Friday, February 23, 2007

Seward Park in February

These pictures are from a walk I took two weeks ago with Chloe. It was that productive Saturday--I rode my bike 6 miles to make my muscles remember how to do it, walked with Chloe around the 2.5-mile Seward Park loop trail, did a bunch of laundry, did some errands, and had a friend over for a movie in the evening.

I'd only been to Seward Park once before, so I enjoyed walking Chloe around the loop. We meandered around on a forest trail first. A true Northwest girl, I do love walking in the dim stillness beneath a damp green canopy. I love the smell of earth, the tiny lush spikes of moss on a stump, pale mushrooms quietly sprouting out of leaf mould. We saw plenty of all that.

We also saw several of these; I assume they fell on December 14.

We soon found our way back to the paved road that loops around the peninsula of the park. There were plenty of other people out enjoying the dry day. Next time I think we'll stick to the forest trails and avoid most of the people. Not that we had problems with the people, but it's nice to have a quiet walk too. I sort of miss being close to Discovery Park.

We stopped before leaving the park to pay homage to the Mountain.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


This was the character from Od Magic that I wished to learn more about:

She was quite tall, almost a giant, barefoot and big-boned as an ox. Her long hair, a mingling of ivory cloud and smoke, swept nearly to her ankles. Nothing in her broad, weathered face had passed anywhere near the realm of beauty. It looked plain and durable and ageless, like a good shovel or cauldron. Her long mouth lifted to one side in a friendly smile as Brenden stared at her. Any number of animals seemed to be crawling over her. Mice peered from one shoulder; a raven with a missing claw perched on the other. Lizards clung to her hair. A ferret stuck its head out of her cloak pocket. A great albino ox with a broken horn stood at a polite distance behind her...It carried an owl on its unbroken horn. A few mongrels, feral cats, and an old blind she-wolf sat waiting behind the ox.

"Brenden Vetch?" the stranger said in her rough, vigorous voice. Brenden nodded wordlessly. No on in his life had ever needed to ask before. The giant's eyes were gray as oysters, and as wrinkled around the edges. Gazing at them, Brenden remembered, very suddenly, what layers and depths a human eye could hold. In that moment he saw what those eyes saw: not a wind-gnarled tree or a weathered stone, but a young man who had mislaid himself...

She sat down on the ground beside him, carefully trailing her cloak across the grass so that stray mice or lizards would not get squashed. "My name is Od. I heard you are good with plants."

--Od Magic, by Patricia McKillip

"A bunch of people who haven't yet managed to keep the lights on."

Too true to forget, from Atrios:

Even if in some platonic plane of reality partitioning Iraq is the correct thing to do, in our blinkered reality George Bush and his merry gang of morons are still in charge of things. And "helping people relocate" (translation: forcing them to relocate) would be a massive operation, fraught with chaos and violence, overseen by a bunch of people who haven't yet managed to keep the lights on.
Of course, for "partitioning Iraq" you can substitute anything--reforming education, addressing health care, preparing for disasters. However wonderful the idea, however lofty the goal, however profound the inspiration, this crew WILL screw it up. They don't seem to know that the devil is in the details, and they always let that devil escape--whoopsie, there he goes again--to dance chaotically through the ruined shrapnel of whatever dreams they were trying to harvest.

For the love of civilization, no matter what a beautiful road trip they may invite you on, stop giving them the keys to the car.

Too lazy to do aught but list

Things that make me happy:

1. Seeing a gentleman by the name of Ishmael Beah read excerpts from his book and answer questions at the U Village Starbucks last night. As an adolescent in Sierra Leone, Beah was forced into the conflict there; his book is apparently (I haven't read it) an account of that experience and the process of rehabilitation that helped him, in his words, "regain his humanity." The excerpts he read aloud made me want to get the book myself (library, Thel, wait for the library to get it...). Unfortunately the event itself was pretty ill-planned. I guess Starbucks is sponsoring part of his book tour, so they had the reading in the Starbucks--but they seemed to think they could also just have business as usual. So there were a hundred or 150 people trying to smash into this Starbucks to hear Ishmael Beah speak, but at the same time other people were plowing through the crowd to get their Starbucks fix. In fact, during Beah's reading someone must have ordered a Frappucino, and the blender's grinding all but drowned out his voice. Still, Beah had some really interesting points to make about effective responses in the aftermath of conflicts such as Sierra Leone's, and it was a pleasure to be able to go out and hear him on a random Tuesday night.

2. Listening to Lily Allen's CD Smile. I heard "LDN" on the radio a year ago (? Last summer? In Greenwood, anyway, so sometime before October) and liked it; it's a catchy, summery little ditty, and it features a couplet that rhymes "Tesco" with "al fresco," which delights me no end. The whole CD is like that, catchy and boppy and hooky and fun without effort. (No need to look up the meaning of a word like "fontanelles" when listening to this one.) Hey, I like a little ear candy now and then. It's the kind of album that makes me want to cut my hair short, dye it an outrageous color, go out dancing every Friday night, get a tattoo, and learn to play drums. Come to think of it, why haven't I done any of those things?

3. Realizing that it's already Wednesday. Thanks, Presidents' Day!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Beautiful Day

Yesterday's sunshine gave me the incentive to try the round-trip bike ride to work. I rode up along Lake Washington, through the arboretum, and up the hill to work. It was about twenty miles round trip and I'm a wee bit sore today, since I hadn't ridden at all between about October and February.

There's one stretch of Lake Washington Boulevard, less than 2 miles from work, that switchbacks up the hillside above the lake. I dreaded it the whole ride there, thinking, "Well, maybe I'll turn around at the base of the switchbacks." But when I got there I just slowly rolled up without any trouble. At that point I knew I'd be able to make it the rest of the way to work, and I couldn't contain a triumphant grin as I panted along the flat road at the top. A little elderly woman walking her dog next to the road must have seen my proud smile, because she gave me an enormous grin and yelled, "You go, girl!" I felt like a superstah.

Then on the way home, after a break and a snack at work, I had more of a deflating experience. There's a long downhill stretch south of Seward Park and I was enjoying the cruise, rolling along about 23 mph. A glance in my mirror revealed a spandex-clad gang of bikers coming up behind me, so I made sure I was as far to the right of the lane as possible, which I already was. As the pretend peloton came whooshing around me, one guy yelled out, "So you wanna get in the way, huh?"

Stunned, I took a second to flood full of anger and yell back, "So you wanna be a jackass, huh?" A glance over revealed the shiny spandex uniforms of the Husky Cycling Team--the current moron crop of these fine folks, apparently. Still angry, I shouted at the last one to straggle past me, "Spandex assholes!"

My own street intersected the boulevard then, so I turned off and didn't see them again. And I had to make a conscious decision not to carry the anger with me for the rest of the ride--it had been such a lovely ride, and I was so proud of my accomplishment, and then these idiots came along and nearly spoiled the whole experience. I mean, really? A Lance wannabe riding FOUR ABREAST down a two-lane road wanted to get snippy at ME for being in his way?

I'd love to pretend I'm just above it all, and I did manage to hang onto my memory of the elderly woman's encouragement more than the frustration that ended the ride. But I have to say that it just seems pretty damn typical of a lot of the bicyclists around here. Self-righteous, angry, arrogant--check, check, check. They talk and talk about how more people should turn to bicycles as a transportation option, about how healthy it is for people and the planet--and that's all true. But God forbid you actually follow their advice unless you already have a prime cycling physique, because you might get in their way, they might have to go around you, you might cost them a precious three seconds as they pass you. They're just as crazy and impatient as the idiots in cars who come perilously close to hitting the cyclists they pass, and I don't want to be associated with them.

It's funny: on my way out the door that morning I'd said to Mr. Thel, "I'm sure the spandex gangs will be out in force on Lake Washington Boulevard today." And he laughed, but also started to explain that spandex is not necessarily a sign of an ego-heavy idiot cyclist, that it's actually just the appropriate gear to wear for that activity. I know, I said, but I still don't really have any desire to obtain any, just because I don't want to be mistaken for one of those ultra-serious competitive types who ride out four or five abreast, getting irritated when any other bike or vehicle clogs up "their" route. God forbid the chubby chick riding a mountain bike should dare to attempt such a lofty activity.

OK, that's enough of that: I want to ride my bike to work more often, and I'm not about to let a bunch of scrawny pipsqueaks think their snackholes will intimidate me. I'll just start carrying my pepper spray in a more handy pocket. Careful which chubby chick you hassle next time, peloton.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Flashback to summer


I randomly stumbled across this blog post today, reviewing a book review. (How many layers of meta-commentary is that?)

It's interesting to me because I ran into the same problem a few years back, although I didn't express it nearly as succinctly as Bethany does here:

Why doesn't the reading of the bible that leads to an egalitarian view of gender necessarily lead us to re-read the bible with an eye toward accepting those of other sexual orientations?
I'm not even sure how to identify my faith anymore, so I don't know why I remain so fascinated by Christian theology, but there it is--I still am! I'm interested in the thoughts of people who are genuinely trying to explore their faith as a living reality, not as an artifact that must be preserved on ice in perpetuity. Sometimes I wish Shannon would just post homework assignments on her blog for my edification, for that very reason.

(I liked this post as well, especially Jimmy's comment.)

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Paperwork Pariah

There are whole days when I find it utterly impossible to deal with reality.

I don’t even mean that I shy away from the gruesome reality of the world. Poverty, disease, war, cruelty, death—I have whole days when I’m overwhelmed by those realities.

But what gets to me just as frequently is my apparent inability to function correctly as an adult. Paperwork gets lost, and I don’t have a copy to confirm whether I did it in the first place. A form is required, and I can’t figure out how to complete it. Payments get made late, mail gets returned incorrectly, and suddenly my errors are compounded, additional paperwork or payments required to correct my initial omission.

Nothing fills me with more self-pity and obnoxious despair, let me tell you, than the sinking realization that I’ve screwed up in paperwork yet again. I feel like I’m stuck in Brazil sometimes. I feel lost in a maze of stacks of forms, all alike.

And nobody else seems to have this problem. Other people just get things done and I envy them more for that than for any amount of their money or talent.

Talking about it makes me feel even more pathetically inadequate. It makes me feel like a bad, irresponsible member of society. (Have I stolen, killed, sold drugs? No, but I neglected to file form 420531 with the Department of Vehicle Licensing. Clearly I am a danger to myself and others.)

Oddly enough, my increasing neurosis about death tends to balance out my despair about paperwork. Usually thinking I WILL DIE SOMEDAY makes my brain start gibbering. But it does help put my stupid inadequacy with paperwork in perspective. I might bumble along, a scoundrel in the eyes of the scrupulous clerks at the Department of Licensing, paying late fees and fines for forms I didn’t do correctly or at all—but hey, at least I’m still alive to do it!

And that’s how I feel today. Bitter and inadequate, but glad I’m alive nonetheless.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

G. G. and Ellie Rose

My grandma has this bad-ass walker that she uses these days to get around. It has a seat so she can stop for a breather when she needs one, and it's got these big rubber traction tires. I call it her off-road walker.

On Christmas Eve her great-granddaughter Ellie was perched on the seat of the walker watching some of the festivities, and Grandma (or G. G., as Ellie and Ruth call her, for Great Grandma) started wheeling her slowly around the living room, to the surprise of us all. Ellie sat very still, craning her neck around and staring with wide eyes as she traversed the room, then grinned at Grandma with pure delight at being in motion.

Monday, February 05, 2007

The Sagan Diary

Hey, looks like I'll be getting a present in the mail this week! John Scalzi's "The Sagan Diary" is in the mail, or will be shortly.

I've been reading Scalzi's blog "Whatever" for a few years, and although I'm not really the target audience for science fiction I've really enjoyed his writing. Old Man's War, his debut novel, and its sequel The Ghost Brigades are both excellent--both fairly quick reads, so well-plotted that I found myself flying through them, but with a lot of thought-provoking content to mull over as well. I may just re-read both of them before The Sagan Diary to refresh my memory. I like a book that can teach me something new about the universe and make me think harder about my place in it, without bogging down into plotless exposition.

Huh, come to think of it, maybe I *am* part of the target audience for science fiction.

Anyway, when Scalzi announced that folks who preordered the limited edition of "The Sagan Diary" would be able to play a tiny role in the book, I couldn't resist. So Mr. Thel, who has also enjoyed Scalzi's books, has his name "added into the book itself on a special "In Memoriam" page as a member of 3rd Platoon, Company D, whose fate will play a role "The Sagan Diary." Mr. Thel, at last consenting to be immortalized in print by an author he likes? Well, yes, technically. Let's not start worrying about the paparazzi yet, though.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

vale atque ave

Forgive me for the paucity of posts around here.

My friend and co-worker passed away on January 7th, just a few months shy of his 60th birthday. The next night about 50 people gathered in the chapel built in memory of his father and had a wake. It wasn't a memorial service; it wasn't a service at all. One of the church's pastors said a few words to open and to close the evening, but in between it was just a simple, beautiful wake. People took turns standing up where they were and telling a story about him. We shared tears and belly laughs, sometimes within the same story. It was the most perfect way of honoring a person's life that I've ever been privileged to take part in.

A lifelong scholar, my friend would have been glad to know I've been reading a surprising amount so far this year (up to 9 books already!), considering that I've also still been slowly unpacking or organizing things here and there. We still need to put pictures on the walls, get new window treatments, and other odds and ends, but it's starting to feel like home. It's certainly more comfortable than living in another person's house, amidst all her pictures.

Here are a couple of blurry shots of the living room before and after:

It's nice to start to feel more settled. We're so lucky I can hardly stand it.

I think I've found the fastest commute route for me, which happens to also be the prettiest way. Every morning I drive along Lake Washington almost all the way, tendrils of fog curling up from the lake in the dawn light. It's lovely and peaceful, and it feels like a totally different city somehow, like a quiet lakefront town somewhere faraway. (It may just be the smell of all that money wafting around the multimillion-dollar homes along the lakeshore. Oops, I beg your pardon, my cynicism is showing!)

I stopped Friday morning in a little park to try to capture a glimpse of the serenity that seeps into me during that morning drive:

The only way to make this commute better will be to start biking it. I need to get my helmet out of storage and practice it first, since my bike ride used to be about 6.5 miles one way, and this one is closer to 10 or 11. I know I can do it, I just need to get on and prove it to myself. And then every morning and every evening will truly feel like a vacation, and I will have a healthy exercised glow. It will go well with the flush of self-righteousness which I will also no doubt acquire.