Monday, March 27, 2006

Race Results

Yesterday I ran in the San Jose Spring Run. I ran the 5K run. I wrote about the race a few weeks ago. It was a great experience. I ran 31:58 and finished 426 out of 1436. I finished 252 out of 603 men, and 51 out of 103 in my division (men, ages 30-39.) You can see all the results here. To see my official results, put in bib #1101. I was thrilled with the results! Here are some pictures of me running and of my family cheering me on.

This was my first race, and running in a race is a lot different than just running on your own each morning. Of course there's traffic -- passing slower runners and being passed by faster runners. For me it's easier running on a course that I know well. That makes it easier to keep a steady pace. I was also a little sore after the race, which surprised me. I run 5 miles each morning, so why would a 3.1 mile run make me sore? It wasn't the pace, since I've actually run slightly faster 3 mile splits at the start of my 5 mile run than I ran yesterday. I think maybe it's just the difference of running on the sidewalk vs. running on the road. Who knows?

So what's next? There were tons of people handing out things after the finish line. I had no idea what that was all about and was so tired that it took me a minute to process. Most of the people were handing fliers -- fliers for running clubs and other races in the area. I took a couple, and one was for The Human Race, in Mountain View on May 13. My sister Jeana will be in town visiting then, so it's great timing. I will probably run the 5K, and shoot for a time under 30 minutes.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Three Years in Iraq

A little over three years ago now, the United States invaded Iraq. I remember all too well where I was when it happened. I was flying to Las Vegas to enjoy the opening weekend of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament with my old college buddies. It was my first time flying on JetBlue, and thus I got to watch CNN live as the invasion began. Or at least "Shock and Awe" began.

It was a sobering event to happen on what was otherwise a really fun trip. My friends and I did our share of gambling, I got to lose some money on the University of Florida. Iraq kept coming up in conversations over dinner or while enjoying drinks at the Bellagio. I have an interesting mix of liberal and conservative friends, but they definitely lean right as a group. My main point of contention that weekend was that the US was not being honest about why we were invading Iraq. We all knew already that Iraq did not have WMDs. I was willing to concede that maybe invading Iraq was still justified, but I just hated that we were lying about why we were doing it.

The problem is that when your leaders are lying about their reasons, you really have to wonder about their true reasons. Maybe those reasons are still good, but what if they are not? If these reasons are kept secret, don't you have to suspect that there's something not so good about them?

That line of thought leads you into Michael Moore-land. Was President Bush just looking for any excuse to invade Iraq, maybe for reasons of revenge? Was this simply an attempt to secure oil, caused by a perception of instability in Saudi Arabia after 9/11 (most of the terrorist were from Saudi Arabia after all)? Or was this part of some grand neo-con plan to "introduce" democracy and capitalism into the Middle East?

I'm not saying any one of those things is correct. My point is that to some degree, you must entertain such theories because of President Bush's dishonesty. As for Iraq today, and the mess we are in ... I'm not going to claim to know what to do now. Just because we may have had less than noble reasons for invading does not necessarily mean that withdrawing now would be the right thing to do. It seems like nobody thought twice about the US's decision to keep a unified Iraq, despite its internal conflicts. It hardly seemed very democratic, telling people that they had to be part of the same country and they had no choice about it. Again it makes you wonder about the motivation, since clearly a unified Iraq is easier to pump oil out of.

If a full blown civil war breaks out (has it already?) can the US keep claiming that everyone it shoots is a terrorist? The sins of this invasion just keep growing and growing. It is reminiscent of the Cold War, where the US again and again let strategic goals (containment of Communism) caused it to back dictators (and future terrorists!) and thus creating more support for the very thing (Communism) that it was trying to prevent. It doesn't take a rocket scientist (or a social scientist for that matter) to figure out that the US presence in Iraq has certainly driven more people to the suicide-bombing-is-endorsed brand of Islam. What would have to happen for President Bush to decide to pull out our troops? If the answer is "nothing could cause that" then we certainly are in a lot of trouble for a lot of years to come.

Google Finance

Google's new financial site, Google Finance has been covered by many today. It is widely billed as an answer to Yahoo's very successful Yahoo! Finance site. Many people like it's neato features, like the flash charts and liberal use of AJAX. Others are disappointed since it doesn't really offer much that Yahoo doesn't already offer. Personally I like it, and for one simple reasons. Ads. Or the lack of ads, I should say. I hate all the ads cluttering up Yahoo Finance. It has those brokerage ads and the big ads on the side, ugh. You have to imagine that even if Google does start mixing in ads, they will be done similar to search ads or ads in GMail. So right there, advantage Google. I also like Google's attempt to correlate news and movements in stock price. Maybe the SEC should like at this data for a company and start investigations whenever they see significant stock movement without news or anticipation of news... Speaking of Google, I finally got my Google Pages account. I'll need to play with that and maybe move my homepage off Comcast.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Searching for Mt. Hamilton

That past month or so in the Bay Area has been cold and wet. One of the few nice things about such weather is the snow it puts on top of many mountains in the Bay Area. I used to live near one of the big mountains out here, Mt. Diablo, in the East Bay. There was never too much snow on it in the two years I lived near it. Now I live in San Jose, and the mountains down have gotten a lot of snow this winter. It's fascinating for me to see the snow covered peaks in the distance. Snow covered mountains are quite novel to a native Floridian.

On the local news I've seen stories on people taking their kids up into the mountains to play in the snow. That sounds like something that might be fun to do one day when my kids are older. Just for kicks, I thought I might figure out how much of a drive it was up to the highest peak in the South Bay, Mt. Hamilton. There are so many great mapping tools on the web now, it should be easy to get directions to a local landmark.

Or that's what I thought. I immediately went to and searched for mt hamilton near san jose. The results are terrible. Look at the top result, Mt. Hamilton Grange. Egads. What's worse is that none of the results are even all that close (geographically) to Mt. Hamilton. They're all businesses and what not, so of course they're not up on the mountain.

So I tried Yahoo local. Its results were basically the same, still terrible. I even tried MSN, err Windows Live Local. It was just as bad. Then I realized that Mt. Hamilton is a mountain. It does not sell anything. Thus search engines don't really care about it, at least not the local variety.

Now if you just search on Google for Mt. Hamilton, you find much more relevant results. Of course you don't find directions to it, which was the whole point.

All is not lost though. Luckily I already knew about the observatory on top of Mt. Hamilton, Lick Observatory. A search for Lick Observatory near San Jose produces similarly bad results on Google Local. However, a similar search on Yahoo! produces much better results.

So alas you can find directions to non-commercially viable locations, it's just not easy. Perhaps Google Earth is better suited for something like this, I haven't tried it. The search guys need to address this. I'm sure I'm not the only person to ever search for a mountain, or a beach, or a lake with the intent of getting directions to said landmark. If a search engine is good for that, then I'm a lot more likely to use that same search engine to look for directions to a resteraunt, car dealership, etc.

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Monday, March 06, 2006

The Race Is On

I'm running in my first race in a couple of weeks, The San Jose Mercury News Spring Run. There's actually three races, a 10 K race, 5k run, and a 5k walk. I thought about doing the 10K, since that's closer to the distance I run each morning, but figured I would just do the 5k run since it is my first race. My top goal is not to come in last and/or be beaten by people in the 5k walk. Beyond that, I'd like to run a time of around 30 minutes. I've ran some 7-8 minute miles during my morning runs, but have concentrated much more on distance than speed. So I'll be happy with something in the low 30-minute range. The race is less than three weeks away, so hopefully these winter storms will clear out by then...

Friday, March 03, 2006

The Katrina Video

By now I'm sure you've seen the Katrina video, showing President Bush being briefed on the eve of Hurricane Katrina's landfall. As this article from the San Jose Mercury points out, this video suddenly forces us to reconsider who was at fault. Most people blamed then-FEMA directory Michael Brown, but the video sure makes him look a lot better. He seems to be the only top official who is really worried and trying to do anything about the impending disaster. Nope, it sure looks like his boss, Homeland Security head Michael Chertoff , and of course the "I'm in the middle of yet another vacation" President Bush, are the ones to blame.
It's incredible to watch Bush just sit there and say nothing through the whole thing. Now one might say that he is taking it all in and thinking hard about what to do, but that's not the impression I got. He seems very passive and disinterested, and maybe even annoyed that he has to sit through all of this. Many are pointing out that the video contradicts the President's statements about how nobody could have foreseen the levees breaking in New Orleans, since he is told in the video that that is exactly what's going to happen. That just seems to be more evidence that he really wasn't paying attention in this video. It's not that he was told and then lied about it. He was told, but wasn't listening and thus did not remember that he was told.

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