Monday, December 17, 2007

Free Hugs (2)

And while we're at it, let's celebrate again the Seattle Pike Place Market Free Hugs man, this time with pictorial goodness.

Home on the Range (2)

And I now present the 2007 Edition of the Gingerbread House. Showing an imaginative use of native elements such as Swedish fish and Gummi Bears, this festive construction presents a view across the rock-candy ice into a neatly trimmed Cape Cod house. One can almost hear the square-dance caller naming the next step as the fiddle sings out a tune. The formally dressed penguins are standing in line to get into this hopping joint. Later on, after the sun sets, the seasonal hot drinks will keep these merry-makers tapping their toes late into the polar night.

I almost feel like I could write for Madison Avenue!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Home on the Range

We started a tradition of making gingerbread houses with a kit. This seemed like an expeditious way to get started but we quickly switched to baking our own and selecting our own candies. This year, there's a bit of ecological confusion going on as the penguins and bears do not share a continent. (The bears are sitting on the roof while the penguins cavort on the ice in front of the house.) Our cats (the conventional furry type) are all too interested in the decorations and we've already lost a Swedish fish. So far, the gumdrops and icing seem OK, but we also lost a few candy corns at Halloween so we are on the lookout. (The candy corns showed evidence of bite marks similar to those left by Felis cattus (domesticus), and there seemed to be a few candy corns missing entirely.)

There's supposed to be a picture there, linked from Picasa. Hmmm... appears to be of a technical difficulty.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

City by the Sound

Originally uploaded by n9891q
Although there are elements of tourist overload and the occasional splash of tackiness, the Pike Place Public Market in Seattle is a great place to visit. The fine restaurants come with views that can't be beat, but even the donuts and coffee come with a view!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Free hugs from Seattle

Eric, mon ami, posted recently about free hugs from Paris in his Paris Daily Photo blog. It seems the craze has spread to Seattle; Pike Place Market, to be precise. Stop by, get a hug, some donuts, and walk the market.

Update: Please stand by. We are having technical difficulties linking to Flickr and hope to have them resolved momentarily. (Cue sound of head being scratched...)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Hold on, it's coming

We were out enjoying the sights on Independence Day. It was hot and sunny, a pleasant change from the wet weather, so we decided to visit a friend on Bainbridge Island. It's a short ferry ride but there's plenty of time to turn around an enjoy the skyline of Seattle. The ship had just gotten underway, we were out of the car and had wandered to the stern when we noticed a black cloud starting from a pier and rising fast. A fire had started. As we stood there, trying to figure out what was burning, where it was burning, and how serious it was, the sirens started. Then the Seattle fireboat raced past us, positioned itself, and started dousing the fire. It was all over in a few minutes.

We found out later it was an abandoned dock - quite empty, no permanent structures. I don't think they ever did find out what started it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Saturday, In the Park

The Seattle Art Museum (SAM) opened a new sculpture garden early this year. It's on the north side of Seattle on a hill overlooking Puget Sound. It has a number of prominent sculptures, including this Calder stabile. According to Wikipedia, Calder invented the mobile and the stabile. Who knew?

The tree in the foreground is not actually a tree, but another sculpture. I did a little research and found it is called Split, by Roxy Paine. This is an interesting piece because it sneaks up on you - in the winter, it looks like just another leafless tree. But take a closer look and the truth is revealed.

SAM has a virtual tour of the garden here. This photograph was taken on the opening day of the garden January 13, 2007.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Rainy Days and Mondays

As Autumn establishes itself, the weather fights with itself. We've had days of drenching rain, days of fog, and days of clear cold. We had a day recently when Mt. Rainier stood proud and clear on the southern horizon, but I didn't have my camera with me. We had another evening when there was an hour of clear skies and Mt. Rainier took on pink alpenglow from the setting sun. These are a few blasts of glory before we settle into the grays of Winter.

Since I didn't have my camera to capture the moment, I offer a picture of Mt. Hood (Oregon) from this summer, taken from about 9000 feet of altitude.

Friday, October 19, 2007


While Massachusetts was having an earthquake, Seattle was having a windstorm. The colors had started to turn and the leaves were looking sharp so it should come as no surprise that we were treated to a vigorous storm. We had rare lightning and thunder, drenching rains interrupted by periods of clear skies, and winds near 50 mph. Combined, they stripped the developing color from the trees, leaving the ground coated with the result. This poor Japanese maple, sheltered in our back yard, was pounded with everything else. The downed leaves from the upper half of the tree carpet the deck while the lower leaves cling to the tree.

Monday, October 15, 2007

In the Court of the Crimson King

We each leave a footprint on the land. In the days of King Henry VIII, the footprint of a peasant was small, barely noticed even in the aggregate, but the footprint of the King was grand. Enormous kitchens ran nearly 24 hours a day to feed the nobility and the staff. Enormous wine cellars quenched their thirst. Great herds of animals were slaughtered daily to feed the kitchens and harvests of vegetables and fruits supplied the great tables. When I think of the grandeur and comfort in which the nobility lived, I am awed by the wealth and power that they possessed.

But imagine their reaction to my modern way of life. Great gushing streams flow at my command - in hot and cold temperatures, from ice cubes to steaming showers. The bounty of an entire continent - even the entire planet - is available at my local grocery store. I direct the power of hundreds of horses to make my way to and from a minor shopping trip, and thousands of horses are available to wing me across continents and oceans. Even the finest artistry from the greatest craftsmen and performers is nothing compared to the wealth of energy and money poured into Hollywood and Bollywood.

Is there a word stronger than "awed"? For surely that is what King Henry must feel when he sees my wealth and power. Yet in my bounty I resolve again to live simply.

Photograph of Moonrise over Hampton Court, England, a country castle of King Henry VIII.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

In the Evening

One of the great things about the Pacific Northwest is that outstanding camping and hiking is nearby. The valleys of the Cascade Range have lakes and vistas that delight in the morning and the evening. This is a sunset photo of Lake Dorothy.

I was struggling for something to say, but I'd rather let the image speak for itself.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Cruisin' on a Sunday afternoon

We don't know why, but this ship of the Canadian Coast Guard was plowing back and forth, back and forth for about an hour one afternoon. The season was late, the weather was bad, and the seas were rough, so the bay was empty. In chugged this ship, and it started going back and forth in a roughly 400 meter line. We spent some time guessing what it was doing but came to no satisfactory conclusion.

The best theory I heard was that junior sailors were practicing their low-speed manoeuvring skills.

The Coast Guard is a great bunch of folks but they occasionally do curious things.

Friday, September 21, 2007

I'll be watching you

When you get to London, you really must make time to go to the Tower of London. The building is magnificent, the history is fascinating, and the views are great. A Beefeater leads the tour from the entry gate to the concluding chapel. The chapel is bittersweet as the bodies of the victims of the Tower are often buried beneath your feet. Depending on your station in life and your gender, you may have been executed just steps outside the chapel (Henry VIII was a particularly vigorous user of the chopping block outside the chapel).

It is not until you get home that you have the time to inspect the photos and notice that it is not a lamp that you have photographed with the Gherkin, it is a security camera.

Hi, officer!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Looking up!

In 1887, this was a muddy spot, busy with workers assembling a giant Erector set. Welcome to the heart of the Eiffel Tower. We were standing in line to buy tickets for the stairway and the line snaked around underneath the landmark. We had plenty of time to look around and look up. A few hundred steps later, we were looking back down at this very spot. We've never taken the elevator to the first level, we've always taken the stairs.

The Restaurant Jules Verne is spectacular, I'm sure, but above our budget, so to speak. There's a restaurant on the Tower, Altitude 95, that we really enjoyed.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

What is this quintessence of dust?

As we were riding along the Iron Horse rail-trail, we passed farms and open range. One of the farmers near Cle Elum seemed to be a bit of an artist. You can see two of his creations in this photo.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Iron Horse Trail

We just completed a little bike ride.

We started in Thorp, WA, on Saturday morning. The day was sunny and clear with temperatures into the low 70's or so. We were riding the Iron Horse Trail (State Park), the old right-of-way for the Milwaukee Road rail service across Washington. Unfortunately for us, someone had been dumping new gravel on the trail and the headwinds were always against us. This made for quite a challenge across almost 40 miles of trail through Cle Elum and into Easton. This photo features one of the tunnels that we rode through on the first day.

Don't get me wrong: it's a great trip and a lovely trail as it winds along the river and through the farming country. But the sheer labor of the trip is daunting - going westward is a hard ride.

After the noble struggle, we had a wonderful dinner and evening in Easton State Park. I recommend getting a camp site closer to the lake and away from the highway.

The next morning, we got up early and had a hearty breakfast. The overcast had come in overnight and the sky was gray. The cooler temperatures made riding a bit easier, the trail was much improved, and even the headwind seemed to give us a break. Well, a little break. We blazed through the first part of the trip up into Snoqualmie Pass and took a rest at Hyak. We were just at the mouth of the Snoqualmie RR Tunnel: 2.3 miles of darkness and cold. A pretty cool ride on a bike, but that 50 degree air just takes it out of you! We came out the western end into more overcast and a trace of rain. The rain mounted as we descended and soon we were wearing those brown stripes and spitting the grit out of our teeth. It's rare that I've wanted fenders on my bike.

I'm afraid my behind got the worst of the trip and I was pretty glad to see the end of the trail. I got out of my sodden clothes and headed home.

Maybe next year we'll do it all again.

Here's to St. Pancras

In honor of the opening of the new high-speed rail service between London and Paris, here's a view of St. Pancras station, the London terminus of the service. We were staying at a nearby hotel and caught this fantastic building on a sunny day. Too bad they don't build them like this anymore. Once I might have complained about how ugly the building was, but now I am so tired of glass boxes and mindless rectangular grids that my eye has learned to appreciate the detail and fine craftsmanship of the older buildings. Just down the block is the British Library, but other parts of the neighborhood are in disrepair. I'm sure that will change dramatically as the impact of the renovations and the new rail service kick in. Isn't this the one from which Harry Potter and Ron Weasley fly off in the stolen car? King's Cross Station (with Platform 9-3/4) is around the corner.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Logan's Run and Splash

On a recent return flight from Boston, I had a window seat on the airplane. For some odd reason (explained shortly), we seemed to be taking the scenic tour of the airport. We taxied all over the place and finally ended up by the water on the northeast side of the airport.

We had dutifully boarded the airplane, backed from the gate at the appointed time, then gone on our merry little tour. It became ominous when we stopped on a taxiway instead of near the end of a runway. It became downright bad when the pilot shut off the engines. After a few minutes of delay, The Dreaded Announcement came: there had been fog in New York City all day, all NY-bound flights were delayed, and we had been given a ground-hold for forty minutes.

Stop me if you disagree, but don't you think They Knew About This when we were still somewhat comfortable in the gate area at the terminal? Is there some reason that we had to get on this little aluminum tube, taxi about the scenic parts of Boston, and then wait out on the tarmac before taking some sort of action? I'm not the claustrophobic type, but I'm not stupid either. Don't answer that.

While on the exciting tour - at no additional cost to the public, I hasten to add - we went past an area of houses that overlooked the water separating the airport from the towns of Revere and Winthrop. There were some nice little marinas there with boats bobbing on their leashes.

And then there was this party barge.

It must be really bizarre to spend any time sitting under that little umbrella... as the landing airplanes come roaring a hundred feet over your head. It must surely cause the conversation to waver every 60-90 seconds on a busy day when every landing slot is taken. And the TSA really lets these people sit there? I don't care - I can't see them as a credible threat - but if I can't take more than three ounces of toothpaste on an airplane, why would they allow this?

I suppose I have ruined someone's day by even mentioning this in an obscure corner of the Internet, but I just had to ask. Sorry.

As to the title? Look here.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

You lookin' at me?

I have occasion to go motoring on the waters of Howe Sound, British Columbia, Canada. I was recently puttering along, minding my own business, when I saw this seal. Now that used to be a common thing, then the pollution started killing the ecosystem, but enlightened regulation has restored water quality, so the wildlife is coming back. So seeing a seal is no longer quite the thrill it used to be - they're getting quite common. However, one usually sees only the head gliding through the waves. At first, a seal looks like a dog who has gone seriously astray. "Whoa! What are you doing out here, little puppy?" Then the seal will spot you, the head dips down, and the curving back slips under the waves. Oh, that was a seal!

Well, this fellow was unusual because he was floating so high. He's clear out of the water, so I slowly headed closer to find out what was causing this. Sure enough, he's found a bit of flotsam, a deadhead, to sun on. He kept those curious eyes on me the whole time and never moved a muscle but in his neck. He kept a close watch on this odd thing sharing the seas with him, but it never became threatening. I puttered away, leaving him to bask on a sunny day at the end of August, 2007.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Not in Kansas anymore

We had a fantastic weekend for backpacking into the Cascades. We started from a trail head near Skykomish, WA, and climbed the trail into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. After hiking up through the woods, a lake came into view and the trail followed along the western shore. We took a camping spot next to a large rockslide and set up tents along the beach. The trail is very short - not over two miles - so we finished the day with a hike toward Bear Lake and Deer Lake. The weather was cooperative - the stars that night were fantastic and the Milky Way was clear.

Dorothy Lake, September, 2007.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Worst camping trip EVAH?

We left home on Friday evening and drove north toward Mt. Baker and our campground reservation. The further north we got, the worse the weather got. It started out as gentle little spots on the windshield, strengthening as darkness fell. We turned off the highway to follow smaller and narrower and bumpier roads as the rain became solid.

Arriving in the campground, the rain was pelting the car. No one wanted to get out, least of all the fellow who was supposed to put up the tent. That would be me. It was dreadful, so dreadful that we didn't walk to the bathrooms, we drove. We dashed in to brush teeth and dashed back to the safety of the car. Without a tent, we decided to sleep in the car.

Sleeping in an odd place - the driver's seat - I slept fitfully and kept waking up. The car would be full of fog and a bit stuffy, so I would lower the window slightly. No matter how slightly I opened the window, rain would get in to splatter me, so I kept closing the window. The rain kept up all night, feeding the glaciers at altitude but drowning our spirits in the campground.

The rain finally broke around sunrise, so we got out and made a quick breakfast. A tour of the campsite revealed that it was settled nicely on the lake, but the overcast held low and solid. On a sunny day, the lake was reputed to reflect a gorgeous view of Mt. Baker, but all we saw were three shades of grey. We decided to skip the planned hike and head out on a scenic drive to the east, hoping to catch a bit of sun on the dry side of the Cascades.

Everybody in Seattle knows that it is wet on the west side of the Cascades while dry and sunny on the east side. On this day, it was. As we crossed the pass, the clouds thinned and the sky turned blue. The weather was so fantastic that we abandoned our campsite at Mt. Baker and set up at Early Winters Campground in a dry, piney forest. Lovely.

Make your plan but stay flexible.

Victoria and Harry?

On 22 April, 2000, our family began to read Harry Potter. Our young son had started reading but had settled himself into relatively lightweight stuff. He would read the youth editions of Pokemon and Star Wars novels, but refused to touch anything in hardback or that might "look hard". We had planned a visit to Victoria, BC, a ferry ride from Seattle, so we took along the newly released Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. On the boat ride to Victoria, we read chapters from Harry Potter. When the (adult) voices wore out, we stopped reading. Our young non-reader was so incensed that he grabbed the book and finished reading it himself, although we had to continue reading aloud for his younger brother. Thanks, Harry!

The is a view of the Empress Hotel on the Victoria Inner Harbor shortly after we arrived.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Vancouver from on high

Welcome to beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia. This is not the 51st state nor is it part of Britain. It is a lovely city in the southwestern corner of our northern neighbor. Among the many visual delights of Vancouver is the Lion's Gate Bridge and you are standing on it. As you look eastward, you see the Burrard Inlet, an arm of the sea - a fjord. Vancouver city lies to your right, while North Van is to your left; West Van is behind you, on the left. The Lion's Gate Bridge connects the Vancouvers. You can see the orange of the cranes on the loading dock, and a set of white peaks that form the port building used by the cruise ships that go up to Alaska.

Update: Added a title. Oops.

Monday, July 23, 2007

1000000 Lawyers

I used to think that Temple Bar was a British tribute to the greatest institutions of the Empire, but then I found out the Brits call them "pubs". Color me more deflated than the US dollar.

More to the point, Ham has featured the Temple Bar on his brilliant photo-blog, London Daily Photo. I had no idea the Temple Bar was a gate to London. An ignorant tourist, I just wondered why they had this odd monument in the middle of the road. The Temple Bar is surrounded by spots that will sound familiar to anyone reading Neal Stephenson recently - Fleet Street, the Strand, High Holborn, and Ludgate all feature in his recent writings (The Baroque Cycle) - and it was fun to visit the places that feature in the novels.

Nearby was a poetic example of that The Greatest British Institution.We were not able to dine at this particular establishment, it being too early in the morning, but we did enjoy peeking in. We ate later in the day at - I think - The Prince of Wales.

And all those lawyers in the title? You can thank Tom Paxton.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Keep on truckin'

This is the top of Mt. Adams, the second tallest mountain in Washington (after Mt. Rainier). This little bit of rock is part of the Cascade range, a string of volcanoes that run up the coast of North America from California (Mt. Shasta), extending into British Columbia, through Alaska and out to Kamchatka; the northern part of the Ring of Fire that circles the Pacific Ocean. My son was in a group that climbed Mt. Adams this weekend (2 July 2007) and I was the Base Camp team. I kept the home fires burning (literally - my job was to have hot water ready for soup and cocoa when they came back). Lovely day, great views, heavy work-out.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Cry Me a River

This used to be a campground.

A heavy rainstorm hit Mt. Rainier National Park in late 2006 (November). Eighteen inches of rain (half a meter) fell in 24 hours. The flooding was selective but intense. The Nisqually entrance is at the southwest corner of the park and is the main entrance to access Cougar Rock and Paradise. A small campground and picnic area is a few miles into the park from the Nisqually entrance. Or rather, used to be there. The Nisqually River decided to expand, ripping away half of the campground. In the photo you see here, there is river where there used to be camp sites.

Millions of dollars have been spent to rebuild roads and facilities so that the Park could be reopened to visitors just this month. The Park Service is doing an outstanding job. If you're in the area, they could sure use your help to repair and rebuild. If you are unable to help in person, you can still contribute.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


I find petroglyphs fascinating.
The oft ambiguous message comes across time to tell the puzzled observers an important message that has lost context. Many are timeless, but this one seems to speak of a square-rigged ship seen sometime in the last two centuries. The message is an obscure one for modern day viewers as it lies miles from the center of civilization and on the far edge of a rainforest, but the tale was important enough for the maker to invest hours of effort to create. Did it express wonder at the enormous ship? Pleasure at the cargo it brought? Or horror at the loss of a civilization?

Wedding Rocks near Lake Ozette, Olympic National Park, Washington, USA. April, 2007.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Seattle Warming

It has been a gradual change, but it has recently become clear that Seattle and the Puget Sound are warmer than they have been historically. As a result, our sailing habits have changed. As the polar bears have moved north, we have been able to shed much of the equipment that burdened us in the past. No longer do we require the tooth-resistant chain mail that makes swimming so difficult and is so awfully hard to maintain shiny in the salty air. Our tans develop better and a number of the local tanning salons have had to close up shop. The rumor is that Starbucks will stop selling hot coffee drinks to focus on iced rum drinks with little umbrellas. And I'll finally get to grow real tomatoes in my garden.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

I love Paris in the Springtime

Paris is such a fabulous city to visit. In spite of the old saying, I suspect one or two people even like living there! We had the pleasure of Paris over the 2006/2007 holiday season. This photo was taken from the top of the Centre Pompidou (I think) on a blustery, rainy night.

We stayed in an apartment off Rue Rambuteau for a week, frequently passing the Centre. Finally, we visited the Herge exhibit and then went up to the top. (Sorry - I don't know how to inject the proper accent on the second e.) I will say that I spent more time appreciating the Herge exhibit and the view from the top than I spent appreciating the art collection that was open that evening - if you catch my drift.

I love Paris in the Springtime. And in the Fall, Winter, and Summer, too!

(Note: the old saying to which I refer is: "It's a lovely place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there." I think I would gladly live in Paris.)

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Bright Eye

Over at London Daily Photo, Ham has challenged us all to add our photos of the London Eye in celebration of the approaching 25,000,000th visitor. There's a photo contest, and I've posted my photos. This is the one I posted under the title "Bright Eye" (sounds like a great song title - oh, silly me! - it's a band).

If you visit London, take the time to visit the Eye - highly recommended.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Only the Lonely

It has been an unusual winter in metropolitan Seattle.We're having a lot of snow. Yesterday (28 Feb 2007), we had about six inches fall overnight. It was only just about freezing, so the lower part is pretty sodden. The differences among locales is amazing. Nearby Bellevue got almost nothing - just a decorative dusting, while my backyard in Redmond got over six inches. We live on top of a hill in this hilly area, and the 100 feet of elevation (or so) was enough to turn rain and a little snow into snow and a little rain.

These folks must live up top on the hill, or over on the east side. They evidently ran into just a slight hitch last night as they tried to climb the hill in their cars and were forced to abandon them overnight. All but two of the cars had been claimed by this afternoon (about 20 hours of abandonment). I sure hope someone offered these folks rides.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

It's a dog's life

Today is men-at-work day on the Daily Photo blog sites (such as London Daily Photo and Paris Daily Photo). Inspired by Ham's work in London, I offer a small contribution: the Horse Guards Under Stress. These poor guys have a job to do, and they have to do it with a straight face even as they're being undermined by swarms of motivated tourists. This poor guy is working on Christmas day. Or was it Boxing Day? It was a long flight and I'm rather confused on the point. It's a cold, rainy holiday night, and he's got to keep that stiff upper lip. I think they had even retired the horses for the night. Wouldn't want to send a horse out on a knight like this, eh?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Happy Birthday, Charles!

Today, 12 Feb 2007, is the 198th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin. I struggled to find a photo of mine that might do him honor, but no joy. I did find a nice (spliced) photo of the Pont du Gard, a Roman aqueduct built in France, and I hope that Charles would appreciate how we humans have advanced from rock-stackers (wonderful and talented but still stackers of rocks) to elegant carvers of rock - etchers of silicon, to be exact. I find this change of scales to be an interesting metaphor of our evolution.

Two thousand years ago, it was a major achievement to build an enormous aqueduct that could channel water across miles and miles to provide a city with an essential of life and to power the fountains that would enchant their hearts. Today we can channel electrons across little cities of transistors, creating anything from pacemakers that maintain life itself or create games that fritter it away. I know two people undergoing cancer treatment now, and it is amazing they can be treated - it wasn't that long ago that cancer would have been untreatable, and now we talk about survival in years or decades. This all relates back to Darwin because it is his simple little theories that help explain how we developed to the point where we can even affect the climate of an entire planet. Let's hope we have also developed to the point where we can reverse the effects of our earlier simplicity.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Armchair travel

I own a domain (actually a couple) - pretty easy to do these days, at about $10 each per year. I have configured the domains such that any received email not sent to a legitimate user gets forwarded to me as the domain owner. I get some mail that needs to be forwarded, usually due to name confusion. In the last month or so, there seems to be a new virus out in the world, because I am getting a huge number of "delivery failure" messages. The message I see is usually a "reply" to a supposed sender message informing me that the message cannot be delivered because of the contents (virus), but occasionally because the destination address is defunct or full. The supposed sender is some bogus user within my domain - not only a fictitious user, but often something completely bizarre (e.g., "fl8noj12" or "bz8ankladfy" - not even a phat name from some haxxor). My guess is that a virus is out there, sending mail using my domain to create a seemingly legitimate email address and hoping to capture someone who opens the mail.

The messages come from all sorts of interesting domains - .ru, .jp, .kr, and so on. Had I been clever, I would have put up a map with pins in it.

Spam - It Brings the World Together(TM).

Whole lot of shakin' going' on?

The news is reporting that we are to have an earthquake this coming week. The Globe and Mail headline says "B.C. put on alert for huge quake"; as British Columbia is but a few short miles north of here and we can see Vancouver Island on a clear day (from the right vantage point), I think we'll be in on the party should one arrive.

Update: Hey, look what happened 307 years ago, on 26 Jan 1700: an earthquake... of magnitude 9.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

The Road Not Taken

We were snowshoeing in the area of Stevens Pass, WA. One of the fun bits of snowshoe hikes is that there's no trail. Rather, one can follow a trail or one can make a trail. We did some of both. In this case, we were making our own trail. The area in the photo is a little over an hour from Seattle on US Route 2 and around 4000 feet in altitude. It was a great day for a snowshoe hike - the weather wasn't too sunny (well, it was overcast, but not oppressively so), and the temperatures were in the upper 20's (Fahrenheit). There was a fresh layer of snow over a deep encrusted base. At the lunch stop, some of the guys dug a hole in the snow to see if it was suitable for building igloos. They went down about four feet, and the snow was fine. It was fun walking among the trees in the snow and it was very quiet. About all one could hear was my heavy breathing as I labored to keep up with the group...

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Cool future

LG Electronics announced the availability of a a TV refrigerator equipped with digital multimedia features (in 2004, here) -- a computer in a refrigerator. The buzz in the industry has been that every appliance would eventually be connected to the Internet so you can turn on the oven from your car as you drive home. Or your refrigerator would detect that you're out of milk and automatically send an order to the grocery store. Or the refrigerator computer could give you seventeen recipes that use the contents of your refrigerator (chicken-fried-steak pizza with lime pickles and hummus, mmm, mmm, good!).

I've never really figured out the allure of this, but I have recently finally understood the real motive. It is both simpler than I thought - and deeper.

It's to keep the microprocessor cool.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Snow fooling

We've had an odd winter this year - wet, snowy, and windy are typical but they are hitting extremes. The struggle is retain a sense of balance and humor among the assaults thrown our way by Mother Nature. We don't normally get a lot of snow, but this rose struggled forward to overcome hardship. Although we lost the traditional blossom, this bit of visual poetry more than compensates.

Saturday, January 06, 2007


In a recent posting, The 2008 Democrat, Barry Lieba makes the observation that
a lot of politics is sales and marketing, and sales and marketing have many similarities across domains. Sell a car, sell a political platform, sell yourself to the voters... they have a lot in common.
This statement is more accurate and literal than most people believe. I hereby submit the following file for your consideration.

I took a technical marketing class at Bell Labs (BTL) in about 1985. Normally, I wouldn't sign up for such a topic, but my manager discovered a conflict after she enrolled and offered to let me have the slot. I took it, thinking maybe I would learn something about marketing. Did I ever. To teach the course, BTL flew in a professor from a Virginia university each week to present the course for eight weeks. The professor had invented a multivariate analysis technique that could turn consumer preferences as expressed in structured questionnaires into two-dimensional vectors that highlighted the differences among the choices. The professor offered "lite beer" as his best example. Historically, there were two basic beer choices - cheap stuff and regular beer. According to the professor, the group that drank the cheap stuff preferred to drink hard and alone. The group drinking the regular stuff preferred to drink in groups (sociable) but wanted something that tasted good. The cheap stuff didn't taste very good, and the regular stuff was too filling, not allowing them to drink for the duration of the social activities.

Sounding familiar yet?

The questionnaire had taken many dimensional variables (self-perception, sociability, activity/sport, taste, desire to get drunk, and so on) and remapped them into two dimensions. There were a few clusters of responses on the resulting 2D chart - clusters that represented existing drinkers satisfied with existing products, and a cluster representing customers with unmet needs. This last cluster became lite beer. Low in alcohol, allowing one to drink a (relatively) large volume without getting drunk, and distinctively flavorful. Pitch it to active, social people who perceive themselves as attractive to the opposite sex.

The professor did exactly the same analysis for his political candidate (Reagan) and his opponents (Democrats). He analyzed the candidates of interest and mapped them onto a 2D plane. He found that Senator John Glenn was the strongest competitor to Reagan and Mondale was the least. The resulting strategy was simple - ignore Glenn and respond vigorously to Mondale, exaggerating the differences. This had the effect of making Glenn irrelevant (Reagan couldn't even be bothered to respond, so how could Glenn be a credible opponent?) and pushing the Mondale caricature to prominance (Reagan was aghast that Mondale could seriously propose surrendering to the Soviets).

I don't think the above gives a sufficient explanation of the technique, but it's all the detail I can recall from the time. The point is that it was my first exposure to the blatent expression of the idea that Presidential candidates were to be sold like cheap beer. As we go through the process that leads to the selection of candidates for 2008, I hope - perhaps in vain - that we'll consider the candidates on the basis of their merits and not on the cynical manipulators who want us to look carefuly at the "New and Improved Label".

Note: it appears that Joe Owades is generally viewed as the inventor of lite beer.