Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Path to Work


One of my favorite parts of the daily commute is walking through a field (map) to get to my final destination (a nice, but windowless office). The field has a few well-worn paths through it. I'm sure in time, this field will have some more office buildings on it. The picture above was taken on a recent fall morning.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Swingers


Sour grapes you can say, but I’m tired of being ignored in the presidential election. Just because I don’t live in a “swing” state means I don't get my fair share of the campaigning attention I feel I deserve. Looking at the map included here (from Wikipedia) shows fairly dramatically how much attention and money is paid to swing states. The data is from the last 5 weeks of the 2004 election. The data comes from the site http://www.fairvote.org/presidential/?page=1677www.fairvote.org. On the map on the left each waving hand represents a visit from a presidential or vice-presidential candidate during the final five weeks of the election. On the map on the right, each dollar sign represents one million dollars spent on TV advertising by the campaigns during the same time period.
In per capita terms, the states receiving the most attention were Iowa, Ohio, and New Hampshire. In absolute time, the three states receiving the most attention were Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania. So there you are.

Door-to-Door Magazine Sales

It hasn’t happened for a while, but today I popped out front to do a little yard work and wham, a young door-to-door salesperson showed up selling magazines. You’ve heard the story, a young person trying to earn points to get a job, or scholarship, or something else. To do this, they must sell magazine subscriptions. In this case this young person whose name was Jessica and was from Texas and was working for the firm http://www.dntconnections.com/. She told me that they send “kids” like her around the country to get “experience”. Why would they spend the money (and risk) to send a single mother (she told me she was) to live in a hotel in a far away city to sell magazines doesn’t make sense to me.

Type of questions I was asked: “Are you a generous person?” and “Do you believe in second chances?” My response to both was “no”.

So, I told her I would not write a check or give money, but would consider logging on to a Web site and ordering and trying to give credit to her. The company DNT Connections exists, but you can’t order anything that I could tell. Figures.

After a little more digging (see resources below), I realized that yes, these magazine crews do go around the country and that all not all is well in this little-understood industry (i.e. deaths and exploitation). The lesson I’m coming away with is that trusting your first instinct to be very wary is okay and if you want to help people in this age bracket do it locally through other more reputable organizations. Be on the watch for emotional questions like the ones given above. It’s rehearsed.

Resources

Government site that has some good information in case you did buy and need to know your rights
http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/tmarkg/magzn.shtm

An exposé from the Portland area from two young women who spilled the beans:
http://www.portlandtribune.com/news/story.php?story_id=115501199061804400

A site dedicated to exposing this industry:
http://www.travelingsalescrews.info/mainpage.html

True stories from people who worked on magazine crews:http://www.magcrew.com/

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Frye Art Museum: Napoleon and the Egyptian Campaign

Engraving from the Egyptian Campaign
We popped in the Frye Art Museum to see what was going on yesterday and caught Napoleon on the Nile: Soldiers, Artists, and the Rediscovery of Egypt (August 30 – January 4). The show was about Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign from 1798 – 1801. Napoleon went to Egypt to protect French trade interests and disrupt British trade routes. While in Egypt, 150+ savants (scholars and scientists) and 2,000 artists and technicians came along to document ancient and modern Egypt. Though the campaign was ultimately unsuccessful and the French pulled out, all the scientific research and observations and engravings were published in Description de l’Égypte from 1809 to 1828. Pages from this publication made up the bulk of the exhibit.

There was also a free lecture on this particular day called The Cinematic Emperor: Images of Napoleon on Film where two experts showed clips of movies about Napoleon and discussed them.
Idealized Painting Based on the Egyptian Campaign Descriptions

Friday, September 19, 2008

When You are Engulfed in Flames

When You Are Engulfed in Flames
The latest book by David Sedaris is called When You are Engulfed in Flames. It’s a quick read, funny enough, and designed to please his fans looking for material similar to his previous books. But honestly, I was wishing for him to cover some new territory. Also, the rhythm for each chapter – a separate story – is a bit overused: start out the chapter with a fact, followed by several seemingly non-related ideas, and the viola back at the starting fact to close down the chapter. There were stories where interesting issues are raised e.g. perceived roles in relationships (All the Beauty You Will Ever Need) or ostracized people (The Man in the Hut) where I was looking for a little more heft but it wasn’t there.

The image on the jacket cover is Vincent Van Gogh’s Skull with Burning Cigarette (1885-6).

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Knitting with Balls: A Hands-On Guide to Knitting for the Modern Men

Knitting With Balls
We received the book Knitting with Balls by Michael Del Vecchio as a gift the other day. There are some fun project ideas inside and quick overview of the knitting basics. The author is co-founder of the site menknit.com.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Lake Ann Hike

Lower Curtis Glacier Seen from Lake Ann
Lake Ann

We hiked about 9.5 miles rountrip to the Lower Curtis glacier via Lake Ann. We originally thought about just stopping at Lake Ann, but the 1/2 mile or so to the glacier (near it, not on it mind you) was worth it. We started at 11:30am and came back at 6:00 pm. We weren’t racing, but we weren’t going slow either. We started at the Lake Ann trail head on route 542 just before you come to the Heather Meadow Visitor Center. This a popular hike, but worth if for the views of Mount Baker (10,778 ft) and Mount Shuksan (9,127 ft). It’s not a straight up and straight down type of hike. You start by going down, then up to a saddle and then down to Lake Ann. If you continue on to the glacier you climb a bit more. For details about this hike, see the Lake Ann Trail #600 description.

The definite highlight for us was going past Lake Ann up to the Lower Curtis Glacier. The glacier is getting smaller and is in a disequilibrium which means it will probably disappear. It is likely responding to the climate of the last 30 years. Many of the North Cascade glaciers are in trouble.Lower Curtis

Friday, September 12, 2008

Music Recommendations: Rufus Does Judy at Carnegie, Oh! Mighty Engine

Rufus Does Judy Oh! Mighty Engine
The two CDs in question this time are Rufus Does Judy at Carnegie Hall (wink, wink) by Rufus Wainwright and Oh! Mighty Engine by Neil Halstead. In the first CD, Wainwright faithfully re-creates Judy Garland’s famous 1961 Carnegie Hall Concert, song-by-song. It’s fun, there’s no two ways about it. There are moments on the album that I love especially my favorite track “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart”. However, I find that I haven’t returned to it often after my initial interest. Perhaps again.

The second CD by Halstead, on the other hand, I have listened to pretty faithfully since purchasing it several weeks ago. I’m a sucker for these slow-moving affairs I must admit. If you like what you hear in this video for Queen Bee, then you’ll probably like the album. Favorite track: Witless or Wise with the lyric: “Sturdy and bright, oh, giver of life / Are you witless or wise?”

Thursday, September 11, 2008

12 Million Light Years from the Edge

TED Talk - Michael Schermer
We re-stumbled onto Michael Schermer’s TED talk on Why People Believe Strange Things and ran into Katie Melua’s 9 Million Bicycles (in Bejing) again (see previous post). (Two different threads meet up. Love that.) At the end of the talk Schermer talks about how the lyric “We are twelve billion light years from the edge, that’s guess. No one can ever say it’s true. But I know that I will always be with you” is not really true because we do know how far from the (visible) edge of the universe we are. We are about 13.7 billion light years from the visible edge. Don’t you feel safer now?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Bit of Pugliese in Fremont

Pane Pugliese
Bread that is… The pane Pugliese is a type of bread is rustic bread from Puglia, Southern Italy. It’s a good for just eating plain, or making sandwiches, or with butter and marmalade in the morning. We’ve been enjoying homemade Pugliese bread for several weeks now. It’s one of the gifts we brought home from Italy: the craft of making this bread. The starter (or "madre" in Italian) that these loaves are made from is a starter which originated in Florence, Italy. It came back with us.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Mt. Pilchuck Hike

Mt Pilchuck Lookout
We actually took this hike on August 11. It was a cloudy, cool day. Distance: 6 miles roundtrip (up and down). Time: 4 hours (11:45 am to 3:45pm). Elevation gain: 2400 feet. Low point: 3120 feet (trailhead). High point: 5320 feet (lookout). Trail: Mt. Pilchuck Lookout Trail #700, Green Trails Granite Falls #109 in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Darrington Ranger District.

Thoughts on it: it would have been better if it wasn’t clouded in for sure. The trail was okay, if not a little short. There were lots of people (even on this cloudy day) and it wasn’t terribly peaceful. There was always someone around. When we reached the top, and climbed in the lookout post it was jam-packed with people that, um, were not the kind we typically like sharing intimate spaces with. It was a weird vibe that we couldn’t wait to get away from.
Mt. Pilchuck Terrain

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Look Mommy, There’s a House in the Street!

House Coming Down 43rd House Combin Down Fremont Avenue
The house move started early Sunday morning and lasted to mid morning Sunday. There were challenges along the way, but crews worked to solve problems and get it moved. Interesting to me were the crowds that gathered, cheering successes and fretting setbacks. Kind of like the snowstorm-effect where everyone comes out and talks.

It was a relief to see the house backed into its final resting spot. The shots here were taken as it came down 43rd and then Fremont Avenue. The night shot is at 3:30am trying to come up Phinney. Inspiration for this blog entry: Pink Floyd's Goodbye Blue Sky - the child in the beginning of the song says "look mommy, there's an airplane in the sky".
House Coming Up Phinney at 3:30am

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Fremont House to Live On

Card Notifying Neighbors of Move - Front
Card Notifying Neighbors of Move - Back

It’s not the usual way you’d think about getting a house, but it’s possible: save a house from demolition and move it to your lot. That’s what’s going to happen this weekend in Fremont (the self-described center of the universe). What a find, what a save this will be. The house was a former B&B (called the Gypsy Arms and featuring a S&M dungeon) and now it will live again in “upper” Fremont minus the dungeon. Rampant (or eventual?) development just made this cross between a Victorian and Craftsman not viable anymore. Sad, but a happy end this time.

By the way, if you are searching for a house to buy and move, try the Nickel Brothers site. The Nickel Brothers will be doing the move this weekend.
Flyer Notifying Neighbors

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Piazzas of Florence

Piazzas of Florence
The Piazzas of Florence, by Lisa McGarry. Wow, a book that refreshingly doesn’t have a subtitle (at least not on my jacket cover). The main title says it all. I had started reading this book just before we left Florence several months ago and then put it down, unable - or really afraid - to pick it up again. Afraid to get sad reading about Florence. But curiosity and interest prevailed and I polished it off this weekend. I’m glad I did as it brought back such good memories and strengthened my resolution to return.

It could be that because we were in Florence for some time that the book holds a special meaning for us, but I suspect its appeal will go further to those who haven’t visited Florence. Reading the book you are living with the artist and author as your proxy to Florence. It’s not a rush of facts and stats. It’s easy going, with memorable snapshots (think watercolors) of the city. For the parts of the city we were familiar with, the author’s description and prose rang true. We also learned about places we didn’t know about in Florence getting a fresh take on the Renaissance city.

The author organizes chapters around that fundamental, Italian town/city space called the piazza. I see so many analogies between the layout of Italian towns and the brain. Towns are strung out across the countryside like nodes or neurons connected together. Similarly, the piazza does the same thing but inside the town. Piazzas connect together people and ideas.

Each chapter begins with a watercolor / collage map by the author that is useful and more interesting than many maps you might buy of the city. It made me want to return immediately and locate every café and shop mentioned. The marbled paper used in the book binding and backs of maps is a nod to the Florentine paper tradition.

The part about Caffé Artigiani did make us wistful. That was our favorite café too and we met the author there one day by chance shortly before we left Florence. While the author often sought the refuge of the back room (for writer-ly reasons), we often stood in the front, crowded bar area, eager to see if a snippet of this or that conversation could be understood, just standing there and soaking it up.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Big Squeeze

Ballard, Seattle Washington House
Not sure what the story is with the house pictured (near the Ballard Bridge) and the fact that development happened all around it. Instead of taking possible sides, my mind immediately goes to practical issues: How does drainage work on this lot? Can I grow something up those walls? Is it noisy or quiet? Will it turn into a funky coffee house?