Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wednesday Wit

We made it to another middle of the week. The weekend will soon be upon us. So it's time to smile and have a laugh with a couple of Peanuts cartoons. In this case three of them.

The Department of "Justice"

The investigations into the practices of the Justice Department continue. The report that was released a couple of days ago is damning in the way that career employees were hired as if they were political appointees. Here's the story from the Post. This is from USA Today.

It seems a political hack of the Bush administration named Monica Goodling used political considerations in the hiring of prosecutors, immigration judges and other career government lawyers. From the USA Today story:

In one instance, Justice investigators found, Goodling objected to hiring an assistant prosecutor in Washington because "judging from his resume, he appeared to be a liberal Democrat."

In another, she rejected an experienced terror prosecutor to work on counterterror issues at a Justice Department headquarters office "because of his wife's political affiliations," the report said. It also said she rejected at least one job applicant who was rumored to be a lesbian.

As long as it could be determined you were loyal to George Bush you'd be hired if you were qualified for the position or not. The person hired for the counter terror position was a registered Republican with three years of experience none of it dealing with terrorism.

Yet somehow we are to regard Ms. Goodling as some sort of a saint:

John M. Dowd, an attorney for Goodling, said yesterday that she deserved praise, not scorn, for her “exceptional candor” with Congress last year. “Each and every one of the core conclusions of the OIG/OPR report . . . is consistent with and indeed derived from Ms. Goodling’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee,” he said.

Wow talk about turning the world upside down. Goodling did something clearly unethical and probably illegal but because she told the “truth” about what she did she should be praised. What will they think of next?

And who was in charge of the Justice Department when this was going on of course the clueless Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

This is yet another reminder of how good it will be when this administration is no longer in power.

One final observation. This type of conduct is a grab for power. To impose an ideological stamp on the Justice Department. While they were attempting to do this the business of protecting the people of this country was ignored. That's what angers me the most.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Weekend Rides

Two great rides this weekend. The days could not have been more different.

Saturday I got out of the house at 5:40 am. The air was fresh and clear and not all that humid. I started out wearing my regular glasses. It was a little too dark out to be wearing my sun glasses. I was not the only one out that early. There was another guy who passed me on the hill on Rhode Island Ave. I felt like I was standing still he went by me so quickly. Not the greatest thing to inspire you for a long ride.

I have to say I’m always a little grumpy when I start on a ride. Part of the reason is that is damn early. It also takes me a little while to get into a rhythm. Once I get out of the city there is less stop and go. Also there are a series of hills when you get on the Custis Trail. After you get to the East Fall Metro stop the path flatten outs. At that point you’re officially on the W&OD Trail.

Between Reston and Herndon were a whole bunch of runners training for some sort of run. They were better at moving so I could pass them. Unlike the group on the Mt. Vernon Trail two weeks before. I went to Smiths Switch Station which is about at mile 26. There were port a-potties there (yeah a place to pee) and vending machines. There was also an air hook up. It is a pretty nice place to stop. This is the farthest I’ve been on the W&OD since I was training for the last AIDS Ride I was in which was in 1999.

Before you get to the switch station there is parking off one of the main roads. I’m not sure which one it is because I ride over it. It looks like commuter parking where people would park their car and then take a shuttle to a metro stop probably Vienna. On Saturday this place was filling up with riders. Lots and lots of cars with racks on the back.

I reached the station around 8:30 or so. Probably about half a dozen or more riders stopped while I was eating my banana and my chocolate pop-tarts. I matched my top speed of 23.1 miles an hour. I had to slow down because of traffic and wasn’t able to get back up to that speed again. I spooked a little baby bunny. It ran across the path and got hit by another bike. I looked back. He appeared to be only stunned because he righted himself rather quickly and ran into the safety of the shrubs.

The ride back was pretty good. I had my usual time frame of feeling like I would not be able to make it back. I had that a couple of times on the way back. I just ride through it. I’ve decided that down shifting makes it easier to peddle the bike but it takes a great deal of energy. I’ve found it I can push through these spots in the higher gears I suddenly find myself back up to a reasonable speed.

I made it back into the city around 10:35. I stopped off at Dupont Circle to run an errand and was home around 11:30. Then I had all the fun with the garbage disposal. Total for Saturday 63.

Sunday could not have been a more different day. I stepped out on to my porch with my bike and could tell at 6:00 am that it was going to be a very warm and uncomfortable day. The humidity was already way up there. My ride on Sunday I was actually dripping in sweat. It ran off my face.

I decided I was going to ride as far as Saturday. I figured my legs would not be able to take it. I did ride all the way to Mt. Vernon. Something I haven’t done for years. It was a pretty easy ride except for the last part of the trail before you reach Mt. Vernon. It seems like long hill the last quarter mile or so before you get there. I arrived before 8. My goal was to ride until 8 and then see where I was and take it from there. I was right at the end of the trail. I sat down had my snack and headed back.

There were not many people on the trail. I have to assume that was due to the early hour and the fact it was Sunday. Total for Sunday 45.

A very good weekend for riding.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Two Great Rides

I did two great rides this weekend. Saturday out the W&OD for 63.48 miles and Sunday down the Mt. Vernon trail for 45.01 miles.

More details but first I'm going to collapse actually I have to go out and do some shopping. But I'll be getting to the stores in my car not on my bike.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

And Now for Something Completely Different

My garbage disposal fell off. Now not just fell off but cracked off as you can see from the picture below.

I'd filled the sink up with dished and water. I was going to let them soak and the do them when I came home from my ride. I get home and wash some of the dishes and decide to let the water out. So I pull out the stopper and all of a sudden instead of the water going down the drain it's going all over the floor. What a mess. I put the stopper back in the drain.

I opened up the cabinets and I see the garbage disposal hanging there. Water is coming out of where it should have been attached to the drain in the sink. So now I have water all over the floor. I try and stop it from going underneath the refrigerator but don't have any luck at that. I get out a mop and start mopping up the water but then wonder where the hell am I going to put it. I go down stars and get a bucket. It turns out I had to move the refrigerator out because some water did get underneath it. I'm running fans now. One in the place where the refrigerator used to be (I moved it out and it now sits in the middle of the kitchen), one drying out the cabinet under the sink and one in the basement because some water got down there.

Wow what a fun filled Saturday afternoon.

I still had some water in the sink. I needed to get rid of that. I decided to detach the garbage disposal from its pipe. I then could move it out of the way and put a bucket underneath the drain. I got the rest of the water out of the sink.

I'm going to go down to Home Depot a little later and see about new garbage disposals and dish washers since I have to replace that too. Maybe I can get one delivery and one installation of both of them.

Right now I'm going to take a little nap to help recover from all the excitement and the ride I did this morning.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Sculptured Jazz

The National Gallery of Art has a great series of jazz concerts that it gives each Friday night in its sculpture garden. Here are some pictures from tonight's performance as well as the list of upcoming artists. It was a wonderful evening to listen to some very enjoyable music.

I'm hoping to get down and see a couple more concerts. The garden is about a 15 minute walk from my office. I'm looking forward to them.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Strange Phone Call

I got a really strange call the other day. Actually I got a message on my answering machine.

Here's how it went. This call is for Joe Smith (that's not the name used). If you are not Joe Smith do not listen to the rest of the message. Well I am indeed not Joe Smith. How exactly was I to determine what the call was about unless I listened to the rest of the message.

The message was from sort of collection agency. A number was left and I called. I said you have a wrong number there's no one by that name here. The woman at the other end of the phone has a hell of a time hearing me. I had to say my phone number to her three or four times before she could get it right.

With the number she was able to access the account. She then proceeded to ask me if Joe Smith was at this number. I said no he wasn't; thus the reason for my call. She then asked if I knew Joe Smith. I said no I don't know Joe Smith; once again the reason for my call to make sure I'm not called again in the search for Joe Smith. She apologized and said I'll make a note of this and we won't bother you again.

As we say in my family we'll see. But I have a feeling I'll be getting more calls for Joe Smith.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Obama On The Road

Seems Obama's road trip is turning into an unqualified success. There are a few more days left for him to muff something up but it does not appear that will happen.

John McCain couldn't be more upset at the trip and the coverage that Obama is receiving. McCain first complains that Obama hasn't been to Iraq or Afghanistan and hasn't met with General Petraeus. So when Obama does just that McCain gets all bent out of shape. McCain also gets ticked off at all the coverage Obama is getting. I'm waiting for McCain to start jumping up and down like a five year old saying it's unfair.

As to the notion of a time line or time horizon or a commitment to withdraw troops well it seems the Iraqis are on board for the that:

"We are hoping that in 2010 that combat troops will withdraw from Iraq," spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said after Obama met with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki _ who has struggled for days to clarify Iraq's position on a possible timetable for a U.S. troop pullout.

Iraq's Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi, said after meeting Obama that Iraqi leaders share "a common interest ... to schedule the withdrawal of American troops."

This comes from a story in the Post.

What's sad is that the draw down of American troops means they in all likelihood they will not be going home but will end up in Afghanistan. Where by the way they are desperately needed to combat a resurgent Taliban. Another thing the Bush administration failed to get right.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the campaign.

Sad Passing

A sad passing today of Estelle Getty of Golden Girls fame.

I have to say I greatly enjoyed watching the Golden Girls. I thought it was one of the funnies shows on TV. I catch a rerun every now and then and still laugh out loud. Today I only do that for The Simpsons. The Golden Girls was a ground breaking show. Estelle will be missed.

You can read about here career in the Post or at USA Today.

Here are a couple of clips of her from the show. Thanks for being a friend for all those laugh filled years.

Tuesday Treat

Well tomorrow the week is have over so that's reason to smile and enjoy a couple of Peanuts cartoons.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Odds and Ends

A few random thoughts and occurrences that have happened recently.

Chandra Levy Case
The Post is running a multi-part series on Chandra Levy. This is how the Post introduces the series on the linked page:

The Chandra Levy case captivated the world. Last year, The Washington Post decided to find out why her murder remains unsolved.

All I remember is the overwhelming amount and over the top coverage on this story. It was summer 2001 in Washington a slow news time and this story took on a life of its own. I remember walking past the apartment building Levy lived in seeing yellow ribbons tied around trees outside the building. Of course the story grew once a Congressman was found to be in the mix.

At the time, I thought the media lost a great opportunity to focus on the number of people who disappeared each day. After months of coverage of the case (Levy disappeared in May) one of the local stations started to feature other local people who’d disappeared and were still unaccounted for.

Then September 11 came and everything changed.

It is still of course a huge tragedy what happened to Chandra Levy. However, I will ask, why should her case get a 12 part series in the Post say as opposed to anyone else who disappeared and was tragically killed.

I got rid of my second receiver from DirecTV. It was attached to the TV that was in the room off my bedroom. I hardly ever watched TV there. The few times I did use it I had to call DirecTV up and ask them to activate the thing. I do use the TV in the room but I use it to watch a movie.

I finally got around to calling them and saying I wanted to return the receiver. They said they would send out a box via FedEx. All I had to do was follow the instructions and return the box. Well I called them the beginning of June. I didn’t get the box until around July 4. I’d just about given up hope that I get ride of the thing.

I boxed the receive up. There were two pieces of packing material that I was supposed to use. The problem was that the receiver was much smaller than the box. So the packing material wouldn’t prevent the receiver from being knocked around in the box. I had to add some newspaper to prevent that. It seems to DirecTV might have mentioned that in the instructions. They did mention in large print I needed to return the receiver in seven days or I could be charged $475. I sent in back in a couple of days.

Arby’s is running an ad for some new sandwich that it has. It has cheese on it. And the cheese well it just looks completely gross. It looks the “cheese” that’s added to the nachos you get at a movie theater. I then started taking a good look at other sandwich commercials and all the cheese in all of them looked like that. I felt like as you ate the thing you could listen to your arteries harden.

It seems to me that companies would try and make their food look appetizing. Needless to say I won’t be visiting Arby’s any time soon.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Working Out Update

I had a busy week. I did the bike rides on Saturday and Sunday. Tuesday I had a session with Randy. What did we work on? Of course legs. Wednesday I took a spinning class (legs again). Thursday training session also had leg work in it too. Friday morning I could barely get out of bed.

I'm taking this weekend off. I was going to go to a spinning class this morning but I'm still sore. I decided not to push my luck. I might if I feel up to it go and work out tomorrow but that's a big if.

Next week I'm taking a break from training sessions. Randy's out of town at the end of the week and I had some scheduling conflicts with Tuesday. So with the week free I'm going to try something new. There's a spinning class on Tuesday. The instructor is a guy I took classes with like 9 years ago when I was at Ballys. Then a yoga class on Thursday. Randy keeps saying that a yoga class would help with my flexibility. I'd do my regular workouts on Wednesday and Friday.

I've reached another floor on my weight. I'm hovering right around 175. I haven't been eating as well as I should in the past couple of weeks. I'm hoping to try and improve on that this week. I'm going to a friends cook-out today but plan on not eating too much. Ok, well maybe I'll start tomorrow. I'm hoping by Labor Day to be below 175 and closer to 170.

I think I'm hitting a good stride on everything. The training has been going very well. Randy's up the intensity of the workouts. Most of the time I feel totally drained at the end of them which is the way I should feel. I do notice that I recover a lot quicker then when I started with him. I'm going to start riding my bike to work a couple of days a week. I would have this week but my legs were not into it. I also had several after work events this week. The bike rides are going very well as last weekend points out. Next weekend the plan is to do two more. The idea being to increase the mileage for each day. I'm hoping to get closer to 100 miles over two day.

And that's where I stand with one more thing to say is that I can actually see muscles in my arms. Yeah!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Video of Jon McLaughlin and George Stanford

The joys of the internet. Here are some clips of Jon McLaughlin and George Stanford at Jammin' Java from last night. Note to self next time they are here remember to bring video camera.

Here are some clips from YouTube of the concert last night. The first clip these people had to either right to the side of us or right behind us. My bet is behind us. This gives you and idea of how great Jon McLaughlin was in concert.

Here are a couple of clips of George Stanford:

George and Jon at Jammin' Java

What a great night of music!

I figured out how to mail myself the pictures I took with my phone. Here are some of them.

George Stanford. Click here for his official Island Records page. Click here for his My Space page.

I’ve been a fan of Jon McLaughlin since I downloaded Beautiful Disaster from iTunes.

Lisa, from work, said he was coming to this place out in Vienna, Jammin’ Java. The tickets were $15. I said we should go. We went out after work. I didn’t know what exactly to expect but I didn’t expect the place to be in a strip mall right next to a hardware store.

Having said that it was a really nice place. We got there a little after 5:30. We had dinner there. I had a great club sandwich with chips and a coke. Lisa has a half sandwich with chili and a salad. While we were waiting in line to get we had chocolate milk shakes. You have to have dessert after all and we would have to stand for the entire performance. To say we had a great spot would be an understatement. We were maybe four feet from the stage and the performers. I don’t think I’ve ever been so close.

So how was the music?

It was great.

You never know what to expect with opening acts. Sometimes they are good and sometime they are not. Well George Stanford was great! He was backed by a drummer and a base player. He played the guitar and the electric piano. He did all the vocals on his own. There wasn’t a song I didn’t like. They were all really good. Here are a few that I really liked: Downriver, 30,000 feet, My Own Worst Enemy and my favorite Let’s Stay Here. For some reason this reminds me of a Fleetwood Mac song. I can see Lindsey Buckingham playing the guitar and Stevie Nicks coming in at the end of the chorus. It just a fantastic song. A very enjoyable set indeed. I got his CD and he signed the cover for me.

Next up Jon McLaughlin.

He was fantastic. Because he’s young and rather cute lots of teenie boppers were present. I was a little concerned about this but it turned fine. He was on from the moment he stepped onto the stage. He played some songs from the new CD. All of them very good including the new single Beating My Heart. The material or at least the songs he played were more up tempo songs as opposed to the ballads on the first CD. It was funny when he said we’ll play some old stuff when he’s only got one CD out. And he did play some old stuff.

Jon was backed by a four man band. Two guitarists, one bass player and a drummer. It was interesting that the drummer was the one who most often harmonized with Jon. The band went off for a Jon did a couple of numbers on his own including Beautiful Disaster. It was even better and more powerful with just the piano and Jon’s voice.

Some of the other songs he played were Perfect, Industry. Industry has that great piano opening where his fingers fly across the keys. It was interesting to see the way he played the piano. He got so low to the keyboard that the mic was above his head. I’m surprised he didn’t hit his head.

Lots and lots of energy from everyone.

He came out by himself and did two encores. Rocket Man which was nothing sort of amazing. I thought for a while he was channeling Elton John. Jon was really able to hit the high notes. He has a fantastic voice and a fantastic range in his voice. The final number was Indiana.

This was an exceptional night of music. I’d be more than happy to see either of these guys again. They were just great.

Jon's Island Records page. Here's the link to his My Space page.

George Stanford and Jon McLaughlin at Jammin Java

Wow what a great night of music!

Got to see these two guys at Jammin' Java in Vienna. We were about five feet away from them. The tickets were $15.

More about the show later. But have to say both guys were just fantastic. I took some pictures with my camera phone and if I can figure out how to e-mail to myself I'll post.

Like I said more tomorrow or today or whatever day it is.

Here's a video from George Stanford.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Banking Storm

There's a storm in the banking sector of the economy.

I'm not sure if this is just a summer thunder storm or, if the sky will turn green, and we'll see a tornado come out of the sky.

At least the regulators are trying to do something.

IndyMac, which is a local area bank in California, has been taken over by the FDIC. There was a run on the bank today. The government has come along to bolster (prop up might be too strong of a term at least for right now) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (both of which are in the DC area). This slowed the free fall the two companies stocks were in. Finally, the Fed has come up with new rules for what was once called the subprime market.

Here's some of what the Fed did (from a story in the Post):

Under the rules, lenders can make subprime loans only to borrowers who can be reasonably expected to repay them. In doing so, they must assess the borrower's ability to pay the highest scheduled monthly payment in the first seven years of a loan. Previously, lenders considered only the ability to repay low teaser rates that could later rise sharply, as many of them did.

Too little, too late?

Maybe. But at least there has been a recognition across the board (even among Republicans) that something needed to be done. That the "free market" had created a big mess. It needed someone to come in and make reasonable rules on how the game in the market was to be played. This is after all what the government can and should do.

These actions make me feel better about the prospect of action if some other problem should rear its head. I don't think we'll get the response, like we did last August, that the subprime market would not impact the economy as a whole. How wrong were they on that one?

So my bet, at least for right now is that this is a summer storm. One where you have to go in your house and close your windows. Not a storm where you need to seek shelter in your basement.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

It's the Economy Stupid

This was the Clinton mantra back in 1992. I think it should be changed a little for the McCain campaign to they're stupid on the economy.

I'm sure you've heard about this. In what has to be one of the more bone headed statements one of the major "advisers" to McCain on the economy, former Senator Phil Gramm, was interviewed by the Washington Times. Here's how the coverage ran in the Post:

In an interview with the Washington Times, Phil Gramm, a former Texas senator who is now vice chairman of UBS, the giant Swiss bank, said he expects Mr. McCain to inherit a sluggish economy if he wins the presidency, weighed down above all by the conviction of many Americans that economic conditions are the worst in two or three decades and that America is in decline.

“You’ve heard of mental depression; this is a mental recession,” he said, noting that growth has held up at about 1 percent despite all the publicity over losing jobs to India, China, illegal immigration, housing and credit problems and record oil prices. “We may have a recession; we haven’t had one yet.”

“We have sort of become a nation of whiners,” he said. “You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline” despite a major export boom that is the primary reason that growth continues in the economy, he said.

“We’ve never been more dominant; we’ve never had more natural advantages than we have today,” he said. “We have benefited greatly” from the globalization of the economy in the last 30 years.

Mr. Gramm said the constant drubbing of the media on the economy’s problems is one reason people have lost confidence. Various surveys show that consumer confidence has fallen precipitously this year to the lowest levels in two to three decades, with most analysts attributing that to record high gasoline prices over $4 a gallon and big drops in the value of homes, which are consumers’ biggest assets.

“Misery sells newspapers,” Mr. Gramm said. “Thank God the economy is not as bad as you read in the newspaper every day.”

Later on Gramm tried to clarify his statement saying he meant the whiners were politicians. One small problem with that is he didn't say that. He didn't say anything close to that. And if you read his statement there is absolutely no way that you could interperate his remarks to mean he was talking about politicians. But then again I'm sure Senator Gramm will never be effected in an economic downturn being a Vice Chair of UBS.

I'm also sure all those people that once had good paying manufacturing jobs and are now working at WalMart, KMart or Target think that globalization has done them a real good service. I'd like the Senator to take his hot air and address say auto workers in Detroit or maybe textile workers in North or South Carolina and see how much they are whining. I have a feeling the Senator would barely get out of the meeting alive.

Are we technically in a recession? Probably not. Is the economy as bad as say around the time of Carter/Reagan? Probably not. Remember the misery index? That was the unemployment rate added to the rate of inflation. When Carter left office the misery index was around 16. With George Bush it is around 8. So about half of what it was. However, to say things could be worse, is no sort of an answer. Gas is $4.00 a gallon and going up. Food costs more. The value of people's houses are going down. The stocks they own are doing the same.

Yeah, Senator Gramm we are just a big nations of whiners. I think what's more likely is Senator is you as well as your party are completely out of touch with the average American and what they are going through.

Sunday Smile

It's Sunday afternoon and it's time for a smile. Enjoy these two very funny Peanuts cartoons and smile. Click on the image to get a larger view.

Down the W&OD for 48 Miles

I made it down the W&OD Trail to the tune of 48 miles today. I got off just about the time I was supposed to right around 6:15 am. I'd like to say I was more prepared than yesterday but that's not the case.

The weather was as nice as yesterday. There was a slight breeze on the way back which helped keep things cool but I always have problems with wind no matter how little it is.

There were very few people out on the trail. Thankfully there were no groups of people running in large groups. On one of the very flat straightaways I was able to get up to 23.1 miles per hour and maintain it for a little while too. As I've said in the past, one of the things I like about the W&OD is the flats on the trail. It is amazing to me look down at my speedometer and see how fast I'm going.

Here's a strange thing that happened to me on ride. I was on my way back. This woman passed by me in the other lane on roller blades. I could have sworn that it looked like someone I worked with. I dismissed it at first but the more I thought about it the more I decided it had to be her. So I turned around. I got close to her and then called out her name. Sure enough it was her. Even with her back to me, I could more or less see her expression after I'd called out her name of who the hell is going to know me on this path. The thing is she doesn't live out in Virginia she live in DC. We chatted for a little while and then headed on our respective ways.

On the way home I stopped off at the gym. I did this in part because I had to pee really bad. I still don't understand why there are so few restroom facilities on the trail. I also wanted to do some exercises. My shoulders really hurt when I go on long rides especially if I'm using the camelbak. After about 25 minutes there I headed back home. I got in just about at 11:15.

Not a bad bit of riding in 5 hours including stops.

For the weekend it means I went 90 miles.

And now I'm taking a nap!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Mt. Vernon Trail Today

I'm going to try (the operative word here is try) and do two 40 mile rides this weekend. I've got the first one under my belt. Hopefully, I'll be able to move tomorrow and do the other one. Oh and after that I plan on going to the gym and working out.

First of all I went up to Hudson Trail Outfitters to have them look at my brakes on Friday. I think the brake noise has finally been solved. I got a little noise on my ride but not much. And when it did happen it seemed to be coming from the front brake. Of course in the past the noise had been coming from the back brake guess you can't win them all. It was sort of a busy Friday afternoon for these guys. In fact they had only one full time mechanic there but he was able to get to my bike in under an hour. I really appreciated it.

My plan was to leave between 6-6:30 am. I got off around 6:40. Not too bad. I was a little disorganized. I hope to be a little better at it tomorrow. I got to try out the camelbak that I got for my birthday. It was great. I stay much more hydrated with a camelbak then with bottles. It's so much easier to get a drink when riding using a camelbak then a bottle.

I set out on my journey. I went on the Mt. Vernon trail. I had a good ride until just before I reached Alexandria. I started running into all sorts of groups of runners. They were obviously training for something. Too bad they didn't seem to know how to share the path with other people. I passed several groups saying on your left. They moved just enough for me to get by and when I say just enough I mean just enough. They left me about half of the passing lane. On one occasion I stopped before even attempting to pass. The other lane, the one I'd be passing in, was not a full lane width. It also dropped off into well gravel is a nice way of referring to it. It was rocks you'd drop off into. I decided to detour around these guys. I continued to run into groups of these runners some as small as three or four some groups well over 15 until I reached Belle Haven. It thinned out a little after that but not by much. One other time, when I called out on your left, a women actually moved into the left hand lane. I barely missed hitting her.

I was a little frustrated with this. But very slowly I ran into fewer and fewer of these groups. I made it almost to Mt. Vernon but had to stop because I had to pee really badly. After that I decided to just stop where I was. I ate my banana and my two chocolate poptarts and headed back. On the way back the runners were mostly gone. There were still a lot of people out and about. I got home around 11 so it was a pretty good ride all in all.

Hopefully I can get out a few minutes earlier tomorrow. Tomorrow it's off on the W&OD!

First Ride of the Weekend, 42.10 Miles

I just got in from my first ride of this weekend. I did 42.10 miles.

I'll write a little more about it later.

Right now I need to take a shower and get all the layers of encrusted grime off of me.

But then again maybe I don't have any encrusted grime. Maybe it's all in my mind.

Guess I need to call Phil Graham and ask him about that.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Tom Drymon Art Exhibit

My friend Tom Drymon is part of an exhibition at the Touchstone Gallery. You can read all about it below.

MY SPACE on 7th
Opening Reception: Friday, July 11, 6- 8:30 pm

For the second year during the month of July, Touchstone Gallery has answered the need for an alternative, interactive, non juried exhibition opportunity. On July 7th and 8th, artists from the metropolitan area will install the art of their choice in the main gallery. New this year will be spaces for 3-dimensional artwork on the gallery’s large floor area.

Reservation were by email on first come, first serve basis. Demand was such that, within the first half hour after the appointed reservation time began, and all but two floor spaces available were sold out.

To make the show even more engaging, the viewing public will be encouraged to select their favorite artworks. These Viewers Choices, in various categories, will be posted on Touchstone’s website beginning July 24th.

Touchstone Gallery is located at 406 7th Street, NW 2nd Floor. The show runs from July 9 to August 2, 2008.

Here's the URL for the website:

Tom does some really cool stuff. You can see some of it on his site. Or better yet stop by the gallery and see it in person.

Mamma Mia Sneak Preview

Mamma Mia: Here I go again.

I got to go to a sneak preview of the movie version of Mamma Mia. Thanks to T0m for inviting me and to Ira and Brett who got the free tickets.

It was at the Regal Cinemas at Gallery Place. There were a lot people in line for the preview. Lucky for us they opened another theater and put us in there. They actually moved the people who were in the theater to one next door to accommodate us. It was a pretty good size theater. I'd say it was maybe a third full which means they'd filled a similar size theater.

So how's they do?

Well, I'll get one part out of the way right away. Pierce Brosnan cannot sing at all. In fact people laughed when he tried to "sing." I can't imagine why he was picked. It reminds me of the guy who played Sam (that's Brosnan's character) in the first touring company. He didn't have a very good voice either. Brosnan was just bad and not in a good way. He did one duet with Meryl Streep, SOS, and song not in the original show, When All Is Said and Done. He was a little better on the second one but not by much.

With that out of the way, the movie was actually really good. I thought they did a great job of transferring the musical to the big screen. The location is Greece and it is just beautiful.

Meryl Streep is great as Donna. She has a harried expression in the opening scenes as if she really is running an inn on a Greek Isle. Her wish to get away from the island in the number Money, Money is just hilarious. The staging for Mamma Mia is very funny and original as she tries to peak in on the three guys without them seeing her.

Julie Walters is hysterical as Rosie and really gets into Take a Chance on Me. Christine Baranski well is Christine Baranski what more can you say. She looks great and sounds great too.

As for the guys well I've talked about Mr. Brosnan (did I mention he can't sing). The other two do well in their rolls. Stellan Skarsgård is Bill Anderson (the last name was Austin in the show) but since Skarsgård has a Scandinavian accent the name change was a good idea. He is good as Mr. Anderson and his scene when he realizes he could be Sophie's dad is very funny. Colin Firth is Harry Bright and he plays the uptight Harry as well uptight. He has a good singing voice. I was surprised as some of his later scenes but I won't ruin the surprise as to what they are.

Skye is played by Dominic Cooper and Sophie is played by Amanda Seyfried. They really work well as a couple and their voices are very good.

I was very very pleased with the results of the movie. It was great fun and everyone I went with had a really good time. And, yes I think I will have to go back and see it again.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Talking About Energy

There was a great article in the Post on Sunday about energy and how the U.S. could become energy independent. It talked about how Brazil has achieved energy independence and how Iran is on the path to it.

I think this is a very important point:
Energy independence does not mean that the United States must be entirely self-sufficient. It simply means reducing the role of oil in world politics -- turning it from a strategic commodity into merely another thing to sell.

And that's what oil has become a strategic commodity. Imagine what would happen if a regime in the Middle East decided to use oil as a weapon as was done in the 1970s. Gas prices would go through the roof and the economy would be in free fall. I don't understand why this is not being put forward as a reason for becoming energy independent. Our addiction to oil is a major threat to our national security. It's high time that that is recognized.

The article goes on to detail how Brazil invested in ethanol derived from the huge amounts of sugar cane the country has. It details how for an extra $100 or so the vehicle can be made to run on gasoline, ethanol or a combination of both. Pretty cool. And oh yes who makes those vehicles why that would be GM and Ford. Then there is the potential of methanol or wood alcohol. It's being used in China.

There are many choices but it seems there are protectionist tariffs on Brazilian sugar-cane ethanol. Methanol isn't in the mix because flex cars only run on ethanol. So we are limiting are choices even before we get started.

One of the best points of the whole article is this:

The hard truth is that real energy independence can be achieved only through fuel choice and competition. That competition cannot take place as long as we continue to put 16 million new cars that run only on petroleum on our roads every year, each with an average street life of 16.8 years -- thereby locking ourselves into decades more of petroleum dependence.

What we need is some political leadership beyond let's drill everywhere or let's wait until some magic new technology if developed. We've go the technology right now. Let's start using it.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Sunday Smile

Here's a very funny story line from Peanuts.

I always color the sky blue too.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

The Forgotten Forgotten War

If Iraq is the forgotten war, then Afghanistan is the forgotten forgotten war.

Well not any more. In the month of June, there were 28 American soldiers killed in Afghanistan. That's one less than in Iraq. The only thing is that the American force in Afghanistan is one-quarter the size of the force in Iraq. It means Afghanistan is extremely deadly to American forces right now. Most likely it will be for some time to come.

The Taliban is on the move. It kept it's head down for a few years and regrouped and is now at it again. Of course they were able to do this because the US was all caught up in the fight in Iraq. It now seems the military wants to send more troops to Afghanistan but can't because of Iraq.

This from a story in the Post:

"I don't have troops I can reach for, brigades I can reach, to send into Afghanistan until I have a reduced requirement in Iraq. Afghanistan has been and remains an economy-of-force campaign, which by definition means we need more forces there."
This statement comes from no less than Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

It says to me we are in trouble. The idea is that, as things improve in Iraq and there's a draw down there, we send those forces to Afghanistan. Some experts think it might take a couple of years to accomplish that. My question is do we have a couple of years to wait. The Taliban certainly won't be waiting a couple of years.

One of the short term ways to solve this problem is to extend the tours of duty of soldiers. See the story here.

The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which is doing combat operations in the volatile south, will stay an extra 30 days and come home in early November rather than October, Marine Col. David Lapan confirmed Thursday.

There are assurances from the Pentagon that there will not be an extension beyond those 30 days. But then again in early May no less than Secretary Gates said "no one has suggested even the possibility of extending that rotation." So this recent assurance should be taken with a grain of salt.

President Bush has stated that there will be a increase in troops sent to Afghanistan in 2009. Of course the details on how that will be accomplished are few.

Once again the lack of proper planning on Iraq is directly impacting our ability to defeat the Taliban, al-Qaida and other militants in Afghanistan. Chalk another one up for the Bush administration.

The idea of moving the troops from Iraq (once things are stable in Iraq) to Afghanistan posses a couple of questions. At what point does the equipment start to give out? How many tours of duty are these soldiers supposed to go through before they get a break? Or our leaders just going to keep using them until they are ground into the dust?

They deserve to be treated better. Most of all they deserve not to be forgotten which unfortunately has happened with the was in Afghanistan.

Podcast with Arthur

It's been a very long time since I've done a podcast with my friend Arthur in New Zealand. It's been since February to be exact. But we finally got around to doing another. It's on politics of course.

Follow this link to get to Arthur's podcast site.

Here are the show notes Arthur wrote:

Jason joins me today as we resume our political discussions. The primaries are over, and the focus has shifted to the November elections. So today we kind of re-set the stage for what we’ll be talking about in future episodes.

We begin with a chat about campaign finance, then on to talk about vice presidential choices. Should the candidates have to condemn every single supporter who says something stupid? We talk about the recent Supreme Court gun ruling, and whether it will affect the election. Will the anti-gay ballot measures hurt Democrats this year, too?

Our next political chat will be in about three weeks, tentatively the last week of the month. In the meantime, please leave a comment at, send an email to arthur{at], or ring my US listener line on 206-339-8413.

Hope you enjoy the show!

Friday, July 04, 2008

We hold these truths to be self-evident . . .

Every once and a while it is important to stop and reflect on just how lucky we are to live in the United States.

It's not to say there are not problems in this country; there are. But it's important to stop and think just how far we have come and how many rights we actually have.

This year holds out a shinning example of that. In the Democratic Party, the two main contenders for the nomination were a woman and an African-American. I can truly say that I thought I would never see that in my life time or if it did happen I'd be a very old man. Now there's a real and strong possibility that an African-American will be president of the United States. As for the Republicans . . . well they're nominating an old white guy. Some things never change.

In the primary process, millions of people cast votes. People weren't dragged to the polls at a point of a gun or intimidated not to vote say as we just saw recently in Zimbabwe.

The process of our checks and balances works even if it takes awhile. The Supreme Court ruled and the Bush administrations policies on detainees was wrong.

I now know that as a citizen of the District of Columbia I have a the absolute right to bear arms because Justice Scalia interpreted the Second Amendment that way (I guess judges are only activist judges if they support liberal causes but that's for another post). But the point is there was a judicial process that was followed. And the judicial process will be followed as we argue over what constitutes a "reasonable" restriction on gun use.

And, on a very personal level, this blog is hardly full of positive comments for the current president. There are a rather limited number of places where that'd be allowed. Also this is the last 4th of July George Bush will be president and that IS something to celebrate. It shows democracy does work.

So hats off to those very brave men and women who 232 years ago pledge their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to the cause of the United States of America.

The Declaration of Independence:

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.

He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.

He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature.

He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states:

For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing taxes on us without our consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:

For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses:

For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule in these colonies:

For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments:

For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy of the head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.

We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levey war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Folklife Festival on the Mall

I got to leave from work at 1 today.

I decided to go down and see the Folklife Festival on the Mall sponsored by the Smithsonian. This is one of the reasons I love living in Washington.

NASA was part of the festival. They had all sorts of tents set up with many many exhibits on just about every aspect of space travel possible. There was information on food to what would be replacing the shuttle in the not too distant future to information on the International Space Station.

This AXEL. It is a robotic lander. It usually is attached to another lander and is sent out to gather samples.

Here it is gathering a sample of sand.

Folklife Festival, Bhutan and the Dance

The Folklife Festival features a state, this year it's Texas, and country. This year the country is Bhutan. There's some very impressive things to look at from Bhutan.

Their crafts are just amazing. There was also a demonstration of traditional dances.

Folklife Festival, More on Bhutan

Here's some more of the dancers. One by one they left the stage.

Just a spectacular piece of work.

A demonstration of weaving.

Folklife Festival, More on Bhutan

This is just amazing stuff. To call it beautiful would be an understatement. This is the painting the man was working on.

Here's a close up look at the section that he is painting.

Here's one of the amazing wood carved masks.

Near the Folklife Festival

These shots are from the National Gallery's Sculpture Garden.