Monday, February 5, 2007

Busy Weekend

OK, no posts for the weekend. I have strong excuses, however. Friday night, I went with a friend to the Andrew Wyeth exhibit at the Cincinnati Art Museum. Wyeth's granddaughter gave a very interesting lecture, lots of personal details about the artist and the background of his work.

Saturday, the weather was raw, temp in upper teens and a fairly strong wind. We still had 20 people turn out for the hike in Spring Grove Cemetery in midtown Cincy, we did about 4.7 miles in 2 hours. Several people on the hike located the graves of their great-grandparents or close family friends. If one criss-crossed all the roads in Spring Grove, it would probably add up to 10 to 12 miles. Cincioutdoors and Tristate Hiking will be returning to Spring Grove often in coming months, I imagine.

Sunday of course was the day of Football Worship. Despite the harsh weather, about 16 people turned out at Chaos Manor for masses of great food, decent football, and mixed commercials. TR brought a Superbowl quiz from her office, 20 questions on Superbowl history and Superbowl commercials. She had garnered a 16 working individually, I only managed an 11 of 20 on phase one, and 5 of 10 on phase two. It was still the best of the group.

Preparations are getting somewhat frantic for my Feb. 13 departure for the Dominican Republic, still some packing, sorting things into storage, etc, but the adventure awaits!

Friday, February 2, 2007

Alaska Nostalgia

This morning, Cincinnati has gotten a massive snowfall, perhaps as much as half an inch. The snow seems to brighten the day considerably, even given the standard grey sky of an Ohio winter, at least until it melts and turns to slush. Thus, it was neat to find an excellent story in the Anchorage Daily News online about dog mushing:

Author Heather Lende has written an excellent article--

Jim Stanford has the only real sled dog team in Haines. There are a couple of folks with a few semiretired sled dogs who get out occasionally, but none hooks up eight, 10 or 12 huskies to a sled and runs them five days a week the way Jim does. He lives 26 miles out of town, in the Klehini River valley near miles of old logging roads.

They have had more than 25 feet of snow out there this winter, including 10 feet in 10 memorable days. Keeping a trail packed in this weather is a challenge. Jim figures he spends four hours on a snowmachine for every hour on his dog sled.

There are walls of plowed snow in the driveway, higher than our heads. The ground around the staked dogs is surprisingly white. Jim keeps a clean kennel. I imagine that its proximity to the house helps, and Jim's wife, Deb, does work for the public health nurse.

Jim introduces me to the dogs by name. Only Ginger has that traditional Siberian husky face. Mostly they look like rangy, shepherd-husky-mix hounds.

Having a recreational dog team in Haines, where it can rain as much as it snows in any given winter, has a lot to do with living a deliberately rural life and keeping that trail from the past open. It is also elemental. Living with animals makes you a better person. Standing among his leaping, barking buddies, his fleece pants covered in dog hair, Jim says he simply cannot understand why everyone doesn't want a sled dog team.

The runners swish softly on the snow, the harness lines creak a little and the dogs settle into a confident trot. They hardly need Jim's occasional whistle to pick up the pace or the dragging brake to slow them. It is so quiet that Jim and I talk without raising our voices, about our families, the Yukon Quest (I'm going up to watch, so I asked my old friend to teach me about dog sledding), aging well, local politics, state politics and the war.

Jim tells me about his education at Kent State, where he played football before leaving the troubled campus just a day before the students memorialized forever by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young as "four dead in Ohio" were killed by National Guard soldiers. He said he almost became an Australian but wound up in Alaska instead, where he and Deb have raised three nice kids and dozens of sled dog puppies.

My mittens stink. My black snowpants are covered with husky fur. My butt is a little sore from that hard sled. But my smile must be almost as big as Jim's.

We climb into the truck, tossing the harnesses behind the seat. "You have to like the smell of dogs" Jim says, and he rolls down the window, laughing at the view behind him of the team with just their heads poking out of the small holes in the dog-box doors, barking like crazy as we drive the quarter-mile to his house. I wondered why we didn't take the sled here in the first place. Mosquito Lake Road is snowpacked, and there's no traffic.

Now I know. "They sure love to ride in the truck, don't they?" Jim hollers over the doggie din. "Just look at them -- don't you love it?"

A major nostalgia hit. Mosquito Lake Campground is where I spent my first night in mainland Alaska after leaving the State Ferry in Haines. A beautiful place. The next morning, driving north towards Haines Junction, we saw both a black bear by the side of the road and a coyote running across the road. Naturally, this lead to overly high expectations of wildlife sightings, it was one of the better days in my 25 years in Alaska.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot???

I try to pursue a live and let live philosophy, in most respects. So the idea of typical middle-aged guys bowling in the nude has to be OK, at least in general principles. But still, one has to wonder...what in the Wide World of Sports are these guys thinking??

And in Maine, in the winter. I suppose that it was way too cold for the traditional nude softball tournament...

Wednesday, January 31, 2007


The "well spoken" Sen. Joe Biden discusses his rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination in a long interview with a reporter from the NY Observer at

Are they going to turn to Hillary Clinton?” Biden asked, lowering his voice to a hush to explain why Mrs. Clinton won’t win the election.

“Everyone in the world knows her,” he said. “Her husband has used every single legitimate tool in his behalf to lock people in, shut people down. Legitimate. And she can’t break out of 30 percent for a choice for Democrats? Where do you want to be? Do you want to be in a place where 100 percent of the Democrats know you? They’ve looked at you for the last three years. And four out of 10 is the max you can get?”

Mr. Biden is equally skeptical—albeit in a slightly more backhanded way—about Mr. Obama. “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy,” he said. “I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”

But—and the “but” was clearly inevitable—he doubts whether American voters are going to elect “a one-term, a guy who has served for four years in the Senate,” and added: “I don’t recall hearing a word from Barack about a plan or a tactic.”

(After the interview with Mr. Biden and shortly before press time, Mr. Obama proposed legislation that would require all American combat brigades to be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of March 2008.)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Eagle Lugging Deer Head Causes Power Blackout

This story is reminiscent of the 1984 general election in Alaska, which had a hotly contested ballot initiative on whether to move the capital from Juneau to Willow, north of Anchorage. I voted first thing in the morning, but a huge after-work turnout was anticipated. Then, about 4:00 p.m., there was a regional power outage in Anchorage and the Mat-Su valley, which lasted for about 8 or 10 hours. Voting was much reduced in the area, which was a stronghold of the pro-move forces. Immediately there were mutterings about conspiracy, which were not quelled by reports that it was unlucky ravens who had shorted the main transmission lines from the Beluga power plant.

At least in Juneau, the eagle did not interfere with an election.

JUNEAU, Alaska - About 10,000 Juneau residents briefly lost power after a bald eagle lugging a deer head crashed into transmission lines.

"You have to live in Alaska to have this kind of outage scenario," said Gayle Wood, an Alaska Electric Light & Power spokeswoman. "This is the story of the overly ambitious eagle who evidently found a deer head in the landfill."

The bird, weighed down by the deer head, apparently failed to clear the transmission lines, she said. A repair crew found the eagle dead, the deer head nearby.

The power was out for less than 45 minutes Sunday.

Vanderbilt and John Edwards

I found a great post by Dean Barnett at Barnett has some wry comments on John Edwards' new 28,000 square foot house in North Carolina, noting that this falls short of the 60,000 square feet of the Vanderbilt estate "The Breakers" at Asheville.

) What about the house’s details? The Breakers, according to Wikipedia, had things “like a 50’ by 50’ great hall marked by six doors which are limestone figure groups celebrating humanity's progress in art, science, and industry: Galileo, representing science, Dante, representing literature, Apollo, representing the arts, Mercury, representing speed and commerce, Richard Morris Hunt, representing architecture and Karl Bitter, representing sculpture.” Surely Edwards can’t compete with that.

Well, he’s trying. According to John Carrington of Carolina Online, the humble Edwards abode will have an indoor recreation building that contains a basketball court, a squash court, two stages, a bedroom, kitchen, bathrooms, swimming pool, a four-story tower, and a room designated “John’s Lounge.” The latter is kind of appropriate when you think about it. While the Vanderbilts paid tribute to Dante, Apollo and Mercury, Edwards will pay tribute to himself.

5) What kind of things do you think will happen in “John’s Room?”

I imagine the Lord of the Manor sitting there drinking snifters of ancient Cognac or Brandy bemoaning the plight of America’s underclass to anyone who will listen,

) This whole FAQ seems like a cheap shot. Big deal. We’re supposed to believe you’re suddenly against conspicuous consumption?

I’m not. Quite to the contrary, I conspicuously consume as much as my meager means allow me to. Furthermore, conspicuous consumption is good for the economy. The design and construction of the Edwards house is no doubt employing dozens of artisans, craftsmen and day laborers.

But I’ve always felt that Edwards is a phony. I don’t call him an empty suit – that’s too generous. I refer to him as a suit filled with anti-matter. It’s a bit hard to believe that someone who is actually obsessed with the plight of America’s downtrodden would devote so much energy and so many resources to building a home fit for a modern Medici. I just don’t buy it.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Procrastinators, let's wait up!

John Tierney, in his science blog at the New York Times site, discusses procrastination--

Tierney quotes an interesting paper by Piers Steel, noting

as structure continues to decrease, the opportunity for workers to procrastinate will concomitantly increase. Furthermore, the prevalence and availability of temptation, for example, in the forms of computer gaming or internet messaging, should continue to exacerbate the problem of procrastination. There are simply more activities with desirable features competing for our attention.

There is even an online procrastinator quiz--

I really need to get around to TAKING that quiz...