Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Interstate 40 Detour

So by now, most people who read this space and who might be traveling on Interstate 40 from points east of Winston-Salem into Tennessee should know about the big rock slide that has I-40 blocked and detoured. Why am I posting about it then? Because the DOT detour is REALLY BAD for anyone coming from anywhere further east than Winston-Salem. Their detour is an extra 53 miles. It makes a certain amount of sense to publish this as the official detour since there could be a lot of people coming from in between Winston-Salem and Asheville, but for everyone else there is a better way.

Check out this map:

View Larger Map

This detour is 13 miles further than just staying on I-40 would have been. It's also the way I go almost exclusively because it's an easier and safer drive. Going up Fancy Gap is much preferred to me over going up the mountain near Asheville. It's a wider and safer road. The speed limit is higher on most of this route and the traffic is usually better, resulting in the extra distance not actually causing any extra time. To summarize it:
  • I-40 West to Highway 52 North
  • Highway 52 North to I-74 West
  • I-74 West to I-77 North
  • I-77 North to I-81 South
  • I-81 South to I-40 West
(If towing, use the above. If driving a car and it's not rush-hour, you might consider taking I-40 West to Business I-40 West and then to Highway 52 North. But know that the ramp from Business 40 to 52N is VERY short and a potential problem in a tow vehicle.)

It's driving me nuts that the only published detour by the news outlets is the official one, even though I pointed out to WRAL that their entire viewing area is east of Winston-Salem and thus they were being irresponsible by posting only the DOT detour. For almost all of their viewers my detour is better. And it will save fuel and time. So it's greener. WRAL did respond to me, but ignored my request to add the better detour.

Friday, October 23, 2009


So by now most everyone should know about the pirates off the Somali coast that have been taking large ships and their crew hostage. They made around $80M in 2008 alone (from ransom). Amazing. Now the Navy is getting more involved and using drones capable of deploying weapons to patrol the seas.

That's an interesting attempt, but experts say it won't do much to deter the bandits. They say the biggest thing that would help would be fixing the Somali government, but that doesn't seem like a plausible solution. My solution? Get a big juicy cargo ship, mark it up properly, load it with empty containers, and a couple dozen Navy Seals. Just let it run around collecting up pirates. I mean they "attack" from tiny boats usually with less than ten bandits and some handheld automatic weapons. At best it seems they have some handheld rocket launchers, too. No match for Navy Seals. Probably no match for McHale's Navy, either, but let's not take any chances. Send in the pros.

Let them video each capture for evidence in whatever international court they get tried in and just keep doing it until the pirates quit. They might never quit, but we could just do it forever using it as a training tool for Seals. Just rotate them through every few months. And if a few pirates get killed trying to do their thing, so be it. Heck, let National Geographic do a reality TV show around it. I'd watch that.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sweet Georgia Brown!

So Holly's blog post on songs about NYC got me thinking about the Harlem Globetrotters theme song for some reason (okay, not for "some reason," for a very good reason...Harlem is part of NYC and it made me wonder what the song was about and if there was a version of it with lyrics). The answer to that question is there are lyrics to it, but I haven't found them yet. What I did find was far more interesting. You see, it's proof that even I could play a music instrument. That's right, me. And what musical instrument is that? Why, the tractor, of course!

I guess it's worth noting that some group of long haired hippies from England also did a remake of Sweet Georgia Brown. Strangely enough. But thanks to that one, now I know the words. Not a bad little song. Here is the original done by the author's band. And if you don't know the version the Harlem Globetrotters use, well, shame on you. Get some tickets and go check out the show next time they are in your town. You'll be glad you did.

(** The image used here is from the original 45RPM record jacket and scanned by yours truly.)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

"Thingee" is one way to describe it!

It's styled like a Jeep that got it's nose pinched, but it's really just two-wheel-drive and VW powered. And, uh, it's quite ugly. But hey, if ugly is your thing, well, it ought to be cheap.

It actually looks like it was built fairly well. I just can't figure out the why. Find it here on eBay.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Spinning a fact into a lie?

According to this blog, I'm "spinning a fact into a lie". How so? By my previous blog entry pointing out that President Obama did nothing to deserve to be nominated before February 1 of this year, I'm curious what lie I've spun? No, he wasn't talking about me specifically, just everyone out there pointing out this little problem.

It seems clear to me. He didn't do anything to deserve nomination, but this writer appears to think that's okay since Hitler and a whole host of other people have been nominated in the past who were clearly undeserving. Oh, yeah, that makes perfect sense. How silly of us to be pointing out that he shouldn't have been nominated and therefore not able to win an award that he somehow won without deserving it either way.

More information on the Nobel Peace Prize

According to this official link, the Nobel Peace Prize is selected from people nominated by February 1. What had Barack Obama done to change the world between January 20 and February 1 to receive such a nomination? I suppose he could have won it based on things he did before becoming the forty-fourth President of the United States, but I'll be darned if I can figure out what that could be. I mean he was pretty busy doing nothing more than campaigning for that entire year leading up to November, and he sort of couldn't do much until he was inaugurated.

I'd be baffled, if it weren't already obvious that the Nobel committee is nothing but a group of people with a political agenda. See Al Gore's award. Whether you agree with Mr. Gore's ideas or not, what "peace" has he brought to the world through his environmental work? Is it important and potentially worthy of high award? Sure! But the Nobel Peace Prize?

Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize? Seriously?

So the list of Nobel Peace Prize winners includes Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, and Nelson Mandela. And now we add Obama to the list? Why? Well, according to the committee “He has created a new international climate” with respect to his campaign goal of a "world without nuclear weapons." Maybe I'm crazy, but I didn't see his administration do anything different than any other administration has done since the Reagan years when it came to issues like Iran and North Korea doing nuclear work. Nothing, zip, zero. Can someone please enlighten me as to how he's done anything at all different or better?

The NY Times can't even come up with any good reasons for this selection. Their next stated reason was Obama's speech in Cairo. I admit that was well received, but I'm not sure I've seen much lasting effect. Even so, this speech wasn't so great it puts you on the Nobel Peace Prize list, I don't think. The next item they list is he sought to restart peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. Who hasn't?!? Make some headway on that one and get back to me, will ya?

So could it be that the Nobel folks think he's going to do great things and that's why they gave him the prize? They say that's not the case, then all but say it is:
“We are not awarding the prize for what may happen in the future, but for what he has done in the previous year,” Mr. Jagland said. “We would hope this will enhance what he is trying to do.”
Let's look at some other items from Obama's campaign rhetoric that would have been things that might have won a Nobel Peace Prize:
  • closing the prison at Guantanamo: Still not done
  • ending the war in Iraq: Still not done
  • ending the war in Afghanistan: Going the OTHER way! It's getting worse!
And while not necessarily campaign promises, in reality we have North Korea doing whatever they please with respect to nuclear weapons, Iran doing more and not less since Obama took office (sure, the current trend is they now say they're willing to "talk", but that means unless we make concessions for them they're going to do what they want), and Israelis and Palestinians still going at it just like always.

All I can say is perhaps he did more for peace than anyone else did in the last year. That would be a sad state, but perhaps it is true. I certainly can't come up with anyone else who did anything significant at all. But maybe they should have just picked a current Iraqi government leader? Those guys are trying to help their country and are hunted in thanks for it. *sigh*

At any rate, another thing I find strange is that the Nobel Peace Prize has a cash award currently worth $1.4M. Wonder what President Obama is going to do with that money?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

My first triathlon

Okay, first some background...while I can swim and even love to play in the water, I have no interest whatsoever in swimming long distances. None. I simply won't do it. But there are some triathlons out there that are "adventure triathlons" and combine other sports, typically paddling instead of swimming and the bike and run are on trails instead of the road. There's one such event near home called the Dark Mountain Challenge. Myself and some friends decided to do the DMC this year, and I started training fairly seriously a few months ago. The paddle was three miles, the run 4.5, and the bike was 10.

My paddling experience is fairly diverse, but didn't include much flatwater kayaking. To that end I got myself a fairly long boat that should have been fairly fast and did some training for that part. I won't go into the stories about that right now, but that was somewhat interesting, to say the least. The race was the more interesting part. The DMC folks have a handicap system for boats because such a diverse group shows up. They basically measure length and width and use a formula to assign a start delay from zero to seven minutes in one minute increments. My boat was given a four, but the guy seemed to really want to find a reason to make it a five. Matt also got a four, Alan got a two, and Bob and Michael each got zero as they were in sit-on-top recreational sea kayaks.

Matt totally killed me in the water and I was barely able to pass Alan for second in our group out of the water. I passed Bob about half way and Michael near the end, too. Unfortunately there's no such thing as a sit-in-kayak that will fit me while wearing running shoes, so I had to wear water shoes and change in the transition to the run (yes, traditional triathlons are swim/bike/run, but when paddling replaces swimming they usually switch it to paddle/run/bike so your arms get a break from holding the paddle before having to hold your handlebars). Alan passed me in transition since he didn't have to do anything but throw down his PFD and grab his water bottle. But I was still in front of Michael and Bob.

I started the run and Michael passed me right at the start and was hauling pretty quickly. We were probably half way through when Bob passed me. Both those guys were just in better shape than me. So now I was last out of our group, which wasn't where I wanted to be! But I kept my heart rate in check (mostly) and just did as much as my body would allow.

I got through the run and headed for the bike. I was really happy to get to that part as I felt it was my best part of the race. Then I got a cold dose of reality...about 2.5 miles into the ten my calves started cramping really bad. This was when I remembered that I had forgot to execute the part of my plan where I took electrolyte replacements before and during the race. I was well hydrated, but that does no good without enough electrolytes.

The cramping was really bad, but I found I could mitigate it by walking up most longer hills and pedal carefully on the lesser hills. Flats and downhill was fine. This is a pretty hill intensive course, but I wasn't going to give in, either. I figured I should REALLY bomb the downhills and get as much out of the flats as I could, so that's what I did. I still had resigned myself to not catching anyone else in my group, but I did pass a lot more other competitors on the bike than passed me, which was cool. Toward the end I saw something I really didn't want to see...Matt. Struggling. I buzzed by him with less than two miles to go and gave him some words of encouragement, but I still had work to do. (While I didn't want to be last, I had resigned myself to the fact that I would be long before I caught Matt. He had done such a great job I hated to see him bonk that close to the end.)

I finished with a respectable time, though not as good as I would have liked. We're still waiting for results to be posted, but I was fourth out of my group of five. That said, I think I might have beat Bob in the bike portion, and if so I'm not going to let him forget that. He likes to be in front of me on our group rides and he's in pretty good shape for riding. Should be fun to compare all the splits once we get them.

You can see my paddling track, run track, and bike track via these links. Note, however, that the paddling one is missing about a quarter mile of the start as I forgot to start my watch. Also note that the paddling portion did not go nearly as well as I would have liked. My boat either doesn't suit my body for some reason or there's some kind of serious technique issue I need to address. Either way, I think next year we're going to try to do a team or two for the triathlon and then compete as individuals the next day in the duathlon at the same place. Gonna start training NOW. Matt can go kick the paddle's butt, Alan the run, and I'll try to bring it home on the bike.

I want to take this opportunity to thank Jon Forsberg of Santa Cruz Bicycles. I've never actually met him in person and only know him via another friend, but he's been a HUGE help via email and in some other ways with my bike. I ride a Santa Cruz Blur XC in full carbon fiber now, and the thing is simply incredible. I can't imagine a better cross country bicycle. There's no doubt it makes me a MUCH better rider. Thanks, Jon!

Also, a big thanks to all the event sponsors, which you can find on the Dark Mountain website. And finally, thanks to Maritza Greene for putting on such a great event! I can't wait until next year (but I think my legs would be fine waiting).