Craig's Blog of Destiny
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    “War has only one outcome. War is stupid, Ralph. It is the desecration of the human spirit, martyring yourself for someone else’s dream. It is for people who do not believe in themselves.”
    - Annette Ekelund, The Naked God, Peter F Hamilton

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    Ready Player One

    I have a younger brother who makes a living as an English Professor. Whenever I see him I ask for book recommendations and he always has some for me. Unfortunately, he often recommends material that he’s reading and what he reads is often a little over my head. But the last time I talked with him he said that he had just finished a book that he thought I would enjoy and that I should check it out for the nostalgic factor he was sure I would experience. It may be the best recommendation he’s given me.

    Ready Player One is a simple, nostalgic story set in the year 2045. A tale set thirty years in the future, but a future that has become obsessed with 1980’s culture. It’s the first novel from Ernest Cline, who’s most known for writing the screenplay for the movie Fanboys.

    This book is packed with geek culture from the 80’s, and consequently a great deal of fun to read. Even though the 80’s were just a little after my time (my time was really the early 70’s) I’m just geek enough to be familiar with most of the references: I’ve seen many of the movies, listened to most of the music and played a number of the video games, including the Tempest game that figures prominently into the conclusion of the game. And while I enjoyed it a great deal, I believe my younger geek friends will get a kick out of it as well – particularly all the references to Japanese anime and game characters: most of those references eluded me altogether but I’m sure are ingrained in the minds of those younger than myself.
    There is quite a bit of discussion on the internet about this book being made into a movie; Warner Brothers has purchased the rights (even before the book was published) and recently hired someone other than Ernest to work on the screenplay. While there is some concern about the ability to make the movie and make it well, while reading the book I often found myself thinking “this will make a great movie” so I’m in the camp that is looking forward to it. It may be a little expensive (all those licensing fees) but would be fun, a lot like Scott Pilgrim, but with even more geek-dom.
    So, my recommendation: read this book! You’ll enjoy all the 80’s references, even if you’ve never spent time in an arcade. And if you have spent time in an arcade you’ll really enjoy it.

    One of the real pleasures of our household is the playing and singing that we often get from J’Neil.  So last night I got the recording gear out and had her play a couple of things, so that perhaps some of you outside of our house could enjoy it as well.

    So here they are:

    Better Days

    Love Remains the Same

    She sounds pretty good, eh?

    Tour de Whatcom

    Yesterday I rode the Tour de Whatcom, a 105 mile bicycle ride around Whatcom County, WA.  You can check out my route on the route map here.   It was a great day for riding; here’s some of the good and the not so good:

    Of course, I expected there to be great views, and there were.  Some of the best views are during the second half of the ride when we’re on the western part of the county and can look back to the east to Mt Baker. It is a great sight!

    One of the unexpected pleasures came in the north eastern part of the ride, between Nooksack and Lyndon, when we passed several raspberry fields.  I love raspberries! It’s roughly harvest time and the smell of fresh raspberry was wonderful!

    Staying with the smells theme:  we also passed a number of dairy farms. That was a not so good smell.  Whenever my dad and I came across that smell he would comment that “it smells like money!”  Smells like something else to me.

    It may seem like a small thing – but getting a dry shirt from my wife at the 55 mile mark was very nice.  Nothing like a towel to dry off with, a dry bandanna for my head and a nice clean shirt.

    I had never been down around the south end of Lake Whatcom, until riding it yesterday; it’s very nice.  Would love to have a cabin down there, or perhaps we’ll have to visit the Bed and Breakfast there.

    This was the first long ride I’ve done with the “clip-less” pedals (oddly enough, these are the ones that clip onto your shoes – there is some logic to why they’re called clip-less but I won’t go into it here).  They were a good and not so good thing:  because I was using them I had no pain in my knees at all; however, my feet haven’t quite acclimated yet, so I did have some pain after the ride in the balls of my feet.

    My time was a little slow, averaging right around 12.oo miles an hour, however, for the first long ride in a number of years, and on a new bike, I’m going to take it as a positive.

    The start line, that’s me in the upper center, blue t-shirt – NOT a cycling shirt!

    All in all, a good day of riding (a long day of riding!) and I’m already looking forward to next year’s ride!

    Stella, 1976-2011

     

    Stella, beloved bicycle and companion, passed away July 20, 2011.  She was born in the spring of 1976 in Loveland, Colorado.  She is survived by her owner, Craig Cottle, and her younger brother, Bike E.  She will be greatly missed.
    Stella began life as a missionary bike, doing lots of miles in Loveland and Arvada, Colorado as well as Hastings, Nebraska.  She put on some miles in Alberta, Canada, as well as the Salt Lake Valley in Utah.  In 1996, at the age of 20, she logged many miles in and around Las Vegas, Henderson and Boulder City, Nevada in preparation for the STP (Seattle to Portland ride – just over 200 miles) which she completed in June of that year.  In her later life, she spent partial time doing a few miles around the Columbia River in Kennewick, WA, relinquishing most of the miles of that time to her younger brother, Bike E.  She recently retired to Bellingham, WA, where she made trips to the Canadian border on a limited basis.  Her last sanctioned ride was the Tour de Whatcom in July, 2010.
    After a period of mourning, her usable parts will be donated to good causes, allowing her to potentially live on in High School projects in the Bellingham area.

    Two for One Book Review

    The last two books I’ve read are considerably different, but share a common bond: both were written from unusual and what I found to be very interesting perspectives.

    Room, by Emma Donoghue is the story of a victim of abduction and her five year old son.   They live their lives in an 11X11 foot room; never leaving the ‘prison’ that is their world.  The entire story is told from the perspective and in the voice of the five year old.  While that means the language is realitively simple and straight forward, the author effectively portrays and says a great deal about the human condition and the emotions and feelings that make us human.  The story is pretty good, the story telling very well done.  Even though the premise may seem disturbing, there is a great deal of beauty and hope, and an overwhelming determination to live.  I would recommend it with four of five stars.

    I’m also going to recommend The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein with a four out of five rating, though if I had to put them in order, this one would be first.  The story of aspiring race car driver Denny Swift is completely narrated by his dog, Enzo.  Even though Enzo is frustrated by his inability to speak (I often shared his frustration and wished the characters could hear what Enzo had to say!) and not having opposable thumbs, he is a wise and loving companion to Denny and his family.  Through Enzo we learn much about the human traits of love, humility, loyalty, despair, compassion, hope and joy in the relationship between souls.  As one reviewer put it, “this old soul of a dog has much to teach us about being human.”  I found myself hoping I can be as good a companion to my family as Enzo is to his.

    A Tale of Two Cards

    The other day I had occasion to call AAA –kind of a funny story that Sam or I may have to tell sometime.  I keep my AAA card in my wallet, in the same wallet sleeve as my health insurance card.  As I was pulling the AAA card out, it struck me as poetic that the two cards are right there together – and yet I have such diverse feelings about them.

    I appreciate my AAA card.  I use it, not necessarily that often, but I do use it.  Enough that calling them isn’t a unique experience, I’m comfortable calling them.  My AAA coverage costs me somewhere between $100 and $150 dollars a year for the family – maybe ten or eleven dollars a month.  I’ve used them because we’ve locked keys in the car, because we’ve had flat tires, or because I needed a vehicle towed.  I appreciate my AAA coverage.

    In contrast, I do not appreciate my health insurance card.  I do not like making claims with my health insurance card.  I hate trying to get health care.  My health insurance card costs me almost $700 a month, or about 70 times* as much as my AAA coverage.  I don’t like visiting doctors and typically avoid it.  I begrudge the fact that I have to have that insurance card.

    But the problem with my health insurance card isn’t the insurance.  It’s the thing the insurance is covering that causes the problems.  Yes, this post is about health care in the United States.

    Health care in the US is broken – broken big time.  But what’s broken about it is not that some people don’t have health insurance or that health insurance isn’t available to everyone.  What’s broken about health care is the cost of health care.  I really wish that those trying to address the problem would stop trying to treat the symptom of insurance coverage and instead work on fixing the actual problem:  the cost of health care.  The insurance is expensive because the care is expensive.  Requiring people to have insurance may actually hurt the problem in the long run as insurance companies have exhibited a lack of ability to control costs.

    The cost of health care in the United States is unreasonably expensive.  Google “health care costs per capita” and you’ll get all kinds of numbers and studies that boil down to this:  in the United States our per capita health care costs are roughly double that of comparable countries.  And the country that is second highest, Luxemburg of all places, spends only about two thirds what we do in the United States.

    Some would try to argue that we have better care and are healthier because we spend more.  But the argument has no basis in reality.  We are certainly not twice as healthy as Canadians, or almost three times as healthy as the Japanese.  Again, Google relative healthiness and you’ll find lots of support for the idea that in the United States we’re actually less healthy than many other countries.

    I’m not saying anyone in the health care industry is overpaid (with the possible exception of pharmaceutical companies, they do seem out of control to me).  In fact I believe the majority are probably underpaid.  But we have got to find a way to reduce the cost of health care.  Medical litigation would be a first target.  Those drug companies that are selling product in the United States at many times the cost they’re selling it for in other countries would be another.**  We have got to shift from reactionary medicine to preventive medicine – which could be an entire debate all on its own.  In some way, the cost of the care has got to be addressed.

    My suggestions:  
    1.     Stop trying to treat the symptom and go after the disease.  Stop messing with the insurance and start fixing the cost of health care.  I do not believe socialized medicine will work in the United States, (the United States government is inept at actually profitably running anything except itself) but health care does need to be regulated, in the same way the government regulates utilities.  The free market system doesn’t work for utilities and it isn’t working for heath care.  Regulation is in order.  
    2.    Malpractice liability has got to be addressed.  No one likes to place a value on life or quality of life, but the excessive judgments in health care litigation have got to be curtailed.  
    3.    The cost of medication needs to be brought in line with costs in the rest of the world – if that means pharmaceutical companies earn less, so be it.  If it means a relaxation on FDA requirements for approval of drugs, so be it.  But in some way, get our drug costs in line with the drug costs in other countries.
    4.    There must be a fundamental shift in how we view health care and our health, away from reactionary medicine and towards preventive medicine.  It’s considerably cheaper to repair a roof than it is to fix the damage resulting from a collapsed roof, yet when it comes to health care we are consistently waiting until the roof collapses before we do anything.

    We have got to make some hard decisions about health care.  I wish those that are making those decisions would actually make them, make the hard decisions, instead of simply covering the whole thing with political maneuvering and rhetoric.  Sometime in the future I would like to pull those two cards out of my wallet again and have the feelings I currently have about the AAA card also apply to my health insurance card:  I’d like to feel good about its cost and its value and actually want to use it.

     

    *Seventy times as much.  Seventy times would make a delivered pizza cost just over a thousand dollars.
    **Last December I made one of my infrequent visits to the doctor.  My insurance provides coverage for doctor visits with a moderate co-pay cost.  I had some pain in my ear which I suspected was an infection so I went in.  Sure enough, the doctor diagnosed an infection and prescribed an anti-biotic.  Even with my insurance the cost of the drugs he prescribed was absurd – somewhere between twenty and forty dollars a pill.  I elected not to have the prescription filled and let my body deal with the infection on its own – which it did.  I was feeling fine within a week.

    Superbowl 2011!

    It’s time for the Superbowl Candy Pool!!!!  This will be the seventh year we’ve done the pool, last year we had 59 people participating, this year we’re expecting even more!  This year we’re adding a guess the score component so more candy is up for grabs!  In addition you can submit suggestions to name the new segment – even more candy!  See all the rules and info here:

    Superbowl 2011

    Get your entries in early (additional squares go to early responders!), either via email, messenger, comments on blogs, text or even phone calls, any way you can get word to us works!

    Hallelujah!!!

    Recently a friend posted this video on facebook.  The presentation is fun – in fact there are a lot of these kind of things on youtube that we spent time laughing about at our house the other day – but what touched me here was the music.  Such powerful music.  The music in this video brings tears to my eyes.


    The Main, Trevanian

    I just reread Trevanian’s The Main, one of my favorite books.  There was I time that someone asked me to address books that have had a big impact on me, and this was one I wrote about.  I said:

    “At the risk of showing my age I’ll bring up Trevanian, whose most popular work is probably The Eiger Sanction.  The Main is about a policeman in Montreal whose life revolves around his beat.  I was so able to identify with the character that it was some time before I came to realize that his life was tragic and that the loneliness that surrounded him was what made him tragic.  I realized that the love of those around us is what matters in the enrichment of our lives, not just our own life.”

    To that, I would like to add:  The reason this is such a great book is because it’s such a strong character study.  Trevanian really brings the characters to life, not just the people (the policeman, his friends and enemies, the rookie cop, even the victim) but also the area, The Main, that part of Montreal that is the setting for the book.  He really makes the place a character of the novel in a very compelling way.  I’m not sure how he does it, but I found myself really caring about the people, the place, the events that he writes about.  And that’s why I enjoy reading him.


    2010 Cottle Holiday Dance!

    Seems it gets earlier every year!  Here’s the 2010 edition of the Cottle Family Christmas Dance!  (Kris and I really rock it at the 20 second mark.)

    This years special guest is one of J’Neil’s cats….not sure which one, but it’s one of them.


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