Friday, December 31, 2010

A few of my favorite 2010 things...

Favorite Album
(Do the kids still call them “albums”?) - Die Antwoord, $O$.

This South African sensation (Ninja, Yolandi Fisser and DJ High Tech) keeps you guessing as to their intent and their legitimacy. All the songs are real toe tappers, with lyrics that bounce between obscene and descriptively clinical. I don't think any of their videos are something you would want to watch at work or with your mom. My favorite is Enter the Ninja.

A close runner-up is Major Lazer's Guns Don't Kill People, Lazers Do.

Favorite Kilts - Utilikilts are great. They are made in Seattle and are really pieces of art in themselves. However, lately I tend to favor Sport Kilts, made in So Cal. They have more options than Utilikilts - lots of different tartans, designs and colors. Plus they weigh a lot less than a Utilikilt. Unlike Utilikilts, unless you order a Sport Kilt with pockets, you will need to get a sporran too. I think your best bet is buying The Works version - it comes complete with belt loops, leather straps and a fringed side. Think of all the money you can save not buying underwear anymore.

Favorite Restaurant - For consistently good meals with great service, it's hard to beat Picabu Bistro.

The menu has almost all bases covered, and when you factor in their daily special, it's gastronomically unstoppable - in a good way.

Favorite New Store - The Apple Store. Hey, I know it's corny, but buying an IPhone there was futuristic and smacked of fraternal lodge pledging with less hazing. It is an awesome place to people watch.

Favorite Old Stores - A tie - Boo Radley’s, Time Bomb and Harbor Freight.

Boo Radley’s always inspires. We have friends who live in fairly cosmopolitan places, but Boo’s is usually on their list to visit when they come to Spokane. They don't have anything like it where they live. If you are ever undecided on what to gift someone, go to Boo's.

Time Bomb has some of the best antique toys and furnishings around. A while back, I was waxing sentimentally about my 3rd grade bike - a Sears Super Spyder 500 from 1968. Time Bomb’s owner pulled out a 1968 Sears catalog and there it was! $5 later I was walking out with this catalog - a tome of Christmas wishes past.

Lastly, Harbor Freight is a Chinese dumping ground of cheap tools, sporting goods and all sorts of oddball crap - solar panels, combo radio/flashlight/fishhook removers and inflatable doll scarecrows. I try to buy American, but if I am faced with buying a $20 made-in-China, with an established name or a $3 no-name made-in-China, I go with the cheapo most of the time. You will walk out with some weird shit that you didn't know you needed to have until you saw it. Then you will have to figure out what you want to do with it.

Favorite Running Shoe - OK, not so much one shoe, but a company. New Balance features many shoes that are made in the USA. So I buy them. When I was a kid there was not much of a push to buy stuff made in the USA. Why? Because it was almost all made in the USA. It only made sense. Why get your tube socks shipped in from Pakistan? Thanks to other nations maintaining their tariffs and the USA abandoning ours, almost all of our manufacturing has moved to China. Here’s the good news, though. Sure we have lost a lot of good paying jobs and increased our global warming and oil dependency by having to have our Depends shipped in across the ocean. Yes, we have killed off entire US cities, and we drown in a mountain of cheap crap we don’t need (see favorite store - Harbor Freight above). The upside is that we have enabled investors and CEOs to become more wealthy and hire better attorneys and congresspeoples, so they don’t have to pay taxes. Pheeewwww. Now, you have to work really hard to find stuff made in the USA. New Balance is the last of the running shoe companies that still provide manufacturing jobs in the USA. Their shoes will have to get really bad before I quit buying them. New Balance, there is your challenge.

Favorite Firefighting Tool - the pick head axe. Sure, it’s a pretty old design but this beauty does it all. It chops walls. You can pull ceilings with it. Hold it horizontally like a battering ram and it makes short work of opening doors (both literally and metaphorically). You can pry open car doors to get a puller in there to unlock a door. It is the best. Make sure you get one with a wooden handle.

Favorite Paramedic Tool - The EZ IO.

Its a small electric drill. But, instead of a drill bit you use a big-ass needle. Whhhiiiiirrrrrrrrrrr! When you can’t get an IV because there are no good veins and the person is dying, you can instead drill into their tibia and deliver the goods into the bones vascular system. You have to use a pressure bag to keep the IV flowing, so don’t forget that. This device has saved more than a few in Spokaney-town.

Favorite Book Series - Flashman!

This series began in 1969 and continued until 2005. The author, George McDonald Fraser is now dead so there isn’t much chance that he will be writing anything new. The protagonist is a character who reminds me of Dr. Smith from Lost in Space only with skills and self awareness. He is lazy. He is a drunk. He is a cheat and scoundrel. He is a womanizer and a lousy human being on just about every level. His only redeeming grace is that Flashman knows these things about himself, and as he writes his memoirs, he is pretty honest with the reader about his motivations and shortcomings. You find yourself rooting for this scalawag, even while cringing at his utter contempt for anyone but himself.

Podcast - A tie - Marc Maron’s WTF and AM Coast to Coast. If you read this blog you already know of my affinity for Coast to Coast . Marc Maron is a comedian who you might remember from Air America’s Morning Sedition. He doesn’t talk much about politics anymore. Now, he talks about his personal life a little and talks to other comedians a lot. Funny stuff with a lot of behind-the-scenes glimpses of other standup comedians’ lives. I believe that doing a standup comedian’s job takes a lot of courage, and this podcast always makes me wonder what that life would be like, if I ever had enough guts to do it.

Favorite European Fast Food - Bicky Burgers got its start in Belgium, I think.

It isn’t much like McDonalds, in that the ones we saw were all kind of small, run down and with a lot of personal touches from whomever owned the individual store. There’s a counter at which you order. Under this counter, is a bunch of frozen items - burgers, McRibbish looking things, fish, you name it. Whatever you want, they throw in the fryer. There is no grill. Just a fryer. Maybe two fryers. The food tastes great. How could an entirely deep fried bacon burger not taste great? Plus, they're all located in the holy birthplace of the french fry! The meat tastes like it might be mostly-meat. The food and advertisements have a Lego feel to them. They’re cute. The startup costs would be minimal. A fryer, some cases of frozen food, lots of mayo, some buns and a spork or two. I don’t know how it would go over here in the USA. It might be fun to see.

Favorite New Bike Stuff - My Carradice Camper Long Flap Saddle Bag and the shop apron Sarah made me. Again, you might have already read about the shop apron here. John let me borrow his Carradice and I was hooked. This thing expand mega big. It smells like an old canvas tent, and is made by nonslaves in England. Cheerio.

My only complaint is that it really moves your center of gravity up kinda high. The effect on me, in this regard, was to fall down a lot when I got stuck inside ruts.

That’s enough. Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bald Eagle Returns to High Drive!

While out running today, there was a bald eagle swooping above Latah Creek. I tried to get a picture of it, but I was slow on the draw. So I photoshopped a facsimile. A magnificent creature and the symbol of America!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Slippery and fun ride this morning.

We had to chain up the fire engine this morning, after our last call at around five. I knew the ride home was going to be fun, and it was. The deep snow was a kick, but the rutted areas not so much. Saw another cyclist heading down Howard. The snow was flying!

I was the driver of the engine yesterday. Not usually my favorite thing, but yesterday I had a good time. It wasn't nearly as violent as Christmas Eve. That shift, almost every call was a stabbing, beating or overdose. Maybe everybody is getting an early start on their New Year's Resolutions.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Manito Greenhouse Christmas Lights

A cool moon on the walk over:

The place was packed:

OK. This is not very timely, but I will have something better in the next couple of days. Merry Christmas! Happy New Years! Happy Holidays! Seasons Greetings!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Portland and other stuff

I usually come back from Portland and am in a bit of a funk. It is such a coooool place. This time I have to admit, Spokane seemed to fare better in comparison. However, Portland has this cool bike rack:

I was surprised that I didn't see as many cyclists as usual in Portland. This is the first time I have ever visited Portland during mild wintry weather and it seems to put a bit of a dent in their pedal-pushing. The same can be said for Spokane, but come on, we have ice and snow. However, there are still plenty of cyclists here to be seen falling over in the snow and sliding sideways down the hills.

On another note, when Spokane's new bicycle lanes all disappeared in the snow, did you notice that the cranks continued their anti-bike-lane tirades on the interwebs? I am continually amazed how much power the cranks hold in our city. They are probably 1/2 of one percent, yet when they chat it up on the social media sites, you would think they are legion. They're not. Odds are they don't even live in Spokane. And when they bitch about 2nd Ave getting bike lanes, they probably have never driven on 2nd Ave. I think other nations have cranks, but they usually don't say much because they have some dignity and are afraid people will make fun of them. Wow, I don't know where that came from. Sorry cranks!

OK, back to Portland. We visited the 3D museum. It cost 5 bucks and you get a personal tour. It was fantastic! Did you know ViewMaster was headquartered in Portland? Not anymore of course. They don't even make Henry Weinhard's there now. HW's is now a restaurant where patrons with Klingon face implants hang out. No lie.

I was inspired by the 3D stuff. Here is a picture I made that you can look at with 3D glasses and just go apeshit over:

Many of you recognize this as our home's most endearing piece of seasonal art. Corny, cracked and maudlin - Sad Snowman kinda sums up the season.

Still commuting to work via bike unless the snow is too deep and then I run. I have big plans for improving my running speed in the upcoming year which I have already implemented. I have to admit those gosh-darned cross country runners inspired me, and I figure at my age, I either have to work on getting faster, or continue the inevitable slide of getting slower. Snowman knows.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Nike Nationals In Portland

Last Thursday evening we rented a car and drove down to Portland to cheer on Lewis and Clark's Cross Country team. Lewis and Clark's and North Central's teams had already flown out in the morning. Everything was on Nike's dime and they treated all the high school athletes from around the nation like royalty. I suppose, in the running world, they kind of are.

When Lewis and Clark's team and North Central's team were introduced, the announcer called Spokane the "Rift Valley of running in the United States." He pointed out that Spokane was the only city that had two teams to earn a spot at Nationals, and how that is usually the case. I overheard one parent telling another that they had read that if you are a promising female cross country runner, the place to live is New York State. If you are a male cross country runner, the place to live is Spokane, Washington. Pretty amazing, yet pretty unknown by most of us in Spokane, that our city is held in such high regard in the running world. This notoriety is especially amazing when you consider that, for a good deal of the year, our streets and trails are covered in ice and snow.

The day of the race was really cold and windy. The course was on the inside paddock of a horse race track, very muddy with artificial hills and a myriad of hay bales to jump over. It was a mess!

In the end, NC placed 6th and LC placed 15th - a very good showing. LC's Kenji Biering finished 10th and NC's Katie Knight finished 8th for the girls.

Watching these kids race was very inspiring. We will see some of these kids again in the Olympics someday.

Mayor Mary Verner invited the athletes to Monday's city council Meeting where they were recognized by the city council for their dedication and their success.

All Spokane area high school runners, you make us proud! Thanks for a great season!