Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Vital signs

In the past 72 hours I have written:
• 1 case study on cardiac rehabilitation data management software
• 1 blog post on conscious sedation in dental offices
• 1 blog post on state laws regarding AEDs in dental offices
• 1 grant proposal to the Australia Arts Council (which included converting a three-page budget spreadsheet into AU dollars)
• 1 newsletter article on "housing first" programs for chronically homeless individuals in Seattle
• 1 newsletter article on fundraising projects for a writing program
• a series of emails exhorting people to volunteer for a marketing project

During the same period I've edited:
• several web pages about traffic safety projects
• a magazine article on making money as an entrepreneur

And I agreed to:
• write a case study on defibrillators
• edit a how-to book for music teachers
• create a series of client profiles for two social service agencies
• read and critique five fiction manuscripts

I turned down a request to write a press release, and I totally blew the deadline for a second case study on medical devices.

While all of this was going on, the Reglaze window contractors came and removed all five of the ancient double-hung dining room windows and replaced them with insulated windows, two of which are casement windows with screens.

Is it summer yet?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Four perfect hours

I love to garden. This afternoon the weather in Seattle was perfect for gardening. Not just nice, or pleasant, but perfect. It was neither hot nor cool, and there wasn't any breeze.

I laid out the 6' x 11' oval potager garden, its plastic edging, installed two 72" iron obelisks from Sky Nursery, put in a soaker hose, and lugged three bales of compost into the oval (to be opened and dug in next week). I also got two blueberry bushes planted in other areas of the garden. (The plan is to put in another four or five blueberries this year, but only if I can find the "Sunshine" variety that tastes like wild berries.)

The cats were out in the garden with me much of the day — Sheba dashing around on Paul and Gwen's roof, Mabel visiting all the neighbors, and Kaylee and Zoe chasing each other around in the rhodies. The kids across the street had on shorts and bathing suits and were spraying each other with squirt guns.

At 6 p.m. it was still in the high 60s, and sunlight was pouring through the grape arbor and onto the patio.

People always think of the best days of life as being the days when you get married, or win awards, or something like that. My best days are like this one.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Alex Chilton

Alex Chilton died Wednesday.

In 2004, when I was with the iTunes Music Store, one of the consultant DJs assembled a playlist called "one-hit wonders." I was assigned to write a blurb about it. I disagreed with some of the artists placed on this list, including Alex Chilton (for, of course, "The Letter").

The more research I did on Chilton and his post-Box Tops work with Big Star, the more fascinated I became.

A few months later, I flew to Euless, Texas, to see him make a rare appearance at the Euless Arbor Daze Festival. The festival was held in an open field filled with crafts booths, barbecue stands, and an area roped off for an evening concert of old rock and roll.

The oldies lineup included Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs and Chilton with the Box Tops. Chilton's voice was not in top form that night, but he seemed to be enjoying himself in his ironic way. I talked my way backstage after the set and got his autograph.

About 20 minutes later, a spectacular thunderstorm swept in across the plains, shutting down the rest of the evening. The parking area turned to a mudbath. I somehow got my rental car out of there and across the highway to a Denny's (next to my budget hotel). As I walked in, a fellow at a booth waved me over -- a Nashville sessions musician who was the keyboard player in the version of the "Box Tops" that had been put together for the gig. He'd seen me backstage, getting Chilton's autograph, and was curious — as I don't exactly look like a groupie.

We sat and talked for an hour or so -- mostly about the industry, but also about Chilton. A brilliant songwriter, but not an easy fellow to work with, it seemed.

Turned out the band was staying at the same hotel I was, so I gave the keyboardist a lift back in my car. It was only a block, but the whole area was knee-deep in water. I remember that it stormed relentlessly all night — pretty terrifying. The next day the weather cleared, and that night I drove to Dallas and went to Brave Combo's 25th Anniversary at Sons of Hermann Hall in Deep Ellum.

It was a weird trip — but I'm very glad I got to hear Alex Chilton live.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Gardening and taxes

After all the excitement of Potlatch, I wasn't really looking forward to another busy weekend.

But I'd set aside March 12-14 to dig up the back yard, and I was determined to stick with it. There just wasn't another weekend on the calendar that was open, and I knew if I waited into April to dig, there wouldn't be time to get most things planted.

I started to worry when Friday was rainy and cold. Then the truck scheduled to bring over the huge dumpster from the Dirt Exchange broke down. But they found another truck, and by 5 p.m. an enormous shiny orange dumpster was sitting in front of the house.

Unfortunately, Tom was now stricken with the miserable cold I'd had at Potlatch. After work, I went out into the back yard with a hand truck and removed a dozen heavy concrete pavers. I hacked at some bamboo. And I went to bed wondering if anyone would brave the predicted rain to help me dig sod during the weekend.

I went out to get bagels Saturday morning and came back to find Bob had arrived and was ready to dig. He and I got going, and after a while Carrie showed up. Bob left to go to Portland, and Carrie and I dug until lunchtime, by which time Nina showed up. Everyone had lunch, and then Nina and I started shoveling. By 3 p.m., half of the sod was in the dumpster!

However, I then collapsed like a wet noodle. All I remember of dinner was Ibuprofen, and I was in bed by 6 p.m.

Sunday morning Tom was miraculously recovered. Hank showed up, ready to dig, and our neighbor Jerry came over. Hank grew up on a farm, and he really knows how to chop sod! Tom took over wheel barrow duty, shuttling the sod to the dumpster. By the time Janice and John showed up, they were just in time to level the lumpy dirt and help me lug a lot of bamboo out and throw that on top of the dumpster load.

And the weather was fabulous for both days!

I was so grateful to my friends. I calculated that if I'd done that project myself, it would have taken several weekends — plus we'd have had a driveway full of mud and sod all spring.

Now I can hardly wait to get out there and plant the potager garden. The garden is going to have peas, pole beans, and bush beans — including fresh string beans and scarlet runner beans that I like to dry and use in soups and pasta sauces all winter. Apparently potager gardens are supposed to be ringed with flowers and short herbs; so I'm studying up on that.

This work-week is supposed to be focused on client projects and taxes. The taxes got off to a great start tonight when I discovered a whopping error on one of the 1099s from a client. Unfortunately, they didn't really pay me $90,000.

If only.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

I can has sympathy?

There's not much to LOL about it: By the time I figured out why my arm felt strange, it was 2 a.m. I drove to Group Health urgent care on Capitol Hill, skirmished with a dozen Goths toting beer out of the Safeway, and eventually convinced the doctor on duty that the little burning bumps on the inside of my right elbow were, indeed, an outbreak of shingles. Fortunately, my Group Health medical record showed that I get shingles on weird dermatomes (like my right knee). They gave me medicine, I took it, and was home and in bed by 4 a.m.

Between the middle of the night adventures and my cold, I was a real zombie at Potlatch this morning. I was surprised that I had to keep saying "you don't want to get to close to me" to people. I felt like all they had to do was look at me and they wouldn't want to get anywhere near me!

However, it was worth going to the convention. I got to hear Eileen Gunn read a hysterically funny story (a collaboration with Michael Swanwick) about an inept time traveler, and saw David Levine's presentation on his two weeks in a Mars exploration simulation in Arizona.

By 3 p.m., I was ready to come home and just -- oh, wait, there was a meeting for the bid committee for the 2011 Discworld convention in the living room at 4 p.m. When that wound up, it was time to sit down and write a blog post that a client needs for tomorrow.

I did manage to do a little more work on the rewrite of my story, "Four Lakes," that got critiqued on Friday. The critiques were clear and helpful and it's a much better story now. I'm going to let it cool for a couple of weeks before sending it for a second round of comments. If it makes it past that hurdle, it might become the first story I've ever submitted for publication.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Hallucinations are real

In form, if not in content.

I know. I had them all morning.

Yesterday I got up at the crack of dawn to send out emails for a work project, worked all morning, and then rushed off the the writer's workshop at Potlatch 19, which included critiques of my story "Day 26: Four Lakes."

From the four-hour critique session I went to a two-hour board meeting for the Clarion West Board, followed by dinner with an upset friend, followed by Clarion West's public board meeting at which I was formally named to the board.

Then the board hosted a party for the Potlatch folks, who are major fundraisers and supporters for the Clarion West writing program. I think we stayed 45 minutes at the party. I don't remember much after that.

I'd been coming down with a sore throat all day, and by the time I went to bed I had a fever and so much congestion in my head that I was hallucinating. My memories of this morning include trying to rewrite the story in my head (based on the critiques), trying to write new stories, and then getting into a bath and apparently falling asleep in the tub. When I woke up , I felt less ditzy and the water was cold.

I wanted desperately to go back to Potlatch this afternoon to see Tom do the Trivia Contest, go to the auction, and help my Foolscap concom host a party at the hospitality suite after the auction tonight. But instead I had Tom stop at the store, get a tray of stuffed grape leaves, and take that for the party on my behalf.

I'm going back to bed.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Announcing a two-day yard party (March 13-14)

You're invited to a yard party!

A yard party is nothing like a garden party, I'm afraid.

Instead of sitting around in fancy togs admiring the roses, you bring a shovel and spend 30 minutes helping us remove the sod from the back yard. Come any time between 9 and 5 on Saturday or Sunday, March 13 and 14. (We will also be doing some prep work on Friday afternoon, if that fits your schedule better.)

There'll be refreshments, including bagels and cream cheese (in the morning) and Italian sandwiches or pizza (in the afternoon).

We have no idea how many days, or how many people, this is going to take, but we're focusing on Saturday and Sunday to remove sod from an area approximately 14 x 16 feet. The idea is that everyone puts in a very short stint of shoveling so no one gets worn out or injured. (I'm still suffering wrist problems from my five-hour pitched battle with an ancient rhododendron seven years ago; it was completely my fault — I just didn't know when to stop.)

We'll have a "dirt dumpster" from the Dirt Exchange in front of the house which we will fill with the sod (they'll lug it away on Monday).

Once the sod is removed, I'll level the yard. Then the center of the yard (about 5 x 9 feet) will get dug up to be an oval potager garden. I'll set some pavers on gravel around the garden bed, and finish everything else off with hardy ground cover.

What's in it for you? In August, you'll be invited back for a real garden party — the kind with fancy clothes and fancy food — ideally, featuring some of the produce from the new garden.

New England in Florida

So many people in Florida are originally from New England that there is a genre of eateries devoted to New England seafood.

In Naples, Florida, the foremost among these is the Swan River Fish Market. It's named after the Swan River Fish Market on Cape Cod. That's where we got much of our seafood when I was growing up. My mother and I went to the Naples outpost of Swan River last week and had lobster. It was not as good as the lobster I had a few years back at Legal Seafood in Boston, but it was good.

I'm now back in Seattle, and my mom wrote to say that someone in Naples has opened a restaurant that serves Ipswich clams. These are the clams used for New England fried clams.

I have a great fried clam batter recipe that I've tried on Northwest clams. I keep meaning to order a quart of fresh-shucked Ipswich clams from Digger's Seafood (they ship overnight) and cook real fried clams. Is any one interested in sharing these? Let me know.