8.30.2009

I Love a Parade

The Woodbury Days parade was today, and since the parade route runs right by my sister's condo, Mel, Emma, and I drove over there this morning. We got to my sister's place almost an hour before the parade was scheduled to begin, so we hung around inside for a while. Shortly before the beginning of the parade, my aunt and her grandson arrived at my sister's condo as well. The six of us then all went to the street to stake out a location from which to view the parade. It was a pretty long parade; I think there were one hundred entries.

There were of course supporters of politicians in the parade. Emma, my two-year-old daughter, got a sticker from one of the DFL candidates. Later on during the parade, the supporters of Michele Bachmann, representative from Minnesota's Sixth Congressional District, were coming by. Emma kept holding out her hand for one of the Bachmann stickers, however I kept pulling her hand back. When the people came over to ask if we wanted some Bachmann stickers, I told each of them that we did not want any. They even asked my sister, who was wearing her shirt with the word "Liberal" on it, if she wanted one. She also refused the sticker.

There were several costumed characters who were walking along the parade route, including a giant bottle of shampoo representing Great Clips, and part of a spine representing a chiropractic office, but my favorite mascot in the parade was Petey P. Cup (shown here), spokescup for HealthPartners. He was accompanied by his partners Pokey the Syringe and Pearl E. White. We had a great time at the parade, but I think we may have gotten a bit too much sun.

The State Fair

Yesterday, Mel, Emma, my mother, and my sister all went to the Minnesota State Fair. We got there around 10:30 in the morning. Our first stop upon arriving at the fair was the Dairy Barn. There we watched one of the finalists for Princess Kay of the Milky Way being carved in butter. We also enjoyed some ice cream.

After that we checked out several of the animal exhibits, starting with the Miracle of Birth Center where we saw some baby ducks and pigs. We also saw some pregnant cows and sheep. Emma tried to pet a baby pig, but she seemed a bit scared when the touched it. We also checked out the cows and pigs at the fair.

After checking out all of those animals, we made our next food stop of the day. We had Australian potatoes, which were deep fried, battered, potatoes covered with cheese sauce and ranch dressing (shown in the first photo). Mel and I probably would have been better off splitting a single order instead of each having our own. But now we'll know that for next time.

Next we went through the Horticulture building and saw some giant produce. We also checked out some art made from seeds, including a piece of art depicting President Barack Obama's birth certificate, telling the birthers basically to get a life.

We looked at a few other exhibits before searching out some additional food. I tried Axel's nacho dog. I don't recall if that was the actual name for the item or not, but I think that's what it was. Anyway, it was Tex-Mex beef in a corn batter and deep fried, dipped in a cheese sauce and topped with lettuce, tomato, olives, and jalapenos. I believe it was a new item this year. I really hope it is back for the state fair next summer as I thought it was really good.

Mel got tired fairly early, so after this meal, she, Emma, my mom, and I decided it was time for us to leave. We ended up waiting almost forty-five minutes for the shuttle to take us back to our car, but we eventually got there. I think we got home between 4:30 and 5:00. I had a really good time at the Minnesota State Fair, hopefully next year we will be able to stick around longer though.

8.26.2009

Another Score in the Dead Pool

With Ted Kennedy's passing, I have scored an additional 23 points in the celebrity dead pool in which I am participating. That brings my score up to 37 points, with the only other points scored coming from the death of Bea Arthur.

8.25.2009

Chicago

Yesterday afternoon I arrived in Chicago for a short business trip. I am conducting a meeting that lasts from this morning until noon tomorrow, and then I return home. I do enjoy traveling for work, mainly because I like interacting with my coworkers, and I enjoy eating out, but I do miss being at home with Mel and Emma. So it is really good that this trip if relatively short.

Things have gone well with my meeting so far, and the food has been pretty good. The hotel at which I am staying serves made-to-order omelets for breakfast each morning, as well as other things, but I do enjoy the omelets. For dinner tonight, my colleague Lois and I went to Rickenbacker’s Bar & Grille which is located in another nearby hotel. I had a half rack of ribs. The portion size was pretty big. If I hadn't known otherwise, I would have guessed that I had received the whole order. They were very tasty. I got a desert to go which I think I will eat after writing this blog entry. Once I return home, I really do need to get back to watching what I eat.

8.20.2009

Tornado!

Before you get to far in reading this blog posting, I would like to warn you that if you want a lot of information about the tornadoes that hit the metro area yesterday, you will be very disappointed as I didn't witness any of them. Instead, I will just tell you of what I experienced during the storm yesterday.

As I was working from my home office yesterday afternoon, I heard the weather alert radio go off downstairs. I ran to the radio to hear it inform me that the neighboring county to mine had a tornado warning, but at that time there was no warning for Washington County, so I turned on the TV to see what was happening and went back to work. A short time later, I heard sirens going off nearby, but no alerts for my area had come through on the weather radio yet. So after looking outside and seeing that it just was raining and slightly windy, I went back to work. About ten minutes later the weather radio finally sounded indicating that there was a tornado warning for southern Washington County. I stepped out the front door, and it looked perfectly calm, but the meteorologists on TV seemed to indicate that tornadoes could pop up unexpectedly, so I decided to take cover downstairs for the duration of the warning.

Apparently there was a tornado which hit the southern part of Cottage Grove, doing some minor damage, but it was nowhere near our house. It looks like we were spared most of the damage that occurred from the tornado which hit Minneapolis. Nevertheless, I am guessing that we will still have people coming by the house asking if they can give us an estimate on repairing the "storm damage" to our roof. Over the past year, that is a regular occurrence after any time there seems to be a strong wind.

Now if you want to see some storm related videos, I have found a couple for your enjoyment.

The first is a video of the tornado in Minneapolis shot by a meteorologist from Pennsylvania who was in town visiting his daughter.



This second video is of people driving through flooded streets.


8.19.2009

tlhIngan Hol

For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you may know that on the third Wednesday of each month, I tweet exclusively using the Klingon language. For those of you who can not speak or read tlhIngan Hol, I am once again providing translations here in my blog.

veQDuj bej veQDuj puqbe'wI'.
My daughter likes to watch the garbage scow.


cha'leS bom chu' ghaj @alyankovic.
@alyankovic will have a new song the day after tomorrow. http://bit.ly/UItw6

DaHjaj chorghmaH corgh ben bogh Gene Roddenberry.
Gene Roddenberry was born eighty-eight years ago today.


SIStaH.
It is raining.

DaHjaj vaghmaH Soch ben Jonathan Frakes 'ej SochmaH wa' ben Diana Muldaur. qoSrajmey lutIvchaj!
Today Jonathan Frakes is fifty-seven years old and Diana Muldaur is seventy-one years old. May they enjoy their birthdays!

'ey. RT @frenchdipmaids: Ooooo zo good!!!
Tasty.
RT @frenchdipmaids: Ooooo zo good!!! http://flic.kr/p/6R4ust

"tornado" vImughmeH chay' tlhIngan Hol vIlo'laH?
How can I use Klingon in order to translate "tornado?"

Sum DIngbogh SuS HoSghaj.
A powerful wind which spins (tornad0) is nearby.

SepwIjDaq DIngbogh SuS HoSghaj! vISo'!
The tornado is in my region! I hide!

QIp ghotpu'.
People are stupid.
http://bit.ly/roadflood

loj DIngbogh SuS HoSghaj.
The tornado is gone.

tachvetlh vISuchnISqu'.
I really need to visit this bar.
http://tumblr.com/xo72rbfrq

8.12.2009

Chuck Grassley, Slayer of Taxes

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart recently featured a presentation that Charles Grassley from Iowa recently gave on the Senate floor. In it, Grassley likens the debt and deficit that would be incurred by health care reform to a dragon. He then throws in a little Sir Lancelot and his evil double, Sir Taxalot. And to top it off, he throws in a little Aesop. All that was missing from his story was the addition of the most awesome knight of all, Sir Mix-a-lot. Grassley does have some nice-looking posters to illustrate his story. Maybe if he fails to get reelected in 2010, he could have a future writing picture books for children.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Chuck Grassley's Debt and Deficit Dragon
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorSpinal Tap Performance

8.05.2009

Bicycle-Hating Bigots of Iowa

I wrote last night about a group which calls itself the Citizens for Safety Coalition of Iowa and its petition to pressure legislators in Iowa to let the state's citizens vote to ban bicyclists from 30,000 miles of roads in the state. After posting my blog entry, I sent an email to their contact email address, cfscofiowa@yahoo.com, asking for evidence to back up their claims. Below is a copy of the email I sent:
Hello. I recently learned about your petition to seek a ban on bicyclists from Iowa's county roads. In the statement of your petition you state that "over the past ten years the number of bicyclists using these farm-to-market roads for recreational purposes has increased dramatically as have the number of preventable accidents and fatalities." Could you supply me with the evidence you have that supports this claim that the number of preventable accidents and fatalities has increased dramatically?

You also claim that "rural commerce and citizens are significantly impacted when forced to share the farm-to-market roadways with bicyclists." Would you please explain to me what this significant impact is?

I look forward to receiving your response to these questions.
I received an unsigned response from someone representing the group. Since it was not signed, I am assuming that it came from the person who is the administrative contact of the Citizens for Safety Coalition of Iowa's domain, cfscofiowa.com (registered just four days before the start of this past RAGBRAI), Dan Jones of Van Meter, Iowa. I do not know this as a fact however, it's just an assumption and could very well be wrong. Nevertheless, I will be referring to the writer of the response as "he" in the remainder of this blog posting. I would copy his response here, but since emails are technically subject to copyright law, I will paraphrase and summarize what he said instead.

In response to my first inquiry for evidence to support the claim that injuries and fatalities have increased dramatically over the past decade, he simply told me that the Iowa Department of Transportation has that information. I checked IDOT's website and couldn't find much information about bicycle fatalities on county roads in Iowa nor about the causes of such accidents, however my research, which doesn't specify on what type of road the fatalities occurred or if motor vehicles were even involved, did show that while there is a very slight correlation between the number of bicycle accident fatalities in Iowa over the past decade, if one extends the data back a few more years, any correlation disappears completely as shown in the graph below.

His inability to actually provide me with any data suggests that he doesn't have any of his own. He continued to tell me that when motorists and bicyclists collide, it affects everyone's life who is involved. To me this doesn't seem to be something that would be limited to automobile/bicycle collisions, but to all collisions in general. He also stated that the motorist "seems to always be in the wrong." Once again this is a statement without any factual basis. A review of the eight bicyclist fatalities in Iowa in 2008 indicates that at most three of them were the fault of the motorist.

As for CFCS of Iowa's contention that "rural commerce and citizens are significantly impacted when forced to share the farm-to-market roadways with bicyclists," he stated that many people have told him that they have to wait for groups of bicyclists to get out of their way while livelihoods depend on it. Yes, I suppose some people who have to drive for a living are slightly inconvenienced by having to wait momentarily to pass a bicyclist of a group of bicyclists, but really, how long is anyone delayed by a bicyclist? It's a lot easier to pass bicyclists under normal circumstances than a car or even farm implements. You don't even have to go entirely into the opposite lane of traffic in most cases. The only time I can think of when it would be challenging to pass bicyclists in Iowa is when encountering them on RAGBRAI. The seemingly endless stream of 10,000 or so bicyclists does cause a disruption to the flow of motor vehicles, but this is at most one or two days out of the entire year for any given part of the state, and it's not like the bicycles just pop up without warning.

In conclusion, the refusal to provide any evidence other than some very non-specific anecdotes by Dan Jones or his associates leads me to believe that this group of people, if they are indeed a group, are simply people who either simply hate having to share the road with anyone they don't understand, or perhaps they are just jealous of how good many of the cyclists look in their tight spandex shorts and cycling jerseys.

8.04.2009

The Citizens for Safety Coalition of Iowa (A.K.A. The We Hate Bicyclists Group)

A group which calls itself the Citizens for Safety Coalition of Iowa has started an online petition, to which I am not linking, that will urge the state legislature to create a ballot initiative allowing Iowans to vote to ban bicyclists from thirty thousand miles of state and county roads in the state. Part of their claim is that "over the past ten years the number of bicyclists using these farm-to-market roads for recreational purposes has increased dramatically as have the number of preventable accidents and fatalities."

One source that I have found certainly does not support this claim. Although I admit that it only lists numbers of fatalities, and not injuries. In addition, it doesn't specify what type of road the deaths occurred on or if they accidents were preventable. It does show an increase of about 0.27 deaths per year for the years listed, but this doesn't seem to be a dramatic increase as the Citizens for Safety Coalition of Iowa claims has happened.

I tried to get the data listed in table format, but Blogger was giving me problems with that, so instead I am listing the information in ordered pair, (year, number of fatalities) format:
{(1998, 7), (1999, 6), (2000, 3), (2001, 3), (2002, 4), (2003, 3), (2004, 7),
(2005, 11), (2006, 5), (2007, 7)}
They continue by claiming that "rural commerce and citizens are significantly impacted when forced to share the farm-to-market roadways with bicyclists. Because of the growth of today's commerce and agricultural business, shared roadways are no longer safe or practical in today's society." First, I would like to see what evidence they have that the number of preventable accidents and fatalities has increased dramatically over the past decade. They also fail to explain how rural commerce is affected by sharing the road. After completing the blog entry, I am going to send an email to the contact email address provided with the petition to see what evidence they have to support their claims.

In the unlikely event that the Citizens For Safety Coalition of Iowa's petition has the effect of getting state legislators to propose banning bicyclists from Iowa's county roads, and if such a ban is eventually enacted, I feel that this would have a great negative impact on the state's economy. Such a ban would effectively end RAGBRAI, taking with it the estimated $24 million that it brings to the state annually. Also, I can only imagine that banning bicycles from so many roads in the state would also hurt those businesses which sell bicycles and bicycling equipment.

Hopefully the legislature as a whole sees the folly in banning bicyclists from county roads in Iowa and refuses to even consider such legislation in the event that this group presents their petition to them.

Apparently I am not the only one who realizes that this petition has absolutely no chance of getting bikes banned from Iowa's roadways as this linked article suggests the same thing.

Going to the Movies

With a two-year-old at home, it can be pretty tough to find the time to go to see movies in the theater, but Tron Legacy is one film that I definitely want to try to go see in theaters. I have a feeling it just won't be the same watching it at home on the TV. But, we'll have to see. By the time this comes out, we will not just have one kid at home, but two.

New "Weird Al" Yankovic Music

Starting last October, and then a few times in the past few months, "Weird Al" Yankovic has released new songs available online only. This is great because now there can be new Weird Al music before he has enough for a full album. I bought the first of these songs, "Whatever You Like," from iTunes last October when it was released.

The next of Weird Al's new songs, released in June, was "Craigslist" which is in the style of the Doors. He followed this about a month later with a song about a highly-trained actor who resorts to working as a tour guide on Disneyland's Jungle Cruise titled "Skipper Dan."

This morning cam "Weird Al" Yankovic's latest song, "CNR." This song, in the style of the White Stripes (so I have been told, as I am not at all familiar with their music) boasts about feats that the late Charles Nelson Reilly of The Match Game fame supposedly performed.

All of these have been good songs, however however I have bot bought these three most recent digital releases of his. My concern is that when "Weird Al" Yankovic releases his next album, he will include these songs on it. Then I would essentially be paying twice for these songs. I did enjoy them though, and if Weird Al doesn't release a new album sometime in the next year, I may go ahead and buy these songs.

Stop. Vader Time.

I stole the name of this blog entry from my good friend @jaibeeCR, but I certainly couldn't improve on it, and I am sure he won't mind. Below is a video of Darth Vader and four stormtroopers dancing to MC Hammer's hit song U Can't Touch This at Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World during their Star Wars weekends this summer.

8.03.2009

Billboard in the Backyard

Ok, so it's not really a billboard, but since last fall it almost seems like I get to view an advertisement for Menard's every time I look out the window of my office toward the backyard. You may remember that last September my neighbor began construction of this edifice in his backyard, close the the property line with our yard. As winter approached, construction efforts on the building ceased. This made sense to me as I for one wouldn't have wanted to be out working on this construction project with negative temperatures and snow blowing around me. However, I made the assumption that as spring came, the builders would finish siding the building. I admit that I do not know the people who live behind us, and I definitely do not know their circumstances, but with summer quickly coming to a close, there has been no additional progress on the building. Perhaps they will finish it up this autumn, a year after they began construction. I have no problem with this building blocking my view of the back of their house and their backyard. After all, I have no reason to spy on them. That being said, it would be nice to have the building finished.