Archive for December 2008

OK, You Can Cut the Charade

I know what you guys are up to.  I have *zero* invitations to New Year’s Eve parties, and I know you want me to start feeling depressed and bereft and friendless and just uncool.

And I would, if I didn’t know what you were up to.  But it’s gone on long enough.  It’s frickin’ December 30 at 9:00 Pacific.  Time to drop the ruse and get the goddamn invitations in here, so I can decide whom to honor with our presence, and whom to disappoint.

Now.  Scratch your ass later.

Our lines are open…

Slush Fun

It warmed up quite a bit last night and today, and most of the accumulated snow has melted.  As of yesterday (Friday) afternoon, however, we were still getting flurries, and Mrs. Perils and I set out for a slushy walk around the ‘hood and down to Fremont to run some errands.

As we were crossing a busy intersection near our house, I espied a cell phone embedded in a pile of slush in the middle of the street.  I opened it up, thinking it was probably toast, but it sprang to life an displayed this (Click any photo to enlarge):

After the initial Pavlovian blanch, I recovered my holiday sense of benevolence and equanimity, and paged through the speed dial list looking for likely contacts who might be able to point me to the owner.  “Padre” and “Madre” were at the top of the list, and I managed to get in touch with the owner’s dad.  They (dad and 14-ish daughter) came by the house after we finished our snow slog and claimed the phone.  We kidded a bit about the OSU-Michigan thing, we’re all adults here, right?

But if it had rung while we were out walking, and started playing The Victors, I’d've chucked it off the Aurora Bridge without a shred of remorse.

Other curiosities encountered in our peregrination - just a few feet from the intersection where I found the phone was this tableau:

Buses have been running erratically, and I guess someone was worried about missing an episode of Days of our Lives.

Then, we stopped into Chocolati to see if they had gotten a shipment of gift certificate cards (I had tried to buy one for Mrs. Perils on Wednesday, but the snow had delayed a delivery of the plastic cards), and I was tickled to see this offering:

Just next door, at the Bottleworks beer boutique, was this sign:

Down in Fremont, the dour and purposeful Comrade Lenin had gotten a partial makeover:

We stopped at Mad Pizza for a bite of lunch before heading back up the hill.  Inside the shop, they were playing Mary Poppins on a flat-screen video with the sound off.  Their sound system instead was playing some sort of driving techno dance mix.  Eerily, the chimney sweeps’ dance number on the screen meshed almost perfectly with the techno beats:

On the walk back up the hill, we met a long-time friend and walked a few blocks with her, catching up on perhaps 5 or 10 years worth of news.  She was wearing Yaktrax Walkers, little grippy matrix things that you slip over your shoes, that would have been very welcome on the several walks in this stuff that we’ve taken.


A delightful Christmas and extended holiday season to you all.  Snuggle up, stay warm and safe.

Here are perhaps my favorite carols. The first is a combination of two Gustav Holst arrangements, This have I Done For My True Love and Lullay, My Liking:

and a powerful rendition of Carol of the Bells by the Ohio State Marching Band:

Once upon a time, we used to send Christmas cards that we designed ourselves.  Mrs. Perils is is a terrific cartoonist, and she would do colored pen drawings and we’d go off to a print shop to have them color-Xeroxed.

I’m not sure what year this is from, but it seems apropos for this year of economic disarray (click to enlarge):

“Losses of this magnitude can hardly be explained away by the increased cost of reindeer food, Mr. Claus”

The White Album

Optional soundtrack - “Snowfall” by Claude Thornhill.  It’s been playing in my head since Saturday, and a commenter tweaked me about it today:

It seems that everyone across the country is having some form of extraordinary weather, and you’re probably sick of checking your blog lists and reading the same rapturous bleatings. So, I’m just going to cut to the chase and post photos of our Great Seattle Snowstorm of 2008.  Perhaps, soon, the blogosphere will cease resembling the Weather Channel.

The snow started in earnest Saturday evening, and Mrs. Perils and I walked up to the Santa Fe Cafe for a dessert margarita (Click any photo to enlarge):

After a morning respite, it began snowing again, and we walked down to Green Lake and around our neighborhood:

The tree in the photo below, right is, according to Mrs. Perils, called a corkscrew hazel:

Here’s Chez Perils from across the street:

And here’s the scene in our side yard:

One individual in our household you wouldn’t have found outside the house for the last 5 days is Mr. Rico:


I woke up to this sight this morning at my Milwaukee hotel.  The one I checked out of because I have a flight to Seattle this evening:

And the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel had this cheery tidbit:

The sixth storm of this trying winter season proved today that the first five were mere practice. Nearly a foot of snow blown by wind gusts topping 30 mph stopped flights at Mitchell International Airport, stymied motorists and Milwaukee County Transit buses and shut down businesses and government operations.

And even if I get to depart MKE tonight, I’ll be flying into this in Seattle:

The weather’s just warming up for weekend blast

Forecasters say wind, heavy snow to hit again — hard


OK, now get ready for a real winter blast expected this weekend bringing much heavier snowfall with dangerous winds and possibly even freezing rain followed by the potential for avalanches in the mountains.

“It’s going to be a real mess,” said Brad Colman, director and chief meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Seattle. “It’s a much more dangerous storm because of the wind element. … I think we will have power issues.”

So, I’m biding my time here at my client’s office, where hardly anyone showed up this morning, and those who did are mostly going from office to office describing their commutes.

As much as I’ve flown in the northern tier over the past 10 years, I’ve never been stranded anywhere, not even the week of 911.  But I think there’s a high probability that I’ll be bunking out either in Milwaukee or Minneapolis tonight.  Then who knows what will happen as everyone tries to reschedule into the teeth of the holiday travel season.  I think it might be wise to transfer some of my dainties from my checked luggage to my carry-on pack.


I admit I spent way too much of my client’s time this afternoon obsessively refreshing my NWA flight status screen, trying to determine how my fate thread was unraveling from the spindle of the confluence of airframe vs. atmospherics.  As the day evolved and the Milwaukee airport stayed closed, more and more of the scheduled flights started to post “Canceled” or “Delayed”, but my 6:05 pm departure remained miraculously “On Time”.  I presumed that this was simply because Northwest had not been able to think, and cancel, that far ahead yet.

Turns out that I was just lucky in my scheduling.  When I arrived at the airport, there were two classes of Northwest customers:  Those whose reservations were still “alive” - i.e. not canceled, and whose connections had not been mangled,  and those who were fucked and not likely to get un-fucked real soon.

This photo shows (not really starkly) how this divide worked down in the Black Hole of NWA Calcutta:

Those directly behind me were in a short line to check bags for flights that were still on schedule; those to the rear were the tip of a line that snaked around the cramped ticketing area, waiting for agents to patch their lives back together.  As I checked my bags, I felt like a resident of a miraculously intact building in a city that had been carpet-bombed.

After I checked in, I discovered that I could catch a seat on an even earlier Minneapolis flight and, reader, I grabbed it as if it was the landing strut of the last helicopter leaving Saigon.  Under those circumstances, when you see an actual plane actually loading actual passengers, you can’t turn it down.

And, yes, just to prove that injustice can still be propagated in these post-bailout times, I was upgraded on both legs.  Boo-Yeah!

Not So Hot-el

Season’s greetings from our family’s winter compound, where I spent the weekend!

Well, here I am now in frigid Milwaukee, where I woke up to 0F this morning, and after the short jaunt from the hotel entrance to my rental car, you could have used my frozen-solid eyeballs to cool your beverage this evening.

Not that it’s that much better back in Seattle, where their lows are in the ‘teens.  (I can sympathize - many of my lows were in my teens as well.)  I think that once it drops below 40F, however, the misery is only a matter of degree.

In the bonus round this afternoon, it snowed about 2″, and I may have to go out later and tromp around in it.

Meanwhile, I’m having a chicken wrap and a chardonnay in the hotel bar.  This hotel seems to have a long-term arrangement with several black religious organizations, and there are often conferences in the meeting rooms adjacent to the bar attended by folks who are something of an anachronism, from a west coast point of view, dressed to the nines and very mannered.

Their meetings are spirited, and their exclamations occasionally punctuate the Stevie Ray Vaughn and Lynyrd Skynyrd bar soundtrack.

As they adjourn and walk past the bar to their cars, the husbands lag behind the wives just a beat, and cast fugitive, wistful glances in our direction.

(Well, the glances are definitely fugitive;  the “wistful” may be a projection)

A Son’s Weekend

I spent the weekend at my mom’s in Toledo stringing lights, putting up her Christmas tree, cutting evergreen boughs to arrange around family gravestones and doing minor plumbing.

I head for Milwaukee from Detroit tonight (Sunday) for a week of work there, and head home for the year on Friday night.

It’s kind of eerie to walk out to my mom’s garage to get a tool for some task.  She lives in the same house that our family built and moved into in 1961, so the tool shelves are in the same place they’ve been for nearly 50 years, populated by the same tools that were always there, and many brought over from the house I was born to, and many handed down to my dad from his grandparents.

These tools have a familiar look, and a familiar feel as I duck under the kitchen sink and confront plumbing handiwork that my dad jerry-rigged sometime in the last 4 decades.

But nothing is permanent.  I hear his cursewords as he bumped his head on the 2×4 just inches from my own head, or skinned his knuckles tightening the fitting that I’m about to loosen.

Hit Parade

I was amused by this column this morning, in which musicians complain that their masterpieces are being used at a volume and play frequency that they would kill for if it was proffered by Top-40 FM, except that it’s being done by the hospitality industry at Guantanamo to soothe break down selected prisoners.

I’m not sure how the interrogators determine exactly what combination of the artists’ oeuvre will be most effective for their purposes, but it seems that their success in their endeavors would be closely followed by the music industry, with lucrative post-service offers for the most effective T(torture)-Jays.  I know this, though - our kid played a lot of Pantera while he was in middle school, and we never told him anything useful (just ask him).

I’m thinking I could use this theme to do something like our acquaintance and music expert KEN does over at his blog Miss Piggy Lunchbox.  His schtick is that he’s working his way alphabetically through his and his “baby’s” music collection, rating each album by awarding from 1 - 5 “lunchboxes” depending on what he hears and, probably, what he had for lunch that day (It’s actually interesting and well-informed analysis, even if he trashes stuff that you cry listening to).

I propose to do the same in the T-Jay genre, but rating the music on its effectiveness at extracting useful information from those reluctant to impart it.  Being a low-budget operation, I’d probably resort most often to our cat, Rico, as a subject.

The ratings would be from 1 - 5 “screams”:

Once I develop a palpable repertoire, I might just try my luck at being a defense contractor.

Tacoma Narrows Kayaking

A long and uninspiring week.  Probably a product of backed-up work, post-holiday depression and the fact that it’s nearly dark by 4 o’clock.

I did get out for a decent kayak adventure last weekend (here’s the gps story).   We launched from a park just south of the Tacoma Narrows bridge, the “Galloping Gertie” of the famous film clip, in which the original 1940 bridge collapsed in the same year it was opened (further enlightment about Galloping Gertie here.)

We crossed the Narrows, paddled under the bridge, and made for the heretofore quaint village of Gig Harbor for lunch and beverages at The Tides cafe (click photos to enlarge):

As with most of the waterfront around Puget Sound, Gig Harbor has been gentrified, and has become something of a bedroom community - that’s why the Narrows Bridge is now a double-span (see above). This photo probably best conveys the dissonance between what waterfront living implied in the 40s, and what it implies now:

I’m sure if I owned the property at the top of the bluff, I would think life was just fine. And, actually, the properties below are probably more prone to have a failed septic tank and be contributing to the death of the Sound than the properties at the top.

The trip back to our launch point had us paddling into a fairly stiff wind which, playing against a variable current, made for some interesting paddling conditions. I’m getting to like paddling in semi-heavy wave conditions, but maybe I’m just being stupid.

As I neared the launch point, cloud cover to the south was breaking just enough to allow some exotic lighting.

Views like these keep these old bones launching themselves into the frigid salt.

Driving back to Seattle, I found myself lane-locked with a mini-van with a DVD player showing a movie to the passengers in the back. As we drove along, I found myself following the video, even though I didn’t have sound. It was sorta like watching a movie on a plane for which I didn’t want to buy the earphones. Except, in that instance, I’m not driving the plane.  Luckily, I disengaged and took control of the trip home