Archive for August 2007

Was The Traffic Unusually Light In Redmond This Morning?

A couple of us were startled a bit ago when we tried to dial up a familiar website and our browsers returned the following (Click to enlarge):

I wonder how much they’d pay me to get it back if I bought it. Our browsers may have some redirecting spyware going on; or, some poor miscreant at The Borg forgot to renew the domain name. Would suck to be him, methinks.

UPDATE: - While entertaining, this was ultimately a problem at my client’s ISP, and the Microsoft domain remains unsullied.

4th and Long Gone

President Bush, center, is presented with a Seattle Seahawks football jersey by quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, right, and running back Mack Strong during a fundraiser for Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., and the Washington State Republican Party on Monday, Aug. 27, 2007, in Bellevue, Wash. (AP Photo/Ken Lambert, Pool) (Ken Lambert)

AP

I don’t really follow the Seahawks that closely, but I’m thinking that this year, their opponent’s speedrusher is going to be my favorite player each week.

Food Channel

I’ve had a crazy week putting out fires and buttoning up projects in preparation for my week in Milwaukee next week. One last loose end was to stop in at my bakery client’s to get their info ready for the 9/15 corporate tax filing deadline. Everybody should have a bakery client (click any photo to enlarge):

The cake on the right has a sort of tiramisu layer with fresh strawberries embedded, then a layer of chocolate cake on either side, topped with chocolate buttercream frosting. I got a taste of it when the decorator gave me a cup with pieces of the side trimmings. I was drafted to help load the wedding cake on the right into a van, from whence it was whisked off to a happy nuptial somewhere. At first, I thought the lopsidedness was due to the heat and my inadequate ferrying technique from the cooler, but I was told that it was designed that way.

I’ve worked with this business since 1984 as a consultant, CPA, VP-Finance, and back now to a consultant. They have a nice little mail order business here.

They probably won’t be able to send the above cakes via mailorder, but there are a lot of other delightful pastries that do very well via second-day air. I suggest the kringle, which is a puff-pastry filled - and I mean filled - with almond paste. If you’ve had those flattened things in the midwest that they call “kringle” and think you like them, you’re in for a real treat with Larsen’s. </shill>

I remember one night about 15 years ago when someone was delivering a 5-tier wedding cake - chocolate cake, mocha buttercream frosting, each tier topped with a poured chocolate layer - and the weld on the cakestand broke on the way to the wedding venue. This poor devil came back to the bakery, opened the back of his van, and the floor and walls were just covered in chocolate mess. While we were tempted to grab spoons and just eat out of his van as if it were an ice cream carton, the wedding had to be covered. All the decorators had gone home, but we found a wedding cake in the cooler that was the same size (though a lot plainer and, well, just white), and that cake was whisked off to the panicky, but caterer. They were happy to get it.

So, almost all of my fires are banked, and now I’m cooling my heels at SeaTac waiting for a redeye flight to Minneapolis. I pushed my client to let me work Sunday - Thursday, because I’m flying to Columbus on Friday to once again play with my Ohio State Marching Band alumni. More on that tomorrow.

More From The Engine Room

Last week, I received the following from my web hosting service:

In an effort to improve MySQL performance on our hosting platform, on the morning of August 20, we will be upgrading the following database servers from MySQL 4.1 to MySQL 5:

Your database is hosted on one of these servers and, as a result, Monday morning there should be approximately 15 minutes during which your database will not be accessible–at this time, we’ll be copying and upgrading your database to run using MySQL 5.

MySQL 5 better handles the many simultaneous requests our new database servers receive. The upgrade should therefore enable your site to take fuller advantage of the improved hardware we’ve added in the past couple months. We’re expecting that this upgrade to MySQL 5 will help to resolve any intermittent MySQL issues you’ve been experiencing.

Since Monday (at least), however, the site seems extremely balky and slow. If you wander in now and then, have you noticed this, too? It seemed like things had improved since the last episode, and I decided not to look around for another host. Now, I might start looking again if the “improvements” introduced this week seem permanent.

Open the Pod Bay Doors, Hal

Very uninspired lately and, especially this week, listless. As in, barely able to complete a sentence or remember all the words to “Daisy”. I have to leave for Milwaukee Saturday night, and have a mountain of work work to accomplish before I leave. When I come home, it will be September, and I’m kind of resenting being jilted by August, who’s spent the month out playing while I’m earning a living.

Tangentially related to that, the following came across my desk this morning:

Again, we deeply regret any inconvenience the errors in our scanning process have caused you, and we greatly appreciate your assistance in helping us resolve this matter. If you have any questions, you may call us at 1-800-829-0115.

Source: IRS Stakeholder Liaison’s Office

“Stakeholder”. Heh. When did the Vampire’s Guild establish diplomatic relations with Buffy?

(Actually, I’ve never had a problem with the IRS that wasn’t self-inflicted, and even then I find them courteous and helpful, as long as I am as well. That makes this post eminently qualified for the category below.)

In Economic News…

I love this:

A big drop in the cost of gasoline in July contributed to the smallest rise in consumer prices in eight months while industrial output posted a solid gain. (Seattle P-I)

When energy, housing and food prices were climbing meteorically earlier in the year, we were encouraged to ignore that and concentrate on “core inflation”, or the ISNB (Index of Shit Nobody Buys) - that market basket of key economic indicators that includes:

  • asbestos baby rattles
  • Knox gelatin
  • industrial floor sweeping compound
  • Ronco monocle repair kit
  • American-made automobiles

Meanwhile, the cost of stuff people can’t avoid buying:

  • health insurance
  • heating fuels (sure, it might be cheap in July, but check it out in January)
  • repairs to American-made automobiles that brothers-in-law give you when they buy a new Camry
  • that little peep-show down on First Avenue

rises relentlessly. Granted, houses might be cheap soon, but you’ll have to pay cash, and U.S. currency might not cut it.

Proving the Concept

Well, this morning I am the personification of the title of this blog. I had an espresso after dinner and I now find myself, at 2:45 AM, to be extremely alert. I should probably be working - it’d be my best work in a week, likely. Let’s keep this between us, ok? Because if Mrs. Perils finds out, she won’t let me make coffee again after dinner. Just for this post, I’m using a secret font that I’ve set the browsers on her computer to render as a butterfly love-making, which will distract her.

We’re playing host for a few days to a young woman from Australia. She’s the daughter of someone we met in our online book club, and is exploring the western states before heading east for a year of university study in Virginia. Her visit literally started off with a bang. She arrived Saturday evening and we took her out for a bite of sushi, followed by a stroll down the hill to Gasworks Park. I can hear my flatland relatives groaning already, as they recognize that activity as the start of what they not-so-fondly call “Camp Ph*lbin”, but it gets better.

As luck and/or the groveling money grubbiness of the Parks Department would have it, the park was the scene of a huge extravaganza of a private party, complete with a temporary band shell, substantial fenced-off area (where we usually meander on our evening walks to the park), gospel choir, off-duty-cop motorcycle escort and, lastly, an enormous barge on Lake Union which they used to launch a fireworks display.

That’s why I had gently nudged us down there, and we stood around for awhile waiting for the display and watching rich people nosh on rich-people food. Mrs. Perils started to get jumpy and, indeed, it seemed silly to arrange our evening around someone else’s entertainment schedule, so we started to leave. Just then, the fireworks began, and I have to say it was one of the best I’ve seen, short, but no blank spaces and refreshingly devoid of patriotic hoopla. Here’s a short video from the P-I. I inexplicably didn’t have my camera along.

While I’d get a kick out of hauling our guest around on hikes and kayak trips and beach walks and all the other stuff that elicits a collective shudder from my relatives, she seems to have picked out an agenda from friends’ advice and Lonely Planet, and I think it’s her first really independent away-from-home experience, and she wants to do her own navigation. Our place is pretty ideally located for that. Yesterday, she caught a bus to downtown and did the Underground Seattle Tour and wandered up to Capitol Hill and Volunteer Park, and seemed very pleased. We’ll just sit back and be B&B operators.

OK, still very alert here even though you’re probably stifling yawns or already snoring unattractively. I’ll show mercy on you and go play Spider Solitaire or something until sleep finds me.

Musical Interlude

On Wednesday, we stepped out after dinner to hear a jazz performance at the Good Shepherd Center a couple blocks from the house. I’d been tipped off about the performance because I’m on an email list from a bass player that has been one of our favorite musicians over the past decade. His name is Paul Kemmish, but most often he goes by “PK”. He plays both upright string bass and electric bass guitar.

We had never heard of the trio he was performing with Wednesday and didn’t know what to expect, but no matter what incarnation we’ve heard him in, we’ve seldom been disappointed.

The Good Shepherd Center and the adjacent property is a former nunnery and home for “wayward girls” that the Catholic Church sold to the city back in the 70s. It’s a huge hulk of a building that now houses a senior center, a private elementary school and various headquarters for non-profit organizations. As often as I’ve been in and around the building, I’ve never been to the upper floors.

This performance, then introduced me to a chapel space that I’d never known about, located on the fourth floor of the building. It’s not that often that we’re seated concert-style for a PK performance - it’s most often in a bar or a nightclub-style music venue.

The music this trio played was mostly improvisational, although it seemed “tight” in the sense that they knew where they were headed and were very attentive to each other. It was interesting to see PK playing outside his more familiar funk and groove riffs. The pickup on the video below is not the best, but you can see how hard the guy works and pick up a few of his riffs:

We latched onto PK back in 1998 0r 99 when he was part of a groove jazz trio called Rockin’ Teenage Combo. I had just returned from a business trip and we were hosting a young co-worker who wanted to visit Seattle for the weekend, and Mrs. Perils had read an interesting review of RTC. So up to Pike Street we went. By the time they had played 5 bars, I was hanging over the rail in rapt attention. They were a trio of PK on bass, a woman named Dara Quinn on keys and several different drummers. They played a driving, yet intricate acid-funk-jazz that you could either stand and drink in or boogie down to. Dara was a gifted keyboard player who was just as comfortable with a baby grand as she was with a Roland and a synth.

We stalked them (and a couple of other bands) around town after that, and they sort of became our house band. We hired them to play for both of our 50th birthday parties. Mrs. Perils’ was really cool, held in a loft in a warehouse south of downtown. RTC’s drummer that night was Jason McGerr, now the drummer for Seattle band Death Cab for Cutie.

Here’s a podcast of a few selections that I really like. The first is sort of breezy and poppy, and you can feel PK providing the solid foundation. In the second number, PK is playing bass guitar and Dara is playing her Roland electric keys. The other numbers are there if you like it and want a soundtrack for awhile.

RTC broke up a few years ago. I think you might still be able to purchase their cd’s here.  I’m still going to make a podcast some day of bands that we’ve killed with our attention.

Gettin’ On

This weekend, back in my hometown in Ohio, they held my 40th high school class reunion. I had originally planned to go, tagging on a hop across Lake Michigan after working last week in Milwaukee. It would have worked out nicely, since my mom still lives in town and I could have combined the festivities with a visit with her and chores around her house. However, my client decided he wanted me in Milwaukee a week earlier, so I sent my regrets.

Since my high school social life revolved almost exclusively around the band, my friends were drawn from 5 or 6 different classes (older and younger) rather than just my graduating class. And while it’s true that Mrs. Perils and I met in high school band, she was in the class of ‘69. For these reasons, plus the fact that we’ve lived in Seattle for the last 33 years, I don’t have super-strong ties to anyone from my class. There are people I’d enjoy seeing, but it’s not like we correspond, or even send Christmas cards.

Still, it’s a milestone of sorts, another chink in my armor. The reunion committee did a really nice job of reaching out to find people, and I got nicely reacquainted through a website they set up to post photos and stories. Some of the stories, of course, were startling in their portrayal of lives that you could never have imagined for certain individuals.

Maybe I’ll make the 50th. From my senior class yearbook:

(Click to enlarge)

Guess I wasn’t what you’d call a varsity athlete! Pitiable male pride probably led me to list “Intramurals”. Sheesh. Also, they misspelled my name - it’s one “l”. Yeah, I was on the yearbook staff, but I did the sports. Still, you’d think I’d check my own entry.

And here’s one from the Perils archive - that’s me and Mrs. Perils gettin’ down at the senior prom. Please be gentle if you comment (Click to engorge):

A picture named Homecoming 66.jpg

Mid-week Excursion

The weather here has been just spectacular, and on Wednesday, I played hooky and accompanied Mrs. Perils and a rock-climbing friend of hers on a day hike. Their agenda included a round of rock-climbing, so Wednesday morning found us leaving the house at an un-Perils-like 5:30. We drove up I-90 to Snoqualmie Pass and hiked into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness on a section of the Pacific Crest Trail that includes Kendall Katwalk, pictured below. The Katwalk was blasted across the face of a sheer rock face. You can see the trail itself in the upper right part of the photo. It looks narrower than it really is (about 3 feet), but it still gives the scrotum a tingle when you walk across it.

(Click any photo to enlarge)

The trail starts at 3000-ft Snoqualmie Pass and ascends 2700 feet over the 8 or 9 miles that I hiked. There are still lots of wildflowers at that elevation, and they’re real abundant once you break out of the forested part of the trail.

It’s called the Alpine Lakes Wilderness for a reason! (Ridge Lake below):

At about the 6 1/2 mile mark, Mrs. Perils and her companion peeled off the trail to scramble up to Mt. Thompson for their rock-climbing adventure. I thought I might accompany them up to the base of the mountain to photograph them a little, but I got off-track on the precipitous scramble and decided to go back down to the trail. I’m not really acrophobic, but in certain situations where the footing is sketchy and the trail (or non-trail, in this instance) is steep, I get paralyzed and, even though others have successfully proceeded before me, become convinced that gravity is not in my corner. I usually pull myself forward, whether on all 4s or gingerly walking, but on this day, I wasn’t going to be climbing anyway, so I just bagged it.

The bad thing was that I had most of our food in my pack, and they had gone so far beyond me when I turned back that they weren’t willing to come back for it. Lunch that day was one of the most guilty meals I’ve ever eaten. That’s the peak (Mt. Thompson) that they went climbing on in the righthand photo below:

Once back on the trail, I hiked a couple miles farther along, as Mt. Rainier to the south revealed itself more and more fully as I ascended.

My goal was to get to a point where I could shoot the mountain framed by the Gold Creek valley, lower right. I got to a ridge saddle where the trail turned back and descended in a different direction, so I couldn’t actually get the mountain centered in the valley. I don’t know why nature won’t cooperate with my photographic tastes.

I settled for a lunch stop on the ridge, with its panoramic views off each side, and lingered to read from George Eliot’s Middlemarch. The idyl was punctuated all too frequently, however, by waves of vicious biting flies and mosquitoes. I zipped on the leggings of my convertible pants, pulled on a long-sleeved pullover and wrapped my head in a polypro shirt I’d brought in case of a chill. They still found ways to bite through the two shirt layers. Turned out Mrs. Perils had all of the bug repellent in her pack. I think I would have traded her even for the food at a couple points.

While I was on the ridge, two pairs of back-packing hikers passed by on their way to the interior of the Wilderness. One was going to spend the next 6 days on their way to Stevens Pass on Route 2; the other couple was hiking the PCT up to the Canadian border. In the left-hand photo below, you can see the PCT traversing the face of the mountain about halfway up from the lake.

Sick of the photos yet? Didn’t think so…here’re a few more: