Archive for September 2008

Up the Creek, Fersure, But With a Paddle

So, despite the economic gyrations of last week, I got out on an amiable kayak trip Saturday on Hood Canal, a ferry-ride west of Seattle. We’d been promised a weekend of Indigenous-People-Weather, and Manitou or whomever delivered nicely. I arose at an uncharacteristic hour for a Saturday (6:30) in order to secure my gear and boat to the car and drive to the Seattle-Bainbridge Island Ferry (click any photo to enlarge):

I hooked up with a group called the South Sound Kayakers. They tend to organize trips in areas south and west of where I usually paddle, and it helps me extend my range and paddle in new venues. Hood Canal, west of Seattle, separates the Kitsap Peninsula from the Olympic Peninsula. It is home to the Bangor submarine base (if you’ve seen Gene Hackman taking command of his submarine Alabama in a downpour in Crimson Tide, you’ve been there in spirit.

A little bit north of our launch point, there’s a sand spit where someone - sea sprites, witches, local devil-worshiping Democrats - maintains a driftwood evocation of a sea monster.

Now & then I paddle with people who have gone to the effort of building their kayaks from either a kit or a set of plans, and have been rewarded with a sweet-looking wooden boat. This boat, a Redfish kit, stood out from several others I’ve seen lately.

Wooden kayaks garner an inordinate amount of attention from both kayakers and landlubbers. A guy I paddled with a couple of weeks ago, who’s built a boat from the Pygmy company, observed that “if I were all about hooking up with middle-aged men, I’d have it made.”

It’s tempting to engage in a boat-building project, but I think my spare time is better-spent in getting the fuck out on the water with the boat I have.

It was a wonderful weekend. You never know around here when winter will arrive, so I’ll cleave to it while I can. More pictures from this Hood Canal trip here.

TW3 (That Was The Week That Was)

The former Washington Mutual Building, photographed from the Bainbridge ferry, Seattle, WA, 9/27/2008

Well, I really can’t let a historic week like this go by without posting.

I’m a child of children of the Depression, and I’ve always adhered to the ethos of conservative conduct in my financial affairs that my dad and grandparents ingrained into me, even if my politics became more progressive as I swung further from their genetic orbit.  I’m lucky, of course, to have been their child, raised in a cocoon of relative comfort.  But that comfort was the result of careful spending and investing, blue-collar midwestern people who distrusted fads and stuck to their fucking knitting, even if that meant that I drove a 60 Chevy station wagon on my 65 - 67 high school dates, and I didn’t hit a golf ball until I was well over 30.

I’ve cleaved to their cautious approach, even when, through the 80’s and 90’s, a smarter person would have bought as much Seattle real estate as the (now evidently stupid) banks would have allowed.

So, I arrive at this pivotal moment in our civic life sort of conflicted.  The prudent child-of-children-of-the-Depression is totally disgusted at the calamitous result of the profligacy of the Wall Street money-jocks, aided and abetted as they have been by the Reagan-induced paucity of regulatory oversight.  I really buy into the whole revenge thing that the populist rhetoric is espousing.

And then, there’s the retirement investor side of me, worrying about my portfolio.  I’m sure I have a lot of company here.  Our guts are telling us to scream, “let the fuckers stew in their own foul juices!”, while we realize that our own nest eggs are redolent with those same juices.

I’m not so worried about the part of my paltry portfolio that’s managed by Warren Buffett.  It may rise and decline with the market, but it’s invested in diverse and proven businesses.  It’s kind of cool to see my stock price jump every time he’s quoted in the Wall Street Journal.  This quote from last week epitomizes why I cling to my BRK investment even in the face of Warren’s imminent demise.  Berkshire has been sitting on an inordinate amount of cash for several years, with Warren being frustrated that prices were too high for him to make many major acquisitions.  Then, these Wall Street firms feeling the Arctic breeze on their naked asses started calling him:

Mr. Buffett received a call at 4:30 p.m. that Saturday from a private investment firm trying to assemble a group to buy the embattled financial giant. “I’m calling about Bear Stearns,’” the private investor began, according to Mr. Buffett. “Should I go on?’”

Mr. Buffett recalls thinking: “It’s like a woman taking off half her clothes and asking, ‘Should I continue?’ Even if you’re a 90-year-old eunuch, you let ‘em finish.” Mr. Buffett says he passed on the proposed deal. Bear Stearns was bought by J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. the following day.

So now he’s made a couple of adroit investments in Constellation (an energy company that was teetering) and Goldman Sachs.  Presumably, he got the full frontal, but we’ll have to wait for his next quarterly SEC filing to know for sure.  Even in today’s bloodbath, BRKA only got a scratch.  While that’s not guaranteed to continue if things continue to deteriorate, I’m in for the long term.

So I’m torn between emotion and pragmatism regarding this taxpayer bailout.  I don’t want to take it in the shorts as a taxpayer while Wall Street geniuses skate on their golden parachutes, and I don’t want to take it in the shorts as an investor while the Wall Street geniuses still skate on their golden parachutes.

I’m glad I can still earn a living by working and can take a (not-as-much-as-previously) long-term view, but I still cleave to my 1983-vintage feeling that “the “Reagan Revolution” was built by invading all of society’s safety margins.”  Environmental, financial, social.  Line ‘em up and mug-shot ‘em: Social Security, mentally-ill homeless people, savings & loans, a coordinated energy policy, the coddling of a DOA auto industry that should have been left to die, Lehmann-style, in the mid-80s.

Who knows what happens tomorrow.  I’ll still get up and do work for clients that seem to be able to pay me, I’ll still watch in gob-smacked horror at the stock market, wondering if it’s a once-in-a-lifetime buying opportunity, or a ruinous armageddon.

The good thing is, I’ll probably still get up tomorrow.

Maternal Respect

So, my mom had a birthday last weekend, another one of those that can only be expressed in logarithmic notation, but I’m delighted to have her every day, let alone every year.

And she’s squeezing everything she can out of these years of sentience and energy.  She plays bridge at least 2 times a week (and wins with a suspicious frequency), participates in a book group at her community library, attends plays, operas and zoo concerts.

But when I saw this bumper sticker:

I knew she was underachieving.  Mom, you need to go downtown and get kicked out of one or more bars if you want me to still respect you.   I know you’re up to it.

A Few More Pics

Perspective! (Click to enlarge):


I’m attending a sea kayaking “symposium” in Port Townsend, west of Seattle on the Olympic Peninsula. “Symposium” seems a little over the top, but it’s a fairly large event, with classes on & off the water, and, of course, lots of gear vendors hoping to snag some of our dollars.   (Click photos to enlarge)

I took a short class on advanced paddle strokes yesterday and actually learned a few techniques I hadn’t known about before.  During the class, one of the women capsized and was rescued by our instructor.  He was something of a hunk, and I couldn’t shake the suspicion that she did it on purpose.

These “Jesus boats” are gaining in popularity, though I can’t imagine spending more than half an hour on one.  They’re basically a surfboard:

I paddled out into the Strait (of Juan de Fuca) to get a larger view of the coast and to look over this lighthouse.  It had been drizzling for a lot of the day, and I was surprised, as I turned the corner, to actually see some sun.

OK, I’m headed out to the water again.

Nothin’ Much

Harvest moon, taken last weekend on a neighborhood stroll.

Does Anyone Know What Happened To Me?

Did I ever come back from Columbus?  I’m looking for me because the bastard owes me money, and he’s hiding.

I found a bit of evidence on the memory chip of his camera - he apparently went kayaking last Saturday:

A barnacle-encrusted necklace adorned this prosaic fishing boat.

Lake Union is festooned with “floating homes”, which have become increasingly elaborate. These two present a stark contrast - on the left, a full-on suburban experience, while on the right, and just a few paddle-strokes away, is a hippie-pad melange festooned with parasitic willow and situational art.

A commercial float-plane airline, Kenmore Air, makes its home in Lake Union, ferrying people to the San Juan Islands and other water-related destinations. I fastidiously maintain my distance from this departing aircraft, nd enjoy getting sprayed by its propwash.

After circumnavigating Lake Union, I paddled west through the ship canal. As I returned, I took this pic of the Fremont and Aurora bridges forming a tunnel to paddle through.

There was a fair breeze that day, and this sailboat seemed particularly picturesque as it glided in front of the skyscraper backdrop.

OK, I’m back in town after a couple weeks of traveling.  Watch this space.