Saturday, September 05, 2009

Home improvement lesson #2,549,876

Ripping up carpet is hot, dirty work.

It is, however, fairly straightforward and quick.

The obnoxious parts are:

1. removing all the staples used to secure the carpet pad
2. removing the tack strip used to secure the carpet

Removing the staples isn't too hard, except that it can be challenging to find all of them.

Removing the tack strip has involved lots of cursing.

And while I am very happy that the exposed wood floor is in good shape (so far!), there are a few things that I have learned in these past few hours:

1. the dogs nailed need to be trimmed.
2. A dark wood floor is very cozy but it does make the house look darker. That's a bit of a bummer because it is already pretty dark.

Um, that's supposed to be "roll OVER"

Thursday, August 27, 2009

and how was your day?

6:00--alarm goes off. I shut it off and fall immediately back asleep (unintentionally)
8:00--Oscar wakes me up
8:01--realize I'm screwed because I have a meeting at 9:15 and don't think I'm going to make it there in time (yay, long commute!)
8:05--call 9:15 meeting coordinator, tell her I'm going to be a few minutes late
9:10--get call from meeting coordinator to check my computer for the conference call number.
9:15--arrive at building, boot computer
9:15:30 go to break room to get a cup of coffee while computer boots up
9:16--all three coffee pots are empty. Curse out loud and seriously consider leaving a passive-aggressive note
9:17--10:00--conference call meeting in which I try to mediate a conflict sans caffeine
10:00-12:00--mandatory employee meeting, wistfully think of all the work that I have to do and am glad that this is the last meeting of the day and have the whole afternoon to work on my deliverables
(11:45--remember that a regularly scheduled bi-weekly meeting has now been rescheduled to occur weekly and that it starts immediately after this one.)
12:00--grab Tootsie roll pop from receptionist candy jar. Lunch!
1:30-1:35--attempt to eat lunch
1:35-2:00--"Lee, do you have a minute for a question?"
3:00-3:30--follow-up meeting to previous meeting
3:30-4:00--meeting with engineer to clarify some design issues
4:00-4:30--sit in office, slightly dazed and wondering how I am going to get all my work done. Realize that the only way to do this is to spend most of the weekend at the office, putting in unpaid overtime, and try not to lose temper.
4:30-4:35--write approximately one paragraph before realizing I need more information from engineer from the 3:30 meeting
4:35-4:45--feel bad about bothering the guy again but I make it quick
4:45-4:46--type up one sentence
4:46--slump in chair and wonder how I am going to make it until 7pm, which is how late I had planned to work
4:47--say "frak it" and decide to leave at 5, my regularly scheduled end-of-shift.
4:47-4:55--watch clock
4:55-5:20--"Lee, do you have a moment for a question?"
5:20--flee the office and go to pub

Monday, August 17, 2009

Quote of the Day

"I need you to be more clear about what I'm supposed to be vague about."

--an actual comment by a colleague delivered without a trace of irony during a meeting today. The scary thing is that this comment actually made sense in context!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A story in three photos

Chick on left: "something's missing, but I can't quite put my finger on it..."
Chick in middle: "if I keep smiling, no one will notice."
Chick on right: "There is it is! Give it back!"

photos from

Sunday, August 09, 2009

garden harvest

Today's harvest: purple Romanesco beans and two Rocky Hybrid cucumbers (yes, they are full-sized at 3 inches long) from my garden, and five Roma tomatoes and one volunteer tomato from Oscar's garden.  Salad and steamed beans for dinner! :D

Still no cherry toms from my garden, although some are starting to turn. I also hacked off about two cubic feet of extra branches. This plant is now taller than I am.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

more pics of Sam

This boy loved to be held, but this is one the very few times I let him climb up (mostly because he could never figure out where to put his back feet. In this pic, his foot is hooked into my bra which was really uncomfortable!) You can tell here that he wasn't a very large dog; I don't think he weighed even 50 lbs (20 kg).
His favorite place to be...on your lap, with his head on your shoulder.
Second favorite activity after hugging...sitting on lap, covering your face in doggie kisses. (Yes, I learned very quickly to take off my glasses when he climbed on my lap.)

Checking out the world...well, the back yard anyway.

So the story behind Sam's death is very sad. I was having trouble leash training him because he got so excited when he saw another dog and very frustrated if he couldn't go over to say hi. He was not dog aggressive at all, even the folks from the rescue group whom I asked to help said the same thing. "Leash frustration, not leash aggression." 

However, it was decided that he needed a more experience trainer than I to evaluate him and so he went to spend a week with a professional trainer and he was signed up for a Pit Bull specific class at a local dog training center. (Between the first and second classes, Sam was with the trainer.) After the second class, the leader of the rescue group said he needed to stay longer with the trainer, so he couldn't come home with Oscar that day. (I didn't make it to class because I was working.) 

The next day, the leader of the rescue called me and said that she'd decided that Sam had too many issues and had him euthanized. 

I was heartbroken and spent most of the afternoon crying. And I was furious because she didn't even let me and Oscar know that this was a possibility. Was it a question of resources? I would have been happy to pay for training (and Oscar talked to the trainer, who said she was willing to continue working with him. She didn't think he was a lost cause. She also said that she refused to foster for that group because of their ridiculously high standards.) 

I know that Sam was technically their dog and was told at the very beginning that if a dog didn't meet their standards, euthanization was a possibility. But seriously, most dogs I've known have had more issues than Sam, regardless of breed. Hell, even my own dogs wouldn't meet their standards--Seamus because he can be dog aggressive and be possessive of his toys (only to other dogs, not to people). And Kate, sweet, lovable Kate, is a ferocious defender of territory, and if she's in the front yard will bark fiercely at anyone who walks in front of the house. All these behaviors are no-nos for them.

tomato harvest 2009, part 1

Growing tomatoes is always a bit of a crapshoot here in the Pacific Northwest, since the summer weather can be really unpredictable. There are several varieties specifically bred for this climate; that is, they tend to be smaller, have shorter growing seasons, and don't need a lot of heat to ripen. Even so, this is not a guarantee of anything. These toms just increase your chances of eating a vine-ripened tom. Last year, for example, was a terrible year for toms because it was cold and rainy for most of the summer. In contrast, the weather this year has been so hot and dry that you could probably get brandywines without any trouble. 

It's good to know a lot of recipes for using green tomatoes if you are a gardener in the Pacific Northwest. ( toms can be substituted for any recipe calling for tomatillos.)

This year I planted currant and cherry tomatoes. As you can probably guess, these are small tomatoes with a short growing season. In addition, the currant tomato was supposedly a good container plant. I say "supposedly" because I planted it in a container using the same mix that's in my raised bed and the currant tomato is a really unhappy looking plant. In contrast, the cherry tomato is about about as tall as I am (and I've been pruning this sucker back pretty aggressively too!), and is loaded with fruit which are finally starting to turn red. 

This morning I was able to harvest some currant tomatoes. This photo represents about half of the fruit on the plant:

(Seamus doesn't know what's in my hand but he wants to know if he can have some anyway.)

Despite actually yielding fruit, the currant tomato was not a success. First all, I expected a hell of a lot more tomatoes than a handful. Second, they had a weird texture--very leathery skin, and since they are so small, they have a very high skin ratio. Third, and most importantly--they aren't very flavorful. They are as bland a supermarket tomato in winter. Maybe this is due to the health of the plant and if the plant were happier, perhaps the tomatoes would be tastier. But I am a laissez-faire gardener. I will provide a raised bed, water, and a good soil mix and then expect a plant to produce under those conditions. I know enough not to plant a sun-loving plant in shade and expect good results.  But I'm not going to coddle the plant. If a plant does not thrive under the conditions I can provide, then I'll just plant something else. 

Sunday, August 02, 2009


Goodbye, Samuel T. Pibble. 
I miss you terribly. 

Saturday, August 01, 2009

I'm so disappointed in the president

Of all the incredible beers to chose from, he selects Bud Light? 

Bud Light?????

Ok, incredibly smart guy, but man, does he have bad taste in beer. 

returning to normalcy, more or less

Ok, the oppressive heat wave seems to have broken. Now it is just "regular" summer hot. And possible to sleep again.

The other night, I took a shower and then sat out on the porch trying to keep cool. It didn't work. It was a day of record-breaking heat (104 F [40 c] here in T-town), approximately 70% humidity, and no frakkin' breeze. Even a hot breeze would have been welcome. I had dog hair sticking to the sweat on my bare skin and my hair curled up into a giant ball. I swear, it looked like I had a tumbleweed on my head. bah.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Several days of heat. Today it is 104F (40C). I swear it's nearly as hot inside the house. 

I think I'm going to brave the packs of Giant Raccoons that hangs out in the alley and sleep out in the backyard tonight.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

more random photos

view from the 32nd floor of the building I work in. Qwest field is in the left background, and the Port of Seattle is on the right. I love watching the cranes.
The "employee health center" at my office. Although I work for a state agency, I am co-located in a consultant's office and this is what they provide their employees. It's a stark difference than the first aid kits at the agency offices, in which great and passionate arguments arose about what kind of first-aid kit to supply. By law, the office must have a first aid kit, but so many of them come with aspirin or other mild pain relievers and apparently, we aren't allowed to "buy drugs with taxpayer money." So, if you are in an agency office, you are covered if you get a compound fracture, split an artery, or have a heart attack (there are defibrillators on each floor), but if you have a headache or cut your finger, you are on your own.

Contrast that to the consultant's cabinet, in which there are six different types of pain reliever, three types of throat lozenges, cold/flu/sinus medicine, eye drops, antibiotic cream, iodine and alcohol wipes, burn cream, several sizes of bandages for minor cuts, anti-diarrheal medicine, tablets for upset stomach, antacids, and many others. (They do not have anything to counter nausea. I guess they figure if you feel like throwing up, then go home.)
I love that someone decided to plant vegetables in an empty spot in an otherwise "professionally landscaped" area next to a building. Here are some beans.
And tomatoes.  First Hill, Seattle
Got pie? First Hill, Seattle

This is not my bike, but college classmates may remember that I painted my bike a similar color. Pioneer Square, Seattle

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Male knitting population increased by two

Here's Mr Softball working on his scarf. He caught on really quickly. Did four rows all by himself.

No, Mr Softball is not in agony. He's laughing at someone's comment. To his right is Alpaca Boy, who was a more typical beginning (meaning every knit stitch was accompanied by a lot of swearing).

And yes, I kept my end of the bargain. I played softball that evening. 

Friday, July 17, 2009

Let's make a deal...

In spring, young men's thoughts turn to love; but in summer, the young men's thoughts turn to softball. 

And, my goodness, do they really want to play softball. There are office leagues within the Agency-That-I-Work-For, but all the costs come out of the players pockets. Although the ATIWF does not support the players financially, it still provides the rules: 

1. Slow Pitch softball
2. May not play during working hours
3. There must be at least three women on the team and at least two in the field during each inning.

And when you work in an office when the men outnumber the women by, um, about 12:1, you suddenly get very, very popular. (Guys I didn't even know existed were emailing me asking me to join their office league. You see, the project that I'm working on is an Agency project, but most of the people working on it are consultants. And there are about six different consultants, each with their own leagues. Dear god.)

Well, I ignored all the requests except from one of my colleagues in the ATIWF, because he's a nice guy and most importantly, he did not call me a girl. (You want a girl to play softball with you? Then recruit from an elementary school.)

So I signed up, but told him I am as flaky as a croissant and not to be surprised if I backed out. His response? "Hmmm, I'll put you down as tentative."

Well, true to (my) form, I decided I didn't want to spent several nights in Renton playing double-headers, so I informed my colleague that I was dropping out. His response? "No, you can't. I won't allow it. Please, don't." Apparently, just about every other women who had signed up had also backed out that day. I reminded him that it was tentative anyway. 

But he was glum. 

Apparently, my defection brought the team's estrogen level below critical levels.

I felt kinda bad (not too much) but later I spied an opportunity. I'd make him a deal. A devilish deal.

The next day, I told him that I'd play softball if he'd let me teach him to knit. On game days, he had to join me at lunchtime, out on the patio (i.e. IN PUBLIC!), and knit. He knits, I play. He doesn't knit, I don't play. He was a bit startled by my offer but it didn't take too long for him to realize that his love of softball was greater than his fear of knitting, and he agreed.

So yesterday, we went to So Much Yarn during lunch, accompanied by another (female) colleague who wants to learn, as well as a male colleague who already does knit (!), and one other male colleague who thought we were going to Pike Place Market.

In the shop, I told the story to the owner and she laughed. KnitBoy raised his arms in victory and all the women in the shop cheered. 

Now, the funny thing was that when the guy who just tagged along found out we were going to a yarn shop, he started to complain (in a joking way). But when we got to the shop, he was transfixed. Yarn shops and yarn projects run the gamut from lowkey to elegant, and SMY is definitely on the elegant end of the scale. He was transfixed by all the sample scarves--"wow! you can make these?" and while he was standing around waiting for the others to make their purchases, I snuck up behind him* with a skein of baby alpaca/merino wool blend and rubbed it against his neck.

If you've ever touched alpaca, you know how silky soft it is. Baby alpaca is even more dreamy. My colleague turned around with a look of wonder on his face and asked "I can make something that soft?" "Yes." "I want to learn how to knit!" 

And he bought the yarn and some needles, too. And he's full of enthusiasm to make a scarf out of that baby alpaca/wool yarn.

And while I am as pleased as punch that I am increasing the world's male knitting population by two, I am a bit bummed they both chose the same yarn and the same color--gray. 

*This is the reason Oscar does not like to accompany me in yarn shops anymore. He keeps complaining that everything itches and I really have a hard time believing that, so I wait until his back his turned and then shove a soft (to me) skein of yarn down his neck, asking "Is that scratchy?" I have since come to the conclusion that he is allergic to everything except luxury fibers.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Friday, June 26, 2009

Object in Mirror...

Art Imitates Life

During season 2 of Battlestar Galactica, Admiral Kane revealed her secret for swift, effective meetings: remove all the chairs. People don't like standing for long periods of time, and so no one was willing to prolong a meeting unnecessarily. 

I am tempted to implement this in my job. Sadly, I am not a meeting organizer. I am quite possibly the lowest rung of the authority ladder; in fact, I don't even get to sit around the table during the project management meetings (I get one of the peripheral chairs).

Last Thursday was my Day of Meetings: straight from 11:30 to 3pm. They are usually torture but this week, I thought they went very, very well. Very productive. Decisions made. Clarifications. 

(Note to person who suffered the embarrassment of having their cell phone go off during the meeting. You may not have noticed that I was not one of those people making a face nor doing a goofy chair dance because you'd set your ringtone to "Ice Ice Baby". This is because a few weeks earlier, I--a person who NEVER gets phone calls*--got a phone call during the project management meeting. And my ringtone is "Hate to Say I Told You So" by the Hives. And it's set really loud. So I empathize. Still, "Ice Ice Baby"?)

*Seriously, about 95% of my cellphone use is playing Sudoku, and about 4% is taking photos. I really don't use my cellphone as a "phone" much at all.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Round six

I am determined not to let a ball of string win. I hunted down the missing ball, and found it oh so cleverly hiding in one of the bags I use for carrying around socks in progress. But it wasn't in the bag where the rest of its brethren was stashed. See what I mean by clever?

Round 4: Tried Lindsay from Cookie A's Sock Innovation. The lace pattern was coming along quite well but try as I might, the set up row looked really weird. I checked the errata and there were none for this pattern, so either it is a yet-unidentified-by-publisher-errata or else my left-handed/backward/mirror knitting style has frakked me up again. But the frakkin' pattern is symmetrical, so it shouldn't matter if it's knitted from the left or the right. This is one of the reasons I chose this pattern! I lost sleep over this stupid thing. How did I screw up the set-up row? Why doesn't it line up with the lace pattern? Frog.

Round 5: Bluebell lace from Sensational Knitted Socks. Pattern came along fine. I just didn't like the way it looked. Frog.

Round 6: Waving Lace Socks from Favorite Socks (this is actually the pattern featured on the book's cover). Another lace pattern with a lovely scalloped trim. So far, everything seems to be going all right. Sock looks to be the right size. No errors in the pattern. Lace pattern is challenging enough to keep my interest but simple enough to be easily memorized. All balls of yarn are accounted for. 

Wish me luck. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

string vs. human

I bought some very lovely Nature's Palette yarn from my LYS with the plan to make some socks for me. I've used this yarn before and it makes very nice socks.

However, after working with it for a bit, I realized the color wasn't quite "me" (too pink) and so I decided to make a pair of socks for a friend, who does like this color. 

First try: I cast on Diamond Gansey socks from Socks from the Toe Up. Great pattern--looked good with the yarn, easily memorized, and interesting to knit. However, by the time I'd halfway finished the first sock, I realized the sock looked a bit big, so I tried it on and found out it was waaaaayyyyy too wide. I doubt my friend has a foot with a 13" circumference, so I frogged it. 

Second try: smaller sized needles and tried the Oriel pattern from my favorite sock book, Sensational Knitted Socks. I've wanted to make this pattern for awhile because it's very pretty but I usually knit socks during my commute, and a 28 row, lace pattern seemed a bit challenging for commuter knitting. However, after starting it, I realized the pattern was very regular and fairly intuitive and I probably didn't need to bring a copy of the pattern with me. So I happily knitted on the way to work, following the "regular and intuitive" pattern and all was well until I realized I'd totally screwed up and ended up with about 10 more stitches than I needed and couldn't find out where I'd screwed up.  Frog and try another pattern.
Third try: I was very intrigued by Outside In in the latest Knitty, even though the pattern calls for it to be knit from the cuff down. (I prefer to knit from the toe up, because if I run out of yarn, I end up with a wearable sock with a shorter leg than I wanted instead of a sock without toes.) Most sock patterns can be converted from cuff down to toe up without too much trouble but this sock has an unusual heel construction so I decided to follow the pattern as written. Generally, I use 64 stitches per round when making adult socks using the size needle and type of yarn I'd chosen, but this pattern said 64 stitches around was small and narrow. I figured that was an error (sadly, errors are very common in knitting patterns) and cast on using 64 stitches. It is a ribbing pattern, after all, and ribbing is very stretchy. I knit past the heel and the yarn I was using broke. The skein had been joined from separate skeins (not uncommon) so now I had two roughly equally sized balls of yarn. No big deal. It just meant one more end to weave in at the end. So I knit a bit more and then decided to try it on was too frakkin' small. I couldn't even get it over my heel. And then I found out something about's stretchy in the perpendicular direction to the rib orientation. Vertical ribbing stretches horizontally. But this pattern produced ribbing on a diagonal, which is still very stretchy except that legs don't stretch that direction. Frog. Try to think of friend with really narrow feet I could give this to, so I wouldn't have to admit defeat.
5.  Starting to think that this yarn does not want to be socks and then berate myself for thinking that I am being directed by an inanimate object. Have trouble sleeping that night because I keep thinking about the stupid sock.
6. Next day, cast on the largest size (80 stitches) and run out of cast on yarn at 70 stitches. Rip out and try again.
7. Pull out longer tail of yarn, cast on and run out at 78 stitches. Curse. Rip out and try again.
8. Pull out an ungodly amount of yarn, successfully cast on 80 stitches and start knitting. I'd finished the cuff and was halfway through the first pattern repeat when I figured out that I'd screwed up somewhere and now had 88 stitches. Curse.
9. Get another ball of yarn and start making a different pattern for my friend's socks.
10. Decide that I am not going to be bested by 50 frakkin' grams of superwash wool so I get another pair of needles to start these socks again. And discover that one of the little balls has disappeared, so now I don't have enough yarn to make a pair of socks. 

I admit defeat. The yarn has won.

adventures in refinancing

Oscar and I are trying to refinance our mortgage. We have two, actually. 75% primary mortgage and 25% second balloon mortgage. When we bought our house, this was the best deal (I thought) because I could make the payments under these terms and not have to depend on either getting a 20% raise or having the house value increase dramatically. Also the other mortgage types we were offers were either interest only or variable rate, neither of which I wanted. (Now I think I would have been better off with a variable interest rate mortgage and refinancing because I can only refinance the primary mortgage and at least the variable rate loan would have been the "primary" and only mortgage loan. Oh well, live and learn.)

(Still, given the housing and mortgage loan disaster, I think my choice was prudent at the time. I didn't want to enter into any deal that I knew I couldn't handle given my current situation.)

So anyway...I spoke with a mortgage consultant at our credit union and I took today off work to meet her in her office, since the office that specialized in Pierce county was located in Lakewood, which is south of Tacoma. (Going into work would have involved a 3 hour commute for four hours of work, so I decided to use some of that hard-earned exchange time that the agency gives me since they won't pay me overtime.) So Oscar and I drove down to Lakewood, which is the most confusing town I have ever been in. There's no real center and the main streets just kind of wander around and criss-cross each other and I always get lost when I go there. I swear it's just a random collection of strip malls, clusters of cheap hotels ($155 weekly rates!), and rundown houses that have just kind of grown together. 

We did finally find the credit union office, waited for our mortgage counsellor who told us a few things: 
1. The last two comparable homes that sold in our neighborhood (based on square footage of the house) sold for $168,000 and $55,000, which she said "tells her absolutely nothing about the market value of your home". 

2. we qualify for the government's Home Affordable Refinance program but we need to talk to the holder of our primary mortgage to find out (in our case, it's Wells Fargo Bank). From what I understand, if we qualify and WF agrees, they can lower our interest rate without going through the hassle of refinancing and having to pay those associated costs. So she suggested that before trying to refinance through the credit union. (That is good advice, but I still wonder why I had to take a day off work to meet with someone face to face for some basic information that could have been done over the phone.)

3. On the way home, I called WF to get some more information about this program and as soon as I entered my mortgage loan number, a pre-recorded pleasant female voice said "your loan qualifies for the Home Affordable Refinance program. Please check our website for more information."

4. Now, this is one of my biggest frakkin' peeves. If I could easily access your frakkin' website for information, why the frak would I bother calling you?

5. Upon arriving at said abode, I typed in for information and after poking around, I found the section on this program which informed me "For more information about your eligibility for the Home Affordable Refinance Program, speak with a local Home Mortgage Consultant."

6. Of course, this is what I was trying to do when I called the damn customer service number.

7. Irritated, I try to figure out the closest Wells Fargo branch to my house and then I realize that I probably don't need to meet with someone in Tacoma to adjust my loan rates. So I decide to find one close to the office so at least I don't have to miss too much work. I type in my work zipcode and as soon as the results come up, I literally smack my head with my hand. 

8. Why? In my irritation, I forgot that I work in the building in downtown Seattle called "The Wells Fargo Building" and the closest branch to my office is in the lobby of the building. Which I walk past at least four times a day.

Monday, June 08, 2009


The pen may be mightier than the sword...

but NOTHING strikes fear into the hearts of engineers like a well-used red pencil. 

I have the power!! Bwah-hah-hah-hah!!!!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Why economics aren't rational

Here's an interesting article from a NYTimes economics reporter who got caught up in the sub-prime meltdown. And, boy, does he meltdown. He doesn't ask for pity, but he is trying to figure out how he, Someone Who Should Have Known Better, got suckered.

Abandon hope, all who enter here

I received the letter the other day. 

I've been officially transfered permanently to the Highway to Hell project and my old workgroup and job has been dissolved. 

Man, it was much easier to push myself when I thought I was only going to be there until October. 

But there are some really great things about this new position. 

The best thing is that I work with an awesome team, truly the cream of the crop. The best bit is that while each of has our "assigned" roles based on our official job descriptions, we truly work as a team because we see what needs to be done and then we divvy the work up based on who wants to do what. "River" is an E1 (engineering grade, level 1) and he's doing some E3 work. I'm an E4 and I'm doing some E1 and E2 work. I don't care, and neither does River. The same with everyone else too. (The agency does have limits on this sort of thing...since River is union, I can't force him to work "above his station" for long periods of time without extra compensation. It's very common for people to get a 6 month temporary promotion, especially in times like now when there are hiring freezes. One of the guys I used to work with was "temporarily" promoted to E3 for two straight years, until a permanent E3 position became available.)  

Besides, River is an extraordinary worker--he's talented, capable, laid-back, and an all-around nice guy. I need to be on his good side; he'll probably be my boss someday. 

This good thing is balanced by a bad thing. While my team of agency folks is incredibly flexible, the consultant people I work with really aren't. They are under the impression that working on Contract Provisions is my main focus (indeed, that was the reason I was originally brought over here for), but I'm not exaggerating too much when I say that I spend approximately 0.05 hour a week working on Contract Provisions and about 55 hours a week working on Engineering Design approval. Why? Because the five other members of my agency team are also working on Contract Provisions and no one else is working on Engineering Design approval (although River does help me out when I request it). 

You see, while Contract Provision are indescribably important (after all, it's merely the documents which tell a contractor what to build), with deadlines, the process has a built-in revision process, which extends 16 weeks after the contract has been advertised. However, engineering Design approval has a much firmer deadline (you might even call it a Deadline). If this isn't done no later than three weeks before the project is advertised, the contract doesn't get advertised at all. You see, without design approval, the construction funding won't be released, and a project without available construction funding won't be advertised. (Which makes sense. It'd be like telling someone you were going to hire them but there isn't any money to pay their salary.)

Sunday, May 31, 2009

"You are brilliant, and the earth is hiring."

"You are brilliant, and the earth is hiring."

-Paul Hawken, University of Portland, May 3rd, 2009

The Commencement Address to the Class of 2009, University of Portland,
May 3rd, 2009 - By Paul Hawken

When I was invited to give this speech, I was asked if I could give a
simple short talk that was "direct, naked, taut, honest, passionate,
lean, shivering, startling, and graceful." Boy, no pressure there.

But let's begin with the startling part. Hey, Class of 2009: you are
going to have to figure out what it means to be a human being on earth
at a time when every living system is declining, and the rate of decline
is accelerating. Kind of a mind-boggling situation - but not one
peer-reviewed paper published in the last thirty years can refute that

Basically, the earth needs a new operating system, you are the
programmers, and we need it within a few decades.

This planet came with a set of operating instructions, but we seem to
have misplaced them. Important rules like don't poison the water, soil,
or air, and don't let the earth get overcrowded, and don't touch the
thermostat have been broken. Buckminster Fuller said that spaceship
earth was so ingeniously designed that no one has a clue that we are on
one, flying through the universe at a million miles per hour, with no
need for seatbelts, lots of room in coach, and really good food - but
all that is changing.

There is invisible writing on the back of the diploma you will receive,
and in case you didn't bring lemon juice to decode it, I can tell you
couldn't afford to send any recruiters or limos to your school. It sent
you rain, sunsets, ripe cherries, night blooming jasmine, and that
unbelievably cute person you are dating. Take the hint. And here's the
deal: Forget that this task of planet-saving is not possible in the time

Don't be put off by people who know what is not possible. Do what needs
to be done, and check to see if it was impossible only after you are

When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer
is always the same: If you look at the science about what is happening
on earth and aren't pessimistic, you don't understand data. But if you
meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of
the poor, and you aren't optimistic, you haven't got a pulse. What I see
everywhere in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair,
power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of
grace, justice, and beauty to this world. The poet Adrienne Rich wrote,
"So much has been destroyed I have cast my lot with those who, age after
age, perversely, with no extraordinary power, reconstitute the world."
There could be no better description. Humanity is coalescing. It is
reconstituting the world, and the action is taking place in schoolrooms,
farms, jungles, villages, campuses, companies, refuge camps, deserts,
fisheries, and slums.

You join a multitude of caring people. No one knows how many groups and
organizations are working on the most salient issues of our day: climate
change, poverty, deforestation, peace, water, hunger, conservation,
human rights, and more. This is the largest movement the world has ever

Rather than control, it seeks connection. Rather than dominance, it
strives to disperse concentrations of power. Like Mercy Corps, it works
behind the scenes and gets the job done. Large as it is, no one knows
the true size of this movement. It provides hope, support, and meaning
to billions of people in the world. Its clout resides in idea, not in
force. It is made up of teachers, children, peasants, businesspeople,
rappers, organic farmers, nuns, artists, government workers, fisherfolk,
engineers, students, incorrigible writers, weeping Muslims, concerned
mothers, poets, doctors without borders, grieving Christians, street
musicians, the President of the United States of America, and as the
writer David James Duncan would say, the Creator, the One who loves us
all in such a huge way.

There is a rabbinical teaching that says if the world is ending and the
Messiah arrives, first plant a tree, and then see if the story is true.
Inspiration is not garnered from the litanies of what may befall us; it
resides in humanity's willingness to restore, redress, reform, rebuild,
recover, reimagine, and reconsider. "One day you finally knew what you
had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their
bad advice," is Mary Oliver's description of moving away from the
profane toward a deep sense of connectedness to the living world.

Millions of people are working on behalf of strangers, even if the
evening news is usually about the death of strangers. This kindness of
strangers has religious, even mythic origins, and very specific
eighteenth-century roots.

Abolitionists were the first people to create a national and global
movement to defend the rights of those they did not know. Until that
time, no group had filed a grievance except on behalf of itself. The
founders of this movement were largely unknown - Granville Clark, Thomas
Clarkson, Josiah Wedgwood - and their goal was ridiculous on the face of
it: at that time three out of four people in the world were enslaved.

Enslaving each other was what human beings had done for ages. And the
abolitionist movement was greeted with incredulity. Conservative
spokesmen ridiculed the abolitionists as liberals, progressives,
do-gooders, meddlers, and activists. They were told they would ruin the
economy and drive England into poverty. But for the first time in
history a group of people organized themselves to help people they would
never know, from whom they would never receive direct or indirect
benefit.. And today tens of millions of people do this every day. It is
called the world of non-profits, civil society, schools, social
entrepreneurship, and non-governmental organizations, of companies who
place social and environmental justice at the top of their strategic
goals. The scope and scale of this effort is unparalleled in history.

The living world is not "out there" somewhere, but in your heart. What
do we know about life? In the words of biologist Janine Benyus, life
creates the conditions that are conducive to life. I can think of no
better motto for a future economy. We have tens of thousands of
abandoned homes without people and tens of thousands of abandoned people
without homes. We have failed bankers advising failed regulators on how
to save failed assets. Think about this: we are the only species on this
planet without full employment. Brilliant. We have an economy that tells
us that it is cheaper to destroy earth in real time than to renew,
restore, and sustain it. You can print money to bail out a bank but you
can't print life to bail out a planet. At present we are stealing the
future, selling it in the present, and calling it gross domestic
product. We can just as easily have an economy that is based on healing
the future instead of stealing it. We can either create assets for the
future or take the assets of the future. One is called restoration and
the other exploitation. And whenever we exploit the earth we exploit
people and cause untold suffering. Working for the earth is not a way to
get rich, it is a way to be rich.

The first living cell came into being nearly 40 million centuries ago,
and its direct descendants are in all of our bloodstreams. Literally you
are breathing molecules this very second that were inhaled by Moses,
Mother Teresa, and Bono. We are vastly interconnected. Our fates are

We are here because the dream of every cell is to become two cells. In
each of you are one quadrillion cells, 90 percent of which are not human
cells. Your body is a community, and without those other microorganisms
you would perish in hours. Each human cell has 400 billion molecules
conducting millions of processes between trillions of atoms. The total
cellular activity in one human body is staggering: one septillion
actions at any one moment, a one with twenty-four zeros after it. In a
millisecond, our body has undergone ten times more processes than there
are stars in the universe

- exactly what Charles Darwin foretold when he said science would
discover that each living creature was a "little universe, formed of a
host of self-propagating organisms, inconceivably minute and as numerous
as the stars of heaven."

So I have two questions for you all: First, can you feel your body? Stop
for a moment. Feel your body. One septillion activities going on
simultaneously, and your body does this so well you are free to ignore
it, and wonder instead when this speech will end. Second question: who
is in charge of your body? Who is managing those molecules? Hopefully
not a political party. Life is creating the conditions that are
conducive to life inside you, just as in all of nature. What I want you
to imagine is that collectively humanity is evincing a deep innate
wisdom in coming together to heal the wounds and insults of the past.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once asked what we would do if the stars only came
out once every thousand years. No one would sleep that night, of course.
The world would become religious overnight. We would be ecstatic,
delirious, made rapturous by the glory of God. Instead the stars come
out every night, and we watch television.

This extraordinary time when we are globally aware of each other and the
multiple dangers that threaten civilization has never happened, not in a
thousand years, not in ten thousand years. Each of us is as complex and
beautiful as all the stars in the universe. We have done great things
and we have gone way off course in terms of honoring creation. You are
graduating to the most amazing, challenging, stupefying challenge ever
bequested to any generation. The generations before you failed. They
didn't stay up all night. They got distracted and lost sight of the fact
that life is a miracle every moment of your existence. Nature beckons
you to be on her side. You couldn't ask for a better boss. The most
unrealistic person in the world is the cynic, not the dreamer.
Hopefulness only makes sense when it doesn't make sense to be hopeful.

This is your century. Take it and run as if your life depends on it.

Paul Hawken is a renowned entrepreneur, visionary environmental activist,
and author of many books, most recently Blessed Unrest: Howthe Largest
Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw ItComing. He
was presented with an honorary doctorate of humane letters by University
president Father Bill Beauchamp, C.S.C., in May, when he delivered this
superb speech. Our thanks especially to Erica Linson for her help making
that moment possible.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Friday, May 22, 2009

more Sam cuteness

"I don't know why you think my ears are so funny."
"Hey, you don't mind if I crawl over from the couch to give you a kiss, do you?"

"How about it I lick your nostrils?"

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

more pictures of Sam

Sam will be up for adoption soon, so I need to get pictures while I can:
He'd like you to believe that he's a serious fellow but he's just proudly showing off his mastery of "Sit!" He is a goofy, sweet dog. Those ears crack me up.

a walk through downtown Seattle

Not the entrance to the Dragon's Lair but to the I-5 Reversible Lanes. 
First Congregational Church. This was one of Seattle oldest churches, and was used as a church until last year before the building was sold. Obviously, it's being renovated for business but I'm very pleased that the building's character remains intact.
The Seattle Public Library, designed by Rem Koolhaas. People love it or hate it. I love it. This view is from 5th Avenue. 

Water pipes on the side of the Virginia Mason Medical Center building. Reminds me of a hand.
A secret garden! The garden is a full story below street level, so you can only see it from the sidewalk. 
There are some really frakkin' steep streets in Seattle. Hope your brakes are good.

Chinese temple gate in the International District. This was built about a year ago. 

a walk through First Hill, Seattle.

Looking at the Columbia Tower from First Hill. Look, I know that skyscrapers are inherently phallic but I think this one is really goes overboard. That rounded head! That vein!

Unused red door in old stone building. 
Stone building, looking down the hill.
Two types of stone. From the second floor up the building is covered with asphalt shingles. I didn't take a photo of those. Ugly. 

Window in stone building. Notice the deep sash. 

Old brick roadway, exposed for some roadwork being done. I don't know if it is going to be covered up with asphalt again. Hope not.
First Hill is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Seattle. Narrow streets, stone buildings, and mature trees.

I-5 forms the boundary between First Hill and downtown Seattle. It doesn't physically cut off the neighborhoods; city streets and sidewalks go underneath the structure.

More camera phone pics

The view from the conference room on the 24th floor. Looking west toward Elliot Bay in Seattle.
The view looking down from the conference room on the 24th floor. Second Ave is on the left. Seattle.
I work in the Wells Fargo Building, and there's a bank branch in the lobby. Along with this half size stagecoach. Or perhaps it's a full sized replica and 19th century folks were just really short.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The soundtrack for my life

My friend Stones recently sent me a mix CD created for her and her husband's recent trip to New Mexico. I popped in my CD player at work; road trip mixes are great to listen to at work. It's a good mix, thoughtful and thematic (unlike any of my mixes which just tend to be a random glob of songs that I happen to like thrown together without any rhyme or reason.)

Anyway, after grooving out to the Talking Heads and Eagles, among others, this song came up and I collapsed in a fit of hysterical giggles. Not because the song is in anyway funny, but I have a gallows sense of humor and this song so perfectly sums up my new job:

Ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands your hands together for AC/DC's "Highway to Hell"!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Why I'm not posting much lately

This is a stack of engineering plans I'm supposed to read and comment on by, um, tomorrow. Starbucks Grande cup for scale. 

A close up with ruler. Yes, that stack of paper is nearly 7 inches (18cm) thick. 

Sunday, May 03, 2009

a random selection of pictures taken with my cell phone

Clothing is inexpensive in Tacoma! Mural in downtown Tacoma in the theater district.

The Glass sculpture in front of the Hotel Murano in downtown Tacoma. It's about 25 feet tall.

A close up. An intense green.
View from the train. This is between Sumner and Puyallup; that's Mt Rainier in the background.

View from the train. Green River, near Sumner.

Two cats squeezed into one cat bed at Next To Nature's Pet Shop in Tacoma.