Archive for December 2007

Happy New Year!

A quick post to wish you all a happy and fulfilling new year. We’re off to a party at a kayak shop down by Lake Washington. Earlier in the afternoon, I went out paddling with some of he folks who will be at the party. Inexplicably, the day was simply gorgeous. Chilly, for sure, but gorgeous. I’ll let the camera do the talking Click any photo to enlarge:


We launched from Magnuson Park on Lake Washington and paddled north along the shore. I spent about 45 minutes gabbing and working on my stroke (shut up) without ever looking behind me. When I finally did, I was awestruck to see Mt. Rainier, which had been obscured behind a peninsula when we set out:

More pics in this slideshow.
Have a festive and safe new year’s eve celebration, if you’re so inclined, and check in with me next year.

Solstice Silliness

Days are brutish and short around here at the winter solstice. Any of you who tuned in to the Seahawks-Ravens game today to see Troy Smith’s first NFL start at quarterback got only a glimpse (he’s a rookie, and was Ohio State’s Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback from last year). Up to a point, we can substitute caffeine for sunlight here in Seattle and come out even, but after Thanksgiving, the curve straightens out asymptotically, leaving you in the 3:30pm dark with a buzzing in your ears and a case of the shakes.

At a certain point, other beverages, reminiscent of sorties to more hospitable climes, need to step up where caffeine leaves off (click any photo to enlarge):

I happened to be browsing back through my Photoshop collection and ran into photos from my kayaking trip to Baja in 2003 about this time of year. I remember thinking, at the time, that I was going to do something like that a lot more often. Here I am 4 years later, wading through the brutish and short.

Just performing a public service here.  Hope that warmed you up!


It’s nice to be back in Seattle, and I’m home for the rest of the year. The first best thing was to fire up my espresso machine Saturday morning, after drinking hotel drip all week. Cartersville, GA, where I was working, is over-church’d and under-Starbuck’d.

The next best thing was to be able to lounge in bed and read, and, finally, after a nearly 4-month siege, I finished George Eliot’s Middlemarch. Our online book group discussed the book in August, and that’s when I started reading it. It’s a wonderful book, perhaps the best I’ve read in 2 - 3 years, but it’s just under 700 pages long, and I read slowly. Eliot has a marvelous ability to both discern and convey nuance in relationships and psychological states. Here she’s describing a fellow who had assumed that his work as a physician would lead him to renown as a medical researcher, just as he perceives that financial fetters would keep him far closer to the ground:

and it seemed to him as if he were beholding in a magic panorama a future where he himself was sliding into that pleasure-less yielding to the small solicitations of circumstance, which is a commoner history of perdition than any single momentous bargain…We are on a perilous margin when we begin to look passively at our future selves, and see our own figures led with dull consent into insipid misdoing and shabby achievement.

Here’s another, coincidentally (because I’m just randomly checking the numerous dog-ears with which I’ve defaced the book) referring to the same character:

Among our valued friends is there not some one or other who is a little too self-confident and disdainful; whose distinguished mind is a little spotted with commonness; who is a little pinched here and protuberant there with native prejudices; or whose better energies are liable to lapse down the wrong channel under the influence of transient solicitations?…Our vanities differ as our noses do: all conceit is not the same conceit, but varies in correspondence with the minutiae of mental make in which one of us differs from another…How could there be any commonness in a man so well-bred, so ambitious of social distinction, so generous and unusual in his views of social duty? As easily as there may be stupidity in a man of genius if you take him unawares on the wrong subject…

Just one more, drolly describing the discovery of an inconvenient will codicil:

Who shall tell what may be the effect of writing? If it happens to have been cut in stone, though it lie face downmost for ages on a forsaken may end by letting us into the secret of usurpations and other scandals gossiped about long empires ago, this world apparently being a huge whispering-gallery…As the stone which has been kicked by generations of clowns may come by curious little links of effect under the eyes of a scholar, through whose labors it may at last fix the date of invasions and unlock religions, so a bit of ink and paper which has long been an innocent wrapping or stop-gap may at last be laid open under the one pair of eyes which have knowledge enough to turn it into the opening of a catastrophe.

It’s not for everyone, perhaps, this luxuriant density of prose, but, like attending a Shakespeare play, your ear attunes to it if you let it work, and rewards you with its richness.

Mrs. Perils was so enamored of Middlemarch that she greedily acquired every scrap that Eliot wrote, and there was a melancholy couple of days when she’d finished them. There they are, on my nightstand.

The last best thing was to get down to the gym after 7 days in which I’d done exactly 15 sit-ups and 15 push-ups, and congratulated myself for walking from the terminal to D-concourse at ATL instead of taking the tram. The crowd I work with in Cartersville likes to head straight to dinner from work, obliterating the time when I usually get my exercise in. And, our hotel there is on a busy highway in the middle of nowhere, offering no opportunity for walking or running. A younger me would have frenziedly manufactured the opportunity for exercise; the contemporary me, embroiled in a surprising struggle to maintain my grip on my physical self, let another finger slip. Looking for better things this week.

Westward Bound

I left Perrysburg for the airport a lot earlier than I had planned last Sunday because freezing rain - the kind that makes a crystalline fairyland of yards and trees, but a slick sheet of ice on the streets and overpasses - was predicted, and indeed started pelting my mom’s house at around 10 am. The roads, however, were in very good shape, and I cruised up to the Detroit aiport at 70. (This is the same ice storm that afflicted a lot of the midwest for most of the week).

So, I was 4 hours early for my 3:30 flight to Atlanta. I’ve been carrying a NW Worldclub membership for a few years as a palliative against the amount of time I spend in airports, and it really comes in handy when flights or schedules go awry, as the did last month. In the Detroit club, it’s fun to watch the ebb and flo at this sort of Bosphorus point (Click photos to enlarge):

Anxious outbound travelers descending the escalators from the TSA checkpoint freshly smarting from their violation and alternately (or in combination) hurrying, bewildered, excited, resigned (if traveling on business!); inbound travelers heading for down escalators to baggage claim just to the right of the photo, grateful, relieved, already-starting-to-peel, steeling themselves to deliver bad news, giddy at starting new lives, or just hoping to find the humble possessions and perhaps the soul that the airline separated from them circling prosaically on the actual carousel that the video display says it’s on.

As I did a couple of years ago, I helped my mom drag her Christmas tree up from the basement and set it up:

I also did some little tasks like replacing light bulbs and moving some furniture around. Then we went out for a convivial dinner Saturday night, and finished decorating the tree to the strains of the OSU Marching Band’s Christmas album. She never tires of hearing OSU band albums. Mick Jagger’s mom probably never tires of Beggar’s Banquet.

And now the week’s gone, and I’m sitting in the Minneapolis Worldclub awaiting my increasingly delayed flight home to Seattle. I just realized that Christmas is not next month, but next week, and the packages that have been accumulating at our house in an accusatory pile are not, in fact, ridiculously premature. I got’s me some work to do this weekend. Have a good one!

Short Night

On the road again, this time for a short weekend visit to my mom in Perrysburg (Ohio) before heading to Atlanta Sunday to work for the week.  My mom has a tree in the basement that she wants me to haul upstairs to assemble, as well as some lightbulbs to screw in, smoke alarm batteries to replace and storm-damaged window well covers to re-settle.  I think she might want to visit with me briefly as well.

As always before I depart on one of these junkets, it was a busy week last week.  Of course, we were fortunate that we suffered no effects from the rainstorm that devastated a lot of folks just to the south of us.  I suppose if I looked hard enough, I could find something to fix, but the only thing I’ve noticed is the south-facing doors have swollen enough to make them hard to open.  I skated right out of town without dealing with any of it, though.

So, I took a red-eye flight from Seattle to Detroit, departing at 10 pm and arriving just before 5 am Eastern this morning.  Although I had a comfortable window seat that should have been perfect for sleeping, I just couldn’t doze off, and ended up reading several articles in the New York Review of Books.  I finally “slept” for about an hour, maybe less, and the drive down from Detroit was kind of bleary.

Like me, my mom’s not a “morning person”, and I’m having a little mercy on her by hanging out at a coffee shop in downtown P-burg until a reasonable hour, like 9 or 9:30.  I’m kind of tickled to see that the shop, which I’ve patronized a few times over the last couple of years when I’m here, is still in business, as the “downtown” is Victorian-picturesque, but sort of moribund.  And I really need an ass-kicking espresso right now.

Infamous 18-day Gap

I can’t really explain why that last post took 18 days to squeeze out. Two short weeks (the South Carolina trip and Thanksgiving) had me really humping work-wise, but maybe I just needed a re-charge. I’ll let you imagine that I used the time wisely.

Big news around here is weather. No, really. Saturday afternoon, it started snowing pretty persistently, enough to mask the flawed realty of Chez Perils (Click any photo to enlarge):

It was just enough to nudge a chilly, soporific Saturday morning towards the giddiness that captures this town whenever snow sticks to the ground for a couple of hours. The feeling was tempered a bit, I’m sure, by the fact that it was Saturday, and no school or work was headed for the endangered list. I grabbed my camera and walked down to Greenlake to sightsee:

As a contrast,here’s how the lake looked just a week earlier, at Thanksgiving:

The snow was gone by late evening, and both the mood and the weather turned dank and sullen. Then last night, the sky burst out in an inconsolable sobbing. You’d think its dog had died. And it kept going for 24 hours, making our gutters sound like Deception Pass at the flood tide, and I-5 is closed for a 20 mile stretch somewhere north of Portland.

So, there you have it. 18 days off and all I can post about is the weather. Just be thankful I’m not one of those compelled to talk about his innards.