Archive for September 2005

Precipitous Palaver

As quickly as that, the rainy season seems to have descended upon us here in Puget Sound, and with it un-parseable weather forecasts such as “rain, turning to showers” that make almost no sense until you recall reading somewhere that the Northwest Coast indians had over 100 different words for “rain”.  I can’t find a citation, so I’m not sure if this was true or not, or if the original words and their nuances have been lost.

In celebration of the rainy season’s onset, then, I’d like to start a meme (use the comments below) to help us Northwesterners appreciate and describe the multiplicity of rain personalities we’ll be gazing at from under our parka hoods in the months ahead.  Here, I’ll start:

    1. The rain that makes the music that impels mosquitoes to mate
    2. The rain that rusts the Chevy but not the Pontiac
    3. The rain that hits the back of your neck, sluices down your spine without warming appreciably, and thoroughly soaks your thong underwear
    4. The rain that peels your window trim down to bare wood but doesn’t remove the dirt on the glass
    5. The rain that dissolves pigeon crap off the gargoyles downtown and plops into your latte when you’re not looking (”Blah!  I didn’t order soy milk!”, you say.)

We probably can’t get to 100, but give it a whirl!

Enough Talk-Talk, Here’s Some Eye Candy

A picture named Rainier1.jpg The desert has its charms, including running in the balmy 80 degree evenings, but it’s always a thrill to see Mount Rainier off the wing and know I’m coming back to Seattle. In this picture, Mt. St. Helens is visible to the right, and Mt. Hood (in Oregon) is just to the left of Rainier.

More Fun Without Electricity

A picture named BestBuyLogo.jpgI pulled into the Best Buy parking garage and grabbed a spot.  Exiting the car, I realized that, in my haste, I’d left my cell phone at home.  No big deal, really, as who would call except clients? 

I wandered around Best Buy, decided that I should scope out vacuum cleaners first, get the “chore” part of this over with.  I soon settled on a “bagless” model that seemed to work like a Swiss army knife - you could use it as a standard upright, or pull it apart and use it as a mini-vac.  Brilliant choice!  I grabbed it and headed for the consumer electronics area, the only reason an American male with headroom on his credit card really comes to Best Buy.

I pondered a set of Sony earbud earphones to replace the ones from my Creative Nomad mp3 player.  I’m not really dissatisfied with them, but I’m thinking there must be something better, somewhere.  I carried the Sony things around the store with me for awhile.  I next ventured by “accident” into the TV section and wandered among the various flat-panel displays, just to check on the Washington-Notre Dame score.  I don’t really want a plasma-screen TV.  Gawd, they’re pretty…

In the end, I decided that I needed to do more research on headphones, and returned the Sony earbuds to the rack.  I did pick up a PC microphone, however, so I could try some VOIP teleconferencing and recording.  I swelled with virtue as I checked out with my practical and thrifty payload.  I threw the stuff in the trunk and, of course, the fucker wouldn’t start.  I was only in there 45 minutes max, what’s with this?  It should have retained the charge from the breathless, high-rpm freeway trip to Northgate.  I resigned myself to the debasing task of begging passersby for a jumpstart.  Back to the trunk, move the dandy little vacuum cleaner aside, pull open the hatch to the tool area and, of course, the jumper cables were back at home in the car that didn’t need them.

The obvious solution was to have Mrs. Perils drive up and give me another jumpstart, but - oh, yeah - I didn’t have my cell phone.  I don’t know if any of you have noticed, but it’s gotten really hard to find a public pay phone.  I wandered around for half an hour looking in what I thought would be obvious places: “lessee, wouldn’t this be a terrific place to make a drug deal?” - but no phone there.  Finally, the guy at Best Buy let me use a phone there for free.  I called home, got no answer, and left a message that, as soon as I hung up, I realized gave no indication of how to find me even if Mrs. Perils retrieved it.

I began to feel distinctly forlorn.  I walked a couple blocks in each direction trying to espy an automotive store, had no luck (couldn’t abase myself to ask anyone, that would reveal a weakness, wouldn’t it?), but as I walked back to Best Buy I noticed for the first time that the store just above it was GI Joe’s Outdoor and Automotive store.  I picked up a pair of jumper cables and then thought, why not just buy a damn battery?  Now, that’s a purchase I’d usually over-analyze trying to balance the cost against the length of guarantee, etc., and it felt ever so devil-may-care to buy it on a whim.

So, back to the Best Buy parking garage.  Here’s everyone else walking to their cars with sophisticated electronic gadgets just bursting with excitement to get home and use them, and here I am with my hood up, a Crescent wrench in my hand and my exciting car battery acquisition ready to install.  As I was doing this, a car pulled into the stall next to me, and I said, “Welcome to Best Buy’s new car repair department.”  He looked at me just the way that I would have looked at him had our roles been reversed - extremely askance.

Just then, Mrs. Perils bustles up saying, “There you are!  I’ve been looking all over for you!”  We exchanged strained pleasantries as I secured the cables to the new battery, and then she said, “Uh-oh.  Do you have your key to my car?  I locked mine inside.” 

In fact, I didn’t have my key to that car, because I’d separated it from my keyring in order to run both cars simultaneously when I did the initial jump.  It appeared that, provided that my Accord would now start, we’d have to drive it home, get a key to her Civic, drive back to Northgate and retrieve it.  She walked back to the Civic just to make sure hadn’t left one of the doors unlocked.  In a few minutes, she returned to sheepishly admit that her keys had been in her glasses case in her purse all along.

The Accord, against all odds on this particular Saturday, started and we drove home without further incident. 


Off Again

I’m just about to board a flight to Tucson, where I’ll be working until Tuesday night.  More from the desert next!

Fun With Electricity

So Cable Guy II left us a new cable modem Friday morning, and packets seem to be behaving since then.  On to other dysfunctional possessions.  The battery on my 95 Accord went wimpy Friday morning, and I used our other car for work.  Saturday, I pulled the other car up in the parking strip and jumpstarted the Accord - no problem.  My thinking was that the battery was draining because the motorized side mirror had broken loose last weekend and I’d had to cut the wire that serviced it.  I taped the individual wire strands so they couldn’t short out against anything, and hoped that would settle matters.

I let it run, and asked Mrs. Perils if there were any errands she needed run, something that would take me onto the freeway and allow the battery to charge.  She said she needed a new hand vacuum cleaner.  (Hand vacuum cleaners are a whole ‘nother topic - we buy them, they throw their belts and never can be restrung properly.  They’re all lined up in the closet.)

“Where should I go?” I asked.
“Well, there’s a vacuum cleaner store near Northgate.  There’s also Best Buy up there.”
My heart raced, but I struck a frown and said, “Oh, I hate going to Best Buy.”  Before I’d finished the sentence, I was bolting for the Accord.  I hopped in, backed out and struck out for I-5 and Northgate.

As I eased onto Northgate way, the Best Buy sign took form in all its shimmering lemon-Jello-shooter beauty.

A picture named BestBuyLogo.jpg

To Be Continued

Packet Mentality

Since I returned to Seattle last weekend, I’ve been having balky performance with my cable internet.  The guys on the support line say they can see I’m experiencing 25 - 60% packet loss.  So, if my posts this week suck, it’s because the best 25% of my material is pouring out of my cable and onto the driveway, and passersby on the sidewalk.  To their delight.

It surely is a different experience calling Comcast’s support line now than it was when I first had cable internet installed about 5 years ago.  I remember the kid who originally showed up to install my cable modem - young, confused, rattled.  I helped him as much as I could, but when he finally left, he hadn’t been able to make it work.  After he was gone, I cabled it up correctly and it worked fine.

The support lines were much the same in the early adoption years - people who barely knew their way around Windows trying to guide you through the arcana of home networking over the phone.  These were Windows 98 days, too, btw.  The first call was always wasted - the tech  would go through his rudimentary progressions - reboot, unplug, how many lights are blinking - then arrange for a “level two callback”.  There was usually less than a 30% chance anyone would actually call back.  The flat fact was, Viacom/Comcast was a tv cable company, and very few people anywhere inside or outside their company knew much about the system.  And the five of us who were the first subscribers weren’t enough of a revenue stream to devote resources to.

It’s like night and day now.  The techs know their equipment, know how to user their diagnostic tools and seem to be able to visualize the architecture of your setup.  I’m wondering if they also have a rating system for how technically proficient the customer is, because they seem to engage me at an appropriate technical level and don’t try to bullshit me.

Still, I’m sitting here on Friday morning, two technically proficient support calls and one tech visit later, still experiencing packet loss.  To be fair, the issue is intermittent - the phone techs could see the problem, but everything was dunky-whorey when the onsite visit occurred. 

Another guy is due here this morning.  He’ll have to deal with Mrs. Perils, or my mother in law (who experiences intermittent packet loss herself) as I’ll be at a client’s.  Better posting tonight, I’m sure.  Meanwhile, from what I’m seeing, it wouldn’t hurt some of you to cut down on your packet intake a little bit.  I’m doing what I can to help.

Blog Envy

If you’ve never visited WaiterRant, a blog about life at tableside in a New York bistro, you should go there today - there’s an especially fine post with this Elmore Leonard-esque line just sort of tossed into the salad:

 This ladyís got so little body fat Iíll bet you could read the serial numbers off her breast implants.

A couple of other work-related blogs worth checking out:

Opinionistas - the travails of an associate at a large New York law firm

Clublife - a bouncer at a nightclub (in New York, again - is this the only place where people have interesting work?) observes the endless stream of Guidos and Guidettes from behind the velvet rope.

Up For Air

Back to Seattle late Friday night.  I’m going to have to change how I manage the end of these trips.  It doesn’t help that my plane usually arrives around midnight, but all too often I hit Friday night like I’m crossing a finish line, and spend the weekend catching my breath.  I need to make definite plans for the weekend after I’m on the road, starting like Thursday, so I’m not feeling disappointed Sunday night.  Especially since I realized this was the last weekend of summer.

Saturday, for instance, was mostly wasted watching a dull-as-dirt OSU football game, but I’d ponied up $20 for ESPN Gameplan, so I felt obligated to watch it, plus surf to the surfeit of other games.  Two exciting overtime games, Michigan State-Notre Dame and Miami-Clemson, sorta made up for it.  Got my butt out of the house for a run before the Florida-Tennessee game came on.  It’s never satisfying for me watching SEC games, I’m always flummoxed and annoyed when I realize (again) that it’s impossible for them both to lose.

Saturday evening, we walked up to the Seamonster Lounge on 45th to hear one of our son’s high school friends play guitar in a quartet that featured a drummer, bass guitar and a Hammond B3 organ.  We’ve slithered into the Seamonster on a couple of other occasions to hear bands we like and shake it a little, but it felt like it would be vaguely incestuous to get up and boogie when it’s your kid’s friends playing.  May have to get over that, as I’v had to get over seeing doctors much younger than I.  I love the Hammond B3, with its retro look and its improbable electromechanical construction (it has a separate unit from the keyboard, a spinning spindle spinner thing, that produces its signature tremolo).  You wonder how they can still get parts for them.

A picture named Seamonster.jpg

We’d heard the guy playing the Hammond, Ron Weinstein, a couple of other times.  He’s graying and grizzled, probably nearer 60 than 50, and he’s a virtuoso.  I’m not sure how he came to form this band with younger musicians.  I believe this is our friend’s first real band, and he’s playing more like funk than the jazz sound we’ve heard from him before.  It will be interesting to see where this leads.  The crowd was mostly his school friends, plus his mom, and a couple of women who came in to dance, not realizing it was a family recital.  With cover charge.

Yesterday, I did bestir myself to get a kayak paddle - nothing ambitious, just noodling around down by the University of Washington. 

Bar Flying


Bar Flying

When I’m here in Milwaukee, I often take a run through the park next to my hotel after work, clean up and catch a quick bite at the hotel’s cafe.  There’s the usual collection of road warriors in attendance - the table full of travelling co-workers extending their work day with an intricate exercise in alcoholic team-building, and several loners like me not quite ready to lock themselves in their rooms for the evening, pursuing our loner activities and bantering with Jill, the bartender.  One guy is reading a novel by the light of the candle on his table, I have my computer open answering email and IM-ing with Mrs. Perils and wracking my brain for blogging material.

And then there’s a guy at the bar, chubby and pretty far into his cups.  He’s chatting up another man and woman at the bar, and has Jill chasing around for a large snifter and whatever whole fruits she can find.  He’s intent on performing some amazing magic tricks for the other two and Jill, pleasant soul that she is, is humoring him.

I’m not sure what all the mechanics of the tricks were - I didn’t want to get too far into this guy’s penumbra, and he made at least one trip to the men’s room in the interim - but I looked up at one point to see a rumpled napkin moving across the bar seemingly under its own power.  The source of its locomotion is revealed to be a whole lime underneath it, but I have no idea how it received or executed its marching orders.

A few minutes later, the woman has ordered a fresh beer in a long-necked bottle, and is proceeding to roll it between her hands like a Boy Scout starting a fire with a stick.  After a couple minutes of this, she rests it on the bar and her male companion taps the mouth of the bottle with a beer glass, and beer foam starts gushing out of the bottle.  Back atcha, I guess.

Sometime during the course of the ensuing conversation, the woman mentions her husband in passing, and her companion, who has been leaning closer with his arm resting on the back of her chair, soon finds it necessary to turn in for the night.

Such are the entertainments on the road in Milwaukee.