Friday, November 24, 2006

Pressure Washer

I went into Home Depot looking for two 48 inch 34 watt flourescent bulbs. I got those - actually I got 40 watt bulbs because I decided I wanted brighter closet lighting - and also a new gizmo: a pressure washer.

I'm just a sucker for tools and gizmos. In my defense it was on sale for 50% off! Think of all the uses:

  • Cleaning under eaves (i.e. little insect nests, dirt)
  • Washing a car
  • Cleaning my pool filter
  • Spraying off the pool deck
  • Chasing off neighbor's pets

    Okay I'm just kidding about that last one. After I assemble it and figure out how to use it, I'll probably look all over for any excuse to blast something with water. :)
  • Wednesday, November 15, 2006

    Tailor of Panama

    This movie had been sitting around on my coffee table for weeks, and I finally decided to watch it. It is based on a book of the same, by John Le Carre.

    Pierce Brosnan plays Andrew Osnard, a disgraced MI-6 agent, sent to Panama as punishment for having an affair with an ambassador's mistress on his previous assignment. His job in Panama is to learn what the President intends to do with the Canal: keep it and operate it, sell it to another country, etc. He befriends Harry Pendel, a tailor played by Geoffrey Rush, partly because Mr. Pendel knows various wealthy people in the capital (he is a high-end tailor) and his wife Louisa, played by Jamie Lee Curtis, works for the President.

    This spy doesn't operate like James Bond; instead most of the spycraft is finding a weakness and exploiting it. Osnard finds out Pendel owes some money to a bank, so he dangles wads of cash in front of him, in exchange for introductions and information. Pendel is eager to please, so he exaggerates the role of friends of his, who in the past were active in opposing the Noriega government but have since mellowed, to concoct an anti-government movement. Osnard in turn embellishes this info to his bosses because he knows what they want to hear. He presses Pendel for more info and the cycle continues.

    By the end, the British and Americans are convinced enough to fund weapons for the fake opposition group, and stage a near-invasion of Panama! In many ways the movie is very cynical about how intelligence and foreign policy decisions are made.

    In the confusion at the end, we find out Osnard's real motive for everything: revenge on MI-6 for exiling him as punishment. His superiors deliver money to fund the opposition group, but Osnard steals it. After paying a bribe that allows him on a departing flight, he makes off with the cash! On the flight he meets Francesca, an embassy worker played by Catherine McCormack, who he had an affair with. I'm not sure how much of it she was in on, if any, or if them being on the flight was a coincidence or not. Maybe the book is clearer.

    Sunday, November 12, 2006

    Celebration 10K

    I drove down to Celebration, FL for the Celebration 10K - excuse me the official name is the "Florida Hospital Celebration Health Founder's Day 10K" making this the race with the longest name I've done - a race in the Grand Prix (which I'm not doing this year) and the Challenge Series (which I am).

    It was a pretty good race for me - 46:37 (net time) over 6.2 miles. I finished 18/64 in my division and 139/848 overall. I was hoping to come in under 45:45 and set a new 10K PR, but I was about a minute off. Next April there is a 10K in Winter Park, so I'll shoot for a PR then.

    My GPS measured 6.34 miles, and a friend in the Orlando Running Club, Michelle, measure 6.3 as well. So we joked about being cheated by 1/10th of a mile. On the other hand, 0.1 miles over 6.2 is an error of ~1.6%, which is quite reasonable.

    Friday, November 10, 2006

    Election Problems

    Wherever I live, there are election problems... I don't think it is due to me! ;) Two years ago I voted in Washington and then took a vacation to New Zealand. When I returned three weeks I found out the state of Washington still hadn't figured out who was elected governor.

    Now in live in Florida, famous for voting problems in the 2000 election, and there is a voting problem involving four counties and "undervoting", which is the term for a ballot with no choice made.

    It's just funny, in a really sad way I suppose. For a country that often touts the right to vote as being so important, we have low turnout, voter apathy, and apparently don't run the process well on top of that.

    These problems were with electronic voting machines, which have notorious problems. I've read many comparisons to Oregon's vote by mail system which neatly wraps up voting and absentee balloting, with higher accuracy and less cost than electronic systems. Maybe low-tech is the answer: reliable, cheap, and counting by hand is good enough every two years.

    In earlier years Chicago was the butt of jokes due to election fraud and dead people voting. I have this feeling Florida will be the butt of future voting jokes involving miscounts. ;)

    Tuesday, November 07, 2006

    Election Day and Rain

    I glance at the Seattle newspaper's websites from time to time, and see the area is experiencing some heavy rain. According to the chart embedded in the article, the rainest day in Seattle was Oct. 20, 2003 - I was a resident then! I think I even remember joking with coworkers that the streets were so flooded it took me 10 minutes to drive home - the joke being I lived so close to work my normal commute was only 5 minutes. Some weren't all that amused, hehe.

    The 5th rainiest day was Nov. 25, 1998, which occured while I was a resident of the Pacific Northwest. What an honor, to have lived in the area for 2 of the top 5 rainiest days of the past 50 years! I guess in that light I won't moan about the scattered showers we got yesterday.

    This afternoon I voted, after searching a bit for my polling location. The election board sent out a map but the marked location was just a bit off - it pointed to a building under construction. However, tucked away so well I didn't even realize it was there, was a Lutheran Church that was my real polling place.

    I showed my ID, signed, and took away a huge ballot. Literally, the ballot was an oversized paper that was probably 11" x 18". It was a bit exciting - my first vote as a Florida resident. It will be interesting to see how this midterm election turns out.

    On the way out I filled out an exit poll, which was about 20 questions asking me why I voted the way I did. Things like "rate the importance of the following" and then choices for various issues. I've never taken part in an exit poll before.

    Friday, November 03, 2006

    Happy Hour

    I attended a Happy Hour of the bike group, at a nearby Italian Restaurant. It was sparsely attended - the previous week's get together was a lot bigger, so I was told since I couldn't make that one.

    It was OK but tedious as two of the people I didn't really know spent the time talking about their favorite church to attend. Then they started in on the Left Behind series, a thriller set in the post-Revelations earth. Oh I wanted to stick a fork in my eye and slink away, but instead I nursed my drink and payed far more attention to the plasma TV showing some football game than I usually would have.

    I ducked out after eating some soup for dinner.

    Wednesday, November 01, 2006


    That was the sound my car made this morning, when I tried to go to work. I tried a few times, but got the same result: turn the key in the ignition, and a rapid fire machine gun noise was all I got. My battery wasn't dead - I had the radio and lights - but the car wouldn't start.

    I called up my local Toyota dealership, and described the problem. They said it was one of two things: a) low voltage battery - enough juice to power the extras but not turn the engine over, or b) dead starter. In the first case, a jump start should suffice, but for the second, I would need to have my car towed in.

    My poor car, it has served me extremely well for 9 years!

    Anyway, I called up Francis at work and he came over to jump my car. Fortunately I always back into my garage so the hood was facing out and we had no problems connecting the cables. After hooking everything up, I turned the ignition and my car started up just fine, after a moment's hesitation. It looked like my battery was indeed low.

    I let the car idle for a few minutes, but wanted to get outside instead of pump more exhaust into the garage. I drove around for 20 minutes or so, stopped by work to check mail for another 15 mins, and came back out. The car barely started again - I thought I was going to need another jump. But it did start and I drove to the Toyota dealership and just waited there while they fixed it. Two hours later, after $160 for a new battery and oil/lube, I was set.

    In the grand scheme of things, I was fortunate. My car battery died inside my garage, I live less than 2 miles from work and am even closer to a grocery store. So in the worst case, I could get by without the car for a while. Having it die late at night or far from home - that would have been crappy.

    While at the dealership I thought about getting a new car again. My car has a little over 128,000 miles and still runs well, for being 10 years old (9 years of ownership for me because I bought the car as a 1 year old used car). Since the Camry has been so great over the years I want another Toyota. Maybe I'll get one in May 2007, when my Camry turns 11 (10 years owned by me). I'm leaning towards the Prius, a hybrid.

    I do enjoy not having a car payment (since early 2002!) but on the other hand I don't want to "drive" my car into the ground. ;)