Archive for June 2007

Unplugging

Our son left with some friends Tuesday for a few days of play-going and (I presume) revelry in Ashland, Oregon. We’ll be heading down there a week from Sunday, with my mom in tow. She’s flying to Seattle from Detroit on July 4th. Hope the Northwest pilots are in a holiday flying mood that day. I felt a real pang when he left - I want to go to Ashland NOW.

We’re taking a long weekend off ourselves, leaving today for a 4-day camping/kayaking trip to San Juan Island. I’ve spent the short week since arriving home from Milwaukee Friday night running around to clients, battening hatches and hatching battens, or whatever.  As we did last year, we’ll be sharing campsites with some younger families, with children from pre-school to grade school. Also, it looks like rain. It’ll either be rejuvenating, or it’ll kill us.

So, probably no internet until Sunday night, unless we hit the eject button and check into some cushy resorty lodgings. Credit card’s cocked, safety’s off.

Reading Circle

I cruised home from Milwaukee on my usual 11 pm arrival Friday night. On the plane home I read a fair amount of an issue of The New York Review of Books. We subscribe, and the thing sits around the house for a month, but plane rides seem to be the only time I sit my ADD ass in one place long enough to read it. Helps that I have to have my laptop off for portions of the ride.I always learn something when I do page through it. For instance, this issue had:

  • a review of Tom Stoppard’s Coast of Utopia plays currently on Broadway. We’ve enjoyed his Arcadia, Rough Crossing, and Travesties, and we’ll see another (On The Razzle) in Ashland (in less than 2 weeks!!!). The Utopia series is 3 plays about mid-19th century Russian intellectuals - all performed in one day, apparently. I would trust his depth of research and spell-binding command of language to make it worthwhile. A friend of mine saw the cycle in New York and enjoyed it.
  • David Lodge (author of The Art of Fiction) reviews a biography of Kingsley Amis, and I learned a bit of lore about the pre-post-modernists.
  • A review of a book about the Indian Mughal dynasty and how its devil’s bargain with the East India Company helped morph it from a regime tolerant of many religions and sects into a hapless participant in the bloody Indian Mutiny. This is the second piece I’ve read this year that spoke of two phases of the British adventure in India - a comparatively benign first phase wherein East India operatives were symbiotic with the Indian culture and often assimilated, and a repressive second phase characterized by evangelical Christian missionaries. I’m interested enough to read some actual books about it.
  • Reviews of a re-release of Casanova’s autobiography, titled, with characteristic humbleness, History of My Life. The memoir comes in two flavors - a 6-volume, 4,300-page set and an abridged 1,400-page edition. Always a one-word caricature to me, he turns out to be a pretty interesting figure. It seems like he was everywhere at once - Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Britain. He hob-nobbed with the age’s great philosophers and politicians, and apparently only (!) a third of the 4,000 pages is about his sexual adventures. It seems he actually wrote quite a bit (there is an allusion to a trunk full of life-long note-taking that he mined for the memoir), and his prose seems entertaining and droll. Here, he wanders into an Amsterdam nightclub:

It was a musicau - a dark orgy in a place which was a veritable sewer of vice, a disgrace to even the most repellent debauchery. The very sound of the two or three instruments which made up the orchestra plunged the soul in sadness. A room reeking with the smoke of bad tobacco, with the stench of garlic which came from the belches emitted by the men who were dancing or sitting with a bottle or a pot of beer to their right and a hideous slattern to their left…

I find myself admiring his sheer exuberance for living, and I might be tempted to try reading his account of it.

Enough Enhancing, Already.

This seems to be the essence of my blog experience the last few days.  It’s not Novell’s fault - but I’m puzzled by the celebration of a time-out error:

From The Engine Room

If you’ve had problems connecting to this site in the last month or so, I apologize. My web hosting company, powweb.com, has somehow screwed up a service that I was really pleased with for the first year I used them. They’re apparently having trouble with their MySQL servers, where this blog resides, and the performance is all over the place, from instantaneous to non-existent. I chose them because they allow 20 gb of storage in their basic package, and I have a bunch of photos and video. Other hosts offer lots of bandwidth but not so much storage. Until you guys get your friends and relatives to obsess over reading me, bandwidth will never be a constraint here.

I’m going to give them another week or two, and then I’m going to move the domain somewhere else. Whatever I do, it should be pretty transparent to you. If you’ve got the time, though, I’d like to hear when you have problems getting here. I guess this is a little taste of what will happen if the telecoms are allowed to dismantle net neutrality.

Sorry for the hassle.

Editor’s Note:  I just upgraded my Wordpress to version 2.2.  I’ll have to rebuild my blogroll and banner pics, etc, but (wishful thinking?) it seems to be a little more responsive.

Father’s Day Follies

Since today, Father’s Day, is a travel day (yep, Milwaukee again), my son and I went hiking yesterday on Rattlesnake Ridge, just outside North Bend, WA. The cool thing is, I think he actually wanted to do it. After a childhood of resolutely inveighing against it, he now really likes hiking, and the more challenging, the better.

A challenge to his 25-year-old self, however, can easily become a death march for 57-year-old me, especially when Mrs. Perils isn’t along to use as a foil (”slow down a bit, son, your mother’s getting winded.” (this fools no one about who’s actually getting winded)). He was very courteous, though, as I could tell he was holding back when we came to an especially steep ascent.

Here we are at our lunch stop, a prow of rock that afforded a commanding 270-degree view of the Snoqualmie River valley (Click any photo to enlarge):

Here’s the view east, with the Cedar River reservoir peeking out in the center:

And here’s the view west, towards Issaquah and Seattle. In the center is Mt. Si, which provided the backdrop for the opening credits on the TV show Twin Peaks, although this view is from the opposite side.

Mrs. Perils and I had given ourselves some aluminum trekking poles for Christmas, but I hadn’t used them until yesterday. Well, I carried them, but ended up not using them at all during the ascent because they would have interfered with my ability to keep up, and also because I really didn’t feel a need for them. Their purpose is to reduce the amount of wear on knees and hips, especially when carrying backpacks, and I had brought them because (click for secret subscriber-only message) and I was anticipating some hip pain from it. Luckily, nothing really hurt while I was hiking. I used the poles sporadically on our descent, trying to figure out a technique for their employ. Most of the time, I just carried them, though, as the boy managed to make the downhike an anaerobic experience as well.

It was a great day for a hike, despite the overcast. Except for a short period when we were high enough to be in the cloud layer, the rain held off nicely until we got down to the parking lot. Then, over a distance of about 200 yards, we were thoroughly drenched, making for wet-dog syndrome on the drive home.

Happy Father’s Day to all of you who are fathers, and all of you who have fathers!

Doing The Tourist Thing

Pressed for time - I’ll let the camera do most of the talking. As I mentioned earlier, Mrs. Perils’ brother and two daughters have been visiting, and we’ve had a really nice time. Tuesday night we went out for sushi, and Wednesday we did the “tourist thing”.

The nieces wanted to go to the Space Needle and the Pike Place Market, and we threw in the Seattle Aquarium as an additional attraction, since it’s just down a long stairway from the Market. The Space Needle is always a problematic destination, because they charge $16 apiece just to ride the elevator to the observation deck. It’s a terrific view, but with 5 adults, you’re talking $80. You can get postcards at the drug store for much less and, depending on the weather, the view might be better.

The nieces asked if there wasn’t a rotating restaurant there, and we said that there was, and the elevator ride is free if you eat there. The nieces then evinced a strong preference for eating lunch in the revolving restaurant, so that became our plan. When we walked up to the reception desk for the restaurant and asked for lunch reservations, they mentioned that there was a $30/person minimum food charge. I asked my BIL if he still wanted to do it, but he at that point was pretty much checkmated, so up we went.

Reviewers consistently pan the restaurant at the Needle, but we thoroughly enjoyed both the food and the view. We’d completed almost 3 revolutions by the time we finished.

(Click photos to enlarge)

Below is a comparison of the view in 1974 (left) when we first arrived in Seattle (and the elevator ride was quite a bit cheaper) and on Thursday. In the 1974, you can barely see the Kingdome, under construction and nearing completion.

Next, we parked near the Market and waddled down to the aquarium.

I became mesmerized by a clear circular exhibit called the Circle of Life that featured moon jellyfish, and made this video. I find I can’t embed Youtube videos for some reason today, so just click the link. I think you’ll be mesmerized, too. Really, you should check it out. Put your speakers on.
Other attractions at the aquarium, in rapid fire:

Finally, we hit the Pike Place Market just as they were closing up. That was OK, as we got to see all the sights and vendors, but there wasn’t the usual crowd. Back in 1985, there was a campaign to sell tiles to raise money for the Market, and we bought one. Ours seems to have escaped the depredations of time cited in this recent article:

And Every One Is Sacred

Battening down the hatches, preparing for an invasion of in-laws today. Mrs. Perils’ brother is arriving from Chattanooga with two almost-grown daughters in tow, whom we haven’t seen in easily 10 years. He’ll visit us (my MIL lives with us) for a few days, then head to Idaho to visit their sister. They’re staying in a hotel, so, unlike other visits, my insomnia couch will be free for my nocturnal wanderings if necessary.

(Sing along with Monty Python)
Father’s Day is coming up this Sunday. It’s not a big deal to me, and I’ll be traveling anyway. I only bring it up because I ran across this incredibly clever paean to the sperm in the NYT by Natalie Angier (it’s not premium content, but you’ll have to log in, I think). There’s also good dose of scientific information:

men have the overwhelming quantitative edge in the gamete games. Whereas current evidence suggests that a human female is born with all the eggs she will have, and that only about 500 of her natal stock of one million will ever ripen and have a shot at fertilization, a male from puberty onward is pretty much a nonstop sperm bakery. Each testicle generates more than 4 million new sperm per hour, for a lifetime total of maybe 12 trillion sperm per man (although the numbers vary with the day and generally slope downward with age).

So Dads, if you find yourself the object of harassment as you lounge in front of the tube, perhaps even idly scratching the area in question, you can respond that you’re actually incredibly busy.

Graduation Day

The other day, I received an email announcing that a young woman who has worked for me in various situations since she was 16 was promoted to be the corporate Treasurer of the company she’s been working for, and it gave me more than a little tingle of pride.

I first hired her when she was on summer break from college, to do some filing and data entry.  (No, actually I think the first time I hired her was to babysit our son when she was in high school.)  I had worked with her mother at a CPA firm, and that was the connection, but I saw that she picked stuff up really fast, so I kept offering her employment whenever she was around.

She eventually became my accounts payable, then payroll person and, after I’d made a couple of dubious hires for the assistant controller position above her, I threw up my hands and let her do that, too.  I moved on to other positions, and almost always seemed to have something for her to do.  It’s not that I was a great mentor or anything like that - it was usually more like my ass needed saving, and she came in, figured out what needed to be done and did it.  Along the way, we’ve developed one of those lasting foxhole friendships.

And now she’s all growed up.  One of the more gratifying things she’s told me as she moved into supervisory roles is, “I don’t know how you put up with us.  The next person who comes into my office in tears I think I’m going to brain with a box of Kleenex.”  As I said, though, I’m not taking any credit.  I feel more like Forrest Gump, upon first apprehending his child, stuttering hopefully, “Is s-s-s-he s-s-s-smart?”

So, to appropriate the exuberant slivovitz toast of a Latvian co-worker (who ended up stealing blank paychecks from us and forging a few of them), “I drink you!  I drink you! (roll the ‘r’s)”  All I ask is that you keep me in mind for that receptionist’s position.  I promise I’ll keep my armpits shaved if I wear tank tops.

Civic Offense

(Here’s the rewrite of the post I lost earlier today)
I was lying awake at 4 am the other morning, listening to some evolutionarily ambitious specie of bird that somehow was sensing the first sparse photons of the sunrise that I would spend the next two hours awaiting, chirping madly in hopes of lascivious egg-sex, or a regurgitated meal or some other inscrutable avian reward.

I was awake because at 2:30 I’d been roused by Mrs. Perils’ swift exit from the bed to investigate some noisome disturbance in the street in front of the house, which found both of us on the front porch in our risible 50-something sleepwear.

This was definitely an unusual level of vigilance, engendered by the fact that some meth-hungry twit had, the previous night, broken into our ‘95 Civic and separated the steering wheel from the steering column in an apparent attempt to steal the car (click photos to enlarge):

The note taped to the window was penned by our son, who still remembers how to write using pen and paper. And he’s right - it was an incredibly amateurish hack-job of an attempt to heist an eminently heistable car. Just as you don’t want to be the first heart bypass patient of a rookie surgeon, you don’t want to be the first victim of a rookie car thief. I mean, I’ve always been a big supporter of education, and everybody has to learn his trade by practicing it. But, jeez, you’d think these guys would have enough respect for their profession to spend a portion of their two sentient daily hours at the library doing some research in a Chilton’s manual.

Because the front wheels wouldn’t turn, the tow truck guy had to go through some extended maneuvers to get the car onto the truck. On the positive side, it provided an hour’s entertainment for a couple of neighborhood kids, and their parents.

Happy Anniversary!

Well, I just lost a post that I’m sure wasn’t as clever as I remember it in my bereavement.  I’ll rewrite it when my anger subsides.

However, I will note that today Mrs. Perils and I will, if we remember it this evening, celebrate the Vinyl Anniversary of our wedding.  Technically, our Vinyl Anniversary won’t be for another 122 days, when our nuptials will be 33 1/3 years old.  Still, if you play it at 33 instead of 33 1/3, it’ll sound only a smidgen slow.  Like us.