ABC/running watch

I ran a 5k last year with Emily, even though I hate running. I agreed to that one both because I was tired of watching her run races and because it was on the airfield at NAS Whidbey Island. I think I ran a kilometer or two before I had to walk a bit, but it wasn’t that bad. At her urging, I have ran a few more races since then, switching to 10k races (where possible) a couple of months ago when Emily switched to half marathons, and I will attempt my first half marathon this coming weekend.

We have both been using the Fitbit app to track our runs and to watch distance and pace while running. That works alright, but it is asking a lot of each of our phones to play music and record a GPS tracklog at the same time — crashing is not infrequent. I’ve also had my eye out for a reasonably priced ABC watch for hiking and climbing but have not found anything that didn’t cost more than my cell phone (or my laptop, to be honest).

Until I got a good deal on a refurbished Garmin Fenix. This thing is a tech geek’s dream come true, and possibly a non-tech person’s nightmare if they try to mess with the configuration too much. It’s awesome. Here is what I did and you should do to this thing:

  • First, forget the manual for the most part and read DC Rainmaker’s review instead. Because the review has not been updated for the last few major firmware versions, skim that site’s reviews for the Fenix 2 and Fenix 3, too. One thing that makes the original Fenix such a good deal is that the price has dropped, but Garmin continues to update and support the device. Of course, you can read Garmin’s manual, too, if you are so inclined.
  • Second, create an account on Garmin Connect (and add me as a contact there if you want to).
  • If you use a Fitbit to track your daily activity, create an account on FitDataSync.com. Connect that account to your Fitbit account and your Garmin Connect account. Note, though, that steps recorded on your Garmin device will appear in your Fitbit account but will not count in Fitbit competitions.
  • Fourth, install Garmin Basecamp on your computer. Connect the Fenix to your computer and run Basecamp to install any available updates.
  • Fifth, install the appropriate Garmin app on your smartphone and log in with your Garmin Connect credentials. Using the Fenix Bluetooth connection, sync it to your new watch.
  • Sixth, set up the data pages for each of the activity profiles you want to use (running, hiking, mountaineering, skiing, etc.) Turn off the damn keypress beep in each of them. Configure each of them for when you want the Bluetooth connection to your phone to be active. Reorder the menu. See this post on the Garmin forums for more explanation of the various data fields, and for the Excel-based profile builder in case you really hate doing that much editing on the watch itself.
  • Finally, give that thing a better base map. I combined a western-Washington portion of a Fenix-specific Open Street Maps basic map (available on the gMapTool site) with the Washington portion of the very awesome Northwest Trails map (download at GPS File Depot). This post tells you how to combine two maps into one and copy them onto the Fenix to replace the stock base map. While the combined map looks pretty plain on the computer and falls short of the color topo on my handheld GPS, it is perfectly detailed for the screen and fits in memory on the Fenix. Even if you do not want to mess with making a custom combined map, the maps above and others available online can make better base maps than the stock one, depending on your planned usage — just be aware of the file size and limit geographic coverage appropriately.

That done, it’s time to go running or hiking or climbing. Record some activities. Try the LiveTrack feature, as if anyone on Facebook is really going to sit at their computer and watch you run for a couple of hours (if you are doing anything worth watching, you won’t have cell service anyway). Sync the watch to your phone (it’s buggy on mine, but it works if I reboot the watch to reestablish the Bluetooth connection), and check out your activity details on Garmin Connect.

Some problems noted so far: Without a smartphone connection, I’m not sure how I would sync activities, courses, etc., between the Fenix and Garmin Connect; the latter tries to use Garmin Express, which states that it does not work with the Fenix [EDIT: See note below]. Editing and testing profiles and data pages takes some patience and experimentation. The GPS fix when running in thick woods is okay but not great. The Connect app on Android constantly complains if it does not have a Bluetooth connection to the watch (even when I’m not using the watch or the app), so I had turn off its notifications in Settings>Apps. The app lacks a “sync now” button, as does the phone, and syncing does not update the “your last sync was xx hours ago” unless it has activities to download. Garmin Connect, whether on the app or in a browser, lacks the ability to use social-media and email accounts to find connections, and searching for connections is next to useless due to its broad results and poor detail; you would really have to talk to someone about their active account in order to find and connect with them.

EDIT: The error in Garmin Express stating that syncing the Fenix requires use of another Garmin app is fixed in the newest version of Express, so I was able to sync it through my PC and upload courses. Course upload apparently does not happen through the Connect app on Android phones. However, uploading two half-marathon courses through Express partially bricked my Fenix and caused no end of cursing the day before an overnight trip to do one of those half marathons. Soft resets and attempted hard resets did not help. What finally worked was forcing the unit, connected to my PC, into USB mass-storage mode by holding down the Up button while the unit was starting up (after first holding down the light button long enough to get it to power off). First, the words “software loader” appear; keep holding down the Up button, and the Fenix will eventually show up as a drive on the computer. Then, delete all of the GPX files on the device, because one of those being corrupted is what causes the Fenix to freeze at the first boot-up screen (Garmin logo). I also read online that people left their Fenix powered on and connected to the charger all night and woke to a working device, but I did not take the time to try that.

Grandma

It struck me first as I was thinking about what to say here that I am perhaps not the best person to do this. So many of you were there for much more of my grandma’s life. Some of my fellow grandchildren lived with her and grandpa over the years – and all of you lived closer than I – so you each saw more of her than I did. Her kids have a whole generation on us and knew their mom better than we ever could. Grandpa, with whom she shared her life so well, was there for all of the challenges and all of the fun. And her siblings, cousins and dear friends knew her as we could not; they heard her hopes and dreams, moments of disappointment and times of happiness in ways that sometimes kids and grandkids do not get to share.

I thought of all of you and wondered how I could fill the gaps beyond my own experience of my grandma, whether I should try to learn more about her from you or just tell you what I know. When she asked me to do this – first, a few weeks ago when it seemed far too soon to be having that conversation – then last week, when it no longer seemed too soon and I stood outside their house sobbing, knowing that we were actually saying goodbye – she must have known I didn’t know everything that could be said. God knows she planned every other detail of today well in advance and down to the last bit of design of the program.

But what I really wonder is if she knew that she picked to remember her for you today the grandchild with the worst memory. I’m serious – if I tried to tell you stories about my grandma, you would see people around you whispering to each other about what really happened. My memories are usually reduced to mental pictures, remembered sounds and smells. Grandma’s memory in her last days was better than mine, and she reminded me of all sorts of things past. People, places, events – everything is reduced in my head to whether it was positive or negative, good or bad.

So I will tell you what I remember, and it’s very short: my grandma, your mother, your sister, your cousin, your aunt, your friend and your wife, was good. She was consistently, patiently good, and she was good to all of us. I know this best through her love and care for her family, of course. Having raised a large family of their own, no one would have blinked or second-guessed Dean and Deb for taking what money and time they had and spending it on themselves once the kids were gone. They could have been wonderful parents and grandparents that loved their family but saw them mostly on holidays and birthdays, enjoying some much needed peace and quiet in between. Of course, this expansive family averages a major birthday party every couple of weeks, so they may have to skip a few.

No, I don’t think there’s ever been peace and quiet at their house for longer than a few days. When their youngest child left for college, their first grandchild was already eight years old with many more on the way. The gap between grandchildren and great grandchildren was even smaller. There was no retirement from family, and they kept giving themselves to us. Of course they enjoyed their time away: trips to Florida for spring training, visits to grandkids spread around the country, and most memorably flying for four years to Lezlie’s spring softball tournaments on a single pair of airline tickets because they managed to get bumped every single year – all of this somehow enjoyed despite grandma’s deep hatred of flying. And it was great as I got older to stick around after the crowds of noisy family left their house, seeing them sit down, pour each other drinks, relax and enjoy their job well done. They really did enjoy their life together.

But, with most of their time and energy, Grandma and Grandpa raised all of us to a greater or lesser degree, because each of us – kids, grandkids (maybe it’s too early for the great-grandkids) – each had our ups and downs and needed help along the way. That help was never far away, even if it was just knowing that grandma and grandpa cared. It was easy to take for granted that they would be there every time we dropped by unannounced – or that they would always be at every play or concert or recital or softball, hockey, volleyball, soccer or basketball game (and I probably missed a few sports there). They sat through several generations of those events that most parents dread the first time around! Family was an unquestionable duty for my grandma, and she took it so very seriously, but it was family that gave her so much joy.

And through all of these decades of so little selfishness, so little taking and so much giving, grandma took care of grandpa, and he took care of her. Their love and patience for each other to the very end was wonderful to watch – it’s unbelievable to me how they didn’t give up on each other for 55 years.

Is this where we raise our bloodies in a toast? Because I’m not sure how to end it.

We will miss you, grandma, every day thinking of something to show or tell you the next time we see you. But know that you live on in grandpa and in your kids, grandkids and great-grandkids, all of whom you showed how to be truly, selflessly good.

TK-760H front-panel programming

I picked up a Kenwood TK-760H this week for around $50 on eBay, thinking it would be a good 32-channel VHF radio to mount in the car for SAR, ham, etc. There are a couple of drawbacks to this model — narrowband capable but without splinter frequencies, not NTIA-certified for Civil Air Patrol use, etc. Overall, though, it was a pretty good deal and will work just fine.

I’ve been pretty successful programming legacy radios using a USB-to-serial adapter. Mess around with the driver sufficiently, and eventually it works — but that is for those radios that have Windows programming apps. This Kenwood (like the HT1000 I still keep as a backup portable) only works with a DOS-based program. I tried DosBox but had no luck reading the radio despite a couple hours of Google work and trying different settings for the serial connection. There were just too many potential problem points — DosBox, the driver, the programming cable, several configuration settings and the radio — so I gave up.

The TK-760H, though, can be field programmed, or front-panel programmed. There was talk on various discussion boards about needing to solder two points together on the circuit board inside the faceplate and then needing to run the programming software once to enable the FPP option. I didn’t need to use the software on this one — just soldered the points together and put the radio back together, and it was FPP-capable immediately.

The directions for how to program channel information are available elsewhere (here, for example), but nowhere could I find a list of the radio-wide configuration options. It’s a little obtuse, displaying just a number for each item and often just numbers for the options for each item.

I figured out some of it through trial and error and by comparing the options to those in the programming software. First, you configure radio-wide options by holding down the “A” key (the second key of four on the bottom row) while turning on the radio, just like programming channels, However, when the display reads “SEL”, hit the “A” key again. That brings you to the following configuration items, in this order. Scroll through them by pressing the “channel down” button, and use the “scan” and “D/A” buttons to modify each setting.

_ – Frequency range of your radio

1 – Function of button A (first button of four on the bottom row)

2 – Function of button B

3 – Function of button C

4 – Function of button D

5 – Unknown item, on or off

6 – Time-out timer in seconds

7 – Off-hook monitor, on or off

8 – Off-hook scan, on or off

9 – Unknown item, on or off

For items 1 through 4, this is the list of functions that can be chosen for each of those buttons:

Off

1 – Monitor

2 – Talkaround

3 – Horn alert

4 – Public address

5 – Auxiliary

6 – Scan

7 – Delete/add to scan list

8 – Home channel

9 – Operator-selectable tone

That’s as far as I got, but it was enough to get the radio programmed and apparently working the way I want it to. Feel free to comment if you know or learn more.

For love of mountains

I can’t think of anything in nature better than mountains. There are other things I’ve seen that are thrilling — beautiful views of Lake Superior from the bluffs along the north shore in Minnesota, sunrises over a huge reservoir in Tennessee, sunsets over the Pacific in California. But mountains are different.
I am filled with desire for them, a deep wanting that makes me feel something close to sick. It’s inexplicable to me, but I see the mountains and I need them. I can’t hold a mountain in my hands, I can’t have any real interaction with a peak, I can’t keep it. So what is this desire? What would ever satisfy it? There’s never a feeling of satisfaction associated with this; the closer I get to a peak, the higher the level of desire — it just grows. And I can’t answer it.

I’m looking at a picture right now of a place in Montana where I spent a few days in a cabin in a meadow. Two mountain peaks, a little snow near the top of each, sit across the meadow. A higher range, with more snow, is off in the distance. They all sit around 10,000 to 12,000 feet, far from the two 8,000-meter peaks I glimpsed through the clouds in Nepal years ago, but it doesn’t matter. They’re beautiful.

The snow makes it. Once, on a solo backpacking trip, I topped out of an excruciating, boring hike up a canyon to arrive at 270-degree vistas of brown peaks. Those don’t count to me, which is one reason that was, overall, a shitty backpacking trip. There was nothing different about those ugly peaks except their overall altitude and climate, but that white coat at the top is the key feature. Snow-covered peaks leave me with that deep, consuming desire. So I want to get my hands on them. Or, rather, I want to get my feet on them. Getting closer to the mountains makes the desire grow; I used to think climbing them would finally satisfy that desire.

The climb, the process, it means something to people. It doesn’t mean much to me, I’m afraid. I’m a destination-oriented person. I’ve driven across the country a few times. Once to the east coast; once to the west coast; several times from the Midwest to the Rockies. Nice drives, parts of them. But really, I don’t have the patience for it. That might be because driving is tiring and attention-demanding; I mean to try an Amtrak trip in the near future to explore that idea. And my lack of patience for mountaineering, for the process that is the ascent and descent, may be because of my lack of physical fitness and, most times, lack of acclimatization to the altitude (Chicago is at around 600 feet). I did a lot better on the trip to Asia; I was younger, more fit and had lots of acclimatization time, and despite some rainy, cold weather we experienced while trekking and one 1000-meter morning, I enjoyed the process a lot more. So I’m not totally sure of myself on this, but I tend not to enjoy the climb, the drive, the trek. It’s all about seeing something from afar and wanting it immediately.

After the journey, the view from the top — it’s good. But, honestly, its main selling point is the great view of other mountains (along with the topography below). In the Rockies, they say that the view is best from the summits of peaks off the divide. If you climb a peak that is part of the main ridge or divide, the view along the ridge is obstructed by peaks on either side of you. But if you climb a peak that’s on its own, separated from the ridge, you get a beautiful, unobstructed view of all of the peaks on the nearby ridge. I’m trying to point out the circularity here: you climb peaks to see the surrounding peaks. So as far as the view goes, the summit you stand upon means nothing. You can no longer see the mountain below you — just the other ones.

I was on top of one of those two peaks in the picture I mentioned, reached by climbing a ridge behind the cabin in the meadow and following it around and up to the summit — Class I with a little scrambling and some easy snow. That was the first summit marker I ever saw. It was the first time I wasn’t just looking up at my love; it was under my feet. I had a sense of achievement, a realization that I had finally climbed a real, named peak.

But there was no satisfaction. The object of my desire, my love, was under my feet, and I couldn’t see it. Actually, I could see it, but what I could see wasn’t my mountain. I saw the dirt and rocks that made up the mass; I saw the snowfields trailing down the sides of the mountain and down the ridge I had just climbed, but they were just like the fields of snow in pancake-flat Illinois; I saw my mountain trailing away to beautiful river valleys, but that’s not quite as impressive as looking up the massive feature from below, in those valleys. My mountain was just another piece of earth from up there.

On the other hand, the summit provided views of many other summits in the area, some close, some fifty miles away. Those other mountains looked pretty good — far better than my mountain. Their snow was a beautiful white coat, their ridges knife-like and their faces stunning in their steepness and height. I knew, though, that while some of those mountains maybe did have sharper features and more challenging approaches than the one I was on, the difference was marginal. I was envying the other mountains for no good reason, because, for the most part, they could provide no more satisfaction than I had already been afforded by my chosen peak.

What is this endless desire, then? What kind of experience, if any, on or near a mountain would satisfy it? Assuming there isn’t a good answer to that, what do I do with this feeling, this need? Do I pick a promising-looking mountain and try to feel fulfilled when I fight my way to the top? Do I climb every mountain I can find in the world until I find one that looks as good from the top as it does from the next peak over?

All I know to do is to walk among them at every opportunity and to relish the intense longing they incite in me.

Finding the Winds

When this year’s American Alpine Journal arrived a couple of weeks ago, I was thrilled to see the first twenty-three-page piece was one by Joe Kelsey. A prolific climber, wanderer and guidebook author, Kelsey opened my eyes to the Western U.S. wilds a decade ago; whatever success I found in my first, solo road trip out west was due to timely timely arrival of his book, and preparations for the following two vacations consisted of studying a map and Kelsey.

Instead of going home or elsewhere in 2001, I had stayed for the summer in the Chicago suburbs, moved into the off-campus house where I would live for the next few years and worked the job I had throughout the preceding semester. It was a new life, and a fun time with friends who had also stuck around, but the job was getting bad, and I missed the mountains. After spending the summer of ’99 in Nepal, I satisfied my lust for topography in 2000 by hiking and bike riding around the eastern “mountains” of Tennessee while working (for the fun of it — certainly wasn’t for the money) as a camp counselor. A year later, stuck in flatland Illinois and newly promoted to a supervisory position that came with the expectation that I would treat my employees poorly, I was ready to bolt.

I started applying for computer-programming jobs in California, sincerely but not very diligently. I thought about transferring to schools elsewhere. Eventually, in the last few days of July, with senior year starting in a few weeks and desperately in need of money to pay for said year of school, I went in and quit my job.

Or, I tried to quit my job. They had just put a lot of money into training me for the promotion and attempting to indoctrinate me with corporate bullshit, and I was good at it. My quitting at the time was neither good for them nor for my wallet, and they asked me to stay. I had already made plans to go up to Wisconsin to meet my family for a week and then to drive out west, so instead I got a two-week paid vacation and a reassignment on my return. Worth a shot, it seemed, so I headed out west with at least the promise of a continued paycheck when I got back.

A few days before, when I had made up my mind to quit and to spend the rest of the time before school started on the road, I pulled out all of the road maps I had gathered from various states and started looking for mountains, then Googling them (more accurately, back then I was Yahoo!ing them). I wanted real mountains (not eastern U.S. mountains), and I wanted the closest ones to Chicago. A day or two of driving should get me there, and I can spend the rest of the week in my tent, leaving in time to get back to work the following Monday afternoon.

Colorado was the logical destination, but I hate the idea of crowds and permits, and the popular, beautiful areas of RMNP are too popular and therefore permitted. I also hate snakes and insects, and I hate the idea of having to protect myself and my food from bears and lions. Colorado just didn’t seem ideal, though I know it is lovely.

The next bit of topography to catch my eye was in the western part of Wyoming. While the Tetons and Yellowstone seemed too pedestrian and would require some permits or planning, right between them, running mostly north to south, was another range of substantial size. It contained the state’s highest peak, and pictures showed glaciers and snowfields and real mountains. Even better, it was in a wilderness area, not a national park (too popular) and not a national forest (potentially disturbed by hunters, ATV-riders, loggers, etc.). I could just go wander, figure out this whole backcountry camping thing, maybe walk or scramble up an easy mountain if one presented itself. Importantly, the mountains would resemble those that so thrilled me in Nepal, with some snow, at least, and it would scratch my distracting itch and let me return to happiness in the flatlands for the next year.

I had, in this fashion, chosen the Wind River Mountains as my destination for my next several backpacking trips. With a few days to go before I was leaving for the trip, I looked for some guidance about how to get into the Wind Rivers and where to go when I got there. On the relatively newly popular Amazon, I found a couple of books. One of them looked pretty substantial and was in its second edition, and I ordered it.

The book was Climbing and Hiking in the Wind River Mountains by Joe Kelsey, and I had to go pick it up at the post office in our small town in Minnesota because it showed up there a couple of hours before I left with the family for the week in Wisconsin. I spent that trip studying the book, picked out a route and headed out there. Two days later, in Pinedale, Wyoming, I bought the set of maps that covered the Winds, and that night at my front-country campsite I matched up the book trail descriptions to the maps. Signed the register early the next morning and hit the trail.

I didn’t do well on that trip. Choosing to start on a trail described as arduous sounded good from a distance, and I picked the part of the range that was lower and less snowy, which didn’t quite satisfy. I get bored in campsites by myself, and you can only walk so many hours uphill before you need just to stop and relax for the evening. But that trip was followed by a better one, and then a better one. The last one was to Indian Basin, and there I found a beautiful home for a base camp, a peaceful place with plenty of space and hiking, surrounded by scrambling and climbing routes on beautiful peaks arranged in a semi-circle around the basin, with its opening looking down to beautiful Island Lake. It’s that area and the semi-contiguous Titcomb Basin on which Kelsey focuses in the AAJ piece.

Later I moved a little north into Montana and had a couple of great trips there. This year, it’s Alaska and next year back to Nepal. But eventually I will find my way back to the Winds, maybe for some climbing this time or maybe just some more peaceful enjoyment of a place that is a short drive away, a place seemingly visible to the day hiker at Photographer’s Point but hidden by the intervening ridges, with its hard day’s hike that scares off almost everyone, quiet as all beautiful hell.

Mountain rant revisited

There is something beautiful in a mountain existing, reaching for the sky and standing as solid as anything can stand. There is an appeal to those heights, and some are fascinated enough to try to reach them. There is the triumph of a skilled, hard working mountaineer reaching the top of one of the world’s great peaks — this should, considering the number of serious high-altitude climbers in the world, be a rare occurrence. There is also the real risk that a climber that has overestimated himself or his partners or that has failed to recognize the unattainability of the route or peak will die on its slopes.

Everest belongs somewhere, perhaps but not necessarily, even, on a list of significant climbs by a significant climber, not on the resume of high-paying amateur. Everest and other prestigious mountains should be climbed by those respectful of the mountain and, as much as is possible with such a mountain, worthy of it, not by someone who thinks of it as the ultimate challenge to enliven their boring life as a salesman, banker, CEO, teacher or factory worker.

If you don’t believe me — if you are thinking maybe you’d try it someday if you could find the money and get yourself into good enough physical shape to satisfy a guide — read about what the experience does to people who save $30,000 and put it in the hands of a guide they believe will drag them to the top, one way or another. Read about the effect of summit fever on those involved in the 1996 disaster as detailed in Krakauer’s Into Thin Air. Know what caliber of person is attracted to the lawless, wealthy expanse of camps on both sides of the mountain.

Then, grab a backpack, the right equipment and some training, and choose your own adventure on one of the millions of miles of trail, hundreds of thousands of campsites and thousands of nameless and distinctly non-famous peaks, valleys, walls and pillars found the world over. Because I am tired of hearing about how you rocked out the big one — or died trying to be the 38th person in one week to top it.

Vegan nacho bake

Ingredients:
One 15.5-oz can of black beans
One 10-oz. package Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet Cheese Alternative – Nacho flavor
14-oz. container of salsa
Approximately half of a medium-sized bag of tortilla chips
One large or two medium tomatoes
Tofutti (or similar) vegan sour-cream alternative

Directions:
Lightly oil the sides and bottom of a 9″x13″ cake pan. Pre-heat oven to 325-F.

Cover the bottom of the pan with a single layer of tortilla chips, breaking any curved chips as necessary to make a flat layer. Slice the “cheese” as thinly as possible. Cover the layer of chips fully with strips of cheese, using approximately one third of the cheese. 

Add another full layer of tortilla chips. On top of this, spread most of the salsa (as desired). Use the watery part of the salsa — do not strain it to use only the larger chunks. 


Drain and rinse the black beans. Add three tablespoons of water and heat til bubbly. Stir the beans and water roughly with a fork to form a sauce that is not as dry as refried beans. It is not necessary to fully blend all of the beans. Spread the beans on top of the salsa and add a second layer of cheese.


Cover this with a last layer of tortilla chips and a third layer of cheese. Slice the tomatoes thinly and spread these slices on top of the cheese.


Cover and bake for 15 minutes at 325-F. Increase heat to 500-F for an additional ten minutes, or just until cheese is melted. Remove, uncover and allow to cool before serving. Cut into squares and serve with “sour cream.”

Can also be made in a 9″x9″ pan by reducing quantities by a third.

Toilet paper

We go through a lot paper products in this country. All sorts of things are available in “disposable” versions to save time, work, mess, whatever. Some of those I try to avoid — paper plates and cups, baking pans, plastic bags and especially anything styrofoam. I still use a lot of paper though, because some things just don’t work well if they’re made from anything else.

Toilet paper is one of those. It may work to use leaves or the fingernails of one’s left hand, but I’m pretty certain that I will stick with paper on this one. So, I bought some green toilet paper. Not green-colored, but recycled.

This stuff is 100% recycled, 80% post-consumer, whitened without chlorine, dye-free, safe for septic systems (so plenty safe for municipal treatment systems) and made by a company, Seventh Generation, that has a good reputation for making environmentally friendly but usable products.

You can take a look at the TP on Amazon. Buying it in bulk there saves me trips to the store, ensures a good supply so I won’t substitute normal paper, and makes it relatively inexpensive. Plus, I love shopping for weird things on the interwebs.

We’re still on our first roll of the stuff here, and it’s been a week and a half, I think. The rolls last forever. The two-ply version is strong and effective. It does not fall apart, nor does it disintegrate like some of the really soft, normal paper. It’s not “quilted Charmin,” but it seems far softer than the bulk-supplied stuff used in most commercial buildings — this may be because of its relative thickness. In short, I really like it and am not at all disappointed to have 47 more rolls to use up.

I know it seems weird, but consider it. Widespread usage of this stuff will save trees, reduce landfill waste and reduce water usage — each by incredible amounts.

Palin’s handle on things

I love this interview excerpt from McCain’s well prepared pick for VPOTUS:

COURIC: Why isn’t it better, Governor Palin, to spend $700 billion helping middle-class families who are struggling with health care, housing, gas and groceries; allow them to spend more and put more money into the economy instead of helping these big financial institutions that played a role in creating this mess?

PALIN: That’s why I say I, like every American I’m speaking with, were ill about this position that we have been put in where it is the taxpayers looking to bail out. But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health-care reform that is needed to help shore up our economy, helping the—it’s got to be all about job creation, too, shoring up our economy and putting it back on the right track. So health-care reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions and tax relief for Americans. And trade, we’ve got to see trade as opportunity, not as a competitive, scary thing. But one in five jobs being created in the trade sector today, we’ve got to look at that as more opportunity. All those things under the umbrella of job creation. This bailout is a part of that.

Her answer is simply inane jabber, a collection of unrelated thoughts she obviously has left over in her mind from what I assume are constant sessions with campaign advisers in attempt to teach her things that someone in her situation is supposed to know already. More from the always level-headed Fareed Zakaria here.

Moved

I moved the hosting for this blog back to Blogger. It was cool to have it on my own hosting account just for backup purposes so that Google/Blogger wouldn’t own my whole life. But the new layout features the Blogger has been adding are cool, and you can only use them if the site is hosted by them (I’m not sure why that is, but that’s the deal). For instance, the new way of laying out the archive (look over on the left there) is much improved.

blog.mattandkaristewart.com and www.mattandkaristewart.com/blog redirect here now.