Saturday, December 27, 2008

Snow Angels


Jake doesn't quite have the concept, but he does his best:


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Photo of the Week - 12/18

Snow in Pioneer Square around 8 am today. Nice to know I can still drive in snow.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Driving (in) Snow

It's snowing here in Seattle, and it's beautiful:


My sweetie, however, is a California girl, so our second winter in God's Country, I gave her three rules for driving in snow. I thought I'd pass them on, to lessen the chance that someone injures me in the next few days.

  1. Make no sudden moves. This has a lot of corollaries: give yourself extra time to get where you're going; pay more attention to what's going on, so you can stop more gradually.
  2. Don't stop on a hill. Sometimes this means altering your route to avoid hills. When I was a kid, we lived on badly-built hill that forked half way up, with the right branch sloping, so people who drove on the right inevitably slipped to the right, they'd stop, try to start back up, and slip back into the crook of the branch, and we'd have to get out and push them out. When I learned to drive, I drove up that hill on the left, with a prayer.
  3. If you start to skid, steer toward where you want to go. When I was growing up, front-wheel drive was a New Thing, and folks made it sound like it was different for front-wheel than for rear-wheel drive. It's not. They just tell it to you differently ("steer into the skid", which confuses people).

That's it.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Photo of the Week

I took this shot back in 2005 at the tower on Mt. Constitution, on Orcas Island, and I love the shapes and shadows. I was reminded of it a couple times in the past two weeks, once in the Bainbridge Arts and Crafts gallery, and once by a beautiful photo from an artist at the Ballard Market, who also exhibits at the Wallingford Varsity Inn, whose name I unfortunately no longer remember.


Friday, November 28, 2008

Photo of the Week

I kept having Caddyshack flashbacks as I watched this little booger pop up, grab some grass, and disappear. Jake thought he almost got him when we walked past later, and I'll not tell him different...


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Photo of the Week

My boy, Jake, at the beach, running on a wing and a prayer, as always...


Friday, November 14, 2008

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Greenspan is Shocked, Shocked!

I was listening to the radio today, and had the "pleasure" of listening repeatedly to Alan Greenspan's testimony to Congress about how his ideology / world view seemed to have a flaw in it. How he was "shocked" that absent regulation, the bankers would so betray their shareholders as to get into a pickle with credit-default swaps and other instruments and endanger the livelihood of their institutions.

Are all economists this stupid? First the whole nonsense about trickle-down economics, when a giraffe could tell you that if consumer spending has been what's buoyed the economy for the past umpteen years, through the dot-com burst and other travails, then you're best off ensuring the masses keep more of their money, rather than letting the rich trade money as they gamble in the stock market. Now this eminent banker is stunned that people who make their money by engaging in risky behavior, and who never actually suffer the consequences of their company getting into trouble ("thanks for the retention bonus, Mr. Bankruptcy Judge!"), would do anything else?

The corporate liability shield is what will destroy this world: people who direct the companies should absolutely be held liable for what they direct their companies to do. No one will take a chance? Maybe that'd be better. People would act properly if they knew they'd pay for acting improperly.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Photo of the Week

This week we have Alice, seeking to prove that any photo can be improved if you just include a cat in it:

Friday, October 03, 2008

Photo of the Week

This is Sophie. I've got a total love-hate relationship with this cat. She's gotten me so mad I've injured myself. Believe me, this picture lies.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Interesting Commentary on White Privilege

This is a different category of white privilege than mine, I think. Interesting commentary from a guy named Tim Wise that my sister sent me and my sweetie found online.

Photo of the Week

Moonrise at Gasworks

Friday, September 12, 2008

Holes I Have Known

They come
into your life
by chance?
by luck?
by design?
I can't tell.
They cuddle, and frolic,
and work their way deep
into your life.
So when they go
they leave a hole
that never fills.
You just learn
to walk around it.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Island Time

Island time is marked
by the horn on the ferry.
As I sit on my butt,
on my back
on my front
on the water, in my kayak
without a watch, or a phone, or a care,
and the day spins away
with the osprey and the gulls,
the horn intercedes
every hour
telling all who will listen
that it's too late
to get off of this rock.
Better luck next time.

Photo of the Week

Well, ok. So maybe not "week". Or at least, not a week on this planet. I will not be discouraged.

 I like photos that tell a story, especially when it's one from ordinary life, like this one.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Photo of the Week

I'm conducting an experiment. On myself. Each week, I'm going to post at least one photo I've worked on recently. Every week. At least one. We'll see how it goes.

One of the things I love about our fishing shack is the abundance of wildlife, and the usually peaceful space it occupies (except, of course on the 4th of July). Sometimes it gets a little racy:

Usually, though it's beautiful. There are deer walking across the harbor at low tide. A seal comes in a few times a year. A family or convocation of otters haul out on our neighbors' docks. Bald eagles soar and dive, with their "entourage" of starlings, crows, finches, and an occasional hummingbird. My favorite, though, is the pair of osprey that nest high up in a cedar tree behind our house. My brother, the avid ornithologist, had been telling me about how osprey and eagles sometimes tangle, and last June, they did just that. In front of my house:

Yes, the eagle is flying upside down. No animals were harmed in the production of this photo.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Death is Taxing

I was telling a friend recently that death is a magical, though haunting, thing. I've never had to deal with violent death, and actually have only limited experience with humans dying in my life — I've been to only one funeral so far — but there are 8 urns in my house with what's left of 6 cats and 2 dogs, all of whom I loved very much, and each of them died so differently.

Bob was my first. She was my first critter, as an adult, and she died when she was 8. Lymphoma. Survived for 18 months on chemo. Went downhill fast. She was such a bad-ass. We had a bittersweet final day together, hanging out in the backyard in the sun. She went and sat under her geraniums, while I sat on the grass and talked to her. Late in the afternoon I was lying on the grass and she came out and, with difficulty, got on my chest. We lay there for a little while. Eventually I bundled her up, and we went to the vet, where they gave her two drugs to put her down. She was peaceful as she left, except at the very end, when she gave a loud gasp as her brain stem took over trying to live. It haunts me to this day.

Harry was next. A big sweet lug of a dog. Bernese mountain dog + australian shepherd, we think. He'd been with us less than two years. He'd been reluctant to jump up into the truck for a couple weeks, and we finally took him to see the specialists in San Leandro. His abdomen was distended, and turned out he had a few liters of blood in there. He had hemangiosarcoma. Cancer of the blood vessels. They operated on him to take out his spleen, which was a mess and had been leaking blood. Shortly after, he bled out of his liver while we were back at home having picked up my brother and his family from the airport and settled them in. We'd been at the vet's all day. They called at midnight to tell us he was having trouble and wasn't likely to make it. I've never driven so fast nor run so many red lights and stop signs. We got there just in time to see him off. It was the night before thanksgiving.

8 months later, Rosie died. While we'd been away for a week, she hadn't been eating. Important note: cats that don't eat for 72 hours are in great danger of developing hepatic lipdosis — their body starts turning their liver into fat. Hard to recover from. Took her to those specialists in San Leandro. They wanted to biopsy her liver to confirm, and to be safe they tested her blood to make sure she had enough clotting factors of the kind the liver uses. Put her under, did the biopsy, and put in a nasogastric tube so I could force her to eat (she'd been carefully throwing up her appetite-stimulant pills, and I'm really good at pilling cats). She was still out of it when they brought her out to me, but she had to go home because the specialists were transitioning to the emergency medicine people. Her nose was dripping a little blood from the stitches that held the tube in place. On the way home she was flopping around in her carrier. I thought it was because of the anesthetic wearing off. Bob had done that when they'd done the exploratory surgery to confirm the cancer. As I was on the phone with a vet nurse friend trying to figure out how to put the food down the tube, I realized Rosie wasn't breathing. Another mad dash to San Leandro, but she was gone before we got there. I can still hear her flopping around, though mostly I remember her alive. She was just 4 years old.

Madelyn died a year later. She was 15. We knew it was coming. Didn't make it any easier. She'd been getting thinner and weaker for a while. On The Day, she tried to get out of the yard, but I wouldn't let her. We took her upstairs to bed, laid out a towel. Lit some candles. Talked to her, petted her. Her systems began to fail. She was scared. We did what we could to reassure her. Got a box so she could be in a smaller space. Cuddled her. She couldn't move much. Around 4am she sat up, scratched her ear, did this odd forward stretch with her forepaws in the air in front of her. Brought her paws together in a slow-motion clap. Then she lay back down. Shortly after, she stopped breathing. 5 minutes later, her heart stopped. Letting go is hard.

Amanda and Sammantha, Madelyn's girls, died about 10 months apart. Amanda ended up in my office, curled up in a corner. She lasted through the night, with us on the floor. When she started seizing, we called the vet. No final gasp, just a cessation of seizing. Sammantha wasn't feeling well through the day, then she got up on the couch and curled up. We called our friend Annie at 1, and she, bless her, came over and gave Sam a single injection. Sam never moved, and we put her in a basket still curled up.

That was 2002. Jake came near death that year, but happily the next death wasn't until 2007 when Max died.

That brings us to July 17, the day that Ferghal died. This one was hard, because he clearly wasn't ready to go, and we weren't ready to be without him. He was 13, and getting wobbly. He'd had a series of what we assume to be strokes, but had recovered from each of them, but each time not quite to where he'd been. His last week he'd had trouble walking. We bought a wagon to take him down to where he usually did his business. On the Monday, he rallied and, stubborn pup that he was, insisted on walking around a lot. He got massive edema in his foreleg as a result, which we managed to get down through heat, range of motion exercises, and other things. But he didn't take many steps after that. Wednesday we took him for chiropractic and acupuncture, and he wasn't looking good. I carried him everywhere. Wednesday night it was clear what path his body was taking, though he protested. We lay on the living room floor with him, with candles lit. He lay on his side, and had regular full-body spasms that would last maybe 3 seconds for a contraction, after which he would bark in protest. This went on for a couple hours. He wasn't eating. He was in distress. But whenever one of us got up and went somewhere, he lifted his head a little to follow us. It was clear where this was going, but our sweet vet, who would come to the house to give him acupuncture, wasn't prepared for this, so there was nothing we could do to help him along where he was refusing to go. We were absolutely not going to bundle him into a car so he could be put down, when he wanted to be with us. So we stayed together, on the floor, all of us fitfully dozing between protests. Finally at 11 another sweet vet was able to come. Even though he didn't want to go, his body wasn't giving him any choice, so we said our goodbyes, and the vet gave him something that rapidly put him to sleep, then stopped his heart. After a few minutes, his bladder sphincter relaxed, but we had a towel ready (had had one by him since the night before). It still hurts.

I suspect when the time comes, I will be like Ferghal: not ready to go, and fighting it all the way. I started a poem last year, which I may finish some time, about envying the dead of Hiroshima, but I think the process of dying is important. It's the inverse of birth, but like it in many ways: a painful and magical transition. Several people I've talked to about these experiences have said the loss is why they don't have pets. The loss, though, is the price of all the joy. I don't know why the world is set up so all good things must end, and nothing good happens without a price, but that's the way it is. For all the joy and love they've brought me, I'm willing to pay the death tax.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy F****** "Birthday"

I used to enjoy July 4th. When I was growing up, the Regent Street Neighborhood Association held a little parade over by the high school, and my father and brothers and sister and I would march in it in the band. My brother and I played the kazoo, if I remember right, and my dad would always play the big bass drum. We'd get together at a neighbor's house a couple times before the parade to "rehearse". Good times.

That was before I took on some dogs who have issues with fireworks. One runs around the house (inside or outside, and I do mean runs around the house) barking madly, while the other quivers and shakes. A third dog has started being scared of the banging too. Living on Bainbridge Island doesn't help, because we're near the Suquamish reservation, which means miles upon miles of fireworks for sale. (Now the local Ace Hardware store has gotten into the act, hosting a fireworks stand for four days. Not helpful. Not hardware, man.)

So these days I have this to say about July 4th: how very fucking apropos that we celebrate the marketing, not the achievement, of independence, and we do it with crap that was invented in China. Bite me.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

It's the little things that count

When I was in philosophy class in high school, I was assigned the Determinism side of the Free Will vs Determinism argument, and argued it well enough to get some of my classmates really upset. I'm a big believer in Free Will, but there are small things that happen in our lives that can radically alter the trajectory of our lives, and it really makes me wonder. Let me give you three examples of insignificant things that happened in my life, my father's life and his father's life, without which I certainly wouldn't be who I am today, as I likely wouldn't exist.

Let's start with the squeaky hinge in the hospital room of my mother's grandmother. She was in the hospital for a check up and the squeak was really annoying. My father's mother worked in the hospital, and her father owned a hardware store, so she knew how to fix things like squeaky hinges. Now it happens that at the time, she was looking for a place to stay. She got to talking with my mother's grandmother, who it also happened had a room for rent in her house. You see where this is going.

My mother's father played the cello, sometimes with my father's father. My father's mother and my mother's father I believe had started some sort of relationship when he went off to America, as part of the all-Germans-aren't-so-bad tour following WWI, where he met my mother's mother and got engaged. They came back for a visit, and clearly the relationship with my father's mother was going nowhere, but my father's father's first wife had recently left him with two kids, and my father's mother decided to marry my father's father instead.

My dad is the 7th of 8 kids, and at some point was on a train with his father when they passed Hamburg. It was the middle of the night, when my dad should have been asleep, but he and his father were both awake as they passed a factory outside of town. My grandfather told my dad that the factory belonged to Uncle Otto, my mother's uncle, and my dad filed this away. A number of years later, my dad finds himself in Hamburg, having decided not to go back to East Germany. He's got no job, and no place to live, but he remembers Otto and his factory. He goes to the factory looking for Otto, but Otto isn't there. The foreman decides to have pity on him and gives my dad Otto's home address. He goes there, but Otto isn't home. His wife, however, is charmed and says he should stay for dinner, which he does, and shortly thereafter is working in Otto's tire factory.

At some point, Otto's niece Matilda comes to town, and Otto asks my dad to show her around. He does this, and is smitten. They get engaged some time after this and he comes to America, sponsored by Otto's brother (my mother's father, who went to America all those years ago).

As for me, I owe my marriage and current life to a quarter. My sweetie and I met in a production of Much Ado About Nothing (she was Hero, I was Claudio; it was like Romeo and Juliet, but flakier and without the death), for which she would not have auditioned if the quarter to decide between auditioning and going to Fiddler on the Roof had come down the other way.

So, don't sweat the small things. Just know that you never know which one will send you down the rabbit hole. (and I mean that in a good way, sweetie :)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Ode to Fur

(to the tune of Carry on My Wayward Son)

Go away you wayward hair
What you doing in my ear?
Gonna pluck you out of there.
Don't you grow no more!

What is it about age = increased fur? At the same time your eyes are getting weaker, you're expected to focus on little (sometimes not-so-little) hairs growing out of your ears? It's not like there's any depth perception possible, either. For my money, this is proof that there is no god, or there's no reason to worship him/her.