Thursday, December 31, 2009

A look back at the year 2000

(With thanks to David Levine, who wrote on this topic in Facebook)

Excerpts from my holiday letter from 10 years ago:
...After two years as managing editor of Northwest Health magazine, I have begun a job-share arrangement with another senior editor so that I can spend two days a week writing book reviews for and working on a mystery reader's travel guide to the Pacific Northwest. If all goes well, you’ll be able to buy the book on in 2001.
(Within three months, this arrangement led not to a book but to a new job with Apple, writing website reviews for iReview.)
1999 was a good year for visitors from out of state: My cousin Carol and her son Michael were here this summer (Michael was doing an internship at Microsoft on his way to U.C. Berkeley for grad school).
(Michael, after a stint in high tech, now has an MBA and is involved in politics and socially responsible businesses.)
...our friend Bob, a computer programmer and country dance caller from England, stayed with us for the Northwest Folklife Festival in May on his way to a new job in Australia. Two weeks later he was back from Australia, having left the new job to return to Seattle and pursue a romance with Laura, a wonderful woman he had met at Folklife!
(Bob and Laura are now married; I later moved to Ballard, and they are neighbors.)
My parents spent much of this year’s visit to Seattle looking at condominiums. They plan to shift their summer residence from Cape Cod to Edmonds, Washington—a beautiful town on Puget Sound, about 20 minutes north of Seattle. Winters will still find them in Naples, Florida.
(My father has since died, and now my mother has the Edmonds condo they purchased up for sale; she's planning on moving to a retirement community in Naples.)
The big-hearted lynxpoint Siamese, Solomon, died very suddenly of cancer in September. Solomon had made many friends up and down the block, and now it is not uncommon to find a neighbor standing on the sidewalk in front of the house, gazing at his resting place in the garden. They’ll explain “I’m talking to Solomon.” The four remaining cats (Bosco, Betaille, Sam, and Socks) are not among Sol’s mourners—nor are they out recruiting a replacement.
(Sadly, none of those remaining cats are left. Sam was hit by a car (which precipitated the move to a very quiet street in Ballard); Bosco died of cancer; Socks died after the move to Ballard in a rare complication after dental surgery; and Betaille went out, of old age and cancer, three years ago. Sheba, who joined the household nine years ago, is the only cat left from the Wallingford era.)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Today was just funny

I've been editing all evening — a rambling, poorly organized "how-to" article that goes on, and on, and on in excruciating detail. When I got to a bullet point (the eighth or ninth in a long, pontificating series) that said:

Be concise. People don't want to ready anything that's more than a page long.

I laughed so hard I fell out of my chair.

It's been that kind of day.

Still laughing

Thanks to a Facebook note from Doug Plummer, I'm still laughing. This time it's a Garrison Keillor column on the Republicans and healthcare.

Why I'm a cat owner

Maybe it was my recent dog-sitting experience, but I've been sitting here for the past hour chuckling over this story in the Seattle Times. I can only wonder what the cats, mentioned in the story, thought about the situation.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The new MacBook Pro

I am in the midst of setting up my MacBook Pro (13") which replaces my four-year-old 12" Titanium PowerBook. The Titanium had pretty much recovered from The Cat Pee incident, but it wasn't able to run Snow Leopard. As I'm now commuting to Olympia, I needed a reliable laptop, and I want to be able to use Snow Leopard's "Back to My Mac" feature to access the iMac at home.

First impressions:
  • The new environmentally aware packaging is pretty elegant for cardboard. It was nice not to wrassle with a lot of plastic wrapping.
  • I like the magnetic power cord (not new on MacBooks, but new for me).
  • I love the backlit keyboard (again, not new for MacBooks, but new for me — I remember when this was just for the highest-end models).
  • Choosing an account photo made me smile — I recognized several of the images (flowers) from the early iCards galleries I worked with.
  • The screen seems wide, but not very tall.
  • The new track pad with one, two, three and four-finger controls looks intriguing.
  • I noticed that I will have been a member of .Mac (Mobile Me) for 10 years come Valentine's Day.
  • The set-up, including settings and a complete sync of mail, contacts, calendars, bookmarks, via Mobile Me was complete 30 minutes from when I opened the shipping box.
All that remains is to install Microsoft Office, iWork '09, Yojimbo (which syncs), and Storyist.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Holidays

Tonight the energy shifted from pre-holiday frenzy to actually enjoying the season.

I got out today and went up to Swanson's Nursery to spend my holiday "Swan Dollars" on some white pansies for the doorstep planter.

There is a camel at Swanson's Nursery. He seems very friendly, and is sharing his yard with shaggy burro (see photo of snorgling). There are also two magnificently antlered reindeer, who were busy attacking two Christmas trees suspended from the rafters. For that purpose.

I stopped by the new gourmet shop on Market Street in Ballard, Savour, and discovered the cheesemonger there is an old friend from Brie and Bordeaux (the cheese shop in the old Meridian neighborhood in Wallingford/Green Lake).

Savour has cheeses, Spanish ham, olives, and things you can't get anywhere else in town (except Pike Place Market). It's expensive. It's worth it. And they have gift certificates, one of which I bought for a friend.

Finally, I swung by Classic Consignment and got a beautiful Banana Republic A-line wool skirt for work ($18.99). I'm going to be working in Olympia two or three days a week in January and need "real" clothes.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Broken promise

Discouraging news for pet owners: Pet Promise cat food, a nutritious line developed under the supervision of Dr. Andrew Weil, is no longer available. According to the website, making and distributing pet food made from organic meats, and selling it at reasonable prices in supermarkets, didn't make enough money for the company.

So, there you have it. I'm back to the choice of crappy food I can afford and can pick up while doing my regular grocery shopping, or jaw-droppingly expensive organic food (well, the sanctimonious sales people insist it's organic) that I have to traipse off to special pet products stores to purchase.

Actually, I split the difference. The only wet cat food the cats will eat is Fancy Feast (definitely the Bad Commercial stuff) but I can get them to eat various types of premium or organic dry foods. The wet food is important for Garibaldi, the feral cat, because feral cats often don't have adequate access to water in the dry months.

Mabel, the new house cat, loves Pet Promise Healthy Weight forumula, as does Sheba the deaf white cat. Their last bowls of it are nearly gone. I've been scouring the area stores for it. If you see it, please let me know.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

And tomorrow is Friday!

The week started out with a nasty email and floundered along until this morning when, at last, the karmic sun began to shine.

My new MacBook Pro arrived and is ready to be unpacked this weekend. It will replace the 12" PowerBook G4 that has been a little unpredictable after Kaylee the tabby peed on it and I poured odor neutralizer over the keyboard. I plan to keep it around as a loaner machine for people who just need to get webmail.

Garibaldi the feral cat, last seen on the heated outdoor cat bed Monday night, has reappeared again, demanding food. I think a neighbor who feeds several of the local ferals may have locked a bunch of them in his garage at night to keep them from freezing during the cold spell.

Two difficult writing projects got past road blocks today, and I made an amazing find on eBay — an item that perfectly matches a Company Store item I purchased three years ago, one that is no longer carried by the company store.

Everything I've ordered for Christmas gifts has arrived, so all that's left to fuss over is Christmas cookies (gingerbread this year) and shipping.

We've been invited to three parties this Saturday night, and are trying to figure out which ones to attend when. (A dance friend's annual white elephant Christmas/Hanukkah gift exchange is a must, but the neighbors' evening event is renowned for delicious seafood. Hmmm.) Other than that, our holiday calendar is relatively low key. There's nothing corporate, so I can wear steampunk fashion: lace, velvet, and boots!

The two nodding lawn reindeer we picked up at a church rummage sale this summer are already set up and entertaining the neighbors' kids, and I brought several boxes of Christmas decorations over from the storage locker this morning. It turns out to be a very odd mix of stuff, and much of it will be listed on Freecycle this weekend.

As for a tree, we'll get that next weekend at the Top Banana tree stand. They were nice enough to let me leave my car there over night last week after the tire exploded.

Yes, it's been like that recently. And today I couldn't get the garage door (one of two large swinging doors) to open. That's because the wet ground under the driveway froze, expanded, and raised the asphalt up nearly an inch. (In New England, this is a called a "frost heave.") The door can no longer swing out over the asphalt. Fortunately, I don't keep the car in the garage, so this does not constitute an emergency. Frost heaves rarely resolve when the ground thaws; I suspect this will require taking the large door off the hinges and planing the bottom a good half inch.

But I think, for a while, I'll just ignore it and go out the back door.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

More dog and cats

The dog is at a lovely farm-like setting with friends for a few days.

The cats are glad he's gone. Our feral feline, Mr. Garibaldi, is back on the back porch twice a day, and I'm preparing a heated, insulated bed for him in the outside basement area — even though last year he rejected the heated bed and insisted on sleeping in the unheated one.

Meanwhile, a friend reminds me that you can click a link on this page to to donate food to the Animal Rescue Site. If you click once a day, it provides the value of .6 bowls of food to rescued animals. And you'll find a link to Jacquie Lawson's card site.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Oh, dog

Five cats I've dealt with before -- but five cats and a dog?

A friend of ours adopted a rescued dog a few months ago, only to discover that the dog -- a sweet, not-very-bright, large spaniel, six or seven years old -- had been neglected and was both needy and untrained. Our friend hasn't had the time or resources to train the dog to signal her when it wants to go out.

I thought this was her problem, until she had to go out of town for a week and we found ourselves with the dog. And there's simply no choice but to train it.

So, every three or four hours we take the dog out for a walk. The system is working well. The dog is happy. The house has not suffered.

As for me, I just got up at 2 a.m. to take it out in the back yard, and I have mixed feelings about this schedule.

To complicate matters, the dog is arthritic. Taking it out into the enclosed back yard means getting it up the basement stairs -- and tonight it slid all the way back down, with a terrible clatter. I have thick blankets and quilts for it in a few rooms. The dog likes to paw them into heaps before flopping down on them.

I am trying to figure out how anyone with a dog has time to do anything but walk the dog, feed the dog, and clean up what the dog has drooled on.

The dog, fortunately, barely notices the cats (four indoor, one outdoor semi-feral). The cats, for their part, seem utterly incredulous that there is a dog in the house.

I'm on the side of the cats.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A week of "suspicious activity"

Thanks to Citibank, I had to make four separate phone calls this week to insist that four routine charges on two of my credit cards were not "unusual activity." The charges were in the $20 range, and the merchants involved were major online companies. For each purchase, Citibank left two messages on my cell phone, three minutes apart. Of course, you can't hit "reply" — you have to key in a completely separate number, your ZIP code, and a special access code (that you had to write down from their message).

For the first incident, I called the number on the card itself and wended my way through the system to a live person. Why, I asked, was a renewal of my membership ($20) considered suspicious? The answer: "It's a very large company and criminals are likely to make purchases from large companies."

So the criminal sets up a account with their purloined credit card number. Wouldn't that, er, be kind of traceable? Never mind.

At this rate, it's soon going to be faster just to drive to the mall and wander around buying things the old-fashioned way. Or perhaps I should pay for all online purchases via PayPal — as far as I know, those payments don't have to be defended.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

In which much is resolved

The job at the Big Company in California was not, as I suspected, a good match for me. But I enjoyed the four rounds of interviewing.

Meanwhile, I'm a finalist for a three-month contract with an Olympia web strategy firm. If I get it, I'd be writing a large, complex website for a state agency. I find myself highly enthusiastic about the firm's approach, and think I could learn quite a bit from working with them.

Unfortunately, commuting would be a pain. I thought "No problem! Amtrak to Olympia!" But it turns out that the 7:30 a.m. Amtrak from Seattle doesn't actually go to stops in Lacey, where the only option for getting to Olympia (a mere 5 miles) is a meandering local bus route that takes 50 minutes!

I find this mind boggling. Surely there must be hundreds of Seattle-to-Olympia commuters who would switch from car to the train—if only someone ran a morning shuttle from the Lacey station to the state capitol.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

What happened?

One of the reasons I write about conventions and conferences while they're going on is because I know by now that I won't get around to writing about them when I get home.

Instead, I'll grapple with piles of laundry, try to catch up on sleep and exercise, and deal with the emails, messages, and work missed while traveling.

Tonight, instead of reflecting back on the World Fantasy Convention in San Jose, I'm dismantling the refrigerator, washing all the shelves, and throwing out lots of jars of jams, jellies, chutneys, relishes and olives whose origins are lost in the mists of time. Anyone who really wants to hear about the convention should come on over. And bring rubber gloves and baking soda.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween at World Fantasy

Most science fiction conventions involve massive numbers of fans honoring a few professionals in the field, but World Fantasy is different. It's all about the professionals (writers, publishers, agents, reviewers, book dealers) doing business with each other while a smaller group of (mostly local) fans runs the logistics and looks on respectfully.

So forget the convention stereotype of Star Trek fans stomping around dressed as Klingons, or furries in full fox suits...the look here is definitely chinos and t-shirts for most, with black jeans and black t-shirts for the urban noir contingent. It turns out that the governing board even prevented one of the book dealers from displaying their steampunk hats — the three jewelry dealers (two high-end, one not-so-high-end) apparently got in as fantasy-themed artwork and are doing a brisk business in steampunk-related items.

However, with the convention coinciding with Halloween this year, the unwritten "no costumes" rule is tough to enforce, even with raised eyebrows and management disapproval. As the day goes on, more and more witches and wizards are turning up in the elevators. In fact, they've got one running Ops.

Friday, October 30, 2009

World Fantasy Convention initial impressions

Arrived in San Jose late last night and discovered I'd forgotten my decorative stuff (jewelry, makeup, steampunk hat). The Scholarly Gentleman had already set up the shop in the dealers' room and wanted to take me to a party to meet famous and about-to-be-famous writers and editors.

I met one extremely famous writer in the elevator and chatted just a bit about his books set in Tibet and Nepal. After a fairly exhausting hour at a huge party that stretched on for several rooms in the Fairmont, I concluded that the older a famous writer is, the friendlier he or she will be.

I'm working on my own projects in the hotel room (no power outlet within 15 feet of the desk; marble desktop that doesn't work with a mouse, exorbitant wi-fi charge) in between running down to the dealers' room to help out the Scholarly Gentleman. Tomorrow I'm going to help out Sarah in Ops.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Steamcon I: Hold on to your hat!

The first SteamCon event, in SeaTac this weekend, was a resounding success by just about any measure. Having planned for 600 attendees, they managed to accommodate 1200 before closing off memberships.

The panels were great, and the Sea-Tac Marriott hotel couldn't have been friendlier. The place was packed with elaborately costumed Steampunkers have a whale of a time. I heard there was even one fellow who wore a vintage bathing suit into the pool.

I had other commitments Friday and Saturday, but I went down with Hank early Sunday morning and took in the art show, the vendors room (packed to the gills with hats, corsets, goggles, and enthusiastic shoppers), and a superb presentation by pro-Steampunk author Tim Powers. I came away from hearing Powers thoroughly inspired, with a reading list and two ideas for short stories. Hank took several dozen photos, which I'm hoping he'll soon post on Flickr (account: dionwrbear). The Flickr Steamcon photo pool is here.

Unfortunately, I didn't wear a Steampunk outfit Sunday morning. There just wasn't time to figure out what went with what! But once at the convention, I did manage to purchase the costume element I've been missing: high-quality goggles -- brass and leather. Inspired by the goggles, and the costumes I'd just studied, I went home and put together a really smashing desert-style Steampunk getup (black vest, sage skirt, and cranberry blouse and hat with brass and leather trimmings) that I plan to take with me to...the next convention I'm attending. Which is sooner that I'd like to think.

The SteamCon folks will be doing it again next year, same place. Watch their site for registration info.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Cranky. Swamped.

There's this list stuff to do around the house — projects that take a whole day, or at least five hours of uninterrupted focus. Very little on the list got done this summer, and now there's yet more stuff on the list. But I look at every weekend, and it's full of either travel or events.

I have yet another phone interview tomorrow with Company X. They have two jobs open, and it's finally dawned on me that while I might be qualified for both of the positions, only one of them is more interesting than my current freelance work (which I really enjoy).

Zoe has just jumped into my arms. She doesn't like to sit on my lap while I type; she likes to be held in my arms, which makes thoipaoksdflknujn lksdnf lkas...

I can has LOLcats?

We have a visitor cat in the house — in the basement TV room, to be exact. Mabel is down there recovering after spending a month outdoors (she was effectively exiled by a new cat in her household).

If you follow the LOLcat photoblog I Can Has, you'll recognize the phrase "basement cat." In the lexicon of LOLcats, "basement cat" is the Devil — a black cat with burning red eyes and fangs.

The LOLcats also have "ceiling cat" — an angelic white cat that is often shown at the very top of the set of stairs or on a tall bookcase.

Ironically, Mabel, our "basement cat," is a black cat. And Sheba, who likes to be in the highest place in the house, is a white cat.

Today, basement cat and ceiling cat met briefly in my office. Sheba was completely relaxed. She looked at Mabel, and went back to purring. Mabel, clearly traumatized by her recent persecution, gave a sharp hiss. But since Sheba couldn't hear it, there wasn't a problem.

Mabel soon calmed down, and was disappointed when she was taken back down stairs to her den.

Monday, October 05, 2009

The Monday report

Yet another round with HR at The Mysterious Company today, bracketed with calls and visits to the accountant to try to get the 2008 taxes resolved so they can be filed by Oct. 15.

Meanwhile, I had bouts of trying to earn more money to share with IRS next year.

Setting up a WordPress blog for a client today was far more complex at the technical end than I had imagined. The WordPress theme I use for my professional blog is extremely easy to configure...I was unpleasantly surprised to discover that the template I chose for him is downright annoying. As a result, I've only got the blog half way set up. But the client loves the iStock photo of the tropical beach I used for the banner. So, yay! something went right.

While dashing back and forth to the accountant and generally feeling sorry for myself I got a smack from reality. A fire truck pulled up to the home of one of my neighbors and EMTs went racing inside carrying all sorts of gear. My neighbor, who is disabled from a work injury, lives alone with his teenage son; his wife and he are getting divorced, and she had been around this weekend with a whole crew of folks, moving what looked like much of the furniture out.

As I drove in town to the accountant's, the ambulance passed headed for his house. By the time I got home my neighbor had been "transported" to the hospital. Poor guy.

Things in my office finally wound down a bit before six. I went for a wonderful walk up to 75th while there was still a bit of sun out, then came home and cooked little zucchini with onions and homemade breadcrumbs for dinner. The Scholar Gentleman cleaned a basket of grapes, and I'm making grape juice. (Squash grapes, simmer, squash some more, drain and cool.)

Random thought: If I had another life to live, I'd like to have red hair and wear it in a braid.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Last week I got the oddest email

The email was from an HR person, saying that her company was interested in hiring me for a senior communications job.

I remembered the email at about 8 p.m., while I was cleaning up after dinner. It had arrived mid-afternoon, while I was busy trying to finish up a client's project.

I went back and looked at it again. Spam, I figured. But I looked up the HR person on Linkedin and, sure enough, she really did work at that company. So I sent back an email saying I'd be happy to talk.

The following day we chatted, and she asked me to send along my resume.

I updated my resume and sent it off. The woman wrote back and asked for another phone conversation, and that's set for tomorrow morning.

I love running my own company, but this is a challenging opportunity (to put it mildly). There are times when I wish I hadn't left Apple, and this would certainly be my chance to apply all the things I've learned as a small business owner in the past three years — things which I believe would make working a corporate job, at the right company, as much fun as being an indie business person.

Is this the right company? That's what I'm going to try to find out.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Anyone want a lovely cat?

I can offer a choice of two. A friend of mine adopted Mabel a year ago. She recently adopted Casper, and it turns out that the two cats do NOT get along. So, one of them needs to be re-housed.
  • Cat #1, Mabel, is a seven-year-old black semi-oriental with short plush fur, likely a Birman. She is one of those happy, sturdy, friendly indoor/outdoor cats who likes laps and visiting all the neighbors. She can live with another cat, but needs to be the dominant cat.
  • Cat #2, Casper, is a four-year-old mackerel tabby male. He one of those handsome, rangy guys who twines around your legs. Not a lap cat, but would like to be scritched and petted for hours. Casper came from a home where they had just had a baby and moved to a tiny apartment (from a house). He didn't want to be an indoors-only cat, and the new parents didn't have time for him.
Both cats are healthy, have had all their shots and vet stuff, and have perfect manners: They eat anything, use a litter box, and don't scratch furniture or people.

Please let me know if you are interested. I'll deliver anywhere in the Puget Sound region.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Zozobra: Fire power

The Wall Street Journal had a great article this weekend about the Santa Fe community's annual Zozobra event.

Artisans build a giant structure of wood and chicken wire known as Zozobra. Then citizens bring things symbolic of their troubles (legal papers, wedding dresses from failed marriages, photos of old lovers, letters and notes with their secrets — even hospital gowns) to a public "gloom tent." The evidence of all these woes is stuffed into the Zozobra.

On the night of the festival, dancers with torches set fire to the figure — a functioning marionette that writhes with agony — and everyone's worries symbolically go up in smoke.

And, to think, I was planning on selling my fire pit on Craig's List. No way!

Saturday, September 12, 2009


A dozen or so years ago a friend of mine was trying to get onto "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" According to today's Seattle Times, he's done it!

Tune in 6 p.m. today and Monday on KONG TV to see if Alan Carver wins the $1 million. Very cool.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Kitty, kitty. . .kitty?

I've been gone for a week, with neighbors and cat sitters coming in to feed the cats breakfast and dinner. This led me to wonder if the tabbies would forget about their annoying habit of waking me up at 5 a.m. for breakfast and an early outing.


When I feed the three cats, I still look out the back door to the foot of the stairs where Garibaldi, the tough orange tabby, used to wait for his handouts. He disappeared early in the summer, and I assumed he'd either fallen victim to a coyote or had been captured, neutered, and put up for adoption by a neighbor.

Last night, when I got in from the trip, there was a beautiful orange tabby waiting in Garibaldi's spot at the bottom of the stairs. This cat behaved exactly like Garibaldi, but was so much sleeker and cleaner I can't believe it was the same cat. He got his handout, gobbled it down, and vanished into the night.

Saturday, September 05, 2009


It's 11:30 p.m. in Phoenix, and we're halfway through the first North American Discworld Convention. We've found the one really good restaurant (Cafe Bao) plus the one cup of tea that isn't made with the horrible local water (thank you, Starbucks).

There was a football game at Arizona State today, and the streets are packed with celebrating students tonight, so the conventiongoers are staying in the safety of the hotel. There was an extraordinarily elaborate maskerade, a great game of Werewolves, a disco dance, and a party in the con suite to chose from -- way too much to do after a full day of panels. The highlight of today's events was the interview with Terry (another of his standing-room-only presentations). He closed by talking about his plans for dealing with Alzheimer's Disease (he was diagnosed with a rare, early onset, form of it).

"I won't die of Alzheimer's," he said. "I'll die and take the Alzheimer's with me."

There's no evidence of the disease in Terry's speech or appearance -- except that he moves a little hesitantly. He explained that he has some trouble with spacial perception.

Tomorrow the Scholarly Gentleman will be moderating the panel Publishing Terry with Terry, his agent, and his two U.S editors. Then we're both working on the auction.

I could write for hours about the extraordinary costumes people are wearing at the conference. There is one older man who dresses as the Bursar, and has the worried, delusionary character down so well that I was getting a tad worried. Many of the best costumes are simple, such as the couple who came robed as the Auditors. We found them in the lobby, frightening a fellow from the local film society who had come by to leave some posters at the conference.

I'd blog more, but the computer, disabled by the recent cat-pee incident, is a bit balky.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

The turtle sweats

It's 8 p.m. in Phoenix and the North American Discworld Convention is about to get underway. This isn't just any convention; many of us signed up back in the spring of 2008 for the first New World convention to honor Sir Terry Pratchett, author of the Discworld novels (a body of work I like to describe as political satire in the guise of fantasy).

I just got back from a gathering of women in the Seamstress Guild. We were figuring out how to lace up the purple satin corsets we need to wear for the opening ceremonies tomorrow. It turns out there's a "quick lace" method that really makes a difference.

It's been in the 100's in Phoenix -- not just hot but searing. That really takes a toll.

The Scholarly Gentleman and I skipped dinner and went to the pre-conference mixer and Pub Quiz -- a real cut-throat event! Our team, the Overheated Trolls, placed third (our downfall was failure to correctly identify details from 30 Pratchett book covers).

Tomorrow I'm participating in the opening ceremonies, then running the Igorlympics, and finally working with the other Seamstresses to host the opening night party. Fortunately, those duties end around 9. I'm involved with a panel Saturday and will be a gofer at the auction Sunday, but otherwise just plan to enjoy the convention and go shopping at the steampunk booths in the dealers room.

And, no, I haven't seen Sir Terry yet. But there is a fellow who looks remarkably like him, a bit taller, whose nametag says simply "Not Him."

Monday, August 31, 2009

Pre-vacation meltdown

Securing the house, lining up a cat sitter, giving a highly edited version of vacation plans to my mom, dealing with last-minute client calls...getting ready for a vacation is such fun.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Russell Up Das Barbecu!

I've never seen or heard Wagner's Ring Cycle, but that isn't stopping me from going to the ACT Theatre parody of it, Das Barbecu, tomorrow night.

Of course, knowing something about the 20-hour, four-part opera being parodied would probably help. Fortunately, singer Anna Russell provides a delightful synopsis, which has been posted on You Tube. (The synopsis is also in four parts, each about 10 minutes. I linked to Part 1, which was the only one I could find that had video as well as audio. It's worth tracking down and listening to all four parts.)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Off to Gnomedex

It's been quite a while since I've gone to any confabs in the social media community. These are the people who were second-wave adopters of Twitter and who believe there is vast potential for communities and businesses in places like the Twitterverse (and Second Life, and Facebook, and blogging).

I'm not so sure; I tend to use social media for fun or for professional development (depending on the platform). My clients use it for marketing and fundraising and, while I'm happy to advise them, I'm not crazy about being on the receiving end of 90 percent of the marketing and fundraising that goes on.

For the next two days I'll be at Gnomedex in Seattle and will report back on Sunday.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Low tide at Golden Gardens

People often ask me how I can focus on work in a home office. Actually, I often have the opposite problem — I'm just a few steps away from the outdoors, in casual clothing, but I'm tapping away at the keyboard for hours on end. This is particularly sad because I'm just a few blocks from a beautiful beach.

This morning the Scholarly Gentleman and I got up early and went down to Golden Gardens to see what was revealed by this morning's ultra-low tide. There were crabs, a huge live scallop, spurting clams, and thousands of anemone. And many seagulls and egrets enjoying the sashimi banquet.

There were people fishing, several painters with easels, day care teachers with squealing, splashing kids, and one woman who had set up a chair on the wet sand and was warbling opera to the waves.

Here's my iPhone video of how to annoy a clam. You can hear the seagulls, and the Burlington Northern, in the background.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Who's afraid of the big bag wolf?

That is not a typo.

I am referring to the Seattle shopping-bag fee ballot measure and its slavering opponents.

As someone who lives in a world where gas prices soar $1 per gallon in a month, where people routinely pay $3.50 for a daily latte, and where dry cleaning prices are approaching the level of fees for restoration of rare artworks, my reaction to the bag fee is: big deal.

In fact, I'm grateful that stores will sell me a cheap plastic or paper bag to use if I've spaced out and forgotten to drag around my own trendy, reusable shopping sack. It would be difficult to carry 10 potatoes out of the store in my hands.

In the past week, I have received several calls from the bag-fee opponents, disguised as "surveys" that purport to want my "opinion" on the bag fee.

I agreed to take one, and the surveyor read a "question" that went something like this:

"How do you feel about an oppressive, socialist invasion of government into your life by way of a bag tax?"

a. in favor
b. maybe kinda in favor
c. not in favor
d. heat up the tar, Bubba, them bag tax people is a-headed this-a-way

"And how do you feel about the opponents valiantly trying to defend our community against the bag tax?"

"They're a bunch of hysterical wing-nuts," I cut in. "I feel no need to be defended against a 20-cent bag."

To my surprise and delight, the surveyor, a young woman, burst into laughter. I hope our call wasn't being monitored for "quality assurance."

Sunday, July 26, 2009


I grew up in Northern Virginia, the capitol of Hot & Humid. But Hot weather in Seattle is different; I think that's because it's dry heat in an environment that's used to being humid. All the plants look stunned.

Today was Too Hot, and that's not good — because the rest of the week is going to be Hotter.

The only reason I'm not currently sprawled in a wading pool in my (relatively cool) back yard is that Fred Meyer was out of wading pools.

The house itself is warm, even though I've had the front screen door, and the back (unscreened) door open most of the evening.

The basement TV room is habitable; the main floor is a bit cozy; and the upstairs, a former attic with a cathedral ceiling, is like an oven, despite a fan that's been going all day and French doors open onto the breeze from the Sound.

I can't believe that the first couple of years here there weren't any sun awnings on the West-facing front window and French doors. The awnings, plus interior shades and curtains, make quite a difference most days.

But's just Hot. The cats spent the day laying around looking like moth-eaten furs at a crummy estate sale. After dark, they recovered somewhat and are now out in the back yard. I even let Sheba, the deaf white cat, go out wandering tonight so she could cool off.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Fremont zombie walk video

Hank Graham has posted his semi-official video of the 2009 record-breaking Fremont Zombie Walk.

Not only is this professional-quality documentary work, but Jonathan Coulton allowed them to use his "Re: Your Brains" as the sound track.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Stuff on my house

The painters are coming tomorrow to pressure wash the house; they'll be back next week to apply semi-solid stain and then to paint the trim. I can't believe it's been five years since the house was painted!

In preparation for their visit, I've been removing things that are next to the house and on the porches — no small task, it turns out. Two plants are espaliered against the house; on the hidden north side, I'd been storing the wheelbarrow, ladders, a bag of sand, and extra garden chairs under the overhang. Somehow the front of the house has two sets of house numbers! Fragile planters had to be moved, and bushes trimmed. Hose holders and such had to be unscrewed from the trim. All of this cleanup revealed piles of moldy leaves, and big weeds growing in the leaves. More cleanup!

As a result, I've gotten very little officework done this week. When I did sit down at my desk, I got to tangle with AT&T over the iPhone bill (friendly but confusing) and with Bank of America over web long-in (worst identity verification I've ever encountered on a website).

Susan is out of town for the week, so no evening yoga classes. But there's a special yoga dance class every morning at Taj Yoga this week, so I've been up there every morning at 9 — which means I'm not getting to to work until just before 11.

Next week, back to normal. But with the painters swarming all over the house.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The return of the Zombie Flu

I'm still having episodes of exhaustion and aches, so have cancelled yet another weekend's plans. When I have energy, I spend a few hours at my desk, so am able to keep up with all my work projects.

The high point of the day was petting Garibaldi, the semi-feral tomcat. He was sleeping out on the raised deck in the back yard and I went out to talk with him. I usually do this from a distance of about three feet. He runs away if I get any closer.

Today he hissed as I approached, but then rolled onto his back and stretched out as if he wanted his stomach rubbed. So I reached out and rubbed him. He twisted away, then rolled back to be petted, then got up and head-butted my hand, then shrunk away, then came back and lay down again and let me scratch his chin. There was obviously an argument going on between the part of him that wanted to be petted and the part that was frightened. After about three minutes, he stood up and moved away. I went inside and got a can of food and put some into his bowl on the back porch, then went inside and let him eat by himself.

Garibaldi's fur is nice and soft, like Sheba's.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

The Zombie Flu

Forget the swine flu...this is the Zombie Flu.

The Scholarly Gentleman and I worked registration at the record-setting Fremont Zombie Walk Friday afternoon and evening. We got home very late, and I attributed SG's comments about a sore throat and fever to all the yelling we'd been doing ("Zombies? Register here! Whoops, let me wipe the blood off that pen.") and standing in the hot sun for several hours. It seemed like something a good night's sleep and rehydration would take care of.


Saturday morning, the SG looked and sounded like a zombie who'd died of bronchitis. He retired to the crypt.

By Sunday morning, he was feeling slightly less ghoulish, but I was flattened with milder but definitely similar symptoms. (The weather is warm -- but not 99.9 degrees, surely?)

All social plans for the weekend were canceled, with many apologies.

We'll be back from the dead. Soon.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Back from Minneapolis

I spent the weekend at a literary conference in Minneapolis. It's a city with a real sense of itself — the sort of identity a place has when it's the cultural center of the state. Beautiful parks, lots of agricultural and industrial history, everyone talking about the arts — and about religion, but not in a conservative sense. And you definitely get the feeling that people appreciate warm weather, which they were having.

It was good to get home — at an appalling hour — Sunday night. It had rained, so the tomatoes were doing well. Monday morning Garibaldi, the orange tom cat, was waiting on the back porch to be fed. He had a cut on his nose — always some new evidence of a fight.

After he ate, he came over and sniffed my hand, which I viewed as real progress. But I haven't seen him since then, and am now pretty sure that something out there (coyotes? a car? another cat?) got him. Or maybe someone captured him and took him to be neutered.

In a hour or so I'm picking up Smokey — my cat who lives with a neighbor seven blocks north — and taking him in for his annual vet visit. Another feline mystery.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Slobs on the web

As you know, I'm among the first to rush to the ramparts to defend web content writers from the accusation that we have lower standards for writing than our print colleagues.

Having spent this past week involved in a print project, I may need to stand down.

I was given the text taken from a non-profit's website and asked to lay out the text into a simple print brochure. (Using Apple's delightful page layout application, Pages.)

I sent the completed layout to the non-profit, expecting some comments back such as "more illustrations," "larger headlines," or "Can you make the columns shorter?" but got instead several dozen corrections to punctuation and capitalization and a number of complete rewrites of paragraphs.

"But," I pointed out to the person serving as the liaison for this work, "All those punctuation and capitalization problems, plus the sloppy writing and incorrect information, are on their website and have been there for the whole world to see for months."

He peered out from around the filing cabinet where he had taken shelter.

"Er, can you just make the changes?" he said.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Happy blogiversary

Friday was the 6th anniversary of The Mysterious Traveler Sets Out.

I celebrated by taking delivery of my new iMac (my third iMac in the past eight or nine years). I still haven't had time to open the box and set the thing up, so that's on the list for tomorrow. Setting it up, of course, takes about 10 minutes. It's deciding which apps to risk bring over with the data and which to reinstall from scratch that's tricky.

I intend to consult Adam Engst's ebook Take Control of Buying a Mac, which covers things like "How should I connecct my old and new Macs so I can transfer files?" and "What should I do about iTunes authorization when moving to a new Mac?"

Thursday, May 28, 2009

And now, for my next act...

I've left a few threads loose on this blog in the past month or two, so this an attempt to tie them up.

• Some good news: I got the contract to write humorous essays about home and lifestyle topics for a local consumer newsletter. It's subscriber-only, and I am not able to retain rights to republish, so I can't re-post any of the essays on my blog. And they're not online. But I'm delighted to have an opportunity to do my favorite type of writing.

• I'm pretty much recovered from breaking my nose when I feel over some fencing on the patio while chasing a cat in the middle of the night.

• The orange cat, Mr. Garibaldi, is coming by for two meals a day and has let me touch him twice. Mostly he likes to sunbathe on the deck or sleep at the bottom of the back porch stairs.

Still recovering from Folklife weekend, which was great. I thought the festival was less chaotic than in past years, and more acoustic. Didn't get as much dancing done as I would have liked, but got the chance to catch up with several folks I hadn't seen in ages. High points of the weekend included seeing the Morris dancing mockumentary "A Life with Bells On," shown as a collaboration between SIFF and Folklife, and hearing Mike's band close the Roadhouse Sunday night with the waltz he composed for Nina.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I know exactly what I want for Christmas

Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes film, with Robert Downey as Holmes, opens Christmas Day.

Have ink cartridges, need printer

There's often a humorous side to technical glitches, though it's hard to see it when you've just spent close to $300 replacing three ink cartridges and three print heads on an HP Business Inkjet 1200d printer and it still prints faded, blurry pages and will only print the last page of any print job!

The printer refused to believe that the expensive new print heads, purchased from a reputable office supply place, were HP print heads. And the office supply place wouldn't take them back because they had been opened.

Part of my problem is that the HP Business Inkjet was manufactured in 2004 and purchased in 2006, which means it's so obsolete that the repair place I called (which would charge $125 just to look at a printer) warned me they wouldn't be able to get any parts for it, anyway.

So I figured I'd just give the thing away to someone who could use the $180 worth of fresh ink cartridges. I went on Craig's List to put together an ad.

That's when I found the guy who is selling two HP Business Inkjet 1200d printers, both in working condition, for $25 each. (The pair of them are about the same price as one color ink cartridge, BTW.) One of the printers is missing its power cable, but, what do you know, I've got one!

So tomorrow morning I'm driving to Tukwila to pick up two working (if obsolete) printers to go with my pricey ink cartridges. Yes, I know there is something weird about this.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Journalism dreams

I've been bidding on some fascinating projects recently. One would involve writing a humor column. The other is a comprehensive marketing communications program for a group of developers with an aggressive business plan. So: Lots of bids, lots of emails, lots of meetings.

Last night I dreamed I'd been hired to do marketing communications for a non-profit. I wasn't that interested in the work, but needed the money. The non-profit had offices in an old industrial building near Pioneer Square, and while waiting for the elevator there, I got talking to a man who had just come out of a big office that looked like a turn-of-the-century newsroom.

Through the dusty glass windows, I could see that the room was filled with intellectual-looking folks, lounging about and reading — old hippies and bohemians and academics. It turned out that the man on his way out was the managing editor of a magazine; he'd just quit because he was fed up. He asked me if I wanted the job — said the writers were impossible to manage. I asked him how much the editor's job was paying. He quoted quite a respectable amount, and I asked for an additional 10 percent.

"Fine," he said, handing me some keys. "It's all yours."

He disappeared into the elevator and I walked into the magazine office. It was filled with floor-to-ceiling bookcases and massive oak desks; all the horizontal surfaces were covered with books and papers. The writers, mostly men, but some women, looked at me with expressions that would have been considered glares if they had been more energetic.

I picked up a phone (it was an old, dial phone) and began calling one of my two favorite editors in town. I was convinced that if I could get those two guys in to work with me, we could whip the place into shape. I remember being rather pleased that I felt so confident.

This has to be the first time I've ever dreamed about running a magazine!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The key to cat sitting

Cat sitting is easy if you've got the key.

If you've lost it — it's just the cat meowing on one side of the door, and you freaking out on the other.

I'm the neighborhood's designated cat sitter. Until yesterday, the panic episode of my pet-sitting career was when the neighbors across the street left town for two weeks, leaving me to care for their cats — and for the mice and fish the husband forgot to tell me about. Fortunately, their six-year-old yelled "Don't forget the fish" as they drove off down the street, and I investigated.

I feed cats, I pill cats, I let cats in and out. I find cats that have been locked overnight in a bedroom when the wind blew the door shut (phew!). I fill water bowls and I scoop litter.

My latest assignment seemed particularly easy because it involved only one cat, a 20-pound feline that lives contentedly indoors. He has an automatic feeding bowl and water dish, so all I needed to do was pet him, give him a few treats, and shovel the litter every few days.

Yesterday I went in, tossed my keys and purse on the coffee table, sat in a chair, and petted the cat for 20 minutes. I gave him two salmon treats, picked up my purse and keys, and realized that while my keys were on the coffee table, the key to the neighbors' house was missing.


I checked the floor, the counters, and the table tops. I checked the cushions of the chair where I'd been sitting. I dumped the contents of my purse on the floor and went though that. I checked the pockets of my jeans.


No key. The phone number for the neighbors' sister was on the information sheet in the kitchen; she was taking over cat care on the weekend, so I knew she had a key and I could, if all else failed, call her.


By now, it was time for me to leave for yoga class, and I decided to latch the front door from the inside, go out the back way, and leave the back door unlocked. Bad idea. This house has a door that automatically locks. I found myself standing on the back porch, locked out, with the sister's phone number on the info sheet in the kitchen.

"Meow," the cat said.

I went off to yoga class, came back late, and put off trying to locate the sister until this morning. After all, the cat had food and water, and was unlikely to die from lack of petting.

Searching old emails, I was able to find an evite from the neighbors, and, looking at the evite RSVPs spotted a name that sounded like it might be the sister's. Fortunately, she has an unusual last name. Using that, I was able to locate her on Linkedin and find out that she works for a small local law firm.

I called the firm. They greeted me in the usual arms-length business style, telling me that the sister was not available. Fortunately, I knew she was out of the office recovering from eye surgery. So I simply told them I was her brother's cat sitter and had locked the keys in the house with the cat. The person on the phone (who turned out to be the head of the firm) cracked up, and a few minutes later the sister called me back, laughing.

Her husband came over this evening to give me their key, and, sure enough, immediately spotted the original key where it had fallen — under the sofa.

"I was sure the cat had eaten it," he said kindly.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Funny is fun

I put The Mysterious Traveler blog to work yesterday providing a few examples of my humor writing. A Seattle area publication is looking for a columnist to write about home and lifestyle topics in a Dave Barry / Erma Bombeck vein, and I couldn't resist tossing my beret into the ring.

When I left Apple three years ago, my first stop was the 2006 Erma Bombeck writing conference where, as fate would have it, Dave Barry was the keynote speaker. This was at the peak of the snarky, ironic style of humor writing (practiced locally by The Stranger and imitated by The Weekly) and it was heartening to hear someone being just plain old mainstream funny.
Publish Post

Thursday, April 30, 2009

John Ross (1947-2009)

I'm sad to report that my friend and technology colleague John Ross died earlier this month. Some of you may have known John as the author of books for O'Reilly and other publishers on computer networking. I suspect more of you knew him as one of the indefagitable organizers and the perennial emcee of the Band Scramble at the annual Northwest Folklife Festival.

I don't believe there's been an official obituary for John published yet, but you can follow the discussion of the sad news at the Mudcat Cafe website. (Mudcat's a group of people involved in the preservation and study of recorded music.)

I had the privilege of doing a bit of work with John on wireless networking issues for the Mac when he was expanding a book, originally for PC users, to a cross-platform audience. He also gave me much earnest advice on how to make a living as writer.

John's enthusiasm for folk music and knowledge and homemade cider will be remembered. A Celtic Band Scramble is planned in his memory at this year's Folklife (3:30-4 p.m. Sunday, Northwest Court Stage); I hope there will also be a somewhat less raucous gathering at another point.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Goats, chickens, and cats

This blog post is brought to you at 5 a.m. courtesy of Sheba, the deaf white cat, who went out with the Stripe Sisters a few minutes ago and now refuses to come in. So I'm waiting for her to get bored with the great outdoors so I can go back to sleep.

It's still quite dark out, but the paper's been delivered and the trees are filled with hundreds of twittering birds, reminding me of dinner Thursday evening at Jim and Sharon's. Their enclosed back porch was filled with young chickens that make the most wonderful sounds, a cross between clucking and chittering. Very soothing. There are also two small goats, brought in at night, and some of the chickens roost on top of the goats, which don't seem to mind at all.

I took this photo from their living room, which has a glass door looking into the porch area. The goats were posing.

Jim is building an enormous chicken coop — about twice the size of my garden shed, and far more elaborate — to house the chickens when they are full grown. They got a door for the coop from the ReStore, which reccles building material from houses; the chickens have a blue Tudor style door with leaded glass side panels.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Just what I need

This is the old orange tom cat that would like to live in the cat area under my office. In this photo, he's sleeping on some decking in the backyard; I got the shot with from about 20 feet away, in the house, as he's likely to run off if I open the door.

I should have gotten a shot of the old Lynxpoint Himalayan tom cat that also would like to live in the cat area under my office. In recent months the two of them have worn a path from the side yard to the sheltered area outside the basement where I have a fleece cat bed in a box.

It's gotten so that Kaylee and Zoe and Sheba cast annoyed glances to the left as soon as they walk out onto the back porch; they do not seem to like sharing the yard.

Both tomcats seem well-fed and reasonably healthy. The Himalayan has been around the neighborhood for several years, and has fathered some Lynxpoint kittens, now adult. The orange tom seems to be new to the street. I'm curious to see if I'll be able to tame one or both. I don't dare put out any food for them for fear of attracting raccoons. But I think I'll start putting out a dish of water in the morning when the weather gets warmer.

Any ideas for names?

Monday, April 13, 2009

What weekend?

I swear, I can't remember anything I did Saturday!

Oh, wait: I pruned my cookbook collection and am getting rid of some books on cooking with chocolate, and some old books on coffee and tea. (Everyone's a coffee expert these days, and the only tea I'm passionate about is Assam, aka Irish and English Breakfast.)

The Easter Bunny arrived mid-afternoon, and this year, I caught him hanging the bag of Peeps on the front door! This is, I believe, the 15th year of Easter Bunny visits. He came in and we had tea and caught up.

In the evening I went to visit a friend in the hospital, and then Tom and I had Greek food at Santorini's in Kirkland. The moussaka was just OK but the lamb souvlaki ($3.50 for a long skewer of big, lean chunks of lamb) was delicious. Found out about Santorini's from the excellent website Chef Seattle, which has a list of Cheap Eats for foodies. The list even has a French restaurant! And I wasn't surprised to find Fu Man Dumpling House at in second place on the (ranked) list. To my surprise, the top-ranked eaterie was one I'd never heard of: La Casa Del Mojito, on Lake City Way.

Sunday I visited Nina in Bellingham; we had lunch, went shopping, and came home and looked at Mexican recipes and drank Chai. Listened to Jonathan Edwards CDs on the way up, and Flanders and Swann CDs on the way back. Discover that the new Fit can really move! Its disappointing in-city gas usage is a real contrast to highway performance, which was better than 40 mpg.

Last night watched the Star Trek classic "The City on the Edge of Forever," which, according to the most recent Locus magazine, writer Harlan Ellison is still suing the producers about. At some point I want to read the original Ellison story on which the final script, edited by DC Fontana, is based.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Signs and sounds of spring

Sunday was the first truly warm day of spring; I had yoga class with Susan in Fremont at noon, then caught the end of the Ballard Sunday Market (Turkish bread, Gouda cheese, steampunk fashion). Came home and opened up the French doors and aired out the house. Movie plans in the evening ended up being just hanging out at Hank's with Tom, Bruce, and Margaret, eating Hank's Firehouse Lasagna and watching "The Emperor's New Groove" (2000), a delightful, little-known Disney animation.

I still haven't managed to see "Coraline."

The neighbors across the street got a dog, a very sweet middle-aged chocolate Lab. Their kids are thrilled; their cats look incredulous.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Feline frolics

Got home from yoga tonight and was nearly bowled off the front porch by a cat -- a big orange tom that had been sleeping in the front-porch cat tree. He saw me and exploded out of the cat tree and tore down the steps.

Zoe and Sheba were sitting in the window, watching all this, and they were clearly ready to pursue him into the night — if I'd let them out. Which I didn't.

Now we're all having some French Toast for dinner and cooling down.

Trailer Park Yoga classes April - June

Susan Powter is back in town and her women's yoga classes are starting up again: Monday, Wednesday, Friday evenings and Sunday noon in Fremont. (Contact me for specifics.) Payment is by the individual class (i.e., drop-in). The first class is a free "tryout." Bring a yoga mat, water, and -- if you have them -- a set of light wrist or ankle weights. You can start the program at any point.

I think Susan's classes are great because they are do-able, entertaining, and extremely effective for transforming fat into muscle. Most people lose weight, but everyone who does her classes loses inches. The classes are based on a Vinyasa yoga workout, but the emphasis is on breathing and on developing strength, endurance, and flexibility.

This is by no means a class for skinny Barbie dolls. A good number of the women in the class are obese to the point that it affects their mobility. There are also a number of women (like me) who work around physical injuries. Susan offers modifications that can work for everyone.

But, to be honest with you, this program isn't meant for everybody.

• The program won't yield exciting results if you only exercise twice a week. Not quite sure what the "magic formula" is, but if your only exercise is this class, twice a week, you'll get some initial effect, but then hit a plateau. To get a great fitness effect, you have do three 90-minute classes a week, or do two of these plus one other aerobic/strength workout during the week. (I'll probably be doing two or three of Susan's classes and a belly dance class; we have other folks who play soccer, or run.)

• You have to be able to modify, doing the versions of the poses that are comfortable for you and working up to the more difficult ones. If you insist on doing everything perfectly right away, you'll turn bright red like a lobster and then hate the class. I've learned that there are people who simply can't modify for fear of being criticized (apparently by some nasty gym teacher in their distant past); this program isn't for them.

Friday, March 27, 2009

What's going on in Ballard

Male cats. That's what's going on around my house. A big long-haired lynx-point and a wiry short-hair orange cat are prowling the street, circling through my back yard several times a day. Sheba, the deaf white cat, seems indignant. Zoe, the big tabby, is eager to take them on. Kaylee, the little tabby, is manifestly unhappy, and now stays in at night. She takes shelter under the kitchen table and watches with incredulity as Zoe gallumphs down the back steps to check out the action.

I've been working like crazy, and have only recent caught up on the local blogs. Anchor Tattoo is now offering a tattoo design of Edith Macefield's house. She was the woman who refused to sell her house on NW 46th to developers, remaining in the tiny bungalow while a massive commercial building was constructed surrounding her place on three sides and towered over it. According to the My Ballard blog, seven or eight people have selected the design, including a Ballard barista.

Downtown Ballard has been hit by a string of burglaries and police may have caught one of the burglars — with two storage lockers full of loot.

The Tux Shop on Market has moved, and the word is that Buffalo Exchange (clothes for the 20-somethings) and a BECU branch will be moving in. Great timing, that, because I've been thinking of taking my savings out of WAMU-going-to-be-JP-Morgan-Chase and putting it into BECU.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

10 reasons why I'm not blogging as much

  1. I'm blogging for three clients' sites.
  2. I'm dealing with an unusual number of clients.
  3. I'm publishing some complex websites for friends using iWeb, while editing a friend's book on iWeb '09.
  4. I moved my professional blog to WordPress and am learning the ropes with that software; I'd describe it as powerful but surly.
  5. I've taken on a strange project that involves advising on the re-launch of a fairly large commercial website.
  6. I'm still trying to figure out what to do about getting out of organizing a Meetup I inherited.
  7. I've been going to science fiction and writing conventions on weekends.
  8. I've been going out to social activities.
  9. I twitter many of the smaller things I used to blog.
  10. I use Facebook at bit more often.

How about you? Do you blog as much as you used to?

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Divorce, dim sum, and whirling felines

The two tabbies just brought in a moth from the back yard and are now pursuing it through the hallways. A few minutes ago, Sheba, the deaf white cat, stood on the tiptoes of all four paws, and chased her tail -- first clockwise, and then counterclockwise.

I'm tempted to join Sheba. My clients, apparently sensing that I'd like to spend my evenings writing fiction (trying to fix the story that got savaged in the workshop at Potlatch this past weekend) are deluging me with interesting work.

Other aspects of my life have been similarly active.

My mother has decided she wants to go into a continuing care community with her friends in Florida instead of the one she had planned to move into out here in Seattle. It makes sense. If she carries through on this, I'll be flying back East three or four times a year to visit. I realized that having her settle in Florida (rather than out here, near me) would make it easier for me to relocate to a warmer climate, which I'd like to do in a few years.

As some of you know, Zorg and I have been hammering out a separation agreement for the past six months. He signed it last week, and I signed today, realizing as I did that this was, essentially "it." In Washington state, the separation contract is the major legal event, going into great detail about division of property and setting forth various agreements. The dissolution of marriage paperwork, filed subsequently, is comparatively short and straightforward.

We've managed to get through things in a civilized fashion. To our friends, who have been supportive and diplomatic through it all: Thank you!

In the midst of all this, I flew down to the Bay Area last week for the Potlatch 18 science fiction convention. Each convention has its own personality, and Potlatch's is "unstructured." There was only one panel track, with very light programming, but lots of spontaneous get-togethers called Algonquins that get posted a few hours in advance on the bulletin board at registration. I missed the chance to go to the computer museum to see the Babbage machine in action, but got a small group to go to Lunatic Fringe (belly dancing supplies) and took the introductory jewelry-making class taught by Elise Matthiessen. The class was extraordinarily good (earrings and pendant in one hour!) and I discovered the craft is much more my style than knitting or sewing. Bead stores, here I come!

Potlatch is, of course, a literary convention. I was on a panel about Good Reads, talking about books that included Octavia Butler's Fledgling and Robert Charles Wilson's Spin. And I surived my first short-story critique -- discouraging but extremely useful.

The people at Potlatch were fascinating. It was difficult to get to anything scheduled in a timely fashion because I kept getting distracted by introductions and conversations. There were also some wonderful meals at nearby restaurants. Chelokababi's chicken with sour cherries (Albaloo polo) was the best dish of the weekend, though the dim sum at The Mayflower in Milpitas was the most entertaining meal. One member of our party used an iPhone app with pictures of dim sum (Yum Yum Dim Sum) to get us some arcane and amazing dishes.

Kindle for the iPhone

Just downloaded the (free) Kindle app for iPhone and am now downloading my first read, Andrea Camilleri's mystery The Voice of the Violin.

If I like reading on the iPhone as much as I've been enjoying playing quick Scrabble on it, this will be life-changing.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Metropolitan Hot Club

At last! Thanks to YouTube, I can listen to Mike Snow play jazz violin.

Monday, February 02, 2009


For several years now, I've been reading the work of a certain Seattle Post-Intelligencer writer. I knew she was a friend one of my colleages from Apple's short-lived Seattle office. Tonight, via a Facebook search on my high school, I discovered that this woman and I attended the same high school in Northern Virginia, and had graduated only a year apart.

I sent her a note, and she replied mentioning a teacher we'd had who had particularly influenced her. Which was odd, because today I had been speaking Chinese ("Ni hao ma!") and my mother asked where I'd learned it. I'd learned it from that teacher, who'd been a POW in China.

I'm astonished that she and I don't remember each other from high school. We had both identified ourselves as writers early on, and today, as book reviewers, we specialize in the same genre of fiction.

We're planning to get together for coffee later this month. Should be interesting!

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Mysterious Traveler sets out yet again

Sunday I'm off to Florida for my annual visit to my mom, leaving behind me a pile of washed-but-un-ironed laundry, and a sheaf of notes for the housesitter.

Work finally slowed down this week, but many clients have come out of the woodwork to book projects for the week I get back. That is great news in terms of money, but I wonder if I've committed to too much. Fortunately, much of the work is quite interesting.

I'm continuing to try to get a grip on the Weblogger Meetup that I've been organizing for the past year after inheriting the leadership of the group from a friend who had a much greater talent for it. Currently I'm surveying the group members to figure out what would make the event more appealing to them. They are just about evenly divided on every aspect of the survey except one: None of them wants to be involved in organization or leadership of the group -- except for one dear woman who is already one of the most overcommitted people on the planet. Isn't that always the way it goes?

My friend Tom, who is also one of those natural-born organizers, has been working with me to host a monthly games party at the house. We've had a couple of trial runs, fairly successful, in which I've discovered that my taste in free-form word games is balanced by other folks' taste in more structured adventure games. Fortunately, the house can easily accommodate four groups at a time. We've played Settlers of Cataan (sp?), The Great Dalmuti, Wise and Otherwise, Scrabble, Chronology, Fluxx, Apples to Apples, and Chronology -- plus a game in which we were constructing a haunted house as we went along. I think The Great Dalmuti is my favorite.

If you'd like to be added to the invite list for the next party (most likely on a Sunday afternoon/evening in March) please send email and let me know.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Home from Macworld

I expect to be writing more about Macworld and San Francisco in the next few days, as I unpack, but at the moment my attention is fully occupied by the things I found upon arriving home.

I opened the front door and there, on the rug in the foyer, was a Beanie Baby walrus. The cats, it turned out, had taken half a dozen Beanie Babies out of a basket on an upstairs dresser and brought them downstairs. One of the tabbies had been sitting in the front window when I arrived home, and the other appeared soon after. I had to hunt for Sheba, the deaf white cat, and found her curled up in a cabinet in the bathroom; she'd unspooled a roll of paper towels, created a nest of sorts, and was sleeping in it.

The cats seem perfectly happy, even though this was the longest I've ever left them with catsitters. A friend who has a pet-sitting business had come by every evening for a couple of hours, and neighbors with whom I exchange cat-sitting services had popped in each morning to give the cats some wet food and make sure nothing had been demolished. The system seems to have worked -- perhaps because it's winter, so they aren't as interested in getting outside when the weather is cold and wet.

There was an immense heap of mail waiting for me. I'd cancelled the P-I for the duration of the trip (no, I was not the straw the broke the camel's back), but Wall Street Journals had piled up. And there were some wonderful letters from friends responding to Christmas cards and gifts. There were also some checks from clients -- nearly as wonderful!

It's so good to be home!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Macworld, Day 1

I did not attend the final, non-Steve, keynote this morning, but followed it on Twitter while eating breakfast at Sears Restaurant and then waiting in line to get into the Exhibition Hall. (Yes! IDG, the firm that runs Macworld, finally got excellent ATT reception and WiFi throughout the Moscone conference facility.)

One Tweet was from Matt, a fellow iCards alumus, asking me if I had the new-product cards ready to go live. That triggered some unpleasant flashbacks of keynote Tuesdays, spent dashing from the Exhibition Hall in SF to the office in Cupertino, and back.

I spent an hour in the South Hall -- which is the main exhibition area with the Apple booth -- before heading off for a lunch date at Mel's Drive-In (which is not a drive-in). The Apple booth itself was much sparser than in previous years. It was U-shaped, with the big-screen presentation theater in the middle (showing off new elements in iWork and iLife) and a one-on-one demo bar. At one side of the U was a modest table with the new 17" Mac Book Pro, and at the other side were tables with iPhones and iPods.

Lunch with with Dan, a Seattle friend who now lives in Tennessee and is part of the team that produces Your Mac Life and is currently onsite at Macworld. We chatted about a whole range of things, including our excitement over Rae's engagement to Todd. (An amusing topic because Dan met Rae through The Mysterious Traveler Sets Out, which links to Rae's blog.)

I arrived back at Moscone to discover that Tom, a Berkeley/Seattle friend, had jumped in and helped out at a booth to the extent that he'd been given $50 worth of merchandise as a thank you. He'd also discovered that a friend of his, at Google, was demoing a Google Earth add-on that lets you steer the Google milk truck while surfing on a hacked Wii balance board. I went over and surfed on it, and can hardly wait to get one. There is no penalty for speeding!

I made it to the Kensington booth to shop for what is to be my one technology purchase for the trip: a wireless (USB) mouse. Several of the mice were quite flat, but one was more egonomically curved, and I'm going to use the show discount to order it on line (or pick it up at the Dr. Bott store at Moscone tomorrow).

As usual, a day tromping around Moscone was exhausting. I'm back at the hotel, getting ready to go over to meet my cousin Michael and his fiance at a new restaurant, Orson.