Friday, March 30, 2007

Happy Zack Day!

We do not know when Zack's birthday is, we do not even know how old he even is. So instead of celebrating his birthday he gets to celebrate Zack Day, which marks the anniversary of the day that we brought him home from the shelter. Today is the the third Zack Day. I searched and found the e-mail that I sent out to friends and family when brought Zack home. I also found the first picture that I ever saw of him (we were working with the Weimeraner rescue groups and they let us know that Zack was available), he look so much happier now.

The menagerie has another member, Zack. Zack is a big boy tipping the scales at 70 lbs, Berkeley is only 50 lbs. He is such a sweet boy. Poor thing has had a very a rough life. Originally he was abandoned and running loose in Lake Charles, Louisiana, he was then in the shelter for a very long time, got adopted, and then returned to the shelter again after just 6 weeks. Then after a few more weeks we adopted him. Poor guy had never been in house until we brought him home, his previous owners kept him outside all the time. But he is quickly learning that he is safe in house and finally part of the family.

He has become such a treasured member of our family. Berkeley has loved the arrival of Zack more than anyone. She got a big brother and playmate. They have been inseparable since we brought Zack home. The picture to the left shows their very first meeting. Berkeley did not even mind the fact that she had to give up all her favorite toys, Zack at them within 24 hours of coming home. Now she just chews on him. I am totally convinced that dogs should be kept in pairs, they need the companionship that only another dog can provided them, dogs need a pack. We leave them to go to work, etc. but they are always together. They are both much happier for it.

I love to run, and there could be no more perfect running partner than Zack. No matter how fast or far we go he is always pushing to go a little bit faster and one step further. I have never met any creature that had a more pure love of running than Zack. His enthusiasm is in infectious, I very much doubt that I would be running twice a day if I did not have him as a running partner. How can I not have good time when he is obviously having such a good time running. Besides no one is more pushy about not missing a run.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Insidious Sand

Yesterday we had the worst sandstorm I have seen since we have been in Arizona The wind start blowing at about 9:00 am and it did not let up until after dark, most the of the time it was blowing at about 30 mph. This kicks up a hell of a lot of sand, visibility for most of the day was about 200 yards, being outside was like being in a weird stinging fog.

The worst part was what the sandstorm did to my wife's drive home. She got in her car and started heading home, she quickly noticed that she was progressively accelerating despite not pushing down on the accelerator. At first she though the wind might just be pushing her along, but she soon noticed that she was still slowly accelerating, even when going into the wind. As she went along it just got worse as she continued to gain speed, despite to having her foot on the accelerator, it finaly got to the point where she had to ride the break in order to keep the car from going out of control. As the tachometer approached the redline she had resort to putting the car in park in order to get it to stop at lights. Needless to say she was absolutely terrified by the situation, which was made worse by the lack of visibility. But she manged to make home safe.

When I got home I opened up the hood expecting to find something seriously wrong with her car. I nstead I found a half to a quarter of an inch of sand covering every horizontal surface in her engine compartment. She had parked facing into the wind, next to a field full of open and loose sand, and as result all day long sand was blown into the engine compartment. Closer inspection revealed that the little sleeve that the throttle cable is covered by had gotten sand in it. So when she steped on the accelerator that throttle cable would pullout but when she stepped off the the accelerator the sand prevented the cable from returning to its normal position, and as result constant open throttle and acceleration. Fortunately it was very easy to clean out with an air compressor and her car now works fine.

The current state of my pool is whole other separate tragedy. F'ing sandstorm.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


I recentely ran across this intresting blog entry that talked about totems, defining them thusly: "A totem place belongs to you—even though you leave it and even though other people might use it, too"

As an urban planner I have always been a little obesses with the idea of place. So this idea of totem really appeals to me. The next question in my mind after reading this became what placeas are my totems. I have been living here in Arizona for almost two years so I should have a totem, I just took me a while to figure out what it was.

Without a doubt my Arizona totem is theopen desert that surrounds my neighboorhood. As far a deserts go there is nothing remarkable about this stretch of desert, as far deserts it actually kind of ugly. It is not pristine, asshats love dumping trash in it and it is criss-crossed with ATV tracks. Despite all this I love it.

I grew up in Colorado, far from the sandy deserts of Southwestern Arizona. It was in desert immediately adjacent to my home that I first fell in love with the desert. Without a doubt the thing I love best about my house is that it is directly adjacent to the desert. I love being able look out my back window into the desert.

My favorite thing to do in the desert is to take dogs out theree let them off leash and then start running. I have never experience a greater sense of freedom then I do the when I run of leash with the dogs out in the open desert. I love watching them fly freely across the sand as they run circle arround me. (Only two the dogs pictured in this post are actualy mine, the rest belong to my friends)

Because it is so flat, open, and free of obstructions there is total freedoom of movement. I love the feeling of not being shackeled to a path but rather being able to just drift along in what ever random direction that my feet choose to take me.

Clutter dominates so much of life, my house, my desk, and my car all incredibly clutter, it is simply who I am. However it is very refreshing to be to go spend time in a place that is so starkly unclutterd. Cloudless blue skies meet seemingly endless open sand. I love the emptiness of it all. I love the fact that I can see all the way into both California and Mexico. After being surrounded all day by so much stuff it feels incredibly good to be in a place that is more ot less empty. This contrast helps restore some balence in my life. Going out into the desert never fails to lift my mood.

Finally one of the other things that I absolutely love about the world just beyond my back fence are the strange flora & fauna that inhabit what at first glance can seem to be a barren wasteland. My favorite plant is the Ocotillo (pictured to right). To me it looks like something straight out of Dr. Seuss, particularly when the flower in spring, when bright orange flower erupt from the the ends leafless thorny fronds. The ocotillo only has leaves after rains, when things dry back up the leaves come off, but seem emerge overnight after a rain.

Another plant that I love is the Creosote Bush. It certainly not the prettiest plant in the world, but it might be the most tenacious. I have read that the creosote can go 3 years without any water, a fact that totally amazes me, how can you not respect a plant that is capable of such a feat. The other thing that I love about it, is the way that it smells after it rains, hence the name creosote bush. It makes the desert smell like it has been freshly scrubbed

Though you seem them only very seldomly I love the animals that inhabit the desert. Like the desert mice that I have occasionally` found swimming in my pool. They look just like regular mice but the have gigantic ears. The desert hares that sometimes blast across my path I as run have ears as long as rest of their bodies. Real life roadrunners are almost as comical looking as the cartoon version. But I think my favorite is the burrowing owl, what is not to love about a pocket sized owl that lives in holes in the ground.

I feel so lucky to live so close to such a neat area, that is also a personal totem.

Monday, March 19, 2007


One of my favorite sporting events is the NCAA Basketball tournament. However I just can not get into this year. Perhaps one of the reason is near total lack of upsets. I am a sucker for the whole David. v. Goliath storyline, and Goliath has been mopping the floor with David, which to me is not very interesting.

Probably the bigger reason for relative lack of enthusiasm is that there is no way that this years tournament can live up to the excitement of last year. Normally when I mention to people that I went to school at Bradley all get is blank stare, I am not sure that many people outside of Illinois have ever even heard of Bradley before, I hadn't growing up in Colorado until they sent me a letter saying that I could go there for free. At which point I whipped out an atlas to see where the hell Peoria even was. But when Bradley made it to the sweet 16, it let me puff out my chest and say "Yeah that's right I went to Bradley." Kind of silly, but who cares it was a damn good time. I bet it would have been even more fun if the basketball team was good while I was in school. Having them pull off two monumental upsets to advance to sweet 16 was without a doubt one of the best experiences that I have ever had as a sports fan, and very hard to duplicate.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


Today is the first day of the yoga class that I have signed up for. In many ways this is very strange thing for me to be doing. For one thing I gave of stretching before running a few years ago. I don't even bother to stretch before marathons. This because a few years ago I began to notice that I felt the same before or after a run regardless if I stretched, so I just stoped doing it.

Though I am sure yoga is more than just stretching, I have limited knowledge of it. My one and only exposer to yoga was in third grade when that attempted to teach us yoga in school, I went to a private school named Rivendell run by people who had never left the 60's. I did not like yoga in third grade, so ever since it has been on my list of things that I do not like.

My wife and her friend decided to sign up for a yoga class at the local community college and they asked me if would also like to do it. I agree to do it, I figure there are a lot of things that I enjoy now that I did not enjoy in third grade, I sure don't think girls are icky anymore. Also I always enjoying do things with my wife and she has gone outside of her comfort zone to go running with me. So I figure I can at least give yoga a shot. Should at the very least be interesting.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Come on in, the water is fine.

One good thing about the unseasonably warm that we are having, high of 95 today, is that have been able to open the pool up earlier than usually. Zack and Berkeley are delighted. Now begins the 6 months of the year when I love owning a pool. The other 6 months of the year I hate owning a pool because despite the fact the water is too cold to swim it still requires maintenance and cleaning. But for now, nothing beats diving in a cool pool after a scorching run.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Shit, There is Poop in the Water

This notice is to inform customers that the water system exceeded the maximum total contaminant level for total coliform bacteria on February 7, 2007

This was the start of the lovely letter that I received from the local water company. I find this especially disturbing because contamination by coliform bacteria is a nice way of saying that the water is tainted with shit. This makes me very glad that I have reverse osmosis system. But still this is very upsetting. To me one of the hallmarks of living in the First World is being able to drink the water coming out of the faucet without getting sick.

To me this is the perfect illustration of why the provision of water should not be in the hands of a private entity. With only one set of water pipes practicable the water company is permanent monopoly. Capitalism only works when there is competition or the threat of competition. Right now I could now be more unhappy with there service, but what other option do I have? I either buy my water from them or go with out, not a very practicable option in the desert.

If my water was provided by a public utility I would at least of the recourse of complaining to my elected official, and if did not like the response I got from them I could vote for someone else. But with a private monopoly on product I can't live without I have zero leverage over them.

This is company that clearly does not learn from its mistakes. Early last year it was convicted of negligent homicide yet the same people continue to run it in the same manner. If it were it were a public entity, public outrage would have forced a complete overhaul of their management and business practices. Some things should just be publicly owned

A Plot

So I think that I have finally figured out the real reason behind this promotional opportunity that is currently available to me. It is all a plot to get me to where a tie to work every day. Wednesday I was supposed to have me interview, so I show up to work all dressed up, at the last minute the interview is postponed until Friday. So I show up today once again with a tie only to find out that the interview has been postponed to Monday. I am starting to see a pattern. Damn, if they just wanted me to wear a tie they should just tell me.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The L.A. Marathon

This weekend I ran the L.A. Marathon. My time 4:04 was pretty good a few minutes off my personal record, but much better than I expected. Beyond getting a good time this one of the best race day experiences that I have, it was just a wonderful event. At the same time my wife ran her first 5K I think part of what made the whole event special was sharing it with her.

They day got off to an interesting start when I rode the L.A. subway to the starting line at Universal Studies. I have been to L.A. dozens of times to visit my in-laws but until last Sunday the only thing that I knew about the subway in L.A. was this quote about it from Futurama: "Leela: Its some kind of hollow tube, devoid of human life. Gasp. The Los Angeles Subway." Well at least on this morning it was packed full of runners, because when I got the starting line I saw a larger crowd than I have ever seen at a race before.

24,175 people competed in the marathon, that is truly a massive number of people to cram on to a narrow street. I manged to a place about a quarter of mile from the starting line and from where I stood, I could not see the end of the line of people. Unfortunately for these 24,175 people there was approximately 250 port-a-potties. Most people before they run a marathon tend over hydrate. So the situation at the starting line that morning was about 24,000 people trying to use 250 port-a-potties at the same time. The lines for them were unreal, I stood in line for about 50 minutes before I got a chance to pee, but I had nothing better to do as I got their early.
Many are as not as patient as I was. The only time I have seen a level of public urination that even came close to what I saw that morning were parties in college where hundreds of drunks were at house with one bathroom. Only this time people were even more brazen about, and they were sober. A bunch of guys decided to piss behind a large dumpster, something that does not seem so bad until you realize that they were standing with dicks out in full view in front of a major freeway. Odd.

While waiting for the race to start I ran into someone who had also graduated from Bradley University. This is the first time I have run into someone, other than my wife, who had graduate from Bradley since we moved to the West.

I also wound up standing next to guy,and another barefooted runner how can you not respect someone who runs marathons barefooted. I love running and I love being barefooted but I don't think I will combining the two any time soon. Oddly I at all three marathons that I have run in California I have seen this guy and beat him. So at least I can say that I am faster than the barefooted old dude.

Finlay the starting gun went off, however because of the large crowd it would take me another 8:00 to get to and cross the starting line. One my biggest racing related pet peeves are the very slow runner/walkers who line up at the start of a race. This is such a breech of good racing etiquette. I spent the first mile and a half of the race weaving my through thousands of walkers.

Once I was able to make it to some relatively open road, I began to fly. My original goal was to try run 9:30 miles, but I just could not keep it that slow, no matter what I tried I kept coming back to an 8:45 pace. Finlay I just gave in and settled into this pace and the miles began to fly by.

It helps that the course was such an interesting one, despite my dozens of previous trips to the L.A. area, all 26.2 miles of this course ran through areas that I had never been before. Hollywood was interesting in that it is neat to see an area that you see on TV all the time, but otherwise was not super interesting. The stars in the sidewalk are not very impressive in person.

The course than entered Koreatown, an area that I found to be fascinating. One of the great things about this marathon is lively crowds and street entertainment that turns out for it. One of favorite site of the entire race was the guy rapping on stage while traditional Korean dancers danced in front of him. A very off juxtaposition.

One of the fascinating things about races this large are the water stops. People usually take a sip or two and then toss the rest of the water on them selves, then throw the cup on the ground. In the areas where they have water stop it always looks there was a paper cup blizzard. Also all the spilled water on the asphalt creates a just rained smell. The funniest water stop at this race is one where they were handing out bananas, the ground was littered with hundreds of banana peels, which seem a little dangerous to me.

There is phenomena is running know as hitting the wall. For long winded explanations of it look here or here basicaly it is when your body runs out of gas. It shocking how sudden and total this experience is. One minute running along, everything fine, then just like someone pulled a plug your legs become almost impossibly heavy to lift. Typically I hit the wall around mile 19 of a marathon. This time I got miles 19, and everything felt good, same with miles 20 and 21. At this point I started to get excited. I once ran a marathon were I did not hit the wall, I started to think that this was going to be a day like that, that I would break my personal record by 15 minutes or more. Then in flash at about 21.5 miles I hit the wall.

I felt like some all the sudden attached 50 pound weights to my legs. My speed nosed dived and what been a pleasant run on a beautiful day became a grueling slog. The last 5.5 miles were pure unadulterated misery, everything on body hurt and was screaming for me to stop. The real challenge to running a marathon are the miles you run after hitting wall. I shuffled along the last couple of miles dreaming of the finish line.

A marathon is 26.2 miles, that last .2 miles is without a doubt the cruelest. While I am running the marathon I tend to think of it being a 26 mile race, and when I think how far I have to go I subtract how far I have gone from 26. The problem is when reaching mile I feel like I should be done, but there is another couple of hundred yards to go. I finally finished that last .2 miles and the race.

Nothing feels better than finishing a marathon. The first sensation is just one of pure relief that I can finally stop moving. Then comes the pride of accomplishment. Then a total fatigue. Finally hunger as the burning off of 3,200 calories hits home. I already can't wait until May and the Palos Verde Marathon.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Happy Birthday Berkeley

Berkeley is 4 today. Happy Birthday Berkeley