Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Let's Go Sailing

Let's go sailing!
Quincy and I have been thinking about boating. Well, I've been dreaming and she's been researching. That's how we divide our work, mostly. Anyway, I love the open sea. And by the open sea I mean the protected waters of Lake Union or Elliot Bay. One of my favorite things to do with guests is to take a trip with Let's Go Sailing. Although I missed all the races last summer, I also really love watching the Duck Dodge from Gasworks Park in the summer.

Turns out boats are not only expensive to buy and maintain, but also move and store. I don't think the gig is up, but I do think me getting a boat next summer is out of the question. Trailers and storage and tow packages on new vehicles -- oi. Quincy, being both practical and loving, gave me a sunset cruise trip with Let's Go Sailing for Christmas. Yay! Just my style: a 75-foot racing yacht.

Still, I wonder if the late-winter/early-spring doldrums would be less dull if I had a boat to ready. Even better if the boat has a small cabin for cold-weather cruising. And, as much as I love the look of cigarette boats, they don't seem practical for dogs and friends. I'd love to get my hands on a little tug like Hulgar has, or a beauty like Chuck's cruiser.

What do you think? Trading a summer wedding for a boat is, frankly, not a new idea to us. As we walked to a caterers a few months ago, we passed a boat shop. Quincy said, "We should just get a boat, it'll cost less." We laughed. We paused. We looked at each other, and for the moment anyways, steeled ourselves for the wedding. Now? Let's go sailing.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Helicopter maiden flight

For Christmas, Quincy got me exactly what I wanted: a helicopter!
I work with a guy that builds and flies a variety of mini RC toys, and watching him zip his helicopter around the cubes got me thinking about flying my own. A quick conversation later, I realized that even toy helicopters are 1) hard to fly, 2) often expensive, 3) require a lot of maintenance if you crash (see characteristic 1).
Except, this super small super light mini RC: The Air Hogs Havoc Heli. After two 5-minute flights, I got the hang of controlling all three axes. It's not too difficult, since this helicopter only give you control of two variables: spin and acceleration.
It works by having the 'copter spin slightly in the clockwise direction. When not spinning, it moves (increasing fast) in the forward direction. By controlling the amount of spin (and when you control the spin), the helicopter can be roughly pointed in a direction and kept stable. Acceleration take you up and down.
To get more forward movement, you can stick one of their tiny weights (basically a piece of tape, which is what I used) on the front of the aircraft. This will bias the craft towards a constant (unstoppable) forward motion; since it will still spin in the air slowly, it will just go in small (or big) circles.

Battery-wise, about two 5 minute flights can be taken an hour. It takes the 'copter about 20-30 minutes to charge fully; a 15 minute cool-down sessions is suggested after flying before charging.

Mistakes were made. Crashes happened. There were no near-misses in the first two flights -- every miss was dead on. I crashed into the floor, ceiling, walls, doors, range, fern, cat, Christmas tree, blinds, couch, heating vent, door frame, carpet fringe, and fridge. And that was just the first flight. In the second flight, a crash against the controller (which caused me to drop the controller nearly on the falling RC) caused some bending in the main rotor pole. This de-stabilized the craft so badly it could not take off. I re-bent the pole (carefully) and got it flying pretty well again. I can see that I will be lucky to get 5 flights out of this before I break something that I can't fix. The good news is that it is so light that it doesn't hurt anything (or one) but itself when it crashes.

So, overall I rate this toy a 9. Since I don't ever rate toys, that means absolutely nothing. Regardless, the Havoc Heli's gentle learning curve and robust crash-worthiness wins me over. I wouldn't necessarily get this for a little kid (who might be disappointed when it breaks), but for adults snowed in for weeks, it's keen.

Friday, December 26, 2008

50-year storm

Seagulls in from the stormWhite Christmas
Woodpile and iciclesDahlia in snow at night

This has been a strange winter in Seattle. For those of you not living here, I'll give you a quick recap. It snowed, then sleeted, then snowed, then snowed, then froze, then flurried then snowed then rained then snowed. Presently, the clouds are dropping an indecisive snowy sleet-like frozen rain. Clearly this weather front has been in Seattle too long, and is picking up the passive-aggressive nature. Please leave!

The blogosphere has been rife with picturesque icy photographs and red hot flames about the city's response. So, being that I've got nothing better to do because I still feel snowed in (once the temperature drops below freezing at night, I do not trust the wet, slushy roads), let me expound on why I think we're in this snow drift, and why I don't think it's a bad thing.

First, it does not snow like this in Seattle more than twice a century. Given we clean out our city counsel and mayoral office every couple of elections, the political decision horizon trends towards the quarterly or yearly outlook; not a whole lot of very long term planning happens (evidence our non-existent mass transit system; our lack of sidewalks; our crumbling bridges and viaduct; our two-city suburban sprawl; our unlinked architecture; et cetera). So, who's going to vote for a teacher pay cut to invest in a dozen plows we're only going to use once a decade, at most? Come spring, everyone will be complaining about sidewalks, crime, schools, traffic, and potholes again. Frankly, those perennial Seattle issues impact each of us on a far greater scale.

And voting. Don't get me started. From what I can tell, any nut case with a few followers or million dollars can get an initiative on the ballot. That means we can hamstring the city government when they pass unpopular laws. Long term vision is almost always unpopular -- take a look at what the mayors in Chicago and New York City went through as they fought crime. (They're now regarded as, in some circles at least, heroes; heck, one ran for president. Sort of.) So let's say the mayor does feed more money into snow-removal and ice-prevention systems. I there would be an initiative blocking that funding faster than you can say "Where's my monorail?"

I won't claim (as a few have recently) to understand all the facets to the road-salting dilemma. Our mayor has decided to err on the side of environmental safety and not salt our roads; apparently there is risk of damage to the Puget Sound. Fine with me, frankly. There are other alternatives (though more costly) and the salt is bad for cars. It's possible we'll do more environmental damage fixing all our potholes that are due (in large part) to snow tires and chains (on buses, rigs, trucks, and even yuppie Priuses). But, when the math gets that hard, I can promise you this: there's no right answer. Fuzziness begets waffling begets status quo. Maybe China had it right: mandate everyone off the road for the good of the people (and the city) for a short time.

So, Seattle, you couldn't do all your Christmas shopping this year. You might have been forced to cancel your travel plans. You might get a little cabin fever. You might even have to walk to the cafe in your own neighborhood for once, instead of driving to Ballard or Capitol Hill. The "badness" in all of these inconveniences is all in our mind. The price we would pay to guarantee we'd never be faced with such hardship again is very high. I say, put on your boots, walk down the street for a cup of joe and a gallon of milk, and spend a little time with your family. Maybe if you're lucky, the power will go out and you'll actually get to talk to each other.

Then again, I'm just a punk blogger. And if we've learned anything new this century it's this: don't trust what you read in the blogosphere.

Christmas Eve Pie

Pie from Flying Apron
This year we were planning on visiting Fran and Ed, an aunt/uncle pair on Quincy's side of the family, in Kent, for Christmas Eve. I ordered a pecan pie from the Flying Apron bakery in Fremont. Sadly, a second (or was it fourth) snow storm came through and made the driving very sketchy. We decided to brave the afternoon roads to Fremont as a test run to see if we could make it to Kent. It was difficult driving on any side streets, and things were beginning to freeze back up on our way home. So, we didn't go.

This is the first Christmas I've spent in the states without seeing any friends or relatives on Christmas day. Well, of course except for Q. It's a little strange. Still, we're looking forward to braving the trip to Kent now that the roads have melted and (at least the arterial) been plowed.

I hope I don't have to eat this pie all myself. It's fantastic (though the gluten free-crust is very crumbly) and super sweet. Flying Apron has the best gluten-free pasteries in the city. I live six blocks from another gluten-free bakery, but their goods are shamed by the very professional, always fresh, often vegan(!), Flying Apron. Even some of the my gluten-friendly friends stop by there. On Thanksgiving weekend they make hundreds of pies. mmm... pie.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

I had mentioned just a few days ago that one of my favorite Christmas songs was recorded by Eartha Kitt. Sadly, she passed away today, at 81 year old. Sounds like she had a pretty good run. And here I thought I was the only person who had ever heard of her; my favorite Christmas song just went Gold!

In other news, Christmas was both white and silent. Quincy and I spent a wonderful day without leaving our property. (Someday we hope to be able to say that and feel like we've gone somewhere, but when you only own <4,000 sq feet, cabin fever is a real risk.) After opening presents and making breakfast and lunch, we've mostly just played with our new toys (I got a helicopter!).

I hope your Christmastime was warm and filled with friends and family. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

No power

well, for the first time this winter the power went out at our house. it happens a few a year, usually because of ice or wind. current, the weather is miserable: icy rain falling on ankle-deep slush, surrounded by banks of browning snow. white Christmas? maybe. still, our spirts are high... we picked up stocking stuffers for the pets and a pecan pie from Flying Apron for me on our long wet walk. i think it's time for a fire. btw- this post comes to you via my phone and my overpriced soon-to-be-canceled data plan. go technology!

Merry Christmas, Calvin & Hobbes style

My mom's favorite comic strip is Calvin and Hobbes. Growing up, there were always new comic books under the Christmas tree for her, and eventually they ended up in the bathroom for our reading pleasure. I think I memorized about 10 of those books. We always enjoyed the snowscapes that Bill Watterson would draw. My mom had the last strip matted, showing Calvin and Hobbes sledding away in search for new adventures.

So, in honor of that (and the millions of other) warm motherly memory, I present to you my quick interpretation of Calvin's idea of a Christmas card.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Merry Christmas, Calvin & Hobbes style
Merry Christmas, Calvin & Hobbes style

Monday, December 22, 2008

Swim streak ends!

I'm sure I'm not the only person who's surprised that it's finally over. Michael's famous and renown consecutive-days-swimming-in-Lake-Washington streak is finally over. After more than two years, through ice and snow and rain and heat, it's hard to believe he missed a day. But, the snow here has been crazy. Check out his website linked from the photo (I took it at his first swimaversary).

For me, I'm about to brave the roads and break the cabin fever. Lunch or bust!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Still snowed in

While practically speaking I could probably drive safely anywhere in the city, I've decided to lay low again today. The side streets are covered in snow still, and in many place are just thick ice. NOAA is calling for more snow and rain and sleet and freezing rain tonight.

So, today we cleaned the house from top to bottom. And, last night Quincy pulled out her copy of Civilization IV for me. I'm addicted, but that's a story for when the barbarians aren't at the door.

Until then!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Under 20

When I let Grete out 5 minutes ago, the temperature (in the sun, mind you) was 19.9 degrees. This is the first time I've noticed the tempterature fall below 20 in Seattle (though I'm sure it has while I've been here).

A few seconds after snapping the photo, the temp rose to 20.1. Break out the shorts!

Another work from home day today. There's no way I'm waiting for a bus in that kind of cold, and the street our house is on is a sheet of ice.

Update! The temperature stayed above 20 for less than 10 hours today. Moments ago, returning from our evening walk with Grete, I saw the temp fall.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Ice Scraper

What the heck? I left NEPA just to stop this sort of madness. Actually, the snow clearing is pretty easy when you don't have sidewalks. The scraper I'm using was my parents. They gave it to me when I left PA back in '99. It sat in the trunk of the Corsica for years with minmal use. Now in the back of my Standard Issue Seattle Subaru, it comes in handy a few time a year. I'm really glad my parents sprung for the delux scraper. The big blue brush and curved ice-scraper make short work of both cars.

I have spent most of the day copying work files from one firewalled network to another. Working with people in Austrailia is a trip.

Snow Day and a Broccoli Flute

It's a snow day here in Seattle. We're about to go for a second walk and pick up some milk. But, in the spirit of the season, I want to share this amazing video (Thanks Megan!):

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Business Casual

I am still not sure what factors matter most in determining whether a workplace will be hellish or heavenly. I’ve had my share of both in my short career. As best I can tell, at least one major factor is what I bring into the office each day. I certainly don’t imply that my wishing the jerks away or simply ignoring them is the same as working with best friends. But I am noticing that the less I react to the jerkiness the more likely new coworkers (or entire offices) will become friendly.

For my part, about two months ago I started wearing Jackets, slacks and a button down shirt nearly every day to the office. I had to purchase some new pants anyways (given my return to fighting weight), so I went with grey and black dress pants from, of all places, Target ($20). I added a brown jacked to the mix (H&M, $69). I dry cleaned ($15) my Thai tailored shirts (that Rishi brought back last year for me as a Christmas present) and upgraded my hangers (The home Depot, 5 for $5). I finally broke down and purchased a silver-colored watch by Swiss Army (Nordstom Rack, $200). I bought lots of new black, brown and grey dress socks (Target, $4-$8 a pair). I didn’t buy a Burberry blue/grey jacket that I fell in love with (Nordstrom Rack, $399 down from $799), which in my mind financed the whole shopping spree.

I still have some holes in the wardrobe (new brown pants, brown leather gloves, anything for the summer season) but generally speaking, when I wake up groggy to select my attire for the day, there are enough combinations to make dressing up a mundane task.

What does any of this have to do with an enjoyable workplace environment? I’m not certain. I know that it’s easier for me to act professionally, to separate my self with my work product, when I’m rocking the business casual. Also, it gives everyone an opportunity to kid with me; excluding (most days) The Company’s Supreme Leader, I’m the best dressed guy in the office. This is a radical departure from most test managers (who report to work with holes in their shirts or coffee stains on their sweatpants).

Lately, I’ve enjoyed coming to work a lot more. I waste 30 minutes a day at the dart board with a few folks. I chat with the receptionist. I go for coffee when asked. Today Attenex gave me (and 7 others) a wonderful recognition in the form of an award. It’s the first time that I’ve been singled out (even with 7 others) for my work in general (and not tied to just putting in long hours in the course of a software release). Honestly, I’m barely productive here – I certainly have yet to do my best. Still, attitude accounts for so much.

I hope the new year finds each of you in a fulfilling workplace.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

New Phone

Those of you who know me well (that means both of you readers out there) know that I hate, above all else, cell phone UI. I hated my first cell phone (how slow is this??), my second cell phone (did they even test this thing?), my last cell phone (even Windows CE is bloated) and every cell phone in between. There is no consolation for those who listen, because upgrade after painful upgrade, the fact remains. I hate cell phone UI.

But, last week I dropped my Windows Mobile 8525 (free loaner from Megan. It replaced my Motorola Razr V3, also a free loaner from Megan. Actually, I think my last three or four phones were free.

Why buck a trend? Thanks to my fiancees Internet startup (a.k.a. I scored my new imitation Blackberry for one cent. Thanks to a bug in their UI (not her fault), I didn't even pay shipping. And, thanks to AT&T, I'll probably have a huge surcharge on my bill for all the times I accidentally browsed the web tonight.

So far, the UI isn't that bad. That's a high compliment from me. I was able to change the home screen easily to a rather slick layout. I figured out how to set up speed dialing, updated my contacts, and took a background photo (of Gesso) in less than twenty minutes. I answered call, changed ring tones, and played a solitaire game.

It came with a data package, which I'll drop this month for sure. I don't find myself needing the internet to float around me at all times. And the rare times I really need to look something up, Q and her iPhone can rescue me.

That's my update. A new phone. Finally. For the record, my last phone lasted almost two years. Before that, I hung onto the Razr and the phone before that for years as well. It seems no matter how annoying something is, I would rather stick with it than change. Well, you know what they say, a devil in the hand is worth two in the bush.

New camera in the family

Those of you who follow Q's blog or Flickr stream have certainly notice that she's gone and purchased herself a new camera. She settled on the D90, two steps up from my D50, but still in the consumer area of Nikon's offerings. The next step up into the three didget range (D200, DX2, D300) brings more power, but also considerably more weight. Also, the aspect ratio changes, meaning our lenses would need to be upgraded. So, the D90 it is.
I was hesitent at first, thinking it more practical for Q to just borrow mine whenever she wanted it. Silly me. The new camera is great, and now we can both play with shooting at the same time. Also, the D90 is more than just a couple notches up on the feature totem pole; it's also two generations of technology younger. The CCD is fast, so fast that the ISO goes up to 6400, then a full three more steps from there! Holy cow. We've taken a number of acceptable low-light (grainy) shots that come out black with my camera. Also, it's very, very fast.
If you want an actual review of the camera, the lens (18-105), etc, I recommend

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Music

This Christmas I impulse purchased on emusic a slew of new jingles and jangle to brighten by bough'd halls. After one afternoon of the noels, both Quincy and I were ready to drink ourselves into a spiked-eggnog induced stupor. Still, for at least the first few days, Christmas is my favorite season to indulge in annoying music. (Those of you unfortunate enough to live through my Winter of Drom or Múm-soaked Fall might disagree.)

[I'm a big fan of emusic; they have a fantastic monthly and yearly subscription and a wide selection of strange and indie music, as well as some music that is (gasp) mainstream. All songs are DRM-free and you can download them as many times as you need, from wherever you need.]

First up, it's not Christmas without John Denver and the Muppets. From his duet with Rowlf on Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas to the rumpus-room We Wish You a Merry Christmas, I smile like a six year old and welcome the flood of shag-carpet-sitting puppet-watching memories.

Since I never sit still, I also like my Christmas playlists to be a spiked with some swing to keep me moving. The collection Swingin' Christmas released on Membran Ltd. / The Orchard hits the spot. Benny Goodman, Fats Waller, and Louis Prima never fail to deliver that Yule tide zip.

For those quieter, fireside moments, I go to an old standby of mine: John Fahey's album A New Possibility. I find the quick picking and slick runs soothing. I might be alone on that in this house, though.

Sometimes, though, I just need Christmas crack. That's when I dip into Fantasy / Milestone records' classic collection Vintage Christmas. And, you guessed it: from track one (Bing Crosby's Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town the album delivers exactly what all good boys and girls deserve. If there's a perennial not on this album, I don't know it.

Speaking of perennial favorites, the year that The Squirrel Nut Zippers put out Christmas Caravan I was still in NEPA, a few months from graduating myself from college. Every year since it's been dusted off for a spin or two (or thirty). [Too popular for emusic, the link goes to]

Lastly, another modern classic from Fantasy / Milestone records: Christmas Songs. With a name like that, it's either going to be a standard or a flop. I vote that this one is the former, with the likes of Chet Baker and Ruth Brown reminding us what the season is all about: nostalgia. (I heard someone quote this: Family is a group of people who feel nostalgia for the same imaginary place.)

Also in rotation are albums from Low and The Blind Boys of Alabama. I was fortunate enough to befriend someone with a record player and an extensive rare music collection years back, so I supplement the mix with three CDs of rare and strange Christmas classics like Tiny Tim's I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus and Eartha Kitt's Santa Baby (quite possibly my favorite Christmas song ever).

Whatever you're listening to, I hope you're enjoying it. For me, I've got about four hours of Christmas music listening left in me, so I'll be saving it up for Christmas eve and day. Or, maybe it's time for another diddy from Doris Day.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas Decoration

Christmas is my most favorite time of the year. Well, my favorite holiday at least (it's hard to compare fire-side warmth with full sun hammock napping). Every year for at least the last decade my mother has sent me a new Christmas tree ornament. Most years I remember to label the bottom or back with the year info. This year I decided to capture most of the decoration on the tree.

This is our first tree together, and my first real (and purchased) tree. A few years ago I chopped down a cedar sapling that was growing far too close to the house. It was a very Charlie Brown Christmas tree.

This tree we purchased from down the street. We probably paid a little more than if we had gone to The Home Depot, but we got to take Grete and some photos. Best of all, this tree can support actual ornaments and a topper.

Nepa the Gnome is cold

Last night Quincy and I had a wonderful, gluttonous dinner at Cafe Flora before seeing Megan sing with the Seattle Woman's Chorus. The production was fun a lively. I enjoyed most of the original pieces (though, enough with the Jingle Bells, I get it!), especially "I got a Fluffy Sweater," "Duerme Negrito," and the central piece "Neighborhood." The main theme was Seattle neighborhoods at yule time. Favorite part: watching Megan actually show that she was enjoying herself in the second act. Not a stanza went by without her smiling broadly or tossing her hair. Yay for the happiness.

When Quincy and I returned from the show around 10pm, the snow just started. I went out to the front yard with the camera, and Quincy to the back yard with Grete. Most of my exposures were over 6 seconds. I'm glad I bought a good tripod years go. It was easy to adjust and light enough to be mobile, but heavy enough to sit still.

Today it's been bitterly cold (for Seattle). All the side streets are icy with no chance of thawing before tomorrow's commute. I'm not looking forward to it!

Grete in the snow

Grete is in love with the snow. We had her outside in the back yard last night as it was coming down. This morning, I tossed a few snowballs and frozen tennis balls around with her. I can't believe that she doesn't mind the coldness on her nose and teeth!

Lost more snow photos on Flickr.

Friday, November 28, 2008

New Template, Fresh Pancakes

A little less than one person a day actually visits by blog. Most folks do it through a reader. Today I updated my blog template with a minibox template. Thanks to that blogger for figuring out all the layout code. Now, much to my happiness, I can post straight from Flickr without resizing their images to fit in my thin column. Anyone reading on a 800x640 resolution might not be able to see the whole blog; they should buy a new LCD, IMO.

Quincy is wizard with the pixel pushing. But today she was cooking breakfast -- from scratch! So, the Internet came to my rescue for my templating needs. Then, pancakes and coffee appeared!

Quincy made gluten-free Buckwheat pancakes. They were delish. You can read all about it on her blog.

Gesso knows

For those of you who know the bounds of my love for cats, you may be wondering why I've posted so many photos of Gesso lately. Well, frankly, she and I have been getting along better recently. She sleeps through the night an doesn't pee on anything. And, she is a natural plush heating pad. But the real reason for the photos is Grete's and Quincy's hatred of flash. See, they run when I pull out my speedlight. Gesso, on the other hand, seems impervious to the explosion of light, so long as she's getting attention. In this photo, I'm less than nine inches from her head.
Ah, macro photography of the local wildlife.
When did I become that person who only posts pictures of his pets? Oi.

Four Day Weekend

This morning I wrestled with Grete in the bed. Dog wrestling, once reserved for the country bumpkin and backwoods Pennsyltuckian, has now moved into the urban areas. At least at our house. There's something satisfying about rough housing with a well behaved dog. She doesn't nip or use her mouth at all. But at 50 pounds, she's not exactly a light weight.
Yesterday I did something strange to my back. Couldn't get out of bed for more than an hour. It was very painful. I still feel like I've taken a baseball bat to the shoulder blade, but at least I'm mobile.
More holiday weekend photos and posts to follow. I'm doing my part to make sure Cyber Monday is unproductive for all.
Now, get back to shopping.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Gesso hunts at night

I like to get Gesso exercised before Q and Grete get home. Reason? Some people say dogs shouldn't play with laser pointers. Especially neurotic breeds. (Not that Grete is neurotic. Noooo.) So, I only get to play with Gesso and the laser pointer in that short time I'm home before Q.
This photo was a first technically, as well. I used my off-camera speedlight and Quincy's new remote. Fun!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Not change, just chance

Just in case I have any Republicans in my readership, which I can't imagine, here's a photo from Irish Paul, from the Czech Republic.

A Man on a Mission

I am not an economist in any regards, but I am very excited to hear that President-elect Obama is planning a stimulous package similar to the Great Works projects of a bygone era. No more "spend our way" out. Regardless of the details, music to my ears: Obama will have the bill to congress on his first day in office.

Rock on, new guy.

Now, to the dog park with me.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Love is Orange

Jake's birthday party was, as it always is, a resounding success. We chatted up with musicians and artists and coders and writers... but I guess that's no different than any other weekend. In my book a good measure of a man is the quality of his friendships. Jake's a great man.
And look how cute we are!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Working from home

Today I've been burried in emails and doc reviews, but at least I'm doing it from the comfort of my own home. There's a lot to be said about 20 minutes of fetch at noon and home brewed coffee and buckwheat pancakes. Quincy took the bus into work and Grete has been rockin' the sleeping-at-my-feet. Well, for like 20 seconds. Most of the time she plops down in the living room waiting for Q to come home.

But, I'd bet anything she enjoyed the fetch. More photos on my flickr.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Chainless Bike

I haven’t ridden my bike in over a year. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with my bike since the first day I climbed from Fremont to Phinney in that big, beautiful, painful gear. My bike, built mostly by Irish Paul with limited help from me, was one of the sexiest on the streets of Seattle in its day. The handlebars were bare aluminum and less than 2’ from end to end. This wickedly increased the coolness and instability of the machine. Turns were a force of will, and pumping up hill was an exercise in futility. Baby blue with white highlights on the saddle and head, she streaked through the city at breakneck speeds (partially due to the ridiculous design of only having one break, located on the back rim for optimal coolness and dangerous. It started slow, stopped long, couldn’t turn and had the potential to gore a hole in me had I ever tossed it. But, despite all that (and the insane speeds which could be reached on the downhill morning commute), she lived into old age. Now, she sits in the garage and likely dreams of the morning dew splattering against her frame.
I’m not sure when my love of the machine passed into one of my many used-to hobbies. I still love riding, I’m sure. Now that I’m healthy again, Fremont doesn’t look nearly as intimidating. But, my live isn’t worth risking on such a dangerous machine. Seriously, of all the compliments paid that bike by passersby, commuters, and bike messengers, the sentiment was always the same: that looks so dangerous.
Maybe I would enjoy a new machine. The geek in me that relished every episode of the first three seasons of Junk Yard Wars longs for this new hotness. It’s a chainless bicycle that uses similar technology as motorcycles use. No more slipping or grimy fingers from reseating the chain. My beautiful bike was notorious of dropping the chain, mostly like due to the unnatural gear ratio.
Best yet, these new bikes come with two breaks.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Snowball

I’m reading a biography of Warren Buffett. The biography is The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life by Alice Schroeder (Bantam press, September 2008). After seeing an end-cap display of supposed Warren Buffett biographies in Barnes and Nobles, which did not include this volume, I thought I should weigh in. The blogosphere needs me, I though. Well, that, and nothing happened today.
Buffett selected Schroeder as his biographer and gave her unprecedented access to his papers, people, and time. Schroeder, former managing director at Morgan Stanley, is able to weave together detailed stories of acquisitions, mergers, and business makeovers with personal accounts of Buffett’s obsessive behavior, complete neglect of his family, and close personal and business friendships. I’m only 500 pages into the over 900 page book, but I already feel as if I have known a friend of Warren Buffett for years.
Let me say this about Buffett: as with every other genius I have had the pleasure of learning about or living with, obsession, dedication, and impossible focus appear to be requirements for true greatness. Without them, a person is simply smart, intuitive, lucky, successful, or learned. Buffett’s single mindedness with business allowed him to form incredibly deep working relationships, a fundamental understanding of gauging the health of a business, and imaginative ways to grow his own share of the wealth he created for his partners, family, and friends. Even when framed in a life of world travel and a child-rearing, Buffett’s dedication to his money obsession is perfect.
Even when asked about his estranged wife today, he didn’t fully seem to grasp how he had lost her. Back in the 70’s, he didn’t understand that her move to San Francisco was estrangement (and that she had chosen and installed her replacement to care for him).
Over all, when I dump this heavy book down on my grandfather’s bedside table, I can’t help but think I’m just not pulling me own weight. Sure, Buffett is a genius and driven and unbalanced; but the first step is so simple: start a business. When it fails (or succeeds), do it again. In my case, I think I’ll pay a lot more attention to my partner, though.
Now, where did I put that idea machine?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Home Cooking

Tonight I made mashed potatoes, golden gravy, and some veggie burgers. Other than the strange and wonderful gluten-free Wildwood Tofu Veggie Burgers, this meal really brought me back to Thanksgiving in Jermyn, Pennsyltucky, at my grandparents house. The smell of boiling potatoes and congealing gravy is enough to make me consider flying home for the holidays. Don't worry Q, I came to my senses before I even dished seconds.
The other night, we made a fantastic gluten-free pasta bake with ricotta cheese, mozzarella, fresh shaved Parmesan, eggplant, roasted red pepers, fake Quorn chicken, and onions. Last week, Quincy and I made me a gluten-free lasagna with Rice noodles.
All this home cooking comes to us thanks to a regular schedule and stress-free evenings. We haven't been going out more than twice a week, and only once a week on weeknights. We've got a cupboard stocked with yummy ingredients, and best of all, we're cooking together. Nothing makes the winter's early sunsets bearable quite so much as a warm kitchen, a shared meal, and, what's next on our plates, a trip to the gym to work off all that home-style cookin'!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Dramatic Grete

I bought a speedlight, finally, a few weeks ago. Today I got my extention cable to allow me to do off-camera flashes. Grete, she does not approve.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

GAIN North

This morning we spotted the GAIN North group walking past our house on their neighborhood walk. We joined in with Grete for a slow walk through our 10x6 block area boarded by Greenwood, Aurora, 105th, and 95th. We found out that our block is still on the list for potential side walk additions, that the tree planting went well (look at all those saplings!) and that speeders on Dayton is the issue de jour. Greenwood is a nice neighborhood to live in, though it is a little car-centric. Not as bad as the east side, but with spotty side walks and all the businesses on Aurora or at 85th and 100th, it's no Fremont or UD. Still, I like it quite a bit.
The best thing about getting involved with GAIN North has been the newsgroup where I get to listen in on the chatter. The recent string of daytime robberies encouraged me to keep the cars in the driveway and install an extra lock on the back door (and, of course, keep an extra eye out). Tagging and traffic are always the hot-button issues, until someone brings up sidewalks.
I encourage you, if you haven't already, to get into your local neighborhood community. Often they have fun little event and volunteer opportunities (that don't require driving!). Best yet, every effort I've put in I've received 10-fold back (the two organizers still refer to me as the "flyer guy" for my one-time distribution of 500 or so fliers).
It's sunny out! Time to go outside and tend to the fall garden.

Coat Racks

I’ve often said that in meeting Quincy I was able to check the box next to every item I was looking for in a woman. From “likes to run but doesn’t need me to run with her” to “owns puppy” through to “can remember what exciting things I’ve done, even if she wasn’t there,” Quincy hit the mark perfectly.

One thing I didn’t know I wanted, but now I’m not sure how I’d live without it is, is a natural born researcher. Best yet, under stress, Quincy researches even more! For example, today I got the word that she posted a blog with a number of coat rack for my browsing pleasure (we’re finally, finally putting in a coat rack by the front door). Of course I knew to expect a long , annotated list. Here is Quincy’s list (in brief):
1 Good round-up of ideas. This is where I started.
2 I think this is cool, and it might look good with the metal mirror.
3 4 Really like both of these. Not sure what we would spell.
5 6 Might be fun -- but probably not for the front entry.
7 Cute - but might not hold coats well. Neat site though.
8 9 10 Many simple options.
11 Hoodoo is just fun to say
12 Not really our style - but kinda both ironic and hip - kinda
13 Cool stand alone option.
14 Funny - but scary funny.
15 16 17 Again - funny - but scary funny.
18 Probably too rustic for our style - but kinda neat that you can just keep the mountain range going and going and going...
19 Too expensive. Very cool. Too expensive.
20 Available in gun metal and white. Not sure what color would look best.
21 22 I like that these fold away.

Like a good boy, Here are my top picks from her list:
A Something draws me to this. I’ve always wanted to live in an arty loft. Or the forest.
B Not a coat rack, but I so want this. I want to just toss my keys onto it. For Halloween, we can glove it.
C D Y’all know how I love to tessellate in my spare time. This would satisfy both that and act as a coat rack.
E This wasn’t in Quincy’s list, and probably wouldn’t make any practical sense, but I love the optical illusion (slow page, small, expandable graphic).
* This isn’t even a coat rack, but I like the idea. Of course, it would mean we’d have to get new pots (ours are generally unsightly). But, I know just the shopping resource to engage (pun intended)!
If you have any coat rack ideas for us, please let us know… then get back to work.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Garage and The Parlor

Bellevue, oh Bellevue. All the riches in Washington, the best wine, the best booze, the finest overdressed underpaid underweight cocktail waitresses, how did you become so? Ah, yes, that’s right, you sold your soul.

Yesterday evening Rishi treated me to an early-winter-hum-drum-healing outing to a new-to-me pool hall, The Parlor. Located in downtown Bellevue in the Lincoln shopping center (named for the street, surely, and not Abraham), The Parlor offers all the amenities of a 1950s era classy shooter’s pool hall. There’s a dress code, even. Sadly, it is not restrictive enough.

The host walked us to our table and even racked the first rack of balls. A light above a giant martini glass would indicate to our server that we required attention. Tables were wiped down between guests; barstools were reorganized constantly; and the menu was classic American fare. At first, I was in love with the private room in the back, the lounge, the lighting, and the atmosphere.
But, I quickly came to my senses. Outside of Disneyland or Vegas, the Parlor was the most vacuous place I’ve enjoyed myself in years. The music was too loud and repetitive top 40. The carpet was right out of a casino. The felt was worn, the table unlevel, and there was no hand chalk available (though, they did offer to sell us some; good thing we brought our own). The tables were oddly close given the wide walkways and open spaces for eating. The company, save Rishi, unbearably was Microsoftie. The dress code, sadly, did not limit undersized team sweatshirts or un-tucked seersuckers.
I was longing for the simplicity and hipness of The Garage on Capitol Hill in twenty minutes. The Garage just opened their expansion, and it’s beautiful. The new smell is prevalent, and the money they spent on keeping the design theme consistent with the existing structure is well spent. The lanes are gorgeous, well lit, and surrounded with cool colors and designs. The beams are majestic; the hardwood floors a delight to clip-clop across. The two tan-felt tables in the middle of a lounge (complete with bowl of carnivorous plants) are positioned perfectly for those who want to watch and be watched. The staff is as friendly as you will find anywhere in Seattle.
I’m looking forward to next week at The Garage already: new tables and new views, in a building that looks as if it could be a historical landmark in Seattle. But for now, get back to work.


A strange thing happened shortly after being diagnosed with celiac disease and going on a gluten-free diet. I started to gain weight rapidly. They warned me of this; I scoffed the idea. I said: I've been between 140 and 150 pounds for more than half my life, I don't expect that to change just because I stop eating pasta and pizza. (Incidentally, I eat far more pasta and pizza now than ever before; it's just gluten-free.)

Sure enough, here we are exactly four months later and I've gained nearly 30 pounds from my low of 140. For those of you who like numbers: that's a 20% weight gain. I seem to have stabilized just short of 170. Still, I'm always one bag of chips from feeling overweight.

Actually, I feel overweight all the time. Go figure! I'm still slim, but I'm no longer svelte, scrawny or thin. I have pectoral muscles. I don't know where they came from, but here they are. Also: biceps. I mean, I'm no weight lifter, but even hitting the gym 1.5 times per week and occasionally working out at home, I have put on more muscle mass than all the rock climbing I did the last three years.

Moreover, not one pair of jeans that I purchased less than three years ago fits. I mean, I can't even get them close to on. This weekend, I finally gave up on a pair I bought in 2005. They were my tightly fitting jean then, now they're almost lewd. Shirts hand correctly on me. I no longer swim in my jackets. All of my watch bands and belts are using notches never before used. I can barely wrap my hand around the thinnest part of my wrist!

It's not all positive. It's all a big change to absorb in such a small amount of time. As the darkness of a Seattle winter begins, I'm feeling down and out about not being that lean, svelte American anomaly. Not that I couldn't go right back to it... Just a quick bowl of wheat pasta or a loaf of bread would probably take 5 pounds off me. An uncomfortable week of that and I'd be noticeably thinner for sure. But, the energy and luster I have would likely fade with the weight. Besides, no one likes being tied to the bathroom. Ew.

So there you have it. I'm no longer skinny. It's strange to me. It's a little strange to my fiancee. No one else seems to care, thank goodness. And what do we do when something we have strong feelings about goes unnoticed by the world? We blog!

Now, get back to work.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Left onto 7th

Bus Ride home

I've been riding the bus to and from work most days for about six months. Yeah, I recently began bumming a ride in a few times a week from Q, since my office is on her way to her office. But other than those rare, tranquil rides with my fiancee and puppy, I'm on the bus.
Today, for the first time while I was on the bus, the bus driver missed a turn. He was headed on Blanchard and he blew right by his left turn onto 7th. I'll cut the guy some slack, as he was being cut off by a car right after being cut off by a TRM ghost bus (the worst kind). Anyhow, the guy started laughing at the wheel, thought better of backing up a double-long bus on a busy street, and started to head around the block. He got on the speakers (I unplugged my ER6i's from my ears) and said, "Next stop on the 358 express." chhhht, "Tacoma." Then he giggled on and off the mic. All of the twenty or so people I could immediately see in front of me gave a good laugh, smiled at each other, and for a few minutes, the bus had almost a snow day like atmosphere. People started to talk to each other, one woman showed a man her phone (with map?) and even a guy with baby traded obvious jokes with Smelly Homeless Guy Who Sits in the Front of the Bus Probably All Day.
Sometimes I think the majority of the value I add during normal business hours is pointing out something is about to, or has, gone horribly wrong. The worse the misstep, the more points I score. But the simple idea that a mistake could turn a bunch of cold, solitary bus commuters into giggling school children warmed the cockles, you know?
Anyhow, that was my day. There was work stuff before it, and some fine Glennfiddich after, but the only thing I'll remember in two days is the bus driver missing a turn he's probably taken a thousand times, and the bus riders acting like children.
I bet there's a lesson in there somewhere. Get back to work.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Election Night Remorse

Where were you when you heard the news? Nearly all of my friends and family have reported they were with their friends and family. A few industrious souls were at work. It wasn't until I talked to my friend in the Big Apple that I realized I might regret, years from now, staying home and watching the debate in HD with the love of my life, our puppy, and our cat.
During the video montage ABC ran over cheers and light commentary after announcing Barack Obama was being declared the winner, some editor in some control room decided to cut to Seattle. I didn't know it was Seattle; I jumped up and said: "That woman's holding a Pabst and, and, she's wearing flannel! That's Seattle." Sure enough, woot, there we were.
Meanwhile, my friend was actually at the Harlem location that ABC shot. Harlem! Can you imagine? I had to. Cause I was at home.
I don't mean to say I didn't choose completely of my own free will to stay home. I had plenty of options. I just regret it. There, I said it. I regret it. My only consolation is that I won't really remember the evening in 20 years... only what I see on TV in retrospectives over the next two decades. But I bet if I had been out there, out with the crowds, I'd remember a feeling at least.
Get back to work.

Friday, November 07, 2008


Scrabble as aerobic activity

I play too much Scrabble. Well, technically I play too much Lexulous, as the Hasbro trademarked boardgame Scrabble has a really underwhelming UI, and the former Facebook darling Scrabbulous, post-lawsuit renamed Lexulous, is intuitive and well designed. I play with my Big Apple friend and a whole slew of strangers. Not to brag, but I'm kinda okay at it. In 10 minute games (each player gets 10 minutes plus 10 seconds per turn) I usually score nearly 300 points against a similarly skilled player. Sometimes the games are very close, and in a really nerdy way, exciting. Once, the game ended in a draw. How strange is that?
Anyhow, now that I'm all lame and domestic now, this is what I do.

Total Games Played 66
Games Won 42 (63.64%)
Games Lost 23 (34.85%)
Bingos per game: .6

Get Back to work.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Shooting in the Streets

Matt Stuart got it right when he started focusing on the optical illusions in his street photography. It's hard to tell how much of his work is posed, or even edited in Photoshop, but after falling for Andreas Gursky I just don't give a damn. Art is as art does.

When I started playing around with photography after college, I was a purist. I read Ansel Adams and his Group f/64 and wondered if, even though I loved colors, I should be shooting black and white film in my Nikon F3. I had an actual hand-held light meeter, average gray card, and little boxes of slide film. I printed my own color from negatives for a short while, struggling with the technical aspect of printing as well as the expense. Then came a fully automatic Nikon F 100 into my life, as the F3 left with a well meaning (or just mean) ex-girlfriend. This changed everything.

No longer bound to calculations of apertures, I was just clicking away. I burned through film faster than I could scan it in. Around the same time I upgraded my computer and borrowed my first illegal copy of Photoshop with all the bells and whistles. I learned how to airbrush in color and out clutter. I thought: my tainted photos are much better than my pure photos. Huh.

Not long after spending a camera-body's worth of cash on film and developing from a northern European trip, I switched to digital completely. And, like everyone else, I've never looked back.

I've considered taking my camera out for street photography more from time to time. The real skill here being open to being stared at, I think. Well, and always having the camera ready. I mostly just shoot my own dog and flowers because they seem to do better when observed in detail. Any they are very accepting of my efforts.

I doubt I'm going to jump up and start shooting people in the streets, but I am looking for something more creative to do with my glass. Stay tuned.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Man on a bridge

Today, Quincy and I had the displeasure of sitting in traffic for an hour as we headed southbound on 99, then Stone, then Fremont. We stopped at the Lighthouse Roasters cafe in Fremont, then decided to head home. In all, with Grete wining softly in the back seat, it was an slightly dour Monday morning. To be honest, though, Grete's wining is sweet song compared to some of The Company's employees' wining.
The Phinneywood blog informed us that the hold up was a man contemplating ending his life via the sudden stop under the Aurora Bridge. He chose poorly, in the end.
There have been plenty of times in my life where I've considered an abrupt end. Sometime in the 90s I figured out that there are other, more interesting, full escapes from one's life. A Plan B that doesn't involve pearly gates or brimstone or void. Sure, I'll bring all my problems with me wherever I go. But what's to say that I wouldn't also bring them to the afterlife?
Plan B: Borrow, scrounge or steal enough cash to make it a tropical island, where even my crushed spirit's drive would outpace the locals' ambitions. Build bungalow; watch the sun set; become local.
Now, I used to say I'd move to Poland, learn Polish in an intensive state school, and start anew. Do you have any idea how cold it gets there? I have no clue what I was thinking.
For now, though, in a time of small turmoil and weak eddies, I am looking for some small change. Minor change. I moved my Martin guitar (purchased in Bethlehem, PA, outside the Martin factory, when $600 was a million to me) to the den. I've sent some old friends emails. I've started writing again. Hopefully I'll be able to stave off that tropical island. But, at least I know that as bad as it gets, the worst case is pretty 72 and breezy. Get back to work.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Sunbreaks quantified

While I fully believe that we make our own futures by visualizing results, I also understand there are underlying natural laws that cannot be overcome by positive thinking. So where visualization fails, I call forth data visualization. Being an amateur follower of Tufte, I fear the chartjunk prevalent in most weather sites. That cute little icon of the sun peaking out behind the cloud does me no good when deciding between dog-park-then-breakfast and breakfast-then-dog-park.

As always, Q to the rescue. It turns out part of my tax dollars goes to pay for a basement of meteorologist nerds. And, they turn out hour-by-hour predictions of exactly what I can expect. The chart to the right is from that basement Uncle Sam likes to call NOAA. The chart above is a snap from NOAA where you'll see the forecast for my backyard and surrounding dog parks.

I love data. There is no shortage of sites in the blogosphere capturing the latest nifty charts and tables. I won't bore you with links or reviews. I'm just glad that NOAA exists. Now, get back to work.