Waldron-rific Weekend

Our good friends Chris and Sal­ly stayed with us this past week­end on their dri­ve back home. We had­n’t seen them in about a year, since they were first announc­ing to the world that they were preg­nant. Well, as you can imag­ine, this trip was even bet­ter. This time, instead of blur­ry B&W sono­grams, we had Mr. Mason him­self, in all his gig­gly glory.

Mason, who is cer­tain­ly the youngest blog­ger I’ve ever known, was loads of fun and the cen­ter of atten­tion. He’s at that fun (albeit short) stage where he’s alert and some­what inter­ac­tive, although isn’t real­ly able to com­mu­ni­cate sub­stan­tial­ly (although he sure does indi­cate he wants to be car­ried around or to eat). We had some fun attempt­ing to inter­pret his var­i­ous sounds and expres­sions, although I’m sure that Sal­ly and Chris had a much bet­ter pic­ture of what was going on inside his head than Angela and I did. Most amus­ing was when Mason decid­ed to enter­tain him­self by mak­ing motor/fart sounds for about an hour-and-a-half straight. It was real­ly kind of infec­tious and we were all mim­ic­k­ing him at one time or another.

The pow­er was knocked out for about four hours on Fri­day evening, but it got revived just in time for the adults to all head off to bed. Try­ing to sleep through the a sum­mer night in Rich­mond with­out a lit­tle air con­di­tion­ing isn’t advis­able, espe­cial­ly if it makes an infant cranky.

Family Photo 2

Sat­ur­day was spent most­ly going out to break­fast and then to Short Pump, where much time was spent at the Apple store. We checked out the new iBooks, which have iSight built right in, sim­i­lar to the new Intel iMacs1. Any­way, the adults enjoyed some ice cream and then just a relax­ing after­noon around the house. I was real­ly glad to see that our dogs, while extreme­ly curi­ous about a human infant, weren’t upset to have him around at all. Kind of a relief for Angela and I, to tell you the truth.

Well, Sun­day morn­ing was waf­fles by Angela and the the long ride on home for our friends. We’re already look­ing for­ward to our next vis­it up to PA so we can exchange words in a more two-way con­ver­sa­tion with Mason.

  1. Although I would­n’t buy one for that fea­ture alone, it’s actu­al­ly kind of a handy lit­tle fea­ture. It’s amaz­ing the qual­i­ty of a tiny lit­tle cam­era (the lens is about a 1/8″ in diam­e­ter) com­pared to full-sized dig­i­tal cam­eras of just a few years ago []


I had a remark­able 241 com­ment spam items caught by Akismet this morn­ing. So far, Akismet has missed only about two or three items and only had one false pos­i­tive that I know of. Pret­ty remark­able since it has caught over 1,600 com­ment spam messeges since I first installed it. How­ev­er, I don’t the patience to wade through 200+ messeges to search for false pos­tives, so if you left a com­ment but it did­n’t appear right away, just e‑mail me and I’ll try and get it restored (or, just stop men­tioned Via­gra in your com­ments and always leave an e‑mail and sin­gle web site url).

Traveling Band

Stephen Simmons W/ Band

Dave rocks out on his twangy Tele­cast­er while play­ing for Stephen Sim­mons, who was in Ash­land, VA last Fri­day night. That’s Paul on drums and Willie on bass.

My younger broth­er Dave was in town Fri­day to play a show up at the Ash­land Cof­fee & Tea house with Stephen Sim­mons. We had a good time at the show and I learned that the Rich­mond area has at least one decent place to go lis­ten to music (I’ve so far been less than impressed, as you can tell).

That night, he and drum­mer Paul Grif­fith stayed at our house. Paul was in dire need of some wifi, so we hooked him up in order to try and make some pub­li­ca­tion dead­lines he had. The next morn­ing, Dave joined me and Angela at the train­ing team for our Sat­ur­day long run. After­words, it was Smooth­ie King (our lat­est addic­tion) and some show­ers. We took the guys out to lunch at a local joint we’d been want­i­ng to try our­selves and every­one seemed to agree it was well worth it.

We wish that Dave and the rest of the band could have stayed even longer, but it was off to North Car­oli­na for anoth­er show that evening. We’ll look for­ward to hav­ing some more bands trav­el­ing through to lis­ten to and hang out with.

Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth”

An Inconvenient Truth

Sat­ur­day night, I konked Angela over the head with a bil­ly club and drug her down to the West­hamp­ton Twin to see the doc­u­men­tary star­ing for­mer politi­cian Al Gore, Jr., An Incon­ve­nient Truth. Okay, so I real­ly did­n’t knock her out, either with a club or with drugs, but it did take some con­vinc­ing on my part to get her to go. Part­ly because she’s skep­ti­cal and also because it’s Al Gore talk­ing for two hours at a 9:50 movie. That’s got $10 nap writ­ten all over it.

Well, as it turns out, it’s a ter­rif­ic film. There is none of the sen­sa­tion­al­ist drum beat­ing that you see in the over-the-top trail­er for the film. The movie itself, rather, is both calm and infor­ma­tive. Gore pre­sen­ta­tion is inter­mixed with shots of his trav­el and of his tour­ing the fam­i­ly farm in (South) Carthage, where he spends most of his days off of the road now. The talk of pol­i­tics is at an absolute min­i­mum, treat­ed as just one of many steps along his jour­ney to what he does now (If you got up to get a box of pop­corn, you’d miss that part entire­ly). What he does now is cam­paign for aware­ness instead of elect­ed office. Even though he won more races that he lost, I’d argue he’s much bet­ter at his new career.

The news has been clut­tered with all sorts of arti­cles on Gore’s accu­ra­cy in pre­sent­ing the sci­ence. The site I trust the most is Real Cli­mate, and it’s founder Dr. Eric Steig has writ­ten a fair cri­tique of the film. He feels con­fi­dent that the film get’s all the core sci­ence right and explains it clear­ly with­out dumb­ing it down. Steig and his col­leagues have tak­en issue with a few of Gore’s sup­port­ing facts, or at least how he presents them, but Steig claims that the points of the film are all in sol­id sci­ence. There have been a num­ber of news­pa­per arti­cles, which often depend­ing on the edi­to­r­i­al bent of the paper, range from claim­ing sol­id sci­ence in the film all the way to the oth­er extreme. I did find that reviews in The Chris­t­ian Sci­ence Mon­i­tor and Nation­al Geo­graph­ic (both quot­ing Dr. Steig heav­i­ly) found the film to have sol­id sci­ence. The Cana­di­an Post, on the oth­er hand, found all sorts of sci­en­tists to nit­pick var­i­ous state­ments through­out the film (although most don’t seem to go for the big game of tack­ling major points of dis­cus­sion). How­ev­er, there’s also been a lot evi­dence that those peo­ple have ener­gy indus­try or polit­i­cal ties and aren’t nec­es­sar­i­ly rep­re­sent­ing pure­ly aca­d­e­m­ic inter­ests. Take it all as you will.

While I was nev­er a hard sell to the the­o­ry that human beings are caus­ing cli­mate change, I do make an hon­est effort to stay on top of the sci­ence involved. If for no oth­er rea­son, just to pro­vide rebut­tal points for those that seem to have a life goal of prov­ing the guy who sup­pos­ed­ly invent­ed the inter­net is noth­ing but a char­la­tan (he, of course, nev­er actu­al­ly made that spe­cif­ic claim and cli­mate sci­en­tists seem to appre­ci­ate a politi­cian who lis­tens to them). I would like to make one point about this film, though. No where does Gore say that those of us who believe him are some­how supe­ri­ors and must go out and defeat the oppo­si­tion. This isn’t a polit­i­cal call to arms for the Demo­c­ra­t­ic par­ty. Instead, he comes across as a man who feels very strong­ly that this is the right thing to do and wants every­one just to lis­ten to the sci­ence for a lit­tle while. The film clos­es with tips for ways to reduce your CO2 emis­sions by small things around the house (like what I wrote about last week). There’s no demo­niz­ing of polit­i­cal par­ties or air of supe­ri­or­i­ty in the film. Sim­ply why Gore feels this way, how he got here, and what he has to say about what he (and I) believes is a very impor­tant and glob­al issue. We should all see this film and take it’s lessons seri­ous­ly before we just go mak­ing invent­ed-the-inter­net jokes.

Con­se­quent­ly, Angela nev­er fell asleep dur­ing the movie. She and I both were glued to the screen for the entire film. She even got upset at the descrip­tion of drowned polar bears dis­cov­ered in the Arc­tic. After­words, she stat­ed that this movie should be required view­ing for all ele­men­tary and high school chil­dren, so they could under­stand ear­ly on the con­se­quences of our ener­gy use.

It’s Not Too Hard Being Green

So per­haps you’ve seen An Incon­ve­nient Truth or you plan to. Maybe you have no inten­tion see­ing it because you’re con­vinced this is just all a bunch of bunk. Either way, being green does­n’t have to mean giv­ing up a com­fort­able life style and tak­ing the kids to live in a cave some­where. As a mat­ter of fact, one of the sin­gle best advan­tages of mak­ing the green shift is that, with a lit­tle bit of extra work and know-how, you can actu­al­ly save your­self some mon­ey. Even when our con­scious isn’t pok­ing us in the back or we just don’t think high­ly politi­cized sci­ence is con­vinc­ing, our thin­ning wal­lets can con­vince us to take action. 

What You Buy

You can reduce your cur­rent spend­ing some and reduce some of your envi­ron­men­tal impact at the same time, so let’s talk about that up front. First, you should know that rush­ing out to buy the new, shiny giz­mo that promis­es to save the plan­et isn’t always the most respon­si­ble thing to do. Is it replac­ing some­thing that already works okay and could just be made bet­ter? Per­form­ing some main­te­nance and some elbow grease can make some things run with less ener­gy or have a whole new life. You can recy­cle your own things even eas­i­er than some­one else can do it for you. What are you going to do with the old item? Send­ing it to the land­fill is prob­a­bly far more harm­ful than any ben­e­fits your new toy will offset. 

Well, if you’ve con­vinced your­self that spend­ing some mon­ey on some­thing new might be the best course after all, can I inter­est you in some­thing slight­ly used? eBay, Craigslist, yard sales, and so on may require some more hunt­ing to find the deals, but you’ll be requir­ing less pro­duc­tion ener­gy (it was already made) and you’ll save big off of that new stick­er price, and that’s always a great place to start. How­ev­er, some things just need to be bought new (like under­wear). This is where you should start with some plan­ning. Spend some time think­ing how you can get the most bang for your buck. For exam­ple, if you want to replace you old incan­des­cent light bulbs with some new fan­cy com­pact flu­o­res­cent lights, con­sid­er start­ing with the bulbs that get use the most: bath­room, liv­ing room, kitchen. Take func­tion­ing old incan­des­cent bulbs out, but don’t throw them away yet. Just hold on to them to put in less used sock­ets, such as a lamp in a side room or your back­yard shed. That way, you’ll start see­ing the reduced ener­gy bill now but won’t have to fork over quite as much for so many new bulbs. 

Also, con­sid­er look­ing for less pack­ag­ing. Geeks have known that buy­ing OEM saves big for a long time, and you can use the same prin­ci­pal else­where. Why pay for stuff your just going to throw away as soon as you get home? Ask about dis­play mod­els at stores (big dis­count there) and look for things like con­trac­tor packs at the hard­ware store (you don’t think con­trac­tors like to pay extra, do you?) or just larg­er con­tain­ers at the gro­cery store with high­er prod­uct to pack­ag­ing ratios. You’re pay­ing for the pack­ag­ing each time, so unless you’ve got a good use for that box, don’t buy it. Anoth­er great way to avoid pay­ing for use­less pack­ag­ing: buy dig­i­tal. He, ones and zeros do very lit­tle harm to the envi­ron­ment and why buy a CD that you’re just going to take home, rip over to your iPod, and prompt­ly lose? Upset about DRM, well there are plen­ty of places that won’t force it upon you. 

Around The House

I’m not sure when we all, as a soci­ety, decid­ed that we should nev­er suf­fer any­thing but 72° F tem­per­a­ture around us, but is that real­ly nun­nec­es­sary You own sweaters and you own shorts, so use them. Drop the ther­mo­stat in your home and office a cou­ple of degrees in the win­ter and raise it the same in the sum­mer. Chances are, you won’t even notice, and if you do, you’re prob­a­bly just not dressed appro­pri­ate­ly any­way. I mean, what hap­pens if you go out­side? Well, if you’re dash­ing off to your vehi­cle to avoid the dis­com­fort of 75° F this month, here’s some good news: you should run your air con­di­tion­er when dri­ving above 50 mph. Your car was designed to dri­ve at speed as a closed box and rolling down those win­dows while singing along with your favorite InIndie­and at the top of your lungs actu­al­ly costs you some extra fuel, and at today’s prices, you can’t afford to show off your Amer­i­can Idol-wor­thy voice. Also, when you do get home, rest your throat and breath clean air by replac­ing your air fil­ters more often. You don’t drink your cof­fee through the swswiz­eltick cause you’d bust a lung, but that’s the kind of load you’re putting on your air han­dler by using dirty fil­ters. Clean ones help to pay for them­selves and help keep you out of the clin­ic with a soar throat.

One thing a lot of my envi­ron­men­tal friends say is to take short­er, cool­er show­ers. Well, I don’t like cold show­ers but I also know that my clothes gen­er­al­ly don’t mind them. Sep­a­rate out any­thing that must be washed warm and you’ll see that most every­thing you own can save you some mon­ey buy tak­ing the cold wash cycle. Of course, your dish­es will need some of the warm water love, but don’t waste mon­ey buy using the heat dry option (there are prod­ucts that will do a bet­ter and cheap­er job of reduc­ing spots, any­way). Also, unless you just love house­hold chores, only wash full loads in both the clothes wash­er and the dish­wash­er. One last way to save some on they elec­tric or gas bill, hang your clothes to dry on a clothes­line when you can. You’ll get less wrin­kles from the grav­i­ty action and any you do get, a quick tum­ble in the dry­er will knock out.

So, you dri­ve a big SUV or a four-dour sedan and you real­ly don’t plan on giv­ing that up any­time soon. Well, at least lis­ten to your dad: keep your tires inflat­ed and change the oil on sched­ule. You’ll get improved mileage and, well, I don’t have to say that again do I? Also, time is as good as mon­ey, so con­sol­i­date your trips. Pick up your lunch on the way to work instead of an extra trip at noon (unless your walk­ing, which is good for the health ben­e­fits) or plan all your Sat­ur­day errands ahead so you can do them all in one excur­sion (although, hope­ful­ly not a Ford Excur­sion with gas at over $3/gallon). Also, con­sid­er mak­ing part of your big day out to your local hard­ware and gar­den store(s). Get some of that cheap foam that goes around the doors and win­dows. You’ll find it costs you less if you put that up to keep the house at your required 70° — 74°, you frag­ile thing, you. While at the gar­den cen­ter, get some trees for the yard. They’ll look great and you could use the sun since you appar­ent­ly have some aver­sion to being exposed to the out­doors. Just be sure to buy local stuff, since there’s no good rea­son to pay extra for some­thing that got trucked in from two states over.

When it comes time to eat, I can’t think of any­thing bet­ter than fresh food. Buy some local meats, fruits, and veg­eta­bles (like your grand­par­ents did). You’ll feel bet­ter about what you feed your fam­i­ly and you won’t be pay­ing for all that trans­porta­tion, cool­ing, and stor­age (and usu­al­ly pack­ag­ing). Also, con­sid­er mak­ing more stuff at home. You’ll eat bet­ter know­ing what goes into your food and you’ll save mon­ey. Oh, the envi­ron­ment? Well, it’ll get the ben­e­fit, too. Sor­ry, I had­n’t real­ized you get­ting so con­cerned as to remind me of the top­ic. I’ll keep that in mind next time.

Well, hope­ful­ly you can see just how you can make some impact on the envi­ron­ment by think­ing of your­self and your bank account. Some sim­ple plan­ning and extra effort can save you some mon­ey, just like your par­ents told you. You can also do right by your chil­dren and help out the envi­ron­ment at the same time. Heck, they’ll prob­a­bly appre­ci­ate the fact you took them out­side and start­ed let­ting them wear shorts again in the summer.

Cross-post­ed from my Newsvine Col­umn.

Google Search Anomoly

Now here’s some­thing real­ly weird. I read about the fit­ness track­ing site WeEn­dure a cou­ple of weeks ago on Life­hack­er and signed up for an account. I’ve been using it reg­u­lar­ly. I just hap­pened to do a google search for ween­dure to see if there were any oth­er arti­cles on the site (I am in con­stant need of reas­sur­ance) and low and behold, my user page comes up sec­ond, ahead of the Life­hack­er article!

Back In The Saddle (Sore)

Angela con­vinced me that we absolute­ly need­ed to do the marathon train­ing team again this year. It would be dif­fi­cult for me to put down in one post just how much we learned doing this last year. In short, we went from peo­ple who go jog­ging occa­sion­al­ly to run­ners. Here would be my top list of things I took away from last year:

  • Good equip­ment (cloth­ing, shoes, GPS, hydra­tion, etc.) won’t make you a good run­ner, but bad equip­ment will make you a mis­er­able runner.
  • Train­ing is a nev­er-end­ing process. Train­ing nev­er ends after one race, it just peaks and then ramps down between races.
  • Men­tal con­di­tion­ing real­ly is that impor­tant. Your mind will make you stop long before your body will.
  • You have to pay atten­tion to what you’re eat­ing. You can’t eat too few or too many calo­ries; you have to find the right balance.

That only scratch­es the sur­face, but there some of the key things I’m try­ing to keep in mind going into my sec­ond marathon. We’re signed up to run the Marine Corps Marathon in Wash­ing­ton D.C. / Arling­ton, VA at the end of Octo­ber. We want­ed to have a change of scenery this year and give a sort of test run to the idea of run­ning vaca­tions. Angela and I had talked about doing marathons in oth­er cities or even oth­er coun­tries, and then just a cou­ple of weeks ago I read an arti­cle in the Chris­t­ian Sci­ence Mon­i­tor about how that same thing is get­ting to be very pop­u­lar1 Any­way, it seems like a great way to see more of a new city and meet some of the local peo­ple. Of course, Angela will tell you that I’ll stop every 100 yards to take a pho­to and be worth­less as a result.

By join­ing the train­ing team, we are also signed up to run the Rich­mond Marathon as well2. It’s only 12 days after the Marine Corp, so you’ll have to ask me lat­er if I’m going to run it for sure. Right now, I’m plan­ning on it, but there’s real­ly no way to pre­dict how I’ll be doing then.

Also, I’ve signed up for a free account at WeEndure.com, which is a handy way for me to log all my miles online. I’ll try and keep it going dur­ing the whole train­ing. I’ll also add all the races on there for any­one inter­est­ed. If you’re think­ing about vis­it­ing us some­time, why not mak­ing it a run­ning vacation?

  1. One of my new things on my life-to-do list is vis­it Antarc­ti­ca and run a marathon there. A train­ing team coach of mine did that last year and became the youngest women to run a marathon on all sev­en con­ti­nents in one year. []
  2. It’s includ­ed in the fee for the team. After you sub­tract out the $65 marathon reg­is­tra­tion, the $15 for the team col­or t‑shirt, and $20 for your marathon rac­ing sin­glet, the train­ing team only costs $30. That means that you get six months of run­ning advice, access to phys­i­cal ther­a­pists (new this year), free clin­ics, snacks and ener­gy gels, and more. I mean, I used $30 in ener­gy gels alone last year. Seri­ous­ly, it’s one of the coolest things in Rich­mond. []

Tree Exchange

One of my favorite bloom­ing-any­thing is an orna­men­tal cher­ry tree. I can real­ly say why, since it’s not like there were any in the yard where I grew up. There’s just some­thing about them that I find beau­ti­ful and relax­ing. I find it hard to see one with hav­ing also the urge to pho­to­graph it. It’s ethe­re­al the way they drop their petals like pink snow.

We had a very beau­ti­ful orna­men­tal cher­ry tree in our back­yard up until recent­ly. The trunk mea­sured sev­en to eight inch­es in diam­e­ter, which if you’ve ever been to the gar­den cen­ter pur­chase one, you’ll real­ize is very large for an orna­men­tal tree. It’s branch­es were the size of most trees at the green­house and they spread out hor­i­zon­tal­ly to pro­vide a large shad­ed area in our back­yard. It pro­vid­ed a won­der­ful pink bou­quet each spring and then gave way to a bushy green canopy. At first, it’s spread was so wide, I found it a pain to mow around. I came to appre­ci­ate it for just how won­der­ful it was, though.

Sad­ly, trees don’t live for­ev­er, any­more than ani­mals do. I knew that the tree was dead, but just did­n’t have the heart dur­ing the past cou­ple of months to do any­thing about it. Final­ly, after talk­ing with some friends along with knowl­edge­able green­house employ­ees, we deter­mined that the tree had sim­ply died of old age. We real­ly don’t know how old the tree was, but it’s safe to say it was old­er than either of us giv­en it’s size. Who knows? It may have very well been old­er than my par­ents, even (the house, after all, is 68 years old).

We decid­ed that this past week­end would be a good time to do some gar­den­ing and that part of my job would be to tear out the old tree. It was actu­al­ly kind of sad doing so. Not like los­ing a pet that you have long enough to know it’s per­son­al­i­ty. More like a pet that just brings you joy hav­ing around, even if it’s noth­ing you can active­ly do any­thing with.

Odd­ly enough, nei­ther Angela nor I even sug­gest­ed replac­ing it with anoth­er cher­ry tree. We have one in our front yard we plant­ed a cou­ple of years ago and that is doing quit well there. Instead, we select­ed a pink dog­wood that looks like has lots of poten­tial to spread out over our back­yard just as the old cher­ry tree did. Maybe, in 30 or so years, some­one else will be here and get to appre­ci­ate it in the same way we enjoyed our old cher­ry tree.

Cherry Tree Trunk