Archive for October 2008

Game Over

Struggling up out of the murk of sleep this morning and shedding the patina of dream residue (I usually never remember my dreams), a bit of flotsam remained that could both make my fortune and open the exciting world of video gaming to us sedentary sods who have trouble winning at MS Solitaire.

It’ll be called The Editorial Wii.  Wielding the Wii remote like an angry red pencil, the player will slash furiously as a stream of execrable prose comes at him from the console.  Points will be awarded for sniffing out “lead” for “led”, “It was a dark and stormy night”, “A pirate ship appeared on the horizon” and “share with you”.  One of the buttons on the remote will plant “awk” adroitly on clumsy passages.

An advanced version of the game, and something that will get some hardware sales going, will feature electrodes at the end of each finger and thumb.  With these, the player can indulge the play-editor’s greatest fantasy, air-typing withering rejection letters.

I think I’ve really nailed it this time - leave your congratulations in the comments, and start nursing your jealousy.

Unless I’m mispronouncing “Wii”.


We’re off to a Halloween party - I have to leave a 3-3 Penn State-Ohio State game at halftime (click to enlarge if you can stomach it)

Lunch Break

After assiduously avoiding sight-and-sound political chatter this season, and being about 99% successful, I inexplicably found myself, along with Mrs. Perils, at a downtown Seattle luncheon featuring Al Gore in support of Governor Chris Gregoire, who is in a close re-election race.

We were lured there by a young friend and former employee who has been working on Democratic campaigns this fall.  She was a “table captain” for this event, and I believe it’s the first time I’ve been in a situation where she out-ranked me.

Our table was a Silver table (the lowest contribution level), and while we were located in the same area code as the Goreacle, it may not have been the same electoral precinct.  Nonetheless, I was able to grab these photographs, with the aid of the zoom on the S3 IS (Click to enlarge):

While I’ve always agreed wholeheartedly with the goal of reducing carbon emissions and inhibiting global warming, I’ve tended to think it was a pipedream, owing to burgeoning populations and development in the rest of the world, as well as willful myopia domestically.  I’ve sort of resigned myself to its inevitability, as I believed that it could only be avoided by a severe dampening of economic activity that would have miniscule political support anywhere in the world, even Seattle.

Then, yesterday for the first time, a nickel sort of dropped about how an initiative might actually move forward.  And, while a nickel won’t buy you the whole candy bar, here’s how you might get the other 95 cents: Al compared the push to develop alternative fuel sources to the industrial revolution of 19th-century England, a period of rapid dislocation and transformation, driven by a perceived necessity. I started to see that an economy, an alternative economy, might be built on the pursuit of alternate fuels and more efficient use of carbon fuel, spurred by the specter of Peak Oil.

I think it’s still a long shot, but for the first time I thought I felt a zephyr of a fresh wind blowing.  Here’s a video of Al winding up his speech:

As I was leaving the event, I had the most humiliating and frightening experience. I was at at ATM machine when I was approached by an old lady wearing a McCain button. She beat me senseless with her cane, pinned me to the sidewalk with her walker and drew a big, red “M” on my forehead with her lipstick. If this doesn’t scare you about who will be running the country in a McCain administration, I don’t know what will.

Yeah, the police didn’t believe me, either.

Day of Infamncy

Over the weekend, I got a birthday card from my mom, and tucked inside was a reminiscence of the October days in 1949 surrounding my birth. My mom and dad met at Ohio State, my mom a year or so out of high school and my dad a veteran attending on the GI bill. My mom tells of how intimidating it was as the university culture was transformed by this flood of vets, predominantly older and all male, and how the faculty seemed to gravitate to them and became dismissive of women “pursuing their MRS degree”.

My parents married in September of 1948, and I was conceived within sight of Ohio Stadium, a product of malfunctioning contraception (sorry, Mom!). They spent the summer of 1949 living with my paternal grandparents, and my dad returned to OSU to graduate at the end of fall quarter while my mom remained in the clutches of her inlaws. In her words:

This lovely October day brought back so many pleasant memories, I wanted to share them with you.  Whenever I experience a warm autumn day, the memories come flooding back.  That summer, your dad’s dog died.  He had had this Scottie since he was the age of 12.  The dog was 15 and going strong until the night he went after a ham bone and in the process of bringing it home, was hit by a car.  We were coming home from visiting some friends when we discovered him on the road.  This was so sad for your dad.  He cried like a baby. 

It wasn’t too long until he found another Scottie puppy.  The rest of the summer, your dad really worked training him.  However, since I was home with the dog and since your dad had to go back to OSU for another quarter, the dog and I became great friends.  When I came home from the hospital after you were born, the dog was so happy to have me there that he ran around and around me so I could scarcely move. Much later, I felt really bad as that was the end of my total commitment to the dog as I was busy trying to learn the ways of motherhood.  So I forgot the dog. 

Your dad left for school and then when you were about to make an appearance, the grandparents took me to the hospital.  Grandpa was so excited (on the way to the hospital - ed.) he had a slight accident by running into the back of a car.  The fellow told him to go on as it was just a bump.  Your dad was on his way home for the weekend and didn’t know what great things were happening.  When you and I came home from the hospital, your aunt Margie (Mom’s sister) came up to stay with me.  Good thing, too, because your grandma and I were really ignorant.  Margie had stayed with a friend of hers who had had a baby, so she knew what to do.  Therefore, we all survived.

Thus I lurched into the world 59 years ago today, raised on love and, apparently, hearsay, with the good fortune to slip in between two beloved dogs.  Thanks for making the effort to write that, Mom (as well as the effort to have me)!


Click to enlarge

It’s been downright balmy here in Milwaukee the last couple of days, and I’ve gotten out on bike rides each of the last two nights.  Last night, I took a detour down to the shore of Lake Michigan, and was rewarded with this moonrise - the Hunter’s Moon, I guess it’s called.  Actually, the full moon is tonight, but I probably won’t see it because it socked in and started raining this morning.

I have just one more presidential debate to avoid, and I think I have a pretty chance of succeeding - I have to go to dinner tonight with a gaggle of my client’s salesmen.  I doubt that the debate will be showing at any of the possible venues we’ll be haunting.


Glacier Peak from my plane on Sunday.

I’m not sure what happened, but Wordpress apparently didn’t like the company I was keeping and decided to turn on password-protection to my comments section over the weekend. After reading about it in Wired, I quickly remedied the situation, so please stop in and leave your scent.

Salvage Operation

Winging my way to Milwaukee today, another weekend prematurely torn asunder by the arrival of the airport shuttle.  While Saturday began as a perfect fall day, I wanted to do nothing at 8:30 except quaff some more sleep.  I awoke at the awkward hour of 11:30, awkward because any hope of a grandiose kayak outing involving a drive or ferry ride was out of the question in the stinginess of these post-solstice afternoons.

I dithered away another couple of hours trying to figure out how to salvage the remains of my only weekend day when my son said he was thinking of going on a bike ride.  It never even crosses my mind to ride with him, as he’s hella strong, without an extra ounce of body fat and I’m … going on 59, remember?  But my sense of panic was galling me, and I asked him if I could go along, noting that the pace would have to be a bit leisurely.  He was surprisingly accommodating, and we decided to strike out for Seward Park and a spin along the shore of Lake Washington.

He was a gentleman about the pace, and I drafted him greedily.  It was chilly but sunny, and the lake and mountains in the distance made a pleasing backdrop.  I even took a couple of “pride” pulls at the front, and he genially dropped back and pretended to draft me.

Here’s a view of Mt. Rainier over Lake Washington from Seward Park (click to enlarge):

And here’s a picture of my son at Seward Park as he waits for me to quit gasping and bleeding out the ears:

I once again ginned up my GPS in order to chronicle the ride, a map of which can be seen here .

Sleight of Hand

Well, despite the whinging tone of the previous post, I’m looking on the sun more and more as an enemy.  Everywhere it goes, it seems, it sucks value out of the stock markets it shines on.  The International Date Line seems like the Maginot Line for financial markets.  I really wonder if it’s (the sun) not a rogue ship from The Day The Earth Stood Still.

The government has been very busy running around with buckets of cash, trying to shore up the system.  And then this slithers in under the radar:

The five-member Financial Accounting Standards Board decided to provide some flexibility in applying “fair value” accounting where there is no market for a security — like the market for banks’ mortgage-backed assets that has been dysfunctional for months.

The board expects the new guidance to take effect Saturday.

“We’re giving people a wider range of options and input to get to fair value,” said FASB spokesman Neal McGarity.

Fair value accounting, also known as “mark-to-market” accounting, requires banks to value their mortgage-related assets at current market prices. Devastated by the write-downs they have taken on mortgage assets since the collapse of the housing market, banks — with the backing of congressional Republicans — have been pushing hard for the Securities and Exchange Commission to suspend the requirement.

So a central technique for resolving the problem is to change the accounting rules so as to obscure further the toxicity of banks’ assets.  Republicans haven’t lost their taste for Enron Kool-Aid.  Is there a pig these guys won’t put lipstick on?

Seasonally Adjusted

October.  It’s not an illusion, it’s apparently a reality.  For the first time in months, I was tempted to turn on the heat this morning as my commute led me from bed to espresso machine to desk.  I can’t verify that I could see my breath, because I can’t see much of anything at that hour of the morning.  But it was chilly.

As sobering as it is to contemplate October as the harbinger of fall and inevitable winter, it has a double-witching quality for me because it’s also my birthday month.  Triple-witching if you throw in Halloween.  And while this year isn’t one of those milestone birthdays, 59 seems palpably different from 58.  When you’re swirling some distance from the drain, you feel like you could swim to shore whenever you choose.  As you swirl ever closer and faster, the shore becomes more of a concept than a reality and, for a sinner such as me, your thoughts turn more toward what unmentionable future awaits you in the drain trap.  59 just sounds so much more fourth-quarterish than 58, somehow.

Well, there’s your medley of metaphors for tonight.  Those long summer evenings, especially at this latitude, that allow one to procrastinate criminally and still have lots of daylight to salvage at 8 pm are gone.  But there’s Buckeye football to look forward to every weekend, along with the resultant chatter during the week.

And every now and then, a day comes along full of sun and maturity and experience, doing her best to hide the wrinkles of autumn in golden haze and come-hither eyebrow-arch, and if you’ve played your cards right, you can lock arms with her and kick joyously through the leaves, still in shorts and a t-shirt.

Luddite’s Progress

I don’t consider myself a “blinking 1200 person“, but sometimes I just get worn out from the frequency that some new technical device finds its way into the house and condescends to, or gibbers at, me through the pages of its always-helpful owner’s manual as I try to discover how to use it.

No, I’m not a complete idiot.  I don’t resort to the manual first.  I resort to the manual after I have tried inserting the batteries in both directions and pressed every button individually and in all the possible combinations (except “reset” if they’ve been kind enough to label it as such).  I realize that some designer spent weeks in focus groups in order to settle on a set of graphic icons to label each button with, and sent the product into production certain that even a chimpanzee would have no doubt about their meanings.  It’s just that a) I usually can’t see them without a magnifying glass in front of my reading glasses, and b) I have no clue what to do with them because each one looks like an ecstatic amoeba doing different things with a c*alis erection, a sort of one-celled onanistic Tantra.

So, I shamefacedly open the manual, knowing that it was never intended by its authors to be read by the gadget’s users - it contains as little information as possible, perhaps to give nothing easy away to product liability attorneys.  The space on each page that could have been used to provide steady, soothing guidance (necessary because anyone who’s gotten so far as to open the manual is consumed in cardiac-endangering rage) is instead dedicated to repeating a useless English phrase in every language in this rainbow world of ours.  A 50-page manual of this ilk might be able to convey 10 simple steps, but by the time you ferret out the next English instruction, you’ve forgotten the last one.

To add to the fun, I’ve usually decided to learn to use said device about 10 minutes before I need to head out the door for some activity to which it is absolutely essential.

With that prologue in mind, consider my dilemma regarding a Garmin GPS training device that my mom gave me for Christmas.  I just never got around to taking it out of the box.  I guess I was subliminally avoiding making the effort to learn to use it.  She would call and ask how I liked it sometimes, and I’d say something evasive, and I’m sure she thought she’d screwed up and gotten the wrong thing.  I’d be out kayaking sometimes, however, and someone with me would pull out his GPS and talk about our route and how far we’d gone, and I’d think how cool it would be if I had mine along.  If I wasn’t too lazy and stupid to use it.

Finally last weekend I got sick of kicking the box while walking through my office, and I took it out and set about making it work.  Once I thought I had it, I set out on a bike ride down the Burke Gilman Trail to test it out.  As I rode along, I was equal parts excited to see the result when I got back, and sort of paranoid about being watched and how poorly someone would regard my average speed.  Provided it was even working.

When I got back, I uploaded the trip, and was fascinated with the data it provided.  Here’s what it looked like .  Click on the “larger map” or “Google Earth” link to see more detail.  One flaw - it seems to think that I decided early in the return trip to simply levitate and fly home a la crow.  I think there are parts of the trail that are obscured from the satellites, and the device presumes that you’d proceed as quickly as you could rather than meandering.

High winds on Saturday got some blowdown going on here in the Puget Sound region, and made the trail a little more interesting.

I can’t wait to take this thing out on my kayak.  But, before I do, I think I should learn to use the VHF radio I bought at REI a couple weeks ago, so I can hear the voices of the container-ship crew that runs me over on Puget Sound.