Sunday, June 28, 2009


Two very long weeks at work and Google effing up at home means very little web presence recently. It's Sunday and I've made it over to the coffee shop where Google works just fine. Read through 150 blog posts, sent some e-mail.

Instead of complaining about those things I thought I'd make an update highlighting some of the positives.

1) A little weeding revealed that the beans I planted in the garden, the least successful of the plants so far, actually have produced a little bit. In fact, the weight of the few beans that did grow may have been what's stopping the vines from climbing their poles. After harvesting a few handfuls of green beans, cleaning out some morning glory, and doing some encouraging pole weaving I hope they'll start doing better.

2) Another factor for the stunted beans is probably that they are resting in the shadow of the tomatoes, which are now taller than me and busting out of their cages. The lettuce are exhibiting a similar tendency and after a few brutal trimmings for salad the long lobed leaf ones are beginning to bush up instead of sprawl out.

3) My friend from work who recently lost his job has since found a new one working on similar projects at another company in the area, and after only a few months off! A big relief for him and his wife, and good news for all of us working in the industry to know that companies are still hiring.

4) Crap, I forgot. But it was good.

I'll go see if I can dig up any old stuff worth posting.

Monday, June 15, 2009

More watery adventures

In honor of Ashley's Dad's birthday and taking advantage of the Memorial Day weekend, we went up to Moraine Lake State Park with the family and rented a boat for a long day of sun, water, fishing, and food.

The weather started out a bit cloudy, but it ended up being beautiful all day. It was very sunny and a little breezy, and we got a little hot by the end of the day. Some of us were a little more conscientious about sunscreen and hats, but others of us (ahem ahem) ended up with serious sunburn. And peeling.

Ashley caught some fish. Actually, everyone caught fish except for me. I did, however, learn a huge amount about spooling, unspooling, untangling, and respooling fishing line. Which was fine because I had the best hat, with the tallest crown, and with my up-to-date fishing license affixed by a genuine antique 1956 PA fishing license button. That is the hat I was wearing when I ran into (that is to say, encountered) my boss in the bathroom.

The birthday boy also caught (and released) a bushel of fish. I think they were mostly little perch and sunfish, and some of them had brilliant yellow and blue coloring. Uncle Sherm did catch a couple of bass (maybe spotted bass?) towards the end of the day.

Not having luck with the fishing I had to content myself with other tasks aboard ship. Note the loose clothing, sensible wide brimmed hat and lack of sunburn. I may have been cooking, but I wasn't getting cooked.

(thanks to Amanda for the pictures off her camera)
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Sunday, June 14, 2009

More puppies

Here's some more pictures of the puppies.

Otto wins.

A safe place to rest.
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Saturday, June 13, 2009


Here's the scan of the letter I referred to in the post below. I know, I'm a big fat whiner. But handwriting like this is why we invented e-mail, and putting up with whiners like me and handwriting like this is the sort of thing public utility companies have to do until they extend to their customers the same courtesy of convenient computerized communication that they do their business associates.

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Dragging the West View Water Authority in to the late 20th century

I was extremely annoyed a couple of weeks ago when I learned that the Westview Water Authority, the people responsible for ensuring the potability of the water that I drink, which is sucked out of the river downstream from the sewage plant where I work and the nation's largest operating coke plant, doesn't have an e-mail address.

I was already moderately annoyed by how hard it was to get in touch with somebody about a meter installation we weren't sure we had scheduled, so I was already pumped to write a letter of complaint. When I learned that that letter would have to involve paper, pen, stamps, envelope, addresses, hand writing, and spelling errors I freaked out and went completely over the top with a hand written letter including the e-mail addresses of the water utility companies for Peoria, IL, Eugene, OR, and Kathmandu Nepal. As far as I can tell from the internet, Tombouctou, Mali, does not have a water utility company worth e-mailing, or I would have included that too.

I was trying to include a scan of the scribbly hand written letter, but HP and I have a little negotiation to do first.

Anyway, last week I got a call back from someone at the Westview Water Authority apologizing for my difficulty and asking, basically, what was wrong with me that I couldn't just talk to the nice lady they pay to answer the phones. Actually, their representative was very pleasant, and acknowledged that e-mail can be more convenient and that yes, many people in our area are wedged firmly in the early 20th century. I told him I appreciated his response, and hopefully our account has not been flagged with their "whacko" code.

This week I got an e-mail from the same guy, Dan, reiterating those points. And we also got a visit from Matt, the meter installation guy, who was extremely nice and efficient, and even took the time to make friends with Otto on the way through the yard.


Introducing...Bailey! The most recent acquisition to the in-law's menagerie is Bailey, and eight pound, six week old English Springer Spaniel puppy.

Pretty cute, and the dog isn't bad either.

Molly (right) and Peanuts (left) were still a little uncertain about the whole idea when this picture was taken on Bailey's first day, but they're getting along great.

Otto has since made Bailey's acquaintence too, but those pictures are still with Amanda (who has a real camera, not just a camera phone - another potential investment for us).
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Watery adventures

A couple more pictures from our kayak jaunt a few weeks ago. This was up at the lake at North Park, a nice quiet, shallow, low-current spot to try out paddling before going out on a bigger body of water or dodging coal barges on the Allegheny. The week before we rented a pontoon boat for Ashley's Dad's birthday, and that was a lot of fun too, if not as much exercise. Amanda might have those pictures and I'll see about getting them.

I told the nice Kayak Pittsburgh folks that I had been kayaking before, so they gave me a slightly narrower, tippier, faster boat than Ashley. As you can see, it didn't exactly slow her down.

We got into the muddy shallows at one end of the lake and it was a bit more like polling than paddling. This is where the catfish lived, the ones that we literally ran over.

We both had a great time, and the only disappointment was that Otto didn't come with us. Since then we have been checking out the prices for canoes, and we may soon be making a little investment in summer fun. I especially like the idea of, and Ashley is only slightly apprehensive about, going up to the bigger lake at Moraine Lake State Park, paddling across with a boat load of stuff and camping on the other side at one of the fancy campsites. A nice compromise, I think, between self powered backpacking style camping, and comfy cooler-full-of-food and showers-in-the-morning car camping. We'll keep you posted.
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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Single Payer Health Care

Here's the e-mail Dad sent out about Single Payer Health Care


Americans have the world’s most technically advanced hospitals, the best educated doctors and health care workers, we spend twice as much per capita on healthcare as any other nation, but we rank 37th (same as Cuba) in overall quality of health such as life expectancy and infant mortality. We are not getting our money’s worth.

I am writing to ask you to support Single Payer Health Care as introduced in the US House of Representatives in HR 676 and in the US Congress as Senate Bill 703. These bills are similar and if passed would provide health insurance for all citizens and legal immigrants and designate Medicare to be the single payer of health care bills: Medicare for everyone. Medicare's overhead expenses are 4%. Private insurance companies overhead is between 20-30%. The change to ‘Medicare for everyone’ alone would save about $350 billion a year, more than enough to insure all the currently uninsured. Patients will still choose their own physicians as they do with Medicare now. The physicians work for themselves as they do now. The only thing that changes is that the 20% of the health care dollar that now goes to profits for private insurance companies will go instead to insuring the uninsured.

President Obama has moved away from Single Payer Health Care. He has not given his reasons but I suspect he wants to cooperate with big insurance companies rather than battle them. It is time to remind him and his administration that Single Payer health care is the best option. The majority of physicians support this plan. In March 2008, the University of Indiana Medical School surveyed physicians around the country and found 59% supported single payer health care. Many studies have shown that the majority of physicians want a change in health care insurance system as do the majority of Americans. Physicians for a National Health Plan has online resources and information to answer any questions about how this plan would work. For interviews with some of the nations top health policy thinkers please watch the informative documentary “Health, Money and Fear” available online.

Please write to your Congressman, Senator and President Obama and tell them that the American people want to join the civilized world by making affordable health care available to all Americans.

If you live in Oregon the links to our Congressmen and President Obama can be found below. For those of you in other states I have enclosed a link to help your find your Congressmen.

Please pass this letter along to others concerned about healthcare in America.

Frank McCullar

Senator Ron Wyden

Senator Jeff Merkley

Representative David Wu

Representative Greg Walden

Representative Earl Blumenauer

Representative Peter A. DeFazio

Representative Kurt Schrader

President Barack Obama

To find your Representative try this link.

To find your Senator try this link.

More wildlife

Here's some more low resolution animal pictures. Wildlife as Cannon sees it at 5:00 AM before having any coffee.

It's hard to tell, but this is the wreath on our neighbor's porch, and on top of it is a nest with two baby robins. Apparently they didn't know they were supposed to use the birdhouse in the middle. I would have gotten a closer look, but the mother robin was keeping one eye on the kids while hunting for worms, and if you stepped on the porch she flew right at your head. The neighbors usually use the back door, but apparently the mailman had problems. I hope he didn't mace the bird.

These are some geese and a heron that we spotted on our recent kayaking jaunt on the lake at North Park. We didn't get any pictures of the catfish that we basically ran over in the shallows. They jumped out of the water and smacked our boats with their tails before swimming off and throwing up waves off their dorsal fins, like Jaws.

This is the toad that Ashley found on one rainy night on the way home from playing "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" at CCAC South. She really wanted to bring him/her home to live with us, but she decided that he/she was probably happier to stay put.
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Here are some pictures extracted from our cell phones of local wildlife.

This little bird was stuck in Kevin's fireplace. It came down the chimney, but the opening was sensibly sealed off with plastic, and the poor little thing got trapped under the old gas stove insert. We rushed over with a box, a bucket, some towels, and one glove. It took a team effort, but he/she was safely extricated and released back to the wild.

This is one of the bunnies that live in our backyard. Normally they hang out on the grass, but this one was getting ready to make a quick escape under the fence.

This was a hawk or a falcon or something that was flying around All Saints. I tried to sneak up to get closer but it flew off.

This big old bluejay was pecking around by the shed and I took the picture blind by holding the camera around the corner. I think it may have been thinking about taking the golf balls back to the nest to sit on.
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Sunday, June 7, 2009

What's the point, really?

I was talking with Kevin last week about what it's all about, really, and we pretty much drew a blank. Given my past abortive blog attempts, why am I even trying again?

Well, here's what I just wrote to Dad, who got back from his hike across England: coming up with good answers is unlikely, but the attempt is still fun - and important - to try. Catie and Dave didn't pedal every mile between Pacific and Atlantic, and Dad didn't walk every step from the Irish Sea to Robin Hood's Bay, but that doesn't detract from the value of their trips, and it misses the point. So here I'll try to focus on enjoying the process without necessarily worrying about the product.

More specifically, I've been writing more e-mails and blog comments and other things this year than in years past, and I'm more happy with what I've written, and I have a back log of material that I think I can pull out and put up here. So we'll see what happens.

One more time

Nick's blog take IV. Every year about this time I irrevocably use up another clever blogspot URL by registering a blog with a likely lifespan of about 14 hours. So, let's try it again.