward and ended up on YouTube.

The last few runs I have done outside it has been in the 30s, so running for over 2 hours inside turned me into a sweaty mess. I suppose it will be good training for my next marathon in warmer temperatures. On the way home I was diverted a few times by flooded roads, and I saw a fountain of water shooting 3 feet out of a storm drain. Fortunately our house is on higher ground and we just get a street's worth of water pooling in our driveway.

I haven't gone outside to check the fence posts yet...

December 1, 2007

Good neighbors and ugly fences

Our back fence finally blew down a couple of weeks ago.

The fence was pretty rotted and was mostly being held up by our rhododendrons. My neighbor to south had replaced his back fence last year, and the new fence covered about a third of the property line for my backyard neighbor. I was out mowing my lawn before work began and started chatting with my backyard neighbors over our rotted fence. We hadn't really met previously and I had a nice chat with the two older ladies.

We started talking about the fence and she told me what they were paying to have it built. I told them I could do it for much cheaper, and that once it was built I would build one between our houses. When I saw the fence they built, I was pretty bummed as it was kinda ugly, so I kinda lost interest in replacing our fence. But then it blew down.

We talked again and agreed to split the cost. Nice and friendly. I tore the fence down yesterday. The ladies were out trying to help me at every turn (they're in their 70's by the way). I told them I was fine on my own, but they were out there trying to pitch in. I found lots of old concrete when I was digging the holes so that slowed me down.

Today was the day for concrete and posts. Then this happened:

I knew snow was forecasted, but the next couple of days called for heavy rain and I thought that would be even worse for getting the concrete to set. Plus, it only snows half the time they forecast it. Fortunately I had some help...

What a trouper!

November 28, 2007

Holiday music update

As an update to my earlier post, The Mountain holiday music channel is now live. The earlier link seems to still work, but here is this year's link.

Have a greener holiday

"And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! "Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more!" - from How The Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Suess

It is estimated that between Thanksgiving and the New Year an extra million tons of waste are generated nationwide each week. In fact, 38,000 miles of ribbon alone is thrown out each year--enough to tie a bow around the Earth!

Here are some links to websites with ideas on how you can reduce the amount waste this holiday season:

November 27, 2007

Bit of a black eye

Articles in the paper have exposed a little confusion/misleading regarding the Seattle Marathon. According to their website's front page, the marathon was to benefit the UW Medical Center Patient & Family Housing Fund. This was reinforced at the starting line by the announcer.

Turns out that none of the entry fees go to the charity. Only money raised or donated separately by the participants goes to the charity. This amounted to $12,000 last year, and in total the marathon took in $1 million. The article notes that compensation has tripled in the past two years, even though the website states that the marathon is run by volunteers.

By way of comparison, the Portland marathon (similarly sized) donated $200,000 of their entry fees to charity. Now I'm sure most of the runners were there for reasons other than charity, but I'm guessing most thought that the $95 - $120 entry fees were more reasonable if part of it went to support a local charity.

The Seattle Marathon has some image fixing to do. Hopefully we will hear in the next couple of days about a sizable donation made.

On a separate topic, the Portland Marathon has stated that it is OK for runners to plug into their iPods. This is a break from what other marathons are doing. There were tons of runners in Seattle wearing headphones. Most were off in their own world. Not sure if that is such a good thing.

A nice surprise

I forgot to mention that when the last marathon walker was about to pass, this guy came rolling by on his bike:

I met Bruce on the Big Ride Pacific Coast in 2006. Great guy and a lot of fun to be around. He has done a number of these Lung Association rides, and he was very welcoming to us newbies. He was unable to make it to the Glacier ride this year, so his good friend Scott laminated a photo of him and carried him along the whole ride. "Bruce" showed up in lots of our pictures. A poor substitute for the real thing so it was nice to see him Sunday. He was working as a sweeper for the marathon, keeping an eye on the stragglers and radioing in their position. Always there to support the team.

November 26, 2007

Seattle Marathon

No, I didn't run.

Tami and I volunteered this year. We were course marshalls around mile 18 (mile 5 for the half). Basically we were given a slow/stop sign to prevent cars from running over the runners. Last year I volunteered at the finish line and the weather was awful. Endless rain and even snow in some locations. This year was chilly but beautiful.

As is true with most marathons, there were many more people running the half marathon. They were the first to come by, and for a while they packed both lanes of the road. They were followed by the walkers and they just finished passing before the full marathon runners came by. The first two marathoners were neck and neck and had a 7 minute lead on everyone else. Uli Steidl has won the last 7 or 8 marathons, but skipped this one to run an ultra next weekend. His wife kept the family tradition alive by winning the women's marathon.

I appreciate all that volunteers do for these events, and it was nice being on the other side of the tape this time around. Outside of occasionally directing traffic, we spent most of our time cheering the runners on. I tried every motivational thing I could think of to help them along. Mile 18 is a tough place to be. Those that had their names on their shirts of course got a personal cheer. I was surprised about how many walkers there were. That makes for a really long day.

I didn't let the power of the orange vest go to my head.

November 23, 2007

Bring on the Holidays

I heard my first Christmas song on the radio while I was out and about - "Christmas Wrapping" by the Waitresses. I'm not exactly ready for the season, but once we're past Thanksgiving I figure it is game on for Christmas music.

KMTT (the mountain) puts on a good online Christmas music channel. It is a pretty good mix of modern, traditional and funny songs. Here is the link: Holiday Channel It wasn't up this evening, but hopefully soon. I will fix the link if it changes.

Want to know when "A Christmas Story" or "A Charlie Brown Christmas" is going to be on TV? Check it out here.

Black Friday

So I ventured out into the cold this morning to try and snag a couple of bargains. This is only my second time participating in the madness. A couple of years ago I bought a suit at a screaming deal that was only available for a couple of hours.

The alarm clock went off at 4:15 and I was pulling up at my first stop about 10 minutes before 5:00. I was way out of my league.

I was actually expecting it as I had caught the news last night. They covered our local mall as it was opening to shoppers at midnight. Live bands, lots of mayhem. They stopped by Best Buy (where I was headed) and found people had been camping out since 7am Thanksgiving morning. Different levels of crazy. When I drove by, there was no chance of even getting in the parking lot.

The first backup choice was Circuit City, but the line was wrapped around the building. On to third choice of Office Depot. They didn't open until 6:00 and when I pulled up outside there were only two people in line. Yes! A quick stop at the gas station for coffee and pastries, and when I got back more people had climbed out of their warm cars, so I was around 10th in line. No problem. I was there to buy a printer/scanner/copier/toaster/waffle-maker combo for $85. Most were there for the few cheap laptops and flatscreens in stock. The guy next to me was calling a partner at another place to coordinate their effort. I'm a total novice.

Oh, and it was 30 degrees!

After that it was onto buy a cheap air compressor. No lines outside the store this time, but a huge line inside. I actually lucked out by getting in a newer line that joined the original line. Some people had been in the checkout line for an hour and a half to two hours. Only 30 minutes for me.

So other than the early hour and the chilly weather, not too painful. I know some people do this every year, but it will need to be something pretty compelling (and offered in multiple places) to drag me out again.

November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

I raise a toast to all of my friends and family that are a beacon of light in my life. I am thankful for our health, and for all the wonderful people in our lives. As I gather with my wonderful extended (30-40 in number) family today, as I drink in the sights, sounds and smells of the holiday, I will be offering a simple thanks for the beauty of this life.

Decent article in the Times this morning about Thanksgiving as a pure holiday.

A shot of the pooch this frosty Thanksgiving morning.


November 19, 2007

An Apple today could've saved the day

This past week makes me wish he had one of the colio Macs. I felt like that poor PC shlub from the Apple ads.

It started with my DVD creation software. I was able to make a decent picture slide show with it, though I stumbled through the learning curve. I have now started on the "Year in Review" project, and I had a video clip I wanted to insert in the midst of the pictures. When I did the little drag-and-drop into the program, it would accept the audio portion but not the video. A search of the help files produced nothing. I found an online forum filled with user entries. Lately this is where I find most of my solutions as the product manuals are generally pretty useless. The gist of it was that yes, Sony doesn't support avi or mpeg files, and you need to search for a CODEC (whatever that is) to make it work. I went through three or four different free programs before I got it to work.

Then I updated the software on my phone. The update came out in April, and I held off until now because I anticipated issues. Well, I got them. The syncing program would hang when it was almost done. When I closed the program and reconnected, my computer wouldn't recognize the phone. Plug and play my a$$. Through multiple profile deletions I was able to get most of the data on the phone, but it still wouldn't sync fully. For some reason today, it does. We'll see about tomorrow.

Then Adobe flash suddenly wouldn't work in Internet Explorer. Eventually I did the uninstall/reinstall dance and I can now see videos again.

Today at work, the pdf creator for printing out listings stopped working. Quick learner that I am, un/reinstall to the rescue. Then I downloaded software for a new loan program we are offering. Naturally it didn't work. An e-mail to the help desk was actually returned within an hour. The solution - uninstall the version for your system and install the one for a couple of versions ago. This would be the "upgrading to a older, more familiar experience" from the PR lady Apple ad.

This is all just venting really. Macs aren't compatible with our Multiple Listing property program, and from what I hear Macs even have their own problems and "blue screen of death". The preceding link has a great video comparing Mac and PC packaging if you haven't already seen it.

Maybe the Macs don't live up to their hype and marketing, but I'd like to think there is a better way.

Can I get a ride?

We have been a one-car family for a bit over two weeks. It hasn't been too much of an issue as the wife takes the train into work most days. It actually worked well while I was building a deck on the eastside. Getting her to the train in the morning got my butt out of bed at a decent hour. Once we "fell back" in time, I lost daylight in the evening hours so I needed to get on the jobsite early. On the way home I could pick her up at work and so she could skip the train ride home.

Our normal mechanic was very slow in getting to our car. It took him about a week and a half to roughly diagnose the problem, and to conclude that he didn't have the tools to fix it. After paying him for his time, it is now at the dealer. Their mechanic called with a different diagnosis, and I'm hoping he is correct as it should be a cheaper fix. Of course there is no cheap fix at the dealer.

On the way back home from the train this morning, I was following a newer GMC Sierra pickup. In bright yellow letters (matching the truck) his rear window proclaimed that he was Emperor of Edmonds. I was unaware that position was available. I read an article earlier this week about a proposal to have the state pay for local political campaigns. It is supposed to even the playing field by eliminating huge personal contributions. The goal is to allow John Q. Public to run against Bill Moneybags, and it is supposed to cost about $4 per citizen. If the position of Emperor is open, I may need to look into it.

November 14, 2007

November 13, 2007

Reality TV

I don't watch much reality TV. I have watched "The Biggest Loser" the last couple seasons. I do find their weight-loss an inspiring story line.

When I heard the show "Survivor" was being created by the same guy that hosted/created the multi-day Eco-Challenge, I was really interested. I thought seeing people compete in physical challenges while roughing it would make for a great show. When I heard that the way people were eliminated was by a vote of the participants, I lost all interest. I have actually never seen an episode.

The wife and I have started watching The Amazing Race 12. It only took me 12 versions for me to try it out. The show starts with 11 teams participating in daily races in locations around the world. So far the only way teams are eliminated is by coming in last in the daily race. Much more interesting than the tribal council. They of course choose the participants to make for interesting stories and conflicts. Hopefully it won't degenerate into more crappy TV.

Russian weblete

If I have time after checking my regular round of blogs, I will sometimes hit the next blog button at the top of the screen. It will pop up a random blog also hosted by You're never what sure you will get - sometimes foreign language sites that you don't have the fonts for, sometimes adult sites you don't want to see, etc. Every so often though you find another fun site to add to your regular set to read.

I found this one a little while back, and I check it once in a while for some light entertainment. It appeals to my interest in language.

November 11, 2007

Running in place

As I mentioned earlier, I have started training for another marathon. I missed a week of training and only made it less than a mile when I tried running again a week ago. Both for reasons of taking it easy, and because I have been losing daylight, I tried running on a treadmill this week.

I think part of the reason I had some knee pain was that I was walking around on concrete for a week while building the deck. I figured the treadmill would have some give and would ease the shock of impact on my joints. I haven't really run on a treadmill before, so I wasn't sure what to expect.

I ran 3 miles Wednesday, 4 miles Friday, and 7 miles tonight. It was interesting. The gym is set up with TVs so you can plug in your headphones and have some distraction. I still found myself focusing in on the readout, watching the miles slowly tick by. It also was tough to run in such a warm room. My body is used to the chilly Fall temps, and running inside made for a sweaty run.

The treadmills are a great option when I need it, but I look forward to getting outside again.

November 9, 2007

Paper or plastic. How 'bout neither

There is plenty of debate as to which is better (i.e. less damaging), paper or plastic. Paper is more easily recycled, but uses more fuel when transported to the stores. Plastic bags can be recycled, but few are. If they are tossed in the garbage, they take up to 100 years to break down.

Here is our collection of bags, soon to be recycled at our local Albertsons. These bags can be recycled to be used to build composite decking among other things.

Of course, recycling is the third best thing to do, behind reducing and reusing. Whenever possible, I avoid getting my items bagged. I am usually only buying a handful of things, so I can typically just carry them out. For larger trips, I keep a couple paper bags in my car. The wife has her fabric Trader Joe's bag.

A major chain in England is going to begin charging customers for each plastic bag in the hopes that this will encourage customers to use less and to create less waste. A similar move in Ireland reduced waste by 66%. Will this program be making its way across the pond to us soon?

How was your day? Never mind.

I will take a page from this page. I don't share many details of my day with the wife or anyone else. Sometimes I come across an interesting challenge and/or solution, but I doubt it would be interesting to them. Sometimes there is a crazy job or crazy customer that transcends, but not often. Of course 95% of a typical day is just slogging through the mundane details. Some people's Mundane Details are more interesting than others. Getting back to building these past couple of weeks has been interesting and mostly enjoyable, but the details of my day would likely bore you.

One thing I have noticed while building these past two weeks is my mind has been pretty clear during the day. I am not distracted by the usual 14 random thoughts flying through my head. I kind of expected to be writing entries in my head, but my mind has been unusually quiet. I have been totally present, in the moment. Kind of the feeling I have been searching for.

November 7, 2007

Still being fooled by fractions?

So I'm in Costco today - Needed 400 coffee filters. Whenever I shop there, I don't use a shopping cart. It is too easy to grab anything that seems like a volume discount, like 6 pounds of pretzels for $3 (which I've grabbed). If I can't carry it, I can't get it.

While I was waiting in line, I was checking out the gas prices. I try to buy my gas at Costco as it is about the cheapest around. I noticed gas prices have creeped back above $3 again. As I ponder that, I wonder when gas stations will get rid of the 9/10 at the end of their prices. Is it really fooling anyone anymore? Maybe it will take getting rid of the penny to get rid of fractions of a cent.

Courtesy of David Letterman, the...

Top Ten Signs You Won't Win The New York City Marathon

10. You frequently hear, "Outta the way, lard ***!"

9. Every couple of miles you stop and ask directions

8. You pulled a hamstring filling out the application

7. Before the race, you eat a Powerbar with extra cheese

6. You still haven't finished the 2006 New York City Marathon

5. In trying situations, you ask yourself, "What would Rosie O'Donnell do?"

4. Some runners are sponsored by Adidas -- you're sponsored by Chips Ahoy

3. You're frequently mistaken for the fat guy from "Lost"

2. Made your own steroids out of Red Bull and Super Glue

1. You've been carbo-loading for 30 years

November 4, 2007

Monday is J.P. Patches Day!

The Seattle City Council and Mayor Greg Nickels will declare tomorrow as "J.P. Patches Day" to honor Chris Wedes a.k.a. J.P. Patches. The J.P. Patches Show ran locally from 1958 to 1981, and his humor was aimed at both kids and their parents with lots of double entendre thrown in. The 50th anniversary of the shows first broadcast will be in the Spring and a statue will be unveiled in the Fremont district.

The week that was

The deck project is going along pretty well. Each day it feels like I am not getting enough done, but by days end I am about as far as I expected. Friday finally saw some visual progress - 3/4 of the beams and joists are up, and I should be close to finishing the framing on Monday. On the plus side, it seems my building skills are still intact (no major mistakes or delays). On the negative, my body is not in building shape anymore. I have been pretty much smoked at the end of each day.

I haven't run all week. A combination of being physically smoked and getting home after dark has kept me off the roads. I tried to run yesterday, but knee pain sent me home after only a mile. I strained the knee on Friday climbing up a ladder with a beam. I had forgotten about it until it flared up and sent me walking home. Ice and rest were in order.

The wife and I have joined a gym. She got a pretty decent corporate rate through work. I intend to make use of it a few days a week, maybe more depending on the weather. I will probably be doing some swimming until my knee gets better. Once I am back in one piece, I am going to try one of their spinning classes. I hear they kick your ass in a good way.

I've been in and out of Home Depot picking up materials for the deck. Every morning there are laborers standing around in the parking lot looking for work. This has been true for a few years at the big Seattle location, but now it has become pretty common at all their stores. I assume they are getting some work, or they wouldn't show up every day. Unemployment is pretty low in this area, so I imagine the reason most of them are looking for work in a parking lot is that they are outside the system.

On the drive home the other night, in place of the typical pan-handler was a guy with a full drum set. He was set up at the end of the off-ramp near our house, and had some funky bicycle set up as well. I didn't get much of a look at him as I was pushing to make it through a yellow light. Very odd.

Halloween was pretty much a bust at our house. We didn't do any pumpkin carving or any decoration. The wife picked up some candy on the way home from work that night, and came home with a variety pack of Tootsie Roll products. I joked that we were going to get egged for handing out lame candy. In the end it didn't really matter since the doorbell only rang once, and it was neighbor kids from a couple doors down. Everyone seems to do their trick-or-treating in malls these days.

The wife and I went to see Brandi Carlisle on Friday. It was a great show. She has a pretty amazing voice, and a good stage presence. At one point she and her band went completely unplugged, as in no amplification at all. We were in the cheap seats, but her powerful voice still made it our way. She ended the night with a great rendition of Hallelujah. I had heard her do the song on a live radio show, and she now closes out each show with it. Brilliant! Last night we were back downtown with some friends to have dinner and see Jim Gaffigan. Another fun night.

I watched a recap of the marathon trials yesterday. Ryan Hall blew everyone away and set a trials record as he earned his way to Beijing. Tragically Ryan Shay collapsed at mile 5 and died on the way to the hospital. He had an enlarged heart that helped him in these endurance events, but may be related to his death. The New York Marathon was held this morning, and there is a recap on in a half hour.

There was a good NOVA program on PBS about training 12 non-atheletes to run the Boston Marathon back in April. It had some good medical information about your body as it adapts to the rigors of training. Seeing people succeed and cross that finish line always gets to me too.

And the Huskies finally won!

This week in traffic

While working on the deck, I have been commuting about 27 miles across Lake Washington each morning and evening. It takes me through the heart of rush hour traffic. It has varied between 50 minutes and 1:45. I have started staying until dark to get more done and to wait for traffic to die down. Now that we have "fallen back", dark comes sooner and I will be back in the heart of traffic.

We are set to vote on Proposition 1, a regional road and transit package. The proposition is a hodge-podge of projects born out of multiple compromises. It spans three counties and every district needed to feel it was getting its fair share. It also combines 50 mile of light rail and some 150 miles of new roads. It also goes to repair a couple of bridges and add a few bike lanes. The proposition seems to have enough to appease most factions, but not enough to inspire whole-hearted support.

Seattle has the (much deserved?) reputation of over-thinking these projects while traffic continues to get worse. We had an opportunity over 30 years ago to get a rail system built, but it was narrowly defeated. Many of the supporters of the proposition acknowledge that it is not the best, but good enough to get us moving forward.

The costs stated vary between $18 billion to $157 billion depending on who you listen to. Much of the money is raised by increasing our car tabs and sales tax. The proposition will push our sales tax close to 10%. This is part of my problem with the bill. I think the money raised should be more tied to the users of road and transit, i.e. gas tax and tolls.

I'm not sure how I will vote. Is a "good-enough" proposition born of 5 years of compromise worth the cost? Will the varied and disconnected projects do enough to alleviated traffic? Should we vote for it just to say we are doing something?

October 30, 2007

Staying busy

While Real Estate and Lending are quiet, I am working at the parents of a friend to build a deck. I built decks for about 7 years before getting into Real Estate. There are times I miss being outside, working with my hands, creating something. Today wasn't one of those days.

I spent most of the day cutting through concrete in order to dig some footings for the deck. It took longer than expected. The first concrete saw I rented didn't work. Fortunately the rental place brought out a new one. It was some dirty, dusty frustrating work. Then there was digging!

One of the things I like about construction is seeing progress each day on a project. The first couple of days of any deck goes slowly. Tomorrow will be another limited progress day as I work on the siding and ledger while I wait for the inspector. He needs to stop by to say "Yep, those are holes" before I can pour the concrete.

October 29, 2007

Hasta Luego Bill

It was great hanging out, playing golf, and watching a terrible football game with you. Glad we had a chance to have dinner with you and Veronica on Saturday. Looking forward to seeing you again soon!

On the run again

I am training again. I am signed up to run an early Spring marathon. The weather here has been hit and miss. A week ago, I ran in the rain and earned my first set of bloody nipples. I could have done without that right of passage. Two days later on Tuesday, it was in the high 70s, a one day anomaly. We are headed toward some cooler temperatures, so the long sleeves, hats and gloves are coming out.

I recently read a book "Run Less, Run Faster". It is about the FIRST program (Furman Institute of Running& Scientific Training). The program has you running 3 days a week, with 2 additional days of cross-training. This is what I have been doing when I train in the hopes that less running will mean less chance of injury. The program makes the most of the three days of running by detailing specific paces as well as mileage. One of the days each week is speed training on the track.

I am not ready for the program this time around - I don't have enough base miles. I am hoping to try it out this summer though. The game plan (always subject to revision/sanity) is to run a marathon in February, one in May, and hopefully one in the Fall.

October 28, 2007

What would you save?

People being evacuated from the California fires often didn't have much time to pack up their house. Often when they showed up at the evacuation center, they had no idea what they had thrown into their suitcases. Along with the expected things like photos and important papers, an article lists people who grabbed their tuxedo, skateboard, concert tickets, and college dissertations.

As I have mentioned in earlier posts, going through my father-in-law's things has reminded me of the boxes and boxes of stuff that I have not opened in the last few moves. I am sure a lot of it has some sentimental meaning to me, but not having looked at it in so long, who really knows. If I were in a rush, those boxes certainly wouldn't make the cut.

Not having thought it through yet, I am sure my first instinct would be to grab:
  • The pooch and her stuff.
  • My laptop (handy, and most of our photos are there)
  • Some clothes
  • Our tent, sleeping bag and other handy camping equipment.
  • Maybe our bikes depending on the disaster.
There would be no way to grab everything important. I suppose I should try to grab some of our papers as well. One more reason to go through our stuff, walk down memory lane and get a bit more organized.

October 26, 2007

Friday's Eco-tip

My local public utility district sent a postcard offering a free low-flow shower head and faucet aerator. The shower head lowered the flow from 2.5 gal/min to 2.0 gal/min. The difference in the shower wasn't too noticeable. The wife's not too impressed with the sink aerator yet.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I turn the shower on to full-blast hot when warming up the shower. If I'm shaving, I turn on the hot water for brushing my teeth. It still takes probably 10 seconds to get mildly warm water. Instead of letting it go down the drain I've started filling up a container. Between warming up the shower and the sink for shaving, it adds up to more than a half gallon. I've been using the water to refill the toilet tank. Probably not for everyone, but the water could be used for plants, your coffee pot or your Brita water pitcher.

October 24, 2007

Reverse 911 calls help spread the word

A very clever solution is being used in San Diego to alert people during these horrific fires. The local 911 call center computers dial out recorded messages alerting residents of evacuation orders. It is a very efficient way to make sure people know when to get out. You can also register your cell phone to receive the alerts.

The city and county of San Diego have been alerting residents via home phones to evacuate in the wake of various fires for several days.

But city of San Diego residents can also register their cell phones to receive emergency alerts, such as an evacuation notice. To register, go to this Web site -- -- and enter the number, account address and personal e-mail.

The county launched Alert San Diego -- a technologically advanced version of Reverse 911 -- last month and also has the capability to contact residents via cell phone. But county officials said they have yet to set up a Web site where people can register.

-- Craig Gustafson, staff writer. Posted by Union-Tribune

A very clever solution indeed. I imagine/hope that this sort of system will be installed nationwide.

October 23, 2007

California Fires

Nothing I could write is of more importance than the safety of friends and family as they watch fire move closer and closer to their homes. One of our friends has already been evacuated, and many more are threatened. Fortunately all are safe. Please keep them in your thoughts.

Here are some sites of interest:

San Diego fire map
Santa Ana Fire map

October 19, 2007

Friday's Eco-tip

I hate waste!

Materials, time, money - resources of any kind. When I see waste it irritates me. When I look at things, my mind naturally tries to figure out how waste can be eliminated, how it can be done more efficiently. I see all resources as finite and that we have a responsibility to use them wisely. I think that every little bit helps. Every switch turned off, every piece recycled, every bit not used.

I suppose that is the basis for my green thinking. All the day to day things I do are really to reduce waste. As George Carlin says, "The planet is fine. The people are f**ed." The planet will be here long after we're gone. It is really about being responsible stewards, and saving a comfortable living environment.

Anywho, I have made it a habit to keep a travel coffee cup in my car. By using my cup I can avoid using many paper cups (I stop at a lot of coffee shops). As an added bonus, Starbucks takes $.10 off.

Some more cool news on coffee - Tully's has not only gone 100% fair trade organic on their coffee, but they have created a fully compostable paper cup. I guess normal coffee cups have a petroleum based lining to prevent leaking. The Tully's Green Cup uses a bio-plastic, corn based lining - renewable and BPI certified compostable.

So if you forget your travel mug, swing into Tully's for your cup of joe. They even have free wifi!

Updates and additions

As a follow up to my entry on Into the Wild, I figured out what the PBS show was. It is called Alone in the Wilderness and you can check it out here and here.

As a follow up to my previous entry on language, my wife reminded me that last week they were interviewing someone at work. The prospect mistakenly said ubitchwitous instead of ubiquitous. Everyone there tried desparately not to laugh. One of the people had to leave the room. She may get the job anyway.

Also, SeanH has an excellent post on his thoughts on grammer.

October 18, 2007

The death of the adverb

I was listening to a radio show the other day. People were calling in with their pet peeves regarding misuse of language. Some of the examples were:

· The use of the word irregardless instead of regardless
· Adding an ‘s’ to Fred Meyer
· Saying “I seen it” instead of “I saw it”
· Saying “I could care less” instead of “I couldn’t care less”

One that has always bugged me is when people leave off the ‘ly’ on adverbs. It is pretty prevalent. I saw this at Home Depot today.

It also bugs me when people say supposably and anyways.

October 17, 2007

More PRETTY! for Holly

A long walk to the bathroom

The city of Bothell has a population of about 31,000 residents, and it covers roughly 12 square miles. The odd thing about Bothell is that roughly half of the land area is in King County, the other half in Snohomish County.

A new condominium complex adds to this confusion. The county line splits the complex so that thirteen of the buildings are in Snohomish County and three in King County. Worse yet there is one building that actually straddles the line. This means that a home’s bedroom might be in a different county than the bathroom. I imagine the permit process for this building was a nightmare.

I wonder if they will get a property assessment from each county. Will the King County half be worth more than the Snohomish County half?

October 15, 2007

Some foods that are poison to Dogs

I had a friend send me an e-mail detailing how a 5 yr old lab died after eating half a canister of raisins. In general it is best to avoid giving your pets "people food", but the list below is a partial list of foods to avoid:

Chocolate - staggering, laboured breathing, vomiting, diarhea, abdominal pain, tremours, fever, heart rate increase, arrythmia, seizures, coma, death

Onions and Garlic - Hemolytic Anemia, laboured breathing, liver damage, vomiting, diarhea, discoloured urine

Grapes and Raisins: Grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure in dogs. As little as a single serving of raisins can kill a dog.

Coffee, Coffee grounds, tea and tea bags: Drinks/foods containing caffeine cause many of the same symptoms chocolate causes

Macadamia Nuts: Macadamia nuts can cause weakness, muscle tremor and paralysis.

Animal fat and fried foods: Excessive fat can cause pancreatitis.

Bones: Bones can splinter and damage a dog’s internal organs.

Tomatoes: Tomatoes can cause tremors and heart arrhythmias. Tomato plants and the most toxic, but tomatoes themselves are also unsafe.

Avocados: The fruit, pit and plant are all toxic. They can cause difficulty breathing and fluid accumulation in the chest, abdomen and heart

Nutmeg: Nutmeg can cause tremors, seizures and death

Apples, Cherries, Peaches and similar fruit: The seeds of these fruits contain cyanide, which is poisonous to dogs as well as humans. Unlike humans, dogs do not know to stop eating at the core/pit and easily ingest them.

Raw eggs: Raw eggs can cause salmonella poisoning in dogs. Dogs have a shorter digestive tract than humans and are not as likely to suffer from food poisoning, but it is still possible.

Salt: Excessive salt intake can cause kidney problems.

Alcohol, cheese, ham, liver, milk, mushrooms, moldy foods, potato peels and tuna are also listed as foods to avoid giving your dog. Best to stick with the doggie biscuits.

Dogs – not for everyone

Some people shouldn’t have dogs. I have been down at the mother-in-laws a few times in the past month. Several of her neighbors have dogs, and leave them outside at all hours, in the rain, barking. I am guessing by the pitch of the barks that these aren’t hunting or working dogs. Why have a dog as a pet if you leave them outside all the time? Dogs are social animals.

People who put ther dogs in the back of an open pickup – don’t deserve a dog.

The guys who get pit bulls or rottweilers because they fall into some manly image along with their 4 x 4’s, but don’t do anything to train or control them – shouldn’t have a dog. Like this guy. Certain breeds require more work, more activity, more training, more discipline. Many people do not think this through, and they are unable (or unwilling) to do what it takes to be a good pet owner.

October 14, 2007

Race Directors getting serious about Ipods

Running with headphones/Ipods has been against the rules at any USA Track & Field sanctioned event. Enforcement has not been very consistent. Now the no-headphones rule, No. 144.3(b), has become mandatory for sanctioned road races in 2007.

Grandmas Marathon in Duluth Minnesota warns:

Runners entering the starting area wearing headphones will be asked to surrender them, and they’ll be mailed to the runner at the race’s expense. If the headphones aren’t turned over, officials will record the runner’s race number and the runner will be disqualified. Runners seen wearing headphones on the course by race officials also will have their numbers reported.
Disqualified runners won’t be eligible for prize money or age-group awards, but they will be allowed to run the race. A disqualified runner also won’t be listed in the official race results book, although all results will be listed with the official timing company, ChampionChip Timing.

Applefest Half Marathon in Hollis New Hampshire warned:

- Runners only - "No walkers", and none of the following are allowed. No pets, baby stollers, skates, headsets earbuds, mini-speakers anywhere on or around the body. And just to be clear, that means that IPODS in any form or by any other name are not allowed. This is a safety/insurance issue and has nothing to do with a like or dislike of music. It has to do with the potential future cost of insurance and/or the possible lack of availability of insurance for our race.Runners violating this safety rule will be disqualified.

The results show that 8 runners were disqualified for using prohibited items. Not many, but I'm sure these types of lists will grow. Bringing along your Ipod is certainly not worth the risk of getting disqualified after all that training.

October 13, 2007

Into the Wild

I went to see the movie Into the Wild with my brother on Thursday. The movie is based on the book of the same name by John Krakauer, and we had both read the book a while back. The movie’s soundtrack is also done by Eddie Vedder, so that was another draw.

The movie was quite good. For those that don’t know the story, it details the life of a 23 year old that leaves the world behind after graduating college. He gives away $24,000 earmarked for his graduate degree, burns the rest of his money, abandons his car and starts backpacking/hitching his way around the western United States. He kayaks down to Mexico on the Colorado, works a farm in South Dakota, and hangs out with some modern day hippies in Arizona. Though he spends about a year bouncing around, his ultimate destination is Alaska to see the wilderness and to live off the land.

A big part of me sees the draw of this type of life. I have Thoreau’s desire to “live life deliberately” off in a cabin in the woods. I enjoy walking away from the world’s comforts and responsibilities when I can - to slow things down, to simplify things. I have particularly enjoyed my one and two week biking/camping trips, though we certainly weren’t without some of life’s comforts. As my friends consider camper trailers, I continue to resist leaving the tent life behind because I truly enjoy cooking over the fire or fighting with my 50 year old gas stove.

There was a great PBS series some years ago about a man who moves to the Alaska wilderness to see if he can make it for a year. He brought a camera along and filmed his progress as he builds a log home and lives off the land. His year-long experiment turns into a decades long way of life, as he stays there until his age and health force him to come back to society. I need to see if I can find the series on DVD. From my memory of it, the guy reminds me a bit of my father-in-law.

As I was heading out to see the movie, the wife says something like “now make sure you come back”. She understands the draw heading off to the woods has for me. It is just a dream really, but a nice one to hang on to. For now I am satisfied for my little trips into the woods, not into the wild. I’m not sure I’m ready to kill dinner just yet.