Tuesday, November 29, 2011

pittsburgh hill race

Defying the Dirty Dozen: Cyclists take on steepest of steep hills

It's a bike race in Pittsburgh up thirteen of the steepest hills in the city.
"I'm so glad you came," he shouted to his girlfriend's mother, Becky Gannon, over the cacophony of cow bells, air horns, and shouts of "Go! Go! Go!" Nearly 200 spectators lined both sides of the 100-yard-long cobblestone street to cheer on other cyclists trying -- many in vain -- to climb the 37 percent grade hill. "This is what the Dirty Dozen is all about."
I'm just twisted enough to want to do it, even though it needs more organization:
Though the race has grown steadily, its previous record attendance from 2009 was still just 185 participants -- already making it Pittsburgh's biggest bike race.

But last year the race caught the attention of WQED public television's famed documentarian, Rick Sebak. He brought two cameramen to the 2010 race and produced a show that ran on WQED's "It's Pittsburgh" series in January....

Largely as a result of that publicity and the great fall weather, Saturday's race broke the previous record by more than 60 percent with about 300 riders.

37% grade?

... bring it.

Monday, November 28, 2011

over the river & thru the woods

On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, our Sunday ride leader likes to go by his "grandma's", which includes a spiffy downhill at Nolan Road (and you don't get many spiffy downhills on the flat side of Route 1 in Central Jersey). Check it out. We started with 10, including two "fixies", picked up one along the way, and ended with eight, as three of our number decided to go their own ways home. I added eight miles or so by riding in from Plainsboro and riding back; on the way back I had company: a rider who will have 5,000 miles for the year by the time he puts the bike up for the season (he only had about ten more to go after yesterday's ride, so it's a safe bet he'll make it!).

As for me, with the freight I've been carrying recently, it may have been my most necessary ride of the year. Thanks, all of youse all, for letting me ride with you.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

after thanksgiving

So the excellent wife and I are back from our Thanksgiving visit to Asheville, NC, where my parents have retired. My father was diagnosed with leukemia less than a month ago, and he's deteriorated rapidly; when we first saw him on Tuesday, he had lost weight and was barely eating, was not grooming, and this author of children's books and mystery stories was barely able to speak, probably due to brain hypoxia. During the several days we were there, he deteriorated further, to the point where he could barely dress himself and slept most of the time. He's soon to turn 81; my 81-year-old mother is scared.

On Wednesday, he had a treatment and a transfusion, and came back and went immediately to bed. On Thanksgiving, we were able to do Christmas presents (we do them because we are all together) and he could eat something, but then he went to bed.

He spent all of Black Friday in bed. During a visit with my mother there on Friday, we went in to see him, and found him on the floor next to the bed, unable to speak and with a terrified look on his face. My brother-in-law (my sister and he had arrived the day before) and I got him back into bed, and my mother called the doctor. My sister works in a medical office and has had some nursing training; my wife has worked in adult protective services; they were able to coach my mother on what to say to the doctor. By 9:00 pm, we had gotten him into the hospital.

My wife and I came home the next day (yesterday). I called twice yesterday; mother told me he's able to speak now, and the treatment plan is being changed to a less aggressive one. But she knows that he'll never be the same. He may need nursing home care. Initially, I thought he'd never come out of the hospital, but I no longer think that's the case.

After avoiding discussing the situation up to now, he finally told the doctor that he does not want extraordinary measures used to prolong his life. My mother may talk to him about doing the Five Wishes document, a living will/durable power of attorney questionnaire that's among the most useful and easiest to understand that I've seen (you can download the document from the "Preview a Sample..." link on that page; it says sample, but it's the whole document my mother showed to me; it can also, apparently, be completed online, except for the original signature, witness signatures, and notary, if your state requires one). She may talk to him about completing that, if the right moment presents itself.

While I'm not in tears over him, I noticed that I'm stressed and easily moved to tears by other stuff (an acquaintance forwarded a link to this video, which had me weepin' into my coffee this morning). I'm having a hard time feeling thankful.

I'm off to do a ride this morning. I need it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

annual donation plan

In this Thanksgiving season, the excellent wife and I are making our donation plan for 2012. Some of our donations are tax-deductible, and some are not, as we believe that making donations to political causes to bring about the kind of country and world we believe in should be part of our plan. The causes to which we donate include charities, public radio, local causes, and art, as well as monthly donations to the Montclair Friends Meeting, of which we are members. In 2011, our donations equalled about 4% of our gross income.

An advantage to the donation plan is that we have a ready response to those who come calling for donations: if they're not on the plan, they probably won't get a check. On the other hand, we keep some money available for donations we did not foresee. Except for charity rides, we research our recipients to make sure the money is going where it should: as far as possible, we want to be sure it is neither diverted, nor eaten in administrative costs.

For 2012, our plan includes:

out of the closet?

It's been rattling around my head that it might be time I came out of the closet. It's not that I'm gay, it's that I'm an atheist.

I grew up Catholic, and was serious enough about it that I spent my college years in a Catholic seminary studying to be a priest. When Catholicism didn't work anymore, I went to the Quakers, and joined, first Montclair Meeting, then Princeton Meeting. (I continue there because they don't care if you come to meeting as an atheist, as long as you show respect for the beliefs of others. Since I'm not a Dawkins-style militant atheist, this is not a problem.)

I've thought and read a lot about religion, in additon to my studies. I don't think that anyone who knows me can say that I don't know enough about religion, and that's why I'm an atheist. And I don't think the specific details of my change in belief are important here.

All my life, I've thought about the problem of the existence of
suffering, what C. S. Lewis calls The Problem of Pain. Neither his work, nor When Bad Things Happen To Good People, nor the book of Job, nor any other God-centered solution to this problem ever worked for me. But when I gave up belief in God, the solution was clear: suffering just is. The solution to it is what we are going to do about it.

As for the "Where did it all come from?" question, the God solution is no better than the scientific one, or any other. The scientific one at least has the advantage of being predictive; the God solution is not. Petitionary prayer, for example, doesn't seem to have any appreciable effect on outcomes. (This doesn't mean I think all prayer is unimportant. As I've said elsewhere, there is place for prayer in atheism, in wonder and forgiveness. And it is probably helpful for people to know that others care for them and are thinking of them.)

As for the source of morality (some theists say that without God, there can be no morality), I think that the stuff we call morality comes in a few types. First, there are the things we do because they work best for human groups, and these are generally common among all humans. Not killing, not stealing, respect for marriage and family, for example, seem to be among these. These could have evolved as humans did.

Other things, it seems to me, are about ensuring the propagation of humanity, which, until the industrial age, was not a surety. Forbidding masturbation and homosexuality seem to fall into this category; if you're doing that stuff, you're not makin' babies. (I think there's also an "ickiness" factor that comes into morality: it what you're doing seems icky to me, then God forbids it. Piffle.)

Other things, though, are just things that separate my team from yours. My team doesn't eat pork, or meat on Good Friday. My team wears this kind of hat. This brings up what is, for me, one of the biggest purposes of religion (not God), and one of religions' biggest failings.

Most people need to belong to groups. If the group is too big, it will subdivide into smaller, manageable groups. That's not a problem; it's normal: if you look at young adolescents, you'll usually see large, same-sex groups hanging around together, and some of this behavior, with appropriate changes, carries on throughout our lives. Religious groups, however, will often demonize people who are not members of their groups. This is one of the problems with religion, and one of the reasons why there is a small group of people arguing that religion should be abandoned. (Do NOT outlaw religion. Some of those people are ALREADY nutballs; can you imagine what they'd be like if they had the added cachet of being outlaws?)

I've read somewhere, that I've never been able to find again, that there are more men than women in corporate boardrooms and high political offices, but also more homeless and criminal men than women. Male behavior tends to be more extreme than female behavior. I think religious behavior tends to be extreme, as well. It's true that there are horrendous things done in the name of religion. It's also true that there are wonderful things done. Much healthcare in this country is through religious systems. Many people trace personal heroism to their religion. Some of the energy that is spent on religion is about the religion itself, so nit may not be clear that this energy is a good, but I think the people who want to abandon religion are lookng at only one side of a many-sided edifice.

One of the things I like about the kinds of liberal Quaker meetings I attend is that they are radically welcoming. (This can also be a flaw, though; Quaker potlucks suck, because people make food that will not irritate anyone's allergies or upset the most arcane food preferences. What we tend to get is a lot of bland, low-salt vegan gruel.)

I think the people who get most upset about atheism, and the removal of religion, are the people who want to believe that there is something special about humans (or about their particular kind of humans, like the "America is a city on a hill" folks). While I don't go as far as these people, I would not say there is nothing special about humanity. Humanity is reponsible for loads of destruction, but we are also responsible for heroism and meaning, for creating and understanding beauty. We didn't need God for that.

Monday, November 21, 2011

weekend before thanksgiving

Remember how the excellent wife has been celebrating her milestone birthday in increments, thereby extending the celebration? Friday night we had dinner at McCormick & Schmick's, on a coupon from a club offer that doesn't appear to be available any more. I will attempt to remember the seafood soup; it was just the thing on a blustery night.

Saturday, went out on a ride with the Freewheelers. The leader was hinting about 30 miles or so, due to the cold and wind (of which there was plenty), but we wound up with about 40 (the last tail on that route, which you'll see if you click the link, was my ride alone to the strip mall where I park the car; I didn't do the controls correctly on the GPS to separate that part. When we leave from Cranbury, I park in Plainsboro, have a couple of fresh bagels for breakfast, and ride in the four miles to the start; after the ride, when I ride back, there is invariably a headwind of varying intensity). C-c-c-cold; I couldn't feel my toes at the start, although we warmed up with the exertion by the end of the day. Ira, the leader, took us along a stretch of Agress Road, which has some of the only challenging hills in that part of our ride region. I had fun, but some of our number appeared seriously challenged by those hills.

Sunday we went out on a ride to pass the old Ocean Spray factory in Bordentown (well, Thanksgiving is coming, why not?). The day started much warmer than the previous one, and wormed up from there, but I was dressed for a cooler day (after my experience the day before) with heavy gloves and too many layers; I ended the ride with the gloves in my pocket, sleeves rolled up, and sweating like July (despite a head wind for most of the way out). Bordentown, however, is a pretty town, with buildings from the 19th century (cranberries must have been lucrative, or something). On this ride, we had two tandems, which always get looks. I was sweeping at the back, as i usually do, but at one point, Larry the leader said I should go have some fun for a couple of miles to the next stop sign. With a tail wind, I was whippin' along in the mid-20-mph range on the flat. Not bad, for the second 50-mile ride in as many days!

Now off for a few days. Some work weirdness in one of the other offices (a feud over work space); I'm supposed to cover there in a few days when I return to work, so I'll keep in touch with the admins, despite being out of the office, to see what I'm going back to. There is no bottom to my geekiness; I check my work email, even on the weekends and days off. Hrmph.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

supporting an indie novelist

I first "read" Darusha Wehm's* stuff over at Podiobiooks, where I was downloading .mp3 podcasts of her first novel, Beautiful Red. I finally decided that listening to books on .mp3 wasn't working for me (my mind wanders, and then it's hard to go back and re-listen to what I'd skimmed through; it's much easier to turn back pages), so I wound up getting read-'em-on-a-screen editions of her next two books, Self-Made and Act of Will (I think I got the first as a gift for flogging it on my other blog; I remember buying the second at Smashwords).

She's coming out with another one, called The Beauty of Our Weapons. I'm poppin' for some support, because I've liked the books, and because I think authors I like should be supported, and because she asked me to. Her work reminds me of cyberpunk William Gibson stuff. Like him, she writes about a future cyber-dystopia; like him, I don't think she gives enough attention to most people's desires for families and children (a flaw, I think, of those of us who have chosen childlessness); like him, she writes stuff that keeps me turning the pages.

I went for a level of support that will get me the e-book in a format I can read on my old-style Nook. I'm looking forward to the new book.

*Didja click on that link? She had a great look; I love the multicolor-neon hair and the sly look of the eye. The new video shows her with a more mainstream hairdo - but she lives on a sailboat now, and there may not be regular deliveries of magenta hair dye to the distant corners she visits.

Friday, November 18, 2011

symmetry, balance, humility blocks, navajo carpets, and the nature of creation.

As a distraction from the ennui of my morning exercise routine, I listen to one of a number of podcasts. This morning I was listening to an old Radiolab on symmetry, and I got to thinking about what I thought was an urban legend about crafters intentionally adding flaws to their work, in their belief that only God can create perfection, It turns out it's not an urban legend: quilters have a tradition of humility blocks (scroll down the target page for the entry).

This, we are told, comes from the idea that since only God is perfect, making a perfect quilt is prideful. Thus the "humility block" was an exercise in Biblical decorum. Sometimes the story is more elaborate: the "humility block" appears at the lower right corner, or we're told that if a bride made a perfect quilt, her marriage would be unhappy, or that the practice began with the Amish or the Native Americans.

Evidently, Navajo carpeters have the same tradition (scroll down for "spirit string").

(This tradition is disputed [also here]).

I don't know if crafters are doing it on purpose. But if they are, it suggests they are not careful observers of nature. I'm not going to link to a gazillion pictures to prove my point, but I'm going to ask you to think. Think first of natural objects on the "macro" level: rivers, trees, flowers, leaves, and so on.

Now think of symmetry - that which is exactly the same on one side as the other (or through a certain number of degrees of rotation, or through a certain amount of shift, or whatever). And compare that with balance.

When I think of symmetry, I think of man-made, manufactured objects. I have a deskful of them. When I think of natural objects, I don't think of perfect symmetry; I think of balance (sometimes; other times I am overwhelmed by the absence of balance).

If you're a crafter, do good work. Do the best work you can (that's how this guy started). Don't be seduced by romances like the "spirit string" or the "humility square". If your craft is one in which a certain amount of asymmetry is unavoidable as part of the process (for example, hand-blown glass), I understand that's part of the piece. If the roughness of your work is part of the piece, I understand that as well. Perfect work can be done by machine, and few people are going to care that an object is hand-made when it is indistinguishable from a manufactured item (unless there is a sentimental attachment). But you are still responsible for doing the best work you can do.

That's a complaint that's been banging around the back of my head for years.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

what i got from chopin class

The excellent wife and I are taking a class at the Princeton Adult School on the music of Chopin. He's not my favorite composer: he wrote mostly for piano, as opposed to other instruments or ensembles, and, in general, the Romantics are not the guys for me.

We did a unit on the Etudes, "studies" in particular musical or pianistic techniques. I've got to give it to Chopin: they aren't just didactic (although they are that), they are real music.

I was taken with this one (if it won't open, try this Wikipedia page; it's the Donald Betts version of number 2). I've saved the file to one of my computers, and reformatted it as an .mp3 (that link that might not work is an ogg-vorbis open-source format that may not play on proprietary operating systems; sorry).

I keep coming back to that piece. I can't stop playing it. It's not his greatest, but it has completely arrested me.

fedora upgrade on the PC

In my last post, I admitted that I had secretly upgraded the netbook to Fedora 16 (it dual-boots; it came with XP), and the upgrade had gone without a hitch. Not so with the desktop; I tried the recommended "preupgrade" method, and it seemed to install, but wouldn't boot. With forethought that is not always characteristic of your correspondent, I had backed everything up, so I did an install-from-scratch, and then did all the upgrades and re-installs that I need to do to get a computer to the point I like it.

The "install-from-scratch" didn't take as long as I'd thought, so I'm thinking that every time I do an upgrade, I'll plan in advance to do it both ways. I'm keeping notes on a document in my Dropbox account so that I'll be able to do it more conveniently in future. The computer is running fine now; I've done my daily finances, downloaded the GeekSpeak podcast, and I'm now typing this on that computer.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

excellent wife celebrates a birthday

OK, I was off Friday for Vet's Day, and did about 40 bike miles with the old guys, an about the windiest day imaginable, so I'm taking double credit. Yesterday, I did a 50-plus-some-extra between Cranbury and Delicious Orchards, and it was only windy on the way back, although there were two spiffy hills on the way. But that's not what I want to talk about. (I'm up to 4100+ bike miles for the year, but that's not what I want to talk about, either.)

What I want to talk about is the way the excellent wife is celebrating this, her ?0th birthday. I had thought that she was trying to avoid a large celebration because of the number of the birthday, but I was wrong; she's much more canny than that. It turns out she's arranging to have many smaller celebrations, spanning a period of weeks. She was out with one set of girlfriends last week; on the actual birthday we'll have some cake and do the presents, next weekend we'll do a dinner out for the two of us.

Today was the party for the local friends. The two of us, and four guests, had a brunch that started at noon (OK, more like about 12:30). Regina, as is common for those of Polish descent, cooked enough food for about fifteen: a quiche, grits (yes, a Yankee Polack can make righteous grits), biscuits, two kinds of sausage, potatoes, and who-knows-what-all else. Coffee for those who wanted, hot and cold cider, juices. Crême fraiche for the baguette (and the biscuits too, I guess), which I'd never had, but I'll tell you, it beats plain butter all hollow. And a cake from Whole Foods (Regina would normally bake the cake herself, but one, she thought she was doin' enough cookin', and two, doncha think somebody else oughta make your birthday cake for you?).

We thought the guests would leave by about 2:30, but it got to be after four, and folks were still holding forth and complaining about the lesser classes, which means pretty much anybody that doesn't see the world the way we do. Much discussion of health problems (we're of an age where such things are common, and, if common, they will be common topics of conversation), of politics local, of the scandal at Penn State.

This is a woman who knows how to do a birthday. I will not question her wisdom on that score again.

(In the midst of it, I was sneaking off to do the upgrade on the netbook to Fedora 16, which went off without a hitch, and I think I got away with it without upsetting the excellent wife about playing with the computer while guests were here).

Saturday, November 12, 2011

bike advocate letter

There's a new bike advocate for the Princeton Freewheelers, and he's sent out a request that members write once a year to the local newspapers suggesting more people ride bikes. I can certainly come up with a letter once a year... below is a copy of my first draft:

Bicycle season is ending, and I've been riding a lot this year, and thinking about why more people don't ride. I love to ride: it's huge fun, and has a host of health benefits. I can think of four objections people make to riding a bicycle, and I'd like to list and answer them:

ISN'T IT DANGEROUS? Well... no. Not really. If you ride dangerously, it's dangerous. But it doesn't have to be. There are far more automobile accidents than bicycle accidents each year, and according to one source, swimming and waterskiing are both more dangerous than bicycles. And when you compare the long-term health benefits of regularly riding your bike, the REALLY dangerous activity is sitting on your couch eating chips and watching “Jersey Shore”.

BUT THERE'S NO PLACE TO GO! It's true that North Brunswick, the town in which I live, is riven by three major thoroughfares: Route 27, Route 130, and US1. I'd never recommend riding on Route 1 unless you absolutely have to, but there are sections of the other two where a short ride is manageable, especially if it gets you to another place where you can ride further OFF those roads. And North Brunswick is full of areas where rides are not only possible, but pleasant. In fact, with a bit of imagination, a trip to your bank or post office might be a neat bike ride.

ISN'T IT EXPENSIVE? Well, if you're going to go for the latest-and-greatest, Tour de France special, yes, it is. And some of us have those bikes (one of mine isn't quite that expensive, but I did pay more for it than I did for my first car, all those years ago). But you can get a usable bike for a lot less than that. In fact, you (or one of the neighbors) probably have one in the basement or garage that is ready to go, except the tires are flat as pancakes. I'll tell you a secret: bicycle tires leak air. After a year or two, almost all of the air can leak out of that tire, making the bike look like an un-ride-able mess. All it might take to bring it back is a $20 pump. And you may want to lube the chain. Don't use WD40; it evaporates too quickly. But almost anything else will work: motor oil, transmission oil, spray oil... you might even try Vaseline or canola oil, and you probably already have those around the house.

BUT I'LL LOOK STUPID! Well... uh... like... well, yeah, you will, especially to your adolescent kids. Although you might look way cool to the neighbors' younger kids. You'll especially look stupid if you go all-out and get those skin-tight jersey setups the pro's and club riders wear – save that for if you really get hooked, and decide to go all-out (and you plan to buy that Tour de France bike I talked about before). But I'll tell you when you won't look stupid: when you've dropped a couple of pounds; when you've got the increased strength, flexibility, and balance that comes with riding regularly (like when you don't groan every time you have to get something out of that lower cupboard); or when you can have that second piece of pie because you've ridden the miles to earn it.

I've sent it to The Excellent Wife to get her input. We'll see what actually goes in.

EDIT 11/16/11: I got input from a number of folks, and made some changes, and submitted it to the Home News Tribune today. Further developments as they arise.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

ezra jennings on psychopaths and corporations

Jennings said, "The first line of the Wikipedia article on psychopaths this morning includes these words: "Psychopathology (pronunciation) is a mental disorder characterized primarily by a lack of empathy and remorse, shallow emotions, egocentricity, and deceptiveness.

"Well, if a corporation is a person (especially a large, publicly-owned corporation), that person is a psychopath."

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

how i wish i had voted

Mississippi's "personhood amendment" "was rejected by more than 55 percent of voters, falling far short of the threshold needed for it to be enacted." I didn't get to vote against it. I wish I could have. And I promise not to slander Southerners for the rest of the week.

And "[b]y a nearly 2-1 margin, Ohio voters repealed a new law that would have severely limited the bargaining rights of more than 350,000 teachers, firefighters, police officers and other state employees." I didn't get to vote against that, either. Unions may have deteriorated sadly, but they are still the first line of defense against the predation that is the major characteristic of large corporations (when an entity's sole responsibility is to the bottom line, as it is in a public corporation, what other choice does it have?).

Well, those outcomes have improved my outlook today. Maybe there is hope for America.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

how i voted

I live in the 17th NJ election district. Our state senator supported Bob Menendez for US senate, just before Menendez supported Bush's torture bill. I'm told our state senator also represented a developer in a legal case against the township in which I live. I voted for him anyway.

The person he was running against represents the worst of Republican arrogance, selfishness, and exclusivity. Voting against Jordan Rickards is like sex. You never forget your first time, and even when it's not great, it's still pretty good. I'm glad Rickards lost, but even if he'd won, voting against him would make me feel noble,


I'm not sleeping anyway, so I may as well write up a post about some of the reasons why. the first one is obviously first, but the others are in no particular order:
  • I heard from the folks last night; my father's leukemia is apparently of a type expected to respond well to aggressive treatment, and there are six treatments lined up for the next ten days or so. My parents both sound much more hopeful than they have recently.
  • I have a netbook computer that I've set to dual-boot Windows XP (which was pre-installed) and Ubuntu (which I installed). After an automatic update, the Ubuntu side won't start. I've tried downloading the USB installer twice, and have had problems with both downloads (although a Fedora download looks successful). I've had problems with the Ubuntu downloads in the past, so I may just switch to Fedora on that computer, too (I switched to Fedora on the main box some time ago). The computer is still useful as long as the XP boots, although it takes a long time to start up. Still, XP will be supported until at least April 2014.
  • I went up to the aunt's memorial service, and it wasn't awful, and some of it was actually pretty cool. Now I have people lining up around the block and taking numbers to regale me with variations on, "I told you so". Sigh.
Off for Election day today. Probably a ride later. The excellent wife will be working the poll as a Dem challenger for half the day (for next to no money, at a fairly unimportant election, which is why I'm not doing it).

Edit 8:09 am

  1. I installed Fedora on the netbook in the space where Ubuntu was (my Fedora installs generally go much easier than my Ubuntu installs), and it's working; I've spent a couple hours tweaking & installing. So now I can go back to worrying aobut my dad.
  2. Three of the most recent posts have been middle-of-the-night or early-morning. Hmmm.

Edit 6:50 pm

And two rides today: about 5 miles to vote and get razors, then a 20-mile-including-Coppermine-hill on the road bike, on which I broke 19mph average speed. I probably would have been 19.1, but I had to do a U-turn at a closed road. Grumble, grumble. Now off to Chopin class in a few minutes.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

early-morning funerary reflections

Another one you can skip.

I'm in my room in the Super 8 in Webster, NY, waiting to go to the memorial service I've referenced in other posts (two separate links there). Neither of my parents are here because of my dad's illness; it was to satisfy them that I decided to come, and that's still the reason, even though they're not here. I'll do the service and the lunch, see some relatives, and go home; I hope to get a ride in tomorrow.

It was a long drive from Central Jersey to the Rochester, NY area. I went through the Poconos, and watched the trees show fewer leaves as the elevation rose, then more again as we came down; it was like traveling back and forth in time a few weeks. The GPS led me by Interstate most of the way, but the last 70 miles or so was on a state road. I had nothing but time, so I didn't bother going to the Thruway, and it was not an unpleasant road - but almost all of the businesses along much of it had something to do with cars: sales, repair, gas, car washes. Those that didn't were mostly fast food. Is that all these people do?

Got to the hotel, checked in, looked for dinner. Despite my best intentions, I ate at Empire Hots, a local hot-dog place, because when I went to look, they had "white hots", white hot dogs I remember from my youth. I gave up healthy eating for nostalgia.

Then back to the hotel, and called the excellent wife. She's improving upon the time of my absence by visiting people that she usually sees without me in tow. Then a read, and to bed. The bed is remarkably good. I've found no correlation between bed quality and hotel cost; I've wound up with terrible backaches at high room rates, and vice versa. The Super 8 has few amenities: besides the bed, it has a bath, a hanging rack (not a closet), internet access, and no visible vermin. It's good enough.

It's now about 5:30 am, I've been awake for about an hour, which is not bad for me. There are loud noises from what must be the plumbing in the adjacent rooms, but I mostly slept through the night. I'm not looking forward to the memorial service (mostly, I'm not looking forward to the lunch afterwards); while I know that a few people will be happy to see me, and many more will have no idea who I am (nor will they care), I'm sure I'll do something that will disappoint my folks. Even though they're not here. (There really is no bottom to my craziness, is there?)

Maybe more later.

lucky find: dropbox

Dropbox appears to be solving a number of nagging problems for me. I've been looking for a place where I can put files that I would like to be available for download from this blog; I used to be able to use my free Verizon web space, but Verizon pulled the plug on that (they say security issues, but the space is available for people who pay extra for web space - perhaps they have research that shows that paying customers are less likely to be criminals).

I stumbled across an article on the CRN site about free web storage offerings. Several of the offer Linux clients (the computers I use most frequently at home all use Linux). I couldn't get my first choice, Zumodrive, to work (ymmv), so I decided to look at Dropbox, which I remembered some reference to in the past.

They have software for Linux, Mac, and Windows (in fact, Ubuntu has the client in the repo's). Users get 2GB free (I am all about the free stuff). Dropbox puts a folder on your local computers for the stuff to be saved to your account, and you can generate a link to stuff in my shared folder that you can use for downloadable files. But there's something else cool: files in your Dropbox folder are updated across all the computers on which you have a Dropbox folder. This means that stuff like my calendar and address book will be updated, and I won't have to worry about carrying a USB drive - and if I update when I'm offline, Dropbox will update again the next time I'm online. And, since I can add Dropbox to my work computer, I can use the same program there (my scheduler/contacts program is Essential PIM Free USB, which is written for Windows, but the free version works in Linux under wine; the gods at EPIM have decided not to provide a Linux version).

So I get:
  1. Online backup of critical files, that is then
  2. sync-ed across all the necessary computers, as well as
  3. a place to host files I want to share,
  4. for free.
I'm looking for the downside.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

ezra jennings on the rising tide

Jennings said, "Look, I can understand that there are some people who genuinely believe that interfering with the free market unleashes forces we can neither predict nor control. What I don't believe is that this is an excuse for doing nothing."

"I also can't buy that Reagan-esque BS about decreasing taxes generating a net increase for government funds. There is not an ethical economist on either side who will say that. The only people who DO say that are pundits and politicians, and we all know what excellent predictors of financial outcomes THEY are."

Jennings continued, "And don't get me started on 'A rising tide raises all boats'. We've had plenty of experience of both rising and falling tides. And while it's true that falling markets affect everybody, they affect the ones on the bottom far worse than those on the top. And nobody has ANY evidence that better economic times have helped anybody other than the ones at the very top. The 'rising tide' is the wrong metaphor."

recent insomnia

You can skip this post. It's basically working out why I'm not sleeping.

I've had problems staying asleep at night for years, but recently I've been up in the middle of the night more frequently; this is the second time in the last three days that I've been watching the clock number change between 1:30 and 3:00 am (which is what I was doing a few minutes ago before I fired up the computer and started writing this). I usually go to bed around 9:00 pm. My alarm is set to go off at 4:50 am, and I usually turn it off fifteen or twenty minutes before that. On weekends, when I'm planning to sleep late, I'm sometimes good for 6:15 or so, before my back reminds me that it, too, is 56 years old, and could use some movement so that it can put all its parts back in place.

The insomnia is usually related to an anxiety attack, but that's not happening this time. I suspect that it has to do with my father's illness. Recent news is that he's really got leukemia. My sister, who works in a medical practice, is steeping herself in leukemia knowledge. I'm not - I think I'm still not facing that my dad is sick. In fact, I suspect that part (maybe all) of this midnight wakefulness has to do with worrying, or not worrying, about him, or not knowing what to do, or even how upset to be. Because I'm still not as sad or worried as I think I should be (maybe that should read, "...as I think a proper son should be").

On Saturday, there will be a memorial service for my mother's sister who died, six hour's drive away. I've taken off a day to go there, and that's also a source of stress. I'm uncomfortable in family situations. I have not kept up contacts with those family members (I don't keep up contacts with people whom I don't see regularly), and I don't know how to talk to them. Dad won't be going. Mother might go, if she can leave dad for the weekend. I don't think he'll be too sick to leave - he's had two transfusions in less than a week, and sounded strong the last time I spoke to him - but he's scared (he made reference to thinking he's dying when last we spoke on the phone), and they might decide it's better for my mother to stay. It's the right thing to do for me to go. My mother is disappointed that I'm coming back after the funeral and not staying for Sunday. But I'm not close to my relatives, and, frankly, I'm hoping to be back to get a group ride in on Sunday.

I've been eating a lot of junk. The excellent wife reminds me that I need to continue to take care of myself, especially when I'm stressed. She's right, but it's harder to do the daily exercise routine when I haven't been sleeping (see this post about my exercise routine and keeping track of my weight - and was that really over a year ago?). With winter coming, and less riding, I've been looking for more podcasts to listen to while I do the exercises (where on earth did that come from?).

I'm getting tired again. Maybe it's just being tired, but I think it has to do with getting some of this stuff written.