Sunday, February 27, 2011

Cat Food Craziness

I tried to take a picture of the specific type of cat food we feed our cats for a friend of mine who works on making cat food - however just moving the bag out to try and get a good picture caused a lot of excitement with the cats!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

It's the Inequality, Stupid

This is my blog version of a "re-tweet" of an interesting article. Thanks to Karen for pointing me to this article - even though I can't see any content on Facebook as I have opted out of Facebook. I've been interested in income inequality for sometime. Here was a good publication from 2004 and it's only gotten worse!

As a response to "Joe the Plumber" and his claims of Obama's 3% tax increase on income over $250,000 being called socialism or re-distribution of wealth - the evidence suggests that there has been a LONG history of income re-distribution however it is going from the middle-class to the wealthiest income earners. And this is structurally put into the laws.

To me there is nothing wrong with making a lot of money - however I'm not sure why all the rules are written to the benefit of the wealthiest (and they are!). Well - I know WHY - because the rich and powerful write the laws (or influence the politicians that do). I can't figure out why income your money makes in the stock market is taxed at a lower rate (capital gains) than income people make by laboring day in and day out. I can't figure out why the effective tax on many corporations is ZERO and why the effective tax rate of the wealthiest is less than the upper middle class. If you are at or around the AMT line - you are paying THE HIGHEST EFFECTIVE TAX RATE!

Quick side rant - I personally believe most financial companies are merely siphoning money out of the middle class and consolidating it into the hands of very few - which is why I manage all of my own finances and investing. Maybe said a better way - I'm not convinced that financial firms are actually adding value to the economy as a whole.

On the flip side - I also can't figure out why more than 50% of Americans don't have any federal tax liability when they use public services too - but you can see how the standard deduction was put in to offset everything else in this article below.

I hope we drastically change the tax code for individuals and businesses to make it a straight calculation based on income - and then you'll find the tax rate will be MUCH lower because there will be no loop holes or deductions for some and not for others.

Eleven charts that explain everything that's wrong with America.

How Rich Are the Superrich?

A huge share of the nation's economic growth over the past 30 years has gone to the top one-hundredth of one percent, who now make an average of $27 million per household. The average income for the bottom 90 percent of us? $31,244.

Average Income by Family, distributed by income group.
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The richest controls 2/3 of America's net worth

Note: The 2007 data (the most current) doesn't reflect the impact of the housing market crash. In 2007, the bottom 60% of Americans had 65% of their net worth tied up in their homes. The top 1%, in contrast, had just 10%. The housing crisis has no doubt further swelled the share of total net worth held by the superrich.

Winners Take All

The superrich have grabbed the bulk of the past three decades' gains.

Aevrage Household income before taxes.

Out of Balance

A Harvard business prof and a behavioral economist recently asked more than 5,000 Americans how they thought wealth is distributed in the United States. Most thought that it’s more balanced than it actually is. Asked to choose their ideal distribution of wealth, 92% picked one that was even more equitable.

Average Income by Family, distributed by income group.

Capitol Gain

Why Washington is closer to Wall Street than Main Street.

median net worth of american families, median net worth for mebers of congress, your odds of being a millionaire, member of congress's odds of being a millionaire
member max. est. net worth
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) $451.1 million
Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) $435.4 million
Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) $366.2 million
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) $294.9 million
Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) $285.1 million
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) $283.1 million
Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.) $231.2 million
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) $201.5 million
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) $136.2 million
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) $108.1 million
combined net worth: $2.8 billion
10 Richest Members of Congress 100% Voted to extend the cuts
Congressional data from 2009. Family net worth data from 2007. Sources: Center for Responsive Politics; US Census; Edward Wolff, Bard College.

Who's Winning?

For a healthy few, it's getting better all the time.

Gains and Losses in 2007-2009, Average CEO Pay vs. Average Worker Pay

A millionaire's atx rate, now and then. Share of Federal Tax revenue


How much income have you given up for the top 1 percent?


Income distribution: Emmanuel Saez (Excel)

Net worth: Edward Wolff (PDF)
Household income/income share: Congressional Budget Office
Real vs. desired distribution of wealth: Michael I. Norton and Dan Ariely (PDF)
Net worth of Americans vs. Congress: Federal Reserve (average); Center for Responsive Politics (Congress)
Your chances of being a millionaire: Calculation based on data from Wolffhousehold and population data)   (PDF); US Census (
Member of Congress' chances: Center for Responsive Politics
Wealthiest members of Congress: Center for Responsive Politics
Tax cut votes: New York Times (Senate; House)
Wall street profits, 2007-2009: New York State Comptroller (PDF)
Unemployment rate, 2007-2009: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Home equity, 2007-2009: Federal Reserve, Flow of Funds data, 1995-2004 and 2005-2009 (PDFs)
CEO vs. worker pay: Economic Policy Institute
Historic tax rates: Calculations based on data from The Tax Foundation
Federal tax revenue: Joint Committee on Taxation (PDF)

Read also: Kevin Drum on the decline of Big Labor, the rise of Big Business, and why the Obama era fizzled so soon.
More Mother Jones charty goodness: How the rich get richer; how the poor get poorer; who owns Congress?
Dave Gilson is a senior editor at
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Monday, February 21, 2011

You don't have to be fast to TRI (Indoor Triathlon)

Yesterday I completed the Lifetime Fitness Indoor Triathlon and it was pretty awesome! (actually "Bolt Speedman" participated). It is a very different type of triathlon than I had run before. Besides being indoors - typically a triathlon is a series of distances you have to cover and your time determines how well you did. In the case of the indoor triathlon each event was timed - so how much distance you covered in each event scored points towards how well you did. So in the case of the Little Miami Triathlon where it may take people from 2.5 - 4.5 hours and I finished in 3.5 hours last time - in this case everyone finished in an hour but covered different distances. The event was spaced out in waves of 8 people starting every 20 minutes. I loved this format!

Here's Why:
1) During the winter I get the "itch" to compete in a triathlon rather than just try and keep motivating myself to train for the spring
2) The set times are short enough for almost anyone to be able to finish but allow for those who are in much better shape to really go hard and score a ton of points
3) While it was only 60 minutes I felt pretty worn out afterwards - the intensity of the events can be higher than an endurance triathlon which is more about duration
4) The event was very well run and LAID BACK! It is like an entry level triathlon so it had a relaxed atmosphere

I was interested in the triathlon as I have started taking some swim classes which at least makes me swim more - and I was curious to benchmark my swim. I think my results confirmed where I think I rate in each event.

While it will be hard to top my 1st Place Male - Elite Division finish in my first ever triathlon (funny story) - I know that I am towards the bottom end of triathletes overall (so far).

[ 10 min Swim ]
I'm in the far right lane -
and blurry because I am swimming so fast!
Based on my first swimming triathlon experience which I affectionately call the "Swim-bacle" my goals for this triathlon were:
1) Swim the entire time without stopping to rest or breathe
2) Try and swim 16 lengths or 400m

I accomplished my first goal but ended up only completing 13 lengths (which I believe was rounded up from 12.5 when time ended).

My swim rank was tied for #49-54 out of #59 which is about what I expected - I am not a very good swimmer. The top swimmers in this triathlon finished 30 lengths (750m) in 10 minutes! That is an Olympic Triathlon swim or almost 1/2 a mile! The median swim was 18 lengths.

I was pretty excited to just swim in a relaxed and controlled manner the entire time and basically be able to swim continuously for the 10 min which is an improvement from the 1st swim triathlon. My performance still would predict a 12 min 400m split for the Mason Triathlon this summer - but more swimming and less "swalking" (swim-walking).

[1st Transition ]
Similar to a "real" triathlon there was a transition time of 10 min to get out of the pool, into the locker room and change, and then up to the bike. The timing was perfect as it made you rush (like a real tri) and it was a bit hectic - but "do-able".

[ 30 min Cycling ]
I'm blurry because I am biking so fast..
I guess in general the event I enjoy the most and the one I think I do the best in is biking (aka cycling for those who bike good). However ahead of time I looked up the past results of these indoor triathlons and people were averaging 30+ mph which is faster than the Tour (de France) so I couldn't quite figure out what was going on. So NET - my goal was:
1) Cover "15 miles" in 30 minutes
2) Place in top-half of competitors

When I got on the bike I immediately realized I was "spinning" instead of cycling. There was a huge difference. My indoor exercise bike acts more like a bike you ride outdoors - the higher the resistance you set - the "faster" you go with each pedal as you are assumed to be in a higher gear. On these spinning bikes - the distance doesn't take into account resistance - just how many times around your pedals go - therefore they are set to have almost NO RESISTANCE. This is not at all what biking is like, but I enjoyed it. I quickly got myself to 30 mph and tried to keep it there as my (arbitrary) goal was to cover 15 miles in 30 minutes. This type of event doesn't help me and my high heart rate too much as it is almost all cardio versus using your muscles to be in a higher gear for speed. I didn't figure out the resistance strategy as I know many competitors had it set to now resistance so their pedals were actually getting ahead of their feet and occasionally they would slip in not being able to keep up. They probably is a good way to go for max distance. I kept my resistance really low but had enough to keep me in control so my pedals didn't spin freely ahead of my pedaling.

I accomplished both goals by completing 15.2 theoretical miles.

My biking rank was tied for #21-22 out of #59. I confirmed that biking is my best event of the three. Even though there are 3 events, almost 2/3 of my points came from biking! The best bikers in this event covered 18 miles. I hit ~35 mph at some points, so I hope to improve in this area for the next indoor triathlon. The median bike distance was 14.5 miles.

During the spinning event I noticed that the cardio was tough, but also it was tough on my hip joints (because you are pedaling so fast!). Even though it was only 30 minutes I was pretty sore afterwards (including my leg muscles) - so that is either a good sign that it is a good event for training or it is just too rough for my body right now without building up to whatever spinning requires.

One bonus of the bike was that they were playing recorded coverage of the Tour de France which was fun - and they had some great music playing/

[ 5 min transition ]
This transition was pretty straight forward and you just walk over to the treadmills. There was plenty of time to get ready for the next event.

[ 20 min run ]
I'm blurry because I am running so fast...
The run was pretty straight forward - 20 minutes on a treadmill. I knew I wouldn't do too well here for a few reasons, one was my heart rate gets pretty high with running (200+ bps - long story so I usually mix up running or jogging with walking). My best ever 10K time was averaging an 11 min miles and it was about 20 degrees out that day - so I knew I was going to be sub 2 miles in 20 minutes.
1) I had an arbitrary goal of 1.5 miles going into the triathlon on the run

I was pretty tired at this point (sad I know but the intensities of the events - for me biking - doesn't tell the whole picture versus the times of the events). I was taking it a little easy on the run and at the halfway point of the run I only had 0.70 miles completed and I was interested to see if I could push it a bit and get to 1.50 miles.

I was able to accomplish my goal and I finished 1.51 miles which tied me for a (sad) #56-57 out of #59 competitors on the run :(. This (unfortunately) is in line with my expectations and another area I need to work on (probably starts with my breathing / asthma).

The best runners covered 3.30-3.86 miles in 20 minutes! I'd like to get to 2 miles in 20 minutes soon.

Overall - Bolt Speedman came in a not-too-great but expected #51 out of #59 competitors. I guess my main point with this blog is you don't have to be fast at any of this stuff to enjoy it and see improvement because I have seen both even if I am at the bottom end of triathletes. It's like golf - there are enough good shots in there to keep me coming back and get better even if my overall skills aren't that great.

I also appreciated having a cheering section of Meghan and her mom - which I'm pretty sure put me #1 of #59 competitors in terms of size of supporters at the triathlon (overall it really wasn't set up for spectators).

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

How to run the Little Miami Triathlon Tips

For those interested - here's my "How to run the Little Miami Triathlon" Tips:

Night Before the Race
- Charge iPhone and external battery (for GPS)
- Take Singulair / Claritin D (Allergies) 
- Put race clothes out
- I wear triathlon bike shorts and a cycling jersey but I think most people wear running shorts and a running shirt

Morning Before the Race (At Home)
- Wear sports socks (not cotton!)
- Put lubricant on thighs
- Bring CLIFs Shot Bloks or GU
- Bring Race number and packet!!
- Bring heart rate monitor (polar HRM)
- Take Advil and Potassium
- Fill up bike water bottle(s)
- Bring bike helmet and bike pump and filled water bottle for bike

Arriving at Fort Ancient in the Morning
- Be sure to arrive at least 90 minutes before your start time
- You will have to park at Fort Ancient which is a 5-10 min walk from the start of the triathlon
- Fort Ancient is where you will leave your bike
- Be sure to pump up your bike tires to the recommended pressure (should be listed on your tire)
- Roughly 120 psi for Road Bike, 50-75 psi for Hybrid tires
- Put 3 - 4 CLIFs Shot Bloks in Jersey + a granola bar
- You will then have to walk your bike from the parking area down towards the back of Fort Ancient towards killer hill (don’t forget your bike helmet and bike water bottle)
- Park your bike in an area you will remember (near the road by a tree, etc)
- If it looks like rain cover your bike seat / rear gears with a towel
- Bring everything else you need for the triathlon with you and head down killer hill to Morgan’s Canoe (go down the hill and take a right on the trail to Morgan’s)

Walking to Morgan’s Canoe Livery
- Be sure to arrive at least 50-60 minutes before your start time
- Tank up on free water bottles, bananas and granola bars
- This is usually a good place to hit the restroom (porta-potties out front)
- Go to the canoe house and get a life preserver and a canoe paddle
- Your paddle should be long enough to reach your chin when standing up
- Get your canoe with ~ 30 minutes before your start time
- Female / Female teams have the option to use fiberglass canoes which are typically viewed to be lighter / faster
- If you decide to go with the aluminum (metal) canoes be sure the bottom isn’t dented or your canoe will lean to one side
- With ~ 20 minutes before your start time - Carry your canoe to the start and begin to line up by start time
- If you can get as far LEFT as you can in line – you will be further downstream
- While waiting to start this is a good time to eat your first Shot Blok or GU or granola bar
- Bring a water bottle into the canoe – the next water station is on the run and 60 minutes of canoeing is a lot

A Discussion on Backup Shoes
- Some people will tip over their canoe, and may be concerned about getting their shoes wet
- You can try the plastic bag over the shoes technique pictured (though I don’t think it would work too well)
- Or you could wear a crappy pair of shoes in the canoe and put your “good shoes” and socks in a plastic bag that would keep your shoes dry if you tip over
- After running the half-marathon in the rain I no longer bring a change of shoes for the canoe – we haven’t tipped yet and if my shoes do get wet I know I’ll be fine to run as long as I don’t wear cotton socks (cotton causes blisters when wet)
- Also the transition time to change shoes is a few minutes

START of the race – Canoeing (6 miles)
- Bring WATER in canoe!
- Canoeing is a little bit tricky, you could end up zig-zagging all the way down stream (this will take some practice)
- The person in the BACK is the key person to steer the canoe, it is their job to make sure you are going straight
- The person in the FRONT is the power - their job is to just paddle straight forward and alternate sides of the canoe strokes to make sure you don’t try to turn the canoe from the front (we do 3 paddles on each side in the front and repeat)
- The person in the back should steer the canoe left or right without dragging the paddle (so just by paddling to either side) – try to keep the canoe in “fast water” and if you hit tiny rapids put yourself in the middle of the “V” formed by the water, do not paddle into “stagnant” water that isn’t moving, the current is your friend!
- In general for both team members - Take long easy strokes out away from canoe, don’t rush the paddle stroke while the paddle is in the water
- Watch out for rocks or branches, if you hit one you are likely to tip over!

End of canoeing - 1st Transition
- Someone will help you pull your canoe to shore, leave the life vest and paddle in the canoe
- Stop at the bathroom if needed
- If you brought a change of shoes, change here and then put your “old” shoes in your bag and put it in the wagon – they will take all of the shoes to the finish for you. The more distinctive your shoe bag (like pink) the better you will be able to find it at the finish in the HUGE pile (could save you 10 minutes of looking)

The Run (5 miles mostly uphill)
- The run starts on a tiny trail to the right which takes you through 100 feet of woods onto the road
- A cop should be there to help you cross the street, then it is mostly uphill for the first 2 miles or so
- The first water break area is at mile 1 – which seems like forever if you didn’t drink in the canoe
- This is a good area for a GU or Shot Blok or granola bar
- After 2 miles there is a short down hill part, then another mile or so uphill
- The last mile is on the trail and it is flat – but it is longer than you think (1.25 miles or so)

Killer Hill (0.5 miles up a stupid trail)
- WALK up the hill. I can’t think of a better strategy, I tried to run the hill the first year and LOST! It’s about 5 minutes of walking up hill and you’d rather be feeling good at the top for the biking than kill yourself on the hill
- Eat a CLIF Shot Blok or GU near the top of the hill (so you can get water at the bike)

2nd Transition
- Once you reach the top of killer hill, you are at the bike area in Fort Ancient again
- May be a good bathroom stop
- Be sure to put your helmet on before biking
Biking (18 miles)
- RESET bike computer
- The bike ride is mostly flat with a few turns that cops help you navigate. WATCH OUT FOR CARS at intersections.
- There is always a long leg or two into the wind that is a pain, only thing you can do is crouch low and keep a steady pedal going
- Not much else to note on the bike ride – it is pretty flat, if there are smalls hills they are early in the biking

The Cobbles!
- NEW in the Fall of 2010 there is a ~2 mile section of the bike right at the end which is basically a gravel road. We call it the cobbles because we want to be on the Tour de France - but on a road bike it feels like cobblestones. 
- The best I can say about the gravel road is to just keep peddling. If you try to coast on this road you will be amazed how quickly you will slow down. In general it is a tougher section of biking because of the road resistance. (UPDATE: The road surface is officially called tar & pitch and over the past year or so it has smoothed out reasonably well and not an issue for a road bike).

- When you pull back into Fort Ancient you will have to get off your bike and walk / run it across the finish line

- There is usually a free gift at the picnic, so even if you don’t want to eat, go there and get your gift!
- The food at the picnic is usually pretty good, and the live band has been good too!