Archive for June 2006


My mom arrived at SeaTac yesterday to begin a 2-week siege visit. She was greeted by the hottest day of the year, with the temperature about 90, making me just a tick self-conscious about not having air conditioning in either my car or my house. It cooled off nicely in the evening, and I initiated the Camp Perils of Caffeine Fitness regimen, marching her down the hill to Greenlake and (!) back up to our house. The poor woman lives in northwest Ohio, where it’s so flat that we used to complain on bike rides when we had to shift to use an overpass over a freeway, and I could sense her feelings of hopelessness as we walked back up, where each block seemed to get steeper. She’s a better person today for the experience.
On Friday morning, we (Mom, Mrs. Perils and I) will fly down to Medford, Oregon and spend next week in Ashland watching plays, hiking in the Siskiyous and generally being goddamn tourists. We’ll be seeing:

  • Winter’s Tale
  • Diary of Anne Frank
  • Bus Stop
  • The Importance of Being Earnest
  • King John
  • Intimate Apparel
  • Merry Wives of Windsor
  • Cyrano de Bergerac

This will be, I believe, our 13th annual pilgrimage to the Ashland festival. We started by tagging along with a group from our son’s middle school, continued with them through high school, and bought our own membership after he graduated. Check out the link at the left that tracks our 2004 trip.
I was surprised about a month ago to start seeing referrals to this blog from Wikipedia. It turns out that my entry on the 2004 presentation of The Visit is referenced in the Wikipedia entry about the play. And, no, I didn’t write the entry, and don’t know who did! So, I’m spurred to more assiduous about my reflections on this year’s trip than I was last year. And, as always, I’ll put up any good photos.

Many Bags Look Alike…

If you’re an America West flyer, that short guy in the seat next to you, the one whose halting speech indicates he might have had one too many preflight cocktails, might be something more (or less) than he seems.  It might be the robotic head of author Philip K. Dick, whose novels have been made into the likes of Blade Runner and Total Recall.

According to this NYT article (signup required, but I believe it’s in the “free zone”):

Last year an admiring doctoral student and evident computer whiz, David Hanson, built a life-size facsimile of Mr. Dick, using the latest artificial intelligence technology, robotics and a skinlike substance he calls “frubber.”  The android, which looked just like the author and was able to conduct rudimentary conversations about Mr. Dick’s work and ideas, was at the cutting edge of robotic technology, able to make eye contact and believable facial expressions.

Hanson has been showing the robot at Comic conventions, and had just gotten a deal to tour with it as a promotion for an upcoming Warner Brothers movie about the author.

Flying on America West last December, Hanson had checked the robot’s body as baggage, but preferred to carry the head (packed in a rollaboard) on the plane with him.  In a scramble to deplane, he somehow left the head aboard the plane, and it hasn’t been seen since.

I’ve done the same thing, losing two (cheap) Palm pilots and a couple of books.  Both Palms were left in the backs of first class seats;  the second one had a $20 bill and my business card with a note to please use the money to forward the Palm to me.  Whoever found it (could have been a cleaning crew, could have been a Microsoft exec on the next flight) kept both the Palm AND the money.

My guess is that Dick’s head (wonder if that will get this post routed through NSA sniffers) is in an attic somewhere, and on Saturday nights sits in the center of a circle of candles while a select cult of his worshippers dances naked and ecstatically about.

Or maybe, more mundanely, someone picked the rollaboard off of a carousel, took it home and threw it in the closet without opening it, not needing the suit inside until the next conference he attends.  His 3-year-old at some point will open the suitcase, have a conversation with the author, and be changed in ways that confound his parents  and the child psychiatrist they hire as a result.

Summer Stops By (Probably on the Way to Somewhere Else)

This weekend broke out the bona fide summer - temperatures in the 80s, cloudless sky and evenings balmy enough to walk around without jackets.  Mrs. Perils and I walked down towards Greenlake for an after-dinner libation at Mona’s Cafe.  All the windows and doors were open, a 5-piece band was playing Brasilian sambas and people strolled languidly by.  Short video here. The perfect entertainment for a lovely summer night.

A Pox On Them - And I Just Happen To Have One To Give ‘Em

A news clip about the august Smithsonian caught my attention last week.  It seems that, with a film due for imminent release about an electric car called the EV1 that General Motors developed, then killed, the Smithsonian has suddenly found it necessary to whisk the model it had on display away from public view:

The National Museum of American History removed the rare exhibit yesterday, just as interest in electric and hybrid vehicles is on the rise.

Unsurprisingly (or surprisingly for those who heretofore held the Smithsonian in high regard as the nation’s valued repository):

GM happens to be one of the Smithsonian’s biggest contributors. But museum and GM officials say that had nothing to do with the removal of the EV1 from display.

Unapologetically, and apparently blind to the glaring irony,

A museum spokeswoman says the museum simply needed the space to display another vehicle, a high-tech SUV.

This isn’t the first time in recent memory that the Smithsonian has caved in to powerful economic and political interests.  In May, 2003, a stunning exhibit of photographs from the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge by a Bellevue, WA photographer was set to open in the museum’s main rotunda.  However, with the consistent drumbeat by the Bush administration and Alaska development interests to sponsor oil-drilling in the Refuge,

… it came with little surprise to many, but with great disappointment to the photographer, when Banerjee’s Smithsonian exhibit was moved from the museum’s prominent first-floor rotunda gallery to a exhibit space in the basement just before it opened on May 2. Other last-minute alterations include:

  • Reducing the educational captions to one-line descriptions of photo subjects;
  • Removal of the book from the exhibition;
  • Demands from Smithsonian lawyers that The Mountaineers Books disassociate the museum from current printed editions with an inserted errata sheet, and remove all references to the Smithsonian Institute in future printings; and
  • Editing of the exhibit’s introduction, which Banerjee and Smithsonian staff composed last March, including the expunging of a quote from former President Jimmy Carter that read, “It will be a grand triumph for America if we can preserve the Arctic Refuge in its pure, untrammeled state.” (article here)

Upon learning of this, we dropped our membership like a hot potato.  It was reminiscent of the moment I quit supporting public television.  In 1994, we had enjoyed a series on public TV based on Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, a sort of maudlin, but generally spot-on, set of stories about a group of young people coming of age in mid-70s San Francisco.  Because it had sympathetic gay characters, and showed people smoking pot, enjoying it and not inevitably becoming strung-out drug addicts, the culture police and their newly-elected House majority howled and threatened CPB’s funding.  As a result, CPB suppressed the production of a sequel series.  I’ve never given public television another cent.  I’m sure that’s why public television has slid into silliness and irreverence in the years since. 

On The Loose Again

I’m off to my first onsite client visit since the onset of my leprosy.  It seems like far too nice a day to subject someone to a software upgrade, but I’m thinking the French probably ran the guillotine on sunny days, so there’s precedent for it.  Those of you outside the purview of my professional attention, hope you’re looking forward to a great weekend!

The Wayback Machine

When Dennis Perrin, author of the blog Red State Son, waxed a little nostalgic about a 1973-era production by the National Lampoon called The Missing White House Tapes, it struck a similar chord of nostalgia in me.  I was a loyal subscriber to NatLamp in college and further into my adult life than propriety and good sense would have dictated.  I still own, for instance, original copies of their brilliant High School Yearbook Parody and its companion, the Sunday Newspaper Parody.  And, as I taunted Dennis in an email, I also own an original vinyl copy of The Missing White House Tapes.

The Tapes was an outgrowth of the weekly National Lampoon Radio Hour, which featured budding comics like John Belushi and Chevy Chase, and the simulated Senate Judiciary Committee hearings thereon nicely skewered many of the now-iconic personalities involved in the Watergate scandal.  I offered to rip a copy of the Tapes for Dennis, and he accepted, and so I was faced with the technical challenge of actually transferring a vinyl LP to digital media.

I had long ago purchased some recording/ripping software expressly for that purpose, but not only had I forgotten how the software worked, I’d forgotten how to play my turntable through my stereo receiver.  I combed through the thicket of cabling in the back of the receiver and eventually got the turntable connected, and located a useable line output to run to the soundcard on my laptop, and the recording went fine.

However, in pawing through my LPs looking for the Tapes LP, I opened an entirely different can of worms.  See, I have a ton of vinyl that I started collecting in high school, that’s just been sitting on my bottom shelf silently collecting dust while the noisy clatter of CD jewel cases usurped more and more space on the upper shelves.  I’ve always owned a turntable, but the prosaic task of playing vinyl LPs one short side at a time never seems worth the effort.  As a result, I hadn’t really visited these nether regions in quite a few years.  I had to move a bunch of stuff just to have room to kneel down and flip through them.

It was like opening a time capsule, looking at these dust jackets (dust jackets!  that you can read!) containing the records that comprised the sound track of our 70s and 80s.  Representing the 70s was Joni Mitchell, Brian Auger, Chicago Transit Authority, Cream, Oregon, Yes, Jethro Tull, Santana, Stevie Wonder, Crosby-Stills-Nash, Led Zeppelin, Weather Report;  into the 80s with a bunch of Irish folk music that our kid loved, Tears for Fears, Cyndi Lauper, the Police and our Blues Period with Robert Cray, Albert Collins, Koko Taylor; and a ton of classical albums.  And I haven’t even mentioned the embarrassing stuff.

I ripped a few albums to mp3 just for fun;  the effect of hearing some of this music is what it must be like to have open brain surgery, where they poke electrodes at your lobes and you relive vivid sensory experiences.  I swear there’s still resin on my fingertips.  It’s a slippery slope I’ve started down here - there are thousands of miles of waxy black grooves sitting there, and disk storage is cheap.  My time, however, is regrettably linear, and I have to refrain from the temptation to digitize the whole shelf.

Leper’s Progress

After spending a week looking like the “after” pictures in an Army STD video, my forehead has dried up and started to look marginally less angry.  The opthalmologist continues to be concerned with what he sees in my left eye, which damps my euphoria somewhat (as does the slightest glance in a mirror).  He has me using a couple different kinds of drops, which I seem to get better at applying as time goes on.  The vision is fine, but it’s sore sometimes.

I needed a haircut pretty badly before this stuff blindsided me, and once it took hold I don’t think even a mortician could have been bribed to go near my head.  It’s just completely out of hand now, I think it’ll take a string trimmer to subdue it.

I’ve been able to carry on with most other functions - running, weights, walks, working.  I haven’t visited any client sites, but I’ve been able to do a lot of work from my home, since I can work on almost all of my clients’ systems remotely.  I’m pretty sure I’m no longer contagious, but I’ll stay quarantined for a day or two more just to be safe.

Fathers and Sons

In my previous post, I alluded to a depth of generations.  So, for Father’s Day, here they all are, 6 generations of fathers and sons:

Me, my grandfather, my son, my dad (ca 1984).

My dad, my grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great grandfather (ca 1925).  A fine-looking brace of Irishmen!

And, oddly reminiscent of the photos in this post, here’s one I found of my dad and grandpa:


Enough with my organ recital.  I had a nice, but short, visit to my hometown over the weekend.  My youngest brother was there also, as he had business in Ohio the next week.  We did some chores around the house - Mom lives in the house we built in 1961, when I was in the 7th grade:

It looks pretty lush now, but when we built it, it stood in a sea of barren fill dirt.  We couldn’t afford professional landscapers, so I spent a lot of the summer of ‘62 planting grass seed, raking, watering, planting shrubs and trees.  It’s satisfying to walk around the place and remember what was going on in my life when various plants went in.

We took a couple of long walks - Mom has always been an avid walker:

We walked down the main street, recalling the ice cream parlors, drug-store soda fountains, bakeries and greasy-spoon eateries that have come and gone in these venerable old buildings:

and past the municipal swimming pool where Mrs. Perils was a hot lifeguard in high school

Walked past the old Junior High.  One of the classrooms at the right was my 8th grade science class, where Mr. Willmarth held himself out as a handwriting analyst.  About mine, he said, “It shows you’re kind of lazy.  There are other things here, but I shouldn’t tell you about those right now.”  Since he was right about the lazy part, I was sure he could also read the darker things, too, flaws that I didn’t even know for sure, but suspected.  Since the high school building adjoined the Jr. High, and he was maybe 5 years ahead of me, Jimbo Leyland was often the subject of morning announcements and, probably, summonses to the principal’s office.

And, since the previous weekend was Memorial Day, we visited Fort Meigs Cemetery, where 4 generations of us, plus several other family branches, are buried or scattered.  There’s a sort of “Our Town” aspect to a stroll through this cemetery for me.  I see familiar family names, parents and grandparents of people I was in school with, a sense of generational depth that is lost for many of us in the diaspora that our mobility has afforded us.  All four of my generations sacrificed in some way in order to contribute to the richness of life that each of us, as successors, has known, and I am grateful to each of them.

In Which I Morph Into Building Materials

It seems that, regarding my redeye flight Friday, there’s more to it than meets the eye.  I had suffered some eye irritation at the end of last week in my left eye, and resigned myself to a doctor’s visit Friday afternoon.  He said I had a sty on my eyelid, and recommended hot compresses.  It didn’t improve over the weekend, and on Sunday I started to develop a rash on my forehead and scalp, which worsened Monday to a point where my hair hurt.  I slunk into a doctor here in Milwaukee, who told me I have “shingles”.

Shingles!  It sounds so 19th century, like dropsy, quincy, pleurisy, the rheumatiz.  It also sounds vaguely disreputable, like something you might contract by consorting with the livestock.  And, damn, it hurts, especially my eye, which drips tears nonstop.  I’m thinking I have the roofing nails as well.  If I have to be sick, at least give me something hip and modern.

They prescribed some anti-viral pills and some eyedrops, which cost me an eye-popping $250.  How soon can I get on Medicare Plan D? (less than 6 years, actually).  I’ve never really used eyedrops, and it’s pretty comical when I try to apply them.  I’m supposed to get one drop every 3 hours or so, but it turns out to be more like a shower because I keep flinching and missing my eye.  How’d one get into my ear?

A couple of the women at my client’s who are pregnant became jittery when my diagnosis got around (shingles is a derivative of the chicken-pox virus) and, although from everything I can find out there’s not much, if any, chance of me passing anything on to them, I’m bailing this afternoon and flying back to Seattle (all the leper colonies having waiting lists).