Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Dreaded SSSS

When I flew to Seattle, I didn't know that my license had expired. I was turned away at the security screening and told to go back to the ticket counter to get a "special" boarding pass. Given that I didn't know that you could actually fly with an expired license and no other government issued id I was happy enough to go get it. So I did and they gave me one and I looked at it and emblazoned on it was "SSSS" which I now know means Secondary Security Screening Selection. Oh this should be fun. It was fine. Not something I want to always take the time for, but in comparison to Heathrow or as I've heard Tel Aviv, it was quite painless.

They get a TSA employee of the same gender as you are, and carefully explain that they are going to do a "pat down" search. The employee carefully and lightly, in my experience, pats your arms, sides, hips, and down your legs, then switches over to your back. In the mean time, another employee goes through your carry on and swabs various places and places the swabs in a machine that is likely testing for explosives. As you might guess, they also swab your shoes.

The entire process, including going back to the ticket counter, took 15 minutes. My favorite part was when the TSA person says "you have been randomly selected." Um no, not in this case. coming back from Seattle, my experience was essentially identical.

I wasn't sure if they were going to be unhappy about my toothpaste being repackaged in a non - commercial container. No issue. No issue at all. Though I'm not sure I like taking the time before my airplane trips to prepare like I'm going on a camping trip, so in Seattle I bought toiletries to leave at my parents house.

Though I did renew my license when I returned.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Physical Improvements can Happen Overnight - sort of

Today I noticed that I was able to get into a lunge position and bend my knee comfortably to the ground (or just above). This wasn't the case yesterday or any day in weeks/months past. I think it was working on strength building via Body Pump weight training and indoor/outdoor cycling. So a physical change did happen for me overnight, but it was after some weeks of working on leg strength.

That said, it wasn't months as I've only been doing Body Pump for less than a couple of months, so with consistent, measured effort you can see positive changes in your strength relatively quickly.

Having my legs be stronger is going to make skiing a lot more fun this season.

I have a Body Pump class tonight. I'm going to try to increase the weight for my triceps up to 5 lb weights on the bar (one on each end) but I'll load a second barbell with 2.5 and 1.25s as a backup. Biceps I'll leave at 5. Squats I've been doing 5+1.25 and I may do 5+2.5 but I'm not sure. Back I think I'll leave at 5 as that's a recent increase. Warm up I'll use 2.5 +1.25.

Chevy Tahoe Hybrid - you must be kidding

When I watch TV I try to watch it over the internet because you only get 30 second commercial breaks instead of 5 minute ones. (This is on CBS). The only gotcha about it is that sometimes it doesn't work reliably and you have to start it over a few times to get it going. As a result, I would up seeing a Chevy Tahoe commercial 3 times and the 3rd time through I actually paid attention to it a little.

It starts of on a mountain bike taking in some beautiful woods, no sound of a vehicle anywhere. It goes on to imply how green you'll be in a Tahoe Hybrid which has 50% less emmisions. Then comes the fine print which, since I'm only about three feet from the screen, is easy to read: Based on EPA estimate of 21 mpg. Oh and that's only for the 2 wheel drive version.

21 mpg!! Please. That's not exactly stellar results. That's less that most gas burning cars, trucks and many SUVs that are on the market today (Toyota Highlander Hybrid gets 40 mpg). While I think we should encourage Chevrolet to be designing alternative fuel vehicles, I do think they should rein in their marketing dept until they really have something to say. otherwise they just look even more pathetic.

And, of course, this vehicle is vaporware anyway - due this fall. Funny I thought it already was fall.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

MS Symptoms - A Breakthrough

I don't remember if I've written about it in this blog or not (surely I must have), but I've had Multiple Sclerosis (MS - use google to find the links to Mayo Clinic and the MS Society) since Jan 2002, though there's MRI evidence that I've had it since 1995.

The hallmark of Relapsing-Remitting MS is that (as you might guess) the symptoms can come and go (or they can linger), and I've been lucky enough to respond well to medication so what symptoms I do have generally do not interfer with my life.

With a lot of medical things especially ones that require physical rehabilitation, the more motivated you are to improve, the better. I've had a whole raft of odd symptoms: vertigo, balance issues, slurred speech, sensitivity to heat, numbness in parts of my body, trouble thinking, couldn't see very well for a while and almost all of them I've recovered from.

Things I still have are:
- Depression (may not be an MS symptom but often accompanies it - treated very successfully with prozac.)
- Spascicity of my legs (a maddening one and the one I just had some insight into)
- Leg muscle weakness (I am a gym rat now and it's done a world of good and almost completely gone now)
- Fatigue - A classic MS symptom and I rarely experience it now except when I'm truly tired. MS fatigue is amazingly bone crushing and must be similar to what Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is like. It's almost impossible to explain how overwhelming it is. You can't just force yourself to wake up. While it was at it's worst, I did find that Modafinil (Provigil) worked very well on it. Ironically, I read about this drug in the SF Chronicle and I immediately asked my neurologist about it.

For years, I've been trying to figure out a way to address my legs just needed to move. My neurologist explains that it's not restless leg syndrome as restless leg is an inner psychological impulse to move. In my case there are a bunch of extra signals racing down the sciatic nerve. For a long time all I could do was spend a lot of time stretching which helps but doesn't address the cause. So I've been mentally tracing the nerve path in my head (I've been obsessing on this a while - can you tell?) trying to figure out the origin and if accupressure would help.
I've been trying various positions just to see if that would make a difference. Also I've been trying icing and also dressing warmer. All seemed to help some but no magic bullet.

After years I may have found a solution. I had mentally traced the nerve back to my spine and wasn't sure where to go from there. It finally occurred to me that if RSI wrist pain can originate in the shoulder, then might this originate in the spine further up. Going back to mental nerve tracing I started getting the impression that it was up just above in between my shoulder blades or even higher.

One weird MS symptom I had a long time ago was that when I bent my head forward I would get this numb feeling traveling down my spine. It turns out that I have a large MS lesion on my spine in my neck. I really haven't had those symptoms for a long time, but I started to pay close attention to how I was feeling when I bent my head forward. When I did that my legs instantly wanted to move. Oh really? I held my head level. The impuse died down. I'll have to talk with my neuro. more but it appears that even though the old lesion isn't active anymore, it may have left some scaring which is putting pressure on my spine when I'm in certain positions.

This is huge for me. I may be able to sit through a play or a movie without having to stand up and stretch - long airplane flights may not be so much torture. the spascicity is worse while trying to watch TV on the sofa which is certainly a time when I'm not sitting up straight. tonight I was able to watch CSI without having to stretch.

This is by no means over as there are times when I have to bend my head down, and it doesn't work all the time (like right now), but it's certainly way better that it has been.

I hardly dare to hope as the only way I could cope before was to take a whole bunch of potassium (which honestly does work well).

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Parental Visit

I'm writing this assuming that my parents don't know that I work out my thoughts (read: whine) about them on this blog. If they discover it well then I'll look at it as an opportunity (at least I'm going to try to look at it that way.

Tonight I'm flying up to Seattle to visit for the weekend. It will be good to see them, but what's a parental visit without an agenda? My mission is easy to describe but will be nigh "impossible" (sorry) to achieve. (This message will self destruct in 5 seconds by the way.) Try to find out just why it is so hard for Dad to accept our help.

Now Dad and I have had this conversation before in various forms
- he says he's a fierce (I would say strident) individualist and has always had to do things himself.
- my response, that I've blogged about before, was, I think you've achieve plenty, why not let someone else do the work now.

The real thing that I need to find out about is what is he so terrified of? he's so resistant to change. He seems terrified that we're going to put him in his father's rest home. Never mind that his father's rest home may not really exist anymore and their are much better choices available these days. There are some really vibrant senior communities out there and we've showed him some.

This is delicate, but if I can get him by himself I may be able to find out. Is money an issue? On paper, it doesn't look like it but it would also require making the decision to draw down funds that they've saved. For Depression Era kids this is a horrible choice. Never mind that they have the money and that all of the children say go ahead and spend the money. It could very well be that they don't think they have it. University House is very nice and very expensive.

Anne encourages me to try to find out how they see the future. That will be another question that is terrifying for them. My father's health is ok, but iffy. My mother is physically fragile, but otherwise is in fine health. (Oh, she's going to try to kill me if she finds out I'm writing this publically - I could tell her to look on the bright side that I'm not David Sedaris, but she wouldn't get it.) This is actually quite a dilemma. My mother needs care and an attendant and my father doesn't want to hire one past a family friend who really doesn't want the job. If my mother falls she could be permanently hospitalized. With an attendant, my mother could live quite a fulfilling life. My father is no doubt aware of this yet still thinks he can take care of her. He doesn't seem to think hiring an attendant is a lot cheaper than the medical bills if she goes into a hospital never to come out.

Such grim topics.

Maybe I should take a different tack.
How do they want to live their lives? I have to be willing to hear this without putting my own agenda on it. If they truly want to sit in front of the TV for the rest of their lives, then that has to be ok with me. If they want something else then it's my job to help make that happen.

So it's:
- What do you need?
- What do you want that you're not getting now?
- How can I help make that happen?

Nice iPod,, Niiiice iPod, There, There.

I was listening to a Stephanie Miller radio show where they were talking about the iPod Nano that exploded in an Atlanta airport employees pocket. (Likely from a Lithium Ion Battery).

They then did this really fun skit of the iPod criticizing the guy's taste in music and while I found it really funny, I was a little uncomfortable as I was listening to it in my car via a podcast via a, you guessed it, iPod Nano.

I wish I could feed it a treat or something else to keep it happy. Given some of the awful audio books (many good, some really terrible) it's had to play, it's a wonder that my truck hasn't had an unexplainable meltdown.

Which of course brings up...
I'm leaving today to go to Seattle to visit my parents. It's only for a weekend so checking a bag makes no sense, so I'm trying to figure out what I can and can't take.

Now in all fairness the rules have gotten more sane since the last terrorist scare and can be found here:

Potientally explosive devices that I can take on board
- iPod
- Cell Phone (though it does have to be off)
- Electronic Game Console (don't have one)
- Laptop (not taking one anyway)

Completely benign things that I can't carry past security but that I'm welcome to buy on the other side of security (bloody capitalists.)
- water
- gatorade
- a toothpaste tube over 4 oz (try finding Tom's of Maine in a small size)
- hairspray (just try to find a tiny one - I'm sure there's on on the other side of the security gate)

I'm going to try to repackage the toothpaste in to a small REI container as other toothpastes give me a headache. The web site specifies that the container has to be under 3 oz. and they don't say it has to be commercial. I'll put a label on it that says 1 oz.
I'm giving up on the hairspray.

Potentially dangerous things that I can bring on
- safety razor
- huge Harry Potter book that could knock anyone out and likely stop a bullet

Nearly entirely safe items that you can't bring on
- nail clippers (not true any more)

And of course there's no shortage of potential weapons that are built into the aircraft itself (seat tray support anyone? You didn't hear it here.) But I'm not going there as I just want to read my book in peace.

Whine as I might this is all pretty ironic since TSA at Oakland is really nice. I even know one of the employees there as she used to be a neighbor. They have an impossible job of enforcing federal rules that often make no sense, and still manage to survive.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Out Danced by a Bird

There's a dog competition that I don't compete in called Freestyle which involves dancing with your dog. Maybe there should be a bird version though you'd have to tolerate being out danced by the bird. At least I sure would be:

Auto-Generated Web Sites can be Very Surreal

I'm sure you've seen such sites. They're sites that are usually based on a typo in the domain name or a mistaken assumption about it. There is a series of photos on them in a template and the words in every link are search terms. In other words, it's not a site at all, and I'm really not sure what the point of them is as there usually is no advertising on it either, Maybe a hostile web site or something. I should check closer when I'm on a Mac or Linux system. Actually, it's probably just to "park" the site in hopes that they can extort some money out of the company it should belong to (Wanna buy our domain name? It's only ...").

Anyway these sites since they are pretty much just keyword based and generated on the fly as far as I can tell, lead to some really weird keyword juxtapositioning. (Blogger claims that juxtapositioning is not a word. Well I think it should be.) These sites are dressed up to look like business sites so you're really not expecting pornography embedded in the text amongst these folks all dressed up in business drag. (Or maybe you are and I'm just being naive.)

I needed to order some more Redbarn treats for my dogs, so I being lazy just typed in into my browser, and that back of my brain said "you know that sort of sounds like a porn site." Well it wasn't a porn site, but it sure had links to some (no pictures fortunately) If you'd like to take a peek it's pretty funny, but just remember you have been warned about the colorful language on it.

For the record, Redbarn Premium Pet Products is at: and you can just bet that that other site irks them no end.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Mike Malloy Drinking Game

Terri is in the habit of listening to Air America radio (and the like) on our local radio station which used to be called the Quake and now goes by "Green 960." So I tend to absorb a lot via osmosis (ok it's more than that :). anyway before they switched the schedule all around, Mike Malloy was on in the evening, and over time I semi-consciously noted his penchant for using particular colorful phrases. Then I started paying closer attention and have over time come up with a drinking game (since I no longer drink so this is how I amuse myself I guess.)

Anyway Malloy's show got moved to later in the evening and I didn't think too much about it again but I'm up late and he's on so I should write this down as it still is taking up room in my head.

The Mike Malloy Drinking Game

- A goodly amount of beer (perhaps Mexican to go well with Tequila)
- Either bottled or in mugs or steins
- A shot glass with Tequila in it
- More Tequila
- Friends who want to fry some brain cells
- A radio within range of Mike Malloy's show or a computer on the internet

Sit down at a table that is not valuable and tune into the Mike Malloy show.
(I don't know why this big space is here - page down)

If Mike says this:
Do this:
Rat Bastard
Drink 2x
Flithy Rat Bastard
Drink 3x
God Damn
Drink 2x
Bush Crime Family
This is a toast
Stand up, glass in the air
"To Da Family!" Drink
Oh God
Oh My God
"Oh. My. God."
Shot of Tequila
Slam glass down on table
Sigh heavy sigh
then drown your sorrow in drink

I could go on, but by this time you're on the floor.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Wireless Networking Setup

Warning this is a geeky entry, so I can remember what I just did. Just skip if you don't ever do wireless networking.

Semi-Advanced Home Wireless Networking

At home we have a basic wired network and it's been bugging me that I haven't taken the time to learn wireless thoroughly. I did borrow a wireless router from a friend and just did a basic setup, but I've since gotten a wireless router from Freecycle of all places, and ordered a wireless network adapter from Amazon, and borrowed a laptop from work.

The atypical thing that I wanted to do was to have the wireless router connected to the main router instead of directly connected to the internet. The Linksys router I have I know well and am happy with its configuration. This one, while a good name is one that I just wanted to serve the wireless network and not have to worry about whether it was leaking information I didn't want it to onto the internet.

Router |

-- wired network with static IP addresses
(For the wireless router - use the "Internet" connection)
.. wireless DHCP network

(For the wireless router to the Laptop use wireless network)
(The LAN side of the wireless router is not used except temporarily.)

This all had to be done as an advanced setup.
The first mistake I made was to not give the "..." network a different set of IP numbers. Basically each "side" of a router needs a different network numbers.

Wireless setup is something of a chicken/egg problem as the defaults of the router do not play well with this sort of architecture.

First you have to connect it to a wired network to do the initial setup.
Hassle #1 was that this router and my current router both use the same default IP address, so I had to have a computer off the network connect to the wireless router to give it a different IP address.

- Plug in and turn on the router
- Set the laptop to use DHCP (Assign me an IP address)
- Connect the laptop to the router via the LAN ethernet connection (this is temporary until we can change some settings away from the defaults that don't allow us to use other ways to connect to it.)
- On the laptop, start a browser and type and with any luck the router interface will appear
- Give it the default name and password (you will change this later). the URL may change to some special routerlogin URL, but you don't have to remember it. (They do this to make it look easier, but I find it just makes it harder).
- If things don't work at this point you may need to reset the router to its default settings (especially if you got it used like I did. There's usually a recessed button that you have to hold down for a few seconds for that to happen.

Things to change
- Change the IP address network numbers of the router's Internet connection to match the wired network's. This is confusing as the inetnet side of the wireless router is really just the regular internal network. Make sure you tell it the gateway is the other router's internal IP.
- Turn on remote administration and restrict it to the wired network's IP. (This one runs on port 8080 but that's usually changable.)
- Change the administrator password

Wireless Settings
- Change the SSID to something different than the default
- I do leave SSID broadcast on initially for set up but if you like you can eventually turn it off but only after you're completely done.
- Important! Turn on encryption - at least WEP. (Yes WEP is breakable, but generally you just want to be a less tempting target than your neighbor.)
- Important! Use a long, non-obvious pass phrase. The longer it is (think a sentence with spaces) the better. For example since I named my network after my dog who thinks he's an under-employed watchdog, passphrases that I considered were "to protect and serve" and then I thought better of it and nearly chose "to overprotect and serve" (I eventually chose something else entirely.)
- Set up the wireless router's internal IP and its DHCP to be different than the wired networks. E.g. if the wired network uses 10.0.0.x then use 10.0.1.x or 10.1.1,x, and restrict the number of IPs to be served to just a few.
- Consider turning on logging

Logout of the router setup.

(There may be something else I'm forgetting here.)

First test the remote administration from the wired network.
- Move the ethernet connection to being between the Internet side of the wireless router and the LAN side of the regular router.
- Power cycle the router
- On the wired network see if you can reach the router by typing in a browser window http://wire.less.ip.address:8080
- If it doesn't work you'll have to backtrack by plugging in the laptop to the LAN side of the wireless router (disconnecting the wireless router from the main router)

- Connect the wireless network adaptor (disconnect any ethernet cable)
- Install any driver software that it came with
- Restart or power cycle the laptop
- Open the wireless utility program that the adaptor came with
- You should see your SSID listed (among others possibly)
- Tell it to connect and tell it that it's an encrypted connection and give it the pass phrase.
- With any luck it will connect.

- Check if the network settings of the laptop are still set to DHCP and see if the assigned IP address is in the range that you configured the wireless router to serve.

- If the network IP seems correct, then start up a browser and see if you can get to the internet. Make sure the browser doesn't have any proxy settings in place. It should be set to direct connection to the internet. If you're using proxies you likely don't need to be reading this anyway as you probably already know what you're doing.

If you can connect to the internet you're done. You might have a friend wander by with a different wireless laptop to see if he or she can connect. Hopefully they won't be able to.

The Disingenuous GOP

While I was at the auto mechanics, I watched CNN. I don't have cable at home so tend to get glued to cable TV when I'm out and about - I have cable internet and basic cable, and for a month they gave me "expanded" cable which included CNN, Animal Planet, The History Channel, Discovery Channel, and a bunch of other things. After a month, I begged then to take it away so I could leave the house and resume life. I decided to refrain from the slippery slip of getting TiVo as well so I could pretend to have a life. Anyway back to CNN...

Sure enough after announcing that Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize, they asked a conservative spokesperson (I don't have a ref - sorry) for a reaction and she gave the usual "We don't think [global warming] has been proven" the commentator said that most, if not all, scientists were in agreement that it exists. Then it became this "Well we don't think it's been proven that it's human caused" and the usual backpedaling a la: don't cross this line, ok don't cross this line.

This is all stuff we've seen before but only what I'm now noticing is that there is this tendancy of GOP to ask a bunch of questions (justified or not), wait a little bit and then innocently say something along the lines of: "Look there are still questions about X, so we don't think X is proven" That's disingenuous, a word whose full meaning I'm just really learning and they're helping me learn it all the better. Well sure there are questions, if you're the one making up the questions. Why not just come out and say? "We don't want to hear this so we're just going to make something up to discredit the messenger." They seem so uninterested in what the actual truth might be. they have their opinion and they're going to jam the data to fit their opinion. Everyone is guilty of doing this at some point in time. They just seem to excel at it.

The Hair Dye Debate

Ok, I should call it my hair dye debate. This is a self indulgent topic but what's a blog if not self indulgent? True to form in my family (well not my father) my hair is somewhat prematurely greying. I swore I would never dye it as honestly I like how it's growing in in this interesting salt and pepper way that I've admired in other women and is an effect that some women pay a lot of money for.

But there's something I didn't count on and I have very mixed feelings about it. The grey makes me look a little older than I am (I'm mid forties), and it's been interesting to how people respond to it. Because I'm very active I seem to become this odd icon to some folks. (Wow look what she can do.) And people who are older than me make comments about how aging is just no fun. That's true and I'm happy that they feel comfortable making such comments (this does not count friends - friends are welcome to say whatever they like - this is just people I encounter in passing.), but I feel like an impostor of sorts.

The reason that I feel like an imposter is that I'm likely not as old as they are, and since my MS symptoms are in remission, I feel the best I've felt in years.

So hence the hair dye debate. I'm just wondering it it's the color that they're responding to. I bought a color rinse some months back and it's just sat on the shelf. I did at least read the directions and it looked just enough of a hassle that I haven't done anything about it.

However I've noticed something else. Up until recently I was very heat sensitive, and have built up quite the collection of white shirts. I was noticing the other day that the white shirts often "bring out" the grey in my hair and if I instead wear a red shirt that more tends to pick up the red in my face and the red highlights in my hair, and it seems to have a much larger effect than hair color. I wonder if I wore a color that is near the color of the brown in my hair though I generally don't look good in brown.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Health Care

I know it's not very workable with our current goverment and economy, but I really think that we get into a lot of conflict of interests by having health care as a for profit business. I'm not talking about doctors and nurses and every one else who participates in the service of actually giving the care, but more the insurance companies and those other middle companies.

It's in the insurance company's best intest for the care provider to give the least costly amount of care, which is not necessarily in the patient's best interest at all. So we find ourselves in this constant tussle.

Shouldn't the higher responsibility be to take care of the population rather than allowing certain companies to make money off of it by standing in the middle?

It will be interesting to see what Ahnold comes up with as a compromise measure by requiring the insurance companies to put X% of their profits (or gross? - not sure yet) back towards patient care.

Draft Gore?

[I'm waiting for my truck's oil to be changed and they made the mistake of allowing me a computer with internet access.]

There's a growing campaign to pressure Al Gore into running for President and with his winning the Nobel Peace Prize (wow!) that pressure is likely to increase dramatically. I'm likely to concur, but honestly he's been doing an excellent job without the (er) distraction of being president.

If we can get him to be an advisory to who ever the president becomes (I'm hoping Clinton or Obama), that might work, but I hear rumors that Clinton and Gore just don't get along well (update from KCBS: they said they've put it behind them), but I think that's something they're just going to have to work through. We need Gore and his perspective in the next Democratic administration.

By the way if you've never seen An Inconvenient Truth I highly recommend it. It's a science lecture, not a policital speech. His scientific data is solid.

RPM Indoor Cycling - new choreography

I had earlier noted that the Les Mills RPM Indoor Cycling fitness class routine was great for interval training but not so good at training for seated climbing. I take it back now.

Every 3 months they change the music and the "choreography" and what they're working on, and it changed at the beginning of Oct. I'd been laying off of class because of my foot, but now that a agility friend who's a podiatrist told me that it was likely a Ganglion Cyst I'm not so concerned about it (though I will have it aspirated), so I've started back on class.

This is the second time I've done this routine in RPM and the first time I was pushing. Wow. There were two songs that focused on mostly seated climbing with the occasional stand in the pedals. While the class is not nearly long enough to truly train for extended seated climbing, it's great at letting you know which muscles you will be using (and is a great start in conditioning them.)

Bryce was subbing for Amelia tonight and I asked her if she was going to be also teaching her regularly scheduled BodyPump weightlifting class and she said yes and asked if I was coming. I said that I was hesitant to do so after an RPM class and she said it was hard, but implied it was doable. I asked if it was ok if I did half of it and she said that was fine.

So I did and surprised myself by lasting through all of the lifting part (about 2/3 of the class) and left at the stretching portion. BodyPump is an easier class for me since I was deliberately using a lighter weight and it's not very aerobic compared. If I have time doing both classes might be a good thing for me to do every so often. I've done the reverse of BodyPump and them RPM and that seemed harded but I hadn't done BodyPump before. The only downside is that I get home late and it takes me a while to unwind enough to sleep.

I was hoping to ride outside this weekend, but it's raining so that may not happen (along with Trek's agility class).

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Less Predatory Lending?

Far be it for my mailbox to have its finger on the pulse of national trends, but soon after I posted a lengthy analysis here and here (ok it was really a ranting diatribe) of a predatory lending offer I'd received, they all but disappeared and it's not like they're reading this blog. Clearly the bottom has dropped out of the market for taking advantage of people this way and the low life con artists have moved on to whatever the white collar equivalent of stealing copper vases from cemeteries is. (Seriously - how do they live with themselves?).

In recent weeks, I have received precisely one refi offer and it was completely legit. It quoted the public record of my house and who my lender is and the loan amount and then said if you're interested in refinancing this loan, please contact us. That's it. No promises of anything - no riches, no fortune, no fame - I felt gyped - what IS the world coming to? There wasn't even anything written on the back of the letter. I should have taken note of the company to see if their message ever changes.

And it might very well change back. Interest rates have dropped a little (I should have a reference but I don't and you've no doubt heard), but at the same time there is more interest in prosecuting Predatory Lendors. Apparently, the prosecution of these lendors has fallen through the cracks as former fed demi-god Alan Greenspan thought it was a State issue and the states were saying Gee that sounds an awful lot like a Federal issue. (I heard this in a Terry Gross Fresh Air interview). Sounds like a federal issue to me as it's too easy for these low lifes to cross state boundaries.

Even the spam trap that I manage at work doesn't have the usual refi offers. We're now back to Viagra, enlargment promises, meet the woman of your dreams, porn, Nigerian advance fee scams, and get rich quick schemes. I miss the variety in a way (not really).

Wonder what the next big con will be?

You Mean Turkey Could End the War? Really?

[This Blog's 100th post!]

Dems have been struggling to find a way to get us out of Iraq, and have been stymied as most of the solutions include cutting off the funding which might adversely impact those being shot at.

I do believe another opportunity has arisen. Let's let Turkey do it.


Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday that good relations with Turkey are vital because 70 percent of the air cargo intended for U.S. forces in Iraq and 30 percent of the fuel consumed by those forces fly through Turkey.
So Turkey by having a juvenile tantrum (don't you love how mature politics is?) over history correctly calling the slaughter of one million Armenians: Genocide, may just make it impossible for the U.S. Administration to continue this refereeing of a Iraqi civil war - one which the participants hate the referee. How's that for a back door solution? It probably will never work but one can always hope.

Ironically I must admit that the first time that I hear about this genocide beyond a textbook was in The Amazing Race when Mirna mentioned it after seeing the Holocast Memorial at Auschwitz.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


It rained here in the Bay Area and that usually means snow in the mountains.

Yep. Ya hoo. Check out the Sugarbowl web cams:
Certainly not skiable, but heck it's only Oct 10th! Can't wait.
I just got email saying that Whistler BC is already skiable. My, my, my.

I checked the Mount Shasta cams located at and at Sure enough, all I see is a cloud.

Guess I should sign up for that Telemark class that I want to take in Feb '08 from Alpine Skills international.

Les Mills workout classes: Auckland Invades and it's Glorious

As I've written before, my gym (Bladium) participates in the Les Mills group workout classes. This is not your mother's Jazzercise. The Les Mills company develops innovative ways to help people work out more effectively and have more fun doing it (maybe I should market for them, but they do just fine on their own. Checkout out the info page on the company - the video alone makes you want to jump in.)

The class I got Terri to was Body Pump which is a group weight workout class. It's not as over the top as the indoor cycling RPM class that I'm so hooked on, but it's more what she's looking for as a good general fitness class. I like the class as I really don't like making the time to lift weights and yet weightlifting is pretty critical to truly staying in shape (even if you're in great aerobic condition.) Doing the class helps as there's music, an instructor/trainer, and other motivated participants all of which make it work better for me.

I was thinking that it's so important for the elderly to do some resistance based workout that I wonder if they could make a specialized version for seniors. Terri pointed out that while Baby Boomers won't have a problem with such a concept, it will likely continue to be a hard sell to current elderly women as it's way outside their normal realm of experience. (Sweating and pushing weight around is so unladylike ya know?) But with Boomers aging that is destined to change and someone on KFOG (who was probably quoting someone else) said "60 is the new 40." And I continue to say "Age is attitude."

Back to the class. I talked for a little while to Bryce who was the instructor this time as I'm wondering if the weight workout in Body Pump would be enough to get in shape for skiing this winter. She said that Body Pump combined with RPM (which she remembers me from) should get one in fine shape for skiing. I'm not sure if mountaineering trainer Courtenay of Body Results would agree, but she could probably suggest some supplementary exercises if she thought that was necessary.

I find it pretty funny that a major contributer to many Americans fitness is from Auckland, NZ. We export McDonald's (I refuse to put a ref in for it :) and obesity and they export the Les Mills and fitness. I love the irony.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

BiFriendly: Are We Still Relevant? Should We Even Worry About It?

BiFriendly is a social group for bisexuals and their friends that's been around since 1987 and I've run it since 1992. During that time we've seen so much grow and change with the bi community and with the entire GLBT community and especially with the attitudes of the country towards queers.

Attendance at our events is highly varied. Our monthly coffeehouse gathering is at times only 3 people, but in the past has been more than 25 people (at which point it becomes unmanageable as no one can hear.) I've been noticing that over the past couple of years our numbers have remained consistently small and I've been trying to figure this out.

It used to be that folks were desperate to meet another bisexual face to face. To know that they weren't crazy and that such people, not only existed, but thrived. These days that doesn't seem to be quite the burning issue it once was (at least in the Bay Area which is admittedly a bubble) People still struggle but they have so many more resources available on the internet, and younger bi's especially don't seem to need us.

But the evidence still gives me pause. When I look at the statistics, the number one page accessed on my web site ( is BiFriendly's page, by about double. There's certainly some traffic to the dog's training blog and there's a little here (a scary concept I must admit), but clearly people out there are still looking for something. It's possible that they just go to the BiFriendly web page and then sign up for the bi chat and events list and that's it. But I always list the events on BABN's event list and I don't see many new folks from there (though plenty of regulars use it).

Anyway, last night we had our monthly meeting and there were 4 of us. We mostly talked about politics, and this "Are we still relevant issue?"

The reason for the "Should we even care?" subtitle is that we all enjoy each other's company and we will have a nice time regardless if someone else attends. And regulars always seem to appear and surprise us.

I've been experimenting with listing us in various places online. I tried Craigslist Event list, and David tried the Squidlist. Both yielded zip. Next month I think I'll do myspace and tribe. has been suggested as well. Jim also suggested a fee based service, but I think I want to exhaust the plethora of free listings first.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Re: Senator Larry Craig - Maybe We Should Take the High Road

First of all, Wombats wanting to check my blog entry on the 20th anniversary Wombats ride should page down to "Baby's First Wombats Ride."

So I've been thinking (sorry) While I and most queer-friendly folks have been enjoying watching Senator Larry Craig slowly roast himself over a pit of open homophobic hypocrisy, it doesn't quite feel right to let him be burned by a practice he would no doubt support if it wasn't him. I'm of course talking about entrapment. (I should put a reference in here but I'm too lazy to do so right now.)

Sen. Larry Craig entered a Minn. Airport restroom and started giving old school middle age closeted gay male pick up signals to a plain clothes cop. All Senator Craig did was make eye contact, tap his feet, and wiggle his fingers. What I'm unhappy about is the cop returned the signals, and then arrested Sen. Craig when he escalated the signaling. To me that's obvious entrapment as Sen Craig would not have escalated the signals if the cop had not signaled interest.

Sen Craig was arrested for Lewd Conduct. For wiggling fingers? Please. Yes, he's a creepy and hypocritical lowlife, but he did nothing wrong. Wouldn't it be ironic if we started to support him, instead of standing by watching GOP eat itself (it's doing that anyway). Besides if a bunch of Lefties stood up for him, wouldn't that not only completely gall him, but it might just kill any reelection chances he has (never mind he has no reelection chances).

For no other reason, let's take the high road as the most hateful thing about Sen. Craig is his hypocrisy and we don't want to fall into the same stinking cesspool.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Baby's First Wombats Ride

Even though I've been throughly occupied with Dog Sports for years now I've been missing my mountain biking excursions a lot. So, now begins a new adventure. (Oh and the dogs aren't going to let me even consider stopping doing dog sports even if I was tempted to. :)

On Saturday the 6th I attended the Wombats (Women's Mountain Bike and Tea Society) 20th Anniversary ride and potluck and I had a fabulous time meeting some really neat engaging folks (mostly women, but some men too).

It was held in Deer Park in Fairfax, which has some lovely, albeit busy, multiuse fireroads trails. On the ride, I learned how specific muscles are used differently in each form of exercise, in this case mountain bike climbing vs. indoor cycling (spinning or "RPM") class at the gym. In spin class, I excel, and get a great workout from it. On the mountain bike ride (and the previous ride I took) I found myself walking up the steeper hills. Fortunately, I knew from my Redwood Park ride when I wore a heart rate monitor, that pushing a bike uphill is excellent aerobic exercise and there's no shame in it (especially if you're pushing at a good clip.) What's interesting is that I am in great aerobic shape and I just need to get my leg endurance to keep up with me (this is true for skiing also.) I was never out of breath on the hills.

Another thing that will help is to just do a lot of one the road climbing (like Mt. Diablo and the like - maybe I'll just start with Snake Road as it has less traffic.) I really like the newer Fisher's lower gearing. When I was on the road and climbing I could gear it so low that I never needed to stop (in Mountaineering parlance this is the equivalent of the "Rest Step" - you're resting in between steps.) Off road you have to be more careful as the ground is uneven and you could fall over at 1 mph - which I've done on numerous occasions.

It also gave me some good ideas on how to use the spinning bike to help train for hill climbing. Mostly it has to do with increasing the resistance and sitting down (and staying there) and getting used to the constant drain on your legs - the classes are great at interval training and learning how to stand and stay up on the pedals, but not as good at the sitting down and toughing it out - though the new RPM routine appears to be intended to address that. And, as usual, I need to do more weight workout on my hamstrings

Jacquie also suggested going downhill with my pedals level. I said that I was more the type to keed shifting them around (according to the direction of the turn and she said that was fine as long as there was some weight on the upper pedal (there is but it's good to keep that in mind.)

Fun Jacquie challenges were:
  • - Can you ride through the narrow trail divider opening? In a bike like mine where I've added bar ends, you usually have to go super slow, grab the fence upright and turn the front wheel handlebars enough to clear it.
  • - Can you do a u-turn on a fireroad. Usually, though I'm still learning this bike critter so I'm not that smooth at it.
  • - Optional but very fun. Can you ride over a row of sawn tree stump sections that have been lined up in a row? This is where I got my requist silly injury with a good story (see previous entry for much too much into on that), as I did fall over the first time I tried it and skinned my knee (it's fine now) the next two tries where more successful but I stopped there as we were starting to fall behind the others.
  • - And the one I passed on. Can you, while riding, smell the small bit of interesting, aromatic plant that Jacquie has just picked (also while riding)?
I still need to get used to clipless pedals offroad (I'm find with them on road), so I did spend a fair bit of time not in the clips. I spent years using toe clips so this is really going to take some adjustment.

Heather was nice enough to sell me her Marin County Bike Coalition map of the area (she works there and can get another one.) The route we took was:
  • - Deer Park Rd (dirt)
  • - Shaver Grade (dirt)
  • - Oaks Rd (asphalt - passing Bon Tempe Lake)
  • - Lake Lagunitas (dirt - road around the Lake)
  • - and return the same way (I think)
I sold my bike computers when I sold my bikes to get this bike so I have no idea how far it was, but it wasn't terribly far, but it was a series of nice climbs. And as you might expect, "mellow" is a relative term. :)

Then there was a fabulous potluck afterward where we drank tea, and at yummy cheeses and decadent deserts. I discovered that Nancy is also a skiier and she says that several Wombats are too (some downhill, some cross country). I think a Wombats trip to Sugarbowl is in order once it really starts to snow and I'd be happy to help organize it.

Names I remember are:
Jacquie (of course)
Donna (who came later and regrettably I have no photos of her)

and some others whose names I'm spacing on and hope they will remind me of them.

I also took pictures and you can see them and also a video of Jacquie talking about appearing on a DVD discussing the fine art of cooking with "gleaned" ingredients AKA The Fine Art of Dumpster Diving. The web page is here:

Friday, October 05, 2007

Well, At Least I get a Good Story Out of It

In the past couple of days conversations about getting hurt in really dumb, unexciting ways have come up. Things like tripping on a stair and spraining an ankle or yanking on a heavy package and tearing a rotator cuff.

It occurred to me that I get hurt in the same silly ways, but I seem to be better at picking the setting and hence get a decent story out of it.

Things like (why don't the bullets show up in this format I wonder?):
  • - falling down embankments on a mountain bike (multiple times)
  • - doing the above and having to climb back up using poison oak vines with predictable results
  • - crashing on a mountain bike, passing out, coming to finding myself helmet in hand, walking the bike, in the middle of a conversation with two hikers I had passed a little while back. This was seriously disconcerting to me that I had no idea what I had said - who's running the show here anyway?
  • - continuing on, after convincing the above hikers that I was fit enough to drive, I cleaned up, and then got in the car to drive back home only to realize that I was starting to go into shock. I rolled down the windows, played and sang to the radio, but that just bought me time and this is before the days of cell phones, so I struggled to make it to a gas station where I was able to use a pay phone to call my partner at the time who came and got me and took me to the Urgent Care center. Turned out I had a concussion and a somewhat banged up knee.
  • - last week I took my new bike out and managed to do a nice 1 mph tumble down and embankment, had the bike fall on me, and opened up my chin which then proceeded to bleed for 6 hours More info here.
Ok so mountain biking is risky, so how about hiking and running?
  • - insects and other crawly things sometimes seem to have it out for me. Three separate times I've had a bee, yellowjacket, and I think spider land on me and instantly sting or bite me. 2 of those times, I was out on a hike, several miles out. with a swelling hand or arm, and wondering what was going to happen next. (Fortunately the most severe reaction was an infection and it was the one time I was near civilization.)
  • - on a run on Mt. Tam I was feeling great and was just following along on what I thought was the trail and took a wrong path and found myself part way up a ridge instead of on the fire road below. Turning around and retracing my steps would have been the prudent thing to do but oh no I decided that I could just parallel the fireroad and work my way back down to it. This went fine until I got almost back to the road and then slipped down a very short steep embankment. The net effect was that I burst out of the shrubbery rolling and crashed hard on the road, and opened up a really nice gash on my knee. Then I had to walk a mile back to the car and then I had to drive to where my cell phone would work. Got the ok to got to the Emergency Room and after contemplating the long wait times at other hospitals drove myself back home and went to Alameda Hospital who tries to see people within 30 minutes. In my case they saw me nearly immediately, and proceeded to pull out lots of flora out of my knee, and gave me lots of stitches.
  • - I seem to have this cat-like love of climbing up things and not being able to get down in a smooth way. Actually, that's not quite correct as I'm really good at downclimbing things that I've climbed. Where I get into trouble is steep, slick, gravely fireroads that we have here. I charge up them and then can't get down without slipping which is really annoying, irksome and not fun when I do slip (even with trekking poles). I'm still trying to figure this one out.
Then there's agility, which soon after I started seriously competing I was diagnosed with MS and was having balance issues then. I had many dramatic falls though fortunately nothing very serious. Now that I'm no longer having MS issues, hopefully I will have fewer agility misadventures. (Well one can always hope.)

And there were many horse and tree related falls when I was much younger. Believe it or not so far I've never broken a bone and hope to keep it that way.

And guess what I'm doing Saturday? Going on a mountain bike ride. :)

Actually it's my first "WOMBATS" ride (Women's Mountain Biking And Tea Society) and it's supposed to be a mellow ride. But we are talking about a group led by Jacquie Phelan who raced mountain bikes for years, so I'll have to see what that means.