Thursday, February 28, 2008

Matt Gonzalez joins Nader - now it's personal

well sort of personal. More ranting follows.

I just heard on KFOG news that local lefty and former SF Supervisor Matt Gonzalez is going to join Nader on their presidential bid. Now I don't know Gonzalez, in fact I haven't even introduced myself to him (since I'm a huge Gavin Newsom fan and Gonzalez is best know for his running against Newsom, I really didn't have much to say to him).

But we all do see him around from time to time at local coffeehouses, so this brings it all a little closer to home, and I'm hoping that someone here can manage to talk some sense into him as opposed to allowing Nader to brainwash him.

But how do you bring it up in a way that isn't completely confrontational? How do you politely say "Consider something past your own ego, you dense lunkhead."? It's not overstating things to say that the reputation of the US is on the line here during this election.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Dammit Nader - You're SO out of Touch

Ralph Nader has announced again that he is running for president (ref.) and I very much want to hurt him (but that wouldn't change anything). About the only thing that might help is to put him through brain surgery to cut his ego down to a more normal size and plug him back into today's reality.

He says "most Americans are disenchanted with the Democratic and Republican parties," which is a really old line and proves that he hasn't been paying attention for at least a year to the giddy grounswell of attention that Barack Obama is getting and the fact that many people are thrilled with actually having two excellent choices for the Democratic nominee.

What drives Nader? Does he think he's the Messiah? He claims that he only runs when people ask him to. Who on Earth is he hanging around with? Can someone get a line into that bubble they're living in to phone in a clue to them? At least have them turn the damn TV on and watch a little news. Please.

Terri thinks that no one is going to vote for him, but all I can think about is the 2000 election of Bush that would not have happened if Nader hadn't been there.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Parental Caregiving - Reality vs. Personal Demons

My parents, mostly my mother, need to have a full time attendant and have been resisting doing so mostly because of my father. My siblings have been terrific at trying to work with a currently unworkable situation of dealing with legally competent adults making terrible choices for themselves.

What's tough for me (and why I'm writing about it here as this issue is not about me, but I need to puzzle this out) is working through all the weird unspoken emotional subtextual messages that I'm feeling regarding my mother. Even as a kid, my mother used a cane to get around, and always wanted help. For example, she always wanted me to hold her hand for stability when crossing the street. This is tough on a kid who is too old to need hand holding to cross the street. A kid isn't able to really separate out her mother's needs vs. her own.

The demon that I wrestle with now is the constant pull of emotional obligation (likely mostly imaginary) that I should still be there helping her. I woke up this morning feeling like the reason that my mother was resistant to hiring an attendant is that I should be there taking care of her. Now my mother (who has huge class related issues) grew up with a hired cook/housecleaner so she's entirely used to having hired help so the reality probably not that and what is going on is a combination of my father's resistance to getting help (since that would mean that he isn't completely capable of taking care of his family himself) and my mother trying to cope by falling back on using the youngest child as the caregiver (which is totally not fair of me, but is the message I feel.)

Ironically, when I'm there I'm a great attendant up to a point. I'm a really good wheelchair driver and helping her up and down into the chair. More intimate issues like managing getting up and down off the toilet) I do have more issues with and don't do much of that.

I have to keep reassuring myself that I live no where near them. There's no danger of my getting trapped into that role, and if my father were willing to hire an attendant, my mother would be thrilled. I just need to keep repeating this to myself. Over and Over and Over.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Telemark Ski Clinic - Unanticipated Benefits

Last Saturday, I had the second part of my Babes in the Backcountry Telemark Ski Clinic. It went similar as I started out strong, but was completely exhausted and demoralized by lunchtime and elected to do a little alpine skiing for the afternoon. But I noticed something yesterday and also today (now that my body had had a chance to rebuild). I'm way stronger than I was before the clinic.

I had an indoor cycling class on Monday and I could tell that I was stronger (and I'm already pretty strong at it), but this morning, right as I got up, my usual tottering around wasn't there at all. I can easily stand on one leg without having to concentrate nearly so much on it as I usually have to. I don' t know for sure, but it seems like the last of my lingering muscle weakness symptoms have finally been rectified. Given that I've been working on this for well over 2 years this is most welcome news.

Back to the clinic. The flu really cut into the numbers of the attendees, so it was me and just one other person with instructor Elizabeth. Such a deal. I have the near equivalent of an all day private lesson for the cost of a very inexpensive clinic.

Concepts we covered were:
  • even though you have two skis consider them as pieces of one long ski
  • focus on the big toe for the main turning ski, the little toe for the other
  • bow the little toe ski towards the hill when traversing
  • pole placement (hard to summarize)
  • keep looking down the mountain
  • slide the soon-to-be uphill ski back for the turn
Notes for me in particular:
  • get more comfortable with speed - stay on the easier slopes for this
  • stay in the turn/fall line longer - especially with right turns that I tend to cut short
  • stop trying too hard - that's what's exhausting me
I think I'm going to have to spend a lot of time on alpine skis to get used to speed and pause on the Tele efforts for a bit (though my legs have really benefited). I'm also noticing that March is nearing with the climbing season only 3 months away, so I may have to pause on the whole skiing thing fun as it is and just work on climbing in snow. I'm not going to get good enough at skiing to feel comfortable backcountry skiing this season (I think) so it sounds like that's next season's project - though I'll go a couple more times this season just to practice what I've learned.

Marianne joined us for a little bit and offered advice as well, and I got to meet Leslie Ross, the founder of Babes in the Backcountry. Watching all three of them (Elizabeth, Marianne and Leslie) was completely mesmerizing (the poetry in motion cliche comes to mind - but good Telemark skiing is beautiful) and I felt honored to be there.

Meanwhile back to my hapeless reality. I signed up for Mt. Shasta Guides June 20-22 Women's Climb. With any luck, I'll be on the summit for my birthday. And this time I'll be able to look at the skiers with a practiced eye, and hopefully I won't be battling leg fatigue as much (that's the project of the next couple of months). And I have promised myself not to whine about climbing roped and to just suck it up and get used to it. Though I will have to go up a couple of days earlier to acclimate.

The speed thing is funny as I find a walking descent too slow (I'm not going to whine about that either). I'm a big time glissading nut (the text based definitions of glissading kinda suck so just see the video). There are a lot of glissading videos on Mt. Shasta on You Tube. The first person in this video is most similar to me. Terri says she can look up at climbers descending and can pick me out by being the faster moving dot. I thought I'd be totally into the speed of skiing, but that's faster than glissading and just past my current comfort level which is something I didn't know. With practice that will change, but for now I'm fine with that level. What's cool is that that video is from a place higher on Shasta than I've ever been and it doesn't look too bad. I look forward to standing on it it person.

Friday, February 15, 2008

About that Impressive Sounding Name ...

I couldn't decide whether to put this entry in the dogs diary or this one as it's about dogs, but really only peripherally and nothing to do with training a dog.

It's actually about two things
  1. Find out the background of that fancy sounding name you want to make use of
  2. What do you do when you know the non-impressive details of such an appellation? Oh that's simple - you write about it here. If I knew the person I'd tell them, but I don't know them, so here I sit.
Some Welsh Corgi breeders like to give their Kennel names a Welsh name since the breed originally did come from Wales (Unlike the Australian Shepherd which did not come from Australia - guess I need a citation for that - elf was nice enough to put some in the comments section.) A common choice is a town name which is fine, people can actually research how to pronounce it and have a shot at getting at least a little close (Welsh is notoriously hard to pronounce - I think it makes Gaelic look easy - ok, not really, but you get the idea.)

Also, I've been to parts of Wales, so I have some visual images to match up with the names.

So I decide after a few years of wondering, how to pronounce a certain kennel name (I'll withhold the name to be nice, but Corgi folks will probably have a few guesses). I'm over on Wikipedia reading the part about how to pronounce the town name and I'm flipping back and forth between the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) spelling of the name and the IPA guide on how to read it. While i was doing this I would spy little bits on the rest of the text about the town. Famous Narrow Gage railway town. Ok. Old mining town. Interesting. Slate mining. Really? Sounds familiar. Known for huge piles of slate rubbish. Wait! That's too familiar. I look at Google maps/satellite and I realize that I've driven through there. It's a striking place that they're preserving the surrounding mountainous area very nicely. But there's no getting around that the Kennel with the fancy Welsh name is named after a place that features ginormous piles of slate debris eyesores that are clearly visible from planes, satellites, even the road.

I'm really glad I don't run into the kennel owner (who is very successful and on the other coast I think) at parties or other gatherings as that would be too hard to sit on.

What's really funny is that typically all dogs from a particular Kennel have that Kennel name as the start of their name. So therefore all the dogs from that Kennel could conceivably be called "Slag Heap Corgis." (A geologist noticed that I misuse "slag" here - see the comments section). My consolation (besides writing it here) is that I know someone with a dog from that Kennel (a lovely dog), but he would get a laugh out of the Rubbish Heap legacy.

So be careful when you want to learn how to pronounce something as you may end up with way more knowledge than you thought you wanted to know.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Using Caller ID to Ignore Sales Calls

Computers have revolutionised the making of sales calls but the short cuts they take now make it absurdly easy to not talk to them. Sales call companies use computers to make thousands of phone calls. If a live person actually answers the phone the call is then routed to a sales person and you can hear this as the line is initially silent and then you can hear the click of someone coming on the line. If you're fast you can detect this delay and hang up if you don't get a response on the first hello.

But that's more work than I want to do. I got caller id because I really want to know who is calling and my cell phone has it and I love it. I don't like paying for it but it's proved invaluable to not have to have unwanted conversations with companies/organizations that I have/had previous relationships with but don't want to have a conversation about it right now.

Sales call companies block their number in a host of ways (google on "unavailable caller id") but they almost always do and I've never seen a legit call come up that way. Even if it was a legit caller they'd leave a message. We now have a joke in our household about how "unavailable" always calls and never leaves a message. Sometimes the number shows up but the name does not which provides the most information (example below.)

Of course, the first step in avoiding sales calls is to add your number to the do not call list. I've heard people claim that sales companies ignore the list, but that hasn't been my experience, though it's not like I'm answering their phone calls either.

If you do get a phone number with the name as unavailable appearing, there's this handy site called 800 notes where you can enter a toll free number and find out who owns it and any comments people have about it. For example I just got a call from 888-858-9823. I looked it up on that site and found out that it was Chase - a company I haven't dealt with in years but oh well. One poster said that if you called the number there was an option to remove your number from their sales call list, and they were right. It took a little while but it finally let me enter my number and promised to remove it. I'll have to try this on the other numbers too though most of the calls are from my schools (UCSB and Cal Poly) or the people they hire like Telefund. Though now that I look at Telefund's website I see the it was more likely The Sierra Club or the Democratic National Committee. The trouble with all of these groups is that they are so hard to say no (high guilt factor and they know it) to even though I never give money over the phone.

Article on Ski Balance

In skiing, as with many things, there is the idea of Intermediate Plateau. You can cope on the blue square slopes but have a hard time on more advanced terrain. That's just starting to be me. This pdf that SkiNet just send me claims that you shouldn't throw all your weight onto the outside ski, but instead make it a more gradual transition. After all this time about keeping most of your weight on the outside ski, that's going to take some adjustment, but it will make switching between tele and alpine easier.

There are pictures included, I must say I look like the incorrect photos.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Alpine Skiing Intermediate Private Lesson

Saturday I went to Sugarbowl and my parents had recently given my a cash gift after the sale of some property (my mother the queen of privacy/secrecy would give me hell for even discussing that much) they had so I decided to spend some of it on a private lesson to work on parallel turns. My instructor was Rich and he was excellent (another instructor said that as well).

His main points were
  • focus your weight of the turning ski on the big toe
  • rotate the other ski into the hill
  • face your upper body where you want to go
  • the rhythm is similar to riding a bicycle (turn-beat-turn-beat-turn...)
  • (probably the hardest) during a turn, stay in the fall line a bit longer to gain speed and momentum and to allow the skis to get into position (my words). My right turn is not as strong and I cut the turn shorter than it should be.
He lengthened my poles to 120cm which initially felt way long but felt perfect later on.

In alpine skiing during a turn 70+ of your weight is on the outside ski (in Tele it's 50/50). Focusing on the big toe helps you get the correct edge into the snow. Now that I think about Tele's big toe / little toe adage is pretty similar to the first two points.

The third point is the very important and easy to forget "look where you want to go," but don't just use your head, your whole upper body should get into the turn as well (this is also expressed as "look down the mountain")

Later in the day as I practiced I finally started getting the idea of developing a turning rhythm. That's why good skiers look so good and why a intermediate skier generally doesn't. They're turning a lot more for one. They're turning while I'm resting my tired legs. But the cool think is that I can feel the rhythm working its way into my muscle memory and that's so excellent and probably the best reason to take a lesson. A person taking the time to watch and work with you can speed your improvement more that 3 times (in my experience) and help you push through stumbling blocks, and notice if you're doing something incorrectly or not as efficiently.

The last point about staying in the turn longer (on the "fall line" where you're basically going staight down the mountain momentarily) is the hardest one for me (and I would guess many folks) It's dealing with speed without getting panicky and my right turns is not there yet. I need to park myself on the Trailblazer blue run (via Jerome Hill lift) for a few days. The thing that's hardest for me is that the ski doesn't seem to respond as quickly and that may be me tightening up on the turn because of the speed, but part of it is that I want the turn to happen faster that it needs to.

As I speed up I can see that I'm going to occasionally crash harder. I did wack my head once. Maybe it's time for a helmet. If I'm going to write about how my head is important to me since I think for a living I should probably start protecting it in this realm. It seemed completely silly when you're going slow but now it's starting to feel more relevant and the snow gets harder at speed especially on a groomed run.

I did work up the nerve to go up the Judah lift and do the blue Tunnel 41 run. The top of the run is lovely, but it quickly gets too steep for me to do anything beyond survive. And the run takes you through the lower part of the terrain park which is not nearly as scary as it sounds but don't fall right before a jump as they don't like that. :) Fortunately the jumps are obvious and it's quite natural to ski around them. So it's back to Trailblazer and its cousins for me.

My leg endurance is better and I'm hoping that it doesn't have to get much better. As I improve it should take considerably less effort and that's a stage that's probably the hardest to get through.

Marianne of Babes in the Backcountry said that her Alpine skiing improves after she works on Telemark. My experience is the same. Wonder if the reverse is going to happen as the second part of my Tele clinic is going to be next Saturday also at Sugarbowl. I'm going to be using one of their group discount lift tickets so I have to remember to not have the pass around my neck like I usually do (but keep it around for lunch). Oh and this time I'm keeping my poles as they keep me from falling in stupid ways.

The pizza was delicious as usual. It feels so self indulgent to pay that much extra for a pizza at a ski resort, but it's such a nice reward.

The stretch lycra jackets that the instructors wear intrigue me. It seems like a nice compromise, but I'm wondering if that fabric has the same issues as the North Face one that I wound up returning because it was cold to the touch and stayed that way.

Did I mention that I was really into the equipment aspect of winter sports? (of any sport) - will have to write about that someday.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

I might actually miss Mittens

Mitt Romney has "suspended" his presidential campaign (whatever that means) and it pretty much means that McCain is going to be the GOP nominee. When I heard the announcement I was actually a bit disappointed surprisingly enough. I mean he was really good for some amusing twisted reasoning (see: Freedom requires Religion), or thinly justified fabrications like "I saw my father march with Martin Luther King" (use Google to get a lot more refs) and then arguing that "saw" could be taken metaphorically, which I would say is not really correct as it's "see" that can be used to suggest hypothetical situations like "I see myself skiing down a black double diamond slope."

The reason I liked Mittens over say Bush's English hatchet jobs of sentences is that Mitten's can at least talk in complete English sentences (even if he doesn't think in them) and is not nearly as painful to listen to.

I Don't Care for Valentine's Day either but...

It's that Hallmark of holidays: Valentine's Day.

This post was prompted by:
Someone emailed KFOG and ripped into them for having someone on yesterday who talked about greener Valentine's day gifts. He or she called them hypocritical, since it's still promoting consumerism and if they wanted a good way to celebrate it then you should go on a walk together.

Yeesh, what a Grump.

I don't like V-Day as it's so hard on single people so on V-day I stand in solidarity with singles and don't celebrate it. But I think I and others should lay off on those who do.

I wrote this to KFOG:
Wow the person ripping into you all for being hypocritcal about V-Day, seems like they're unfairly directing all their frustration about consumerism at you.

Even though I'm in a relationship, I don't celebrate Valentine's Day, but the message I got from the Greener Valentine's interview was that if you want to celebrate it here's a way that you can participate in a more green way. There's tremendous social pressure to participate in Valentine's Day and I don't give anyone a hard time for taking part (especially kids - who really seem to enjoy it.) The thing I resent is how hard it is on single people and I do hope I follow through one year in having an anti-Valentine's day celebration for single folks, but still need to figure out how to make it non-condescending.

And I must say that it seems weird that the writer is blasting you for being commercial when you are a commercial radio station (Hello? Reality is on the phone and wants to speak to him/her). I think you all strike a nice balance.

Thanks for having a great morning show.
And before I wrote this I did some checking to see if Hallmark really did dream it up and the answer is No. Chaucer, of all people, appears to have made it up. Here's the Wikipedia entry on it:'s_Day

Not to say that every single capitalistic enterprise hasn't jumped on the V-Day bandwagon screwing the guilt past the sticking point (to mangle a tired metaphor.)

And what a better time to plug the show:
My Sucky Valentine: Sour Grapes and bitter chocolates, Good writers on bad sex and tainted love.
(Soon to expire Yahoo listing here; craigslist ref here)

And the appropriate candy to go with it:

Anyway, enjoy the 14th whatever you do on it.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Voting in Person - Being Part of the Process

When I'm going to be out of town I vote absentee, and whenever I do I'm offered to become a permanent absentee voter.

Terri is and for a long time I went back and forth about whether to do it. It certainly is easy. In general I avoid lines whenever I can. I use self checkout at the grocery store, I rarely go into banks except to do something complicated like reassign all of my accounts to my trust (another post, another day), I don't even stand in line to go skiing - I have a day pass that they scan at the lift. But there's something about participating in the voting process. Maybe I just like see the workings of it all. Something I'm normally not a part of similar to courtrooms, police stations and television studios. I've had 3 surgeries and the prep for each of those was endlessly fascinating.

I guess it's (a) watching an unfamiliar process and (b) wanting to feel a part of it. That will probably change as I age but for now it's kinda fun. Maybe it's hearing too many times things like: well we know what the results are but we can't say for sure until we count those loser absent ballots. (Well that's what my brain hears). Given that a huge percentage of California votes absentee that's got to change.

Mechanics: My area got rid of voting machines quite soon after they became so controversial. I voted with a pen (no chad) on paper, and then fed it into an Op Tech scanner (it kept the paper). There was a small printer on it but it didn't print a receipt though I got the proof of voting tear off stub. - wonder if I could have gotten an actual receipt. I think the scanner provides a nice compromise. There is a paper copy, but it can tally the votes faster and if there's a scanning issue the voter is right there to fix things. I'm sure you can screw around with the scanner, but it's a pretty established technology. No, I didn't bring a camera as I trust my heavily democratic district. There's never been an obvious voting scandal here.

Oh and after all my agonizing? I voted for Obama.

American Gladiators "Crush"

The woman who plays Crush on American Gladiators is named Gina Carano, and she is seriously adorable. I was having trouble reconciling this cuteness with the story of her being a very successful Muay Thai fighter, even with her saying in an interview: Yes I hit people.

So I finally started Googling for her name and found all sorts of things to correct my thinking.

First a disarming interview but has fight footage:

Then a real fight:
(And there's a lot more to be seen)

Ai-ya, not just a pretty face. I'll try to refrain from calling you cute anymore (or if I do it will be from a safe distance.)

While I love punching inanimate objects, I do not see the appeal of hitting another person. And I really don't want to be hit in the head (or anywhere else) by another person as I want to keep the wits I have- I have MS which can have cognitive effects and most importantly: I think for a living. The physical challenge of fighting for real has no appeal to me. (Though I do admit to trying to use being hit as a way through depression pain - it actually worked for a short while - I did a lot of things to try to [mostly unsuccessfully] cope with the pain of depression but that's another post.)

I love basic kickboxing, but don't yearn to hit someone for real. Sparring would be fine, but no blood please.

Monday, February 04, 2008

This Time My Vote Counts

... and that's kinda intimidating.

For the first time the California Primary is a part of Super Tues.
Usually by the time our primary comes around the candidate is clear.
Not this time. Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama are basically tied and the daunting thing is that for the first time: I have more than 0 excellent choices, in fact, I have more than 1 excellent choice. Argh. I DON'T KNOW!!! I've been an Obama fan for months and have really enjoyed watching his extraordinary campaign, but Clinton has more experience and in a perfect world I'd have Hillary for 8 years and then Barrack for another 8.

But the thing is that Obama could create a revolution Right Now, and that's really important since our country's reputation has really been trashed by the Bushies. Also, for reasons that I will never understand, there are a lot of people in this country who hate Hillary and the Clinton dynasty. There are Republicans who can see voting for Obama, but will lie down in front of a train before supporting another Clinton. I don't know why and I don't think I'll ever know why, but if the country can get behind Obama then so be it.

A year ago I wanted a bumper sticker that said: "Obama-Clinton or Clinton-Obama in '08"
There's a chance that I may get my way (yikes). While I'm still wishing, can we have John Edwards as Attorney General? And Dennis Kuchinich as something pretty high up too.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Finally Getting Blogoranized

I've always been a little frustrated by the page organization. To use their fancy tools you have to have your pages on their site or be an expert on XML. Given that I pay for my own site that seems a little silly and I just haven't gotten around to be more than just barely passable at XML If I were to move the pages, I would have that much less control and it just doesn't feel right. So I finally finally got my act together and made my own Table of Contents for the Blog. Virtue is momentarily mine. That way it's not just organized chronologically, but instead by topic. An entry doesn't get heaped on the e-slag pile just because it's older. This way I can highlight favorites and group things how I choose.