2014 in Under Six Minutes

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Last year, I wrote a couple posts summarizing 2013, with all of its good and bad. This year, I have a video summary instead. The video is a collection of one-second clips – one per day – all mashed together.

I’ve already shared this video on Facebook, but I sort of wanted to get back to blogging again…and this video seemed like a good way to get started.

Some things I’ve learned from doing this project, and more about how I put it together below.

The Year

I didn’t get started recording my video clips until Jan. 8, 2014, so I missed the first week or so of the year. When I started, I knew I would be seeing some significant life changes, but I didn’t know the extent. Renee was busy recovering from brain surgery (you can see that she is a bit spaced out in the January video clips). I knew I only had six months left at my job and would need to find something new. But I had no idea that “finding a new job” would morph into a cool job at a huge tech company, selling two houses, and moving 9 hours away from Missoula. Or making Darwin be an urban dog for two months!

The interesting thing to me is the way the video sums up all the events of the year, and seems to portray the events in chunks:

  • Renee’s brain surgery recovery.
  • Lots of snow.
  • Working on my parents’ new house in Lolo (lots of painting, supervising the new carpet, snowblowing, etc.).
  • Lots of dog walks along the river in Missoula and a little camping.
  • Preparing for the move.
  • Me moving to Seattle with just Darwin and Xena for 2 months and living in a temporary city apartment. Darwin did great as a “city dog” during that time.
  • Renee finally coming out to Seattle and us moving into our new house.

One thing that the video doesn’t show very well was our legal marriage in Spokane back in July. I have a couple shots from the trip to Spokane, but it isn’t very obvious why were were there. In retrospect, I should have grabbed a video of the courthouse or something. One irony I’ve noticed with this project – sometimes the days in which the most cool stuff happens are the days I’m most likely to forget to record a video clip.

Recording and Selecting One-Second Clips

I made the video using an app called 1 Second Everyday. It is very easy to use. Just open it up and tap the “Timelines” button and it displays a calendar. Days for which there are videos on the phone are highlighted in yellow. Tap a day, and you can review all the videos that were recorded on that day and select the 1-second clip for the day.

You can tap a button in the app to launch the video camera on the phone, but you don’t have to. I recorded most of my video normally (outside the app) and then opened the app to pick my seconds later.

On days when you forget to record video, there is an option to select a photo instead – so there are a few spots in my video with still photos. However, there is an annoying limitation with this – you can only use a photo if no video exists on that day. There were a few times when I had both video and photos for a day, and I liked a particular photo better. The only way to use that photo in that case is to delete the video from the phone first. This seems silly to me; I should be able to choose whatever best represents the day myself.

When selecting the second to use, you can fairly easily scrub through the video to choose the second to use.

Once you choose the video clip for a day, it is stored within the 1SE app, so you can delete the original video file from the phone. I was a little bit paranoid of losing data, so I always backed up all my video clips to my computer before clearing them off the phone. The downside of this paranoia was that my phone’s free space became extremely low during times when I was lazy and didn’t do these backups regularly. The other downside is that now my computer hard drive is full of short video clips, most of which are fairly meaningless on their own.

Also, of course, as the year went on, the 1SE app itself consumed more and more space. A single one-second video clip is pretty small…getting close to 365 of them adds up after a while. At the moment, I still have all the 2014 1-second clips on my phone, but I may have to clear them out eventually and only keep one year at a time.

Making the Final Movie

The 1SE app did most, but not all of the work in making this movie. At any point, you can choose to “compile” your 1-second clips into a video. The app “mashes” all the clips together into a continuous video. Note that you don’t have to do a whole year at once – you can choose a custom time interval. (As an aside, I just now discovered that a recent app update lets you create a video in reverse – starting with the most recent date and going backwards. I wonder how that would change the feel of the movie?)

The resulting movie is pretty cool even on its own, but I wanted to add music to mine. So I had to go through a bit of a rigamarole to transfer the mashed video to my computer, load it up in iMovie, then select and add the music tracks. This proved a bit more difficult than it should have been. For some reason, the video as created by 1SE would only play within the 1SE app or within the “Photos” app on my iPhone; it would not play correctly when I transferred it to iMovie on my Mac.

It must have been a formatting glitch of some sort, because I solved it after much cursing and experimenting by opening the file up in Quicktime Player [CHECK NAME OF APP], then exporting it to a new file as a 720p movie. The exported version worked fine. I have no idea why I had to do this.

This particular year it made sense to split the video across two songs – the first half (Montana) and the second (Seattle/Kirkland). I’m fairly pleased with the songs I found for this – “Ends of the Earth” by Lord Huron, and “West Coast” by Coconut Records. Both of these songs happen to be ones I discovered shortly after moving to Seattle, while still living in the temporary apartment.

The end result turned out better than I expected. I’ve already started recording my 1-second clips for 2015. I don’t expect the changes in the 2015 version to be quite so dramatic, but I’m curious to see how it turns out!

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Don’t Fear the Blue Screen of Death

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A few days ago, I was certain we were going to have to buy Renee a new computer.

She has a 17-inch HP laptop we bought a little over two years ago. In the last week we started experiencing constant, sudden crashes with the famous “blue screen of death”. The first time it happened, I figured it was just a fluke, so we rebooted and tried to continue on. But something had obviously gone awry. Other things were wrong, like online videos on Yahoo that played the audio but wouldn’t show the video. The machine was unstable, throwing up the blue screen of death over and over.

I did virus scans and ran “chkdsk” and the various “startup repair” tools built into the machine. Every time I thought it might be doing better, it would crash again.

The thing about the “blue screen of death” is that it gives you lots of information but most of it looks meaningless and not at all useful. The messages suggested removing any recently installed hardware, but this was a laptop. We hadn’t added any new hardware. Why is it having a hardware problem? Is the original hardware getting ready to break?

Finally, we visited Best Buy to price new laptops. I hated the idea of giving up on a two-year old machine, but it just couldn’t see any other option. We looked at a few options and went home to think about it. My gripes about Best Buy sales people and the “geek squad” would probably make this post too long…

One More Troubleshooting Try…

I just didn’t want to give up. So, on Sunday, I did a massive virus scan using the most aggressive settings I could find, just in case. It scanned both her computer and the wireless backup drive, so it took much of Sunday afternoon and overnight, but found no issues. So, no virus. Now what?

I decided to try a few Google searches on “blue screen of death” and found some useful articles about interpreting the “stop code” that occurred. So on the next crash, I wrote down a series of mysterious hexadecimal numbers and took a picture with my phone, just in case.

blue-screen-of-death

The famous blue screen of death on Renee’s laptop

I had to learn a little about hexadecimal counting in order to find my error in the list. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much info about the error:

    STOP Error 0x00000050: PAGE_FAULT_IN_NONPAGED_AREA

I hunted around online for more information and started to worry that the problem was faulty memory, which didn’t sound easy to fix in a laptop. Other searches on the 0x00000050 didn’t turn up much at first. A few articles about issues in Windows XP that didn’t seem relevant. Then, I found this one. At first it didn’t seem like much help either, until I noticed this line:

If the driver responsible for the error can be identified, its name is printed on the blue screen…

Hmm. So I went back to that picture I took and found the file name igdpmd64.sys. (This is why I was glad I took a photo, because I had not written that part down).

blue-screen-of-death2

The important part…the file causing the problem

I searched on that file name and immediately found multiple pages and forum postings complaining about getting the “blue screen of death” after installing a particular Microsoft update.

This one is fairly representative. Several of the pages even specifically mentioned HP laptops.

Fixed!

So the problem boiled down to Microsoft update KB2670838. I checked her machine, and sure enough that update was installed back in October.

I uninstalled the update, rebooted, opened Internet Explorer, and held my breath.

No crash.

I opened multiple tabs and started videos. They played correctly – both audio and video, and still, no crash.

I kept the machine on the kitchen counter all day and fired up various tasks every time I walked past it, just to be sure. All good.

I’m still amazed that the solution to something so frustrating ended up being so incredibly simple.

Computer Memories

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I saw on the news this morning that it is the 30th anniversary of the first Mac computer, which was introduced back in 1984.

This brings back some memories! I did not have one of those original Macs from 1984, but I do remember visiting a computer store with my dad and playing around with MacPaint on one of their demo machines. I’m not sure when it was, but it was definitely an early model. And I decided right then that I really wanted a Mac myself.

We actually had a computer back then, an Apple II+ that we had since I was in grade school. At the time this was pretty unusual; none of my friends my age had computers at home, and I don’t think we had any at school, either. I used to plunk around on that thing all the time, mostly playing games, but also occasionally experimenting with programming in BASIC.

I was motivated to learn how to type for real because I got tired of the hunt and peck method every time I wanted to type in the command to play Space Invaders.

It was a big deal when my dad installed a chip in that thing that gave it the ability to display both upper and lower case letters, rather than just all upper case.

I also have this vague, excessively geeky memory of checking out computer magazines from the library that contained the code for various games and programs…and then typing all that code in. I find it hard to believe today that this was something people actually did. Just to make sure I didn’t imagine this, I had to look it up. Yes, it was a real thing, and I really did this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Type-in_program

A few years later, in 1987, I worked out a deal with my parents to get a Macintosh SE. I know I helped pay for it, but I suspect they footed the majority of the bill. The Mac SE was an upgrade over that initial model – it had two floppy drives instead of one, and it had the “superdrive” that could read 1.4 MB floppies. So you could store an entire megabyte of data on a single disk! Megabytes. Not gigabytes. How far we have come in 30 years!

Mac SE

Mac SE (photo from Wikipedia)

I was a junior in high school in 1987. I used that Mac for all sorts of things – typing out school papers, writing short stories, writing letters to my sister in college (I used Microsoft Word to format the letters in columns, like a newspaper, and called it The Waubonsee News since that was the name of our street. I wish I still had copies of those letters.), making greeting cards and big posters that I printed out on our dot-matrix printer.

That computer came with me to college, where I kept it in a computer cabinet that my dad built (he was really into woodworking in those days). I remember the convenience of having my own computer and only using the computer lab when I need to print on the laser printers.

Eventually I splurged on a 40 MB hard drive so I didn’t have to keep swapping floppy disks in and out of the drives. Again, megabytes, not gigabytes. And at the time it seemed like way more space than I would ever need.

A little over a decade later, my first iPod could hold 500 times more storage. And fit in my pocket. What a difference!

Learning to Snowboard

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One of the things I mentioned in my Good Things in 2013 post was learning to snowboard. This was really a terrific experience.

It all came about as a somewhat impulsive idea when Renee and I were shopping for a new winter jacket at the Bob Wards outlet store. And it seemed a little outlandish at first. After all, I was nearly 42 years old, and I had never learned how to downhill ski. And my cross-country skiing abilities were…well, not that good. I can mostly stay upright, but my stopping and turning skills are pretty poor. For cross-country skiing, I tend to be most successful on flat, straight stretches.

I can snowshoe pretty well, but that is pretty much just…walking through snow.

So learning to snowboard sounded impossible. Especially at 42.

But…on the other hand, I had lived in Montana for seven years at the time, and it just sort of seemed wrong to live within a short drive to multiple ski resorts and yet never once go to one of them.

So we went on a mini shopping spree and picked up some basic equipment. Snowboard, boots, bindings, warm snowboard pants, and goggles. As an aside, finding goggles that work well over glasses is a bit of a pain.

The Bunny Hill, Lessons, and an Evil Rope Tow

We drove down to Lost Trail Powder Mountain for my first lesson on December 20, 2012. The plan was to do their “1 2 3” program. You get three 1-hour lessons with a lift ticket for each of those days. After completing the three lessons (on any days in the season), you get a punch card for an additional 3 lift tickets for practicing.

It is really a great deal.

I remember being extremely nervous on the 2-hour drive to Lost Trail, and looking back, I’m not entirely sure why. It just felt like I was going into completely unknown territory.

Once we arrived, it didn’t take long to sign up for lessons (Renee was doing a similar program for people with some snowboarding experience – called “4 5 6”). I remember worrying that I might end up in a lesson with a bunch of athletic little kids, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that my lesson would just be the instructor and myself.

Even though the instructor was probably in his 20s, he didn’t seem to think there was anything odd about me wanting to learn to snowboard.

I spent the first day on the bunny hill learning how to move around with the board strapped to only one foot. We progressed to learning how to stop and do basic turns; I ended nearly every attempt on my butt in the snow.

The good thing about just learning is that you go so slow that the falls don’t really hurt that much. That comes later, once you pick up a little speed.

I think the most memorable part of the first day was discovering that the rope tow is evil. It looked easy. I watched other skiers and boarders just grab on and glide smoothly to the top. Every time I grabbed on, I’d slide up a few feet before losing my balance and falling. I got good at scooting out of the way of the next person in line. I also burned quite a few calories hiking up the hill just to get to the top.

The rope tow at Lost Trail
The rope tow at Lost Trail

Overall, the first day was really not bad — although I had sore muscles the next day, and I had a hard time believing that I would ever make it off the bunny hill.

We went back two more times in late December for the next two lessons, and I slowly progressed, even with the evil rope tow.

Strapped into my board
Strapped into my board

My last lesson in the “1 2 3” program was on December 27. After the lesson, I recorded my bunny hill practice runs with my phone’s GPS; here they are shown on a satellite view. The little red marks are all the places I stopped.

Practicing on the bunny hill after my last lesson
Practicing on the bunny hill after my last lesson

Real Runs!

On New Years Day, 2013, we decided to go to try Discovery Mountain for a change. I started out on the bunny hill and the “easy chair,” which is a slower chair lift great for learning. No rope tow! Although I still fell every time I got off the chair. Again, I got good at scooting out of the way before the next skier or boarder dismounted the lift.

After lunch, Renee convinced me to try a real run — and a real chair lift. We took the chair up to Gold Bug, an “easy” green run.

Renee at the top of Gold Bug, my first real run
Renee at the top of Gold Bug, my first real run

It took me about an hour to make it down the run. It went sort of like this:

Ride a short distance. Fall in the deep snow off to the side. Thrash around for 10 minutes trying to get up. Finally get up, ride a few more feet and then fall again and start over. Repeat for an hour.

According to my phone’s GPS, it was about 20 minutes of actually moving down the hill, and 40 minutes thrashing or sitting in the snow. Not particularly encouraging. But it was also my first time off a bunny hill, and just a few weeks earlier, I was convinced I’d never get off the bunny hill and onto a real run. Progress!

GPS track of my first Gold Bug run…lots of stops again
GPS track of my first Gold Bug run…lots of stops again

About two weeks later, we went back to Discovery for my birthday weekend. This time, Gold Bug took almost no time at all!

Look at that! Hardly any stops this time!
Look at that! Hardly any stops this time!

Real progress!

We continued with several more trips that winter, both to Lost Trail and Discovery. I did a second round of three lessons (the “4 5 6” program) as well, just to have more professional advice and suggestions. I continued to dislike the rope tow, particularly the second tow at Lost Trail where I had to be oriented with my back to the rope. More hikes up the hill.

I continued to fight with dismounting the chair lift. By the very last day we went (in March), I managed to slide off the chair and down the ramp without crash landing. Progress! And I made it down a few “easy blue” runs at both Lost Trail and Discovery.

So Why Did I Do This Again?

Back before my very first lesson, when we were shopping around and buying gear, I remember the advice I got from just about every sports store sales guy once we mentioned that I was going to learn to snowboard. “Be sure to go at least three days before you give up. You’ll hate it the first day, you have to keep trying before you give up.”

I found this to be mostly true, although I didn’t hate it during my first day. Not until the next morning, when I woke up with sore muscles and my mind attempting to analyze just why this seemed so frustrating.

Then I figured it out. I was teaching my body an entirely alien physical skill. I tried to remember the last time I learned a new, purely physical skill. I couldn’t remember. Maybe when I learned to ride a bike? That was so long ago I had no clear memories of how hard it was. In my memory, I’ve just always known how to ride bike, just like those lucky toddlers out on the bunny hill who will never remember a time they couldn’t ski.

Once I realized that, the frustration faded a bit. It came back, frequently, especially on my first attempt with Gold Bug on New Year’s Day, but my best defense against the frustration was to remember that I was learning a new physical skill and it would just take time. And practice.

One thing I didn’t expect when I started this snowboarding journey was the amazing views of the mountains and forest from the ski mountains. When I thought about learning to snowboard, I thought about the technical difficulty of locking my feet to a board and teaching my body to guide it down the mountain while staying balanced and upright. Getting the chance to admire beautiful vistas of trees and snow and mountains didn’t even cross my mind. But even the view from the lowly bunny hill was gorgeous and inspiring.

Interestingly, this weekend I saw this article in the Missoulian making the exact point that everyone should ski at least once, just for the amazing views.

From a lift at Discovery
From a lift at Discovery
On our very last day, March 17, 2013, at Lost Trail
On our very last day, March 17, 2013, at Lost Trail

During some of our runs, Renee took some video of me with her phone and made this little video. This was mostly from the first few times we went in December and early January; hopefully by the end of the season I looked a little less stiff!

If the embedded video doesn’t work, click here

Now What?

This year, we had big plans for the 2013/2014 snowboarding season. Back in November, we had Christmas early and bought Go Pro cameras we could mount to our helmets to record our runs. We each had to have our own camera so we could record each other.

Life intervened with these plans when Renee became sick in early December and was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor. She had surgery to remove it on December 20, 2013 (exactly one year after my first snowboarding lesson!) and obviously won’t be careening down the ski hill until her skull and brain are fully healed. I’m hoping that the snow will still be around in late February and early March and she’ll be up for some late-season snowboarding. But if not, there’s always next winter!

Good Things in 2013

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So I already mentioned a couple reasons why I won’t miss 2013. The start and the end of the year were tough, to say the least.

But, to be fair to 2013, it wasn’t all bad. We had some good times in the last year…some really fun events and trips. I flipped through all the pages of my journal over the last few days just to remind myself of this…

Winter

Last winter was the year I learned how to snowboard! I remember feeling a bit ridiculous as I signed up for lessons at Lost Trail Powder Mountain. Who learns how to snowboard for the first time when 42 years old? Especially when you never even learned how to downhill ski, either?

I remember seeing little tiny toddlers scooting about on their adorably tiny skis and feeling somewhat jealous. Their parents had the right idea! Those kids probably wouldn’t even remember the painful falls (not to mention that they didn’t have nearly as far to fall!)

One of my first runs when I was off the bunny hill

One of my first runs when I was off the bunny hill

Spring

Renee spent much of the springtime helping Carolyn and Ally get their Potomac house ready to sell. I came out there a few times on the weekends to help as well. I think the day I remember the most was when Ally and I ripped out old, icky carpeting.

This all paid off in the fall when the house sold, and Carolyn and Ally treated us to a terrific weekend in Big Fork as a thank-you for the help!

Cricket and Tango hanging out at the Poto house while we did renovations…

Cricket and Tango hanging out at the Poto house while we did renovations…

Later in the spring, we took a trip back to my hometown, Batavia, Illinois. Renee got to meet my sister and see where I grew up. It was the longest trip we have ever taken in our trailer. It was also the first time we ever did the real “RV” thing, staying in RV parks with hookups rather than dry camping. I have to say, I can see the appeal of traveling this way instead of staying in motels!

Batavia windmill, down by the Fox River…

Batavia windmill, down by the Fox River…

Of course, we also did quite a bit of planting and garden prep in the springtime…which led to our best vegetable garden ever!

One of our pepper plant seedings in March

One of our pepper plant seedings in March

Summer

The summer was very busy and just flew by in a blink. Some highlights…

In June, we went white-water rafting on the Lochsa river in Idaho.

On the Lochsa!

On the Lochsa!

We also spent an afternoon at the shooting range, where I got to fire a few different guns and discover just how bad my aim was…although I did manage to hit a few! The holes marked with “S” were mine.

The holes marked with "S" were mine!

The holes marked with “S” were mine!

In July we took a terrific trip to Glacier National Park. I think this status I posted on my Facebook sums it up:

It was a fabulous trip. 12 days, nearly 70 miles of hiking, 11,000 feet of elevation gain, about 10 or so bear sightings, a few ptarmigans, some deer, three moose, a couple marmots, and too many waterfalls, mountain sheep, and mountain goats to count

As part of that trip, we trekked the long uphill to Ptarmigan Tunnel, which was incredible. Who came up with the idea of blasting a tunnel right through a high cliff face?

Carolyn at the tunnel!

Carolyn at the tunnel!

Otokomi Lake

Otokomi Lake

The people who rented my house on the other side of town decided to relocate to Portland, which caused me a few day panic. Much to my surprise, just a simple “For Rent” sign brought in the calls and we had new renters so quickly that we really only had time for a few quick repairs and touch-ups. This was a pleasant surprise, as I expected it to take much more time.

Finally, the summer ended with Renee’s 50th birthday celebration. We camped for the weekend up at Tally Lake near Whitefish. The camping trip was great, Tally Lake is a really nice lake (it actually made us want a boat), but the highlight of the weekend was zip lining at Whitefish Moutnain.

Renee and I zipping through the trees

Renee and I zipping through the trees

Did I mention our gardening success this year? We harvested about 17 pounds of peppers (anaheim, ancho, and bell peppers) and 19 pounds of tomatoes. Our freezer is still packed with roasted peppers, just waiting to be used on our favorite pepperoni, green chili, and mushroom pizza.

One of our pepper harvests weighing in at about 3 pounds

One of our pepper harvests weighing in at about 3 pounds

Fall

Fall has always been one of my favorite seasons. It came quick in 2013 since the summer flew by so fast.

In late August / early September, we decided to trade in our 22-foot Jayco trailer for a new Lance truck camper. It was an adjustment to lose storage space, but we are hoping we can now be more mobile on our camping trips and get into more remote areas than we could with the trailer. The Lance may be smaller, but it is a definite upgrade in quality.

We only had time for a few short weekend trips with the new camper, but we’re looking forward to some longer trips in 2014.

The new Lance camper!

The new Lance camper!

Later, in September, we decided it was time for a second vehicle. We bought a 2011 Nissan Juke. We want to use the smaller car for most of our around-town driving and even for driving to the ski resorts in the winter to save on gas. So far, the all wheel drive has performed great on the snowy and icy roads.

The new Nissan Juke!

The new Nissan Juke!

Later, in November, Carolyn and Ally took us, Martha, and Nancy on a trip to Big Fork as a thank-you for our help with the Potomac house. We had a great weekend exploring little shops and staying at the Mountain Lake Lodge.

So, I guess I have to admit that 2013 wasn’t all bad. I’m still hoping that 2014 will be better, though!

Goodbye, 2013

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So here is a fact…I didn’t post a single blog entry in all of 2013. How did that happen?

I can’t say that I’ll miss 2013 very much. There was definitely some good stuff that happened in this last year, but the year was bookended by huge, major, difficult events.

The year opened with losing our sweet standard poodle Sirus. She got sick just a few days into the year, on January 4. She passed away just a month later, on February 6, after a long, difficult fight with an autoimmune disease.

Beautiful portrait of Sirus

Beautiful portrait of Sirus

The year closed with the discovery of Renee’s brain tumor early in December and the surgery to remove it just five days before Christmas. Not to mention sudden changes in my professional life, as my home-based technical writing / business analysis position will be eliminated by June, so I need to find something new in this new year.

Diagram of the brain showing where Renee's tumor was

Diagram of the brain showing where Renee’s tumor was

I’m not a particularly superstitious person, but that seems like a awful lot of bad luck for one year. Particularly one that ends in”13”!

I am optimistic that 2014 will be much, much better than 2013!!

Bicycling with Dogs on a Beautiful Pre-Winter Day

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So this picture of Renee and Myka turned out pretty nice:

Renee and Myka

Renee and Myka

However, taking that picture caused a small amount of trauma. The very next picture on my camera roll is this:

Blue sky and a lamppost

Blue sky and a lamppost

You can see the really beautiful blue sky…along with that little bit of a lamppost…

What Happened…

So, here’s how this happened. Today was a beautiful day, so we took Darwin and Myka on a bike ride. All was going very well; those two dogs love bicycling with us. They love to run all out, especially early on.

Down by the park, Renee wanted to work with Myka’s turns for a few minutes, so she pulled into the parking lot and did some loops. Darwin and I pulled off the path to wait.

Waiting

Darwin Waiting

It occurred to me that this was an ideal time to get a few pictures. I don’t often have the opportunity to take pictures during these rides, so I leaned the bike against my body and pulled out my phone.

All was going very well and I got a few great shots as they rode towards us and then passed us.

As they passed us, Darwin decided that we were done waiting and it was time to start running, as he usually follows Myka on our rides. So he started running after them. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a tight grip on the bike, so it fell over and began, in Darwin’s mind, chasing him. He ran in panicked circles, dragging the bike behind him as I frantically told him to stop and attempted to catch him. The Walky Dog bar that we use scraped along the concrete; I’m sure the sound just added to his panic.

The chaos seemed to last a long time, but was probably only a few seconds. Apparently I somehow hit the camera button on my phone and took that shot of the blue sky and lamppost.

After a moment, Darwin did calm down enough that we could continue the ride. I gave my bike a quick inspection, but everything seemed mostly okay. I think the brakes might need some adjusting. The Walky Dog bar actually took the brunt of the dragging and seemed fine, although the bracket needs to be tightened back up.

Darwin seemed a little skittish when we started riding again, but after a few minutes with no more trauma, he settled into his normal biking groove. This is a very good thing; because of his very issues, we don’t have a lot of options for good exercise for him. Bicycling gives him a good long run, so I was relieved that the experience didn’t freak him out too badly.

Rest of the Day

We finished our ride, then dropped off Darwin and Myka and took Abby on a ride. Then it was Sirus’s turn, although she doesn’t like to go as far or as fast. Finally we finished up with a short walk for Cricket (Sirus came along since she had a shorter ride).

Despite the short trauma, it was a beautiful day to be out the with the dogs! A few more pictures are below.

seconds before

Seconds before the incident

Earlier in the ride; this picture I took while riding.

Earlier in the ride; this picture I took while riding.

Abby taking a break during her ride. You can tell it was a warm day today since she had to lay down in the river!

Abby taking a break during her ride. You can tell it was a warm day today since she had to lay down in the river!

Thoughts on the 2012 Election

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So the election has been over now for a couple days. We’ve had two evenings with no campaign ads on TV, which is very refreshing.

I actually didn’t plan on watching the returns Tuesday night. Early in the evening, before most of the polls had closed, the political commentators reminded me of sportscasters during a dull game, just talking to hear themselves talk since there was nothing at all to report yet.

We had to leave the house just to get away from the coverage for a bit. But after a short escape for ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery and a few quick errands (Costco was deserted; it was a great time to pop in there), we did our civic duty and watched the returns. And stayed up well past midnight to see Romney’s concession speech (which was quite gracious) and Obama’s victory speech.

Some thoughts about the election and the results…

About Voting

Many Missoula voters were still in line when the polls closed at 8 PM. They were all allowed to vote, although no one else could join the line. From what I understand, the last voter voted sometime around 11 PM.

This made me very glad that we voted early by mail.

Yes, my vote should be counted!

I am also glad that the state of Montana provides an online ballot-tracking page. A few days before Election day, I verified that both my ballot and Renee’s ballot were received and accepted.

About the Results

I don’t have a lot to say about the results. I’m glad Obama was re-elected, and I’m glad Tester beat out Rehberg. I’ve never been a fan of Rehberg and I’m amazed he managed to stay in congress as long as he did.

This article is a few weeks old, but it lists the top nine anti-science lawmakers. Rehberg was at the top of the list. This makes me even more glad that he is now unemployed: The 9 Most Anti-Science Candidates in America.

Another good link summing up the election, with a good reality check about the next four years: Next Morning Presidential Election Thoughts – Whatever.

Eight Years

For some reason, I don’t find myself comparing this election with 2008 –
instead I am finding myself thinking a great deal about the elections in 2004, when Bush was re-elected. I was not happy back then, not just because of the Presidential race, but also because 11 states had ballot initiatives to ban same-sex marriage. And every last one of them passed. Montana was one of those states; I wasn’t living here then, so of course I could not vote on that measure. But I was in the process of planning to move here.

It was a depressing few days after that election. There is something perverse about voting on whether or not another human being is worthy of forming a family.

I also recall there were some who thought that those ballot measures might have helped give Bush the election, by drawing out the evangelical and fundamentalist voters in greater numbers. I’m not a political analyst and I have no idea if there is any truth that idea. But still, it was depressing.

Anyway, what a difference can happen in eight years! This time around, marriage equality won in four states.

Maine, Maryland, and Washington voted to approve same-sex marriage, and Minnesota rejected a ban. I think groups like “National Organization for Marriage” are still in shock – they assumed that they would always win at the ballot box. I have to admit, I didn’t expect to see these four wins either. The world is changing.

I still think it is perverse to vote on the validity of people’s families, but if there is going to be a vote, at least it is affirming those families rather than trashing them.

Finally, Tammy Baldwin, an open lesbian, was voted into the Senate in Wisconsin.

All in all, election day was a good day this year!

A Nosy, Too-Smart Cat

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So I think Pippin is the world’s nosiest cat.

Lately he has been spending more time in the house. He comes in in the morning and hangs out all day. In the evening he is usually anxious to return to the cat room to eat his canned food. We then lock him up during the night (because of this).

Anyway, if there is a closed door, he thinks he should be allowed to see what’s on the other side. He has become very interested in the basement for some reason. If we leave the door open for a moment (say, to go start some laundry), there is a good chance that he will be on his way down the stairs as you come back up. Or he’s already down there, snooping around the camping gear and exercise equipment.

The basement door

The basement door

So we try to keep the basement door closed, but this door doesn’t latch properly. It shuts very tight, but no latch. Which means that clever Pippin has figured out how to open it. (This is, after all, the cat that has become very good at escaping the backyard. He is sometimes too smart for his own good.)

It is pretty amusing to watch. He sticks his front feet under the door to pull, and pushes his body against the wall until it pops open.

I managed to record this with my phone a few weeks ago. Not the best video but you can see his technique pretty well.

Not So Smart All the Time

All this food in this room is for dogs, you silly cat!

As smart as Pippin may be, he doesn’t always get it right. A few days after he figured out the basement door trick, he came in my office while I was getting something out of the office closet. And he discovered that we have a big box of dog biscuits, as well as the dog food bin, stashed in the closet. Apparently he can’t read the box that says “Dog” since he decided he really wanted to get into that box and sample the biscuits.

I shooed him out and closed the door and went on with whatever I was doing at the time. A little while later, I noticed Pippin attempting the same trick he used on the basement door – pulling on the door while pushing against the wall.

You will never succeed in pulling open the office door!

You will never succeed in pulling open the office door!

The only problem is, as you can probably tell in this picture, this door pushes in. So all his pulling and tugging in the world is never going to make a difference. Plus it does latch securely, which is a good thing or all the dogs would be in there all the time, raiding both the biscuit box and the food bin.

I find it just a little amusing to see him attempt this for a while, then glare at me in frustration as though it is somehow my fault.

A Brief Note on Politics

A Brief Note on Politics

My parents have been Republicans since, oh sometime around the Kennedy era. Before I was born. This is sometimes a source of friction between us; for the most part it is best if we just don’t discuss politics at all.

The thing is, they aren’t at all religious. They dislike the “religious right.” They claim to be pro-gay, and pro-choice[1], and I think they are sincere in those beliefs. They have just always believed that they will be better off financially under the Republicans — their taxes will somehow be lower, and so on. “Voting by their pocketbook” is one way of putting it.

They ignore the religious right wing of their party — a wing that has gotten louder and louder over the years. On rare occasions when we do discuss politics, they seem to regard me as a “single-issue” voter because I can’t ignore the Republican party’s anti-gay stance.

In an attempt to speak their language, I have occasionally attempted to explain that voting against the anti-gay policies is, in fact, voting according to my pocketbook since these policies, aside from being unjust, do have an actual financial impact on my life. I don’t think I’ve ever managed to make them see that.

Today I came across this article that lays it out.

Gay people pay higher taxes. One candidate wants to keep it that way and one has taken steps – and is encouraging more – that will make your wallet feel the impact of government on a more equal setting. It all comes down to DOMA.

Barack Obama believes that same-sex couples should be allowed access to marriage and Mitt Romney believes that they should not. And while these beliefs have not historically had much real consequence, in 2012 they do. It’s not just opinion, it’s not just position, it’s money in your pocket.

And then he describes five ways the lack of marriage costs gay people more, mostly as a result of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Many of these issues mostly apply to people in places where same-sex marriage is legal (alas, not Montana), but I have been hit with this one:

Gay Tax – This one is the most obscene of all tax differences and, for unfathomable reasons, it is the one that no politicians of either party seem willing to address. If your brother covers his wife on his health insurance policy at work, it is a non-taxable benefit. If you, however, cover your wife (or domestic partner) on your health insurance policy at work, the IRS requires your boss to report the amount as income to you and they tax it. This can mean hundreds of dollars a year paid in taxes, just for being gay.

(As many employers in non-marriage states now honor domestic partnerships, this is not exactly a DOMA issue. Even if DOMA is overturned, many gay employees will remain subject to the Gay Tax.)

Read the whole thing for all the facts and figures and details. The final paragraph sums it up:

So while there could be a legitimate argument that our civil rights are a more important consideration than our pocketbook, I don’t think that in this election they are in competition. It is because of our civil freedoms and equalities and also because of our pocketbooks that I endorse Barack Obama for reelection on Tuesday.

I couldn’t agree more.


  1. Despite the fact that my mom really admires the Bush family (don’t ask, I don’t know why), she actually did write a letter to the first President Bush explaining that she disagreed with his pro-life stance because she was the parent of two daughters. But that was a very long time ago; as far as I know, she never sent any letters to the second President Bush.