Archive for November 2005

Rumors of Snow

It’s turned wicked cold here, and yesterday morning the door lock on the car I usually use was frozen in a way that would not allow the key to fit in.  The manly thing to do would have been to return to the house, draw a glass of hot water from the tap and use it to loosen up the lock.  That question was answered, however, when I instead slunk over to our other car that Mrs. Perils most often uses, which opened without resistance, scraped the frost off the windows and made my escape.  Hey, I was running late!

Yesterday and today, the weather folk have been teasing us with “chance of snow” language.  Since almost any snow in Seattle basically brings the place to a standstill (the city has almost no snow removal equipment, and the hills make it all but impossible for anything less than a Hummer to navigate), people where I’ve been working have one eye out the window like grade school kids, Jonesing for a snow day.  I don’t think it’s gonna happen.

Sunday was chilly but mostly clear and sunny, and I dragged myself out for a paddle on Lake Union and up the ship canal, not enought time for anything fancy on salt water.

Someone had a festive Saturday night along the ship canal, and elegant as well with a bottle of Veuve Clicquot.

I try to collect photos of clever or goofy boat names, but I haven’t named any of my kayaks yet. This one below inspired me to consider “Conchubine”. Waddaya think?

One last weather-related thought:  I really need to replace that banner up there and its languid warmth with something appropriately drippy and gloomy.  Shouldn’t take long.

Outdoor Life

My middle brother, the one who lives near Charleston, SC and hosted that most excellent oyster roast last weekend, is an avid fisherman and outdoorsperson.  He acquired this gene from our Dad and great-grandparents.  Any piece of the hunting/fishing gene that I received was displaced by dark early-morning shivering in duck blinds as a 5 or 6-year-old, and watching a bobber drift listlessly in the polluted currents of the Maumee River.  I think it’s the sitting part I couldn’t abide - I love the outdoors.

His house sits on a nice piece of property that includes a woods and a pond that he installed 5 or 6 years ago. He meticulously researched how to create an ecosystem that would nurture and sustain a fish population, and introduced bluegill and then bass, and it’s a rousing success. He is now able to walk back to his pond, throw in a line and catch dinner whenever the urge comes over him.

Offsetting this hunter-gatherer image is the fact that both he and his wife genuinely love animals.  They accreted an unlikely collection of dogs through a process of taking in strays, and a pair of pet ducks frolic in the pond, paddling serenely amongst some of our dad’s old duck decoys anchored there.  In the fall, they put a motion-activated camera out by the pond, and I think they watch many more deer feeding on the grain they scatter out there than my brother does from his deerstand in the woods.

Which brings us to Shamu.  Shamu is the name they’ve given to a bass in the pond that may approach 10 pounds.  When we go out to scatter fish-food on the water, Shamu strikes the pellets with an impressive flash and splash.  I tried to photograph him, but had to settle for one of his smaller mates, the shadow behind the Muscovy duck below:

The relationship becomes questionable, though as we walk around the lake and Shamu follows us.  You get the feeling that, if it could, it would follow us back into the house, curl up in the bathtub and sleep contentedly.  Befriending a bass in the south is akin to fraternizing with the enemy, and could lead to suspicions that something like this is going on:

My brother still takes fish out of the pond to toss fresh on his grill for dinner.  However, he admits to having caught and released Shamu several times.  I expect to continue to see Shamu in the years ahead, and enjoy his/her affable companionship on walks around the pond - at least until he gets big enough to contemplate a taste for duck.  Choices will have to be made, then.

Monstrous Post On The OSU-Michigan Tradition

As I’ve intimated previously, I’m on the third and final leg of my two-week quest to singlehandedly rescue the airline industry. To recap:

  • 11/6 - flew Seattle - Milwaukee
  • 11/11 - Milwaukee - Seattle
  • 11/13 - Seattle - Tucson
  • 11/15 - Tucson - Seattle
  • 11/16 - Seattle - Detroit - Charleston, SC
  • 11/20 (today) - Charleston - Detroit - Seattle

The Milwaukee and Tucson trips were for business. The Charleston trip has been a renewal of a family tradition we’re establishing that has my brothers, my mom and whatever friends of my brothers whose social needs are sufficiently dire trekking to my middle brother’s house in Charleston to watch the Ohio State - Michigan game and roast oysters in either commiseration or exhilaration.

From here on, perhaps only Nancy and her husband and my immediate family will be even mildly interested. And it’s been awfully quiet over there at Nancy’s blog since The Game - she’s over there pretending that her impending motherhood is more important.

A little background for the uninitiated - All three of us - I and my two younger brothers - graduated from Ohio State. Our parents and maternal grandparents attended OSU as well, so it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that the OSU-Michigan football game has become a focal point of our shared experience. From oldest (me) to youngest, we brothers span 10 years, so we’ve had a wide range of exposure to this annual rite.

My first Michigan game was when I was in high school. My maternal grandparents had season tickets each year at OSU, and bought four Michigan tickets when the games were played in Ann Arbor. They would drive up to our place near Toledo and take my Mom & Dad, but this one time I got a ticket because someone decided not to go. I recall watching the OSU backfield of Paul Warfield (later Miami Dolphins), Matt Snell (NY Jets) and QB Don Unverferth (nowhere. OSU quarterbacks at that time were there to hand the ball to the running backs) playing against Michigan QB Bob Timberlake. That’s all from memory, so sorry if I overlooked some NFL Hall of Famers that just didn’t register.

The first Game that meant something to me occurred in 1968. Prior to 1968, OSU’s football fortunes had been in decline, and choruses of “Goodbye, Woody” wafted through Ohio Stadium during the 1967 season, my freshman year. Then, in 1968, a group of “super-sophs” including Rex Kern, Jack Tatum, Mike Sensibaugh, Stan White, John Brockington, Jim Stillwagon and others hit the scene (freshmen could not play on the varsity team in those years), and a juggernaut was launched that revived OSU football, Woody’s career, and allowed Woody and Bo Schembechler to “brand” the OSU-Michigan game as the football version of the final battle in the Lord of the Rings.

The 1968 season saw the Buckeyes march through the season undefeated, gathering momentum and believers along the way. We had Michigan at home that year and beat them 50-14. After scoring our last touchdown, Woody went for a 2-point conversion instead of kicking for 1. When someone asked him why, legend has it that he said, “Because I couldn’t go for 3.” Here’s the postgame scene in Ohio Stadium. (click on any of these pictures to enlarge):

I wasn’t in the band that year, didn’t try out until the next year, but I had a pretty fine season ticket in C-deck, right in front of the press box. In case you’re rubbing your eyes in disbelief, don’t - that’s $14 for the whole season.:

That 1968 team beat O. J. Simpson and USC in the Rose Bowl to win the national championship, and rolled through the 1969 season so impressively that sportswriters thought the only competition they could get was in the NFL. In those years, only the Big Ten champion could go to a bowl game, and there was a “no-repeat” rule that barred us from returning to the Rose Bowl even if we won the Big Ten title outright, so the game in Ann Arbor was to be our bowl game and, we were sure, our coronation as repeat national champs and, in our minds, the team of the century.

Michigan, under new coach Bo Schembechler, dealt us a bitter 24-12 defeat that day, one of only two games that that class would lose in their 3 years at OSU. It was my first year in the band, and, though I’d lived one of my dreams by playing in The Big House, it was a forlorn bus ride back to Columbus.

In the 1970 season OSU again ran through the season undefeated and took a #1 ranking into the Michigan game, and we had them at home this time. The picture below is of our band just after we took the field for pregame. The crowd noise was so loud that many of us couldn’t hear the drummers, and could only take the beat by watching their feet. That pregame entrance was one of my biggest thrills ever.
We beat Michigan that year and played Stanford and Jim Plunkett in the Rose Bowl.

With the Tatum-Brockington-Kern class gone in 1971, we were a pretty ordinary team. We even lost to Northwestern at home! Michigan, on the other hand, had a powerhouse team coming into The Game, which was played that year in Ann Arbor. Surprisingly, we held our own against UM and, with 2 minutes left, had the ball and could have been driving for the winning score. Then, a Michigan defensive back intercepted a Buckeye pass after, from my vantage, palpably interfering with our receiver. No interference penalty was called, and Woody went nuts. He raged around the field berating officials and, at one point, destroyed the yardline markers on his sideline.

Our director felt that it would be best if the band left the stadium at that point as, even in normal years, people would grab at us and swipe mouthpieces and clothing. Our seats were on the sideline on the floor of the northeast corner of the stadium, right by the goal line. I was packing up my stuff and pulling on my long overcoat when the drum major approached me with the goal line marker that he’d just lifted off the field while everyone else in the stadium was apparently watching Woody’s tantrum. He asked me to slip it under my coat and carry it to the bus. In that atmosphere, with 100,000 potential assassins in the stands and a narrow tunnel to squeeze through to freedom, it was like Wile E. Coyote handing Road Runner a stick of dynamite. Too young and stupid to know I could die, and flattered that he’d asked, I did it.

Back in the bus, he and I pulled it apart - it was an “A” shape with two identical faces. I had to rat through several boxes in the basement to find what Mrs. Perils calls my “piece of the true cross”, but find it I did, and it’s pictured below, the relic of my final game in an OSU band uniform.

OK, on to this year’s OSU-Michigan tailgate in South Carolina. My Atlanta brother and his wife have taken up brewing beer as a pastime, and arrived with something like 250 bottles of several different varieties, all of it quite good.

The grill was out for lunch, with brats and chicken and lots of other goodies.

Somehow, we had more TVs strung around than you get in most sports bars.

We were ahead at halftime, but not by much. My youngest brother, fueled perhaps by some of his excellent home brew, reduces the tension by attempting to play Lawn Boy football. I was hoping the blade was disengaged.

Things start to look grim in the third quarter as Michigan runs off 11 unanswered points. We notice at this point that Michigan always seems to score or recover fumbles when our mother is in the vicinity. We rolled her up in a throw rug and locked her in her bedroom for the crucial fourth quarter.

The Buckeyes’ winning drive at the end of the game is the ticket for Mom’s release from lockup (she’s in the middle below). My youngest brother is on the left, his wife on the right.

Finally, the oysters meet their fate. They tasted damn good this year, and my middle brother and his wife put on a terrific party. We stood around this fire far into the night savoring the game, the beer and the oysters.

Almost forgot this - as I was checking in at the Charleston airport for my long slog back to Seattle, I espied this on the counter (click to enlarge text):

One wonders which den of academic relativism at OSU sends its graduates into the world unable to spell the name of its mascot, but it was still a hoot to see this deep in the heart of SEC country.

Mrs. Perils and Mehitabel

Which one dictates, and which one types? *

The cat’s real name is Rico (we named him after Rico Suave, a poseur
who had a nanosecond’s fame on MTV back in the 80s). He and his brother
Simba are our (intentional, at least) housepets. His brother is a few
turds short of a litterbox, if you know what I’m sayin’, and has gone
sorta bush and spends most of his time outside, or under the front
porch huffing whatever escapes from the gas meter. Since the
temperatures have fallen here, these dorks just can’t get enough lap

They even come over and pretend they like me, though they have
developed a talent for geometry and orthopedics, and have used what
they know about my knee joints, the length of my tibia and the
dexterity of my ankles to be able to narrowly avoid my attempts to punt
their piebald asses across the room.

Still, they’re good company for Mrs. Perils when I’m off to glamorous destinations in the midwest, so I let them live.

* Hint: An equipment crisis of
sorts has developed due to Mrs. Perils’ repeatedly jumping on the
keyboard from the back of the chair.  Look how bent and distorted
that one in her lap is.

You’re Sure This Is Helping?

Okay, here’s an article from today’s Seattle Times the wondrous news that those who exercise regularly live longer than their sedentary peers.  At first blush, this seems to vindicate my lifelong habit of exercising.  I started running when I was 18 and looking to try out for the Ohio State Marching Band, and since moving to Seattle 31 years ago I’ve probably run over 13,000 miles around Greenlake near my home.  I also took up bicycling as an obsession later in my 20s.  And regular readers know that I spend time on the water sea kayaking.

But wait.  the article says regular exercise may add “1.3 to 3.7 years” to my life as a result.  Hmmmm.  To counteract all that exercise, I’ve also spent 35 or so years as an accountant, and as an accountant, I can tell you this:

    • It takes me, at this late stage of my life, 40 - 50 minutes to run the 4 miles from my house around Greenlake and back counting “stretching” stops and defibrillation episodes, and I do it 2 - 4 times a week.  Let’s say that, between that and the other stuff I do, I get 45 minutes of exercise 5 days a week.  That’s probably conservative.  Say also that, by the time I’m 75 and ready to start drawing in this bank of wholesomeness to accrete it to the end of my life (10K’s deposited regularly throughout life become a 401(k) of extra time at 75, through the miracle of compounding).  That’s 45 * 5 * 52 * 55, or 643,500 minutes of sweating, lung-searing torture (the “runner’s high” has always eluded me).
    • There are 60 * 24 * 365 = 525,600 minutes in a year.  My return on 1.22 years of exercise may be as little as 1.3 years?????!!!!  1.22 years I could have spent writing, travelling, drinking, watching porn, selling Amway on the side????

I shouldn’t be surprised.  My portfolio sucks, too.


Got home from Milwaukee Friday night just after midnight.  Now I’m at the airport again, waiting for a flight to Phoenix on my way to Tucson for two days.  Don’t envy me, though, I’ll just be working most of the time.  It is in the low 80s there, however, so I had to toss my Milwaukee weeds in favor of the polo shirts.  Packed a pair of shorts, too, just to be frivolous.  I don’t really think I’ll wear them, it cools off to mid-40s at night.

This stretch of November has turned into a real marathon.  I’ll get back from Tucson Tuesday night, catch up on Seattle work on Wednesday, then catch a redeye Wednesday night for Charleston, SC, where I’ll meet up with my mom, brothers and their wives to watch the Ohio State-Michigan game and have an oyster roast at my middle brother’s place near Charleston.  We’ve made this a mini-tradition the last 2 - 3 years.  The chances are the weather there will beat the hell out of sprouting hemorrhoids on an icy metal bench in Ann Arbor.

Although, what’s up with the mild autumn in the midwest?  I tune into a TV game in Columbus or Madison, and it’s sunny and 70 degrees at kickoff.  Meanwhile, it’s 40-ish and pouring here in Seattle.  I remember playing for football games in November where we’d use plastic mouthpieces in our horns and put antifreeze on our valves.


Sure, It’s Only A Game…

Back atcha - to the Nancy family:


Jake was dying. His wife, Becky, was maintaining a candlelight vigil by his side. She held his fragile hand, tears running down her face. Her praying roused him from his slumber. He looked up and his pale lips began to move slightly.


“Becky my darling” he whispered.


“Hush my love,” she said. “Rest, don’t talk.


He was insistent. “Becky,” he said in his tired voice, “I have something that I must confess.”


“There’s nothing to confess,” replied the weeping Becky. “Everything’s all right, go to sleep.”


“No, no. I must die in peace, Becky. I… I have been a Michigan Fan all of my life!”


“I know sweetheart,” whispered Becky, “let the poison work.”


My Crone Sleeps Alone

Today is the birthday of Mrs. Perils and, once again, I’m out of town and unable to celebrate it properly.  My plane arrives in Seattle tonight at 11:15 and, even if I do get in the door a tick before midnight, it probably wouldn’t be the best present to wake her with a wobbly rendition of “Happy Birthday”. 

Instead, along with the packet of airline pretzels that I usually bestow on her after a road trip, I may steal her a cookie from the airline club in Minneapolis.  No, better yet, I’ve saved her a piece of cake from my birthday last month:

A picture named BirthdayCake05.jpg

Happy Birthday, dear!

Autumn in Wisconsin

I’ve been driving past these trees all week on my way from my hotel to a nearby coffee shop.  This morning, their call was so intense I had to stop and photograph them.  Hope you dig.  It’s been gratifyingly warm here so far this week, and I ‘ve been able to run at night in a t-shirt. 

Things I Wish I’d Written - Chapter 1386

From David Mitchell’s novel Cloud Atlas - the narrator has just received jaw-droppingly rude service on a British commuter train:

Sometimes the fluffy bunny of incredulity zooms round the bend so rapidly that the greyhound of language is left, agog, in the starting cage.