Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Getting silly

For the first time in a couple of months, I can see my way past the pile of projects I've promised to deliver to clients. I worked all weekend, and now, having warned everyone I'm headed off to Macworld, have stopped committing to completing anything else before the trip.

Todd, over at Life 2.0, is also a bit behind schedule. But, like him, I found this just too much fun to pass up:

1. Egg nog or hot chocolate?
Eggnog, very cold, mixed half and half with cold milk (to cut the sweetness). And I like the whole thing chilled in the freezer for half an hour. Lots of fresh-grated nutmeg on top.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
Wrapped. Wrapping is what it's all about.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?
White. Unblinking. I still have an extra-long string that works perfectly for a 6-foot tree.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?
No. I confuse it with holly, anyway.

5. When do you put your decorations up?
7-10 days before Christmas. I once had a tree dry out on me, and now I'm paranoid.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?
Scalloped potatoes (no onions, no cheese, just lots of cream and butter) with a really great Smithfield ham. My Aunt Arv's Swedish meatballs are a close second.

7. Favorite holiday memory as a child?
Er...the year my dad gave my mom the two scrub brushes he'd spray-painted silver. Long story. Also: Caroling with my high school friends in a long green velveteen coat my mom had made for me.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
I figured it out. No one who looked like that could possibly fit down our chimney.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
Yes. That was the tradition in my dad's family.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree?
Lights, tinsel garlands, then one-of-a-kind ornaments. Most of my ornaments are unbreakable, due to the cats. I have a lot of natural looking animals, but am now interested in glittery, beaded decorations.

11. Snow! Love it or dread it?
I love snow, right up to the point that it turns into ice. Then, I hate it.

12. Can you ice skate?
Yes. But it gives my feet cramps.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
Not really. I think my favorite gifts have been associated with travel or visits, not with holidays or special occasions.

14. What's the most important thing about the holidays for you?
It's a time to get in touch with friends and relatives who live far away, and to look back on the year and put events in perspective. I also like having days when I don't work, drive, run errands -- you get the idea. A walk around the neighborhood on Christmas day is wonderful.

15. What is your favorite holiday dessert?
My mom's spritz cookies. This year she absolutely out-did herself.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
Singing "Lyssna," a Swedish carol my grandfather's church choir recorded. I found the 78 tucked away in cover for The Messiah in my Dad's LP collection, and had it made into MP3s for my cousins this year!

17. What tops your tree?
Some years, the traditional pointed ornament. If it doesn't fit, I put a Mexican tin mermaid atop the tree.

18. Which do you prefer giving or receiving?
Both! I love picking out, wrapping, and delivering presents. Getting them can be a bit weird, but every year there's one item I just love.

19. What is your favorite Christmas song?
"Good King Wenceslas."

20. Candy Canes! Yuck or Yum?
Purely for decoration.

21. What do you want for Christmas?
Peace on earth, of course!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Oy to the world

Along with pretty much everyone else in the Seattle-Portland area, I am not having the holiday season I had expected!

Instead of partying and shopping, I've been at home with three cats, all of us suffering from cabin fever. This morning the little tabby ventured out into the snow on the back stairs, took five steps on the icy crust, broke through, panicked, and tumbled down the steps. She somehow exploded out of the drift at the foot of the stairs and made it back into the house. So I went out and shoveled the front and back porches, connecting them with a path, so the cats can at least go outside and give me some peace.

Since the cold and snow set in, the little tabby has peed in my office several times, and the deaf white cat has shoved a full cup of tea off my desk onto the floor and ripped the metal grating off the heater vent. The big tabby has just been yowling, and that may be because little sister has been attacking her. Every few hours I hear snarling and yowling and they go rolling through the house like something out of a barroom brawl in a bad Western.

I went out briefly Friday to take a package to the package shipping place on Market St., and ventured down 65th (with the car!) yesterday to get a small noble fir. How small? At 6', it fit into the passenger section of my fit, with the far window open. The tree is now lit and decorated and, fortunately, of very little interest to the cats.

This evening a friend who has chains and front-wheel drive is coming by to take me to a small get-together a few miles north. I'm taking no chances:I'm bringing along a change of clothes, just in case I get snowed in, and my sealskin boots in case I have to hike home through the drifts. And I'll be leaving out big bowls of dry food for the cats.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Adventures in snow

A frigid wind is blasting the snow off the trees in Ballard this afternoon.

Before I forget, I want to write about how pretty it all was at 8:30 this morning when I shoved my purse in a backpack, put on a hooded down coat and fleece-lined boots, and tromped down from Sunset Hill into Ballard.

The air was still, and the snowflakes were big and slow and quiet. For several blocks, mine were the only foot prints -- though I did see tracks on my street that were either a galloping cat or a bunny rabbit. (More on cats later.)

Two golden retrievers with red collars came bounding around the corner, very cute until they ran up to me and tried to tug my sheepskin gloves off! The embarrassed owner came around the corner a minute later, and shooed them away.

I went down to Vera's (where I was to have met two friends, who cancelled because of they snow) and ordered breakfast. Only one cook had made it in to work, so they were considering closing up. A fellow with a huge backpack came in and, after the harried waitress dashed by, asked me how the food was. I said "good," and peered at him. He looked familiar.

"San Francisco?" he asked.

"Baggage claim!" I said.

He remembered my name, while all I remembered was that he plays banjo. Two years ago we'd met at baggage claim at the San Francisco airport, and discovered we knew the same folks in Bellingham, where he was then living. I'd planned to take a cab into the city, but he'd offered me a ride in his rental car. Which I gratefully accepted.

This morning he joined me at my table. We chatted about Obama and the news media, and I bought him breakfast in return for the ride two years ago. Turns out he's now living on a sailboat at Shilshole, working in Seattle, and spending weekends in Portland where his wife just got a job.

After breakfast I ran some errands, then hiked back to Sunset Hill. The weather was turning a bit nasty by then: Colder, and windy, and then the snow started in again.

I've put in a fairly good day's work today, and could have done even more except for the cats, who were massively bored. They went out in the snow, briefly, and then came in and demolished the house. Giving them catnip distracted them for a while, but led to a second, wilder, round of demolition. I dread being snowed in with them all weekend.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Cold weather, followed by big trouble

The Weather Underground forecast for Seattle says "coldest weather since December 1990 expected during the week ahead."

I remember that December in 1990. I'd gone to Florida to visit family and, unbeknownst to me, the friend driving me to the airport had thoughtfully closed the door between my kitchen and basement, so that the heat couldn't down get to the basement.

Oops. The pipes in the basement then froze.

When a second friend, taking care of the cats, arrived to feed the cats the following day, he noticed that the water was running very, very slowly. So he drove to work on the other side of the lake and then called me in Florida to tell me about the water.

I freaked out. Particularly when he assured me that the kitchen door to the basement had been closed.

I then called a third friend, who rushed over, turned up the heat, opened the door to the basement, got into the basement crawl space, and managed to defrost the pipes before they burst. He then wrapped them with a heating device that turned on when the temperature dropped below 35.

I've only been in the current house for six years. It has a lot of new pipes installed seven years ago, and during the kitchen remodel, that have never been tested in cold weather. Yep, I'm worried.

According to The Straight Dope, letting an interior faucet drip will, in all but the most arctic weather, prevent pipes from freezing. Yes, it wastes water. But it is much cheaper than dealing with the damage from burst pipes.

Friday, December 12, 2008

February's the real party season

This is the time of year when you usually hear people talking about holiday parties. But, oddly, I'm finding people that many people are enthusiastically planning inauguration parties.

"This time, there's really something to celebrate," my friend Ross Taylor said.

In D.C., they're planning several days of celebrating, with January 19 to be a work-service day commemorating the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday. The swearing-in is January 20, but a time is not yet set for the ceremony. Need info? You can sign up for updates at the inauguration website/blog.

Ross is having people over to watch the swearing-in and then having a post-inauguration brunch (though, being on Seattle time, it may be more like a late lunch). Signature drink? Pompagne (pictured above). Here's his recipe:

Rub the rim of a martini glass with lemon, and rim the glass with sugar.
Then fill the glass with 2/3 champagne and 1/3 organic pomegranate juice.
Garnish with fresh pomegranate seeds and a twist of lemon.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The gift of restoration and preservation

Today was my parents' 60th wedding anniversary. For the past few years, I've been sending my mom anniversary cards with images from my dad's slide collection. This year's card has a photo of my parents in the Mojave Desert, where they worked on a Navy base during World War II.

Converting my dad's slides to digital images was one of the best moves I ever made (it was something like 20 cents per slide).

This year I'm having my grandfather's choir's record of Christmas carols (a 78 rpm disk) converted into music CDs for all my cousins. The work is being done by a Shoreline business called Precision Audio Restoration, which offers not only restoration of the audio, but beautiful graphics for the CD and CD case. I'd been planning this project for years, but ran into difficulty when the original record disappeared. We found it this summer, carefully stored inside the box for The Messiah in my dad's LP collection. (Which makes sense, if you think about it: Christmas music.)

My errands today included a stop at Annie's Art and Frame in Ballard, where they worked with me to pick out mats and a frame for a delicate Japanese-style limited edition print from the 1930s. Apparently there's still plenty of time to get stuff framed for Christmas -- they promised my piece, which is fairly complicated, would be ready in a week. (Annie's also has the most wonderful stocking stuffers and Christmas cards!)

I've resolved to take more photos this year, and to record more audio and video, so I can give people truly personalized gifts next year.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Steampunk at Orycon

• hat from antique shop in Edmonds
• dress from one of the contragals (via a Naked Ladies party)
• corset from Xcentricities
• boots by Corso Como

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Joe is looking for Michele Wolf

Joe Hage, a marketing strategy executive for whom I'm do writing and editing, is putting social media channels to work in an attempt to find an old friend of his. Her name, Michele Wolf, is common enough that she's difficult to find through the usual channels such as Classmates.com or LinkedIn.

Joe's asked friends and colleagues to help out by linking to his blog post about Michele. Search engine optimization spiders will then push this highly linked post to the top of the search engines whenever someone (he hopes Michele herself) Googles her name.

Thanksgiving resolutions

I don't care how many projects I have piling up, I'm going to forget about them all day tomorrow. Except to be thankful for having all that paying work and some great clients.

Have a lovely Thanksgiving. If you're stressing out at all, give a thought to the Twitter friend of mine who went to brine his turkey today and found the cooler he'd used for brining the Easter ham still had brine in it...that, and a massive colony of mold.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

November is flying by

This month is just flying by...I can't believe it's Thanksgiving this coming week. 

Just took a three-day weekend to go to Orycon in Portland. It was my first large convention, and the first one where there was costuming. I couldn't resist that challenge, and brought down three steampunk outfits that went over extremely well. All of them featured Edwardian jewelry that had belonged to my grandmother.

The costumes at Orycon fell into four categories: Renaissance/Regency, space opera/superhero, fantasy/furry, and steampunk/pirate. With some interesting crossovers.

While it was fun to go parading around in costumes and getting photographed, I discovered that doing a con in costume has a couple of drawbacks. One is that you have to schlep a bunch of costumes, including boots and hats, to and from the hotel. The other is that you spend quite a bit of time talking with folks about costumes, and that means you have less time to talk with other people about reading, writing, science, politics, etc.

In the future, I'll probably alternate between going to cons as a reader/writer, as a concom volunteer, and as a costumer.

Pictures tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A few leaves left

Busy! Realized I'd better take a fall picture or two, even if it's just with the iPhone:

Sunday, November 09, 2008

One step closer to "crazy cat lady" status

You don't become a "crazy cat lady" overnight. It sort of creeps up on you, one cat at a time, and then pounces, knocking things over, and somehow you never get around to picking things up again. You're too busy opening cans of cat food, and tossing catnip mice.

I've been to the brink (owning six cats at one point) but now have only three (well, three and one that lives with a neighbor but has vet coverage through me).

What I'm discovering is that you can attain "crazy cat lady" status with only three cats if the three cats are crazy themselves.

My cats are pretty crazy at the moment. The transition from sunny summer to rainy fall is always tough for energetic indoor/outdoor felines, and the deaf white cat, Sheba, is having a particularly bad time of it this year. Having the painters here for a week, which entailed moving her cat tree and other perches out of the livingroom, diningroom, and hall, clearly put her over the edge.

Saturday I found her in the bathroom, up on the counter. She'd unrolled most of a roll of paper towels from under the cabinets onto the counter, and had made a nest out of the towels. The nest was hidden behind the few towels that remained dangling from the roll. When I saw Sheba in the kitchen a bit later, I headed for the bathroom to clean up the mess of towels. There was something heavy in the nest, which turned out to be Zoe, the big tabby.

Later I heard yowling and found Sheba back in the nest. She'd unrolled the rest of the towels and was staring mournfully at the empty cardboard roll over head.

When I finally found the nest empty, I removed the towels and put down a somewhat more attractive looking towel. A few hours later I found Kaylee, the tiny tabby, had take up residence on the towels. And when I went to take a shower this morning, she was still sleeping there.

I now have no counter space on which to put magazines and a box of Kleenex because the space is taken up by a cat bed. And I don't dare put up a fresh roll of paper towels.

Instead, I've moved the cat trees and other perches back into the living room and dining room in the hopes that Sheba and the tabbies will gradually forget about the towel in the bathroom. Unfortunately, the towel is directly across from a heat outlet, so it may remain cat territory through the winter.

Friday, November 07, 2008

It's my fault if he got a parking ticket

Last night a bunch of us headed up to Town Hall for what Hank had billed as "the Jonathan Coulton concert." It was raining fairly steadily, and parking was difficult. We ended up two blocks north of Town Hall, and paid $6 to park in a tiny lot near Virginia Mason -- this after peering at signs that seemed to indicate that most of the street parking required a local resident permit after 6 p.m. We didn't want to risk it.

As we sloshed across the street toward the concert, we saw a dark Mercedes swoop into the "permit only" spot. A conservative-looking man in an expensive trench coat hopped out of the car and hurried off down the hill, carrying an oblong canvas violin case. He seemed somehow familiar, but who did we know who wore a trench coat and played violin? The fellow seemed to be headed to Town Hall, which was even more confusing, since Coulton's band has never included a violinist. Tom considered warning the man about the parking permit requirement, but by now he was far ahead of us, and there was something well-heeled and arrogant about him that made us think he could probably afford the ticket if he got one.

The Coulton "concert" turned out to be Coulton appearing in a supporting role for John Hodgman's book tour. Hodgman, the hapless PC in the Apple commercials, has just come out with More Information Than You Require, a second book of humorous essays.

Hodgman read from the book while engaging in a mock dispute with Coulton -- a set-up that led to Hodgman bringing on stage a possible replacement for the shaggy Coulton -- the even shaggier John Roderick of the Seattle rock band Long Winters. Coulton responded by introducing a possible replacement for Hodgman -- the even more dapper Sean Nelson of the Seattle rock band Harvey Danger. Roderick performed, Nelson performed with Coulton, Roderick and Nelson performed (wild cheers from the crowd), and then Hodgman went backstage and emerged with a ukelele. (Thanks to iamdonte on Flickr for the photo shown here.)

As he led the ensemble in a rendition of "Tonight You Belong to Me," we exchanged looks: John Hodgman was going to get a parking ticket.

When the Q&A period came, I considered going up to the microphone and warning him. But I couldn't imagine myself saying "John, my question is: Did you know your car is parked illegally?"

When the event ended and book signings began, Tom did go up and tell one of the event organizers about the car situation. We noticed on the way back to the parking lot that what seemed to be the same car was still there, as yet unticketed. And, if the Seattle parking folks did catch up with him later in the evening, perhaps he'll have a Seattle parking ticket story to add to his "minor television celebrity" tales.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

$200 ocarina

A new third-party app for the iPhone lets you play it as an ocarina by blowing into the microphone and then fingering the "holes" that appear on the touchscreen.

Visit the developer's site to see a video of an iPhone ocarina ensemble performing "Stairway to Heaven." This just has to win an "app of the year" award.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Amazon addresses "wrap rage"

I once called the manufacturers of Sheba's electronic cat-locator collars to complain about the heavy plastic clamshell packaging they use. When you attempt to open one of the clamshell packages using scissors, it splits and shatters into razor-sharp shards of plastic. Of course, the components of the electronic collar remain securely lodged (and taped) in various crevasses of the broken molded plastic.

The customer service rep who answered my call was not particularly sympathetic. She put me on hold while she located a package and scissors. She then got back on the call and started to open the package. I heard little scream, as she was stabbed by a piece of hard plastic. "You're right!" she gasped. "I'm bleeding."

It was hard to be sympathetic.

With a stash of 40 unopened cat-locator collars in the basement, I was delighted to read that Amazon.com has announced a collaboration with manufacturers to eliminate "wrap rage" (yes, it has a Wikipedia listing, which attributes the phrase to Consumer Reports) by the creation of "frustration-free" package. One of the first products to launch is toy pirate ship.

Meanwhile, they are collecting and displaying videos of "wrap rage" experiences — feel free to contribute!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Blog goodness

My friend Rae turned me on to a charming blog co-written by a pair of women in their 80s, with some of the best political writing I've seen online since Molly Ivins passed away. (Oh, what Molly would have done with Sarah Palin's candidacy!)

I'm feeling cheerful about blogging today. A reporter from a major news publication came across something I wrote in Mysterious Traveler a few weeks ago, emailed me, and then interviewed me for a trend story that's scheduled to appear in November. If I'm quoted, you'll be among the first to know. (My Twitter peeps will probably hear about it first.)

Nice that my online life is going well. Wish I could say the same for physical reality. A team of Salvadoran house painters is sanding and priming the living room and dining room...their paint prep work is good, but they didn't cover the buffet, and then plonked a bunch of Venetian blinds on it. Grrrrrr.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

What's on the table

This weekend I made an apple strudel with fruit from the columnar apple tree. The recipe, from Cook's Illustrated, included peeled, sliced apples, raisins simmered in Calvados, toasted pecans, lemon juice, and a bit of sugar. You wrap the filling in five buttered sheets of filo dough, score the roll, and bake at 475 for 15 minutes. Cool, slice, then sprinkle with confectioner's sugar. Pretty easy.

I got a new tablecloth for fall at the local consignment shop, Imagine That. Unfortunately, Zoe found it before I put it away, so now it needs to be washed.

I've been swamped with work, including one particularly complicated website catalog that goes on, and on, and on.

My mom is preparing to depart for her winter in Florida (Thursday) and that'll be about the time that the painters arrive to do the living room, dining room, and hallways in exciting new colors. (Well, not exactly exciting, but certainly less neutral neutrals.) Preparing for that will involve moving all the window treatments, pictures, and breakables to the basement, including all the china from the china cabinet. Unfortunately, the previous owners used high-gloss on the window trim, baseboards, and five doors. That will have to be sanded in order for the new semi-gloss to adhere properly, which drove the bids up a bit. After the professionals do the more visible rooms, I'll be tackling the yoga room and bathroom painting myself.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Green light

Lighting at the house took a big step backward this week. The $300 Rejuvenation Lighting fixture with the GU24 incandescent bulb purchased last year was going dim. I removed the bulb and saw scary burn damage where the glass meets the head of the bulb. A call to the 1-800 number for the bulb manufacturer revealed that the GU24 bulb isn't supposed to be used in conjunction with a light sensor, which I'd been using. (Boo! to the electricians, who seemingly hadn't been aware of that when they installed the fixture and the sensor.)

A call to Rejuvenation with questions initially got the answer that it should work with a light sensor, but as we discussed it further, they decided that if I was using a light sensor in the house wiring, I'd need the model of that fixture that takes an incandescent bulb. They then immediately offered to replace my year-old fixture with a new one. So, while I won't be saving the environment using a fluorescent bulb, I will at least be saving it using a light sensor.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Apple TV, demystified

I don't exactly watch TV. Certainly not in the traditional sense. Network TV is something I see and overhear in bars, or at the airport. Cable TV is something other people have that I see if they've recorded something to TiVo.

I just bought a 32" flat screen TV (laughably small, I'm told) so I can watch new DVDs and old videos; my DVD player and VCR are both connected to it.

So far, so good.

But I also use iTunes, and often buy TV shows and movies to watch on my iPhone when I travel. I've thought about watching the movies at my desk on my iMac but...I spend all day at the desk working, and my little office isn't exactly a place to hang out with friends and watch a film.

Apple TV is a way to watch iTunes downloads and rentals on a TV in another room. But I've been reluctant to buy the little Apple TV device (with its not-so-little price tag) because I couldn't quite believe that it could get a movie from my iMac to my TV (two rooms away) without loss of quality.

Now I have a book that explains it all: The Apple TV Pocket Guide by Jeff Carlson (PeachPit Press, 2008)! And I've put Apple TV on my Christmas list.

Monday, October 13, 2008

That feels better

A thousand years from now some archeologist will be pondering over early 21st century skeletons and wondering why we all had hunched shoulders. Or perhaps some of us will be buried in our Aerons and the answer will be obvious: deskwork.

Massage therapist Larry Swanson has assumed the persona of The Office Rat to help us bring a fitness mentality to our office jobs. His Office Rat blog provides a tip a day, many with You Tube videos, to help us combat desk debilitation. Larry interviews fitness and bodywork experts like Reta Wright-Kinghorn (a sleep disorders clinician) and Lara McIntosh (from Wassa Dance), and draws on his own experience as a massage therapist.

Larry is the therapist who helped me figure why I was having trouble with the warrior poses in yoga. He showed me how years of hunching over a keyboard had shortened and tightened the muscles in my chest, making it very difficult for me to release and extend my arms back and out to the side. Some assisted stretching, and persisting with the yoga, eventually solved the problem.

Check out his latest tip, on stretching your forearms.

Still crazy

I spent last week stressing out trying to pull together a 45-minute talk for a blogging conference that took place Saturday at UW. It was hard work, but the conference, BigFoot Blogging, turned out to be worth it. It was the type of conference at which most of the audience members were qualified and articulate enough that they could have switched places with the speakers. The questions really had us hopping.

I have to confess that I needed to spend most of Sunday recovering. (How do the presidential candidates do it? Day after day of speeches!)

The plan for this week was to refocus on my clients' projects. That didn't get off to a good start today when I got tied up trying to express-ship some legal documents to a friend in Korea.

Then an amazing work opportunity appeared in my inbox this evening. Pulling together a proposal will be even more challenging than creating the conference talk and slides. Here we go. Again.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Missing cats in Sunset Hill linked to coyote

For the past few weeks, there've been "missing cat" posters all up and down 34th Avenue NW. Now we know why: A neighbor spotted a coyote on 34th between NW 68th and NW 70th — just six blocks north of us, and one block north of where Smokey lives with his co-owner.

Smokey is not much of a wanderer, and lives in greenhouse in a gated yard. However, our kitties Kaylee and Zoe go out in the evening, and this has me very unhappy, as a coyote can cover quite a bit of territory. They will not be happy if I try to keep them in, but we may have reached that point.

Friday, October 03, 2008

What a week

And there's one more day yet.

I spent last weekend at Foolscap, a science fiction convention, the first one for which I've stayed in the hotel and been immersed in programming and socializing. I had a minor volunteer role, which provided some structure to the weekend. Otherwise I simply went around and chatted with folks -- including an SF dignitary who has the same name as I do (which had led to confusion at a previous con, until the late Anita Rowland came up with the idea of prefacing my name with "The Other" on my badge).

One of the distinctive elements of Foolscap is that it's a highly participative con. Many attendees signed up in advance to be on panels. I was on two, including a late-night exploration of vampire romances. That was particularly weird because, to everyone's surprise, Foolscap was sharing the Marriott with...a vampire convention.

The vampire contingent pretty much kept to themselves, though I did get a few looks as I was going down in the elevator to the vampire panel wearing a long black silk skirt, black high heels, and a black velvet blouse.

Not sure what the vampires were doing, but our programming included late-night story telling, a radio play, a round-robin writing collaboration using manual typewriters, an art show, and an auction (at which I won a celadon green wool scarf knitted by a local author). 

On the way back from the con, I went to a "naked ladies" clothing exchange organized by women in the Seattle contradance community. I brought two dozen tops to exchange, and came away with some interesting items for the steampunk costumes I'm working up for Orycon in November. These included a long wool walking skirt that appears to be a reproduction of an Edwardian skirt.

In contrast to the playful weekend, the week has been a relentless schedule of writing, editing, and meetings, along with interviews with new clients and prospective clients. I've been starting at 7 a.m., and still editing at 11 p.m. My new TV, a 32" LCD, arrived Wednesday and I haven't even tried to take it out of the box yet.

Watched the Palin-Biden "debate" tonight with friends at the Red Door. It wasn't much of a debate; mostly the candidates seem to pretend the other one isn't there. Palin didn't even answer the interviewer's questions. I think it was disgraceful.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Which do you paint first, the walls or the trim?

I'm getting ready to paint a room, and have been looking at online guides to painting, from DIY blogs to paint company how-tos (not as well written as the blogs).

They boil down to about the same thing, except on one burning issue: Which do you paint second (after the ceiling): the walls, or the trim? There seem to be strong arguments for each approach.

Anyone want to weigh in on this, and explain your rationale? I'm all ears, for the moment. In a week or two, I'm sure I'll be all paint and not nearly as receptive to advice.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Cats and rain

Kaylee, the small tabby, failed to wake me up at 5:30 this morning. I woke up a little before 8 and saw her curled up in the "meatloaf" pose (paws tucked under chest) at the foot of the bed. I realized that she'd seen the rain and had decided that "outdoors" is no longer the wonderful place it has been most of the summer.

Fall is here, and even the cat knows it.

(picture of Kaylee and large sister Zoe in sunnier times)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Not enough hours in the day

I write and write and write all day, but not much of it is fiction, and not much of it is paying work either.

Instead, I write emails trying to head various well-meaning advisors off at the pass, post to groups about conferences we're planning, send notes to colleagues about errors and omissions on their websites, and exchange emails with clients about the priorities and pricing of various pieces of work we have underway. Tonight I edited an article for a friend (with a 13-pound cat sleeping on my left wrist).

Tomorrow everything I write will be billable. I swear. And cat-free.

Saturday, September 06, 2008


I used to get stress- and/or sinus-related migraines all the time. Now I get them about four times a year. As a result, I now tend to forget how to recognize them in the early stages.

Last night I was extremely tired at the poker game...so tired that I took at nap on the host's very comfy couch with Tasha the cat. I drove home, bleary and yawning, and went to bed. When I woke up this morning still exhausted, with a splitting headache, chills, and nausea, I realized that the migraine had been starting last night and I'd somehow managed to sleep though it as it advanced to a pretty awful degree. (I usually manage to stop the progression before it gets that bad.)

So I started the day in a hot bath, trying to nibble enough rice that I'd be able to keep down two Tylenol Sinus pills that would start me on the route to recovery. Once the bath had stopped the chills, and I'd taken the Tylenol, I went to bed for five hours, sleeping the semi-hallucinatory sleep I get with a migraine. By 3 p.m., the headache had receded, leaving me hungry and shaky, and rather annoyed because I was still too light-sensitive and tired to go to a friend's birthday kayaking party, which I'd been looking forward to all week. And I had to turn down an invitation for a photography outing at the Puyallup Fair.

But after some protein (my standing post-migraine meal) I put on a hat, went out in the garden, and began slowly to work at gardening tasks, which turned out to be quite restorative. Kaylee, our little striped cat, had guarded me all during the migraine attack, and all three cats came out to join me in the garden as I pruned the overgrowth and staked a few dahlias. Later Zorg and I made a quick run up to Home Depot so I could pick up a gas grill on end-of-season sale to replace the old grill that's slowing losing it.

Now it's 10 p.m. and I'm finally tackling the organizational tasks that had been slated for the morning. I'm going to try to get to bed before midnight and get back onto a normal sleep cycle so I can get to a NIA dance class in the morning.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Yes we scan

A few weeks ago I bought an HP Officejet J5780 All-in-One (copier, printer, scanner, and fax) primarily to photocopy 13 years worth of tax returns.

The convenience of a decent little in-house photocopier cannot be overstated!

It was easy to then hook it up to my Mac as a printer (though the printing performance lags behind the speed and photo quality of the Businessjet 1200 I'd been using).

But things went downhill rapidly when I tried to set up the scan function. The software disk that came with the J5780 refused to install the software (it got into a loop that kept asking me to agreed to install some "customer updates" software). Then, the software I found on the HP site (after some really annoying searching) and downloaded, also had a nasty little loop and wouldn't install.

I spent a few days monkeying with this, and getting increasing steamed. Finally I Googled the problem and found a long discussion about similar frustrations at MacRumors, ending with a link to a page on the HP site with some universal software for HPs that, when downloaded installed, solved the scanning problem. The J5780 turns out to be quite a nice scanner, too.

I'm astonished to find that I'm using the copier on a daily basis. Now I need to splurge and pick up a second printer cable so I can have both printers hooked up at the same time. Oooh!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Weird year in the garden

The witch hazel is blooming in August; it's supposed to bloom in February, when the deep yellow spiky flowers stand out against the snow and ice. I hope that doesn't mean we're about to have snow and ice...

The wisteria is mature enough that it's now giving a second (August) bloom. I'll be curious to see if it gives the third (October) bloom the way the wonderful wisteria at the first Shady Rest often did.

Of course, most of the tomatoes are still green. But the apples on the columnar apple tree are attractive and pest-free. Last year the apple had disappointing fruit, infested with all sorts of bugs and diseases, and I'd planned to use various sprays on it this year but never got around to it. Perhaps the weather discouraged the pests? I grabbed the first apple yesterday, and it was perfect. I've noticed that the older apple trees in the neighborhood, usually a mess of moth webs, look quite clean this year and the apples very appealing. If this is true, there are a ton of edible apples on the tree in the yard behind us (and no one there ever picks them).

I've had lettuce growing all summer, and need to get the next crop of greens in for fall. Some years I'm able to grow arugula throughout the winter.

This is the off year for the pear tree (it has just a few pears) and for the Candace grape vine. Both plants look healthy, but there isn't much fruit, and the grapes are teeny and still green. I never really know what to do with a big crop of pears, but I had been looking forward to that intense, spicy pink Candace grape juice.

The gardeners' motto: Next year.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

gd wins (the fantasy job contest)

OK, gd, you win with the genre-fiction-publisher-for-the-Kindle suggestion. The two other suggestions I received by email were...thought-provoking, but, frankly, a chance to publish genre fiction wins out.

gd, contact me off-list to select the lunch venue!

Calling it a day at the races

The Zorg and I are winding it down. We found this helpful. (Hey, amusing is helpful.)

Why I'll never be a photo blogger

The first ripe tomato appeared in the garden today.

I ate it.

With a small basil leaf as garnish. It was an orange cherry tomato from a plant that volunteered from last year's crop. Texture: B. Flavor: A-.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The garden gnomes are back!

Desk shrine

When I went out this morning to my summer office, this is what I found on the desk:

I ate the blueberries.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Beyond the cat door

At the original Shady West in Wallingford, I built an elaborate slanted walkway to allow our cats to come up along the side of the house and in through a cat door installed in my office window. The unsightly contraption had to be hastily dismantled when we were selling the house.

Now I discover there's an international website (blog) devoted to photos of elaborate stairways and other structures providing indoor/outdoor cats with access to homes.

Not all cats need ladders. This one climbs stucco!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Doesn't seem like summer

The cool, wet, wayward weather kept me inside much of the day, which was just as well. I did laundry, cleaned the cluttered laundry room, and photocopied 13 years of tax returns using the new HP Officejet J5780 All-in-One.

I haven't hooked up the Officejet's fax or printer capabilities yet, but the photocopying and scanning are great. I swung by Office Max this evening to get more black printer cartridges and was whining to the salesperson about how quickly I'd gone through the first two cartridges. He explained that the one that comes with the machine is only half filled (good grief!) and the #74 replacement ordered with the machine is not ideal. He recommended the #74XL, which has three times as much ink. I got two of those, and, since I'd almost finished the tax returns, those should last for a good long while.

The only other snag involved the 2007 return. The copy from our accountant was on a flimsy, environmentally correct paper that couldn't be grasped properly by the copier feed, so it was necessary to place the pages, one by one, on the scanner bed. Grrrr!

This evening I made a tomato sauce with a bit of bacon, and had that on spaghetti -- something I hadn't cooked for a very long time. Then Zorg showed me the musical episode of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." That was...different!

When the Buffy episode was over, I caught up on the Hugo Awards at Worldcon via Twitter. Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union won Best Novel. The movie Stardust (with a brilliant supporting performance by Dustin Hoffman) beat out the TV series Heroes for Best Dramatic Presentation (Long). A bit of a surprise. Stardust was nice, but traditional, while Heroes broke new ground.

I very much want to attend a Worldcon, but the next two are outside the US: 2009 in Montreal, and 2010 in Australia.

While everyone else is at Worldcon

Quite a few of my friends from the SF community are at Worldcon in Denver this week. But today I got together with another writer -- a published writer! -- downtown and talked about our plans for the upcoming Foolscap writing and art convention in Redmond. And this evening I went to a poker game that, since so many of the usual players were at Worldcon, turned into a viewing of the first reel of Citizen Kane. Plus we played around with Twinkle, an iPhone app that adds a geographic element to Twitter.

All unexpected, and all fun.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Contest: What should I be doing?

At various times in my life, people whose experience is limited to traditional corporate jobs have decided that my running a freelance business doesn't really constitute working. And that I need a "real job."

They're at it again.

In the past, I've dealt with these campaigns by announcing, after a week or so, that I have looked for and found a full-time editorial contract with an extremely hidebound, uninteresting major company, health benefits included, and that I will be "very busy" for the next six months. Of course, there is no such I contract. I merely continue on with my usual freelance projects, and all is well.

The most amusing of these episodes involved me assuring people that a former client had offered me a full-time gig writing educational curricula. Four days after I concocted the story, damned if that client didn't call and offer me exactly that project (which I took on as part-time contractor).

Under pressure from the "traditional job" lobby, I'm considering serving up another fantasy job. But I need to be careful -- what if the fake job turns into an actual job offer again?

I'd love it if the Mysterious Traveler readers would help with this "job hunt" -- by keeping me entertained. While I cook up a plausible job, you get to be creative. The person who invents the most amusing/creative job offer for me gets lunch at Kaosamai in Fremont or Hattie's Hat in Ballard. (Not sure what I'll do if the contest is won by an out-of-town reader...but we'll think of something.)

Please include in your contest entry: Job title, job description, location (commute? telecommute?), any special job responsibilities or requirements, and (of course) compensation. Please leave the job offer in the form of a comment on the blog or send email to me at mysterioustraveler [at] gmail.com.

Stay tuned. The best "job offers" will be compiled and posted (without attribution!) at a later date.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Weekend report

This cool weather, with intermittent sun, is no doubt preventing me from suffering sunburn. But it just doesn't seem like summer. I did get out in the garden yesterday, trimming the neighbor's out-of-control forsythia, which was looming over our fence, and cleaning up other foliage in the back yard. John came over and I tried out Zevia cola on him (a cola sweetened with stevia). We were sitting at the table on the back patio, and I realized I haven't even brought out the patio umbrella yet this year! Perhaps later this week, when they allege it will get into the 90s and break temperature records (Tuesday).

Friday night I went to a party Janice hosted for the new graduates of the Clarion West writing workshop and saw various celebrity instructors and patrons. I was pretty much out of my depth, but did meet another beginning-level writer with whom I'm going to have coffee next week. Highlight of the party for me was listening to Thom Davis, a superb blues guitarist who was a guest of one of the guests. He performs frequently over on the peninsula; I intend to get over there soon to hear an entire evening of his music.

Saturday evening I was at a more intimate gathering of science fiction fans Andi and Stu hosted. They have the perfect party backyard! Unfortunately, they also had a heap of extra books available, so of course I came home with more reading material. (M.G. Lord's Astro Turf.) I met one of the organizers of the Australian science fiction community, who is on his way to Worldcon in Denver, aiming to get the 2010 Worldcon to be held in Australia. Oh, I'll want to go to that one!

Plans for today are yoga, haircut with Ross at Habitude, and the Ballard Farmers Market. If the weather really does getting sunny and warm, it's back to the garden to confront the oxalis that's crept into two of the front beds. Or maybe the annual bamboo trimming... Where's a three-day weekend when I need it?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Some of you heard a few days ago that Zorg and I are divorcing. There are no dramatic events that precipitated this, and I'm not talking about the details except to say that I am the instigator. Yes, we have talked with a counselor.

Each of us is meeting with a collaborative lawyer to begin work on what is known as "collaborative divorce."

As I understand it, a collaborative divorce uses an open process to reach a legal agreement that meets both partners needs and priorities. It's nothing like an adversarial court proceeding. In fact, if collaboration fails, you'd have to find completely different attorneys to file in court -- the collaborative attorneys don't do that.

We're optimistic about this process and hope to remain friendly through it and afterwards.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

After 90, then what?

My mom celebrated her 90th birthday this past week. She'd had a 90th birthday send-off from her friends in Florida this past winter, and her actual 90th was celebrated by her friends in Edmonds Thursday. Friday night I took her to Canlis (a celebration we'd decided on three years ago).

This morning I called my mom and she said that now all the fuss (cards, flowers, candy, and phone calls from friends back East) is over, she is feeling a little bit down. After all, what do you celebrate after 90?

A good question, and not one you can field with a trite answer.

I told her that I had a bit of the same problem when I left Apple. When I worked at Apple, that was pretty much my identity -- a short label that everyone recognized and found impressive. I knew that the day after I left Apple I'd be just another freelance writer.

And, yet, it turned out better than that. The cache of having been at Apple stuck with me, and has been very helpful in getting contract work. In the same way, having made it to 90 will now be an achievement that follows her.

My mom is an unusual 90, because she doesn't look it, and certainly doesn't act it. Or sound it. She called her doctor's office the other day to make an appointment for her annual checkup and the woman on the phone, trying to find the chart for yet another Anderson, asked for the year she was born. My mom said "1918" and the woman yelped "What?!!!"

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Quiet week

Mysterious Traveler will be on hiatus for a week. Thanks for your patience.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

What's wrong?

LinkedIn is down for maintenance, Twitter is down for maintenance, and Blogger is extremely twitchy. I quit.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Who isn't thinking about money these days?

If you are a serious investor with cash reserves this will eventually be a time to pick up some bargains, but those may very well be long-term investments that could take three or four years to realize.

Meanwhile, I've pretty much cut expenditures to fixing things that are broken and maintaining services essential to health and business. I just downgraded my membership in a business organization that has delusions of usefulness, and I'm letting some subscriptions lapse.

I was amused to see that the Wall Street Journal has sent out to their longtime subscribers a "special renewal price" offer of $349 a year or $499 for two years. While all over their website is an "introductory" price of $99 a year.

So, if someone lets their subscription lapse for a week and signs up anew, they save $249 a year? The mind boggles.

Monday, July 14, 2008

New car, new perspective

I'm now driving a 2008 Honda Fit. It feels just like my 1990 Honda Civic, but with automatic transmission, air conditioning, and air bags. I'm happy.

Today was my first day on the road with it, and I was alarmed to find myself sharing the highway with some of the craziest drivers on the planet.

Like the car that suddenly appeared in front of me on Aurora, sideways, and blocking two lanes of fast-moving traffic. I slammed on the brakes. The woman had apparently overshot the turn for a strip-mall shopping center, so, instead of circling the block, she decided to stop, back up, and then drive the wrong way down Aurora to get back to the store.

Monday also appears to be "take your big industrial truck to Ballard" day. Every third vehicle seemed to be a garbage truck, recycling truck or a tree-removal truck. Once they're on the road, and a bus stops behind them, you might as well just calm down and park.

Friday, July 11, 2008


Zorg is packing his gear for the Seattle-to-Portland two-day bike ride this weekend. I'll be driving down to Portland Sunday morning to pick him up at the finish. There are 9000 riders, but he'll have his cell phone so we should eventually find each other.

I just put a deposit on a 2008 Honda Fit (Sport, automatic) that I'll pick up Monday...I just couldn't wait for the 2009s (now moved out to October 2008) and the prices on the Fits just came down as a result of the slowing economy. It will be wonderful to have a car again, especially a fuel-efficient one.

Tonight I'm going to see Eddie Izzard at the Paramount, and tomorrow night it's SummerMash.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Monday madness

I wandered out to the curb with some cardboard boxes for recyling and was nearly bowled over by a brindle pit bull. According to a neighbor, she'd been galloping up and down our street for more than an hour. No collar.

I let her into the garage, gave her a bowl of water, and called the animal shelter. Turns out the shelter is closed for intake until noon on Monday, and didn't think they could schedule a pickup. I let the pit bull back out, which, unfortunately, was when it saw Sheba, our deaf white cat.

Sheba does not run from dogs, and usually this scares the dogs off. But it did not deter the pit bull, which was right on Sheba before she realized it was time to move, and fast. She and the pit bull vanished into the neighbor's garden shed. Seconds later, Sheba exploded out of the eaves, leaving the pit bull crashing around in the stored equipment.

I capture the pit bull, got it back in the garage, and called the pound again. They said I could get a possible pickup in the afternoon. I cancelled all my work appointments and went out to find Sheba, who was on a neighbor's roof looking upset.

Figuring I could drive the pit bull to the shelter at noon, I went down the street to the home of a reclusive neighbor woman who has two pit bulls. I eventually got her to come to the door, and, sure enough, she had a harness and a leash to loan me. Back home, I coaxed Sheba off the roof and took her upstairs. Then I went down to the garage, where the pit bull was banging around, slipped in, and was relieved to find that it stepped right into the harness. My plan was to take it for a walk, then put it in the car and go to the pound and wait for them to open.

We walked up the alley, turned onto 32nd Ave. NW, and an SUV pulled up with a woman who jumped out and said "That's my dog."

Turns out she'd called the pound, but they hadn't made the connection between her lost pit bull and my found pit bull.

I lectured her fairly sternly about the cat incident; she apologized, I returned the dog, and they drove off. Back at home, I noticed Sheba had a cut on her forehead, so I took her to vet. It was a minor injury -- not from the pit bull, but from the acrobatics involved in her escape. The vet shaved some hair, so now Sheba looks like a unicorn that had its horn removed.

My day was pretty much in shambles; I made it to our accountant's, but missed yoga class when an elderly woman fainted in the parking lot next to my car and I took care of her while her husband went off and got their car to transport her to the nearby emergency room.

Enough new stuff came in today that I didn't deal with all the stuff that got cancelled yesterday, so now I'm dealing with phone calls and emails from people who are probably getting somewhat irate. I did, however, get to belly dance class this evening and now I feel much less worried about the irate people. If you're one of them, my apologies.

Friday, July 04, 2008

An extra day

Odd to have a Friday holiday.

Zorg mowed the lawn; I trimmed plants, cleaned my office closet, ran some errands, and made chocolate-dipped cherries for a 4th of July party in Fremont. At the party, there was much grim conversation about the political climate and the economy. Several people felt that McCain's new staff is part of his alignment with the sector of the Republican party that was involved in the voting-machine rigging in Ohio and Florida in 2004.

Walked part of the way home, and then Zorg picked me up on the Fremont/Ballard border. We checked on our vacationing neighbors' cats and mice -- no fish this time. The cats, which get kibble as a rule, look forward to our visits because we bring small offerings of wet food.

Both of us remarked on how much quieter this Fourth seems than previous ones. Is it the economy?

The thunderstorms last night took care of watering the garden for a few days -- that's a real holiday for me.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Cats out for summer

Warm weather arrives, and the cats respond to the call of the wild.

Our neighbor's cat, Bee, spent five days trapped on someone's balcony until the woman across the street asked about the "new cat" and the homeowners noticed her. (You have to wonder if they were hard of hearing.)

Our big tabby, Zoe, has gotten trapped twice in the past few days. The first time, I opened the attic door to reach inside for a straw hat; Zoe slipped in, and spent the next few hours in the hot attic until I heard her yowling.

She failed utterly to learn her lesson. This morning I went into the garden shed for a pair of clippers. Zoe slipped in, and then spent the entire day in the shed. I noticed her missing this afternoon, called her name, and heard yowling again. When I opened the door, she shot out and dashed across the lawn, stopping on the patio to give me a hurt look.

Now I've resolved to conduct a "whisker count" every few hours to make sure I know where all three cats are.

It could certainly be worse. John Hedtke reports on the adventures of their cat Silas, which began with a tumble from a second floor balcony. John and his wife captured the injured cat and put him into a cardboard carrier, which promptly opened from the bottom, dumping the now-berserk cat onto the floor. And that was only the beginning...

Friday, June 27, 2008

How tall would you like your condos?

Seattle Metblogs reports the first sighting of "impeach greg nickels" bumper stickers. (Or I guess you could put them on your briefcase if you're riding the bus.)

Don't blame me, I voted for Sidran.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Fremont Parade picture

There's a funny story along with this photo Jeff Carlson got of me.

Two sides of the Fremont Solstice Parade

I danced in the Fremont Solstice Parade today for the first time; last year I was a crowd monitor, and Zorg has been a crowd monitor for several years.

Being in the parade was amazing. The crowd along the route is only about five rows deep; you see every face, and I saw dozens of friends and was able to wave to them as we danced by. I was in Delilah's Visionary Dance Studio belly dance troup. Here's a picture from the Seattle PI of Dahlia Moon, one of the teachers, leading her Gawazi (Egyptian) troup. Dahlia's group wore striped jackets; we wore more traditional "cabaret-style" costumes, all in hot pink.

While the parade (performers and audience) is very much Fremont artists, hippies and yuppies, the crowd that turns out to party at the growing number of bars and nightclubs in Fremont, and listen to bands on the Fremont Fair stages, is something else -- younger, more commercially oriented, and louder. The parties along N 34th as I walked back to the car at 4 p.m. looked more like grad school spring break than the Fremont Solstice Festival; the insiders had gathered down at Gas Works Park, where there was a strong scent of ganja and naked people were taking pictures of costumed ones.

Both crowds seemed to be having great fun.

Parade pictures were already flooding onto Flickr.com at 5 p.m. Here are some of my group:

Peace bra.

Lineup of belly dancers.

Following Delilah.

Henna tattoos.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Dress rehearsal

My bellydance costume is ready for tonight's dress rehearsal for the Fremont Solstice Parade, but I'm not.

I'm frazzled, freaked, and my hands (and other parts of me) looked like I was attacked by a porcupine with St. Vitus Dance.

There are whole books written on making the tops for bellydance costumes. I bought one of them, read it, and concluded its detailed content would be useful if you had a spare month or two to devote to sewing.

I didn't.

I was completely ready to buy a bellydance top (which can run up to a cool $500) except our teacher decided all the costumes should be hot pink, and there aren't many well-structured hot pink costumes available. One woman in my class bought a cheap one and brought it to class, shrieking "It doesn't even fit half way around me!"

So I bought a nice pink skirt, and went to work upholstering a black molded bra with a hot pink sequined paisley fabric.

What a mess.

I think I've employed every form of technology known to attach one thing to another — short of duct tape. In addition to thread, I have used elastic, stitch witchery, velcro, fabric glue, and ribbon. It didn't help that the cats kept lunging at the thread and needle every time I took a stitch. The top should have a label that says "No animals were harmed in the creation of this costume, but three were severely disciplined."

Initially I had been very concerned about making sure I had a top that would look attractive. Well, the sewing ordeal took care of that silly worry. At the moment, I don't care if I look like a hippopotamus in this get-up. I'm just praying I didn't leave a pin in it somewhere that will emerge as we prance down the parade route on Saturday.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Long days, busy week on the way to the parade

Three evenings in a row of two-hour belly dance practices (for Saturday's Fremont Solstice Parade) are making for very long days. Particularly because, for some reason, I also scheduled an 8 a.m. business appointment every morning this week and another away-from-home meeting around mid-day every day.

The result is that I put on a business costume, dash out, come home and put on practical clothes for a few hours, get back into a business costume for the next meeting, then come home and put on a belly dance costume.

I think I'd be bitching less if the weather were about 10 degrees warmer. And I'm looking forward to testing that hypothesis.

By the way, the inside word on the upcoming Fremont Parade is: best floats ever!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Blogging less, writing more

I've been writing fiction for the past few weeks, which likely accounts for my blogging less. Yes, I know -- I've been writing fiction for the past 20 years! But previously I've worked on one project at a time. Currently, I'm working on several, from short stories and ultra-short "flash fiction" to novels. And I'm working in multiple genres and multiple styles. I know it sounds weird, but if I don't want to work on one piece, I generally find that I do want to work on another one. At other times, I find myself thinking about a particular story or character, and head for the computer specifically to work on that piece.

Weird as it is, this system is apparently working because I'm completing projects that had been percolating for months. And I'm sending finished pieces off to various magazines and contests.

Be patient. Many of the magazines take months to respond (usually, with a rejection!), and contests take months to announce winners.

The one tight deadline I'm facing is getting three book chapters in the mail before the end of June to be considered for a fall writers workshop. Part of me wants to write the whole book before committing to the first three chapters, but there simply isn't time.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Mysterious Traveler turns 5

Thursday, June 12, is our 5th anniversary here at the The Mysterious Traveler. Ironically, we'll be celebrating it by blogging for clients' blogs — evidence, perhaps, of too much success!

The blog has had 995 posts in five years, and will hit the 1000th post sometime in June.

The blog's most popular page continues to be the Waring Ice Cream Parlor machine instructions. Check out the comments!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

At the market and at the movies

I started the day by dashing down to the farmers market. Got fresh cow's milk mozzarella that tasted like very large-curd cottage cheese (expensive large-curd cottage cheese), a nice bouquet of rainbow chard, two very esoteric tomato plants, and a dish of fresh mint chocolate chip ice cream.

After the market, Zorg and I went to the Jewelbox (a tiny theater inside a bar on Second Avenue) to see the film "Ordinary Angels" by Todd Downing. If you like "Heroes," chances are you'd enjoy this well-cast indie film; it's presented as a documentary about the final days of contemporary angels on earth.

Unfortunately, it was the middle film of a group of three, and the first film was simply ghastly — a bit of black humor that would have been amusing for 30 seconds but was pure torture for the several minutes it persisted.

When we returned from our artistic interlude, I planted the five tomato plants purchased from various sources over the past week, along with two tomato plants that grew from last year's seeds. The back yard beds are full of heads of lettuce and strawberry plants. I think I'm almost done for the season, except for some basil.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Chaos level back to normal

My mother's plane landed late Tuesday night. Her luggage failed to appear, but we spotted it in the unclaimed luggage area — it had arrived several hours earlier. That was fortunate, as quite a few of her fellow travelers on the delayed flight from Dallas discovered their luggage had languished on the tarmac in the rain for many hours before being loaded onto a plane for Seattle. One woman pulled her bag off the carousel, unzipped it, and what looked like the contents of a washing machine in mid cycle poured out. Murmuring sympathetic phrases, we grabbed our (dry) luggage and dashed for the car.

I dropped my mom at her condo in Edmonds, where we'd already delivered her freshly detailed car, and she appears to be settling in quite well.

Wednesday night my cousins from Baltimore were in town and we had them over for dinner, along with my mom.

Thursday and Friday I refocused on client projects, of which there are many, but still room for a couple more for June. One possibility is a very exciting business-to-consumer site with a focus one of my favorite lifestyle topics. (No, not belly dancing, but just as colorful). Stay tuned.

The cool, gray weather this weekend has really got me down. I walked to many of the Sunset Hill yard sales yesterday while Zorg was out cycling (a car + bike operation). My friend Tom came over to watch Heroes (nominated for a Hugo this year), and last night Zorg and I continued our watching of the Harry Potter films.

Today I did trailer park yoga and the spent the rest of the day writing while Zorg went out and did two more bike rides. He just got back and now I'm headed out to grocery shop before making a run up to my mom's to deliver a package that arrived here for her.

June in Seattle: Turn up the heat, please.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Fasten your seat belts

As I write this, my mother has been stuck at the Dallas airport (currently in a plane on the tarmac) for six hours.

The site Flightstats.com is allowing me to monitor the situation as it deteriorates. I've been making periodic phone calls to Zorg as we reconfigure the schedule for picking my mom up this afternoon/evening when her plane arrives at SeaTac.

I have her car, and the original plan was that I would to pick her up and drive her to her condo Edmonds, where Zorg would pick me up in time to drop me at my dance rehearsal in Fremont.

With the plane delayed, it soon became apparent I'd miss the rehearsal, meaning I'd need to attend tomorrow evening's rehearsal, creating a conflict with a dinner I'm supposed to be hosting tomorrow for my mom and some rarely-seen cousins who are in town for the day.

As the flight's departure time inched later, the problem shifted to Zorg having to pick me up late at night in Edmonds, when he needs to get up tomorrow at the crack of dawn for a bike ride. We've now shifted things around so that he'll come home early, we'll take both cars to Edmonds, leave her car there, drive back home, drop him off, and I'll take his car to my dance rehearsal, then rush from the rehearsal down to Sea-Tac to get my poor mother.

The summer is off to great start.

Checking Flightstats.com, I see that the plane is now delayed another 30 minutes, meaning I can take my time on the way down to Sea-Tac after the rehearsal.

My mother, who started traveling at 4 a.m. Seattle time, is going to be berserk. I'll bet she'll have talked American Airlines into giving her a free round-trip ticket; if they're smart, they'll buy her one on a different airline.

Folklife, now tea

It's midnight. I'm sitting at my desk sipping a fabulous cup of Yorkshire Gold tea (amazed that I managed, somehow, to make it 24 hours without a cup of tea) while Zoe eats my last arrowroot biscuit. She missed me during Folklife, and has been bringing me stuffed mice all evening.

I said at the start of Folklife that it was going to be the least dramatic Folklife weekend on record. Since my 24-year record at Folklife includes one divorce, several severe migraines, a lost car, a screaming fight on my lawn at 2 a.m., a couple of bizarre house-guest incidents, and one ghost sighting, that was a pretty ambitious prediction. And, as it turned out, spectacularly wrong: For the first time in Folklife's 27-year history, there was an episode of violence and an arrest.

But, from my personal viewpoint, the prediction was right: No big drama. I did, however, get to introduce quite a few of my favorite people to each other, and encountered several folks from my far, distant past, almost all of whom I was delighted to see.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Chicken feathers and tales of Folklife

"What side of a chicken has more feathers?" Bob McQuillen asked me this morning as the early risers at Folklife milled about the Harrison Street entrance, unloading instruments and gulping coffee. I was working the first greeter shift, and pianist McQuillen, in town from New Hampshire, was already entertaining.

"The north side?" I guessed.

He gave me points for trying, but the answer was: "The outside."

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Folklife weekend

I'm heading off to Folklife tomorrow morning for my 24th year at the festival. I've volunteered all 24 years, performed (with Nonesuch English Country Dance) for a half-dozen years, and was even on the board for a few years in the early '90s.

If you are a visitor to Folklife, three things will amaze:
• The breadth and depth of the performances, particularly the ones on the indoor stages.
• The fact that all the performances (with the exception of one benefit concert) are free.
• All the opportunities to jump in and participate — at the Roadhouse dance hall and the Center House dance venue, and at dozens of small specialty workshops.

As a volunteer, what amazes me year after year is the way the festival runs itself, with the vast majority of the work being done by experienced volunteers. The Folklife staff plans the event in meticulous detail (see photo, above) but when the festival goes live, their work becomes coordination of the volunteers, who are out there emcee-ing the stages, manning the info booths, asking for donations at the entrances, and performing on the stages.

Folklife is an organizational wonder.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Not yer daddy's square dance

The (mostly) Monday night square dance with The Tallboys is back at the Tractor Tavern (which a few of us old timers still think of as The New Melody Tavern). It's a great time, and I heartily encourage you to attend, keeping in mind that it's not quite the way we remember it.

Square dancing to Southern style music has swept through the Seattle folk dance scene periodically since the 1970s, and the Tractor's Monday Night Square Dance is the manifestation of the latest square dance craze.

It's loose, it's fast, and it's very old-timey — no smooth New England quadrille influences here. And it's extremely physical and active, in part because the people doing it are in their 20s and 30s.

Get a taste of this style when The Tallboys play for dancing in the Folklife Roadhouse 9-10 p.m. Friday.

Monday, May 19, 2008

They're grey, not green

Renee's Home and Garden in Bellingham is selling a 10'-high space ship and 10 little grey aliens. Spaceship seats seven — perfect for your next garden party.

You have no idea how tempted I am...

Meditations on cats, present and past

I've been sick with the flu for much of the past week, and spent a lot of time with our cats. Well, perhaps not much more time than usual, but instead of trying to get them to quit pawing at me and meowing to be let in and out and in and out, I paid attention to them.

Though tiny Kaylee still looks and moves like a kitten, she is beginning to show some signs of common sense. She has also recently become a bit more affectionate. Sitting still for more than a few seconds has always been a problem for her, but now she seems to be able to sit on a lap and have her head scratched for a minute or so. Oddly, in view of this, Kaylee is very good companion when I'm sick. If I run a fever, she is on me like glue. We've had cats like this before, that just "take over" when someone is significantly ill, and then wander off to resume an aloof lifestyle as soon as the owner recovers.

Large-tabby Zoe, who is perfect happy throwing her 13 pounds of fur and apparently un-retractable claws directly across my chest and going immediately to sleep, doesn't seem to differentiate between sick owners and healthy ones. They're all nice to sleep on.

Sheba, whose deafness contributes to her feline self-centeredness, didn't seem particularly concerned that I was sick. She snored right through some particularly miserable episodes.

But I noticed that instead of yowling and knocking things off the furniture to wake me up at the usual time, all three of the cats slept in when I did.

As the weather gets warmer, the tabbies are starting to refuse to come in at night. Sometimes one comes in, and in my sleepy and increasingly inept attempts to capture the one out on the patio, I let the captured one of the pair out again and have to start all over.

I was up quite a bit in the middle of the night this week. One night I found myself in the kitchen with the cats (they were hoping for a handout) and glanced out the glass door at the back garden. Suddenly a big fat raccoon ambled up the back stairs onto the little porch and put its nose against the door. Zoe hissed and whined. The raccoon was unimpressed. I walked over to the door, and it remained unimpressed. I think it was looking past me at the cat food bowls in the kitchen. It's probably going to report to its clan that they should try back in the afternoon when I'm out gardening and tend to eave the door open.

The lawn went unmowed much of the week (until Zorg got into gear on Sunday) and the tabbies were hiding in the long grass like lions, and springing out at each other. Sheba, being bright white, has no illusions about being able to hide in greenery.

This led us to think back on poor Socks, a big long-haired tabby we had at the old house in Wallingford. In Wallingford, we lived next to "the house" on the block — you know, the type of run-down, overgrown place with six cars that you'll find on most older North Seattle streets. The owner of the house (actually, the owner's black sheep son) went months, perhaps years, without mowing. The local cats, possums and raccoons (mice? voles?) had created a network of paths through the back yard. When we put a second floor on our house, we gained an aerial view of the feline Ho Chi Minh Trail and amused ourselves picking out the various cats hiding in the foliage.

One afternoon Zorg looked out the window of the upstairs office and panicked. The lawn had been mowed to a stubble, and what appeared to be the dead body of a cat — Socks — was in the middle of it. He grabbed binoculars and saw it truly was Socks. But when he rushed out the back door and into the neighbor's yard, he realized Socks was alive and perfectly fine — at least physically. Socks was laying out there in the sun because he thought he was still hiding; he was too dim to understand the implications of the grass being gone.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

One tough day

Everything today was just a bit tougher than I thought it needed to be.

Recovering from one illness, I got hit with a touch of something else.

It seemed like everyone I tried to lean on for balance (and I rarely do that) was out of town, heading out of town, coming down with something or just wasn't answering the phone.

In short, I had some reality experiences I could have done without.

But I made it through. I delivered proofreading work to a client, gave an adequate training session at Folklife, made tapioca, and got some writing done.

And summer is finally coming. It still feels cool to me, but the cats know. They don't want to come in at night when I call them!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

House guest, entertain thyself!

I'm not wild about out-of-town guests of the tourist variety.

Friends who are in town for business (such as our musician friends) are more my style—they have transportation, agendas, and plenty to do. Plus invites for us to all the best parties.

It's the ones who bounce in to breakfast and chirp brightly "Well, what are we all going to do today?" who strike fear into my heart. My cruise-director skills are...negligible.

So I want to thank the Seattle Times for today's brilliant article listing dozens of inexpensive tours and sights for out-of-town visitors of every age and interest. The article also lists how many hours you can expect to have the guests out of your hair while they are on each tour, for instance:"


They get: To see the harbor, see the sky, see the wildlife swimming by — from Elliott Bay into Lake Union via the Ballard Locks on an Argosy cruise; 206-623-1445 or www.argosycruises.com/publiccruises/locks.cfm.You get: 2.5 hours, more if they're stopped by the feds for a random safety inspection.

Oh, where was this guide when I really needed it 15 years ago?

Friday, May 09, 2008

Is a kitty looking for you?

Purrfect Pals is having their Average Joe Cat Show, which includes adoptions, tomorrow (Saturday) in Shoreline. Details here. This is an agency that goes to great lengths to match cats to your home environment to assure a successful placement.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

What a great day!

I got up this morning, put on gardening clothes, and rushed out to work on the front garden. Zorg went off bicycling. There was plenty of time to wander from task to task, giving the Japanese maple its "Farrah Fawcett" haircut (the layered look) and training a winter groundcover.

After I was sufficiently blissed out, I got out the tools and wrestled with the second of the two nightmarish cast-iron chairs, assembling it with the better-quality hardware I'd purchased after my melt-down with chair #1. So, the chairs are done and there's a place for us to sit out front when you drop by for iced tea this summer.

Zorg returned from his bike ride, and John came over to go to the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance first annual Oyster Roast. I changed clothes, and we headed down to the event at the Golden Gardens bathhouse. The beach was just packed with people.

The oyster event is a nice mix of folks concerned about the local marine environment and folks interested in...oysters. They served oysters, roasted and raw. Actually, the raw oysters were better than raw. They were alive. One of the experts showed us how to shuck a few. I found it helped quite a bit to do the shucking standing up, holding the oyster steady on the table while twisting the knife to pop the shell. There were a few self-inflicted stabbings at our table; we decided that the Tabasco sauce was a good way to treat the damage.

One of the beverages at the feast was the Firesteed Pinot Gris that was such a smash at the oyster event at Anthony's Homeport last year. It's one of the most full-bodied and flavorful white wines I have ever tasted.

Got back from the oyster event with plenty of daylight remaining, so went back to gardening. I edged the lawn with the weed-eater for the first time this year, and a neighbor and his hulking teenage son came over to help me reassemble the concrete bench that had been in the front yard in its new position in the back yard. Then I removed grass to expand the shade garden, and then got to work on the ground cover in what will be the tomato garden. By this time, I was dashing around in the dark. I had dirt in my Keens, dirt in my hair, and grass clippings on my glasses. Wonderful!

I got in around 9 p.m. and now I'm starving. I'd kill for a chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting. Too bad Verite doesn't deliver.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Getting surly about name-calling

[NOTE: Names have been changed for reasons that will become obvious.]

I belong to an online group of women who share an interest in the arts and are involved with local arts activities. Discussion is allowed to go off-topic, and it's not uncommon for people to share tips on insurance agents, contractors, and such.

Recently a woman asked for a recommendation for a shoe repair person, and one of the replies referred to a local craftsman as "Surly Bob." The writer went on to vent her unhappiness with his "vibe" and his "shoddy" craftsmanship, which she did not describe in any detail. Several messages later, another woman chimed in describing "Surly Bob's" refusal to take on a repair job that involved a creative idea she'd dreamed up. A third woman later mailed the list to ask for the address of "Surly Bob" so she could "be sure to avoid" him—as if he were roaming the streets, snatching women's shoes off and repairing them ungraciously.

This really pissed me off.

I know the shoe repair person in question, am a highly satisfied repeat customer, and am also aware of the many contributions he has made to the neighboring business community. He does have a somewhat ironic sense of humor, but he'd pretty much have to. I've seen women (sorry, it's always women) rush into his shop, stand in line impatiently rolling their eyes and exhaling like yaks on a cold morning, and then ask him to do things like take off the three-inch skinny high heels from one pair of shoes and attach them onto a pair of flat sandals. To which he is likely to respond "You're kidding, right?"

Oh, and they want it done like this afternoon.

I think what truly discouraged me about the "Surly Bob" discussion on the online list was that the woman who started the name calling is herself a businessperson. One who did a less-than-impressive piece of work for me several years ago.

Now if the gals in the online group had been discussing local artists, or local fine woodworkers, and they didn't like someone, they might have made some negative remarks about the person's pricing, or workmanship, or attitude. But they wouldn't have labeled someone who makes $5,000 buffets "Cranky Joe."

The labeling and name calling reveal a pathetic lady-of-the-manor attitude on the part of these college-educated women toward a working class man—even though the working class business person may have a far higher-grossing, more profitable, and more demanding business than anything they've ever run.

I'm disgusted. I'm disappointed. I'm not posting my views to the list because I have never once seen any of these women disagree with each other on the list. Either it's simply not done, or perhaps the moderator just vaporizes any posts that might make someone reach for their smelling salts.

Meanwhile, my shoe repair person has a highly successful business with a wait list of work nearly one month out. Somehow, I don't think the mesdames in the list will have any trouble "avoiding" him. Though they may want to avoid me.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


I have been avoiding blogging this week in part because I'm doing a lot of blog-like writing for paying clients. Which is very exciting because that's the sector of my business I want most to develop. Yahoo! Whoopee!

But I'm also avoiding blogging on this personal blog because I just can't stand to admit that I have yet another cold-type thing that starts as a sore throat and then is characterized by an annoying little cough that gets worse as the day goes on. There's no fever, and very little congestion. And Zorg observes that it doesn't even seem to be contagious.

Deciding that perhaps I erred with the first two bouts of this in March by trying to ignore them, I gave this third one my full attention. I spent one entire afternoon in bed. I have been taking Zicam (some kind of homeopathic cold remedy) every six hours, eating raw garlic every six hours, and taking half a hydrocodone or something similar every six hours. The hydrocodone is the only thing that suppresses the cough, and I'm pretty much immune to any drowsiness from it.

I have drunk gallons of chicken soup and tea. Zorg has fetched me hot and sour soup and dumplings with incendiary ginger-garlic sauce from Fu Man Dumpling (this is now his favorite food, as well as mine). I have done slow yoga.

I am slowly getting better, coughing less, and fully expect to be able to do a bit of dancing at the World Rhythm Festival this weekend. But I am really fed up with this bug. Yes, I know it's nothing in comparison with real health problems I've had in the past or with some of the serious injuries friends of mine are currently dealing with, but...three rounds of this in two months? What is it?

(For the record: Yes, I had my tonsils out. When I was 29. Ouch.)