Category Archives: Uncategorized

—A Driving Experience in Anchorage, Alaska

As I was driving South from Anchorage, Alaska, I saw some debris on the Seward Hwy. in the right lane. Ahead, a truck stopped completely in the left—the fast passing–lane. I thought he might have blown a tire, so I continued rather than completely blocking the road. Then I saw the large moose on the right shoulder, just before he decided to step into the roadway directly in front of me. I swerved hard into the left lane, then had to swerve hard back into the right lane to miss the truck stopped dead on the left. The center line had a film of ice and compacted snow, and the SUV is a bit top-heavy and has a very soft suspension, which made everything more interesting than I usually prefer. I’m sure the automated traction control helped, but it seemed to compensate a little behind the real-world events. If I had instinctively slammed on the brakes in the process, I probably would have rolled it at least once. I couldn’t see far enough behind me to see if everyone else on the road missed the animal, and the truck driver and I both eventually went on our respective ways.

Thankfully, it has been a somewhat less memorable Christmas Eve than it might have been. At least I didn’t spill the lattes….

—Scribefire Test

Savage Utopia

Checking out the Scribefire addin for FireFox in Ubuntu Linux v. 8.04.

So far, attempts to use the image upload feature are a complete waste of time, as the plug-in image browser will only find images that were originally in the <user-name> folder. JPG’s in other folders, including the standard /pictures location, don’t even show up. Nor will it let me enter the photo location directly—just closes the dialog and stares back at me. Nor will it find photos which were copied into the <user-name> folder alongside the JPG’s it does display, which were some that were originally there when I started the plug-in.

May be as usable as LiveWriter, and has the convenience of being integrated into the browser. It’s mystifying as to why the image browser is busted, though. I’ll have to figure out if this is only a problem with Linux.

Fireweed on the road to Homer, Alaska

Fireweed on the road to Homer, Alaska


Surprise Glacier from Prince William Sound, Alaska

Surprise Glacier from Prince William Sound, Alaska


McKinley/Denali from the park road, mile 92

McKinley/Denali from the park road, mile 92

Hmmm….I’m having the same problem with the WordPress image browser in Linux. They have an option to switch from a Flash uploader to a “Browser” uploader, which appears to work. I used it to upload images directly from WordPress. I’ll have to see if the Scribefire uploader works from WinXP later.

Oh, and I went to Alaska again, to see it in what passes for “Summer” up there. More on that later.

I just found the caption capability in the WordPress photo management options. I don’t remember seeing that before.

"Angie’s Half-Crazy" Koala Half Marathon, Clear Lake area, Houston, Texas 2008

 

It needs to be pointed out that the idea of having walking participants in long-distance events is a product of bona fide genius.  The benefits of the motivation of community support in an event atmosphere for the personal fitness of average people must not be underestimated.  Unfortunately, it apparently still is—but more on that in a moment.

Since the Surfside event was sort of open-ended, and I missed the Houston event, I felt like I needed to end the season with a timed half marathon under the four-hour time limit.  This event was held in the Clear Lake area, which also made it extremely convenient.  This was the inaugural year for the event, so some “teething problems” were to be expected.  The most publicized of the problems was that a critical mistake in the layout of the first leg of the course resulted in the overall distance being 13.5 (I heard some rumors of 13.62) miles long instead of the official 13.1 miles for a half marathon.

We gathered in pre-dawn darkness in cool, clear weather.  Perhaps the first sign of organizational miscues was the incredible line near the start for the inadequate number of portable toilets.  There were about 500 participants, and about eight toilets.  Since most of these people presumably traveled some distance to the event, this wasn’t very thoughtful.  Many people had to simply abandon the effort to use the facilities when the line was still at least this long as the race approached start time (I’m still working on the low-light function of the 10MP Casio camera. I will probably have to reduce the resolution to make it work right without the flash, which is not strong enough at this distance. This picture was actually taken in fairly dark conditions, at about ISO800. I didn’t reduce the resolution or get the stabilization on, and most of these shots were too blurry to use.).

This was my first experience with chip timing, the use of RFID shoe tags:

…together with special sensing mats to gather start and finish times for individual participants.

Participants were grouped into “corrals” according to expected speed, to keep people from being trampled at the start line. (There is a problem with using a flash around hundreds of people wearing reflectors)

Here we have the first runners coming back from the turnaround point on the first leg. We didn’t know it at the time, but this was where the serious troubles began. This runner should have been about at the 1 mile marker in this photo. Instead the marker was on the wrong side of the road, adding almost half a mile to the distance.

This also shows the traffic cones used to safely secure lanes on the streets for the event. That didn’t last, either.

Most of the walkers in our class are expected to finish the 13.1 mile distance between around 3:20 and 3:50. We were welcomed to participate in the event by organizers who had been supportive of walking participation in the past, and told that we would have the course limit of 4 hours to complete the event. The aid stations were there for us the entire time, “themed” in some cases, and highly supportive. The course support, on the other hand, was an entirely different matter.

Starting at about mile 4, just as my tendons began to relax so that I could move easily, a yellow Rider truck eased past me on Red Bluff Road, picking up the traffic cones, and telling me that I would have to continue on the sidewalk. I was easily ahead of the pace needed to finish on time. They continued about a quarter- to a half-mile ahead of me for most of the rest of the course, picking up the traffic cones. I was told that the police covering the lane closures for the event had ordered them to begin opening the lanes.

As I approached the seven-mile marker on NASA Rd. 1, they picked that up, too. Neither I nor any of the people behind me on the course would have any way to estimate our mile times for the duration.

Aid stations continued to support us, cheering and checking on our condition, and in some cases performing some kind of Jimmy-Buffet-themed ritual with hula costumes. Unfortunately, in spite of the evident good will and support, my most vivid memory of the event will always be this:

The yellow Rider truck is continuing to pick up the lane protection and mile markers, while the other truck is packing up the last of only two portable toilets I saw on the course, perhaps a tenth of a mile before I got there. I didn’t need it, but there were a number of people behind me who might have. The police had also left by this time, so that all those remaining on the course were forced to cross at least three major intersections, in heavy traffic, without protection.

Traffic protection was absent until the last mile, which probably had to be left for us only because this section had no sidewalk. The last leg of the course was definitely welcome in any case, although one of the coaches came out to tell me about the distance error at this point:

They had moved the finish line and timing mats around the corner into the parking lot. I finished, according to my watch, in about 3:51, which was reasonable considering the extra distance on the course. I don’t know my official time, because it wasn’t reported in the official results, which only appear to go to about 3:10 finish times. One group of walkers failed to finish under the time limit, and didn’t receive their medals—I am still wondering if they could have made it if the course had been the right length. We’ll never know, because the timing mats had all been stowed by the time they got there.

There are probably some reasonable explanations for some of the miscues and misunderstandings we encountered in the event—I hope so. In spite of the various problems, I accomplished my individual goal, and got another nice finisher’s medal to add to the collection:

The breakdown in course support—whether due to local law enforcement or course organizers—is confusing and frustrating, and above all, incredibly short-sighted. Support for fitness among average citizens who aren’t highly optimized running machines is vital to the welfare of the community, and walking participation is distance events is an important contribution to it.
Addendum: I want to express my appreciation for the radio-equipped official who came by regularly on a bicycle to check up on me—and presumably the other late finishers—throughout the event. I didn’t mean to minimize his effort in any way in my earlier tirade.
Update: The rest of the results have been posted. My times, 3:51:45 chip and 3:52:22 gun time, were posted under the name of some hapless 23-year-old named “Roberts”. Probably not the pirate, though….
Update 6-4-2008:
After two months and several notifications, my results are still posted under a fictitious name. My participation in the event has been effectively “airbrushed” out of the records. I can’t say that the maturity level of the race organizer is up to the responsibility of such a major event.

Surfside half marathon 2008

We walked the half-marathon (13.1 miles) in Surfside, Texas yesterday. It’s unique in that the entire course is laid out on a beach. I’m too old and beat-up to run, and there were a few minor setbacks, so it took me about 4 and a half hours to finish. I was passed by a woman in a heavy leg brace and her dog, and later by a woman who was limping badly. My wife eventually had to drop out at the 7 mile point, and later walked two miles back to the finish line.

I forgot about the camera in my cell phone until just before the second turnaround point at 9 miles:
9-mile-turn-02-09-08_0952.jpg

Outbound on the long second leg, this aid station was the half marathon 8 mile point, and the ground around it was literally carpeted in about a 50 yard radius with plastic and paper cups which participants had dropped as they passed. We momentarily were walking on crunchy plastic and paper cups instead of sand. The volunteers were all extremely helpful and supportive. They cleaned up the Cup Farm before I got back, so I didn’t get a picture of the mess.
10-mile-station-02-09-08_1013.jpg

This was one of the more dramatic sights at the event—a man running with an American flag on a heavy, fully rigged mast strapped to his back. I think I’ve heard about this story elsewhere, but I haven’t looked it up yet.
us-flag-runner-02-09-08_0959.jpg

Here’s the increasingly welcome 12 mile marker, and the shot also gives an idea of the breadth and condition of the beach. I spent most of my time below the tide line where the sand was very smooth and firm, although it was a bit damp. The sand above the line had rollers in it which I found less comfortable. For a while, I thought someone was close behind me, until I realized that I was making a slight noise as I lifted my feet. I found later that every ridge in the soles of my shoes was filled with impacted sand. I probably experienced a variation on endorphin-induced euphoria at about this time, during which I may have considered an independent run for the Presidency. It blessedly cleared up quickly.
12-miles-02-09-08_1052.jpg

This would have been a shot of the 13 mile marker with the finish line behind it, but it isn’t very clear ( I couldn’t really see the viewfinder image in the phone in the sunlight). It is possible to make out the fog rolling in as I approached the finish. By the time I got my finish paraphenalia (finishers got a nice enameled pewter medal with a nautilus motif) and we climbed the 4 or 5 flights of stairs and ramps to the room where lunch was served, there was a solid wall of chilling fog outside. I still don’t think the fog had anything to do with my approach to the finish line, but certain people seemed to see it as more than a coincidence. As we left the event, I had to lean out the window to help my wife find the exit from the beach.
finish-fog-02-09-08_1112.jpg

Next year, we will definitely use the regular start, as the early start seems to lead to a rather dismissive attitude from some of the race officials. Otherwise, it was a great event, and I haven’t actually started to really experience serious pain as a consequence—I think that’s for tomorrow.
surfside-2008-finisher-medal.jpg

Update:
I have been told that some of the apparent surliness on the part of the timing staff may have been due to some serious problems with the timing. Some preliminary reports suggest that some of the timekeeping records may have been misplaced or something. No wonder they just told me to check my watch. I guess I shouldn’t complain so much….

—Unusual Places…

According to Sitemeter, some of the strange places where S.U. has been read in the last month or so include:

Curitiba, Brazil
Alexandria, Egypt
Le Moulin, France
Hamburg, Germany
New Delhi, India
Istanbul, Turkey
Rome, Italy
Tokyo, Japan
Amman, Jordan
Amersfoort, Netherlands
Madrid, Spain
Stockholm, Sweden
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

—Iranians Seize UK Sailors, Menu Contained Rat Poison, KSM Sings, and Other Stories

FOXNews.com[AP]- Iranian Vessels Seize 15 British Navy Personnel in Iraqi Waters
Oh, well, nobody seems to be overly concerned about this, like it was a Gulf-of-Tonkin-class historical “tipping point” or anything, It apparently isn’t the first time the British have incurred Iranian displeasure.

My Way News [AP]- Rat Poison Found in Tainted Pet Food
The cause of the Menu Foods pet food scare seems to have been found. Samples of the dog and cat foods involved were found to be contaminated with aminopterin, used in some places as a cancer treatment, and in others as a rat poison.
There’s probably a metaphor about life in this story somewhere, but I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader, if any.

FOXNews.com [AP]- Pentagon Transcripts Show Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Confesses to Sept. 11 Attacks

“The language of the war is victims…”

At a closed-door military tribunal Mohammed has confessed—or proclaimed—his principal role in planning the attacks on New York City, the murder of Daniel Pearl, Bali, the USS Cole, and dozens of other actual or planned acts of terror and assassination.
KSM went on to compare Bin Laden to George Washington. Of course, Washington isn’t the comparison they will ultimately have to answer for.
There is considerable controversy about the military proceedings, since all reporters and independent observers have been barred. The proceedings are to decide whether KSM and others are “enemy combatants” who can be held indefinitely and tried solely by the U.S. military.
It might be more instructive for future understanding of these horrific events if there was some sort of independent observation and assessment of the hearings. Of course, we instead would probably get the AP in any case….

FL Today: sts117etrepairs-705904.jpg (JPEG Image, 1600×1064 pixels)
Here’s a nice shot of the repairs proceeding on the hail-pocked foam insualtion of the External Tank attached to Atlantis. The guys in the clutter of mismatched, Home Depot™-class flourescent lights and scaffolding look like they’re setting up to paint a barn.
The big, orange, thing in the middle, by the way, is the infamous External Tank….

FOXNews.com [AP]- Pentagon: Children Used in Iraqi Homicide Bombing
Religion and politics have driven the insurgency in Iraq to an all-new level of senseless brutality. Not only did the hellspawn put children in the back seats of bomb-equipped cars to get security forces to lower their guards, but left the children in the cars as they detonated them from a safe distance.

—Email Subscription Test

Feedburner email subscription test….

—-PantsGate Again

PantsGate again

My Way News [AP]- Report Says Berger Hid Archive Documents

This is just pathetic. What did the Clinton Administration do during the closing days of their term, in response to rising threats of terrorism against U.S. citizens, that would provoke a grown man to sneak secret documents concerning those events out of the National Archives in his pants legs and hide them on a construction site, and then later remove and destroy them? Will we ever get to know what really happened during the last years before 9-11-2001?

“Officials told The Associated Press at the time of the thefts that the documents were highly classified and included critical assessments about the Clinton administration’s handling of the millennium terror threats as well as identification of America’s terror vulnerabilities at airports and seaports.”

Sandy Berger was evidently so desperate—panicked—about the contents of the documents that he did not have time to plan a competent scheme for getting rid of them—-he got caught.

“Inspector General Paul Brachfeld reported that National Archives employees spotted Berger bending down and fiddling with something white around his ankles.”

Not only did former President Clinton’s national security adviser suffer no credible consequences for his crimes, but he will eventually be allowed to access the Archives again.

—U.S. Troops Respond to Kerry Outburst


This picture, from a U.S. National Guard unit in Iraq, shows a level of intellectual sophistication which Sen. Kerry and his colleagues probably didn’t expect: [found on http://www.drudgereport.com/]

—Kerry: Officially Stupid, AMD/ATI?!, Empires of the Middle East

It’s Official….
Voting | Vote | 2006 Elections – FOXNews.com
Kerry has admitted that his remarks about U.S. troops in Iraq were “stupid”. Now members of his own party are calling on Kerry to apologize. Does saying something “stupid” mean you don’t have to say you’re sorry?

Eeeek!
Advanced Micro Devices – Smarter Choice – Graphics and Media Processors
When did this happen?! Is this going to set AMD up against NVidia? Was this a good idea

Empires of the Middle East
EMPIRE17.swf (application/x-shockwave-flash Object) [reference from “Matthew”]
This is a very interesting interactive map with a moving timeline, graphically showing the empires throughout history which have controlled the Middle East. It’s surprising to see the extent of some of these empires, especially the Macedonians and the Mongols. It’s also easier to see why the Muslims look back on the Caliphate with such nostalgia.