Archive for July 2009

Caloric Caviling

You’re probably in no mood to hear another Seattleite whine about how hot it is here.  So, I won’t whine.  I might describe plaintively, but no whining.   We are having a spate of high, and perhaps unprecedented, temperatures, and I know we sound like weenies when we complain about high 80s/low 90s temps.  I came here from Ohio, and I know what it’s like to be nailed down by heat, plus humidity that makes a sauna seem like a grocery store’s walk-in cooler.

I think what sets us off is that, just as when we get snow in the winter and the city comes to a grinding halt because we have no removal equipment, we have no generally dispersed infrastructure to deal with heat.  Sure, office buildings are air-conditioned, some to a point that you start to shiver if you’re not wearing a 3-piece suit.  That’s because, in our mild climate, the primary task of skyscraper HVAC systems here, even in the dead of winter, is to cool, not to heat.

But that doesn’t mean that our personal living apparatus is so equipped.  We’ve seldom felt the need, for instance, to consider air conditioning for our house.  It stays marvelously cool for most of the day, only heating up in the mid-afternoon when the westering sun hits the overabundance of glass that we have on that side.  And my car (a 1995 Honda) has been without functioning air conditioning for about a decade.  There’s a leak somewhere in the system, and it just doesn’t seem worth $1,500 to find it, repair it and recharge with ozone-eating Freon only to shun its use for 95% of the year.

So, today, I hit the trifecta, or maybe the 4-horse accumulator:

  • My first stop was the dentist.  Air conditioning: check; welcoming environment that entices you to linger: not so much.
  • Next stop: a client in a manufacturing warehouse that becomes an inferno the moment that rosy-fingered dawn caresses its fiberglass roof.  But I’m the controller, and no way would I recommend air conditioning this porous box.  (Somehow, they snuck heating apparatus in there last winter).
  • Next, I hop in my non-airconditioned car and pray that 520 is only mildly afflicted.  It is, but I irrationally fret that, at 4:20, I should be able to cruise-control at 70 all the way home.
  • Finally, I attend a board meeting of a non-profit kayaker-advocacy group.  Because it’s truly non-profit, and not the faux non-profit of hospitals and country clubs, their office is in a non-airconditioned building, afflicted with the same west-facing orientation as our house.  We sweat through sincere but distracted proceedings, and begrudge Robert his meeting-lengthening Rules.

We didn’t have air conditioning when I was a kid in northwest Ohio, but we did have a huge attic fan that pulled air in Herculean draughts through all of the house’s orifices and pushed it into the attic, where the Devil could reclaim it if he wasn’t being attended by demon medics for heat exhaustion.  When we remodeled our house here in  Seattle in 1981, I purchased a similar fan and installed it at the head of the stairs, thinking that, if it worked in the sweltering midwest, it would certainly suffice for our moderate climes.  Then, a perspicacious insulating subcontractor pointed out that my attic, with only circular birdblocks for vents instead of the capacious gable vents of my dad’s house, would not be able to handle the exhaust, Devil or no.  So, I removed it, and we’ve relied on benevolent clouds and marine air to temper our summer sun.

I’m looking through my rolodex, and have selected a client for tomorrow’s endeavors that I’m almost sure has air conditioning.  I may have to screw up something around 4:30, so I can stay after dusk to fix it.

I think all that was just this side of the Whining Wall.  Sue me.

Up For Air

Clouds as my plane approached Minneapolis last night (click to enlarge):

Home after a week in Milwaukee, working and sleeping in hotels.  I had packed my electric drill but, sadly, Erin Andrews was definitely not in either room next to me.  In fact, I believe that my hotel in Milwaukee is a ghetto for old white-guy road warriors.  I’ll spare you the video.

I did get out on my bike while I was there, as well as a couple of workouts at the nearby gym.  The weather was surprisingly temperate, actually about 10 degrees cooler than Seattle.

I haven’t posted it here (I have to keep telling myself that Facebook is not blogging), but I went with a group last Saturday to kayak in and around Deception Pass, at the north end of Whidbey Island.  It’s a narrow passage between two land masses, and builds a rousing current at each flood and ebb.  When the wind is blowing against the current, the result is standing waves that are sort of like riding a bronco.  We surfed the waves, and had some fun crossing eddylines.

A friend who decided not to paddle into the pass took my camera up on the bridge above the pass, and got some nice shots, including a series of me being rescued (I can’t yet to an eskimo roll) after a wave kicked my ass:

Here’s the GPS tale of the trip.  It’s amusing to click the forward arrow at the top and watch the marker trace our route, especially in the pass as I go around in circles.

In other news, the screen on my laptop has been experiencing blackouts.  I’d been thinking it was time for a new laptop anyway, and it might have picked up the vibes of betrayal.  When it first blacked out, I specked out a new Dell Inspiron 15, and was almost ready to type my credit card number when a guy I was working with that day said, “Whoa, read these reviews first!”  It was typical malcontent user-review fodder, but enough to make me wait a bit.

Then the guy suggested I look at a Macbook.  I’ve never considered Macs, simply because all the consulting work I do is with Windows software, but I was intrigued that it seemed, as I read about the Macbook, that the recent Macs can run Windows sessions pretty seamlessly.

So I went to the Apple Store to see one.  Even in jeans and Keens, I was the un-hippest person in the store.  I shook it off and allowed one of the swarm of eager salesfolk to give me the tour.  Reader, I was completely smitten.  Once I convinced the salesperson that I knew a little bit about computers, he passed me on to (God, and they do this with straight faces) one of the Genius Bar people.  This guy was able to show me the VMWare add-on that runs Windows in a concurrent session with the Mac OS, and I made it do a bunch of stuff.

In the meantime, of course, my laptop screen has been working, at least most of the time.  I have a quote in hand from The Genius, about $1k more than I was going to spend for the Dell, and my mouse finger is gettin’  itchy.  One more deep breath, and I’ll order one or the other sometime this weekend.

Stolen Afternoon

Quickly, since I’m at Seatac waiting for a flight to Minneapolis, and thence to Milwaukee:

I played some hooky on Thursday afternoon and did a kayak adventure, launching in West Seattle and paddling about 12 miles, as the drunken sailor lurches, on a gorgeous Seattle summer afternoon. Here’s the GPS story..  The cool thing about that link is that you can click the forward arrow and the little ballooney icon will trace my peregrinations.

Also, some photos, just to emphasize that the weather was fantastic, and it was worth sacrificing some chargeable hours to go out and bob around:

More as I switch to Road Warrior mode.

The Deadliest Catch - Landlubber Edition

I’m sure every neighborhood sports these heart-rending Lost Pet signs, and you always wonder how many of them actually find their way back to their owners. I mean, once someone’s had the time to find and scan a photograph, print signs and staple them to the poles, it’s probably been a couple of days since the absence was discovered.

But I really wonder how many neighborhoods can say they’ve seen polebound pleas for the return of a pet shellfish? I’m suspecting this dude made his clicky-clack escape the moment he saw the lighted grill on the Fourth.  Knocked over the saucepan of drawn butter just for spite, then made the dive for the sewer grate.

Well, that’s only one of the singular sights we took in on our short jaunt down to Green Lake and back.  We soon came upon this tableau:

Then we encountered this fellow, who was also watching the quintet with more than a little curiosity:

We’ve seen him walking around the lake for at least 20 years, adorned in his “Spanish Lessons” pullover, usually walking along with someone and conversing, presumably en espanol. Neither of us had ever spoken with him (up until the last couple of years, we were usually running at the lake, not strolling as we do now), so tonight was a first. He asked me how the brass instruments made their sound, and I pressed my lips together and made my trumpet-player’s buzz. Wish I’d taken the time to speak at more length - I’m curious to know if he charges for his Spanish Lessons, or simply does it to further the multilingual cause. It’ll probably take me another 20 years to speak to him again.

And, to end the evening, a nice sunset shot as we headed up the hill to home:

Road Trip

I’m still alive, and I’ll leave it at that.  I’m done, for now, with what my in-laws used to call “The Organ Recital”.  The previous post did elicit a call from my mom, who declared that she wanted to be the first (among her, me & my bros) to go.  I told her I wasn’t about to race her.

The weather here has been, for the most part of the last month, idyllic, only rarely reaching up into the 80s, and when it does, tempered after a couple of days by refreshing marine push breezes.  I haven’t done much to take advantage, as in epic kayak voyages or wandering into the woods.  We usually just hang out in Seattle for the 4th, declining to fight the crowds on the way to anywhere.  If work doesn’t crash down on my head for some reason, I may try to do something with Thursday or Friday, especially since I’m off to Milwaukee next week.

I traveled to Eastern Washington last Thursday and Friday to do a software version upgrade to for a client in a town called Othello.  It’s not the Washington most people think of over there - it’s sagebrush desert, a sere landscape with fascinating landforms that, apparently were sculpted by a cataclysmic wall of water released Pacific-ward from a gargantuan ice-age lake in Montana.  If you have a claim on irrigation water, you can grow crops ranging from dry-land onions, potatoes, hops to apples, cherries and - gratefully - wine grapes.

Here are a couple of photos I took at the edge of town, looking westward over the Columbia valley towards the Cascade Mountains.  The tip of Mt. Rainier can be seen in the middle-left of each photo (click any photo to enlarge):

I’ve been puzzled, since I’ve been going to Othello, about whether there’s an actual Shakespearean connection with the town’s name.  I noted that there are street names like Hamlet, and Stratford-on-Avon.  Then I came upon this:

Interesting gambit, but somehow I don’t think it helped her.

The work itself was sort of prosaic. There are always surprises in a software upgrade - forms (checks, invoices) suddenly start printing differently, unwanted new features supplant features the client loved in the old version. The big trick on this trip was installing a new server, plus the upgrade, in a remote satellite office down on the Snake River near Walla Walla. Since there’s no way to fix anything at this location remotely, and it’s a long drive there, we had to stick the job on the first try. I hear today that their payroll ran just fine, so there’s a mercy.

I made my final “improvements” late Friday evening and started the 200 mile drive into a stunning sunset. Here’s a series of photos I took through the windshield as I headed west on SR26.  I was texting with the other hand, driving with my knees:


Went up to the doc today for a checkback on my leprosy status.  The point of my elbow is still swollen and tender, which is probably a bursa sac still bitching about the gouging around they did getting a specimen to test.

The bigger issue I wanted to address was some alarming blood pressure readings I was getting over the weekend I was schlepping up to the ER to treat the infection, stuff like 167/96.  Blood pressure has never been on my radar, since I’ve always been OK, and I get a fair amount of exercise, and there’s not much family history.  But I’ve been a little wigged out the last couple of weeks since then, lying in bed listening to my heart rattling around in my chest and wondering when it would blow up, making abject promises to myself about losing weight, eating un-buttered toast, circumnavigating Antarctica on my bicycle.

It was hard to reconcile, though, with how good I felt, even hiking 10 miles at 3,500 ft or so down in Ashland, keeping to my Nautilus workout schedule, etc.

So, I approached my appointment today with more than a little trepidation, prepared to negotiate with my doc about bargaining lifestyle changes for a respite from drugs, wondering if (as with any visit to the doc) any discovery would affect my ability to secure insurance next year, since I’m self-employed and purchasing from the individual market.

So I wander into the office after a stressful drive there across the 520 bridge and through a thicket of red lights and clueless midday drivers and plop down for the triage.  Sweet deliverance.  My blood pressure is 132/83 (not bad for my age), and I’ve lost 5 pounds.

I feel like I’ve gotten a heart transplant, and the rhythmic clunk in my chest is my friend, not an enemy battering my gates.  I’m still gonna keep the weight loss thing going - I weigh about 160, and I should really weigh under 150 before I take my shirt off in broad daylight.

But it looks like I’m gonna live a bit longer.  I’d gotten into a mindset where I thought my longevity might be circumscribed by circumstances that I didn’t control, circumstances that contravened the assumption that I was good for another 25 years (based on genetics), and that I was owed a dividend from the exemplary lifestyle that I’ve crafted .

But then, I could have been killed driving up there, pumping a lethal amount of blood into the street regardless of the pressure behind it.

The message for the day is, I’m gonna live, but I’d better do some stuff before I get sideswiped by some other unforeseen medical malady.

Don QuickOats

Not sure if I’ll get all, or any more, reviewing done, but here’s one, anyway:

It’s a testament to the juvenile nature of my mind that, every time I hear “Don Quixote”, it reformulates in my head as “Donkey Hottie”, which is very near the title of the first porn movie I saw as a freshman in college.

The task of staging this rambling novel in two hours seems impossible (as did the task of staging Crime and Punishment with 3 actors in 90 minutes, which we saw at Intiman earlier this spring).  I’ve never read it; my exposure is limited to the tedious translation of parts of it in high school Spanish, a production of Man of La Mancha in college and bedtime anecdotes as Mrs. Perils read both volumes a couple of years ago.

Since most know the basic story line, however, the playright’s task was to select 3 - 4 episodes that would best illustrate the main themes.  The short story is that an old man has so besotted himself with romantic novels of knights-errant and chivalry that his friends and caretakers have concluded that he’s become unhinged from reality, and summon the priest to rescue him from the grip of the poisonous fiction.Instead of succumbing to their ministrations, he outfits himself in various household metallic gewgaws, recruits his neighbor Sancho Panza as squire, and sets out in search of conquest.

The intensity and vividness of Quixote’s fantasies lends itself to conflating these imaginings with the act of writing.  In the play, this is pretty explicit, and Quixote prides himself in being able to confront a perilous situation, say, “that’s not how this is supposed to be” and basically re-write the outcome.  This works a couple of times, and then he confronts a situation with characters that he simply can’t control.  Each time he re-writes a situation, it morphs into something he hadn’t foreseen.

Cervantes himself appears as a character in several incarnations, and is not exactly sympathetic to what appears to be a writer’s plight. In fact, Cervantes sits back and heckles his hero at many critical points.

It’s a sometimes-hilarious romp with moments of serious epiphany regarding the rejection of life as it is vs. what you think it should/could be, and the aging process, with some satisfying sotto-voce swipes at the Catholic hegemony.  And it’s easy to be swept up in the Impossible-Dream vs. grinding reality upon which both the play and the novel trade.

However, there’s a dark side to the idea of his messianic quest here that kept needling me.  I had a literature professor who disdained the Romantic movement, positing that it provided the central myths that the Nazis invoked in their theories of master race.  And Quixote is invoking an idealized Spanish era to try to gather followers in his quest.  The only person who actually follows him is Panza, and I think he does so not because he believes in his master’s fantasy as much as that he simply wants to shirk his duties on the farm.  Still, people are put in peril due to Quixote’s exercises.  You start to wonder how, with a strikingly similar starting point, Hitler succeeded and Quixote failed.

But that dark side is in my head, and nowhere to be found in the play.  It was staged outdoors in the Elizabethan theater, under balmy, starry skies.  I have to remark upon a hilarious scene wherein one of the long-time actors in the company, Robin Goodrin Nordli, lurchingly sneaks into a bedroom shared by Quixote, Cervantes (in mufti) and Panza, intending to jump Cervantes’ bones but instead alighting upon the indignant (and immediately enraged) Quixote.  If you go, watch for this scene.