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.