October 31, 2008

Trick or treater codes

A little intel passed along from kid to kid - chalk symbols at the end of the driveways. More found here. I would love it if kids actually did this.

Oh, and the doorbell only rang twice again this year. Maybe I should check the driveway.


Halloween has never been a big deal for me. I have had a couple good costumes over the years - the first time I shaved my head was for a Jay Buhner costume, and I had a good Colonel Sanders costume complete with the white suit and hair. But these days I am happy to skip both the festivities and trying to figure out a costume.

In 2006, we were going to be out of town for Halloween, so there was no chance to go to a Halloween party. I was off the hook, or so I thought. The friends we were traveling with brought costumes across the country so they could dress up for the holiday. We walked around Washington D.C. and the wife and I were the odd ones out.

The last few years we have only had two groups of kids come trick or treating at our door. Not sure if this is a sign of the times or just our neighborhood. Parents of kids who take in the annual buckets of candy may want to hide this mornings paper. There was an article on the front page titled "Cavity-fighting trick: Eat treats at once". From the article:

Here's Halloween advice from a dentist, if not a dietitian: Let your kids eat their sugary booty in one sitting.

Dental decay is on the rise again among U.S. preschoolers, and frequent treats may be one culprit. But the amount of starchy, sticky foods children eat may matter less than how often they eat them. That's because enamel-eroding acids linger in the mouth for 20 minutes after each snack session.

So allowing your little princess to devour her Halloween haul instead of doling it out piecemeal is a lesser evil "from the point of view of cavities..."
And on the political silly season side of things, we have this poll - “Spirit Halloween Presidential Index”. It is based on nationwide sales of Halloween masks in the month(s) leading up to the election. Mask sales at Spirit Halloween have accurately predicted the winner in the last seven presidential elections.


October 30, 2008

Early bird gets the...bad news first

My friend has been trying to get a catch phrase started. "Up with the concrete guys" for those days you get up and get going extra early. "I'm not sure why the concrete guys are up before dawn, but it has something to do with not sitting in traffic with a truckload of wet concrete, and then not pouring the stuff midday when it stiffens and cracks before it's even smoothed out."

I have one to add today - I was up before the bakers this morning. I am not an early riser, so rather than have breakfast at home, I stopped off at Safeway for a pastry to eat while I drove. And when I got there the cupboard was bare. As I stared forlornly at the empty display case, a kind worker headed toward the back to see if anything was ready. She brought out a tray glazed donuts. One less decision to be made for the day.

One benefit to being up when all is quiet, there is nothing to drown out the metal on metal brake scraping noise. Not sure how long that has been going on, but off to the mechanic I go. I called the dealer and I was quoted $500 if the rotors could be turned, and $800 if not. I have a coupon for a local shop for $50 per axle, with some fine print of course. They wouldn't quote me anything over the phone for my specific vehicle, but offered a free inspection. Going to the mechanic is never cheap. We'll see if they detail all the charges up front or surprise me with some line items with suspicious codes.



Well the rotors needed to be replaced. Not a big surprise since I was hearing metal on metal this morning. There were also a few extra hidden charges, also not a surprise but irritating. Final total with hazmat, supplies and other fees was $375. Not terrible. The rear brakes apparently still have 50% of their life left, so I got that going for me, which is nice.

Welcome to the world Keaton Isaac Hawkins!

October 29, 2008

Team of Rivals

I just finished Team of Rivals - The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. It is a great picture of the man and the times.

The "Team of Rivals" which would be Lincoln's cabinet included the three major competitors for the Republican nomination in 1960 - William Seward, Salmon Chase and Edward Bates. The beginning of the book (after a brief leap forward to the day of the Republican convention) follows the early private and public lives of the four candidates.

Lincoln was far and away the least known of the four. He had a pretty spotty political career up to that point. He had served 8 years in the state legislature from 1832 - 1842 and 2 years as a US Congressman 1847-1849. Within two weeks of being in Congress, he questioned the validity of our war with Mexico. It is likely that led to his unsuccessful bid for re-election.

He was politically outmaneuvered for the Senate race in 1854 and pulled his name for the good of the party even though he had garnered the most votes. He was gracious in defeat. Both the winner and the orchestrator of the defeat would help him in later campaigns. Not harboring bitterness and looking at the big picture would mark mark his life and presidency. As he said in his second inaugural address, "With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right."

Lincoln's inexperience relative to the others worked in his favor in 1860. In the campaign for the presidential nomination, the other three candidates had created a number of enemies in their time in the public eye. Lincoln stayed in the background and was strategic in his pursuit of office this time around. When he won the election, he offered cabinet positions to the three other candidates. He filled other positions in the cabinet with people from other parties, both to provide balance and to help unite fractured parties.

The south was on its way to secession as Lincoln took office. His presidency would be marked by balancing different factions in the country and in his party. He was not the loudest advocate for the end of slavery, though it was very important to him. He thought that bringing the Union back together was the primary goal of the war and his presidency. He was often slow to move as he tried to predict (or prepare) the countries readiness to accept change, but he never wavered in his pursuit of the greatest good. He presented the Emancipation Proclomation when it had the best chance to garner support, though it had been written for some time.

His cabinet, at least initially, was fractious. Differing beliefs, ambitions and ego sizes led to clashes and fights for power. It wasn't long though before they came to understand Lincoln's wisdom and they came to respect him immensely. "His avoidance of extremes...(was) the natural consequence of an equable nature and a mental constitution that is never off balance."

He was a brilliant man, and the perfect man for the time. The book does a wonderful job of telling the history, giving insight into Lincoln and his contemporaries, and confirming how fortunate we were to have him as a president.

Five stars, two thumbs up.

October 28, 2008

Voter assistance

Don't want to leave any blanks on your ballot? If you are a Washington state voter, check out votingforjudges.org for some information on judges vying for your vote.

Postcards from the edge

Shouts of "terrorist" and "kill him", politicians talking about "real" Americans living only in small pockets of America, a congresswoman hoping the "American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America?" - I almost miss the Swift Boat campaign. Almost

Nearly every election produces attack ads that go beyond the opponents policies and begin attacking the person, but this is the first in my fuzzy memory that goes to the level of implying that the person on the other side of the ticket is evil and spells the end of America.

I have received a couple of e-mails in the past week. The first one was a call to prayer - prayer against Obama winning the presidency. Quotes from this e-mail include:
"Why are we Christians settling for the loss of our Christian heritage, not issuing a battle cry and falling to our knees and taking our country back?...We should be afraid, very afraid because our apathy is leading us to perdition...Maybe McCain on his own cannot defeat Obama, but our God can and He will if we take to our knees in prayer and raise a mighty cry to the heavens...change which I fear will be away from our Christian ideals, and away from Christ, and further away from one nation under God to one nation under Allah."
A second e-mail begins by comparing Barack Obama to Fidel Castro. The e-mail goes on to wonder when "the American people are forced to take to their boats, rafts and inner tubes ... where do we go?" Another portion of the same e-mail states that:
"If the liberals win, then our foundation will no longer be based on the traditional Judeo-Christian morality...If the liberals win, the damage can't be stopped with elections two, four or forty years from now. America will forever be changed. We will keep seeing a gradual and growing hostility toward people of faith, especially Christians."
This one is supposed to be from Donald E. Wildmon, founder and Chairman of the American Family Association. According to the AFA website, "The American Family Association represents and stands for traditional family values, focusing primarily on the influence of television and other media – including pornography – on our society."
Apparently the non-profit feels this election is important enough that it will rock the very fabric of America. Of course as a non-profit, they can't participate in political campaigns or produce videos to vote for proposition 8 in California, but whatever. For little extra divisiveness, you can also buy their DVD called "They're Coming to Your Town". "They" being the "Gays".

I didn't go looking for this type of stuff, it just showed up in my inbox. I'm sure if I went looking, I could find much worse. I suppose that there have always been folks on the fringe declaring doom and gloom if the other candidate is elected. I myself told a friend that George W Bush scared the crap out of me when he was up for re-election in 2004. My fear was (and is) the direction he was taking the country, not that he was the Antichrist and was going to bring about the end of days.

This polarization of factions and movement toward the fringe is dangerous to our future. Especially in economic hard times, folks can embrace hatred and intolerance, and someone will always step in to whip up that sentiment. History gives us many examples.

Whoever is elected to lead our country will have a difficult task ahead of him. Worldwide recession, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a runaway deficit, environmental degradation, housing foreclosures, economic and banking reform - the list is long. We will need the strength of the whole country to pull ourselves out of this hole. I can only hope that whoever wins, some of the venom will fade and that the folks on the fringe don't gain more of a toe-hold on the American psyche. Naive maybe, but I don't think that the fringe represents America, no matter how loudly they shout.

One week to go.


Went to bed around 9:45pm, fell asleep around 1:30am. No real reason I can point to, my brain simply wouldn't shut off.

I tossed and turned for an hour, then got up to read my book for another hour or so. I typically read for about an hour before attempting sleep, and this generally clears my brain sufficiently of the days events so I can drift off shortly after turning out the light. I should have given up much sooner last night as it was clear I wasn't getting anywhere.

It is possible that the book I am reading has something to do with my inability to shut down. As it is dealing with politics and war at a time when our own election is only a week away, thoughts get stirred, tangents inspired.

I should probably start a fictional tale for bedtime reading so I can escape a bit. Of course the next book in the queue is The Grapes of Wrath which deals with the Great Depression. More late night connections may stirred.

October 25, 2008

Saturday morning matinee

The Muppet Movie is a wonderful movie that has a spot in both of our hearts. It was great to see it on the big screen, especially as a benefit for a good cause.

Life's like a movie, write your own ending
Keep believing, keep pretending
We've done just what we set out to do.
Thanks to the lovers, the dreamers, and you.

Reading gadgets

Like my friend Matt, I have signed up at Good Reads. It is a networking site for readers and book recommendations. And of course there are widgets! On the sidebar are widgets that show the books I am currently reading and my most recent reads.

I was up late last night doing laundry (big Friday plans), so I plugged in several books into my "read" list. Just going off my bookshelf and vague memories, I came up with about 170 books. This is certainly not a complete list but even at this level, it is odd to see them all lined up. I wasn't going to spend the time to review each one, but I will do my best to give intelligent reviews going forward if you are looking for book recommendations.

Another bonus for me on this site is being able to plug in books in the "to be read" section. With the ever diminishing capacity of my short-term memory, it is nice to have a place to enter interesting books I have come across.

The book I am currently reading, Team of Rivals, is excellent. Great insight into Abraham Lincoln and his career. Review to follow.

October 23, 2008

Get out and vote!

I heard a few weeks back that Washington state is predicting 84% turnout for this election, a near record high. From what I can tell, this must be a percentage of registered voters, not all people of voting age. Including all people of voting age, I imagine the percentage would be in the mid to upper 60's.

Nationwide, the statistics are a little depressing/shameful. Over the last 40 years or so, the average turnout of legal age voters for presidential elections is around 54%. This is one of the lowest among worldwide democracies.

This is a historical election for many reasons. The next four years will be a difficult period no matter who wins. Be invested in your country's future. Lessons of Florida in 2000, and the 2004 gubernatorial election in Washington which was decided by 129 votes, tell us that every vote counts.

Don't be like this guy - get out and vote.

Work warning - Bleeped language in video.

October 22, 2008

A party I can get behind this year

Especially at $4.99.

Voices in my head

There's a common knock against running: if running is enjoyable, why do you never see runners smiling?

Probably because they aren't listening to Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me on their iPod. It had me laughing out loud at points this weekend.

Planet Money isn't nearly as funny.

October 21, 2008

One more community coming together

I remember seeing this story in the paper a week or so ago. It is a story about a dispute between a builder and a homeowner over landscaping.

The builder, who is also currently the head of the homeowner's association, threatened to sue if the homeowner didn't get the landscaping installed within the year as was agreed when he purchased the home. The problem is that the homeowner had been called up as a reservist five months ago and is headed to Kuwait.

So Jensen, who says he is an involuntarily mobilized reservist, headed off, leaving behind a pregnant wife, a young son and a 2.5-acre lot with not a spot of landscaping... Jensen's situation is complicated by the fact his wife chose to return with her son to stay with family on the East Coast for the duration of her pregnancy, leaving the home unoccupied... Jensen had paid a landscaper thousands of dollars to design and install an irrigation system and hydroseed the large lot this summer... But DeAlicante said it appears the landscaper may have abandoned the job with the irrigation system only partially completed and no seeding done.

The developer's response:

"I really don't give a [expletive] where he is or what his problem is," said Chick Edwards, owner and developer of the 47-lot subdivision at the south end of Oak Street in Kennewick... "This is a contract. I don't like the way his property looks. This clown gets to do what he wants, and I'm as mad as hell," he said.

I was happy to see this follow up story yesterday. About 70 volunteers showed up to help out a neighbor and soldier. They finished the sprinkler system and rolled out new sod to complete the landscaping project. "It was coordinated by Montgomery Construction Sprinkler Systems Specialist with sod donated by Basin Sod and plenty of volunteers from Fluor Hanford, Home Depot, the Hanford Fire Department and Energy Northwest where Jensen has a job waiting."

Here is local video coverage of the community effort. Video

October 20, 2008

Gov. Palin visits SNL

Governer Sarah Palin made an appearance on Saturday Night Live. She was part of the opening, and then visited Weekend Update. As a follow up to the roast the presidential candidates did last week, it is nice to see her poke fun at herself. Enjoy.

Digging in the dirt

One more home project checked off. I spent Sunday digging a trench to route the downspout away from our house. Two of the downspouts on our house just dump out near the foundation. When we had our home inspection done a few years ago, the inspector said there wasn't any real damage to the foundation (yet), but of course recommended we do something about it.

No more excuses - I finally took shovel in hand, dug the trench, and installed the perforated pipe and surface emitter. I am hoping that the drainage will also help keep that strip of grass alive. It always dies off in the summer.

While I was out digging in the yard, my neighbor came over to chat and supervise. He needs to do the same thing with his downspouts, but watching me dig was enough to put his off for a while longer.

He mentioned that one of our other neighbors is harassing the county to get some drainage on our street. Our cul-de-sac doesn't have any grates to deal with rain run-off. The road slopes slightly to the closed end of the road, so any yard with a low spot develops a lake.

As if to say "good job, just in time", the sky opened up this afternoon and poured down on our little corner of the world. The downspout works fine, but as you can see, the street really needs the grates to capture the runoff.

Commuting by bike saves in one more way

New tax law gives bicyclists subsidy
Buried deep in the federal Emergency Economic Stabilization Act — the $700 billion Wall Street bailout — is an unexpected boost for the greenest of commuters.

With a tax-code change, beginning in January, companies can give up to $20 a month to workers who pedal to work. It would be tax-free to cycling commuters, and a tax write-off for employers.

October 19, 2008

Apple is still king

Microsoft started a huge television campaign to try and compete with Apple's "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC campaign. It started with some pretty poor ones with Jerry Seinfeld. Now they are using the bookish/suited PC guy from Apple's ads and saying "PC users aren't represented by this stereotype. Apple has a new one out. No competition.

Link in case the YouTube version gets taken down. Bean Counter.


So the installation of Verizon fiber optic went pretty well on Friday. The installer showed up within the two hour window promised, and was professional. There was a mix up on the work order, as they had indicated that I wanted phone service in addition to internet and TV service. When I told him that was incorrect, he had to call in.

I currently have phone service from Verizon, but only to get DSL. I plan to cancel both on Monday. According to the installer, if I gave up phone service, I had to put down a big deposit. So we had to wait around for their cancellation department to call me. That wasted 30 minutes. They didn't ask for a deposit, but I'm a little worried that now they will try to jack up the price or change the deal I was offered.

Anyway, the fiber optic works great. According to the online tests, our download and upload speeds are four to ten times faster. The TV service works just fine, though all the channels are different. The home media DVR works well, though it is missing those cool Tivo beeps and boops.

The home media portion of the DVR is pretty cool. As promised, you can watch recorded programs on any TV. You can also access the pictures and music from your computers over the wireless network. It doesn't support video though their website says it does, so hopefully that is on the way soon.

We haven't left alone long enough to see if the screen saver is anywhere near as cool as Apple TV's.

Happy Birthday Lynne!

October 17, 2008

A pause from the campaign

Below are roasts delivered at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner. As one person commented "This actually makes me feel better about the whole damn thing". Pretty funny.

McCain roasts Obama

Obama roasts McCain

October 16, 2008

Fios is coming! Fios is coming!

We are getting fiber optic cable hooked up to our house. It will bring faster internet access than we have with DSL, as well as allow us to get rid of our land line since it was only there for the DSL. We will also be getting our TV over the fiber optic cable instead of the current satellite.

We are also replacing our current DVR with a "home media" DVR. It is supposed to allow you to watch recorded shows on any of your TVs, as well as let you access your computer for photos, music and videos ala Apple TV. Even the screen saver on Apple TV has been known to steal hours away as you watch your life go by in photos. If it lives up to the hype, it should be pretty cool.

What made us pull the trigger though was that it is a dollar or two cheaper than what we are currently paying for a better product. Plus with all the signing bonuses, we will come out noticeably ahead for the first year.

I am a little leery. Contact with any utility has never gone well with me. Power companies have shut off power because they hooked us up to the wrong meter (twice), a phone company sent me to collections because I "cancelled" my service rather than "closing" my account (or some similar semantic battle), a cable company spent 3 weeks trying to get internet to work (without success) then tried to apply the $150 refund to my TV bill even though they swore they were two different companies.

One of the real bonuses will be getting the desktop hooked up to the internet. The phone jack in the office has been busted for a long time. Not a big deal with wireless access to my laptop, but I've had to drag the new desktop out to the living room whenever I wanted to get online.

Fingers crossed that it all works like it should. If you hear from me sometime tomorrow, my luck with utilities has changed.

October 15, 2008

Quotes for the political season

A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes. - Mark Twain, (attributed)

It is better to be defeated on principle than to win on lies. - Arthur Calwell

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics. - Autobiography of Mark Twain

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. – Aristotle

The only sin which we never forgive in each other is difference of opinion. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

The rule is perfect: in all matters of opinion our adversaries are insane. - Mark Twain

For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong. - H. L. Mencken

Let’s talk sense to the American people. Let’s tell them the truth, that there are not gains without pains. - Adlai Stevenson

To give up the task of reforming society is to give up one’s responsibility as a free man. - Alan Paton

What we need are critical lovers of America - patriots who express their faith in their country by working to improve it. - Hubert H. Humphrey

[P]atriotism... is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime. - Adlai Stevenson

Too bad the only people who know how to run the country are busy driving cabs and cutting hair. - George Burns

October 14, 2008

In vino veritas

On one of the Phedippidation podcasts, he was talking about his favorite wines. He is into Malbecs, which is what I have been digging lately as well. He talked about the fun in experimenting with new labels and varietals, and sharing the hits with friends. He also talked about bringing new wines to parties, not sure if they were hits or misses, but enjoying the anicipation of the tasting and their reactions.

He described it as the ultimate adult show and tell. Perfect.

October 13, 2008


I am not an early adopter. I don't have the disposable income to lead the way. Even if I had the money, I would hesitate to pay the price for the latest thing. But I am also behind on lots of new free stuff. Podcasting has been out for quite a while, but I had no easy way to make use of them. iTunes makes everything so simple, but I did not own an iPod. I ended up getting an iPod Shuffle for free a few months ago, so now I had my entrance ticket.

I finally jumped on iTunes and set up a few subscriptions last week. With my headphones on, I listened to several episodes while working in the yard on Saturday and on my run on Sunday. It was great.

As I have been listening to NPR quite a lot lately (election year/economy collapsing) I subscribed to a few of their programs that I don't catch on the radio. My brother had recommended "Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me" a long time ago, but I never got around to finding it on the radio. I have only listened to one episode, but I think it will be a keeper. Funny and topical. I am also taking "This American Life" and "Planet Money" for a test spin, as well as catching up on "The News From Lake Wobegon".

On the running side, I have subscribed to "Phedippidations". It is a weekly podcast by "SteveRunner" from Massachusetts, and the podcasts subtitle is "thoughts, opinions, observations and rambling diatribes composed during distance long runs." His weekly show covers a wide range of running and non-running topics, and his narration is split between the studio and while he is running. I have listened to three episodes so far, and have found them a good companion while I am out running.

I have also subscribed to "The Competitor Radio Show" which is a show with interviews athletes from various sports. I will be listening to their interviews of the eventual winners of the Ironman this past weekend, as well as Dean Karnazes, Johan Bruyneel and David Sylvester of Tour de Dog.

Pass along any suggestions you have. Training is ramping up again, and there is plenty on the home to-do list to keep me busy. Lots of headphone time.

October 12, 2008

I need a checker up front

Why do places like Home Depot and Lowes have 10 checkout lines when they never open more than three? As a homeowner and former construction worker, I have been to these places often, and at varying times during the day. Weekdays, early mornings are busy as contractors grab the stuff they need to complete today's project. Weekends are the dominion of the homeowner, and it seems pretty busy no matter the time of day. Nevertheless, I don't recall ever seeing more than three lines open.

I stopped into Lowes this afternoon and there were three lines, ten people deep. So I sat there like a schmuck, wanting to just take off because I had to pick the wife up in 15 minutes, but then I'd only be burning the gas and time to come back later. All for a $2.84 purchase.

I just don't get it.

Seattle sports

They are pretty dismal this year.

I am not a sports fanatic. I do not carry statistics around in my brain. It would be difficult for me to recall the last few Superbowl champs or World Series winners. When "my" team loses it doesn't ruin my day or week. I enjoy watching the games though, and it has been a tough year in the Seattle area. To sum up:

Baseball: The Seattle Mariners lost 101 games this year. They have some talented players, but almost none have lived up to their potential in the past five years.

Football: The Seahawks are 1-3 in a very weak division. The UW Huskies are 0-5 and their coach is going to be booted unless there is a miracle finish to their season. Their one hope of success, their starting quarterback, is out with a broken thumb. The WSU Cougars are 1-6 and have been blown out nearly every weekend.

Basketball: The women's professional team, the Seattle Storm, had a decent year, but were bounced from the playoffs in the first round for the third year in a row. The Sonics have unceremoniously moved to Oklahoma after the new owners broke promises and contracts.

I've never been a fan of any car or horse racing, not big on hockey or soccer, I only watch golf the week of the Masters tournament, and I don't have any connection with high school sports. I have slowly removed myself from the couch on weekends since I started biking and running. I still enjoy watching the occasional game on TV, but this year the local teams have made it easier to head outside instead.

...and now the Seahawks are 1 -4.

Parental Guidance Suggested

A tip o' the hat to The Dawg Run for pointing out this site that rates your blog content.

This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words: pain (3x), crap (1x)

Fortunately it doesn't rate the value of the content or required reading level. Maybe if I bumped it up to an R rating I could sell more tickets...

October 10, 2008

Free weekend

The wife is out of town. She is off on a Ya-Ya weekend with some of the women in our group. Hopefully she has a great time, does a little partying and lots of unwinding.

So I'm on my own. My mother jokes that whenever she goes out of town, my father lives on Scotch and Triscuits. The wife stocked up the freezer with some Trader Joe meals before leaving town. She needn't have worried. I hate Scotch.

Tonight I am enjoying watching The Spirit of the Marathon DVD that showed up in the mail today. A great film that I saw twice in the theater, and was still good the third time around. The only real plans this weekend are some yard work, finishing the downspouts, a little paint, and maybe getting in a run or a bike ride.

A run might be out. I did a little treadmill work today, and a couple hours later I was rolling my ankle to give it a crack, and something popped in my left heel. Very painful. Every time I rolled the ankle for the next 15 minutes - shooting pain. It is still a bit sore this evening. One more excuse to put my feet up this evening.

If the heel doesn't improve tomorrow, I may spend the day getting started on my next book. It is over a thousand pages and has been staring at me for the last year and a half. Not that I wouldn't enjoy a lazy day, but that to-do list isn't getting any shorter.

Coffee cup humor

October 9, 2008

Get outside

"Let’s have a moment of silence for all those who are stuck in traffic on their way to the gym to ride the stationary bicycle."- Earl Blumenauer


The National Debt Clock in New York City has run out of digits. The billboard-sized display was put up by real estate developer Seymour Durst in 1989. It tracks both the size of the national debt and each family's share of it. Back then the national debt was $2.7 trillion.

On September 30th of this year, the national debt cracked $10 trillion dollars, and the display was not prepared for the additional digit. The digital dollar sign was replaced with a sticker so that the number 1 could be posted.


October 8, 2008

Good business

I pre-ordered the Spirit of the Marathon DVD from Amazon.com last week. There was some price guarantee that I glossed over as I was checking out. Apparently if the price dropped before the DVD was released, I'd get the lower price. The DVD was being released a day later, so - whatever.

Well the price dropped by $5 and Amazon is issuing a credit for $5.44. Nice.

Happy Birthday Jonathan!

October 7, 2008

The runner's footprint

There are some great articles in Runner's World this month regarding the environmental impact of running. The author goes to China where most running shoes are made to tour the factories and speak with the companies. It is a long article but worth the read if you're interested.

I found these two paragraphs an interesting summation:
It's a solid start. But once you look down the rabbit hole, in southeastern China (nexus of the global shoe-manufacturing industry), in research labs, and in our own closets, it turns out that a corporate commitment to build a green shoe is the easy part; the devil is in the details. Environmental impacts, carbon footprints, and toxic substances are hard to gauge in a product with 50 components coming from dozens of different places. The supply chain is hard to identify, much less influence.

Take bamboo, for example. END "infuses" its sockliners with the renewable plant. But Oboz does not. "We explored the process of taking raw bamboo and turning it into a textile, but it requires the use of very strong solvents," says Oboz cofounder Josh Fairchilds. There are similar problems with glue. Is it better to use a nontoxic water-based glue that requires more heat (and thus energy), or is it better to use a more hazardous solvent-based glue as long you use the solvents really carefully? In this manner, each brand has to evaluate its priorities: toxins versus climate change; renewable energy versus renewable materials. Almost every change has its consequences.

Even so, it is important to keep trying to find a better solution. Many shoe companies have made improvements including: reducing the amount of materials in the shoes, reducing the amount of waste, increasing recycled content (though still a small percentage), creating a shoe that biodegrades 50 times faster, and creating programs that collect shoes for recycling and reuse.

It is still an uphill battle. Even beyond the energy, chemicals, etc that go into shoes, this slide show follows a pair of shoes from the factory, to store, to runner, to recycling program - for a total of 12,986 miles. And of course there are the events with their energy use and waste, but efforts are being made there as well. Here are their picks for the ten greenest races and tips on how to be a greener runner.

Damn! Those barefoot runners aren't so crazy after all.

Tonight's debate

So the second presidential debate (third overall) is tonight at 6:00. Being as objective as I can, I would call the first McCain/Obama debate a draw and the Palin/Biden debate a win for Biden.

In last week's vice-presidential debate, I felt that Biden was repetitive but stayed mostly on topic. Palin exceeded (low) expectations by not repeating her poor interview showings and by not being Tina Fey, and seemed well prepped on certain subjects.

Though politicians rarely answer questions directly or completely, Palin seemed determined to get her talking points in regardless of the question or topic at hand. She also seemed to be trying to channel Ronald Reagan with her "Say it ain't so, Joe" comment, and seemed content to be running on the caricatures of "Maverick" and "Small Town Hockey Mom". I don't think either candidate made any gaffes or points significant enough to change minds of many voters.

Both campaigns have ramped up the character attacks over the weekend, so it will be interesting to see if tonight's debate ends up in more of a shouting match than the first one. Tonight's format is a town hall style debate will allow voters both in the audience and online to ask questions of the candidates, with Tom Brokaw moderating. The planned topics are domestic and foreign policy, but I am sure that the economy will be front and center.

52.4 million people watched the first debate, and 70 million watched last weeks vice-presidential debate. People are clearly tuning in to this very important election. Hopefully the candidates will give us something substantive to listen to tonight.

UPDATE: Meh. Nothing much to speak of from the debate. There was plenty of back and forth, but it didn't denigrate into many personal attacks. No mention of terrorist connections or Keating 5. Most of the night (not surprisingly) was about the economy. Lots of their answers veered into their stump speeches. Not a lot of new ground covered.

October 6, 2008

Debate parody

In case you didn't stay up Saturday night or track it down online.


UPDATE: I heard on the radio this morning that the three Saturday Night Live (SNL) parodies have been watched 6.4 million, 4 million and 2.5 million times online. This would explain the sometimes choppy playback. Also, there is a rumor that Sarah Palin may go on SNL to parody Tina Fey's American Express commercial.

Change in the weather

Summer is finally over.

The furnace kicked on Saturday morning. The extended outlook is for 50's and drizzle. I'm reaching for pants and sweats instead of shorts. I had to dig out the rain gear to work at my cousins last week. When I get back to running tomorrow, I'll need to dig out the long sleeves. The grass is growing tall but it is too wet to cut. Sigh.

Saturday morning I ripped all the blue tape off the house because there probably won't be any more painting anytime soon. I cleaned out the gutters and replaced some of the downspouts. The new white downspouts look nice with the red paint and white trim.

On a completely different subject, the wife was very happy that her car does not clash with the house. When we picked out the color, she said "well we can never get a purple or orange car because it would clash with the house". Huh? I looked at here with what I thought was understandable confusion. She then asked other women and they understood what she was talking about. Sigh.

October 5, 2008

More dog stuff

I mentioned in my previous post that my pooch likes to drag our clothes and shoes around if we leave them lying around. It usually looks something like this:

She must find some sort of comfort in things that smell like us. Then again she drags clothes around at friends houses as well when she is staying with them. She will sometimes fall asleep with her head on one of my shoes. The other day she brought this to bed with her.

It definitely smelled like me after a long biking weekend, but it couldn't be the most comfy cuddly toy.

I love my dog

She is the best dog in the world (well at least the world I've seen).

The wife and I adopted her when she was five years old from a local shelter. She was given up by her original owners as a result of a divorce. She was then adopted out and returned a day later. Her paperwork said she grew up on a farm, stuck close to her people, and had never been kenneled. The one day owners kenneled her for a few hours, then locked her in the bathroom while they were at work. She tore it up, probably trying to get out. Their stupidity was our gain.

We were living in Green Lake when we picked her up. We spent the weekend getting her adjusted to her new home, taking turns leaving for brief periods to ease her separation anxiety. It was clear she was a country dog as she was oblivious to traffic when we'd head down to the lake for walks. She would sit in a chair by a window and would be peeking out the window when we came home.

When we bought our new home, a fenced yard was high on the list of necessary features.

She is great with people, other dogs and children. She's not much of a barker, except when someone is at the door. She doesn't chew up things, though she does like to drag clothes and shoes around. Though she is very excited at dinnertime, she doesn't beg for food or drool. She can be left alone for hours without getting into trouble. Usually.

She has been know to get into the garbage, but it is so infrequent we haven't done much to prevent it. Last week she dumped and dragged garbage around the house both Wednesday and Friday. Not sure what set her off but we might need to secure the garbage somehow. Just a little reminder to appreciate how good she is 99% of the time.

She is now ten years old and has a bum leg. We took her to the vet for a checkup and X-rays. She has a partially torn ACL in her left rear knee as well as arthritis in the same joint. Surgery is an option, but it is both expensive and the recovery period is 4 - 6 months. During much of this time she would need to be off her leg completely. We're not sure how feasible that is with an excitable dog.

We tried the pain reliever route. Within a week, she became lethargic and wasn't keeping food down. Back at the vet we found out that the pills were affecting her liver. I never suspected my dog would be the one in our family with liver trouble. A new regimen flushed her system and she is back to normal, but also back to limping.

I grew up with many dogs in our house. There were generally at least two dogs, and my sister actually bred dogs for a time so there were sometimes as many as ten. Our dog is my first as an adult though, and she means so much more to me. She is truly the third member of our family. We have thought about getting a second dog, but why mess with (near) perfection.

Book club

Our latest book club meeting was last night. It was another great gathering, though the books this time around didn't inspire a whole lot of discussion, though they were both good reads. We read A Wolf at the Table by Augusten Burroughs and When you are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris.

A Wolf at the Table is a memoir of growing up with a crazy mother and distant/alcoholic/cruel father. The author has also written Running with Scissors which covered the period in his life when he was given up for adoption as a teenager to his mothers therapist. "Wolf" deals with his childhood leading up to that point. It is well written, but we have read a few "my childhood was tough because my parents were crazy" books, so it wasn't as enjoyable as it might otherwise have been. We had also read a book written by Augusten's brother (Look Me in the Eye) so it was interesting to see the same household seen through two sets of eyes.

When you are Engulfed in Flames was much more enjoyable. It is a set of short, funny essays about the author's life and observations similar in style to Bill Bryson. We all enjoyed the book, but the style of book didn't lend itself to any in-depth discussion.

I heard on NPR on Friday that a couple of polls have shown that 25% of adults did not read a book in the last year. Some explainations were other forms of entertainment competing for time, more time spent reading online, and the shortening of attention span (attributed to internet use by some). I have to say that participating in this book club and discussing our reads has made reading even more enjoyable.

Next up - Grapes of Wrath and The Art of Racing in the Rain.

October 1, 2008

From Despair.com

click to enlarge

I love this site. They have many "demotivators" poking fun at the motivational poster industry. Here are some other great ones.