Sunday, April 27, 2008

Muddy Buddy ride and run

Muddy Buddy: A bike ride, a run, an obstacle course, and a crawl through a mud pit.

Do I get to admit that this looks like an absurd amount of fun? And it's only 6 miles total - part of which will be on a bike. You actually could not train for it and be fine.

Check out the race video:

There's one coming up in San Jose on June 8th and entries are open till June 5th.

Unfortunately, that's right before my Shasta climb and I'm paranoid about getting hurt as I'm more than hell bent on climbing that mountain this time. I really do want to put someone up to this so I can watch. Wonder if a dog could go along? Maybe just not ride the bike though the dog could be carried through the obstacles (and would love the mud crawl). Given that would add to the sillyness the organizers would probably be all for it.

Bad Web Design Still Lives!

It's gotten harder to find, but really bad web "design" is still with us.

I found this completely by accident:

This is amazing. This is not a case of ignorance of how to set up a page. You have to work to make it this bad. This person knows how to change the font and backgroud colors, insert photos, change the text justification, but they have no sense of TalkingTooMuch. In fact, no sense of text placement at all. There is a blizzard of text all over the page. And the text language is seriously off kilter. The miles long crap in the left column where you should only put basic outline headings. It's an easy bet that their in person communication skills are just as bad, but I'm not willing to check further.

And the content is a hoot. Saying they will shoot anyone caught trespassing and cutting their horses tails. So much for due process - who made you judge and jury? And I love the barn manager ad for 40-60 hours a week at sub-minimum wage ($5.00/hr - maybe that's normal for West Virginia.) And I love the near religious references to "Our Executor."

This isn't a web site - it's a side show.

This person is a West Virginian Republican. Surprised? Thought not. :)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Workshop Organizing - Learning New Skills

Well I thought they were new skills, they really aren't.

There's a dog trainer in Southern California that I've been wanting to take Yoshi to as the training techniques ("Control Unleashed") are proving to be very effective. I made an appt for him in March and had about a month to work on the exercises presented in the book. As the appt got closer my dog started getting behaviorally a lot better and then I realized I didn't know what I wanted to work on so postponed the appt.

In the meantime, I had joined a Yahoo group of people also working on the techniques and found that there were about 4 of us in the Bay Area who were interested, so it started to look like it might be easier to bring Kienan up here instead of a group road trip. To get an idea of interest, I asked the Bay Team list and got an avalanche of responses. I decided that it was time for this to happen in the Bay Area and on the spot decided that we should organize a Control Unleashed Workshop (even though I'd never done something like that before). My life hasn't been quite the same since.

The cool thing is that I was able to get The Bay Team to sponsor it and thus I had both insurance (the big part) and, also important, the advice of our Trial Secretary which helped huge amount.

Technology made a huge difference too. I created a Yahoo group and invited people to it and had an easy way to talk to people and get suggestions and feedback from them. I kept the simpler documents on Google docs, and used Open Office for the more complicated ones that used special fonts (like the flyer and the completion certificate). Even Google Street Views got into the act as a view of the parking entrance was really helpful to put in the directions of the confirmation. And my monocrum of graphic design skills got dusted off as well in designing the flyer and the certificate.

Even though we used the mail to send checks, I used email heavily to confirm receipt of the checks, and made liberal use of my cell phone. The cell phone was invaluable the day of the event so last minute things could be taken care of easily.

What helped a lot was that I've taken several seminars and I know what generally happens at them. I knew what I liked and didn't like and actually had the power to do it differently this time. I hate it when people can't use cameras, so I allowed them. I don't like having to pay for lunch separately so I just included it in the seminar price which also meant that we didn't have to manage who paid for lunch or not (a huge win in my view). Though the biggest win was to offer an auditor spot to someone who would be the food service manager. She bought and brought all the snacks and breakfast items, laid it all out and dealt with the caterer. Phew.

I guess this is all about how to delegate which is what the management gurus always talk about.
Though I was stepping outside my usual sphere, I never felt lost and actually didn't realize that I was doing it. I think I kept waiting for reality to hit and I was standing in it the whole time. The funny part was that I got to sign my own completion certificate which was a schizophrenic sort of feeling.

One of the more fun things was the opportunity to publically thank my dog for bringing us all together on that particular day as he was the reason it all happened in the first place.

Praying for Lower Gas Prices - Oh please stop

Seriously. There's an article in the Chron today about how Rocky Twyman staged a pray-in at a Chevron station (!). He must be kidding, but he swears he's serious.

As if God gives a flying whatever about how many trading tokens it takes you to secure a gallon of dead dinosaur residue. Especially since according to this cnn Money article, we're still only playing about midrange in the scope of world gas prices (at least it's closer to normal than before when it was absurdly inexpensive.)

People invoke God in the oddest ways. I'm much more in the God sets up a system and then leaves it alone. I mean you gotta admit that particle physics and evolution are pretty cool tools (now that's intelligent design) in the scope of universe design. (If you care, I'm kind of a non-practicing Buddhist myself.)

A friend sent me an article that someone did a creationist museum that shows Adam and Eve's progeny in a world complete with docile (!) dinosaurs (ref1, ref2). Now that's funny, tempting to go see it, but it's way off in Kentucky.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Am I going to get in TROUBLE for this?

So I'm organizing a dog training workshop (which is a long story in itself). People sign up and send me checks. Sometimes the level they want is full and they have to send me a different check (easier than my managing refunds) This has been working great and I just had one deadbeat who I had to nag a little. I wasn't getting answers via email, so I left a message on her voicemail at which point I find out that she's an elementary school Principal. Eeek!

When I was a kid (and I'm informed that this is no longer the case) the Principal was the most powerful figure in a young kid's life beside their parents. So it was difficult for me to leave a slightly nagging message on the PRINCIPAL'S voicemail. I don't think my voice shook, but there was a groveling small child in me worrying that I was going to get in trouuuuble.

I did eventually get the check and the workshop is about to happen, but I sent out email asking for a reply to let me know that they had all received the workshop confirmation and directions. I've heard from all but 2. Wouldn't you know? She's one of them. ARRRGH. My inner child does not need this anguish even though I keep telling her that she needs to get over it.

I'm going to wait a couple of days in hopes that I don't have to face these silly internal issues.
Let's hear it for avoiding issues.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Torch Run - Afterwards

As you have no doubt heard, SF (Gavin Newsom) changed the path the torch took, avoiding a whole bunch of protesters, but disappointing those who came out to see it.

I was trying to think what I would have done in the city's position.

I came back to

A city's responsibility is to
1. protect its citizen's and visitors
2. not stomp on civil rights

A caller to KFOG mentioned yesterday that it was a powder keg on the Embarcadero and there were people planning on violence. I think Newsom probably took the best of a set of not fun choices. The protests got to happen. The torch got to run. And most importantly, no one got killed or severely hurt.

Yes, people were disappointed that they didn't get to see the torch but they likely wouldn't have seen it anyway. They would have seen a street brawl at best. And the stick thin torch bearers would have been at considerable risk.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Olympic Torch in SF - Worry

The Olympic Torch is here along with all the accompanying controversy. Mayor Newsom is taking what I think is the right tack of encouraging peaceful protest and for the most part I'm sure that's what will happen, but there is always some group that takes things further and gets violent in some way. Usually in a protest without a specific target that's [relatively] fine.

But this is different. There is a focal point and a vulnerable one at that - the torch and the torch bearer. This is going to make tomorrow more than a little exciting for those charged with protecting the torch bearer from harm. I'm hoping we'll have no violence, but historically that hasn't been the case there's always been some.

Of course, the Chinese Gov't doesn't give a hoot about what happens (I really dislike the Chinese Gov't and for good reason), but the rest of the world will be watching. I'm particularly impressed with the protesters who climbed the cables of the Golden Gate Bridge. Now that's bravery.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

I Hate When My Superstitions are Reinforced

"These things go in threes." I hate the foreboding that I get from that saying.

We've had three dog agility related people (all male) pass away recently. The last one Bill was a former Power Paws classmate of mine who just died yesterday of Bladder Cancer. When I heard about the second death I had already heard of Bill's diagnosis and the fact that he and his wife Nan had moved to Houston from Ottawa, Canada (where they had moved for an employment opportunity) for treatment. While Houston is an okish city as far as Texas goes the culture shock must have been appalling.

But I should stop making this about me. I loved having Bill and Nan (and their dogs) in class. Bill had this perfect staccato way of saying "Bert" (their first Border Collie). I wish I had a recording of it, but it is so embedded in my brain that I probably don't need one. He loved his dogs and he loved seeing them succeed and never yelled at them (in a bad way), even when Radar was doing his best imitation of that fictional slow race horse whose name I can't find now (and I've just wasted 10 minutes looking). Though Nan has a special way of saying Raaay-Dar.

I'm wondering how Nan is doing as I spent more time with her. I selfishly hope she'll move back here.

In start contrast to Kevin, Bill's death is not a shock or a surprise, but no less angering. He gave it his best shot. He should have won, dammit. The world is a less happy place because he's gone. Their web site is

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Randy Rhodes - shy soft-spoken radio host

Randy Rhodes who is a funny, bright, very direct Air America radio host came out to San Francisco for an appearance and got into hot water by really letting loose (seems that SF brings that out in folks) and called both Geraldine Ferraro and Hillary Clinton "fucking whores." Geez Randy - don't hold back now. :)

She's apparently indefinitely suspended. Oops - but you know she'll be back.

The video is here:

Air America's web site says:
"Air America encourages strong opinions about public affairs but does not condone such abusive, ad hominem language by our Hosts," said chair Charlie Kireker.

While I don't think Rhodes tirade is really constructive, the trouble is - it's really funny.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Squinting at Lawn Signs

The Alameda Education Foundation has started a campaign to support the school programs that are facing being axed. Things like music for grades 1-3 and athletics for high school and advanced placement programs. Very admirable goals and the campaign has a sense of novelty that I admire. The one problem is that the important part of the lawn signs (the contact information web address) is unreadable from further than 10 feet away, which makes them pretty pointless if you're driving by.

Here are a couple of examples:

The second one with the blue stripe is the most mysterious to me. What is the purpose of the blue stripe? It cries out to have the invisible url larger, in white, and on top of the blue stripe, and it's driving me a bit nuts as these signs are all over the neighborhood.

Problem is that while I totally support our schools and vote for every school related tax accessment, I'm leary of whining too much about this as I don't want to get roped in to redesigning the sign as I'm busy enough as it is. So here I whine, but I really hope they work on the presentation.