Archive for September 2007

Summer Lingers For A Bit

This message on my screen this morning:

was tantamount to a Snow Day for school kids and teachers. It meant the server was down at a client site where I was pecking away at a programming project. Well, not really like a Snow Day where you turn off the alarm clock and snooze cozily as the whoosh of snow sifting against the window creates an insulating barrier between you and the world. I had plenty of other stuff to work on, but those items were not as deadline-driven, and it was fun to call a couple of clients and tell them I’d finished their tasks early as the day went on.

I’ve been taking off on my bike on these late summer evenings (hey, I’m an accountant - I know how to file an extension) to plummet down the hill from my house and cruise the Burke Gilman Trail, an in-city rail-trail that meanders past the University of Washington campus, then north along the Lake Washington shore. Large swaths of the trail are a bio-hoard of blackberries, and even at this late date, you can find rogue clusters of berries ranging from arrested-development-sour to incredibly-sweet to Mogen-David-fermented. The riders in the center are partaking of some of these late-season wonders. (One of the guys put me in mind, for the rest of the night, of Chris Farley disco-dancing in a bumblebee outfit.  Click to enlarge)

I ride about 7 miles along the trail to Matthews Beach city park, stop for a couple of minutes by the beach to observe:

then turn back home, with a stop at the gym to do my cycle of Nautilus machines.  I’m not sure what those waterfowl are - coots, maybe? - but I liked the pointillistic contrast of their beaks against their dark bodies and the water.

From the Ex’s and Ho’s Category

Folks on my Ohio State newsgroups are aghast at this revelation yesterday that our 3rd string quarterback, who had all but ascended to the 2-deep and had gotten most of the backup playing time in our nailbiter against Northwestern Saturday, was arrested after offering an undercover officer $20 for sex.

It’s not that they’re surprised that a teenager might evince a sex drive - they’re dumbfounded, and I think their pride’s a little hurt, that a Buckeye quarterback feels a need to pay for sex. The archivists are bloodying their nails searching for a precedent. I remember once when I was a student at OSU and experiencing some of that special loneliness characterized by animal head ornamentation, two really hot women walked into the lobby of my dorm, picked up the house phone* and cold-called the 2nd-string quarterback, Ron Maciejowski. (the kid got to start once a year when Rex Kern would take the Wisconsin game off.) Completely ignoring yours truly, who was no doubt picturesquely pretending to study. Dagger to the heart, that.

Another surprise for me is the apparent Seattle/Columbus exchange rate. Around here, $50 is a cheap dinner for two, and I wouldn’t bet on the chances of a cheap dinner getting you laid.  Some on my OSU list were wondering if the deep discount might have been an NCAA violation if consummated.

The best reportage I’ve seen of the incident comes from the always-hilarious EDSBS (Every Day Should Be Saturday). They hit us where we live with the caption “I-O! H-O!”

* - The more perceptive of you will notice the absence of the terms “cell phone” or “texting” in this anecdote

Why Do I Do This?

So, fresh off the excitement of the extended weekend, I flew off Sunday morning to Milwaukee for the week. I usually space my trips so there’s a 4-5 week gap, but we had our board of directors meeting this week, so I had to return with only 2 weeks’ respite in Seattle. It actually works out well, since I’m continuing a project that I started when I was here the week before Labor Day, and it would have been harder to pick up on if I’d waited a month.

As you might have observed, my trips here serve to dull my senses and stultify my already suspect posting capacity. I’m not sure why this happens, since that ball bearing that’s always ricocheting around inside my skull (unimpeded by gray matter) doesn’t stop. It’s probably due to the fact that all my stimulation during these trips is related to work, and the work that I do is mostly uninteresting to people that I’m not billing for it, (and may actually repugnant to those that receive my invoices).

I’m a sole practitioner/independent consultant, but since I spend so much time with this client, I run the risk of plunging down the rabbit-hole in terms of commitment to/embedding with their organization. Obviously, I like them, or I wouldn’t countenance the disruption of my life that working with them entails. So, I maintain an arm’s-length relationship, despite the fact that sometimes I’d like to, and probably should, linger over a project.

Luckily, I have a lot of Seattle-area clients to keep me grounded (or run into the ground, as usually happens once I get back there), including one that’s been rivaling the Milwaukee client for billable time. And, despite some suasion I got early in the relationship, there’s not much short of a Lear jet and beachfront on Maui that would entice me to move to Milwaukee.

It’s a sort of strange, but awfully stimulating, workspace.

Ed: OK, I wrote that last week and it languished due to doubts that it deserved the space, but I need to re-prime the pump.

Long Weekend, Tardy Posting

Our trip with my brother and SIL last weekend worked out perfectly - nearly everything fell into place as if it were scripted.

Here’s a little soundtrack for a post about a trip that includes the San Juans - it’s called The Pig War by a Seattle band called Minus The Bear:

I picked up my guests at the airport Wednesday night, and we left Thursday morning for a ferry ride across Puget Sound and a short drive to Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula (Click photos to enlarge).

Port Townsend is a charming little town nestled in a bay off of Admiralty Inlet, the passage that connects Puget Sound with the Strait of Wanna Fu Juan de Fuca. If you click the link above, you’ll read of an interesting wrinkle in its history that ensured the preservation of some knockout Victorian housing stock. Our weather pattern for the weekend was morning fog which the sun chased away at its leisure over the course of the afternoon. As we walked around Port Townsend, fog moved in and out, and eventually settled into a sculpted bank offshore, secreting ferries, container ships and other shipping, and their alarmist honking.

We stayed at a nice little place on the water called The Tides. Port Townsend and environs was the setting for the filming of the movie An Officer And A Gentleman, and The Tides was the site of one of Debra Winger and Richard Gere’s liasons. The middle photo below is the parade grounds at Fort Worden where the cadets’ graduation took place. The filming provided me with my only movie star client as a CPA. Friends of ours lived and ran businesses in Port Townsend at that time, and I did their taxes. During filming, one of their daughters was selected to appear in the film (in the dinner scene where Gere visited Debra Winger’s family. Their daughter was one of the kids at the table.) Every year thereafter, she got a 1099 from Paramount, and I prepared a little 1040 for her.

Friday morning, we had reservations for a boat tour that left Port Townsend, wound its way through the San Juan Islands to a lunch stop in Friday Harbor, and engaged in some wildlife-ogling and orca-watching on the return trip. Below you see the most interesting of our wildlife sightings, each in their own way attempting to absorb as many late-summer sunrays as possible.

And the piece de resistance: Our tour boat headed to the west side of San Juan Island and slipped in among a throng of other boats who were watching the J and K pods of southern resident orcas feeding offshore. The rule for whale-watching boats is to keep at least 100 meters’ distance, and, remarkably, all but one of the boats were scrupulously observing this etiquette. The whales, however, are under no such restriction, and at some point started heading towards the boats. The video below was taken as a pair of them approached, then swam around, our boat.

This might seem heretical to whale worshipers, but the above video for me is eerily reminiscent of this scene from my brother’s pond in South Carolina. For a time, the pond was home to one small-mouthed bass that, for all intents and purposes, became a housepet to my avid fisherman brother. It would follow us around the pond as we circumambulated the shore. I mean, can you eat a fish once you’ve named it “Shamu”? Shamu died of natural causes last spring. Or so we’re told. Me, I think he’s still down there, waiting for his “Call me fishmeal” moment:

And, finally, the ostensible reason for their visit arrived Saturday morning - the game at Husky Stadium between our Buckeyes and the Washington Huskies. Mrs. Perils is not a football fan, so my bro, SIL and I walked down to the stadium, taking time to meander around UW’s campus and absorb a little collegiate atmosphere. Upon entering the stadium, we were delighted to see that there was a large contingent wearing scarlet.

Also attending was an a pep band from the OSU Marching Band alumni club. When they were soliciting players earlier in the summer, I considered playing, but ultimately felt that it was sort of inappropriate for non-students to be participating in a college athletic event. I mean, it’s one thing to have an annual reunion game at our stadium where we play jointly with the student band and they love us and welcome us. It’s quite another thing to start showing up at away games and, in my opinion, usurping the role that students should be playing, even given that the Big Ten schools either send an entire band or nothing. I don’t want them to start thinking that they can quit sending the student band to away games because the alumni are only too happy to play. Our job as band alumni is to shut up and write checks. So, my brother and I attended the game as mere citizens. Meanwhile, the alumni band did a great job of playing and rallying our fans, they were loved and welcomed, and I’d have had a great time participating. But, in retrospect, I’m content with my decision.

The photos below depict a celebration after we scored, the final score on the scoreboard, and the team assembled in the endzone after the game, facing the contingent of fans and singing the alma mater along with the alumni band. A thoroughly satisfying afternoon. (I hasten to add - those people in kilts are not the OSU alumni band - it was high school band day at Husky Stadium, and they’re getting a ground-zero view of a tradition-laden program, even if it’s not the one they came to see!)

Gettin’ Out Of Town

Those of you who pay attention to these things may have noticed that Ohio State is playing at Washington on Saturday.  That means HERE, in Seattle.  My youngest brother and his wife arrived last night and will stay through Sunday.  We’re headed for Port Townsend this morning just for a change of venue.  We’ll stay there tonight, and tomorrow we’ve arranged for a boat trip through the San Juan Islands, with a stop in Friday Harbor and perhaps some whale-watching.

We’ll come back to Seattle Friday night and Saturday, of course, we’ll walk down to Husky Stadium to watch the football game.

The Buckeyes have played here twice before, and both times they’ve gotten thrashed, so I’m puckering up and practicing my cringe.

I’m taking my laptop and camera, so I’ll post from the road if there’s connectivity.

Flight Line

Flying certainly got more interesting last weekend. Especially since I fly through the Minneapolis airport, I was obsessively aware of other guys’ feet in the restroom due to the recent elucidation of an intricate set of politico-sexual signals of which I was heretofore blissfully ignorant. Actually, I’m only half-informed. I know that, if a guy in the next stall moves his foot toward me, taps it and makes a hand-signal under the divider, it means he’s receptive to talk of promoting property rights and the Federal Marriage Amendment; but what if I’m in the mood to talk about troop withdrawals and a national health care program? How do I discern when broaching these topics would be acceptable?

It’s all moot anyway - I always use the women’s rest room when I’m in MSP. OK, not just there.

When I’m homeward-bound, and at the gate for my Seattle flights, I’m amazed that, for as often as I fly, I almost never see anyone I know. Last Monday was an exception. At some point, the gate agent called my name, and that alerted a sometime commenter hereabouts, Mr. Miss Piggy Lunchbox, of my presence. We first met him at a Drinking Liberally gathering. He’s a musical encyclopedia, and when he comments it’s usually to gently correct me after I’ve made some fatuous and ill-informed musical observation. We only had time for a brief conversation before boarding.

OK, the whole purpose of this post, at one week’s remove, is to present these photographs of Seattle as we approached SeaTac. The last of the evening light was having some really cool effects, even through the opacity of an airliner window (click to enlarge):

The first three are of the Seattle skyline as we approached. The fourth is looking east to along the 520 bridge, past Bill Gates’ house and Bellevue to the Cascades in the far distance.

Toledo Touring

Due to the 4-day weekend I took over Labor Day, plus working in Milwaukee the week before, my shortened work week in Seattle last week was just nuts. There was probably time to post, but I never felt like I really had permission to be in front of my computer and not working. (Shut up. Spider Solitaire is working).

So, I’d like to nudge the Wayback Machine back to last weekend, mostly just to share some photos. As I mentioned, we left Columbus on Sunday and headed north to Perrysburg, where we grew up and our mom still lives. Our journey there took us through the town of Findlay, famous for being the site of the Perils’ nuptials back when dinosaurs stalked the earth. Nowadays, it seems to have a distinctive municipal flavor (Click any photo to enlarge):

(Thanks to my SIL for pointing out this scene as we were stopping for gas)

We did the same thing last year, and went up to Detroit to see the Tigers play at Comerica Park. Since the Tigers were playing out of town this year, my youngest brother hatched a plan to go to downtown Toledo to see the Mud Hens play in their new ballpark. It seemed like an amiable way to spend the evening, and a lovely evening it was. Those of you who watched M*A*S*H might remember that Klinger was from Toledo, and regularly mentioned both the Mud Hens and Tony Packo’s Hungarian cafe.

Every venue must have its rabid fans. One between-innings interlude introduced us to this truly entertaining variety of fandom:

Here’s a couple of group shots. On the left, me, my mom and one of my SILs; On the right, middle brother, youngest brother and me.

As the night wore on, Fifth Third Field imperceptibly became Third Fifth Field. Here, my youngest brother is quite full of himself for being the impresario of a lovely evening:

Long Time Gone (or Return of the Native)

I had a post drafted on Friday and it got swallowed, and then events of the weekend overtook me. To fast-forward a bit, I finished my week working in Milwaukee on Thursday and departed Friday morning for Columbus, there to meet up with my mom, my brothers and their wives, and to play and march once again with my Ohio State alumni band at the OSU-Youngstown State game. Not exactly a scintillating matchup, but don’t ask a Michigan fan today about whether it’s beneath a Big Ten team to play a Division II school.

Didn’t really have much chance to post after Friday morning because the entire weekend was a whirlwind of activity:

  • Friday evening - music rehearsal, then dinner with family (and perhaps a martini too far)
  • Saturday morning - marching and playing rehearsal at 6 am, which I managed to attend despite the emotional roller-coaster of oversleeping, a missed ride with my brother and an exculpatory taxi ride to the stadium.
  • Gametime at noon, in glorious, maybe just a little too glorious, sunshine; marching in an exhilarating pregame and halftime show and, because we scored early and often, playing my lips to swollen exhaustion in the stands
  • Gala dinner Saturday night with La Famiglia at an Italian restaurant
  • Sunday morning drive up to my mom’s house in Perrysburg
  • Hustle to downtown Toledo Sunday evening for a Mud Hens baseball doubleheader, followed by fireworks
  • Up early Monday (on schedule) to catch a ride to Detroit Metro airport and, at 8 days’ remove, my flight home to Seattle, from which I’m posting.

In my pre-dawn meltdown on Saturday, I neglected to grab my camera, so I have no photos from the ball game. If you peruse last year’s entries, you’ll get the essence of the experience, as nothing happened this year that was that much different. One thing - so many of us alumni (about 650) engage in this orgy of nostalgia that they have to run a lottery to assign the 384 Script Ohio spots. Since I was in it last year, I had a fairly slim chance of engaging in that sacrosanct alphabetic euphoria this year and, indeed, it would have required some sort of natural disaster that Ohio is particularly unsuited for (hurricane, earthquake, tsunami) for me to acquire a spot. Still, I got to march and play in all the other formations, and it’s still a thrill to risk my neck muscles looking up at the vertiginous terraces of 105,000 adoring Buckeye fans.

As I intimated, our opponent was the Youngstown State Penguins (yep - almost as endearing a mascot as the UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs), a Division II school. For a team like Ohio State, it’s kind of like playing your little brother’s soccer team. You’re supposed to beat them badly, then feel either magnanimity or remorse, depending on the seriousness of the injuries inflicted. That’s how it worked Saturday for Ohio State, but the same scenario worked out a little differently for Michigan in its game in the Big House with Appalachian State. As our game ended, we had some intimation that Michigan was behind sometime in the 3rd quarter, but that they’d caught up and gone ahead in the fourth.

As my brother and I packed up our instruments and strolled away from the stadium, we passed through vast parking lots dotted with what are usually the dying embers of tailgate parties, burning here and there like Druid bonfires observing an inscrutable ritual. Saturday, however, there seemed to be an electric telepathy surging among them, causing simultaneous shouts to erupt across the vast heath of Buckeyedom.

We pilgrims happened upon one of these clusters to find its rustic denizens huddled under a tent and glued to a satellite-fed plasma vision of pain and anxiety beamed in from Ann Arbor. We set down our furze faggots and watched as, in an unbelievable 3 minutes of football, Michigan went ahead by 1 point, Appalachian State bamboozled the Wolverine defense and rashly kicked a go-ahead field goal with 30 seconds left when they could have asphyxiated the clock, then allowed Michigan to get within field goal range with 6 seconds left. With redemption in hand, Michigan had its chip-shot field goal blocked, and ended up losing the game.

Lots of my Buckeye correspondents are engaging in an unseemly orgy of schadenfreude. For my part, I revere the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry and always want it to be a clash of Titanic proportions - I always root for Michigan against other opponents. In more contemporary locution, Michigan’s our bitch. We may require any amount of groveling humiliation of her ourselves, but everyone else is advised to keep their grimy mitts off her.

OK, I know that most of you who suffer through these pages have either a disinterest in, or an aversion to, football and, except for a couple of Mr. Hyde hours on fall Saturday afternoons, I’m right there with you. I promise that these environs will continue to be dominated by Dr. Jekyll. Just don’t turn your back.