Monthly Archives: May 2007

wean at any price

It was bound to happen.  Just as the Republican answer to weaning us from oil has been Nu-cue-lur energy, The Democrats were bound to come up with an ineffective, costly, populist plan of their own.

The "coal state" senators have begun a push to subsidize coal as the emergent alternative fuel.  You can read about it in Tuesday’s New York Times.  Coal is plentiful, and doesn’t require getting into bed with Islamic nations, so what’s the problem?

Well – the plan includes construction loans for coal-to-liquid plants that generate more greenhouse gasses than just about any other current alternative.  Check out this graphic.  I imagine there are those who want to press on without promoting cleaner coal processes, meaning we’d see a huge increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

The proposed subsidies are significantly higher than for any other alternative too.

The emergence of climate change as a political issue doesn’t mean we’re necessarily ready to embrace sensible means of alternative energy, or that we’re willing to scale back energy usage.

up in the north woods

We’re spending the next few days celebrating my mother in law’s birthday here in northern Wisconsin.  We flew in on Thursday, visited with our friends Lisa and Mike (recently transplanted from CA), then drove up here yesterday to surprise Kris’ mom.

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It’s always a lot of fun getting together up here.  We’ve got 12 people sharing on bathroom, the wood ticks are biting, and you can’t find decent vegetarian food to save your life.  On the other hand, our kids get to see their cousins only once or twice a year, and they really enjoy reconnecting with each other.




I spent a while throwing the baseball with my nephew, and took Rachel, and my nieces canoeing.  Then we took the kids swimming at the pool.


Kris and I both grew up around extended family, and really wish our kids lived closer to their cousins.


My in-laws maintain a canoe for me at their lake home.  I’m not very competent in it, but have a good time.  This evening I continued my track record of questionable judgment in said canoe.  After an afternoon of rough weather, the clouds cleared and the sun came out.  The water looked pretty calm, so I figured I’d have a fairly easy time paddling out and watching the loons.  Well – plans changed when I went out due east, then tried to turn to the south to loop back towards the dock.  The wind was strong enough that I couldn’t turn the canoe even 45 degrees to the right.  After struggling for a while, I turned hard left, figuring I’d try coming about the other way.  I ended up paddling back across to the other side of the lake, and circling into the wind along the opposite shore.  Eventually I made it back, but went three times as far as I’d planned.


When I came in, the adults were gathered around a fire in the backyard, laughing at my struggle and eating s’mores.  The kids were fishing off of the dock, ever optimistic.


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spring in the northwest

In the springtime, the definition of cruddy weather changes.  Gradually, it ceases to mean that it’s thirty eight and rainy.  Right now, cruddy seems to mean it’s fifty with sun breaks.  And when the weather’s good, it might be seventy and beautiful.

Last weekend, I got away for two good mtn bike rides on Tiger Mountain.  It’d been a good fourteen years since I’d done any significant amount of biking.  That was before I got the distance running bug, and I used to do one longer ride per week up in the hills above the Santa Clara Valley.  I’d hit Montebello Open Space Preserve, and ride out to Saratoga Gap.  It’d be a fair bit of singletrack, some of it fairly technical.  I was never very good on the bike, but I had fun.

Well – since I’m still not running long, and because the snow on the cross country trails is melting, I’ve dusted off my mountain bike and am rediscovering my biking muscles.

So last Friday, I did a nice out and back ride from the Tiger Mountain summit to Poo Poo Point.  Amusing name, but the point is where parasailers take flight.

The ride was great, and involved some good climbing going both ways.  It was all on logging/fire roads though.  The weather was great – probably sixty, sunny.

Then on Sunday I braved a steady rain to try a loop ride on Tiger.  NOt as much climbing, but a few detours along the way.  I also vaulted over a stump on the way back (a two  mile stretch of singletrack).  I felt completely inept, only partly in shape, and had a blast.

shopping for a bike

One of the things I’ve really struggled with since being injured is the absence of fitness-related goals.  It’s hard to plan for a race when my leg hurts.  So I’ve been doing more biking and cross-training.  Cross-training is tedious (using the various machines at the gym), but biking has been kind of fun.

I’ve been riding my old Stumpjumper on the trails around here.  Nothing terribly technical, but some good mileage and good climbing.  Meanwhile with Kris’ encouragement, I’ve been shopping for a road bike.  I’ve considered a number of bikes in the $1000-$2000 range, including some made by Trek, Specialized, and Giant.  We have some great local bike shops (including Gregg’s, Redmond Cycle, and Sammamish Valley), so shopping can be kind of fun.

As I look, the discounted 2006 models disappear, and things get more expensive.  On the other hand, I’m still learning what I’m looking for, so don’t feel ready to buy.  And for this kind of money, I want to feel like I’m getting what I want.

I wasn’t too excited about the Specialized Tarmac I rode, but that may have been my inexperience riding.  Then I rode a nice Fuji Team Pro, with an Integra drive train (nice!).  Last week I rode (and really liked) a Trek 5000 with an Integra drive train.  Kris suggested I try an aluminum frame just to see whether I really preferred the more expensive carbon frame.  To that end I tried a Giant OCR1 yesterday.  Nice bike, but didn’t handle as nicely as the Trek.

I’m planning on riding an Orbea, a carbon frame Giant, and trying out the Trek again.

On the other hand, I can’t decide whether I am enjoying looking and learning too much to actually buy anything.  And who would have thought I could find a bigger money pit than photography?!

out on the town, five year old style

While enroute from the aquarium last week, Rachel and I got into a discussion about planes.  Both of our kids have flown a fair bit, starting when they were a couple of months old.  On the other hand, I didn’t fly until I was eight.  Until we traveled from NYC to Dallas to visit friends over that summer, everywhere we’d gone, we’d driven.

So I told Rachel that I was eight before I got on a plane.  She replied : "is that because they weren’t really invented yet?".

Because that is the most viable answer you know.

adventures with my five year old

Had a really nice day out with Rachel, my youngest on Saturday.  Kris and Kayla were up in Bellingham, seeing a friend act in a play, which left Rachel and I free for the day.

Rachel joined me at a little league game I was helping to coach.  She stayed with me in the dugout for a few minutes before asking to go play with her friend and read with our friend Katie.

Then we went to enjoy some tea at the a great, not well known Seattle institution, the Teahouse Kuan Yin in Wallingford.  Rachel enjoyed an herbal blend called World Peace, while I had some Matcha and then some Gyokuro.

After savoring the tea, food, and company – we went to the Aquarium for the rest of the afternoon.  Rachel especially enjoyed learning about how sea urchins will hug her finger, and sea anemones will stick to her when she touches them.  One of the docents spent some time explaining all of this to her, and encouraging her to take a look at these creatures – then she was off, sharing her new knowledge with other kids around the exhibit.

It was a powerful thing watching her do this.  I recognized how important it is to Rachel that she has something to offer or teach others.  We were having a good time before this happened, but having a great time after this happened.  We spent a while meandering by the tanks, and learning about jellyfish and octopuses.  But when she talked about what we did, it all came back to sharing what she knew about sea urchins and sea anemonies.  Magic.

some people’s parents

There are always a few people in any community that you may not enjoy quite so much.  And so it goes with the kid’s school community.  There are lots of nice people there, many of whom put in admirable amounts of time and energy (much more than me), and are always at the ready with a positive word about our children, either of whom may just have demonstrated the ‘Hyde’ side of their personality.

Having kids will often keep you on your best behavior, particularly if you think your kids might be paying attention to what you’re doing.  Setting a positive example is a powerful motivator.

This positive tension between our better and more primitive nature seems to escape some folks.

There’s a family in one of the classes who never fails to reveal their more petty side.  Last year, after committing to drive the auction project effort in the class, the mom pretty much disappeared when it was time to begin the work. 

This year, mom and dad were rather opinionated about what the project should be, lobbying hard for an item we knew no one would bid on.  Then amidst much complaining about the cost of the project that prevailed (paintings by the kids with a nice companion book), they kicked in a generous donation and managed to undo whatever goodwill they might have earned by demanding an accurate accounting of where the money was going.  Of course when it came time to bid, mom, dad, and their opinions were again invisible.

For the art festival, when asked to volunteer 30-60 minutes of time, they said they’d be out of town.  But then they surprised us all by showing up to enjoy the event as spectators.

See a pattern yet?  I’m not the best of volunteers myself.  But stuff like really grates on folks who put time and effort into the school.

Today, our daughter came home and told us that she’d not gotten an invitation to their kid’s birthday party (which was apparently last weekend).  She’s five, and has a charming naivite about people’s guile.  I’m not quite sure I have the details correct, but their kid told ours she was supposed to have us call the other mom to request an invitation.  Right.

My problem with this is that it made our daughter feel lousy and excluded.  Kris and I talked about how a conversation with the other mom might go, and were conflicted about whether it was at all worthwhile.  I can’t see anything constructive coming out of it.

Word has it they’re moving to another school next year.  Do people like this ever learn, or do they just keep burning through another community every few years?

cross training is good for me

… even though I’m not enjoying it as much as running.  I’ve been able to run 2-3 times per week up to a maximum 6-8 miles without too much pain or discomfort in my left leg.  It’s annoying, but I’m beginning to figure out other workouts to enjoy too.  Pain is a good teacher.

I’ve been biking more lately, including some challenging not-too-technical mountain bike excursions.  This past weekend my friend Landy and I did a nice 28-30 miles around Kirkland, Redmond, and Woodinville.  It included a good bit of climbing.  Afterwards, just for kicks I ran a loop around Bridle Trails State Park (5 1/4 miles from my house).  It was great to do a longer workout like this – all told I was biking/running for about 4 hours!

I’ve biked to/from work a bit lately too.  That’s nice, and also cheaper than buying gas (which is pushing $3.50/gallon here lately).

I’ve sporadically done some good aerobic upper body workouts too.  I’ll do 20 minutes on the rowing machine – mixing in some fast intervals, followed by another 10-15 minutes on the x-robic machine.  This latter device simulates a kayaking motion, with resistance and enforced cadence.  It’s brutal, and not all at resembling the placid outdoorsy activity of actual kayaking.  But it’s a great workout.  I’ve mixed in perhaps one of these per week, in between weight workouts.

And yes – weights.  Recently, I’ve been lifting on timed intervals rather than reps.  For example, I’ll do 3 minute-long sets per station, with a minute of rest in between.  It may not sound like a long time, but when you’re bench-pressing or curling, 60 seconds seems interminable.

The most exciting moment working out recently occurred while I was rowing last week.  I was 55 seconds into a fast interval (<2 min/500m pace) when suddenly sparks shot out from underneath the treadmill directly behind me.  The guy running on it didn’t notice for a few seconds, and by then I was pretty concerned about frying, especially as I leaned back to draw the rowing cable up to my chest.  Some minutes later, a technician strolled up casually, apparently nonplussed about being called in from his important coffee break.  By then a mysterious mist of smoke hung in the air, along with the disturbing and unpleasant odor of burning plastic.  He unplugged the machine, surveyed the surroundings for collateral damage, and then wandered off to continue other pressing matters.