Archive for February 2008

Water Music

Beautiful day here today. I got out on a kayaking expedition on Puget Sound. More expansive post after we get back from dinner (Click to enlarge):


As promised. I belong to a couple of Yahoo! groups dealing with sea kayaking in the Seattle area, and showed up for a scheduled day trip at Golden Gardens, a Seattle park on Puget Sound. One other guy was there, and we launched from the beach:

We first paddled north along the shore, up to Carkeek Park, then turned around and headed south, bound for West Point in Seattle’s Discovery Park. The sound was uncharacteristically placid, almost like glass where we were paddling, but some hopeful sailors were nonetheless participating in a regatta of some sort. It appears that there was just enough wind out in the middle of the sound to fill their spinnakers:

There’s a lighthouse at West Point, and for reasons of Homeland Security that eluded us myopic citizens, it was sounding a foghorn every 20 seconds or so, despite the fact that visibility in every direction was absolutely perfect. As we rounded the point, as it will even to jaded long-time residents, Mount Rainier caught us completely by surprise, looming above the cranes of the Port of Seattle:

As we were paddling back to Golden Gardens through Shilshole Marina, I saw my companion, out of the corner of my eye, raise a bottle of brown liquid to his face. I’d never paddled with him before, but I’ve been out with others who might nip from a stylish silver flask now & then. I’d just never seen anyone slugging from a full fifth of whiskey before, at least not until we got the tents up and the fire started.

He maintains that he found the bottle floating in the water - plausible enough among the thicket of masts at Shilshole that hosts a fair number of live-aboards. When we got back to Golden Gardens, he made a great show of going over to a wastebasket and banging the bottle on the lid. I took his word that he threw it away, but I nonetheless gave him a sizeable head start out of the parking lot.

An altogether pleasant and amiable way to spend a summer day in February

Moonshadow (well, actually, Earthshadow)

There were two celestial rarities last night: a full lunar eclipse, and a February night in Seattle clear enough to observe it. We stepped out to a local joint for a bite of sushi, then walked back through Meridian Park (large and dark) to check out the beginnings of the eclipse.

We walked on home, and I set up a tripod on out back deck to try for some photos. The white streaks on the first one are the landing lights of a jet on final approach to Seatac (Click to enlarge):

This one was taken as the moon began to emerge from the penumbra:

They’re a bit grainy because I had to use high ISO, but there it is for those of you who live in a rainy climate and couldn’t see it!

Here’s a really excellent photo from today’s P-I:

Slippery Slope II

As I indicated, we spent Saturday skiing at Crystal Mountain resort. We were thinking that the day would be at least partially clear, but that clearing part was extremely partial, and a lot of the skiing was in fog as pictured below:

I did start to feel my ski legs, and got off the bunny slope and onto some longer intermediate slopes, which was fun and gratifying. I don’t think I’ll make a habit of returning to the slopes, though. It’s an expensive day’s play, and no one else I know does it. But this weekend was a cool way to break away from routine (as long as I didn’t break anything else).

Living here with mountains visible in one direction or the other, we forget how striking it is for flatlanders to turn a corner and see snow-covered peaks. In fact, I still get a thrill when Mt. Rainier peeks out from its shroud of cloud, as it did on the drive home. I couldn’t resist stopping for a photo opp:

We finished our tour-guiding with a seafood dinner at Chinook’s, at Fisherman’s Terminal in Seattle.

Slippery Slope

My youngest brother and his step-daughter are in town this weekend from Atlanta and Columbus, respectively, for a couple of days of skiing. The trip is a reward to the step-daughter, who will graduate from OSU in March.

I started skiing fairly late in life (42, I believe) when our son started and I wanted to accompany him. I never became very proficient, but got so that I could enjoy some of the blue (intermediate) runs, if conditions weren’t too icy. Since he graduated from high school (2000), however, I have hardly skied at all, and I’ve lost most of my mojo.

Fortunately, my brother is almost a beginner, and we spent yesterday on the Daisy hill at Stevens Pass. I rented skis instead of taking my old boneshakers, since I wanted to try the new parabolic skis that have become popular. As advertised, they made turns and other maneuvers much easier, and I started to feel a little more confident by the end of the day. Here we are posing fashionably at the beginning of a run (Click to enlarge:

Today we’re headed up to Crystal Mountain, down close to Mt. Rainier, for another go. It looks like a much nicer day, perhaps better for photography.

Happy VD 2008

A special greeting to all you lovers (not implying that you’re all my lovers). I may have time to do something special later today. Until then, here’s a reprise of my valentine podcast from last year:

Update: A day late, here’s a new set of sweet songs for the sweet:

Does Online Venting Contribute To Greenhouse Gases?

I don’t really listen to the radio much except when I’m in the car, commuting to or between clients. Yesterday, I was listening to this talk show on the local NPR station, and they were discussing global warming and the concept of carbon offsets. The idea is, when you’re feeling guilty about some personal act of carbon transgression, you can go out and purchase some degree of conscience-salve and declare yourself “carbon-neutral”.

Perhaps the most famous example of this gambit was last year when it was disclosed that Al Gore’s house turned out to be an energy-guzzling behemoth, and his spokespeople indignantly declared that he purchased carbon offsets, so there! That was the first time I’d heard of it.

I think it’s a sign of progress that people are starting to be conscious of the effects of their personal actions on the environment, but it’s so paradigmatic of our culture that we try to invent mechanisms to buy our way out of changing our behavior. It’s very similar to the practice of purchasing of indulgences in the Catholic church of the 1500s.  Perhaps I could make a Diebold-like fortune by investing in a network of Carbon-Offset ATM machines.  I’d place them at McDonald’s drive-throughs and NASCAR tracks.

We seem to be devising all manner of exotic technological concepts to “science” our way around the issue of global warming and environmental degradation without fundamental social and economic change. Many of them are good ideas - wind power, super-efficient vehicles; some are boondoggles, like the push for corn ethanol. But the flat fact is that people burn shit, and the more people there are, the more shit they’re going to burn. What we never seem to hear proffered as a solution is reducing birth rates. Was it even mentioned in the Kyoto protocols? It’s like some sort of tabu, like it’ll offend too many fragile sensibilities. But it’s ultimately the only way that the problem will be resolved.

My daily life is designed to bring a pretty light carbon footprint. I walk for most of my errands, and we seldom consider a dinner outing that is beyond our walking range. But our biggest carbon offset was sparing use of the baby-hatch (in the outbound direction, at least). So, I don’t feel too badly about hopping on a plane now & then.

Now, what you might be able to sell me is some calorie offsets.

I Stoop To Cat-blogging

Yeah, I know it’s supposed to be Friday cat blogging, but I’ve always hated deadlines.  The only reason I’m doing it at all is that I was able to catch our little miscreant slurping at his favorite watering hole, the papyrus plant in our living room (click to enlarge).  It may be his favorite only because he can’t get into the toilet very often.

When I wake in the middle of the night, I often head downstairs to bunk out on the couch in the living room and read or surf my way to sleep.  I’ll be lying there in silence, and I’ll hear this tromptromptromptromp down the stairs, across the hardwood floor - you’d think an army was coming through the house, but it’s only this 7-pound cat.

The routine is always the same: first to the litter box (scritch, scratch sound like industrial excavation), then out to the kitchen to fuel up on crunchies (sound like rock being pulverized into pea gravel), over to the papyrus plant (sound of Homer Simpson with a can of Duff), and, finally, tromp, tromp up the stairs again.  This might happen twice in the same night.

A person can’t sleep with all that racket.

Reservation Blues

So, I’m in Perrysburg visiting my mother for what I thought was going to be a sorta-stingy 20-hour stay, flying in here from Milwaukee Friday night after work and flying out from Detroit to Seattle Saturday night. I thought this was a reasonable, though Solomonic, division of my time between hanging with Mom and vegging for a non-workday in Seattle.

So, I log on to print my boarding pass this morning and get a message that online check-in is not available for my flight. Damn, I thought, they’ve canceled the flight or otherwise contrived to complicate my life. A lingering suspicion led me to check out my reservation and, yes, my flight was scheduled to leave not on Saturday evening at 7:30, but Sunday evening at 7:30 pm. I guess that, when I was making the reservation and blitzing through various scenarios to get a decent fare and reasonable flight times, I clicked the wrong date on the last iteration.

I should have been suspicious when my upgrade to first class for the flight came down on Wednesday. As a mere Gold Elite, and not a Platinum, my usual upgrade window doesn’t start until 3 days before the flight, and lately not even then.

Had I checked my reservation last week when I first got upgraded, I’d have seen that my flight tomorrow occurs right in the middle of the Super Bowl, and it’s quite likely that I’ll be the ONLY GODDAMNED PASSENGER ON THE FLIGHT. While I really don’t have a dog in the Super Bowl hunt, I was looking forward to attending my neighbor’s annual party and chili feed tomorrow.

So, instead, Mom & I went to dinner tonight, perused a Books-A-Million bookstore and sipped espresso. We came back to her house, and I did her 2007 tax return. Tomorrow, I’ll wake up to her delightfully strong coffee and assay some other son-like chores, and it will all seem to have worked out for the best, until I land in Seattle at 9:30 pm and feel as if I need another weekend.

I might just take Monday off.

Scraping By

I’ve been working in Milwaukee this week, and the weather has been through some wild gyrations. When I arrived Sunday, it was a relatively mild 35 - 40 degrees (F). By Tuesday night, a cold front had come through, the temperature had dropped to 0, and winds were gusting up to 50 mph. Sort of like they tell you the surface of Venus is supposed to be like.

Then last night, during another delicious dinner of Arabic food and (not mentioning where we’re working) at the home of my Palestinian co-consultant, it started to snow steadily, and by the time I drove home there were 4 - 5 inches on the ground and more coming. “Lake effect”, they call it here. I guess it means the lake gets sick of its glacier-carved seabed and leaps to the sky in an effort to escape. An effort that is thwarted, eventually, by gravity, sunshine and storm sewers leading inexorably back to the lake. (Man, that was tortured, but I’m leaving it)

When I come here, I often rent my car from Thrifty, always specifying a “compact” because I just don’t value luxury and spaciousness in a damn car. They always try to upsell me at the rental desk, and I always refuse; every now & then, however, I receive a “complimentary upgrade” because I’m such a loyal customer because the only thing they have in the garage is some behemoth. This trip, my reward is a Chrysler Sebring. A convertible. In January. In Milwaukee:

If I had any guts, I’d have put the top down before I drove into my client’s parking lot this morning. On the other hand, it has heated seats, which sounds like a good idea in theory, just as a bidet sounds like a good idea in theory, but in actual use produces odd sensations on one’s nether parts.

We’re supposed to get 3 more inches this morning, and my 6 pm flight tonight may be wishful thinking. To compound the fun, I’m flying not to Seattle, but to Detroit, where the weather forecast is:

Cloudy with snow showers becoming a steady accumulating snow later on. Some sleet may mix in. Temps nearly steady in the low to mid 30s. E winds shifting to SW at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of snow 70%. 2 to 4 inches of snow expected.

The plan is to drive down to pay a quick visit to my Mom near Toledo tonight and tomorrow, then head back up to Detroit for a 7:30 pm flight home to Seattle. I’ve been pretty fortunate for as much flying I do in the northern tier, with very few delays and no unplanned overnights, but it may catch up to me this weekend.