Archive for May 2006

And Another Thing…

My preparations for this trip have funnelled down to an insane obsession with battery management - charging batteries for my phone, mp3, camera(s), laptop (God help me, I’m taking it).  Then, in a last-minute attempt to make the front door lockset work a little easier, I took it apart this morning to douse it with WD-40 and broke it putting it back together.  It works, but won’t lock.  There’s a deadbolt we can use for locking, but it represents an unlooked-for level of complication for my MIL, who’s staying here (with the assistance of some home-care folks).  She loves to let the cats in & out, so she has an incentive to learn to work it.

I think we’re getting out just in time - before any other devices around here go tits-up.


What Rain Shadow?

Today is actually my Friday, as we’re headed for San Juan Island tomorrow morning.  We’re camping, at a county campground arrayed around a body of water ominously named Smallpox Bay on the west side of the island.  The Bay got its name in the late 1800s when a passing ship offloaded two sailors who had smallpox, so as not to infect the whole ship.  The island natives, of course, had no resistance to the disease, and many died of hypothermia from diving into the icy waters of the bay to try to quell the burning of the sores on their skin.

We’re sharing two campsites with some other couples and their kids, horning in on a trip they’ve been doing for the past several years.  We’ve been invited in previous years, but haven’t been able to attend for one reason or another.  The weather looks iffy:

Tomorrow night: Rain showers in the evening becoming steady overnight. Low 46F. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 90%. Rainfall near a quarter of an inch.

Yikes.  That’s taken a turn for the worse since the last time I checked.  We’ve got lots of layers packed, but rain of that description could pin us in the tent for long periods of time.  We’ve agreed to take nothing sharper than our tongues in with us.  We might just have to repair to cafes in Friday Harbor, although that’s probably what everyone else on the island will be doing.  We’ve been camping on one other Memorial Day weekend since we’ve been in Seattle, and the most uplifting experience of that outing was huddling at the laundromat watching the dryers labor over our super-saturated clothing.  I might have to wear my new drysuit just to leave the tent.

Kayaking is a big reason for the trip.  One of the other guys is the fellow who organized and led my trip to Baja a few years ago.  Winds look to be moderate - 5-10 knots - so we might get to paddle despite the rain.

Whatever.  It’ll be nice just to get out of town and away from work stuff for a few days.  I’ve been humping the last week in order to get all my engagements iced, and, unlike a lot of other trips I take, I think I’ve managed to do it this time, and won’t have to haul workpapers along to nip at ineffectually, as I often do. 

One of these hectic engagements was with a firm that has a design and advertising group using Macs, while the financial folks use PCs, all mashed together on a Windows network.  My luck - one of the Mac users prepares transactions that have to be ported over to the (Windows) accounting system - therein my involvement.  The poor thing using the Mac actually has to work with MS Access in a virtual PC session.  It would be easier, of course, to have her do this on a real PC, but my predecessors bent over backwards to mollify the Mac people when the network was installed, requiring me to indulge in some smoke-and-mirrors trickery that functions tenuously at times.

I’ve accepted that Mac people are generally right-brained, but this particular Mac user is all the way to the dark side, being left-handed as well.  Our training/consulting sessions are a clumsy dance in which the mouse is an oft-kidnapped hostage.  While this might be a big problem on a PC, where the button function as well as the physical positioning of the mouse has to be switched, this Mac mouse has only one large button in the middle.  WTF!?  I’m as baffled when I encounter this thing as Sylvester Stallone was in the bathroom stall in the movie Demolition Man, but no amount of barked swear words brings any relief to my dilemma.  Like, how do I right-click anything? 

Also, all of my Swiss-Army-Knife extemporaneous ingenuity, which usually garners accolades or just hushed reverence from my PC customers, is met with contempt by the Mac people, if they notice it at all.  They’re so used to things working as advertised, just by plugging them in.  How can a person make any money in an environment like that?

Anyway, send your thoughts our way for sunshine now & then this weekend.  And have a great one yourselves.


Rosy Week

Not too exciting around here these days.  My mom doesn’t even come by any more.  Let’s see, what happened this week?  For a month or so I’ve been sitting on a gift certificate to Seattle Raft and Kayak, a nifty little shop on Lake Washington at the old Sand Point Naval Base.  I bought the certificate at the annual auction of Washington Water Trails Assn with the intention of using it to procure a Gore-Tex drysuit.  I’ve been using a neoprene wetsuit when paddling, especially in Puget Sound, where the water temperature never rises above 55 degrees.  The drysuit, with gasket seals at the neck, arms and legs, provides significantly greater safety if you capsize.  They’re expensive, like $800 - $1000, but, as I’ve been saying, that’s cheaper than a funeral.  Plus, I got the gift certificate at a significant discount. 

So, last Sunday we were looking for an excuse to walk somewhere, and decided to walk over to SRK.  I tried on a couple of suits, found my size, but couldn’t decide between two models.  I did a little research, and on Tuesday went back to the shop and bought the Kokatat model. 

I went out kayaking a couple of times last week, but haven’t worn the drysuit yet.  The neck needs to be stretched a bit, or trimmed if stretching doesn’t do the trick.  Right now, it’s stretched over a yogurt container.  I’m thinking of wearing it out later today.

Also on Tuesday, after paddling around Lake Union, we went to the Montlake Alehouse to attend the weekly meeting of Drinking Liberally, a gathering of local pundits, columnists, bloggers and, occasionally, a candidate or two.  On this evening, Joel Connelly of the Seattle P-I was there, as well as David Goldstein, who blogs prolifically at  We ended up in a lively discussion with several folks and had a very entertaining evening.

Also this week, owing to several days of 80-ish temperatures, our redoubtable yellow rose bush burst into bloom.  This bush started from a 6-inch stick that my dad gave me to fly home with about 25 years ago.  We’re not “rose” kind of people in the sense that we’ll fuss and fuss over a plant, but all I had to do was throw that original slip in the vicinity of some dirt, and it’s gone nuts with virtually no attention from us except to whack it back when it seems intent on capturing pedestrians and cars going by.

So what’s everyone doing for Memorial Day weekend?  We’re headed up to San Juan Island on Thursday - Sunday to camp and kayak with one or two other couples.  I haven’t been to the San Juans for 4 or 5 years, and I’m really looking forward to it.  Last year, some Orca whales frolicked in the vicinity where they were kayaking, and that would be a thrill.  In that circumstance, you want to not look like a seal or a salmon.

Something’s Fishy

The much-heralded Copper River salmon has begun arriving from Alaska.  And, according to this article, you can expect to pay a heart-stopping $35/lb for the stuff.  Wow.  I remember growing up in Ohio, and salmon was one of those “fish you can’t catch in Lake Erie”.  It came in cans and, because my mother will never eat anything that has completely immersed itself in water, the only time I saw salmon, or sardines, was in my grandma’s fruitroom in her basement.  And both (salmon and sardines) tasted good to me initially, but eventually put me off because of the bones they were packed with and, in the case of the sardines, the eyes that stared at you when you peeled off the lid.  At least with canned tuna, they had the decency to pack it without bones and eyeballs.

So, I come to the Pacific Northwest and reacquaint myself with salmon in its fresh, glorious incarnation in local markets, and then two things happen:

  • they start killing so many fish with dams, development and logging that you start to feel bad when you eat one that has actually survived, and
  • Alaska gets the bright idea to “brand” the Copper River run of sockeye, to the extent that people all over the country are salivating for news of the flight carrying the first batch of these rock-star fish.

I doubt this first batch of fish flies “coach”.  I’m sure they’re all wearing sunglasses and bling, and ride in this specially outfitted Alaska Airlines 737, which is configured as a world-class flying aquarium.  Each fish has an agent waiting at SeaTac to whisk it off to a 5-star hotel in a limo, there to lounge in splendor while the agent negotiates a killer contract for it (regrettably for the fish, none of the contracts in this business is “no-cut”).

So, that’s why you’re paying NBA-like prices for salmon.  Scott Boras is personally representing that fish on your plate, and David Stern probably has a seat on the Pacific Fisheries Council.

Bon Appetit!

Is This Thing Still On?

My week on the road is drawing to an end as my plane chases the sunset to Seattle.  After a couple of days in Milwaukee, which included another Strategic Planning session, we boarded the corporate conveyance and headed for our plant in Georgia.  As the dearth of posting implies, there was not much of an exciting nature to report.  The town we go to down there appears to have been a charming little place sort of like the town in the series In The Heat Of The Night, the one with Carroll O’Connor in it.  Since I don’t have a car of my own when I’m there, I don’t get to go out and explore.  Worse, the motel we stay in is on a busy highway without a decent sidewalk or right-of-way, and I can’t get any kind of running done.  The result is, we eat too heavily, I don’t get much exercise, and I present a complication for Northwest in their takeoff weight calculations.

About the only amusing thing that happened - our pilot and I found ourselves across the street from the motel one night for dinner at a godforsaken tavern, the kind of place where if you’ve got teeth, and you’re wearing socks, you’re marryin’ material.  The unique offering at this place is a crab race.  I don’t mean the one that probably takes place in the rest rooms, where they warn you not to throw toothpicks in the toilets because “the crabs can pole-vault”.  This race involves a circular table about 7 feet in diameter with a line drawn around its perimeter about 6 inches from the edge.  In the center, under something like a domed steamer lid, awaits a cadre of about a dozen hermit crabs, each festooned with a shell that has been painted with some theme or another.  At least half bore some form of the Confederate battle flag.  Can you imagine them under there, sweating their crab sweat and glaring at the others, like Russell Crowe in Gladiator?  Anyway, the race commences when some madcap music starts blaring, the domelid is lifted, and someone starts squirting the crabs with cold water, which animates them inexplicably.  Furtive bets are made, and the first crab to stumble across the perimeter line is the winner.  We made sure our pizza bore no species of seafood whatsoever.

Friday night I drove up to Lake Hartwell, as I did last month, to spend the night at my brother’s place there.  Because the lake has tendrils that radiate out in all directions, getting to their place requires some nifty navigation.  The driving directions, “turn left at the Baptist church, go 500 feet, turn right at the Baptist church, go about 100 yards, run the stopsign and turn right at the Baptist church”, while technically accurate, were nonetheless bewildering. 

(Click any photo to enlarge)

A sect I hadn’t encountered before

We passed a pleasant evening grilling steaks, shrimp and corn, boating in the moonlight and, the main event, the nightly arrival of some flying squirrels at a feeder near their deck.

Keeping one eye out for Boris and Natasha, as well as metal-munching moon monsters.

While it’s always good to be flying home after a long week on the road, Saturday provided a particularly nice view of the Cascades…

I believe that’s Glacier Peak

…and of the city as we approached Seatac.

The arrow points approximately to our place.

Sick Transit

Flying again today, off to Milwaukee, waiting for my plane at SeaTac and gazing wistfully out the window as luggage is being loaded onto a 757 bound for Honolulu.  Even for someone jaded by frequent-flying, there’s a sort of euphoria in the cabin of a Hawaii-bound plane as “mahalo” and “aloha” seep into the “seatbacks and traytables” verbiage.  I can’t quite see into their cabin windows, but I know what they’re feeling.

The shuttle company that takes me to the airport has installed some pretty fancy GPS equipment, featuring a female voice with a slight British accent, calling out the streets and turns to get to the next pickup or dropoff.  This robs me of the pleasure of telling drivers how to get around town when they (often) seem confused.  We picked up another passenger today on the way to SeaTac, a young woman with a standard suitcase plus a reinforced plastic case that looked like something you’d transport organs for transplant in.  Perhaps it only cushioned some fragile scientific equipment;  perhaps the still-beating heart of her previous evening’s paramour.  I asked her where she was headed - she had to dig out her ticket to tell me.  I was relieved to see she was on a different airline.

So, I’m out for the week again, much the same routine as my last trip.  On Wednesday, we’ll fly down to my client’s Georgia plant again, and I’ll fly home from Atlanta.  Weather looks to be fairly pleasant down there still, heat and humidity within reason.

Civilized Repast, and A Walk On the Wild Side

I’ve been working east of Lake Washington this week, in Redmond. For me, that means I have to cross the 520 bridge eastbound in the morning and westbound in the evening. This used to be what they called an unfettered ”reverse commute”: at one time, communities on the eastside were “bedroom communities” whose inhabitants worked in downtown Seattle or at Boeing.  This concept was turned on its ear in the late 80s and 90s as Microsoft and other major employers located campuses on the eastside and started sucking westside inhabitants eastward to work. 

So, last night found me in a massive traffic jam trying to beat my way back to the city.  Even for a Friday night, it was worse than usual, especially considering that the Mariners were out of town.  The ultimate cause of the jam, it appears, was nothing more than drivers slowing down at the west end of the bridge to rubberneck the flotilla of boats that has been rafting together in anticipation of the Opening Day of boating season this weekend.  It took me an hour to go 10 miles - I wanted to mine Portage Bay when I got there.

When I arrived home, Mrs. Perils indicated a desire to walk out for a bite.  We spun our compass and decided to head for Fremont, thinking that we’d be able to get into at least one of our favorites down there.  Our route to Fremont, however, takes us past the Persimmon Cafe.  It’s been there 2 or 3 years and we’ve been curious about it, but never quite got the brakes on in time to turn in.  Last night as we passed the place was open but empty, and we opted to make it our private dining room.

(Click on any picture to enlarge)

The burnt orange color scheme had always attracted our eye as we walked past, and last night the setting sun intensified the colors nicely.

We ordered a starter of potato pancakes garnished with smoked salmon and dill mascarpone.  Our entrees later were tasty enough, but we could have ordered a platter of these and died ecstatically right there.

Sun sets over Ballard as we stroll home.

Our route home often takes us along the perimeter of the Woodland Park Zoo.  Last night, we heard the blood-curdling screech of a peacock in a tree above us, and stopped to observe.

I set my camera to take a video, in the hope that he/she would cut loose again.  Here’s the amazing result (4.2 mb, not work-safe (language)).  If you like the photo above, you really should play the video.

We know we’re nearing home when the front yards start sprouting monsters.

Touring Charleston

Our flight to Seattle on Monday was (scheduled for) 5:15, so we took most of the day to do a walking tour of downtown Charleston.  I’ve done this a few times, but Mrs. Perils had never been there.  The weather was perfect - sunny, nice breeze, just warm enough.  We started by parking at the end of the city’s new bridge over the Cooper River and walking up a capacious bike/pedestrian lane to its apex, where there’s a wide panoramic view of the harbor and the city.

(Click on any of these to enlarge)

Then we drove downtown and just meandered along the Battery and up and down many sidestreets looking at the charming old houses and commercial buildings.

As tightly-packed as these houses are, and as expensive as they must be to keep up, it seems an equal effort is made to maintain inviting garden plots whose coolness must be welcome in the hot months.


For a more extensive slide show of our meanderings, go here.

While it’s hard to imagine a perfect day that ends with 8 hours of cross-country air travel, I had used miles to secure us first class seats on both legs of our flight home, so I was feeling pretty good as we headed to the airport.  I got through security with several bottles of Crying Onion beer that my brother wanted me to take home to our son, and was waiting to board and sip a cool glass of wine when they announced that our plane had a mechanical problem and would be delayed.  No problem, I thought, as we had a little over two hours in Atlanta.

Things got worse when they announced that our plane would need a part that was inbound on a later flight.  That would mean that we’d miss our Atlanta-Seattle connection (and our first-class seats), plus it was the last flight to Seattle that night.  People started lining up in 3 long lines to try to rebook, and our once-languid evening turned into a nightmare of anxiety.  There was one earlier flight to Atlanta that would get us there in time for our connection, but the lines were moving so slowly that I was sure we would never get booked on it, even if it did exist, and left on time.

It was a pretty close thing, but we did get on that earlier flight (though in row 37 next to the MD80 engine instead of first class), and made it to our scheduled Seattle flight with a little time to spare, and things ended well.

Call Me Fishmeal

Once at my brother’s, we drew beverages and strolled back to the pond he put in several years ago.  He meticulously built up a fish ecosystem, and now can catch dinner from among bluegill, bass and (maybe?) crappie.  But he’s harboring (!) a dark secret in its depths, one that, if uncovered, would cause his banishment from the brotherhood of southern sportsmen.  Because of the anonymity of the internet, I can divulge it here: he has befriended, and somehow domesticated, a largemouth bass he calls “Shamu”.

As he sprinkles feed pellets on the surface of the pond, Shamu breaches and, Moby Dick-like, casts a watery eye at him before rolling over and sounding.  Shamu’s done OK for himself in this relationship - he’s grown to a pretty hefty size.  As we circumambulate the pond, Shamu shadows us a few feet from shore, even though we throw no more feed on the trip around.

Here’s a video of the leviathan as he cavorts, puppy-like, for our pleasure. (about 4mb - have your speakers on!)


We decamped from Pawley’s Island on Sunday and everyone dispersed.  Mrs. Perils and I headed for my middle brother’s place near Charleston, as our flight home departed from CHS.  On the way, we stopped in Georgetown for coffee.  We couldn’t find coffee there, but this parrot caught our eyes as we strolled along the riverside commercial district.  His companion, who didn’t look all that accustomed to broad daylight, said the bird had spent his entire life in bars.  He hinted darkly that we probably didn’t want to hear any of the bird’s elocutionary repertoire.

His shirt says, “Fresh Yankee, Served Daily”.