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Archive: February 14, 2016

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Sunday,  02/14/16  10:08 AM

Valentine's puzzleGood morning blog public, and happy Valentine's Day to you all.  I celebrated in the usual way - by 3-D printing a heart.  This year I decided to print it as a four-part puzzle, which seems appropriate given the complexity of relationships :)

Valentine's Day seems stressful to a lot of people; of course it is fun to celebrate being with the one you love, but demonstrating just exactly how much you love them with physical objects can be difficult :)

Did you know?  Spotify will make a playlist out of your Valentine's love note.  Well that's certainly demonstrating your love ... hehe.

How did this all get started?  Apparently it began with a pagan fertility festival in February (as so many good things do :), and then the Catholic church mutated it into a celebration of St. Valentine.  Most countries with a Catholic tradition celebrate it today, but more as a secular ode to love and relationships than a religious holiday.

The weirdest practice was that when I was a kid, we bought Valentine's Day cards for all the kids in our class, not just the one we thought was special.  (Is that still done?  Maybe?)  An early attempt at political correctness but perhaps a defensible one, to avoid hurt feelings.  I do remember taking great care over the exact wording with which I signed certain cards :)

I hope you enjoy the day, and are able to fit your pieces together...



politics after Scalia

Sunday,  02/14/16  10:40 AM

Antonin ScaliaUnless you've been out living a normal life away from a computer you will have heard; Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia has passed away, at the age of 79.  This is a pretty big deal because he was a staunch conservative, and it opens the door for current-President Obama or whomever is our next President to nominate someone considerably less conservative.  It feels like the 2016 Presidential race will take place in two parts, before Scalia, and after.

It is worth noting that in this context conservative is used in its traditional, one might even say "conservative" meaning, as one who conserves the status quo, and resists change.  Justice Scalia was apolitical, but became embroiled in politics by arguing strongly against those who wanted to have the court drive change.

President Obama has already said he will nominate a replacement, and the various Republican candidates for President, debating last night in South Carolina, have all called for the Republican-led Senate to delay confirmation of any candidate until the next President is seated.  It will be an interesting fight, and it will be played out in public.  A year is a long time to go without confirming a new judge, but it is unusual for a lame duck President to nominate a new justice.

I watched a little of the debate last night, and I must tell you, whatever softening I had in my opposition to Donald Trump has hardened again.  I will vote for anyone against Hillary Clinton, but I certainly hope it won't be Trump.  I think Trump and Sanders are both selling magic, and while that might work to get elected, it doesn't do much to make things better once you're in office.  (And I guess President Obama is exhibit A.)  This is the downside of our democracy; everyone gets to vote, and everyone isn't very smart, so we end up picking leaders with not-very-smart thinking.

I still think Ted Cruz is the smartest candidate, and support him on that basis, but perhaps Marco Rubio is the most likely to get elected running against Clinton, and so I support him on that basis.

As Winston Churchill noted, "democracy is the worst form of government, except for everything else".

PS did you see this Cruz ad now running in South Carolina, "It feels good to be a Clinton".  +1 for the Office Space reference and +1 for not letting Clinton off the hook for having a personal email server while Secretary of State.  Heh.

feels good to be a Clinton



warming up for the Iditarod

Sunday,  02/14/16  12:43 PM

If you're a frequent reader you'll know, I am a big fan of the Iditarod dog sled race, a 1,000-mile slog in Alaska from Anchorage to Nome, which takes place every year in early March.  It began with meeting and becoming a fan of longtime musher and perennial contender DeeDee Jonrowe, but I just like everything about the race; the dog / athletes, the people, the tradition, and most of all the strategy.  When to go fast, when to go slow, when to rest, when to push on, how much to feed the team and when, etc.  The amazingness of the race was exemplified by the finish of the 2014 race, in which the leader dropped out, the team in second thought they were racing for second, not first, and the winning team thought they were third!

Yukon Quest 2016 leader Hugh Neff and teamSo with three weeks to go I'm warming up for the 2016 edition by following the Yukon Quest race, which is probably the second most prestigious sled race, and which is often used by teams as a pre-Iditarod.  Many think this race is even harder than the Iditarod, as it is slightly longer and features more climbing, and takes place in an area which is even more remote.  That's current leader Huff Neff and team at right; they are currently about 150 miles from the finish, neck and neck with Brent Sass, Allen Moore (husband of longtime Iditarod musher Aliy Zirkle), and Matt Hall.

For the last few years the competitors have carried GPS trackers, which makes realtime watching of these races a lot more fun.  In my nice warm chair I can watch the teams battle snowstorms, subzero temperatures, sheet ice, and moose.  Heh.

This year the Quest website has a key innovation, a "race flow" chart, which nicely shows who is where and what's happening.  Here's a current snapshot:

Yukon Quest 2016 as of 2/14/16 at 10:00AM PT

Each colored line represents a competitor; with time along the X-axis and distance traveled on the Y-axis.  Horizontal lines show when the teams are resting, and the slope of the lines shows how fast the teams are traveling.  I love this and I hope the Iditarod adopts it too.  If they don't, I wonder if there will be enough data available to make one myself... hmmm.



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