August 31, 2008

Look out behind you

I rode the RSVP for the second time a couple weeks ago. There are much fewer riders than the STP (1,500 vs 9,500), and they are generally more experienced bicyclists so there are fewer beginner mistakes. However I saw a mistake repeated through both days that is a significant safety issue. Many bikers when they went to pass slower riders pulled out into the lane of traffic without so much as a head check. Many times it was clear, but all too often there was a car approaching that needed to slow suddenly or swing into the oncoming lane to avoid a collision.

Just like any car attempting to pass another slower car, it is their responsibility to make sure they can do it safely. Many bikers seemed oblivious of the cars around them. There are times when I think they ride far out into the lane to prove a point/soothe a chip on their shoulder, but on this trip it seemed to be simple carelessness.

*Stepping on soapbox*.

I think bike riders should be required to have and use mirrors on these large bike events. I have been wearing one for the past year or two, and it makes a tremendous difference in my ability to ride safely, particularly on these larger rides. I am aware of both bikes and cars approaching and can make any adjustments necessary to allow either to get by.

When a faster biker is approaching a slower one, they need to check to make sure if it is safe to pass. If it isn't, tuck in behind and wait until it is.

*Stepping off soapbox*.

For those looking for some mirrors with a little flair, I saw these on the STP last month. It is one of those stupid simple ideas that almost anyone could have thought of (over a beer). But this San Diego company actually followed through and I hope they make a mint. The wire is made from a recycled bicycle spoke, and you can even send in your favorite bottle cap if they don't already stock it.

August 30, 2008

Historic year

Well the Democratic Convention is over. Hillary Clinton appealed to her supporters to get behind Barack Obama. Al Gore and Bill Clinton showed their support as well. Obama gave a fine speech, more aggressive than he has been in the past. The Republican Convention begins next week. I will probably end up watching more of McCain's convention to see what the Republicans have to say.

McCain's pick of Sarah Palin was a surprise to many pundits (but how often are they right anymore). Like many others, I'm just learning about her now. She is the youngest person and the first woman elected Governor of Alaska. She is very popular, but as a man from an Alaskan paper pointed out, it doesn't hurt that she followed the least popular Governor in state history. It sounds like she is a very engaging speaker and I look forward to hearing her at the convention.

It is an interesting choice. By choosing her McCain loses the "lack of experience" argument against Obama since Palin political experience is as a mayor of a small town for six years and now 20 months as a Governor. The experience argument didn't help Hillary Clinton that much so it may not be much of a loss.

When Palin quoted Hillary Clinton's phrase about "18 million cracks in the glass ceiling" in her acceptance speech, it left little pretense that her choice was not a plea to grab dissatisfied Clinton supporters.

An analyst on NPR this morning was commenting on vice-presidential choices. He said that the vice-presidential nominee does not generally bring in a lot of voters, but it is more a reflection on the presidential candidate in the choosing. Obama could have chosen Clinton as his vice-president and probably would have locked things up. As it stands he will be fighting McCain/Palin for those voters. I can only assume he didn't chose her because he didn't think they would be a good fit. From what I've heard, McCain has only met Palin once. Not much of a history to glean how they would work together or what kind of asset she would be as a vice-president. On the surface it looks like a strategic choice Obama chose not to make.

And it just might work. McCain's choice of Palin will certainly bring excitement and energy to the convention and election. It certainly ensures that this election year continues to be historic. We will either have a the first black president or the first female vice-president. An already tight election is getting more interesting.

August 29, 2008

Ragnar Relay video

Below is the video I made for the Ragnar Relay contest. Wendy's should be up soon and I will pass along a link to hers as well. A larger version can be found on the Ragnar website.

Oh, and an Ultra team is 6 runners instead of 12.

UPDATE - Here is Wendy's version:

If either don't play here, you can find them on YouTube - Sean's, Wendy's. They seem to work best when you select "high quality" below the videos.

August 28, 2008

Mythbusters and conspiracy theory

There was a great Mythbuster episode on last night. They set out to respond to the conspiracy theories that we never landed on the moon, and that it was all shot in a sound stage somewhere on Earth. According to a 1999 Gallup poll, about 6% of people don't believe we landed on the moon and about 5% are undecided. The theories they looked at (and busted) were:

Multiple light sources had to be present because:

1) The shadows are not parallel

Adam and Jamie recreated a scale model of the shot and showed that the uneven terrain can "bend" the shadows as shown in the photo below (not theirs). 2) The astronaut is lit even though he is in the shadow of the lunar lander.

The Mythbusters used concrete and ash to replicate the reflective qualities of moon dust to within 1%. It showed that the astronaut could be illuminated by reflected light even though he stood in the shadow of the lander.

As there is no atmosphere and thus no moisture, the boot prints in the lunar surface would not be so distinct.

The Mythbusters did an initial test with wet and dry sand. Indeed the wet sand produced a much more distinct boot print. However, since there is no atmosphere or wind, moon dust is not smoothed from friction and erosion like sand on Earth. Moon dust is more jagged and can almost interlock to retain the shape of indentations. They tested this out in a vacuum chamber at NASA using material granularly similar to moon dust. The boot print was distinct.

There is no atmosphere and no wind - why is the flag seen waving in moon landing video.

There is a metal rod at the top of the flag to keep it from drooping. The video is of the astronauts placing the flag into the lunar surface. Another trip to the vacuum chamber showed that when the flag is rotated a bit when putting it in place, it continues to flutter for some time with no atmospheric resistance.

The "floating" look of the moon walk could have been a higher frame rate in filming rather than low gravity.

Adam and Jamie tried to duplicate the look by using a higher frame rate and using a harness to actually simulate 1/6 gravity. Though their results were somewhat similar, it was clearly not as smooth and could not be called floating. They then went up in a plane that produces weightlessness by climbing and diving in a parabolic arc. They adjusted the trajectory of the flight plan to simulate the moons gravity. They then did their moon walk and the results were very much like the footage from the moon landing.

Finally, for a little more proof they went to an observatory. Astronauts left behind on the lunar surface what is essentially a big reflector. At the observatory they shot a high powered laser at the moon. First it was aimed in an area we have not been to. No real bounce back. Then it was aimed at the spot where they knew the reflector sat, and they measured a noticeable reflection of the laser's light.

It was a very interesting episode. Even though I have pretty much described it all, it is worth catching in rerun.

August 27, 2008

Funny that

After the bike ride on Sunday I treated myself to some breakfast at a cafe in Bothell. I sat at the bar and read the Sunday paper while I waited for my omlette to arrive. I was reading the sports page and came across Ron Judd's recap of the second week of the Olympics. When I got to the passage about the gymnasts in day 10, I laughed out loud.

Day 10

Famed Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang withdraws from the Olympics after his Achilles tendon is crushed by the combined weight of the expectations of 1.3 billion people.

Phelps signs lucrative endorsement contract with Hostess Ho-Hos.

Chinese tanks roll into the Athletes Village. Rogge praises their environmentally sound hybrid technology.

American gymnast Nastia Liukin, 18, and Chinese gymnast He Kexin, 4, post identical scores in the uneven bars. To break the tie, the gold medal is awarded to Canadian figure skaters Jamie Sale and David Pelletier.

Phelps is named national spokesman for the United States Pork Rind Foundation.

Alluding to the age controversy of the Chinese gymnast team by listing He Kexin age at 4 cracked me up. My fatigue and hunger might have had something to do with it, but it was pretty funny.

I don't laugh out loud very often. I am pretty even-keeled - no major highs or lows, not a lot of emotion bubbling to the surface. The wife is quite different. She is much more expressive than I am. I came home a week ago to find her crying because she had been laughing so hard at a show she was watching.

I know she wishes I was more expressive. When she catches me laughing out loud, it is like it makes her day. I'm not exactly sure why I am like I am. My heart has hardened some over the years, but I have always been pretty reserved/quiet/shy.

There is a plaque in my parents house - "Behave like a duck - remain calm on the surface but paddle like crazy underneath". I guess that kind of sums it up. I tend to keep most drama underneath the surface and just keep plugging along. But unfortunately the highs tend to stay submerged along with the lows.

I certainly don't want to become more dramatic. I'm pretty happy that day to day things don't alter my mood or drag me down. But like everyone, I could use a good laugh now and then.

August 26, 2008

A few updates

I know you've been on edge of your seat (you haven't), so I thought I'd update you on some earlier entries.
  • Stamps are $.42. I should have know this since 42 is the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything.
  • Our street has a lovely new coating of asphalt. As anticipated, it makes my driveway look pretty dumpy. They were delayed a couple of weeks, but now the neighborhood is gloriously smooth on the bike. Now that the fight with Kenmore is (mostly) over, hopefully the Burke-Gilman trail will get its own fresh coat. Of course it is the rim-bending tree roots breaking through that really get you.
  • The new desktop is running smoothly. The addition of memory has made all the difference. Vista hasn't been painful at all, except for the frequent "are you sure" queries. I have nearly completed the video for the Ragnar Relay contest and it should be live in the next couple of days. Even with a very heavy editing hand, it still clocks in at over 8 1/2 minutes. Too much good stuff.
  • My treadmill stress test results came back. Looks like everything checked out OK. The nurse called to report there were no signs of ischemia. I had to look it up. I asked her if there was a report produced that would make sense to a layman. The answer was no. I was kind of hoping to see some charts and graphs - kind of my health on a spreadsheet.
  • And finally, I am going through a little Olympic withdrawal. The men's marathon was the last event I saw. It was an impressive performance considering the heat and humidity conditions. The Americans finished in about the time they had planned, but it was only good for 9th and 10th. The winner broke the Olympic record by about 3 minutes.

August 25, 2008

Friends in the news

There is another nice article covering Matt, Holly and Annabelle's story in the San Diego paper. It is a bit of a follow up from the article in June about the home makeover, and let's the world know about the miracle of Annabelle.

Alyssa's story has also been covered in the Renton Reporter. Her friend Gary participated in the Climb to Fight Breast Cancer in her name. Though weather turned him back before he reached the top of Rainier, he was able to raise $6,500 for the cause.

Nice to see some good stories make the news for a change.

August 24, 2008

S.O.B. - round two

I rode the Summits of Bothell for the second time this morning. It is a really challenging bike ride with 8 significant climbs, with about 3250 feet of climbing over 36 miles. It wasn't any easier than last year. My training has been really spotty lately. Well, really non-existent.

A friend asked me last night "What is more difficult, running or biking? And don't give me that 'it depends' crap". Although it depends a little, running is definitely more difficult for me. I was a biker first, biking is more social and there tends to be lots of stops along the way, and of course there is coasting which running is sorely lacking in. The biking I do isn't racing of course. The only clock I'm generally trying to beat is getting in before sundown or before the beer garden closes.

With this in mind, I don't tend to train as well on the bike. When I have a marathon on the calendar, I set up a training program 16 weeks out and stay pretty faithful to it. I show up (reasonably) well prepared on race day. With biking I tend to more or less just show up. I'll do a few rides here and there ahead of time, but days like today remind me that I need to take my training more seriously. I made it through reasonably well, but it would be nice to climb hills without the threat of losing my breakfast.

Happy Anniversary Jonathan and Lynne

August 20, 2008

The Olympics

The summer Olympics are about a week and a half old, and it has kept me up late just about every night. NBC's main coverage starts at 8:00 each night and runs past midnight most nights. I have the TV on while I work on the computer, and there have been some great competitions to keep me up late.

The opening ceremony was incredible. Michael Phelp's eight gold medal run has been an amazing thing to watch. 41 year old Dara Torres capturing two silver medals in her fifth Olympics. I am not a fan of any sport that requires scores from judges, but the gymnastic performances have been something to watch.

There are some silly events in there too. Not a fan of synchronized...well synchronized anything. I agree with Sean's term "novelty". And trampoline? Table tennis? BMX bike riding? I've also had about as much beach volleyball as I can take. NBC obviously picks and chooses what they think will get them the best ratings, but beach volleyball has been on every night.

I also don't think basketball, baseball or tennis belong there either. These sports have professional leagues of their own. Do they really belong at the Olympics? I like the original spirit of the Olympics as a competition between amateur athletes.

Still, I have watched (and enjoyed) more Olympic coverage this year than ever before. I am looking forward to seeing more track and field events in the next few days and the men's marathon to close out the Olympics.

Does anyone else think the gold medal looks a little iPod like?

August 19, 2008

Different level of crazy

There were about 1500 bicycle riders out on the road last weekend, covering 186 miles over two days. Then there was this guy, who covered those same 186 hilly miles.

There are people who do these long rides on Razors, unicycles, skateboards, etc. Crazy.

RSVP 2008

Brian, Cherie and I tackled the Ride from Seattle to Vancouver for the second time. The RSVP is the STP's slightly younger sibling, and was started the year that Mount St. Helens erupted and canceled the STP. This year's version was another good ride with friends.

The challenge this year was the heat. Like the STP this year, temperatures were in the mid-90's, and for we Northwesters, that is energy-sapping heat. It seems we only get these warm weekends when we are on two-day bike rides, so friends are encouraging us to head out of town more often.

The overnight stop is in Bellingham and we stayed with Brian's mom again this year. A dip in the nearby lake was a special treat after a hot day in the saddle. Other friends were down from Canada so it was a nice large gathering that night. Good food and wine rounded out a perfect evening.

Those same friends from Canada offered up their house for us to stay in the next night. Very kind of them to open their doors to us while they were down in Bellingham. That night we went to dinner at one of the restaurants they own. We all enjoyed a wonderful meal with a view of yet another lake. We clearly don't rough it too much on these rides.

The wife (once again) provided wonderful support to us, bringing us sandwiches and drinks for lunch, and iced towels to cool down. As Cherie said "we have a really good wife". The iced towels were a leftover idea from the Ragnar Relay, and helped us resist the temptation to jump into every river and lake we rode by.

One of the highlights of the ride was the ride up Chuckanut Drive in Bellingham. It is a twisty climb through the woods with occasional spectacular views of Puget Sound. I took off from the group and had my own little Tour de France breakaway. At the top of the climb there is a lemonade stand waiting to reward you with ice-cold pink lemonade. It was so gloriously cold it almost didn't matter how it tasted, but it was quite tasty to boot.

I see from last year's post that I have clicked over the year mark here at the blog. Thanks for continuing to stop by.

August 12, 2008

Checks in the mail

I recently bought a new computer system, some additional memory and anti-virus software. I spent an hour plus applying for rebates on all of them. There were 5 rebates in all totaling $165. Certainly worth my time and effort, but still kind of a pain in the butt.

Each one asked for a slightly different thing: rebate forms, copies of receipts, proof of purchase seals, original UPC codes, serial numbers, blood sample, etc. Of course it also means scanning everything so that I can have copies if/when the rebates don't come through.

Companies hope you screw up and forget to send something in, or just forget the rebate entirely so they can keep your money. Some companies have also started sending out rebate Visa cards, semi-forcing you to go out and buy more stuff rather than having the cash to pay bills, etc.

When I went to my desk drawer it became clear that I haven't mailed a letter in a while. I found $.39, $.41, $.02 and $.01 stamps. I had to jump online to verify what the current going rate is.

Some companies like Costco and Staples allow you to apply for rebates online so you can avoid the "lost in the mail" excuse. I seem to remember legislation being suggested to eliminate the whole mail-in rebate scam, requiring stores to take care of it at the time of your purchase. That would be worth of the easy button.

August 11, 2008

Computer time

So I spent most of the weekend in front of the computer.

I was getting regular phone calls from Matt detailing what was going on with Annabelle and Holly down in San Diego. I would then log in to update his blog so that all the friends and family could check in on their progress. One of those times when the power of the internet is really appreciated. There are so many people following Annabelle's story that telephone or even e-mail trees seemed insufficient to reach all the people in her circle. I'm sure there were many people leaving The Dawg Run up on their computers and hitting refresh every 15 minutes hoping for a new post and update. It was a blessing to get to talk to Matt so frequently. Annabelle really is a miracle in the making, and it was my pleasure to do my part to share the story.

When I wasn't on my laptop updating Matt's blog, I was in front of the new desktop starting work on the RAGNAR video. There is a contest for the best video, and the submission deadline is August 31st. I wanted to get started because I knew there was so much video footage and so many great photos to try to squeeze in. Even though it was a 30 hour relay, I think I need to keep the video submission to a reasonable 5 to 7 minutes. I will probably do a longer version for the year-in-review DVD so the participants can see more of the great pictures and videos from the relay.

Vista has turned out to be the memory hog it was billed to be. The video/DVD software was running incredibly slow, sometimes locking up completely. The computer came with 1 gig of RAM, and Windows Vista was taking up half of it at idle. The video software was too much of a drag to be supported by the remaining half. The new, faster processor was hardly being taxed as the flood of information was trying to go through the pin hole remaining in the Vista clogged arteries.

I found 4 gigs of memory on sale, so now everything is running much more smoothly. Even so, I needed to chop up the project into smaller bits as adding all the video files to one project overwhelmed the program. Just like wider highways will be ultimately filled with more cars, software will continue to grow to fill larger memory sticks and faster memory.

August 8, 2008

Welcome to the world Annabelle!

She is in surgery now, and doctors will be working on her spine for the next 5 hours. I am still updating Annabelle's progress at The Dawg Run. Lots more photos can be found there too.

August 7, 2008


For friends of Matt, Holly and Annabelle, I will be posting for Matt on The Dawg Run today. Holly went into labor this morning and is scheduled for a C-section at 1:00.

August 6, 2008

Rock n Roll Marathon set to replace Seafair Marathon

The people who brought music to the marathon are now planning to bring their brand to Seattle. It was just announced that The Seattle Rock n Roll Marathon will be run on Saturday June 27th 2009 replacing the Seafair Marathon. The route (not released yet) will run from Tukwila, along Lake Washington, and finish at Qwest Field. There is also a companion half marathon ensuring and even larger turnout. The post-marathon concert will be held at Marymoor Park in Redmond.

I ran the San Diego Rock n Roll Marathon in 2007, and it was the most well organized of the any of the marathon/half marathons I have participated in. I am looking forward to running the Seattle version. The Seafair Marathon was only four years old, and had been relatively successful, but suffered from some transportation snafus this year. 400 runners were unable to make it to the start line and didn't get to run across the 520 bridge. Their web address now leads to the new Rock n Roll website.

Seattle joins the Rock n Roll Marathons in San Diego, Arizona and San Antonio, as well as the Coutry Music, San Jose and Virginia Beach half marathons. Check out the Seattle Times story and the press announcement on the marathon site.

Seattle Times Story

August 5, 2008

Hidden costs

Well if we paint the room, we'll need to buy new furniture...

We finally bought a camcorder. With the events we've been running and the Year in Review DVDs we've been putting together, it would be nice to capture some footage. Trying to save some money, we bought a relatively inexpensive model.

It turns out that the only way to connect the camcorder to the computer is through a firewire card, which I didn't have on my laptop or desktop. So off to the computer store. I plugged the new card into the desktop computer and it worked without incident. However, when I started downloading the videos, the files were dropping many frames making the video choppy.

After doing some troubleshooting and tweaking a couple things, it still wasn't working well. My computer only had the minimum of memory recommended, and I would still need to buy a DVD burner. The desktop computer is also about 8 years old (from the Jurassic era I believe) so I wasn't sure how well it would handle editing video.

I did some shopping around and I was able to find a new system with a DVD burner for about $150 more than updating my old system with memory and a burner. Of course there are no Windows XP computers out there anymore, so now I have Vista. We'll see if it is as painful as the Apple commercials make it sound.

The videos downloaded without a frame dropped. So far so good. Of course my video software isn't Vista compatible, so there will be some more updating this week.

August 3, 2008

The Wrap by Ron Judd

You can't help but notice.

More and more people in these parts, due to some inexplicable psychosis, are driving around with little lap-top yapper dogs, front and center, between their arms.

Maybe it's separation anxiety — on the human's part. But it's also clearly nuts, and clearly dangerous. Just last week, a loose dog in a Seattle car jumped into the lap of the driver and caused her to veer into an off-duty Seattle cop directing traffic, sending him to the hospital.

She hasn't been charged. And no one else likely will be, either.

Just to clarify: In Washington state, talking on a cellphone while driving is an illegal distraction. But having a live, unpredictable animal perched atop your loins? Not a problem.

More uncommon sense:

If it were only this easy, part 3

"Scientists have discovered what could be the ultimate workout for couch potatoes: exercise in a pill."

"The drug, according to the researchers, changed the physical composition of muscle, essentially transforming the tissue from sugar-burning fast-twitch fibers to fat-burning slow-twitch ones — the same change that occurs in distance runners and cyclists through training."

Full Story

August 2, 2008


This is our first weekend at home in a while, and it is nice to have an empty calendar for a day. The wife got some much needed rest, finished her book, did some knitting - basically took it easy all day.

I didn't do a whole lot more. I slept in a bit and I went for a bike ride in the afternoon. The weather was near perfect and I picked a route that took advantage of our local trails. The Interurban trail took me south to Greenlake, then I headed down to Freemont to pick up the Burke-Gilman trail.

It is Seafair weekend, so there was the occasional thunder of the Blue Angels flying overhead. I stopped for a bit to watch them fly in formation, climb straight up into the sky and dive back toward the lake. They really are impressive to watch.

The hydros are running this weekend as well. People spend all weekend on their boats stationed near the logboom surrounding the race course. I assume being up close to the race is a cool experience, but to me it is like any other race going around in circles - kinda boring.

I was pulled up at a stop sign in Wallingford. I had some music playing on my i-ride speakers to keep me company. This song was playing - "When You're Falling" by Afro Celt Sound System. Now my speakers don't exactly crank out much volume, but the woman in the car next to me rolled up her window, I assumed to stop my tunes from messing with hers. Then a second or two later she hit the power locks and locked all her doors. Strange.

I don't see myself as an imposing figure, much less threatening. Not sure what her concern was, but maybe it had something to do with the recent confrontation between some bicyclists and a driver during the monthly Critical Mass ride. After being surrounded by bicyclists, a driver lurched forward and back, knocking and/or dragging bikers to the ground. Other bicyclists then drug him from his car, hit him on the head, slashed his tires and broke his windshield.

Regardless of who's version you believe, both sides overreacted. But in my opinion it is the bikers that created the situation for tempers to escalate. The original intent of the monthly Critical Mass bike rides was to demonstrate for bicyclists' road rights. But like many demonstrations, the original intent is hard to find behind the actions of demonstrators. Here is a description from one of the riders of the practice of blocking and surrounding cars:
Normally, the term known amongst the Critical Mass participants for the defining of a traffic perimeter using bicycles and human bodies is "corking". Corking generally takes place at intersections. The collective pack of Critical Mass bicyclists travel without regard to traffic signals. This disregard for the rules that motorists follow requires that cyclists take measures to control car traffic. Cyclists use their bikes and bodies to make barriers designed to block cars that would otherwise try to travel directly through the crowd, which is obviously dangerous to the cyclists...The goal of corking is to keep bicyclists from getting hit by cars when drivers choose to ignore the fact that hundreds of human bodies are a physical obstacle to forward motion.
So the Critical Mass riders demonstrate for bicyclists' rights to the road by practicing a "disregard for the rules that motorists follow". I think the point has been lost and these riders are doing nothing to promote cycling.

I think there are some jerks in cars and on bikes as well. I have seen my share of inconsiderate drivers and bikers, but there are people who go out of their way to endanger the lives of others on both sides. A car is a much more deadly weapon, and unfortunately it might be the innocent biker the driver next sees who pays the price for the antagonizing (and illegal) behavior of Critical Mass.

August 1, 2008

A little family boasting

As I mentioned earlier this year, my (16 year old) second cousin Rose has written some songs. She has now recorded her first CD (produced by her brother). I picked up a copy while on the family vacation a few weeks ago, and it is quite good.

She is already getting some accolades. In an online contest with 20,000 song entries, she placed 8th in "acoustic", 1st in "Singer/Songwriter - Female", and 5th overall. Here is another good review for her debut album. Pretty cool.

You can find her on iTunes,, and MySpace.