December 25, 2008

Mary Chriss-mus

Seasons Greetings from. . .


Scut Farkus,




my new dance partner "Killer",


the good engineers who brought you DuPont Nomex and DuPont Kevlar,


La Nina, who is on an extended visit from the Great White North,


Recession Santa,


our hungry deer neighbors,


our Seussmas tree,


and our new lolcat, Bebe Geesus.

December 18, 2008

Reasons I Love Spokane #1

So the next blog series I wanted to start was "reasons I love Spokane." There are many reasons I enjoy living here and have been pondering how to order them. However, with our recent weather as an impetus to start the series now, I think I'll just start listing reasons in no particular order.

In short, days like today are something I love about living here. It snowed for about 36 hours, dropping at least two feet of snow locally. We are, quite literally, snowed in. We got hit with some cold arctic air last week, and the foot of snow we were supposed to receive in the valleys never materialized (though a much needed foot of snow fell in the local mountains). The cold air from the north stuck around and some moisture finally followed. I get the impression that the two collided in the sky right over our fair city, bringing both to an abrupt halt, spilling the entire load of snow. Of course, this was a record setting storm, blowing away the previous record of 13 inches in 24 hours, set in 1984, so it isn't something we are likely to see again any time soon. But every year we always get a handful of good storms that slow down everyday life and bring a quiet hush over the city.

Fortuitously it was Boofis' birthday today, so I had scheduled the day off--and the schools were closed (in the 7 years we've lived here I can only recall the schools closing a total of two times because of snow--the other time being this past January). As a result, we were prepared with lots of good food (pancakes, bacon, and hashbrowns for birthday breakfast) and plenty of time to enjoy being in the deep powder (4.0 inches snow water equivalent, which is quite high for us--it means the snow is light and dry). This morning the kids played in the back yard. The snow was actually too deep to sled in, so the girls followed me as I made a little cross country track along the bottom of our hill. Veep entertained Sal by making a fort and shoveling snow off the trampoline.

I also spent a couple hours getting to know the new snowblower we got earlier this fall.  I was beginning to think I'd wasted my money.  I'm an avid snow shoveler and reluctantly bought the snowblower knowing our new driveway is just way too long to even imagine shoveling by hand.  I've quickly developed a love hate relationship with the thing.  It is LOUD and burns gas, producing fumes--which ruin the joy of being in the quiet, fresh air.  But, in a snowstorm like this it was really satisfying to get the driveway cleared with relatively little physical effort.  Though at this point our road is still full of snow (again, literally snowed in) since it is a private road in the county and we haven't yet seen the hired snow plow/landscaper.

Later in the day I went snowshoeing. Another thing I like about living here is that I can mountain bike on trails right out my front door and road bike on nearby country roads with little car traffic. I infrequently feel the need to put my bike on my car in order to drive to a spot good for riding. By the same token, when we get snow like this, it is possible to ski or snowshoe without driving as well.


I went up the driveway, up to our cul-de-sac, and up the hill.


This is a representative photo of what it looked like everywhere.


The snow was deep.


The snow was at my knees even with boots and snowshoes on.


Mature ponderosa--something else I like about Spokane.  Evergreens are essential for the soul during a long winter.


"Name that intersection."


It is fun to bring out gear you haven't used for a while, and satisfying to have it work well.

Needless to say, my hip flexors were sore from breaking trail for a couple miles.  I relaxed by taking another round with the snowblower.  Still no snowplow.  I'm planning on skiing tomorrow but I'm not sure if I'll make it up to Mt. Spokane or hiking up the hill again.  It's nice to have the option.

Dr. Seuss, Politics, and Parenting

The other night at bedtime I read Yertle the Turtle to Sal.  If you don't have kids or don't regularly read Dr. Seuss, it's the one where there's this turtle (Yertle) that is the ruler of a little swamp--"the king of all he sees."  In his thirst for power he stacks his subjects so he can see farther and thereby expand his turtle kingdom.  As the turtle tower grows and grows, the poor turtle at the bottom, Mack, sheepishly complains that his legs are tired.  Yertle barks back that he has no right to speak to him, because he rules over all he sees--blah, blah, blah.  Shortly thereafter, the pile of turtles comes crashing down when Mack, of all things, burps.  He doesn't rebel, there's no revolution, natural bodily functions simply take over and a regime collapses.

I was struck by the overt political message of the story.  This is, of course, no great revelation.  The book has been around for years and the parallels to fascism are obvious and deliberate.  Of course, being more of a Green Eggs and Ham and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish type of guy I hadn't read Yertle the Turtle in many years.  As is my habit these days, I immediately started drilling holes in Geisel's analogy.  Turtles are like a fascist regime?  C'mon, it will never hold up.  My dislike of analogies is not suspended, even for the good Dr. S.  After a few minutes, as is also my habit these days, my mind wandered to something else.

Later I decided to do some super sleuthing on the internet.  I love the internet--it has almost all the answers.  It was clear that Seuss had some political agenda that I had never considered, and I found it necessary to learn more.  Many of you have probably had a similar experience and may already know all about Dr. Seuss and his politics.  If so, I apologize for recycling some information here.


Before writing children's books Dr. Seuss (Theodore Geisel, of course) was a left wing political cartoonist for PM magazine and ardent supporter of U.S. involvement in World War II (before Pearl Harbor, when intervention was highly controversial and a potentially stark change in U.S. foreign policy).  Some of his caricatures of Emperor Hirohito and other Japanese remain controversial.  Interesting.  Considering the events that followed his views on WWII don't seem unreasonable, though at the time he was on the extreme left.  I do wonder what he would say now about Japanese internment camps.  Regardless, as I am no expert on the history of WW II or foreign policy then or now, my point is that Dr. Seuss had a life before writing children's book (though some accuse the current administration and many conservatives to be similarly "Rooseveltian", if that's a word, in their policies) and he had leftist leanings that he stuck to.  It makes sense that his ideas would find their way into the books he later wrote, even if they were for children (which isn't unique to Dr. Seuss either--as there are even college courses about left wing politics in childrens' literature).  

I also came across this blog entry by a concerned mother.  

I found this even more interesting.  Of course anyone with a heartbeat and a thread of cognitive function knows that "socialism" has gotten a lot of play in the media over the past few months (thankfully the election is over now and the sound bites have died down).  I know when people say "socialism" I'm supposed to be scared, though I'm not entirely sure why.  But arguing about socialism and taxes isn't what I'm getting at here.

What I really wanted to dwell on is the concerned mother's response to "Ten Apples Up on Top" and her answer for protecting her daughter from Dr. Seuss' "subliminal message that socialism is ok."  Her answer:  "I will stuff this book to the back of my daughter's book shelf and hope she forgets about it."  

So again, let me state, I'm not an expert on foreign affairs, U.S. history, tax codes, or, in this last instance, effective parenting.  However, I've grown extremely tired of unfounded and unsubstantiated fear being used as a marketing or political tool.  So now conservatives need to be afraid of Dr. Seuss because he's a "socialist?"  And, in fairness, as I want to be somewhat impartial here (because I don't really dig partisanship), leftists should be afraid of Dr. Seuss because he's pro-life?

In these situations I fall back on my mantra of serenity:  "Whatever."


So last night I read a few books to Sal at bedtime.  First we read "Ten apples up on top."  He didn't even blink at the subtle ideological undertones.  Then we read one of the post humous Dr. Seuss books (cobbled together from a partial manuscript with the help of others), "Hooray for Diffendoofer Day."  It is the story of a silly school with all kinds of peculiar and interesting teachers, and a principal paralyzed with fear that the students may not be learning everything they need to pass an impending standardized assessment test.  If they fail, their beloved school will be torn down and they will be transferred to the dull school in neighboring "Flobbertown."  Though not a classic, it has the usual Seussian rhythm and feel, as well as a moral.  Right before the exam Miss Bonkers, one of the more popular teachers in the school, offered words of encouragement:

Miss Bonkers rose, "Don't fret!" she said.

"You've learned the things you need

To pass that test and many more--

I'm certain you'll succeed.

We've taught you that the earth is round,

That red and white make pink,

And something else that matters more--

We've taught you how to think."

So, in the end, maybe the thing we should fear the most is that our children won't learn to think.

But before I close this post that has wandered into the world of politics, I thought I'd leave you with a photo that was forwarded to me yesterday by a friend of mine, with its included text.  Can you guess what they're afraid of?

"Time Person of the Year"


You guessed it--smokers.

End Comment:  Now that the sound bites have died down, I'm forgetting why I'm supposed to be afraid of this guy.  I seem to remember something about being "elitist."  I'm confused, where's his latte?

December 16, 2008

"Blogservations" #1

True to my new, expanded blog definition, I'm going to begin a new mini segment of blog observations.  Not observations that are "bloggable", but rather observations about blogs that are "bloggable." Though these observations will be objective, the reader may at times sense a degree of sarcasm or subtle criticism.  These subtleties are intentional and not meant to insult any one blogger.

With that said, here is my first observation:

I'm always hit with a sharp pang of sympathy when I find an old post that closes with a specific question, looking for input from readers, and no thoughtful readers have bothered to leave comments.

Has anyone else out there experienced the same?

December 11, 2008

Blue State


Say what you will about partisan politics, I like living in a blue state--much better this time of year than a white or grey state.  We'll see if this NOAA forecast actually materializes.  I remain skeptical.

December 7, 2008

The Highs and Lows of Thanksgiving 2008

Ah yes, Thanksgiving has come and gone again.  It is now a distant memory as the more sensational, commercial, and excessive signs of Christmas are upon us.  However, I'm not above reporting a week late as I am in need of blog fodder with the snow staying away and the in between season lengthening. 

As the holiday name states, time to give thanks.  In brief, I am thankful for a supportive family.  I'm thankful for a wife who tries to understand me and who will ride or ski with me.  I'm thankful for each of my kids--unique in their own way.  I'm thankful for a headstrong 10 year old daughter who can accomplish just about anything she sets her mind to (she just has to set her mind to it).  I'm thankful for our 8 year old daughter who is a quintessential peacemaker (living up to her middle child status) and who already has a deeply rooted love of learning.  I'm thankful for a carefree 4 year old son who is truly free of malice and who can often be heard laughing out loud in his sleep.

But enough of that.  Thanksgiving is also a time to throw as many people around a table as possible and eat, talk, visit, play, laugh, argue, fight, eat some more, cry a little, and eventually leave.  So here is a brief rundown of our holiday weekend in true Veep "high and low" format (from my perspective):

Low:  Veep leaves for Salt Lake with the kids on Monday afternoon leaving me alone to work and attend meetings for 3 days.  My aversion to Utah, which stems directly from this abandonment, ticks up a few points.

High:  Tuesday morning I awake to a strange presence in the house.


The mylar balloon has finally descended.  I suppose there is a profound lesson here but it's a little fuzzy for me.  Sometimes virtues like patience are a great justification for being lazy and procrastinating a job that is fully capable of taking care of itself.

High:  I fly down to Salt Lake after work on Wednesday.  Glad I missed the drive.

Thanksgiving day.  

High:  Hiked up Rock Canyon with Veep. Oddly enough we see someone I knew from our time in Portland.  Utah has a way of doing that.

Low:  Two mountian bikers pass us on our way down.  It would have truly been a great morning ride and I was searing with jealousy and bumbling with regret for not putting my mountainbike on top of the car.

High:  We watched the masses of cousins as they filled the playground at the park by my inlaw's house.


I don't think you can appreciate it in this crappy cameraphone photo (my resolution was on the lowest setting for some reason), but the playground was completely filled by kids from the same gene pool.

High:  We played in the obligatory Thanksgiving morning soccer game.  I discovered a few muscles I haven't been using.

Low:  On the last play of the game (or what became the last play, as the last play is usually tragic in these situations) I slide tackled Veep's youngest sister while trying to end the stalemate tie.  I totally made her twist her ankle and felt like a dolt.  Maybe my Mother-in-law and some of the older, more conservative sisters, will thank me, however, for keeping her from tromping around in the impractical, towering high heels she loves so much and they detest so abhorrently.   

High:  We enjoyed an excellent, traditional Thanksgiving dinner.  Veep was very happy she didn't have to cook (that's two years running now, not bad).  Though she doesn't want this to be her legacy, my Mother-in-law can bake some amazing rolls and pies.


High:  Visited with extended family I hadn't seen for a while (I have a strict "every three years" policy of visiting Utah) and had fun catching up and playing a mean game of Mexican train dominoes.


Low:  The anticipated snowstorm wasn't materializing.

High:  Friday morning Veep and I headed for Alta anyway.


Nothing like getting your first turns in November.  Even though there wasn't a ton of snow, there were four inches of fresh the night before, covering large patches of ice from the several warm days earlier in the week.  Alta holds some good memories for me.  Maybe Utah isn't so bad.


Low:  Saturday I should have gone skiing but felt lazy and tired.  At this point the fun of having large numbers of people in tight spaces was aging.  It was starting to feel like a Beijing job fair where no one could decide which booth they wanted to go to.

Job fair

High:  The long drive home started on time Sunday morning.  It was nice to spend time with the kids, even if they were sequestered in the back seat against their will.


We stopped in Idaho Falls for a late breakfast, hit the Patagonia outlet in Dillon, and made it to Missoula just as darkness was falling.  We saw this weird, upside down cartop bike rack on the drive into town.


I don't really understand why you would want to mount your bike this way, I can't think of a single advantage.  If you have hydraulic brakes it would certainly be a bad idea.  Interesting none-the-less.

High:  Slept in my own bed Sunday night.

B.I.D.: Blog Identity Disorder

Lately I've been pondering the purpose of my blog.  I've had the blogging blahs lately.  For some reason l over think stupid little things I want to post, decide they're stupid, and post nothing.  I've also had Veep stealing blog photos and content though, in fairness, I did it to her first.

This blog originally started out as an online scrapbook/journal to keep extended family informed of what we're up to here in Spokane.  That was about 2 years ago.  Since that time Veep started her own blog, sharing some of the "family reporting" duites, and I've felt less of a need to report solely on family activities and have branched out--talking about my main hobbies, primarily biking, and occasional random thoughts.  As I've read more and more blogs over the years I've come to appreciate the range of blog styles.  Some are very specific, with a defined purpose that is not to be strayed from.  Others are much more casual, with posts about whatever esoteric topic crosses the writer's mind that day. This blog is, I think, more akin to the latter.  
So, as I've thought about restating my blog's purpose, goal, theme, code, intent, aim, target, objective, thesis statement, topic sentence, what have you,  I've decided that I should be allowed to post about just about anything I want.  After all, it's my blog and I've found all kinds of crazy people out on the blogosphere saying just about anything.  I figure, as a fairly reserved person who doesn't speak out in the public forum a whole lot, or dominate many daily conversations, that blogging is therapeutic and validating.  And while I am self consciously aware of my audience (Hi Mom) my hope is to make this thing a little more interesting, substantive or, at the very least, mildly entertaining.  This way I figure I will be able to post more freely and more often.

So in my thinly veiled and shallowly suppressed obsessive compulsive way, I'd like to list some topics I would consider writing about (in no particular order):

1.  Family stuff.  Everything along the spectrum from the most mundane daily events to special occasions or extraordinary happenings that are normally reserved for the much anticipated, but often scorned, yearly Christmas brag letter. 
2.  Spokane.  The other day Veep said she was jealous of my zealous appreciation of Spokane.  At least weekly I think of a couple things about this place that make me like it more.
3.  Biking.  I like road biking, mountain biking, and I want to take my first real tour this next summer.  I don't race or see myself as a guru or sage of any kind, but I think some of my experiences may offer a nugget of insight every once in a while.
4.  Skiing.  I like to telemark.  My ambition is to backcountry ski.  To this point, however, I've mostly stayed in bounds as I don't currently have any friends with the same interest.  I've taken avy courses and read books and got gear, but lack experience.  Now that I've got my life insurance updated, the time seems ripe to head out to at least the side country this season.  This is an area that I could certainly blog about more.
5.  Opinion.  So like I said, I've found some crazy blogs out there with people saying or arguing just about anything you can imagine.  So why can't I?  I do have opinions but have so far chosen not to really express them for fear of controversy.  However, as I've engaged in political rants via email with some of my colleagues, I've kind of enjoyed a little controversy.  Argument can really help you work out a particularly complex issue in your mind and help you understand it from a lot more perspectives.  Of course I would probably start with small opinions like "After going to the Banff film festival a few weekends ago, I've come to the conclusion that Jeb Corliss is a doofis."
6.  Logic.  I'm no expert in logic, but I know there is a lot of false logic out there.  The same email rants that have gotten my thinking about complex issues have also uncovered buckets of bad analogies.  This is a topic on my list of "things I'd like to learn more about."
7.  Humor.   All I can say here is I'll try.  But I do like funny blogs (as well as stand up comics, funny TV shows or funny movies).
8.  Radiology?  Question mark here.  Do I really want to blog about work?  I personally think radiology is interesting, but most people probably don't.  But hey, it's my blog.  If I find something I just can't stand not to post, I will.
9.  Random.  Whatever.  This category makes the preceding list pointless as everything above could also be included in this single category.

So with this new blog identity, above is a post about Thanksgiving that is strikingly similar to what I've been posting for the past two years.