Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Pansy Palmetto's Bottomless Pool

An F.O.H. (Friend of Howard's) -- and I use the word "friend" in the loosest possible sense -- has the biggest mouth and the most libertine attitudes of anyone on the planet -- well, anyone who is not a total weirdo, creep, sociopath, or loser, which she is NOT, thank you.

Just as Howard calls himself Howard, though he is really someone else entirely, Pansy Palmetto calls herself Pansy Palmetto, but she is really... uh... nope, she really IS who she appears to be in print!

And speaking of print, check out the patch commemorating a bicycle ride to Fowler Falls that Pansy did in 1993. Yes, that's her and her butt cheeks. And here is a link to her new EXTREMELY PROLIFIC blog where she explains how it came to be that she swam au natural. You'll need to scroll down to find the essay titled "Pansy Au Natural". While there, you might read some more essays. She's a terrific story-teller, she has terrific stories to tell, and... um... did I say that she has a mouth on her, along with very libertine attitudes?

Believe it!

How did I get the patch? Why, she GAVE it to me last July on RAGBRAI, a week-long bicycle ride across Iowa. Yeah, it was a long week for me and BalticTiger, hahaha, but the stories were great!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

He Named Her Corki

My son and his wife got a Corgi and a camera. What more material does this blogger need?

Update: Six additional pictures and captions added, including one from the National Western Stock Show on Sunday. Thinking about blog-posting about that. Lots of rodeo videos, if you're interested...

You Better Clear Your Mind Instead

From the Batshit Insane File: Some are claiming this represents photographic proof of life on Mars...

In response to seeing this photo, I emailed my son:
OMG, how stupid can people be?!
Don't answer that.
His response:
So you're saying this ISN'T E.T. doing some buddha? So you're saying this ISN'T Big Foot practicing his 'I'm a little tea-pot' routine on Mars? So you're saying that if I stare at this huge 44 Mb panoramic picture for weeks on end that I'm not really seeing the secret 6th Beatle band member, nor the grassy-knoll gunman, nor the CIA agents who put bombs in the WTC on 9/10, nor Barry Bonds injecting steroids into Clemens' butt, nor a moon landing being faked, etc etc etc?

Well, I for one welcome our buddhism-practicing E.T. overlords.
Buddha-E.T. be with you (and also with you). Let us lotus.
"Take! and E.T."
Hahaha! The mouth on that kid! (I'm so proud!)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Augering In

It's twenty minutes past midnight as I post this, and the calendar just flipped over to January 22nd -- known henceforth as the date the shit hit the fan. The Dow Jones, S&P 500, and NASDAQ are about to collapse into fear and loathing in about 7 hours... and the Bush Administration is partially to blame and probably unable to stanch the bloodshed. Hope your portfolio is heavy on overseas product and light on the domestic. Remember: Liquidity is your friend.

Update, Tuesday, 1 p.m.: The Fed met Monday night and cut the federal lending rate 3/4s of a percent, which seemed to quell nervous investors. Although the Dow dropped 450 points after opening this morning, it rallied back to a drop of 131 -- 1% -- as of 11:30 a.m. local time. According to the Washington Post, the Bush Administration is meeting to discuss further financial windfalls for rich people as of this update.
The Fed cut the federal funds rate, the rate at which banks lend to each other, to 3.5 percent, from 4.25 percent. The last time it cut rates that much was 1984. In its last surprise rate cut, following the Sept 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, it cut the rate by half a point. The decision was reached by the Federal Open Market Committee in an emergency videoconference last night that followed a cascading plunge of stock markets around the world.
The week is still young. Let's hope for the best...

Update, Tuesday, 2:15 p.m.: The Dow Jones rallied to finish down only 128 points. I received this in an email from my stock market analyst/son...
The market opened and the NASDAQ traded 1 billion shares in the first minutes, which is an all-time record (not even in early 2000s did that happen), and everything pretty much gapped downward. BUT idiots have now come into the market and are buying these stupid things up a bit so that we're only down about 1%.

In my opinion this reeks of a fake bottom still and the true carnage has been postponed to a little bit in the future (probably when MBIA or Ambac, 2 bond re-insurers, file for bankruptcy, essentially cutting the ratings of TONS of 'good credit' bonds down). Ugliness still on the horizon.
Sure don't like the sound of THAT...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

A Small Victory, Understated

It's when I think back to the past that I often manage, nurtured by a sense of perspective, to best grasp reality.

An example? Yesterday -- granted, it's not far back into the past -- BalticTiger walks into the kitchen and, with her classic flat tone of matter-of-factness, tells me that her not-yet-published novel was selected as a Semi-Finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition.

I was flabbergasted and energized by the great news.

Honestly? I had forgotten that she even entered the competition back in late October. After congratulating her and asking some questions about it, she forwarded to me the email sent by Amazon.com to each of the Semi-Finalists.

Looking around Amazon a bit, I was struck by the comments of other writers--both winning and not-so-winning--and began to understand how important this competition was to so many of them.

And yet BalticTiger showed and continues to show minimal enthusiasm or excitement.

What's up with that, I began to wonder. Here's the reality/perspective part: BalticTiger didn't go crazy with excitement at the recognition because, though she's had a few successess, she's received so much more rejection in the past 25 years in the form of rejection letters. It's wearing and discouraging. She's come to realize and accept how self-defeating it can be to put much energy into the anticipation, let alone expectation, of success. Her new attitude is now closer to the old saw, "If you don't expect anything, you'll never be disappointed."

And that's kind of sad. Especially for Howard, the eternal optimist, who is continually surprised to find that others don't share his positive outlook.

But for BalticTiger, who is a bit more sensitive than galumphy Howard, it's all about self-preservation. Her growing skepticism hasn't kept her from writing more and better prose. She continues to go to Writer's Group every Thursday night, though she looks forward more to the great turkey sandwiches and hanging with friends than the opportunity to learn and improve from peer review. Perhaps it's all part of maturing as a writer. Yeah, that's it.

Here's a link to the
Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award web site.

Take a look around, read a bit, leave some comments if you see anything you like. Writers are human and live for positive feedback, same as the rest of us. Many gracious souls have already left a good handful of glowing reviews, and we thank you all!

By the way, the top three reviewers will earn some terrific prizes as well.

FWIW, BalticTiger's inclusion puts her side-by-side with 835 other Semi-Finalists from around the world culled from 5,000 submissions. On February 19th, Publishers Weekly will announce their choice of Favorite 100. After that, the next round of cuts will be announced on March 3rd when 10 Finalists are named. The winner, announced April 7th, receives a standard contract to publish and a $25,000 advance on royalties.

Final Note-to-Self: Try to emulate BalticTiger's matter-of-fact attitude and not get too excited by this exciting news. Yeah, right!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Worst Stock Market Start Ever

Howard's son is a stock market analyst. He sent me the following email today:
You all know I don't usually comment on the stock market like this, but here's an interesting stat for you all: The market has NEVER, in the time that people have recorded its day-to-day actions (ie through the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P500), ever started a year this badly.

You wouldn't guess it though by watching the news (hooray for primaries!)

There, now you can go and impress your friends with your newfound wisdom. What's scary though is that things are likely to get a lot worse in the next couple months before they get better.
Thanks, son. I'm sure my friends will be very impressed... before they make a panicked call to their stockbroker.

Update: Here's a follow-up email from my son at work:
You should hear the retarded banter going on here, such as '"wow, Obama wins a primary and the markets tank, and then Hillary wins a primary and the markets rally. That must mean that Obama will be bad for our economy." UGH!
Indeed. The next president is being handed a huge stinkbomb, that's for sure.

Monday, January 07, 2008

The 70s Get a Facelift

You caught me. It's true that I am an architect and that this blog started out as an architecture blog. So why haven't I been blogging about architect stuff? Because that's work, while the cycling stuff is pure fun.

But isn't architecture fun too? Well, yeah... when stuff's getting built... and if it looks as good or better than I hoped it would, that's the very best.

Or when I have a great client who encourages my best work to emerge.

In that regard, 2007's been a bit of a dry hole. Not too many projects, and those I've been busy with, haven't been particularly inspiring to me.

However, here is a quick, down-and-dirty kitchen remodel that was a real kick in the pants (click on the pictures to see them very large). The owners have a 70s house with 70s fixtures and 70s styling and 70s tiresomeness.

So they asked me to help them remodel and update their kitchen.

After reviewing the cabinetry (and their budget), I recommended keeping all the cabinets, while adding 5" contemporary brushed-nickel pulls. We did add one new cabinet to fill the space vacated by a never-used-once trash compactor. That's it.

We replaced the boring creamy yellow plastic laminate counter tops with granite tile -- a much more affordable yet still attractive cousin to the solid slabs that can cost $5, $6, or $8 thousand.

We updated the lighting, adding under-cabinet lights where there were none before, and replaced a squeaky, outdated ceiling fan.

We replaced sinks and faucets, painted the walls a nice linen color, and removed the boring vinyl floor, installing new cork tile flooring -- an upgrade which everyone in household immediately appreciates because they take their shoes off at the door.

Typical kitchen remodel costs -- $15,000 to $25,000.

The total cost of this facelift? $8,400.


To Hope 'til Hope Creates From Its Own Wreck...

Our cycling friend, SuperNana, sent me a couple pictures she took from our New Year's Eve ride through the frozen tundra -- you know, the 16-mile ride we took so I could reach 10,000 miles for the year. I just had to post them here...

What a year 2007 was!

Oh, and to finish the quote, it goes: "To hope 'til hope creates from its own wreck, the thing it contemplates." -- P.B. Shelley
, Prometheus Unbound. Those words have always described my attitude towards life perfectly.

Easy Rider

Sunday, I rode my bike north to Owl Canyon & back -- a 40-mile round-trip mostly on quiet county roads. It was chilly -- 33F at start, 36F at end, and thankfully no wind.

On the way back, I got a pinch flat when I hit a small rock. When I pulled over to the side of the road, I went off the asphalt... into mud. Dumb, dumb, dumb, because it made removing the tire to change the tube a bit messy.

When I got it fixed, a Subaru was driving slowly towards me with its emergency lights flashing. It was just ahead of a college-age cyclist, "pulling" him along with its slipstream. So I started riding before it reached me and sped up to 22 mph... but after a few minutes, they still passed me, the cyclist barely having to pedal!

What did Howard do? I followed them at 24 mph from about 50 yards back for the next 3 miles while the guy continued to draft/coast behind the sedan. Eventually I turned right towards a cement plant while they continued south towards town.

It's said that cheaters never prosper... but they CAN STILL pass Howard!

Cyclists = Carbon Offsets

Here's an original idea that just occurred to me a couple minutes ago: Individuals (or companies) paying other individuals (or companies) to drive their cars less by substituting cycling as a form of carbon offset -- private subsidies to cyclists!

One traditional means of carbon offsetting is to pay a company to plant a bunch of trees in the third world, where tree planting is cheaper. These trees, when mature, would hopefully scrub the air of enough carbon dioxide to offset the CO2 emitted by airline travel or whatever polluting activity was causing one guilt or grief.

So... how about paying people to drive their cars less and ride their bikes more? According to the EPA, the average passenger car in year 2000 pumped out 11,450 pounds of CO2 a year. How much would the carbon offset be worth to reduce by 3/4s that average driver's amount of CO2 emission -- a reduction of 4 1/4 tons a year -- and still allow the person the option of driving it for absolutely essential uses*?

Right now, the going rate for planting trees is $20 per metric ton of carbon offsets. A metric ton is a bit larger than our tons in the U.S. So doing some calculations, our cost in this country comes out to $18.20 per ton of carbon offset. Multiply that by 4 1/4 tons of CO2 saved by driving less... gives us a subsidy of... $77.35 per year.

Okay, not such a great idea. So what you got, smartypants?!

*Were you thinking that bowling league night and beer runs should be considered "absolutely essential uses" for car transport? Okay, we're not quite into the spirit of things now, are we?

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Kindred Spirits

Interior design consultant Caroline Marwitz writes a weekly column for the Fort Collins daily newspaper, The Coloradoan. Today she wrote about a subject near and dear to my own architect-heart -- she predicted the well-deserved death of the Great Room. I've written about Great Rooms many times at this blog, most notably here. You can read Marwitz's predictions for 2008 here.

I think I'm in love...

Thursday, January 03, 2008

It Ain't Braggin' If'n It's True

Forgot to mention that I went on a little 16-mile ride with my best girl, BalticTiger, and twin sister, SuperNana, on December 31st. The temps were in the low 20s and the winds were in the high 20s, but we felt the pain... and did it anyway!

Now you may ask, "Howard's just stupid, so that doesn't surprise me a bit, but why did BalticTiger--who vowed never to ride in temps lower than her age--and SuperNana--who's never found a layer that she didn't like--bundle up and suffer along with Howard?"

The answer is simple: To show their support while he finished up his mileage goal for 2007...

10,000 miles.

Yup, Howard rode 10K in 2007. On. His. Bike.

Here are some pics from that fretful day...

SuperNana trying on a new concept in layering -- the "Jason Vorhees" look

SuperNana, Howard, and BalticTiger trying to conserve heat after six miles

Self-portrait by Howard while on the bike as he completed his 10,000th mile of 2007