Saturday, September 27, 2008

Kooks at it again

Election season, and I've just read through this year's ballot initiatives. And once again, there's a group of people who are trying to get the income tax repealed in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts: Massachusetts Question 1, the State Income Tax Repeal Initiative.

Hey, who doesn't want to pay less taxes?

But, seriously, there are lots of things that I do think are important -- schools, public safety, environmental oversight, to name just a few -- that have to be paid for, and I look at it as part of the price I pay to live in a place that has given me the opportunity to have a good job that pays the bills, live in a nice house, maintains roads that allow me to get from one to another, keeps the streets safe at night, will come to my aid if there's a fire or other disaster, and so on, and so forth.

Frankly, I think the Commonwealth would benefit from a graded income tax to lower the tax burden on those with the lowest incomes in the state, especially given the increase in prices for the basic necessities, but I appreciate the value of having a slightly simpler tax code. (the in-state/out-of-state interest income has always been a little annoying, actually.)

Anyway, being curious, I read through the supposed benefits to approving the question that were provided as "arguments in favor" by the "committee for small government." I've listed them with heckling my comments added below:

  • Your “Yes” vote gives back $3,700 each to 3,400,000 Massachusetts workers and taxpayers – including you – on average when we end the state income tax. $3,700. Each worker. Every year.

    Well, duh. Cutting the income tax means you don't pay an income tax. Have I mentioned "duh?" (yes, I know they're just quantifying it for people.)

  • Your “Yes” vote will create hundreds of thousands of new Massachusetts jobs.

    Um, exsqueeze me? I went to the sponsoring organization's website (which I won't support by providing a link), and apparently they think that all this extra money "in productive, private hands" will result in new jobs!

    Strangely, in the video of the 10 people they interviewed about what they'd do with the extra money, none of them mentioned starting a business or creating jobs. A few were savers (One guy was pretty specific about investing some semi-risky funds, maybe THAT was the job guy!), the rest, spender -- travel, buy a car, put towards a mortgage, pay off credit cards.

    Frankly, I'm shocked. Shocked, I tell you. (although, credit to the gentleman who was going spend it all at local businesses -- way to do your part, dude.)

  • Your “Yes” vote will NOT raise your property taxes NOR any other taxes

    Also, everybody gets a pony.

    Just for the record, the committee for small government is based out of Wayland, which happens to have a median income almost $60k higher at $177,900 per household in 2006 than then median income for the Commonwealth, with almost double the median home value at $700k. So yeah, their taxes may not go up much.

    Should also mention that while Massachusetts does have the 5th highest median state property tax in the country, it's still behind nearby number 2, New Hampshire (which has no state income or sales tax), even though NH has the 5th lowest median property value in the country, well below number 25, Massachusetts.

    Just sayin'.

  • Your “Yes” vote will NOT cut, NOR require cuts, of any essential government services.

  • Your “Yes” vote rolls back state government spending 27% - $47.3 billion to $34.7 billion – more than state government spending in 1999.

    These last two are kind of related. First, it really depends on what you define as "essential." These guys are libertarians, after all. Also, any one got a read on what inflation has been like over the last 9 years?

    This site, which calculates inflation using the consumer price index, says 31.5% aggregated. So that's really like $26.4 billion in 1999 dollars... yeah, that's totally gonna fly.

I guess we'll see how well that Massachusetts educational system is working in November. To be honest, I'm not hopeful, even though I think a similar measure has failed in the past.

In other news, perhaps not unrelated, Question 2 is an effort to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Stuck in NY

Hopefully only temporarily. Especially since I've gotten nothing but attitude since I've arrived. Maybe it's just that you get what you give, since I've been somewhat cranky since we touched down. I knew we'd be late, but the shuttle to a different terminal and pulling the dumbass move of leaving the security area because I was paying more attention to trying to move, move, move, and I'm picking up on every little thing to tick me off.

I have to admit that I'm a bit surprised, since I've grown to believe that the "NY attitude" rep is overrated. But I guess that's just my bad.

Anyway, my flight to JFK got rerouted through Salt Lake City for refueling because of thunderstorms in NY, so it arrived a good hour late. Well past my scheduling connection departure. "Fortunately," THAT flight has been delayed by 2-1/2 hours, so at least I should make it home tonight. Of course, that means that I miss the dance, and there's a real possibility that I'll have to catch a cab home rather than get picked up by the SOOTTAD and get a quick dinner in Chinatown. Still a possibility though, so fingers crossed.

Out West

It's 6AM local time and I'm kicking around at my parents' house until I have to head out to the airport to catch my flight back home. I've been in CA on business, and all told it's gone pretty well. My presentation seemed to go smoothly (there was no audible snoring), and I had some good interaction with the local peeps that will be implementing and verifying the design that I've been specifying for the last couple of months.

Given the problems I've had recovering from the time change the last couple of times I've travelled west, I've tried something new this trip: staying on east coast time. I actually went to bed "late" last night -- 10:30pm local and probably woke up late as a result. (5:45am) Other than that, I've been in bed around 9PM and up around 5AM all week -- a perfectly reasonable midnight/8am back home.

Anyway, a few thoughts from the week:

  • A few minutes ago, I could hear the newspapers getting delivered -- it's actually the third time this week I've beaten the delivery peeps.

  • I was pleased that I was able to run by the beach in the mornings before work. A 6 mile run on Tuesday and a 10 mile run on Wednesday.

    However, it should be noted that it's VERY dark at 5AM. The first night morning in combination with the fog, made the run on along the beach not much different from running through a foggy tunnel with an ocean soundtrack that you could barely make out if you tried to listen really hard. It wasn't light enough to see the surf until after I'd finished the run around 6:30. Worked out better the next day with the longer run when I could actually watch the surfers during the last few miles.

    Navigation is also challenging. It made driving and looking for parking more difficult than planned. I also stumbled a few times off street and driveway curbs and got poked in the eye by a tree branch because it was too dark to see.

  • I was entertained by the sight of the throng of surfer kids who showed up at the beach at 6:30AM the first morning. I wondered if they were just following the surf reports, but it turns out that the parking lot didn't open until 6:15.

  • Speaking of parking, it was strange to get turned away from a lot because it was too early. I wouldn't have wanted to pay $7 to park at that lot anyway (different from the surfer lot). Conveniently, the no parking zones generally didn't take effect until 8 or 9AM, well after I had left.

  • 63 degrees at the beach at 5:30AM. 78 near the airport where we were staying and working. 98 in the valley -- whoa.

  • Even though we were working near LAX, I flew into Burbank. A much easier airport to deal with, easier to get a rental car, and one of the two L.A. area options for JetBlue, which doesn't fly into LAX. And, the parental homestead is closer, so I was able to visit on the way in, and could stay here the night before my flight out. And I only had to navigate the traffic hell once.

  • The traffic from the airport to my parents' house was surprisingly light when I arrived around 5PM on Monday. And no problems at 8PM when I headed down to the hotel. The return drive at 4PM yesterday was a different story. It took about an hour and a half to travel the 21 miles from the LAX area to here. And the majority of that time, maybe 70 minutes was spent on the first 13 miles from LAX to Sunset. There were miles that I could have run faster than I was going. I can't imagine making that kind of commute daily. And the round trip would probably eat a quarter tank of gas.

Ok, gotta head to the airport, maybe a few more updates later.

Ok, followup from JFK:

  • coming through the Sepulveda pass into the valley, I couldn't help but think that it looked a lot more.... green, than I remember it. Hard to say whether it's because all the street side trees have just finally gotten visibly bigger over the years or it's the first time I've made the drive in daylight.

  • Saw some surfer couples at the beach, complete with his and her surfboards attached to the roof or stuffed in the backs of their cars.

  • Saw a prius with a HOV sticker. That really seems like a dumb idea. Sure, it's a motivation to get people to switch to hybrid cars, but taking up spots in the HOV lane? Isn't it possible for that to lead to an increase in the number of cars on the road, further increasing congestion, leading to longer commute times and more air pollution? I suppose I'm just being a whiner since the problem should be limited because they only issued a limited number of stickers.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

3 things

18 mile run this morning. And for once, I kept to the plan, didn't start too fast, stayed off rough trails and hydrated on water and gatorade. It didn't hurt that it was a cool 60 degrees (make that 50 degrees -- brrrr... hoping it doesn't hurt the tomatoes) this morning and could see my breath at times -- a first in quite a few months. I've also been trying to keep the carb intake high, and didn't go all crazy and bike several miles the day before.

Anyway, all told, a good run. Even managed to have a good kick on the last 3 miles. The run felt good, and after the run felt pretty good, too, although I've got my nagging hamstring and achilles issues still going on. Tried to mitigate with some cold water cycles in the shower and a little ice massage on the achilles -- we'll see how that goes.

So, I think the quality of the run helped, but here are 3 things that made me smile (smile, as in, big toothy grin) on my run this morning:

  1. catching a lungful of the sweet, fragrant smell of ripe concord grapes
  2. passing a van parked on the side of the road by a field and catching the view of the woman in the driver's seat, pointing out the cows to (presumably) her daughter in the carseat behind her
  3. sharing the playfulness of the side-to-side dodging game (pass on right? / pass on left?) with a couple walking on the path from the other direction. (I think I had seen the couple on another road earlier in the run)

Bonus: passing Peartree Lane and thinking about delicious pears. Yum. (ate two with lunch. :)

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Yay, garden

We're getting the full array of tomatoes this week -- the orange banana tomatoes are finally ripening, for real this time. (although we have yet to cut one open, they at least feel meatier than the sad, hollow fruits we got last month.) And the "ugly" tomatoes and yellow pear tomatoes are also doing well. I love that I grew these things from seeds. The "ugly" tomatoes in particular since I bought them from the grocery store, probably way back in 2005 or 2006.

Pricey at the time, it's definitely been a good ROI for the buck or so I spent on the original source tomato. I'm a little concerned that being commercially grown, they'd have a tougher skin that allows them to transport better, but we haven't really noticed a significant difference. I've always found the term "ugly" to be something of a misnomer, and doing a little research, I guess it's because the term (or at least "ugly ripe") is just the branding of a particular heirloom varietal by a commercial grower. The SOOTTAD and I actually find them to be quite pretty. And dericious.

The alpine strawberries are also doing unexpectedly well -- I don't think we've ever had the kind of harvest that we're getting this year. I've probably been pulling off a decent handful of berries almost every day for the past week, and I don't think they've ever been as consistently large as they've been this year. No idea whether it's just the plants or the crazy rain we had this summer, or the recent sunny warm days we've had in the past week.

Also not complaining about the first watermelon we ate last night.

Or the pears.

And the grapes will be coming along soon as well.

w00t! :)

Monday, September 01, 2008


So we've slowly started to clear out some of the crap that's been lying around the house unused for years. And part of that process has been putting things up on Craigslist. We don't do this a lot, so maybe somebody can explain this one for me:

WTF is up with these no-response Craigslist people?

I post an item.

I get an email asking if it's still available.

I say yes.

And then ... nothing.

I put an ad up for a dryer last week. I got 4 responses. The first person asked if it was available and could they pick it up tomorrow evening. (Friday) Asked for contact info. I responded, and... hello? Are you coming? When are you coming? Same for a bike rack I posted on Saturday. 4 replies so far, including one saying they could pick it up "tomorrow, anytime." Not a single follow-up.

Are these people flaky or just rude?

Or is this some new sophisticated email address harvesting scheme? Eff me, if that's the case.

Either way, people suck.


UPDATE: I had two people (TWO!) respond yesterday, 3 days after I replied to them, asking if the bike rack was still available, and maybe 2 hours after some guy took it away after responding to the post yesterday morning.

Again, WTF is up with these people?

all over the map

Originally uploaded by tallasiandude.
Last day of the long weekend and I'm slipping into old habits again -- in bed after midnight and up after 8. Hopefully I'll get back on track tonight or I'm going to be getting into the office on the really late side given that these "shorter runs" that are part of the 3plus2 plan still take over an hour, not including stretching and clean-up. Fortunately, the SOOTTAD got back from dance camp today, and did the all-night dance thing last night, so she'll want to go to bed early.

Anyway, today's run was a track workout: 1mi(400m RI), 2mi(800m RI)/2x800m (400m RI). That is, a 1 mile interval with a 400m rest interval, a 2 mile interval with an 800m rest interval and then 2 800m intervals with a 400m rest interval between them. I could keep that in my head, mostly -- I ended up only giving myself a 200m rest between the 800s. What I couldn't keep in my head were the paces for each interval. The mile was supposed to be run in 7:18. I can mostly remember that. But I couldn't remember that the 400 split, to try and keep the laps relatively even, was supposed to be a little over 1:49. And the 800m intervals were supposed to be run in 3:31, equivalent to a 7:04mm or a 1:45 400m split. Thus the crude notes scrawly on my hand.

Not that it mattered -- I ended up mostly using the pace reading on my GPS.

Not that it really helped -- I found myself going all over the map as far as pace goes, although the average pace worked out to be faster than planned, at least. The fast, she is not so bad; the variation in pace, not so much. However, it's really difficult to modulate a few seconds off a minutes per mile pace, and it's exacerbated by the lag that exists as the GPS continually recalculates the pace. I was often finding myself running sub-7s and then overcompensating back and then running a few seconds per mile too slowly. The hysteresis, it's a killer.

More interestingly, it seemed like I was running the turns on the track much faster than the straights. I don't know if that has something to do with my form (knees more bent, leaning into the turn) or if there's some weird behavior of the GPS, like it's actually calculating velocity as opposed to speed, and taking into account direction. (This may not be the craziest thing, given that it is making guesses as to speed based on position.)