Archive for March 2009

Ooh, Eee, Oo-ah-ahhh, Ting, Tang, Wallawallabingbang

So I sucked it up and attended my biennial physical exam yesterday.  That’s what it means by “physical”, I guess.  You actually have to go there.  So much of what I do is cyber- and virtual these days, and this event actually started in cyberspace - I made the appointment and received confirmation on my HMO’s website, and filled out an online questionnaire that used to be administered haphazardly by a harried nurse in the seconds before the doctor arrived in the exam room.

But for all of their sophistication and mouse-side manner, the WebMDs of the world are not yet able to reach out and fondle your nuts to see if anything untoward is going on down there, so I ultimately had to hie me thither and unpersuasively envelop my naked self in the standard-issue peek-a-boo muumuu.

Though I suffered the usual indignities stoically, the part that I dread most is when they want to draw blood, this time for a cholesterol test.  It’s not the pain I dread, it’s some murky psychological weirdness I have about veins, arteries and blood.  I hyperventilate a little, and get woozy sometimes just anticipating.  I’ve gotten so I simply tell the tech that I’ve got a phobia.  This time the woman said, “OK, let me tell you about my animals,” and I jumped in gratefully, asking probing questions about their personalities and relationships with each other, and you’d have thought I was on a first date, I was so animated.

Of course, it was over in seconds - I give good vein - and my spirit soared.  They bandage the puncture and say to keep it on for 15 minutes, but I’ve been known to wear one all day and through my evening shower, only daring near the end to remove it because it’s gotten soggy, fully expecting the wound to have developed into some hideous spurting hematoma.

Though it’s been certified that the Fountain of Youth has once again eluded me, I’m told the chances are reasonable that I’ll be slumping up there again in two years.  I’ll try to have the bandage off by then.

Madness, and a Little Sadness

I have my laptop set up in two-screen mode (one onboard, one external) when I’m in my office, and I spent way too much of the weekend watching March Madness on one screen and telling myself I was multitasking on the other.  By the end of Saturday, I had foregone the deceit and had a game going on each screen, one Purdue-Washington and the other Duke-Texas.  At one point, both were in the final minute and either tied or within 2 points.


We’re adjusting to the loss of the newspaper we’ve subscribed to since 1975, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.  We’ve been fortunate during that period to have two daily newspapers with two sets of personalities and gradations (I wouldn’t say polar opposites) of political persuasion.  Oddly, the P-I, owned by Hearst, was the slightly more liberal paper, while the local family-controlled Times was more idiosyncratically conservative, reflecting, probably, the humors of its splenetic publisher.

I think the competition was great for the city, perhaps tempering the tendency of a paper to become a cheerleader and mouthpiece of the local establishment.  I thrilled in the 80s when the PI took as its mission the scourging of our Reaganesque Democrat governor, Dixy Lee Ray.  Dixy was an unflinchingly pro-development shill who never heard of an energy project she wouldn’t stump for, whether it was a supertanker port, an under-Sound oil pipeline or the archipelago of nuclear plants known as WPPSS.  A character appearing in a comic strip by the PI’s editorial cartoonist named Dipstick Duck sat in judgment.

The PI continues in truncated form as a web-only venture, and the “thunk” on our porch each morning now heralds the arrival of The Times.  We would probably discontinue taking a daily, but my MIL, who lives with us, takes pleasure in a paper with her breakfast.  Since I’ve been reading both papers online for several years and seldom actually handled the newsprint version, I can’t gauge the feeling of emptiness expressed by those for whom that tactility is a big part of their news-reading experience.  But a lot of distinctive voices in sports, arts, reportage and editorial have been silenced, and I will certainly miss their part of the local news chorus.

Nothing, Really

It’s the Ides of March, but I seem to lack the ambition to assassinate anything but time.  Lousy weather this weekend (after some promising days late last week) kept me off the water; today opened with cotton-candy-like gobs of snow falling eerily to earth, followed later in the day by 20 - 30 mph winds, pelting rain and the occasional sucker-hole of bright sunshine.  We managed a walk to Fremont yesterday to buy groceries at PCC, and I peeled off of the couch to ride down to the gym this afternoon.

I spent a chunk of yesterday and today watching the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament, as Ohio State upset Michigan State yesterday and played (and lost) to Purdue in the championship game today.   One thing that occurred to me, and I’m surprised it hasn’t before, is how much the chorus of squeaking from 20 basketball shoes resembles a tree full of birds during nesting season.  I guess there’s a reason I don’t write for Sports Illustrated.

The NCAA March Madness tournament starts this week.  For a long time, I regarded it in its current 65-team incarnation as a bloated abomination that cheapened the regular season by allowing as many as 8 teams from a conference into the tournament.  But the last couple of years, I’ve started to warm up to it, probably because my expectations of the Buckeyes are pretty low, and I can just enjoy it as a pageant.  This first week, especially, is a riotous bazaar of game, going almost nonstop from Thursday morning to Sunday night, and it’s kind of like going to a music festival where you can walk from venue to venue sampling all manner of entertainments.  OSU plays Siena at 10pm EDT Friday night and if they win, will probably play Louisville, the #1 seed in the entire tournament, on Sunday. That‘ll lower your expectations, fersure.

I’m also sort of Jonesing for a camera, a successor a couple of generations removed to my Canon S3 IS.  It’s the SX10 IS, or its sidekick the SX1 IS.  Each has a 20x optical zoom (the 12x zoom is the thing that most endears me to the S3) and, like the S3, can record video in stereo.  The SX1, however, has a CMOS chip and can record video in HD.  But it’s about $250 more.  I don’t know why I care, since I don’t own any kind of display that will render HD in the house, and I’d probably have to buy a gazillion-gigabyte memory chip.

The natural progression for someone who snaps as much as I do would probably be to move up to a DSLR and invest in some lenses.  However, so much of my photography is done on the run, impromptu, and is only possible because I’m usually carrying my camera.  And I don’t think I’d be as likely to sling a DSLR and a gaggle of lenses onto my shoulder.  Both the SX1 and SX10 are the smaller sub-SLR with the lens built-in.

Have a good week, and beware of leprechauns selling securitized peat-bog mortgages.

LunaSea Kayaking

Last night was a full moon here in Seattle, and a few of my kayak buddies and I thought it would be cool to observe it from our boats. In a major upset, the evening was almost crystal clear - temps in the 20s, but little to no wind. We launched near Gasworks Park on Lake Union and paddled towards the University of Washington.

As we turned into the Montlake Cut, the moon revealed itself gloriously, making a river of light on the water and a silhouette of the Montlake Bridge in the air (Click to enlarge):

Usually the Cut - a short canal connecting Lake Union with Lake Washington - is rocking and rolling with motorboat wake, but last night it was our private reflecting pool.  We paddled through it and into a bayou-like area near the Arboretum.  There we consternated several herons, who squawked and took to ungainly flight, as well as several beaver, who slapped their tails on the surface of the water to show their displeasure.

We stayed pleasantly warm despite the water droplets from our paddles trying to freeze on our decks.  Visually, it could have been a balmy summer night.  GPS tale-o-the-tape here (which also includes the car trip down to the lake, due to user malfunction).

Sprung Forward

So, you know that hour that went missing last weekend?  Wouldn’t you know that was the very hour that I had set aside for blogging.  And now here I am on Monday morning with a handful of photographs and no text.  I stare balefully at the clock on my Windows toolbar, knowing that, of all the clocks in the house, it’s the one who stole that hour.  It certainly had the opportunity, and since when does your laptop have to have a motive to simply swallow something?  This clock is now a Person Of Interest in the heretofore unexplained disappearance of many other hours.

Still, I made reasonably good use of the other hours of the weekend.  I had a really nice day paddling around Mercer Island in Lake Washington with some folks.  Here’s the GPS story, and here’s a slide show.

And Mrs. Perils and I got out on a walk Saturday, encountering some more interesting and quirky sights in the neighborhood between our place and Fremont. There’s a wooded and overgrown property near the house whose flowering schedule Mrs. Perils has committed to memory, and Saturday she was thinking their fawn lilies might be blooming. Almost, but not quite (Click any pic to enlarge):

Other things are more forthcoming, however. Crocuses and daffodils have been out for a while, and we espied these orchids:

Turning away from an atm machine, the creature on top of this building caught the corner of my eye:

OK, let’s go ahead and make this post an incomprehensible stew of time shards. Thursday, I was downtown for a meeting with a client who was holding court at the Four Seasons hotel. As I exited the elevator on his floor, I snuck this photo looking south on First Avenue. On the left, the 2-story silhouette is a moving sculpture called The Hammering Man, who stands at the entrance of the Seattle Art Museum:

Just across the street from the art museum, however, is the venerable Lusty Lady gentleman’s club. They always have a humorous come-on lettered on their marquee:

I snapped that photo on the way out of my meeting. The message had changed from the time I entered the meeting, and I wish I’d had time to photograph it - the message was “Package Stimulus”.

Update: The flowers above that I misidentified as orchids are actually irises.  Also, there’s a Flickr group devoted to photos of the Lusty Lady marquee, and here’s a picture showing “Package Stimulus” and the other side, which I missed in my haste, titled “Uncovery Plan”.

I Rode The SLUT

I was working downtown yesterday, and needed to head a bit north to the South Lake Union area in order to rescue a client in distress. (Distress that I may have caused, but let’s not go there.) The South Lake Union area, already home to medical complexes such as the Fred Hutchinson Center and the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, is being built out into a mini-city almost single-handedly by Paul Allen’s Vulcan Corporation.

The city has done a number of things to accommodate the development, among them installing the South Lake Union Trolley, aka SLUT. I’d seen the trolley quite a few times, but yesterday was the first time I was actually going the same direction that it was, so I hopped on it (Click to enlarge):

In my view, mass transit that operates at street grade (as does the SLUT) is never going to reach the potential that transit in its own grade can provide.  Street-grade transit has to stop for stop lights, gets caught in the same traffic jams that single-occupancy cars do and can travel no faster than rush-hour traffic.

I thought it was ironic that, as we waited at a green light for some cars to clear a grid-locked intersection, I could see the anachronistic skeleton of what could have been an piece of a solution - the old monorail track from the 1962 World’s Fair:

A few years ago, we voted for funding and created an administrative infrastructure to build a modern monorail that would have connected two problematic parts of the city, operating above street level over its entire course.  I think it would have been a great emblem for the city, extending the symbolism of the old monorail in a functional piece of infrastructure.

But the Monorail always had its enemies and, after acquiring land and plotting several versions of a route, the project imploded due to funding doubts and municipal squabbling.  True, we’ll soon have a light rail system connecting downtown to the airport.  A lot of that system, however, will operate at street grade and, in my view, won’t have the cache that the Monorail would have.

Bipolar Weekend

Had a sort of bipolar weekend. Saturday was full of vigorous outdoor activity, while Sunday found me lounging in bed reading until 10:30 (Gazelle, by Rikki Ducornet.  She’s the “Rikki” from the old Steely Dan song Rikki, Don’t Lose That Number.  From the jacket photo, I think I’d want her to remember my phone number, too)  Once upright (briefly), I slouched in front of my laptop surfing the net and doing my February billing. I never got out of my sweatpants Sunday, although I did wear them on a short bike ride down to the gym to do a Nautilus workout in the afternoon.

Here’s the view I had Saturday morning while waiting for my ferry ride westward across Puget Sound to kayak with a group near Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula.  The photo on the left is of the Olympic Mountains just as the sun rose above the Cascade Mountains at my back.  The photo on the left is take seconds later, and catches the same quality of rosy-fingered dawn glancing off the masts sequestered by the Elliott Bay Marina. (click photos to enlarge)

I forgot to bring my waterproof camera gear, so I don’t have any photos from the cockpit, but those photos from the ferry dock would have been the best of the day in any case. We launched in pretty good weather:

and, though it clouded up a bit, it never rained, and at this time of year that’s as much as you can hope for on a Saturday afternoon in February. We had a good “mileage” workout, paddling between 11 and 12 miles, against a current in both directions. Here’s the gps report, although my gps seems to have crapped out at the 10-mile point, probably due to user error.