January 29, 2009

Is that Freedom Rock? Well turn it up!

Music washes away from the soul, the dust of everyday life. – Berthold Auerbach

I have a new car stereo. I have been without a CD player in my truck for over a year and a half. There was a CD stuck in the player the whole time. Sometimes it would play, other times not, but I could not get it out of there. After a year and a half of Van Halen's 5150, it was time for a change.

For Christmas, my wife and I decided to have a musical theme for the gifts. Our home stereo also does a poor job of playing CDs, so that was going to be the gift to the household. My gift was a new car stereo and I finally got around to picking one out. The main thing I wanted (besides a CD player that works) was a audio jack to plug in a MP3 player. I wanted to be able to play both my downloaded podcasts and musical playlists. If I could find a stereo that also had HD, that would be cool too.

Oddly, the Van Halen CD finally ejected from the player a week or two ago. The player clearly sensed it was about to be replaced. It was all I could do to resist putting it back in the player to see if it would come back out again.

I found one with both a MP3 jack and HD for a decent price and had it installed Tuesday. I have missed music. There are so many good bands and songs that never make it to the radio. All those CDs sitting on our shelf are now new again. I'd like to get that new home stereo soon so our house can be filled with music once again as well.

Freedom Rock

January 28, 2009

What is it boy?

Dogs are funny.

They seem to be pretty malleable, capable of adapting to new situations, yet their behavior can be drastically affected by a past experience (both good and bad). Well this is true of humans too, but we aren't nearly as adaptable.

We adopted our pooch when she was about five. From what we know, she grew up in farming country and was used to roaming freely. She was adopted out for a day to other folks who crated her, then locked her in a room while they were at work. She freaked and destroyed some things trying to get out. As I have mentioned previously, their stupidity was our gain.

After a weekend of easing any separation anxiety, it seemed she felt right at home in her new digs. Imagine a five year old child (or even an adult) being uprooted and passed around city to city, house to house and then being happy after a weekend. Yes we are completely different species, but dogs are fairly nuanced animals, and their bond with humans is strong. I can't imagine giving up our wonder dog, then having her be happy in a new home after only a weekend. I as the (slightly) more advanced human would be crushed for a long time.

I wonder what her life was like for her first five years. How much does she remember? Did she adapt so quickly to us because she doesn't have long term memory? Not likely. Dogs can be trained so they can retain knowledge and behavior. And it seems pretty obvious that they equate current situations and stimulation with past experiences.

Like this morning. We are watching my parents dog for a bit. My parents adopted their eight year old dog last year, and outside of his penchant for running away, he is nice big lump of a dog. I was checking out my friend's blog this morning and he had posted a video of his little girl cooing and gah-gahing. When I played it, the dogs came running. My parent's dog put his face as close as possible to my laptop and he was clearly excited. Toward the end he put his paws up on the dining room table trying to get even closer.

His reaction was beyond mere curiosity at a new sound. I wonder if there was a newborn in his previous household. Did they grow up together. Was he given up for adoption shortly after the baby arrived? What was his previous life like and why did he end up in the shelter.

I sometimes wish I could know all that goes on in my dogs head. Would I find zen-like acceptance of living in the moment and being happy simply because if feels good, or no complex thought or memory like a goldfish swimming back and forth in a tiny bowl. Probably better I don't know. I prefer to think of her as 'wisely simple'. But I do wish she could tell me stories about her childhood and life on the farm.

January 24, 2009

Our 44th President

I watched the inauguration on Tuesday. It had to have been an incredible experience to witness it in person with the 1.8 million other folks filling the Mall. Another great moment in the history in our nation's capitol. There was of course a little extra poignancy being the day after Martin Luther King Jr Day and with memories of the March on Washington and the "I have a dream" speech running through your head.

Beneath and behind all the pomp and circumstance was the peaceful transition from president to president, from party to party. It is a testament to our nation, to our democracy. There were a few unscripted moments that brought a smile - George H.W. Bush following a salute to a serviceman with a pat on the soldier's leg and George W. Bush giving a low five to the woman coordinating things as he made his way out. Kind of like the private moments behind the scenes at your wedding that no one sees but you.

Some of the few folks in D.C. not watching the inauguration were the guys swapping out furniture, files, and everything else at the White House while the ceremony was in progress. Employees at the National Museum of American History also had a sleepover in the museum to be in place for the expected 40,000 visitors on Inauguration Day.

The speech was good. Not one of sweeping enthusiasm - more confident with a large dose of reality. While acknowledging the path of challenges before us, he spoke about the strength of our nation, our people, our ideals. There is plenty of work to be done, and I thought the tone was appropriate.

One of the promises of the new administration is to be more open and transparent. One of the plans in this direction is a weekly address from the President that will be posted at WhiteHouse.gov. The first one is below, and it discusses the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan currently in front of Congress. The address mentions an additional bit of disclosure:

Instead of politicians doling out money behind a veil of secrecy, decisions about where we invest will be made public, and informed by independent experts whenever possible. We’ll launch an unprecedented effort to root out waste, inefficiency, and unnecessary spending in our government, and every American will be able to see how and where we spend taxpayer dollars by going to a new website called recovery.gov.
The website will be up as soon as the bill is passed. Here's hoping there is real change for 2009.

January 23, 2009


One of the projects I have been working on is getting rid of some of the clutter in my life. I am a bit of a pack rat. If I think there is a possibility that I may use or reference something again, I hang on to it. I also hate throwing things away, so I hang on to things that I think other people may use. This adds up to a lot of stuff stacked in the garage and corners of our house.

Like anything else, once you let something go for a while, it takes on a life of its own. Coming home tired from work, both my wife and I have the bad habit of tossing things down and not putting them away. Without really deciding to, we had given up on "a place for everything, and everything in its place."

It has begun to weigh on both of us. Even though we are far from materialistic, we simply have too much stuff. It is long past time to attack the piles that have taken over. Attacking the physical clutter will also help de-clutter the mind as well. De-cluttering the mind is the real goal this year and a subject of another post.

We also have lots of pictures and souvenirs lining shelves that remind us of good times and good friends. But these can get lost in the mess of day to day clutter. After a while all you see is the mess and not the jewels buried beneath.

I started with the office, which had been buried once again. It isn't quite done, but it is cleared enough that I can work in it without feeling claustrophobic. My dresser is another place that I drop everything from receipts, notes, articles, clothing, etc. It has been cleared.

Next were the bookcases. We have half again as many books as the cases will hold. The shelves were full, and more books were stacked horizontally filling the open space between shelves. I have also been saving articles on books to read, so there were newspaper pages crammed into the leftover nooks and crannies. I boxed all the books I didn't anticipate reading again and went through the articles and stored the book titles online at goodreads.com. I always love looking at other people's bookcases to see what they read and look for new authors. I am finally happy to look at ours again.

There were a couple jewels found under all the clutter. Most I knew about but hadn't seen in a while. My wife wrote a wonderful, supportive note to me when I set out on my two week bike ride from Seattle to San Francisco. I knew it was there on my dresser, but after clearing away the debris I read it again and was touched once more.

I cleaned out my wallet today. It had been growing in size and not with extra money since I long ago gave up on putting any cash in there. It hadn't reached George Costanza size, but I do typically pull it out before sitting down. In going through the cards I noticed I am actually down to the weight listed on my drivers license after so many years of lying, which is nice.

A little note from my friend Holly is stashed where the folding money should be. I hadn't read it in a couple of years. It is a sweet note from early on in our friendship and I have been carrying it around all this time. I found another note from her in my desk from when we were both feeling a little down.

These notes and the card from my wife are the things I should be hanging on to, not the piles of receipts and statements. Pictures of our friends and family should be lining our shelves, not endless articles I should have read by now. The stuff of life is not stuff, but certain things remind us of what is important. Sometimes the special trees can get lost in the overgrown forest.

The garage is the big Kahuna of clutter to be faced soon. I probably shouldn't face it alone. I could get trapped if I accidentally set off an avalanche. Have a great weekend everybody, and I will talk to you soon.

January 18, 2009

Hitting the pause button

From the Faith and Values article in yesterday's Seattle Times:

Every once in a while, it would be nice to have a designated "Tie Up All the Loose Ends" (TUATLE) month, and I think January would do nicely for that purpose.

Wouldn't it be great if, back when you were born, the doctor had handed about five TUATLE certificates to your parents on your behalf? He would say, "Now hold on to these for the little one. Whatever you do, don't give them out in the teen years, unless the kid is about to flunk out of three classes and will promise to use the extra month exclusively to catch up on schoolwork."

The wise, old doc would've known that the miraculous TUATLE certificates would be needed even more in full-blown adulthood. Upon cashing one in, the rest of the world would unknowingly "freeze" in place for one month so you could do all the little and big things that are just waiting to be done — that crazy, irritating list of "shoulds" and "when I have more time to's" that nags at you like a micromanaging yet neglected boss.

There are a number of things that deserve my undivided attention right now, and I wish I had one of those"Tie Up All The Loose Ends" certificates. But of course life and the world goes on and as the article says we only have "make the most of now." I may be posting a little less frequently for a few weeks. Thank you for continuing to check in.

January 14, 2009

Technology hits and misses

I missed the Scrubs episodes this week because channel 4 locked up yesterday. The picture just stopped on a random scene from earlier in the day. Every other channel was working fine, but channel 4 was locked. I blame the digital feed or some flux capacitor malfunction, but who knows what the problem was. Many of the other non-local channels like Discovery, Comedy Central, etc haven't had sound for a few days as well, so the fabulous fiber optic cable has been letting us down.

On the plus side, you can get the full episodes online at abc.com. So technology saves the day in the end. And thanks to ABC for picking Scrubs up after NBC canceled them last season.

The pound for pound challenge

This is one of those win-win things. When you sign up with The Biggest Loser online, for every pound you lose General Mills will donate a pound of food to Feeding America. The food will be distributed to 200 local food banks around the country.

I have pledged 12 pounds.

January 12, 2009


Changing the way someone sees the world for $19.

Similar to my earlier post on the feeling of being able to breathe freely for the first time, the Seattle Times article quoted deals with the amazing difference that comes from correcting someone's vision for the first time. An atomic physicist who also taught optics at Oxford University has created "adaptive glasses" that adjust the vision prescription with more or less fluid pumped into the plastic lenses.

Silver said he wants to provide eyeglasses to more than a billion people with poor eyesight. For starters, he hopes to distribute 1 million pairs in India during the next year or so.

In the United States, Britain and other wealthy nations, 60 to 70 percent of people wear corrective glasses, Silver said. But in many developing countries, only about 5 percent have glasses because so many people, especially those in rural areas, have little or no access to eye-care professionals.

Even if they could visit an eye doctor, the cost of glasses can be more than a month's wages. This means that many schoolchildren cannot see the blackboard, bus drivers can't see clearly and others can no longer fish, teach or do other jobs because of failing vision.

"It's about education, economics and quality of life," Silver said.

The article describes the invention, the resistance from the eyewear industry, and the offer of a buyout of the technology, which he refuses because it was likely they were buying it to keep it off the market. Inspirational work.

January 9, 2009

Who's your buddy?

Reposted from The Dawg Run:


Packing things up

The holidays are over. Or are they.

I spent yesterday and today taking down the Christmas tree, packing away all the decorations, and unstringing the lights. It was overdue, but I had been getting home pretty late from work lately and just didn't have the energy. My regular job is picking up a bit as well, so I have been doing some juggling to fit it all in.

The tree was becoming a fire hazard, so it is good to get it out of here. There is a Christmas tree recycling station at a nearby school tomorrow so that will save me the trouble of chopping it up. There are an awful lot of pine needles to sweep up though. So many needles.

I am still working with UPS. The job was supposed to end on Christmas Eve, but the week plus of snow put them far enough behind to keep us until New Year's Eve. Then it was extended again through this week when they still weren't caught up. Now with the flooding and avalanches this week, trucks carrying packages up I-5 and over the mountain passes were stuck for days, creating a whole new backlog. It sounds like I will be working this coming week as well.

I think all the Christmas packages are finally delivered, but don't quote me.

January 8, 2009

Running log

I haven't run for fun or training in almost a month. All of my running has been for UPS lately, and it just isn't the same. I'm looking forward to getting back out on the road soon.

When I am training, I keep a running log to track progress, look for reasons for injury, and see how training relates to results. I made it to a bookstore today to pick up a log for 2009, and it was good time to look back at 2008's results.

Overall, I ran and biked a little less, but the results were pretty good. 2008 vs 2007:

2008 649 miles
2007 660 miles

2008 878 miles
2007 1346 miles

2008 17 miles
2007 13 miles

In 2008 I completed two full marathons, three half marathons, and a 24 hour relay run. As to results, I set new personal bests for the marathon, half marathon and 10k.

For 2009, there will probably be less events, but hopefully I can keep up the training to stay in shape. Because there was another good number as a result of the training - I am 12 pounds lighter than I was at the start of 2008. And I need to keep that trend going.

January 7, 2009

Quote(s) of the day

"There will never be a day when we won't need dedication, discipline, energy, and the feeling that we can change things for the better."

- George Sheehan

It's never too late--in fiction or in life--to revise

- Nancy Thayer, author

January 6, 2009

Monkey tree

This is a Monkey Tree:

So named because the branches look like a curved monkey tail. I had never noticed or heard of these trees until I was driving somewhere with my wife. She saw one of the trees, pinched me and said "Monkey Tree!" I of course was confused.

It turns out it is a game that she and her Mom played when she was growing up. It is similar to Slug Bug where you are on the lookout for a VW bug, giving you the right to slug your opponent. My brother and I played a non-violent version called 'Zip'.

There were lots of car games growing up to keep us kids occupied so we weren't constantly asking "are we there yet?". The Dad response was "just around the next corner". I think my wife's Dad's response was "It won't be as long as it has been". This was of course long before in-car DVD players or Nintendo DS. Although we did eventually have a Mattel Electronic Football game. Oh the LED graphics...so 1977.

I can remember playing another low-tech car game a few years back with my friend Holly. We would name a band, and the other person had to come up with a band name starting with the last letter of the previous band. While our spouses slept in the backseat, the game carried us through the drive from Leavenworth to Seattle, a good two and a half hour journey.

Anyway, back to the Monkey Tree. It turn out there are lots of them in our neighborhood. I would see them pretty regularly as I was riding around in the UPS truck. There were even a couple on some of my normal running routes. Amazing what you see when you break out of a routine and start paying attention.

January 5, 2009

Turning the page

It is funny how much hope there is in flipping the calendar page from December to January. Such an arbitrary line, but adding a digit to the year total seems to offer the promise of a new start. We vow to do things differently and change our lives for the better.

According to a recent Seattle Times article, "New Year's resolutions are at least as old as calendars...The Romans honored the god Janus — who looked backward and forward — by designating January as the start of the year. They reflected on the past year while promising to do better in the new one." We also spend most of the month of December thinking about the ones we love, so it seems a great time to remember what is most important in your life and to try to emphasize it going forward.

Of course behind every resolution is the hope to be a better person. But being "better" is pretty hard to quantify. It is recommended that you set more concrete goals. Save 5% of every paycheck rather than 'spend less'. Run three times a week rather than 'exercise more'. That being said, my goal this year is to be a better person - a better husband, a better son, a better brother, a better friend.

I have had allergies all my life. At times they have been pretty severe. As a child my sinuses were blocked 24/7. I remember vividly the feeling of them clearing for the first time. The world was suddenly different - "I can breathe". I dream of emotional and mental epiphanies as dramatic as that. One big "ah-hah" moment where the world shifts and everything becomes clear. But big change almost always comes from small incremental ones.

This year I will work on small things that will hopefully add up to something big.

Looking for a simpler year

I saw this bumper sticker today.

January 4, 2009


What a year for a new year.

Not much in 2008 went as planned, and it is good to have it in the rear-view mirror. There was joy among the trials, but all in all it was a tough year. I have been working on the Year-in-Review DVD for the past few days, and it is always a great exercise looking back. There is one DVD for the running and biking events that we watch with our group, as well as one that highlights our own year.

We had our viewing party last night for our running and biking group. There were lots of fun events last year, capped off by the Ragnar Relay in August. Both Wendy and I made a DVD again for 2008, and it is always interesting to see someone else's creativity using the same material. Cherie also made calendars for each of us with pictures from our past year and important dates for 2009.

Our own DVD had another set of highlights as well. We were able to get away on a few trips, there was a wedding in February, and five new babies in our circle of friends with three to first-time parents. And of course there was Annabelle. She was the center of an amazing circle of love and support. It was a wonderful experience to see this community come together and to be a part of it. Both my wife and I are better for having Annabelle, her parents and their circle in our lives.

Many challenges await us in the New Year, both personally and for our community and country. The surmounting of hardships in 2008 gives me hope we can handle what comes in 2009 with the support of friends and family.

It is snowing now, and there is four inches of white covering the world. Tonight the world is clean and quiet. Tomorrow we begin anew.